a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Aug, 2010

Know More Do More: catchup time

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Know More Do More

I’ve been travelling for work as well as with the family, and KMDM has had to take a back seat for a couple of weeks.

I think we’ve been doing okay in terms of being mindful of our habits, but I will say that the healthy eating part of things took a bit of a nosedive during our camping holiday. But you know what? I’m ok with that. I think it’s worth addressing here as part of KMDM, because I have been thinking a lot about foods and the wisdom of Total Denial. I’d like to hear your thoughts about this.

We have a group which I’ll call Never Ever foods because I just never buy them and the girls know they shouldn’t even bother asking. These include most individually-wrapped snacks, almost all cookies, pudding and jello cups, microwave popcorn, anything with “helper” in the name of the product, and brightly coloured food products such as fruit-by-the-foot etc.

We also have a Sometimes category, these are not-so-healthy foods we buy occasionally – maybe once every 4-6 weeks – like hot dogs, factory-made frozen dessert products, chips, fast food.

It seems almost arbitrary, doesn’t it? But if I’m totally honest with myself, it’s because I like the taste of the Sometimes foods more than the Never Ever foods (which are therefore easier to pass them by). 

Pop also falls into the Sometimes category. For some families it falls into the Never Ever category.  

The girls both had birthday parties at the house in the Spring. Both times we served some kind of pop at their meal. We have pop with a meal at home about once in a blue moon. It’s never anything caffinated, just sweet. I’ve made it very clear that it’s nothing but liquid sugar. And we skip dessert that night. They understand that it’s not part of a healthy meal. Birthdays are an exception and they’re happy to get something fizzy to drink. (I figure pop is akin to cake.  Both taste good, neither are something you have every day. Or every week for that matter.)

ANYWAY, I was surprised to see that at both parties (keep in mind these are kids 11 and 9) there were kids who refused the pop we were serving. The reasons were varied. I remember one child didn’t like “the fizzy feeling” and another asked for milk. (Yay!) But there were at least two in the bunch who said they’ve never had pop before.

I honestly believe that pop – with it’s totally empty calories and heaps of sugar – has a lot to do with skyrocketing rates of obesity. And it’s cheap too – not as cheap as water that comes out of the tap – but it’s probably the next cheapest thing for people to drink.

I wonder if our treatment of pop as a “treat” is a tactical error. In terms of establishing healthy eating habits in young children, is it better to not buy the stuff at all or have it every once in awhile? 

Same with sweet cereals. We never buy it, but I know the girls feels as if they’re missing out. I decided to take a different tactic for our annual camping trip this year. In the past I have always bought a package of “mini boxes” to bring with us. The girls like them because you cut open the box and pour the milk right in, but they also like the fact that one day they’re getting Frosted Flakes and the next day they’re getting Corn Pops. This year I asked them to pick one small box of cereal – any one – and added the proviso that I’d only buy it once a year for camping. They picked Lucky Charms. (Hey, I would have too if I was their age.)

They ate it. The box was gone by the end of the week and they seem happy with the fact that they won’t see it again until the next time we go camping.

I tried some too. It was sweet, just like how I remembered it. It is like having dessert for breakfast.

Anyway, we are all junked out and are climbing back on board the healthy eating train. Here’s the tip for this coming week:

Prepare supper together, there’s a job for everyone. Eating patterns at home translate into what students choose at home.

I have a feeling we’ve done this one already. Oh well. But it’s rather appropriate given what’s been on my mind.

Anyway, as I bring this to a close I have to say that I’m feeling a bit alone in these weekly outpourings right now. I know at least one person out there believes I’m a total kook and thinks that healthy living – at least the kind I’m undertaking here – is totally crazy. This person has caught me at a low point because normally it wouldn’t bug me (38 is great, remember?). I ask you, what is so crazy about eating whole foods? And getting some exercise? And wanting my family (myself included!) to live long and healthy lives?

I am confident I’m doing good things here, but am also feeling like I’m on my own little island, waving madly at an ocean liner full of “normal” people eating spray cheese without a care in the world while their ship is sinking. YOUR SHIP IS SINKING. I’m tossing out life preservers as fast as I can but they can’t hear me over the crinkle of their chip bags and the whoosing sound of aerosol cheese being portioned out on hydrogenated crackers. You know what I mean?

