Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Websites guide families to healthy eating

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
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As mothers (and fathers, grandparents, and any other caregiver that reads The Mommyhood) we are busy, but we want the best for our babies. Even when our babies aren’t really babies anymore. I know I want my child to eat good, whole, nutritional foods. However, I don’t always have the time to make it happen. I know there are days when it’s 5:30, there’s no food in the fridge and I remember we have to eat dinner.

Well, over the past several months I’ve been made aware of a couple websites with local ties that teach and support healthy eating, from birth on. They’re great resources for everyone that has a child in their care. In fact, they’re just plain ol’ good resources for everyone.

The first is Healthy Kids, Inc. Operated by locals Kirk and Mandy Curry — Mandy was recently named one of the State Journal’s 40 under 40 — the site offers a plethora of healthy eating tips. The Currys have two young sons, the inspiration for HKI.

I found out about HKI when I wrote this story for the Gazette-Mail Outlook edition. What I personally like about HKI is the guidance from menu planning, to the store, to food prep, to actual cooking. Mandy, with the help of dietician Sarah Sturgill and chef Joe Crockett (one of Jamie Oliver’s helper chefs in Huntington), do everything but actually cook for you.

There are step-by-step videos and great photos to use as visual guides, as well as provided nutritional content. I picked up a few tips from Mandy during my interview.

  • First, do all your prep on one day. After your menu has been planned and the food has been bought, take a chunk of time and get everything ready to cook. Mince all that garlic at once, get those peppers chopped, peel those carrots, etc.
  • Second, organize your meals in containers. Mandy puts everything for a meal in a container (which the site will have for sale, soon) and puts the recipe on top of the container. When it comes dinner time, Mandy pulls out the container, cooks up the meal and has dinner on the table in around 30 minutes. Isn’t that brilliant?
  • Third, buy fresh foods. Mandy told me she took a friend to the store one day. The friend didn’t believe you could eat fresh, healthy foods for less than you could buy frozen foods. Mandy guided her through the produce section and the friend ended up spending about half of what she normally spent, for a week’s worth of meals.

HKI is a membership-based site, but offers some free recipes if you want to try out the meals before committing your money. However, it’s less than $100 for a year’s membership. If you’re struggling with menus and need help creating kid-friendly foods, they’ve got you covered. Worth the money.

The second site is Eating for Breastfeeding. The site was started by Marshall grads Elizabeth Green and Stacy VanBibber. Elizabeth (aka Marybeth, for you St. Albans folks) is a broadcast journalist and WAHM and Stacy is a registered and licensed dietician. Together, they provide a series of videos on tips for breastfeeding and provide support to moms that might be struggling as they nurse their child.

Along with the videos, Elizabeth and Stacy also offer downloadable PDFs and a Q&A, as well as teach the basics, update you on the latest breastfeeding recommendations, and provide meal plans (the tropical salmon looks amazing), shopping lists and tips on how to save time in the kitchen. One of my favorite resources on their site is the Freezer and Refrigerator guidelines. I am always asking if our food is still good and may be throwing away food that is perfectly fine.

Here is one of the videos on Eating for Breastfeeding.

I hope you take the time to check out these sites. I love that Mandy, Elizabeth and Stacy are taking the time to show other women what to eat. It’s a simple part of our life that we get so, so wrong on a daily basis. Enjoy!

Party Hearty

Monday, August 29, 2011
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Spit that out, young lady.

I received a flyer from my daughters’ school outlining the nutritional guidelines for students.  In short, the cookies-cupcakes-popsicle-corn chip-jug o’ juice-gummy snack celebration days are over.  Wipe that smudge of chocolate off your face, moms and dads.  You’re out of compliance.

I wish I had read these rules before I agreed to be the kindergarten homeroom chairperson in charge of — yep…you guessed it — classroom parties.

Homemade Rice Krispie treats? Blondies and brownies made from scratch? Little cups of vanilla ice cream served with a wooden tongue depressor-type of spoon? Ahhhhh-bsolutely not! A pizza party for the class that sold the most cookie dough in this fall’s fundraiser?  Fuggedaboutit! A mini-pack of M&Ms pulled out of the good behavior treasure box? That’s a no-no. Grandma Brown’s famous peanut butter fudge? Grandpa Brown’s banana nut bread?  Are you crazy? You could kill a child!

