This week is the National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, which is an opportunity to show youth how different careers can effect positive change in their communities, schools and homes. For better or worse, my daughters live in the reality of being at work with me everyday. I know some days they wish they had a normal-ish mom who wouldn’t blink when they ate candy or provide chips in their lunches, but instead they get a mom that makes sure they have vegetables in every lunch and treats that are much more occasional.
In truth, it was seeing how kids are growing up eating today that inspired the foundation of focused+fit. My belief is that if we focus on education and helping parents, we will change the households and habits we are imparting on our children. But, of course, this has to start at home.
With kids, I experience the constant struggle of:
- Surviving the chaos of daily life and avoiding hangry
- Making food everyone likes
- Not being so strict about treats that it creates a forbidden fruit mentality, so that everyone binges when Mom isn’t looking
I also strive to be a role model. If I want kids to be active and cook and eat good food, I have to be active and cook and eat good food.
Like all Moms I don’t feel like there’s a manual for my kids, and even the best books only provide ideas and a framework, but here’s a little about what seems to be working for us, so far.
From day one, I’ve tried to include the girls in the kitchen work. I figure if in other cultures kids can tend fires, they can do the real deal. We eschewed EZ Bake Ovens and safety scissors, for the real deal. They use the big knives with guidance and supervision. When they want to bake something for a holiday or birthday they use cookbooks and my good baking gear (Did I mention I love to bake? I don’t do it often, but I do, so I have a treasure trove of cookie cutters, shaped Nordic pans that we break out for holidays.).
Meals include a protein and a vegetable always. Even if friends are over. I am astounded by the number of kids that come through our kitchen that won’t eat vegetables or have had them so rarely that they are surprised when they are on their plate. I try to refrain from explaining why vegetables are important because this is what embarrasses my kids the most. I still get the eye roll and “Mom shush!” but I *think* at least that my kids are starting to get it and aware of the need for nourishment first and moderation of treats, even if moderating when presented with treats is as hard for them to do as anyone else.
We don’t have a clean your plate rule, but we do expect the kids to try everything. For the most part we try to eat the same foods as the girls, but when they absolutely don’t want to eat what we are having we established when they were about 6 that they could make their own scrambled eggs as an alternative.
When I am cooking, I don’t force them to help me, but if they want to be a sous chef, I’ve let them use the same tools I use and I also let them help me stir, pull things from the oven and occasionally help pull things from the grill. That’s been the case for years and now that they are almost 11, they can cook whole meals for themselves. In fact they are pulling out cookbooks more and more to find things to cook and going at it on their own and experiencing the joy of seeing others relish their cooking. Without a doubt this has been the most enjoyable part of the whole process and has always been my goal. If they can be comfortable cooking and in the kitchen, I’m hoping they experience a lifetime of joy that comes from being healthy, feeding themselves and cooking for others.