This post is part of the Know More Do More initiative which was spearheaded by the Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network. KMDM is about empowering parents and inspiring them to take charge of their children’s health by taking easy steps to increase activity levels and improve eating habits. I’m one of two champion families who has been asked to take this challenge. You can join too. Check out the official website for more information. If you’re blogging about your participation, please let me know so we can cheer each other on! You can read all of my past weekly challenges here.

15 Responses to "Know More Do More: catchup time"

1 | Judy

August 25th, 2010 at 9:46 am


You aren’t on your own little isalnd, but it can feel that way.

We all have different level of eat, never eat, sometimes, etc. Not only does healthy eating play a role, but other factors too.

Moment of honesty and sharing: Pop was a feature in our house. But always diet (I know people have hard core feelings about diet). My mom had a number of challenges in feeding us. She is diabetic and can’t have fruit juices and needs to limit the milk due to natural sugars. My brother and I are allergic to raw fruits and veggies. Immeadiate challenges.

We always had a jug of water on the table with dinner (We even had epic full family water fights to go with it with my grannie pulling the hose from the sink and spraying my mom). But pop was always an ok option with lunch or in the evenings. It is one of the few things my mom can have other than water, so it was never off limits. I pretty much always have some sort of diet soda in the fridge. I don’t drink it often, but it is always there.

This whole process should be more about learning what works for your family, what you can look at critically and decide what you may want to remove or add.

2 | Jennifer

August 25th, 2010 at 10:11 am


Ha! That’s too funny about the small boxes of cereal. That has been a tradition for camping/cottaging my whole life. And as I am making a shopping list for this weekend’s cottage trip you betcha Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes mini-boxes are at the top of the list!!! I was also talking to someone yesterday who said, that these boxes were a treat for them at Christmas, they were even individually wrapped and put under the tree.

But saying that, I know these cereal’s are just wasted calories. But I have no problems with them or most other types of junk food in moderation. As long as your normal eating habits are healthy and you are active then the occasional splurge on whatever qualifies as a ‘treat’ in your home is OK with me. I started using a trick/technique that I remember a friend using a long time ago with her children. When an ‘unhealthy’ snack/food is requested (and this summer popsicles seem to be a frequent request around here) I say ‘yes, you can have a popsicle, but first you have to have a healthy snack’. So my little one will choose something healthy first (her choice), then chances are by the time she is done, she’s full or forgotten about the original request.

3 | Scatteredmom

August 25th, 2010 at 10:35 am


Wait! Wait! Don’t forget about me over here! (waves) :) You are so not alone in your healthy eating. We eat whole foods all the time, and in the next week I’m changing my recipe blog to Chasing Tomatoes, which is going to be about eating whole foods and finding them locally.

You and I think very much alike on a lot of food issues. Pop is something that we very rarely buy. Occasionally we’d get some ginger ale, and sometimes if Jake and I have a craving we’ll buy a Stewarts old fashioned soda at the corner store. It’s a treat. (I love the lime flavored ones) I see it this way; I don’t have it in the house, but then once in awhile if we walk to the store to buy ONE, it’s more satisfying. We get the walk, we get the time together, and we get the treat. We have it less because it’s less convenient.

We also took to creating our own drinks with club soda and home made fruit syrups here at home, which we actually like far better. And the bonus-no additives or chemicals!

Sugary cereal was something Jake never liked. We did buy Lucky Charms as a treat for St. Patrick’s Day, and he didn’t eat it. I tried the mini boxes, and he didn’t eat them either. He loves Mini Wheats and Multi Grain cheerios, so we go with that.

Like Judy, we have food challenges too. Hubs has diabetes type 2, and sensory issues w/food. My 14 yo has lactose intolerance, and is sensitive to soy, corn, red food dye, and MSG. I react (sometimes violently) to fresh peaches, pears, apples, nectarines, plums, cherries, avocado, carrots, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts.

Cooking for a family with those kinds of issues can be a challenge, but it works for us. When I added in wanting food to be local, not processed, it made the challenge even harder.

