I know everybody has been there. As an au pair, we are going to the USA and many of us are excited to try new foods and tastes from all over the world. We are hearing from the media that obesity is a big problem in the USA—and sometimes it can be challenging to find the right way to enjoy all the temptations that America offers, but still stay healthy.
My first piece of advice? Don’t overthink it. It is true that you can eat so many different things here, but not everything has to be junk food. If you stick to a rule of 80/20 you will be fine. What does the rule mean? At least 80% of our diet should be basic food which includes all the macronutrients, which our body needs. These macronutrients are: protein (meat, beans, fish, tofu, etc.), carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.) and healthy fats (avocado, nut butters, nuts, etc.). Together with these foods we should not forget about eating vegetables and fruits, because they are very important sources of minerals and vitamins which help our body to function in the right way.
The other 20% you can (or you should!) enjoy whatever food you’d like. If you are a chocolate fan, ice cream fan, taco fan or burger fan, just enjoy it and make your taste buds happy. Also, what might help you to keep on track is meal prepping. As au pairs, we are spending long days with kids—playing with them, enjoying the time together, and sometimes we forget to eat. Then when we get off-duty, we are so hungry and there is no easier way than to just hop into the car and drive to the first drive thru and get some junk food. Sometimes a quick meal prep the day earlier is a good idea. If we know that we are going to be busy with our host kid the next day, just bake some sweet potatoes, roast a chicken or tofu the day before—and then when the lunch time comes, you just add some veggies and you are good to go. Preparing the food in bulk is also a good idea, if you don’t mind eating the same thing a few days in a row. You don’t have to create complicated dishes—simplicity is the key.
Anyway, staying fit and healthy is not just about food, but also about our daily activity. Keep moving and try to not sit the whole day. Of course, if you have a little host kid, you are running around a lot—but sometimes, with older kids, you are mostly a driver who drops off and picks up kids at school and after-school activities. You don’t have to start going to the gym and run on the treadmill all the time. Just go for an hour walk around the neighborhood or find a lake or some trail in your area.
If you are a person who likes the gym, there is nothing easier than to get a membership in one of the many gyms which the USA offers. It is very cool that many gyms have such low membership prices, such as about $10 per month. If you are someone who has never been to a gym and would like to join one, (but the dark voice in your head is stopping you and making you feel shy), don’t worry and just GO! No one cares what are you doing, and no one is going to judge you. People of every size and shape go to the gym! Also, what is great is that most of the gyms will provide you a tour around the gym and also a free lesson with a trainer. So, in case you want to start working out but don’t know how, this is an option. But as I mentioned before, you don’t have to go to the gym to stay active. Hikes and trails are all over the USA, no matter where you are—and you can walk, jog or run anywhere!
My last piece of advice is: Stop looking for excuses and look for reasons! If you are struggling, set a reachable and simple goal such as: “I want to take at least 10,000 steps a day and eat veggies with every meal.” Reward yourself, be proud of yourself, and never give up. Also, the most important thing: Enjoy the USA and everything it offers. And don’t worry, you don’t have to gain 30 pounds if you stay mindful and find a way to keep a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. Good luck!