How To Start Eating Real Food (and make it practical for busy moms!)
Learning how to start eating real food can be a daunting task. There’s a lot of information and systems out there to rely on but it can be overwhelming. And as a busy mom, you might be curious as to how eating real food is going to fit into your grocery budget! Learn not only how to make the transition to healthy eating but also how to make it PRACTICAL as a big family with small kids.
Join mama of four Heather Englund and I as we share our top tips, tricks, and tools to learning how to start eating real food and making it PRACTICAL for a busy household. Learn how making the switch to whole, unprocessed foods can be stress-free and fun for the whole family.
- Introduction (0:21)
- Meet Heather (2:45)
- What Is Real Food (6:03)
- How To Start Eating Real Food With Kids (10:28)
- Obstacles of Feeding Kids real Food Diets (14:52)
- What We Put on Our Body Is as Important as What We Put In It (8:37)
- Systems to Make Real Food Practical (19:14)
- How To transition Kids to A Real Food Diet (25:36)
- Staples of A Real Food Household (31:16)
- The Best Meal Planning Kit (33:25)
- Wrap Up (36:38)
- Mentioned In The Podcast
- Connect With Heather
Welcome to the Fit As A Mama Bear podcast. I’m Shelby, a certified strength coach, nutrition coach, mama to two and all-around hippie. This show is about a little bit of everything, healthy, fit and natural related. So, if you’re striving to smash goals, eat better, feel better and enjoy the occasional mom rant. This is the place for you.
Real food, whole food, unprocessed food, whatever you want to call it, It’s overwhelming to moms. We know we should opt for healthier foods but at the end of the day, we also need to do what works and keeps us sane.
It’s a hard balance. And as a mom of two who works two jobs from home, it’s a daunting task. Just getting food in my mouth some days, let alone healthy food can be a challenge. And I’ll never be the person to tell you to spend three hours in the kitchen on Sunday mornings prepping every meal. You can hit up episode 21 where I chat all things meal prep.
But what if I told you there was a way to make healthy food practical? To make learning how to start eating real food a little less stressful? To make the whole process of how and what to cook each and every day to keep your family healthy, simple?
Because that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Choosing to rock a real food diet with kids can be done and I brought in an expert to tell us exactly how.
Heather- A Mom Of FOUR Rocking A Real-Food House
Today I’m chatting to Heather England, a wife, mom to four little kiddos, a yoga and fitness instructor, entrepreneur, and someone super passionate about real food.
She’s the face and voice behind the website Fitmamarealfood.com Heather shares real food recipes the whole family will love and meal planning guidance. Plus, quick and effective home workouts and inspiration for living your healthiest, happiest, best life. Heather is also host of the weekly healthy living podcast Mama Real Food Radio and has a YouTube where she shares quick and effective yoga, fitness and strength training workouts along with healthy living tips and recipes.
Heather is an AFA a certified group fitness instructor with countless group fitness specialties under her belt and she understands how much work it is to feed your family homemade real food.
That’s why she’s so passionate about sharing delicious healthy meals that don’t take up all your time and energy. She’s a meal planning pro and loves to help you become one too. So, let’s dive in.
Thanks for checking in today and I think you are in for a treat, a healthy one of course. Okay, super corny, but I’m going to roll with that.
Today on the podcast we’re chatting about how to start eating real food and how to make it practical for moms due to the fact that us moms are insanely busy and often running around like crazies. It could just be me?
We sometimes put nourishing food on the back burner and instead, we grab whatever we can to keep our time useful. And I totally get that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly help our little ones grow optimally.
Which is why I wanted to make help make it practical for you. The term real food can be scary in the best of times. And with me today is Heather from Fit Mama Real Food.
She’s going to help me explain the term and kind of how best to get your little ones eating more real food and make it practical on you as the mama so that you kind of stay sane.
So Heather, before we jump into everything yummy, welcome to the podcast! It’s super exciting to have you on.
So happy to be here.
