5 tips to get back on track after a week-long sugar binge

Today is the last day of birthday season. Between May 31st and June 10th there are three birthdays in my house. Three birthdays in just ten days.

get back on track

That means three birthday dinners (with wine pairings), three birthday cakes (with ice cream) and a variety of chocolatey gifts (from personal training clients!), loot bag treats (gummy worms and wine gums) and less-than-healthy nutritional choices. (And of course, three readings of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday book; our favourite family tradition!)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that sugar is my trigger food. Once I start down ‘sugar mountain way’, my ability to resist it gradually weakens until ice cream for breakfast no longer sounds like a horrifying idea. (I haven’t gone there yet, but only because we’re out of ice cream; thank goodness).

Given that (a) the weather is finally warm enough to wear summer clothes, (b) I’m tired of the sugar-induced lethargy and (c) I’ll be seeing 300 fitness friends at a fitness bloggers conference in just over two weeks, it’s time to get back on track.

Want to know my 5 tips to get back on track after a week-long sugar binge?

  1. Eliminate all added sugar immediately. For me, cold turkey is the only way to kick the sugar habit. Sugar is a drug. It stimulates the pleasure centres in your brain. Your brain likes to be happy and does whatever it can to get more sugar.
  2. Drink like a fish. Water that is. Water not only helps to flush your system of toxins, it also keeps your mouth busy and your belly from feeling hungry. My 12 ounce sippy cup is my new BFF.
  3. Eat vegetables for breakfast. Re-training my palate not to expect sweet foods at each meal is critical to overcoming sugar cravings. Thankfully, our kitchen vegetable garden is overflowing with kale, chard, spinach and arugula, making it easy to green up my scrambled eggs and protein smoothies.
  4. Move a little bit more each day. In addition to my regular strength and cardio workouts, I’ll be aiming for 30 minutes of walking each and every day. The extra 2500-3000 steps are not only good for my overall health, it will help me burn an extra 200 to 300 calories per day.
  5. Get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. When I’m well-rested, my body rarely craves sweet and starchy foods. Sleep is also key to reducing the fat-stimulating effects of cortisol (given that I have three school-age children about to be released for ten weeks of summer vacation, my ‘stress’ hormone level is high enough).

Thanks so much for all of your birthday wishes!

Now I need some good ‘get back on track’ juju. Help a girl out? I’d love it if you’d Tweet me and use the hashtag #nosugar! The more often I’m reminded, the easier it will be!

Do you have any special tricks for getting back to healthy eating after a week or two of indulgences?

Share your best ‘get back on track’ tip below!

Recipe roundup | March Clean Eating Magazine review

Every single time I post a picture of a recipe I’ve made on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, somebody immediately asks me for the details.

When it’s my own recipe, I’m happy to oblige (and often post those recipes right here on the blog). But when I’ve made it from a magazine that I’ve purchased, I feel like sharing the recipe would akin to buying a DVD and burning a copy for a friend. I’m kind of a straight arrow when it comes to copyright law :)

Since 99% of the recipes I make are from Clean Eating Magazine, I thought I’d meet you all half way. Highlight the recipes that I’ve made out of each issue and let you decide whether it’s worth heading to the grocery store and picking up your own copy! 

clean eating magazine review

My March Clean Eating magazine arrived about 10 days ago and I’ve already managed to try 5 new recipes. For each, I’ve included

  • a general description of the dish
  • any substitutions I made (although my kitchen is fairly well-stocked, sometimes I run out of things before grocery day)
  • a photograph of my finished product
  • what my family and I thought of the recipe
  • serving suggestions

March Clean Eating Magazine Review

Cherry Chocolate Brownies (starting with dessert first, so you’ll know what to save room for)

clean eating magazine review

A raw, cocoa, fruit and nut-based brownie with coconut oil, vanilla, dried cherries and crushed almonds. I added 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut and an extra 1/4 cup of dried cherries to correct the consistency.

I LOVED them. My hubby LOVED them (and I HID them so he wouldn’t love them ALL). Kids? Not so much. Oldest son hates chocolate (whose child is he?) and the younger two detected fruit and weren’t convinced that these were worthy of tasting.

