Friday, October 22, 2010

Cheerios Asks About Nurturing the Whole Child

When Cheerios asked me the question, “What have you learned from your mother about nourishing the whole child?”, it got me thinking about my nourishment philosophy.

When nourishing a child you must appeal to the whole child. While nourishment is far more than just the food we serve, here is what my mother taught me about how to use food to nourish the body and mind.

Make it good. No matter how healthy something is, if it’s not tasty, it will not be eaten. There are plenty of ways to make good-for-you foods enjoyable. Do not be afraid to use fats and sweeteners in moderation. When kids enjoy the taste of the food they are eating, their minds and bodies will be fulfilled and strengthened. We must be careful of passing our food hang-ups and feelings of food guilt to our children. We want them to have a healthy relationship with food and an occasional indulgence is just fine.

Make it fun. Kids love the kitchen. Not only did my mother teach me how to cook, she made me understand cooking is love. A family is nourished by cooking together and eating together. When my mother couldn’t cook, my dad jumped in. Our priority was home cooked meals eaten together. The best way to get children to eat nutritious food is to involve them in the planning and preparation. Not only is bonding in the kitchen a great way to spend time with your children, you are teaching them an important life skill, that sadly, many today do not have.

Make it a time of education. Giving children an understanding about how foods are used to take care of their growing bodies is valuable information. They might not always eat the way you teach them (no need for being too strict) but they will possess a base of information going forward. They need to know how to use food to keep them healthy. They should want to try new things because you modeled trying new things and encouraged them to do so. Proper eating does require education, although we rarely think of it as such. My family watches Food Network together and enjoys learning together this way. We see new things they want to try or learn new cooking techniques that keep them captivated and interested. It’s great to hear my kindergartner say a certain spice brings out the flavor of the dish. I may be raising future foodies.

Make it a time of exploration. Growing your own food gives good insight to where food comes from. Your child needs to understand it doesn’t just come from the grocery store. It can be as simple as a potted herb in a windowsill pot to a plot covering your backyard. Learning about different plants by caring for them fosters understanding, makes a connection and therefore contributes to a nurturing environment.

Make it memorable. Plenty of my family memories involve food. The smell of curried cauliflower at Thanksgiving dinner, candy cane cookies around the holidays, and bagel sandwiches from a vendor’s cart while selling produce at the farmer’s market early Saturday mornings are vivid in my mind. The sights, aromas, and tastes of foods shared with family are a big part of growing up nourished by these foods. I incorporate these into my own family and am always looking for ways to introduce new family traditions. My earliest memory is a little cloudy but involves my mom, the mall, and apple fritters. I must have been three or four. Is this where I get my intense love for baked goods? Maybe, but the memories are good ones and I wouldn’t want to be without them.

Nourishing children is much more complex than what we give them to eat. By giving them a firm foundation in the nourishing value of food, we can give them the basis for a healthy lifestyle. What a great gift to give to your children. I'll blame my mother. I got it from her!
What did you learn about nurturing from your mother?

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