Tag Archives: food

We’re creating their “normal.”

My son had a flag football game on Saturday morning.  I snuggled in a blanket on the sidelines with my daughter and we played with colouring books and hand clapping games while we watched him run around.  He’s only eight, and his teammates are in the six to eight-year-old range, so it’s a bit of organized chaos unfolding amidst a sea of mouthguards and football cleats.  Flags flying, kids running, and footballs dropping everywhere.  It’s childhood fun at its best.

The game was scheduled from 11:30am-12:30pm, so we packed snacks to eat at the field to tide us over for a later lunch at home.  Both of my kids are snackers, as am I- in fact, our sporting event snack bag looks more like a full grocery bag than a few snacks thrown into the bottom of a purse.  I’ve always been that way; I’m the mom with a full cooler at BlueJays games and a packed lunch for an afternoon at the park.  Nutrition is important to me, and I find that I have far less control when purchasing food than I do when I pack my own.  Food brought from home allows me to better manage the preservatives, the additives, the sodium, and the fat content of typical take-out on-the-run options.

When the game finished, we began to pack up our gear.  My children are still young enough that we usually pack like we’re going away overnight when in fact we’re only gone for the afternoon.  I gathered our blanket, our games, our snacks, our extra layers, and we began to leave.  My husband, who is the assistant coach for my son’s team, mentioned that team snacks were being handed out further down the field.  The post-game snack is a big part of the fun in young children’s sports, so my son hurried down to claim his share.  He came back with two things:

 

 

I cringed on the outside and raged on the inside.

Now, I don’t consider myself to be unreasonably strict with my nutritional standards.  Yes, I believe in high-quality food, and yes, I try to minimize my family’s intake of processed junk, but I’m not on the all-organic, all-homemade, no-sugar, no-yellow #5 train either.  I like to live in the world of moderation, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables.  All that being said, “normal” is based on one’s perception, and my household normal does not include multi-coloured goldfish crackers and KoolAid jammers.

As is always the case in parenting, I weighed my options.  I let my son have some of the above, and my daughter had a taste too.  We threw the rest out and we had a good, long conversation on the way home about properly fueling our bodies so that they can be at their healthiest and help us to perform and feel at our best.  As a lifelong athlete, I have learned first-hand the effects that nutrition can have on athletic performance, and that’s why I find it particularly troubling that these snacks are being given in a situation in which we are promoting fitness and sport.  The irony is not lost on me.  The same could be said for school cafeteria and vending machine choices- if we expect our children to perform at their best, physically and mentally, why are we choosing these types of snacks?

A pre-cut veggie tray and a block of cheese would be no less convenient.  A bag of apples and a box of fig bars would be no less costly.  A watermelon and some granola packets would be no less tasty.  We can change the food industry with the choices we make with our dollars, and we can change our children’s well-being with the choices we make with their food.

Please, let’s choose wisely.  After all, we’re creating their “normal.”

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Me versus Lunchables

I am certainly not perfect in my nutrition, and I’m far from perfect in my parenting, but I do have strong opinions surrounding both.

What really gets me are the weekly pizza days and the school program chocolate milks and the kid’s menus at restaurants.  It’s the never-ending Halloween candy and the overloaded Easter baskets and the individually wrapped, over-processed “snack foods.”  What used to be treats have become a part of everyday childhood nutrition.  It seems that everywhere I turn, unhealthy food is being marketed to my children as a healthy choice, and I’m tired of feeling duped.  “But Mom, it says these gummy fruit snacks are made with real fruit,” my seven-year-old read to me recently.  And off I go into a discussion of “made with real fruit” versus actual “real fruit.”

The other day, a patient was lamenting to me about how he’s put on weight due to his poor diet.  “I’ve been eating all of her stuff lately,” he said, referring to his five-year-old daughter, “all goldfish crackers and Bearpaws and Lunchables.”  But why are Lunchables even a thing?  Have you read their ingredients?  Take a look:

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I can’t pronounce half of these words, and I certainly wouldn’t eat this myself, let alone serve it to my still-growing, ever-impressionable children.  I cannot see one redeemable ingredient in this entire list; it’s full of chemicals and fillers and oh-so-bad-for-you stuff.  So WHY are we allowing this product to succeed?  We have a voice with our spending patterns.  If no one bought Lunchables, Lunchables would cease to be.

I’ve written about kid’s menus before, but their content still angers me.  The truth is, I think that kid’s menus should actually be healthier than adult menus; after all, their bodies are smaller, their development level much higher, and their potential much greater than ours.  Should we not be giving them the best start that we can, instead of filling them up with Kraft dinner and french fries and chicken nuggets?  Let’s teach healthy eating as we would teach any other life skill, and we will grow our children into adults who think choosing an apple is more normal than choosing an apple fritter.

