Have you even been in a situation and thought, “Oh my gosh! There isn’t any real food here. What the heck do I eat?” That’s what we call a “Food Trap”. Unfortunately, the more active you are as a family, the more food traps you will come across. You can control the food you eat when you are home. When I switched my family’s diet from fast and processed food to primarily real food, I found that almost anything I made at home was so much better than food I found out at restaurants. It sure would be nice if we could eat every meal at home, but real life often interferes and we are forced to make eating decisions on the fly.
The kids are hungry. You are hungry. What are you going to choose to eat? Go for the easy fast food or stay in there and fight for your real food diet and good nutrition? I know it’s not always possible to eat completely real food. That’s fine. However, I think that striving for “better” rather than “perfection” is important. The following tips are intended to help you when you face these food traps.
Common Food Traps
Busy schedule: A busy family schedule is probably the most common food trap that folks run across. After a long day of work you pick up your kids, grab their sports bags, and race off to practice. There isn’t much time for a good dinner. Some of the things that work for us is grabbing real food snacks to stave off hunger and then eating when we get home from practice. We also use our crock pot quite a bit to make sure dinner is ready the moment we walk in the door. Breakfast foods come together really fast. Egg sandwiches on whole wheat bread are some of my fastest dinners. Add some crunch cucumbers or carrots and sweet fresh fruit and you have the easiest dinner ever.
Vacations: I’m not saying you can’t indulge a little bit while on vacation, but if indulging too much makes you feel less than great then there are steps you can take to make sure you really enjoy your vacation. Feeling sick all week is not the best way to spend a vacation. Bring along some healthy snacks. Packaged snack bars like Lara bars, popcorn and fresh fruit are easy to pack. They taste great and keep you away from the processed foods found in vending machines. When it comes to meals, take a look at online menus ahead of time. Make some choices so you are ready when it’s your turn to order. Look for restaurants that make their own food. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for modifications to meals. Look for grilled meats and lots of vegetables. Ask for oil and vinegar for your dressing. Another thing that really works for me is asking what they have available for vegetarians. Often the vegetarian menu is full of delicious dishes that you will love even if you do not eat a vegetarian diet.
Holidays: Go ahead and celebrate! Just make sure your holiday doesn’t last the entire month. During the holidays I like to focus on the vegetables. Most of the time vegetables get lost when planning holiday meals full of sugar. I can fill my plate with lots of vegetables and a little of the rest. That always makes my tummy feel better. When I host a holiday event, always make sure there is a vegetable tray or salad. Most of my holiday recipes are adapted to real food so I love to host parties. If I am asked to go to a party, I always ask what I can bring and make sure to take a real food dish. That way I know that there is something that I can eat.
Family Gatherings: My family likes to celebrate everything and we have family gatherings often. I have found that letting family members know that we are trying to eat more real food is helpful. There is no need to buy processed food snacks and sodas since we don’t eat them anyway.
Snack Time: Make sure your children know the difference between a snack and a meal. We have run into this problem as my children get older and are allowed to choose their own snacks. I also have to remind them often that they should be hungry when I say it’s time for dinner. Microwave popcorn, fresh fruit, and vegetables and dip are some of our favorite snacks. If you prepare snacks ahead of time and make them easy to grab, they are more likely to be eaten. Another idea I like is to come up with a list of healthy snacks and let the kids choose from this list. The best advice I have ever heard is to make sure you only have healthy snack choices in the house. If there isn’t sugary and processed food snacks in the house, our children won’t be able to eat them.
Potluck Dinners: Thanks to church functions and scouting events, we attend pot luck dinners on a regular basis. You never know what you will find at a potluck so this is probably the hardest food trap to avoid. First, make sure you bring a healthy real food dish that your family loves to share. You can even bring a couple of dishes if you like. Again, looking for vegetables and salads to put on your plate is a good idea. Try to avoid overdoing it at the dessert table. I have seen kids that have filled their plates with nothing but sweets with their parents sitting right next to them. I know kids can be picky, but what the heck?!
Please don’t read this and think that you can never eat anything but carrots the rest of your life. That is not what I am saying at all. Finding success on a real food diet while maintaining a busy family schedule is all about finding compromise and balance. Don’t make yourself miserable trying to eat a perfect real food diet. Instead, strive to eat real food about 80% of the time. Don’t stress out about choosing to eat processed food the other 20% of the time. It happens. Move on. Be happy that your family is eating healthy nutrient-dense foods on a regular basis. You are likely eating better than most families simply by focusing on the good stuff more often. Food is to be enjoyed. Don’t stress your family out too much with food rules. Allow them to choose the junk once in a while and teach them that treats are to be enjoyed once in a while and a focus on overall good nutrition is important.
What food traps do you come across on a regular basis? How do you like to deal with common food traps? Let’s get the conversation going and help each other deal with these common food traps.