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Elizabeth86

Feeling Discouraged about healthy eating

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I would love to be a healthy cook, but I have a lot of little kids and I just really don't enjoy cooking and my family is picky and other excuses.  lol.  I feel guilty about not serving 100% healthy meals.  Not to mention, how do you even decide what is healthy?  Some people are vegan, some gluten free and so on.  I mean, what is healthy?  I feel I always have some bottled or packed sauce or whatever that isn't pure and healthy.  Ugh.  I get overwhelmed looking for and trying new recipes.  What are your tastiest and easiest healthy dinner.  Also, lunches?  It's sandwiches and junk.  Ugh. I am bad at lunch.  

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Don't let perfect get in the way of good.

I hate cooking.  I'm not good at it and I get overwhelmed planning.  My "good" is doing a meal subscription service 3 days a week, half the year.  I know whatever is in the box will be a variety, and mostly whole foods, so I figure if I can do that, I'm doing okay.  The rest of the week either dh cooks or I pull out a recipe I know well, or whatnot.

Our easiest and tastiest meals are mostly Asian inspired or Greek.  I finally found a curry my kids will like (Valdovan) so I coat the chicken, cook it up in a pan with sliced onions, and throw it on pitas with tzatziki sauce. A small salad is prepped for the side, and yeah, it might be a bag of greens with tomatoes and cucumbers.  My kids'll eat chickpeas now, too, so those often get cooked up and thrown in meals.  That was a loooooong time coming, though. 

Right now I have already-grilled chicken and baby bok choy in my fridge.  Guess we're having sesame chicken tonight.  I'll throw it over rice and take the last of the radishes, cut them thin, and marinate them in rice vinegar with a bit of salt and pepper to serve on the side.

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Meh. I think you're probably doing fine. I try to cook most nights, try to include veggies, offer healthy snacks. I'm not over here baking my own bread or fermenting things or whatever. I'm focusing on moderation and balance. They'll be fine if they occasionally (or more, depending on how the week is going) eat McNuggets for lunch or cheese puffs for breakfast. 

Lunches: sandwiches get old for me. We alternate with soup/crackers, pepperoni/cheese/olive plates, refried beans with cheese quesadillas, etc. Everything comes with a veggie and fruit. Easy peasy. 

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I like what HomeAgain said, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.” You’re still getting your veggies, even if you put bottled dressing on your salad. You’ll wear yourself out trying to do it all right and natural and perfect. One thing I make sure I do for both lunch and dinner is have a plate of cut up fruit and keep passing that around until it is empty. And I always make sure dinner has some kind of vegetable. Even if it is just baby carrots and ranch dressing. The rest.... well, I do what I can.

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2 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

Don't let perfect get in the way of good.

 

2 hours ago, alisoncooks said:

Meh. I think you're probably doing fine. I try to cook most nights, try to include veggies, offer healthy snacks. I'm not over here baking my own bread or fermenting things or whatever. I'm focusing on moderation and balance. They'll be fine if they occasionally (or more, depending on how the week is going) eat McNuggets for lunch or cheese puffs for breakfast. 

What they said.

You're trying, which means you're probably doing better than most people.

Nowadays everybody's got their own definition of what constitutes "healthy."  That doesn't mean any of us are right. :wink: 

I shoot for about 75/25 -- that means if about 75 percent of what I eat is healthy (my own definition of that), then I'm okay if the other 25 percent isn't quite there. That allows room for being too tired to cook sometimes, for treats, for the times you have to grab something on the go, etc. 

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I have a lot of food reactions, so we keep it really simple for dinner. Other people had better lunch ideas than me, but our dinners are meat, veggies, starch. The starch is often brown rice. It can be oatmeal. So, we might have stir fry sometimes or oatmeal pancakes with bacon and sweet potatoes. I do try to make two veggies at supper. It's really predictable and not terribly hard. 

