My family loves Halloween. We love dressing up in coordinating costumes and going to lots of Halloween activities. My husband and I actually liked dressing up even before we had kids, but now it is even more fun and seems more acceptable and not quite as weird.
However, what I do not love is the ridiculous amount of candy but I understand that is a big part of Halloween. I wish more of the activities could not be focused on treats but again, I get it, it’s Halloween.
When my son was finally old enough to understand the concept of Halloween and eat candy, I figured I would limit his intake to a few pieces that evening and then maybe 1-2 pieces the following days. I was asking other parents what they do and a friend said they actually allow their kids to eat as much as they want on Halloween. I am pretty sure my heart stopped. What? You let them just eat as much as they want? How can you do that? Don’t they eat a million pieces? Doesn’t their stomach hurt? Aren’t they then wired from all that sugar?
I have written before that I do think of one of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement. These are so crucial to long term health that I take it very seriously. I understand that at 16 years old, my son will probably be getting fast food with his friends. But as research shows and I mentioned in my last blog about soccer snacks, what they learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. And at this point in their life, I get to control what they put in their bodies. Just as they learn about heathy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food. With that being said, I am not trying to make foods bad and off-limits, but some foods are occasional and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. I also do not want to be so strict that they are sneaking or hiding food or to create any type of food issues. I have had my own food issues in the past and that is the last thing I want for my children.
So the last 2 years we have let them (last year Madelynn was only 15 months old so obviously we had to watch what she was eating) eat as much as they want on Halloween night. This is still hard for me to actually accept and watch, but I embrace it. I make sure they have a healthy dinner beforehand and kids are incredibly good at self-regulation, which many adults have lost. I actually think they probably had only 5-6 peices of candy before deciding that they were full or decided it was enough. Both of my kids, Caleb especially, are starting to realize that too much sugar will make their stomach hurt and that they will not feel good that night and often the next day. So they learn moderation without strict rules and without me constantly saying no for one night of the year. It is such a fun, crazy, memorable night for all of us.
So what about in the following days? I know there are tons of different ideals revolving Halloween candy including the ‘Switch Witch,’ donating it to troops, throwing it away etc. I am not judging any of these as I think every family should figure out what works for them.
What we have done the last for few years is to keep it. I am not going to make a big deal about Halloween and costumes and trick or treating and then throw it away. I am not sure how I explain that to two small children. The few weeks following Halloween, they are allowed to pick 1-2 pieces after dinner. They eat very low amounts of refined sugar througout the day as I pack their lunches every day. Their school does not allow candy or juice and asks us not to send cookies or any other treats in their lunches unless it is a birthday or special celebration. They spend a long time picking these treats out and savoring them. Which is exactly what I hope for. It is special, it is a treat. It’s moderation. The candy often lasts us until the next holiday. Literally we could probably make it from Halloween to Easter and back to Halloween. We might end up donating it or finding something else that works better in the future, but this is what currently works for us.
I often think people want to get rid of the candy so the parents are not tempted. This is understandable and I used to be of the mindset out of sight, out of mind and often recommended it and sometimes still do to my clients. But I have worked so hard in my years to overcome my food obession, guilt and shame around food that I actually want candy in the house. For me it is like exposure therapy. I am not going to give candy so much power that I cannot have it in the house and have control over me. Though each person is different and might not want it in the house, it is actually part of my recovery process. I want to be in control and know that I can have a few pieces after dinner without going overboard and eating until I am uncomfortably full or riddled with guilt and shame. Knowing that it is there and I can have it whenever I want has actually given me much freedom. This will be one of the topics covered in my upcoming course Find Your Framework that I will be releasing in late January (jump on the pre-sale and info list here).
So though I cannot believe I actually allow them to just freely eat candy, it works for us and the kids have a great time and enjoy the freedom for one night. I always love to hear what other families do so send me an email (email@example.com) or a comment or message on social media what works for your family. I would love to hear from you!
Have a very fun and safe Halloween!
Wonder Women Sara, Madelynn and Housh and Spidermen Adam and Caleb
Caleb just started his third season of soccer and this topic has been on my mind for a few years but it wasn’t until my best friend sent me the picture below of the snack her four year old received at 9 AM last week that compelled me to write it.
