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The New Year is in full swing as people across the globe make resolutions to living a happier, healthier lifestyle in 2017. The most common New Year’s resolutions among Americans are diet and exercise. We all know we can and should eat healthier and get moving so that we can lead longer, stronger, and healthier lives. Oftentimes however when people are making these diet and exercise resolutions they don’t include the kids in the family.
Those of us who are parents know that it is a universal parenting conundrum trying to get our children to consume more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and goldfish, but how? One way is to include said children REGARDLESS OF AGE in the New Year, New You healthy diet and exercise plan.
Many people think that diet and exercise is easier with a friend or partner to encourage you and keep you going, so why not make your entire family part of your team? There are many benefits to everyone participating in the plan together including easier meal preparation and family bonding at meal prep and meal times.
The Whole 30 program developed by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig in 2009 has become a popular diet plan that many people use throughout the year, although especially in January, to reset their system, lose weight, and feel great! This easy-to-follow, paleo diet guide can be beneficial for both you and your children because it is a diet full of healthy proteins, vegetables, and fruits that actually involves eating a lot. There are no strict portion sizes, no weighing food, or really restricting your diet at all when it comes to healthy food.
The simplest way to follow the diet is to eat meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits while refraining from ALL grains, dairy, and sugars. The off-limit foods are those that historically cause health related problems including inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity to name a few. These same foods have also been linked to behavior problems, minimal and severe, in children. However, you can change those unhealthy habits and move toward a more fulfilling, food friendly lifestyle this 2017!
Below are some tips and tricks to surviving a Whole 30 for the Whole Family.
1. Include the kids.
Include the kids in everything. From shopping to meal prep, make this about them, their bodies, their lifestyle, and their health. The idea behind Whole 30 is teaching you to be in control of your health and your diet which is something we Americans have let go for way too long. This is a perfect way to ease your children into a lifelong habit of taking control of their diet, their bodies, and what they consume.
Work with your child to make appropriate food choices. Allow them to have some say in what they will or will not eat each week and discuss why. Children love to feel like they are in control of something because often as adults we simply take the reins. By allowing them to take charge to some extent you will be teaching them a valuable lesson, and they will be more likely to embrace the diet and stick to their own choices.
Tip: Allow your child to decide what the family will eat for at least one meal to make them feel included in the weekly family meal planning.
Trick: Make a deal with your child that he or she will agree to try at least one new vegetable this week.
2. Meal Plan and Prep.
Just about every diet out there tells you to plan and prepare for your weekly meals on the weekend so as to make the diet smoother to execute and easier to follow. This is sage advice because while there are a few quick/snack type foods that can be worked into the Whole 30, there aren’t many. Meal planning and prep is especially important when following the diet with the whole family because you will need breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for a lot of people (although snacks are not recommended in the Whole 30, they are also not forbidden, and with children there do have to be some accommodations made).
That said, you may also be prepping different types of foods for each person, or at least the adults and the kids in the family depending on preferences. For example, your older children may take nuts and seeds in their lunch box as a side, but your 2 year old likely isn’t eating whole nuts on his own just yet, so send him some apple slices with a side of almond butter to dip them in.
Protein salads such as chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad can be made ahead and stored in individual containers that can be easily slipped into a lunchbox before heading out the door. Add some romaine, arugula, or kale and maybe some sprouts or seeds in the morning as you leave and you’ve got your healthy salad. For kids, add some carrot or celery sticks they can use as their “scoop” and they will have fun with their lunch. Kids and adults alike are usually great fans of “dipping” their food, so send some homemade Whole 30 compliant ranch dressing with a side of cucumbers and red bell peppers with everyone’s lunch. If it’s cold outside when you plan for your dinners, plan to have leftovers that can be sent in your child’s thermos and send leftover spaghetti and zoodles or spaghetti squash, or left over chili (no beans).
Don’t use the excuse of not having the time to try a Whole 30! Check out these Food Prep Series Tips and Tricks to help get you started.
Make sure to throw a side of sliced fruit into your and your child’s lunchbox. Snack foods for you or your child’s lunchbox can include beef jerky, Larabars, olives, nuts/seeds/coconut flakes/dried fruit/homemade trail mixes, homemade fruit strips/leathers, or occasionally even some Jackson’s Potato Chips, because although chips are a no-no on the Whole 30, the ingredients are actually all compliant.
Tip: Make your mayonnaise (homemade is easy and delicious by the way), salad dressing, ketchup, and barbeque sauce ahead of time. Your ketchup and BBQ sauce can be made in a large batch at the beginning of the month and kept frozen until needed while mayo and salad dressings should be made weekly.
