By Lauren Johnson
It’s New Year’s resolution time again and you’ve been thinking about helping your child get healthy. This is the year you’re going to do it. That’s great! You’re on the right track. But…as any gym owner will tell you, though the treadmills might be full of determined exercisers every January, come March or April, the gym’s back to normal again. So why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep?
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Amanda di Bartolomeo, there’s good reason people lose patience when trying to make changes: “Changing behavior can be hard because it takes time. When you think of how long it took to develop the habits you have now – most of them have been developed over a lifetime – it makes sense that changing these behaviors would take time and effort.” But don’t despair. When you start thinking of achieving your goals as a long game, momentum can be your ally. “Starting with very small changes is more likely to lead to success and the feeling of success motivates maintaining new behaviors.”
Here are some tips to help you stay on track all year long.
- Make Specific but Small, Achievable Goals. Instead of aiming to make every meal and snack a perfect choice, start by changing one of them first. When you achieve that goal you can add another.
- Track Progress. Weigh your child weekly and record it. Recording progress toward the goal every week will help you keep focused. We love programs like My Fitness Pal that help you not only keep a food and exercise journal, but shows your daily calories and is in a handy place to keep weight recorded. Whether it’s an app or a notebook, make sure you use it every week by scheduling weigh-ins. We recommend scheduling “Weekly Weigh-in” right into your day-planner or calendar.
- Get Everyone On Board. We know your child probably doesn’t eat every meal with you. If your child sometimes eats meals at other family members homes, everyone needs to be on the same page regarding what your nutrition and health goals are for your child, and what strategies you’re using to achieve them. Schedule a family meeting and include the kids. The best time to do this is after every pediatrician and Live Light Live Right (LLLR) appointment. These are the times you’re the most motivated and there may be new goals to talk to family members about.
- Do it Together. Kids learn from watching you. Whether they admit it or not, you’re their role model! If everyone in the house is eating healthy, the adults and the kids, everyone succeeds. Don’t be afraid to go the full mile and toss the unhealthy foods out of the house. It’s hard at first, but the other family members will understand once they know you’re doing what’s best for your child. They’ll get used to the healthy foods and be healthier, themselves, too.
- Make a Meal Plan Every Week. Pick a day of the week to plan menus together for the next week and make a shopping list.
- Involve Your Child and Give them Choices. Let them help decide what healthy meals will be on the menu. Ask them what fruits and vegetables they’d like for healthy snacks. Take them on the shopping trip or let them help you cook. This is a good time to teach your child how to prepare healthy meals for themselves (and you!). They’re more likely to eat what they picked out and helped create. It’s important to discuss school lunch and after-school snack strategies with your child. If they don’t bring their lunch and snack, then go over the school lunch menu together and discuss healthy choices.
- Talk to Other Parents in the Live Light Live Right Program. People are more likely to achieve lasting change when they’re surrounded by others who support the same choices. The LLLR appointments and exercise program pick-up time is a good time to talk with other parents. Not only will they have helpful tips, but just talking about your goals on a regular basis will help you keep motivated and make lasting changes. Another option is regularly participating in an online weight-loss forum.
- Identify possible barriers and how to overcome each one together. Some people worry that preparing healthy foods requires more time than they have to fit in their schedule. Maybe the kids haven’t found enough healthy recipes that they like. Chances are if you talk through solutions together, you’re likely to find them.
And remember, when you’re making healthy changes for life, the right goals are key to avoiding frustration. “When we set huge goals and set ourselves up for failure. When we fail, we become discouraged and are less like to stick with a change.” A good goal is something that you do. “We want to set very small and measurable changes that are focused on behaviors rather than outcomes.”
Follow these guidelines from Dr. di Bartolomeo on how to make your goals “SMART.”
Specific: For example, “eat 1 serving of vegetable” rather than “eat more vegetables.”
Measurable: You can clearly tell whether you have accomplished it or not. A goal of “walk for 20 minutes” is much more measurable “be more active.”
Achievable: Knowing what you know about your current habits and schedule, is this goal achievable? If the weather is not pleasant, walking 20 minutes may not be achievable, but doing something inside might be more easily accomplished.
Realistic: Low fat yogurt is a good source of lean protein and calcium, but if you frankly do not like yogurt it’s unrealistic to set a goal of eating it every day. It’s more realistic to select a dairy food you enjoy and can incorporate into your lifestyle.
Timely: Set goals only for the coming week and review your success each week. Then set new goals.
Spice Up A Cold Winter Night With These Tasty Meal Makeovers.
Bell Pepper Taco Skillet
- 8 oz lean ground turkey
- 2 tbs of canola, grapeseed, or vegetable oil, or oil spray
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 2 large bell peppers, sliced
- 2 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped (the ones shaped kind of like eggs) or about ½ can of any kind of canned tomatoes you like, drained
- 3/4 cup low-fat shredded cheese or Mexican cotija cheese (the dry, salty, crumbly kind)
- Taco spice mix, fajita spice mix, or a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper
Healthy topping choices:
- 1 medium avocado, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
- Low-fat plain yogurt (instead of full-fat sour cream)
- Salsa or hot sauce
- A lime wedge
- Sliced radishes
- Add the ground turkey to hot oil in a large, wide pan on high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until the turkey is browned, breaking it up as it cooks. Remove it from the skillet, and set aside.
- About 5 minutes into cooking time, add onions and bell peppers.
- When the meat is browned, add the tomatoes and about 1 tbs of seasoning mix. Toss together, and cook for 2–3 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Cover and cook for a few more minutes over med-low heat until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Make it a Meal:
Pair this spicy dish with cool cucumber slices with a dipper of low-fat yogurt or vegetable dish of your child’s choice. Finish with frozen, thawed mango pieces for dessert.
Adapted from: http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/bell-pepper-taco-skillet
Chicken Chili Verde
- 3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 7 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small fresh chili pepper or 1 can green chilies (found with the Mexican foods)
- 2 green bell peppers, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
- 5 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
- 12 tomatillos, husked, coarsely chopped or 3 underripe Roma tomatoes (the ones shaped kind of like eggs) plus a squeeze of lime juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of chicken to skillet and sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large pot. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil and remaining chicken.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chilies and green bell peppers. Sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer to pot with chicken.
- Add chicken broth, corn, tomatillos, and spices to pot. Bring liquid to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or more. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cool. Cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm over medium heat before continuing.)
Make it a Meal:
For dessert, try frozen grapes served with a dipper of low-fat yogurt mixed with cinnamon or fresh mint.
Adapted from: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chicken-chili-verde-3012
Arroz con Pollo
- 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (about 8 pieces), skin removed, trimmed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup instant brown rice
- 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
- Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add half the chicken pieces, skinned-side down.
- Cook until browned on one side, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken; transfer to the plate.
- Add onion, garlic and tomato sauce to the pot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Stir in rice, return the chicken to the pot, cover and simmer until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 °F, 8 minutes. Stir in vegetables, cover and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken over the rice.
Adapted from: EatingWell Magazine January/February 2011