The Great Food Dilemma

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If there was one thing that my husband and I unequivocally agreed upon with respect to how we wanted to raise our children, it was that we both wanted them to have better eating habits than we do. This encompasses many things, it is not as simple as just “eating healthier.” It’s also not to say that our parent’s failed us either, but science has changed, we’ve evolved and there is a lot more knowledge in the areas of food science and nutrition than when we were children. Our primary goals with our children are first and foremost that they are exposed to new and different foods and are encouraged to try new foods including foods of traditional of other ethnicities. Trying foods needs to be fun and we wanted it to be something that our kids were always open to. Beyond that our goals in no particular order were that they ate healthier foods, ate fresh and/or organic foods and finding the balance between enjoying eating and knowing when enough is enough. What does that mean, to us it means trying to cut down on processed foods, reading ingredients, understanding what toxins or fillers we don’t want in our foods, letting go of the clean your plate mentality (we we’re both glad to see this approach go out the window as we’re both total failures who never cleaned their plate) and approaching food with a whole new attitude. In doing this we realized that this is a lifestyle change, you cannot simply force your child to engage in better eating habits without active participation on your behalf if you want to make changes that will last a lifetime.

This began first with the choice of breastfeeding our children, this is not a light decision to make and involves an incredible time commitment on the mother’s behalf. However the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding far outweighed the convenience of formula and other than admittedly some okay maybe a lot of whining on my part at times, this is a decision we have never regretted. When it came time for Brecken to begin eating solids we really began to look at what was in the foods we were eating and what foods we were going to be feeding him. I was still commuting 70 miles each way when he began our transition to solids and consequently our eating habits were not particularly conducive to Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and admittedly still a colossal work in progress. They still are a work in progress and probably always will be but we’ve made leaps and bounds. Instead we joined a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) bought a summer share of organic fruits and vegetables and begin working on our own eating habits as well as using the fruits and vegetables we received to make purees which we froze in 2 oz cubes for Brecken. For anyone who is looking to expand their food  knowledge, needs to make baby food purees for their lithe one, wants eat healthier or buy fruits and vegetables for less, I would greatly encourage you to look for a local CSA.

CSA Haul the First

Typical CSA Share (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a CSA a group of individuals commit to purchasing a share in a local farm thereby supporting their local farmer through the growing season, as part of their share, purchasers receive a share of seasonal fruits and vegetables each week (sometimes there are also coffee, egg, milk, flower shares as well) throughout the growing season. Often many farmers will also have an option for a working share, whereby if you cannot afford to purchase a share you can assist the farmer and exactly as it sounds, work for your share. This is a fabulous way to support your local farmer and often has wonderful environmental impacts as well. Most CSAs limit their delivery zone and often generally deliver food to only certain locations whereby a purchaser then picks up the food at a central location. This limits the need to transport food beyond the local area it is grown, greatly reducing the emissions to the environment. Further, most CSA’s either grow their food organically (whether certified or not) or with very little use of chemical pesticides.

It was a great source of vegetables to make baby food, with more summer squash and zucchini than we knew what to do with and later carrots, broccoli, winter squashes. We tried a lot of new foods that summer including kohlrabi, kale, parsnip, spaghetti squash among others. While these may be the norm for some of you, I led a pretty sheltered childhood when it came to food. I can now say that I can make a mean colcannon and identify a parsnip in the grocery store, which admittedly I could not previously do nor had ever really aspired to. With Brecken we really pushed vegetables vegetables vegetables first. We were trying to get him accustomed to eating veggies before we introduced fruits and other things with higher sugar content. We also limited his liquid to just water and milk though after he reached about a year and a half we have allowed him to have some usually watered down juice sometimes just juice occasionally. Some people think we’re ridiculous, others don’t understand what we think is  wrong with spaghetti o’s and other’s don’t think we’re doing enough. Everyone has to find what works for them. Our goal in pushing vegetables was to simply build a good foundation of vegetable love for our son so that when we did introduce some of those less healthy options he wouldn’t lose all love of vegetables in favor of more processed or sugary foods. Ultimately this has worked well for us. At 26 months he happily eats steamed broccoli and cauliflower and most any vegetable placed before him. He tries things and is starting to develop his own taste buds, telling us when he doesn’t like things.

