March Wrap Up

Holy Bananas I can’t believe March is over! After all that dreadful winter, the calendar leads me to believe Spring is actually upon us and the rain gauge outside agrees. Yay! I bought some pea plants today to give the garden a jump start – they were so beautiful on the shelf at the Food Co-op that I couldn’t help myself. Sometime over the next few Spring-y days I’ll get them in the ground. Because if there’s one thing I love in Spring, it’s garden fresh peas. Mostly I love eating them off the vine when nobody else is looking, but I’ve also been known to throw them in food for others, like the Company Good Pea Soup featured in this week’s menu. I’ll have to buy some for that, but even store bought fresh peas are a nice welcome for Spring.

Bigg Sis and I have both had a busy month in the parts of our lives that we don’t really highlight here. She’s been working her behind off at work and school. I’ve been trying to keep the twins engaged in what has been a less than spectacular academic year and learning and performing a whole lot of music. All that activity helped to shake the winter blues away, but sheesh we’ve been busy. I can’t believe we actually managed to write some posts at the same time.

Bigg Sis tempted us with Healthy Stuffed Peppers – which earned her a 100% approval rating at her house (a score that is difficult to achieve in both of our homes). I shared a variation on one of my favorite simple one pot dishes: Lentils, Potatoes, and Tomatoes. So good, and great as leftovers (I just thawed and ate some yesterday). A fan of potatoes and want a new way to eat them? Try Bigg Sis’ Shepherd’s Pizza – we loved it! Or go more traditional, and make some dairy free gravy using a tried and true cooking technique for sauces and gravies – a roux. Oh sweet comfort food, how I love you.

  

If you are also a fan of comfort food, try some of our meal plans from March (especially earlier in the month when it was colder) to shake things up at your house. We do these plans every week and it’s made a huge difference in my ability to plan, budget, spend less time at the store and have something on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Nice, eh? Take a look at all our Weekly Meal Plans by clicking on that category in the sidebar.

Unfortunately March brought us some food warnings and recalls. We post these when they catch our attention (find them in the Health News and Views category), but if it’s something you’re worried about, you should check out the Food Safety News website. I’ve also been contemplating posting these to our Facebook page, which you’ll find at Baby Steps to Better Health.

Hope you’ve had a spectacular March friends. I don’t know about this lion/lamb business where March is concerned, I’m just glad it’s finally getting warmer. Lion or lamb, we hope things are looking brighter and sunnier in your neck of the woods.

Don’t Diet. Eat Real Food. Let Us Help.

At the end of 2012, we had a few things to say about the annual dietary revolution that so many people attempt in honor of the new year. We revisit those thoughts now, when yet another year is approaching at a breakneck pace…

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.

If this sounds like the way you’d like to start 2015, rather than kicking off the year with a glass full of nutrasweet and a package of freeze dried low cal low fat air filled nothing, maybe this is your year. We’ve put all our baby steps in a book for you, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, so you can work your way through them with a little encouragement from us. Let 2015 be your year, the year that you do it different and things actually change. Let us help.

Baby Step 15: Shake Your Groove Thing

Shake your groove thing yeah, yeah. Show ’em how we do it now….

All of the young readers are perplexed, and I’m sorry, but this is the price you pay for being, well, younger. A little catchup on the reference here.

In our baby steps series, we’ve talked about food.  Okay, we’ve talked a WHOLE LOT about food.  We’ve also talked a great deal about how we think about ourselves and how we think about food, the ways we use food appropriately and inappropriately, the ways our culture portrays and uses food. We’ve talked about honoring and respecting ourselves enough to nourish ourselves. But we haven’t talked about everything we need to do to be in better health. Heck, in some ways we haven’t even scratched the surface, but even in the interest of keeping it simple, we’re not done.  There is an elephant in the room, and I’m not talking about my maternity pictures…

Big Sis and I started with food because… we really like food… AND we truly believe that eating more healthfully makes all other aspects of self care easier. But even with all the healthy food in the world, there’s something simple our bodies need that we’ve not talked about. It’s time to move. NONONONONO, don’t click away. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I tell you exactly how much to exercise every day and how to use some equation to calibrate that perfectly with what you’re eating. Don’t click away because this is NOT where I have some miraculous contraption that will give you a great butt. Don’t click away because I have no interest in having you look at your body to find fault with it.