We buy a lot of frozen veggies to keep it simple. Trader Joe's has frozen beets that are delicious (Whole Foods had some that we tried that were NOT). That's one of those foods that are frustratingly variable, but we like them--one batch of beets might take 40 minutes to cook and another batch a couple of hours; they might taste like a hunk of iron or be almost as sweet as fruit. The frozen beets keep it simple, and they turn out really sweet and seem to cook for a consistent amount of time every time. We find that TJ's often have an upscale version of some veggie we like but don't usually make a fuss about. For instance, they have carrot medallions that come in several colors and have seasoning added. They are wonderful to add to a dish in progress or to eat on their own. It's kind of fun to shop there for some playful version of a the same old, same old.

 

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I make sure kids have good protein at every meal and as many veggies as I can do.  I try to avoid buying things like pretzels and crackers and chips and processed meats and other processed foods.  I am in New England so our growing season is 5 minutes long so I have lots of frozen veggies  - I second ones from TJ.  They are cheap and have good variety and sooo easy to make.  Same for some frozen fruit.

No way under the sun am I making my own salad dressing or yogurt and such. I try to buy the ones with the minimum about of crap in them and that's all I am going to do.

I am not making my own bread either, so again, just try to buy the one with the minimum amount of sugar and additives.

During tax season there are more frozen meals from TJ than I care to admit, but again, I can't stress too much about it.  And there have been days when my kids' lunches consisted of McD french fries and milkshakes, so....

 

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9 hours ago, alisoncooks said:

Meh. I think you're probably doing fine. I try to cook most nights, try to include veggies, offer healthy snacks. I'm not over here baking my own bread or fermenting things or whatever. I'm focusing on moderation and balance. They'll be fine if they occasionally (or more, depending on how the week is going) eat McNuggets for lunch or cheese puffs for breakfast. 

Lunches: sandwiches get old for me. We alternate with soup/crackers, pepperoni/cheese/olive plates, refried beans with cheese quesadillas, etc. Everything comes with a veggie and fruit. Easy peasy. 

 

You are not fermenting things??? Why on earth not?  🤣🤣🤣🤣 Okay, not everyone is as crazy as I am even when your username contains the word "cooks." 

I think the quality of the food you buy is perhaps more important. If you look at the 10 items list of dirty foods (as in pesticide laden) and try to buy those organic, it's a step forward. Would you rather get it over with one morning and cook ahead? This may work with little ones if you can get a break while someone is babysitting or if it's just a lucky 2-3 hours. Throwing a bunch of chicken in the oven with some seasoning (think large cookie sheet) and bake chicken that will last through several lunches or dinners is not that much work. Different sauces make it taste differently so it does not feel like you are eating the same thing over and over.  Healthy for you may be different than healthy for someone with gluten sensitivities so it's an individual thing. 

Edited by Liz CA

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11 hours ago, Elizabeth86 said:

I would love to be a healthy cook, but I have a lot of little kids and I just really don't enjoy cooking and my family is picky and other excuses.  lol.  I feel guilty about not serving 100% healthy meals.  Not to mention, how do you even decide what is healthy?  Some people are vegan, some gluten free and so on.  I mean, what is healthy?  I feel I always have some bottled or packed sauce or whatever that isn't pure and healthy.  Ugh.  I get overwhelmed looking for and trying new recipes.  What are your tastiest and easiest healthy dinner.  Also, lunches?  It's sandwiches and junk.  Ugh. I am bad at lunch.  

 

I'm a little concerned with how harshly you're judging yourself for these things. Like, a reasonable dollop of a condiment is not unhealthy in any way, shape, or form. Sandwiches aren't inherently unhealthy, and they're the normal lunch for tens of millions of Americans. Lots of people don't like cooking, especially when they have to deal with a wide variety of picky eaters.

I don't know if you actually are judging yourself as strongly as it sounds like or if you're engaging in dramatic hyperbole, but if it's the former then I wonder if you might have a bigger problem with your relationship to food than with your nutrition. Mental health is important too.

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Eat real food...a lot of plants, and then don't sweat the small stuff.