Well, why don’t you take a minute to give us a rundown of your journey, your passions, and how you came to be where you are. Because you do a little bit of everything
How Heather Got Started On Learning How To Start Eating Real Food
I do. I’m not very good at staying in one lane. I’m multi-passionate. My journey started around the time I got married. That’s when my blog began. That’s really when I started diving into what does healthy living looks like to me?
I used to think healthy living was following a diet and it is not that at all. The when I really started diving into learning more about nutrition, I also began working out consistently, learning more about that, became a group fitness instructor, found a passion that I loved so much.
And I started sharing with my audience what I was learning about how to make real food work. What do you actually need to be eating? What makes a balanced meal? And of course, what makes a balanced diet? I’ve loved sharing that.
I became a mom seven and a half years ago, and so I became crazy and had four kids. Taking them into the kitchen with me, teaching them about food. They’re my little students that just soak up all this knowledge and information that I want to share with them.
And cooking for them, nourishing my family and along the way, sharing with my readers our recipes that we love to make and how we make it happen in our house.
So, let’s back up, four kids.
Yeah, that’s a lot.
It is. You are my hero, can you run me through their ages.
My oldest is seven and a half, my one boy and then I have three girls. They’re five and a half, three and a half and one and a half.
Oh, my goodness. That sounds so busy.
Anyone or more child adds craziness into the house. It’s a fun crazy though.
All right well let’s jump right into the eye of the storm and give you the definition of real food. What does the term real food mean to you?
The easiest way that I think about it is that it came from nature. Did it either grow from the ground or did it have a mother? And is it something that if I went out into the world, I could maybe find this thing?
But then within real food you can find convenience, real food is the opposite of overly processed foods that we can find.
So, I define real food as:
- as unprocessed as possible
But there’s, of course, real convenience food like yogurt. It’s not like when you go milk a cow, you get yogurt. There is some processing that happens with that, it’s something that could be made at home but I’m choosing to have the convenience from a store.
I still think of things like that and bread granola bars, just ingredients that I can make at home. Those are still real food items; they’re just made a little easier for us mamas.
It doesn’t mean they’re overly processed, filled with ingredients that we couldn’t recognize, over-salted, over-sugared.
Don’t Make Learning How To Start Eating Real Food Too Complicated
I do want to say I am not a 100% real food. I am not here to say that this is the only thing that you can eat because real life. What I like to encourage is that if it’s something that you are wanting to have for your family, just do your best. Make the choices when you can that work for your family.
I think that part of how to eating real food is just focusing on less processed. We do try to minimize the sugar aspect, but I just want all moms to know every step matters.
It can be really scary when you learn something new. Like questioning the difference between fresh and frozen broccoli. Questioning yourself if you’ve been doing it wrong all the time. Not at all. We’re all learning, we’re all adjusting and we’re just doing the best that we can with the information we have.
And also, with our budget. I mean real food; it does cost more than convenience food. I mean it can be made less expensive, but it also can cost more too.
I just posted on my stories the other day, we got home from the grocery store and I was like, “we didn’t buy any meat at the grocery store”. It was a non-meat grocery trip. My husband does that and I looked at our bill and was like, what happened here? Zero idea how my bill got this expensive.
So, I will be the first one to tell you that eating as minimally processed as possible is amazing. But unless you are very, very strategic, yes, it can add up.
Especially when you start thinking about the kind of fun things like chia seeds or whatnot, or cereal foods that aren’t necessary. But sometimes they’re fun.
Let’s talk about kind of why it’s important for kids to have a healthy diet and learn to eat real food.
There are a few different things that come to my mind and the first thing I think of is that we all want the best for our kids. I think back on when my little babies are first starting food, and I want to put the best stuff into their little bodies.
They’re so pure at that time and I don’t want to put junk into them. When we think about our kids as they’re growing, their bodies need important vitamins and minerals and protein and fats and carbohydrates. They need all the things.
So, if we can give it to them in the purest nature, it’s going to help their body to thrive, but also their mind.