babystep15Stay here and do a little thinking about how much you move your body. I don’t know you – you may run marathons. I know I wanted to. You may have an exercise routine down, and if you DO, that is awesome. If you’re like a WHOLE lot of people and you don’t have time to have an exercise routine, you hate to exercise, you can’t imagine running a marathon being even remotely appealing… stay here and think a little about baby steps. Let me illustrate with a couple of stories…

Story 1

Mr. Little Sis and I had a really rough couple of years.  REALLY rough. I had a miscarriage that nearly killed me. Mr. Little Sis got laid off and then Mr. Little Sis’ Mom died. Believe it or not there are more bits of woe from that time, but those are the highlights. I was low, I mean not talking to anyone, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to go to the graduate program I’d worked so hard to get into. One day a friend asked me to go to the park and as our dogs cavorted and tried to start trouble with other dogs we talked honestly about my fragile state. When I revealed the utter lack of motivation that seemed to start every day for me, he asked a simple question. “What if you pretended you didn’t have a choice? What if you just decided you HAVE to do these things?” It was an interesting perspective. I was attending my graduate program, but was deeply distracted by not WANTING to go because I was so down.

I took his advice to heart and decided to pretend I didn’t have a choice about anything. And one of the first things I decided to do was to start taking a slightly longer walk with my dogs every day. I started parking a little farther out in the student lot and walking in to campus. I went back to my old habit of looking for the worst parking spot at the grocery store and forgetting where all the elevators were on campus. I became the stairs. Each step made me feel more alive, more energized, and more in control of my days in a time when I was clearly not in control of much of anything. I began to run and search out my knee joint tolerance level for pavement pounding, building up a little bit, month by month – slower than even the most judicious trainers would recommend. I was renewed and that sense of renewal, physical and mental, carried me for quite some time, through graduate school and a few years beyond until I found myself carrying twins… There’s no jogging or baby stepping around that one.

STORY 2

IMG_8272There was a day at my OB’s office that when I stepped on the scale and I gasped. The nurse said “Honey, let’s have you face the other way for the next couple of weeks. I’ll let you know if we’re getting into a problem area.” Yeah. A problem area.  My children were 7 and 6 pounds when they were born – pretty big for twins, and I was so big with them that I required a walking stick to raise myself from my mandated bed rest position to standing (in order to pee, of course). The few pictures my husband was brave enough to take during this period show a tired woman with what looks like a balance ball shoved up her weirdly cut shirt. The children were born, and they took some of that weight with them, but not enough, and after bed rest and the relatively lower level of physical activity before that time had left me unmotivated, out of shape, and without a starting line at a time when I was averaging about 3 hours of sleep a night.

I don’t know what motivated me – whether it was a friend, something I read, or sheer delusional brilliance, but I ordered a pedometer. There was not a lot I could do in terms of serious exercise with infant twins, but I could walk. Heck, I was already walking a lot – back and forth from bedroom to bedroom, back and forth next to the crib, back and forth in the living room doing the bouncy thing, and up and down the hills of my neighborhood with a stroller. While I don’t recommend counting many things, there is a value in knowing what you are currently doing if you are attempting to do MORE of anything. The pedometer let me set new goals, add some steps over time and give myself the room I needed to get back into reasonable shape, feeling more like myself, and again a little more in control of my daily existence at a time when I really wasn’t in charge at all.

Story 3

IMG_0283This story is a little more modern… It’s from today. As many of you know, I’ve recently been subjected to surgery on my big toe joint.  Apparently I injured that joint at some point and it’s been wonky ever since. That wonkiness led to bone spurs. Ignoring bone spurs while you walk aggressively and occasionally run for exercise is, well, not good. So my rock star orthopedist has removed all those nasty spurs and I have been sitting on my growing by the minute posterior for two weeks.  I’m not sure how much of my personality has come through in this online adventure, but let’s suffice it to say that two weeks is pretty long for me and my antsy brain to be sitting still. The difference this time is that I can’t simply now begin to exercise again by measuring the steps I’m taking and increase their number, I have to go WAY back. I have to go to a physical therapist and have him move my toes.  That’s step #1 this time. Moving the toes and not beating myself up too badly about the weight gain during my mandated idle time. After moving the toes for a few weeks, I get to take this cumbersome walking boot off and try walking in regular shoes, short distances with ice to follow. At some point in this progression I will be stable enough to have our 85 pound dog join me and take a REAL walk. As for running, rock star orthopedist is not a fan but allowed that I could try it as one part of a multi-faceted approach to exercise. Great.

