How to Grow a Healthy Little Locavore

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Earlier this month, I was delighted to host my brother and his kids to celebrate Independence Day with us in Boston. A fabulous time was had by all, including a few of the classic activities like a swan boat ride in the Public Garden, a visit to Old Ironsides, and of course the Fireworks Spectacular on the Esplanade complete with a summer picnic. The menu included whole grain pasta salad with grilled squashes, English peas, and fresh herbs with tomatoes and pesto on the side and fresh raspberries and blueberries for dessert. And, of course, summer sun tea to drink alongside water.

And where did I get the produce for our picnic? Why, the local farmers’ market, of course. The starting point for one of our day’s adventures began in Copley Square and my nephew, now 9, participated fully in the shopping excursion.

The simplified equation: 2 conscientious parents + 1 rocking aunt = 1 healthy kid

This is the same nephew I conducted science experiments with at Christmas, in case you were wondering.  And speaking of science, there certainly was an educational component of the trip, as Jackson spotted many fruits and vegetables he had never seen before, pictured here. I’ll bet you’ll see something new, too, so check it out. (Note to those of you who already read that post, perhaps check back again as I added a few more photos accompanied by what I hope are somewhat clever remarks.) A self-proclaimed locavore, my nephew also helped prepare the pasta salad by patiently shelling peas.

He and his sister (3.5 years) ate all things at the picnic and the other meals, too. Whole grain pasta. Vinaigrette. Pesto. Tomatoes. Berries. Unsweetened iced tea. Grilled vegetables. Peas. Whole wheat tortillas. Tofu. Beans. Whole grain pancakes.

I am not. making. this. up.

While I am neither proclaiming that “growing” healthy kids is easy nor denying kids can have picky palates, I think you’d be surprised at what they will eat if well-prepared and tasty. Especially if they participate actively in the process, farm(ers’ market) to fork. The fact that there is no food advertising or rows full of crap at the local market surely must be appealing to parents, too, yes? (Mom, PLEASE can we get radishes??? Please please please please!!!) Also note that repeated exposure to new foods is critical, so think about introducing your child to something, say, ten times, not twice.

Locavore in a Larger Context

Being a locavore is not the direct equivalent of sustainable eating, to be clear, and there are many myths about eating local that I’ll discuss in a future post. As well, there are multifarious forces shaping what we and our children eat beyond where we elect to shop encompassing food policy, advertising, access, prices, and school meal programs, to name just a few. Incidentally, this is the theme of tonight’s class, and it’s one of the topics I’m most passionate about teaching. That said, when all is said and done, how you ultimately interact with that food environment is an individual decision that comes down to where you choose to shop and what you choose to put on your plate. If a parent, you are in the precious position of making decisions that will have a lasting impact on your child’s palate and preferences, which can be harder to alter as human beings age. Not impossible, but harder.

Is it time for you to reconsider where you are buying your food and what you are cooking and eating in creating a more sustainable diet for you, your children, and your children’s children? Think about it.

And just for the record, when I asked Jackson to recap his favorite outings from his visit to Boston, he included the farmers’ market trip on the list.

Really.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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