What My Mom Taught Me About Food
Sharing what my mom taught me about food while growing up and how it’s shaped my current eating habits.
Growing up, my mom stayed home to raise me and my sisters during the day and then went to work in the evening.
Without fail, she cooked dinner for us before heading out the door to work a full shift. I’m talking real dinner every day, not just a box of macaroni and a bagged salad.
I never really appreciated the fact that she did this until I had my own family and realized what a pain in the butt it is to have to cook for my kids every, single, day. Not to mention the fact that she never got to sit down and enjoy it before leaving for work.
Now she may not have the healthiest diet, it’s a running joke that her favorite foods will always be cheetos and pepsi, but I learned a lot about health growing up from her examples.
What My Mom Taught Me about Food
Have a Salad at Dinner
- Without fail, we had a salad at dinner. Lettuce, tomato, cucumber and green onions typically served with homemade ranch dressing or Italian.
- To this day I have a salad almost every night with dinner. Different dressing and the veggies have changed slightly but always a salad
Walk, Walk, Walk
- When we were younger and asked if we could go somewhere, she’d typically make us walk (to the store for a snack, to rent a movie, to the dentist, the library, the park, our friend’s houses)
- Whenever we went to San Francisco (about 4 times a year), we would walk everywhere. I remember getting off the BART station at Embarcadero and walking all the way to the pier, over to North Beach, then up to ghiradelli square and back to the BART station. I just looked it up and it’s a 5 mile trip. That’s a whole lotta steps. It was an entire day full of walking but we saw so many great places in the city that we never minded.
- I still really love walking, especially when in a new city or place. One of my favorite things to do on a weekend is just go to a city and walk. My husband, on the other hand, equates walking to watching paint dry. Maybe he didn’t walk much as a kid?
Keep Fresh Fruit on Hand
- We always had a plethora of fresh fruit on our kitchen counter.
- The type of fruit depended on the season, but I constantly remember having apples, pears, oranges, cherries, grapes, strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, bananas, peaches, plums and nectarines at our house.
- Often we’d ask for a snack after school and we’d be given our choice of fruit. The beauty was that we had a lot to choose from so we didn’t mind being offered fruit since there was something that everyone liked.
- Fresh fruit will always be one of my favorite snacks. So far my kids are fruit-aholics as well, so I think this gene has passed down onto them. My daughter came in 2nd place in a watermelon eating contest when she was just 2 years old!
Play Outside & Be Active
- During the summer, there were days when my sisters & I didn’t even come inside until dinner time. We were told to go outside at play after breakfast and stayed out until it was time to eat.
- My mom was big on outside playtime. Everything from riding our bikes, playing tag, going on walks (see #2 above), roller skating, and swimming. Video games and daytime tv were not an option.
- I don’t recall ever seeing my mom “work out” but she never sat down. She was always busy doing stuff or taking us to the lake, swimming pool, zoo, or other active places. She lived an active lifestyle without having to log hours on the treadmill.
- I still love being outside and hope that my kids will soon enjoy the joy of playing outside all day in the summer and the last game of “ghosts in the graveyard” ends just as the sun is setting.
Homemade Desserts are Better
- We usually had dessert after dinner but it was typically something my mom had made
- We also didn’t snack on junk food all day long or have a ton of sweets during the day. Typically we had 3 meals with a midday snack (usually fruit) in between.
- Desserts were sometimes a simple bowl of ice cream but also ranged from homemade brownies, angel food cake with fresh strawberries & homemade whip cream, lemon meringue pie, or jello. My mom loved (still does) to bake but our portion sizes were moderate and it taught us that sweets are taboo or something to feel guilty about.
- To this day I definitely let me kids have sweets but I try to make it things I’ve made at home with real milk, sugar, and eggs whenever possible. They love helping make blueberry muffins or chocolate chips cookies.
Eating is a Social Activity
- We always ate dinner at our dining room table with real plates, silverware and napkins. The tv wasn’t on, the phone was left unanswered, and everyone ate together. It was a time used to talk about upcoming plans or what went on in everyone’s day.
- I’ll never forget when my high school boyfriend (who is now my hubby) ate dinner at our house and asked if it always took 2 hours. It typically did. Still does when we all get together.
- Eating as a family was a great way to connect and is a great way to introduce great eating habits to kids.
- It’s instilled in me the idea that eating is a such a social activity and food is meant to be savored, enjoyed and shared with others.