As a busy working mother with a hectic schedule, it is a challenge to always focus on healthy eating. Personally always watched what I was eating and tried hard to exercise to set a good example. As they got older, I realized I wasn’t doing enough, but I didn’t have the time to make drastic changes. One night, at a rare family dinner, my daughter declared, “Wow, this is so nice that we are eating as a family like other normal families do.”
When my kids were little, I thought it was important for them to eat dinner early, and not wait till later when my husband and I would eat. Sometimes I would come home in the middle of their dinner and go about my chores instead of joining the table. One of the biggest reasons for not wanting to join was the smorgasbord of kid food on the table. I loved all their kid food but knew it was not great for my waistline. Macaroni and cheese, pizza, fries and chicken fingers… my favorite foods, but not necessarily the best choices to maintain a healthy diet. So why was it okay for them to eat those foods but not okay for me? It wasn’t! If I was trying to act as a role model for healthy eating, it meant that I had to participate in family meals!
First we picked a reasonable time that I could get home for family dinner. Then we broached the idea of all of us eating healthier meals—together. I wanted to involve the kids in this conversation so they would actually eat what was decided on. The kids were also responsible for setting the table and helping to clean up after.
On Sundays—when we were together as a family—we would put together a meal plan for the week ahead. We always made sure there was a big salad in the middle of the table, and at least one vegetable too. In order for all of us to agree on the same meal, I had to find ways to incorporate kid favorites. For example, instead of ordering pizza, we made English muffin pizzas… together! We used reduced fat cheese, whole-wheat English muffins, and we were even able to add toppings to our individual pizzas (my son loves pepperoni, but my daughter only likes mushrooms).
We also realized that it was a great opportunity to just stop and see how everyone’s day was. It was not always a long dinner, but at least we were together and stopped to listen to each other. The phones went on do not disturb, and all other electronic devices were off to the side (well, most of the time).
Are we perfect? Far from it. Are we normal? I doubt it. But I know that we have better eating habits and can say we have spent quality time as a family.