Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Healthy living: Getting your kiddos on board

[Lunch at the park- bananas, grapes, Larabars, and Bolthouse Farm beverages!]

"Pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals are present in the food supply (even in the leading brands of baby food). From childhood through the adult years, people have abandoned their basic instincts to eat nutritious food and have succumbed to television commercials that promote fake foods. For example, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported on a study of preschool children, in which researchers found that the most commonly eaten foods were fruit drinks, carbonated beverages, 2% milk, and French fries. Vegetables dominated the lists of children's least favorite foods." Avoiding the SAD Diet

I remember when my mom announced she was going to overhaul our eating habits. As a little kid, I was not to happy about it, especially when fruit leather replaced Fruit by the Foot roll-ups. Mom was (is) a smart woman, and she saw we needed to completely change our diets. With allergies and issues popping up, she realized something had to change, and I'm glad she took action. I believe I have her to thank for setting a healthy and nutritious foundation. I am sure I was able to avoid many of the health issues my friends are dealing with now in their 20's and 30's because my mom took control of my health when I was a little girl.

Making the lifestyle change away from the Standard American Diet (appropriately referred to as "SAD") is difficult, especially with little children. Thankfully, children can easily be redirected to healthy foods.. but it takes some effort.

It is important to get your children involved. Americans are very disconnected from our food. Most people have no idea how their food gets from farm to market. I decided to allow the children to see some very eye-opening videos of how most commercialized American meat is treated. Unfortunately, most big meat companies treat their cattle and chickens like meat from the very beginning. They have no regard for the life of the animal- they are only interesting in producing bigger (not better!) and quicker so they can make more money faster.

I can't wait to plant our garden (in a week or two!) so our children can get involved in growing their own food. My daughter, Merikalyn, loved the little container garden we had in Louisiana. Merika and Nolyn loved helping me water the plants, pick the weeds, and watch the progress. Seeing our first eggplant appear was quite thrilling!

Children need to understand the importance of filling their bodies with healthy foods- not just foods that are "kind of healthy", but foods that are whole and completely healthy.

I explained that some foods nourish and build the body while other foods break down and poison the body. We began looking at the foods in our pantry, and they helped me take out things that were not good for our bodies.

Now they often ask, "Is this healthy? Can I eat this?" and we'll stop to explain why it is or isn't good for us. Sometimes this means slightly embarrassing conversations in the middle of a crowded grocery store, but I feel it is important for them to understand why we eat and don't eat certain things.

I want healthy eating to be enjoyable for each member of the family. I want them to find healthy foods they love so eating good doesn't taste so bad!

Here are some of their favorites:

- Organic Greek Yogurt with granola and fresh berries (This makes a great breakfast, snack, or even dessert!)
- Carrots
- Cherry tomatoes (we buy them in bulk)
- Bananas (also buy in bulk)
- Frozen grapes
- Apple slices dipped in yogurt
- Fruit smoothies (like Bolthouse Farms or Odwalla's dairy-free blends)
- Larabars
- Lamb burgers
- Kosher hotdogs with bean chili
- Pirate's Booty
- Homemade bread (especially with jam)
- Gyros

Since it is winter and our favorite sweet fruits are not in season, I try to satisfy the family sweet tooth with yogurt and homemade muffins (sweetened with honey). In the summer, our fridge will be loaded with juicy watermelons, cantaloupes, and strawberries. Frozen grapes are a great cold treat. (Just wash, allow them to sit out and dry for an hour or so, and then throw them in the freezer!)

I also like to make a raw vegan dessert here and there (like raw "cheese"cake or "brawnies"- the kids LOVE these). They are very healthy and very tasty.

Getting the children involved in cooking and baking has most definitely helped them love and understand healthy eating. Together we tweak recipes to make them fit our healthy standards- and sometimes the outcome isn't so great, but, usually, we find we love our healthier version even more than the original!

There are times when I give in and let them have a piece of frosting-loaded chocolate birthday cake, but we try not to wander from our "health code" to often. (I can definitely tell a huge difference in the their attitude and functioning after they've had a soda or a sugary cookie.)

There are foods we've told the kids are "no limits"- they can eat as many carrots, "baby" tomatoes, and grapes as they desire. (In fact, right now, at 10:30am, they are munching away on carrots!) Having healthy, fresh produce available to them is important to me, and I want to make sure.. when they are in a snacking mood, they are "grazing" on food that strengthens and nourishes their body. I know candy bars are exciting, so we opt for Clif bars or Larabars instead. (Both Clif bars and Larabars come in a variety of delicious flavors.)

Our journey for healthy living goes beyond our diet. The children have enjoyed picking out fabric to make cloth napkins. They love finding unique ways to reuse, renew, and recycle. We've used this journey to bond us as a family as we set out to live a more sustainable lifestyle and care for the bodies, the animals, and the earth God placed in our stewardship.

I am thankful I can look back to my childhood and clearly see healthy foundation my mom set for us. I learned so much about healthy choices, healthy birthing, and healthy babies from my mother.. and I hope my children learn the same from us.


mommyto4blessings said...

Wow. You have totally inspired me to start eating healthier. I have wanted to for a long time, but as you said, it's hard to deviate from what's 'normal' for most americans. I grew up on heavily processed foods and my taste for homegrown veggies and 'whole' foods has suffered. I'd rather eat canned green beans than fresh! Now that's crazy. Thank you for the inspiration and encouragement. I have enjoyed your tips and thoughts. Wish me luck!!

MandyMom.com said...

You know, I could eat green beans straight from the can. Canned green beans are kind of my weakness so it's been hard to give them up!