When I enrolled my son in day-care I was panicked about the food situation. What would they think of the meals I was sending him, would he notice other kids’ lunches looked different, would there be food trading on the down low, all of these thoughts filled my already worried-mom brain. So, in typical fashion, I started writing a list. I wrote down a list of meals my son enjoys, snacks he prefers, and any special treats we can swap a last minute birthday treat for so he won’t go without a dessert. Once I put all this down on paper, I was much more relaxed. I also arranged a meeting with the daycare, just to touch base, put a face to my list, and assure them I wasn’t sending my son to daycare with only weeds to eat. The meeting went really well and all expressed support for following my son’s food list. Luckily, his daycare puts out a monthly snack calendar so I can easily plan in advance and provide an alternate. For example, on days the school provides yogurt, I bring a non-dairy yogurt - this way he is eating yogurt along with the other kids.
During the month of January, I noticed on the snack calendar it was “dairy month”. I sighed and thought to myself, “okay better find out what this entails”. I emailed the daycare and met with the director to discuss. She was happy to meet and explained there would be a few “dairy-themed” books as well as activities, including pretending to milk a cow. So, I have to stop here, in my non-mom brain I wanted to recite a dissertation on dairy and the cruelty, abuse, negative health effects, I could go on. My mom-brain took a moment to gather thoughts and suggested an alternative activity for the kids to which the director was open. I asked and sort of implied the lack of education gained from pretending to milk a cow with rubber gloves and water and kindly suggested having the kids mash avocados and spread on toast, something to replace dairy and be fun and messy at the same time. With this activity there is an educational and nutritional component. I even offered in that moment to provide the kids with the avocados to which she graciously declined and let me know she would speak with the group and get back to me. A month later, I found out they did in fact squish avocados and smear them on bread for an activity. It literally made my year. And my son’s, because he came home a mess!
What does that mean, to match your plate with your heart? As you sit down to lunch or dinner do you ever stop to think about what is on your plate, who prepared it, or how it ended up as food? I think I can say with confidence, very few people have this reflection before diving into dinner. Take family dinner, for example, it is usually a busy time of the day as parents or caregivers are rushing to get the kids in their seats and mentally unload their day onto their spouse. Of course every family is unique and for some this time of day might only include siblings as their parent, parents, or caregiver are at work or school. At my house, this time of day is pure chaos. Almost like clockwork, my husband walks in the doors, taking his shoes off and dropping his briefcase, only to announce he has had a long day and needs to shower. Right now. He ushers our oldest into the kitchen and leaves me with the boiling pot of whatever on the stove, my one year old “organizing” my tupperware, and now my toddler who needs to use the potty. Right now.
So, you get the picture, chaos, kids, husband...oh yeah and food. The whole reason we are rushing around at this time, food. It is dinnertime and in an ideal world we would all be seated in front of a picturesque table with both kids sitting well with their hands in their laps while looking at the bowl of peas with glee. Family dinners are so important, however you manage to have them and whether they are at a table or standing at the kitchen counter, they are happening everywhere. Returning to that boiling pot of whatever, for so many families adding food prep to the list of chaos that happens around this time of day is one addition too much. But should it be at the top of the list?
Encouraging your family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, etc. to eat healthy foods is a way of saying I love you, but with food! As we sit around the dinner table or gather on the couch, the food we are eating and providing should nurture our bodies the way being around one another does, we should want to provide food that is healthy for us, not increasing our chances of heart disease or diabetes.