Saturday, February 5, 2011
Talking to my Children About Food. First Interview
I have adopted children from all over the world. Only one of them has been with me from infancy. Most of them were in extremely deprived situations in eastern European orphanages. They bring very different perspectives on food and eating. I asked my 13 year old son if I could interview him about food. He struggles with his weight and like me, has had some successes and failures. But we have made enough progress as a family to be able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy eating. It is interesting to notice that children of different backgrounds and genetics in the same family have completely different food preferences. Both my oldest daughter (who has 3 children, one of whom is adopted) and I talk about being "short-order" cooks.
This son came to the U.S. at age 3. He had just had his 3rd birthday. He had been in an extremely deprived orphanage without enough to eat. His eating patterns are much different that the rest of the family -- more like mine, unfortunately.
Question: What are your sleep patterns?
Answer: I sleep about 8-9 hours every night. I need 8-9 hours to feel really good. I am basically someone who likes to stay up late, but then I can't wake up in the morning. I sleep better when I go to bed earlier. I go to bed at 10:00 at the latest on school nights and sometimes stay up until 11 on weekends. I like to sleep late on snow days and weekends.
Question: What is your earliest memory of food? (When I met this child he had a chunk of black bread clutched in his hand and would not let it go. He did not have much to eat. He was three.)
Answer: I remember having cinnamon toast with you in the morning. You used to give me cinnamon toast and we would watch a program on PBS in the early morning -- on the weekends. But you quit doing things like that when you started learning about nutrition.
Question: What part do you think food has played in your life for 13 years? What does it mean to you?
Answer: I am a boy who likes starchy and sweet foods. I never met a vegetable I didn't hate. But I have faced (with the family) the there is a difference between "good" food and "not so good food" and I can physically feel the difference. I was a small child, but when I got to be about 12, I started gaining weight. I have gained too much and am trying to learn about that as I grow. I feel bad when I don't eat properly but I do that.
Question: Can you give me an example of that?
Answer: For example, if I was really tired and we went to McDonalds and I ate a "Big Mac" I would like it, but then I would feel more tired and sluggish. If we came home and were tired, but we ate a healthy home made soup with good things in it, I would feel better and sleep better.
Question: What changes have you noticed in the family patterns around eating?
Answer: We eat breakfast every day and we ALWAYS eat something healthy. I am not a person who is hungry in the morning, but if I eat breakfast I feel better all day. We eat oatmeal sometimes. We eat toast and natural peanut butter sometimes. My favorite is the same as yours: Greek plan yogurt with 1/4 cup of swiss muesli stirred into it. I used to love bacon (which we never ate much unless we were out) and hash browns. I never met a potato I didn'tlove! Now I eat bacon sometimes -- just a slice or two. I like to make my own omelettes with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and chives in them. I can't do that on school days.
Question: Any other changes you have noticed?
Answer: The biggest change is that if we are not eating nutritiously we know it. We are not unconscious any more.
Question: Give me an example?
Answer: Last night I had a big bowl of spaghetti and then I wanted something sweet. I react to white carbohydrates -- pasta, potatoes, and white bread. I love those things, but I can't afford to be obese. I am an amputee who wants to remain active and able to move on the floor. I am learning that I can eat anything, if I eat it in small portions. You like sweet potatoes -- just baked. I like baked potatoes and they are better than salty fries (well, maybe not, but...they are okay). I called you to bring something sweet home and you said, "No." When you got home I ate 2 peppermints and that was fine. It was a very small treat which you had in your purse.
Question: Let's talk about junk food: candy, sweets, cakes, cookies, and you get it (smile).
Answer: We all have some addiction to bread, candy, but it is interesting. Recently I made a cake and no one ate it. You make healthy banana muffins and sometimes they don't get eaten. Last week I made chocolate chip cookies; they were good, I guess, but I didn't really eat them. When I am being really conscious about food I can eat a bite of chocolate when I am craving sweets.
Question: What are your food and nutrition goals and how will you live with them over time?
