Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Kid Factor

At the beginning of this month my husband and I took the kids to Sweet Tomato.  While we were eating our salads, another family sat down a few tables away from us.  I glanced over and noticed the little boy who looked to be about four had cracker-type food and raisins on his plate. Then they brought the girl a plate stacked full of bread sticks.  I'm not going to lie to you; I totally judged.  And I really have no room to do so as this morning I consumed a large piece of cake brought to me by one of my students, and just now I finished a slice of apple pie which was purchased from Kroger and contains who knows what. I didn't read the label.  

Judgement aside, I think too easily we as parents (myself included) can fall into the I'm-afraid-my-kid-will-starve-if-he-doesn't-eat-something-so-let's-just-give-him-whatever-he-will-swallow trap.  The truth is that not all foods are created equal and eating "something" is not better than missing a meal because the child doesn't want the healthy options.  I promise you, your child will not die if they occasionally miss a meal, and their bodies are programmed not to let them starve.  

Let me say this as gently as possible: children eat what we give them and teach them to eat.  Children in every country of the world eat the food that is typical of their culture.  I know as a parent it can be difficult and emotional to deal with children's eating habits.  I've outlined some ideas that have worked with my children and maybe can help you in your journey with your children to healthier eating habits.  (As always, if your child has a medical condition, follow the advice of your pediatrician before making changes to their diet.)

Get them involved
Kids love to imitate adults, and are more likely to eat foods that they have helped to make.  Give your little "chef" jobs like tearing up the lettuce for the salad and measuring ingredients.  As they get older, teach them cooking skills so they can take responsibility for themselves and won't be helpless when they leave home.  If you have a garden, get them involved in planting seeds and watering plants.  Eating snap peas straight of the vine is a special treat.

Relinquish control
Yes, you read that right.  This is one of the most successful strategies I have used with my kids.  As an adult I don't want someone just plopping food on my plate and saying, "Eat this."  Children want choices, too.  One of the favorite meals in our house is "make your own salad night."  Everyone starts with lettuce, and the kids get to pick what they want to add.  Here are some other examples of how this works:

For snack: "Would you like an apple or grapes?"
When serving food: "Do you want a little salad or a lot of salad?" "Do you want your chicken on your rice or on the side?"

Be an example
If it's not a food you want your kids to eat, don't keep it in the house.  If it's a "sometimes" food, only eat it sometimes.  Rest assured that if you aren't eating to the same standards that you want your kids to have, they will call the "that's not fair" card. (And they will likely want to scarf down those forbidden foods as adults in righteous vindication.)

Dealing with picky eaters
Allow your kids to have dislikes in foods.  One of ours doesn't like yogurt and another doesn't like beans.  We don't make them a separate dish, but there are other foods served with the meal that they can eat.  However, in our house the rule is you can have seconds when you've had firsts of everything.  If we know it's a food they're not particularly fond of those "firsts" are a small portion.  This is normally met with complaints at first, but now our kids know the way it works.  And over time, we have seen them grow to like foods that they objected to at first.

Making changes is difficult at first.  Changes also take time.  What we've seen as a result, though, is that our kids love real food. They ask if our food is homemade or if it came from our garden.  They want to know if the meat and dairy came from the farm.  And they get excited about it. We've also noticed that eating real food improves their health and their mood.

One important note is that we don't force our kids to eat or eat a particular food.  As parents we can no more force our children to eat something than we can grow wings and fly.  What we can control is what food is available for them to choose from. 

What has worked for you with your kids?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions?

I always cringe at the whole "New Year's Resolution" kick.  In the back of my mind, skeptical little me says something like, "Yeah, right. Sure. That's gonna happen."  And to be honest, most New Year's Resolutions fail. Miserably.  Maybe because we promise ourselves too much change too abruptly.  Or maybe because we throw in the towel after one little setback thinking that all is lost, and our lives turn into a little Greek tragedy in our minds.  Surely I'm not the only one prone to overreact.

