There is no doubt that parents today are more frustrated than ever by the challenge of feeding their families healthy meals in an environment dominated by a food industry providing cheap, convenient food laced with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Our children today are consuming an average of 32 teaspoons of sugar ever day resulting in an epidemic of childhood obesity. It is time to stop the insanity.
For me, food is love. I consider the food I feed my family every day to be a reflection of the love I feel for my girls and my wife (and even for myself). In fact, food is one way I offer my love to my family and then ask them to trust in that love. Just as with other forms of love, it is not necessarily easy and it is not perfect. However, at the end of the day, I want to understand that I am giving what I can of myself for the health and wellbeing of my family. I want to share with you some basic principles and strategies that will begin to change your relationship around food and how you feed your family.
In part, the principles and strategies below are inspired by a book by Barbara Rodriquez, titled “The Organic Nanny’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids”. The principles and even the solutions are not perfect as we are all dealing with unique human beings (my two girls are opposites in every way!) but there is a lot of useful information parents can use right away. My intention is only to provide a few ideas to get started.
Begin by slowing phasing out the worst junk food in your child’s diet. Processed and fast foods are loaded with additives, preservatives and sugars that are not only unhealthy but even dangerous. Go here for more information on the worst ingredients: the worst ingredients.
You can’t throw everything out at once or you will have a rebellion on your hands. So, make the change bit by bit while providing healthy options. Eventually, as the kids are introduced to new foods you can slowly stop buying the bad junk. You will need to be a brave parent as you begin to eliminate certain of their favorites just remember to be patient and focus on the ultimate result.
First, phase out the sugar and highly processed snack food. Make sure to have plenty of easy grab fruit on the counter such as apples, oranges, pears, and bananas. One of my favorites is to combine apples, bananas or celery with peanut butter. If your child loves salty snacks then look for mini rice cakes or even simple, organic potato chips as an option (read labels and don’t buy anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce).
Children love sweet flavors as we all do. So, take away the sugar not the sweetness. Try baking with natural sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. In transition, you can reduce the sugar, add in some of the natural sweeteners and see how your kids respond. You will be surprised how quickly they adapt.
Second, phase out white flour for whole grains. I know this one sounds impossible but hang in there with me. White flour is ever present in our food system today. It was engineered for specific baking qualities but along the way it was stripped of nutrients. As a result, white flour metabolizes into sugars quickly and increases your blood sugar without providing any nutrition. Whole grain wheat products are not perfect but at least the nutrition has not been striped down by food scientists so it’s a much better option.
Transition away from white flour by slowing switching to white whole wheat flour. Pancakes are a good example. Start by using half white flour and half white whole wheat flour (while you are at it use honey instead of sugar in the batter). As your kids gets used to the new flavor increase the whole wheat until that’s all they are eating. I use white whole wheat flour for all my baking now including pizza and the occasional naturally sweetened cookies.
I used a similar idea to transition my daughter to multigrain bread by conveniently running out of the honey wheat. I was so proud when she asked me to buy the multigrain!
Third, eat more veggies by combining foods effectively. It is essential for health and well being that we eat our vegetables just as our mothers told us. In order to enjoy eating our vegetables it is important to get in the kitchen and cook. For me, it is such a joy to be able to cook healthy meals for my family. If you are eating out more than you are staying home to cook then it will always be difficult to satisfy the veggie requirement.
To begin, it is important to just try new things. If your children do not like broccoli maybe there is another way to prepare them. My kids like or at least tolerate broccoli roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, Some things will work and some will fail but you will never know unless you experiment. So, get in the kitchen and try new things.
I have a lot of success combining vegetables into whatever I make: sauces, stews, soups, stir fry, even tacos and burritos are perfect opportunities to include onions, peppers, carrots, celery, beans and many others. It is a matter of taking existing recipes and tweaking them to include more of the good stuff. This principle is particularly true with anything with ground beef (organic, grass fed, of course) - burgers, tacos, meatloaf, etc.
My favorite example is this kid friendly bean burrito on my website. Give it a try and let me know what you kids think.
Some of these changes are not easy. However, with patience and some determination you can change the way you feed your family. Remember to take on one goal at a time and phase it in slowly. So, what are you waiting for?
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your ideas!