If I didn’t have a degree in nutrition, I would be so confused about what to feed my kids. In the past month, I have read articles on the evils of sugar, the overconsumption of sodium, certain death from read meat, and poisoning kids with school lunch. What’s a parent to believe? What’s left to feed the kids?
Before you resort to drastic measures in changing your eating habits, take a moment to filter out all the sensationalized news. If you are going to buy into a change in family meals, at least do your research to find out what the evidence is, how strong it might be, and how much it affects you. I’ll write more about that on my Food 4 Thought column this Thursday. Once you have made an educated decision about the validity of the information, next you need to weigh the costs against the benefits. Let’s say you decide that your family really does eat too much sodium. First you will need to make a list of the benefits of eating less sodium and, then, determine the costs. What will it take to cut back to a reasonable amount? You have the time you will invest in determining which foods are the culprits and which foods are good alternatives. Are those choices more expensive? Does it change the preparation time? Will your children eat these low sodium alternatives? Will you need new recipes or new seasonings? Is making this change worth all the time, effort, and aggravation? The answer to this last question will either empower you to change or allow you to justify your current eating habits.
If you decide your family would be better off with some changes in food choices, realize that permanent change takes time. If your family eats red meat several times a week and you call a moratorium on it, from now until the end of time, I guarantee you will be booed out of the kitchen. I remember a time when I was obsessed with cutting the fat out of our meals. I bought fat-free ingredients, stopped cooking with fat, and substituted applesauce for margarine in cakes and cookies. Some of it was quite tasty and my family accepted it without question, but most of it was so different from the dishes they were accustomed to that the garbage disposal was fuller than the people. No longer so fat-phobic, I have returned to many of the old standard recipes I grew up on. But I would have been better off to make a few little adjustments in my cooking, at a time, so that my family could adapt.
Even better, a family discussion about how to make changes would be more appropriate. The youngest members of your household may have opinions that you are unaware of. Kids are also more responsive to change if there are rational reasons for making them. I doubt that they will care about how healthy they will be at 80-years-old, but kids are very eager to support other family members through struggles. I remember a woman telling the story about being diagnosed with diabetes at seven years old. At dinner, her mother announced that they had all been offered a wonderful gift. Because of the young daughter’s dietary needs, they would all be eating healthier from now on. What a lovely way to bring a family together in support of a loved one. I’m sure the changes were still not easy, but they were probably better tolerated.
Considering how change affects every member of your family can be trying, but it’s worth the effort. Have you made changes in your food choices? How did you help your family make the transition?