One last summer adventure found us in Montana! We got to visit a small Goat Farm, and I felt like we had walked into a Martha Stewart magazine. This family has goats, chickens, and a couple rabbits. Their home is a wonderland for a family of four kids. If I could capture their home for a real life magazine, the photos would look something like this:
We’re super grateful to The Goat Lady for letting us stop by as we visited relatives. And, yes, she even sent us home with a bar of goat milk soap!
Yesterday our family met Elizabeth Pantley of the “No-Cry” Parenting Books. She’s working on a new book called, “The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution,” and needed families who were wiling to try her methods and be interviewed about them. So, we got an advance section of the book to try out for 4-6 weeks. She came with her talented daughter/ videographer, and filmed our kids being cute in the kitchen and then interviewed my husband, Casey, and myself.
They’ll only need a few seconds to create a short video for the book launch, so we’re not feeling like movie stars around here. We’re just glad we can help encourage parents to get their kids to eat vegetables! While that’s not the whole purpose of the book, it’s certainly a struggle with Picky Eaters.
The interview really made me think about what has worked for us and where we still need to put in consistent effort. Her book outlines some really helpful tips and provides insight into the challenges parents face. For example, a child may need to try a vegetable up to 10 times before they can make up their minds about liking it. This is something I had read before in “Disease Proof your Child:Feeding Kids Right ” by Joel Fuhrman, MD. My friend, Karen, a speech pathologist also told me this in my post, The War on Vegetables.
Many of the concepts in Elizabeth’s Pick Eater book, we have learned the long, hard way over the last 10 months. So, I found the material affirming and encouraging – like we’re on the right track. Many of you may have read my post, Children: Will You Eat Kale and Beets? back in March. Thanks to advice and persistence, our family eats vegetables at every meal. But, we still have those moments of resistance:
When our 5-year-old suddenly decides at one meal that he doesn’t like Carrots, we know it’s normal and not a sign of failure on our part.
What we have learned:
1) Vegetables are super important for overall health. Our daughter’s constipation problems have been “cured” in large part to eating vegetables at almost every meal in addition to eliminating hard to digest foods, giving her some herbs and abdominal massage. The rest of the family has benefited through weight loss or weight gain (or skinny boy isn’t so thin anymore).
2) Getting kids to eat more vegetables takes time. Depending on the kid, it can take only a few meals, or several months. Our Picky Eater isn’t our daughter, it’s our son. He turned 5 last month, and spent almost 3 years of his life eating a normal “healthy” diet. He loved cheesy crackers, Bread, PB&J sandwiches, meat, yogurt, bananas, apples and any sweet treat he could get his hands on – notice what’s missing? Vegetables! I thought since I was buying “natural” and “organic” stuff he was a healthy kid. And he was healthy, but he was also quite thin. Since he’s been eating vegetables, his body has filled out more, and he’s gaining weight consistently. It took him a month to start eating Broccoli and Carrots. We’ve spent the last 8 months getting him to eat other vegetables. Our daughter took about 2 months to start asking, “More Kale, Mama?”
3) You need a team – seriously, if it’s just one parent trying to shove vegetables into a kid’s mouth while the other is eating Ice Cream and Bacon, you’re trying to swim against the current. You need your partner and the whole family to start eating better. Other ways to get support: Ask friends and family to serve your kid’s favorite veggie at dinner or a party. Or, you can ask someone your child admires to eat a new veggie in their company.
4) Start Small – don’t try to change your diet drastically. You can ease into eating more vegetables as you have the time, resources and will power. Try just introducing vegetables at snack time and dinner. Then, as your Picky Eater starts to enjoy them, add them to more meals.
5) Make new vegetables cool – we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant where everything was new and exciting. Guess who ate their Broccoli, carrots, and edamame? Our Picky Eater Son! He had an Udon Noodle dish and didn’t complain about all the vegetables, or the fact they they were touching. The “new” veggies on his plate were perfectly acceptable to him. We think it’s because the food was new and the meal exciting.
