What "Healthy Eating" Means to Me

Welcome to the November Carnival of Natural Parenting: What is natural parenting?

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our Carnival coincides with the launch of Natural Parents Network, a community of parents and parents-to-be who practice or are interested in attachment parenting and natural family living. Join us at Natural Parents Network to be informed, empowered, and inspired!

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Over the past 10 years together, Lonnie and I have made significant progress on the healthy eating front.  When we first met we were in high school and eating nachos washed down with a Mountain Dew was not unusual.  Ha!  But, we were lucky to both come from families who valued healthy eating and home cooking, and from that absorbed both a love of food and a love of cooking.  

In our early days, as a kid-free couple in our twenties just starting out in our careers, we cooked less, ate way more convenience foods, and ate out a lot.  We still ate our vegetables and cooked at home, but true healthy eating was not as big of a priority.   We were young and had years ahead to deal with all that!  

With the onset of Lonnie’s dairy allergy, things changed.  Suddenly we were reading labels.  A lot.  We saw how much crap was in all that stuff we were eating.  Taking the dairy out of foods (and later beef, too) really can make a dent in the amount of fat you are consuming withsome meals!  Eating out was more of a challenge, too — we had to start avoiding certain restaurants altogether, and asking questions more often when at the places we did (mostly Asian restaurants – which are generally dairy-free and sometimes fairly healthy — and abundant! —  here in Seattle).

Lonnie & babies cooking

When kids came along, there was the added pressure to feed them well and to model healthy eating — because it sure is hard to hand them the bowl of oatmeal and then eat a doughnut or potato chips right in front of them!  While they were very young, it was definitely hard to find the time to cook all the time, but for us, more of a challenge to take them out to a restaurant, so we just figured it out.  Key, for us, is the fact that BOTH of us can (and like to) cook — when I was too sick and tired with pregnancy, or nursing fussy babies all evening, Lonnie took over, for months or years at a time.  Thank goodness!  And over time, we’ve just made more and more gradual changes that have added up to a pretty decent level of healthy eating, I’d like to think.   Honestly, we really don’t miss our old habits much at all! 

So, what does healthy eating mean to me now?  Here is what I strive for:

Serving my family home-cooked meals from whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and fats (including meats and dairy products, for us) – often, every day, for most, if not all, of our meals.  

Buying organic or sustainably raised foods when possible, particularly with regards to "the dirty dozen" and to meat, fish & dairy.  Learning to cook or eat differently (i.e. more vegetarian) to make this more affordable!  

Buying basic ingredients and cooking our own foods, instead of buying things processed.  This applies to main meals as well as snack and "convenience" foods.  I try to make — instead of buy — things like bread, waffles & pancakes, biscuits and muffinsgranola bars, snack/trail mixes, cookies and treats, etc.  My next challenge — making or baking homemade crackers & cereal bars — two things my kids adore!

Eating whole grains, not "white" foods.  Whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa.  Whole wheat couscous, whole grain breads, tortillas, cold and hot cereals (some of these are obviously somewhat processed, but we at least aim for whole grain/high fiber!). 

farmers market loot

Eating nutrient dense foods (avocados, berries, greens, beans and meats, etc) to make the most out of our food calories.    

Aiming for variety – serving a range of different foods each day, while also keeping mealtime simple without overwhelming my kids with too many options.  For each snack or meal, I try to serve a fruit or vegetable, a grain, and a protein (ideally with some fat).  Sometimes snacks are just fruit — I am trying to do this more, actually — but I do find my kids & I often need a little protein and fat to "make it stick".  

Striking a balance –  making no foods forbidden or "off limits".  While the bulk of our foods are whole foods and the like, we also buy some of the processed stuff (see Emma’s birthday dinner — box mac & hotdogs!).  I do sometimes buy (and we all enjoy) things like deli meats, box mac & cheese, tater tots, Oreos, soda and chips. We do the occasional take out and fast food (emphasis on the occasional!).   We eat sweets — in moderation — including ice cream, cookies, chocolate and candy.  We serve fried chicken and fish and chips (cooked at home, generally) and go through a fair bit of mayo, because man, they’re delicious!  I personally don’t have the willpower (or the desire) to avoid these things altogether, and believe that the only way for kids to learn how to moderate their own consumption of these kinds of foods (and eat healthfully in the long run, once they are in charge of their own menus) is to model it ourselves at home. 

