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How to Spring-Clean Your Eating Habits
It’s a natural impulse to purge your closet this time of year. Who wants itchy, pilling sweaters when they could be wearing crisp tees and cute sundresses? I also get the urge to clean my windows so I can get a better view of the (sometimes) blue sky and flowers on my trees. And I can’t wait to finally put away the stack of hats, gloves, and snow boots that has overtaken my entryway (since it snowed this past weekend, I’m going to wait a week or two on that one).
Whether it’s trying a new food or attempting a new recipe, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve urged my kids to try a new food—a food they claimed to “know its disgusting”—only to hear them say, “Wow mom, I didn’t know delicata squash (or kale, pomegranate, clams) was so not gross! Can I have some more?” Sure, sometimes (as with the pureed broccoli-and parsley salad I foisted on them last night), they confirm it to be disgusting. But they don’t gag, vomit, or die.
This time of year, people tend to go in one of two directions, eating-wise: Either they double down on their dedication to a healthy diet and forego every sugar cookie, candied pecan, and cheese plate they encounter—or they say some version of “screw it” and dive head first into the buttered mashed potatoes (or cookie platter).
Learning to love—no, crave—the only non-controversial food group.
I was cooking up some turkey bacon for my kids’ breakfast when my husband read me the headline about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to designate processed meat as a “Group 1 carcinogen” (that’s the same category as cigarettes). Up until that moment, I’d been pretty proud of the recent addition of bacon to our morning repertoire and was pleased to cut out carbs and replace them with “healthy” protein. Now I was throwing my hands up in frustration. Was I poisoning my children?
I admit I’ve got some serious hoarder tendencies, especially when it comes to food. While I’m not especially proud of my mismatched assortment of Pyrex and Tupperware, I have to say that opening the door and seeing those myriad containers of leftover food makes me feel good.
“This food comes from the earth and the sky. It is a gift of the entire universe and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.” — Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists
At the beginning of every yoga class, while we’re sitting in sukhasana, my yoga teacher always says to “give silent gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.” And, even though I am mentally not quite “there” yet — I’m still trying to find my “sit bones” and thinking about my grocery list and how I forgot my daughter’s gym shoes and did I shut the garage door? — usually, I do it. Images of my kids’ faces and my cozy brick house flash through my mind, and if I take time to really think about it (and not about the location of my cute new flats that I hope the dog isn’t eating right now), I realize I have so much to be grateful for: my close, loving family, my friends, my health, my readers, my Dutch oven, fire-roasted Hatch green chilies, pasture butter and the fact that I am rarely hungry.
As a kitchen coach, I probably get asked that question more than any others. If I’m in an expansive mood, my answer can quickly veer into eye-glazing territory. I’m pretty passionate about organic food and tend to get long-winded when discussing things like the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, the reasons why we want to avoid GMOs, the potential health risks of chemical pesticides, and, finally, how to clarify priorities since organic can be expensive.
But if I’m ever pressed to pick one single food to buy organic, the answer is quick and easy: apples.
I hope my kids learn to cook. And love to it as much as I do.
I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is an appreciation for food. And by food, I mean real food — food that doesn’t come out of a can or microwaveable container. This hope is not just for my children; I hope more and more kids everywhere grow up with a renewed understanding of where food comes from and a respect for the plants and animals they eat.
Instead of citing studies about the rise of childhood obesity and rambling on about why teaching our kids to cook will make the world a better place, I’ve written a hopeful little story (with respectful credit due to Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond, authors of many beloved children’s books, including, of course, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I hope you like it.