The recipe includes a Raw Vanilla Chocolate Sauce which I didn’t bother with, as these were a freezer treat for me.

Turmeric Chickpea Stew

clean eating magazine review

A warm combination of sweet and spicy with chickpeas, turmeric, garlic, onion, ginger, sweet potato, curry paste, pineapple and red pepper.

I served it over a bed of slightly wilted spinach with some roast chicken breast on top (always about the protein, you know…).

Hubby and I enjoyed it three days in a row! Kids wouldn’t touch it (too many different food groups in one dish for their tastes).

Next time I make this, I’ll be doubling the turmeric and curry paste; as written, the recipe wasn’t quite spicy enough for our tastes! I was a bit skeptical about the addition of the pineapple, but it really made the dish.

Oven-Baked Chicken Parmesan

clean eating magazine reviewAn oven-baked, reduced fat and sodium version of the original recipe, subbing out whole wheat panko bread crumbs for regular.

The recipe included instructions for home made tomato sauce, which I followed (resisting the urge to make my own version….).

The boys loved it served over whole wheat linguine; my 13-year old came back for 2nds and 3rds (can you say growth spurt?). Hubby and I chose spaghetti squash as the base and added a salad of mixed greens to round out the meal.

This recipe will definitely be going into bi-weekly rotation. A wonderfully tender way to serve chicken!

Thai-Inspired Tomato Soup

clean eating magazine review

A raw tomato, coconut oil and lemongrass soup, served cold, a la gazpacho. Ingredients included cherry tomatoes, lemon, lime, ginger, garlic and fresh basil leaves.

I had no lemongrass on hand (really, who does?), so followed the recipe’s instructions to sub in lemon juice. And fresh basil was far too expensive, so I chose to top my soup with a bit of homemade basil pesto (every summer my hubby makes hundreds of pesto cubes and freezes them to get us through the winter).

Can’t say that I really liked this recipe. It reminded me of a vegetable smoothy and was too acidic for my tastes. Hubby asked if he could warm it up and when told “it’s meant to be eaten cold”, declined altogether. I’m sure you can guess that my kids would have nothing to do with it :)

Blueberry Apricot Breakfast Bars

clean eating magazine review

Described as a ‘grab and go’ breakfast bar. I like making batches of recipes like this for freezing and adding to my ‘on the go’ lunches.

Ingredients included raw oats, whole wheat flour, eggs, unsweetened applesauce, raw honey, vanilla, dried apricots, cranberries and blueberries, as well as sliced almonds.

Given that the only dried blueberries my local grocery store carries are coated in sugar, I opted to sub extra apricots and (unsweetened) cranberries for the blue. The recipe made nine generous bars, three of which my oldest son gobbled up before they even had time to cool.

In fact, he has eaten almost the entire batch himself and keeps asking when I’ll be making more (I just picked up more oats at the store today, so it’s on my to-do list). I didn’t love them as much as he did; the flour made them a bit chewier than I like. It may be just that I haven’t been eating much whole wheat flour for the last couple of months and I’ve simply lost the taste for it.

I may try making them again subbing in wheat bran and flax seed for the flour. Wonder if my son will notice?

There are a few other recipes in March’s Clean Eating Magazine that I’d still like to try (Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins, Zucchini Lasagna with Cashew “Cheese” and the Apple Pie Smoothie made with avocado).

The verdict? Definitely worth shelling out $7 for! 

Love magazine reviews? I know I do! Check out my friend and fellow fitness pro BrooklynFitChick‘s blog for weekly reviews of all your favourite fashion, health and lifestyle magazines! (Make sure you watch her vlogs; she’s got great television charisma!).

What’s your favourite place to find new recipes?

If you’ve read this month’s Clean Eating Magazine, which recipes are you just dying to try?

Shall I repeat my March Clean Eating Magazine review in April?

5 tips for reducing sugar consumption

White sugar, brown sugar, icing sugar, maple syrup, chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, dried cranberries and graham cracker crumbs. Just a few of the sugar-laden ingredients that starred in my family’s holiday menus.

Our twice weekly dessert night has morphed into a nightly event. Baked goods are nibbled with afternoon tea. Visits with friends and family always feature sweet over savoury. (And there may or may not be some Hallowe’en candy still lurking about…)

reducing sugar consumption

It’s time for the annual sugar detox! Want to know my 5 tips for reducing sugar consumption by your family?

  1. Get rid of all the remaining holiday baking. Dump it in the garbage and immediately take out the trash. Don’t give it away to friends (they don’t need it either). Don’t hide it in the freezer (it will tempt you daily). If you just can’t stand throwing food away, take all unopened items (boxes of chocolate, store bought cookies, baking ingredients) to your nearest food bank, pronto.
  2. Make a plan to give up dessert night for the remainder of the month. Replace ‘treats’ with fruit and yogurt. The goal here is to re-train your family’s palate. Expect some resistance. Even the sweetest of fruit tastes fairly bland after a regular diet of high fat, high sugar baked goods.
  3. Gradually transition them from prepackaged foods to ‘made from scratch’ alternatives. In my experience, slowly weaning my children off of store bought cereals and granola bars works better than going ‘cold turkey’. Once the boxes are empty,  scratch those items from your grocery list.
  4. Create readily available healthy snack alternatives. Buy an exquisite fruit bowl. Place it in the centre of your kitchen table and fill it with an assortment of ready-to-eat fruits. Encourage your children to help themselves. Take them grocery shopping with you (as painful as that may be…) and allow them to help choose their favourites. Be open to trying new things!
  5. Experiment with new, low or no-added sugar recipes. Thousands of delicious recipes can be found by searching Google and Pinterest for the terms ‘healthy desserts’, ‘low sugar recipes’, ‘no sugar baking’. I’ve even published a fewAdd these back in next month, after everyone’s taste buds have become accustomed to eating less sugar.

Don’t expect your family to embrace your attempts at reducing sugar consumption! My kids will complain loudly and frequently! But I love them enough to place their health above my (temporary) happiness.

Have you ever tried to cut back on your family’s sugar consumption?

What tips and tricks worked best? 

Monday Motivation: Rockin’ your favorite jeans

I love Mondays! The start of a new week always inspires me to keep reaching for my goals.

Need a little Monday Motivation?

Let’s talk about jeans. Your favorite jeans.

You know the ones. When you wear them you feel like anything’s possible. You stand taller and prouder. They make you feel like a million bucks. They highlight all the work you’ve been doing in the kitchen and the gym. They make you look fitter, sexier and more confident.

You’d give anything not to, ahem, ‘outgrow’ them.

Think of them next time you’re tempted to skip a workout or reach for a calorie-laden dessert. Remember how great you feel wearing your favorite jeans and use them as motivation to stick with your exercise and nutrition plans.

I asked some of my fellow FitFluential Ambassadors to send me photos of themselves wearing their ‘motivation jeans’. (Thanks so much guys, for your willingness to pose for me and providing brand info, ’cause you know somebody is going to ask what you’re wearing!) Check out their awesome responses below.

Rebekah Borucki & Baby Summer (from BexLife) wearing Banana Republic grey skinny jeans (I love these ones; grey is so flattering!);

Caitlin Croswell (from Cait plus Ate) wearing her favorite American Eagles (rolled up or down, as you please!);

Madeline Glasser (from Food,  Fitness and Family) in her J. Crew Matchstick jeans (and a very sassy scarf; and I know scarves);

Alexandra from Fun and Fit, wearing Nautica and sad because they are tearing below the back pocket, and she has been unable to find a new pair (anybody know where to buy them?);

And Katie Heddleston (Healthy Heddleston), wearing her very first pair of maternity jeans (congratulations Katie!) from Motherhood Maternity (doesn’t she just glow?);

Theodora Blanchfield from Losing Weight in the City wearing Citizens for Humanity (I’ve been lusting after a pair of these…) and loving how they make her look and feel!

