Archive | June 2014

Boot Camp Journal – Shopping and Day 1

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  I have underlined things that I specifically want to remember for future meals and meal planning.

Saturday, June 28 (Shopping)

We went shopping today for the menu I just planned.  It has been awhile since I have shopped for a full week of groceries at once, so it felt like a lot to buy.  And there were a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables than usual.  It felt like we were in the produce section forever!!  Luckily, it is summer so everything looks really fresh.  I had the kids all help by giving them assignments to find this or that produce item.  It was good for them to see where different foods are placed in the store and to be able to practice choosing the freshest looking one.

It took awhile to figure out how to fit it all into the refrigerator, but I succeeded and told myself that the way to clear out some space is to simply eat what we bought!  I did fail to take into account some peppers and onions that we have leftover and need to eat, so I may chop them up and put them into the freezer.

As part of lunch today I pulled out some leftover vegetables that I had chopped last night.  I had taken a veggie tray to an activity at Church, and had chopped some extra for us.  There were sugar snap peas, broccoli, carrots, and red & yellow bell peppers (all raw, of course!).  So I put them on the table and told my kids I wanted them each to eat 15 pieces.  It was so interesting to see them approach this (since usually I only serve one option at a time).  First they all fought over the sugar-snap peas (mental note here: buy more sugar snap peas!).   Then my son chose broccoli, my oldest daughter chose the carrots, and the youngest chose the bell peppers.  So they do like vegetables…just not the same ones!

Sunday, June 29 (Day 1)

We got home from church and all the kids wanted to eat the moment we walked in the door.  “What is for lunch?”  they said.  “Is it written on the menu?”  Well…no, not exactly.  I had to confess that after all the time I spent, I had no menu for today.  That’s when it occurred to me that having the leftover day right after the grocery shopping trip was a really bad idea.  There was so much food, but most of it is “claimed” for another meal already!  Normally I wouldn’t have planned it this way — it’s just how the timing of everything worked out.  But now I know to make sure it doesn’t happen next week by planning “leftover day” to be the day right before I go shopping.

So we had “pigs n’ a blanket” for lunch today instead of next Thursday because they were the fastest thing I could think of.  We’ll just do something else in their place when Thursday rolls around.  So that’s the next thing I should take note of  when menu planning:  choose something super fast for Sundays after church!

While we ate I introduced “the rules” to the kids.  They weren’t even fazed by them since I’m constantly presenting new ways that I want to approach our meals and chores.  Actually these rules should not be too painful.  The only one they really reacted to was the one that I added to the list myself — “no one leaves the kitchen until it is completely clean (or until Mom excuses you).”   They didn’t like that one at all, but we (I mean, “I”) really need it.

Health(ier) Eating Boot Camp

A few days ago I decided to do (another) internet search on the topic of picky eaters.  I still like the book I’ve read about the subject, and haven’t taken it back to the library yet; but I was feeling like I needed a little more perspective.  Since I’ve searched this topic many times before (without finding much that was helpful to me personally), I was surprised to come across an article that I felt was actually very insightful.  It is found on the “Real Simple Magazine” website and was written by a mom who decided to put her family through a “picky eater boot camp.”  She created five simple rules and established a time frame of two weeks.  Then she recorded the experience as she went along.  My absolute favorite part of her article is the end where she describes what her family dinners are like after the experience.  This is what she wrote (click here to read the full article):

“That was just the beginning. These days, the kids are voracious and zealous omnivores…oh, who are we kidding? They still interrogate me every time we order cheese pizza. Bryn remains offended by kids’ menus. Dash hasn’t eaten another black bean. (And I occasionally still serve him chicken nuggets. So sue me.) Still, I consider the boot camp successful.

“Our dinner rules—we’ve kept all of them, except glamorizing vegetables—have helped the kids understand what’s expected, which has meant fewer tantrums. Each one now tries food when it’s offered. Plus, they’ve discovered a couple of dishes they’ll both eat (the quesadillas and the turkey burgers). This may not sound like much, but it increases our repertoire about 300 percent.

“What’s more, I’ve changed: I’m more relaxed, even when the kids refuse to eat. Yes, I care that they have a varied and healthy diet, but I’m learning not to be so invested in every bite. And that means I can spend more time enjoying the people at my dinner table—and less time worrying what’s on it.”

Don’t you just love that?  I do.

So I’m setting up a boot camp for us too.  Mine, however is not just focused on dinner but on all 3 meals plus the afternoon snack because, for us dinner-time is not really the problem.  I have, since before they were born, been pretty good at preparing a balanced meal each night and everyone has to eat a little bit of everything.  But what has happened to us is that I have been letting them have the foods they like at breakfast, lunch, and snack (out of laziness on my part).  So, they just eat a small dinner and get the rest of their calories during the day.  The result has been a diet that is heavy on carbs and processed foods and low on fruits and vegetables.  And I want to turn this around…or at the very least get them used to seeing more fruits and vegetables so that they realize they really are an important part of each meal.