Baby Steps and Exercise

The point of sharing these stories is to demonstrate a key principle of our beliefs about better nutrition and better health. You have to start where YOU are. Maybe you’re ready to run a 5K, maybe you are ready to walk the dog twice a day, or maybe you need to start by wiggling your toes. Doing someone else’s next step will not get you further down YOUR path. Changing habits and changing our lives and bodies takes time and that oh so elusive (especially for me) patience and some honest thought.

As with all of our endeavors, the Sis sisters recommend facing exercise with an honest assessment of what you currently do. This is not the same as asking whether or not you go to the gym. Perhaps you also have a canine friend who requires walking, maybe you go on hikes on the weekend, maybe you are a floor nurse and walk ALL DAY LONG. The next question is whether your current level of exercise has you feeling as fit as you’d like to be. If not, the follow up to the honest assessment is to choose one thing you’re going to do to increase your fitness level. Execute that plan for a time and see how you feel. I know, I know you don’t have time – seriously I get it. Choose something small that you can add that doesn’t make much time. It’s much easier to adjust your schedule 15 minutes at a time than to add an hour of activity all at once.

Baby Steps to Fitness – Some Really Easy Places to Start

  • Parking Lots – Stop looking for the best space, look for the worst, or as bad as you can tolerate and walk it.
  • Stairs – Take them all or part of the way to your destination.
  • Public Transit – get off a stop earlier and walk it in.
  • Don’t use a riding mower – unless you have way more land than you can cover, use a mower you walk behind.
  • Extra Stairs – when going up or down the stairs at home, repeat the trip at the steps for a boost.
  • A Short Walk – take a few minutes sometime during your day for a short walk – the fresh air and natural light can do wonders for you.
  • Errand on Foot – If you live where you CAN actually walk to the market or the library, do it. There are all manner of carts and wagons in the world that can help you bring your loot home.
  • Enlist a Friend – we all have friends who are more fit than we are (Big Sis is SUPER scary fit). Observe, listen, pay attention. What do they do that we don’t do? Can we borrow some of their habits, activities, or ask them to take a walk?
  • Try Something New – maybe you didn’t like to swim as a kid and haven’t done it since – our tastes do change, perhaps the pool is the place for you.

Increasing our fitness and activity level doesn’t have to mean joining the gym (unless you want it to). What can you do that’s a little more than you do today? Where do you park your car at the grocery store? As for me, my toe moving begins Wednesday (which seems eons away), and I will take it from there, one halting and healthful step at a time.

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Baby Steps Check In: Are You HONGRY?

I don’t know about anybody else, but since the holiday season I have been super HONGRY. I want to eat all the time. It doesn’t help that I still have a few holiday treats lingering (like these amazing cookies) that I can just scoop up and pop in without even breaking stride… I’ve slowly cut down on the sugar overdose (that was mild compared to years past, but still – whoa), but I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling SO deprived for just passing up on a cookie. So very, very HONGRY. And then it struck me, the sweets weren’t the only holiday slippage.

BabyStep6CheckInWhen I apply myself to a new initiative, I really go for it. Not much for half measures, this girl. Of course not much for finishing either but that’s a different and way too long to finish – HA- story. So when I made some pretty hefty dietary changes last spring, I really went for it. Eliminated a bunch of things systematically that I thought were making me feel blechy and upped the produce content of every plate and snack by A LOT. It was easy. I didn’t feel deprived. I felt great and I did NOT feel HONGRY. So in examining my habits since the holidays I noticed that I was not only eating more sweets but I was eating less of the things I was snacking on before – veggies and fruit – produce. So I decided to run a little experiment.

