Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eating healthy on the go

Eating healthy when you are not in your own home can be a challenge. We've been to our fair share of picnics, get-togethers and outings over the last couple weeks and while I normally don't sweat a few cake and ice cream nights in row for myself, I'm not so thrilled to see my pint-sized little toddler with her third cookie of the day firmly in her grasp.

Here are a few tips to successfully keeping your kids (mostly) sugar free when you're not close to your own personal stash of healthy foods:

1. Be realistic. Let's be honest, if our kids are offered the choice between a banana and a lollipop, they'll chose the lollipop every time. So be realistic. If you know there are going to be treats at an event or outing that you don't want your kids to eat, bring a healthy alternative that is also a treat to your kids, like fruit leather or a low-sugar cookie. Don't expect them to joyously accept an apple when all the other kids are sucking on Popsicles.

2. Prepare and plan ahead. This ties right in with my previous point. Prepare foods that can travel and will appeal to your kids in the shadow of candy and ice cream. My sister recently brought a bag of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies with her to a family party. They were low sugar, whole wheat, yummy goodness that had all the kids happily munching. What a brilliant idea! I always try to keep snacky foods in my diaper bag. Raisins, dried fruit, dry Kashi cereal, Wasa crackers, fruit leather, just to name a few. When we were kids, mom always brought Rice Dream with her to family birthday parties so we could still have a treat when everyone else was having ice cream.

3. Bring a healthy contribution. Don't just leave things to chance and hope they'll be something you and your kids can eat - especially if you or your child have food allergies. If you show up unprepared, your kids will eat junk food. Bring something healthy to contribute to a picnic, pot luck or party. Other parents will thank you too!

4. Speak up. It's okay if other people think you are an ogre who won't let your kids have treats. You are the one that's going to have to deal with them when they wake up sick and cranky the next day. Last Sunday Peanut was given treat after treat by well meaning family members...and while I don't normally mind little tastes here and there, they all add up. Think of it this way: For her 18 lb. body, two cookies is the equivalent of about 15 cookies for me. I would probably never eat 15 cookies at a time! Sure enough, she woke up grouchy the next morning with a snotty nose. Next time, I'll be the bad guy who polices everything she puts in her mouth.

5. Give your kids options. For toddlers, this doesn't work so well, but older children can be reasoned with. Growing up, Mom always had very strict dietary guidelines for us. Before we left for a party, she'd let us know exactly how many treats we would be allowed and then let us chose what we'd eat and when we'd eat them. Be specific and be reasonable.

6. Chill out. Do the best you can, but don't let your quest for healthy eating suck the fun out of events. So your kid got three helpings of cake from three different people - certainly not ideal, but no one is going to die from it. On Saturday, I realized that the juice box that Peanut was drinking was not 100% juice (Hello, HFCS!). Normally, that's a huge no-no, but I evaluated the situation and realized that it was going to cause World War III if I attempted to pry it from her little hands. Instead, I opted to ask her for a sip and then attempted to suck down most of the juice before handing it back.

I'd love to hear your tips for staying healthy at parties and get-togethers. What works for you?


  1. Wonderful tips! I like the last one best of all. I need to remember this when I am fretting over my food options outside of the home. One time eating something off my preferred list will be okay.

  2. Well, I sure could've used this post *before* the family reunion! ;)

    Actually, while we were there I did just what you said. I brought a ton of healthy, nourishing goodies to share, and planned to grin and bear it when they were offered junk food with the rest of the kids. The sugary offerings were even worse than I expected (the last morning, my children were offered ice cream with their breakfast!) but I know that one long weekend isn't the end of the world.

    This is an ongoing struggle for me, and I really appreciated your posting on the issue. Thanks, Molly!

  3. Hi Molly!
    I do pretty much all of the same stuff (except sucking down the HFCS myself... it's more important that I stay healthy and keep a good diet than my very healthy children, I believe!). My biggest issue is my in laws. They have no respect for me and my wishes and so they give the kids treat after freakin' treat even when I ask them not to. And then I have to deal with them getting sick, which they always do. My father in law just today took my kids for donuts and then told them to not tell me... it was a secret. Well, I'm mad! So, maybe YOU have advice for ME!