I’m really excited about this new series that you will see pop up every once in a while on the blog. Real Mom Spotlight is an opportunity for me to introduce some of my fabulous readers. These are moms who believe in feeding their kids Real Food – which is why they read my blog – but who are also living busy lives (balancing mommy-hood work, relationships etc), which can often get in the way of this goal. In other words, these are Real Moms. I thought it would be great to get some insight and advice on how other moms are finding ways to incorporate Real Food into real life. Here are their stories.
My first Real Mom Spotlight guest is Lex Wisniewski, the witty and talented writer behind the blog Spits and Wiggles. I have to admit, I’m not really one for reading a lot of “mommy blogs”. Food blogs are usually my guilty pleasure. However, I somehow stumbled across Lex’s site and was initially drawn in by her writing style (which is utterly hilarious by the way). What keeps me reading is her ability to accurately articulate the emotional roller coaster that comes with being a first time parent. Honestly, sometimes it’s like she can see right inside my head (while still managing to keep things utterly hilarious). Today, Lex shifts gears a little bit and shares with Kids Heart Real Food readers a little bit about what Real Food means to her family.
Tell the readers a little bit about yourself and your kid(s)?
I am a writer, living in the Northwest Chicagoland ‘burbs with my awesome husband. We have a cute little 1948 cottage, on a corner, with a white picket fence, in a great neighbourhood. No joke.
El Meatball is our first, and I keep telling Husband that the more I spend time with our baby, the more babies I want. We got married in 2005, and about three years later decided we were ready for kids. That turned out to be much harder than every adult I knew in high school made it sound, but another four years later we held our little man.
He turned one this past December, and he’s just one of the best people I know. He’s hilarious. He loves people. And birds, lately. He turns book pages furiously, usually with a grunt, and as soon as he hears music he dances, especially hip hop.
We’re new at this whole “healthy eating” thing. It’s the kid’s fault.
What is your favourite food and why?
When I finally did go to the hospital in labor, Husband called my parents to let them know, and my mom showed up with strawberries.
They’re breakfast. They’re snacks. They’re great sides with lunch. They decorate desserts, or they’re dessert on their own. They’re great fresh and raw, but they also freeze perfectly. What’s not to love? (Ironically, the Meatball will not eat strawberries. Pretty sure that makes me a failure as a mom.)
Why is it important to you to feed your family as much Real Food as possible?
Like I said, we’re really new at this. Having a baby changes everything. So first it was the six-month milestone when he could have purees, and I innocently wondered what went into baby food. And I was horrified.
Every time I tried feed him something, I had to look into it, and I was constantly horrified. I didn’t have a lot of illusions about the food industry, but the more I studied the less and less okay it became. Food is supposed to nourish and strengthen and grow our bodies, not turn into carcinogens or make us sick.
What challenges do you face in this mission?
Taco Bell. For real. I really like Taco Bell. I’m simultaneously disgusted by it, but man…Seriously, though, habit is our worst enemy. For the third time: We’re new at this, and in our society – and with our busy schedules – it’s not an easy change to make. I would love to be a stay-at-home mom, and hopefully I will be someday, but right now it’s a good day if I get everyone’s teeth brushed before we leave the house in the morning. Planning to have a good breakfast, pack a healthy lunch for everyone, and have something in the fridge or the slow cooker for dinner takes a LOT of planning. That planning is not in my schedule yet, and so too often we fall back on what we know.
Friends and family can also be challenging. My side of the family, especially, are those people who like to give the baby sweets. “Just a taste.” Like it ever stops there. Our society is not super conducive to eating real food, and sometimes the exaggerate sigh, or the eye-roll, that says, “Really? You’re one of THOSE parents? Lighten up,” is really hard to stand up against. And sometimes it’s the magnitude of the corruption of our food system. You want to start eating better, so you decide you need more fruit and veggies. Then people start to tell you that raw is better than cooked, so you need at least some raw produce. Then you start to look into your selections and realize that most of them are covered in chemicals and genetically modified and void of nutrition because they were picked before ripening, so you need local and organic. But while you were doing your homework on GMOs, you accidentally learned about the growth hormones in dairy, or the antibiotics in meat, and as you try to verify that information you read about the loose standards for, and misleading nature of, labels like “Organic” that you used to trust on your food.
I remember being so overwhelmed at one point that I walked into one of our big grocery stores and thought, “There’s nothing here I can feed my family.” – Which, of course, isn’t entirely true, but it starts to feel overwhelming. I really had to take a deep breath and convince myself that we can’t do this all overnight, and I have to be okay with taking it one step at a time.
How do you approach sugary/processed treats in your family?
