How We Eat: Beverages

August 1, 2011

Ok, so technically this is what we drink, not what we eat.  But in many families it’s a neglected source of calories.  I know it used to be in ours.

Years ago we thought nothing of buying iced tea or soda for the grown-ups and juices or Hi-C for the kids. 

We thought we were doing pretty well at the time. We were proud of keeping our eldest 3 kids off soda till they were 6 or 7 years old.  The juices and fruit drinks we gave the kids were always diluted and they drank reduced fat milk as well. 

Then the sugar thing happened.  You know, where I learned it was bad for us.  😛

We switched to diet soda.  Which is better in terms of calories and sugar but let’s face it, it’s filled with chemicals and artificial sweeteners which are really just as bad.  Still, it was a step in the right direction.

We started making efforts to replace our usual drinks with occasional glasses of water.  I won’t say everyone took to it well.  It was hard for all of us to go in that direction after years of sweetened beverage bliss.

We diluted the kids drinks more and more.  We drank water between meals.  Then we cut back on the soda, making the rule that it would only be served at dinner.  I switched to homemade iced tea with little or no sweetener at all.

And that’s about as good as it got.  We spent several years there until my husband decided he’d had enough.  I was shocked as could be when he announced he was giving up soda and sweetened drinks.   For good.   :O

He would only drink water and, on occasion, a glass of 100% juice.   No more soda or drinks with artificial sweeteners or added sugar.  He stuck to it too, for weeks and weeks on end while the kids and I kept to our old habits.

Then, an amazing thing began to happen.  We all started to drink water with him.  Each night at dinner someone else would make the choice to have the water.  It happened in restaurants and at lunch and even breakfast till I realized NOW was the time to make my move.

I quit buying soda.  The only one who even cared was the 7 year old, Zee.  But even he didn’t put up much of a fight. 

The kids still drink Arizona’s Lite Half & Half  Iced Tea on a daily basis.  Still not great for ’em.  But we are all totally off soda.  And even in the restaurants, everyone but Zee orders a glass of water.  That’s pretty darn good when I consider where we came from.

And it just goes to show you, the example you set for your kids really does count!

I don’t know why I first picked up these stainless steel condiment cups at Walmart but I know I didn’t have any idea they’d be used this often.   They are absolutely indispensable for portion control in our house!

We use them for serving up all kinds of snacks and treats:

*Nuts and seeds  (this cup holds the recommended one ounce serving of nuts)

*Trail Mix

*Mini marshmallows for hot chocolate

*Chocolate chips for a treat

*Maple syrup (it’s way easier to control serving sizes when everyone gets their own cup with an appropriate amount)

*Dried fruits

*Goldfish crackers

*Peanut butter for dipping

*Salad dressings and dips

*Ketchup or BBQ sauce (specially for my son who would fill half his plate with ketchup if it weren’t for this handy cup)

*Granola for yogurt

*Anything you want to the kids to only take a ‘little bit’ of… but they can’t figure out how much is a ‘little bit is’!

These things get tons of use in our house.  I highly recommend them for controlling portion sizes of things that should be measured by the tablespoon or ounce.



With the news I’d developed an insulin resistance problem came the realization that carbohydrates really were the enemy.  It was time to change my relationship with carbs.  There’s strong risk of diabetes on both sides of the family so it made perfect sense that I should also change the way my kids related to carbs.  

Enter hurdle number one:  my husband.   My husband loves his pasta.  I mean really, really loves his pasta.  He also loves his white rice.  Yes, that wonderful white rice he’d eaten at practically every meal in his house growing up…every meal that didn’t include pasta, that is.  And to boot, he didn’t mind white bread all that much either.  Ok, he really enjoyed his white bread as well.

I had a diagnosis.  He didn’t have any such motivation.  But being the great husband he is, he agreed to give up his beloved white carbs for me.   Now that’s love, folks.

The easy switch was to whole wheat bread.  100% whole wheat bread.  No one really minded that switch.  Specially since we still indulged in white specialty breads and rolls at that time.  Whole wheat toast was a-ok.

Pasta and rice were another story.  So I learned one of the most important lessons of changing my family’s eating habits.  Go slow.

We started with a pasta that was made with part whole grains.  I won’t say anyone loved it but they didn’t hate it either.  We ate that for about 2 years before I made the full switch to 100% whole grain pasta.  When I did, no one even noticed. 

