(My guest post on Veggies Don't Bite)
When you have children, feeding them is one of the most important matters you face from the moment you discover you're pregnant. In utero, what you eat, they eat. And then when they are born, the same responsibility remains, starting with the decision to either nurse or bottle feed them.
I breastfed both my children the first year of their lives, give or take a month for each of them. It was an easy choice for me to make prenatally, even though there was nothing easy about actually doing it once that baby came out and needed to eat.
Yes, there were those magical, life affirming moments with both of my kids in which I felt intimacy, comfort and satisfaction as I nourished their little bodies with mine; but those moments were rare and fleeting. For me, from the standpoint of the *post-partum, hormonally-imbalanced, sleep-deprived, and geographically-isolated newborn mother that I was, twice, the whole endeavor was mostly just, HARD.
It was exactly like trying to feed my kids real food now. Well, not exactly. Now, it's harder.
Healthily feeding my non-infant children in this world, in this country, in this day, in this age… it's a daunting prospect for me, as I suspect it is for most parents. Since the food supply in the U.S. is riddled with genetically-modified, chemically-processed, hormonally-pumped, and pesticide- & toxin-laden Franken-food (wow, it has more hyphenates than me!), due diligence is required to navigate the sea of potential poison disguised as consumable food in today's grocery stores and restaurants.
If you have any inclination to provide your kids with a regular diet of clean, nutrient-rich, whole foods, ones free from artificial preservatives, synthetic pesticides, ripening agents, growth hormones, irradiation, etc., then AWESOME! You're already one step in the right direction. Continue on by educating yourself, ignoring what the FDA deems "safe", and accepting that what most advertisers tout as "all natural" really is not at all. (For more on this, watch Only Organic's funny and enlightening video "The Natural Effect")
As a firm advocate of the saying (that I am just making up right now), "What you bring into the home is a reflection of your beliefs", I recognize that my children see how I shop and eat what I buy; and in doing so, they are ultimately learning from me what foods are healthy to eat.
No pressure there.
But since you can't monitor every morsel that passes their lips without acting like a crazy person or scarring their psyches for life, I wouldn't recommend even trying. Instead, try to live by the 80/20 rule: feed them organic, non-GMO, clean, whole foods 80% of the time (at home, in markets such as Whole Foods and Erewhon, and at farm-to-table restaurants) and let the chips of the other 20% fall where they may (at birthday parties, during playdates, and at summer BBQ's).
And then relish the small wins… like when my kids consider yummy indulgences to be an organic banana or apple slathered with organic peanut butter (with no added sugar or hydrogenated oils) or a bowl of whole milk plain greek yogurt with local raw honey and Qi'a Superfood on top.
Shifting our kids' perspectives from the norm of today's flawed social structure is a strategy available to all parents - the key is to find ways to be creative and innovative in your approach. After all, we are the ones they have looked to since infancy for sustenance, nurturing, comfort and guidance. And since all children are susceptible to be equally brainwashed by Disney movies and cartoon character food packaging, it stands to reckon that they can just as easily (and arguably more so) be conditioned by us, their parents, in ways that will positively impact them, their bodies, their minds and overall health, for life.
And if that's not more vital and important than you and your kids being able to belt out all the songs on the Frozen soundtrack, than I don't know what is.
Below are two of my most popular sweet ideas for treats that my kids love and ask for often. They are sweetened only by fruit sugar and contain a few simple ingredients, all of which I get organic.
This first recipe is one I found online a while back, although I don't remember where. There are many variations on it, some less healthy than others that include added sugar, flour and butter. The version I make has no refined sugar, and is also dairy-free and potentially gluten-free, if need be...
- 3 RIPE bananas
- 1/3 cup applesauce
- 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free or not, your choice)
- 1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional, but a yummy, sweet addition!)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Put three ripe bananas in a bowl. Mash them with a fork until somewhat pureed.
- Add the apple sauce, rolled oats, and almond milk to the mashed bananas and mix with a spatula until well blended.
- Stir in the raisins, vanilla and cinnamon until combined.
- Place tablespoon sized dollops of the mixture on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
- Shape and flatten cookies to your preference, as they won't move or change form during baking.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Makes 2 dozen (24) cookies.
I experimented and came up with this next treat one night about a year ago when I was searching for something to feed my kids that would satisfy their sweet tooth but not pump their blood streams up with refined white sugar. I was inspired by my memory of years ago, single and kid-less, when I would put Medjool Dates and soaked raw almonds in my food processor to whip up a naturally sweet and healthy puree-type snack for myself to eat with a spoon after a long run or as a late night treat. Slight modifications to that original concoction make these "bites" much more palatable and more fun to eat for kids...
Date Almond Bites
- 5 dozen (60) small Deglet Noor Dates, or about 20 large Medjool Dates, if preferred
- 1 cup and 1/4 cup Almond Meal (divided)
- 1/3 cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened (optional)
- Place the dates in your food processor (removing the pits if using Medjool).
- Pulse until they form a paste.
- Gradually add the 1 cup of almond meal until combined.
- Do a taste test. Adjust the date to almond meal ratio to get the consistency you like. The paste should be sticky and not too crumbly.
- Form into 1" balls.
- Roll the balls in either the remaining 1/4 cup of almond meal or 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, or a combination of both to fit your family's individual tastes.
Makes 4 dozen (48) 1" balls.
*For more on the "new mom" hyphenates I described above, check out my post Booby Prize.