An honest take on life and parenthood

Your kids are what you eat

on October 7, 2012

“Mommy, it’s my turn to make a smoothie!”

The Pooh hears the blender as I make a smoothie for myself, and she can’t help but be my tiny copycat. I have a small individual smoothie blender that I found at Target, and I let her throw in a bit of banana, some fresh sweet local milk, and some chocolate syrup with a chunk of ice. We mix it up and she drinks it down, making little contented noises with her straw.

On my dad’s side of the family, the Maldonado side, hardly anyone battles with their weight or deals with health issues related to it.  My mom’s side of the family, the Stella side, is another story.

When I was in my teens and twenties, I clearly remember my Uncle Ed, my mom’s oldest brother, informing me that “the Stellas all peak at 25!” He would laugh and laugh, a human Garfield, and everyone else would laugh too, resigned to the inevitability of their pudgy fates. Everyone fondly remembers my Italian grandfather, the patriarch, sitting down with a box of Ritz crackers, a stick of cheese, and a knife, and eating his way through the TV program Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

And while I laughed along with my Uncle Ed and everyone else, I secretly dreaded turning 25 and witnessing my slow progression into a Stella meatball body. I prayed that my Maldonado genes would save me.

While I certainly did struggle with my weight a bit in my 20’s and early 30’s, my uncle’s prophesy never came true for me. But the excess weight and the lack of attention to his health caught up quickly to my beloved uncle. He died at 52.

I have no intention of leaving this earth so quickly, especially since I have a Pooh Bear to raise. She is only two, so I am dying to know what she will do and be like when she grows up. I figure it is only in my best interest to take good care of myself.  For this reason, and for many others, I have decided to change the way I eat.

The change could not be more timely. Anyone who is a parent quickly realizes that children are mirrors of themselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly. They understand and imitate what you do, not what you say.

When the Pooh sees me eating a salad, she asks for one too. When I make a nutritious smoothie or something experimental with quinoa and beet greens and fresh mint, she wants it too. When she sees a tall glass of refreshing cold water with lemon, she wants it. And by the way, the same goes for a Fudge Graham or an ice cream sandwich.

While I have not eliminated meat, processed foods, or sweets from my diet or my house, I am working towards a “cleaner” diet of foods that are real and not processed. I absolutely love food, and if a recipe sounds interesting or crazy, I will usually try it.

Fortunately, the Pooh doesn’t mind being a guinea pig. She is not a picky eater (even if she can be mercurial in her tastes and desires occasionally) and I hope that I am modeling good eating habits for her, so that she does not feel doomed to the Stella genetic legacy.

Recently, I moved to Providence, which is incredibly progressive from a foodie and local foods movement perspective. Philadelphia is good, but Providence is freaking food NIRVANA. The local grocery store, Eastside Marketplace, devotes fully HALF of its total floor plan to organic and alternative products, and shopping there is a delirious delight for someone like me.

I have found non-dairy cheese made of almond milk (surprisingly yummy and satisfying), beautiful dried fruits and nuts, fat red tomatoes, luscious freshly-picked blueberries, local cheese, local honey, and locally-produced peanut butter that is so ridiculously good it should be a controlled substance. So good, you could slap yourself

Local milk, produced under the label Rhody Fresh, is so delicious and sweet that the Pooh actually asks for it and drinks it like a tiny calf. She disliked milk until she tried Rhody Fresh, and I can’t blame her. Who wants milk that tastes like a plastic carton?

I also have this thing about herb gardens. I have to have one, no matter where I live, even it is in flowerpots. I love herb gardens because herbs are easy to grow, and fresh herbs kick up the yummy notch on anything you cook. In Providence, I have a small plot, and it has gone crazy in the sunny spot I chose. An herb garden is also great activity to share with kids. The Pooh helped me plant the herbs, and she loves digging around in the dirt with her tiny trowel and rake, looking after “her” herb garden. I teach her the names of each one, and let her smell and taste these delicious little plants right then and there. The Barefoot Contessa would be jealous

I like an herb garden because it requires no special knowledge or skills to have one. It even thrives on a bit of neglect, which is perfect for a busy, slightly absent-minded person like me. I water my garden once a day (for the most part) and pinch off the flowers from the tops of the herbs to keep them fluffy and scrumptious for dinner later.

In the end, I hope that my attitude and behaviors towards food and healthy eating rub off on the Pooh. Don’t get me wrong. I am doing this primarily for myself, but I love the fact that there is a great side benefit for my bear. Girls and women are so susceptible to negative messages and behaviors around food and body image, and while I think the general attitude will be better when she is older, I doubt it will ever go away. I want to do whatever I can to ensure that the Pooh feels positive about the wonderful things that food can do for her body and energy levels.

We still enjoy a bit of junk food here and there in moderation, and I doubt I would ever eliminate it from my house completely. That said, I believe that the Pooh will not fulfill her Stella legacy of peaking at 25, simply because she will know a healthier, happier, more delicious way.

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