Rice took much longer.  My husband couldn’t stand brown rice and I have to admit, I didn’t care for the fact it took twice as long to cook.  I gave it a whirl a few times but ended up shelving it (literally) for a couple years.  Just within the past couple of months I’ve made the commitment to going through the hassle of making the brown rice again. It’s been a challenge. 

But surprise, surprise.  The kids love the brown rice.  I would make both white and brown (to keep the hubby happy) and the kids were only eating the brown.  Meal after meal this happened until my husband finally had to give in.  He knew it was silly to have both kinds of rice and he was the only one eating the white rice! 

He’s not going to say he wouldn’t still prefer the white rice, but he’s also willing to admit the brown rice isn’t bad.  It took a good long while and some extra effort on my part but it seems we’ve finally switched over.  🙂

The rest of the breads have also slowly become whole grain.  Bee in particular loves her white rolls and I do indulge her on occasion.  Overwhelmingly though, the kids choose, eat and enjoy the whole grains.   Even Adrian has made the switch from white bagels to whole wheat. 

Carbs don’t have to be the enemy. Over the course of a 5 year period we went from a family who ate tons of white bread, rice and pasta to a family that eats far less of all those things.  And when we do have them, they’re full of whole grain goodness.  It all starts with a loaf of bread.  You can do it too!

Through conversations with my friends, I’ve been considering how my family eats lately.  A decade ago I never could have guessed so many healthy habits would be entrenched in our lifestyle.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to write about some of the things we do and how we got here.


Of course I have to preface it with a warning.  We do not have a perfectly healthy diet and we never will.  I don’t know anyone who does it 100% right all the time and I have no interest in being one of those.  We enjoy our food.  We still intentionally make some really unhealthy choices sometimes.  I’m not writing this cause I have all the answers.  I’m just going to talk about the positive changes we’ve made in our overall habits.  No one should take this as ‘healthier than thou’. 


So to kick this off I’m going to talk about one of the biggies. About 5 years ago we gave up the more traditional fast food joints.   McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, etc.  

Prior to that we frequented these types of places several times a week.  My husband worked in NYC and it was a cheap, easy meal at lunch.  I drove Adrian to and from school half an hour away so many days the girls and I would be stuck out in the middle of the day.  It wasn’t worth the trip home because we’d have to turn right around to go back out to get Adrian.  We spent many days at the mall and a couple times a week we’d get fast food for lunch.

There were also the trips to Grandma’s house on weekends where we thought nothing of stopping to pick up fast food dinner on the way.  Then, of course, Grandma was more than happy to pick them up Happy Meals and Frosties.  We ate fast food a lot.

The breaking point came about the time we moved and several factors played into our decision to give it all up.  The whole family had been sick multiple times from fast food chicken.  Not fun.   Our new house was far enough away from the fast food places that giving it up at dinner was a no brainer anyhow.  Since we lived close to Grandma, there weren’t any more long trips to make.  My husband began working from home and I began homeschooling the girls so we were all home at lunch time together.

It was easy enough to simply fall away from using fast food with all those changes.  And it all gave me the notion that we could simply give it up for good.  So we did.  We made the new rule that we would not eat at any of the major fast food chains.

 I won’t say that my kids were thrilled.  Or even my husband.  No one likes absolutes 😛  But I can honestly say I never once regretted making that choice for my family.

And now?  Well, we break our rule on vacation sometimes (there aren’t a lot of choices at the airport).  But honestly, we’ve been away from it all for so long that even the kids will tell you that ‘that’ food makes them feel sorta cruddy when they eat it.  And it doesn’t taste all that good either.

We still occasionally get fast food, but we keep to a few restaurants that make our exception list:   Five Guys (I did tell you we were far from perfect eaters, right?) and Moe’s are two we’ll spring for on very rare occasions.  I know the food isn’t really better than all the big chains on our no-no list,  but I’m convinced the fact that our approved list is so short is part of what helps keep us on track.  We have an out for when we need it but we can keep our committment to staying away from all those other chains. 

Improving the way our family eats happens by changing just one bad habit.  If this is one you want to change for your family, I encourage you to make your short list of approved ‘fast food’ places and ditch the rest.  It’s worked for us.