Why Mostly Healthy Works for Us

Caroline Lyle
June 8, 2017

The Martha Project blogger talks about living in between extremes as part of the Care.com Interview Series.



From earthy-crunchy diets to corn dogs for dinner, Jen has been just about everywhere on the healthy eating scale. Finally, The Martha Project blogger has settled into moderation land, but she still justifies eating funnel cakes as a civic duty. Hey, it's supporting America, right? Find out how the Martha Stewart wannabe navigates having kids with allergies, why she suspects the organic cereal is mad at her, and why feeding her family is always an adventure.

Tell us about your family.

We're your typical American family of 4. I've been with my husband for nearly half my life and I have 2 ninja-in-training sons, they are 5 and 9. You can often find us playing the game of life where the 5 year old usually wins. They're all comedians.

How health-conscious are you and/or your family?

Both of my children have had food "issues" since birth. My older son could not have certain food colorings or preservatives and my younger son had gluten and dairy issues. If this sounds like fun to feed, you're right. I have been at just about every level of food conscious there is. Strict crunchy organic, the moderation mommy, and what the heck have that corn dog mom. I now use all my knowledge to live in moderation land.

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

We are a house that has junk food in it. Right now in my pantry, I have an organic cereal sitting next to corn pops. I wonder if the organic cereal is mad at me for putting it in this situation. I have decided that I did not want to be too extreme to either side. If I can have my kids eat healthy 75% of the time, I'm ok with letting them have items that are deemed unhealthy now and then. Right now it's summer. I'm not going to lie and say we haven't had our fair share of chips at the pool. Which brings me to exercise. Both my kids know that I like them to be active, preferably outside, for at least 1-2 hours a day.

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

Since both my kids are in school, they have both had programs to teach them nutrition and exercise. Who better to tell my kids all about this? My kids both came home excited. One of them even said to me "I shouldn't have that cookie because I haven't had lunch yet." So, score one for school knowledge. Having it reinforced at school has really been a game changer. Now I can just say "Do you think your teacher would make that choice?" The teacher card is all powerful. I use it.

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

Both my kids are involved in physical activities. Their teachers encourage them to practice at home. It's sort of its own "get moving" curriculum. Again, I just reinforce at home what is being said to them at their activity. Also, we're very fortunate to live near many, many parks. I have done park tours where we pick a new park to go to each time.

How do you protect your kids against body image concerns?

First of all, we don't allow the word "fat" to be used in our house when referring to people. This once led my son to use the term "molecularly enlarged." We also use the phrase "that food isn't good for your heart" instead of saying "that food will make you fat." It's unhealthy issue vs. an appearance issue.

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 older son is 5ft at 9 years old. He tends to put on more weight right before he shoots up another 2 inches. He really tends to crave carbohydrates during those times as well. I try to balance his cravings with having the fruits and vegetables he will eat in the house with free access to them.

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?

Some items in our house are non-negotiable. They can't drink or eat what is not in the house. If we are on vacation or at the pool, those restrictions do get relaxed. Besides, if I'm going to eat a funnel cake at the fair, I'll let them have that corn dog. That's supporting America right there.

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

One time, I actually purchased one of those recipe books. Let's just say that spinach brownies were not a big hit. As a matter of fact, my son doubted my ability to bake after I made them. So, I guess I don't have a successful attempt at that. I'm ok with making brownies from scratch with real, pure ingredients.

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?

My kids are not that complex of eaters right now. Instead of giving them a side of chips, it's carrot sticks or maybe sliced apples. I think the cost is probably comparable on those items but makes a big nutrition difference. I'm not trying to make a kid version of salmon with balsamic glaze. I try and pick foods they might normally eat but the healthier version of them. Pizza will have fewer ingredients with real cheese made from cows without hormones.

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

I generally try to stay away from giving advice but since you asked: Pick your food ideals that are not up for debate right from birth. If you've never had white bread in your house? They won't even know what it is (true story.)

Jen started her blog The Martha Project to document her mission to become the next Martha Stewart. With two ninja in training sons and an ADD personality, it might be a while before she achieves her goal. Follow the damn handy and brutally honest Jen on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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

Photo used with permission from Jen.

* 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.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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