How We Teach Our Kids About Nutrition

Our family has been on our healthy eating journey for over 10 years now. Yep. I’ve been shunning the margarine and pushing the veggies and serving the spinach and delighting in the free-range eggs for over a decade.

As a result, all of my kids hate junk food. They snack on huge bowls of greens and never ask for chips. They read all the labels and become excited when they know asparagus is on sale.

If you believe that, you should probably go read this post

The Truth About My Family and Junk Food

The truth is, my kids like Doritos and store-bought pizza just like most. I’ve chosen not to freak out about this, seeing as freaking out is rarely a blessing for anyone. And also: you should go read all of these thoughts. That’s where I’ve chosen to land.

So what about nutrition? How do we teach our kids about nutrition?

I hadn’t found any books that I felt taught nutrition they way I wanted. So instead, we’ve done what has come naturally:

1. We talk about it 

As you can imagine, food is a popular topic in the Coppinger household. Mom loves nutrition and cooking. Dad and the boys love to eat.

Through the years I’ve shared what I’m learning about nutrition while we hang out in the kitchen or while we’re eating together. I don’t force the information, but they’ve caught the gist: Real food is where it’s at. Please pass the butter.

2. We focus on making our nourishing food taste good

Yes, our boys like candy. But they also love nourishing food because what’s not to love about Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits and BLT Tossed Salads?

One of the things I love most about real food is that the more nourishing it is, the better it tastes. There is so much good flavor in natural foods! Imagine that. We don’t have to create tasty food in a factory. God already made food amazing.

3. We model it

We continue to add more and more fruits and vegetables to our diets. Matt and I load up our own plates, and get excited about food from the garden or from Bountiful Baskets. We drink several glasses of water every day.

Ultimately, our kids are learning about nutrition because of what they see and what is available in the home. Not to worry. They also see us sometimes compromising on food choices.  I like to think that since we do this without freaking out, they will have a healthy understanding of what it means to enjoy treats and will hopefully keep a relaxed perspective on food instead of making it an idol.

Why I Usually Don’t Like Books About Nutrition

I’ve had two major issues with books that teach about nutrition:

  1. They are too heady and overwhelming to hand to a kid. (I’m talking to you, Nourishing Traditions.)
  2. Or, they are based on FDA standards, which focus on eating low fat, counting calories, and eating a lot of grain products. Basically they give a lot of information as “fact” that I very much disagree with. (Dare you actually tell my child that margarine is a better choice? Oh. I don’t think so.)

So we’ve just stuck with talking about nutrition and making sure our kids eat salads and fruit and good eggs and meat, etc.

I found a book!

When I was prepping for this week’s homeschool curriculum sale, there were some books with fruits and veggies that jumped out at me (surprise, surprise) in one of the Unit Studies Packets. I contacted the author, Amy Blevins, and she was kind enough to send them to me before the sale started so I could look them over so I’d know what to tell you about them.

nutrition-set

I knew the art work would be great. But would the nutrition information be overwhelming? Would I agree with it?

Well, it’s all I can do to wait until fall to start working through these with Malachi. (Does he really need a summer break? Fine. So do I. We’ll start in the fall.)

Man, this book is good. I’m mostly talking about the “Learning About Nutrition” section of this book (though the coloring and dot-to-dot books are fantastic for additional fun). There were just a few points I didn’t agree with, but I think those points will be good to bring up for discussion and further research.

This book is very thorough while being incredibly kid friendly. It’s just over 532 pages (some of it is just for parents), and I feel it will be such a nice unit to study with Malachi – taking just a few minutes each day to increase his knowledge of nutrition and to get him thinking more on his own about good food choices.

I really love how the book is laid out with light reading and small activities throughout (NOT just busy work, thankfully!!). There are even fun writing exercises sprinkled in. Really, I think they’ll be fun – food and creativity and nutrition can actually go together because she wrote this so well.

As you know, nutrition is one of my biggest things so telling you that I like this book kind of means something. :)

Fruits and Veggies Curriculum Sale

Just like all the 200+ books in this week’s curriculum sale, you’ll be amazed at majorly discounted prices. This Nutrition Unit Study pack comes in a set of 14 other unit study booksand they are all 91% off! The complete set costs less than one book normally costs.

