Today something really beautiful occurred to me as I was making a tuna noodle casserole from scratch (that's right, no canned soup involved, found the recipe on allrecipes.com and we love it). I had three pots going on the stove at once. In the largest I was cooking the delicate egg noodles in boiling water, watching closely not to overcook them. In another, I was sauteing mushrooms, celery, onion, garlic in olive oil over medium high heat. And in the third I was wisking a roux, and almost burned my butter. All the while, my toddler was crawling around and through my ankles, opening every cabinet and "reorganizing" the cook ware, periodically tugging my pants and saying "up?" so he could have a peek of the stove top action. Home cooking is all about balance, and (perhaps this is overly philosophical) so is life.
My casserole is not going to be perfect. I'm satisfied if everyone in the family fills up on it tonight, and consider it an extra bonus if they actually enjoy it. I love and appreciate well made, wholesome food...but in reality, life is all about balance. True, I could have taken measures to ensure that my casserole was tuna-noodle heaven in a dish. However, I involved my little one in the process- which meant constant interruptions and distraction- but also meant my son got to see, hear, and explore some new things. He will eventually learn more about cooking as he gets older, and that being healthy often means time spent chopping, dicing, and cooking in the kitchen.
As ingredients were simmering away in their pots and pans, I thought more about balance. The right amount of heat, oil, and space in the pan. Adding ingredients in an order that will allow them to cook to their maximum potential, and seasoning when the foods are most susceptible- not too soon or too late. Timing several different parts of a meal to be complete at (almost) the same time. It's a lot to balance. But, there is grace in balance. There is also grace in cooking. You can flouder your way through a recipe, and all is certainly not lost if you need to fiddle with the temp or seasonings, or if you forget an ingredient and add it at a later point. (Baking is a different story). Balance is not about perfection. Neither is nutrition. Neither is life.
When you think about providing good nutrition for your kids, remember balance. Remember grace. Last night my son was teething, cranky, and definitely not into my dinner of veggie, tofu, quinoa stir-fry. It was distressing. Do you know what he eventually ate for dinner? Raisins and yogurt- and he was licking the bowl, happy as a clam throughout. I was ok with this, because
I know his diet is full of a variety of fruit, veggies, grains, and protein. I know that most days are not like this for him, and that when you're not feeling yourself you need grace. I'm pretty sure if I gave him anything sweet last night he would have filled up on it because that was all he wanted. As a parent however, I know that sugary sweets will not sustain him through the night, and he would have woken up hungry. So instead, yogurt and fruit it is. He got vitamins, protein, and fiber...and sweets. And he slept through the night. Was it perfect? No. But who cares about perfect, it's not possible so just forget about it. It's about balance.
The way people eat is complicated. We eat, and we choose what to eat, for so many reasons other than simply being hungry. Be aware of this, make the best choices you possibly can, and give yourself and your kids some grace. This blog is about somehow contributing to the end of childhood obesity. Sometimes weight issues are propetuated by unrealistic goals. Goals that do not allow for grace and then lead to failure and grief. Remember my three pots and pans simmering away, all cooking something different? Remember it takes balance. Not perfection, but good humored, intentional, beautiful balance.
Too many American children are overweight or obese. Too many families don't know where to begin to feed their children healthy foods. As parents we are primarily responsible for how our children eat. We cannot control everything, but we can control what we serve at meal and snack times. Let's help each other, here on this blog, by sharing recipes and tips on how to get our kids eating healthfully. How do you teach nutrition in your home? What creative snacks or lunches have you come up with? Do you have a recipe that has your kids gobbling up fruits, veggies, lean protein, or whole grains? How has your household managed to eat organically and locally? Share it here.