Not sure if you remember that quote from the show “What about Bob”. He was scared of everything and the advice was baby steps. Baby steps to the door, baby steps, baby steps to the stairs, baby steps, baby steps to the bus, baby steps.
This is great advice for how we should work on our kids’ nutrition. We throw things at them so fast that they are spinning and whining because they don’t know what hit them. You get back from a doctor’s visit and the doctor gives you this strict ultimatum that says “you need to have them stop eating sugar or they will become a diabetic NOW.”
This, in turn, freaks you out and next thing you know, you take away all their snacks, they are looking at green things on their plates that they have no idea what planet they are from, and everybody is in a bad mood.
Insert Baby Steps
This is when you need to slow your roll and take a deep breath. We need to make small changes to kids’ diets and let them make habit changes over a gradual amount of time. No matter what that doctor says, your kid won’t get diabetes tomorrow as long as you start them down the right path today.
A habit takes anywhere from 14 days to 120 days to be ingrained. The idea of 21 days is nice to think about but in reality, everyone is able to accept habits at different rates, and some habits are way easier to ingrain than other ones. So we need to start very basic and work our way from there.
Here is a list of basic habits and how I would approach initial change with kids and athletes.
Habit #1: Reduce sugar in drinks
Start by taking their juice box (kids) or sodas (young adults) from however many they are currently having cutting it in half. So if they are drinking 4 in a day go to 2. Do that for roughly 2 weeks, see how they are doing with the changes, then try to reduce those altogether.
Habit #2: Multivitamins and Fish Oils (don’t start this habit until they have fully accomplished the last one)
If they aren’t taking these, set up a schedule for them to take once a day and have them laid out for them. In the beginning, you as the adult will be responsible for making them take the pills (no matter how old they are). After a couple of weeks of this, you can start to hand the responsibility off to them, and you can check up on them until they take it without you ever needing to bring it up.
Habit #3: Reduce artificial intake by increasing natural sugar intake (again don’t start until the last one is done)
Start making their snacks that are usually fruit snacks or granola bars, fruit instead. Start slowly by making one snack a day fruit or having fruit with the other snack, and then over a couple of weeks time you gradually start replacing them completely.
Next, I’ll list a few different habits to integrate and you should understand the picture of what we are looking for:
Introduce vegetables and try to get to 5 servings per day
Have lean protein every time they eat
Create a sleep routine
Make sure they are drinking half their body weight in ounces of water each day
Teach them to eat without distractions (TV, computers, games, etc)
An easy and simple way to track this and have them take accountability for it is to make a checklist that you put up on the fridge. You put one simple habit for them to work on daily and you either give them a cool ninja turtle stick every time they get it done or at least a checkmark that they can do to let them build that confidence of getting better.
The key to the whole idea is KEEP IT SIMPLE!! Baby steps to a healthy life for your kids.