And me, Tamara (fitknitchick), wearing my favorite Miss Me’s (I have 4 pair, but these are by far the best fitting of them all);

How about you? Do you have a favorite pair of jeans that make you feel fabulous? Does fitting into them keep you motivated to get your workouts in and eat well?

Please share the details! Brand names and pictures too!

Monday Motivation: What motivates you to exercise and eat well?

Perhaps one of the most common questions that I get asked by group fitness participants and personal training clients is about motivation.

Where do you find the motivation to get up every morning, pack your cooler and head to the gym?

When you didn’t sleep well the night before? When your husband is away for work? When your children are sick? When your legs are sore from yesterday’s workout? When your girlfriends invite you for coffee? When you’d rather go shoe shopping? When your workout clothes are all in the laundry?

When you just don’t feel like it?

Given the prevalence of challenges with motivation, I thought I’d start a weekly feature on the blog to help you all stay motivated with your exercise and healthy eating goals.

Welcome to the first instalment of Monday Motivation!

Each week, I’ll offer you a motivational tip. A photo, a quote, perhaps just a question for you to think about. A success story or a the results of a new study. There may be a recipe or a workout involved. And of course, I’d love to hear what motivates you! If you’d like to contribute a guest post, please contact me via Twitter (@fitknitchick_1) and we can set something up!

Now I know it may sound trite, but my primary motivation comes from my children.

My children motivate me to keep fit and fuel my body with healthy food. Why?

  • So I can keep up with them! I waited until I was in my 30′s to start a family. While that decision afforded me lots of time to travel and pursue my career, it meant that I would never be the youngest mom at the playground. My kids are active and I need to be active with them. Exercising gives me the energy to be a mom who moves!
  • To show them that exercise is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. I don’t want my children to start exercising as adults. I don’t want them to think of it as a chore. I want them to revel in movement.
  • To ensure that they get the nourishment their growing muscles and brains need. Preparing healthy meals and snacks made primarily from whole foods teaches them that good nutrition doesn’t come out of a box. I want them to go off to university knowing how to feed themselves well and avoid the ‘freshman fifteen’.

Of course, my kids like treats too. But I avoid buying pre-packaged cookies and instead, make my own, from regular cookbooks, but subbing in healthier ingredients where possible.

Try these yummy sunflower seed butter and chocolate chip cookies. We did! (Recipe adapted from an old Canadian Living Desserts cookbook my grandmother gave me before I started to eat clean).

Sunbutter and chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sunflower butter (any unsweetened nut butter can be substituted; I use sunflower seed butter because we have a ‘no nuts’ policy at our school)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (the darker the better!)
  1. Cream butters, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.
  2. Beat in dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoon onto lightly greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes (or just underdone looking) at 375 degrees.
  6. Allow to cool for 5-10 min on cookie sheet before removing to wire cooling rack.

Although it slows down the process ;) I invite my kids to bake with me as often as possible. It gives me the opportunity to talk to them about the ingredients we’re using and how those ingredients benefit their growing bodies!

Tell me what motivates you to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Does blogging make you fat? Evidence that deadlines make for poor diets

Yesterday, the Vancouver Sun ran an interesting article in it’s weekly Health feature; Deadlines make for bad diets.

They reported the results of a paper published in the journal Physiology and Behavior (I have a soft spot for this journal; it’s where I published my very first scientific paper about yo-yo dieting and weight gain in mice, way back in 1990).

Researchers asked the question “does performing knowledge-based work (e.g. sitting at a desk analyzing data, writing computer code, drafting papers, reports or blog posts) lead to weight gain?”.

Source

Of course we all know that prolonged sitting and lack of physical activity contribute to weight gain. Move less, burn fewer calories, gain weight. But what’s new about this study is the observation that knowledge-based work is often time sensitive and that the stress caused by meeting a deadline may result in overeating upon completion of the task.

The researchers took two groups of women (group sizes were small, only 15 women per group, so results need to interpreted cautiously). One group was asked to read an excerpt of text and was then given 45 minutes to write a response. The second (control) group was asked to sit quietly for the same period of time. At the end of the test period, both groups were offered access to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Source

Guess what they found.