For the past few days every time I get HONGRY I’ve grabbed some plant matter (mostly carrots because I really like them and they require so little fuss) and jammed it in my gaping gullet, a little pre-emptive produce (PEP) as Bigg Sis calls it. I haven’t dictated to myself that there will be no more cookies, but I’ve instituted the same policy I have for my kids – if I’m hungry I should eat something REALLY nutritious first. Guess what? The HONGRY has calmed down to just hungry and the cookies are getting easier to pass up as my sweet tooth settles down again. Such a simple lesson that I learned a while ago, and yet in all the crazy holiday-ness I forgot one of the most important principles: your body needs food. If you only give it crap, you will be HONGRY.

How’s it going for you? Shaking off the holiday stupor? Finding yourself feeling deprived or HONGRY? What’s going on the plate as you take the holiday indulgences off? Feed that body; feed it good. And when you’ve done a good thing, and are feeling really proud of yourself – go outside and look at the birds. Rewards are all around us – not just in the cookie tin.

Interested in our Baby Steps Series?  Click above or on the sidebar, or just move straight to Step 1 here.  You’re not late; it’s always a great day to eat real food.

Baby Steps 6: New Habits – New Rewards

January 1st is a tough time to make a change.  I mean, how many of us still have Christmas cookies in the house?  Fudge?  Candy canes?  Chocolate…. no wait.  I always have chocolate in my house.  In my defense it is dark chocolate and I limit myself to about 150 calories worth a day.  What?  How can you stop eating chocolate you ask?  I’ll answer that in a second, but would just like to point out that although the holidays bring all sorts of unusual treats into our homes, most of us always have a lot of ‘food’ on hand that is not healthy food.  Food is a habit that is hard to break.  No wait, that sounds ridiculous… Poor food CHOICES can be a hard habit to break.  Habits are hard to break.  Time to develop new healthy habits.  They can be hard to break as well!

BabySteps6

That is my segue back to the chocolate.  I used to adore Reese’s peanut butter cups and all manner of sugar-filled treats and candy.  Switching to dark chocolate took time.  I had to start with some in-between chocolate…, kind of dark, kind of milk / wishy-washy Charlie Brown kind of chocolate.  But as I developed new habits for snacks that were lower in sugar I began to find the more sugary versions WAY too sweet.  In fact, when I imbibe in a high sugar treat now I feel really bad in about 10 minutes.  No kidding.  It’s a great motivator to stay away from the crap, but it took some time to develop that sensitivity.

So my answer about having chocolate in the house without eating it is this.  The less sugar in the chocolate, the more deeply satisfying is eating a reasonable amount, AND the less sugar, the less likely to cause craving for more.  That is my experience.  And it is experience that has driven Little Sis and I on our quest to eat more healthfully, and to achieve a degree of success towards that proposition.  Experiences of wellness and satisfaction.  Repeated experience develops habits.  Paying attention to experience helps us develop healthy habits.  We would like to help you have experiences that will drive your own success towards healthy eating.  We suggest that you can develop new habits and new rewards.

If you are new to the Baby Steps series, I heartily recommend that you take a click back to the beginning and follow through the steps we have outlined thus far.  (Brief synopsis to follow)  If you are not new to the series – scroll on down to the next section which includes some tips for breaking habits.

Baby Steps Series (All offered with love and encouragement during successes and slip-ups):

Introduction: Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health
a little why should ya for ya and links to recipes

Baby Step #1 – The Ol’ Switcheroo
Swapping out one or more of your worst choices for better ones – One Item, One Switch
some suggestions for where you might make a swap if you’d like suggestions and links to recipes

Baby Step #2 – Be Fearless, Be Honest
Facing up to what you are currently eating – we’ll still love you, I promise.

Baby Step #3 – Pantry Perusal
We help you assess what’s in your pantry.  Taking a hard look at what and why you find what you find.

Baby Step #3b – Peeping in our Pantries
A Peep into our pantries.  What are good items to have on hand for quick, healthy meals along with links to recipes

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check in
Encouragement to keep at it, even if you mess up.  Everyday provides new opportunities to make good choices about food.  We are with ya!  Hang in there!