This is a borderline rant, or perhaps well into a full-blown rant, so I must finish up here.  Yes, I agree that treats should be enjoyed and celebrated sometimes, but not all the time.  And I understand that we’re all just doing our best, trying to make the best choices for our family’s nutrition (in fact, many would argue against my huge egg intake), but I can promise you that the healthiest choices do not come pre-packaged with several-year shelf lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Tiger Blood

I’m in the midst of my first Whole30.  Today is day 26.

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You’ve heard of the Whole30, right?  It’s at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list and social media is abuzz with Whole30 success stories.

It is NOT a diet.

Whole30 is meant to be a lifestyle change, and the primary reason I decided to do it was to increase my energy.  In short, I was tired of being tired, and I was stuck in a cycle of too-much-sugar and the energy highs and lows that come with that.

For 30 days, May 1st-30th, I am eliminating all grains, dairy, legumes, soy, sugar, sweeteners, and alcohol from my diet.  What do I eat, you say?  Whole, unprocessed foods!  Lots of meat, vegetables (oh so many vegetables; my green bin is three times as full as it usually is), eggs, fruit, nuts, and seeds.  I drink water and black coffee.  Not one splash of cream in my coffee, not one taste of ketchup on my eggs, not one bit of honey in my tea, not one cheat or slipup or fail.  I’m doing it 100%, all in, committed, as per Whole30 rules.  I’ve made it through bridal showers and girls nights and family gatherings and Mother’s Day brunch.  And for that fact alone, I am happy.  I love challenges and rules and black and white; no grey area, no bending the rules, no maybe-just-this-one-bite.

This is a 30-day ‘reset’ for your system, ridding your body of all inflammatory foods and creating a clean slate. And that’s the most interesting part for me; Whole30 is designed to help you learn how food affects you, so there’s an important gradual reintroduction process I will be following once May 31st rolls around.  What does dairy do to energy levels?  Do grains contribute to a feeling of bloat?  Does sugar add to anxiety and nervousness?  These are the questions I’m learning to answer for my own self, with my own digestive system, and my own unique nutritional history.  My answers will help me understand what food choices to continue to make in the future.

Melissa Hartwig, one of the Whole30 founders, talks a lot about grouping foods via the question, “Does this food make me more healthy or less healthy?”  And while there certainly is room in life for unhealthy food choices, the downsides of those unhealthy choices need to be weighed against the upsides of their enjoyment.  For example, I can guarantee with 100% certainty, that I will always make the choice to eat cake on my birthday (and on other people’s birthdays, and on date nights, and sometimes on a random Tuesday).  However, I can also guarantee that I will not make that choice if the cake is wheat-based.  Gluten, especially wheat gluten, makes me feel that terrible.  That downside is just not worth the upside to me.

The Whole30 book explains stages that you’re likely experience through your 30 days, including the ‘hangover phase’ (I didn’t notice this one), the ‘I need a nap phase’ (day 5 and 6 for me), the ‘kill all things’ phase (day 7 and day 9 for me), and ‘tiger blood.’  And that’s where I’m at now, tiger blood.  I feel better than I have felt in years, possibly in forever… but that’s such a hard yardstick to measure on; I-feel-amazing is tough to gauge.  My energy is through the roof and my sugar cravings are all but gone… my so-called Sugar Dragon’ has been tamed or at least, has been sedated.  And while I didn’t take pre-Whole30 measurments because I didn’t want my issues with weight and body image to creep into this, I would guess that I’ve dropped a few pounds and have definitely lost a few inches from my waist. I have learned:

  • I am very gluten-sensitive (this is something I already knew, but the Whole30 has reaffirmed this fact).
  • Sugar in my coffee is a ‘gateway drug’ (to borrow the term from my dear friend Chrysta) that sets me up for a day of poor nutritional choices.  So black coffee it is.
  • There is sugar hidden in everything.  Everything.  Diced tomatoes, mixed nuts, spaghetti sauce, sunbutter, almond milk.  And it’s not always called ‘sugar’; it’s disguised as ‘organic cane juice’ or ‘dextrose’ or ‘xylitol’ or dozens of other sneaky names.
  • Homemade mayo and salad dressings are much tastier, and healthier, than their store-bought counterparts.
  • Food boredom is non-existent with resources like Against All Grain, Nom Nom Paleo, and Instagram.
  • Meal planning, food preparation, and a support system are keys to success.

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Give it a try, friends.  Don’t you want some tiger blood too?

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