Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can You “Make” People Eat Healthy Foods?

 
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Over the past few months, I have gotten numerous e-mails asking me how I get my kids to eat healthy foods and if they really ate the food I cook. My first reaction to questions like that is always, “Why, is my food THAT bad?” People have even asked if hubby really ate my foodHmm. After reading the emails I think that usually the questions are asked because I try to cook pretty healthy foods with a focus on vegetables. Not exactly what pleases a meat and potatoes guy I guess. (And, yes, if hubby were left to his own devices he would be a meat and potatoes rice guy.)  But I think I don’t do anything extreme. I make homemade pizza (and sometimes buy the dough versus making it myself), try to bake desserts once in a while, and we eat the occasional burger.

 
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Do I try to “make” my family eat healthy foods? Yes, but I also try to give them options. I have been meaning to write this post for a while and was reminded of it this morning during breakfast. Hubby, the toddler, and I sat at the table and ate breakfast. I had oatmeal, Greek yogurt (thanks Janetha for the great idea) and walnuts. Hubby and the toddler each had half a whole wheat bagel with a little cheese, eggs, and a tomato. The toddler, who usually loves cheese, took the cheese off the bagel right away. And that was fine with me. He proceeded to eat the bagel and the tomatoes and then asked for more tomatoes. He didn’t touch the eggs. I cut up another tomato and hubby was more than happy to eat the toddler’s egg… It wasn’t a big deal that he didn’t eat the cheese or the egg. He ate what he felt like, which happened to be tomatoes. It’s not always tomatoes. Sometimes he feels like only cheese. And I let him eat it (as long as he doesn’t go totally crazy…). Sometimes he only feels like eating one or two bites, and that’s fine, too. Yes, in a perfect world it would have been nice if he had had some protein with breakfast, but he’ll be fine and will have some later…

When it comes to eating food what matters to me is that it all “equals itself out” by the end of the day or the end of the week. What I mean by that is I want to make sure we all eat lots of veggies and fruits plus protein and healthy carbs. But I don’t stress about every meal. I think if you have healthy foods available, people will eat them. And the less of a fuss you make about them, the better. Because once you tell someone (kids or adults!) that they have to eat something, they often don’t want to. And there starts a whole cycle of “food battles”…

I remember when the teenager was little people would always make a big deal about the fact that he ate so many different vegetables and so much of them. I really didn’t like the comments (usually right in front of the teenager.) To me eating fruits and veggies is normal and shouldn’t be a big deal. At the same time, when he didn’t feel like eating something, I didn’t make a big deal either. I knew he would get veggies at the next meal.
 
Ultimately, I think it’s important to listen to our bodies and eat what we feel like. If we truly do that, we will eat the right foods at the right time. And that includes kids. And yes, sometimes we have to “quiet” the voice that always asks for brownies; that’s not our “real” voice anyway… :-) Plus, if we have mainly healthy fresh fruits and veggies available, brownies aren’t an option most of the time anyway…

Questions: Do you try to “get” people to eat healthy foods? If so, what do you do? Do you “make” yourself eat healthy foods? Do you listen to your body and what you really feel like eating when deciding what to eat?
 
Be well,
Andrea

27 comments:

  1. I try so hard my boyfriend refuses to eat whole wheat spaghetti and has no interest in ground turkey or chicken it's hard because I am severely overweight and its hard to cook 2 meals for 2 people I'd prefer for him to just come on board.

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  2. What a great post! Your son does he very good it seems. I think it is important to not make a fight out of it like you said. I work with families and you don't know how often I hear that food is a constant fight. They is never a good thing.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think I have a theory I just figured out. I assume sometimes that my kids won't like something without even trying.

    I'll never forget a few years ago, when my oldest son was 12. He went to a pizza place with some friends where you could buy pizza by the slice. I asked him what kind did he get and he said the garbage pizza! Mushrooms, olives, green pepper, sauasage, etc.. I said, I didn't even know you liked all that stuff!

    I used to be a super picky eater, and now that I've introduced more veggies into my life, I think that has benefited my kids too. They love a ton of veggies and until I changed and tried new things, they would have missed out!

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  4. I've never tried to "make" anyone eat anything...I've only ever cooked for my husband at this point, and he's very go-with-the-flow and likes to eat fresh, local produce. I haven't thought too much about what approach I'll take once I have children, but I totally get your point about not making too big a deal out of it.

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  5. Healthy eating is so important - this is a great post! Getting my daughter to eat her veggies is easy - she'll eat anything with rice :)

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  6. You and your husband seem to set the example that your kids follow. That makes the entire process so much easier. And when the food is good and presented in an attractive manner it will be eaten without note being made of which food group it came from!

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  7. Great post! I hope to remember this when I have kids!

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  8. Great post Andrea! I think setting a good example for your kids is important.
    If my hubby were left to his own devices he would be a meat & potato guy too. I just try to focus on preparing healthy foods that also taste good which leads to no complaining at dinner time.

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  9. It's so important to give people options. With my own kids, I give them a choice between two or three healthy options that are acceptable. And, I keep introducing healthy foods with my little kids. Eventually, they end up liking them - usually!

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  10. Awesome post! I cook lighter and healthier than a lot of my friends and my kids as they were growing up were use to it. My daughter loved most veggies and fruits and then came along my son the picky eater.

    It wasn't until his teen years that he started to really like fruit and veggies!

    I never pushed them to eat or clean their plate, neither of them have a weight problem or issues with eating. They love good fresh healthy food with some junk thrown in for fun once in a while!

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  11. I grew up trying to get my dad and brother to eat healthy foods, then when I started to date Nick, I did the same with him. Eventually I realized that it's just not possible to MAKE someone do that (especially men...) and once I stopped nagging, they started tasting! It's as simple as letting them make their own decisions, and typically they will choose the right thing. I do think I am lucky to have Nick though, as many of the women I talk to say their husbands only eat crap. This makes me sad, and thankful that Nick is willing to try anything I make!! And, he eats it about 90% of the time (he wasn't a fan of the tempeh sloppy joes....that's for sure!).

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  12. My family has definitely opened their horizons when it comes to food - I just always try to have options to try, and bringing my own rood/recipes to make is nice, too. It gets them involved and more excited to try new things!

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  13. As an RD I have told doctors before that I simply can't force their patient to do anything they don't want to. I can't make them eat and I can't make them eat healthy, but I can teach them how to do it if they decide they want to. In your case, this is the food you cook and how you raise your kids, and likely they don't know much else meaning they really don't miss it. Healthy is normal for your family, you did not MAKE them change their diet for healthy, your family already has a diet that IS healthy.

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  14. I agree 100% with this post, Andrea! It all evens out. I can't expect my hubby to eat what I deem healthy just as he can't make me eat a box of Kraft dinner. My daughter isn't picky and will eat most anything, but my son not so much. I do all that I can to make sure he gets a good dose of "heathy" foods, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that as long as he sees *me* eat healthfully, he'll catch on eventually.

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  15. I agree too - and I see what you mean about feeling like gah, is what I make that bad?! haha I've always seen a great balance of food your blog, nothing extreme in my book. I do like your philosophy with you kids though - smart!

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  16. I love that you talk about this. I have come full circle in my attempts to feed my family in a sane and healthy mannor. I think blogging has helped AND made it insanely un nerving for me. It IS all about balance. little ones.. need fat too. A lot of it and eating only veggies and fruits doesn't help to that end.

    I laugh at the insanity of it all. Some days my tot eats tofu and kale. than he'll go YUUUUUK for a month; but he's always game for a smoothie so I just make sure he's had the good stuff and when he just wants a few bites of dried cereal for dinner; I just have to trust in his body's instincts. I wish I had more of that. Same with meat and potato men in my life. I feed them great healthy straight from the earth foods...AND popcorn AND cookies . I can't help the soda my husband drinks or the chips they eat; but even those are being healthified.

    thanks for bringing this up.
    Happy Friday!

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  17. You are so right about this. What a great post. If you force someone to do something they don't want to do, they will resist and rebel....trouble! I think that kids are actually the perfect eaters. They eat only what they want and never a bite more. And I do believe that if you offer them good healthy food, they will often bite (pun intended!)

    Hey, I can't even get my husband to eat Greek yogurt, which is fine b/c it's expensive and then there's more for me!!!!!!!!! (I think it's the tangy-ness).

    One last note: Have you ever read Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook- it's sneaky and fun ways to 'hide' veggies and fruits in to food. And the recipes look DELISH!!!!

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  18. Great discussion, Andrea! I have to say, the comments and questions people email you are pretty funny - I'm sure people don't mean to be insulting, but sometimes emails come across that way! I think your food looks delicious, anyway :)

    Your food philosophy, especially concerning the little ones, is spot on. We learn in dietetics that we should not be pushing kids to eat or not to eat, or treat foods as bad or good, or for goodness sakes we shouldn't tie emotions to food. We should provide the food, and they can decide how much to eat. You're right that it all evens out in the end :)

    Have a great weekend!

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  19. I think that you and I are both probably blessed in that we have adventurous, tolerant families. I get that a lot, too..."My husband would never eat that." Just a few hours ago, one of my husband's friends asked what was in the chili I made. It had an onion and a bell pepper in it so he wouldn't touch it. His loss.

    I think people grow up with sheltered, limited, and unbalanced diets and that's how their palate remains. It's sad, but I think it takes a catalyst and a desire to change those bad habits...having one without the other will not lead to change. I don't think those people are doomed for a lacking diet indefinitely, but it certainly takes time to build in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins for them to become acceptable. Just like a soda drinker...I would never tell them to switch to diet straight-up, but rather to decrease the consumption and/or start mixing regular and diet soda to decrease the want for the regular stuff and to slowly adjust their palate. It's hard!!

    Really interesting post!! I think I might do a spin off of this at some point because I think a LOT of mothers and wives struggle with this.

    Have a great weekend, Andrea!

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  20. I think it all comes down to taste. If something tastes great, people will eat it even if they're not so into healthful foods. One taste of a perfect heirloom tomato, grilled wild salmon fillet or Greek yogurt topped with summer berries will make anyone long to eat better. ;)

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  21. i never try to influence other people's diets, as i know from experience how that can be seriously damaging!!!

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  22. I'm not a mother, so I guess I've never really had any trouble getting people to eat healthy foods...I had more trouble trying to get all my dieting friends to loosen up and eat a few junk!

    I loved your advices though. You're a great mother and wife, very wise. :-)

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  23. Nice post...I try to eat healthy and serve healthy food, but my philosophy is and always will be "eat everything...in moderation".

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  24. I eat healthy 80% of the time, once in a while I will have something not so healthy.
    I will say this, your meals make me drool.:)

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  25. It's taken 6 years for my husband to start eating veggies and whole wheat bread vs. white. After I stopped pushing and nagging and living by example, he soon followed my lead. :) I like "not making a big deal out of it."

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  26. AMEN Andrea! I hope to parent exactly the way you do - focusing on the big picture instead of nitpicking through every meal. your point of view is so refreshing - lots of love to you and the whole family!!!

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  27. great point you've brought up! now that i am married, i sort of "press" my healthy eating on marshall--but not on purpose. i just make the dinners i usually make and they are healthy and he eats them. but that doesn't mean he eats healthy when outside of the house. but we don't keep junk food in the house because i can't hang with it!

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