STRATEGIES TO COMBAT PARTY FOODS
If you are a parent, you have likely shared this dilemma: how do we escape the typical, sugar-fueled party “foods” that wreak havoc with our kids’ bodies and minds? We’ve all seen it, if not experienced it, a million times. Whether it be Halloween, a birthday party or Christmas dinner, our culture seems to see candy, soda, chips, ice cream and cake as essential for having a fun gathering even though they can compromise your family’s health.
Our family has been raising kids for thirty-two years now and even from the beginning, I knew that this way of “treating” kids was problematic. Even before there was a Weston A. Price Foundation or awareness of the good doctor and his teaching, I knew that all that sugar and artificial ingredients was not good for anyone, child or adult. Early on in my own home I was able to eliminate soda, candy and chips. But for years we still found it difficult to do so when at family or public events. Even church dinners can be tricky.
If you want to do things differently and expect better things for your children but don’t know where to start, I hope my experience can help you develop useful strategies for your family.
HALLOWEEN, EASTER, CHRISTMAS, OH MY!
Many people can look at all that candy and know, instinctively, that this cannot be good! And yet, most just go along with the crowd and at best, try to limit the amount their kids consume, at least at one time. It is not easy to address this.
Our family has chosen to let our kids participate in trick-or-treating, allowing the kids the fun of dressing up and going out with their friends. But rather than giving them free rein with all that candy, we give them the opportunity to choose a few special treats, and then we do a candy swap. We buy the rest from them and dump it into the trash. This has worked well for us, but may not work for a child on the GAPS or other special diet, depending on what treats are being given. In any case, you may be able to sort through your child’s candy, eliminating the worst offenders while finding a few, less-problematic ones for them to choose from. And rather than cash payment, you may offer something like a new game, toy, excursion, lunch at a favorite restaurant, or other things that might feel extra special to your child. The same can be done for other candy-filled occasions.
HANDLING THE BIRTHDAY PARTY BOMB
Personally, I think birthday parties are the worst, but any family or church dinner can be equally harmful to a child’s health and a parent’s best intentions. Skipping these functions is often not an option, and some family and friends do not understand our concerns, and may even be antagonistic. Sadly, I am aware of many families, including my own, who have been ridiculed because they do not allow their children to have soda and junk foods.
We often worry about offending others with our food and health choices. In recent years I have come to the conclusion that I should worry less about causing offense, and instead expect more acceptance from others. Where understanding is not given, we may just need to accept this and choose to ignore it.
When faced with such occasions, going into the event prepared can cover a multitude of potential problems. Our first defense is to enter with full bellies. Yes, a full stomach can severely detract from the attraction of junk food. Even if dinner is being served, I often will make sure our kids have eaten something substantial before arriving. When time is short a full-fat smoothie can help curb the hunger monster. I make a smoothie with added cream (or creme fraiche) and raw egg yolks. Pemmican or jerky, high quality charcuterie and cheeses, or fresh fruit are also great for keeping hunger at bay.
An important strategy we employ when attending family and other potentially problematic meals is to bring plenty of our own, nutritious and delicious foods to share—when the occasion allows for this, such as a potluck or if I offer to bring something for the meal. I might make something extra special that will delight my family, helping them overcome the desire to go for poorer options at the table. I routinely make pitchers of iced herbal tea, a filling salad with homemade dressing, delicious artisanal bread and cheesecake or panna cotta as a dessert. These things are usually devoured with delight by not only my own family but others as well. There will always be those who initially aren’t interested in our “healthy” foods. But when people try it, I am often delighted at the exclamations of surprise from others: “Wow! This is really good!” or “May I have the recipe?” They did not realize that “healthy” could taste so good!
Of course, children’s disappointment and food rebellion is something we all have to deal with as parents. It should be considered carefully. As long as your child has no severe issues, you might choose to allow them one sugary “treat” from the table. We may offer the choice of a dessert or occasionally a small glass of soda (not a whole can). At a birthday party you might allow a slice of cake (with not-so-much icing) and a scoop of plain ice cream. I have also been known on many occasions to bring our own healthy, delicious substitutes for store-bought cake and ice cream. This is especially important when dealing with a child on the GAPS diet, which also offers a convenient excuse to your critics—few dare put down a parent for trying to help their child heal from physical or mental ailments.
Something else which absolutely no one can turn away from is if your child prepares food for a gathering. Whether finger jello, homemade ice cream or sourdough bread, your child can be taught to make any number of special foods, and will receive accolades for their efforts!
When bringing up children from the beginning with a whole, real-food philosophy, you will often find that such well-nourished children reject the sugary foods without the need for prohibitions. This is a winning situation! When children are satisfied with high-quality fats, proteins and the occasional quality treat, their desire for junk is greatly diminished. As they get older, they will learn to recognize that they don’t feel as good when eating poor-quality foods, and will typically gravitate towards feeling energetic and well as opposed to feeling sluggish and poorly.
I hope these ideas will help you and your family face the junk and sugar monsters we all encounter. Now, go forth and have some fun!
TREATS THAT PLEASE
• Larabars: These are not organic but are otherwise an acceptable and tasty alternative to candy bars, and because
they are prepackaged, they are a “legal” Halloween handout
• Fruit leather
• Fresh fruit
• Xylitol chewing gum
• Nuts and dried fruit packets (with no added sugar)
NO-BAKE BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE
2 cups soaked and dried nuts (we use blanched almonds)
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup butter or ghee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons gelatin
4 eggs, separated
4 cups soft cream cheese
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Process the crust ingredients (nuts, dates, butter or ghee, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract) in a food processor to a
fine crumb. Press into a 1/2-sheet baking pan and bake the crust in a preheated 350-degree oven for ten minutes. Cool.
Soften the gelatin in the heavy cream for five minutes, then gently warm to dissolve. Whip the egg whites. Add all
remaining ingredients (egg yolks, cream cheese, sweetener, 1 tablespoon vanilla) to the cream mixture and blend well with a stick blender or in a food processor, blender or Vitamix. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Pour over the cooled crust and chill, covered, at least four hours until well set. Top with ripe berries or fruit compote.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2017.