Raising a Healthy Family from Scratch
Hallee the Homemaker talks about nourishing her family's body and soul as part of the Care.com Interview Series.
While most of us struggle to conquer our junk food cravings, Hallee Bridgeman and her family seem to be on the other side of the spectrum. The Hallee the Homemaker blogger chooses to feed her family a strict Levitical diet and prepares all meals from scratch. Hallee may be a pro at whipping up nutritious grub, but what is most important to her is making sure her kids understand the "why" to healthy foods. Find out how Hallee's 4-year-old son became an expert wheat-grinder and why her teen daughter actually prefers the junk-free snack selection at home.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Gregg, and I have three children: Kaylee (15), Scott (6), and Johnathan (4). We live in Central Kentucky, and were highlighted in your Care.com Military Family series.
How health-conscious are you and/or your family?
We believe very strongly that a major problem with overall health in our country is due to the unhealthy eating habits most people have - between processed food, bad ingredients, refined sugars, and toxins, along with an overall sedentary lifestyle most people live, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and such are killing us when they could be prevented and/or reversed by simple diet. "First do no harm ... Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food," is a very famous quote from Hippocrates.
Our family follows a Levitical diet. That means, if the Biblical book of Leviticus says we should not eat something (i.e. pork, shellfish, carrion birds, lizards, etc.) then we don't eat it. Here is an article about our opinions on consuming dairy and meat.
What rules do you have in your house about junk food and/or exercise? When are they allowed to be broken? Explain.
There is no junk food in my house. Most of what we consume, I prepare from scratch. The closest we get to junk food is organic tortilla chips and salsa.
If we are traveling, we tend to be a little more lax in our eating rules. We always graciously accept hospitality at friends' and family members' homes, and never turn down food unless it specifically breaks our observance of a Levitical diet
We do occasionally eat fast food. We try not to, but we travel often, and sometimes, it's easier to go through the drive through at Wendy's when you have another 300 miles to drive and three hungry kids.
How do you teach kids about nutrition/exercise/encourage healthy habits without being too pushy? Explain this balance.
We aren't pushy as much as we explain that the reason they can't have something is "because it's bad for your body." That said, we don't watch commercials, nor do we really go into the aisles of grocery stores, so the younger children really don't understand what they're "missing". Our daughter has been taught from an intellectual standpoint why certain foods are bad. She spent four weeks at her birth father's house at the beginning of summer. On her return home, she was eating a snack of pita bread and hummus and said, "It's so good to be home to real food."
What are some creative ways you get your kids moving or eating right? How do you make being healthy fun for them and you? Share your ideas!
One thing we certainly focus on is letting the kids help prepare meals. They are constantly in the kitchen with me. My 4-year-old knows exactly how to operate my grain mill, and when it's time to grind wheat, it's his job.
As far as exercise goes, our daughter is involved in high school sports. Our two boys are very active boys and run and jump everywhere they go. During the cold winter months, you'll often find them jumping on couches or beds just trying to burn excess energy. I walk everywhere I can walk - including a 4-mile speed walk every morning.
It isn't that we encourage exercise as much as we discourage a sedentary lifestyle.
How do you protect your kids against body image concerns?
I have a 15-year-old daughter who is 5'8" and wears a size 2. SHE has body image concerns. That is this society. The media pushes an unhealthy body image, and kids walk around taking instant pictures of themselves all day long, analyzing every angle, every flaw, every spot. It's maddening. The only way to battle it is to touch, love, hug, affirm, and teach that we are God's creations.
In your observances, do you see a difference between how boys and girls are taught healthy eating habits? Can you explain?
As far as boys and girls are concerned, I see an unhealthy extreme amount of marketing for anything that is fast food, convenience food, processed food, and packaged food toward children as a whole. I don't know if I've ever noticed a trend toward boy or girl in particular. I think that marketing is pushing extremely UNhealthy eating habits.
Has/Have any of your kids needed to lose weight/get healthy? How have you handled that? Are there any bad examples you've seen?
My children have never needed to lose weight. My daughter, when she was 3, needed to gain weight. We actually had to "supercharge her fat calorie intake" because she'd been losing weight.
I have seen friends with children who needed to lose weight. I've seen an unhealthy obsession with carbs (one friend's daughter would gorge and binge on bread when given an opportunity) and I've seen a healthy trend toward a more plant-based, low animal product diet that was very successful in helping their children lose weight.
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?
I have no problem "competing" because that food is not in my house. When they ask for it in the stores, I tell them no. That doesn't brook any argument because the answer has never really been yes.
Healthy meals are pricey and often 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?
Meal planning, meal planning, meal planning. I cannot say enough about it. If you know what you're going to eat in the coming week, then preparing, shopping, and budgeting become easy, almost mindless tasks.
What's the best tip you could give another parent about how to raise a healthy family?
Switch to healthy, and if your child rebels, stick to it. Don't stop. Remove the bad foods from your house. Clean out the junk. Offer only healthy foods as meals and snacks. Eventually, your child will come around. And, you may, like we did, have a 15-year-old thankful for healthy snacks and real food.
Hallee Bridgeman lives in Kentucky with her National Guardsman husband and three children. She shares her family's story, photos and recipes on her blog Hallee the Homemaker. Hallee also writes Christian romances. You can find Hallee on Facebook and Twitter.
See how other families stay healthy in our Care.com Interview Series: Raising Healthy Kids Without the Backlash »
Photo used with permission from Hallee Bridgeman
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