As single moms, we get the same questions over and over. How do you manage to do it all? How do you make it work financially? When do you find time to relax?Above all, the most frequent question I get: How do you find time to feed your kids healthy food?
No matter how we choose to answer these questions, we all know the single mom secret. We don’t sleep! That’s how.
So, when it’s 11:30 pm and you’ve finally finished the day’s tasks, before you get in the shower, ponder these truths and tips to feeding your children healthy food:
1. Kids are Humans
I know this seems obvious, but take a second to actually digest it (see what I did there?). Kids are human beings, and human beings have basic survival needs. One of those needs is food. Humans will do whatever it takes to keep their stomachs full. In dire situations, they’ll even eat insects, raw meat, random snails from a forest, and all sorts of other small critters and things we typically wouldn’t think of as “food.”
Next time you tell someone that your child is a picky eater, ask yourself these questions:
Is my child human?
Does my child have primal survival instincts?
Is one of those instincts to keep their belly full?
Will my child starve themselves to death if I stop feeding them hotdogs, mac & cheese, and peaches from a can?
Do children in undeveloped countries with no packaged food survive and thrive by eating only food that comes from the earth?
2. You’re not a chef, and neither am I.
But we both have salt, ketchup, and the internet.
If you believe me that your child is human and will eventually eat whatever is in front of them, then you’re ready to start experimenting with healthy food options.
Since you haven’t been successful in extending the day from 24 to 25 hours, keep your meals simple.
Raw fruits and vegetables are the easiest. All you need to do is wash them thoroughly and cut them up. Buy a bunch of these and put 2-3 different ones on your child’s plate at dinner time (or pack them in their lunch). Your child might not eat them the first 20 times you try this. That’s actually really good. Now you’ve got 2-3 clean, cut-up fruits and vegetables that you can eat as a snack. And you don’t need to feel guilty that you’ve spent time making them for yourself, because technically you did it for your child.
Spoiler alert: After 20 or so times, your child will start eating at least a few fruits and vegetables.
They’ll be subconsciously attracted to the produce that contains the vitamins that their body is lacking. They might eat a particular food for 1-2 weeks, and then decide they don’t like it anymore. This is because their body has had its fill of those certain vitamins, and no longer craves them.
The second easiest way to serve produce is by throwing it all in a blender and making a smoothie. To keep it healthy, use only fruits and vegetables to make your smoothies. If you need to sweeten them, add a little bit of raw honey. If you want to make a milk shake, use a small amount of almond milk or plain organic yogurt.
Wait! Stop! Almond milk and organic yogurt, that’s for rich people! I’m a single mom! Don’t worry. If you’re reading this on a computer or a cell phone, I promise that a carton of $2 almond milk is within your budget. Just don’t serve it to your kids in giant glasses and you’ll be fine.
Now, let’s talk vegetables. Not all of them taste great raw (sweet potatoes anyone?), but luckily you know how to cut. Wash them, cut them, put them on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkle some salt on there. Dump some olive oil on (Why olive? Because you have the internet, and you’ll now use it to quickly learn why healthy eaters avoid vegetable oil like the plague.), and you’re good to go. Throw them in the oven and take them out before they start to burn.
But what about the temperature setting and the exact cooking time???!!! It’s all just too difficult!
I promise it’s not. I live in Mexico, and I have no idea how to use my gas oven, which is conveniently marked in Celsius. I usually just turn a bunch of knobs until I see a fire. I stick my hand in to make sure it’s heating up. I put in my baking sheet of vegetables, set the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius, and then just hang around to check for burning vegetables every 10 minutes.
Why 180 degrees? I have no idea. I just decided that I’m going to bake everything at 180 degrees. This way I never have to worry about the proper temperature for each food.
But your food must taste awful?!
Well, it’s definitely not gourmet. This is why ketchup was invented. It doesn’t seem like a typically “healthy” food, and that’s because it’s not. But if you buy organic ketchup (at $2/bottle this is within your budget, I promise), you won’t find it filled with chemicals or otherwise offensive ingredients. I’ve found that my kids will eat almost anything if I allow them to top it with ketchup.
Since we live in Mexico, they put hot sauce on everything now, too.
3. Unhealthy Food Doesn’t Magically Appear in Your Home
When I’m feeling like our diet needs a boost, I always make a big trip to the grocery store and specifically avoid buying any snacks, treats, or anything else unhealthy, while putting as many fruits and vegetables into my cart as I can.
Why do I do this?
Over the years I’ve discovered a secret: If I don’t buy unhealthy food, then there is no unhealthy food in my home. And if it’s not in my home, then I can’t cook it and serve it to my kids. Mind blown?
Having a large amount of fruits and vegetables, and zero unhealthy convenience foods forces me to cook healthy.
But what about carbs and protein?
Carbs are super easy. Don’t buy white rice, white pasta or white bread.
Remember, if you don’t buy it, it won’t end up in your home!
Instead, try buying brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole-grain bread (side note: this article is super basic, and we aren’t going to get into a discussion on limiting rice and gluten intake, but you can use your handy internet to learn more about these products).
Your kids will cringe, but remember: Any food they don’t eat is a super healthy meal that you’ll be enjoying with a glass of wine after they’re in bed.
Once your kids get the hang of it, you can also start serving quinoa (throw it in a pot with some water and simmer for 20 minutes….I know you’re capable of this), buckwheat, and all sorts of other cool stuff you’ll find in the Whole Foods bulk bins.
Many of these whole grains contain a good amount of protein. But if your child lifts weights daily, or is a professional athlete, you might need some more ideas for healthy protein.
Dairy is a sensitive topic, so I’ll just say this. If you’re going to serve it, save enough money until you can buy organic. And then only serve it in moderation. If you want to read more about dairy, you can use your internet to look up the science behind pasteurized dairy and how it effects the human body.
Organic or farm-bought eggs are a great source of protein, and we’re all capable of boiling them for 3-5 minutes. Then peel, cut in half, sprinkle some salt (or hot sauce if you live in Mexico), and you’re good to go.
Nuts, beans, and lentils are another great source of protein. You can often find pre-mixed lentils at Costco for a good price. They are sometimes mixed with rice or quinoa, and you just add some water, simmer for 20 minutes, and you’re done.
I’ve literally served JUST THIS to my kids as their dinner. Between the rice and the lentils, they are getting all sorts of protein, carbs, and vitamins. And it’s filling. Cut up an avocado, and now you’ve added a healthy fat and a fruit to their plates.
Congratulate yourself on being an amazing mother, then watch the kids cringe at this strange meal. Serve it again for the next 4 nights, and they might start begging for it. Mine did.
4. Rethink that “bad choice” as often as you can
Sometimes there’s just no time to cook, or maybe you’re in a good mood and you want to treat your kids. That’s life, and life happens. What you can do is be more conscientious about your decisions. Before you take your kids to eat out, take a minute to think if it’s truly necessary. Before you make that stop to buy a few chocolate chip cookies, take a minute to think if your kids really need them.
I’ve found that with a bit of discipline, I can talk myself out of unhealthy decisions about 50% of the time. Of course we eat out, but only about once a week, not every time I’m feeling lazy or stressed. Of course I get treats for the kids, but only for special occasions and usually only when they ask. Why suggest something unhealthy to them? If I’m feeling like I need a treat, I can get one while they’re at school.
If you’re thinking that my kids must hate me and think I’m the worst mom, you’re exactly right!
They voice their discontent about the food situation on a daily basis. They often complain about the food I serve them, and they occasionally skip an entire meal because it’s not to their liking.
However, I’ve also overheard them giving people lessons on everything from the benefits of buying organic to the dangers of food coloring. These lessons are not directed at their peers, as my children feel like their food knowledge is way beyond anything a child can understand. Instead, they give these lessons to adults. At school, at the grocery store, at restaurants, in the middle of the street, at hotels, and most frequently, at parties.
Ladies, tune out the complaints and get cooking. With a little bit of work, your kids will soon be saying things like:
“Mama, we got candy at school today. But I didn’t eat it. I just threw it in the garbage.”
It’s not wizardry. It’s simple human biology.
Visit her at http://www.bossmamaabroad.com/