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How to Make Kids Love Organic

Caroline Lyle
Aug. 22, 2012

Mom blogger Rebecca Gallagher talks about how she sets a healthy example as part of the Care.com Interview Series.

When it comes to health, Rebecca Gallagher walks the walk. She buys all organic, follows a vegan diet, and avoids fast food. The result? Healthy kids who follow her lead. Well, almost. She's still trying to sell them on the Kale chips. See why the mom behind the hilarious Frugalistablog thinks it's important to practice what you preach and why she believes in food shopping with her kids (even though that may sound psychotic!).

Tell us about your family.

We are family of four. My daughter, 12, my son, 9, and my husband and I (age??) We live a typical suburban life. And yes, I'm a PTA mom.

How health-conscious are you and/or your family? (i.e. all organic? exercise? talk about nutrition/weight?) How are you setting an example for your kids?

Very health conscious! But not obsessed. I try to buy organic. We avoid fast food. The kids see me and my no dairy/no meat lifestyle and my daughter is vegetarian because meat upsets her stomach. I try to cook as often as I can.

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

We always break rules when it comes to junk food! I said I was conscious, not obsessed. So that means, treats are okay. But it's all about moderation and balance. If you have a soda during the day, you need milk and water the rest of the day. I have a weakness for chips. Chips- Doritos/Ruffles... will always be in our pantry! Candy though is limited and luckily, my kids don't like eating very much candy. They'll binge the day after Halloween, and that's about it.

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

Example is key. Living it, not just saying it. Having your kids help with the food shopping (I know that sounds simply psychotic!) but telling them they can't buy something because it's gross or processed and showing them a better alternative is a lot of what I do. They will say, "because it's not ORGANIC" and emphasize the 'organic' like their mocking me. But in the end, they know that organic is better and they can do without something when they know it causes mutations in lab rats!

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

My son is the energizer bunny. He's the one telling me to get off the couch! My daughter, almost a teenager, is very lazy. But if I have to, I will enforce a no electronics time, and send them out to walk the dog or just go outside! It's a little hard here when it rains all the time (Seattle).

Deep down, do you think people teach healthy habits for health reasons or out of fear their kids might gain weight?

Of course! I'm more freaked out about things like cancer and heart disease when they are older. My kids have incredible metabolisms and are SKINNY! But not everyone is that lucky, and yes, I think parents can be paranoid about their kid being 'the fat kid'.

How do you protect your kids against body image concerns?

For starters, I have to be mindful of the things I complain about MY own body! Second, I always point out a positive- my son is quite skinny like I mentioned, sometimes he gets self conscious of this because kids point this out to him. I will say, 'you are such a fast runner or think how easy it is to climb the climbing wall, because you aren't too heavy'. Stuff like that so he realizes his strengths.

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

It doesn't happen directly in my family. But that could just be our household and our community. I do know that girls get a lot of flack for what they eat especially around puberty/ teen years. Boys can eat like Michael Phelps and it's "oh, look at that growing teenage boy". But with girls it's "Watch it, you don't want to get pudgy". Like the Freshman 15 in college!

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?

Thankfully, they know that stuff is junk. My son loves Cheetos, especially the spicy kind. But it's not about branding, they just like it. So they've followed my example of organic, natural, etc. They realize chemicals don't make them feel great later.

Do you believe in sneaking healthy foods into your kids' meals? If so, what have been your trickiest or most successful attempts?

I totally bought the Jessica Seinfeld book!! But it didn't last long. They were on to me. Thankfully, they are enjoying things like salads, edamame, smoothies. But they hate my kale chips!! One day... one day...

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?

Hmm, tricks... I'm probably guilty of spending a lot on my organic, vegan choices. But Trader Joes in our area is a great place to shop and it's affordable. I would recommend folks to buy frozen veggies if they can't afford fresh, organic ones. Frozen is fresher and canned is bad. Despite how cheap it is, it's just not good.

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

Try to incorporate your health as much as you incorporate manners, discipline, and any other parenting feature. If you practice what you preach, kids will respond. And don't be afraid of treats or junk! I think when kids are completely deprived, or feeling left out, they crave it more or binge more. My kids were dying for Twinkies. I bought a box, and they hated them. I got lucky there!

Rebecca Gallagher chronicles her hilarious misadventures with her two kids on her blog Frugalistablog. The sarcastic PTA mom just puts words together and hopes they entertain and enlighten a little. For more confessions from this middle-aged drama queen, follow Rebecca 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 Rebecca Gallagher.

* 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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