Healthy Life Hacks For the Parental Win


It’s all well and good to be able to eat healthily and make time to work out, get the sleep you need and more. However, what about when kids are thrown into the mix?

While I am the first one to admit that it wasn’t until after I had children that I got into the best shape of my life and learned the importance of making healthy choices, so many people are navigating that shift that I thought it would be worthwhile to address here as well.

The chief complaint and cry for help that I hear when it comes to having kids or an enabling spouse around is, “How on earth can I still eat healthy and make time to work out when my kids won’t go near vegetables and I have no extra time in my day?”

Ugh-VeggiesHonestly, I have been making multiple meals for my family for so long that it has just become a thing that I do and I don’t give it too much thought. I never wanted to push my kids to make the changes I was choosing for myself for fear that they would feel deprived and it would lead to more harm than good.

Unsurprisingly, I have gotten to the point where I just. Can’t. Do it anymore.

I have been feeling the need to make a change and my boys have started showing more interest in making healthy choices. So there’s no time like the present, right? For anyone in a similar situation, here are a few parent-tested, kids-unaware approaches that you can take:

Healthy Yet Savory Alternatives

As I touched on with my Healthy Chicken Casserole post, find a way to make the foods you and your family love with healthy yet still delicious alternative ingredients.

Instead of making your weekly taco salad with ground beef, crushed tortilla chips, Pace salsa and big gobs of sour cream, try making it with ground chicken or turkey (a naturally lower fat alternative), rice as the base instead of tortilla chips (or even baked tortilla chips instead of fried), chopped fresh tomatoes and minced onions for the salsa, and low fat sour cream or shredded cheese to top it all off.

It’s all about finding healthy yet savory alternatives.

EatingrapidlyEven if your kids and/or spouse are plowing through their meals and taking second helpings, take your time eating your meal. Sip on your water all the way through. Really savor each bite. They’ll be finishing their seconds (particularly if they wolf down their food like my boys do) as you’re finishing your first serving.

Plus since eating is such a social activity, you won’t feel tempted to reach for that second serving because everyone will be fleeing the table and you’ll likely be full, hydrated and sated from really tasting your food as opposed to just dumping it down the hatch.

Oh Those Veggies…

The other issue I’ve dealt with is how on earth to get your all-things-sugar-loving kids (and spouses) to eat their veggies.

My one friend, who’s a marriage and family therapist, takes the stance with her own family of not letting her kids have any choice but to eat her veggies.

BroccoliNow, now. Before you cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, think about that for a second. If you and the fam are having rice pilaf, sautéed chicken breast, and broccoli for dinner, and your kids are super finicky about the broccoli, give them two options: Would you like it with butter on it or some cheese melted on top?

There’s no “I don’t want ANY!” option in there. There are two choices, both yours, and both ending up with your kids with the nutrients in their bellies.

My friend grew up eating (and loving) what she called “slugs and bugs.” Sound awful? It’s not: It’s mac and cheese with peas in it.

Or, if you want to go the super old-fashioned route, you can just institute the policy that if they don’t eat their required amount of veggies (I mean, is a handful of broccoli really that impossible?), it’s okay. You’ll just set them aside for the kiddos to eat them for breakfast. Waste not, want not!

(I’m half joking on this last one.)

Or, in this grand ole time of juicing (from plants, not steroids), get creative with making smoothies for your kids! I don’t make my own homemade smoothies but my kids do LOVE Shakeology which a daily dose of dense nutrition and gives them all the veggies they need for the day. What they eat at dinner is just EXTRA! 🙂  #craftyparentsftw

Working Out

Now, this last bit goes hand in hand with what every parents struggles with: The ever-present lack of personal, “mommy or daddy only” time.

Since young children have the uncanny ability to rise earlier than roosters crow, that tends to ixnay a parent’s ability to get a workout in first thing in the morning. Plus, because we’re all so tired, when nap time does roll around, it’s more tempting to catch a few Z’s while your child does as opposed to spending time catching your breath in a workout.

If you’re a single parent, I know it makes finding time to work out or even just to have personal time that much more challenging. Not everyone can strap their child to their back and a snowboard to their feet to carve up some fresh powder and soak up a great workout.

