Our Health in Action series profiles people in the community who are living Actively Northwest. Follow along each week as we profile new people who are committed to living active, healthy lives through fitness and food.
Getting two young boys to eat healthy food is a challenge for most moms. But Portland-based Pepper Ferguson found inventive ways to get her kids to try new foods and learn about nutrition at the same time. She shares those ideas and more on her blog, PepperScraps.
We talked to Pepper about how she got started and easy tips for busy moms on making school lunches healthy and fun.
ANW: What prompted you to start a blog on healthy eating for families?
Pepper: A few years ago I decided to make a change and lose weight. It became noticeably difficult to climb the stairs and keep up with my two active boys (more on Pepper’s weight loss story). But I also wanted to share this journey to help inspire other moms. At first it helped me be more accountable, but then I saw something amazing – my kids were getting healthier right alongside me. I realized that a healthy mom means a healthy family and making small changes in my life would also make positive changes in theirs.
ANW: How did you get started with those healthy (and so cute) bento boxes for your kid’s lunches?
Pepper: I got them involved in meal planning by doing taste tests – they could try something and show me the “thumbs up or thumbs down” sign. They learned that there may be foods they have never tried. The bento boxes was one of those ideas – and a nice departure from the sack lunch, because it allows me to have some fun and entertain my kids, while incorporating healthy foods. Now, my sons’ teachers even look forward to seeing what’s in them.
ANW: What advice do you have for moms who want to serve healthier meals?
Pepper: Schedule a prep time for yourself on your calendar. You can prepare lunches ahead of time, and think through your dinners for the week so you can shop and prep when you find time. Another suggestion, especially when there are so many after-school activities, is to create “snack stations” – both in your fridge (including foods like hard-boiled eggs, yogurts, apples); and a kitchen drawer (with crackers, fruit leathers, nuts) where healthy snacks are available to just grab and go.
ANW: How has living in the PNW affected your healthy lifestyle?
Pepper: I’ve lived here my entire life so I’ve learned not to make weather an excuse for exercise, so plan rain or snow day excursions. Our family likes to go to the mall or IKEA to walk. There are also local indoor activities where your kids can burn energy – such as bounce activities, laser tag and indoor sports!
ANW: How else can you get kids involved in eating healthy?
PSS: I love to go to farmer’s markets with my kids and teach them about where food comes from and how it changes with the seasons. I try to engage them in making dinner and ask them “what’s missing” from the meal I’m preparing, so they can suggest, “we still need protein in here mom!” I also think it’s so important to read the food labels – what might initially be healthy can be loaded in sugar or sodium, so getting into the habit of checking is a good thing.
ANW: What else can people see on your blog, PepperScraps?
Pepper: I have ideas, worksheets and activity templates that parents can download and use during family time, to help connect and have fun together.
All photographs courtesy of Pepper Ferguson.
Tags: Health in Action