And finally — sitting down together, to eat as a family, daily.  I really believe that its important for kids to be a part of family meals from as early on as possible, to see and eat what the adults are eating, to come together as a family and to talk to each other about our day.  We are so lucky, I know, to be able to do this easily — Lonnie’s work schedule (and ability to choose his hours, to some degree) allows him to be home with us for a family dinner every night.  I could be better about sitting down and being present with the kids during breakfast and lunch, for sure — I think this is important too!  It is easy to use this time to catch up on various things (chores, making my own different food, checking email) but I know my kids would prefer  (and be better off) if I sat down and connected with them — at least some of the time — instead! 

family meal 1 peeps family meal

What are your top healthy eating goals right now?  What are you feeling successful with, and what is still a challenge?    


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated by afternoon November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on "What Is Natural Parenting?"

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

    • "Attachment Parenting Chose Us" — For a child who is born "sensitive," attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting "choice." Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • "Parenting in the Present" — Acacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • "Parenting With Heart" — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
    • "Sometimes I Wish We Coslept" — Sheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
    • "Unconditional Parenting" — The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • "Supporting Natural Immunity" — If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • "Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting" — Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning "challenges." (@myzerowaste)
  • "Let Them Look" — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • "Why I Love Unschooling" — Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way — it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • "Is He Already Behind?"Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning — naturally — every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • "How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning" — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism

Related posts:

10 comments to What "Healthy Eating" Means to Me

  • What a great post – I really enjoyed reading about your journey into prioritising good food and how it has impacted you as a family. I too make a point of us sitting down to eat each day – I feel this is very important and it’s a lovely way to connect in what can be a very busy day.

    I don’t always cook as healthy as I would like, but hey, I’m human :)
    Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing your lovely photos too.

  • Thank you for the tips. I go through stages/weeks of healthy eating. Most of it is planning – if I take time to create a meal plan and then stick to it (oh isn’t that the hard part?!), then I have no problems not running to Chipotle or Goodcents for dinner. My other huge problem is healthy snacks. I get too caught up in convenience snacks (damn you, Costco tub of pretzels that Kieran loves!). I keep meaning to print out a big list of healthy, real-food convenience snacks and posting it prominently in the kitchen. Some day . . .

  • Amy

    What a great post! This was very informative – especially your links on the organic foods. I have always wanted to buy organic when I can, but don’t know much about it. Also, that’s a great idea about making your own granola bars and trail mix. Thank you!

  • Lately we have been struggling with eating the way we want to (essentially how you are doing it). My job is really intense and I’m overwhelmed with the work and the commute so I find we are eating convenience foods like frozen pizza and sausages more than we should. My husband starts dinner but he has trouble planning and coming up with ideas for it. So, I need to go back to meal planning but even that I find a struggle. Sigh! I know, this too will pass but it’s not great right now.

  • Kat

    Lovely post! In our home we do just about all the things you’ve listed. To us, eating healthy, sustainably grown food is very important. Also, I particularly enjoy the sitting down to eat together part.

  • Kristin

    Thanks all!

    Dionna — the planning really, really helps, but yes, its so hard to get to sometimes. Even though I know in the long run it saves me time, its NOT the task I feel like doing, pretty much ever. But it feels good when its done!

    Erin, I totally understand the lean towards convenience foods when you are juggling working and commuting too. I don’t know how working parents do it! I am able to do stuff during the day while my kids play and nap, or when my husband comes home (in late afternoon). I know tons of folks who have your very challenge and they all struggle with it.

    My only advice give that is stock up the pantry and freezer if you can! We do a lot of pretty quick “defrost” or “basic assembly” meals from the freezer or pantry. Often stuff like crock pot meals or other big batch meals we froze half of.

  • Us too! Just like that!

    Sometimes I get a little depressed about how much time and money it can cost to make your own food — like pizza, for example, is basically cheaper to buy from a restaurant than to make yourself from quality ingredients like organic cheese and such. But it usually only takes one trip to a restaurant to remind me of all the benefits of home-cooking.

    I don’t think I could pull it all off without my husbands help though.

    He made us some kale crackers the other day — they were terrible. Good luck with that enterprise!

  • So perfect! The thing about the disconnect between eating potato chips while trying to serve them oatmeal — ha! Been there, and you’re right — and it never does work. :) We are trying, gradually, three steps forward and two steps back, to move toward a diet like you’ve outlined here. It’s definitely a work in progress! It helps me to visit our families and see how far we’ve come at least, because we have made some distinct changes. I’d like us to cook even more at home, and have only healthful snacks around (or, say, 80% healthful), so Mikko gets out of the habit of craving and asking for the others. And I really do like the idea of making time to sit around the table intentionally. We’re together most days, so we don’t usually think to make a big deal of dinnertime, but I really relish starting the tradition — and now, while Mikko’s young. Thanks for this post with the food for thought! Excuse the pun and all that.

  • Great blog post. Very similar to how our family does things. Thanks for sharing.

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