Like two weeks ago when I not only broke the Pyrex baking dish therefore ruining dinner, but then also left the burner on all night long under dinner number two destroying any chance of leftovers.  The fact that I also sabotaged the last two batches of yogurt (over the period of a month) pops up in the back of my mind and the end result is me crying in the kitchen wondering if I've completely lost my mind and thinking there is no hope for me to be able to successfully cook healthfully for my family, the world has come to an end.  Dramatic and over-the-top, I know.

In spite of my resistance to New Year's Resolutions, I find myself making them.  Normally to myself or my husband, not out loud to other people, lest they should point their fingers at me and mock me when I fail.  Truthfully, I make resolutions more often than once a year.  There are summer resolutions, beginning of school year resolutions, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter resolutions, and more in between just because.  It is quite possible that I self reflect to much.  However, minus the self-condemnation and perfectionism, self reflection allows us to move forward into positive change.

So...I'm going out on a limb here and letting you in on a couple of my goals for this year.

1. Food Budget  I know I always say that eating healthfully isn't expensive, but I haven't been tracking actual grocery costs in a while.  It's time to put some numbers to my claim.  This year I plan to keep a spreadsheet on our grocery costs and blog about them at the end of the month to hold myself accountable.  I will include money saving tips in these blogs as well like how to turn two chickens into many meals and savings. Cha-ching!

2. Meal Planning  I know, it's shocking. You thought I was perfect in this, right?  I've been making menu plans halfway but not really assuring that we have all the ingredients on hand for the menu.  Oops.  We also haven't been looking ahead on the weekend to get ready for the week.  Which results in some chaos around the dinner hour, especially when the kids have activities.  Today we went to the grocery store and picked up the few items we needed for the week and spent a little time prepping.  And I didn't even lose it when my beloved blender bit the dust.

Below is our current menu plan.  Enjoy!

         Side Note: If you're wanting to make diet changes see my previous post here to         help you get started.

Winter Meal Plan

Saturday- Lasagna, Steak, or Meatloaf  (Lasagna and meatloaf are freezable.)
Sunday- Chef's Choice (Tonight is salmon; next week will be wings not fried in vegetable shortening, though.)
Monday- Crock pot Bean Soup or Vegetable Soup (I use my cookbooks or search the web based on what we have on hand.)
Tuesday- Spaghetti or Parmesan Chicken (Cook meat on the weekend to save time.)
Wednesday- Leftovers night
Thursday- Quesadillas or Bean Burritos (We can beans and keep them on hand.)
Friday- Clam Chowder (Disclaimer: We haven't tried this recipe yet, but it looks similar to one I lost. We will probably tweak it a bit, of course.) or Chicken and Dumplings (recipe below)

  • The Best Ever Chicken and Dumplings

    I sliced and diced this recipe from a couple of different recipes and tweaked it a little. Yum.


    • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
    • 2 carrots, chopped
    • 1 (14 ounce) can free range chicken broth (or homemade)
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 2 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
    • 1 (9 ounce) package frozen baby peas
  • Dumplings

    • 1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
    • 2 t baking powder
    • 1/2 t baking soda
    • 3/4 t salt
    • 3 T butter
    • 1 large egg
    • 2/3 to 3/4 C cold buttermilk, as needed

    • Stew

      1. In a 3-4 quart crock pot, mix potato and carrots.
      2. In medium bowl, combine chicken broth, flour and spices and blend well until smooth.
      3. Pour over vegetables in crock pot.
      4. Add chicken.
      5. Cover crock pot.
      6. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours until chicken is thoroughly cooked and no longer pink in center. Remove chicken and pull from bones, if desired.
      7. Add peas and cover again.
    • Dumplings

      1. In a medium bowl , whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the margarine with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the egg and 2/3 C of the buttermilk and blend until a lumpy, thick, soft dough is formed, adding the remaining buttermilk if it is too dry. do not overmix.
      2. Using an oversized spoon, scoop up some dough and drop immediately on top of the finished simmering stew in the slow cooker, taking care to place each dumpling on top of something. Cover and cook on HIGH until the dumplings are cooked through, 23-30 minutes. Pierce the dumplings with a toothpick; it should come out clean. serve immediately.