We mentioned sugar a little bit, all the sugar that is just bombarded to kids. It really doesn’t help with concentration.
I especially noticed that in my kiddos, when they have had so much sugar, it’s like, “are you even hearing me at all”? Not at all.
When we’re filling up on excess sugar, it’s not be helping with their blood sugar regulation. They might be going through these ups and downs and not being able to regulate their hunger and fullness. So, they might eat something sugary and then a little bit later they’re wanting something else because their body’s not able to signal as well as when they’re getting balanced real food meals.
Why Kids Benefit From Eating Real Food
So, it helps with kicking that hangry away. Focusing on learning how to start eating real food and especially having balanced meals with protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help our kiddos to just maintain more even energy levels and nourish their bodies. They are growing and they need food and nourishment and for their brains to develop and to help with sleep as well.
I think real food is important because it’s setting their pallet up to enjoy food and real flavors. If they’re constantly getting these overly salted, palatable processed foods when they eat broccoli, they’re going to think it tastes gross and they’re not going to be excited because they’re used to this like bomb of sweet flavor.
If they’re eating normal flavors from nature, they’re going to actually appreciate and enjoy those flavors more. They’re going to taste the strawberry and think it tastes sweet instead of thinking it might taste tart if they’re used to eating candy all the time.
I love that you mentioned that because it’s one of my biggest rants. I find under three years old, is when they really shape their taste buds. And I find a lot of moms will question why their kid doesn’t want veggies but think about yourself.
We introduced spices really early too. Starting them off with natural flavors is going to develop their palate and their taste buds for that. And you want them to come back to that base of knowing what real food tastes like and enjoy seeing how real food tastes.
And I do think kids just don’t focus well when they are loaded up on random ingredients. I find that it doesn’t help them regulate their own bodies because they don’t understand what actual hunger versus what a sugar crash hunger is.
What are some obstacles you’ve run into regarding feeding your kids mostly real food? You have four kids so I’m going to assume that you need a life of convenience because it’s chaotic.
I feel lucky as far as them being into it because they have just been on the real food train from the get-go. We really haven’t had too much pushback. Of course, they go from times of liking things and not liking things.
My biggest thing is for them to try it and then not be rude if they don’t like something because then the whole table gets kind of rude.
But my biggest challenge has been when my son started school last year and now my daughter’s also in school and it is just this constant ambush of processed food. It’s on the daily that there’s some kind of treat.
Of course, as a mom, I don’t want to tell them “no, you can’t have things” because it’s life. They’re going to be exposed to things that we typically couldn’t or wouldn’t be bringing into our house. But we’re working on finding this balance of teaching them what are sometimes foods, what are things that we should enjoy more often. That’s been the big challenge that we’ve been working through basically since my son started kindergarten last year.
I am still in the learning phase of that. Like how do I handle these waters?
Trying To Balance School Life & Food
My oldest just started kindergarten. I was really scared for school and it’s been a very big adjustment. I’m trying really, really hard not to be too crazy, but I’m finding the same thing as you; they’re just bombarded with it.
My heart how intense it gets, and I don’t want to deprive her, but I also don’t want her thinking that those are things that fuel you. So, we talk a lot. We talk a lot about it to be perfectly honest. And we talk about how our tummy feels after we eat those things and whatnot but it’s hard. It’s a big change.
Their lunchtime is great because nobody’s allowed to share food. So that’s a win, right? But I don’t know how long that continues to. Only in kindergarten or first grade.
Tips To Help Kids Learning How To Start Eating Real Food At School
They always have some kind of school snack. We’ll pack something and we just really try to encourage our kids to eat the food we pack because we don’t want them wasting the food. We talk about how food costs money and if, if we’re bringing this food to school, then we should be eating it so that it’s not getting wasted.
Those treats and things that they offer at school don’t really need to go in the garbage if it doesn’t get eaten. Whereas the food that we bring home, if they don’t eat it that day might go into the garbage and it’s a waste. So that’s something that’s been helpful in our situation.
