I am not a nutrition expert. I am however an expert in eating, being a mom and feeding a two year old. Our house, is food-focused — creating delicious, nutritious and inviting meals is at the forefront of our priorities. I should not be surprised that many families do not put such an emphasis on homemade meals and instead focus on going out and even then, do not teach their kids how to choose wisely. Going out does not always provide our families with healthful meals and it is almost always more expensive than cooking at home. That said, and while on the topic of going out, I do enjoy going out to either a very nice meal once in a blue moon or to ethnic restaurants that offer dishes I would have a difficult time replicating at home.
Reflecting back on my own childhood and how we ate as a family, I cannot help but be incredibly grateful to my mom for feeding us healthy and nutritious meals that allowed us to grow and thrive without sacrificing flavor. We were never overweight as children and enjoyed many a treat. Having lived for a long time in Baku, where the weather was warm, our diet was brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. We also ate on a more traditional European schedule where lunch was the largest, multi-course meal and the day’s dining completed with a supper. Suppers in our house consisted of things like blintzes or syrniki. I’ve already mentioned this many a time, but soups were almost always part of the day’s main meal along with a protein, starch and veggie second dish and something sweet to round things out. Breakfasts were porridge focused but pancakes and even baked potatoes and herring, my personal all-time favorite, made their appearances on our menu. I don’t remember drinking too many juices and there were no colas until I was a bit older and even then, they were expensive and not something we craved. I do remember eating lots and lots and lots of fruit.
As a result, and we are all a product of our own upbringing, my own fridge is chockfull of fruits even in the winter. Maybe Evan is right that berries should be left alone until they are in season, but I do focus on apples, oranges, pomegranates, kiwi and persimmons.
Now, some things can’t be helped… Sophia is a super slim kid. She’s very tall and very skinny and I am starting to feel the fine fashion offered by the Gap slip out of my reach :-). At two, she is as tall as a three year old and as slim as a one year old. Everything hangs on her like a hanger or is freakishly short. She hates short pants, by the way. But I digress. She’s slim and it isn’t because we don’t offer her enough food or offer her items that are different from what we are eating. In fact, she has mostly transitioned to table food and is built this way. At her yearly 2-year checkup, our pediatrician supported our plan to switch to 2% milk and urged us to “feed her the way we would want her to eat when she is an adult”.
I recently started taking a Childhood Nutrition course from Coursera taught by a lecturer from Stanford University. The course is free and you can listen/watch the lectures at your own pace. I encourage everyone to tune in. Dr. Adam’s course overviews the basics of nutrition (the roles of fats, proteins, and sugars) and offers advice on how to cook for your family. One of the very first recipes shared in the course was an oatmeal porridge. It reminded me of the way I grew up eating it. The oatmeal was cooked with water and a dash of milk was added at the very end to up the ante on the creaminess.
I am incredibly grateful to my parents for the way we ate when we were young. To this day, I try my best to echo my mom’s principles to feeding and to this day, my parents peel pomegranates for us when we visit and even send peeled ones to go. That’s nothing if not love. I’ll do the same, I think.