food

What’s on your plate? Overcoming dietary judgment.

Many of us are becoming increasingly interested in knowing as much as we can about what is in our food. We are becoming educated about where our food comes from, how it’s grown and cultivated, and how it affects our bodies. Talk to any one person and you’re bound to find that the way they think about food varies from your own perspective. There isn’t one way to eat healthy. Some people opt for a vegetarian diet, others give up animal products all together and become vegans. Still others will eat chicken but not pork, or beef. The configurations are endless and people have different reasons for eating the way they do.

One of the downsides of this food awareness is dietary judgment. Some people think they are experts on what everybody else should be eating and will gleefully shame anybody who is not eating “right”. I think that regardless of any good intentions that these people have they are engaging in concern trolling. When somebody is concern trolling they use the guise of being concerned about the wellbeing of another person to shame them and be harmful to them.

I think it’s great when people find something that works for them, makes them feel better and empowers them. I have friends who follow various diets and from what I can tell they are happy, healthy, and at peace with their choices. I am nothing but happy for them. I like seeing people that I care about taking care of themselves and making choices that change their lives for the better. What I don’t have is the inclination to question their choices. If somebody wants your opinion about something they will ask you for it. Barring that you are just giving unwelcome and unsolicited advice.

But back to what’s on your plate, should anybody have the right to judge? My answers is a firm no.

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Are picky eaters a myth?

I see this debate every now and then and often wonder if picky eaters are born or made. I am specifically referring to healthy, neurotypical children and adults. I was often cautioned that my son would eventually hate all food except for chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. That day has not yet come. He eats what I eat and turns up his nose at nothing. Am I just lucky? I hear about parents who really struggle to get their kids to eat and who resort to giving them whatever the kid will actually put in his mouth.

Often, picky eaters will only eat a handful of things and they’re sometimes not the healthiest options: frozen nuggets, boxed mac ‘n cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pizza, grilled cheese, etc. I’ve seen kids who will only eat pizza or some sort of frozen chicken product dipped in sauce. All of those things are ok every once in a while but I wonder how do we get to that point? Obviously, convenience plays a role. Who wants their child to go hungry?

The next time you go out to dinner take a look at the kids menu. Most restaurants offer the same tired things for kids: macaroni, nuggets, pizza, mashed potatoes. It’s all so uninteresting. Why do we limit our children to these options? Even the food that’s marketed to kids is made up of the same bland stuff. Sure, there are better options available but the companies that spend the big bucks to advertise and thus have the most prominent placement in stores are often the same companies that produce all sorts of junky food products.

I believe that there is a very tiny amount of kids who are truly picky about what they eat. Some children may not even like to eat. It’s a struggle that I am sure many parents face with a lot of anguish. Being constantly worried that your child gets adequate nutrition when they refuse to eat most things is a headache I can’t even imagine. I also believe there are things we can do to encourage healthy eating habits in our children and avoid the stereotypical picky eater behavior. A lot of the habits they form now will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I am, of course, not an expert but here are a few things I have learned and applied to my own son with successful results:

  1. Don’t give up too soon.  Sometimes kids reject foods several times before they decide they like them. If your child tries carrots once and spits them out don’t decide that she hates carrots! Offer them again at a later time prepared in a different way. For example, Diego will eat cooked carrots but has not yet accepted raw ones.
  2. Don’t force a child to eat anything. Some nights Diego will eat his way around his plate and eat some things but not others. Making a clean plate a requirement causes a negative association with food and mealtimes. Allow your child to make choices by offering options on their plate.
  3. Make mealtimes family time. When kids see us do something they are likely to follow suit. We try to eat all of our meals at the table as a family and we all eat the same thing.
  4. Involve them in meal prep. How much they can be involved in will depend on their age but even a two year old can get a kick out of watching or even dumping ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Don’t be too quick to assign a label. All kids will refuse something or other at some point, but don’t slap the “picky eater” label on them. It will cause you to give up.
  6. Before you offer your child an alternative meal ask yourself if what you’re giving them is out of convenience. The very few times Diego refused to eat something I instead offered him some cottage cheese, yogurt and fruit. I never cook a separate meal for him but I am flexible enough to have healthy alternatives for when something just doesn’t jive with him.
  7. Kids develop bad habits because we allow it. Whenever I hear people say that their child eats ONLY pizza, or nuggets, or peanut butter I wonder how the child developed this taste for the food. The answer is always because the parents provide it. It’s so tempting to reach for something you KNOW they will eat. Resist that urge whenever possible!
  8. Variety is key. I have started cooking a lot more veggies. Even ones I had never tried before. The more things they try the more opportunities they have to discover things they like.

Food preferences will arise but to me, a preference is different to “doesn’t eat ANY vegetables” and “doesn’t eat ANY fruit” or “she ONLY eats xyz”.  I guess I am a bit on the fence about the whole picky eater debate. While I think that sometimes parents do play a role I also think that some people are just picky. My husband is one such example. I have no idea how he was fed as an infant but I find his palate to be very different to mine. He rarely tries a new food and so I am often at odds with his preferences and my desire to try new things and introduce Diego  to as many foods as possible. What I resort to doing is simply sneaking stuff in. Most of the time he is none the wiser although I always come clean once he’s finished eating. He’s not a fan of my method but I think he’s slowly realizing that more veggies in his food is not a bad thing at all.

