“3 Tips for Cultivating a Healthier and Happier Home That Surprisingly Everyone Enjoys – Even With Your Family’s Busy Lifestyle and Annoying Picky Eaters and Teenagers In Your Home”

This topic has come up in many different conversations I’ve had with moms all over the world who really want to change, not just their own eating habits, but also the habits of their households. I’ve heard from so many women who want to make the lifestyle changes required to fight off their illnesses, their hypertension, their diabetes, their stress, and their own weight gain, that it’s hard for them to make the necessary changes because there are always snack in the house. And they blame the kids and the husband or partner on their inability to stay focused and committed to their own personal goals.  

Now before I dig deep into my thoughts, experiences, and give you some tips that helped me change the family’s food and wellness lifestyle, let me first say that improved health and wellness is a journey, especially when you take on the huge responsibility of the family’s health and nutrition. It takes time, commitment, and a lot of grit to create a healthier home, specifically when your family members could care less about eating healthier.

AT FIRST… The struggle is all the way real.

I am the mom of two teenagers: a son, Arnez Jr., who is less than a month away from turning 16-years old soon, and a daughter, Lauren, who is 13-years old.

Lauren came out of the womb with a love for avocados, salads, seaweed chips, and edamame.  So she’s been easy with regards to food and wellness from the moment she was born. My son, on the other hand, spent many evenings at the table staring at the cold asparagus on his plate that he let sit for hours because he refused to eat it.  I guess he thought he would turn into sand if the asparagus or any vegetable came into close proximity of his face.

Then, there’s their father, my husband, Arnez Sr., who would equate having a cabinet full of sugary treats and beverages to “being a kid”.  When I packed our pantry with healthier snacks and beverages, Sr. saw it as some sort of punishment to the household. For every healthier snack I bought, he would buy twice as many Oreos, chocolate donuts, and Hershey Bars. He was my biggest obstacle. Without his buy-in, the kids always knew there was one parent that would give in and get them what they wanted. Also, my husband, like most of us, had a lifetime of unhealthy habits that were normalized by our upbringing, cultures, and trained palettes. So he was a hard nut to crack when it came to food and nutrition in our home.

Many times I gave in to the pressure to let the kids “just be kids”…

BUT THEN…  I fixed my tilted crown and unapologetically put my foot down…

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.

~ Samuel Johnson

For a while I tiptoed around the family’s complete dissatisfaction with my attempt to overhaul the our eating habits. Being a busy mom, wife, entrepreneur, and at the time working full-time as a software professional, I had more pressing and immediate concerns and issues to face daily.  But even with all my other responsibilities, concerns, and worries, I could not shake this feeling that I owed it to my family to make their wellness my top responsibility, and to push what I knew was best for them – even when they couldn’t see it for themselves.

During this time, I suffered near-fatal complications from high blood pressure, which also included losing part of my vision in my left eye to a condition called hypertension retinopathy. This acted as a wake-up call, not just for my health and the need to ramp up my wellness and fitness, but it woke me up to the need for me to be more persistent with my family and their nutritional needs. I decided that junk food, sugary treats, and our infamous “snack cabinet” would no longer be a staple in our home.

I reminded myself that “I am in charge”, not the kids! And because I do the shopping, I am mostly responsible for what they eat. Thankfully, both of my children are very healthy, very athletic, and have always had excellent physicals and exams. Even with healthy children, I know that if I want them to maintain these levels of health and wellness throughout the course of their young lives into their adulthood, that it is important that I fuel their bodies with good foods that nourish and support their development – mind, body, and spirit.  

As far as my husband, I had to realize, respect, and accept that he is a grown man and that he would need to make changes in his own time. There was nothing I could do to change him other than be a consistent example in our home of good health and nutrition. So, I focused on the kids. I became relentless about their dietary patterns and habits.

AND GUESS WHAT?? My efforts started to stick….

I did not indulge in their objections. I pressed on. I got creative and the process of changing our lifestyle began to take noticeable shape.