I love sports and I started playing soccer and competing in swimming at age six. Though I will not force my kids to participate in any type of sport, I will sign them up for lots of activities and see what they enjoy and want to participate in. I hope some of these activities are sports as obviously I am a huge advocate of physical fitness and any type of movement for all ages. Not only do I think sports are great exercise, I think it teaches social skills, team building, commitment and when they are older, time management, losing vs. winning and much more. However, when they are four years old, let’s be honest, the games are not what I call ‘intense.’
If it was my choice, I would eliminate the soccer snacks all together. It is barely one hour of activity. My kids eat breakfast beforehand and yes, they often have a mid-morning snack most days before lunch, but I would prefer to just bring my own snack for my kid if needed or better yet, just go home and eat actual food as some of the games end around lunchtime.
BUT, I get it, the kids want the snacks and I understand it is a fun part of the activity (except if eliminated the snacks from the get-go they would not realize it was part of the activity) but why do we have to give them crap after a few minutes of exercise? What is this teaching them? Yes, if an older child is playing in hot and humid weather for over an hour, then they will most likely need more than water to replenish but after my four year runs around the field for 18 min he does not need 350 calories of sugar.
I am not a food tyrant with my kids. My kiddos get treats, we have some candy in the house and are not just eating kale and quinoa all day. I have had and am still having food battles about vegetables and meals and healthy food. However, I believe it is ONE OF OUR GREATEST responsibilities to teach our kids proper nutrition and taking care of our bodies from a young age. I remember speaking with another mom as I was frustrated that other moms were making comments about my food choices for my kids (that is an completely different topic entirely but I did post a guest blog awhile back about defending healthy) and she defended me saying that this is the time we get to make the choices for them as when they are sixteen years old we will not be able to. YES!
I hope I am laying a foundation for healthy eating for my kids for life. Much research shows that kids (and even babies in the womb) learn food preferences from what they are served growing up. And to be honest, I do not think enough parents take teaching their kids healthy habits seriously enough. 1 in 4 kids in Colorado is overweight or obese. Yes, in one of the states that often touts being one of the healthiest states, we still have high numbers of obesity in both adults and children. As with adults, the longer someone is overweight, the harder it is for them to lose weight. So if a child is overweight starting at a young age, they are very likely to be overweight as an adult. Our children’s life expectancy is being cut short due this epidemic and many experts believe this is the first time a generation’s life expectancy is shorter than their parents.
Photo courtesy of Live Well Colorado
I know this might be an extreme correlation between a few soccer snacks and obesity but the constant sugary snacks at a young age can definitely be a contributor. Why can’t we use these opportunities to teach our children about proper hydration and fueling?
I know soccer snacks are not going anywhere but could we PLEASE bring healthy options? I asked the snack coordinator this year to ask the other parents to bring healthy options as it is something I feel very strongly about. Yes, I realize I could tell my son that he is not allowed to have the snack that is offered if it is junk and though I do teach my son about food that is good for us and food that are occasional treats, I really do not want to get into a discussion with my 4 year old son about childhood obesity during snack time. Why not use sports as a great time to teach our children about healthy snack options after exercise?
If if is your turn this weekend to bring some snacks, here are some ideas of healthy sport snacks that taste great and most kids will enjoy.
- String cheese
- Cuties, grapes, apple slices
- Low-sugar snack bars (my favorite; Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Fiberful Bars, Z-bars with protein, Z-bars Filled )
- Trail mix with nuts, raisins and chocolate chips
- Fruit leather
- Drinks: Flavored seltzer water, Trader Joe’s Low-sugar apple juice, Honest juice or just good old plain water.
Let’s teach our children the importance of good food and healthy habits on an off the field.
Caleb and his buddies enjoy a snack after the game.
I just returned home from a week long trip with my sister, and prior to that I was able to do a long overdue (as in 14 years) girls weekend with my college girlfriends. I have previously written about how traveling has changed for me over the years as my relationship with food and exercise has changed. Yet, I am still often reminded of how far I have come when I travel. This is even more apparent when I travel alone or without my children as when traveling as a family, I am obviously very focused on their needs vs. my own. But now that I am less focused on exercise and food, I am actually able to focus on so much more when I travel. There were so many incredible things about both these trips but here are the most significant.
