Healthy Baby, Healthy World

Lots of things change when you have a baby.  I’d lived a healthy lifestyle for most of my adult life, but once a baby was on board living a healthy lifestyle became more than just exercising and eating right.  I started to think about the ways in which my lifestyle would impact my son both now and in the future.  My dedication to living sustainably grew because I wanted my baby to have access to many of the same things I’d enjoyed throughout my life: a connection to the natural world, access to clean air to breathe, and enough healthy food and clean water to help his body thrive. 

At the onset of pregnancy, I knew I didn’t want to expose a fetus to potentially harmful chemicals so I made the decision to eliminate as much of these as possible from my life.  I started with the fruits and vegetables I had always eaten. I made the upgrade to eating organically and locally.  Not only was I then eliminating potentially harmful toxins from our bodies, but local foods didn’t have to travel as far to my plate.  This meant that I was helping to eliminate many harmful chemicals from the environment that were a result of transporting food. 

Once my son was born I also switched back to a plant based diet.  Ironically, I had been vegetarian for years before I became pregnant, but during pregnancy I went back to eating meat solely because it was sometimes the only thing that didn’t make me throw up or want to throw up.  I’d known for a long time that much of the way meat is produced in America is unhealthy.  I didn’t want my baby to be exposed via breast milk to antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals so I cut it out altogether after his birth.  Now that the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy has passed I can easily eat a plant based diet and make a positive impact on my health, my baby’s health and the health of the environment. 

The other way I have decreased my exposure and my baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals is by eliminating the use of chemicals around the house.  Through a little bit of research and then some trial and error I’ve found that most things around the house can be cleaned with a combination of water, white vinegar, and baking soda.  The benefits here are many, but what I love most of all is that I no longer have to hold my breath while scouring the bath tub in an effort to keep from inhaling the chemicals I used to use.  Chemical fertilizers have been banned from my garden too.  A baby rolling around on green grass is no longer cute if I think of all the chemicals his skin absorbs while he’s hanging out there.  My new favorite tactic for eliminating weeds is using boiled water from cooking a pot of pasta and pouring it on the weeds.  It works like magic to rid my garden quickly of weeds and I don’t have to expose our family or the natural world to harmful chemicals.  I have to believe my dogs appreciate it too. 

For me, living a healthy lifestyle has become synonymous with living sustainably.  I have come to the realization that having a healthy body isn’t very useful in a toxic world and not only that, but it’s hard to create that healthy body in a world that’s not thriving.  As I live some of these new habits not only do I hope to make a difference in my baby’s future world, but I am hopeful he will learn to live some of this as well.  Numerous other ways exist to live healthily and sustainably too.  It’s not just about reducing chemical exposure.  Some people I know choose to bike commute to work or others have traded in their plastic water bottles for a reusable container.  I’ve found that oftentimes these things don’t require extra money, energy, or time, but rather a reconsideration of routines and habits. With just a little consideration, individuals, families, and communities benefit. 

What are the ways in which you’ve started to live a more sustainable lifestyle as a result of becoming a mom?

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More Veggies Please

Wow, I just found out I have some work to do.  The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity states that on average, American children, depending on the age, see between 4,500 and 6,000 food commercials a year!  Most of these commercials are for sugary, salty, processed foods.  Healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the things I want my kid to eat, don’t even get a fraction of the screen time.  I don’t watch television, but I know deciding to limit screen time at home only helps so much when it comes to promoting the kinds of things I want Elias to eat.  I can’t hold him hostage at home.  He’ll be bombarded by loud marketing elsewhere from food marketers desperate for us to buy their product.  The industry is currently spending $1.6 billion dollars a year trying to convince children to eat their garbage.  I better start making some moves now if I’m going to have any chance of competing with that.  Here are some of my ideas for bringing veggies into my kid’s world now and in the future:

  • Along with stuffed animals include some stuffed vegetable and fruit toys in play.
  • Plant a garden.  Even without yard space you can use containers to plant vegetables.  Radishes grow quickly so they are a great one to start with.
  • Present vegetables in a fun creative way on the dinner plate.  Make a vegetable bouquet with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and bell peppers.  Make a smiley face with vegetables on a homemade pizza.  Use peanut butter, raisins and celery for an ants on a log snack.
  • Make the plate colorful.  Kids gravitate toward color and the more the better.  Try beets, red peppers, and yams.
  • Visit summer farmer’s markets.

