I pointed out to him that ‘the kids are growing fast and the grocery list is getting longer.’ True, having kids is expensive. I am not only speaking here of money matters; but that is also true of mental health. And we shouldn’t really be surprised to know that having kids in the house is also the fastest way to endanger our health, most especially our heart.
In a recent US government study, adults with children at home are eating almost 5 more grams of fat a day; plus the 1.7 grams of artery clogging saturated fat. That’s almost like adding two slices of bacon to your breakfast daily. Now, don’t go blaming your kids for these; after all, the final decision when it comes to grocery shopping is ours.
There is no need to totally prevent the kids from enjoying their favorites. You may not have to get rid of temptations such as cookies, gummi bears, or chocolate bars. Buy them in pieces and not in boxes or big bags; you might want to simply put such items in a separate cupboard. And display them on the table, once in a while, as a rare treat or as a reward.
Slowly removing the worst offenders and offering the kids’ other alternatives might just do the job. Avoid white flour and hydrogenated oils and limit the kids’ sugar consumption. Try to skip prepared food and beverages. We usually drink softdrinks when we are in a restaurant but you won’t find them in our house. The kids drink water and mixed-juice-water drinkers (juices diluted by adding water).
What would be a smart guide on how to shop for healthy food? Start by buying fresh natural unprocessed food; or as we regularly do, we go to the countryside and visit the farm stalls. Here is a collection of what I found out in different websites:
Vegetables and Fruits: Fresh is the best and the frozen is a close second. Canned foods have either salt or sugar added so rinse them before serving to remove excess sugar or salt. Plus, it is preferable to choose those canned in water than in heavy syrup. Our kids love fresh fruits and selected veggies, and they are slowly being introduced to raw veggies such as paprika, cucumber, carrots, celery, etc. in kindergarten.
Grain: If possible, opt for the whole grain versions of pasta, rice, cereal, tortillas, bagels and pitas. Brown rice is a hit these days, too.
Eggs: It is one of the best source of protein, but if you eat eggs on a daily basis, limit your intake to one yolk. Boiled eggs are good.
Meat: Focus on poultry and fish; buy leaner beef cuts. Check out the fish with healthy fat such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. And don’t forget to trim the visible fats. We usually buy from the meat shop where they systematically remove the visible fats.
Beans: Beans are low in fat but are high in protein and fiber content. Note though that the sauce in canned beans are what causes gas; so just rinse them before cooking.
Peanuts: Peanut butter is said to have no cholesterol and it has healthier fat because it comes from plant. And nuts are the best choices when it comes to snack foods. If you don’t like them fresh, make sure you get the unprocessed, unsalted variety. It is always something the kids are looking forward to, the nut picking season. We have already mapped up the trees along the woods where the best nut bearing fruits are.
Oil and Fats: Virgin Olive Oil is the number one choice now. But light margarine or spray margarine are also popular.
Snacks: Popcorn is healthy but make sure you choose the light version. Grab the baked versions of chips. Or stay with raw veggies and fruits like paprika, celery sticks, cucumber, tomatoes, etc. with some light yogurt dip.
Milk: Go light. And take it easy on the cream (i.e., cream cheeses, whipping cream, coffee creamer and ice cream). Soy milk is a healthier alternative; so are light yogurts.
Other Drinks: Freshly squeezed fruit juices are okay, but those prepared juice packages should be taken in moderation. Drinking them during breakfast is advisable though. Water is clearly the winner when it comes to beverages. And a glass of red wine per day, perhaps.
Healthier eating need not be a drastic move. Introduce healthier foods into the family’s diet gradually and eliminate the deadly threats one by one by finding alternatives. Also, try to learn what those nutrition labels really mean; reading is not enough.
A post in PMN: Food and Cooking last July 2007.