​Three Into Four: Healthy Eating

13/03/2015 13:29 | Updated 20 May 2015

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No matter what I try to tell myself, I can't deny that motherhood has changed me.

It's even changed the way I eat.

Whereas once I used to snack and graze all day, eating a huge chocolate bar for breakfast on more than one occasion and rarely using the stove or oven for anything, I now cook proper meals for myself and my girls.

And then we sit down together and eat them - with no television to distract us.

I also often try to get the girls involved in helping me make meals, or explain what foods are going into them and what they have to offer nutritionally, something I didn't really start getting to grips with until my 20s.

I grew up on processed foods, tons of sugar and no mealtime discipline - my mother was busy working, so there was no one monitoring whether I had a bag of Doritos for dinner in front of the TV or how many bottles of soda I was consuming.

I'm not blaming my mother, but I am aware that it's really hard to change a lifetime of poor eating habits and to break addictions to soda and sugar.

As an adult, I'm paying for my eating problems (way too many cavities, sugar-related mood swings, dependence on caffeine) and I hope my children have a better awareness of these things than I did.

Which is why I've made trying to instill healthier eating habits - and banishing the really, really bad stuff - a priority in my home and kitchen.

Don't get me wrong - we have plenty of treats and nice things (often baked ourselves, sometimes not. I believe children should have cookies every now and again). And I've learned that there are a lot worse things than chocolate for my kids to be having.

Take breakfast cereal - nothing is more depressing than navigating your way through the cereal aisle and reading the sugar content for every single option on offer.

I read an article by a physician a couple of years ago recommending that children not have cereals with over 5g of sugar per 100g serving. Searching for these elusive cereals - no matter how many of their boxes scream "No added sugar," "All natural" and "Free from..." - feels like a futile enterprise.

I've found one cereal that passes the test: Weetabix. Corn Flakes, with 7g of sugar, is a close second option. I think sugar-free muesli is probably in, too, although the dried fruit might hike up the sugar content.

In order to avoid eating Weetabix every day (the mess is maddening!), we are experimental at breakfast time. Some days we do porridge, sometimes I try out whole wheat and oatmeal pancakes with blueberries, or whole wheat toast with almond butter, which has fibre and protein which helps you feel fuller longer, according to Waitrose nutritionist Natalie Winn. I'm also trying to integrate more eggs at breakfast for the same reason...

One thing we don't have at breakfast is juice, another secret sugar hit that I'm trying to avoid at home. The girls drink water, or milk, although we're also having less cow's milk these days (too much dairy seems to upset D's tum), so oat milk and almond milk are my current favourites.

The girls are also obsessed with a smoothie I make every morning with banana, oats, almond milk, cinnamon and chia seeds - I used to put a bit of maple syrup or honey into it but have now realised I don't need that extra sweetness. Success!

My eating habits are still a long way from ideal-for-a-child-to-model but I do feel like my girls and I are learning together. And trying to eat right at home makes it much more relaxing to go out to a restaurant or birthday party where sugar is abundant - everything in moderation, right?

I am constantly on the lookout for more healthy food swaps - wholemeal instead of white, turkey mince instead of beef, sweet potato instead of chips... but it's a work in progress.

Here's to hoping that this effort means the girls won't have two cavities in every tooth by age 20.

Or that if they do - because of my faulty genetics - they'll at least have enjoyed their mother's experiments with spelt sugar-free cookies and banana paleo pancakes...

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