3. Shop Local (if possible) for eggs, fruits, and vegetables. Order your meats ahead of time.
No matter where you live it is likely that you can find a local farmer’s market not too far off the beaten path. Establishments like this are often only open on the weekends and will be carrying fresh, local fare that is in season. Farmer’s markets are always going to have fresh local eggs, vegetables and fruits, not to mention local honey (not Whole 30 compliant but good to know for when you reintroduce sugar but decide to remain paleo), and at some, even fresh bone broth, and occasionally raw meats, cheeses, and seafood. Learning to eat local or farm-to-table during your Whole 30 is not necessary but it is the healthier and in some cases more economically savvy choice.
Large chain grocery stores may always carry fresh fruits and vegetables whether in season or not, so they often carry a heftier price tag when out of season, and quite frankly, aren’t as healthy. If you include the kids as suggested above, they will love going to the local farmer’s market where they not only can help pick out the food for the week, but they will likely find “cool” fruits and vegetables they don’t regularly see in the aisles of the grocery store, such as a large variety of funny looking winter squash or lychee and dragon fruits. Encouraging your kids to try these new fruits and vegetables will be easier if they are allowed to choose them at the market.
The variety at the local farmer’s market will encourage you to get creative, introduce you to new foods, and encourage you to try fruits and vegetables you may never have thought of before. Although most everyone likes apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas, try an Asian pear and enjoy the satisfying crunch, taste a rambutan full of juicy sweetness, or cut up a patty pan squash or Romanesco cauliflower. The possibilities are endless when you start looking for more than just your usual broccoli and canned green beans, and you and your kids may just fall in love with some new fruits and veggies.
Tired of the same old foods? Check out these 3 Unconventional Vegetable Sides and plan to try one (or all) during your Whole 30.
If your budget is an issue, you can be picky about what you buy organic and which foods you may choose to buy conventionally. Check out The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 so you can shop smart.
Good protein in the form of pasture-raised, grass-fed, and/or organic meats can be more difficult to find and definitely more expensive. This is a personal choice. Although grass-fed, organic meats are not a requirement for a successful Whole 30, they are the healthier option. When evaluating meats for the Whole 30, the key is to find non-processed meats with no added sugar. For example, ALL BACON IS NOT THE SAME.
Traditional breakfast meats such as bacon and pork sausage contain sugar which is non-compliant with the diet so these foods are out. However, ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey can be spiced up without sugar and turned into a delicious sausage patty. Bacon without sugar is allowed and all other meats, beef, poultry, pork, lamb, and seafood can all be had as long as they are not in pre-seasoned marinades/packaging.
There are a variety of recipes out there for marinades (mayonnaise and salad dressings work great for this) and seasonings (make sure to get individual spices or if picking up a combo such as “Italian Seasoning” make sure there are no illegal ingredients such as sugar or soy) that will spice up your dishes which you can then roast, grill, bake, sauté, or broil. When purchasing whole meats such as chickens or turkeys to roast, or any “bone-in” meat, be sure to save your bones to make beef or chicken bone broth.
Tip: Order your meats ahead of time or find local butchers who can cut fresh meat to your liking. US Wellness Meats is an online company that carries Whole 30 approved meats such as pork breakfast sausage, bacon, bison chorizo sausage, hot dogs, and many other sugar-free options to make your Whole 30 easy to complete.
Trick: Make extra mayonnaise or salad dressings to use as marinades for your meat. Add avocado, lemon, garlic, or other fresh or dried spices to your mayonnaise and slather your chicken or pork before baking. Use mayonnaise and fresh cornichons (tiny pickles) to make tartar sauce for your fish.
4. Use your Crock-Pot and/or Instant Pot.
The key to a successful Whole 30 is easy and edible meals that don’t leave you feeling hungry or deprived. Many times when we are stuffing our faces full of unhealthy snacks it is because we are hungry and on the go, or lazy and too tired to cook. Although you can grab a Larabar or jerky for a meal or snack if you must, having freshly prepared meals will help you feel fulfilled and satisfied, making you more likely to stick with the diet (meal plan, lifestyle change, whatever you want to call it). Keep hard-boiled, peeled eggs in individual baggies in the refrigerator for breakfast or a snack, make up your protein salads for lunch, and prepare and refrigerate your Crock-Pot or Instant pot dinners for the week ahead of time.