I think truly connecting with others can be a challenge once you are a mom. Not only is it nearly impossible to have a actual adult conversation with someone else while your small kids are around (either by phone, text or in-person), when you are not with your kids, you are often talking about them, worried about them and thinking about them. Kids take up a lot of mental and physical energy (as they should) but sometimes it is hard to step away from that for a time being.
In Oregon with my girlfriends, we had 11 kids among the 5 of us so obviously we were going to talk about kids a lot BUT we became friends before kids and so we are connected differently than some of my current friends and had so many memories before we became moms. After, we all in checked in with our families we were able to truly connect. The fact that we were able to sit down for multiple meals without having to get up 600 times to clean up spilled milk or get an additional condiment or pick up food thrown on the floor was blissful. We could really have a grown up conversation.
One of the best parts of the trip was that there was no complaining. It was so refreshing. Not that everyone doesn’t have the right to complain once and awhile, but we did not just sit around and whine about our kids and husbands and how tired we were and how hard motherhood is and how dirty and messy our houses were. We are all constantly exhausted and challenged in motherhood, can relate to each other, are in the trenches right now and trying to do our best. None of this needed to be reiterated. We laughed and shopped and drank wine and talked. Another favorite moment of mine was when we all sat outside for about an hour in almost complete SILENCE drinking wine and reading. It was blissful. I imagine none of us get to just sit like that very often.
Connecting with my sister was another amazing trip. We have not traveled together with just the two of us for 5 years. We talked politics, food, nutrition, exercise, goals, future plans, the past, and more. We enjoyed amazing meals, saw an entire city, sat on our porch every morning and every evening drinking coffee and then wine. We went to art museums, toured a Bourbon distillery, went to Churchill Downs, took a super funny, cheesy amazing city tour. So different than my daily routine, it was wonderful.
Even as a fitness professional, I do spend the majority of my days sitting at my desk like most office workers. Even days I teach and train are for a very small amount of my total day. In Louisville, we walked and walked and walked. We walked over 50 miles in 4 and 1/2 days. It was cathartic, it was a great way to see the city, it was even sometimes mentally and physically challenging. It was wonderful.
In previous travel, I would have tried to locate the nearest gym and try to plan someworkouts throughout the week. I did pack a resistance band and had planned on going on a run and doing some body weight workouts but after walking an average of 10 miles each day, I did not feel the need (or want) to do any additional workouts. It was probably great for my body to have a total different form of exercise for a week. And the funny thing, I was so friggin sore. Sore as in I had done hours of high intensity exercise. My calves were tight and my hips ached by the end of the day. There was no way I was going to do any additional working out. As my sister joked (who just came off a 5 month around the world trip with a lot of walking, check her adventures out here), I am ‘gym fit.’ But it is fairly accurate. I can teach or take a hard 60 minute group exercise class or a complete an intense CrossFit workout but walking a city for 4 days left me aching. It was amusing and humbling and made me think about spending more time on my feet throughout my work day.
One of my favorite activities but also an activity that use to bring me some anxiety. I use to try to bring so much food with me when I traveled as I was constantly worried that I might be in a place that did not have healthy options. Then I would have to chose between being hungry, since I would not want an unhealthy option which I thought would lead me to eat more later due to hunger or eat the less healthy option and feel guilty. Wow. So much mental energy was spent on this! My sister use to joke that I literally always had food packed with me where ever I was going and this was before motherhood, when of course you need snacks with you at all times for the littles. Yes, I often pack some type of snacks as I do not want to be eating airport food all the time and I also like snacks but I used to pack pre-portioned ziplock bags of protein powder and oatmeal and more and then when I arrived at my destination would need to scope out the food scene and grocery store options almost immediately.
What I have discovered is that I am going to be okay. I am not going to the Sahara I am not going to die without food for a few hours or even without healthy options and even if I decide to pick the less healthy option, does not immediately negate my consistent healthy eating and exercise. In Kentucky, we ate 2 meals most days and one night we opted to hit the grocery store for cheese, vegetables and crackers. The food in Louisville, to my surprise was amazing. Louisville has much pride in their food and is very big on locally sourced food. One restaurant we went to had large black and white photos of the farmers where they sourced their food as the restaurant’s artwork. All our meals were really delicious and a memorable part of the trip.
