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Are you a parent who cares about what your children eat? Are you as worried as I am about what kids eat today and the epidemic of obesity? Do you want to eat healthy yourself so you will be there to raise your kids and spoil your grandchildren?
Here are the Heins suggestions for HEALTHY FAMILY EATING:
• First READ so you can THINK and PLAN ahead. Read sensible authors like Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle. Avoid all the kooks and self-styled “experts” especially those who tell you to never eat a food or a class of food. We are omnivores, designed to eat all types of food.
• SHOP HEALTHY and carefully. Avoid processed food, especially those with a long list of ingredients. Avoid even organic processed food with a long list of ingredients. Vow to stop supporting agri-business by avoiding corn-based sweeteners. Buy local food whenever possible and remember pesticide levels are often higher in foreign-grown food. The average food product travels an average of 1500 miles to get from point of origin to your grocery store and greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for the environment, the only one that we and our kids have. As pesticides are not healthy for children TRY to buy local and organic: farmer’s markets, agricultural co-ops. Check out websites like LocalHarvest.org. Buy foods in season as they taste better.
• LEARN TO COOK QUICKLY/SIMPLY. Eat “in” most of the time. Set up your own “fast cook” kitchen at home. Google cookbook author Mark Bitman who tells you what you need and what you do NOT need to make a kitchen in which you can cook fast. He also has wonderful basic recipes that can be varied easily. Take advantage of cut and pre-packaged single ingredients like chopped onions and garlic that I find are a real time-saver and store well in the freezer. You can also find cut-up mixed vegetables like ingredients for stir fry. Watch the dating on the package so it is as fresh as possible when you use it. The combination of garlic and/or onion, carrots, and celery is used so often in cooking that you should always have these in the fridge.
• What should you eat and serve your children to ensure the whole family eats healthy? NUTRITION 101 is actually pretty simple. Follow Michael Pollan’s mantras. Eat real food, mostly fruits and vegetables, not too much. Eat plant food that comes from the ground not a processing plant. Juice is obviously healthier than soda IF the first ingredient is a fruit not high-fructose corn syrup. But juice is mostly sugar and water so encourage your children to enjoy eating real fruit. Help them out: peel and section Clementines or slice apples, sprinkle with orange juice and store in a plastic bag in the fridge.
• Make wise choices when eating out. Portions are obscene in most restaurants. Share dishes or eat half. (I can have two lunches from what I take home and still leave the restaurant full.) Avoid fast food establishments. Find family-friendly restaurants but as your children get older tell them they can come to a grownup restaurant on one condition, they taste what you guys order. If not for this idea who knows if my kids would now be eating lobster and snails?
• LOSE OUTDATED IDEAS ABOUT FOOD. Don’t crash diet, don’t avoid any classes of food, don’t starve or binge, don’t skip meals and get overly hungry. A grandson who is in great shape after losing some weight and training for a marathon told me he was advised to never eat dairy because soy milk had more calcium. And to always eat protein bars instead of meat because they had more protein. I showed him the numerous ingredients in soy milk and protein bars and he is rethinking what he was told. Obviously there are people who cannot tolerate milk and a protein bar is easier to put in your pocket than a steak when running, but this brings me to my next point.
• BE SENSIBLE, NOT FANATIC ABOUT FOOD. Your kids can eat at a fast food restaurant once in a while. You can feast on Thanksgiving and eat birthday cake with its Crisco-and-sugar frosting on occasion. There are no bad foods, there are only bad eating habits. Raise your children to understand this.
• SNACKING is not only permissible but it is necessary for young children. But no mindless eating like a jumbo popcorn at the movies or an open bag of chips next to you on the sofa when you are watching TV. Get everyone a child sized popcorn and drink at the movies and always put snacks in individual small bowls.
• ENJOY EATING and ENJOY FOOD! Don’t live your life counting. Americans are always counting calories and fats or carbs, we constantly talk about dieting, and we are also the fattest. Some of us read menus in restaurants as though food is our enemy. Learn to eat a small amount of what you enjoy instead of feeling deprived. Feel hungry or deprived? Chances are you will overeat.
Food has three purposes. It nourishes our body. It is a major part of our vital social interactions. And it is a source of pleasure and enjoyment. Raise your children to understand this.
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