Eat This..Don’t Eat This..Wait, Eat this..No Don’t
We are barraged daily with seemingly conflicting information on what’s good to eat and what’s not. Our kids are convinced that if their mom is cool they’ll serve that big bowl of sugary exciting goodness. Never mind that to be “part of a complete breakfast” that bowl of cereal needs to be followed by toast, juice, fruit, and another glass of milk . I don’t know about you or your kids, but mine just as soon stop eating after that bowl of 20 grams of sugar impersonating a “wholesome breakfast.” The kids are supposed to think that a meal will make you happy if it comes in a paper sack that also contains a toy that will surely end up in the garbage after you – the grown up- have gotten sick of accidently stepping on it 3 times a day.
As adults we are also targets of advertisers that say if you just eat this magic food to replace 2 meals each day you’ll lose “up to” some arbitrary number of pounds. That “up to” seems to sneak by in those commercials pretty quickly, but that number of pounds is repeated over and over, is underlined and in bold print. Also confusing is the number of fad diets. I think there is one for every fruit (grapefruit ring a bell?), vegetable (cabbage soup diet sound uncomfortably familiar?), and the many variations of restricting entire food groups while gorging on others. There is also the sea of nutritional information that comes in the form of books, magazines, TV spots, infomercials, and I guess I have to say blogs as well. What to do? What to think?
Expert suggestion: Eat a combination of good carbohydrates (AKA – carb), lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Kuhel Family challenges: How do we combine these things into food everyone will eat? How much of each? What about eating on the run?
Kuhel solutions: We stress to our kids that this is NOT a diet. It’s just how our family eats. To me, the word “diet” can sound temporary…something you stick to until you fit in your skinny jeans. I’m guilty. I bet you’re guilty too . Here’s how the Kuhel family eats and will be eating for life.
• Make sure there is something at each meal that each person in your family likes. Set yourself up for success. You may run into problems if you have lots of people in your family, but even so, there are some pretty safe bets. I’m Filipino so our family loves rice. I grew up on white rice, but we’ve made the switch to brown rice. My mother-in-law, Judy, had the brilliant idea of making ½ a batch of white rice combined with ½ a batch of brown rice. Eventually we just made the change and it wasn’t hard at all. Whole wheat pasta is always a hit at our house as well. My oldest son (by 40 minutes) Evan doesn’t like really cheesy food, while the rest of us could eat cheese by the fistful. I use some cheese in those dishes, but I put extra cheese on the table for those that want to add a “reasonable amount”. We’ve used the term “reasonable amount” when adding those tasty bits that are to be eaten in moderation. Renee, the princess, must have most sauces “on the side”. Alex is a good example, as am I, because we eat everything. I’m not suggesting you become a short-order cook. Make just one meal with at least one of each a good carb, lean protein, and vegetables prepared sparingly with healthy fat or topped with one. No one wants to see a plate with nothing they care to eat on it.
• Balance your plate (but not on your head). I use a 9” plate because it helps me to control my portions. My husband uses a regular dinner plate because he’s one of those “naturally thin” people (yes I live with one of “them”). The kids use either a divided plate or whatever isn’t dirty in the dishwasher. I taught my family to load their plates thoughtfully. Take your plate and fill half of it with as many vegetables as you can eat. The other half of your plate should be half lean protein and half good carb. Try not to heap. No seconds of anything except veggies until the rest is gone and only if you’re hungry. We are not enforcers of the clean plate club. That is definitely old school. The kids are encouraged to stop if they are full, but don’t ask for snacks later. This is only true for dinner because well timed healthy snacks are encouraged at our house throughout the earlier part of the day. My kids are notorious for having eyes bigger than their bellies so we’ve adopted a saying the boys learned at sleep away camp. “Take what you eat and eat what you take.” Don’t think for a moment that I don’t get moans and groans at the table. I’m not that lucky. If the vegetable is not a favorite, I tell the kids to eat it with the part of the meal they really like so that the whole bite will taste good to them. Green beans are a good example. I make sure that if green beans are making an appearance, they are dancing next to baked sweet potatoes with a “reasonable amount” of butter. Sweet potatoes have shared the fork with many a detested meal component. Whatever it takes.
• Try to plan ahead for your meals. I’m a huge fan of quick, easy, tasty meals. Even if I had an hour to cook dinner ( HA!), I don’t think I would do it (except for Thanksgiving at which point it’s just ridiculous). Listen to me! If you are heating your oven to bake skinless chicken breasts then bake a bunch and put the extra in the freezer or fridge. If you are browning lean ground turkey then go ahead and brown an extra pound and pull it before you add the sauce or the seasoning and put it aside for later in the week. If you are boiling water for pasta, boil 2 pots and bag the second batch with a bit of olive oil or it will be one big pasta ball. If you are roasting root vegetables then roast an extra pan and…PLEASE tell me you get it. You will be very happy on a busy night when you can whip up dinner in 10 minutes. No lie. Tuesday night is crazy at our house because after I get home from work the kids are crashing through the door (quite literally) starving for a snack, then it’s homework, fighting amongst the siblings, dinner and out the door by 5:45 for wrestling practice at 6:00 or whenever my boys can manage to stop talking long enough to put on their shoes and headgear. So, you do the math. I think that leaves 10 minutes for dinner prep. That’s a- reheat previously grilled steak bites, previously roasted sweet potatoes, and frozen peas- meal in 10 minutes flat! It’d be less if I had more than one microwave, but we can wait 10 minutes and so can you.
These changes send our kids positive messages about food. Every meal will have something I want to eat. A “normal” plate of food is balanced. Fast food doesn’t have to mean “fake” food. We can teach ourselves these lessons. If your family can adopt these changes, then you can rest assured that you will send them out into the world better prepared for a healthy life than you and I were. Your teen will likely still hit the mall with his friends and have a greasy slice of pizza and a cola, but it won’t be every day. But don’t be surprised if you see him at the food court munching on a chicken ceasar wrap with a “reasonable amount” of dressing on the side. Imagine the possibilities!
Till next time…live well! – Toni Kuhel