Plus, I can count the number of times I’ve seen someone running on a treadmill at the gym with a child strapped to their chest: Zilch.

Dad working out with kidWhat has worked for many parents, though, is joint workout time such as: Making a game of taking a tandem bike ride together. Can your child count how many street lamps you pass? Or how many dogs bark? Do they get extra points for finding all the blue cars on your ride or all the houses whose numbers end in their lucky number 7?

For those of you in a temperate climate, what about joint swim time? You can pretend to be a dolphin or whale and do laps with your kiddo on your back. Or even push them around the pool in their floatie seat while you work your legs like crazy while treading water!

Integrating your child into your workouts may reap unintentional results. My kids love to get in the living room with me to do some P90X or Combat. (Seriously. I couldn’t make this stuff up.) It’ll not only help you stay healthy, but it will also ingrain an active lifestyle and healthy choices in their mind at a young age.

Plus, who knows? You could end up finding the silly game of “Who can find the biggest tree?” on your walk, run or ride through the park or neighborhood fun as well!


Last but not least, show a little grace when it comes to making these transitions. It isn’t going to be easy EVERY day. So go into it knowing that you’re going to do your best consistently, but when slip-ups happen, or your child fights you about doing something one day, take a step back and remember how hard it is to be disciplined yourself, and give them a little grace.

We hear so much about balance – we need to have balance. And yes, we do to an extent. But more than that, I think it is most important to have a clear understanding of how each choice we make will determine future circumstances. For example, eating a cheeseburger and mega size french fries today won’t make you fat or clog your arteries to the point of causing a heart attack. However, doing it day in and day out will.

There’s no need for outrageous changes overnight. T-r-a-n-s-i-t-i-o-n. Take it a day at a time, a step at a time.

Enjoy the journey. Enjoy learning new things. Enjoy new experiences.  Enjoy LIVING LIFE!

Your Turn!

Have you found a way to fit your fitness routine into your life with kids? Do you have awesome healthy life hacks to share? I’d love to hear about them!

Author: Michelle Whitley

Wife. Mother of 5 Boys. Entrepreneur. Health and Fitness Coach. Lover of living a life of full potential.

8 thoughts on “Healthy Life Hacks For the Parental Win”

  1. Slugs and bugs- ha ha! My boys would surely dig that 🙂 I worry all the time about their nutrition and know I’m failing in too many ways, too many times. I do some things ok, and others just really not! Lots of great thoughts here that I have no doubt can help- thank you!

    1. Sky, I know what you mean. That’s exactly how I felt. But just remember that you can begin taking steps in the right direction now. You don’t have to wait until everything seems like it’s perfect because that time will never come! I’m always here if you need help or wanna bounce some ideas! 🙂

  2. I have not been serious about fitness so far but since my boy has turned two and now that am pregnant with another boy, I feel the need to be fit to keep up with boys energies. I will be following your blog in order to keep myself motivated. Thank you!

    1. Congrats on boy #2! 🙂 Boys are so exciting and fun…in my humble opinion anyway! My baby boy was 2 when I made the decision to make some changes. I was tired of observing their life from the couch and not being a part of it by being active with them. Kudos to you for recognizing now that you want to be a part of it. 🙂

    1. That has always been my boys’ reactions as well! Honestly, my oldest son would gag every time I would ask him to just try it. So I quit trying. What finally pushed him over the edge was offering to pay him $2 to eat a piece of broccoli. That was the right motivation for him. HA! And once he ate it I knew he was just putting on with the whole gagging bit. Work to find what will motivate him to try it. Most of the time they are just closed minded about it.

  3. This is a great post! I have been trying to be more healthy and it really is hard when you are trying to get the kids involved. I had to laugh at the exercise section because it is SO my life. I have such good intentions for exercising during nap time and then my kids are up so early and I’m up so late that I just want to nap during nap time too. 🙂 I made a little jar with some simple exercises for my boys to do while I exercise. It’s fun stuff like Superman or Dance party, but it gets them active while I try and get in some exercise. Thanks for all of this great advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *