Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can You “Make” People Eat Healthy Foods?

Lunch 001 Breakfast Fruit 04

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,