My youngest is now 10.  She's still pretty picky, but there are things she'll eat easier than others.  My middle girl and boy are my least picky.  My oldest daughter is Vegan.  My oldest son is also pretty picky -- but would eat convenience foods all day if he could.

What worked best for me -- basing my cooking around what my family would eat.

So, if they wanted chicken nuggets -- I learned how to make them.  I'd make a lot of them and keep them in the freezer.  And, I just wouldn't worry about the ketchup and BBQ sauce. (I'd buy chicken breasts, cut them up, "bread" them and bake them.  Once I had a recipe they would eat well -- I wouldn't try another one.  I didn't care if someone put something out there that was the absolute best.  I had something that worked, and life is too short to sweat weather chicken nugget A was better than Chicken nugget B.  I'm not trying to win a Michelin star!

I'd make my own spaghetti sauce (hiding some mild, pureed veggies in the sauce).  Again, once I had something that worked, I'd make a bunch and freeze in quart baggies.  I'd buy the frozen tortellini or ravioli to make some variety in pasta dishes and considered it good.

I'd keep trying the salads (with whatever dressing...and not worry about the dressing).  One bite...two bites, three bites... improving the amount over time.  Only one of my kids ever loved veggies as a kid (he used to cheer when I said they were having broccoli with ranch dip for lunch -- my 10 year old only really likes carrots raw, but will eat more grilled).

Most of our food is grilled outside these days.  We grill veggies and reheat throughout the week.  Things are pretty simple.

My vitamix became my best friend -- I could "hide" veggies in smoothies.  Wasn't a lot, but it was better than nothing.  Occasionally, we'd have hot dogs -- I'd buy the ones with the least amount of weird stuff and just be okay with it (my daughter just asked for some, I don't think we've made hot dogs in nearly 2 years though).  

All in all though, it was one step at a time.  We never did well with huge, sweeping changes at once.  And, our best successes started with foods/spices I knew they already liked.  Yes, I've made my own homemade Spaghetti O's, even.  Our family loves Mexican, Asian, and Italian -- we're just starting in on Indian.  And, lunch is often a previous dinner re-heated.  I've been really spoiled here by fresh TASTY produce, and incredible fresh artisan breads.  I'm going to miss it.

My life is going to be in a huge state of flux for at least the next 3-6 months.  I will be having to buy a lot of things I wouldn't normally, just because I won't have pots/pans/measuring/mixing/baking tools for quite a while.  And then, I have to actually move in and get settled right at the start of school/swim season.  My goal is to take it slow, and gradually build into things again (I have to figure out where to shop, who has the best food, work in our trips to farmers' markets, food-co-oops and other things, ensure I have freezer/storage space).  Then, I'll attack it one thing at a time.  For me, that will start with homemade breads and smoothies.  I'll go from there.  Thankfully, I have most of my tried and true recipes I've built over years -- but I know I can't tackle everything at once.  Hopefully over 12-18 months, we'll have our system(s) all in place for shopping/food prep/food storage, and life will get easier again.  

 

 

 

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My favorite resource for *my ideas of healthy eating often came from Clean Eating magazine, though I often subbed with “dirty” ingredients, lol. I was aiming for their overall nutritional value, but not trying to be a total slave to their rules.

These days, it’s a mixed bag over here. We do tend to eat heavier and junkier in the cold months (it’s still so cold right now!) and better in the warm months. “Treats” are never banned, but they’re also not part of my weekly grocery shopping. I always aim to keep some cooked shredded chicken, brown rice, and frozen vegetables in the freezer so crazy or lazy nights can still have a quick and easy meal. (Until we get sick of chicken and rice, lol.)

*When I have the time*, I do work hard to stay on top of my goals for healthy foods, but I refuse to torture myself over it when life is hectic or the budget is tight, which is how things often are these days. I’m currently the only one in the house with a mild weight issue and slightly high cholesterol, so I’m not overly concerned about family health problems. (I should be cutting back on my personal portions.)