That’s a good tip. We talk about waste a lot too, but I didn’t think about it that way. Nicely done. I liked that one.
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What are some, what are some routines and systems you kind of use to manage at all?
Well, I am a huge meal planner and I prep as well. The weeks that I don’t do any meal prep, I feel it is hard. I feel like I spend a lot more time in the morning making breakfast and not being as prepared for school lunches.
I’ll spend typically a Friday or Saturday in the morning and decide on what we’re going to eat for dinner that week. We like to rotate between two to three breakfasts throughout the week. We have hard go-to’s that I always know is on the back burner.
But I like to pick two to three kinds of different things that we might want to eat for breakfast and lunch. And I’ll meal plan that out right up our grocery list, get all the groceries. And then I typically between Sunday and Monday we’ll spend a little bit of time each day in the kitchen.
I like to chop ingredients and make dinner easier. Not making the full dinner but getting my proteins prepped. I mean my vegetables and carbohydrates are based on whatever I’m cooking.
If You Don’t Have A Plan You’re Planning To Fail
I like to prep ingredients and I love to prep a full breakfast and full lunches. In the morning I can have my Heather time cause that’s when I like that me time and the less cooking that has to do in the morning is better. My kids might wake up early and then I can just pull breakfast out and have it ready for them.
But honestly, even though I feel like I get a lot of prep in, I’m always in the kitchen making things. It seems like I’m putting things together, whether I’m cooking or not. Food is honestly on my brain all the time. We finished breakfast and I’m like, “Hey, what are we having for lunch? What are we thinking about for snack”?
Meal planning has been huge because if I don’t have a plan, I don’t have the groceries that I need and then I think about it even more like what can I make instead of going into it, knowing in advance what I can make for a meal.
It definitely makes it easier to have an idea. I’m now the queen of random meals.
Normally we always have rice, or beans already cooked in the fridge, and proteins cooked too. It makes it easy to throw together a fajita bowl or a Buddha Bowl or something of that nature at the end of the day because everything’s already prepped.
I don’t make full meals because I find that a little bit tedious, but I do make sure that we are loaded up on veggies. They’re cut and washed and there’s normally a grain cooked in the fridge and a protein cooked in the fridge.
I kind of a whip up the type of dinner. And I find that literally saves my sanity.
Keep Your Meal Planning Simple
W have three breakfasts that we rotate through throughout the week and they’re all overnight made. I whip up overnight oats or chia pudding and our other one is avocado toast with a hard-boiled egg and whatever fruit and veggie I can find.
Those are our three-weekday breakfast that just gets rotated. The flavors get changed, but the base is kind of the same.
One thing that I also love to do for breakfast is on the weekend I will spend a little more time, maybe I’ll make waffles or pancakes in the morning and I will make like a triple batch so that we can just have those ready.
I’m not spending extra time during a typical meal prep time, but I’m really doubling or tripling what I’m doing and I find that that’s so helpful because yeah, I’m cooking a little longer but I’m not dirtying more bowls multiple times a week. I’m not having to wash them or measure and so it really does cut down on time even though you’re putting in a little bit of extra time in the actual cooking process.
Anything that you can do in advance helps us mamas so much.
We do the same thing. We have pancakes in the freezer on parchment paper and you just pop them in the oven or the pan. It’s awesome.
We also do that with the roasted veggies also. If I’m making something with roasted veggies, I double or triple the number of veggies and then we throw that into pasta, or a stir fry the next night. That way they’re already done. Batch cooking makes life simple.
How To Make Dinners Easy
I like to use that kind of mindset with planning my dinners too. I love planning ingredient meals. So, we’ve got a protein, a vegetable, and a carbohydrate. But then I’ll think about, okay if I make a double of that protein and then how am I going to use that the next day or in a couple of days in a different meal.
Maybe I turned that chicken thigh into a soup or a casserole. Again, saving time. It’s like doubling or batch cooking is necessary for making real food happen, especially if you’ve got kiddos. I have to be strategic about when I’m in the kitchen when I need to be on top of things because often my one and a half-year-old is wanting to be held or she’s recently started going up the stairs and down and I have to like watch her a little more.