I know that my experience is different to that of a parent who struggles each day to get their child to eat anything at all. Coming home tired, cooking dinner only to have it rejected by your child would wear me down as well. So, why not give them the boxed macaroni with nuggets?!  It’s food, it won’t kill them and it will get them fed. Sometimes whatever works is all we have left. I don’t like it when parents get judged for doing the best they can. I know that I wouldn’t feel good feeding my son PBJ sandwiches everyday which is why I don’t, but how other people cope with the curveballs of parenthood is something I don’t feel is my place to judge.

Lastly, I am well aware that I am privileged to have the time and financial resources to cook from scratch, and be choosy about what I serve my family. It’s not cheap or easy to be picky about what we feed our picky eaters 😉

How about you? Do you have a picky eater? How do you avoid a food rut with your kids?

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Hidden gems: Margate, Florida

Margate is probably not a city that is on most tourists’ radars. I had never heard of it before I moved here in 2006. I would say that Margate is an up and coming city. It is only seven and half miles from the Atlantic ocean, and in close proximity to excellent shopping as well as other attractions. Margate is also home to JM Lexus, the #1 volume Lexus dealer in the world since 1992 (in case you enjoy random trivia). Here are three hidden gems that I love:

La Bamba Restaurant

Maybe it’s the happy hour specials, maybe it’s the complimentary chips and salsa, or maybe it’s the food. This place is always busy. The food has never disappointed me. It is always consistent. Service is prompt and friendly, and the bathrooms are clean. What more could you want? La Bamba has become our unofficial celebratory hangout. Whenever something big is happening in our lives we end up here. Partly because it’s a stone’s throw away from home but it’s also just that good! Birthday dinners are almost always celebrated here, when we found out we were expecting we celebrated with a nice La Bamba dinner, after our 20 week ultrasound where we found out we were having a boy we also ended up here. This restaurant has become our place and we love it. The Margate location has been in business for 25 years. It is a family owned business founded right here in South Florida by the Molina family. They have grown to five restaurants, each managed by a Molina. Their lunch and dinner specials are great and their portions will not leave you hungry. If you’re in need for a quick lunch look no further than La Bamba. Their lunch portions include a soup or a soft-drink and range in price from $6.50- $9.50. In the interest of research, I took my family out to lunch and timed their service. Less than 10 minutes from the time we ordered our food, we were already enjoying it. Good food at a good price in a casual atmosphere that is what La Bamba means to me.

La Bamba II storefront

La Bamba II storefront

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Pollo a la plancha

Pollo a la plancha

Baby palomilla steak

Baby palomilla steak

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Chicken Enchilada lunch portion

Ritter’s Frozen Custard

Located at 6700 W. Atlantic Blvd, this franchise was founded in Franklin, Indiana and can now be found in several states. Florida is lucky to be among those. Their special custard is creamy and decadent, and their flavors are delicious. While I prefer vanilla, my sister-in-law swears by their rum raisin, and her husband really enjoys their banana. With their varied menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and late hours I don’t think you can ever go wrong at Ritter’s. Any day is a good day for ice-cream here in Florida but summer evenings are probably the best time to enjoy a cone, cup or sundae. On Monday’s they host a night just for dogs and on Wednesdays they have a kids night complete with bounce houses and face painting. photo 1-12 photo 2-12 photo 3-10 photo 4-8 photo 5-5

 

Coral Gate Park

Coral Gate is our favorite park. It might not boast as many features as other parks but it’s peaceful, safe, clean and convenient to us. Their three half basket ball courts are always busy on weekends, and their four tennis courts get plenty of use regularly. There is a small field perfect for kids to run around as well as a playground. photo 2-11 photo 2-10 photo 5-4 IMG_3771 IMG_3445 IMG_4233

 

When RelayRides contacted me about writing a blog post featuring hidden gems in my community I was immediately inspired visit some of my favorite places. Revisiting old faves is great but discovering new gems is just as awesome!

RelayRides is one such gem, and an idea I wish I had thought of. My husband had mentioned the company to me a couple of years ago when he was considering listing one of our cars. We have since become a one car family but the idea behind car sharing is an amazing one. The service is pretty simple you can either list your car, or find a car to rent. You search by city or airport and once you’ve found a car you like you book it! The company has a $1,000,000 liability policy so as a vehicle owner you’re very well covered. For more information check out their how-it-works section right here. Sharing cars works because we don’t need a car all of the time and the less cars on the road the happier our environment. I think it is the future, and it’s not limited to renting while traveling. Sometimes we need a larger car or truck to haul a large purchase, and renting a car is a great way to get things done without having to pay delivery fees.

I  hope you enjoyed these hidden gems. If you’re ever in town, pay them a visit, and if you’re not go out and discover some hidden gems of your own.

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The BEST Pancake Recipe

I like to celebrate special occasions with a good hearty breakfast. When I started making pancakes from scratch years ago, I made it my goal to find the best recipe out there. I love fluffy pancakes, and I love making these. This recipe is one I have been making for years and is an adaptation of this pancake recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

You will need:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of butter, melted

Directions

  1. Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside to sour.
  2. In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix together with a whisk.
  3. Add the soured milk into the flour mixture as well as the yolk of the egg. Set the white aside.
  4. Mix the flour, milk and egg yolk until combined. Do not over mix. It’s ok if there are some lumps.
  5. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer to beat the egg white to soft peaks.
  6. Gently fold the egg white into the batter using a spatula.
  7. Use about 1/4 of batter for each pancake. I like to use an ice-cream scoop.

I like to serve these pancakes with warm Maple syrup. They are light and fluffy, and just delicious. I am always amazed at how good they are. I don’t make them often but when I do I’m so glad I did.

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Happy Cooking!

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