From what I understand, the nutritional guidelines have been in effect for years, but parents still aren’t paying attention: Nothing, absolutely nothing, can be delivered to a classroom that hasn’t been produced, packaged and labeled from a grocery store. Ingredient and caloric breakdown labels must be on the product to protect children with food allergies and other digestive sensitivities (such as whatever was smeared on your kitchen counter when you cut up that raw, whole chicken for dinner last night).

As an over-protective mother of two, I appreciate that someone is watching over my kids.  As a parent-volunteer, I’m perplexed.   Now what are we supposed to do?

Get creative.

The West Virginia Department of Education’s Standards For School Nutrition (Policy 4321.1) specifies key features of the plan, which dedicates an entire section to snacks served outside of the program:

The plan strongly reccomends that only water, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice and non-fat or low-fat milk be offered during the school day in all grades.  Juices should not contain added sugar and are required to be age and portion appropriate.  No coffee products, caffeinated beverages or foods containing artificial sweetners are allowed during the school day.

Snacks and drinks must be limited to:

- 200 calories each;

- no more than 35 percent calories from fat;

- less than 10 percent total calories from saturated fat;

- less than .5 grams of trans fat;

- no more than 35 percent of calories from sugar;

- no more than 200 milligrams of sodium.

And my personal favorite:

“Foods and beverages should not be offered as a reward or used as a means of punishment.”

However, if you want to send your child to school with a Mountain Dew and a Three Musketeers for lunch, you can do that.

Section 5.2: Due to special dietary needs and food safety concerns, food and beverages brought or delivered from outside sources may be consumed only by individual students for which they were brought or delivered, and not by the general student population.

So as I make plans for the upcoming Halloween party, I have to take into consideration that Big Brother is watching.  “Organized food events and celebrations held during the school day shall be regulated and monitored by school personnel to meet the requirements of this policy.”

This means no one is going to show us the love on Valentine’s Day, either.  In our home, I’ve been teaching my daughters that less is usually more.  Everything in moderation.  But apparently celebrating two times a year — October 31st and February 14th — is too much of a good thing.

To eat, or not to eat

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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While driving to my softball game yesterday, I heard “the odd story of the day,” about a man who has banned children 6 and under from his restaurant.

When I got home, the story was making its rounds on Facebook. People are up in arms, both for and against the business owner’s decision to keep young children out of his establishment.

The jist is this: A restaurant owner in Monroeville, Pa. (right outside Pittsburgh) sent an email to his customers which read, “Beginning July 16, 2011, McDain’s Restaurant will no longer admit children under six years of age. We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers.”

The owner, Mike Vuick, said that while children are the center of their parent’s universe, they aren’t the center of every one’s universe.

I found this very interesting, because I am a person who takes my child everywhere. He has been to concerts, music festivals, football games, parties, nice restaurants, etc. He is usually amidst plenty of little peers, so we’re not the only parents that feel this way. I also have relatives who want to treat us to a nice dinner, as a family, at some of the area’s finest dining establishments. They believe that they are paying the bill, therefore they can bring whomever they want.

However, I have a lot of trouble taking my baby/toddler to the nicest of the nice eateries in town. I can’t get past the fact that there are people who save up for months to go out to a nice, child-free dinner on their anniversary and want a little peace and quiet. I would be horrified if my child started throwing a tantrum that shattered the serenity of their candle lights and wine.

The roar on Facebook differed, with some saying that children shouldn’t be allowed at restaurants that tip, while others said no kids at restaurants with bars.

My mom presented a different viewpoint. She believes that you can take a child anywhere, but must teach them to behave. She said consistency, discipline and setting boundaries are all you need to do, the rest is a piece of cake. Misbehaving, screaming, throwing items, and other inappropriate actions are not to be allowed or tolerated. Something to be considered (sayeth me, to myself).

While there have been occasions when I’ve had to box up my dinner and leave the restaurant or take my child outside to calm down, I think we’ve done pretty well figuring out how to enjoy the area’s quality dining without being a nuisance to other patrons.

