Go Big or Go…Home?

Um, I AM home.

Let me tell you something-I never dreamed I’d be a stay at home workout video kind of girl. I did competitive gymnastics starting at 6, then swim team (briefly, I kept getting kicked out of the water for turning blue, sigh #skinnygirlproblems), then track and field (high jump and hurdles), marching band (colorguard), and simultaneously martial arts. I kept up with the martial arts through college as well as adding trail running to the list. And I added weights, too. My then-friend-now-husband spent one semester doing weights three-four times a week with me and running almost daily. I was probably close to the best shape I have ever been in my life. I was lean, toned, and strong. My last year of college I did competitive ballroom dance (hands down my favorite form of exercise). The common theme though? None of those things were done at home. One of the strong appeals of exercise for me was that it got me OUT of my living space. I’m not naturally inclined to be social (woohoo for introverts!) but I get fusty stuck at home all day. Exercise is great because it invites little small talk (seriously, you gym chatterboxes need to go bug someone else, I have ten more reps) and yet I am around people so I don’t turn into a complete hermit. The various martial arts I did (American Freestyle, Kenpo, Aikido, Judo…) had more interaction, but even then it was hard to do more than cheerfully insult each other. And you are generally concentrating too hard on looking like you aren’t concentrating during ballroom to chat at all.

The exception to the “social but not really” rule is running with my “then-friend-now-husband”. But he is an exception that proves the rule, so we’ll leave it at that.

In any case, I scoffed at home workouts. Then I started working as a medic. Dude, that was ENOUGH out of the house. When I wasn’t working, I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. But the fluff started creeping on ounce by ounce, and the mental/emotional benefits that exercise brings was sorely needed- so I ran with my dog at the local State Park, and Brian bought me a treadmill, and, at last, I bought a home workout DVD.

If any of you have been in a similar boat you KNOW how hard it is to stay consistent with that crap. Long story short-I wasn’t. The DVD quickly collected dust on the TV stand because I was bored to pieces with the same routine and ready to throttle the woman for her stupid cheerful cliche encouragements. Don’t even talk to me about the treadmill. I doggedly kept trying to run, and even managed to run several races while pregnant with my first son. 4 months after his birth I did a half marathon, 2 months later I did a Tough Mudder. 2 months later I found out I was pregnant again and all thoughts of training for an ultra marathon flew out the window. Now I’ve got two small boys under three years old, neither of whom will sit in a stroller for longer then ten minutes-and then ONLY if I ply them continuously with food, toys, and conversation.

So here I am. I’ve done a month long PiYo regime, 6 weeks of p90x3, and now almost 4 weeks of Hammer and Chisel. I own weights from 3-25lbs. I have a stability ball. Brian just bought me a sweet yoga mat. We’ve got a home gym. I regularly do workouts on my TV. The difference for me has been 1)necessity-none of my other workout methods were available and/or working, 2) community-I enjoy the online community I’m a part of, it helps keep me encouraged and motivated and not feeling like I’m all alone in this process, and 3) accountability-that same community holds me accountable. We’re all in it together. They keep me from skipping workouts because I’m bored/annoyed/tired/slept weird/socks don’t match/etc.

I’m a home gym TV workout girl now-and I surprisingly love it. That isn’t to say I’ll be a workout from home mom forever. I will run an ultra again-which means back to the running shoes-and I will one day drag my husband to a ballroom dance class. But a gym? Eh. Maybe when the boys are grown and gone and I need an outing? Seems like a waste of time. For this season of my life, this is where I am. And I have changed the fitness level of my body so much quicker than all those miles and pounds I pushed through in my early 20’s. I am rapidly approaching my “fit as I’ve ever been” after three years of insidious, creeping, health lethargy. Home gym for the win!

Although, to be honest, the cheerfully encouraging “you can do it-push harder!” cliches DO eventually make me want to throttle the instructors. That’s what the “mute” button is for. 😉

Throwing in the Towel

We made it to the end! Last on the list for what not to say to children about food-is when we, the parents, give up. And although this list is about “saying” things to kids, you don’t always have to say anything. If you realize your two year old is not eating dinner so you leave the table and make something you know they’ll eat that is different from what everyone else is eating, well, you’ve encouraged them to stay picky. You’ve told them that they don’t actually ever have to try new foods, they will always get what they want.