Baby Steps #4 – Adventurous, Experimentation and Gratitude
So you’ve decided to improve your eating and your health, how do you get the rest of the family to come along?  Suggestions here!

Baby Steps #5 – It’s Time for a Plan
The name says it all – helping you make a plan after all your hard work preparing and experimenting.

Baby Steps – Happier, Healthier Holidays
Suggestions to eat as healthfully as possible during the holidays – or anytime when you know you will have tough choices coming your way!

Baby Steps – Don’t Say Diet
Reminders and encouragement that you don’t need to diet, you need to change what you eat.  You can learn to be satisfied and energized by healthy food.

And now Little Sis and I both have some things to say about New Habits – New Rewards….

I heard this guy interviewed on the radio the other day.  He had some really interesting, specific, and helpful things to say about habits.  I immediately thought of changing the way we eat in terms of habits.  So much of how we feed ourselves is habit driven, routine, doing what we’ve always done.  Habits can be hard to break.  We want to help and so does Jeremy Dean.  He gives 10 tips for habit change here that he covers in greater length in his new book Making Habits, Breaking Habits.  I was delighted to see how many of his tips sounded like the kinds of things we suggest in our Baby Steps to Better Health series.

Dean’s very first suggestion is “For Big Results, Think Small.”  He discusses the importance of making change in small, incremental, manageable and achievable bits.  Sound familiar?  Other themes that we both stress are repetition, tweaking (the same plan won’t work for everyone), and replacing an undesirable behavior with one that is desirable rather than just trying to suppress the “bad” one.  Yay!  These are just a few of his tips – there are a total of 10 in the article, and like I said they’re all from a larger book.  If you’re trying to make some healthy changes, this guy just might have some insight for you. And there’s nothing like having your advice validated by an official smart guy. 🙂

Indeed we do like smart guys, don’t we Little Sis?  I would like to add that we have cultural habits about using food as a reward.  We deserve’ a treat at the end of a hard day.  We ‘earned’ a chocolate milkshake by cleaning out the garage.  Only problem is we are hurting ourselves with some of these choices… what kind of a reward is that?  Rewards aren’t supposed to hurt, are they?

Make yourself a list of non-food rewards.  One of mine is to step outside (when possible) smell the air and look for some birds or other wildlife.  That always makes me feel better.  A little break, no harmful intake.  Then if I am really hungry, I can eat something that will nourish me in all my bird-loving glory ;-).  Seriously, make a list.  Little things, little treats… treats you can pay attention to like a cup of flavorful herb tea, a game of cards with your sweetie or friend, a flower or two to put in a vase where you’ll see it, a bath with scented water.  Make a list because options are good and options can help you overcome old, harmful habits.

Another benefit to the list of non-food rewards is that when the habit rears its head, if you go get the list, or read your list, you have a chance to move beyond the initial impulse.  Habits are in a way trained impulses.  Given a little bit of time to think about the consequences of our habitual actions, we might make a better, or less bad, choice.

Close your eyes when you’re sure that you ‘deserve’ that bag of Doritos or Reese’s peanut butter cup, breathe and count to 10.  Then look around you wherever you are and decide what you are going to do next.  Maybe the treat won’t seem so important anymore, or you will acknowledge a healthier choice and ‘treat’ yourself well.

Congratulations for reading a Baby Steps post.  That is a Baby Step right there!  You deserve a pat on the back and a healthier body!  Let us know how you are doing developing new habits and new rewards.  Please also let us know if there is specific information you’d like from us.  The Steps continue down the road to better health.

Baby Step 4: Adventure, Experimentation, and Gratitude

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it: “I want to eat healthier, but my kids (partner, whomever) won’t eat that food.”  Everyone who said it was 100% certain that this was true.  The only thing I am 100% certain about as regards feeding others healthy food is that if you don’t have it/make it/serve it, they certainly won’t eat it.

Changing our own eating habits is hard; convincing others that this is a group project can be daunting at best, but the difficulty of the task doesn’t mean the effort is not worth it.  Big Sis and I have both enlisted our families (immediate and in some cases extended) in our pantry transformations and we have some ideas that just might help you do the same.  The truth is that, as with any meal, eating real food is easier and more enjoyable when you do it with the people that you love.

