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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vegetable hide-and-seek...and other life lessons.

I tend to get really hung up on the little things. I let them bring me down. Maybe it’s winter blues (if you can call average Charleston temps in the 60s “winter”) or maybe it’s these five pounds of stubborn Christmas weight that just won’t fall off. Whatever it is, I need to snap out of it.

It’s true, the world will not end if I retain this five pounds. It does make me feel a bit hypocritical that I don’t always practice what I preach – but maybe that’s part of the reason you can all relate to me. Maybe this 5 pounds is part of my charm (in the form of a second chin), but I’m determined to lose it! But again, here I go getting hung up on the little things.

Last week I got an email from a reader, and it made me take a step back and remember why I started down this path in the first place. To help people. To teach people about the basics and provide them with ideas for transforming nutritious foods into tasty meals on which to build a healthy lifestyle. The letter said this:

Hello,

My name is Adrianne, and I am a huge fan of your cookbook and blog! I have made quite a few of your recipes, and I really love how easy and flavorful they are. That being said, I am currently starting a new project, and I would love to use one of your recipes for it.

My husband, Michael Liu, is currently a pediatric resident at the Children's Hospital of Oakland in California. This hospital and its doctors are actively involved in the fight against childhood obesity, and one of the ways they have approached this problem is by bringing the farmer's market to the hospital (http://www.phatbeetsproduce.org/farmers-markets/north-oakland-children%E2%80%99s-hospital/). Parents of patients at the Healthy Hearts Clinic (a clinic that prevents and treats childhood obesity and related illnesses) can receive vouchers that they then use to buy fresh produce at the farmer's market.

My husband and I have been inspired to take this a step further. The farmer's market and the vouchers do a great job of enabling access to healthy, fresh produce, but what about after the families buy these foods? Part of the problem is that people often aren't familiar with certain types of vegetables and don't know how they can incorporate them into their meals in a tasty way. So, our idea is to print recipe cards that can be given away for free at relevant stands at the farmer's market or at the Healthy Hearts Clinic.

We would love to use your recipe for Svelte Macaroni & Cheese. We have personally made this recipe several times, and we think it is a great example of how we can get kids to eat their veggies using a dish that they are already familiar with. We would of course give you and your blog credit on the recipe card, and I want to stress again that we are simply making these available for FREE.

Please let me know if this is okay with you, and if so, whether you have any requirements about how we should give you credit.

Thanks so much for reading this email, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Adrianne Rosales

I’m inspired again. I realize that what might be obvious to me isn’t always obvious to others. If you don’t know what to do with a head of wholesome cauliflower, I’ll teach you! Hide it in macaroni and cheese! Experimenting with recipes and spending the day in the kitchen is a joy for me. And if you think I’m crazy, that’s fine. If this isn’t your idea of fun, I’ll do the legwork and you can enjoy the cheesy reward!

Teaching the kids about healthy eating is ingrained in me. I can’t help but explain the food as they’re putting it in their mouths (Mom, I’m so you!). Taylor seems genuinely interested (most of the time) and Courtney’s disdain shows on her face. But hey, we juiced everything in the fridge last weekend and she drank banana-flavored spinach. I win.

Staying healthy and fit can seem like rocket science. Restrictive diets where all carbs are off limits, you only eat one type of food, or you ingest everything in the form of a liquid. You count calories (in and out!), take supplements, or eat certain foods at certain times of the day. This isn’t real life and you can’t sustain it.

Let’s bring it back to basics. The foundation is this – eat less, exercise more. Get moving. Eat whole foods and eliminate preservatives by cooking at home. Watch the salt, fat and sugar. Watch your portions – stop when you’re no longer hungry, not when you have to put on your elastic pants. (This, I've figured out, is my problem. I eat every meal as if it's my last. We get three a day, for crying out loud! Put down the fork!)

Do I need a system reset when I over-indulge? A few days or weeks of restrictive eating to get back on track? Yes, I do. That’s life. Don’t beat yourself up. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And I promise, you can go the distance!

So what’s my point? I guess it’s that if we build a foundation of healthy eating, the rest will fall into place. If we teach our kids how to eat right, they’ll take that lesson with them as they grow up and leave the nest. Their battle won’t be so hard. I am inspired by Adrianne and Michael’s mission. I can’t wait to hear how it goes…and I’ll be sure to share it with you!

Let’s help them – and each other! If you feel so inclined, please post your kid-friendly, wholesome recipes in the comments below. We could all use a little more inspiration!

Thank you for reading. I’m truly honored by your responses to what I have to say. And if you need an extra nudge to get rid of your holiday pounds, consider The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses. Hide all that health food in something yummy!
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