Efficiency is necessary.
Now for kids who aren’t used to a real food-based diet, what suggestions do you have to help them learn how to start eating real food? Where should moms start?
I think what’s really overwhelming is that it’s not that kids are picky; they’re just used to something different. And it’s hard to explain to a child or a toddler that you need to eat this because it’s going to help you grow when they’re used to something else.
Where would you point moms who want to start eating healthier and want their kids to start eating healthier, but they’re overwhelmed and scared?
Yeah, that can be hard, especially for kiddos who are used to eating certain foods and know things that they love and that are like comfort for them.
My first tip would be to really start with yourself. Kids want to model what we’re doing. We first look at how are we eating. Are we eating in a way that we are wanting to encourage our kids? Are we truly focusing on real food or are we telling them to do something? And then doing something different ourselves?
Kids pick up on that. So first we need to model an example of eating real food. And even if that means maybe you don’t really like something as much encouraging yourself to try it because tastes change. I tell my kids that all the time.
It also happens with adults and as we ourselves or as our children reduce the amount of over-processed foods and those hyper-palatable flavors, our taste buds can change, and we can again start to really taste the food.
Be The Example
First starting with modeling and then it varies a little bit based on your kiddos ages. If they’re really little, I think it can be easier to introduce foods to them. Their pallets and taste buds are still forming. If they are old enough have them look at recipes with you, have them pick out things that look tasty to them that they might be excited about.
If they show excitement in something, add it onto your meal plan so that you can say, “you picked this out, we’re going to have it on this day”. And maybe it’s something new they hadn’t tried before, but they might have a little bit more excitement to try it. When they try a bite, even if they don’t like it, still tell them to thank you for trying it and then keep continuing to offer new flavors.
If you can bring them into the kitchen to cook with you, that can be really fun for kids if they have some stake in the meal making. Then they can be proud of it.
Get Kids Excited
Again, be a little more excited about trying that food. It’ll help them learn how to start eating real food if you’re excited. Same with grocery shopping. Let them pick different fruits and vegetables that look interesting to them and let them try them as well. Some may be a hit, some are not.
My kids always pick dragon fruit. It’s not my favorite and they don’t even like it either, but they always want to get it. But I just still love to encourage that because they’re being adventurous and then we learn some things that we don’t like. Maybe we’ll make it another time.
If you have a kid that’s just really resistant to trying things when you’re serving a meal, maybe just try offering one new thing or at least make sure that you have something that they’re familiar with so that they don’t sit down to a plate and it’s all new things. They’re frustrated and you’re frustrated because they’re not trying things.
Try to have it be a joyful experience because the last thing that we want kids to do is going into a meal, nervous or upset because they’re getting things taken away. Trying to just keep it as positive as you can.
Sometimes that positivity can come with comfort. If you know they love apples or whatever vegetable they’re into serve that even if you’re serving it multiple times a week, it’s a win if they’re eating real food and that they weren’t eating any before.
Encourage praise and include them as much as you can.
Get Kids In The Kitchen Helping Cook Young
I love all of those things. My kids have been in the kitchen since forever and that’s made a huge difference.
They’re in there and they’re choosing things are helping me make things. They see what’s going into it. It gets them excited about what they’re eating.
But the point you made about having something familiar on the table, my girls don’t like things mixed together. Meaning if we’re having pasta, they want everything on the side, everything has to be separate.
Even though it makes zero sense at all. It drives me bananas, but it makes it easier to introduce new things because if we just make one swap out of the four things on our plate, they still have food to eat.
They’re probably going to pick at the new thing mindlessly but they’re going to try it. This way, they’re not overwhelmed that it’s in there. They can’t get it out. They can’t have their usual food.
So, I think that’s a really great tip is having all your familiar stuff still on the table for them so that they’re not anxious about having to like it or else they have no food.
