Food: Do as I Say Not as I Do
I am the least healthy eater in our household. Before that put me in second place but now that we have two kids I’m in fourth. My husband is athletic and was raised with an eye to nutrition, homemade meals and balance. Although my family has always been active and healthy, I inherited my mother’s sweet tooth, was blessed with strong metabolism that hid my poor food choices as a young adult, and have long chosen restaurants over cooking (and pizza over a suitable wedding day meal).
(Side note: my mom’s sweet tooth is the basis of many family legends: A) when she was dismayed my father-in-law purchased a whole bag of cookies instead of one ‘knowing full well she would have to eat them all’ and threw them out the car window to resist temptation. B) when she asked my stepdad to hide chocolate in the house so she wouldn’t eat it all at once and then yell-attacked him for not ‘fessing up the hiding spot. C) when late one night a sweet craving hit and in a rush to get to the store she backed her car out of the garage and into my stepdad’s car.)
Getting pregnant and subsequently having children was a great motivator to focus more on nutrition, cooking, balance and all that, but at the end of the day changing habits is hard and I’m just not sure I’ll ever feel affection for anything in life in the same way I feel about chocolate milk. So, while I try to instill healthy eating in my kids, they eventually grow older and start to wonder why they’re having cottage cheese and plain yogurt while I have Greek yogurt with strawberries, or why they are drinking water when I have ginger ale (my stomach was sore!), or just what am I doing behind that kitchen cupboard that I can’t make eye contact and my voice sounds mumbly as though it’s impeded by four vanilla Girl Guide cookies.
And it’s only been four years but my oldest has started to catch on to pulling off the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ ploy. One day he confidently and brilliantly completed a smoothie we were sharing and then offered that because I had a baby in my tummy and the baby can’t have too much sugar, he was trying to ‘save’ me from the smoothie.
So now the time has come for me to really look at how I eat and how I want to raise my family. And I want them to make better choices than I have in the past, so I think that starts with me making better choices and modeling that.
I spoke with the Chef of the Kidco Kitchen, Lisa Ruscica, for some tips in starting down the road of a healthier lifestyle. She suggested some things that really resonated for me (I put the most important tip first):
• Don’t abandon every ‘treat’ you love. Lisa says when people are too strict about their eating, they may not feel satisfied and eventually rebound. What’s better is to pick and choose what things to indulge in and consume them in smaller quantities. It’s a good model for the kids too: once-in-awhile treats are okay; it’s choosing the healthy option the rest of the time that makes the difference.
• Plan meals. People often fall off the healthy eating wagon because they don’t plan and in the face of hunger and no set choice, will likely indulge with something not so good. This ‘tip’ will be one of the hardest for me because it’s about establishing several habits in many areas of my life (thinking about meals ahead of time, grocery shopping, making time to cook). But this commitment to nutrition and cooking and eating together has an array of benefits for me and the kids.
• Make healthy foods convenient and appealing. This is a trick my mom does like a pro – if she puts out veggies and dip, serves a glass of milk or simply includes protein on my son’s dinner plate, it almost always gets eaten. But these are things they would never request. Chef Lisa says it’ll work for me too; she suggests keeping precut veggies and fruit in the fridge to grab when hunger strikes instead of leaving it to my carb-crazed, sugar-loving snacking persona to choose something.
• Don’t buy the junk. This aligns with ‘planning meals’ but Chef Lisa knows that going to the grocery store full and having a list can mean all the difference between picking up a bunch of bananas or a bunch of cookies. If it’s not available in your cupboard, you’ll defer to something healthier. She also advises dessert should be a special occasion, not expected every night (I have a long lineage of ancestors who would strongly disagree but I think she might be on to something).
• Make food fun! This is a tip that my kids have taught me during their time at Kids & Company. They learn about the foods they are eating and how that food ends up on their plate. They plant seeds to watch them grow and do experiments to understand how and why foods taste and feel differently. So I’d like to do more of this at home – invite the kids into the kitchen to make their own gourmet meals, plants seeds in the garden to get closer to where food comes from, and try new foods out together.
Melissa lives in Calgary and is the Community Marketing Manager for Kids & Company in Alberta and BC. Her vision of what she would be like as a mom was shattered years ago when she discovered nothing ever goes as planned for parents, but laughter and community sees you through. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chef Lisa is Kids & Company’s Chief Food Ambassador and is responsible for creating all of the Kidco Kitchen menus and overseeing all facets of the Kidco Kitchen operations! Lisa is a graduate of the Food and Nutrition Program and the Chef Program at George Brown College. She is the mother of three and enjoys cooking and teaching her own children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle as they continue to grow. Her passion for food and nutrition can be seen through the extensive menu options for Kids & Company children – what we serve goes above and beyond all Canada food guide and provincial standards. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on instagram @cheflisaruscica