So here we approach the core of Baby Step 4: just as eating healthier foods requires you to be more conscious of what you’re eating and how you’re making it, so too will rallying the troops involve an evolution in consciousness about food.  You must be the leader in the movement to develop an attitude of adventure, experimentation and gratitude surrounding food and mealtimes in your home.

Our suggestions fall into three basic categories:

  1. The Use and Acceptance of Baby Steps as Progress
  2. Attitudinal Adjustments
  3. Education

Baby Steps

I can’t speak for everybody, but when I embark on a new venture that I’m enthusiastic about, I want to share it.  I want to share it with everybody and I (unreasonably) want everyone to be as excited as I am…  It’s sweet, isn’t it?  The cold water of reality is a bit uncomfortable.  Just because I’m enthused doesn’t mean they will be.  My loved ones’ priorities might be entirely different than mine and the mental steps I’ve taken to prepare myself for this wonderful new transformation have not been their mental steps as well.  If we can agree that baby steps are an effective tool for making changes in our eating habits, we must remember that those we wish to encourage (and feed) deserve the same gracious and gentle introduction to foods with which they are unfamiliar and that they may not be initially inspired by.  Does this mean don’t try? No, no it doesn’t.  It may mean don’t try ALL the time.  It may mean be ready to see consumption without complaint (but no real enjoyment) as progress over grousing.  It may mean lovingly saying that you understand when deep inside you’d like to remove all the plates from the table and tell everybody to….  okay, that’s just me now and again – I know, it’s not pretty.

1. Establish baby steps with your family by: designating one meal per week to be healthier food night/ or healthier entree or side dish night if you need a gentler step.

Attitudinal Adjustments

Family mealtime means different things to different people and for many folks it is comfort.  When we are trying new foods, it’s not always so very comfortable.  So rather than highlighting the comfort of familiar foods, we must highlight the adventure of trying new things.  This can be particularly challenging with little people.  I get it, really I do.  But again, if we give up all we can be sure of is that they will NEVER try the new food.  If we persist and attempt to make it fun, who knows what will happen?

This is what we remind my sweeties of.  If you don’t TRY it, you’ll never know.  We then remind them of the foods they’ve tried and discovered how delicious they are.  If we’re trying a dish that highlights flavors from another culture, we talk about that place and the role that this food plays there.  We take an adventure.  When they are adventurous with their food, we lavish them with praise.  Big Sis had a great idea that I think we will implement – the adventurous eater medallion.  We may also try adventurous eating hats. Occasionally, in desperation, we appeal to their sibling rivalry and have a race to try the new food.  I can’t say the last method encourages delightful table manners, but it does seem to work.

Feeding this little mug is not always easy.

In addition the the positive role that adventurousness and competition can play, there is no way to overstate the importance of gratitude at the table.  Mr. Little Sis has instituted a fabulous family tradition at the beginning of our meals.  As head chef, I occasionally become discouraged by the cajoling that feeding twin 5 year olds can require.  When we sit down to eat, Mr. Little Sis immediately says, “Thank You Mommy, for making such a wonderful meal for us.”  The twins usually follow on quickly, even if they are mid-complaint or moving stuff around to see what’s under there icky-face-making.

The most interesting thing about it is that once they’ve said thank you, they rarely return to the complaints, at least not with volume and vigor, which helps keep the mood at the table a little lighter, and prevents them from discouraging one another from trying new foods. Highlighting the importance of gratitude in a positive way, “We are so fortunate to have this healthy and nourishing food, and to be able to enjoy it together,” over the “There are starving kids all over the world who would be happy to eat that ____,” rightly changes the focus at the table from whether or not the meal meets every individual’s expectations to mealtime as a time to come together and recharge.

2. Establish adventurousness and gratitude by asking for it and acknowledging it.  Reward adventurousness and model gratitude.

