Three Simple Rules
I try to live by Michael Pollan's three simple rules for eating: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (If you haven't read his book In Defense of Food, I highly recommend it!) So "Eat food." I try to limit anything my great, great, grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. I believe that there is an innate food knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation that is currently beyond the scope of modern science. I am wary of new food products that haven't stood the test of time. I also think that the benefits and nutrients in foods and the interactions between these nutrients are too complex for science to fully grasp at present. And dietary recommendations seem to change with the wind. So, I figure since humans have been eating barley and lentils (and countless other foods) for thousands of years, those foods are probably the best food choices for my family.
The "Not too much" part is difficult for me. I am blessed with a high metabolism, and cursed with no concept of portion control. So, when I cook I look at the number of servings in the recipe and try to only eat one serving. I keep food in the kitchen, not on the dining room table so I am not tempted to eat more than I should. I also try to use small plates as often as possible to make my portions seem bigger. And all of this goes straight out the window when I eat out or visit someone. :)
"Mostly Plants." I try to make vegetables and fruits the "stars" of our meals and choose recipes that highlight the deliciousness of the seasonal produce available at our local supermarket. Before my second son was born, I was a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) member and I loved it. If you're not familiar with CSA's, basically a farmer sells "shares" of their produce at the beginning of the growing season to members. The members then receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. (Find out more at www.localharvest.org). Our CSA membership provided us with fresh, local produce and exposed us to new vegetables and new ways of cooking them. With two boys, the weekly produce box is a little too overwhelming for me. However, I would highly encourage you to try out a CSA in your area if you have the extra time!
"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Dr.Ann Wigmore In a perfect world, I would have unlimited funds and would only serve my family organic, locally grown foods because they are less likely to harm both my family and the environment. In the real world, I'm a middle class stay-at-home mom. I try to buy organically grown "Dirty Dozen" foods. Other than that, I buy what's on sale and keep my fingers crossed.
Eating with Kids
When my boys were babies, I was greatly influenced by the book Baby Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby To Love Good Food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. I chose not to feed my sons solids until they were 6 months old and when they started, I fed them whatever I was eating. I changed my diet to be healthier and slightly less crunchy and chewy (only at the beginning). My sons have never eaten "baby food" either jarred or homemade.
Now that my boys are older, they still eat whatever I eat for dinner. I give them very small portions and they are welcome to have more of anything they like. If they eat everything on their plates they get dessert, which is usually a small piece of candy. Because of that little bit of sugar, my boys try new foods, eat vegetables, don't waste food, and don't fight with me about eating dinner. I also think it gives my boys a healthier attitude about sweets as something to consume in moderation rather than a "forbidden food." Since dinners are usually small for the boys, they are huge breakfast eaters and pretty much love any breakfast food alongside some fruit. Their lunches are usually PB&J, a vegetable and a fruit. Their snacks are usually whole grains and fruit.
I believe that food should be enjoyed as a social experience. So, I eat with my sons. We sit together at our dining room table. We talk about our food - the color, the flavor, even the animal it comes from! I try to model good table manners and I show them how to eat different kinds of foods. My sons love to eat!
My sons also love to cook. I let them do anything they are capable of doing - dumping ingredients into a bowl, stirring, scooping, sprinkling, grating, washing vegetables, etc. And when it's too hot or too sharp for them to help, I let them watch. I encourage them to smell and taste different ingredients. I also teach them how to be safe in the kitchen - to sit on their bottoms by the table when I open the oven, to not reach for anything up on the counter or stove top, to clean up spills, and that steam and/or a sizzling sound means that something is really hot! My sons are not only welcome in the kitchen, they are active participants in our meal preparation.