Does having a child spell disaster for your diet? Is your pre-pregnancy body now considered ancient history—as in B.C. (before children)?
Many parents tell us that they just don’t have time for themselves or they grab whatever is easiest and quickest—which often equals foods like Teddy Grahams, Goldfish and tater tots. Others with picky eaters just give in and eat whatever their kids want.
New research shows that parents’ diets are worse than childless adults and the unhealthy diet and lifestyle trends may add up to pounds gained. In one study, English researchers evaluated the diets of more than 7,000 couples (those with and without children) and found that childless couples ate 5 pounds more produce every two weeks, more fish, less fat, breads, cereals and milk and dairy In addition, researchers at the University of Minnesota reported that moms ate more calories, saturated fat and sugary beverage compared to childless adults. Moms also had an average of 2,360 calories daily, 368 calories more than women without children and they had higher body mass indexes, a measure of body fatness.
Bottom line: Babies are bad for your diet!
I asked several RD-moms for their personal perspectives about whether or not having children impacted their diets–for better or worse–and the responses were a real mixed bag. While many RDs agreed that moms often “blame” their children for their “bad” diets, it doesn’t have to be that way. Most of the responses focused on ways that parents need to make the most of their time and keeping to a regular eating plan and workout schedule appears to be the most important factors when you’re a parent trying to stick with the program.
Here’s what eight RD-moms offered up as advice to other parents.
Never Eat Off Your Child’s Plate
This is worth repeating….DO NOT EAT OFF YOUR KID’S PLATE
It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating when you prepare and food your kinds meals and snacks. A nibble here and there add up to a lot of calories. Pay attention to what and when you are eating. If you are truly hungry, make yourself your own snack bowl/plate. Stick with a regular meal pattern. Every 3-4 hours get something to eat. Keep snacks in the car/diaper bag/purse. That reduces temptation to get a candy bar or other high fat/sugar food in the checkout line at Target because you’re starving.
Stephanie Mull, MS, RD, CSSD
You don’t need special treats for children, and they can snack on real foods like low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers, fruits and vegetables. Moms who have kiddie snack foods (read: high-calorie, low in nutrition) on-hand often eat those foods when they’re tired or stressed.
Ruth Carey, MS, RD.
Make “Me” Time Every Day
It’s important to take “me time” for things that are important for and to you. If you’re a mom who always puts your own wants and needs on the back-burner, it’s no surprise that you’re having a hard time losing weight. Women who are must successful and weight loss get their own needs met because in doing so, in the long run, they said they were better able to meet the needs of others. On the other hand, those who never take care of themselves can feel resentful and wind up rewarding themselves with food.
Anne M. Fletcher, MS, RD, LD
Say No to Sweatpants
It’s easy to ignore gradual weight increase when your pants are expandable. Noticing how clothing fits (or doesn’t) can help someone take action before weight gain becomes excessive. Again, a lot of this has to do with self-care, women don’t think they can take the time to shower, dress, put on make up, etc…But wearing “real” clothes helped me from packing on the pounds and just made me feel better!
Kay Bush, R.D.,C.D.
Play with Your Kids
I did not always make it to gym or even have a dedicated exercise routine but what I did do every step of the way was to play along with them! When they were toddlers I got on scooter cars and tricycles and rode up and down the driveway with them,in the swimming pool we had all sorts of races. I learned to ski at 42 because I was taking my kids to ski lessons every Friday and I didn’t want to just sit in a lodge.
Pam Woythal, RD
If you can’t commit to an hour spin or Zumba class and your marathon long runs are now out of the question, start learning how to squeeze in short bouts of exercise. Also, remember that it doesn’t matter if you have to exercise at 5:00 am or 10:pm. High-intensity body weight training can be done at home and can keep you fit and only require about 15 minutes. Going for two, 15-minute walks every day adds up to about 200 extra calories burned daily or 1,400 a week.
Juliet Mancino, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Make the Effort
You can’t be passive about this and wish your weight away. It will require effort. If you’re short on sleep and haven’t planned meals ahead of time, your “exercise” and “play” time just got gobbled up by needing to find something for dinner, and all the other chores moms need to do at the end of the day that weren’t planned for. This is especially important for moms who work outside the home.
Suzanne Fleming, RD, LD
Find Your Motivation
I always tell my clients to find their motivation, whatever it may be, and hang onto it. Motivation makes self discipline just a tad bit easier. My motivation is being a healthy role model for my little girl and picturing myself at my goal weight, just knowing how good that feels.
Karin Plett, R.D.
Make Meals a Family Affair
Get your children involved in meal planning and preparation and try theme nights. Monday is pasta night; Tues is Mexican; Wacky Wednesday (breakfasts for dinner); Thurs is Kids choice and Friday is Fish. This way, everyone is on board with the meal so there’s no need for takeout or eating out.
Jill Whisler, MS, RD
(Pediatrics, 4, 2011; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/11/peds.2010-3218.abstract (doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-3218))