Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whew! Through the Holiday Season

The title says most of what's on my mind. However, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about eating in others' homes, especially when those others are well-meaning family. Let me preface everything else by saying that I love my parents and am not writing this as a means of requesting any changes to their behavior! If I wanted them to change, I'd ask or put up a fight or something more direct. That said, I think it might be helpful for others to read musings on holiday time with family and the food situations which may arise during that time.

When I typed the word "holiday," I immediately had all kinds of delicious associations. I wish I could say that I had non-food associations with the holidays, but food plays a huge role in my holiday experience. Whether I'm celebrating a Jewish, Christian, secular or other kind of holiday, food helps set the atmosphere. Go check out my Thanksgiving posts (way too many to link, but a quick search will bring them up). Food and holidays go hand in hand for me.

Now the problem with this food-holiday connection is that most of the food associations are not all that healthy for me, unless I'm eating ridiculously small portions of said food. OK, turkey on Thanksgiving is probably fine, assuming a normal portion size. BUT think about side dishes, and think about the snacking before the meals. And think about whether the meals are "well-balanced." Are the snacks "well-balanced?" Does it all even out over the holiday?

Nope. The holidays are inevitably carbohydrate heavy, lighter on fruits and veggies, heavier on fats, and protein varies depending on the holiday.

My kids are affected fairly obviously by their diets. They tend to be more agreeable and cooperative when they are eating well, and the inverse also is true. So what do I feed the kids when I'm in the situation of lots of carbs and sugar and not so much of the other stuff to balance it out?

When we arrived at my parents' house this year for Christmas, Aaron and I made a grocery list. My parents had plenty of food in the house. Yet we wanted some of our own food comforts and some of what we consider essentials. In no particular order, our list looked something like this:
  • fruit - ended up with bananas, clementines, and grapes
  • yogurt
  • oatmeal
  • diet dr. pepper
  • beer
In retrospect, we could have skipped the yogurt, and we probably should have picked up some salad fixings. However, my parents are in the process of moving and we didn't want food being thrown out after we left. Of everything we purchased, the fruit was the most helpful for me, and I think the kids appreciated having portable snacks. I would have loved more to help me avoid eating nearly the entire batch of buckeye candy. Will power would help too, but I have very little of that. :)

Other than the small shopping trip, I decided that teaching my kids to be polite was more important than waging an ideological battle against my parents. Yes that meant my kids ate bread with minimal fiber, lots of crackers and cookies, more processed food than they do at home, and drank more juice than they do in an average month. Life is about balance, and it's too short to spend it fighting with those I love.

Interestingly, my kids rejected some of the foods I expected them to go gaga for. Neither kid was a huge fan of the peanut butter my mom had. I'm not sure whether it was texture or taste. I generally buy crunchy and natural - something requiring stirring. My mom had bought a popular brand of creamy with some sugar (not HFCS). Neither kid begged for the buckeye candies I adore, which of course meant my own will power was weakened further. After all, I can't let them go to waste!! :P They weren't even big fans of the sandwich bread, though they did enjoy other breads while we were there. It made me wonder about my kids' tastes, to be honest. I mean, isn't it natural for people to drift to sweet foods? And when I look at processed food, much of it is processed to make it easier to eat - requiring less chewing before it gets to your stomach where you can have whatever biochemical reaction that makes you want more. And don't we people like layers of flavor in our foods rather than simple single flavored foods?

My kids seem to prefer their fruits and vegetables straight, no added butter, cheese, sauce, seasonings. OK, Ellie probably would put grated Parmesan cheese on anything, but she doesn't ask for it on food other than pasta (and now popcorn thanks to me). My kids seem to prefer peanut butter made with one or two ingredients - roasted peanuts and salt. And they like high-fiber breads. Both kids love chocolate, but they don't love all chocolate (e.g., Halloween candy).

I don't wonder why they have these preferences. These preferences reflect how food has been presented to them ever since they started eating table foods. Yet I wonder whether they would be considered normal when compared to other kids their ages. I'm not trying to raise weird kids, though I suspect I don't have much choice about that (look at me and Aaron! *grin*). So readers, if any of you are out there, what do you think? How strange are my kids' eating preferences?


  1. not strange to me, but then again, we aren't exactly mainstream so that's not saying much :) also have you tried zevia? their diet dr z is AMAZING and tastes *just* like dr pepper but is made with stevia and is sooooo delish!!!

  2. I know nothing about kids, but I think what you are doing is great. And if your kids are considered weird by others I'd take it as a compliment.
    I am really shocked by what some people feed their kids here. Example: a popular breakfast for toddlers here is Wonderbread style pasty white bread, butter and colored sprinkles (like what you'd put on cookies), perhaps with a piece of gingerbread on the side. Makes me start to shake in anticipation of the inevitable sugar crash that will follow. Strangely enough people still consider fruit to be a viable snack here despite stuff like that.

  3. @JEN - do you buy this at a store or order online? We can make a close-enough Dr. Pepper with our SodaStream, and that uses sucralose (Splenda, I think). It's still a chemical, but maybe not as evil?

    @Emily - ew! And thanks for the vote of confidence. :)