When we go out, we make sure to find a kid-friendly restaurant. I don’t mean every restaurant has to have crayons, a kid’s menu or even high chairs to be kid-friendly. We really don’t use any of those. But they are good indicators.

Websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon can be extremely helpful when planning a trip and trying to find original restaurants for the whole family. I’ve also called places we want to go to see if they allow children. On a past birthday trip, I was surprised to find a brewery was very kid- (and dad) friendly. They didn’t have any children’s menus posted online, so I called to double-check and they were very enthusiastic about bringing children in. We ended up having a great dinner there, with the sweetest server.

We also try to abide by the rule that the din of the restaurant needs to cover the normal babbling of a child. I’ve found that guide to be very helpful. For example, Tidewater is fine dining, but quite loud. A perfect fit for someone who wants high quality food and service, but wants to be with family. (I swear they didn’t pay me to say that.)

After about 12 months old, we decided to skip the booster seat/high chair and just stick the kid in a corner booth. He’s trapped in, but has a little more wiggle room. A happy kid, which equals a happy momma and daddy.

With siblings in the restaurant industry, we try to tip well. However, with a child that eats off the menu now, or at least one of our plates, we try to tip even more. There’s a bigger mess to clean when we leave, more drinks to get, a distraction at the table. It’s the fair thing to do.

So, what do you think? Is Vuick being fair? Unfair? Do you take your child to every restaurant in town? Is it a good business move?

Addendum from the Huffington Post: There is no law preventing restaurants from banning children. But, restaurants cannot ban senior citizens because they are in a protected class under the law.

The Heirloom

Monday, July 4, 2011
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My Presbyterian father's second Bible.

I didn’t write a tribute piece on Father’s Day, because I wanted to stay focused on my husband rather than on my dad, who passed away in 2006.  But last evening, it was all I could do to stop thinking about him as I dropped ears of corn into a stock pot of boiling water….as weird as that sounds.

When I was a little girl, Saturdays belonged to us. Perhaps it was his way of spending time with me after a long week at the office, or perhaps it was his way of giving my mother a much deserved break — but either way — it was our standing date.  We’d leave the house around 7:30 a.m. and browse Kanawha City yard sales, looking for things we liked but certainly did not need. An hour or so later, we’d drive to Farmer’s Market, the one that sprawled for what seemed to be a mile or more under the interstate.  I would follow behind him as he walked from stand to stand, checking out the latest crops, smelling cantelopes and testing the ripeness of a peach.   I can see him in my mind’s eye wearing his traditional red golf shirt with a chest pocket holding a pack of Marlboros, navy slacks (that’s what he called them!), and wing-tipped shoes (always).  When he had made his choices, brown paper bags shook open and into them fell piles of half-runners. He’d hand me a box of tomatoes with metal handles, warning me not to poke them as I had been found guilty of doing before.  White corn (never yellow) was stacked in plastic bags, their husks pulled back just enough to confirm the Silver Queen.  Cucumbers filled another bag, their prickly skins leaving a bumpy rash on my hands and arms.

Around noon, we’d make our way to Kroger for the remaining ingredients that were required for whatever recipe he discovered watching Crockett’s Victory Garden, a show that aired on public television for half of my childhood.  Finally, we’d pull into the driveway and the rest of the day was spent listening to the clanging of pots and pans and the occasional sneeze, a sign that he had overdone it with the black pepper.

Toward the end of summer (which certainly wasn’t August 19th), I was allowed to stay up late watching TV while my mom and dad canned all of those fruits and vegetables they had grown, or overgrown by neighbors.  Even with the roar of an air conditioning unit sandwiched in the dining room window, the house was sweltering hot, yet somehow more comfortable than any other time of the year.  From the swivel chair in the living room, I could see directly into the kitchen, where both of them chatted about things I couldn’t hear.  Newspapers covered the tabletop, and they sat across from each other stringing beans and pulling off darkened ends, never looking up, and never breaking speed.  They canned until midnight or later, or until my dad carried me to my room and put me in bed wearing the day’s clothes and dirty feet.

I’m sure it wasn’t easier back then, but as a child, life felt safe. My dad would stroll through his minature garden and pull a carrot out of the ground, wipe the soil on those same slacks, and hand it to me — top and all.  “Tell me if it’s a sweet one,” he’d say, and I would report that it was good.

