by Lindy Ford

If you’ve ever flown in a commercial airplane, you’ve heard a flight attendant say, “In case of emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting a child or another person.” Why do they say that? The airline realizes that that if you don’t have enough oxygen, you will be unable to help anyone—especially a child.

Whenever I hear this announcement, I immediately link the analogy to moms. By nature, we are nurturers and we often put our children and family’s needs over our own. The nurturing part is wonderful, but when we neglect our needs over everyone else’s, “Houston, there’s a problem.” Moms often burn out and no one wins. Mom, we are important, too, and putting “oxygen masks” on ourselves is not selfish.

We put oxygen masks on ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically in ways such as scheduling “down time,” renewing ourselves in the Word, exercising, laughing and having fun and here’s the one I’m going to highlight: good nutrition.

Dear mom, we can’t allow busyness to cause us to neglect this important area. The essential oxygen mask of good nutrition will allow us to gain the stamina and energy to deal with all the other stress we face daily.

In the upcoming months, we will journey through important nutrition areas such as pickiness, eating healthy on a budget, and increasing energy. All of this information is great, but let’s first get that nutrition oxygen mask on good ‘ole mom. You are important too! Here are few ways to start:

• Add before you subtract. Of course, there are a few problematic foods I would like you to subtract (or at least greatly reduce) for a multitude of reasons (which we’ll cover later), but I want you to add first. Adding fruits and vegetables is the number one thing you can do for health. The benefits are too numerous to list, but trust me on this one. For maximum health, we need 9 to 13 (or more) servings per day. Yes, you read that correctly.

You can do this by slowly and incrementally adding. One extra serving a day for one week is a good start. One of my clients was eating on average 0-1 serving a day and over three months increased them to 7-8 servings. She was delighted in the results—more energy, weight loss etc. Nutrition can be overwhelming, and trying to revamp everything all at once will sabotage the best of us. If we make this a habit first, other changes won’t be so hard. On my Busy to Beautiful  Page on Facebook , many women are taking the Fruit and Veggie challenge and you can too! Please email me if you would like to receive a free brochure I wrote with helpful hints, snack ideas and recipes.

• Nix perfectionism. There’s a huge problem with perfectionism—it doesn’t work. No one can sustain perfection all the time in their eating habits and when we try the “What the Heck Effect” takes over. The first time we eat something we shouldn’t, or we don’t feel we ate “perfectly,” we throw in the towel, say “what the heck” and binge. A good way to avoid this is with the “80/20” or the “Free Day” rule. With 80/20, we are eating well 80 percent of time and the other 20 … well, no one is perfect. With the Free Day Rule, we eat great six days a week and one day eat whatever we like. Trying to be perfect 24/7 will get the most disciplined in trouble.

• Try new things. Our taste buds are trained over time. We are not born with them. Many of us are picky eaters because we eat the same foods over and over again and are unwilling to try new ones. I talk to a lot of parents who want their kids to be less picky, but they are reluctant to expand their taste bud horizons. I will be unpacking more about pickiness in kids in the upcoming months, but moms, our kids need to see our adventuresome eating spirit. Children emulate our good and bad and are more likely to try new things when they see us doing it.

Here’s a great strategy: Let’s say you don’t particularly like avocados or never really ate them before. You want all those important Omega-3’s, phytonutrients and good-for-you fats. For two weeks, eat one spoonful of avocado (or any healthy food) a day and see what happens.

These are just a few ways we can put on the oxygen mask of good nutrition—there are certainly more, but this is a good place to start. When we add fruits and vegetables first, stop striving for perfection and are willing to try new, healthy foods, everyone in our family wins. You are important, too, mom. Start today by breathing in this life-giving oxygen of good nutrition!

Lindy Ford’s passion is to encourage women to live in spiritual, emotional and physical freedom. This desire came out of her own pain in every one of these areas. Lindy turned the incredible lessons God taught her into a Bible study for women called, “From Busy to a Beautiful Life“.

She is a nutrition and wellness coach with a BS in Dietetics/Nutritional Science from the University of Maryland and speaks extensively on the subjects of wellness, stress, and nutrition. Lindy loves to equip busy moms with strategies to make healthier choices for their families and themselves. She is married to Bryan, a former widower and the best builder/contractor that ever lived. Five children make up their blended family—teenagers to a cute toddler named Piper who is trying to pound on her keyboard right now.