I am a creature of habit and generally thrive on routines. But it is so good for our mind, body and soul to get out of those routines. I cannot wait to travel again and hope that you find some time to travel and connect, walk and of course eat delicious meals.
I know you do not know how much I wanted you. I wanted you and your brother more than you will ever know but for different reasons. Caleb made me a mom after struggling for years to become pregnant. You made me a mom all over again and gave me hope on something I thought I would never have again, a mother-daughter relationship.
When I found out you were a girl, I was overjoyed and actually in so much disbelief that the nurses, doctor, your father and my sister had to really convince me you were a girl. I just could not believe it. But with that joy, also came a little bit of fear. Raising both you and your brother are a great responsibility that I do not take lighly. I want more than anything and am trying everyday to raise respectful, kind, confident and strong children. Yet, I feel that I have a greater responsibility to you in regards to your relationship with food and your body. Of course, I want Caleb to have a healthy relationship with his body and food but I believe it is still a much more of a struggle for girls and women. After struggling for much of my life with my own relationship with food and my body, you and Caleb allowed me to change my relationship. You both taught me there was so much more to life than obsessing about exercise and food. You showed me how amazing my body truly was and is and what it was capable of. I still have days I struggle or go back to my old ways of thinking but you and Caleb will never understand how much you healed me. I only hope that I can now pass this healthy relationship on to you.
My wishes for you:
- That you try all different types of exercise, movement and sports throughout your lifetime because moving our bodies is fun and enjoyable.
- That you find a type of exercise/movement that you love, find joy in and do it often and until your golden years.
- That you want to exercise and eat delicious nourishing foods because it makes you feel good and strong.
- That you do not see foods as inherently good or bad but that some foods make us feel and perform better than others.
- That you learn and hopefully enjoy to cook as I think cooking for yourself is one of the highest forms of self-care and cooking for others is an expression of love.
- That you know just how amazing good food can be and that it should not be associated with guilt or shame.
- That you do not exercise for punishment for eating something ‘bad.’
- That you know your strong legs and genetic build are actually a gift that allows you to run, swim, climb and do all these amazing physical things.
- That you never hear me talk negatively about my body or someone else’s body.
- That you never hear me say that I have been ‘bad’ when it comes to food or exercise.
- That you will be a leader with your girlfriends when it comes to body image and show them what a healthy relationship with your body and food can really look like.
- That you never see a number on the scale and let it determine what kind of day you are going to have.
- That any number measuring anything on your body (clothes, waist size etc.) is NOT a reflection of your self-worth. YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MORE THAN A NUMBER.
I know you will probably struggle with some of these issues as many will, but I hope I can be a good example and that you have a healthy, enjoyable relationship with food, exercise and body image. You are strong, smart, beautiful and everything to me. I have learned more about my body, my relationship with food and myself in the last 4 years than I have in my entire lifetime and everyday I still learn, am challenged and in awe of what you and Caleb continue to teach me. Thank you for this responsibility. Thank you for being mine.
Your favorite book currently, and the one we brought to the hospital on the night you were born so that we could put your footprints on the inside cover also sums up my wishes for you.
I Wish you More
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
I wish you more ups than downs.
I wish you more give than take.
I wish you more tippy-toes than deep.
I wish you more we than me.
I wish you more hugs than ughs.
I wish you more WOO-HOO than WHOA!
I wish you more will than hill.
I wish you more can than knot.
I wish you more snowflakes than tongue.
I wish you more pause than fast-forward.
I wish you more umbrella than rain.
I wish you more bubbles than bath.
I wish you more treasures than pockets.
I wish you more stories than stars.
I wish all of this for you, because you are everything I could wish for…and more.
Happy Birthday baby girl!
I am very excited and honored to have my sister and a professional chef as my guest blogger today. My sister has influenced, encouraged and taught me more about cooking more than anyone else. We both hope to encourage people to cook more as we know the impact it can have on someone’s health and overall wellbeing. Yet, we realize that not everyone loves to cook but want to emphasize that even simple cooking is important.
