Lately, I have been dissatisfied with my son’s diet. And with my own as well. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t eating mac and cheese and cookies all day long. But there were too many sweets, and not enough fruits and vegetables. It seemed like recently he’d have toast for breakfast, toast for lunch, and mostly just the starchy portion of the dinner. With some honey-nut cheerios for snacks.
His diet was obviously more varied than that, but his fruit and vegetable consumption was very low. He was eating lots of homemade whole wheat bread, and he did eat black beans regularly, and some fruit, but almost no vegetables, except maybe a couple at dinner time. He was also getting too much junk food, between the holidays, and then his birthday, and using his money to buy chocolate at the store, it seemed like he was eating sweets 3 or 4 times a week.
He hardly ever gets sick, maybe once a year he’ll be a little droopy for a couple days, but he’s a healthy kid. This winter though it seems like his nose has been dripping since November. But certainly the whole of January. And it seemed to be dripping more not less as time went on.
I believe (and research indicates) that high fruit and vegetable consumption is the foremost component of good health. Avoiding refined sugar is also high on my list. So I issued a challenge to my son.
For the period of Lent, if you eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables every day, I will give you a sticker on a chart. For every sticker, you get 50 cents towards a new lego in your Easter basket. For the purposes of the challenge, things like cooked applesauce and tomato sauce don’t count as vegetables. Potatoes don’t count either. I’m not against potatoes (as long as they aren’t fried), but I’m not encouraging him to eat more of the healthy things he already wants to eat.
So the challenge is to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables. Cups are defined loosely, it’s more like a serving. 2 bananas count as 1 cup. Salad greens you would need 2 cups to get 1 serving. If they were spread out through the day, it would be a cup of fruit for breakfast and lunch and a cup of veggies for lunch and dinner.
I am also trying to improve my diet. So that means no sugar in the house. Cut back on muffins and the butter (earth balance) I put on them. No fried tortilla chips and a limited number of baked tostitos. Generally I’ll have a green smoothie for breakfast (4 bananas, 2 cups of some other fruit, and 3-4 cups of spinach or other green), a huge salad for lunch (5-8 oz of greens, with beans or fruit on top, no dressing-I’ve never been a dressing person), and then dinner, I’ll try to have 3-4 cups of some cooked vegetable and maybe another smaller salad.
Caleb has met my challenge every day so far (8 days). The goal I’m aiming for here is to break up his habit of rarely eating fruits and vegetables. That and to get rid of his chronic runny nose–which he did! His nose is now dry and clear for the first time in at least a month.
So will you join me? Maybe offering a reward for healthy eating is against your parenting philosophy, it’s certainly questionable on mine. But incentives do work… But you could always issue the challenge as just a personal challenge with no reward. Or just encourage your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
I’ll be writing more about why we need to be eating more fresh fruits and vegetables tomorrow.