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HEALTHY FOOD/HEALTHY YOU
The first step to have parents start healthy eating habits is by doing it themselves It all start with you and how you approach food and cooking. We equate anything healthy with being good for you. So what we’re really talking about is developing good eating habits for kids.
Here are some tips I’ve used with families who are trying to get their families on the right track with eating.
A PEEK INSIDE YOUR FRIDGE
What does the inside of your fridge look like? Is it empty? Or, if it’s not, does it look like a rainbow of colors? If it looks like a rainbow, then you’re on the right track. The items in your fridge (and sitting on your countertop) should be produce-heavy. Fruits and veggies should dominate.
A lot of parents will say they can’t afford to eat fresh foods, but it is actually is more realistic than you think. On a Friday or Saturday evening, sit down and write out the meals you plan to make next week. Keep in mind how leftovers can be repurposed into new meals (instead of simply reheated). Chicken cutlets can be tossed into a salad the next day. Leftover salmon can be turned into a salmon fishcake (with the help of some mashed potatoes). Planning your meal in advance will also help you keep your budget in mind before you even get to the grocery. Look out for the bargains as well. Fresh food that’s frozen has a three-month life expectancy on it. That can make all the difference. If you can just make one change, swap out white for brown: white bread for whole wheat, white flour for brown, white sugar for raw or brown sugar.
SHOPPING FOR FOOD
Normally, when you enter a supermarket, the first thing you see is the produce to your right and then far, far away passed all of the other aisles is the dairy section. Those are the only two sections you really need to visit. Everything else in the middle is the “gooey stuff.” There are four kitchen tools that I think are essential for every healthy eating-focused home:
1. A Steamer– to blanch your veggies and keep the nutrients in. Microwaves and over boiling can zap the essential nutrients out of food and make for mushy, wilted greens.
2. A Wok or large frying pan– this will allow you to sauté a bunch of vegetables at once and add in protein and/or some rice so all of the flavors will really come together – and, less clean up when you use one pan!
3. A Crock-pot or Casserole pot– Plan dinner in the morning, throw all the ingredients in and leave it to cook whilst you move on to other things. Crock-pots (casserole pots) are a great way to make stews and combine all parts of the food pyramid together into one delicious and juicy dish.
4. A Blender(standing or hand variety) – Good for blending soups and creating fresh fruit and yogurt smoothes or protein shakes.
Preparing food is one of the biggest things, so use your meal plan and prepare as much as you can in advance so it will keep you on top of sticking with a healthy eating plan. When you can, use the weekend to cook as many of your weekday meals as possible. Freeze whatever you can to me used later in the week.
We live in a world where fast food is on every corner. It’s unrealistic to stay away from them, because the reality is I know parents will pop into these places because they think it’s convenient and inexpensive, quite easy to make a Subway sandwich yourself, unless you can’t be bothered to make one and you get it made for you. For all of those chicken nugget and French fry families, make your own chicken strips in breadcrumbs. Anything grinded and mashed down to become a process nugget does not taste the same as real chicken or fish.
In a world where child obesity is on the rise, it’s incredibly important to also focus on portion size and to not overfed our children or to have them grazing on snacks all day, because that amount of food creates bad habits for their mealtimes. Here’s a technique I like to use to regulate the grazing:
SNAK JAR TECHNIQUE
Create a designated snack jar for your child and you can both decide on what snacks to put in it that day. Then, allocate specific times of the day where they can go into their own jar and help themselves to one of their allocated snacks.
Picky eaters have been created from families who have not addressed the patience, variety, and endurance needed when your children start to go from eating solid foods to picking up a knife and fork. It’s not a coincidence that in 20 years, I haven’t had one child with a food problem. It’s not that I’m waving a magic wand that’s different from any parents’ magic wand. It’s just about patience. When a child tells you they don’t like something, ask yourself: have they tried it several times and not liked it or is it just “today? Also, keep in mind it’s about how much control you exercise during dinnertime and dining behavior at the table. And remember, if you don’t like a particular food, it doesn’t necessarily mean your kids won’t like it either. Give them the opportunity to experiment with taste and flavor. Everyone’s taste buds are different.
TEENS AND VEGETARIAN/VEGANISM
Teenagers age 15 and up are influenced by other teenagers and fads that go around. When possible, parents should respect their teen’s choice if they are serious about being a vegetarian or vegan. They should let you know why they have made the decision and help you in preparing a weekly dinner menu and do some of the grocery shopping and cooking to help accommodate their new way of eating. I realize that won’t be a choice that most households might be able to make, but if you can respect your teen’s decision and they are proactive about it, then be open about it and supportive.
In the end, healthy eating habits are all about being completely moderate with what you do. I understand it’s difficult to be 100 percent natural, healthy, organic, and junk-food free because of various circumstances, but you can be mindful about what goes into your mouth, how much of it you eat, and where it comes from a lot of the time. What you’re teaching your kids now in terms of eating habits will become their lifestyle when they grow up and influences the choices they make with food.