Nutrition is one of my favorite topics to research, learn about and apply at home.
As a young child when I was given fruits, I would imagine that I was on an exotic and colorful island. I would imagine that the fruit in my hand was all that I had to eat, and that I was enjoying it to the last drop. This innocent fantasy was not something I was taught to think; rather, it was my natural reaction to delicious local foods that my parents would buy at local markets in Vienna, Austria.
I am a firm believer that when we are fully in tune with ourselves, we are capable of allowing our instinct to guide us in our choice of foods.
So, first, it’s important to reach a level of complete atunement with ourselves. That’s a topic that I won’t really delve into right now because I’m sure you can find millions of websites, gurus, life coaches, meditation or yoga teachers and others to help you achieve that.
Assuming we feel comfortable enough with ourselves that we can hear our inner voice, the next question is are we allowing our instinct to guide us in picking the right food to eat? Oh, right, that “inner voice”. The one that tells me, “it’s ok you can eat another chocolate chip cookie” or the one that scolds me when I do and reminds me that I could be having a celery stick instead? I often found myself in situations like that, where I would justify poor eating habits and follow with regret and feelings of guilt.
It was not until I met my husband that both of our eating habits began to improve. When you fall in love with someone to the extent that you cannot imagine life without them anymore, that seems to be quite an effective wake-up call to reconsider all the junk that you are putting in your body. Instinctively, we wanted to make sure that we are both healthy not only for ourselves but also for one another, and that’s where it all started.
Eating healthy used to mean eating bland, boring foods that had no “Wow!” effect. I used to think that healthy meals were those that the elderly would eat in convalescent homes. Little did I know that there was an entire myriad of flavors and tastes that I had never experienced. The more I educated myself about food, the better I felt and the more excited I would get about new discoveries. Foods such as tempeh, nutritional yeast, quinoa, seitan, and bak choi had never even crossed my mind, or tongue, for that matter. And yet, every time I discovered each of them, I felt a strange nostalgia towards the flavor. I had never tried the food before, and yet it sat so well with my body and spirit, that it gave me an innate sensation of comfort. It felt right.
For the past five years, we have significantly changed our diet to the extent that we choose to eat fresh, unprocessed local organic foods as much as possible. We do have our occasional cravings, naturally, and do cave in every now and then. And when we do give in to that juicy burger and fries, we find ourselves quickly searching for the nearest grocery store and gulping down a green vegetable juice or salad.
When we decided that we wanted to bring children into this world, we both started to cleanse our bodies of toxins by regularly juicing, eating a greater variety of vegetables, greens and fruits, and also exercising more. We kept this up throughout my pregnancies, and now after two lovely darlings, we are implementing our eating habits in their food discovery journey as well. What they see is what they learn. So when they see and smell the food on the dinner table, that is hopefully establishing the norm for them. I cannot understand how in some households, the parents expect their child to eat fruits and vegetables, while they themselves are having processed meats, chips, and soda.
At around five to six months, our babies started showing their first signs of interest in what we were eating. Sophia’s (now 3.5 years old) first encounter with food was full of laughter, funny faces and flavor. She now enjoys her snacks and meals until the last drop, but also knows when to stop, or when she is full. Isabella’s (now 21 months) first encounter with food included more hesitation and spitting out, but we did not give up and continued to offer healthy first foods to her.
While I was nursing them, we followed the saying, “food before one is just for fun”. We started both with avocado (NOT rice cereal) as a first solid food, and then slowly introduced new vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, peas, fruits such as mango, apple, banana, and flaxseed oatmeal, coconut milk, quinoa, lots of spices and hemp seeds. I love making new concoctions for them using all the healthy organic fresh foods in our fridge and pantry, and I must say, I’m proud that I did not cave in to the pre-made baby-food jars sold in stores as a regular diet source. I saved those pre-made foods for times when I had nothing else to offer them, because of my fatigue, illness or lack of access to other food.
Sophia is very aware of her body’s need for nutrition. There are times when she will ask for purple cabbage or just meat, and there are times when she will prefer a carb-heavy meal. I trust her instinct and give her healthy versions of what she is craving, and yes I do give in occasionally when she asks for something sweet or salty.
Isabella started asking for food when she was hungry as early as 14 months, and now she will ask me specifically for Kefir, mangoes, cheese stick or anything else that her little body is craving.
Ever since both girls discovered solid foods, I made it a strict rule in my house that the moment they communicate that they are full of something, then that must be respected.
I openly ask relatives who are sometimes helping my girls eat, not to force them to eat! That is the biggest mistake that can lead to many eating disorders.
Our girls are now active participants at our breakfast, lunch and dinner table and love eating while we eat. The best part of it all is that we don’t have to hide our food from them for fear that they might want some. Hey, if they want some of my mild curry flavored vegetable stir fry with brown rice, nutritional yeast and tempeh, go ahead! It’s all good for them and definitely beats “chicken”-nuggets, soda and white bread.