Food Battle Part 2: Sugar and Restaurants! (Episode 170)
Last week the Mama Says Namaste podcast covered the family food battle at home...but what about going out to eat at restaurants, or the sugar overload that comes, especially around the holidays?
What is the purpose of food for the family? Is it beyond sustenance?
It's an important question to ask yourself in this process.
The limits of comfort
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As we talked about last week in the blog post and episode, paying attention to your body and how you are consuming your food is important. Have you sat in the feeling of being hungry, or being too full? Feeling yucky because of something that didn't sit right in your stomach, or feeling the plummet from a sugar overload?
We help our children find comfort in their consumption - in other words, we draw their awareness to how their body feels before, during and after a meal - how is their body responding to the food we put in it?
When we bring awareness to our bodies, we're better able to pinpoint what helps and what doesn't.
We don't just regulate our children with food; we help them learn to regulate themselves. And yet, we are practical about the fact that they are kids, and they aren't always going to make the best choices.
Does your child have FOMO?
Especially with the coveted sweets, sometimes kids will latch on so much to it with this scarcity mentality that it's like they're afraid they'll never get another chance to indulge!
For our crew, we decided to do a little reverse psychology with it. We decided a few Halloweens ago to just allow a free-for-all. So we let the kids indulge, and then, the following morning, we just covered the table with the candy and said "have at it."
After the initial excitement and sugar overload, every year, it's lost a little pizazz. Ultimately what we ended up with were selective kiddos who, instead of filling up pillowcases full of candy that would make them feel sick, they selected the good candies, and they recycled back or didn't even get half the load they normally would.
We enjoy the thrill of dressing up, but don't have to pursue the quest of accumulating the most candy.
Halloween Hacks and more
So what all do we do with our candy?
- #1: S'Mores fixins! These go great for s'mores. Get creative and go beyond a traditional s'more, and use some fun chocolates from your Halloween stash! (bonus idea - create a "s'mores basket/box" as a gift this year - think beyond graham crackers to other crackers/cookies, and chocolate could be Nutella, other chocolates, and more - how creative could your s'mores basket be?)
- #2: Gingerbread Houses: This is what we're doing again this year - and when we know we're doing gingerbread houses, all that random Halloween candy that makes it in the house from well-meaning adults doting on our sweet kiddos can go straight to the house-decorating stash! It's perfect for all the candies you don't want to eat. (Get creative even beyond gingerbread houses - candy doesn't always have to be eaten. Can you think up another craft project with all those little hard candies? Make some M&M cookies for a neighbor?)
Get to why you're eating
Take note if your children are eating out of a scarcity mentality, or if they are eating emotionally, or just because they are bored. There are so many reasons why people eat, and if we can bring our awareness to what may be going on even deeper, you may find they aren't really hungry; they are just bored, or just saw it there and had to have it.
What is Easy Access In Your Home?
There is a big reason why we don't end up with major sugar overload is what we have accessible in our home. No, we don't boycott all sweets from our house. But we don't have it all easily accessible!
We keep a treat stash that we get out for movie nights, lazy afternoons, after hike celebrations and more. But for what is easy access? The pantry and cupboards the kids can easily get to are stocked with dried fruit, nuts, and fresh fruit sitting out. We keep healthy options out where we see them and can easily access them, and the not-so-healthy choices are a bit more effort to get to...thus, not constantly on everyone's mind and focus.
In our home, we flat out can't do leftovers. Both of our tiny RV fridges combined don't equal the size of one normal fridge. We don't have the space! Between that and not having a garbage disposal, our family has become pros at zero waste...not even a grain of rice in our bowls!
Now that doesn't mean we force everyone to eat when they feel full. Here is how we do it:
- We work hard to pay attention to our bodies and be able to gauge how hungry we are so we know how much to put on our plates.
- We serve "survival portions" to the kids where it's just enough to sustain them, but not enough to fill them up. They can always get seconds.
- It's okay to not be bursting at the seams after a meal. So if people are still hungry, we always have those dried fruits and nuts handy as an extra filler. Typically, it's not really needed, though, since we serve small portions, and...
- Family style all the way. Think about how huge entrees are at a restaurant. There is no way many people can eat a whole serving (or should). When we go out, we order family-style and split things up - so the ones who are hungrier eat more, and the not-so-hungry can just have a bite or two and not be wasteful.
Eating out can not only be super expensive, but it can be so wasteful with so much food left over! We've found a few hacks to make mealtimes much easier (and more affordable) as a family:
- Family Style - like I mentioned above, ordering family style is so much easier - we'll split an entree, or order appetizers to split, extra sides, etc. It's very rare we actually order 5 different meals. Typically 2-4 entrees would serve our family, with some variation with sides/salad/soup, etc.
- Bypass the kids menu - this is also due to our diet. Being vegetarian, kids meals means they get cheese, cheese, or cheese. Pizza, grilled cheese, quesadilla...when you have a kiddo with a dairy sensitivity as well, this makes is super difficult. Not to mention the fact that our kids have more mature palettes than just yellow food! Look at sides, splitting entrees, appetizers and more.
- Skip the drinks - everyone getting a drink can constitute a whole other meal. While we may get a fancy drink for fun, we rarely order soft drinks or anything like that along with a meal - it's unnecessary, fills you with sugar that isn't adding to your healthy diet, and it can add up quickly.
- Look at alternative dining - When we were in Costa Rica, we would often cook the girls dinner at home, then go out and let them do dessert while we had a nicer meal. They had full bellies and blissed out on a special treat while we were able to enjoy our dinner! Maybe you want to go out with a full belly just to socialize with friends, and you can all split an appetizer, get some sides, go for that fancy drink, or something that is just a bit too much for a full meal out.
Food, fun and fellowship doesn't have to equal a full belly.
What is the goal of the meal? Sometimes it's a connection that can stay the focus, and the food doesn't have to take center stage.
Your Weekly Challenge:
So what does sugar overload look like in your house? Do you have a handle on it, or is it time to switch things up a bit? Do your children know how to recognize when enough is enough? This is a great year to switch things up around the holidays when it comes to sugar overload. Since the social events may not be as intense, take a minute to evaluate if there is any element of sweets in your home that may need a reset.
What is your next meal out? Can you look at it differently with the 4 strategies listed above to make this mealtime a bit different?
Sometimes we get stuck in the sameness of routine, and do things just "the way it is." But getting candy doesn't mean you have to eat it, and going out to a restaurant doesn't always have to be about extreme hunger. Change your relationship with both of these aspects of food, and see what shifts may happen. Let me know what ideas you have in the comments below!
Some resources to dig deeper...
- The Family Food Battle (Episode 169)
- How To Travel (When You Can't Afford To)
- What are your Non-Negotiables in your Family (Episode 73)
- 8 Tips for a Healthy Home: You Are What You Eat
- On Boundaries – Your Children Are Not The Center Of The Universe
- True Parent Struggles: FOOD Battles with Kids (Episode 94)
- Navigating Food For Families (VIDEO)
- Those Crazy Crunchy Families
- How do I equip my kid to “adult”? (Episode 89)