There are many crockpot friendly Whole 30 recipes out there that will allow you to combine your ingredients in a Ziploc bag on your meal prep day, store in the freezer or refrigerator, and then pop into the crockpot on your way out the door so you come home to a hot and ready meal to feed you and the starving kiddos. We all know that by the end of a long day at work and chauffeuring kids around no one feels like cooking anyway, so the crockpot meals work well for everyone.
If you need some Crock-Pot inspiration during your Whole 30, here are some ideas for Slow Cooker Crispy Chicken 3 Ways.
Your Crock-Pot or Instant Pot can be a lifesaver during the Whole 30. Not only can you use these kitchen gadgets to make bone broth (you can then use this in soups and stews), you can also cook entire meals – meat, potatoes, and vegetables at once. There are recipes out there for whole chickens, pork, and beef roasts to list a few. You can also make “sweet treats” such as apples or pears cooked in a Crock-Pot with cinnamon and ghee or coconut oil which you can then puree for apple sauce or leave in soft slices for a dessert or poured over your pork chops.
Tip: Buy large cuts of inexpensive meat, season to your liking, and cook in the Crock-Pot for 10+ hours on low. Shred and mix with BBQ sauce for dinner, add a veggie, and sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon.
Trick: For a quick and easy “dessert”, look for an apple pie or pumpkin spice that doesn’t contain sugar and sprinkle it on fresh sliced fruit (apples, pears) in a bowl, microwave for 1-2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.
5. Tell people about your Whole 30.
People will be cheering you on! A diet is difficult to follow when you are trying to go it alone. Share about your experiences on the Whole 30 with your friends and family. Let others know not to stop by your office with doughnuts or cupcakes for every co-worker’s birthday. Many will think it is a neat challenge and others will even be encouraged to try to join in. This diet is something everyone can do. There are no strict meal plans or starvation tactics, so people in general can learn to love this lifestyle change. As you share your experiences and get accustomed to the Whole 30, others will likely begin to notice a healthier glow to your skin and the extra energy you will have mentally and physically as you move throughout the month. The energy that you thought you had from caffeine and sugar is nothing compared to the true energy you will feel when eating healthy and fulfilling meals. You will no longer feel sluggish after lunch or half-asleep as you leave to pick up the kids. As your body acclimates to the foods being provided to it during the Whole 30, you will feel a change and others will notice.
Since your child will be participating in your Whole 30 challenge as well, make sure to notify their school. If the school usually provides snack make sure to let them know your child will have a separate snack and send a snack bag daily or weekly. Trust me, your child won’t be the only one. There are several children in today’s classrooms whose parents provide a weekly/daily snack bag because of severe nut allergies or other health related issues, so this should not be a problem. This could also be a way to encourage your child’s school to serve healthier options such as fresh fruits and veggies rather than cookies or sugary cereals.
Ensure your family’s success on the Whole 30 by investing in Back to School Lunchbox Gear that won’t leak or spill.
Also check with the school to see if they will be celebrating any children’s birthdays where there may be cupcakes or another sweet treat provided by parents for the class. For those occasions you can prepare and drop off a special fruit cup or treat for your child to eat during the birthday celebration at school. Again, these days due to allergies your child will not be the only one with a separate treat and if we had to bet, there will be other children who would rather have his or her fruit than their cupcake.
Tip: If there are any work-related or social luncheons you are to attend during the month you will be completing your Whole 30 make sure to let the venue know of your dietary restrictions.
Trick: Use different shaped cookie cutters to cut your child’s fruit for their fruit bowl making it look festive for the celebration day at school!
After 30 days on the Whole 30 program many people return to their same unhealthy eating habits, but the hope is that along with your eating habits, you will have changed your mindset when it comes to food. There are several options available for you to continue with a healthier diet after the Whole 30. Some people reintroduce certain foods such as cheese, wheat, or legumes individually to gauge their body’s reaction to them and then decide what to continue eating and what they should continue to avoid. Others decide to remain free of certain groups of products such as dairy and sugar just as a lifestyle choice. While yet even others decide to expand their dietary repertoire while still remaining “paleo” and opt to include unrefined sugars such as honey and maple syrup and introduce the use of nut flours for baked goods, breads, cookies, and pancakes.
The bottom line is that at the end of a Whole 30 you should congratulate yourself, your spouse, and your children for committing to a clean-eating, habit-building, and lifestyle-changing food plan for 30 days! Learning to take control of our bodies and our diets, whether we are young or old, sets us up for a happier, healthier, more successful future.
Looking to expand this new lifestyle you have begun with your Whole 30 Challenge? Check out these 10 Fun Ways to Workout WITH Your Kids and get the family moving for a happier, healthier YOU!
Photo Credits: Kristin dePaula