6) Try, try again – if one idea or suggestion doesn’t work, try something else. Seriously, there is no magic solution or proper steps. Try things out until you find something that works for you. Read, talk to other parents and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Picky Eater Solution” book is due in October and will include recipes and tips from parents. Stay tuned for a book give-away!
I fear failure. Parenting has been a process of learning to face failure. There are all these expectations society and well meaning family and friends place on parents. Then, there’s my own ideals of what kind of parent I want to be, providing more room for me to fail.
The funny thing about trying to sort out my fear of failure is teaching my kids to keep on trying when they fail. When our son was learning to dress himself or put a puzzle together, he’d get really frustrated and want to give up. Somewhere between learning to walk and age 3 he picked up the idea that failure = bad. So, my husband and I started to encourage him with phrases like, “Everyone makes mistakes.” or “Try again, I know you can do it.” Or, I’d actually remind him that he learned to walk after falling down all the time. Then, one day I let out a vocal cry at a mistake I made, and my son looked at me and shrugged, “It’s Ok. Mistakes happen every day in my life.”
I keep on reminding myself of that truth, the idea that failure is a part of success, but it still stands in my way of doing what I want sometimes. Parenting is a consistent reminder that I need to live my own advice. Our son has been writing up plans for going to the Moon “when he is a Big Man with Dad” – they are going to put not one, but two American Flags on it. Instead of telling him this is a silly or nearly impossible idea, we listen to his plans and explain that he’s got to work hard to get there someday.
As you may have already seen around here, I love photography. I love looking at it, taking my own and talking about it. One dream I’ve had for a few years now is to do a coffee shop Photography Show here in Seattle. It might not sound like going to the Moon, but it felt that way to me. I just didn’t think my photography was that good. But, I decided to try to book a show within the year. And I did! It will be at one of my favorite places, Coffee To A Tea With Sugar. My first show will be in January 2012. At first I was super excited that the lady liked my work. But when that started to wear off like a sugar high, I felt disappointed about the fact that the show is that far off. The reality is that the timing is perfect. It allows me time to really get things figured out (like archival printing service, matting, etc). And I can push myself to do more photography.
It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that there is a war against vegetables. Vegetables are still not popular or eagerly welcomed by our 4-year-old. And let’s be honest, they are not cool. You can’t make billions from selling Carrots or Zucchini. You don’t see billboards of Movie Stars or Sports Heros smiling while holding a bunch of Collard Greens or looking sexy while taking a bite of a salad.
My little kids have just started to notice billboards. They ask me what they are about. Hmmm, that lady in a slinky red dress with a wine glass is selling wine. I answer with basic truth, and avoid describing what else I suspect is being sold like the sexy image or appeal.
But that is what got me thinking: peer pressure works just like advertising. Why aren’t we using it to fight childhood obesity or inspire everyone to eat better? Instead, I find myself censoring my kids from obnoxious cartoons or the networks that show them, because I don’t want them to beg me for every toy or new cereal or processed snack shown every two minutes.
During one of the first episodes of Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” TV show, you saw that the processed, prepackaged Public School lunches were cheaper that buying raw ingredients. We’re not talking Organic food here, just simple real foods that required more time to prepare than simply opening packages and using a microwave.
I know, I know that it’s true: eating real food that includes vegetables costs more time and sometimes money. Yes, I also understand how marketing and economics works. That is why I am trying to train my kids to eat healthy and understand how important food is while they are young. Because the hard truth is that I cannot censor them from real life. A life full of clever advertising trying to tell you what you NEED. They need to learn to think critically for themselves in order to make smart choices.
If you are wondering how our little battle is going on at home, I have a report to share. We’re still using the same strategy I explained before. Our daughter just exclaimed the other day, “I love Kale, Mama.” She likes it lightly steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt. I wish I could say the same for her brother. His willingness to eat one of three vegetables changes from meal to meal. The other day we had a battle over broccoli.
