“3 to Clean – three steps & three months to cleaning up your family’s food choices.”
Do you want to get well?
In John 5 Jesus asks the man – “Do you want to get well?” The man has been stuck, crippled and hopeless for 38 years and when Jesus asked him this question his response is not a resounding yes – its a bunch of excuses. A lot of us feel crippled by food. We often say we want to change or get better but then come all the excuses.
I know that Jesus offers us healing – for our mind, body and soul. He’s not just posing this question to the man on the mat but to all of us… DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL? Jesus brings healing to the man and tells him to “sin no more”. This command often provides us pause. What does it mean? Did sin cause him to be in this situation? Will being good keep him from other bad situations? We do not like the idea of our own actions causing our pain. I believe Jesus is telling him (and us) that we have a part to play, a role in the type of life we lead. Yes, some things will inevitably be out of our control but other things will not and for those things Jesus not only expects but commands us to live well. There is no easy button but when it comes to making making better quality choices about how we choose to live AND eat, the healing is more complete.
STEP 1: CONSISTENCY – THE 80/20 PLAN
Kids are real good at making real bad food choices. Anyone else have to tell their 4 year old every other morning that he cannot have jelly beans for breakfast, or is that just me? My point is this – set your family up for success and give them the best opportunity to make good choices by consistently offering them over and over. This is not about perfection, because we all live in a real life busy world. But ultimately food does matter and it deserves attention and time. The best way I see this done is by having the 80/20 mindset. That 80% of the time your focus is on providing real, whole, clean food and 20% the time you enjoy eating out, birthday parties etc. Clean eating, although a familiar phrase, does not have a standard definition. You can decide what “eating clean” is for your family but I encourage you to do just that – think about it and decide. If the food grew out of the ground or had a mother you can consider it real food. Take it further and think unprocessed, and no to low refined sugars with limited recognizable ingredients if it is a packaged food. We do not rule out any one food group, but try to be well rounded, and intentionally plan meals weekly while making room for all that is happening in life. You are playing the long game and ultimately the whole family needs to play. Your kids are watching you and that’s why this is a process for the entire family.
A Washington Post Article discovered one way to get kids to eat more veggies – “Researchers at Texas A&M University, looking for patterns in food consumption among elementary school children, found an interesting quirk about when and why kids choose to eat their vegetables. After analyzing plate waste data from nearly 8,500 students, it seems there’s at least one variable that tends to affect whether kids eat their broccoli, spinach or green beans more than anything: what else is on the plate! Kids, in short, are much more likely to eat their vegetables when they are made the star of the plate. When chicken nuggets and burgers, the most popular items among schoolchildren, are on the menu, for instance, vegetable waste tends to rise significantly. When other less-beloved foods like deli sliders or baked potatoes, are served, the opposite seems to happen. “Pairings of entrées and vegetables are an important consideration when assessing plate waste among elementary school children,” the researchers note.”
The takeaway here is not that you can’t serve chicken nuggets and broccoli – please do that! What it proves is that by consistently offering more real whole foods we are giving our family the opportunity to become accustomed to making a healthier choice. We are setting them up for success. Make it harder to make the wrong choices and a little easier to make the right ones.
STEP 2: EXPOSURE – THE 3 POINT TOUCH
I’m just a mom standing in front of her toddler, trying to get her to eat something – for the love of God! Mornings are hectic and you just need to eat and quick, you pack their lunch with things you know they will eat because you don’t want them going hungry, and schools are not the best at providing nutrient rich snacks. Then dinner rolls around, you offer them green beans and wonder why they turn their nose up? This is the first exposure they have had to vegetables all day. I focus on veggies because nine out of ten children do not get enough vegetables according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) but all plant based foods are ideal; think fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. Aiming to expose your kids to vegetables at three points throughout the day, provides opportunities for them to become accustomed to these choices. Maybe that looks like a spinach fruit smoothie with a banana and almond butter for breakfast. A toddler snack cup filled with frozen peas, sliced bell peppers with hummus for lunch or served as an appetizer before dinner. Offering meals that include several plant based options in one setting like veggie loaded stir fry with cauliflower rice for dinner is a multi veggie exposure win. When children reject their vegetables it’s often more about what they are eating than what they aren’t. Leann Birch, a research psychologist, has spent more than four decades researching why kids eat what they eat. She says parents should expect their kids to reject new foods at first. “That’s really just an inbuilt response to something that’s new,” Birch says. But if you expose kids enough times to different flavors — including sour, bitter and even spicy ones, but don’t force it – “they typically will learn to eat a lot of new things.” In short, this is a long game. I disagree that “practice makes you perfect” but as I tell my 4 year old “practice makes you better”.
