Embracing healthy eating habitsIdeas about healthy eating have changed a lot since I was a little girl. I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes household where a balanced meal consisted of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. I don’t even want to talk about the meat, but I can tell you there was a lot of it. The vegetables were typically cooked in either butter or cheese sauce. The bread was never whole grain. We also had baked dessert most nights, and full-fat milk in the refrigerator at all times.  Nothing was organic back then.  When we had fruit, it was usually served with sugar sprinkled on top or accompanied by a sweet dip made of cream cheese and marshmallow fluff.


In addition to these foods, there was also a pantry full of Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Chips Ahoy cookies, Pringles, Doritos, Coke, Dr. Pepper, and more. Oh, and did I menton the candy cupboard? Yes, it had it’s very own name. 


I had quite an aversion to meat from a very young age, so dinnertime was never fun for me. I was often punished for not finishing the food on my plate. Thank goodness we had a dog, because most of what I was left alone to finish ended up in her mouth. While my mom was a wonderful homemaker and an excellent cook by my dad’s standards, the foods she prepared just weren’t my thing. I usually filled up on sweets before family meals. My diet was better suited to a hummingbird than a growing child. At fifteen, I became a vegetarian and have been one ever since. I still have a sweet tooth, though. And while I don’t drink or smoke, I certainly have vices.  One of them is good old Dr. Pepper. 


Now that I have my own family, turning mealtime into a positive experience has proven to be easier than I thought. I fully expected a lot of resistance once my daughter transitioned to solid food. I was a so-called awful eater, so wouldn’t she be one, too? I’ve witnessed many children over the years who refused to try new foods. I’ve also seen kids who eat nothing but processed foods like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese from a box. To my surprise, our two-year old is a wonderful eater who will taste just about anything, and almost always finishes the food on her plate. How on Earth did this happen? I give a great deal of the credit to my husband. He is an excellent cook who loves to get creative in the kitchen, and he involves our daughter in the preparation of meals. Ever since she could safely stand on a chair unassisted, she has worn an apron and worked alongside Dada at the kitchen counter, sampling new foods and spices along the way. 


There is another factor that has likely influenced my daughter’s attitude toward food: she is being raised in a vegetarian household where we try to grow as much of our own produce as possible. Last summer, she learned to pick her very own cherry tomatoes (and eat them right there in the garden). This spring, she has been involved in caring for our vegetable sprouts. Involvement seems to be the key. Being made an important part of the growing/picking/preparing process has probably played a role in her willing acceptance of fresh, organic foods. I realize this may not last forever, but for the time being, we have a very happy and wholesome eater (who gets plenty of protein and “good” fat, I promise). I’m crossing my fingers that going to school a few years from now and seeing hot dogs and Ho-Hos in other children’s lunchboxes won’t lead her in a different direction. Hopefully she’ll still embrace the healthy eating habits she has learned thus far. 


From me to you, here and now…