Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adventures in Vegetables

I just ate a spinach salad and I loved it! ‘So what?’ you ask. Well don’t tell anyone, but I was not born a veggie girl, especially if ketchup and French fries don’t count. To be honest, there was canned corn, peas and green beans, but I only ate them to fulfill the clean plate requirement my parents set before the ice cream goal. I really couldn’t say I enjoyed them (and don’t even get me started on the step-monster’s frozen lima beans!)
So how did I come to eat raw spinach and thoroughly enjoy it? I had kids and I wanted them to be healthy. I had kids and my hypocrisy convicted me that I must change. How could I encourage them to eat a healthy diet if I was still gorging on chips and salsa? Everywhere I looked ‘healthy’ meant eating fruits and vegetables. I groaned inside. My stomach turned. I did not want to eat the way I knew would be healthy for my kids. Still, I was determined and I started by just making sure we all ate at least one fruit and one veggie a day, every day and built slowly from there – very slowly. I tried lots of different methods and still use these:
1 – INDULGE: If there happens to be a fruit or vegetable that you already like, eat it – A LOT! In fact, eat the heck out of it. Add it to everything you put in your mouth. Try preparing it in as many ways as you can. Eventually, you’re going to get bored and start yearning for another veggie to like.
2 – ADD: Gonna eat something? Sneak a veggie in it. If you’re having spaghetti, add a can of diced tomatoes or some diced onion or zucchini. Having a salad? Add another variety of lettuce or spinach! Think you won’t like it? Try the kid-tested baby bite – whatever you’re adding, chop it super small. Adding works for breakfast too, add some chopped or sliced fresh fruit to your cereal just like they show on the box.
3 – SWAP: Does your family have a favorite meal or dish that you make repeatedly? Try swapping ingredients to make it healthier. Our PB+J’s are now made on whole grain bread with natural peanut butter, low sugar jam and fresh or freeze-dried sliced fruit in the middle. Just don’t try to swap everything out all at once or you’ll have a mutiny on your hands – baby steps people, one ingredient at a time. I actually mixed real natural peanut butter with Skippy ‘natural’ for a couple months before switching to real alone (and I’m defining real as peanuts are the only ingredient.) Switching to fresh or frozen vegetables from canned requires some extra cooking, salt and butter, which can all be eased up on later once everyone gets acclimated.
4 – TRY, TRY AGAIN: If you have a child, I know you’ve asked, ‘How do you know you won’t like it unless you try it?’ at least once. When was the last time you asked yourself? Tastes change over time and the body has an amazing capacity to crave what’s good for it. Once you start giving your marvelous machine the nutrition it requires to run, you’ll be amazed at what starts tasting good to you. So try new veggies and fruits from time to time and try ones that you remember not liking as a child too. Fix them in an exciting recipe that looks good to you and you’ll be pre-motivated to like them. For kids they say it may take up to 15 exposures to a food before they enjoy it, so keep offering.
5 – GET HELP: Our help is a whole food supplement that fills the gap between our diet and the recommended 7 to 13 servings of fresh raw fruits and vegetables every day. I like having the assurance of knowing the nutrition is already there no matter what else we’re able to eat.
Remember though, that every healthy bite you take is a step towards your future health, so don’t give up. Just set your goal to try every day and give yourself a pat on the back for every serving you do get. You’re doing more than the majority of average Americans.

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