Why Parents Gain Weight Without Realizing It

Three ways to cut down on mindless snacking when you're running around like crazy with your kids.

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Healthy eating is simple, right? Fill your fridge with nutritious fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains, and you won’t be tempted to eat junk food. That might be easy if you don’t have kids. Kids tend to love all things carbohydrate: pasta, rice, Goldfish crackers, graham crackers, pretzels, chips. And because moms and dads are constantly on the go with their kids, they find that they need to have these snacks stashed in their bags. After all, it’s pretty hard to serve steamed broccoli to your child in the car on the way to soccer practice.

So despite your best intentions to have a house filled exclusively with healthy and fresh food, a busy parent often has a pantry stocked with chips, cookies and crackers. And despite your best intentions to reserve these snacks for the kids, parents will often find themselves snacking on these less-than-healthy snacks.

When my daughter was two years old, she fell in love with Teddy Grahams. Personally, Teddy Grahams did little for me. They’re not something that I would buy for myself, but somehow I would always throw a handful of the tiny teddy bears in my mouth every time I gave my daughter her snack. After a while, I was found that I was eating more of the Teddy Grahams than my daughter. And this is what happens: As moms and dads, we find ourselves mindlessly eating our kids’ snacks, even though we don’t necessarily love these foods.

Given the ubiquity of snacks foods in a house full of kids, how can parents cut down on mindless snacking? Here are three ideas.

  1. Pack yourself a healthy snack when you head out with your kids. If you’re going on a family outing to the zoo, don’t just pack the sippy cups, diapers and Cheerios for your kids. Take a moment and pack yourself a healthy snack and a bottle of water. (Seriously, don’t forget the water; it’s easy to mistake dehydration for hunger.) Some great portable snacks include: almonds, apples, bananas, or protein bars. When faced with the option to snack on your child’s bag of Cheerios or something that you’ve chosen for yourself, you’re far more likely to choose the more age-appropriate snack.
  2. Practice mindful eating. In other words, don’t eat while completing other tasks. Rather than eating and texting, or eating while sitting in the school pick-up line, stop what you’re doing and savor your food. Appreciate the texture and flavor as you chew and swallow it. A snack only takes a few minutes to eat, and your happiness level will benefit from structured breaks during the day.
  3. Make sure you’re getting enough rest. It is when we are tired or burned out that we are most vulnerable to mindless behavior. Sometimes we snack on our kids’ carbohydrate-dense foods just because we’re looking for a boost of energy. By getting sufficient rest, we are able to be more stronger and more energetic mothers and fathers.

There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Sometimes we forget to pack diapers in the diaper bag, and sometimes we find ourselves watching Jimmy Kimmel clips on our iPhones while eating Teddy Grahams. Things happen; we can’t get too down on ourselves. But trying to be more conscious of our snacking habits is a great first step toward a healthy, happy family. After all, eating mindfully and healthfully will ensure that we are the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves for our children.

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Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist on staff at Bryn Mawr Hospital and in private practice in Bryn Mawr, PA.  To learn more about her practice, go here. And to read more of Lauren’s posts for Be Well Philly, head over here.

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