Ouch. This one is a tough habit to break. I don’t know any parents that like dealing with a cranky, hungry toddler. I also don’t know a lot of parents that are adept at creating meals every night with enough side dishes to please everyone. This is where my slice of bread at night thing comes in handy. The slice comes at least an hour after dinner-so it isn’t an immediate, “here, let me feed you something else” and despite the amount of dinner consumed they only ever get one slice and that is the only pre bed snack they get. Cade can choose butter or no butter, Zane gets PB and honey. It’s part of their routine-they’re offered bread an hour after a good dinner (which often isn’t eaten completely) and bread an hour after a not so good dinner, and it helps take the edge of the hunger from a not well eaten dinner so that they at least fall asleep at night. Now, if they didn’t eat much at dinner they usually wake up ready to eat off my face if I don’t get oatmeal provided quickly enough, but hey, that’s life with toddlers. And so far, Cade is still a more adventuresome eater then a lot of two year olds. Tonight he actually tried chicken and red beets in goat cheese. He didn’t eat a lot-although he licked all of the “pink!” cheese-and he was more interested in trying to cut the chicken then consume it BUT he tried it.

I may phase this “pre bed” snack out, regardless, because I really want to encourage my boys to eat a variety of foods-but it’s a nice fall back for when I forget to make them a side at dinner that I know they’ll eat. And if I do it ONLY when I forget to make them a side at dinner, then I feel like I AM reinforcing the idea that they’ll always get what they want. But if I do it consistently around 7-730 and it is always the same thing, then it seems more like normal routine and less like “something special”. Like, when the boys don’t eat a big lunch-for whatever reason-but the typical snack they get when they wake up is a banana. They like bananas-but I’m not reinforcing that they don’t need to eat lunch since the banana doesn’t happen AT lunch.

Does that make any sense? Lol. Anyway. I am relieved that I have made it to the end of this list. I love reading Maryann’s blog, but this consistent posting thing is not my forte-especially this time of year. I’ll keep working on it, though, and maybe get a few recipes up. 🙂

Fooooood Pushing, Yum

This point. Oh how I internally struggle with this, “No No” on the list. Don’t say things to your child like, “You didn’t eat enough, take a few more bites.” Or “You need to finish what I gave you.” Or ANYTHING along these lines.

This is so tough, y’all, because toddlers are WEIRD. They will devour two week old bread crumbs from under the couch one day in their quest to end their apparently insatiable appetite-and the next day they’ll have three bites of dinner and want down from the table. And we parents are RESPONSIBLE for these little idiot creatures, they need to eat and some days seem too stupid to figure it out! The struggle is real. Both boys are cranky when they’re hungry and then they also sleep poorly, I made it my mission early on to simply stuff food into Cade any time he looked even a bit irritable. He slept GREAT! And then when he became verbal he started asking for food every time he got upset. Womp, womp. I just created an emotional eating monster. Booger. So it has been a work in progress to correct this-and now he usually demands hugs instead of food (which is actually more aggravating for me because I am not a touchy feely person but whatever, I’d rather hugs then emotional eating). But, still, on those days he barely eats…

Now, I’ve gotten a lot better about this behavior because of my experience with Cade, so Zane hasn’t been fed every time he gets upset, but there are still days where I worry because I don’t think he’s eaten enough at the table. I’ve never actually said, “You haven’t eaten enough.” But I have absolutely pleaded and cajoled and reasoned with my sons to eat MORE. And this is bad, precisely because it teaches them that external factors (like me, or a clean plate) are better judges of satiety than internal hunger cues. What I love about Maryann’s post is she offers a “hint” for this No No, and the hint is that toddlers need to make mistakes. They NEED to go hungry, you guys, even though it goes against every parenting instinct and emotion, they need to learn to monitor their hunger cues and the only way they can do that is to, you guessed it, go hungry. This is a really, really important “No no” and she provides a link to a study that illustrates the connection between food pushing (it doesn’t call it that, though) and childhood obesity.

So I’ve been good about this lately, and I’ve found a compromise so to speak that makes me feel like I’m not being a neglectful parent while not encouraging the boys to eat more-I ask if their bellies are full. And if Cade says yes (or Zane signs “All done”) then that’s it. Cade has gotten really good at this. He’ll eat half his oatmeal one day and say, “My belly full, mommy.” and get down and play. And he doesn’t whine about food until snack time. Other days he’ll clear his bowl no problem before saying he’s “all full up”. Zane, however, will sign “all done” just to get out of his chair and pest me to be in my lap to keep eating. It’s a work in progress…