I am working on a new plan of attack. His preschool has unused raised beds waiting for someone to use for gardening, and I am willing to make that happen. Hopefully peer excitement will ignite some willingness to try new vegetables. We’ve already spent the last two years gardening at a friend’s house and growing Kale, Peas, Broccoli and gleaning extra Collards, Red Peppers, Tomatoes and Strawberries. While my son has been willing to help harvest and enjoys digging in the dirt, he’s never wanted to eat any of it except the Strawberries.
And I’ve already got books on hold from the Library – full of how to teach your kids about nutrition – my hope is to learn something, but I don’t expect a perfect solution. As some really well educated folks have already pointed out, our national health crisis hasn’t been helped by education.
Maybe my battle will be helped by taking my son to see the movie: Mars Needs Moms, because supposedly it starts out with the Mom trying to get her son to eat vegetables. The truth is, I’m willing to experiment, but not beat myself up over this. One mom I know offered some comfort when she advised that it’s an age thing – here daughter magically started eating vegetables after turning 5. I don’t know if anyone has the right answer for us, but I am willing to look for something that works.
For three days I did not leave the house. Our Little Miss was sick and only wanted Mama to hold her. We read dozens of books, Dr. Seuss ones being a favorite – hence the title of this post. Holding her while she napped, I had plenty of time to think, think, think, think. Sometimes she just wanted me to sit next to her in bed while she napped in a dark room. During those times, I caught up on reading blogs.
Reading a post on Peace and Projects, “Remember Where You Came From” gave me a topic to think about, and inspired me to look back on my life. A few months ago while de-cluttering our bookshelf, I stumbled upon an old folder that contained an old resume and letters of recommendation. Tucked in with them was a letter I received from Nell Newman. She was responding nicely to my letter looking for a mentor, and kindly declined. In 2003, I was interested in getting into the Food Industry. I wanted to create good food for folks on the go – something my mom and I had talked at length about pursuing. She had some amazing recipes, and was game if I wanted to get things going. I knew that first I needed a mentor to learn about the industry. Nell was behind Newman Organics, and since I admired the line of ready to go “healthy” snacks, I could think of no other person I’d want to emulate. She could not be that person. But she gave me a copy of her new book, The Newman’s Own Organics Guide to a Good Life, with an encouraging note. Life led me in another direction and that book sat on my shelf gathering dust with the letter.
Fast forward 8 years, and the question, “What can you offer the world that no one else can?” posed in Chris Gillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity, pops up in my mind. The only answer I could think of at first is simple: Raise our children to be healthy and independent. I think the past three days has given me enough time to see another answer, one where I can give more than two little people. I can share how we’re getting our kids to eat more vegetables!
About a year ago, I watched one of the first episodes of Jamie Oliver’s, “Food Revolution,” and was super excited! I believe that good health begins at home with what you eat. While I didn’t agree with the attitude that Jamie threw at folks during the show, I agreed with his message: inspire people to fight obesity by cooking their own food. A wonderful, concise presentation of this is given during his TED talk. It’s 20 minutes and worth watching!
All these thoughts came together for me today after a trip to the grocery store. The trip was the first I made out of the house since Little Miss got sick. Today happened to be one of my usual grocery trip days. At the check out, I saw the usual Checker Guy and Bagging Girl. They both automatically said, “Hey, Guys” within moments of each other, then noticed that I was alone. I explained that the Boy was at Preschool and Little Miss was at home reading with Grandma who was visiting from out-of-town. The Bagging Girl asked if I was going to do anything nice for myself after shopping, and I said, Yes, make lunch. I thought that sounded kinda lame, but the truth is, I love to cook and eat. So, I did just that, making everything from scratch and enjoying the compliments my mom gave as she enjoyed it with me.
I am motivated to join the movement afoot to get folks cooking their own healthy, tasty food. For the month of March, I’ll focus on sharing my recipes for vegetables and my favorite resources. A childhood friend has her own blog, Feed Me Like You Love Me, and her last blog post shares a similar sentiment of being good to yourself with food in a healthy way. Other food blogs I enjoy by people I know in real life are: NerdyFoodie and PineappleSage (another friend from childhood).