Below is my meal plan for this week.  I planned it as close to the guidelines from the USDA as I could.  But it’s not perfect…and it does have some processed, not-so-healthy additions.  My intent was to create a well-balanced menu, but at the same time to not overwhelm my kids with too many meals they don’t like.  I’m pretty proud of it; it took awhile to do, but I think if I keep practicing that I can get better and quicker at doing this.

Meal Plan 1

click on the image to enlarge

My plan is to do just like the author of the magazine article and keep a journal of how it goes this week right here on the blog.  I may not be able to share everything because I don’t want to embarrass anyone in my family, but I’ll try to share what I’m experiencing and learning the best that I can.  I also am going to adopt her rules (because they are simple and I like them).  My hope is that I can improve things around here, but also that my experience may be helpful to someone else who is struggling too!

(Note:  most of the breakfast and snack ideas in the above menu came from here and here.)

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject, so feel free to share in the comments below!

Simple Changes: Organizing My Dirty Dishes

Yes you read the title correctly!  And yes, I’m probably insane! 🙂  But this is a change that really is helping me be a little more motivated to tackle the continual mess in my kitchen.

A few years ago, when I was washing dishes with a friend of mine, she told me a story about someone organizing her dirty dishes for her.  A man and his wife were dinner-guests in her home, and afterwards they helped her with the clean-up.  The man told her that he was an “expert dish organizer” and proceeded to stack all of her dirty dishes together according to type and size.  I asked, “did it help?” and she said that it did; however she also said that she didn’t usually take the time herself to do it.  At the time of this conversation I was intrigued by the idea, but also never took the time to do it.

But recently my kitchen has been a disaster zone pretty much all the time!  As soon as I finally get everything cleaned up, it is practically time to prepare another meal.  And if I’m unable to do them right after a meal for some reason (or if I’m being rebellious and simply don’t!) then they really pile up in a hurry.

So, a few of weeks ago when I was feeling very overwhelmed at the mess, I decided to organize them.  I pulled everything out of the sink and started stacking like-dishes together.  Then I gathered everything that had been left on the table, stove, and the other counter and stacked them with everything else.  After that I wiped all of the now-cleared counters and stove off and swept the floor.  So, all I had to do was the dishes.  I simply picked up one pile at a time and rinsed them, then loaded them into the dishwasher (yes, I’m a “rinse the dishes before loading” person!).  It was great because I could look at my dishwasher to see what space I had there and then decide “I’m going to load the plates next, or the cups, or whatever.”  When I ran out of room, I switched to washing things that I usually hand-wash, and actually just left the other “dishwasher dishes” for later once this load was done.

It wasn’t faster, but it felt less stressful to me.  And so I’ve started doing this more regularly.  I’ve even been trying to teach my kids that instead of putting their dishes in the sink to go ahead and stack them neatly on the counter.  So, now I don’t feel so overwhelmed when I look at the mess (even if it does get big)!  If I’m in a hurry, I can do a quick cleanup of the table, stove, clear counter space, and sweep the floor.  Then later when I return, instead of being greeted by an entire kitchen to clean, I know I just need to start rinsing and loading a few dishes.

I was talking with my sister a couple of days ago about routines and systems.  I said something along the lines of “finding a system that would work.”  Her response was that most house-cleaning systems will work if we follow them.  The hard part is finding one that you like enough to actually follow.  I thought this was insightful.  And so I have to say that this system of organizing my dirty dishes is “working” because I like it.

What system works best for you for keeping up with dishes?  

The What, Why, and How of Improving My Family’s Eating Habits

The excitement over my new book about helping picky eaters has definitely worn off.  Now that I have read it 100% and re-read certain parts, the reality of the work and effort that will be required to improve my family’s eating habits is sinking in.  *Sigh*

My son made a statement the other night that really made me think.  He has read a little of the book, and was asking me a question about it.  As I explained my answer, I asked him if he was agreeing with what I was saying.  His response was, “I guess so…but I still don’t understand why I need to change.”  He wasn’t saying this to complain or be defiant; he was simply speaking the truth.  I explained it the best that I could to him, but I’ve been thinking a lot about his statement, and have been challenging myself to clarify not only the “why”  but also the “what” and the “how” in my own mind.

So of course I wanted to share! 🙂

What I am trying to change:

Basically I want our family to eat closer to the USDA recommended amounts for each food group.  I was able to look up the daily recommendations for each one of my kids here.  (Please note that these numbers are for my own kids based on their height and weight.  It may be slightly different for other children even if they are the same age.)

Serving sizes

To put it a little more simply, I am hoping to increase my kids’ consumption (and variety) of fruits and vegetables, and also healthy foods like salmon.  I would also like to decrease their consumption of refined grains, highly processed grains (i.e. sugary cereal), and junk food.

Why I am trying to change this:

This is where I answer my son’s question.  I guess the most obvious answer is for good health.  But I actually get a little bit of push-back from my family members when I site this as the only reason, because we have all been very blessed to be pretty healthy over the years.

But I have other reasons too.  For one thing, I see it as an investment in my children’s future.  When I left home after High School, I knew how to cook some basic things, and I could follow a recipe pretty well.  But looking back, I didn’t really know how to put together very many simple, healthy meals other than a sandwich and some fruit to go with it.  I was pretty picky too, and so when I shopped, I passed by a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables and instead bought the canned and packaged stuff.  It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I understand the basics, but now that I do, I can teach this information to my kids.  Of course, it will be their choice as to how they use what they know, but at least they will know it.