The group of women who performed the writing task ate an average of 230 calories more than the group who sat thinking quietly! In addition, food logs kept by the participants indicated that the ‘work’ group did not compensate for these excess calories by eating less through the rest of the day.

The authors also measured circulating cortisol levels (cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and has been implicated as a food craving trigger). No surprise, the ‘work’ group had higher cortisol levels than the control group. But interestingly enough, they didn’t report feeling any more stressed than their ‘resting’ counterparts and were unaware of their overeating.

In a followup study (using similar protocols), the ‘work’ group not only ate more at lunch when compared with controls, but also experienced greater fluctuations in blood sugar levels while performing the task. The authors argue that our brains may seek extra food to help stabilize blood sugars after doing ‘work’ just like our muscles need to refuel after a weight training session.

What does it all mean?

Sitting at a desk and performing mental work under a deadline may contribute to weight gain by elevating stress levels and making you more prone to mindless eating.

So what’s a desk worker (or blogger) to do? Well, I believe that knowledge is power. Just knowing that you’re more likely to overeat upon the completion of a stressful task allows you to plan.

  • Plan healthy snacks and meals when you’re working on a deadline
  • Eat in the kitchen (mindfully), not at your desk (mindlessly)
  • Cut back on the caffeine. It may fuel creativity, but at the expense of elevated cortisol
  • Keep a water bottle handy; staying hydrated will suppress your appetite and keep your mouth busy
  • Take mini-exercise breaks during your work day; physical activity reduces stress (as do yoga and knitting)

What are you waiting for? Drop and give me 10! (Pushups, crunches, squats or rows; take your pick!)

Do you find yourself eating more when you’re under stress?

Are particular foods more appealing to you during stressful times?

Please hit me up in the comments section below!

No sugar, no chocolate, no cancer!

Yesterday, after a long and difficult wait, my husband got the final pathology report from his surgeon; no cancer!

With this milestone behind us, it now feels ‘safe’ to write about the experience (a bit superstitious, no?) and it’s surprising effects on my fitness and nutrition.

A quick recap, since I haven’t really blogged about what’s been going on.

In early August, hubby was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed with severe anemia and received several blood transfusions. Tests were ordered to determine from where the blood was being lost. Both endoscopy and colonoscopy (‘top’ and ‘bottom’ of the digestive tract, respectively) were normal but a CT scan revealed a suspicious looking mass somewhere in the small bowel.

A subsequent biopsy was inconclusive and we were told that the tumor had to come out regardless of what it was. The surgery would be ‘exploratory’ with possible outcomes including ‘gastrointestinal stromal carcinoma’, some other lesser known bowel cancers and ‘duodenal polyp’ (go ahead, Google them; I did). The pancreas may or may not be affected and the bowel may need to be re-sectioned. Estimated time in hospital, eight to 10 days, with another six to eight weeks recovery at home.

Despite the urgent sound of the potential diagnosis, surgery was not scheduled until the 7th of October (and we live in Canada, home of excellent access to medical care…).

We did our best to fill the rest of the summer with holidays and fun activities with the children, but the possibility that life might change dramatically for our family was never far from our thoughts.

With the help of friends and family (thank you all!), I did what I, and all moms, do best; take care of everybody, everybody else that is. All through the countdown to the surgery date, the operation itself and the seven-day hospital stay. Concerned with staying positive for my husband and children and trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, I failed to take care of myself.

I missed my workouts, even though a quick visit to the gym (or even better, the yoga studio) would have certainly made me feel more energetic. I gave in to convenience foods, serving frozen pizza and takeout for dinner when I was too rushed to cook. I soothed my worries with baked goods, chocolate and wine.

I love my Miss Me's

I fell off my health and fitness wagon (tight jeans don’t lie; by the way, that’s not me in the picture, it’s the model at on the Miss Me site).

Now that things are back to normal (or what passes for normal in my house), I need to get back on track. Be more mindful of what I put in my mouth. Be more diligent about my workout schedule (last week was awesome!). My timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Tiffany and Gale have a new round of their ’2 week no added sugar challenge’ starting today, November 1st. Coincidentally, Kirri announced a ’30 days without chocolate challenge’ that starts today as well.

