Each day I count my lucky stars that I made the decision two years ago to become a health coach! Beyond getting to stay home with my son and positively impact my community in such a powerful way, I get to work with people who inspire me every day. Last spring, I was humbled to be able to host Dr. William Sears, presenting to my friends, clients and colleagues, and I’ve also welcomed his daughter Hayden to come share her powerful story and message here in Toronto.
Using her knowledge as a certified health coach and her experience as a mother of three, Hayden often shares her top tips for feeding her family nutritious foods and eating whole foods while living in a world that does not readily support such choices. Because we live in such a busy time, we have to consider the “hassle benefit factor” – what practices will have the least amount of hassle for the maximum benefit? All her tips passed this test and are sure to make a wonderful impact on your family too!
Eating Whole Foods Makes a Difference
Hayden began by sharing with us a condition she was born with, called polycystic ovary syndrome. Essentially this means she was born pre-diabetic. The condition actually went undiagnosed until she was 16 years old, due to the fact that her mother was always very conscientious about her child eating whole foods. While Martha Sears was very nutritionally conscious, Hayden’s dad, Dr. Bill Sears, was not always such an advocate of eating whole foods. Like many of us, it took a real scare to change how he looks at food and a diet primarily eating whole foods.
While away at college, Hayden received the phone call we all dread. Her mom told her that she had to come home because her dad was very sick. Dr. Bill Sears was diagnosed with colon cancer. For several years during his recovery, Dr. Bill studied up on nutrition extensively. He was motivated not only by the desire to one day be able to dance at his children’s weddings, but even more importantly, to not have them suffer the same fate he had. I feel it is a true testament to who Dr. Bill is as an individual that he could not keep this information to himself. He wrote book upon book on nutrition for all ages – and then created his Health Coach Certification program so that the information could be spread as far and wide as possible.
Eating Whole Foods through Traffic Light Eating
Foods can be categorized into “green” (grow foods), “yellow” (slow down foods), and “red” (stop and think foods). Essentially anything from the plant kingdom falls into the green light category. These are nutrient dense, “free” foods and there are no limits on these whatsoever. Yellow light foods are to be enjoyed every day, but we must watch our portions as they are nutritious, but have more calories and fat than green light foods (fish, lean protein, eggs, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes). Red light foods of course are to be avoided when and where possible. These foods have very few nutrients and are full of sugar and bad fats (cake, fast food, candy, over processed foods etc.) Life happens and your children will attend birthday parties and such. But if 90 percent of their diet consists of healthy green and yellow light foods, the ‘brain in the gut’ will be in tact so they will naturally get that crummy feeling that comes along with eating red light foods, and will be more drawn to eat pure. This philosophy is taught in depth in the Health Coach Certification program, but once your family understands it, you can together make a poster using grocery flyers and color paper to put up in your kitchen so it remains top of mind.
Education about Eating Whole Foods
Kids are sponges! Have fun with meals and snacks and take the time to let them in on fun facts that will make food appealing. Hayden’s children loved spending time with their uncles who would teach them big long words like anthocyanin (a family of antioxidant pigments), which is what makes a blueberry blue! You don’t have to be a doctor or feel the need to memorize these terms, but by simply taking time to talk about food in a fun, lighthearted, connected way, you will engage your children and remove the power struggle when eating whole foods.
Make Eating Whole Foods Fun
Kids love to play make-believe and get creative, and allowing and even encouraging this, facilitates a healthy attitude about eating whole foods. Hayden’s kids love to pretend to be giraffes and munch kale straight from their garden! One of her kids always loved playing with her food and creates beautiful works of art on her plate before devouring it all. Resist the temptation to “hover” and trust that your children will have table manners when it is developmentally appropriate. Being OK with a bit of a mess can be very freeing for everyone and have awesome long term benefits!
To help with metabolic programming, sneak grow foods into smoothies, muffins and sauces. There are entire cookbooks dedicated to sneaking fruit and veggies into things. A couple spinach leaves blended into a smoothie, for example, will help get the nutrition in their tummies without the battle against eating whole foods.
Choices are empowering, for children as much as adults when it comes to eating whole foods. Give kids the chance to have a say in what they put into their body (within perimeters that you have set). Take them grocery shopping and allow each child their pick of veggie and get them helping out with meal prep. From my personal experience, my son eats most of his fruits and veggies while we are preparing the meal. Busy little bodies prefer to graze this way, versus having to sit at the table and be forced to finish their plate.
Modeling Eating Whole Foods
We need to hold ourselves to high standards when it comes to nutrition and eating whole foods, and I think this is possibly the most important tip of all. You can choose to have a “stash” of contraband, so to speak, so that some indulgences can be enjoyed while the kids are not in view. Not to say that treats are not allowed, however children will want to do as they are shown. So learn to love your “grow food” too! As you’re eating whole foods, express your enjoyment (“I just love how this grapefruit bursts in my mouth!”)