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It doesn't have to be 100% healthy for it to matter.  Put in the effort you can, and that will be enough.  

We do an unprocessed breakfast.  This can mean eggs or apple with peanut butter or nuts and fruit or oatmeal with some maple syrup.  I try to make sure everyone gets a serving of fruit.  

Lunch is all over the place- leftovers or sandwiches are what we eat 99% of the time.  Regardless of the main item, this is served with veggie sticks (several varieties per meal, I chop 2-3 days worth at a time of: carrots, bell pepper, cole rabe, grape tomatoes, cucumbers... whatever we have on hand) and dip, either hummus or herb cheese spread.  A couple times a week, I add a lentil salad or potato salad to round things out.  My kids love veggie sticks, so that's about 2 servings per kid for lunch.  

Snack involves a piece of Easter candy (still trying to whittle down the crazy pile!) and fruit, or a few cookies and fruit.  So, another serving of fruit.  

Dinner is whatever is on the menu plus cooked vegetables- often times one starchy and one nonstarchy.  So another 2 servings there.  At least twice a week, we have a bean or lentil based meal, and I consider that as a vegetable in terms of health benefits, and once a week or so we have salmon.  The other nights, just typical meat dishes and typical grain sides like rice or bread in addition to the veggies.

 

I do not worry about organic, I do not worry about sugars in things like ketchup and bbq sauce, but I dont' give my kids any liquid sugar- soda or juice or similar.  I only use olive oil, coconut oil or butter when I cook, but I buy store-bought mayo which contains those dreaded processed oils.  Meh.    In a full month, I probably only cook 10-12 different recipes.  Many of our meals repeat every single week.  

Figure out how much effort you can put in long-term.  I can do a whole30, but I can't do a whole365.  I know that about myself.  So I aim to do the best I can considering my energy, priorities, and motivation.  

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Agreeing with what's been posted already.
There are added pressures of making food affordable, relatively quick to prepare, and it's, you know, in the house. 😉

Our family does not have allergies, so our goal is the USDA "MyPlate" =

image.png.3fe87342321c06f3771bb83c3e7fa691.png

We all have to be content with doing what we can, and moving toward improvement . . . in all of those areas.

Exercise as well.

 

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I don’t think that healthy eating is that difficult to figure out. There has been basic agreement over what is a balanced diet for years. Most people know that whole foods are best. But a young family doesn’t need to eat expensive gourmet foods to be healthy. Expose kids to healthy foods (exposure can eventually expand their palate). What you mentioned doesn’t seem to be a diet of twinkies and wonder bread. I look for inspiration on Pinterest (I just typed in “healthy food “ and “healthy food for picky eaters popped up as a choice. So did “healthy food for families”). I also get cookbooks from the library. 

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22 hours ago, Elizabeth86 said:

I would love to be a healthy cook, but I have a lot of little kids and I just really don't enjoy cooking and my family is picky and other excuses.  lol.  I feel guilty about not serving 100% healthy meals.  Not to mention, how do you even decide what is healthy?  Some people are vegan, some gluten free and so on.  I mean, what is healthy?  I feel I always have some bottled or packed sauce or whatever that isn't pure and healthy.  Ugh.  I get overwhelmed looking for and trying new recipes.  What are your tastiest and easiest healthy dinner.  Also, lunches?  It's sandwiches and junk.  Ugh. I am bad at lunch.  

What are healthy meals?

  • They are enough food to support your kids' growth and keep them from going hungry.
  • They completely exclude ingredients that family members are allergic to or otherwise have an established negative reaction to or danger from.
  • They are appropriate to your personal, cultural and religious beliefs and traditions.
  • They typically include a vegetable, and often a fruit. (Blend a frozen banana, a handful of spinach leaves, a few strawberries, and your preferred mix of OJ, almond milk and cold water. Voila, the smoothie covers it.)
  • They are varied enough over the course of a week to get a variety of nutrients.
  • They are served without guilt, shame, etc., about what or how much we eat.

Anything else you can do is a bonus.

