Neighbors: Rx---Healthier Food Choices For Her Family

Nov 06, 2007

“I think I got into a habit of fixing what was easiest and fastest, because I was a working parent, and I had a limited amount of energy. So that meant a lot of hamburger.” Thus does one of my own neighbors begin her tale of nutritional development for the better. This mother of three college-age adults began to critically examine her family’s diet upon entering the field of diabetes education, back when her kids were in elementary school. The more expertise she gained in her work, the more determined she was to throw out her old model for throwing together meals, and she has never looked back.

The rationale she offers for the family’s former diet is probably shared by countless other Americans: “We parents grew up on this, so it’s good enough for our children!”. Further, Universal Weird Food Logic persuaded her that, in serving vegetables regularly, she was “balancing out the rest of the meal, if it happened to be high-fat.” She eventually came to understand that “nothing canceled out high-fat meals. Not even exercise”.

To start making the shift to better food choices for an entire family, “you try to do it in stages,” she says, as that keeps down cost and the threat of all-out rebellion within the ranks. She suggests that fewer meals a week might be built around meat, and that only one of those might involve hamburger. Too, “You fry less, you cut off visible fat from meat, and you try to avoid processed foods, like hot dogs and packaged meals—they’re usually loaded with salt and fat”. For cholesterol control, she began using fewer eggs per week. “More olive oil, more safflower oil!” became the slogan in her lard-free kitchen; “Buy fresh!”, her battle cry.

Her children felt the “otherness” of their dietary routine more keenly in high school than when they were younger. Though their mother thinks they may have satisfied their craving for junk food with friends at times, she says “it’s a good thing for kids to know how they should eat”. She maintains that in this way, in adulthood, they’ll have the sound habits of the family table to bring forward into their own households.

In a society in which it’s a breeze to grab a “family meal” from a drive-through window, or a microwavable frozen entree and a host of “just-add-water” sides, why go to the effort of making thoughtful meal preparation a lifestyle choice? In addition to the known health benefits, this nutritional convert says that “God created us,” and that “we are vessels, holy things, and we must respect the body for that and take care of it”.

As we finish talking, her husband arrives home after a day’s work; he makes a beeline for the oven, where she’s just taken out a fresh loaf of zucchini bread. Helpless against the aroma filling the room, he pilfers a slice before dinner.

Better than a half-pound bag of Deep-Fried Chocolaty Mega-Sugar Rockets, in her book.