“The lamb meatloaf I brought home from Suppers was a big hit.” How nice to write something positive in my journal about my family’s dining experiences. It has been a long and slow process inching my family in the direction of better eating habits, a goal I set for myself in The Suppers Programs.
I have been involved with Suppers for about two years. Initially, both my teenage son, Stuart, and my husband were skeptical about the consequences to them of my learning how to prepare more healthy, whole foods to help me manage my diabetes and mood swings. Over time, however, both of them have become much more open to trying new foods – and liking them. I’ve noticed that there seems to be some psychological advantage when I use a recipe that has come from an “expert” in a “cooking class” as opposed to something “mom concocted on her own.” When they know it came from Suppers, they are more likely to think it’s valid.
Here’s another entry from my journal: “This morning as I was fixing breakfast, I discovered that we were out of bagels (Stuart’s favorite breakfast). I couldn’t believe it when he asked for the leftover coconut milk soup instead! It had fish and tofu in it last night and it still had fish and tofu in it this morning, and still he asked for it. I must admit though, it was delicious.” I guess he’s been absorbing some of the information I’ve been sharing with him because he voluntarily added a cup of yoghurt, reasoning that he was having four tests that day and needed lots of brain energy. Later he quizzed me, “But how come I got hungry at noon? I thought that soup was supposed to keep me full all day!” Well, yes, I thought, enjoying his new greed, you still have to eat every few hours.
One night, neither my husband nor I were home to give him his dinner. But in the fridge was a big pot of Brunswick stew from my cooking class (calling Suppers “cooking class” increases my chances he’ll eat the food). When I got home, I noticed he’d eaten a very large bowl of it for dinner. If I could have, I would have done handsprings.
A year later, rereading my journal, I can’t believe how far we have come. For my birthday Stuart gave me a gift certificate (OK, I asked for it) promising to attend four Suppers for Teens meetings. After each one he brought home dinner to serve the family. Although he would leave grumbling, he always came home proud to have the family dinner in hand. Cooking for his family helped him take ownership of the foods he ate and expanded his interest in trying new foods, especially when he understood how they were made.
Now at age 16, Stuart makes his own smoothie for breakfast every morning. He also eats a slice of whole grain bread or half a whole-grain bagel with some cream cheese. No longer is there any discussion over the fact that the bread is brown. Progress!
Now that Stuart has experienced the beneficial effects of eating a substantial breakfast, I get no arguments. It’s a bit more expensive to be feeding my family these highly nutritious foods, but the payoff is huge.
My 50-year-old husband is another matter, but even on that front there has been some progress. My husband recognizes three food groups: pasta, pizza, and bagels. The good news is that he will always at least try the Suppers food and he has switched to eating whole grain, high-protein pasta. This is not exactly the progress I’d hoped for, but I have to remind myself that it is a good example of nutritional harm reduction. While the pasta has not gone away, he now willingly eats more nutrient-dense starches like quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
I have a daughter too, much easier. Yesterday she had leftover chili for breakfast, and this morning she helped herself to leftover roasted spaghetti squash with two eggs. What more could a mother ask for?
Meals at home are no longer food fights with me trying to get them to eat healthier foods while they dig in their heels. The key for me was to learn how to make healthy food taste delicious. If you had told me two years ago how far this family would come, I never would have believed it. And now, I am facilitating Suppers meetings and pressing jars of leftover chili and stew into the hands of new members as they head home to their families. “Just keep it in front of them,” I say, “You’ll never know until you try. And remember, this came from ‘cooking class!’”
Stuart’s Blender Smoothie
2 TBS full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup mixed berries
1 cooked sweet potato*
Dash of cinnamon
2 TBS protein powder
Water as needed for consistency
* If you don’t think you’ll get away with the sweet potato, you can use a fruit such as peach or mango.
Blend all ingredients in food processor or blender. Add water or ice if you like a thinner consistency. Makes one big or two small servings.