Dealing with your family’s health can be scary, and for most moms, helping prevent diseases starts in the kitchen. In this MomViews segment, Tamika L. Gardner, author of 201 Organic Baby and Toddler Meals and blogger at SimplyBabyFoodRecipes.net, shares her thoughts on the importance of preparing healthy meals for her family.
MomViews: Healthy eating is important for moms-to-be and new moms, but it is important to build healthy habits at an early age. What tricks did you use to teach your children how to choose healthy meals over not-so-healthy choices?
Tamika Gardner: Fortunately, I haven’t had to use any “tricks” 🙂 I set the stage very early that “Mommy decides what to buy and what ends up in the grocery cart.” While out on grocery trips, I made sure to have conversations with them (while they were toddlers) to let them know which foods were healthy and which foods were not. We also eat as a family at almost every meal with no electronics or other disruptions, and many of the conversations are centered around healthy eating and making good choices.
Now that my kids are in elementary school, they look to me for approval on whether they should eat something or not when we are out and about. They will say things like, “Mommy, is this healthy?” My answer would be yes or no depending on what it is. Throughout my journey as a mom, I have essentially cut out a lot of things I used to buy and eat before they were born and I make all of our meals from scratch – including breads, muffins, and even ice cream using the best ingredients. I do purchase store-bought items as well, but only things that I consider to be healthy for them with a few treats here and there 🙂
MV: Everything looks and sounds delicious in your book titled: 201 Organic Baby And Toddler Meals. What inspired you to share these dishes?
TG: I wanted to offer plenty of recipes that included a boatload of veggies and fruits to ensure that babies and toddlers are getting enough in their diets. I also wanted to share some new and exciting twists on meals and snacks that toddlers typically enjoy. For example, Fruit Infused Milk was inspired by my love of fruit and my kids love for milk. Instead of buying the artificially flavored and colored powders from the store to make strawberry milk, it’s easy enough to add real strawberries to infuse the milk!
MV: We are fruit junkies — we really enjoy eating fruits — but there are a variety of them that can be toxic. In your book, you mention the “Toxic Twenty”. Can you discuss why it is important to buy organic produce for your family?
TG: We love fruit too! In fact, when I started researching the use of pesticides in foods it was eye-opening for me because I did not realize that produce was laden with chemicals. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I became extremely protective (as a natural instinct) of what I exposed my babies to. I learned from research that infants are highly susceptible from toxins in conventional foods as well as chemicals in the environment, and it’s extremely important to limit their exposure to pesticides while their bodies are growing and developing (and beyond).
Another important reason to purchase organics is that it supports local farms, healthy growing practices, and benefits the environment overall. It’s truly a win-win and I believe the only potential barrier is cost and availability. If parents had a choice between a peach sprayed with pesticides and a peach that wasn’t — for the same price — I don’t know any mom or dad that would choose the strawberry sprayed with pesticide. Do you?
MV: At times, people hear the words “healthy” and “organic”, and they automatically assume the food will be expensive and tasteless. Your book does a great job in practically eliminating those thoughts from everyone who picks up the book. Is there a certain dish you love to make more than others?
TG: I love cooking a variety of meals because my family kitchen is pretty much the “restaurant”, but I especially love making all of the chopped salad recipes and yogurt-based dressings because my kids like them and I can eat them all day! The Kale Chips and Chilled White Grape Peach Soup are also my favorites.
MV: What advice can you offer a mom who is looking to invest in their family’s eating habits?
Remember, you’re the boss and you ultimately decide what goes into your family’s bellies.
Stock the fridge and pantry with foods that are approved by you and be sure to read labels.
Stay clear of processed foods, and make your meals from scratch.
Join a community garden or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Check out www.localharvest.org or www.communitygarden.org.
Be super positive about healthy eating and include your child in conversations for a lasting impact, and make family mealtime matter!