Answer: I will always remember that I feel better when we are eating healthy foods. Lately, I have had fun when I pitch in and help cook. It is fun to chop up vegetables for your soup. That is one way to get vegetables into me: chop, munch, chop, munch. I like celery and carrots. I also like the soup. All of us are trying to get 5 fruits and vegetables into our diet. I like tomatoes in sauces. I have not fallen in love with vegetable pasta -- yuck! We had spinach noodles last night and it was not love at first bite! I am going to grow, but without legs, I will never be very big. I have to keep that in mind. I am going to add more foods to my diet. I remember when we wrote down how many food we ate and noticed that we didn't eat much variety. You then started writing down the new food we tried?
Question: Did you like any of them?
Answer: Well, I don't like brussel sprouts or spinach (except in our "Family Soup"). I like spinach in broth.
Question: Talk to me about the difference between school food and a packed lunch?
Answer: I have more choices at my middle school than I did in elementary school, but there are not enough healthy choices. Here where we live is better than where we lived before. If you have a packed lunch, you can plan what you are going to eat and stay out of the pizza line.
Question: What is your favorite packed lunch?
Answer: I have so many. I like "Gourmet to Go" meals from St. Dalfour. We can buy them for $2.00 at a local store. They have several varieties and do you remember, you used to order them? I usually take or you pack almonds with no salt in a zip lock. I like a small can of low sodium V-8 -- see you are sneaking vegetables into me. I like a small apple. Big ones are just too big. Sometimes you put whole wheat grain puffed cakes into my lunch and an oz. of strong cheddar or swiss cheese. I love swiss cheese. Sometime you make me a turkey sandwich with swiss cheese on a sprouted wheat bread. I do well with my packed lunches.
Question: Do you eat foods that make you feel tired after you eat them?
Answer: Yes I do sometimes. A big meal with starch and fat makes my energy go away.
Question: What is your favorite healthy dinner?
Answer: I like pork chops with lemon -- the thin ones -- you fix those so that they are easy to eat. I can slice them up and put them in a whole wheat pita. I usually can eat a few vegetables with the pork chops in a pita if they are not squishy. I like steak with the crisp fat on it which isn't good for me. Well, maybe just a bite. I like the carrot rice and vegetarian stuff you make sometimes.
Question: What are the hardest foods for you to say "No" too and is a there a time of day or circumstance which makes saying "No" even harder?
Answer: Evening is the time of day which is hardest for me. I want to eat after 7:30 at night, even if I have had dinner. If there is ice cream in the freezer, I want to eat it (especially black raspberry). Thank you for not putting it in the freezer. I am vulnerable to foods which are sweet and creamy when I am tired.
Question: Would you be tempted to eat ice-cream in the morning for breakfast?
Answer: Never. My body has no interest in sweets in the morning. Why is that?
My answer: I don't know, but I am working with a physiologist who is interested in that.
Question: Does food affect your ability to concentrate?
Answer: Tremendously. If I eat pancakes (which I never do) or something sweet for breakfast I am hungry in an hour. I also can't concentrate or focus. I know you say the same thing about yourself and you can concentrate!
Question: What do you have to say about being a triple amputee and diet, nutrition, and food choices?
Answer: Being a triple amputee you don't have enough body surface to burn enough calories, though I seem to want as much food as everybody else. It's harder because I have to pay attention. One pound makes a difference on my body. I am more mobile (I hate being in a wheelchair) when I gain weight. I need to stay lean and I am inclined to overeat.
Question: What strategies have you used for not overeating?
Answer: I do better when you are on your program. I guess I need a nutrition-buddy. I know that you have changed everything about your eating in recent years, even though you've gained weight recently. You seem to be back in the groove. I remember when you told me that you discovered apples and that there were so many varieties. I remember you introducing blueberries, strawberries, and cherries into our lives. I forgot -- I still like to eat blueberries in the car on the way to school -- when they don't cost $6.00/box.
Question: What have you noticed that changed about my eating?