Last weekend we joined neighbors for a barbecue, and the conversation turned to meal delivery services like Blue Apron, Green Chef and Purple Carrot. (Why do they all have colors in their names?) A friend, who works full-time and has two boys under five, turned to me and asked – apprehensively, I felt – what I thought of these services. Perhaps she thought that as a professional teaching chef, who emphasizes cooking at home, my opinion might be somewhat judgmental, as though these services were somehow “cheating.” On the contrary, however, I endorse these, and many other similar options, wholeheartedly.
For the past seven years, I’ve taught public and private cooking classes to hundreds of people. My focus has always been the same: to encourage people of any age and any background to get back in their kitchens and cook. I don’t teach fussy, “cheffy” recipes requiring dozens of hard-to-find ingredients or absurdly long preparation and cooking times. Instead, I concentrate on simple, fresh, healthy recipes that can be made successfully by anyone; the majority of the recipes I teach are exceedingly flexible, based around whole grains, fresh vegetables and layers of flavor, but also forgiving of ingredient substitutions and dietary guidelines.
The reality of my position, however, is that I can only reach a limited number of people, because I conduct in-person classes and lectures. These meal delivery services, on the other hand, have the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of people through their well-financed marketing departments, slick online how-to videos and collectible recipe cards. Instead of competing with me, I think these services bring even more people into the cooking fold, and if any company gets more people to cook at home then I salute them. And I want moms (and other busy people) everywhere to know this: YOUR FOOD IS GREAT. Please, keep cooking.
I know it’s easy for a professional chef who regularly teaches classes on homemade bread and kombucha and how to make your own yogurt and using up your homegrown organic garden herbs to sound a little sanctimonious and judgmental. I know that I make these things look easy because that’s my job. And that’s exactly why I want you to stop just for a moment and take some credit for the things in your kitchen that you’re doing right. Are you planning at least a few meals every week? Making a batch of homemade muffins or granola? Subscribing to a local CSA? Brewing coffee at home rather than hitting the drive-thru? Focusing on using up your leftovers and cooking from your pantry instead of buying more food? Including your kids in grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation? Maybe not every single meal in your kitchen is 100% from scratch, but please know this: whatever you’re doing, keep it up. Really, you’re doing great.
Seriously, we’re judged for so many things every single day, and I believe that is even more true for moms who might sometimes feel as though they can’t get anything right. It is heartbreaking to cook a meal and then receive family feedback that’s less than enthusiastic. But please, take it from me: if the majority of meals you feed your family come from whole, unprocessed foods that you’ve cooked (hopefully as a team), and if you make an effort to have as many sit-down meals together each week as you possibly can, then you are ahead of the game.
And if you subscribe to meal delivery services like Blue Apron, then you probably already know that you’re paying more than you need to for those ingredients and recipes. But if – as my friend pointed out – those conveniently packaged ingredient boxes encourage you to cook something you never would have tried before, or entice your kids to sample a new ingredient just because it arrived in a surprise box like a Christmas present that they got to unwrap, then you’re doing well. Cooking fresh, wholesome food at home isn’t an all-or-nothing game, and some days will definitively be better than others. You do your very best, you involve your family and hopefully don’t treat it like too much of a chore, and you sit down together to enjoy the results. And that, friends, is what cooking at home is all about.
To quote Merrill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser of Food52:
“Because, if you cook:
Your family will eat dinner together.
You will naturally have a more sustainable household.
You’ll set a lifelong example for your children.
You’ll understand what goes into food and will eat more healthily.
You’ll make your home an important place in your life.
You’ll make others happy.
People will remember you.”
So get in your kitchen. And remember, you’re doing great.
Chef Elizabeth Buckingham is a Colorado native and has recently returned from a five-month round-the-world sabbatical. She earned her culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and has cooked aboard dive boats and private yachts worldwide. Elizabeth now teaches public and private cooking classes in the Denver area and is a certified Master Gardener; she runs a small urban homestead complete with bees, chickens and a large vegetable garden. She is an avid canner and preserver, a passionate advocate of local food, and she thinks everyone should know how to cook at least a little bit. Learn more about her adventures at www.findingquietfarm.com.
All photos by Nick Nick Photography.