There are a lot of things I am sure I may not be able to give Elsie…a free ride to college, a new car at 16, or the newest “best” gadgetrons that become available as she grows up…but I know from experience these are the least important things I can provide. One of the things I came away from childhood with is an innate sense of what is healthy and what is not. I continue to be shocked at how hard people make it seem to eat “right”…isn’t it simple?…real, whole food most of the time, sprinkled with “treats” that are good for your soul. But I have come to realize that if good, healthy food was not a part of your life as a child, it is much harder to recognize the false claims the food/diet industry throw at the public today. If you are looking for a simple guide, Michael Pollan (great food politics author) has these seven rules:
- Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
- Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
- Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
- It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, ‘Tie off the sack before it’s full.'”
- Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.
- Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.
Oh and one more rule…pardon my four letter expletive in advance, but sometimes it is just appropriate…I came across this a couple months ago and it has stuck with me:
Whenever you see the words “low fat” or “fat free” think of the words “chemical shit storm”.
My Mom didn’t teach me these rules outright, but it is just how we lived our life. There was a place for treats…one of my fondest childhood memories was getting Lucky Charms and Fruit Roll Ups every Christmas. She did allow treats throughout the year too…summer was a time for ice cream cones after a day playing at the Creek, on long car trips we would stop and get Butterscotch Krimpets, and sometimes just because we would make Root Beer Floats. But these things were never standard in our house. I knew these things were not everyday food…they were special…true treats. Thanks for the treats Mom, but thank you more for the gift of recognizing what is healthy and what is not, and teaching my body to crave whole, nutritious foods!
I can give Elsie a good food foundation too…and right now is the start of that opportunity. She is 8 months old and has FINALLY turned the corner and is interested in food. Until now she has been very content to nurse away and spit out the food we have offered her for the last month. In the last several days she is grabbing the spoon and waiting with an open mouth like a little bird for the next bite of sweet potato. So I figured I better get going on this baby food thing. I know she already loves sweet potato and avocado, but I wanted to expand her pallet over the next couple weeks. I used a book by Annabel Karmel “The Healthy Baby Meal Planner”. The version I have is from the early 90s, but she has some more recent books available (my sister Bridget by chance happens to use her more recent book “Top 100 Baby Purees”). The essence behind Karmel’s book is to use whole foods, no added sugar or salt. She gives some great ideas on how to mix and match as well as simply prepare fruits and veggies. I started with the below veggies for my “prep and freeze” day–potato, carrots, rutabega, parsnip, broccoli, green beans, and the ever popular sweet potato.
Steamed in cycles (It actually went quite quickly, I just kept reusing the water from the previous veggie)–Potato and sweet potato 25 minutes, rutabega 20 minutes; carrots,parsnip, broccoli, and beans 10-12 minutes.
For the rutabega, potato, sweet potato, and parsnip I simply mashed with a fork. (Below is the rutabega)
The carrots, beans, and broccoli I pulsed in my mini food processor then mashed a bit more with a fork.
Finally, I used 1 ounce freezer trays to create individual portions. I kept all ingredients separate, and did small portions of each until I get a feel for what Elsie prefers. I do plan on thawing several and creating some combos as well.
…and there we have it! 16 1 oz portions to use over the next several weeks in addition to some of the easily available fresh items (avocado, banana, peach) and canned/boxed staples. Some things just make sense to get pre made to avoid the hassle (making your own pumpkin puree??? puhlease!) and to be sure you always have something available (the Whole Foods applesauce is great…one ingredient–Apples! with no added sugar).
Here’s to Healthy Beginnings!