There’s always a however though. Trying to change your food habits nearly three decades after they began is not easy. Actually it freaking sucks sometimes. This is made more difficult by the fact that we simply cannot always eat at home. Whether it’s for social reasons, various commitments, or simply because we don’t have the time or energy, sometimes we have to eat out. This presents serious challenges. We live in an urban area with nearly 100,000 people in a sixty  mile radius yet it is still difficult to find restaurants that have things other than hot dogs or french fries on their children’s menu and sometimes the adult menu isn’t much better. When Brecken first became old enough to eat his own food at restaurants I thought we may be doomed to Panera for life, which while I enjoy their food, one likes/needs variety, see foremost goal above. We began to find that many of the restaurants that cater towards either convenience or kids still had some pretty awful selections for children with the food often being both high in calories and fat and extremely processed. While I would like to say as we work toward achieving our healthy eating lifestyle change we no longer eat at fast food restaurants, that’s not a reality, sometimes it is the easiest option and thereby being the only option due to other commitments/reasons etc. of feeding us. So kudos to some of the restaurants that are slowly offering healthier options in their kids meals including offering bananas at Dairy Queen, unsweetened apple sauce at Culvers and organic yogurt at Panera but our options are still very limited. Further there has to be another part of this meal that entices my child who does not like hamburgers/cheeseburgers (we are not Vegetarian this appears to be his personal preference, sometimes he’ll eat a little at home), and I refuse to introduce him to chicken nuggets or buy hot dogs, often leaving if we’re lucky grilled cheese usually with lots of processed cheese as an option. Does anyone else out there have this problem?  Am I the only chicken nugget loving mother who will not let her child eat them? (BTW I cannot help it, I became addicted at a young age back when they probably weren’t even made of meat, maybe they put crack in them, who knows, it’s something I’m working on). What has worked for other parents, are there any restaurant chains that I’m missing out on and that we might have here in western Wisconsin? If you have any tips for how you’ve helped turn your family’s eating habits around I would love to hear them!

 

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10 responses »

  1. I find ethnic restaurants are often better for this than more mainstream ones. If you can persuade your children that they love plain rice, then the Chinese or Indian food world is your oyster.

  2. You shared a great deal of information here, terrific job. Love that you’re helping Brecken to get a good start. One of the perks in having kids (some days, I know, the perks are hard to see!) is that in some ways they force us to be better people than we otherwise would be. I know that on the days when I don’t feel like exercising, one of the things that gets me out there is the thought of the example I’m setting (or not) for the kids. As to help in restaurants, keep in mind that in many of the non fast food places, they will often let you tweak a menu item. If he eats vegetables and potatoes, just order those side dishes for him and let the main dish go. As to your love of chicken nuggets, Google Jamie Oliver chicken nuggets. Once you see what he shows going into those, you may never let another pass your lips!

    • Thanks for the suggestions!!! It’s amazing the things you suddenly find yourself caring about once you had kids, they definitely have made me want to a better and healthier person. I am slowly building up the courage to google that video. =)

  3. Thanks for the link-back. As for your concerns at restaurants, I hear you. So far we order Little Man rice (bonus if there is seasoning on it), shredded carrots or steamed veggies and food we bring from home. I have no idea what we will do when he is older and wants to order for himself. Hopefully he never develops a taste for chicken nuggets which, like you, I love not so secretly. Great article.

    • Thanks for stopping by!! We do that too sometimes (bring food from home or let him eat some of ours) and I keep wondering at what age that’s no longer socially appropriate?

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