Education

Different strategies work for different people.  Some like the games (my daughter) and some need the rationale.  I am still making this meal even though you’ve expressed it’s not your favorite because it has ingredients in it that do _____ inside your body.  Anything that helps that boy’s allergies will go in the mouth.  Guaranteed.  It is difficult NOT to take advantage of that knowledge.  We’ve also talked a great deal about why I pack their lunches and why I don’t include many of the things their friends eat regularly.  I marvel at the lack of pushback on this.  They occasionally express their severe deprivation (along with a host of injustices that I have perpetrated), but they also, I’ve found, are able to make choices that they would not if we didn’t share so much food information.

I’ve discovered that when they are offered a treat at a party, they limit themselves, without my saying anything.  They tell me when they’ve had a surprise goody at school or with friends so that I can make adjustments to what I give them for the rest of the day.  They GET IT.  When they’re older and they ask about McDonald’s (or whatever) rather than toeing the line on that front as they do now, perhaps we’ll sit down and watch SuperSize Me together.  My husband and I watched several food documentaries before we embarked on the last round of dietary changes, discussed the information we found, researched the questions that remained.  Just as I need information to make a big change, so too do the loved ones in my life.

3. Educate your loved ones by telling them why you are doing what you are doing.

So your Baby Step?  What should you do?  You should consider your surroundings and try (gently and patiently) to get’em on board.  Your life will be easier; your food will be healthier; and your table will be a place of adventure, experimentation, and gratitude while you tackle another pantry swap, or try a new recipe.  Baby Steps for you, Baby Steps for them.  It worked for all of us once, right?

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check In

You go back Jack, do it again.

So says Steely Dan.  And so says the Baby Steps approach to healthy eating.

How are you coming along?  Successes?  Failures?

Build on the successes & Learn from the failures, and most importantly, do it again.

Make that choice again.

Making changes can be much easier with a buddy.  Do you have a friend or relative (or maybe you’re lucky and have both in one like my Little Sis) who would like to eat healthier and look and feel better?  Why not share the Baby Steps with him or her.  Tell your Buddy what you are doing and invite them to come along.  You can even post our Baby Steps button on your blog and invite friends that way.  (The link is on the sidebar).  The more the merrier and the more people eating healthier, the cheaper and more plentiful healthy food will become… in restaurants & schools, at events & practices and in the grocery store.  But it has to start with us, in our homes, in our pantries and in our refrigerators.

And now is a great time to re-check Baby Steps #1 & #2

Baby Step #1 –The ol’ Switcheroo.  What did you switch?  I switched apple butter for maple syrup on breakfast foods.  I’ve had some successes and a couple of failures… but the apple butter is in the fridge and I’ll have more chances to make the switcheroo.  Time for another switcheroo?  Did you find something in your pantry that you know you should live without?  We found too many chips.  We get the ‘healthier’ versions when they’re on sale (by this I mean natural ingredients, good oils, low calorie doesn’t mean healthy, i.e. read the labels), but we’ve begun mixing in more triscuits when making a snack of chips and also substituting popcorn.

Baby Step #2 – Be Fearless, Be Honest

Be conscious of what you are eating and why you are eating it.  Is it for comfort?  Is it for convenience?  Is it for cost?  What can you switch or eat less often on the list of things you know you’d be better off without.  And again, it’s often time to go back to Baby Step #1.  Switching, not losing.  Replacing, by type of food and by function (comfort, convenience, cost).

If you haven’t checked on your pantry yet… give it a go.  Here’s a refresher for Baby Step #3.  Below I’ll give you some links to recipes Little Sis and I use with our standard pantry items.

Brown rice: Sweet potatoes and brown rice for breakfast?  Yes!

Brown rice and lentil casserole dirt cheap and kid friendly
Stir fry using rice
Lentil and oat ‘neatloaves’
quinoa main dish called kichadi – lots of room for variety!
another quinoa main dish with whatever veggies you’ve got : When time runs out on dinner
My personal favorite sweet substitute – Brownie Bites and
an awesome sauce Little Sis came up with that will dress up whatever you’ve got!  Pasta, grains, meat, veggies.  Fabu Asian Peanut sauce

Please feel free to search our site, send us questions, ask us for encouragement.  We’d love to keep your toes pointed in the right direction while you take those Baby Steps towards healthier eating.  You might be behind us, or you might be in front of us but we’re all on the road together so make sure to wave and smile.