Thursday, February 9, 2012

unschooling and food control/choices

For the past five years my family has tried to eat a non GMO  diet. In this day in age it's simply not possible to go entirely GMO free unless you eat every meal at home. We eat almost all our meals at home, if I had to give a percent I'd say maybe 100% some weeks and others maybe 97% to 98%.  There are times, like the week we were moving, where the last thing I wanted to do was cook, so we ate fast food or went to restaurants. The fast food filled our bellies, but in that week of eating food like that, we felt a difference. I say "we" as not only did Bry and I notice a difference but so did Skylar (10) and Summer (8) in the way they were feeling also. I tell you, we could not wait for our first homemade meal in our new home!

In one of the unschooling groups I read on, there was a discussion on sugar and if it's really a poison.  Up until recently I preferred pure cane sugar or organic cane sugar and organic brown sugars for cooking and baking. But an event has happened in our life that has really changed my view on the safety of sugar. Yes, sugar causes health issues. To say it does not, or live life as if it does not is like burying ones head in the sand. Does that mean we won't eat any sugar ever at all? No, but it means we will be more mindful of sugar as we are with GMO and make our choices with knowledge. Think of all the items that contain sugar before you even add any yourself by way of actually sprinkling sugar on. Think of how we condition little children to wish for sugar by the way we feed them before they are able to make food choices themselves? I've seen little babies with sugar filled fruit juice in their bottles. Babies under 1 being given soda at the restaurant table next to me.
When you are a parent it's up to you to make wise choices before your child is able to understand making a choice. And when they can understand, it's helpful to arm them with information to make better choices. Not choosing for them or shaming them if they make a choice you would not.  But don't start off by setting your little ones up with that sugar craving before they are even out of diapers.

Here are some articles about the health hazards of sugar:
Is Sugar Toxic?
This common food ingredient can mess you your metabolism
The Hidden Story of Big Sugar 
76 dangers of sugar

I once read that a family who lives a more natural lifestyle may have a harder time with unschooling, because of control issues to avoid the "bad things". So how does a family who is practicing natural learning and unconditional parenting do it without putting rules and restrictions on foods? How do we avoid telling our children what they can or cannot eat?

I never withhold food from my kids or tell them which item from the pantry or table they must eat. When they are hungry they eat. No matter the time of day. No matter if a meal is coming up. The older girls might say they prefer to wait for the meal if they know one is coming or go with something smaller to tide them over. Or they might not want what I'm making and go with a Trader Joes hot dog or an organic turkey sandwich or PB and J instead.
I read a lot. I research a lot. I talk with my kids about additives in foods and why they add this or that. We talk about health problems that certain ingredients can cause if eaten in excess or on a regular basis. We have fast food from time to time. But the kids know if we ate fast food every meal, every day, it'd not be the best way to feed their bodies because of the ingredients that are used and the way it makes them feel. The older girls read labels when we shop. They ask questions. I don't lecture and talk down to them about food choices. I ask them what they like, what they are in the mood to eat and get their input. If they see something on the baked goods table at Trader Joes they'd like to have as a sweet treat, we pick it up to share with the family that night for dessert. Most of those are far healthier than what you will find in the traditional grocery store shelf.

The kids all have favorite snacks or treats so I make sure those are accessible easily to all of them and that we keep them stocked. These are all GMO free as well. Sams club is pretty much my best friend for a lot of these items.
Ember (2) loves fruit twists which are made by Cliff and are organic fruit. So those are low in the pantry for her to grab. And she loves any fresh fruit.
Decklin (5) loves fruit, especially bananas and clementines.
Summer (8) loves sweet things like kids cliff bars, fruit twists, dried sweet and tart cherries, homemade trail mix (adding some organic chocolate chips in) and honey wheat pretzels.
Skylar (10) doesn't care much for fruits or veggies but she does like homemade trail mix of raw nuts, some dried fruits and cheese and crackers, cliff bars, fruit twists and pretzels and pita chips. We buy the laughing cow wedges since they are easy access for her to do herself and grab some whole wheat crackers from Trader Joes.

We all take part in the menu planning for upcoming shopping trips. We shop bi-weekly on Mondays. Our menu plan is not set in stone, meaning just for ease of planning I jot it down on Monday on the menu plan (which is a month calendar) but we rarely ever eat that meal on Monday. Sometimes we are not in the mood for it until Friday. So the meal plan is very flexible. The goal being to just have 15 breakfast meals, 15 lunch meals, 15 dinner meals and 15 days of snacks. You may be thinking, 15 different meals for each day? But what it usually looks like is we put together a list of Breakfast options to choose from for the two week span and also do the same with lunch and snacks. Dinner is where I get more specific because of needing to buy ingredients for the meals. As we eat a meal for dinner from our menu plan I cross it off.
Any recipes I'm making for the week I keep handy so I don't have to go hunting for them. The other day we made zucchini cakes and they were not such a hit. So that recipe will not be coming out again : ).

Some things I just have never kept in the house before having kids, like soda and fruit juices or things like high fat snack foods (though we do keep better versions of the same foods made by Trader joes if we really like them - like their version of Doritos). We might have a soda or lemonade when we go out to dinner but it's just not something we keep here. But we all prefer water when at home. We just like it better.

