When my children were babies (seems like ages ago…), I prided myself on giving them only the best foods I could find; organic peas, squash, sweet potato and apples lovingly cooked and pureed and frozen in ice cube trays to be thawed, warmed and spooned into their teeny, tiny mouths on silver spoons (okay, not silver, but the good stainless anyways…).
As they grew and started eating finger foods, I continued to focus on fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grain breads and cereals (Cheerios were one of our favorites; I loved watching them learn to pick up the O’s with their itty, bitty fingers, dropping dozens onto their highchair trays before a single one made it into their mouths). They (the boys at least; dear daughter is another story and was the subject of another, recent post) ate and grew and thrived.
Then we started school. Lunches and snacks needed to be packed daily. Washing and chopping and packaging up single servings of the foods I had been giving them at home gave way to the convenience of cheese strings, drinking yogurts, Mini-go, chocolate puddings, fruit cocktail cups, gummies and goldfish crackers. Sound familiar?
At first, these easy-to-pack finger foods were merely accompaniments to the healthy snacks and lunches I was still making for them. ‘Treats’ I called them. All the other moms were packing them in their children’s lunch boxes, I rationalized. (I did draw the line at pop, chips and chocolate bars though; none of these have ever appeared in my children’s lunch kits).
But when the home-made parts of their lunches came home uneaten day after day after day, I prepared less from scratch and included more of their pre-packaged favorites; granola bars, juice boxes, popcorn and bakery muffins (which are really just donuts in disguise…). Of course, the irony is, these are all things that I rarely consume, myself!
Sure, they ate their lunches, but they were also less interested in the basic, healthy dinners I was serving and frequently raided the cupboard for more of their lunchtime ‘staples’. None of them were overweight, but they certainly consumed more sugar, salt and white flour than is healthy for a growing child.
Fast forward a few years. I’m now a personal trainer and healthy lifestyle coach. I want my children to embrace clean eating the way I have. I want them to be adventurous at the dinner table and to enjoy all the benefits of eating well.
They’re skeptical, to say the least. No matter how many different recipes I try, how tasty they profess them to be, they still want their ‘treats’; morning, noon and night. Fruits and vegetables are still seen as ‘do I have to?’ foods. The question ‘Is there dessert tonight?’ is asked at least once every evening (and usually, when they’re deciding whether to have seconds or not; clearly wanting to know if they should save room for something better).
If I knew then what I know now (and isn’t this always the way it goes :)), I would never have veered from my early child-feeding ideals. Never have allowed them to develop such voracious appetites for sweet, salty and fat.
I fear that leading by example isn’t enough, but it’s all I can do, along with (shh!) adding pureed veggies to their spaghetti sauce, applesauce and mashed bananas to their muffins, and quinoa and flax seed to their waffles (see my healthy version of an Aunt Jemima waffle, below).
Have you ever compromised health for convenience when feeding your family?
Are there any convenience foods that you absolutely refuse to buy?
Fitknitchick’s Healthier Aunt Jemima waffle (or pancake)
1 Tbsp light cooking oil (I use canola)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 Tbsp wheat germ
1 Tbsp wheat bran
1 Tbsp quinoa flakes
1/2 cup AJ Complete Buttermilk Pancake mix
1-4 Tbsp water (until batter consistency is to your liking)
Whisk together oil and eggs. Add dry ingredients and stir until moist and free of lumps. I like my batter fairly thick for fluffy waffles, but you might not. If making pancakes, you’ll want a slightly thinner batter.
Heat waffle iron. Pour batter into iron and close lid. Cook until fragrant (steam will still be coming out of the iron when they’re ready; don’t overcook, or waffles will be dense and dry).
Serve hot with syrup or yogurt (Greek style is my favorite) and fresh fruit or nuts.
Recipe makes 2 servings, each containing (without the syrup, yogurt and fruit); 284 cal, 34 g carbs, 12 g protein, 11 g fat, 5 g dietary fiber
Compare this to the recipe on the box; 160 cal, 31 g carbs, 5 g protein, 2 g fat, 1 g dietary fiber. More calories, protein, fiber and healthy fats in my version with no real increase in carbohydrate load. Bet mine will keep your kids fuller, longer!