Happy New Year!
I cannot believe that 3 weeks has already past since 2016 started. I have been absent from this space due to some personal (but exciting) happenings in my life. Because of these happenings, I have decided to invite a few of my good friends to write for this space time to time. I have had the privileged of knowing these fabulous women over the past several years. During that time I discovered that we are similar in some ways and different in others, and that makes them so invaluable to my life.
Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to Vikki. Vikki and I met through a local mommy group. We connected through the love of healthy cooking and eating for our families. Although she moved two hours away, we continue to be good friends and she visits me whenever she can. She is a former middle school teacher, now a full time mom with two active boys age 4 and 3. She is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and her wicked and clever jokes always make me laugh with tears. Vikki is also a great cook. She is always trying different ways to raise a healthy family. I am so grateful to have her unconditional support for me as a person and as a health coach.
Effortless Cooking by Vikki Locken
As a new mom, feeding my baby became the motivation for me to change the way I cooked and ate forever. I was a recent disciple of Michael Pollan and the real food movement. My desire to feed my family led me to one meal plan after another, all of which failed me. Too complicated, too bland, too spicy, even the dog won’t eat that, etc… Many Sunday afternoons were obsessively spent planning meals for the week and tracking down some very hard to find ingredients. I finally learned to trust my own instincts as a cook and mother. I know the foundation of long term success in the kitchen, and for health, is making things manageable. Easy is better and it is healthy. Here are the lessons I learned to make cooking and eating enjoyable for everyone in the family.
- Meal plan with familiar recipes as the foundation of your week, even if it means repetition at the beginning of your transition. For those nights, focus on adding at least one vegetable and one fruit at every dinner meal. A simple mixed salad (don’t worry if you’re missing fancy ingredients) and sliced fruit works. This gives you time to focus on enjoying your meal and creating a relaxed environment.
- Make vegetable literacy the foundation of your kitchen learning. It has taken me years to come up with an arsenal of seasonal vegetables and fruits to serve on a daily basis. It is the hardest thing for most people to change because vegetables are not a central part of our modern food culture and not many of us know how to prepare them tastefully. This one thing can transform the nutrition of your meals. It doesn’t matter how much we know we are supposed to eat better, if our food doesn’t taste good, our habits won’t change. Everyone in the family can learn to like nutritious foods, if all members see the value of learning to like different types of food. Don’t fall for the superfoods hype. All vegetables and produce have benefits, especially if you are learning to like them.
- Use themes to make meal planning even easier. Burrito night, pasta night, salad and soup night, eggs night, fish night, comfort food night, Crock-pot night and even pizza night. By setting up the structure for your week, you are much more likely to easily brainstorm meals that are approachable for you while again slowly working on making them more nutritious. Our favorites are Mexican night. I have no shame in our weekly burrito night and pasta night. Those always please everyone and make it a pleasure to feed my family nutritious food.
- Make sure there is something at the table for everyone to enjoy. Serving a brand new roasted fennel and olives chicken you feel proud of? Then prepare yourself with an extra glass of wine because your children probably won’t eat it until they’ve thrown it at the wall at least three times. Like many childhood nutrition experts, I agree that children should have a variety of choices at the dinner table and be able to choose without coercion. Chicken nuggets have a place, stuck in the freezer section. Instead, try plain yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, plain whole grains, or a simple bowl of cooked beans in addition to vegetable and fruit choices.
- Embrace and celebrate your role as a home cook. Food preparation is a skill that is honed over a lifetime, and you should take pride in being able to prepare delicious food for yourself and others. Say it with me: I enjoy preparing nutritious foods for my family to enjoy. Say it while you smear that peanut butter on that jelly, girl! Make it a point to teach your family to say thank you to the cook. Appreciation of effort makes our work in the kitchen so much easier. Tips and karaoke requests are gladly accepted. Also sloppy kisses.
Long term healthy eating depends more on habits than on nutrition. Make time to enjoy learning the skills and habits for success in the kitchen.