Shaping Young Attitudes About Eating Whole Foods
I love that Hayden said her son doesn’t know he’s a “picky eater” because she refuses to label him that way! It is so true! We can often be tempted to say, “Oh she doesn’t like bananas,” but refrain; you will be quite surprised when after being offered it perhaps 20 times (with no pressure attached), your kid will suddenly eat the item with zeal! Hayden also suggested correcting kids when they label something as “yucky.” By being inquisitive, and asking the child questions, they may realize the item is just “textured” or “tastes sharp” – and from there you may even spark their curiosity to taste it again and eating whole foods more often!
Eating Whole Foods like Fruits and Vegetables
Sadly only 11 percent of Americans are eating whole foods in the form of fruits and vegetables including the daily serving size for each. Every few years, governments up their recommendations for eating whole foods, and yet the sad fact is that in today’s fast-food world, we are just eating whole foods less and less often. The American Cancer Society’s posters are now filled with images of fruit and veggies with the caption, “Cancer: Reduce Your Risk.” Even if we are among the 11 percent who get the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables, there is no “cap” on the good that it does in your body — so the more phytos the better! Rarely do we get a rainbow variety when eating whole foods, and rarely is it eaten raw and vine ripened.
Other ways to feed your family a diet rich in antioxidants is to:
- Make a game of having your kids “eat a rainbow.” They get to color in or check off a part of the rainbow after they have eaten that color of fruit or vegetable.
- Visit farmers markets to sample new foods. This supports the locavore movement while also making shopping a rich learning experience and lots of fun!
- Serve a veggie platter or salad before the main meal.
- Soups are a great way to pack in a variety of vegetables. Blended soups can help mask textures that your picky eater may not be fond of.
- Grow your own garden
Don’t Fight Fats
Any of us who were exposed to media in the 90s can remember all the low-fat diet hype. It is hard to change our mindset, but the fact is, a diet made up of 20-30 percent healthy fats will keep us stay lean! Healthy Omega-3 fats, give us energy, keep our brains sharp, help us to use vitamins from food, build cells, give us healthy skin, protect our organs, make hormones and keep our mood balanced. Hayden recommends we eat fish 2-4 times a week, and if that is not possible or consistent, to take an Omega-3 supplement.
Power Up with Protein
Clean and lean protein from fish, dairy, poultry, beef, soy, legumes and nuts will help our kids by providing the dietary foundation for building their constant growth, and provide us the amino acids essential for keeping our bodies from deteriorating as quickly as we age. A good rule of thumb is to provide a source of protein as part of each snack or meal – for example nut butter or cottage cheese to accompany celery and carrot sticks, or boiled eggs with fruit.
We can learn a lot from our kids, especially when they are really young and so in tune with their hunger cues. While there are many proponents of the “3 square meal a day” mentality, there are many benefits to grazing at any age. It keeps our blood sugar steady, allows us to eat before we are ravenous, and therefore make more conscious choices. Some recommendations Hayden made include eating only “grow foods” in front of the TV or for night-time snacking – nixing the “bedtime dance” when kids say they are hungry at bedtime by only offering crumb-free grow food they can eat in bed (carrots or apples for example), and sharing meals when eating at restaurants, or only eating half and packing the rest to take home.
Surround yourself with people that are going in the same direction as you. This makes it much easier to stay on a healthy track, when you can lean on your village to be a source of inspiration and positive support.
Hayden’s final slides were a beautiful picture of her dad, staying up late playing Legos with her young son, and then up early dressed as Santa Claus on Christmas morning. It was surprisingly emotional to see, as we all know family in their 70s or even younger, who sadly just don’t have the health to live so vibrantly anymore.
Dr. Bill likes to ask us if we have a retirement plan – meaning a plan for the maintenance of our good health. What fills you up? What makes you excited to greet each new day? It’s important to remember these things can only be enjoyed to their fullest with good health.
Brandie Hadfield is a wife and mother, speaker and coach. Certified through Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, Brandie offers her coaching in Toronto, Canada at brandiehadfield.com. Brandie has also partnered with Bebomia to offer holistic wellness solutions to sleep-deprived parents, encompassing the four pillars of health: lifestyle, exercise, attitude and nutrition. Prior to becoming a Dr. Sears Coach, Brandie worked as a human manager in the fitness industry where she helped leaders motivate and retain their staff. The journey into motherhood transformed how she lives her life, and she is passionate about coupling her education and experiences to help families achieve their dreams of healthy balanced living.