There are so many ideas out there about which healthy eating habits can help you lose weight or improve your health. From the keto diet to veganism to raw food, everyone has their perfect plan for getting all the nutrients the body needs in the best way possible.
But ultimately, the choice rests with you and your family. Whatever plan you come up with, it has to work with your family’s individual needs. My husband and I have been looking for that perfect diet for years. With the quick succession of the birth of our four children (and a move between each one), we have struggled to maintain our weight. And healthy eating habits.
But even though we have done a lot of research, we have yet to really implement the result. Let me break down what we have found to work best for us and why we have chosen to do so. And maybe you can even find some ideas to help you maintain your family’s health.
This seems to be all the craze lately. Though we happened upon this practice without this name, the idea is the same. Instead of eating three meals a day, you tend to only eat two. The last meal of the day is dinner in the early evening. And the first meal of the day is around noon.
The idea behind this is that your body does some of its best detoxing when the stomach is empty. So the longer you can give it to work each day, can only be a benefit. By prolonging your nightly fast into the morning, you are able to lose weight faster.
The added benefit is that your body is quicker at healing minor ills, as well. This is because the body does not need to focus its energy on digesting but can instead take the time to fix minor ailments. Which in time can help you slowly fix major ones.
This has been one of the easiest changes for us to implement. Honestly, I’ve never really been hungry in the morning. In fact, I often skipped breakfast both as a kid and then into adulthood. Much to the chagrin of my parents.
Turns out, I was naturally doing what many people have now come to accept as a healthy practice.
This goes along with the intermittent fasting. Adding to the daily intermittent fast is a weekly 24-hour fast. Usually on the sabbath. A day where no food, only water is consumed.
The health benefits are similar to the other fast but the effects are stronger and quicker. And this makes sense when you look at it from a Biblical point of view. And it is something that we are called to do on a regular basis.
If we are to follow Jesus’ example, then we need to include a regular fast. The Bible often mentions not only Jesus but his disciples fasting on a regular basis. And doing this on the day when we are to rest and dedicate our time to God, just makes sense. After all, what better way to rest than to not have to prepare meals?
I have to admit, that this one has been the hardest for my husband and I. Especially as it is a cultural tradition for the French to have large family gatherings, with meals included, on Sundays after church.
He grew up attending hours-long meals at his grandmother’s house. And we continued the tradition when we moved here by joining his parents for mid-day meals on Sunday. It was lovely to spend time over a fairly elaborate meal.
This was always the time when we would have an apero then the main dish followed by salad and cheese. Then finish it all off with a dessert. Most of the time it would all be prepared from scratch. And would last hours.
When we moved away and could no longer join them for weekly meals, we continued the tradition with a kid-friendly version. Less long, less elaborate but no less lovely.
So while, I know that this can only be beneficial to our health, emotionally, I am far from convinced. It is one of those things that I continually pray on for guidance.
Fruit for One Meal
This decision was reached after doing a lot of research into raw food. It appears that the effects of eating a purely raw food diet are enormous. Especially if it is mostly fruit.
And while I see the many benefits to be had eating in this way, practically, I find it impossible.
First and foremost are the logistics of having that much fruit on hand for a family of six. Obtaining enough fruit to fulfill the necessary calorie content for two adults and four growing children is not something that I relish figuring out.
Secondly, I don’t know how Biblical this is. In Genesis, at the time of the creation, God clearly says that He has given the plants and fruits as « meat » for Adam and Eve to eat. However, this was before the fall.
After the flood, God also tells Noah that from this point, animals can also be for meat. And clearly, Jesus recommended both fish and bread when two of his miracles were feeding thousands with only those foods.
I believe that God does not forbid us any of the foods of this earth, as long as we do it in moderation. And while raw food looks to have many benefits for health, I often see food becoming an idol in this community. They are so focused on achieving perfection through food that they forget about God.
So using the principles of raw food but keeping it in moderation, we decided to implement one meal per day with only fruit. This way we can have some of the benefits without going overboard.
The best time to have this fruit meal is at lunchtime. Breaking the fast with fruits increases their healing capacity since they are allowed to disperse their nutrients more easily on an empty stomach.
However, this is not always possible. Sometimes, the children are just so hungry after being at the beach all morning or after their schoolwork, that they crave a heartier meal. In which case, we move the fruit to evening meal.
This has the added benefit of making the dinner meal easier and quicker on those days the children have activities until 7 pm or later.
The second meal of the day is when we eat something that is more filling than fruit but still more easily digestible than traditional meals. This concept is introduced by multiple eating styles.
The idea is that you do not tax your body by eating too many foods together that are harder to digest. Complex foods like beans, grains, meats, cheeses are all harder for the body to digest. By restricting your meal to one complex, you give the body more of a chance to fully digest.
Some examples of a one-complex meal would be a simple broccoli and rice dish. The complex food is the rice while the broccoli is simple. You could add as many other vegetables to the mix as you want and the meal would still only have one complex. But if you were to add butter or meat, it would become a multiple-complex meal. And would be harder to digest.