It’s Not You, Food, It’s Me

My biggest frustration with cooking is that it seems like I make all this tasty food and mess and I am the only one eating it. My husband has a pretty boring diet, and he’s a grown man, I’m not about to try and force him to eat something-although in his defense he generally tries everything I make AND he has branched out a teeny tiny bit and actually eaten other foods besides rice. But still, it’s not like he’s wolfing down any great portion sizes. Which leaves me with two toddlers. Zane is still in garbage disposal baby phase-besides one or two random foods, he’ll eat pretty much anything. He’s beginning to get pickier, but I can count on him to usually eat something at dinner-however he’s still got a little stomach (despite the huge redneck beer belly he waddles around with). Cade is in the full out picky phase-he loves bananas for three months-then he hates them with an ardent passion for four months-now we’re back to needing “bana” pretty much for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. His appetite is as wonky as his likes and dislikes. So usually I’m left with a ton of leftovers and wondering why I even bother.

I’ve mentioned before that my mom’s work with eating disorders has made me more aware of food relationships, and I want to build a healthy one for my boys. THAT is the main reason I continue to struggle in the kitchen, make messes, and provide food every dinner-despite the fact that I am typically eating the majority of it. So I did (and still am doing) what I always do-read, read, read, research, research, research. And I stumbled upon this blog. And it is GOLD. The writer is a mom and a registered dietitian, the writing is straightforward, she gives you the “Do’s and Do Not’s” and backs it all up with the “Whys”.

Some of what she says I’ve already implemented while others I clearly need to work on and so, readers, as we gear up for the season of mass consumption I’d like to do a series of posts about establishing healthy eating at home. It will have a focus on parenting- but the insights on how to raise a child with a healthy attitude towards food can shed some light on personal habits (good and bad) that we associate with eating, so don’t feel like just because you don’t have kids that you can’t learn something. 🙂

(Seriously check out the blog. Good stuff.)

Pizza!

I never really liked pizza growing up. I ate my fair share of it because it was the staple food for kids and any big event with multiple children resulted in pizza, but honestly I thought it was gross. I hate Domino’s, dislike Papa John’s pizza (though I craved their cheesy bread for the entire first trimester with Cade), I can tolerate Little Ceaser’s, and I don’t mind Pizza Hut, but I still don’t love pizza. It’s ok, occasionally, in good company. Or it’s ok as a quick fix when I’m feeling lazy. But a favorite food? Not a chance!

When we lived in Lillington, NC there was a mom and pop’s pizza restaurant called Nona’s that was DELICIOUS. I actually craved their pizza. They also had a killer philly cheesesteak sub, and they made all their salad dressings from scratch, mmmmmm. I digress, sorry.

Back to pizza. I decided I wanted to try and make pizza for the boys, since pizza is one of those things they’ll be subjected to as they get older. So I found several recipes on Pinterest and finally settled on a crust that involved cauliflower and sweet potato and didn’t look like it was going to take forever to make. Now pizza may be gross, but I find cauliflower revolting. It smells like butt and doesn’t taste much better. I recently discovered I enjoy it raw in an Amish broccoli/cauliflower salad-but it’s slathered in mayonnaise and sourcream; I could probably eat anything under those conditions. Cade tried and loved cauliflower “rice”, though, so I was willing to give it a shot without getting my hopes up much that I’d like it.

pizza dough

Boy was I wrong. I topped it with an herbed goat cheese (it called for goat or Feta and Cade picked goat at the store) and black olives. The ONLY jar of black olives I could find that didn’t have anything but water, salt, and vinegar in the ingredient list. Stupid olives and their “color enhancing flavor preserving” cancer bits. It didn’t look like much when it came out of the oven, and I rolled the dough too thin so it fell apart when I tried to slice it, but it was SO GOOD.

pizza slice

So here is the original recipe. And her pizza looks a lot prettier so don’t judge it by my terrible pictures. Also, I think I shredded the sweet potato and cauliflower finer than she did judging by her bowl of shreds. A slightly coarser shred might’ve helped it hold together better.

The boys weren’t impressed (I think mozzarella and tomato sauce would’ve been better topping choice for them), but I ate half the pizza by myself.

Guess I should probably work on portion control…

Pour Some Sugar On Me!

SCENE: I’m in the kitchen, doing my thing- cracking eggs, and stirring, and seasoning, and sending my two year old to time out for punching his brother, and more stirring- and then suddenly, I look down at my bowl of pancake batter in surprise.

Pancake Batter: Pour some sugar on me!

Me: Huh?

Pancake Batter: In the name of love!

Me, half smiling: Yeah, the boys would love that….NO! No, wait, why on earth would I do that?!

