Kitchen Critical: Your kids future depends on this
I’ve been a single mother since my son was 1. I chalk it up to a life learning experience. It’s made me realize that you can never rely on anyone else solely to help complete you or anything else for you. Not that friends and family are important, but if you don’t have the strength and confidence in your own decisions and what you need for your own life, how can you depend on others to get the job done? My children are the purest source of pride and awe. It brings me to my knees sometimes. I never thought I could be so moved by two sets of eyes, they reflect my soul. I know their destiny and their desire to be whatever they want to be is fueled by me. Sure, they have the influence of their grandparents, their teachers, their coaches and their friends but ultimately, the framework is up to me. I have to be the architect of the master blueprint or else I’m the one to blame if that foundation crumbles like a sand castle.
I continuously strive to give them the tools to make sound decisions on their own. Not that I’ll always be perfect, or neither will they – but the goal is to be consistent. If you think that when you send your precious ones to school, that you have to stop questioning the nutritional value of the lunch they’re being fed, think again. If you faithfully order off the kid’s menu and don’t think twice about whether that hot dog filled with nitrates and animal parts is really doing much for them, think again. If you just go with the flow when it comes to those cute little prepackaged snacks and dayglo colored treats that you throw at them 2-3 times a day, buying whatever the stores sell in the jumbo 128 packs, stop yourself and ask, what the hell am I feeding them? As their mom, dad, caregiver, cook and the person who carried them for 9 months, you better believe I do the research and Google every ingredient I can’t pronounce to find out what it means. You are so responsible for what they stick in their mouths because it will affect them, either now or later. If you let your kids get overweight or obese – and one in 3 of us in the U.S. does – it’s nothing short of child abuse. I went there, and I’ll say it again. Mis-feeding your kids is child abuse. You don’t let them play with fire, explosives or rat poison. Why is a box of Twinkies washed down with a liter of Coke and a Cheetos chaser any better? It’s a ticking time bomb. If it doesn’t explode now, I promise it will later. Remember this statistic. 1 in 3 kids in the U.S. is overweight or obese. 33% of the population has become what they eat, and it looks like Chunky Monkey is what’s for dinner.
A recent U.S. study suggested that we incentivize our kids with money to get them to eat more fruit and veggies. I’ve never heard of something more absurd in my life. So you’re saying bribe them to eat something good for them? Listen, friends, if you can’t take the upper hand and get creative, we have bigger fish to fry. Let’s start with our own mental hang-ups.
Was it because you were told, if you don’t eat your veggies, you can’t have dessert?
Or, if you don’t eat your veggies, you will not be excused from the table?
Maybe your parents thought unseasoned spinach from a can was a vegetable?
Or overcooked, soggy green beans resembled food?
The best way to get them on board is to get them working. I love teaching kids cooking classes. When I ask for volunteers to help me at the ‘chef’s table,’ everyone’s hands go up. They have such a desire to help, be creative and be a part of the process. They have no qualms adding in handfuls of spinach into a sauce or throwing broccoli into a sauté. Studies confirm that one of the most important ways of getting children to make sound food choices is involving them in the process. A child will be much more apt to try something if they’ve picked it or helped to prepare it. As much of a challenge it can be to haul your kids to the store or the farmer’s market, it’s a critical part of their connection to what you’re feeding them.
When my daughter was 1, I’d sit her in the front of the cart and hand her different fruit and veggies and recite the name so she could repeat it, hold it, smell it. By the age of 3, I would hand her a bag and ask her to pick a few of her favorite fruits and when we got home, I’d be sure to have her help wash it and we’d immediately cut it up so she could try it. That’s blooming pride on display. It seems so simple but there’s something about perception and the effort she took in picking just the right ones and if she did it, well of course she was going to try it. Recently, I made purple sweet potato gnocchi with a 2-year old and the first sentence I ever heard her put together on her own was uttered – ‘I made that’. Yes, she made that and boy was she proud of it. And yes, she inhaled it, too. Now, that is empowering.