Today, I live in Fort Hill on a ridge that is anything but conducive to gardening.  But I started a container garden of Better Boy tomatoes, cucumbers and of course, baby carrots, which my own daughters have enjoyed planting and watching grow.  I can’t recreate the Noyes Avenue backyard, or reopen the old Farmer’s Market, nor can I bring back the late nights of canning bread and butter pickles and strawberry jam. But, I can remember all of it as if it were yesterday.

How sweet it is.

Finding Myself in Never Land

Monday, June 6, 2011
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She only looks innocent.

I’m writing this on the night before the last day of school, having packed Ava’s final lunch: One container of ham and cheese slices, crackers, a cup of pineapple, a grape Capri Sun, a spoon, and two napkins.  And one memory of what she used to do with food, before she got caught.

Kindergarten was a rough experience for Ava because she hadn’t attended preschool.  She was completely shell-shocked by the thunderous pounding of feet in the hallway going to classrooms and going to buses, and she sat in a stupor during lunchtime as kids laughed with each other, chewing and spewing food as they talked.

A few weeks into the semester, I noticed that nothing was coming back in Ava’s lunchbag — no evidence of what she did or didn’t eat.  I assumed she had found her appetite and was going through a growth spurt because she raided the pantry from 3:00-on.  But one afternoon, her teacher motioned for me to get out of the car so she could speak to me.

“For the past few weeks, our custodian has been finding a smashed peanut butter sandwich on the floor after the first lunch period,” she began. “We couldn’t figure out who it was, so we had someone walk around today to see who might be doing this over and over again.  It was your daughter.”

My eyes widened.  Not my child.  My child would never do that.

“We didn’t say anything to her because we knew you would.”

My eyes narrowed.  You can count on that.

“What in the world would make you throw food on the floor for weeks on end?” I demanded when we got home.

Tears welled in her eyes and her lip began to quiver.  No response.

“You left a mess for someone else to deal with.  Why would you do such a thing?” I continued.

Sniffling. Rubbing of eyes.

“Don’t you see how disrespectful this is?”

Sobbing. Head in her hands.

“We aren’t leaving this kitchen until I know what’s wrong.”

She looked up with a tear-stained, swollen face.


Aha. Of course.  So it’s my fault.

After 15 minutes of interrogation (minus waterboarding – we weren’t there yet), she confessed that she hated sandwiches because they were mushy, but she didn’t want to waste food.  She also didn’t want to bring home a full lunch bag because I would have been mad that she didn’t eat.   Still. My. Fault.

However, my little schemer figured that if something happened to her lunch, she wouldn’t have to eat it.  So, she’d open her baggie, nibble on the ends, place it in her lap, nudge it onto the floor, and then step on it as she got up to leave the table.  Whoops! I dropped my sandwich and it’s ruined.  I can’t eat it now.

I was upset that she felt she had to hide her food and her feelings.  I was concerned that she was afraid of teachers and staff…but even worse…her own mother.  Was I that mean? That harsh? That scary?

Even though I felt terrible, I still had to punish her for causing such a production at school. I grabbed the bread and the container of Peter Pan, slathering it between the layers.  Then, I dropped it to the floor and stepped on it.  “Now clean it up,” I said calmly.

Inside, my heart broke.  I was the reason we were in this situation to begin with.  I felt awful – and completely regretful because peanut butter had filled the grooves of our hardwood floor.

She hopped off the stool and peeled the sandwich back, leaving a stamped print of dough and crunchy paste.  She ripped off a paper towel and scooped away the mess, tossing the wad in the trash.  The thought of someone on their hands and knees cleaning up my child’s deliberate mess – whatever her reason – bothered me.  But I think she got the point. The next day, she apologized to the custodian for her behavior and he lovingly patted her blonde head. ­­

That night, I scraped peanut butter out of the floor with toothpicks; my own hard labor for giving my child the impression she couldn’t come to me with her problems – for fear she might hurt my feelings.

In retrospect, we both learned an important lesson from Peter Pan on that day. We won’t find out what’s really good for us until we’ve gone a little nuts.