I’m sure people think I’m crazy too but quite honestly Andrea, after our Road Trip I just didn’t care what people think anymore. They can have their spray cheese and crackers, but I’ll pass. Healthy eating/living was our way of life long before it became popular, and I have fielded the “crazy” attitude for a long time. These days, I figure that I’ll worry about myself. I’ll pass on the information. People’s choices are theirs, and I can’t worry about or control them. Their ship may be sinking, but if they refuse to put on a life jacket…?

I offer the information. What they do with it is up to them, and if they choose to sink, it’s still their choice.

PS..feel free to email me anytime if you’re feeling frustrated or low about this-we can support each other!

4 | Scatteredmom

August 25th, 2010 at 10:43 am


P.S.S…our never foods are the same as yours. Except I admit a weakness to granola bars, because I love them. We buy crackers, too. But never cookies, fruit snacks, jello, pudding cups, fruit cups, rice/pasta mixes, etc.

5 | Pete M

August 25th, 2010 at 11:27 am


Our stance on pop was not to deny it to the kids altogether, because we figured they would just want it MORE. So it’s a once a month thing or so.

6 | Patti Church

August 25th, 2010 at 11:59 am


I think that fact that we have lists is a huge step in the right direction. Means we’re drawing lines and boundaries for our kids. Isn’t that one of our jobs!

I too steer way from over sugared cereal but we do take the dive in on occasions such as holidays (if they are on sale) and St. Patty’s Day. Every St. Patrick’s Day morning they start the day off with a bowl of Luck Charms. They love this tradition. It’s gone in one day and they are thankful for it’s arrival and departure.

7 | karen

August 25th, 2010 at 12:16 pm


We to have sometimes foods and never foods. In our house the never foods are usually things that I have no desire to eat. The sometimes foods tend to be things I really enjoy. I don’t think my just turned 8 and 12 year old have figured that out yet.

In the last 6 months I have started to allow them to have a non caffinated pop once a week. I would have prefered to hold the younger one off a while longer but it would have been much too difficult. Some of my daughters friends have been having pop for years and it finally started to bug her that she wasn’t allowed to have any. She recently told me that she tried Pepsi at a friends house and thought it was disgusting. I was sad to hear that she even tried it but was happy that she didn’t like it. If feel bad even saying that because I LOVE Coke. I have one once a week but would love nothing more that to have a nice cold can once a day.

I’ve decided to do my best when it comes to food choices but I don’t want to make myself crazy about it.

I had to laugh about you buying the Lucky Charms because that it one thing I have never bought my kids. If it does not contain a good amount of fibre it doesn’t get purchased. I realized though that this probably has more to do with the fact that I hated Lucky Charms as a kid. I beged my mom to buy a box for what felt like forever and when she finally let me have it I hated it. Perhaps if I’d enjoyed it back then it would now be a sometimes food in our house. I guess I will never know.

8 | Stefania (Ingredients for Life)

August 25th, 2010 at 1:31 pm


We have “everyday food” and “treats”. Regarding treats, we try to get the healthier alternatives. We recently stayed at a hotel and for breakfast I allowed each girl to have a small (one serving) box of froot loops. They were in heaven, but they knew it was a treat and they would never have them again for another year. As for pop, they’ve never had it except the ginger ale that grandma let The Pea try many moons ago. Hubby and I were not impressed. A couple times a year they get to have Italian soda, which is carbonated water and flavoured syrup. They know it’s a treat.
I think there’s a lack of understanding when it comes to food and kids. Parents don’t get it. Kids don’t get it. Am I too strict when it comes to food? Some would think so, but I have a very good knowledge of how the body works and how to make it function properly. I see what kids eat for snacks and lunches at school and it’s disgusting. I don’t want my kids putting that garbage in their bodies.
I’ve been reading your KMDM posts and they’ve all been insightful. You’re not alone.

9 | Laura

August 25th, 2010 at 5:29 pm


You are note alone Andrea. :)

I can’t walk past the small packs of cereal boxes and not smile. I remember my childhood at the cottage and fighting my sister and cousins over the fruit loops…not wanting to get stuck with the rice cereal. Good times.
We drank pop all summer long and wondered why we had cavities. (?)

