The other day, in what was likely an innocuous comment, someone left an online statement that I was “proud” of the healthy food that I feed my family. Although it appeared to be largely due to a simple misunderstanding, it still made me think.
In sitting down to chat with my husband later that evening, we mulled over that idea. For the most part, we had a good laugh about the topic. Because the embarrassing truth is that I have historically been the “pickiest” eater in our marriage, not my husband or toddler! (Certainly not something I would be proud to admit.)
I grew up with plenty of boxed/canned food, Bisquick pancakes, packaged snacks, and plenty of Oreos
. At dinner every night, we were required to drink our glass of milk (and encouraged to choose skim), along with eating our iceberg lettuce salad. I entered our marriage skeptical of things like cabbage, squash, zucchini, beans, and “plain” peanut butter. I just *knew* that I wouldn’t like them!
In the past, I have shared some of the chronology of our eating habits
, but this incident reminded me anew of the gratitude I have for my husband. I am so glad I married him! He gently guided me toward healthier food choices, and gracefully let me hold on to my favorite comfort food of mac & cheese for years. He introduced me to the delicious flavors of perfectly cooked yams, kale, wholesome peanut butter, and whole wheat breads. I learned to prepare zucchini, squash, and cabbage in dishes that I enjoy. (I think many people’s fear of “healthy foods” is due to having been forced to eat overcooked, bland food as children.)
But she also guided me with her taste preferences. While I thought it was completely normal to serve up a bowl of canned green beans, she spit them out. I assumed she just didn’t like green beans, until I happened to give her a fresh green bean one day. She devoured it! We quickly learned that she actually loves the “real” taste of green beans! Also, ever since I started feeding Gen peas, they have been one of her favorite foods. She can be skeptical of the leafy green salads on our dinner plates, but loves munching on the lettuce leaves that we grow in flower pots on our patio. (Picking them seems to add a special fascination and enjoyment!)
I think we have helped encourage her appreciation for “healthy” foods, by providing her with regular tastes of flavorful food. Some foods may take several tries, before she will eat any significant amount, though. (I still find it hilarious that the foods she doesn’t seem to enjoy are potatoes and watermelon!) Even since she was small, she has loved the flavors of spicy guacamole, mild Indian yellow curries, and cinnamon/pumpkin pie spices (but no sugar) in her oatmeal or yogurt. (Although, she did go through a phase where she refused to eat her oatmeal unless it had the spices in it!) As a special treat, she loves it if I drizzle a little bit of organic, dark molasses onto her tray, for her to taste.
I try to never assume that she “won’t” like something, and insist that she take at least one bite of everything. (Yes, sometimes there are “drama queen” tantrums, but she eventually says “obey” and takes her bite. Then, sometimes she’ll clap for herself.)
So, as I have been surrounded by “healthy eaters” in my home, I have been spurred on to learn about new-to-me produce and cooking techniques. I have sampled new items from the Farmer’s Market this year, and learned to make lacto-fermented vegetables, sourdough, and soaked grains.
It is humbling to realize that I can serve my family in this way. I have sought guidance from others who are knowledgeable in health-promoting foods/nutrition (in person, as well as from books). I have always been passionate about food, and it has been natural to enjoy each “discovery” I make in my reading/conversations. It is easy to fall back on old habits, though, and I am grateful for my husband’s encouragement for me to persevere in this area.
As I prepare grocery lists and meal plans, one of the moments that struck me the most was realizing how much more satisfied my family seemed to be. Once I stopped buying pasta (a major staple in our meals), and all-purpose flour, the regular clamoring for snacks and “seconds” diminished. For example, I would prepare a casserole recipe that stated “serves 4-6,” and we would eat nearly the entire pan in one sitting! Now, I have an abundance of leftovers (either to put in the freezer or lunches, or for serving guests), and my pantry isn’t perpetually empty.
Once regular eating habits are established, nutrient-dense snacks are still a valuable source of nutrition for small toddlers, and hard-working men. But now they are not going around (seemingly) constantly hungry. What a joy to see my husband finally feel full, after eating a bowl full of soaked whole grains and nuts, along with some whole raw milk/yogurt and fresh berries! It is a relief to see my daughter finally growing healthfully, even when recently exposed to other children with a “flu” bug (especially since we are without health insurance!).
It is this joy that I desire to pass along to others. It is not (I hope!), a gesture of pridefully displaying my knowledge or cooking talents. It is an automatic extension of sharing the life that God has provided to our family through “real foods.”
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:14-18)
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)
I long to point others toward our wonderful Creator God, who blesses us with such natural bounty. Our Abba Father provides for our every need, and even gives us the gifts of wonderful flavors as we receive sustenance. When I see others struggling to nourish their families, I feel a sadness. I have always loved volunteering to help put plates of good food in front of others, whether it be at a camp/retreat center, our church, the food bank, the Ronald McDonald House, or even friends’ weddings!
When I place my family’s nutrition in God’s hands, and ask for His wisdom in my preparations, He has always been faithful to meet me in the kitchen or grocery store. I love this simple approach toward meals. I am not spending my time clipping coupons and searching stores for a chemically-laden product a manufacturer has to “pay me” to bring home. I can spend time lovingly kneading bread dough, and reading cookbooks! I still have much to learn, but it is a joyful adventure!
To be continued… Join me next week for Part 21!
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