Though this may sound unappetizing, there are actually multiple dishes that are quite good without all the extras. My kids particularly like have burgers (without the bun) and carrots on the side (both cooked and raw).
And this way, I don’t have to worry about them missing out on any nutrients that can be harder to find on an all raw or vegan diet.
This meal can be eaten at lunchtime or dinner. It all depends on your family’s individual needs. Though I prefer to have this bigger meal at dinner, during the official school year months, we tend to eat this at lunch.
No Eating After 7 PM
This practice is self-explanatory. And most of us have probably already been told to do this. And it is especially important if we go to bed early.
We have all had that experience where we have eaten a heavy meal late at night and found that we either slept poorly or had bad dreams. Difficult digestion or poor diet has often been linked to poor sleep.
In fact, there is the famous quote by Mr. Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when he sees the ghosts of his former partners and says, «You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are! » He has clearly experienced nightmares after eating a heavy meal before.
And it just makes sense to not lay down on a full stomach.
As an American, I never really had a problem with this practice. We had a habit of eating around 5 PM or 6 PM growing up because bedtime would be just after 7 PM. Sometimes, if we had track practice or sport that went a little later, we would be pushing it. But it never seemed too difficult to eat by 7 PM at the latest.
That all changed when we moved to France. The tradition here is for a much later evening meal. In fact, most restaurants don’t even open until after 6 PM. Add the fact that schools are not even finished until 4:30 PM or 5 PM with activities after, sometimes as late as 8 PM, and it can be downright impossible to eat before 7 PM.
Luckily, we are a homeschool family which allows us to eat before those activities if we know they are going to run late. And the occasional meal later at night is not horrible. As long as it does not become a habit.
We all know about the after school snack. It has become a fixed idea in the minds of most that it is necessary to have a little something between lunch and dinner. We even think that making this snack fruit is a healthy option.
But what if I were to tell you that every time you eat, your insulin levels spike no matter what the food is? And that this insulin spike is what triggers your body to hold onto your fat?
Would you still be inclined to eat that apple at 3:30 PM? Or would you skip it and wait for dinner?
This is what we have been trying to implement as well in our family. When we say we will eat two meals, it means two meals. And not two meals with snacks before or after.
This creates a habit for the body in recognizing meal times so that it learns when it is safe to digest and use up stored fat.
I, personally, do not have a problem with this practice though it can be a bit more difficult for the kids. However, as I’ll explain later, this is not a bad thing in itself. The importance is knowing when the snack can be beneficial and when it is just going to hinder your own health goals.
Weekend Meals & Holidays
Now, because I do not want to become a tyrant about food and cause my children to rebel in later years, we have some exceptions to the above rules. Weekend and holiday meals are the moment when we can wander off the healthy eating path.
Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, or when we have guests is the moment to eat all those wonderful dishes that have become a tradition. It is the time to enjoy turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole (with extra sour cream and cheese) even though they are all complex foods.
And we are trying to implement Saturday as our new family meal with no worries about complex or otherwise. I love the tradition of eating together on Sundays but if we move it to Saturday, we can continue this without forgoing our weekly fast.
And it soothes that craving for Taco Tuesday. Just not on Tuesday.
Kids vs. Adults
Most of the rules I have written about were created with the entire family in mind. With a few exceptions. Kids who are still growing have different nutritional needs than adults. And younger children are different from older children.
The idea is to implement all of the habits above slowly throughout the years. As with learning languages, I am trying to follow the natural development of my children.
Babies eat frequently. From the newborn schedule of every three hours minimum (or every hour like my firstborn) to the less frequent but still multiple meals of an older infant, children have to eat more often. Their stomachs are too small to do otherwise.
So, of course, we can’t expect a toddler to eat only 2 meals of fruit per day. However, that doesn’t mean that we should let them just eat whatever they want throughout the day either.
The goal of any parent is “to train up a child in the way he should go”, as the Bible so eloquently puts it in Proverbs 22:6. So as the child grows and their needs change, so should their diet. Naturally.
So my children are not required to skip breakfast. But they are encouraged to eat only if they are hungry. And to make that first meal one of fruit.
And, of course, none of the children do the weekly fast. But once again, we will encourage them to try it as they get older. Plus we will be modeling this behavior ourselves in the hopes that they will follow suit.
Just when it seems that they have found the perfect diet, we get news of yet another way of eating. It can seem overwhelming to try to choose the best healthy eating habits for you and your family.
But there is no reason you have to follow any one of those trends. We are all created differently. Not one person is alike. Just as not one family is alike. As parents, we have the right (and the duty) to choose which works best for our individual lifestyles. As long as it contributes to our overall health, it should not matter how exactly we go about it.
What are some of your family’s healthy eating habits? Feel free to try any of the above if you are still looking for ways to implement a healthier lifestyle.