My poor parents. They have to endure all the references I make on this blog to my childhood diet of Steak-umms, cherry Kool-Aid, and canned corned beef.
But as much as I like to poke fun at my (probably-pretty-typical-for-the-70s-and-80s) habits, there are also many ways my parents have shaped my eating habits for the better.
So thanks, Mom and Dad, for:
1. Growing a vegetable garden every year
(And letting me plan and plant my own patch when I wanted to). I grew up knowing what fresh-from-the-garden carrots, lettuce, and corn tasted like. I understood that food comes from the ground, not just the grocery store. And since I’ve owned a home, I’ve had a garden of some sort, whether it’s pots on the patio or a small raised bed–and my kids are growing up with fresh-picked produce too.
2. Modeling portion control every single day.
I still marvel at the way my parents have been able to maintain healthy weights their entire lives. They have never dieted or counted calories or griped about their weight (read “Mom, Thanks For Never Talking About Your Weight (Or Mine)“). They eat all kinds of foods, including ice cream and chips, but always in reasonable portions.
3. Serving salad nearly every night with dinner.
The salads of the 70s and 80s were iceberg lettuce with Good Seasons dressing, but the important thing is that I learned to like greens. And now I’m teaching my kids to do the same (read: How “Starter Salads” Can Teach Your Kids to Love Greens).
4. Never forcing me to sit at the table until I took a bite of lima beans or other hated food.
I was an extremely picky eater, which undoubtedly drove them a little crazy. But they were patient and compassionate with me–and it paid off. I eventually tried so many of those foods on my own (okay, except for lima beans). I don’t make my kids take a bite of anything either (read: “Should You Make Your Kids Take Just One Bite?“)
5. Stocking the house with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some of my favorite food-related memories from childhood are visiting the fruit market with my parents in the summertime, picking fresh plums from a tree in the yard and huckleberries with my dad, and eating fresh corn on the cob from the garden. There was always an abundance of fresh produce in our house–and now I do the same in my house.
6. Telling me to eat only until I was full
And never, ever demanding that I clean my plate. It used to drive my husband crazy–all the little bits of food I would leave behind on my plate after a meal. But I grew up hearing “only eat until you’re full”, so there is often one, two, or three bites of food left on my plate. I try my best not to be wasteful, but I also know that overeating isn’t a solution. I don’t make my kids clean their plates either (though I do save their dinners if they barely touch them–read What To Do If Your Kid Won’t Eat Dinner).