I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve struggled with exercise and healthy eating since having a baby, and even more so now that I have a toddler. (Naïve me thinking things would get easier as my baby got older without me changing my own habits.) I find it tough to get to the gym since my 2-year-old has an avid aversion to the gym childcare and squeezing workouts in at home doesn’t happen as often as it should. With a thousand other things going on, it just tends to fall to the bottom of the daily to-do-list, by no fault but my own. The eating side of things hasn’t been quite as much of a struggle since I make sure to keep the house stocked with healthy choices for my son, but having food prepped and ready can be another story.
That being said, I don’t use having a child as an excuse for gaining weight. I’ve come across a couple articles in the past several months on the topic of “my toddler is making me fat” that just make my head spin. While I’ve witnessed first hand that marriage can lead to weight gain — eating out more, exercising less, not caring as much — I have a hard time letting a toddler dictate something as personal as weight. That’s not saying I don’t understand that it’s hard when you have children. You lack personal time, you’re tired, you need to put others first. It’s easy to steal bites off their plate, snack when they snack, and sit and watch them play.
But there are ways around letting your toddler have a negative effect on your health. Here are six painless ways to start:
1. Get up and play with them
My son asks to ride his bike approximately 3,596 times a day — and that’s just before 8 am. I could watch him play — supervise while he rides around, making sure he doesn’t swerve out in front of a car or go down a hill too fast — or I could run along side him while he rides, encouraging him to explore new paths and getting him to ride more by challenging him to a race. (Chasing your toddler around really is good for your health — all that running does count!)
2. Pick games that get both of you moving
We want our kids to be active and burn off energy, so why not make it a win-win for everyone involved? Try games like tag, Simon says, and red-light green-light, or give piggy back rides. These things may not get you huffing and puffing as much as going to the gym, but then again — they might! Either way, every little bit of activity adds up at the end of the day. My husband and I used to joke about putting a Fitbit on our son and seeing how many thousands of steps he’s taken by the end of the day. If I keep up with just half his steps, I’d consider it a victory!
3. Don’t eat their leftovers
It may seem inconsequential at the time, but just as exercise adds up in a positive manner, extra calories can add up in a not-so-good way. If you’re eating it because you don’t want to waste it, pop it in a reusable container for a snack the next day.
4. Eat intentionally, not just because your kids are eating
Toddlers and kids have tiny bellies and often need to eat more frequently than adults. While it’s nice to sit down and eat together to build healthy habits for kids, it doesn’t mean you need to be eating every single time they do. Only eat when you’re truly hungry and make sure it’s a balanced snack that counts nutritionally.
5. Stock up on healthy snacks that are kid- and adult-friendly
It’s unlikely you’re going to gain extra weight because you’re eating too many apples and carrots. Make sure you’re feeding your kids quality snacks. Not only does it keep them healthy, it provides a good snack for you, too, in case you can’t keep your hands off their plate.
6. Get your kids involved with food prep
Not having time to have a healthy meal ready can be one of my biggest roadblocks when it comes to eating. If I don’t have something easily available when I’m hungry, I’m more likely to turn to takeout or delivery. Sometimes it means it takes longer (and always means it’s messier), but having my son help prepare food let’s me get it done while still entertaining him. An added bonus: He’s more likely to eat it if he helped me make it.
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