TIP: Have big kids and little kids? That’s going to be perfect with this unit study. Littler ones can color and connect the dots while your entire family reads and studies the Learning About Nutrition book. That’s the beauty of unit studies – the whole family can learn together.

ANOTHER TIP: Pick two more bundles to go along with this one to take advantage of the Buy-2-Get-1-Free offer. Then you’ll save even more. It’s almost crazy.

The links in this post are my affiliate links.

I’m excited that there is so much goodness being offered this week in this sale, at such incredible prices! So tell me – how have you been teaching your kids about nutrition?

Visit the Build Your Bundle Curriculum Sale Here.

Do We Need To Be Eating So Much Bread?

breakfast_cake_muffins_1

My grandpa always held a slice of bread in his left hand while his right hand held his fork.  A meal was not a meal to my grandpa unless it included my grandma’s homemade bread.  He often used his bread to sop up gravy.  Or he would slather his bread with Grandma’s homemade jelly or applesauce.  If there was no bread – well, there just always had to be bread.

Let’s pause now to give three cheers to my grandma who had nine children, the tiniest kitchen I’ve ever seen, and never failed to provide homemade bread at every meal.  She was a rock star.  Grandma made bread like a boss.  (They’re compliments, Grandma.  Really.)  

I also grew up with bread served at every meal, likely the result of having a dad who had lived with a dad who always needed to hold a piece of bread in his left hand – we’ve already been through this.  Thus, I began our married life always including a side dish of bread with our meals, which Matt held in his right hand – if you can possibly imagine (because yes, my husband is a lefty).

Now, of course, there are all the experts who suggest we eat “low-carb” and others who insist we all need to go “grain-free” and someday soon like tomorrow there will be a new diet claim that suggests that if we all avoid eating (fill in the blank) we will all be healthier, skinnier, and have a perfect complexion.  I am not interested in a one-size-fits-all diet, fad, or bandwagon because I believe in eating real food, in balance, in its whole form, according to an individual’s needs, for the sake of nourishment and good health, all the time. It’s not a diet.  It’s a lifestyle.

We interrupt this post for some important disclaimers before I share my overall thoughts on eating bread:

  1. Some truly need to avoid all grains.  If that’s you, then do it.
  2. Not all grains agree with everyone.  This is a real thing.
  3. My grandpa probably needed more carbs (and food in general) because he was a farmer, doing hard physical labor for many hours every day.  Most of us don’t work that hard on a daily basis anymore.

Now these thoughts:

Do We Need to Be Eating So Much Bread

I do not believe that bread is evil.  

However, many of us eat more bread (and cookies and cakes and muffins and donuts) than we should.  To say nothing of the empty (negative) calories we consume in white flour products which do very little to nourish us – I would suggest that many of us even eat more whole grain products than our bodies actually need.  Especially if we compare it to the amount of other nutrient-rich food we are consuming – like fruits and vegetables.

Oh, you knew I would bring up the fruits and veggies.  The good ol’ F&Vs.  May as well shorten it to save time since we talk about it so much around here and simply call them freggies, don’t you think?

Bread (and pasta and rice) can really fill us up, leaving little room in our appetites for other necessary foods that our bodies crave.  (Like freggies.  There.  I’ve used it twice, so that makes it a real word.)  Sometimes we even load our families with grainy foods in an effort to save money as they appear to be an inexpensive, filling food choice.  I totally get it.  I feed five hungry men 3 meals plus snacks every day, and they definitely like grain based foods.  These foods have their purpose and they are filling.  But…

As  you think about the food you plan to put on your table, consider the variety of nutrients in the meal.  A spread of spaghetti, corn, and bread offers little compared to a meal of spaghetti, salad, green beans, and cantaloupe.  See the colorful and nutrition-packed difference?  If we’re already serving rice, pasta, or potatoes at a meal, we probably don’t need bread, rolls, or bread sticks too.  But an extra side or three of veggies along with a delicious bowl of fruit – well now our bodies are happy.

Fruits and vegetables are the most important part of our meals and snacks.  The other parts are important too – we just need to make sure we aren’t going overboard with the bready stuff and neglecting other important food groups.