STEP 3: STANDARD – THE TASTE TEST
It is not about forcing but encouraging a “taste test”, “thank you bite” or whatever STANDARD you decide to set. Most dietitians discourage forms of bribery, forcing food, counting bites or over stressing about how much kids eat at meal times. But, I live in the real world and have witnessed countless mealtime melt downs from my own children. I do not want my kids going to school or bed hungry anymore than you do. But when our children begin to refuse all healthy options or we are become short order cooks making multiple meals – something has to give. Setting a standard that occurs at most meals is a healthy way to let your children know what is expected of them. I am not saying they will always take a bite, go down without a fight, or that you need to be super strict but routine is king with kids and they ultimately like having familiar boundaries. This general rule of thumb is still somewhat over the head of my recently 2 year old but we are already working to set this standard with her. My 4 year old isn’t surprised when I ask him to take a test bite and then ask him to let me know what he thinks about the food. Sometimes he surprises me and says he likes it, other times he says yuck and gets in trouble for spitting it out. He is my strong willed child but we have set a standard that he expects. There will be times when he ask for more of the food item he prefers and I will ask him to take a second test bite of the less popular food. You are the parent and you get to set the standard, the most important part is decide what that is and stick with it. Encouraging is different than forcing, which does not typically go over well, but the goal is to find a balance that fits your family … remember kids can smell indecisiveness almost as well as they smell the cookies you are trying to sneak without them seeing. Offer options you know your family will like, as well as things that are new or not previously well received, but overall do not let fickle responses to food dictate what you cook. That is setting yourself up for a long exhausting journey. Sometimes they eat more and other times less but they never go hungry and are learning how to be a well rounded eater. Ultimately, you decide what is offered and they decide what to eat or not.
HOW AND WHY?
According to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov 2-3 year olds serving size is a cup of fruit plus a cup of vegetables a day and it goes up roughly half a cup every few years. But proven clinical research points to not just more is better but diversity of fruits and vegetables is better for your health. The problem with knowing all this is that we still cannot force kids or picky adults to eat what they don’t want to eat. Which is why a combination consistency, exposure and setting a standard is the best route. If you are officially freaked out and overwhelmed – stop! I encourage a slow method of adopting better choices in efforts to make changes that stick. That’s what I did and I call it “3 to Clean” – a three month plan to cleaning up your food choices using these three steps. Month one, you focus solely on drinking more water and real food dinners. Month two add in a lunch focus. Month three, breakfast and snacks. The goal is to have a predominantly “clean eating lifestyle” think more real foods that are low processed and refined sugar free, while maintaining the 80/20 consistency, 3 point touch exposure, and taste bite standard. This is something you can do with your family, with friends, or join me as I help hold others on the same journey accountable. You will receive weekly goal setting emails and be included in a private Facebook group that will help you set the “3 To Clean” plan in action. This will provide you with accountability, practical ideas, recipes, snack ideas, meal plans, live Q&A sessions and support.
For this to make any real impact in your life you need to know your why? I love the real food lifestyle and will never turn back but beginnings are hard. Hippocrates is famous for saying “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” and he was right! I was a newlywed who couldn’t cook and had been dealing with stomach issues my whole life. It was before kids, I worked crazy hours, and my husband was happy to continue eating canned soups and sandwiches because he was even worse at cooking than me. I started small and focused on cleaning up one meal at a time and before we realized it, he was down a suit size and I was feeling better than ever before. When my first child was born I was determined that he would not follow in the footsteps of his notoriously picky eating father. I limited refined sugar his first year and kept introducing new foods staying plant focused. Today Phillips Jr. is a typical picky eating kid but also one who is accustomed to healthier real food options. He loves jellybeans, broccoli, cookies and would eat cucumbers and hummus every meal if I permitted. When he does get sick it passes quickly and he’s been on antibiotics once in his life. In February of 2017 my daughter, Reagan, was born and she has been the catalyst that started my writing and sharing the power food has to heal! It’s one thing to experience the healing power of real food in your own life and a whole other level to see it in your child. My background is in research and that’s just what I began to do – research all I could on her symptoms – colic, severe eczema, reflux, bad bowel movements, pain and irritability. Our diet was quote on quote healthy but we saw drastic improvement once I started cutting triggers like dairy and gluten. She has food allergies and sensitivities and I am so thankful to God that this journey started long before she was born. I have felt for myself and witnessed the power food has to change and heal. With every bite you are either fighting or feeding disease. I do not throw around these phrases lightly and recognize that balance is vital in life, in fact, most Fridays you can find my family at our beloved local pizza joint. But ultimately, Jesus asked me the question, and I want to get well! This is my why and it keeps me going through the messy moments, the meltdowns, the inconvenience and more. Maybe your story is less dramatic. Maybe you find yourself stressing at every meal and unhappy with your food choices. Let me ask you this – what do you have to lose? I promise you have so much to gain!
Live well friends,
“3 to Clean was a practical and flexible approach to helping us eat more real foods. She offered so many great recipes, ways to prep food and awesome ideas on how to feed our families better. She made it a step by step process that any busy family can work into their lives. My boys will not always love everything I put on their plates, but they will always taste it. Thanks, Christy!” – Julie member of 3 to Clean