Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ways to Make Your Family Healthier Without Telling Them

Do you think he knows there's beets in that cake?

After a visit to the doctor informed me that I have borderline high cholesterol, I've been much more careful about my health. Well, not much more careful, but definitely slightly more.

I walk and swim every day, I cut down on caffeine, I don't eat pork and almost never eat red meat (this is hard. I don't like steak, but I might commit a felony for a cheeseburger), I have replaced most dairy with soy-based products, etc... But how, some of you might ask, do you get your family on board? Is it possible to turn a cheese-loving, french fry gobbling seven year old around once you've let him walk on the wild side?

Well, the truth is, I lie to them. Well, not lie. I omit. I haven't tried to break all the bad habits. I'm easing them into it slowly. I thought I'd share a few of my 'omissions' with you.

* And please understand, we are actually a pretty healthy family anyway. I try to grown most of our veggies in my organic garden. The kids eat virtually no fast food, processed food, refined sugars, or white flour foods. They do drink, maybe, a soda every couple of weeks. We eat very little red meat, no processed lunch meats, and they get plenty of exercise. And veggies. I've always made the kids eat what we eat, like it or not. I've never been about tricking them but what I'm doing in the instances listed below is really more of a 'replacement plan'. I'll tell them about it, but it's easier to deal with after than before.

So, here goes.

1. I switched all eggs to an egg substitute. Unless we're having Eggs Benny, that is. They know about this one, but don't care.

2. I refill the Half & Half carton with soy milk. My husband never knows the difference.

3. I make 'chicken' stir fry using seitan. Seitan is a gluten-based meat replacement. It doesn't really have any flavor of it's own but if you cook it with veggies and other great seasonings, it takes on that flavor. Unlike tofu, it has a chewy, meaty sort of texture. I cut it into small pieces and everyone thinks it's chicken. I'm probably going to tell them about this one in a couple of weeks.

4. When I make lasagna, instead of ricotta cheese, I use a little bit of fat-free cottage cheese and silken tofu. Blend it in the food processor until it's a puree and mix in some egg substitute, a little Parmesan cheese, garlic and spices. Blended together, no one can tell the difference. This way, they get some extra protein and vitamins. When I make 'white' lasagna, I add spinach to the food processor, too. My kids don't like spinach lasagna normally, not because of the taste but because of the texture. By blending it up, it just becomes a puree with no texture at all.

5. I make my spaghetti sauce with V-8 juice. I use tomato sauce and paste, too, 'cause toms are good.

6. I add pureed veggies to virtually every baked good. I've actually been doing this ever since Anna was a baby. She'd eat her veggies, but this way she'd get an extra serving or two. It's just a way of adding some extra vitamins and fiber without having to think about it or add it to a meal. They can have a helping of veggies in their after school snack. Some of these they know about, some they don't. Like the beets in the chocolate cake. (Which is weird, because my kids love beets. I should tell them this one. They'll probably think it's hysterical.)

7. I use silken tofu to replace 2/3 of the fat/butter when I'm baking cakes, cookies, etc.. You can't taste the difference at all.

8. I make frozen 'pudding pops' with flavored goat milk. The kids actually like them better than ones I used to make with skim milk. They're sweeter and thicker.

9. I add milled flax seed to almost everything. You can add it to your breading if you're frying or oven-baking something. You can put it in bread, baked goods, smoothies. It can also be used as a fat substitute. Very handy and it tastes kind of good, too. Sort of nutty.

9. I don't use sugar substitutes because they are just full of bad stuff. However, I don't use refined sugar, either. I use turbinado or raw sugar. It's more natural, tastes sweeter, and has fewer calories than refined sugar. I have also tried stevia, but it's got a funny after taste that I don't like. Agave nectar is o.k., but not my fave. I just like plain old sugar, but in limited quantities.

10. And here is my number one tip. My kids like vegetables, but they don't like salad. I don't know why but I do know a trick to get them to eat it. It's actually sort of a trade off - you get them to try something good, but you have to add something not as good to the deal. What? Goldfish. Make a small salad, with a nice variety of veggies that they like, put on a small amount of a good quality, low-sugar dressing, and then add a sprinkle of Goldfish crackers to the top like croutons. My kids love it and we've branched out to trying different flavors of Goldfish. It's not too much of a compromise and they do make whole grain Goldfish now.

Got any tips of your own? I'd love to hear them so c'mon, share.


Anonymous said...

Thank goodness my mother is always straight with me, in advance. I NEVER have to wonder if she is tricking me for my own good. She respects me, clearly.

Mermaid Glass said...

So you're implying that by feeding my kids without giving them a full nutritional breakdown of each meal will scar them for life and destroy any hope of a future relationship of love and mutual respect between us?

Umm....all righty then.

Audrey said...

Clearly anonymous isn't a parent who has had to struggle against the never ending kid focused advertising that makes junk food so enticing to our kids! I don't see anything wrong with your motives or actions! Often times it's the "knowing" that causes more issues than the omissions. If your husband doesn't notice the difference in his half and half why spoil a good thing. If everyone is happily eating and enjoying and it's better for them this won't be something that will be the cause of much needed therapy in the future!

I say good for you for making positive changes in you and your family's life with minimal disruption!

Mermaid Glass said...

Thank you, Audrey. My point exactly!

I think I'm pretty liberal, as a matter of fact, giving my kids a lot of input and veto power about things that involve them, but I don't give them an option in everything they do, i.e. they must do chores, homework, have good manners, not talk to strangers, etc. That goes for the food they eat, too. Looking out for their health and well-being is my job as their mom and I'll do it however I see best.

I invite anyone to feed a 7-year old a flaxseed oil and beet cake with tofu icing and explain what it is in advance. Go ahead, Anonymous, I'm sure he'll respect you more for your honesty before calmly and happily putting it into his mouth. Seriously, you should go for it. :)

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