So less bread, more freggies.  What do you say?

No seriously.  What do you say?  What are your thoughts on eating bread?  And also – what do you think of the word freggies?  I am so going to start saying that now.

How to Make Beef Broth

There’s nothing very beautiful about pictures of soup bones and vegetables floating in water. And yet, here I am again, just like the time I showed you all the pictures of my chicken carcasses. Some people create adorable collages of their children. Me? I spent time yesterday crafting a collage of my beef broth. Isn’t it precious?  Take note of the fatty bubbles floating along at the top of the jar. I’m so proud.

Homemade Beef Broth

Beef Broth is as fantastic for your body as Chicken Broth. There are so many minerals we need that we can get from beef bones, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sulfur, and potassium – all in their natural, beneficial, and digestible form. The vegetables you add to the pot of broth are invaluable. And the best part? Making homemade broth is one of the most inexpensive ways to provide nourishment to yourself and to your family members.

Look into buying Beef Soup Bones. There’s still a little meat on the bones (more on that later), but mostly you’re just going to pay a small amount for a package of bones. Cook those mineral-filled-bones in a pot with water and veggies, and you’ve just created several jars full of nutritional goodness for a very tiny amount of money.

Here’s how I make Beef Broth. As you can tell from my collage above, my process is very fancy and exact:

1. Place thawed or frozen beef soup bones into a large kettle or stock pot.
2. Add, to your heart’s content, chunks of onion, carrots, leeks, celery and/or any other veggie you enjoy in your broth.
3. Fill your pot with water.
4. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
5. Cover and simmer pot of water/veggies/soup bones for 4-6 hours. Or more. Or less. Or whatever works for you.
6. Remove soup bones from pot. Pull cooked beef off the bones with a fork, and set meat aside for soup or salads.
7. Blend liquid and vegetables together until smooth.
8. Allow broth to cool, then refrigerate or freeze until you are ready to use it to make soup, cook rice, or add it to a recipe.

That meat you’ll pull off the bones? It tastes incredible because it’s right by the bone and has been cooked low and slow. I love it in chef salads. I also snack on it as I’m pulling it off the bones.

Why do I blend all the veggies into the broth? Because after 6 hours of simmering, they are mushy. When I blend them in, they just become part of the nutritious broth. Depending on the number of carrots I use, my broth might turn orange. No matter. It’s delicious.

Once you’ve made Beef Broth, what can you do with it? You can use it to make Beefy Vegetable Soup. You can also use it in any recipe that calls for chicken broth – like my Cheeseburger Soup or Pizza Soup. Cook rice in broth for extra nourishment and flavor in a side dish – or add that wonderful rice to Cheesy Beef and Rice. Follow my instructions for Chicken Noodle Soup, but instead use beef broth and the meat that came off the bones for Beef-n-Noodles.

What other ideas do you have? What ways do you use Beef Broth? 

Isn’t this a wonderful way to be healthy and save money at the same time?!

Compromising Our Whole Foods Diet

Tonight we’re hosting Elias’ 9th birthday party. 

You know how our house is always full of boys? Tonight there are even more of them. Right now they are all running around shooting each other with laser guns and Nerf guns and somehow I think there is a hallway basketball game going on at the same time. Now that takes talent.

We always let the birthday boy choose his party food. He usually takes into consideration what he thinks his buddies will like. And, surprise – surprise, he usually doesn’t choose “Tossed Salad” or “Spinach Smoothies”.

I was recently asked by one of you (but for the life of me I can’t find the comment to quote it exactly):  “Laura, can you tell us what foods you will occasionally buy at the store for convenience…and which foods you will NEVER buy?”

This probably doesn’t answer that question as specifically as the commenter was wishing for, but well…here’s what I bought for Elias’ birthday party dinner tonight…

If that’s not a compromise I don’t know what is.

I have to say that it was more than a little bit painful pulling them off of the freezer shelf and paying actual money for them. Incidentally, I also had TWO GALLONS worth of vodka in my cart on this shopping trip as we’re getting ready to start yet another big round of Homemade Vanilla Extract. Yep, it looked like one BIG party in my shopping cart tonight. ;)

The pizza rolls were Elias’ choice and while the ingredient list is longer than my hand (I am not even kidding), I have to say that it was a nice relief to just throw them in the oven and put out some paper plates and call it dinner. Besides, I was in the middle of baking his birthday cake and getting Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls ready for tomorrow’s breakfast for all the boys. The ease of dinner (if we can actually call it dinner) was really nice.

