Christina said... Do you have any secrets for instilling healthy eating habits in young ones?
Well, I guess like everything else, "healthy eating habits" is all relative... I know people who eat practically nothing but microwaved frozen food and drive-through take out! I know people who consider Lean Cuisine frozen dinners to be "health food." I know people who have never eaten hummus (gads!!!!)! And I notice what other people have in their carts every time I'm at the grocery store (I am a sociologist; I can't help but to be looking at stuff like that). But we also are part of a pretty hard-core Waldorf community-- so... we also know people who are on macrobiotic diets; people raising children in strict vegan households; all-100%-organic families; and parents who will do just about anything to avoid letting their kids eat processed sugars/white flour/eggs that aren't from free-range chickens. While we definitely don't consider Happy Meals a perfectly decent well balanced dinner option for our kids, we definitely have no problem giving them store-bought cookies (and I've never made them a birthday cake from scratch, ever; store-bought b-day cakes all the way!)... Most of all, we definitely do not consider ourselves experts in this kid-food-healthy-eating area. At the same time, we are pretty comfortable with how our kids' eating habits are developing. So, we discussed it together tonight, and for what it is worth, (whatever it is worth!!!), here is a brand new Top Ten List we just came up with for our readership's reading pleasure!!!!
Top Ten: Things We Think We're Doing That Might Possibly Be Contributing To Instilling Healthy Eating Habits In Our Young Ones~~~
- We try to eat meals together, sitting down at the table, whenever humanly possible. We manage to pull this off miraculously often (given our work-home-imbalance-situation!) and eat together almost all of the time (with the exception of weekday lunches, of course, which we almost never have together since the boys are at school and we are at work). And when we do sit down to eat together, we eat the same things we're serving our children at mealtime whenever possible, which is almost always.
- We light candles and say grace (holding hands) at the start of every meal. This signals something special and reverent is going on. We act sincerely grateful for the food that we have.... every single meal. During meals we try to have real conversations. During dinner we do 'Hi/Lo' every night (i.e., we go around the table and we each say the 'high' and the 'low' of our day). We try to all sit at the table until everyone is done eating, and then the boys snuff out the candles... signaling the end of the meal.
- We very rarely have dessert. We act as if this is normal. When we do have dessert we do not make a huge deal of it. We don't treat sweets as a super-special-big-huge-deal-treat. What we do treat as a special-deal-treat is going out to eat. Even though we eat out at least once per week (usually Saturday or Sunday lunch), we always act like it is special to eat in a restaurant and that we're very lucky to be able to do that whenever we do.
- We force ourselves to eat a healthy breakfast with our kids every morning (I say 'force ourselves' because neither of us -- H especially -- are breakfast people and we'd much prefer to skip it altogether most mornings).
- We've never 'dumbed down' our food for our kids. We assume they'll have sophisticated palates and enjoy the kinds of things that we do. We assume that they'll like spicy salsa (not mild); al dente pasta (not mushy); blackened fish (not plain fish); and all sorts of foods/textures/flavors. You get the idea.
- We try to model healthy eating in front of our children. If we're going to do something really naughty (such as have martinis, peanuts, and chocolate for dinner like we did the other night), we be sure that the kiddos are sleeping soundly upstairs in bed before we indulge in such guilty pleasures.
- We always have fresh fruit sitting out on the counter. And we regularly put in front of them heaping platters of cut up fresh fruits and/or raw veggies and simply assume they'll eat it. We don't talk about it. We don't go on and on about it. We just act like it is perfectly normal to eat like that.
- We've always given our kids plain water to drink in between meals and often as the drink on the table for lunch and/or dinner. They like water and drink lots of it. Most of the time they don't even think to ask for something else. And we (B & H) rarely have anything other than water in our glasses at mealtime.
- We always assume that they like just about everything (even if the last time they tried it they didn't like it). We keep putting foods in front of them over and over and over (even if they reject it often) and always act like maybe this time they'll like it. And then... voila!... at some point, eventually, they usually do. It took putting broccoli in front of them about 2,000 times before finally... ah ha!... they liked it. And now they eat broccoli all the time.
- We cook together whenever humanly possible.
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So... What about all of you out there in the blogosphere reading this? What do you do to instill healthy eating habits in your kids? If you don't have kids, what do you plan to do when/if you do have kids someday? or (if you never plan to have kids) what do you think people who have kids should do? Or what did the folks who raised you do to instill good eating habits (or lack thereof!)??? Leave your thoughts here in the comments section!