I’m in and I’m in! Both are exactly what I need to jumpstart my nutrition salvage. What better way to get over Halloween and start preparing for the upcoming holiday season.  I figure that the first two weeks will be a cinch; since chocolate has sugar in it, I won’t even be tempted (ha!). Double dipping, as it were, without the nut butter and chocolate chip calories.

Unsure whether it’s for you? Check out this and this and this post about my last round of ‘no sugar’ and I bet you’ll change your mind! Feel free to leave your comments below!

Are you up for a challenge or two? 

‘Like’ fitknitchick on Facebook for moral support and to join the discussion.

To splurge or not to splurge? Benefits of a ‘treat’ meal to fat loss seekers

When I first counsel a new client about the changes they need to make to their diet in order to lose fat, the usual response is ‘you mean I have to give up chocolate/ice cream/coffee creamer/apple pie/French fries/alcohol/insert your own gastronomic addiction here?’

Yes‘, I say, ‘and no‘.

Yes‘, because you cannot continue to consume your favourite high sugar or high fat food frequently and in whatever quantity you like and expect to lose body fat.

And ‘no‘, because denying yourself the occasional indulgence makes it psychologically difficult to stick to a healthier way of eating for more than a week or two.

The trick is to quickly satisfy the desire and immediately get back on track without feeling guilty or angry or ashamed with yourself.

Enter the ‘cheat’ or ‘treat’ meal. (I prefer the term ‘treat’ because it doesn’t have the negative implications that ‘cheat’ does).

Once per week, have a meal where you give yourself permission to eat your favourite ‘forbidden’ foods. Have bread and dessert with dinner. Enjoy a glass of wine. Eat until you feel satisfied, but not full. Leave the table with no regrets and return to your healthy, fat-loss nutrition plan at your very next meal.

‘Treat’ meals are best enjoyed in the company of others. Eating is a social event. Plus, you’re likely to consume less of your ‘treat’ foods with friends and family present than when alone on the couch, watching TV.

Don’t let poor planning or laziness rob you of an enjoyable ‘treat’ meal. Continue to plan your menus for the week, taking into consideration social outings and busy work days. Arriving home late from work, with no dinner plans and an empty fridge will undoubtably result in a ‘cheat’ meal (takeout food, frozen pizza, half a bag of Oreos), taking the place of the ‘treat’ meal you had planned for later in the week.

‘Treat’ meals only work when you’re on track with your fat-loss nutrition plan the rest of the week. In fact, they may even increase fat loss by resetting your body’s hormonal hunger signals. Why?

“Your body is designed to efficiently seek out high-calorie foods, including fat and sugar, whenever you begin to regulate food intake….eating [foods other than high-fibre, high-protein], specifically carbohydrates, one meal a week works to circumvent the body’s natural food-regulating behaviors” (from The New ME Diet by Jade and Keoni Teta)

My ‘treat’ meal for the week? Saturday night dinner with my family at The Boathouse Restaurant. Forgot the camera (shocking!) so descriptions will have to suffice!

Dinner started with a glass of white wine (Mission Hill Pinot Grigio) and a slice of the house sourdough bread (still warm from the oven). I chose two starters (only because I wanted a bit of everything) for my main course; crab cakes with lemon aoli (on the side) and a small wild greens salad (with carmelized almonds, cranberries and asiago). I shared a slice of berry cheesecake with hubby and son #1 (who ordered off the children’s menu, but quickly ate his small portion and begged everyone else to share some of their dinner!).

I left the table feeling satisfied and a bit full but not stuffed. A great ‘treat’ meal made even better by the fact that somebody else cooked it! (I did, however, have to pick up the tab…). Tomorrow morning it’s back to my regular eating plan; lots of veggies and fruit, lean protein with every meal, limited starchy carbohydrates and a modest amount of healthy fat.

Do you use ‘treat’ meals to help keep you on track with your eating plan?

What’s your favourite ‘treat’ meal?