Here’s why I feel okay (not great, but okay) about buying and feeding my family these pizza rolls tonight:  We eat a really healthy diet about 357 days of the year. On those other few days or moments of the year when we are traveling, eating with others, hosting parties, going to parties or attending any event that has a meal comprised of chips and candy…we go with the flow. We don’t act all “weirded out” about the fact that we’re being served food that doesn’t meet our normal healthy eating criteria. If I’m offered Nacho Cheese Doritos at a get-together, you better believe I’m going to have a few and I’m going to enjoy myself.

We try not to go over-board and pig out because yikes…our tummies aren’t used to eating that kind of stuff. But we really cannot be enslaved by healthy eating.  Being paralyzed by these fears can be unhealthy in and of itself.  Compromising used to be a huge fear of mine, especially when I was first learning about what was healthy and what was SCARY and unhealthy. But I’ve “come down off the ledge” and realized that a few crazy junk foods here and there are not going to kill us. Especially when we follow it up as soon as possible with good, wholesome, nutrition-filled foods.

Which we will, by the way…tomorrow.  Those spinach smoothies will be making their appearance.

And for the record, while there are many things I just close my eyes and compromise on occasionally…I will never, ever knowingly or willingly purchase or eat margarine. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. Can’t even think about it.

Blech. Helgpaht. Mliiegylk. Pgvughhha.

Eeek, I get very gaggy when it comes to the thought of the yellowed tub of chemically created fatty-fattness spread that we’re told is better than rich cream whipped into golden goodness…otherwise known as REAL butter.

But a pizza roll or a Dorito…yeah…I’ll eat one here and there. That doesn’t even make sense does it?

So what types of “food” will you compromise on sometimes?  And which “foods” make you screw up your face and say Helgpaht-blephln?

Should I Get a Juicer?

My friend Valerie is traveling quite a bit this summer. I miss her already, but while she’s gone…she left a little piece of her behind for us to remember her by. 

Yep, she left us her juicer. Isn’t that exciting? (Well, it’s exciting for me. I’m weird though, remember?)

For the past couple of years, we’ve tossed around the idea of investing in a juicer. Would it help us get more fruits and vegetables in our diets? Would we use it enough to get our money’s worth out of it? Do we want to deal with one more appliance in our kitchen? Is it even good for us, since drinking just the juice of the fruit has the potential to make us overdo our intake of fruit sugar?

So, with Valerie’s juicer in our home for a few weeks, we’re playing around with different yummy combinations of juices. We’re using it to help us decide whether or not we may want a juicer of our own some day.

So far, I’m having a lot of fun with it. I ordered a big 40 pound box of oranges from Azure Standard. Plus, I ordered 25 pounds of juicing carrots. Um, that’s a lot of carrots.

juicer
Here I am, making orange-carrot juice. And yes, I am just about to overflow my glass. 
But check out my fascinating photography ability. 
See that drop of  juice just about to drip off of the spout?
It takes a lot of skill to get a shot like that. Simply amazing. 
(And very, very lucky since actually I am as good at photography as I am at soccer.)

The kids weren’t big on the orange/carrot juice combo. Matt and I liked it just fine though. And, I used the leftover pulp that the juicer caught to make an orange/carrot cake. The results on the cake were so-so. I think I should have run the pulp through my blender first to make it less chunky. It’s all about experimenting. Trial and error.

power_juicer

The juicer we’re using is a Jack LaLanne JLPJB Power Juicer Juicing Machine. It is very reasonably priced and seems to be very high quality. So far, I’m very impressed with how easy it is to use and how easy it is to clean up. All of the parts go right into the dishwasher! Well, except for the motor. That would be a bad idea.

So, for all of you juicing kind of people out there, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this. Do you like your juicer? Do you use it often? What do you make with it? What do you do with the leftover pulp? Do your kids like it? What kind of juicer do you have?