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with Aliza Sherman

If you own a business - home-based or otherwise - this is the blog where you'll find practical tips and smart ideas about entrepreneurship. I've started and run 4 different businesses so "been there, done that." I'll also invite successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice with you.

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Nourishing the soul

Categories: Uncategorized


Guest blogger Gina Blitstein continues her exploration of nourishment and food.

Food is a complicated issue. While much of the world starves, we in our first world of plenty seem to be constantly controlling and limiting our intake of food to control our weight and alter our mood. Think about how crazy that sounds to our adult minds. Then consider how that information could affect a child’s concept of food. It should come as no surprise that children miss nothing that we do or don’t do; say or don’t say. We wield enormous influence over children’s attitudes about everything and that is especially true of the subject of food.

That’s true because, as I mentioned, food is a complicated issue. We gorge on it, restrict it, delight in it, demonize it. Food not only nourishes our body but it touches us emotionally. There is little else in life that is as important to us both physically and emotionally as the food we eat.

Yet I believe that we do ourselves and especially our children an injustice every single day where food is concerned. Somewhere along the line in our hectic lives, eating has become a hurried gorge-a-thon rather than a celebration of food and the people we love. I especially find fault with the all-too-prevalent child-themed restaurants where children are entertained and bombarded with stimuli and yet are expected to eat. We need to show how much we cherish them not by indulging their every advertising-fueled fast food whim but by helping them recognize the true power of food.

I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve acquired over the past twenty years as a childcare provider about instilling healthy attitudes about food and eating. As the adults in their lives it is our job to teach children that playing is playing and eating is eating. Both are enjoyable yet totally different activities and are not to be done simultaneously. Make sure that children are allowed the time to shift focus from play time to meal time because if they don’t learn that eating is important in and of itself, they will never give food and nutrition the importance it should have in their lives.

Preschoolers in my daycare learn the right thing to do for your body is to eat good food, sit still, chew carefully, and fill up their stomachs so they can grow and be healthy and strong. It is a lesson in self-care and self-respect. It is never too early to start taking responsibility for your own body, and eating is a tangible way to begin teaching that important lesson.

Food should nourish both the body and the soul.

Is that an impossible dream? Can we really reclaim mealtime as a time to care for ourselves and our families? I do believe we can but it will take some attitude adjustment and action. Here’s what I propose:

  • * Limit meals eaten away from home as much as possible - especially fast food.
  • * Include children in planning of meals so they learn that food is an important issue worth our consideration.
  • Include children in shopping for food so they can learn about different types of food and what it looks like before it is processed into a ‘nugget.’
  • Encourage children to help in the kitchen - in age appropriate ways, of course - so they can experience the preparation of food.
  • Teach children that eating is an important and enjoyable activity - it is a chance to enjoy flavors and aromas and to fill their empty stomachs.
  • Remind children that every food you eat doesn’t have to be your ‘favorite’ and that variety is important.
  • Make meals a pleasant social time for togetherness and sharing.

Remember to offer a wide selection of food to children. Exposing children to only those foods with which they may be familiar limits the types of foods they will learn to love. Children’s taste buds are growing and developing right along with the rest of them, so it is vital that they experience a wide array of tastes and textures from an early age.

I believe that food is a powerful influence throughout our lives. We all have pleasant and indelible memories associated with food. Let’s vow to make some lifelong food memories with our kids so that the issue of food won’t be complicated for them.

What are we telling kids about our food values with our words and actions?

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2 comments so far...

  • Our daughter will be 16 months old this week but our kitchen is the largest space in the house, and it’s the space we spend a majoirty of time in. Here are some of things we do with respect to food:

    1. We only eat out once in a great while and we usually do so at Dolce Vita in Boston’s North End. The owner is always on hand with huge smiles and greetings. It’s a very nice place for a romantic dinner or a family outing. The food is as fresh as can be prepared exquisitely. The menu is traditional southern Italian cuisine. There’s always a Sicilian crooner on hand and our little one is in love with an 82 year old named Antonio (the crooner). It’s a brilliant environment for children to experiment and at 10 months old, she was scarfing down potobellos in demi glace and stuffed whole squid calamari.

    2. I cook almost every night. As I cook, I explain the techniques and why I use a particular tool in the kitchen; why I chop the garlic this time as opposed to mince it; why I use a glass or a metal bowl. The science of cooking is amazing and a great learning opportunity! I tell her what spices I use and why - how a little lemon can brighten food flavors without anyone knowing it’s been hit with a little lemon, etcetera. Whether or not she understands even half doesn’t matter. She will someday.

    3. We always eat dinner as a family. Always. And even though I have a slooooow metabolism that could do with just a bit of cereal at night, I will eat everything that I cook (in smaller amounts) and always drink milk with my meal. I believe that the example set is so important.

    4. We avoid dinners that involve anything in nugget form (she’s never had a nugget food). I prepare fresh foods and buy locally as often as I can afford. So far, her favorite foods on the face of the earth are mango, lobster (I know places to get it dirt cheap) and scallops.

    5. As she’s grown, I let her do more. She can put away something non-breakable when I’m done with it or I help her stir a pot while I’m holding her. She loves it - and loves to watch things bubble and simmer.

    6. Finally, for months and months, she’s been asking for spices to smell. Sometimes, we let her carry a favored spice jar around and she’ll open it and take a deep whiff, then close it and wander off - only to do it again in a little bit. I’ll tell her what we use those spices for and I always show her new ones. I also make my own Herbs de Provence which she has, apparently, started taking pinches of and eating wholesale.

    Food is hugely important. We eat a lot of mediterranean, middle eastern, Indian and Italian foods (even though we are not of those ethnicities), but my Greek friend put it best - “When I saw Amelie chowing down on the spanakopita [that our friend made herself], I couldn’t help but think of my yiayia {grandmother] and how happy they must have been to see us eating these wonderful, traditional foods when we were little.” Food touches us in our souls. And even though our daughter isn’t Greek, she acted the perfect Greek child and devoured the phyllo first that night! : )

    Phe  |  August 10th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

  • Okay, maybe you have a suggestion for this. My son used to eat anything I gave him and as he goes, his palette gets smaller and smaller. When I present him new foods he screams and throws it on the floor. I have resorted to mashing and hiding vegetables in his spaghetti - one of the only foods he will eat. He used to eat different foods at school, at least, but now won’t do that either. He’s two. Any way to fix this?

    Oceans Mom  |  August 12th, 2009 at 5:45 pm