I quickly realized what bad timing it was to send a newsletter focusing on nutrition on Halloween. So I waited a couple days. Ready?
This ghoulish holiday brings me to an important nutritional point: all things in moderation. It seems the most efficient way to bring unprecedented attention to any food group is to make it a forbidden fruit, so to speak. Lesley has one friend whose parents are diabetic and isn’t usually allowed sweet snacks. Lesley has noticed that whenever there are cookies, brownies or any sort of dessert available, her friend routinely overindulges.
Halloween is a holiday of overindulgence, but I’ve noticed that even the most enthusiastic sugar hounds get tired of candy in a short time. When moms are ready with a reasonable variety of good nutritional choices, most members of your family are willing to try.
It’s clichéd but true – no one plans to fail; they fail to plan. So we make plans to eat right. Without a plan, it’s easy to end up speed dialing for pizza or idling in the drive-thru at various fast food restaurants. It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan, but shopping is simpler with an idea in place of what you’re eating this week. A little pre-planning means you’re always ready for the inevitable “Mama, what’s for supper?”
Kayla and I both learned to cook without the use of too many convenience foods. While Kayla and her husband lived in Lebanon when they were first married, my husband and I lived in India when our children were very small. We currently live in the Middle East. When you live in a different country from where you were born, you quickly learn to adapt to what’s available.
Lebanese women sort of frown on pre-packaged food, and consequently, they taught Kayla to cook from scratch. When her family moved to America, she couldn’t afford what her kids now refer to as “fake food”. (KAYLA: Just today, Ron was grousing about how he cooked Chicken Helper and it was nasty but he ate it anyway because he’s not going to waste…!)
On the black market in New Delhi when we lived there, a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese went for $3, Fruit Loops sold for $20 per box and a block of Velveeta cheese also commanded $20. (Funny how those prices are indelibly imprinted in my memory.) Although these items were available at ridiculous prices, I didn’t have the conscience or the budget to allow such purchases.
Cooking from scratch became a habit. We quickly learned how to improvise recipes with what was available. Kayla’s cooking today is infused with the fresh salads, vegetables, and low fat entrees that make Lebanese cuisine so appealing. My cooking today is a mix of recipes from Indian, Middle Eastern and some Southern US cooking. When my kids have a sniffle, they want Rasam, a spicy south Indian soup that will clean out your sinuses in a hurry. (I admit to a weakness for corn bread prepared in a shiny black skillet.)
The advantage of living different places is that our kids seem more likely to try eating new things. For example, they think sushi is fantastic. I like it for a piece or two, but then start to feel like “Bait…I’m still hungry, and this tastes a lot like…bait.”
Both Kayla and I nursed our children until they were at least a year old and made the baby food for our first two children. When they were small, we had a two-sugars-a-day rule; they could have two sweet snacks, but as much fruit and vegetables as they wanted. I can still picture two-year-old Ron standing by the veggie tray at someone’s baby shower. He knew he could have as much as he wanted, so he did. Ranch dressing is a wonderful thing.
Back to the planning. The wellspring of good nutrition is a menu plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Hamburger something on Monday, then tuna something, then chicken something, then taco/pizza/spaghetti, then fish, then cheese based, then go out. A simple plan will eliminate those last minute McDonald’s runs or Domino’s calls. If you’re looking for inspiration, Susanne Myers lays it all out in Meal Planning Made Simple. Think you can’t? Read Susanne’s page, and I challenge you to make a menu this week and see what a difference it makes. No time? Here are a week’s worth of crock pot recipes. Yes, you can.
For example at our homes, a typical breakfast is anything but typical. Kayla’s boys – and out of town guests – are on their own for this meal. After years of playing short order cook to grouchy customers, I resigned. So the boys might make cheese toast, cornflakes, oatmeal or an egg. Just as often, however, they eat popcorn or soup. At our house, Olivia is more traditional in her choices, but Edison and Lesley are as likely to grab the peanut butter and a bag of cut up vegetables. (No, I’m not making that part up.)
At Kayla’s house, dinner is often late, hopefully after homework is finished. Dinner is most often a small cut of meat, a vegetable, and a wonderful salad. Her salad bowl holds 2 ½ gallons; she fills it, and what they don’t eat for dinner they graze on until it is gone. (I’ve seen this phenomenon in person and her salads are lipsmackin’ good.) Their Lebanese salad dressings are made fresh.
As for dessert, as our kids have grown we’ve abandoned the two sugar rule. We still buy lots of fruit and fresh vegetables, and our kids snack on these foods a lot. A bowl of apples makes a beautiful centerpiece. Having these fruits or vegetables cut up in a salad or on a tray entices most picky eaters. A dip or dressing makes it irresistible.
A word about dietary supplements. There’s a lot of information on vitamins and mineral supplements, and wading through it takes time – time that you do need to take. A lot of it smacks of quackery, and other programs and diets are impossible to initiate with teenagers in the house. But one resource I really feel I should mention is The LCP Solution. It talks about Omega 3’s in great depth, and leaves you with a good understanding of how our body needs more of this.
Just remember that no diet, no program, no plan will work for every family. If there were any thing that were a panacea for ADHD, we’d all know. We’ve tried to take a balanced approach that works for us. Some families may need to be more aggressive in monitoring their diets, and some people would not survive on the foods we eat. Only you can discover what works for your family and best answer that question you know you’re going to hear…
“Mama, what’s for supper?