Archive for the 'Well-Rounded Kid' Category

Food Rules: Eat Good, Be Well

I recently filled out one of those silly facebook surveys that was all about food. One of the questions asked about my favorite food as a kid. Without hesitation, I listed sour cream’n’onion chips (Keebler’s O’Boisies if we’re being specific. I could eat a whole bag in one hour of MTV programming after school. My runner up would be another quintessential sour junk food: Sour Patch Kids). Junk food, basically. I sucked at eating healthy when I was little and I’d be a liar if I said I’d prefer Brussels sprouts over mac’n’cheese at 32 years old.

Lately, my family has been on a whole foods kick – fresh meats and veggies, cheese, eggs, nuts, water instead of pop. No sweets or salty corn or potato snacks. No fried foods. We really needed a break from the carb overload we experienced over the holidays and whole foods just seem to make more sense. But what we saw on the “Before You Grocery Shopping Again” ep of Oprah the other day got us thinking about our food choices more specifically. For the majority of the show, Oprah interviewed Michael Pollan, author of “Food Rules.” “This short work is a condensed version of his previous efforts, intended to provide a simple framework for healthy and sustainable diet,” according to Wikipedia. “It offers 64 rules based on his previous book ‘In Defense of Food.'”

Here are some highlights that I really took to heart:

Processed food sucks/If it won’t rot, don’t eat it/If the average person can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t buy it. So there goes processed American cheese singles – which make grilled cheeses so awesome. No more convenient toddler snacks like Goldfish and animal crackers, snack bars, many jarred foods … the list goes on. I’ve already started chopping up fresh fruit in place of giving Ollie a handful of Goldfish while I make him dinner. He’s not complaining and it only takes me an extra few seconds.

If you want junk food, make it  yourself. I’m REALLY actually pretty excited about the idea of earning my French fry craving by having to peel, season and bake my own frites. Same with mac’n’cheese. And you know, homemade junk food probably tastes better than fast food, anyway. And I’m likely not to make them all of the time because, if I’m honest, how often do I want to spend hours in the kitchen for a simple junk food craving?

Dining out right. I get Chilis fever every now and then. Then there’s the Portillo’s urge. And the White Castle crave. If it’s salty, spicy, indulgent and nostalgic – I find myself wanting it every so often. But the truth is, the foods sold in most chains (and many single-unit restaurants) are not only trucked in from across the country from a big food service conglomerate, but they’re pumped with sodium and preservatives. Kinda makes me lose my appetitive just thinking about it. And really, why would I spend my hard-earned money on pre-packaged,  mediocre food that wasn’t even made with any real care? So in addition to eating at independently owned restaurants, I’m also on a mission to eat at places that serve fresh, homemade, and if possible, locally sourced foods. I already know of a handful nearby (see below), so there’s no excuse.

Vote with your fork. Today, the demand is for inexpensive, convenient food that has a long shelf life and that’s why stores are full of these items. The more of us who shop the parameters of the grocery store for fresh produce and proteins, the more likely stores will hear the message that we value and demand fresh foods. And that will drive down price. Such a simple concept when you think about it.

–Pay now or pay later. This ties back into voting with your fork. Cheap, processed foods are easier on the pocketbook than fresh foods. You can fill up your whole cart with boxed, jarred, canned and pre-cooked/processed for the same amount as a fraction of a cart full of fresh foods. Plus, fresh foods rot sooner than processed foods. You do the math. Especially for families struggling in this economy and who are starved for time, the seemingly sensible choice is the cheap and easy one. Here’s the scary part, though: Down the line, the consumption of these cheap and easy foods result in higher medical bills  stemming from a life-long poor diet. So it’s a matter of paying now for fresh foods or paying later for high medical bills. I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and even with my already-stretched budget, I’m voting with my fork and spending a little extra percentage of my paycheck on food that’s good for my family. I hope other people do the same and eventually, the high demand will mean a variety of fresh food for a fraction of the current price.

–Would your great-grandma recognize it? Oh my dearest Nan. Geese grazed on her  property in Arkansas before she moved back to Illinois. She made chicken soup using the whole carcass, plus fresh veggies. For breakfast, we ate omelets and sausage. It was that or her fiber cereal. Her homemade biscuits and sausage gravy rival any I’ve had since. She was the consummate chef. What would she think of cotton-candy flavored yogurt that comes in a tube? “Fruit” snacks filled with gooey liquid? Energy drinks? Hot Pockets? Nan worked hard, cooked like she meant it and lived to 89. No heart disease, diabetes or obesity.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to be a better consumer.  My family’s heath and wellness depends on it. What does your fridge and pantry look like? Do you think these “Food Rules” will change the way you shop at all?

Finally, here are some links to the like-minded (I know there are more in McHenry County. If you have any, PLEASE share!):


“they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!”

J forwarded me this parenting post from Reddit, from “klenow.” Have to admit, it sums up how we feel pretty much to a T (although my goal is to not spank, not even once if that’s possible):

“I am a bit old school. I have two kids 6 and 2.5, girl and boy respectively.

First you start with philosophy. I am not here to be their buddies, I am their parent. I don’t take that distinction lightly, we can be buddies when they are 20. Central to my philosophy is discipline. They must do what my wife and I say. Safety issues are involved with this. I don’t believe you should ever talk your kids into anything, or have to convince them. You are the parent. Example: I was at the park and some mom was asking the kid to be done…she said “Johnny can we be done playing now?” You know what the little shit’s response was? “NO!” I give my kids a 5 minute warning that we will leave in 5 so they can prepare their brains but when it hits, we are gone no discussions.

We are progressive as a couple but inadvertently settled into traditional roles in the sense that dad is the last scary threat. I have spanked each one once, when I did I made it hurt, now I don’t have to anymore. The threat is enough. A deep daddy voice goes a long way. You are alpha male, the silver-back, let them know.

Some things are not negotiable. No tantrums ever. No talking back. manners at public places. Failure to follow these rules results in a shit storm. Mom does the day to day and if the kids get bad dad is the nuclear option.

Parenting isn’t rocket science and I think you are putting to much thought into it and not enough instinct. Kids are not rational creatures, they are little terminators. They can’t be bargained with! They can’t be reasoned with! They don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!”

In The City

I lived and worked in Chicago for more than seven years, and in that time, I took advantage of everything it offered from music to food and culture to recreation. I loved it so much, in fact, that I published a niche zine dedicated to the amazing independent artists, musicians and businesspeople I met along the way. It’s that independent, DIY spirit that really got me hooked on city living. The colorful people, the global food and style, and even the hustle and bustle or city life continues to capture my spirit, even now that I live in the burbs. I wouldn’t trade raising my family in our beautiful neighborhood for city living, but I definitely have big plans for taking day trips with my family to the landmarks, restaurants and shops that won my heart during my stint in Chicago. I think no matter where you live, it’s important to share the world beyond your neighborhood with your kids whether you take lots of trips to interesting places or simply reading a book about new places with them. These are my favorite city books I like sharing with Ollie:

And some of my recommended indie bookstores for kids of all ages (in Chicago unless otherwise noted):

What are your favorite local bookstores? If you’re an urban family, do you have any “country” books you like reading to your children?

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