If you want easy & veggieful lunch foods, maybe see if there are Dr. Praeger's products in your grocery store's freezer section?

Put a bunch of veggies in a soup, and it's a healthy meal--and can sit on the stove/in the Crock-pot a while if you're not sure when it will be time to eat. Use store-bought or homemade broth. Chop one carrot per person. Dump in a can of diced tomatoes (or fresh when in season). A clove or two of garlic. Whatever else you want for veggies--soups are flexible. A can of beans, drained and rinsed, for some protein if you want. Cook until everything's tender. (If you'd like something more specific, how about West African peanut stew?)

You're probably doing better than you think.

ETA: If your library has a copy of Desperation Dinners, that might come in handy. And remember, it's not going to be this tricky forever. There's still juggling with older kids (why are all the sports DURING dinner time)? but you can have some time to prepare things ahead, etc. Right now I have jars of broth, chopped onion, etc., in my freezer and bread dough in the fridge. This was not a thing with an anti-sleep toddler in the house.

Edited by whitehawk
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I have been where you are.  I did a pretty good job when my kids were little, but at some point it got too hard to fight all the temptations that others brought in front of my kids.  They would just waste the "good" stuff, and I didn't have time to make it all perfect for their tastes.

Sometimes I feel better adding a side or two of fresh fruit / veggie.  To go along with their pizza / mac & cheese, LOL.

I give them whole foods vitamins, does that count?

I figure my kids still eat a bit better than I did as a kid, and I was pretty darn healthy, and so are they.  Dare I say that perfect eating is overrated?  Especially for kids whose metabolisms are amazing and who get good exercise and sleep ....

Edited by SKL
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Thanks everyone for the encouraging words.  I guess I am ok.  I pretty much serve a lot of fruits and veggies with whatever else we have and hope for the best.  lol  I just feel so lost sometimes.  For instance, my 5 year old asked me if spaghetti was healthy.  Well, some people don't think ground beef is healthy.  Some people don't think pasta is healthy.  My jarred pasta sauce isn't as healthy as pasta sauce could be.  Sooooo...I mean what do you say?  No spaghetti isn't 100% healthy, but it's what's for dinner.  lol I struggle big time with perfection.  I don't know what else to say..

18 hours ago, SKL said:

I have been where you are.  I did a pretty good job when my kids were little, but at some point it got too hard to fight all the temptations that others brought in front of my kids.  They would just waste the "good" stuff, and I didn't have time to make it all perfect for their tastes.

Sometimes I feel better adding a side or two of fresh fruit / veggie.  To go along with their pizza / mac & cheese, LOL.

I give them whole foods vitamins, does that count?

I figure my kids still eat a bit better than I did as a kid, and I was pretty darn healthy, and so are they.  Dare I say that perfect eating is overrated?  Especially for kids whose metabolisms are amazing and who get good exercise and sleep ....

You are so right, my kids eat better than I did, I am healthy, they are healthy.  Perfect eating is overrated and my kids metabolism is amazing and they get good exercise, so I guess we will survive!

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On 5/14/2019 at 4:19 AM, Tanaqui said:

 

I'm a little concerned with how harshly you're judging yourself for these things. Like, a reasonable dollop of a condiment is not unhealthy in any way, shape, or form. Sandwiches aren't inherently unhealthy, and they're the normal lunch for tens of millions of Americans. Lots of people don't like cooking, especially when they have to deal with a wide variety of picky eaters.

I don't know if you actually are judging yourself as strongly as it sounds like or if you're engaging in dramatic hyperbole, but if it's the former then I wonder if you might have a bigger problem with your relationship to food than with your nutrition. Mental health is important too.