How we eat, how we plan our meals and decide together is not controlling how anyone eats. Ultimately we make food a family affair and we all take part in choices, planning and of course eating.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What we've been up to

What the kids have been up to lately: 
Aside from helping to set up the new house: 

Skylar 10

  • Reading a ton.
  • Watching netflix biographies and animal programs on her kindle fire at night in bed.
  • Managing her tap zoo on the kindle fire. 
  • Playing Harvest moon on her ds.
  • She read in a book about the Titanic how delicious the food sounded and decided she wants to try more foods and say yes instead of no to new foods. 
  • She also decided she wants to help in the house more with cleaning and cooking. 
  • She's been using her Fire to email long distance family and keep in touch with them.
  • We went to dinner one night and she was doing multiplication to figure out how much it'd cost for all of the kids to have dessert. We had never covered multiplication in our more traditional curriculum. That was a cool moment. She said "I have no idea how I know this stuff."
  • Yesterday she began a latch hook project. 
  • She's been staying up late and waking in the afternoon. She's always been our night owl so this works well for her. 

Summer (8)
  • Is playing lots of wii games with my 5 year old and she's really got a knack for them, some xbox 360 games too. 
  • She loves cleaning the new kitchen. 
  • Playing dress up
  • Playing hotel
  • Barbies / Monster High dolls
  • Nintendo DS games, right now she likes Harvest Moon. 
  • She also emails a lot through her kindle fire and watches movies on Netflix and plays games on the fire. 
  • She is our go to girl if we have a problem with a Wii or Xbox game, she can always figure out how to get us out of a sticky situation where Decklin or I can't accomplish the needed task. 
  • She also started a latch hook project yesterday. 

Decklin (5) 
  • Plays with anything, just sits an imagines and makes it happen with whatever he grabs, he likes to use his litter men figures and his cars. We have several of the Safari theme sets and he likes those a lot, as well as pirates. 
  • He is playing the wii and xbox 360 a good bit. We all take turns playing with him. I try to play with him each morning since we are the early risers. 
  • He also watches movies on the Fire from time to time with the girls permission (they lend him theirs).
  • He misplaced his Nintendo DS somewhere in our new house so he's out of luck with using that for a while. 
  • We got him a new bed that arrives tomorrow so I'm sure he'll help me put it together. 

Ember (2) 
  • We play with play dough a lot. 
  • And she's my little shadow and helps me with everything basically. The other kids call her "the little mother".
  • She helped today with baking and unloading the dishwasher and sweeping the hard surfaces. 
  • Right now she and Decklin are playing with her new stock pile of modeling clay that I grabbed at the craft store last night. 
  • She likes some of the games on the Iphone and has been using that a bit. 
  • And she likes water color painting which she did a bit of yesterday. 
Yesterday we went to the mall and the older kids spent their allowance (which they get just because we want them to have spending money, not for any type of performance or achievement). They bought build a bear toys at the mall. We went and got soft pretzels. While they were eating in the car with Bry I ran into the craft store and got some craft kits for them to do. The Latch hook kits, some cross stitch, stained glass suncatcher kits and magnet painting. 

Healthy but tasty sweet treats

Here are some yummy recipes I've made or plan to make in the near future.
I thought I shared in case anyone else is looking for a treat to make that is low sugar, and in some cases no sugar at all.

Homemade granola
I used to use a recipe that called for brown sugar and butter. Today I tried this one at Kitchen Stewardship. Not the soaked version since I didn't have the time for the process.
Her recipe calls for 1 cup of butter (for which I substituted coconut oil) and also a cup of honey. I only had Trader Joes creamy unprocessed honey. So I threw that in. It sort of came up as a happy accident because the granola came out so yummy and sweet. But next time I'd use half the amount of honey because the amount I used kept the bars a bit on the gooey side. Though the kids didn't mind and had it with GMO free greek style honey yogurt as a side with lunch. This would be divine as is with some milk for breakfast (coconut or almond milk are our choices).
Our add in's were diced dried apricots, organic raisins, raw almonds, raw walnuts and raw sunflower seeds.

Healthy sugar free chocolate cake 
This one I haven't made yet but look forward to making for the kids.
In place of the soy milk it calls for I'll use almond or coconut milk and I might use Agave or maple syrup in place of the honey.

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins
For this one, healthy substitutions I'll be using are:
1/2 cup of nut milk of your choice (you can use soy or rice milk too. I don't use soy milk)
1/4 cup of coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil it calls for.
1/2 cup of honey or agave or maple syrup or you can probably add a 1/2 a cup of banana in place of this.

No Sugar added blueberry and banana wheat muffins
This one really needs only to have the vegetable oil changed to either coconut oil or to safflower oil. And I'd imagine you can use any fruit with the banana and add nuts, flax seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds if you'd like.

Stewed Prunes
These we had today. I love prunes very much. And since they are a sweet fruit this is a fantastic dessert.
I had them as a side on my lunch plate (I eat the No "S" diet way, which is 3 full plates a day [no snacks, sweets or seconds except on days that start with "S"] so this was on my plate of food for lunch). I put it with a dollop of Non GMO honey greek yogurt. It was so yummy. For someone who loves ice cream or just sweets in general this one fills that spot nicely while being healthy. And definitely a budget friendly item to offer. I only have about two in my family who like prunes so not everyone gave this a try.