Answer: When you are eating "in the groove", you are not tired when you come home from work. You have more energy and smile more. You have energy to cook a healthy dinner and at the table with us and talk. I notice that you eat apples and eat protein and vegetables and sprouted grains. I notice that you don't skip breakfast. I also notice that you get enough sleep and make sure that we do too. I am a night owl, but if I get enough sleep, I can control my eating better. The main thing that I notice about you when you are "in the groove" is that you enjoy cooking and baking breads. When I think about it, I think we have changed everything about the way we eat. We don't go out much either but when when we do, I usually eat something pretty healthy.
Question: What do you think we need to work on as a family?
Answer: We need exercise. I like it when put a walking or "disco-abs" video on the fitness channel on t.v. You have promised to do it today and I'm holding you to it.
Question: How long have we been thinking and talking about food, nutrition, health and exercise?
Answer: We started a long time ago and got smarter as we learned more and experimented.
Question: Do you feel like you know about food and nutrition? What do you think kids shoulc know?
Answer: I think that food affects us. If we choose the right foods, we can choose the effect that food has on us. If you are a kid, and you are hanging with a friend, and you want to have enough energy to have fun and feel okay the next day, you have more fun if you are not burdened with your body trying to cope with bad foods.
Question: Do you feel that you can live with nutritious foods and keep your weight down and be happy? Does food affect your happiness?
Answer: You can be happy and eat healthy foods at the same time. You know you are making really good decisions. But I struggle with giving up to sugar. My body reacts to starchy, sugary foods and so does my mind. If I am upset, I want the comfort of the wrong food. You and I are the members of the family that have the hardest time with that. I do know that a little table sugar is not the problem; it's the sugar syrup made from corn that is in everything that really makes me tired after I eat it.
Question: What do you understand about the breads that we use as a family?
Answer: I know that you buy Ezekial breads and Alvarado St. Bakery breads. I remember you being excited because we could buy those breads here without having to order them. You still order sprouted brown rice for us and it is a great fast breakfast. I almost forgot about that.
Question: Do you notice any difference in the time of year and what you like to eat or think about eating?
Answer: What do you mean?
My Answer: I mean, do you like different in the winter and in the summer? Does your craving for something change with the seasons?
Answer: I think that in the winter I get hungrier and less active. In the winter I like "clementines" and put them in my lunch.
Question: What do you know about calories and their affect on weight?
Answer: Calories are a measurement of the energy burning level of foods. I think that is what it is. Most people with all of their arms and legs need to think about calories as if they have a calorie bank account. In my case, I'm not sure how many calories I need, but I think I need about 3/4 of what a person with all of their arms and legs need. I probably need about 1200 calories if I am active. But I have to experiement because I don't fit the norm.
Question: What do you notice about other kids your age and how they eat? What do you observe?
Answer: Kids don't eat healthy foods. They drink pop. They bring bags of candy and chips to school. One girl at my school asks me to buy her a cookie; she frequently doesn't have a lunch with her. I don't know why. I have bought lunches for people -- in my last school -- there were kids who were poor, but their parents wouldn't apply for free lunch.
Question: You seem to know alot about all of this. Does having knowledge help you and where did you learn all of this?
Answer: I learned if from you; you've been working this out for a long time. I think knowledge helps if you care about it and if you get the knowledge when you are young and active. But I think food is a hard thing to understand and work with.
My answer: You are right about that. Thank you for doing this interview. I am going to interview as many of my kids as will put up with it -- and you know that is a bunch of kids.
Question: How much do you it matters to fix, prepare, and eat food at home? You seem to love to do that? Would you talk about that?
Answer: Fixing food is nicer. I like to fix homemade food. It always tastes better. More and more I don't like the taste of restaurant food. It all has too much salt. I like to cook anyway. I like to be the person to cook and see how it comes out. I like knowing what is in it when I fix it. I think people could watch less television and fix more food. I used to get mad at you about restricting television, but I know that reading is better. T.V. is like food; it makes us tired. We just aren't doing the same things that most everyone else does and sometimes I think we are boring.
Final Question: What did you eat for breakfast before we did this interview?
Answer: I didn't eat anything. I slept late.
My answer: Okay. I'm going to heat up the oatmeal right now! Well, it's late so maybe you can fix us both one of your famous omelettes.