When Healthful Kids Meals hit Number 4 on the National Restaurant Association “What’s Hot” list for 2014 it really got me thinking about how people, restaurant brokers included, make eating choices for their kids. This restaurant broker grew up eating healthy, well-balanced, home cooked meals. My mother managed to work, take care of our family and never open a box or a can for dinner. We ate what was in season for fruits and veggies, whole grain brown rice; we even had the milkman come deliver fresh milk from the farm to our doorstep. I can remember my mom in the summer making homemade, from scratch blackberry cobbler with blackberries we handpicked just for the pie; add some real vanilla ice cream and it doesn’t get much better! For our family, eating fast food was a special treat, not a way of life. Now that I have a family of my own, and life is hectic, it is up to me to use what my parents taught me about eating food that’s good for you, and pass it along.
This past year, I came across a woman’s blog called 100daysofrealfood.com about her journey getting her family to make good natural food choices. It inspired me to get back to the way I enjoy eating and create a healthier foundation for my family. However, needless to say it was hard and as much as I hate to admit it, I failed. Being a mother of a seven year old, its natural that in order to get a full time job, housework and all of our crazy schedules crammed into the 16 or so useable hours of the day, we tend to eat out a lot. So when it came time to try and eat a more natural lifestyle, it was a big change that I wasn’t quite ready to make. Maybe it wasn’t about being ready; maybe it was about not making time to change. Cooking at home takes planning, preparation, determination and some experimenting to find what works and most importantly what doesn’t work!
In the last month my family has unfortunately eaten out more than ever. Being on the road, means eating at more fast food restaurants than traditional sit-down restaurants. Fast food restaurants have made some changes on their menus to add healthier choices such as grilled chicken, apple slices, bottled water, low-fat milk and 100% juice choices, etc. But the next step is getting the kids (or parents) to make these choices. In my opinion, that’s the hard part. Part of the attraction for the kids is the toy with their meal- some of the healthier restaurants don’t offer a toy with a kids meal or it’s a less attractive toy. Why would a youngster choose apples over fries? Or eat grilled chicken over a cheeseburger? Especially when there’s no toy. Making healthy choices start at home. When the kids see the parents making good food choices, both at home and out to eat, the kids are going to follow suit. My seven-year-old won’t trade his burger for a grilled chicken sandwich, but I rest easy knowing he will eat foods like salmon and spinach other times.
This next year is going to be about starting my family down a healthier food journey, hopefully with some success this time. The other top items on the “What’s Hot” list, Locally Sourced Meat and Seafood, and Locally Grown Produce are two items I plan to incorporate to our meals as well. If I can build a healthy foundation when it comes to food, a cheeseburger, French fries and a milkshake from time to time isn’t so bad.