Never use food as a reward or punishment
I don’t have a memory of my mom ever saying,“if you behave well you can have – insert food here.” Or “You can’t have cookies because you didn’t do your homework.” My mom never wanted us to connect food to our emotional state or the way we behaved.
Instead treats were offered because they are yummy. And once in a while a treat was okay. However, she didn’t always let us have treats, some reasons were because it was too close to dinner time or I had already had a treat the day before.
At the time I didn’t know it but this created a good habit of teaching me as an adult not to connect my emotional state to food, also known as emotional eating.
Kids and adults both eat the same meal
One of the reasons it was so easy for my mom to make homemade meals is because she was cooking the same meal for the whole family. She never separated our meals from adult meals, whatever she would cook for herself she’d cook for us.
This habit taught us to eat all different kinds of foods like fruits, grains, beans, vegetables and different kinds of meats.Though we didn’t always finish everything in our plate in time we learned to eat everything that was given to us. And mostly because it was all delicious.
Make homemade meals
This was her foundation and key to raising healthy eaters. We did eat out from time to time, but most days she would make sure that we had a homemade meal.
And she made everything from scratch using fresh ingredients.
She, like any mom, didn’t have the time to make chef-style meals every day. So she found delicious, easy meals that didn’t take a lot of time and she became an expert at making these in no time.
As a mom now I’m surprised at how many delicious, easy recipes I can find online. In her time, she had books and books of recipes she had to search through.
Keep healthy treats at home
My mom always made an effort to have treats at home for us. She made homemade Popsicles from fruit juice. Or once in a while she would make us homemade French fries to go with our meal. And she always kept at least one bag of chips for the impromptu picnic or movie night.
Though she wanted to instill healthy habits, she also knew that as children we needed these treats. And what better way than to make our own? To this day one of my favorite treats to make myself is homemade pizza or homemade fresh salsa and tortilla chips.
Only allow mom or dad to go in the fridge and pantry
This “habit” was never spoken to us as a rule, it just was. We knew that if we wanted something to eat, we didn’t just go to the fridge or pantry and grab something to eat, we had to ask mom or dad.And they picked what they gave to us. The only time I remember going to the fridge to grab something was after dinner to grab a popsicle as dessert, and we still had to get mom’s approval.
This clever habit was the reason we would forget about our Halloween candy, because my mom never offered it to us again.She would take out an apple, or piece of cheese and we would take it and keep going on with our day.
Make sure fast food and treats are for special occasions
Because we mostly ate homemade meals she would never feel bad for taking us out to have happy meals once in a while. She would let us indulge in the occasional candy or ice cream.
And she never worried about days like Halloween because she knew that a day of indulging didn’t affect the hard work she was putting in day in and day out to teach us about good eating habits.
And because of this habit—I promise I’m not making this up—most of the Halloween candy would be left in the pantry to rot because two days after Halloween we had already forgotten there was candy left.
Never give up
My mom was a stay-at-home mom when I was young, but things changed as time passed. She had my brother at a later age and through a difficult time she at one point had to work several jobs. During this period, she had two teenagers, a preschool age child, a husband who worked full-time, and her own job to manage. And yet, she never gave up on making homemade meals every day.
This is the most difficult habit for me to accept and follow. I know that as a mom now, my excuse is to say that I don’t have the time to make homemade meals every day, but then I always remember that my mom somehow did it. And she never gave up. She continued to believe that a healthy meal was important and found the time.
She taught me that creating healthy habits in your family is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. Now as a mother myself I am thankful for the foundation that she instilled in me and I am now challenged to repeat this with my daughter.
And I hope that just like my mom and her mother I can continue another generation of healthy families who love all types of food.
I can honestly tell you I love vegetables.
All kinds of vegetables. I am always eager to try new foods and my definition of comfort food is salad with homemade vinaigrette, my mom’s homemade pumpkin soup and lentils and rice. And I promise you, I’m not kidding, or even trying to sound healthy. Mama just loves herself some kale.
I’m not a vegetarian, and I do enjoy a good craft burger, however, fresh veggies truly are some of my favorites.
But I can’t take credit for this, in fact, family lore holds that I was actually a very difficult child when it came to eating. And anyone who knows me from when I was young can tell you some horror stories when it came to meal time. So I have to give all the credit to my wide love of food to my mom.
My poor mom went through a lot to instill healthy eating habits and for us to eat all kinds of food. She had the help of my dad who taugh tme to enjoy Pâté, prosciutto, an array of cheeses, and later as an adult, a good glass of wine.
The journey to instill good eating habits and a love of all different types of food for all of their children wasn’t always easy. But I believe my mom gave all her children a great food foundation. It’s because of her I am a healthy adult who loves a variety of foods. And I’m now in my own journey of teaching my daughter these same habits.
But how did this all come about? How did she turn this picky eater into a wide lover of food? As I have recently begun introducing solid food to my own little girl, I checked in with my own mama about how she helped raised healthy eaters.
Here are her secrets, more like habits, she followed every day until the day I left home.