There are no two ways about it. Our children are getting heavier; some even falling into the category of obese. It is now estimated that one in five children will be overweight by the end of elementary school. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. In fact, early signs of atherosclerosis are showing up in children by the time they graduate from high school. According to the American Heart Association, studies are indicating that the arterial walls of overweight and obese children looked more like those of a 45 year old person!
This is not right. As you can well imagine, a large portion of these issues are related to poor dietary choices. These choices are being made at home but also through school lunch programs. Unfortunately, a lot of foods that end up in the school lunch programs are based on where the money comes from. For example in 2005, the USDA allocated 60% of food commodity funds to meat, dairy and egg products whereas only 5% of food commodity funds went to fresh fruits and vegetables.
So what can we do about all this? It seems we are all so busy it is just too difficult to imagine doing anything other than letting your kids eat the school lunches and/or running by a fast food restaurant and grabbing something quick. The tragedy in this is that we often don’t really know what is in any of that food.
I decided to interview a busy mom to see how she handles things.
Steph Ryder is a full time mother of 2 that also works part time. She has a great husband that helps when he can but most of the food choices fall to her. Her daughter, Georgina is 6’1” at 14 years old. Needless to say, she plays basketball! She practices three times a week for about two hours each. Her son, Frank is about 5’5” at 11 years old and is a major hockey player. During hockey season, he plays 5 days a week for about an hour per day. Can you imagine just how hungry these kids are???
Here’s what Steph told me:
JW: So what is your basic philosophy?
Steph: I have always cooked at home for the kids. They are used to eating healthy food; in fact they actually hate fast food! Although my life is busy, I make a point of preparing their meals. It really isn’t that difficult. I put something on the grill and have something with it like fresh vegetables and potatoes. I also keep healthy food in the house for snacks after school. Frankie’s favorite snack is a Caesar Salad. So, I always have everything to make that so when he walks in the house it is available.
JW: Do you plan your meals in advance?
Steph: No way! I don’t have time so I mostly fly by the seat of my pants. If I am really rushed, I get a whole roasted chicken and serve it with steamed asparagus and potatoes. I just do stuff that is easy and doesn’t take much time.
JW: Are the kids picky?
Steph: No. They’re used to eating healthy. In fact, if we don’t have a lot of time, I go by Whole Foods and let them pick out what they want to eat.
JW: What do you do for breakfast? For lunch?
Steph: I always cook them breakfast. It always has some kind of protein, like eggs for example. I also always make their lunch. I don’t feel good about what’s available at school so I usually do it myself. I will make them a sandwich with some fruit, maybe chips and always water. I NEVER give them soft drinks!
JW: What about dinner?
Steph: They often have practice shortly after school so we tend to eat dinner late afternoon. As I said earlier, I usually throw something on the grill. Then when they get home later they might have another snack. I always keep eggs in the house. Georgina loves an egg on a bagel. Then, on Sunday’s we always eat dinner together as a family. I think this is really important.
JW: Do you eat out?
Steph: Hardly ever! I don’t trust what is in the food. Besides it is much cheaper to eat at home, even with eating really good food. For example, I don’t like them to eat meat out because you just don’t know what you are getting. I don’t want them to get all those hormones and antibiotics that are in a lot of meat! Also, I try to buy organic whenever possible.
JW: Anything else you would like to share?
Steph: Eating healthy really isn’t that hard. It doesn’t take that long to prepare. I think it’s easy. Also, if we do ever eat out, we never let the kids order off the children’s menu. The food is always fried! Instead we have them pick a main course and split it between them. This was the case when they were younger. Also, just to emphasize it, I always give them lots of water to drink. I don’t buy junk. Oh and I just realized they haven’t been side once this year!
JW: Would you like to share any of your easy recipes?
For a fast vegetable dish I sauté zucchini, yellow squash, sweet onion and mushrooms in a little olive oil. Then, right before I serve it, I drizzle a little balsamic glaze over it. The kids love it!
I also make a corn dish that they love. I sauté sweet corn (frozen organic) and onion in a little butter and thyme. I then cut up a chipotle pepper and add it along with a little of the adobe sauce it comes in. It has a great spicy taste.
In the winter I make a lot of soups and dishes in the crock pot. Those are so easy and can be made ahead of time.
JW: Thanks for taking the time to share all this with me.
Steph: Sure. I hope it gives other mom’s ideas!