So, what would your number one tip be for rocking a real food-based household? For how a family can learn how to start eating real food? As a busy mom, what is your life staple?
My number one thing when learning how to eat real food would be to have a plan. If you want it to be a thing that happens then planning for it is going to set, you up for success.
Meal planning is number one. And if I could share another, it would be live it and enjoy it. Like, plan it. Make sure that you have all the ingredients prepared, be an example for your kiddos and then try not to stress because bad vibes at a meal don’t help anybody. If you’re already feeling stressed about it, that’s not going to help you with your own enjoyment of a meal.
There’s so much positivity that can come with a family meal of enjoyment that’s not filled with like nagging kids to eat. Stress won’t help digestion. So, trying to enjoy it as much as you can. But plan it.
Keep An Open Mind About Food And How To Start Eating Real Food
I think I would go with having an open mind and trial and error. A lot of the times when people think of real food, they probably think of chicken, broccoli, and rice or a classic bodybuilder’s diet.
There is so much more to actual food and eating than those three ingredients, and it can be delicious. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to find out what you like and what kind of recipes you would like.
So, please have an open mind. Don’t just shut it down. Also, be open to trying something new and just see what your family responds to. If they like curry or stir fry or find flavors that they like and then just kind of interchange things with those flavors. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
That’s right. It is okay to repeat.
Yes, and that’s why I think meal planning comes in so handy because you can pick your favorite eight to 10 meals and kind of map them out. Now, I know you have a resource for us that you just launched something to do with that, right? Do you want to tell us about that?
I love that you said take your favorite eight to 10 meals. I just launched a meal planner a few months ago. It’s a 52-week weekly meal planner where you can write out your dinners, your breakfast or lunch. It really helps when learning how to start eating real food.
There’s a place for a grocery list and a section for foods to prep if you want to try that. But also included in this, I made sections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner where you can write down your family’s favorite recipes and meals.
That way, when you go to the meal plan, you have this place in the guidebook that you can go back and look and see, “Oh yeah, my family loved this chicken Curry or this Italian soup” or whatever it was for you.
Sometimes we get decision fatigue when we go to meal plan and it can be really hard to think of what our family likes, what are the things that we want to make. So, I built that section into there.
I also include meal planning and meal prep “how to”. If you’re new to it, I guide you through how to do that.
Grab A Discount On The Ultimate Meal Planner
I wanted to offer your listeners a discount on it too if they wanted to. They can use code mamabear to save them 10% and free shipping on that. Click here to snag the planner.
That’s amazing. That sounds like so much organization. I’m a spreadsheet fanatic. That just kind of makes me excited.
It’s been so fun because I’ve been using it since I created it. I was always just using papers and I was losing them all the time. And it’s so nice for me to be able to look back from a couple of months ago. What did we eat then and get ideas from my past self because I think we so easily forget about things that we’ve cooked and enjoyed?
After a year of using the planner it’s amazing because you have everything filled out and you can just revert back! And they’ll probably be seasonal in that aspect too. You kind of know what’s coming seasonally.
It’s overwhelming trying to think and plan sometimes so I love that you inlucded your favorites in the book! You think everything has to be new every single week. And the truth is it doesn’t. It’s really easy to just interchange a vegetable and it makes it a new flavor.
Find your family favorites and just rotate them and change small little things about them.
Exactly. It can be simple tweaks and it can just make it a little different and wonderful way to do that.
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure where to start, grab the planner it’s the best place because you can organize your thoughts.
That was a lot of information! I think we’re probably going to cap it there. Otherwise, I could chat about food all day long and it’s right before dinner.
But what I want you to know is that eating a real food diet is something I’m obviously really passionate about and I do try my best to implement with my girls.
It’s not always easy, but for the most part, I’ve kind of found my groove.
And I hope this podcast helps you find yours too!
On that note, check back soon to catch the next episode of the Fitasamamabear podcast.
And if you took one lesson from today, I hope it’s that every little swap matters. You don’t need to go all-in at once. Do what works for you.
Chat soon mama,
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