When you’re a busy mum who juggles everything, from work to looking after the kids, eating healthily can seem like a luxury that unfortunately many of us just don’t have time for.
When you’re busy, it can be easy to eat mindlessly, and it can throw you off course from your healthy habits, says author Tanith Carey of Mum Hacks – a manual offering hundreds of ingenious ways to tackle every day parenting challenges.
”When kids come along, many mums find they focus so much on what their kids are eating, they are too busy to look after their own diet. There’s also the fact that these days parents have more on their plates than ever – in more ways than one.”
More than 2.25 million women with children under four are already back at work, which means that it’s sometimes hard to find the time to eat well and keep fit. And it’s more than just about going back to your pre-baby weight: it’s about keeping your blood sugar levels stable, so your mood is constant and you have plenty of energy for your children, says Tanith.
To help you keep on track, here’s a selection of Tanith’s tips to help you eat healthily and stay in shape.
1. Eat with your kids
You may be using meal-times as a chance to catch up with jobs like putting the washing on or doing other chores, but even if it’s only for 15 minutes Tanith advises to take the time to sit down and eat regularly with your child to set a good example. Even better, wherever possible organise dinner time so that the whole family eats together.
One study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that as little ones grow up, family dinners have a calming effect – and every meal kids have with their family leads to an improvement.
”Kids are also less fussy about eating at family meals because they don’t need to act up so much when they already have your full attention. As an adult, you too are also more likely to eat sensibly – and more slowly (so you will feel fuller sooner) if you are also sitting down and having proper meal.”
2. Check the messages that you’re sending
Never let your children hear you obsessing about your weight – and try not to use the word ‘diet’ around them, advises Tanith, because it will pass on negative body messages.
”If the subject comes up, tell your kids you like to eat a balanced diet so you feel stronger and have more energy.”
3. Do the playground workout
Use the energy that you once used at the gym to taking your kids out and playing with them.
”When they are in the pram, join a buggy fit class. When they’re running around, visit the park and swings as some valuable exercise time you can share with your children.”
4. Avoid offering food as a reward
Have you ever been tempted to use food (and often unhealthy) to reward your children for good behaviour or for a job well done? Parents may also withhold these treats as punishments as well.
”Try and break the cycle of giving your children chocolate or sweets to keep them quiet as this sends a message that food is a reward. Offer games or special time with you instead. If there are treats in the house, keep them in a child-friendly container. You’ll be less likely to dip into their treat box if it’s decorated with Frozen and superhero cartoons.”
5. Find healthier alternatives
Finding healthier alternatives for your kids will benefit you as well as them. The number of overweight and obese youngsters in the UK has trebled in the last 25 years, with one in three now falling into this category, so it’s become increasingly important to make more informed choices to what you are choosing at the supermarkets.
”Kids love to crunch foods – so find some alternatives so your cupboards aren’t packed full with tempting bags of crisps. Try roasting nuts in the oven, and then sprinkle with some soy sauce. They are delicious and full of good fats.”
6. Be ready to exercise
On days that you’re at home, find some stylish trainers that you’ll be happy to be seen in all day, so you can swing into exercise mode – and consider investing in some good sports bras that you don’t mind wearing all day, says Tanith.