Give yourself some grace

Featured Sliders / Food & Drink / Health & Fitness / HER Health / January 14, 2020

By Ashley Varner

Erlebnisse: the experiences, positive or negative, that we feel most deeply and through which we truly live.

I love this German word as I feel it sums up the numinous experience that is parenting. From worrying about finances, potty training and screen time to eating right, boyfriends and colleges, parenting provides an all-engaging, soul ripening growth opportunity. As a mother of three beautiful children (ages 3, 8 – who is also celiac, and 9) and a background in health and nutrition, I am constantly thinking about what I can provide for my children that not only satisfies their picky palates, but also provides nutrition in a frenetically paced world where MSG (monosodium glutamate), high fructose corn syrup, convenience foods and diet fads reign supreme.

Ashley Varner

What works for us? Collagen peptide protein breakfast smoothies and meal prep lunches. Three out of five of us have celiac disease. That means NO wheat, rye, barley or derivatives of them. Hit Sam’s Club on the weekend and pick up some fresh fruit, veggies to cut up, rotisserie chickens and spend a little time setting yourself and your kiddos up for success throughout the week when it comes to lunches and snacks.

What else works? Routine. Our kiddos love spaghetti on Wednesday nights (we’ve even tried ‘zoodles’– noodles made from zucchini), Culver’s on Thursdays (running around to multiple activities for kiddos) and pizza/family movie night EVERY Friday night. We like cauliflower crust and get creative with toppings. This might get boring for us adults, but it’s easy knowing what we are having. That means I really only need to think about a crock pot meal or two for the beginning of the week and we are set.

This parenting season is about survival, am I right? As my girls get older, they are more interested in learning how to cook. This has opened up a whole new door for us as a family. We are tasting new spices, learning new recipes and occasionally eating some egg shells. A lot of times, cooking with my kiddos happens on the weekends simply due to time constraints during the week with homework, activities and work meetings.

Here’s what I know for sure: bio-individuality and grace. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet – each person is a unique individual with highly individualized nutritional requirements. Personal differences in anatomy, metabolism, body composition and cell structure all influence your overall health and the foods that make you feel your best. We are all different in every way and that is okay!

It also matters how we handle stress and how much sleep we get. When we know our bodies, we can love our bodies. When we know our children’s bodies, we can nourish them.

Do I let my kids eat sugar for breakfast the morning after Halloween?


Do we enjoy too many sugary treats during the holidays?


Do we eat at Culver’s most Thursday nights because we have lots of activities back to back?


Do we talk about nutrition to our children?


Is it okay to eat healthy the majority of the time and then ‘break all the rules’ sometimes?


Every meal is a teachable moment. But, in all the moments where you feel like you aren’t getting this nutrition thing right as a parent, give yourself some grace. Grace is that courteous goodwill; the freely given, unmerited favor and love of divine origin. Parenting is tough enough – grace will get us through.

Ashley Varner is currently the healthy communities coordinator for Capital Region Medical Center. She is married to Josh and enjoys her circus of kiddos. When she isn’t chasing her monkeys, she enjoys community involvement, sleep, exercise and laughing.

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