We first learned that we needed to make some major dietary changes about 4 years ago. Gosh! Time flies! I knew it was coming, and as relieved as I was to know what foods were triggers, it was still very overwhelming. We jumped in 100% committed as a family. Each of us did not 'need' to make the same changes, but it was much easier for us to do it all together. We talked about what we were doing and WHY. Our kids were 3, 4 and 7 and were aware enough to understand. It wasn't always easy, and we still face challenges, but I cannot imagine what this journey would have been like if we hadn't been all in together. Here's a few simple tips I share often with friends that are making changes:
1. Big one ... talk about the changes you are making with your kids, and explain WHY you are buying different foods and cooking new things. Kids like to attach themselves to what you're doing. It can be very eye opening for them to make the connection on their own between the foods they eat and how they feel.
2. Focus on the whole, God-given foods you are choosing to eat, rather than all that you are 'giving up' or might be missing out on. Living foods heal and will impact how you feel. You will soon not miss a thing!
3. If you are going gluten free, my biggest encouragement is to stop worrying so much about replacing the carb. The American diet is filled with unnecessary carbs (buns, breads, pasta, rice). There are definitely some awesome gluten free options out there now, but they are not needed to create a tasty meal. I keep my freezer stocked with good proteins and my produce bins filled with veggies. There's always something for dinner! Try cutting down to just one carb replacement every day, rather than every meal. On other meals add an extra veggie, fat, fruit or increase your protein just a bit.
4. Learn to read labels! I have some handy tips on this subject, but in general learning to read labels can transform the way you view food. The majority of the foods on our grocery store shelves have been altered in some way by additives, preservatives, chemicals and processes. Also, know that just because something is labeled 'Gluten Free,' 'Natural,' or 'Something-Free' does NOT mean it is healthy. Studies are confirming more and more the connection between processed foods and auto-immune diseases, attention disorders and many other health issues. Pay attention to what's in the food you buy!
5. Find a chef or two that you love and involve your family in this process. Experiment with different cookbooks. Borrow some, google, start following blogs and subscribe to your favorites. It takes time to discover what will work for your family. Finding cookbooks and recipes that your family will enjoy is like finding a favorite book series, devotional or TV show. What clicks for us, may not click for you. Let each member of the family choose some recipes and go for it. It's taken some time, but we have found our favorites and our weeknight meals are fairly easy and always delicious. Because of our journey, my kids have taken an interest in cooking. They love to be in the kitchen with me and are the best helpers!
6. As a rule of thumb, if you won't eat something, don't feed it to your kids. This is a touchy subject, and probably the one area I will exercise some tough love. I often see parents eat lean, healthy meals and then order their kids mac n'cheese, chicken tenders or pizza. I'm not judging ... I just don't understand. If you feel like crap after eating fried, sugary foods or stuff that leaves you gassy & boated, why would you expect your kids to feel any different? They might feel like crap too, but struggle to make the connection or be able to express it yet. It's hard to put your foot down, I know! I would encourage you to look at the way you eat versus the way your kids eat. If it's vastly different, maybe it's time to make a change?
7. Last thing for now ... walk in GRACE and practice the 80/20 rule. No one is perfect and there's no way for any of us to do this perfectly. I pursued this lifestyle because I love food! I love trying new foods, indulging sometimes and I will always keep learning and figuring out what is the best food I can make for my family. It's a journey. May grace and tasty eats abound for you!