Why Our Family Food Goals Focus on More, Not Less
Eating better is a great idea, but I think these goals are off the mark, at least for me and my crew.
We have four small kids, from 7 months to 5 years, and there definitely are things I want to work on for better nutrition this year:
- Less sugar (especially in hidden places like spaghetti sauce and yogurt)
- More vegetables
- Fewer empty carbs
- And don’t forget manners! Our 2-year-old is a force at every meal, and for the sake of sanity all around, we’ll teach him the same rules his two older sisters follow.
We’re not swearing off sweets and carbs, though; we’re just focusing on eating low-sugar snacks like these No Sugar-Added Coconut “Fudge” Bars (with a secret ingredient you’ll never believe) and tons of vegetables like Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli instead. We’re not banning crackers; we’re making more nut bars. Cereal is still on the menu sometimes, but now we’re adding almonds and frozen blueberries; toast makes the cut, too but only when it’s hearty bread brimming with seeds and protein-rich nuts.
Instead of cutting things out, we’ll be so busy trying new veggies and protein-rich foods in new ways that we won’t even miss all those pasta dishes. And when we do, we’ll go back to those family favorites and just add tons of veggies. It’s a trick we discovered a while ago — double the amount of vegetables called for in any recipe — and this peanut ginger stir-fry, teeming with carrots and sugar snap peas, is a new favorite.
More of this, not less of that. It’s a subtle shift in thinking, in communicating with the kids, but an important one. As with everything at these stages, my job as a parent is to help my kids shape their view of the world, and in this case, it’s about food. When they’re grownups I don’t want them to get stuck thinking of foods as “bad” foods or even “healthy” ones. My goal is that by then they’ll naturally know how to eat what’s nourishing (not to mention delicious and satisfying).
Between now and then, if I can get them into the habit of seeking out fresh foods they love, of enjoying hearty grains for the taste as much as for the way they make their bodies feel, of trying new foods with an open mind for the chance of discovering a new favorite (What if they’d never tried ice cream?), I’ll be on the right track.
Charity Curley Mathews blogs at Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe.
Photo courtesy of Foodlets.