What to do about all the Halloween candy my kids collect (and want to eat)

October 19, 2009

The title, in case you were wondering, is a question. I don’t have the answers.

All year, I try to meter out the candy and chocolate in small doses. I think healthy, active kids like mine should have some sugar, but that it should be seen as a treat, not a daily priviledge. And of course I try to avoid the sugar rush before bedtime. So dessert is occasional, but not out of the question, and candy et al is allowed, but not always. A personal pet peeve has always been the birthday loot bag stuffed with candy and cheap plastic toys. I pride myself on trying to come up with creative alternatives every year. But that’s another blog post for another day.

As for Halloween, it gets harder to fight each year. As the boys get older, they stay out trick or treating longer and come home with more and more loot. So they each have a bag full of candy for the better part of November and some of December. How long do we let them keep dipping into it?

I’ve heard the theory that says you should let them eat all they want for a day or two, in the assumption that they’ll eat themselves sick and stop voluntarily. Then I read this article and decided we weren’t trying that this year.

I’ve always favoured the “Let’s Make a Deal” model. I let them eat some stuff Halloween night, then send them to bed. Eventually they sleep.  In the morning, we play our game. I come armed with lots and lots of healthy snacks, like fruit leather, raisins, pudding, granola bars, etc. They can each choose a limited number of things from their stash (last year it was 14 I think) to keep. After that, they trade their unhealthy food for my healthy alternatives. they like the game, they still end up with a bag of goodies, and I don’t feel quite as horrible about letting them eat out of the bags on a regular basis. And I give the candy away to either the food bank or my co-workers.

Last year we did the deal game, then also set a limit on how long the bags could last. I think we gave them one month, and as of December 1, we took it all away, eaten or not (lots of not).

All these strategies work to a point, but with my older son approaching 9, I wonder how long I can keep it up. The thrill of the trading game is bound to wear off soon.

What do you do about the Halloween candy?

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The things my kids learn at farmer’s markets

October 7, 2009

His schoolteacher…had cut an apple and held one-quarter of it up to the class: this is the amount of earth that is not water; and then cut the quarter in half – this is the amount of arable land; and cut again – this is the amount of arable land not covered by human habitation; and finally, the amount of land that feeds everyone on the earth barely a scrap of skin.” –from The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels

I go to a lot of farmer’s markets. My husband mocks me for it, but whenever we travel in the summer, I always find a weekend market. Sometimes even a weekday market. This summer alone, we went to markets in Haney, Squamish, 100 Mile House, Qualicum Beach, and of course Vancouver. I love the mix of fresh, healthy food with artisan bakers/food producers and crafts. And I always drag the kids.

Now I should disclose my interest here — I’ve gotten involved in food issues over the past few years, and now sit as a member of Vancouver’s Food Policy Council, an advisory body to the Mayor and Council of Vancouver on issues of food and food security. I also champion food issues for the Board of Trade’s Sustainability Committee. I’m not an organic-vegan hippie foodie, but rather am interested in preserving farmland for farming, in ensuring we have local food available, and in growing local food industries.

OK, got that off my chest. Now back to farmer’s markets. I love the variety of vendors. I love finding new stuff at different locations. My whole family still raves about the bison burgers we bought in Squamish this summer. And I love discovering new fruits and vegetables. Just last week at the Kitsilano market I bought a lemon cucumber (very cool and great fresh taste), yellow and purple carrots, and a variety of tiny plums I can’t remember the name of but am heading back next Sunday to get more of because they were the sweetest thing I ever ate.

My husband isn’t huge on markets, but my kids have grown to love them. To be fair, they nearly always get some kind of baked good snack (at Kits, try the Welsh cakes or the butter tarts!), and there’s veggies and fruit and cheese to taste. But last weekend, I discovered that they like a lot of things I like at the market. They like finding cool veggies. My 8 year old chose this wierd shaped red pepper and insisted I buy it. My 6 year old loves the differently coloured carrots. They both went gaga over the mini pumpkins and loved that I let them each choose one to buy. And because I’ve drilled it into them, they now get that farmers make more money if we buy at markets than the grocery store.

Sample conversation from last weekend:

8 yr old: “IGA has these same mini pumpkins at the same price, you know.”

6 yr old: “But if we bought them at IGA the farmer only gets like ten cents of the dollar we paid.”

8 yr old: “And at the market the farmer gets the whole buck!”

And they’re right. And I love that they know that. Of course, they also know that the cinamon buns at one baker’s stand are larger than the scones at the other stand. Still, baby steps.


A new dinner and they ate it!

May 26, 2009

Sometimes I think being a parent would be so much more enjoyable if I just never had to get my kids out the door or feed them.

Now don’t get me wrong, I just love cooking. And I’m pretty good at it. I like flavour, I enjoy tossing a bit of this and that together, and I like exploring new cuisines.

But finding meals my whole family will eat, that are healthy, and (for me) low in fat, well that’s a whole new kind of torture.

My husband and I have an agreement, whereby he cooks dinner twice a week. Those two days are the ones where I work at a client’s office in Burnaby, so getting home with enough time and energy to make dinner is hard. But when he cooks, we get frozen meats. He’s become a regular at M&M, and our small freezer has several boxes of frozen breaded chicken or fish or meatballs. He does add a veggie on the side, and the kids do eat it usually without complaint, so I guess I shouldn’t whine. But it’s not meals I would serve myself.

Over the years, trying new things and making my family eat them (I have never and will never make separate food for anyone and if they don’t like it, tough) has led me down some strange paths. Who knew they’d love chickpea curry? Who knew they’d hate lasagna?
spinachpie_lg
Tonite was a new adventure. I found a weight watchers recipe for Spanakopita — spinach/feta pie — which I have always loved. It looked easy enough, so I tried it, not sure how the boys would react to spinach. It even turned out just like the photo!

But lo and behold, they ate it. The little wasn’t a huge fan but he loved the phyllo. And the big guy wanted seconds.

Still, life would be a lot easier if we could just stay home all the time and never eat.