Judging myself too harshly is just what I have always done.  About everything.  It's not that I have a problem with my relationship food, but I just struggle with balance in all areas of my life.  If I am doing something I want it to be 100% or I feel like a failure.  Sometimes when I feel stressed about something like this, I just post about it to see how other people live and to remind me normal people don't get things 100% perfect.  I don't stress about food daily or often, just one day I will feel worried I am not cooking healthy enough and I just feel really bad and that I am failing my kids.  I have these mini panic episodes about nearly everything.  You should have seen me when I started homeschooling my oldest.  I have calm down a lot.  I spent his whole kindergarten year in a panic that I was ruining his life.  I only have this thought occasionally now.  My mental health, I don't know what to say about it.  I have a lot of issues, but I am surprisingly happy and content with life.  I'm just a worrier.  If I'm not overthinking something,  well..I just wouldn't know what to do with myself. 

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Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good is my personal motto too, and never more so in the healthy living category. So, many give up because they can't meet an ideal, you are not alone.

Is it better to have 1 healthy meal a day or 0? Is it better to get in 2 servings of fruit and veggies or 0? 

Start with where you are at and forget the rest.

I'd not stress the condiments, I'd focus on the main aspects of the meals and then I'd maybe just focus on one meal at a time. Pick something that you think you can do, buy prepared options that are healthier (chopped veggies and salads if needed for example)

Forget about what you think you are supposed to do, focus on how you feel when you eat. What foods make you feel good, in the long term, not the short pick up from sugar or carbs but sustained energy. 

My personal goals are to eat whole foods, get in as many fruits and veggies as I can. I eat chocolate every day (dark but still). 

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I think if you try and stock basic, simple foods at home and go from there, you can't go too wrong.  So I'll always have things like oats, granola, plain yogurt, bananas, apples, whole wheat bread, bagels, butter, peanut butter, no-preservative sandwich meat, cheese, crackers, cream cheese, olives, lots of fresh (and some frozen) vegetables, chicken, beef, eggs, cans or bags of various legumes (black beans, garbanzo beans, etc.), almonds, tortillas, tomato sauce, whole milk, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, lemons, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salsa, mustard, mayo.  That's pretty much my go-to list, and we can come up with all sorts of meal and snack options from there.  Then throw in some easy frozen meals like ones from Trader Joe's (tamales, potstickers, pizza, cans of soup).  I figure if we mostly stick with foods like that, we're doing pretty well.  

That doesn't rule out an occasional fast-food meal, a pizza night, and an often daily coffee and cookie treat. 

 

Edited by J-rap
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Also, if I try to restrict myself too much I bounce back hungrier than ever and find eating well an uphill battle, so I find it best not to get too caught up in the details. I eat starchy carbs with every meal (even though carbs are out of fashion). I eat a good amount of protein to help with satiety and my efforts to build muscle to counteract the muscles we naturally lose as we age. I sometimes eat junky sugary things just because but often avoid it in everyday meals (I eat oatmeal w/ fruit but no sugar). I eat bacon, often trimmed of fat but whatever. I eat beef and eggs and sometimes a pat of butter. I try to eat 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day, some days I make it, some I don't. My diet is horrible according to the Paleo low carb folks and the vegetarian low-fat folks but it works for me. I don't claim to have any idea on what works for others though I think if you aim for whole unprocessed foods you will be better for it. My cholesterol numbers are freakishly low and blood sugar good. 

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Spaghetti is healthy for most people. You have carbs, yes, but our bodies use carbs for energy. You have red meat but the body uses that for protein and iron. You have tomatoes. 

If you wanted to- there are ways to make it healthier by using whole wheat pasta, ground turkey and throwing extra veggies into the jarred sauce. But only if you want to. 

(Note: spaghetti isn’t too healthy for ME because I am diabetic but most young families don’t have that issue,  I substitute zucchini noodles for the pasta to make it work for ME.)

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When my kids ask me if something is healthy, I can almost always say, yes, in reasonable amounts- just like butter or anything else.  

The only thing I state clearly is unhealthy is sugar, and we still eat sugar, but we are aware it is not good for us, and so we need to tightly restrict it and acknowledge that it's a treat.  

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Just make small changes and keep making them.  For instance, if you want to cut down on sugar, start there and once you feel you conquered that, move into the next thing.

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