I used to be a good mom; a cautionary tale

When my children were babies (seems like ages ago…), I prided myself on giving them only the best foods I could find; organic peas, squash, sweet potato and apples lovingly cooked and pureed and frozen in ice cube trays to be thawed, warmed and spooned into their teeny, tiny mouths on silver spoons (okay, not silver, but the good stainless anyways…).

As they grew and started eating finger foods, I continued to focus on fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grain breads and cereals (Cheerios were one of our favorites; I loved watching them learn to pick up the O’s with their itty, bitty fingers, dropping dozens onto their highchair trays before a single one made it into their mouths). They (the boys at least; dear daughter is another story and was the subject of another, recent post) ate and grew and thrived.

Then we started school. Lunches and snacks needed to be packed daily. Washing and chopping and packaging up single servings of the foods I had been giving them at home gave way to the convenience of cheese strings, drinking yogurts, Mini-go, chocolate puddings, fruit cocktail cups, gummies and goldfish crackers. Sound familiar?

At first, these easy-to-pack finger foods were merely accompaniments to the healthy snacks and lunches I was still making for them. ‘Treats’ I called them. All the other moms were packing them in their children’s lunch boxes, I rationalized. (I did draw the line at pop, chips and chocolate bars though; none of these have ever appeared in my children’s lunch kits).

But when the home-made parts of their lunches came home uneaten day after day after day, I prepared less from scratch and included more of their pre-packaged favorites; granola bars, juice boxes, popcorn and bakery muffins (which are really just donuts in disguise…). Of course, the irony is, these are all things that I rarely consume, myself!

Sure, they ate their lunches, but they were also less interested in the basic, healthy dinners I was serving and frequently raided the cupboard for more of their lunchtime ‘staples’. None of them were overweight, but they certainly consumed more sugar, salt and white flour than is healthy for a growing child.

Fast forward a few years. I’m now a personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach. I want my children to embrace clean eating the way I have. I want them to be adventurous at the dinner table and to enjoy all the benefits of eating well.

They’re skeptical, to say the least. No matter how many different recipes I try, how tasty they profess them to be, they still want their ‘treats’; morning, noon and night. Fruits and vegetables are still seen as ‘do I have to?’ foods. The question ‘Is there dessert tonight?’ is asked at least once every evening (and usually, when they’re deciding whether to have seconds or not; clearly wanting to know if they should save room for something better).

If I knew then what I know now (and isn’t this always the way it goes :)), I would never have veered from my early child-feeding ideals. Never have allowed them to develop such voracious appetites for sweet, salty and fat.

I fear that leading by example isn’t enough, but it’s all I can do, along with (shh!) adding pureed veggies to their spaghetti sauce, applesauce and mashed bananas to their muffins, and quinoa and flax seed to their waffles (see my healthy version of an Aunt Jemima waffle, below).

Have you ever compromised health for convenience when feeding your family?

Are there any convenience foods that you absolutely refuse to buy?

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Fitknitchick’s Healthier Aunt Jemima waffle (or pancake)

1 Tbsp light cooking oil (I use canola)
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 Tbsp wheat germ
1 Tbsp wheat bran
1 Tbsp quinoa flakes
1/2 cup AJ Complete Buttermilk Pancake mix
1-4 Tbsp water (until batter consistency is to your liking)

Whisk together oil and eggs. Add dry ingredients and stir until moist and free of lumps. I like my batter fairly thick for fluffy waffles, but you might not. If making pancakes, you’ll want a slightly thinner batter.

Heat waffle iron. Pour batter into iron and close lid. Cook until fragrant (steam will still be coming out of the iron when they’re ready; don’t overcook, or waffles will be dense and dry).

Serve hot with syrup or yogurt (Greek style is my favorite) and fresh fruit or nuts.

Recipe makes 2 servings, each containing (without the syrup, yogurt and fruit); 284 cal, 34 g carbs, 12 g protein, 11 g fat, 5 g dietary fiber

Compare this to the recipe on the box; 160 cal, 31 g carbs, 5 g protein, 2 g fat, 1 g dietary fiber. More calories, protein, fiber and healthy fats in my version with no real increase in carbohydrate load. Bet mine will keep your kids fuller, longer!