Ask a Health Coach: Motivation, Meal Plans, and Managing Picky Eaters
Hey folks, Erin is back to answer more of your questions about feeding picky eaters, how to stay motivated when you’re not seeing results, and the real reason meal plans don’t work. Got more health and wellness questions for Erin? Drop them in the comments below or head over to the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.
“While I’m doing well with my primal lifestyle, I’d like some help getting my 3-year-old to eat better. Out of ease, my wife and I (wife isn’t so primal) have been buying processed things for him and since I stay at home, I do have more control over his schedule and diet for most of the time. What are some strategies I can implement for getting him to eat healthier foods and what sort of foods should I feed him?”
Trust me Lucas, you’re not alone in this battle. Many of my clients are moms and dads in this same stuck-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place situation. As you mentioned, you’re doing well on your primal journey, but it’s not so easy for everyone. Especially kiddos.
Think about what it took to get you where you are now. Maybe you were fed up with carrying extra weight. Or you were sick of battling cravings or fatigue. Or you didn’t want to go down the traditional route of developing a chronic disease. Little kids don’t have that. Your picky eater has zero motivation for wanting to change his food preferences. Couple that with the fact that he’s probably bombarded with hyper-palatable foods that come out of brightly colored packages, and it’s no wonder he’s not super psyched about forgoing his mac ‘n cheese and chicken nuggets for ribeye and sautéed greens.
Overconsumption of processed food is proven to lead to all sorts of conditions, including type 2 diabetes in kids under 18. And if you start them out on these foods out of “ease” you’re actually making things harder for them later in life.
Remember, you and your wife are the ones buying the groceries. You have the opportunity to change your child’s habits and patterns before he’s out there making choices for himself.
How to Change a Picky Eater’s Preferences
This study out of the University of Alberta showed that kids who were involved with food prep were more likely to make healthy choices at mealtimes. Researchers asked 3,398 fifth graders how often they helped prepare food at home and then rated their preference for things like fruits and vegetables. Not surprisingly, they found that up to 93% of the children reported helping their parents at mealtime at least once a month. And the more they helped, the more often they chose healthy foods.
Instead of forcing the issue, which typically leads to a power struggle, and possibly a dysfunctional relationship with food, follow the research and learn how to help him overcome picky eating and make eating healthy fun for everyone.
- Get him involved. Look through recipes together, go grocery shopping together, and then eat dinner together. Being part of the process of preparing a meal inherently makes him more interested in eating it.
- Make simple swaps. Instead of diving right into meat-and-veg mode, start slow. Swap his favorite juice for the fresh fruit version. Or make a healthier holiday treat using better-for-you ingredients.
- Feed him when he’s hungry. Timing meals right can make the difference between being curious about trying something new and a full-on tantrum.
- Be smart about new foods. Studies show that pickier palates preferred new foods when paired with familiar flavors. Does your kid love drowning everything in ranch or ketchup? Feel free to keep a few of those old favorites when introducing something new.
- Walk the talk. You mentioned your wife isn’t so primal. Just be aware of what your little one is seeing at home. Kids are smart. And if he notices mom loads up on processed foods, even if you aren’t, there’s a good chance he’ll follow her lead.
“I’ve been doing Primal about 2 months and am starting to struggle. I have not missed a day of exercise for 2 months and have slowly improved my eating habits. I had a goal before vacation, and I didn’t reach it so I’m a bit disappointed. How do I stay motivated when the results are so slow?”
If there’s one thing I tell my health coaching clients over and over again, it’s this: get comfortable with undramatic efforts. I know it’s not sexy to go slow, especially when you’re lacking motivation and jaw-dropping (and extremely unhealthy) before-and-afters are plastered all over social media. Diet culture tells us that this kind of glow up is normal. It’s absolutely not.
Slow Process is the Best Kind of Progress
Fast progress is rarely real. And, research proves it’s not sustainable. Sure, you can micromanage your caloric intake or “diet down” until you reach your goal. But then what? What happens when you start eating normally? It’s unlikely you gained your extra weight quickly, so why would it come off quickly? This is the time to practice the art of patience.
I’m not here to give you some rah-rah motivational cheerleader pep talk. I’m not gonna say, “you can do it!” or the tough-love version, “just suck it up!” Instead, I’m going to share a little nugget of wisdom with you.
True change and personal growth aren’t easy. They require self-compassion and radical honesty, two traits of human behavior I think we could all use to improve on. I know you’re discouraged with your results, but instead of focusing on the fact that you haven’t yet met your goal, take this time to look at the positives:
- Celebrate the victories. You said you haven’t missed a day of exercise for two months and you’ve improved your eating habits. Those are two wins in my book.
- Stop punishing yourself. There’s nothing you’ve done to deserve a slap on the wrist. Your stories or limiting beliefs (these are the thoughts that run through your mind) try to convince you that you’ve failed because you haven’t met a goal, but these are just based on past programming and aren’t in fact, true statements.
- Learn to love the gray areas. We live in a very black-or-white society and the gray areas in between are often dismissed. Let me assure you that this is where the magic happens, so learn to love them.
Working on yourself is hard, frustrating, and even painful at times. It’s also 100% worth it. Offer yourself the kindness of not giving up on yourself.
I know you can do this. But if you need extra health coaching help moving forward, I recommend checking out myPrimalCoach. It’s Mark’s latest venture and it’s a powerful way to work with a real health coach 1-on-1 from the comfort of your home. We built it with real change and personal growth in mind.
“I know what my macros should be but trying to get my meals to match them has proved beyond challenging. Can you recommend a good program that allows one to put meal plans together (with recipes) based on individual macros?”
Here’s the thing about meal plans. Usually, they suck; they don’t teach you anything about food and they can be a little boring and inflexible. And rarely do they last. Many nutrition and health coaches are trained to give their clients meal plans (thankfully, the ones who graduate from the Primal Health Coach Institute know a better way), but just because meal plans are a staple in the health and fitness world, doesn’t mean they’re a good thing. And they probably aren’t what you need.
Here’s Why Meal Plans Don’t Work
More than 45 million people start a new way of eating each year and most of them don’t stick with it. Here’s why. With traditional diets and meal plans, you’re instructed to eat a specific amount of a specific thing at a specific time. You might be thinking, YES, that’s exactly what I want! Except it’s not. While that might work for a few days, or if you’re lucky, a few weeks, ultimately, one of three things happens:
- Life gets in the way. No matter how psyched you are to have a plan completely laid out in front of you, there will come a time when you stop sticking to it. Maybe you work late or forget to buy groceries, or your kids are sick, or heaven forbid you go on vacation. Strict meal plans usually aren’t conducive to the ups and downs of life.
- Your inner rebel pipes in. Even if you’ve gone through the effort of finding a meal plan or paying someone to make one for you, there’s a little thing called your inner rebel that can sabotage your efforts. This is the part of you that subconsciously resists when you feel like you’re being forced to do something.
- You hate it. Sounds dramatic, right? But food is one of life’s joys. And when you become so rigid around what you eat, you begin to dread the idea of making eggs (again) or having to skip happy hour so you can grill your food for the week.
These are just a few of the reasons I don’t do meal plans. If I were you, I would get familiar with which foods support you and make you feel vibrant and healthy, and then learn how to cook those foods in a way that’s appetizing to you. Don’t outsource this one. Instead, spend a little time doing the work. Like the saying goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Tell me what you think below. And if you want to work with your own health coach, visit the new myPrimalCoach site, and let me know what you think of that too.
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