Husband and I sneak cookies int he oven when the baby goes to bed. Have I mentioned that we’re new at this?
We’re cutting it way, way back, so we’re not really in a place where we have a strategy FOR treats. Treats are still a little too common around here, but we’re making progress, and so I’m okay with it. In the past, when Husband and I have decided we need to eat better, we would always try really hard for a really short time and then fail completely. I’m realizing now that we can’t just make the change all at once. So we’re pulling back on treats gradually, and adding more real food gradually.
I don’t think we’ll ever ban them completely. Special occasions, even made-up ones, can call for a treat – in my opinion. The Meatball is going to grow beyond us soon enough – to parties at friends’ houses and then making most of his own food decisions, etc. – and we want to teach him how to be healthy. That includes how to enjoy sugary/processed treats in moderation.
What is your family’s favourite meal?
The baby would say, “Bananas.” I don’t really know. We hardly ever eat the same meal twice.
What is your favourite “time-saving” strategy/tip when it comes to food preparation?
The slow-cooker. A lot of slow-cooker recipes lean toward convenience, and so a lot of them use ingredients that aren’t necessarily ideal – cream soups and lots of salt, for example. But there are good ones out there, and it’s easy enough to substitute or change up a recipe you find online to include more real food.I also usually do breakfast a week at a time. We do kale smoothies, especially in winter, and I destroy the kitchen one evening each week making lots of small batches. Mornings can be crazy around here, but it’s nice to know that breakfast is ready – and it’s ready to go if I need to just grab it as we run out the door.Somewhere along the line I started packing left-overs in meal portions, and it wasn’t until I was cleaning up dinner at my mom’s house one night that I realized not everyone does this. (Or maybe just my family doesn’t do this, because – seriously – I feel like everyone does this. I feel like I’m going to tell you this and people are going to be thinking, “Duh. Everyone does that.” But whatever.) Sometimes we’re really on our game and we plan dinner for four, so we have two lunches for the next day. Sometimes the chicken in the fridge is just running out of time, so it needs to get cooked and we end up with a lot. Instead of putting all the veggies in one jar, all the quinoa in another jar, and wrapping up the salmon, I put a portion of each in each jar so we have single-serving, left-over meals ready to go.
What does meal-time look like in your household?
Breakfast is usually me and the Meatball sharing fruit or hot cereal or eggs. (He doesn’t like my kale smoothies!) And my coffee, of course. Husband is usually either already at work, or sleeping because he was up late working the night before.Lunch is just crazy, because we’re usually using my lunch break to pick someone up or drop someone off or get someone else the car for the rest of the day. On the days I work from home, I sometimes nail it, and the baby and I sit down and eat, buuut …Dinner is my favorite, because it’s usually the one we’re all together for. Husband is a great cook, but he definitely needs a sous chef to remember little things like sides or we would have dinner after dinner of just meat. It would be delicious and perfectly prepared, but not a meal. So we usually prepare it together, clean off the table together, and the three of us sit and eat together. We have a “media blackout” rule in our house between 6 and 8 PM, so we sit without TV or smart phones or any of it, and laugh at the baby while we eat.
What do you wish for the future of the food industry?
Oh gosh. If this is really genie-in-a-bottle wishing that we’re talking about, I guess that all the CEOs and Presidents and board members would grow consciences and enact sweeping changes so that the produce they stock would be local and organic, and the meat they produce would be healthy and real, and they’d fund micro-loans to small grocery entrepreneurs in developing nations all over the world, and the choicest strawberries would be delivered to my door every morning, and war would end.
But honestly? Nothing, really. Maybe that it would slowly and quietly fade into obscurity. I know that’s not very inspiring, but I just don’t really see it changing, and I don’t have the energy for fairy tales anymore.
The food industry is an industry, and industry is run by profit. The people who call the shots are always going to cut corners and make compromises to increase their profit margins. If they don’t, the other grocery chain will, and theirs will falter and fail. It’s business.
I think the best I could hope for would be that enough people educate themselves and make better choices, so that the food industry has to respond. But, first, it would take a huge percentage of people to have that kind of impact, and maybe my heart is stone, but I just don’t see it in the cards. If it did happen, I’m guessing those people would turn to gardening and local vendors, and by the time the industry reacted it would be too late. Thus the slow, quiet fade into obscurity.
What topic(s) are you hoping to see covered on Kids Heart Real Food in the future?
I dunno. I love it all! Love the food close-ups with all the info and recipes, and the breakfast-made-easy posts.
Would you like to be featured on Real Mom Spotlight? I’d love to interview you. Just contact me and we can arrange it!