By Tanja Ragonesi
I was talking with a friend the other day, and she told me that growing up, her mother used to bake, and leave out half the sugar and half the fat from every recipe she used. I was impressed that my friend’s mother was as health conscious as this twenty years ago. I have very fond memories of my mother cooking and baking. She was a fabulous cook and could bake cakes and pastries that would bring a tear to your eye. When we were feeling a little sad, a little under the weather, or a little nervous about a school test, a slice of cake or a cookie would be the cure. Everything was made with extra butter, extra sugar and extra love. My mother had no idea that carb loading really was meant for marathon runners and Olympic athletes…
When my youngest son was born eighteen months ago, I took a long, hard look at my lifestyle and my inherited love of cooking and food, and realized that I needed to make some changes. I want to be around for my kids, for however long they need me. Dropping dead from a heart attack due to eating too much is just not on my “to do” list!
For the first time in my life I joined a gym and stuck to an exercise routine. I joined Weight Watchers and lost sixty pounds. While doing this, I carried on cooking, and baking, and I still enjoy it. What a shock! You can actually lose weight and still enjoy cooking, baking and eating tasty food in moderation. Trying to change old habits and learning to lead a healthier lifestyle is a challenge. For the most part, I love finding new recipes and new ideas to improve life for me and my family. I will never be a waif, but I will be healthy.
Trying to cook healthier meals, keep your home in some kind of order, raise a gaggle of children and possibly work full time is daunting to say the least. I know some moms who make this look like a breeze, and others who have a hard time remembering to take a shower. I have picked up a few ideas that make things a little easier and I hope that you will find one or two helpful for your situation.
If your children are like mine, anything green is eyed with great suspicion at the dinner table. My three year old was convinced that I was trying to poison him at every meal. Our pediatrician gave me some great advice – don’t force, but lead by example. Kids learn by watching you, not from lectures about saturated fat. And pushing a food because it’s “good for you” will make them want something else. Don’t withhold dessert until the vegetables are gone; you’re teaching them that ice cream is the prize, and they can avoid green beans whenever you’re not around. Most importantly, never go to extremes and say “no sugar,” “no fast food” and so on; they’ll make a beeline for them. I found this advice very useful.
I have started serving up bowls of fresh vegetables and salad at meals and I make sure that I comment on how delicious they taste. I also try to include my children when I cook. My son has great fun combining bowls of lettuce, mandarin oranges, almonds, avocado and cucumber and makes the most amazingly messy and delicious salads. He usually only eats the really tasty parts (most of the oranges and nuts) but more and more, he is starting to sneak some greens when he thinks I’m not watching.
Kids usually avoid unfamiliar foods, not just healthy ones. Keep putting asparagus on the plate, and don’t get angry when he doesn’t touch it for two months. You want to breed familiarity, which will (hopefully) lead to experimentation.
I find that sometimes, it really does help to disguise vegetables. Making stews and soups with actual vegetable juice instead of broth is tasty and gives you an added boost of vitamins. Adding pureed vegetables to pasta dishes is another idea, as is using apple sauce and grated carrots in muffins, and substituting apple sauce and yogurt for oil in baking.
It’s a no brainer, making food in large quantities and refrigerating or freezing containers saves a lot of time and effort for busy moms. I love buying lots of fresh seasonal vegetables, making a large pot of soup and freezing batches – this is especially good in winter. Add whole wheat noodles to your veggie soup and your kids won’t even realize they are eating healthy food.
I also find that planning ahead is key. Once a week, I try to plan meals for the week. Planning so many meals can make anyone anxious. My favorite “go to” places for inspiration are www.foodnetwork.com and www.allrecipes.com. There are thousands of similar sites I’m sure. I find these two sites helpful for the following reasons:
Food Network allows you to search “healthy” recipes. Ellie Krieger is one of my favorite chefs on this site. Most of her recipes are simple, very tasty and nutritious. You can also browse recipes according to preparation time, level of difficulty and popularity.
allrecipes.com is a great website to use when you have no idea what to cook with what you currently have in the house. It has an “ingredients” search, so you can type in what you have handy, and it will list dozens of recipes to try. It is a really good site for every day cooking. They have wonderful slow cooker recipes – and I cannot say enough about what a great invention the slow cooker is for moms! Great chili, soups, casseroles, and almost no hassle! Working moms can switch on the slow cooker before they leave for work and have dinner ready when they get home.
Once I’ve tried a new recipe that I’ve found on line and love, I add it to a file so that I can go back to it in the future.
Basically, I find that if I make healthy meal planning interesting for myself, it puts the joy back into cooking and baking and it becomes fun again.
We will chat again soon! Have fun, Pressure Coo