I also think that even though we all seem healthy, I personally can tell a difference in how I feel when I eat junk verses the good stuff.  If I can get more of the good stuff into my kids, I think they will notice it too, and then want to eat more of it based on that.  I have a friend that told me once that to her it is like fuel for a car.  The better quality fuel you use, the better the car will run.  Our bodies are like that too.

Another reason is that it will relieve a lot of stress and guilt that I feel.  When I serve meals that I know are not good, I always feel guilty.  But I just tell myself that it’s better than nothing, or that I’ll do better later, or I just push that feeling away.  But I know that on the days I eat well, not only do I feel better physically, but I feel better emotionally because there is no guilt.  Feelings of guilt can really weigh a person down!

And finally, I just simply value taking care of my body and my children.  Our bodies are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father, and taking care of them is a good way to say “thank you” for that gift!  My kids are also a gift from Him, and teaching them take care of themselves shows that I value them too.

How I am planning to change:

I think that simple changes are the way to go.  I’ve already tried to implement several of the things I’ve learned from Dr. Kennedy’s book, but I’m having trouble being consistent.  This has caused me to feel a bit overwhelmed.  So I’m taking a step back and am planning to implement just a little bit at a time.  The current plan is to work on each meal individually, starting with breakfast.  Every meal brings it’s own unique set of dynamics and challenges to making it healthy, so that’s why I’m choosing to approach it this way.

What reasons do you have for healthy choices (or changes) you’ve made in your life?

Help for {the Mom of} the Picky Eater

There has been a certain amount of buzz at my house, surrounding a book that I brought home from the library the other day.  It was laying on the floor next to me as I read my girls stories the other night.  When we finished, my older daughter and I both reached for it at the same time!  I told her selfishly that, “I get to read it first, then you can look at it,” to which she responded, “but I really want to look at it now!”

Later, after the dishes were (mostly) done, and my youngest was (mostly) settled into bed, I grabbed my book, and settled into our most comfortable chair to read.  But what did I find?  Someone was peering over my shoulder, trying to read it too!  It was my son – I was patient with his “over-the-shoulder” reading for about one minute, then I shooed him away.  But just as I did, in popped my daughter again, trying to get a look at this book!

I know you are dying to know what this amazing book is that everyone at my house is so anxious to read!!  You are probably thinking that if it’s generating this much excitement you’ll just have to rush out and get a copy for your own young readers (ahem, and yourself)!  But if you are thinking this, you should know that the excitement for the young ones is short-lived.  They really don’t want to read it; they just want to look at a few pages so that they can know what I’m up to.  Because, you see – this book is about helping parents feed their picky eaters.  And who are the picky eaters in my household??  You guessed it!  The two that were trying so hard to read my book!  (Along the youngest one who was {mostly} settled into bed).

Their intense interest stemmed from the realization of what my reading this book could mean for them.  My daughter said, “What is it, a book about how to get us to eat yucky food?” and later she asked, “What does it say, eat tomatoes 500x’s and then you will like them?” and then to be extra funny, she added, “and give a marshmallow after each one?”  My son, on the other hand was more interested in seeing my answers to the quiz questions that are in the book.  He wanted to know what I was saying about him!

So, no – don’t rush out and buy this book expecting your young ones to sit down and read it.  But I have to say that I’m pretty excited about it for myself.  The “picky-eater” situation has been by far one of the most emotional struggles that I’ve had as a parent.  I feel like I’m a decent cook, and make pretty good food, but to have people sit down to dinner night after night with anxiety and stress about being asked to eat it is so frustrating for me!!  I’ve been trying (and have made some good progress) to help them eat more variety.  But we are far from where I feel we need to be.

Since I just barely brought the book home, all I’ve been able to do so far is read about 3/4 of it…I haven’t actually tried anything that the author is suggesting.  But I have to say that I love what I’m reading.  The stuff this author is saying matches perfectly with my own way of thinking about both food and parenting.  But she has been able to take those beliefs and put them into a concrete system of rules and consequences combined with an understanding of the child’s needs, that I think will work!  With all the research I’ve done on eating healthy and helping the picky eater, this is the first time I’ve read anything that I think will actually help me!  I’m so excited.

And, I plan to keep everyone posted.  Even if I decide it’s not helpful after all, I’ll definitely let everyone know.  I’ll most likely include this in my “simple changes” series that I’ve been writing, because the author recommends making the changes slowly as to not overwhelm everyone.  She even uses the phrase!  On pg. 92 she says, “You and your family can focus on making one simple change a month to turn everyone’s unhealthy eating habits around slowly and without drama.

So, what’s the name of this very awesome book?  It is called, “The Picky Eating Solution” by Deborah Kennedy, Ph.D.  She also has a website which I honestly have not looked at, but thought I would mention.  As a side note, I have not received any compensation for telling about her book or website, and as I said before I cannot at this point vouch for the effectiveness of her methods.  But I am super excited to try out her rules and other suggestions to see if they help my family!