For several years now (8 to be exact, almost to the day) I have been working toward bringing a whole and healthy diet to my family. Before we moved to Michigan, got pregnant with Olivia and took our Bradley Childbirth class (our teacher was wonderful and introduced us to our first whole foods, we were hooked); we were a typical white-bread, boxed and canned food eating and Hi-C drinking family. We both came from a town that had only one tiny natural food store and a culture that did not encourage healthy eating. Yes, both of us had mothers who cooked regular family dinners, but as time went on and our families became busier, more of those dinners came from packaged food rather than from scratch. Quite understandable.
However, when we moved to the Ann Arbor area of Michigan, we began to encounter a more natural lifestyle and that appealed to us. Whole, natural foods were readily available to us at places like Arbor Farms Market, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, and over the years, the mainstream grocery stores have also gotten in the natural foods market.
So, as we found more places to obtain natural foods, our eating and shopping habits began to change. I had to start making choices in order to stay within our grocery budget. If you look in my pantry, you'll notice organic rice, quinoa and millet alongside Cheerios and Prego (which now comes in a much more natural state than it used to) because I can't afford to buy everything organically. I try to make choices according to what we tend to eat more. For example, I make rice almost everyday, but we only eat spaghetti once or twice a month. So I choose to buy organic rice and settle on conventional spaghetti sauce.
As the years have gone on, I've been able to incoporate more and more natural and organic foods into our diet. But one thing that I am still actively working on is changing our snack foods. Far too often we reach for pretzels or tortilla chips and bypass the fruit and veggies or the nuts and cheese. So lately I have been working to build up a healthier stock of snack food such as roasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple peels, raisins, banana chips, carrots, peas, cashews, walnuts and cheese slices. The kids still want to reach for the chips or pretzels out of habit and availablity, and I am trying to head them off and suggest the healthier, more nutrient dense options.
See the thing is, my kids LOVE all of those healthier foods. There is not one of those foods listed above that they don't like. When I pull out a bag of frozen peas, they literally cheer. They have deemed that the apples peels taste like candy and one of their favorite snacks is cashews and craisins. But for whatever reason, ease of reach, readiness, habit, craving; they reach for the simple carbs first. So my first goal is to get the pretzels, if not out of the house, at least hidden from view. I like to have them around if I'm having a particular salty craving or if one of us has a little tummy ache they tend to help, so I don't want to 86 them altogether.
So we're going to keep working on changing our snacking paradigm and I will keep reminding the children that there are other choices that are just as easy and even yummier than our old standby's. Has anyone else tried this? What has helped you make those nutritious leaps? How did you get your kids to change their snacking habits?
This is more of a "how-to" than a recipe. Cut open and clean out however many pumpkins you have on hand or want to deal with at the moment. The seeds in the picture above cam from pie pumpkins that I roasted and pureed for pies during the winter. Using bows and a collander, thouroughly clean all the pulp from the seeds. I do this twice just to be sure because I don't like any pulp on my seeds, but I'm a bit OCD like that. Dissolve some good quality sea salt in warm water (I use 2 or 3 scoops of celtic sea salt from my little salt pig) and soak the seeds overnight or for about 8 hours. Make sure the seeds are covered with water. Drain the water after soaking and dry off the seeds a bit on a towel. Put the seeds back in the bowl, dump on a little EVOO and 2 or 3 more scoops of sea salt (or to taste). Spread them out on a cookie sheet and give them a good shake to make an even layer. Pop them in the oven at about 150-170 degrees for about 8 hours or over night. I usually soak the seeds during the day and then put them in the oven overnight. When I wake up in the morning, I give them a good stirring right on the pan and put them back in the oven for another hour or so until they are a lovely golden color and quite crunchy. Let them cool a bit and them store them in an airtight container. Enjoy and remember to share!