What ideas do you have to add to the list?  I need all the help I can get when it comes to helping Elias to eat healthy.

Baby in the Kitchen

Elias spends a lot of time with me in the kitchen.  Even as a baby he loves peering into the skillet and watching me stir an array of colorful veggies.  I’m hoping his early exposure to the preparation of fresh whole foods will instill in him some lifelong healthy habits.  Exposing kids to where their food comes from and how it’s prepared helps them to build a positive relationship with food.  I already know that as he gets older I’ll be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to helping him choose healthy whole foods over sweet and salty processed crap.  It’s because of this that I’m very deliberately trying to make cooking and meal time fun and enticing from the get go. 

Of course, cooking takes a lot longer this way!  I do a lot of carting him around while I cook one-handed and I also spend a lot of time on the floor at his level, chopping veggies while I talk to him about the colors and shapes and nutritive value of a particular food on the cutting board. 

Last night I threw together a stir fry and listed out to him each thing as it went into the pan.  “This is sesame seed oil.  This is garlic.  Here’s a little onion, and now some carrots, celery, and bok choy.”  Of course he’s too young now, but it won’t be long before he can take a more active role at meal time.  Listed below are some of the ways your kids can get involved in meal time too: 

Infants- 2 year olds will mostly be observing or grabbing for anything and everything you’re trying to prepare!  Talk to them about the things you’re doing and let them learn about textures by allowing them to grab and hold onto things that are safe.  Elias loves cucumbers and leaf lettuce this week.

2-3 year olds can rinse vegetables with your help and tear lettuce leaves for salads.  At this age continue to talk to them about the colors and shapes of the foods you’re preparing to make meal time more interesting for everyone. 

3-4 year olds will love mixing dry ingredients that you’ve measured out.  Try using cookbooks with lots of vibrant pictures and talk about the photos of food as you go.    

4-5 year olds will enjoy cracking eggs open and picking out the shell bits that may end up in the bowl as well!  They can open packages of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and add them to the dishes you’re preparing.

6-10 year olds will enjoy measuring out ingredients and filling the measuring cups themselves.  They’ll also want to mix ingredients together.  The older kids in this group can practice reading and math skills by preparing an easy and healthy meal from a recipe. 

Eat Like Bebe

Elias at seven and a half months is eating solid foods.  He has been for several weeks and while I was in the kitchen washing, peeling, and pureeing veggies for him the other night I started to think about my own diet over the last year and a half.  I have been re-inspired to stop using breastfeeding as an excuse to eat a little more and stay a little heavier and move back toward the eating habits that serve my health.  Traditionally I have eaten a fairly diverse array of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats but when morning sickness/all day sickness set in during pregnancy my diet went to hell in a hand basket and I can’t say that I’ve been super proactive in getting my old habits back.  During my first trimester all I could stomach was frozen pizza and thankfully I’ve at least given that up, but I have used breastfeeding as an excuse for far too many months to eat cake and lots of it!  I mean don’t breastfeeding women need extra calories to produce all that milk?  A breastfeeding mamma and a linebacker are similar in the sense that both need extra calories and lots of them.  Cake calories though are mostly empty in that they supply very little solid nutrition to either me or my growing baby.  I’ve known this and yet I’ve continued to splurge.

In looking down at the orange flesh of a sweet potato about to be fed to my baby I got to thinking that this is how my entire family should be eating.  We should all be partaking in lots of whole unprocessed, salt-free, sugar-free foods just like Elias and just like that the switch flipped and the cake was purged from my life.  Some of the things both myself and bebe are enjoying this week include a savory lentil stew made with creamy coconut milk, a beet and apple puree, and an herbed rice stuffed butternut squash.  I am eating lots of legumes, nuts and seeds as an add on to what Eli can eat as a seven month old, but we’re both enjoying our new menu immensely.  I have hardly missed the cake.

How about you?  Has it been a challenge to eat healthily as a new working mom?  What have you done to inspire yourself and your family to eat well?