A time to cook together and eat together and model good eating habits

Today’s New York Times article about the impact of the severe lockdown on Spain’s children featured a quote that saddened me and heightened my resolve to take this #LifeonPause moment to instill a deep understanding of food and cooking principles in my children. This passage, in particular, struck me:

Sara Jiménez, a dietitian and nutritionist, said some families were no longer sticking to strict meal timetables and also indulging their children. “The shopping basket gets filled with pastries and bad quality products to keep children happy during this period,” she said.

Vicky and I firmly believe (and practice) a no-food-rewards policy with our own kids. That means not offering dessert “only if a child eats her peas and carrots” (dessert, in limited and no-seconds portions, is offered several times a week without strings). While we are both tempted to use sugar as a pacifier, we have learned from thought leaders like Ellyn Satter and Janet Lansbury that food rewards have consequences, often instilling in children a need for sugary, low-nutrient foods to soothe themselves, rather than pause, breathe and assess what truly offers comfort.

Also worth considering- we, as a culture we have quickly morphed from fast, on-the-go to a slow, stay-at-home life many of us have never previously known. Many snack foods are packaged for convenience while we are dashing from home to school or work followed by what are probably too many activities, and back home for a late dinner again. Today we are permanently sedentary with more time to plan, cook and eat home-prepared meals and snacks. Perhaps this is something to consider when grocery shopping- choose whole ingredients (with an eye toward increased fruit and vegetable consumption) that can be home-processed into snacks and meals. Consider making big batches that can be frozen for future eating occasions. Food and Wine has some great recipes here.

Our family has found comfort in preparing and eating meals together, now for as many as three meals a day, which we were unable to manage with our hectic school/work/activity schedules. If you can try to gather around a table, at least once day, the benefits may continue long after social isolation restrictions are lifted.

Please do share some rituals that have lifted your family during these times and also any favorite recipes that bring you comfort.

Wishing your family a safe and healthy weekend.