Let's Talk About Health

The Food for My Family Blogger shares her tips for educating kids about healthy eating as part of the Care.com Interview Series.

food family

Shaina Olmanson is never the only cook in the kitchen. The mom behind the delectable blog Food for My Family typically has four little sous-chefs selecting ingredients, chopping up vegetables, and indulging in taste tests. Cooking as a family gives Shaina the opportunity to teach her kids about what certain foods do to their bodies and how it makes them feel. Here, learn how Shaina makes the kitchen a classroom and why she thinks frank conversations about food is the key to raising a healthy family.

Tell us about your family.

My husband and I have four kids, ranging in age from 12 down to 4. (Sniffle. My baby just turned four. How is that possible?)

How health-conscious are you and/or your family? How are you setting an example for your kids?

We are fairly health-conscious. We are very cautious about what we buy and why, shopping at the farmers market and for primarily organic food items and whole foods. We work at staying active on a regular basis by taking family bike rides and walks, and we talk about making healthy choices with our kids. For us, that means we teach them that it's okay to eat dessert every now and then, but we want to be sure to eat a balanced diet that is primarily made up of plant products.

What rules do you have in your house about junk food and/or exercise? When are they allowed to be broken?

We simply don't keep junk food in the house. When you eat less of it, you crave it less. We use junk foods like candy, chocolate bars, and desserts to celebrate special occasions or birthdays or during parties.

How do you teach kids about nutrition/exercise/encourage healthy habits without being too pushy? Explain this balance.

The easiest way is to just model the behavior. Because my husband and I are participating in family bike rides and we all eat family dinners together, the kids see exactly how we act. We explain to them the reasoning and we let them learn what it feels like to fail. It wasn't hard for my son, for example, to realize that eating too much candy after Halloween made him feel crummy. We then spend some time discussing how and why that was the case.

What are some creative ways you get your kids moving? How do you make being healthy fun for them and you? Share your ideas!

We set limits for screen time. We try to make TV and movies a reward at the end of a long day or the end of the week, and then we reserve them for those occasions. Our TV cabinet closes, and so the door is closed and remains closed until there's something specific we want to watch on.

For other activities, we encourage the kids to come up with their own things to play. Sure they have toys and a kiddy pool and a swing set, but we let them explore those things and come up with games to play during the day.

How do you protect your kids against body image concerns?

I try to teach my kids to have a healthy relationship with food, which begins at birth. They need to know how to eat and when to realize they're full. They should also know how to indulge without overindulging. It's a delicate balance, and when it's achieved and you're eating healthy and moving, I believe your body will relax into its ideal weight, which is exactly where you should be most comfortable.

In your observances, do you see a difference between how boys and girls are taught healthy eating habits?

I think boys are often encouraged to eat more than girls, telling them it will grow their muscles and make them stronger. However, both girls and boys should be taught how to make the right decisions on what and how much to eat.

How can you compete with the super cool Cheetos Cheetah or the all-about-the-fun Kool Aid guy? Is it a struggle to make your kids eat healthy foods?

For us, all it takes is talking about how MSG works in our body and the effects artificial food dyes can have on you for my kids to realize that perhaps those aren't the best choices for foods we want to continue eating day in and day out.

Do you believe in sneaking healthy foods into your kids' meals?

I'm very straightforward with my kids. I don't see the use in hiding things from them. Instead, I work hard to educate my kids and teach them where the food we eat comes from, how to prepare it, and why we eat it. They get to help pick it out at the market or the store, learn how to cut it and cook it, and then they get to see how it tastes different when it is prepared differently or when it is raw. Sure, there are foods they don't like, but they are constantly exposed to a variety of food.

Healthy meals are pricey and can take longer to prepare. How do you manage to eat healthy on a budget and in a time crunch? Can you share any tips, tricks or recipes?

Plan ahead. It's so much easier to pull together meals when there is actually food in the fridge that has a plan set for it. Just the other day we whipped up homemade fish sticks with tilapia, leftover buttermilk and corn chip crumbs. Prep time was minimal, and we spent the time it was baking in the oven to grill a few vegetables from the garden. Healthy meals don't have to take forever, and it doesn't have to be pricey. They can be simple and straightforward if you want them to be.

What's the best tip you could give another parent about how to raise a healthy family?

Get your kids involved. I've seen great returns on how my kids eat and react to food just because they are involved in the process. That exposure takes a lot of the fear away from the dinner table.

Shaina Olmanson is the cook and photographer behind the popular blog Food for My Family where she shares recipes, menu planning tips, meal deals, and nutrition information. When she isn't helping other families make healthy choices, she's busy raising four young kids with her husband Ole. You can follow Shaina on Twitter and Facebook.

See how other families stay healthy in our Care.com Interview Series: Raising Healthy Kids Without the Backlash

Photo used with permission from Shaina Olmanson.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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