Why I do what I do...
Wow...thank you all so very much for the overwhelming response to the launch of This Lunch Rox! I had NO idea this little blog would get the kind of response it did but I must say that it really put my mind at ease and made me feel like I made the right decision moving forward with this site. Please know that I stayed up late last night and read through every e-mail and post that came in yesterday. I haven't had a chance to respond to them all but I want you all to know how much I appreciate the words of encouragement.
One of the most frequently asked questions yesterday was how this all started. You can read a fairly detailed account of how it all began in the "About" section above. However, I thought I'd take a moment and expand on that story a bit more. You see, when I started on this journey to a healthier lifestyle I was primarily focused on me. So much of my motivation at that time came from me wanting to achieve some personal weight loss/fitness goals. As I started to make changes in my eating habits I noticed a significant difference in not only how I looked, but also how I felt. I started reading A LOT about how food reacts in our bodies and the affect certain foods can have on our brains. It was such an interesting topic and I couldn't seem to get enough information.
During the process of reading through numerous health and nutrition books I was alarmed by the health statistics for children living in the United States today. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in three children born in the US in the year 2000 will develop type II diabetes at some point in their lives which has increased parallel to the increase in obesity rates in the past 10-15 years. If you haven't seen the CDC map of obesity trends, I would strongly encourage you to watch it. Be sure to watch from the beginning (1986) and follow through to the most recent map (2009).
Obesity is known to play a role in heart disease, type II diabetes, and certain types of cancer. While my children have never been overweight, I looked at the "staple" foods we relied on and realized that it was likely just a matter of time before we started to see the results of our eating habits. I've always been somewhat health conscience, but with the increased demands with my job and as the kids got busier with activities I found myself falling victim to convenience. For years I served my family food filled with...HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), trans-fat, and who knows what else?!
The World Health Organization and Food Nutrition Board recommends children get no more than 7-11 tsp (28-44 grams) of added sugar per day. I tracked my kids food intake for one week and I was shocked by how much sugar they were consuming on a daily basis. Often times my kids had consumed most of the recommended sugar intake by the time we cleared our breakfast dishes. Our traditional breakfast of cereal (11g of sugar and that's IF I poured the "serving size") and flavored yogurt (14g) put the kids very close to their daily intake. Then the rest of the day the boys regular snack list included cereal bars, fruit snacks, pudding, etc... After a week of observing, I realized my boys' sugar intake was way over the recommended daily allowance. It was then that I decided I wanted to make a change not only for me, but for my entire family.
I'll be the first to admit that making the change to healthy eating was a challenge at first. The kids had grown so accustomed to convenience foods and HIGHLY flavorful foods. The foreign vegetables I was presenting on their plates paled in comparison to the pre-packaged goodies that used to fill their bellies. One of our saving graces was the "Eat This, Not That for Kids" book that came recommended by a friend. The first few pages of the book outline the "superpowers" contained in various colored fruits and vegetables. My boys are both uber-competitive so the fact that these foods would help them get stronger, smarter, faster, tougher (you get the idea)...they became a little easier to swallow. I just kept introducing new fruits and vegetables along with "cleaner" foods (meaning foods not filled with ingredients you can't pronounce). I stopped buying the convenience food that used to fill our cupboards and replaced them with healthier options. Over time the kids grew accustomed to the new foods and now rarely ask for junk food. One thing I will say is that we do NOT deprive our kids of ever having sugar-loaded, empty calorie, insulin spiking foods. We just try to reserve those foods for special occasions so the kids view those foods as "treats" and not as everyday foods.
In other words, it's been a process of teaching our kids about how food affects their minds and bodies and empowering them to make wise choices when it comes to food. All in all, I've been pleasantly surprised with how well they have adapted to our new healthy eating lifestyle!
Here are a few tips that worked well for us when we started transitioning to healthier food choices with the kids:
- Small bites! Anytime I introduced a new fruit or vegetable I cut them into small bite sized pieces and put them in a fun container (silicone cupcake molds work really well).
- Knowledge is power! We laminated the pages from the "Eat This, Not That for Kids" book that outlined the various "superpowers" fruits and vegetables give you. While we were eating dinner we would ask the kids about the superpowers they were gaining with the foods on their plate.
- Tricky Treats! I've found that my kids are more likely to try foods that look fun and festive. Often times my deserts are protein packed (I rely on whey crisps, peanut butter/sunbutter in many of my recipes) and contain flax seeds or other healthy fillers.
- Helping Hands! My boys are often off playing sports and have very little interest in the kitchen, but whenever possible I try to get them involved in preparing food. This gives them some ownership in the process of preparing what is being served at meal time.