We decided to tackle the unprocessed/real food challenge to improve our family's health, but to be honest, it was mainly about refocusing our (the grownups') crappy eating habits. But the more I read, the more I become convinced that eating this way is better for all of us. We are not being super strict with the kids: obviously their dinners are unprocessed because they're eating with us (with the exception of their mini-yogurts), and they're eating more unprocessed snacks and breakfasts at home. The little guy's lunch box has been mostly unprocessed, with the exception of an occasional "jammy sammy" to round out his lunch. But during the week, when they're at their grandpa's or at preschool or kindergarten, they're still eating the way they always have. It has been interesting to watch their response to these conversations.
My friend Rebecca pointed out this article to me; in it, Mark Bittman writes about the excessively over-processed nature of most of the foods we eat. One of the biggest processed foods is store-bought cereal; it made me feel guilty that my kids eat so much of it. We use cereal for breakfast, for after-school snacks, and even for after-dinner snacks. I mentioned it at dinner the other day, and my kids both got a panicked look on their faces: Was I going to take away their cereal?! But I reminded them that their daddy and I were not going to *make* them do anything...I just wanted them to be aware of what they were eating. I'm trying to figure out other, more "real," snacks that I can offer instead of cereal.
Another of the kids' favorite foods, mini Yoplait or Dannon yogurts, were on a list of the least healthy/most added crap children's food. Again, the kids looked panicked when I brought it up. Instead of replacing their mini-yogurts with the suggested plain yogurt flavored with fruit syrup (we've tried in the past, and it hasn't gone over well), we purchased a couple of the "best" versions (most healthy/least added crap) for them to try: they both responded positively to the new brands.
Some of the unprocessed versions of food are taking some getting used to. My little girl, whose favorite dinner food in the whole world is noodles, decided that she didn't like Mommy-made noodles the first time we had them. I explained that that was fine, but that those were the only noodles we were going to have this month. She finally started to eat them. The next time they were on the menu, she pitched a complete fit; then she headed to the table, where she took one bite and said, "I LOVE these!" and has since requested Mommy-made noodles twice. The same could not be said of Mommy-made tortillas, which neither kid liked, although they both did give it a good try.
At the grocery store, the kids asked for their usual kids'-cookie that many stores now give out to make the shopping experience more pleasant for kids and parents. When I explained that the store-bought cookies weren't unprocessed, we had two very upset kiddos on our hands. I comforted them with the idea of a mommy-made treat when we got home, and they were super excited to have some of the birthday cake and whipped cream that I was making for a friend. Not exactly a healthy treat, but at least one where I knew what all of the ingredients were.
Even after a week, eating real, unprocessed foods has definitely become the norm. On Sunday night, we had chili, and the little guy asked if there were any tortilla chips. I explained that no, store-bought chips were some of the worst foods for our bodies. Without skipping a beat, he said, "Well, Mom, can't you go make us some tortilla chips?!" I'm working on it.....
A final sign that this has become the new norm for the kids: While walking to the car after kindergarten the other day, the little guy said, "Let's catch rain drops on our tongues...they're unprocessed!" :)