Want to hear four words you’ll never hear me utter in front of my children, especially my daughter? “I’m on a diet.”
I am all about teaching my children to eat healthy and get active, don’t get me wrong…but I also don’t want them to look at me, a healthy, normal-sized woman, and think that I’m “fat,” or that food restriction is something they, too, should engage in. Ideally, they’ll grow up to eat healthfully and exercise regularly and be so happy with their bodies that they will never learn what dieting is.
Does that mean I don’t actually diet? Not a chance. I’m a perpetual salad eater and an avid runner, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good slice of pie. Especially pumpkin. I usually end up indulging in more than what I can burn off during the holiday season and by January 1, I need to start cutting back if I want my clothes to fit. Here are 10 tricks I have for losing weight without making a big deal about the ordeal—and reinforcing healthy habits at the same time.
1. Help yourself to seconds and thirds (of the vegetables!)
Prepare a healthy, balanced dinner for everyone like you normally would, but swap out the carb-heavy ingredients for salad or grilled veggies. If everyone’s eating grilled chicken and a broccoli and cheese casserole, you’re eating grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and a side salad topped with low-calorie salad dressing.
2. Order the kids’ meal.
Eat using your kids’ Mickey Mouse plates for instant portion control. Or, if you’re at a restaurant not known for its diet-friendly cuisine, instead of making a loud fuss demanding the steamed veggie medley or asking if the fried shrimp could be prepared without oil, just get a kids’ meal. Your children will appreciate the camaraderie and you’ll be able to stay within your calorie limits because of the smaller serving.
3. Get your kids excited about healthy food.
Instead of sugary cereals, how about if the family starts off the day with a healthy smoothie, made from fresh or frozen fruit and a scoop of Vega French Vanilla protein powder? The noise and whirring blades of the blender will make for some exciting kitchen drama, and no one will miss cold, overly sweet flakes drowned by milk after trying your concoction!
4. Skip the sugar.
A super-easy way to cut calories is to use stevia instead of sugar for your coffee, tea, oatmeal and in any recipes that call for the refined white stuff. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is all-natural, so you don’t have to worry that you’re trading calories for scary chemicals!
5. Go nuts!
I carry little containers of almonds in all of my purses, including the diaper bag. When you’re out and about with little ones, snacks tend to involve crackers, cookies and other things a dieting mama shouldn’t be noshing on. A handful of nuts, on the other hand, will keep you full for hours. (Have you tried hazelnuts? Mmmhh!)
6. Drink up.
You’ll be less inclined to nibble on that half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich if you’ve just guzzled 16 oz. of water. So keep hydrated all day long. When cold H2O just won’t do the trick, turn to tea. Did you know that you can enjoy chocolate tea—which doesn’t have a single calorie? Or drink black chai with just a drizzle of unsweetened almond milk.
7. Bake “fake” desserts.
Although they will insist otherwise, your children don’t need baked goods to survive. There’s no reason why you can’t offer healthy versions of kids’ favorite desserts instead of the real deal—like this Peanut Butter Pie recipe from blogger @JazzyThings, which uses coconut oil, vanilla protein powder and other healthy ingredients.
8. No BLTs for you, mama.
You might think “BLT” stands for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich but in diet-ese, it stands for Bites, Licks and Tastes. In other words, only eat deliberately, at planned meals, instead of grazing off your kids’ plates or nibbling as you’re cooking. If you are going to BLT, get in the habit of writing it down and eating less later in the day to compensate.
9. Make exercise a family affair.
It can be hard to fit exercise into your schedule when you have little ones. You’re either getting up early for a run in the dark when everyone’s still asleep, staying up late (when you can barely keep your eyes open) to fit in your sweat session or begging your significant other to take a shift with the kids, please, so you can go to the gym. These efforts are all worthwhile, but a path of less resistance is for everyone in the family to hop on the bike path and pedal fast. Or train together for a 5k that allows jogging strollers. If it’s too cold for outdoor activity, try indoor rock-climbing, ice-skating or just put on some music and dance. The family that sweats together stays thin together!
10. Always eat a slice of birthday cake.
When you’re eager to get rid of extra pounds, you might be tempted to go the all-or-nothing route. But never, ever skip your child’s birthday cake, or yours. First of all, one slice of anything isn’t going to set you back all that far (and if you’re worried that it will, get in some exercise that day.) But most importantly, your child will notice that you’re not eating and wonder why. Have a slice so thin you can see through it if you must, but be sure you taste—and savor—the cake and the celebration.
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.