Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nutrition At It's Best (the best we can do, that is)

I have this recipe that I fell in love with from some healthy magazine- a "healthy" version of shrimp fettuccine alfredo. Mmmmmm.

It calls for fat free half and is that possible? Sorry. I'm not crazy about the fat free half and half. which is probably the part that made it "healthy-er". So at the store my hand cruised right past the fat free stuff and got the regular half and half- which also goes great in my coffee.

I was planning to make spinach quesadillas for supper, but at the last minute realized my husband had stolen all of my spinach. So, I went for the shrimp alfredo. Savannah wanted to help, Summer was finishing up some math, Max was around, and Brookie was working on fine motor skills, cutting up paper towels. Chaos as usual.

I began to make my sauce when Summer needed my help. I stepped away for a minute when I could hear the butter sizzling in the pan, so I ran to the kitchen to put in my flour. While Savannah stirred, I measured out 4.5 tablespoons of flour, as I had remembered from reading the recipe a few minutes earlier. I poured in the half and half and told Savannah to keep stirring until it boiled. It never did. It got so think she couldn't even stir!. I grabbed the carton an poured the rest of the half and half in, along with some whole milk (quickest to grab), and stirred frantically to save my sauce.

I checked the recipe again. Sure enough, it was 4.5 teaspoons, not tablespoons. Then I picked up my carton of half and half to throw away and realized it was not empty. As I panicked, I had poured in the whipping cream instead. It was DE-LI-CIOUS! (I had seconds)

A few hours later...I read Sarah's facebook post about DQ in the snow. Hmmm. Sounded good. So I made an extremely rash decision to announce "we are going out for ice cream!" In an attempt to clean up a bit before leaving, I took a few things to the kitchen where I saw my dirty pan of alfredo sauce. I had forgotten that we had already had our consumption of cream for the evening. Oh well, the cat was out of the bag. Ice cream it is.

I say this just to say... let's get real. Health is a huge priority in my house but sometimes it just doesn't happen. I am not perfect in this area, just like.... well.... any area. And on the other hand, it still needs to be a priority. What kids are eating now days is crazy horrible. Especially considering activity levels tend to equal the horribleness.

So, as a mom and a dietitian, this is my opinion.

Even though it is important for them to get their nutrients, I think it is more important to establish life long habits that will improve quality of life as well as length of life. I'm sure you've heard our children's life expectancy is shorter than ours. Yikes. Forcing them to eat their veggies they hate now may be great for the day but what will happen when they get to choose?

What we do:

1. If I am concerned about someone not getting their vitamins from food, I give them a pill. Flintstones- they are my personal favorite to eat. Developing good habits takes time.

2. Expose, expose, expose them to all kinds of foods. They may hate them- but at least they know what they are. For every meal my rule is they must take a little. I don't care how little, just something. You may end up throwing something away but I still think it is worth it.... remember the life expectancy thing? Kids will eventually warm up to some foods after repeated exposure- and you can't predict what they will be.

3. Instill a spirit of adventure. Be willing to try new foods. We say it is okay if you don't like it, what matters is you tried it! If the parent shows openness to try something new, the kids may follow. If the parents are not willing, I doubt the kids will. Example is key.

4. Provide colorful meals- the more color, the more variety of vitamins. Talk about how pretty it looks! Appreciate food!

5. Just talk about it. How it looks, how it tastes, texture, temperature, why it is healthy, cooking methods, where it is grown, why it is yucky, ANYTHING!

6. When possible, we involve them in any part of the meal. Growing food, preparing, shopping, setting the table... one simple task can make a whole lot of difference. They are more willing to try food when they are a part of the process. They still may not like it, but chances are they'll try it.

7. Know when to stop. Food thrown away is NOT put to better use in a full stomach. I plate their first serving of entree (fairly small) and allow seconds once. I do not put the entree on the table so it is easy to grab. I do, however, put healthy sides on the table and let them serve themselves as much as they want. We typically have dessert once a week, which is served at least an hour after the meal so that the healthy food is not skipped in order to save room for dessert.

9. I don't usually keep "junk" food around the house. Mostly because if it's here, I'll eat it! I keep the fruit bowl full for snacks. Fruit can be expensive- but so can potato chips, store bought cookies, candy, and other unhealthy snacks. Fruit is a much better value. After a while, people acclimate to new ways of thinking and do not need things they thought they did (at least not as much).

Wow. This is getting long. Oh, remember my creamy alfredo meal? The steamed broccoli bowl was also polished off with some wanting more. Kids, that is. Not because I told them they had to, but it has become enjoyable to some, and all are willing to try a little. We may not hit the nail on the head each day, but healthy eating can be a part of our life.

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