Homegrown on Nutrition

Growing up I never really ate horribly (for too long) but I had never really concentrated on nutrition either. As an adolescent I remember consuming more than a couple Cokes a day and then going through a short instant breakfast diet when I first realized I liked a boy in 7th grade. ; ) For the most part, however, my mother set a good example of preparing home cooked food. She grew up on a farm with a kitchen that didn’t see jarred or canned foods unless they were jarred or canned by her mother herself.  My mother opened a cookbook and made a home cooked dinner almost every night. 

My grandma in her kitchen in 1953 with my aunt.

My grandma in her farm kitchen in 1953 with my aunt.

Unless it was my request, I don’t really remember her cooking a boxed meal. I do remember going over to friends and watching some of their moms prepare hamburger helpers or spaghetti from a jar (which is where those requests of mine came from). Now let me say that I am NOT judging here, when I moved out on my own and it came time for me to start preparing food for myself, I had my fair share of those low-cost one-box dinners. But my mom had given me a great gift; by watching and helping her cook from scratch all those years, I often craved and cooked many of my meals from a list of ingredients instead of a box …just as I’d learned in my mother’s kitchen.

When my husband and I got married and started talking about having a baby I started thinking about food more as nutrition not just taste. It wasn’t just about me any more. If I was going to grow a human, it just made sense that there had to be a certain diet that was best. So the first moment I suspected I was pregnant (probably within 2 days of conceiving and two months before we were going to “try”) I ran out and I bought a book on pregnancy nutrition. I remember hiding it because I didn’t want people to suspect that I was pregnant yet I wanted to find out how I should eat. The first thing I read was how you should start eating well BEFORE you get pregnant and of course started to panic a bit. A list of the things I had and had not eaten in the last few months ran through my head. Had I done alright? The main thing that I remember was FOLIC ACID and the importance of green leafy vegetables so the first thing I did was buy some salad. I vividly remember that first salad that I bought… an oriental chicken salad kit from Costco. It was not like I had never had salad before, but for some reason when I took each bite of that salad I felt like I was laying a foundation for my baby. (I know that may sound silly but I am just a visual person and I was in first-time mom mode) I continued to read about what I should and shouldn’t eat…whole wheat bread was on that list and since I had never been a whole wheat eater, the thought of it was not appetizing to me…but I would try. I bought about every other loaf of bread whole wheat but somehow kept going back to that nutritionally lacking white. When I was nauseous I tried to make sure that I had some whole wheat crackers in my desk so that I was a least getting some whole grain there.

I bought another book that was big on NO SUGAR. My boss at the time ate no sugar as a life style choice so I thought if she can do for years I certainly can do that for a few months. So I bought no sugar yogurts (not realizing at the time that they were worse because of the artificial sweeteners) and cut out most sweets. I remember talking to a coworker who was also pregnant at the time and both of our birthdays were at the end of our pregnancies and she was telling me how her mother had told her that at least this year she could eat as much cake as she wanted to because she was eating for two. When she said that I thought… no this is when you want to eat NO cake. I admit I went a little extreme in my thinking and am so glad I didn’t say that out loud. And yes, I did still have cake for my birthday and baby shower. I found it interesting that very few people “helped” me eat healthy. Most people tried to convince me that I didn’t need to make such a big deal about my nutrition. “Don’t spend your pregnancy miserable and deprive yourself of enjoyable foods,” I was told. That is true to a point; we should be able to enjoy an occasional treat without guilt, but if we are not careful those treats could easily become our everyday food.

In the end of my 5th month of pregnancy, my husband and I started taking our childbirth classes through The Bradley Method ® of natural childbirth, which I now teach. The second week of that class taught us about pregnancy nutrition and even after all my reading I was learning more new information…I should have been eating 2 eggs a day and 80 to 100 grams of protein? Why didn’t anyone tell me this…why was it not in my other books? I remember being so upset that I didn’t have this information sooner. There is just so much DIFFERENT information out there on what is and is not good for you.  Again…I went a little overboard.

During my second pregnancy I was better about my whole grains but much worse about sugars I remembered to get in as many eggs as I could – be it far less than 2 every day …my third pregnancy I was sick sick sick in the beginning so the first few months it was potatoes (and unfortunately often in the french-fry form) and pizza that were the two foods that settled my stomach best. I tried to make the most of those choices and I did not beat myself up over them. Once I felt better I took that opportunity to once again eat better. Was I perfect…I wish I was (and I keep thinking that if I got pregnant again I could do it perfectly) – but the point is, I did make many great nutritional choices and though I think it is good to strive for perfection, I would never beat myself up over an indulgence. I know that the many great choices out-weighed the others. My children all turned out great and many other great children have been born on less nutrition.

The point is to do your best at eating the best! Give yourself and your children the best chance that you can. Part of that best chance is not stressing out…don’t beat yourself up on the past choices you’ve made. Don’t live your life not enjoying food, but find healthy foods you love. Whether you just found out you are pregnant or are juggling a group of kids already, this blog will give your recipes and tips to a help you choose enjoyable foods that will benefit you and your growing family. I will aim to find you and me the nutritional tools that will help us both to enjoy food while growing our families. So lets forget about how we’ve grown them to this point. Lets give our children the gift of choosing the best foods and enjoying those foods because we’ve grown them on delicious and nutritious food.

Remember nutrition doesn’t need to be a contest. It’s not about “look how great I am eating and feeding my family” (we all have junk food closets somewhere) but it’s about supporting each other in heathy eating and remember not to judge. If there is one thing being a mom has taught me, it is that we ALL have our weaknesses. Nobody likes their weakness judged! Just help each other. Try not to temp our friends and kids friends with unhealthy foods; rather,  let’s make a conscience effort to make and serve healthier choices.

It is my hope that this blog will give us a good place to start.

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