Here are the main 3 things I did to help my family embrace a healthier lifestyle in our home:

#1 Swapped the sugary snacks for snacks with less sugar and less bad carbs, and then I bought less and less of the junk home

Instead of buying donuts, I bought granola bars. Instead of the gigantic box of chips and snacks you can buy from the market, I bought the smaller baked-version of that variety pack. I traded in the Hershey Bars for protein bars. And when I thought the protein bars were just as sugary as the Hershey chocolate bars, I broke them in half, and the kids knew to only eat one half at a time.

I didn’t get rid of snacks altogether. That would be unrealistic. I simply swapped out bad ones for better ones. And I also purchased more fruit and increased the amount of healthy options available at home.

#2 When the husband bought home excessive amounts of junk, I threw it out or poured it down the drain

I don’t even need to tell you that this was borderline divorce court behavior!

Yes, my husband was not happy when he would bring home two gallons of peach tea and find that an hour later, one of those gallons was poured down the drain by me.  One time he stuck a pack of Hot Pockets in the freezer, and in less than 3 hours, my son ate two of them. A few hours after that, my husband asked where the Hot Pockets were. When I told him they were in the garbage, he was beyond furious. I didn’t give in though. I explained that I couldn’t allow my son to gorge himself on processed foods high in sodium. And I let him know that every time he gifted us with junkie foods, I would toss them.

I refuse to have my kids eating crap in large quantities because I know what it can do to them, and why would I just sit back and watch them destroy their bodies by consuming so much of it??

Not on my watch!

I haven’t seen a Hot Pocket since.

#3 A Little Trickery Goes A Long Way

I begin to add spinach to burgers without telling the kids. Just chop it real good and add to the ground meat (or meatless option) before you cook it. They won’t notice, and they’ll love the burgers.

Instead of onion rings, I’d bake cauliflower rings which look very similar to onion rings, and AFTER the kids tossed a bunch of them back, I’d tell them what they were actually eating – something healthy – cauliflower!

My son claimed to hate chia seeds. Really? Hummmm…. I made him an ice-cream and protein powder smoothie one day, and I added “white” chia seeds to it. He loved it!  Afterward, I told him that the smoothie had chia seeds in it. He’s been drinking smoothies since that day. The ice cream was eventually replaced with milk, which was eventually replaced with soy and almond options. And he still enjoys them. He made one today. Who would have ever thought?!

Now my husband…

As it turns out, a health scare scared him straight! After extensive testing by a cardiologist and our primary care physician, my husband was given a great bill of health, but the incident that occured made him more aware of the importance of his diet to his health, wellness, and livelihood.  He’d already started eating better foods, but after the scare, he has really accelerated his lifestyle changes and efforts. He is drinking several bottles of water each day, consuming less peach tea, and eating salads and veggies almost every day. I don’t know the last time he bought home donuts or cookies.

AND THEN THE MAGIC HAPPENS…  Transformation begins.

And now everyone is on board, in their own way. The son is more open to trying new things and adding spinach to his smoothies. During the Easter season, I brought home a pack of yellow stuffed Oreo’s.  My son threw them away immediately. When I asked him why he threw them away, he said that “the ingredients will kill you.” My daughter enjoys cooking and trying new recipes with healthy ingredients. And my husband continues to surprise me everyday as he has become open-minded to eating a variety of healthy foods and snacks. 

Sure, we still buy cookies and cupcakes every now and then, but they are no longer the norm; they are the exception.

Let me end by making two final important points:

~ Plant the seeds. What they eat (mind, body, and spirit) when you are not around will be up to them. As a parent, my only wish is that when my kids are confronted with life decisions, that they tap into the lessons that have been planted in our home and firmly rooted in their spirits; and make good decisions. This isn’t about controlling everything they put in their mouths, instead, it’s about showing them a better way and a ealthier way – because if we don’t introduce them to it, who will?

~ It takes time, commitment, and a lot of grit to create a healthier home.  There will be opposition and attitudes.  Nonetheless, it’s up to you to have a bigger vision for your family and to stick with it! You know better.  And the best way to move the family forward in health, wellness, and fitness is for you to be consistent, be bold, and most importantly…

BE THE EXAMPLE!

xx, Coach Rhonda