Are you the nutritional gatekeeper? Do you have control of what foods are brought into your home and your family eats most of the time? It is a lot of pressure to be under as a parent, especially if you work full-time and have many other jobs, which most of us do.
I am the nutritional gatekeeper in and outside our home. This does not mean I am the food police telling people what to eat all the time. It simply means I am the one who purchases, prepares and makes the decisions about food in and outside our home. With this role, there are many jobs that come with it. For me, some of these jobs include:-
- Being mindful of any utter dislikes and loves (makes life easier for everyone). No mushrooms! I stress the word “utter”. I’ll just order those when I am out or sneak them in somewhere.
- Marketing nutritious foods, particularly to the youngest, with delicious appealing meals to avoid screwed up faces every night and long winded dinner times. It becomes increasingly difficult when we are up against huge multi billion dollar food companies who take advantage of our poor energy and time. In many homes, they are winning all too often unfortunately and as a result, we are all getting sicker and more tired. We need to sell it! Be convincing and if you have time, make it fun.
- Demonstrating my love of nutritious foods i.e. lead by example.
- Offering a variety of foods and exposing them to many things to try with lots of colours. We do a lot of ethnic foods to help build up their taste palate. Still working on the spicy foods with the little guy.
- Researching recipes and learning different skills in cooking. I’ll be honest, I have always loved to cook being a huge fan of food in general. However, I taught myself to cook and I was terrible at it (just ask my husband). After having kids, I had a lot more critics and it became necessary for me to develop those skills. Home cooked meals are more nutritious and easier on the budget. We have had many many fails over the years but practice makes perfect right?..
- Meal planning weekly to make the most use of your time and money. This in itself can be quite timely but once you get into a habit it gets easier with regular rotation meals.
- Exploring foods and the impact they have on our family’s health. For example, we have less gluten and dairy in our home as my son and myself are highly intolerant.
- Looking at ways to get the kids involved in the kitchen to educate them on cooking skills and nutritious habits.
Just typing that list above makes me exhausted… and if you a reading the above list thinking, “I don’t do any of those things!” don’t sweat it, this is simply what I choose to take on. Every home is different. No matter what your job as the nutritional gatekeeper involves it is a huge responsibility we are put under whether we choose the role or not.
The reality is you or the nutritional gatekeeper in your home has a huge impact on the health of those mouths you feed. In fact, a study showed that impact to be approximately 72% of what the family eats (every lunch box, snack, meal or even restaurant choice and order).
I have many people tell me they feel like they fail in this role, turning to fast food all too often during the week. To that I say this:
- It is so important for those who are not the nutritional gatekeeper to acknowledge the time, energy and everything else involved in keeping the family happy, healthy and satisfied. There is nothing worse than cooking a meal for a bunch of people who do not appreciate the effort that goes into that meal whether it tastes nice or not.
- Look for support where you can to make it easier on yourself. Have a cook up once a month with friends and family. Pop them in the freezer to make an easy midweek dinner.
- With limited time and energy to educate ourselves and the family, select meals you want to focus on first. Whether it be a nutritious start to the day, lunchboxes or dinners.
- Stop trying to be 100% nutritious, it is draining when you are constantly trying to convince everyone around you to eat a meal! Focus on yourself and encourage nutritious choices where you can.
- You are not a short order cook. I personally refuse to cook everyone a meal they like unless this is something you like to do or you have a child with special needs. We do lots of shared platter options like build your own burger or burrito so everyone gets something.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to have a night off here and there with baked bean toasties, Weet-Bix or bananas for dinner. It’s not just about food, it’s about your sanity. The kids will love it! Well my kids anyway.