Pancake Batter: You’re depriving them of taste! They’re totally going to be the weird kid among their friends who will try a donut for the first time and flip out because they didn’t know they existed…

Me, guilty eyeballing the coconut sugar: I mean, I could just do a teaspoon and use coconut sugar, it’d barely be anything and coconut sugar is better for you…

Nutrition Angel appears on my shoulder with an eyebrow raised and sounding remarkably like my mom.

Nutrition Angel: Why would you add sugar now when they’ve enthusiastically eaten your banana pancakes every time you’ve made them without sugar with no problem?

I take a deep breath, glare at the batter, and pour a few dollops into the pan.

Pancake Batter: NOOOO!!!! *sizzle*

Sugar, you guys, just isn’t good for us in large quantities and it was one of the big reasons I started eliminating processed foods. My goodness, it is in EVERYTHING! A little sweet something something every now and again is one thing, but sugar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was just ridiculous. I was proud of myself for eliminating all those nasty sugar sources, but I didn’t expect the sugar mindset to be such a stumbling block. I believe everything “tastes better” if you add sugar to it, ESPECIALLY in reference to making meals for my children. Like every parent out there ever, getting your child to eat well is just a boatload of exasperation, and I have this ingrained idea that if I just add a little sugar it’ll be more palatable and this is a good thing.

wpid-img_20150722_190024.jpg

Hmm, I think this needs a bit of something…

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are multiple studies on sugar addiction and the very real trouble our culture is in with the rising trends of obesity and the obsession with putting sugar in everything we consume. Children are a blank slate in some ways, and for my boys more than anyone else I strive to keep junk out of the house. It’s true, in a sense, that I am depriving them-of chocolatey cereal and krispey cremes, of canned spaghetti sauce and processed breads, of sugary drinks, of artificially sweetened anything, but this is NOT a bad thing! Sugar has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes (obviously), depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease…the list goes on. The risk of that list is what I’m trying to deprive my children of, and the beauty of it is they don’t need to know they are being deprived.

When my sons get older they will make their own eating choices and that’s fine. My goal is to set a foundation and to provide a model of healthy eating in the home, so even if they eat Papa John’s every night for four years of high school, they’ll have the base of what healthy eating looks like in reality. Hopefully that knowledge and understanding will eventually reassert itself.

Until then we eat a lot of fruit for our collective sweet tooths and I refrain from adding sugar-even coconut sugar-to recipes that just don’t need it.

**On the blog proper (like the homepage for it instead of just the post) I just started a Research Page to collect and post links to articles and studies that shape my perspective. Just an FYI.**

My Beef with Zucchini

We’ve got no issues with fruit in this household. Ok, well, my husband does but I let him fend for himself when it comes to meals so he doesn’t really count. The boys, however, can DOWN some serious fruit. I go to the grocery store at least once midweek to replenish our fruit supply since they can demolish an entire carton of strawberries in one sitting. Yay fruit!

Vegetables, however, are a different story. Not going to lie, I like fruit better, too. It’s sweet, what’s not to love? I’ve just recently started to really try and include more vegetables in our diet, the motivation coming from the realization that my two year old hates meat of any flavor. I’ve tried sausages (of various persuasions), chicken, turkey, ham, pork chops, beef…he is simply not impressed. So I’ve been searching for nutritional meatless recipes and that means, more veggies. Mushrooms have so far been a hit, and portabellas seem to hold their weight as a main meal, but last night for our informal, “Meatless Monday” I tried a zucchini casserole that I made in a pie dish.

First off, waaaaay too much pepper. I actually measured the full teaspoon of black pepper it called for instead of just sprinkling a bit in like usual and holy cow, way too much. Cade, my two year old, choked down maybe one slice in between lots of water, and Zane, my 11month old, was able to eat two slices before refusing any more. Evening and bedtime routines continued as per usual, but even though Zane finished his night time bottle and a few mouthfuls of bread I managed to stuff into his mouth, I was justifiably worried.

Sure enough, at 530am SOMEone was already awake and moaning in his crib. 530 is way too early, and Zane is a reliable 630-7am waker upper. The fact of the matter is zucchini has no staying power. Veggies in general seem to have no staying power with the boys. I know they’re full of fiber so they supposedly make you feel full longer (though some of that may just be gas, I mean really) but when they crash they crash hard. Cade ate a bowl full of broccoli before nap-and I mean almost an entire bag of “family size” steamed broccoli on his own-and he woke up saying “else to eat, else to eaaatt!”

I’ll tell you one thing, the next “Meatless Monday” is going to be heavy on the beans. Those suckers have enough protein to keep them sleeping till 8. Or maybe sweet potato. Starch overload equals sweet dreams…