Posted: Mar 12, 2014 8:00 AM
In a perfect world, our kids would eat exactly what we eat and never ever seek out a salty, delicious snack. In the real world, a bag of Goldfish can be a life-saver in a pinch. But not necessarily for Mom. It's important to put our nutrition first, as healthy moms raise healthy kids.

Parenting changes everything. You sleep less, your heart nearly explodes with love, you experience an incredible urge to protect your child at all costs, and your eating habits change. Yes, kids can cause major changes to your diet.

At first, the changes are subtle. You reach for quick snacks when caring for an infant. Easy seems the only way to go when you feel like the cries for help might commence at any moment. Then toddlerhood strikes and it's difficult to even find the time to sit and eat a proper meal, so you graze alongside your busy little one. But nothing shakes things up like a selective eater. When your child will only eat three or four things, it's easy to get caught in the trap of eating those three or four things with your child. Who has the time or energy to cook multiple meals?

The food that we put into our bodies can help us stay alert, remain healthy and keep our emotions in check.

No matter what the rest of your family eats, it's time for moms to take control of their own nutrition. Diet and exercise can mean the difference between a happy day full of energy and a depressing one that seems never-ending. The food that we put into our bodies can help us stay alert, remain healthy and keep our emotions in check. Add that to plenty of water and moderate exercise and you have a recipe for happy moms.

If only it were that easy. There are obstacles around every corner, it seems, and it can be hard to avoid falling into the trap of the kid diet. Considering the long and busy days many moms endure each week, it's easy to understand why our own nutrition seems to fade into the background. Lauren Slayton, M.S., R.D., nutritionist and author of The Little Book of Thin:  Foodtrainers Plan-It-to-Lose-It Solutions for Every Diet Dilemma, explains, "I don't think moms consciously think of it in terms of prioritizing their own health. I think they are tired and have under-fueled early in the day, and the bites and picks don't register."

There are small changes busy moms can make each day to help refuel in a healthy way, even when the Goldfish crackers are always within reach.

iced coffee cup

Don't drink calories

Parenting young children is tiring. Sleepless nights and busy days can send moms in search of the nearest Starbucks several times a day, but some of those fancy coffee drinks can really fill you up on empty calories. The result? You feel full for a moment but then find yourself sharing snacks with your toddler within the hour.

Keep your coffee simple.

Coffee isn't the only liquid offender when it comes to proper nutrition. Juices, sodas (are you still drinking soda) and alcoholic beverages (sigh, I know) can also pack a punch. Consider making your own juice to avoid added calories and limit those evening drinks.

Avoid kid picks

Picking through the leftovers when your child abandons nearly half of a beautifully melted grilled cheese is practically a parental rite of passage. It's also a trap. Once you start, it can be very difficult to stop, even if you have an adult dinner planned for later in the evening.

Slayton suggests going cold turkey to help retrain bad habits, "One strategy is to go one week with no picks of the kids' foods. Even when you put something healthy in your mouth, like veggies, the act of popping something into your mouth while you're cooking or clearing a plate can snowball into bites of less healthy food."

Once you get out of the habit of picking from little plates, it's easy to avoid it in the future.

Bonus Tip^ Teach your kids to clear their own plates directly to the sink so that the leftovers are out of reach (even toddlers can carry a toddler plate from the table to the sink).

Improve eating style

When we're constantly eating on the go, we send our brains some very mixed messages. As busy as the day might seem, it's important to sit down and eat a meal at the table with proper utensils. Slayton is a big believer in focusing on what she refers to as "eating style." "All the food you plan on eating has to go on a plate and should be consumed with utensils, while sitting down. This makes your choices mindful and also shows your kids the proper way to eat," says Slayton.

Bottom line: Make time for healthy eating habits. The fact that fast food restaurants are absolutely everywhere can make it easy to abandon healthy habits, but our children take their food cues from us. We need to prioritize a healthy eating style for own needs, as well as for the needs of our children.

Make family meals

When picky eaters dig in their heels, it can be tempting to cook the same foods over and over again. But what about the rest of the family? Yes, having one food on your selective eater's approved food list makes for a calmer dining experience, but that shouldn't be the primary food source for the entire family.

Slayton suggests making food that you can eat, too, "The thought of making something else is too much for many parents. Add one thing that's not breaded, fried or white to each meal."

Plan ahead

Meal planning takes some of the guesswork out of the weeknight grind when life gets busy. Try to dedicate a few minutes on Sundays to planning ahead for the week. Chances are that you plan ahead when it comes to packing snacks for your kids, and you should do the same for you. Grab-and-go bags containing healthy snacks (think snap peas or sunflower seeds) can help keep hunger under control so that you aren't tempted to stop at one of those alluring drive-thrus along the way.

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