Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthy Habits

A friend of mine recently asked me what I/we do as a family to eat and be healthy. It was kind of ironic, because another friend and I recently e-mailed about this topic as well. Now I do not claim to be a health-nut or know all the ins and outs of healthy eating and lifestyles. We all have our downfalls. I just know that what we are doing seems to be working for our family, as we're all staying active and healthy and not gaining weight. So I thought I'd put some of the things we do out there for the world to see. Maybe I'll inspire you. Maybe I won't. But if I can help one person make just one tiny, healthy change, that would be worth it.

We like our food. A lot. I tend to cook a lot of "comfort foods" that make people think of Grammas and pot lucks and hearty treats--lasagna, enchiladas, casseroles, creamy soups, etc. But I balance them out by using low or fat-free ingredients, loading up the veggies in them or serving a veggie or two on the side, and limiting the salt content. And I don't cook these things every night. I may make a "heavy" dish 2-3 times a week and the other nights are things like grilled chicken, chef salads, light pasta dishes, etc. I also still allow treats, but in moderation. I make brownies and cookies (with butter, no less!) but I limit them to one brownie a day, or 1 small cookie after each lunch and dinner. If I make a light-colored cake or cupcakes (white or yellow mix) I substitute sugar-free applesauce for the oil. Then I encourage Andy to take a big bag of treats to work to share with his co-workers, or I bring a plate to a friend's house, or whatever. If they're here, I end up eating them because I'm the one home. And I don't need all of that.

Okay, so here are some of the things that work for us:
  • I use Olive Oil instead of vegetable oil or butter when I saute veggies. Olive Oil is a healthier fat.
  • We drink 1% milk instead of whole or 2%. Sure, we could go even further and drink skim, but honestly I don't like the taste and with Andy growing up on a dairy farm, he feels like skim is the devil. Just saying.
  • I try to buy most things low or fat free. Sure, some things just don't taste the same. But often the change in taste is so minuscule and the healthy benefits so large! Whenever possible I buy low or fat free salad dressings, soups (like cream of mushroom or chicken), sour cream, cheese, etc.
  • I seldom ever make "prepared meals." I'm talking things like Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, etc (the occasional box of mac-n-cheese not included). Not only do these types of things often have serious amounts of salt, but usually you can make something very similar for the same amount of time and money, and they are often healthier and better tasting!
  • We always have fruits and veggies available for snacks and as a side for a meal. My kids LOVE notoriously non-kid foods like peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, avocado, peas, etc. My mom once gave Lilly a can of peas and a carton of cherry tomatoes for her birthday and Lilly was SOOOO excited.
  • When I buy canned veggies, I always make sure to buy the cans that are low or free of salt. With fruit, I make sure that they are canned in natural juices not syrups. But whenever possible, I buy them flash frozen or fresh. And frozen is usually the same price or even cheaper, too!
  • We seldom have soda in the house and when we do, it's for a treat. The kids in particular don't have one just for something to drink. They may get one to share as a treat while watching a movie or playing a board game. But it's always caffeine-free and often low-sugar.
  • Two drinks that are a staple in our house: milk and water. As a rule, those are the 2 drinks we encourage. Like I said above, there is the occasional soda or lemonade thrown in there as well. But the overall majority (I'm talking probably 95%) is either milk or water.
  • We have chips in the house on occasion, but in general we don't allow them as a snack. They may be a side to a meal as a treat, but you won't see any of us sit down with a bowl of chips as a snack. If you do, it's tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole, or a special treat.
  • We try to get outside every day. Sometimes it's to play on the swings and slides in the backyard, sometimes it's riding bike out front, sometimes it's just going for a walk or coloring with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. But as long as the weather is mostly dry you'll find us outside at some point in the day.
  • We all get plenty of sleep. The girls are all in bed by 8 each night during the week unless there is some circumstances that don't allow that (like a late softball game) We make sure that everyone gets enough sleep not only for our sanity, but for our health.

I hope that I'm not coming across as preachy or holier than thou. That's certainly not my intention. I know there are lots of ways that we could continue to improve our habits (and I haven't listed everything here, either) and be healthier. We also still indulge with treats and other things, but with moderation we keep things in check. As a whole, I think we are doing quite well. And if I inspired any of you to make one tiny little change, then yay!


Anonymous said...

Don't let her fool ya - she puts CHEESE in everything! Yes, this IS Wisconsin, and yes, Andy DID grow up on a dairy farm, and yes, cheese "IS" in moderation a healthy food. :-)

Candy said...

I do put cheese in almost everything! Yum!