There’s no doubt that parenting, while ultimately rewarding, is the hardest job on the planet. From the moment the little guy comes home, life as you know it is turned upside down. First you wonder if you’ll ever sleep again. You actually wonder what the sound of silence is. And then you start to wonder if your child will ever actually speak English, or just the language of NO, for the rest of his life. And, yet, through the haze of fatigue, with black circles under your eyes, you wouldn’t change a thing.
I myself have two little boys; my oldest is just about to turn 5 and my youngest is 2. When they were babies they didn’t make a peep about what I fed them. In fact they were eager and grateful for whatever I served. Even though the green peas and yellow squash may have been spit right back at me, at least they were willing to try it all.
Times have changed. Things are different now. Neither of the boys is afraid to spend an entire afternoon negotiating what will be on his dinner plate in a couple hours. They will attempt to talk, argue, and barter their way out of just about any onion or sprout. Often by the time we actually sit down to dinner, I am worn down and too tired to argue. Having said all of this, however, I am proud to report that, slowly but surely, my boys are starting to make good food decisions all on their own.
Food is a huge part of my life. For years I was aghast to think my boys wouldn’t carry the same reverence for carrots from the ground and apples from the trees as I do. So it is with great pleasure I tell you that with a little finessing and a whole lot of fun, my boys are coming around to the best stuff on earth. Following are a few of my foodie-mom-chef habits I’ve found to be super helpful in raising kids who eat healthfully:
1) Good food is not fast. To really appreciate food, kids need to know what it takes to grow, clean, prepare, and serve it. I take my guys to all of the local farmers’ markets. I encourage them to get dirty making homemade pizza dough. I invite them to hand-mash the berries for dessert. And then, when we get to the table, we take our sweet time, as a family, to enjoy it and compare notes on what it took to put it all together.
2) Food is fun. Yes, I take food very seriously. I want to know every ingredient, cooking method, and spice that touches my plate, but that is because food is what I love. When it comes to feeding my boys, food is just good ol’ fashioned fun. Yes, we serve breakfast sausage on lollipop sticks. Yes, I let my boys stir the cookie dough with their (washed) hands. And, yes, when my boys want a banana, I'll get out my blow torch and brulee that baby. Not only are we having a grand ol’ time, we are making our very favorite memories.
3) Buy only the good stuff. If you only fill your house with good options, then your kids will only eat good-for-you food. We never buy juice, we only drink water. And we celebrate with chocolate milk. My boys love Greek yogurt for snack with a swirl of jam they’ve chosen, and frozen grapes for crunch. For lunch they stack their own turkey sandwiches and I grill them up hot. And we have to make the cookies we eat. I allow them to make good choices of their own at the store, and then they can’t wait to dig in when we get home.
On any given Tuesday, throughout the day, my little guys and I are always comparing notes on our muscles. They shine when they relay all the good food that’s gone into each muscle. And I, their mom, have a “healthy” glow about it all too.
Caitlin Steininger, Partner, cookingwithcaitlin.com
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