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Musings on the Question: “What’s for supper?”

“What’s for supper?” This has to be one of the most common questions uttered in homes everywhere.  At least, that’s my opinion on it.  Of course I may be biased – feeding a family of six and all.  Surely it ranks up there with “Are we there yet?” or “What time is it?” or my all-time favorite –  “Why?”  At least for my family it is.  I have no data to support my thoughts, just my experience as a mom and primary cook for my clan.

In fact, it’s a question I frequently ask myself – all too often at the same time my hungry kids make their way to the kitchen to ask the very same question or my husband calls to say he’s on his way home and was wondering “What’s for supper?”

I’ve pondered this question lately – probably as a result of listening to a reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen. In it, he speaks of the choices we have in selecting our food, and how that’s changed over time. While I don’t agree with everything he writes, it did cause me to look at how our family answers the question: “What’s for supper?”  Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Taste and food preferences
  2. Availability
  3. Nutrition
  4. Cost
  5. Convenience

All these factors influence our food selection in one way or another.  But I think for my family taste and food preferences trumps them all.  If my family doesn’t like it and won’t eat it, it really doesn’t matter if it’s healthy, cheap, and convenient.  Are they ungrateful? No. I still try including those foods on our menu once in a while – usually as a side dish – just to see if I can expand their tastes a little.  And they usually humor me by trying it, and sometimes even liking it.

After taste come availability.  After all, if it’s not available in the store, pantry, freezer, or garden – it’s not likely to be found on our supper menu.  With today’s transportation abilities, however, that’s quickly becoming a weaker influence.

Nutrition and cost tie for the next slot. I realize others may think differently.  I’m all for eating healthy, and as a dietitian I’m always encouraging a healthy way of eating.  But there are times when a nutritionally superior food is just, well, too expensive. I love salmon, and it’s super healthy for you, but in the middle of the midwest in the middle of winter it’s just too much – at least for our budget.  So instead of the fresh salmon, we might have tuna or another type of fish that’s not so hard on the wallet, but still a healthy choice.  Suffice it to say that there is a balance.  For our family I will pay a little more for something that is healthier it if fits in our budget.  To me that is an investment in the lives of my family.  I just can’t fit in everything.

Last, but not least, is convenience.  This is not as high on my list of influencers, but it may be for others.  And truthfully, there are certain times of the year when convenience moves up the ladder a bit.  Baseball and basketball seasons come to mind – when quick meals and sandwiches seem to reign.

So that’s it. “What’s for supper?” All things considered, if it tastes good and my family likes it, it is reasonably priced, nutritionally healthy, and is available it will most likely make it to our menu at one time or another.  Convenience is icing on the top. So now, I’m curious.  What influences your food selection?  I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed or just don’t apply to our family.  How do you answer that question “What’s for supper?”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Cooking, Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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But They Just Won’t Eat those Fruits and Veggies

How do I get my kids to eat fruits and vegetables?  Usually the question deals with toddlers and preschoolers.  But this question came from a friend whose child is in the “tween stage.”  And at this stage, toddler tactics don’t work.  After all, her child might just complain if she straps that child into a high chair with a five point harness.  No, at this age there is an amount of freedom with food choices that weren’t always there before.  But I believe there are still things you can do to encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables for your child.  Here are a few that I suggested to my friend:

1.  Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to feeding your family.  If you believe fruits and vegetables are important, but your spouse doesn’t, your children will notice. And if they are inclined to refuse those good-for-you rainbow colored food items – well, all the more reason to not even try.  After all, if dad or mom won’t eat them, why should I?

2.  Take stock of your refrigerator.  Have a good variety of fruits and vegetables ready to eat.  Convenience goes a long way.  If the carrots are cleaned and cut, the grapes washed, and the peppers sliced, it’s one less step for your child to prepare a snack; and the odds of them choosing one of those items over an easily accessible bag of chips increases.

3.  Provide a variety of fruits and vegetable at meals, but don’t push or force them on your child.  Nagging never works, and you will never win a food battle.  Your job is to provide.  Their job is to eat.  For more on this see Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility.

4.  Don’t be sneaky.  It just adds an air of suspicion to your child’s dislike of these foods.  Certainly don’t be afraid to put these things in foods, i.e. shredded carrots in muffins, pureed vegetables in soups, etc., but be open about it and comment on how it makes the food item a little healthier – don’t hide it.

5.  Make it interesting.  Try celery with peanut butter and raisins, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, frozen grapes, apple slices with caramel, or strawberries dipped in chocolate.  Some may say doing that adds excess sugar or fat.  But let’s think of the goal – getting our kids to eat some of these fruits and vegetables.  Eating strawberries with chocolate is better than eating no fruits at all and may just replace a snack that lacked any resemblance to a healthy food item.

6.  Let them choose.  Take your child to a farmer’s market or local grocery store that allows you to sample some of the produce they have a available.  They may find something they like that they’ve never tried before.

7.  Educate them.  Talk about the benefits of eating healthy, and the possible consequences of an unhealthy diet.  Why is it important?

8.  Enlist other adults.  If your child has a favorite teacher, coach, or other mentor, explain your goal and ask if they could reinforce it in their own teaching.  For example, if your child is on a swimming team the coach could encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables and relate it to performance.

9.  Be a good example.  Take a look at your own eating habits.  Do you eat the foods (fruits and vegetables) that you’re encouraging your kids to eat?  Or maybe you have a fruit or vegetable that you don’t like.  Why not try eating it while your child tries something they don’t like.  You may both be pleasantly surprised and find they’re not as bad as you thought.

Those are just a few ideas I had for my friend.  How about you?  If you have or know of a child who dislikes fruit and vegetables, how do you get them to try and eat these healthy food items?

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Family, Health, Nutrition, Parenting

 

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