Times have changed and we now know more about childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc. There is too much trustworthy information and supported research out there to prove exercise and a balanced diet are important for a healthy life. I am genuinely surprised there are people out there calling you a kook. Wow.

Hey, we all have our definition of healthy. Your message is important and delivered in a light and easy way. You are making a difference. :)

10 | meanie

August 26th, 2010 at 6:27 am


we are really trying at our house to be better. or, as the main chef, i am really trying. like you, camping exposed the girls to all kinds of garbage they don’t normally get – but they seem okay with it being a once a year experience. at home, i am a slave to the food groups, and the girls respect my mantra “healthy before junky”. i get mocked all the time for my “healthy” ways, but it is something i really believe in. one of my big weaknesses though is what to do on nights i need something really fast and easy to feed the girls. my husband and i have date night on a weekly basis, and inevitable the girls get hot dogs or kraft dinner. i need ideas for fun, fast and healthy meals for these babysitting nights. help!
i really enjoy reading about this kind of stuff andrea, it inspires me and makes me feel like there are others out there like me (no matter how much my kids protest!)

11 | Patricia

August 26th, 2010 at 7:41 am


I think we sometimes overthink things…especially as moms! You are certainly not along, I know a few people who make their own yogurt, whose kids almost never have dessert and are vegan.
I try to eat healthy most of the time. I try to eat serve whole foods most of the time. When I’m busy, I go for convenience. I try not to let my family eat fast food more then once every two weeks and lately fast food has been subway rather then mcdonalds. I like Michael Pollen’s mantra
Eat Food
Mostly plants
Not too much.
I saw him on Oprah recently and he was saying that he does eat french fries and baked goods…but the caveat is that he as to make them from scratch. So he only eats them as often as he’s willing to make them from scratch.
We all have our own levels of what we’re comfortable with. It comes from how we were raised (usually either following our parents example or doing the opposite) our own relationship with food and the relationship we are trying to encourage our kids to have with food. No one has the right to judge others because we don’t know where they are coming from or what their experiences have been.
The person in front of us in the grocery line may have a cart full of unhealthy convenience food…but they also may be going through a tough time and not have the time or energy to do better right now. You just never know.
My goal is for my kids to want to eat healthy, know the difference between healthy and unhealthy and not overthink it like my husband and I both do.

12 | Jen

August 26th, 2010 at 1:00 pm


i will admit that our family is not totally committed to healthy living, but we’re taking baby steps to get there. your know more do more posts have been inspiring, and i’ve always looked forward to them.

reading the above i realize that we’ve always had a few no-no’s in our house, without necessarily making it a family rule. just something we do without question. example is ‘sweet’ cereal. our 6 year old son only ever gets a box in the summer time, when we’re on holiday. and he is perfectly fine with that. the rest of the year he prefers multi grain cheerios and rice krispies (on occasion – cheerios are the hands down fave). no pop to drink either.

i need to focus on getting rid of the processed boxed stuff, and getting more active (for the adults at least, the boy is already good in that department). so yeah, baby steps… we’re getting there :-)

13 | Jen

August 26th, 2010 at 1:01 pm


oh, and aerosol cheese?? get out of here – that exists??!!

14 | Ginger

August 26th, 2010 at 8:04 pm


I am with you Andrea! And I have been working this year to overhaul what I cook and what we eat. The boys are getting older (they turn 2 on Saturday yikes!) and I want good habits in place. We are getting there. I am even on the wait list for a CSA for next growing season so we get organic veggies and fruit all spring, summer and fall next year.

I will admit that it is hard. I am the only one in my family, and by family I am including aunts, uncles, and cousins, because I see many of them daily, that sees and feels the need for change. I have a close friend who is dedicated to healthy living. But other than that, most of the people I know dedicated to being healthier are online. And, to me, that does make me feel alone. I have been fighting the feeling that food is just too overwhelming nowadays. It makes me frustrated and makes me want to give up sometimes. But, I want us to be healthy.

The boys get very few treats, since they are barely two. The only real sweets they receive are graham crackers and an occasional bite of ice cream. Other than that, desert is fruit, and boy do they love their fruit! Soda has never crossed their sweet lips and as far as I am concerned won’t, for a very VERY long time. They have a cousin who is 8 months younger than them who has had soda (but only sips they insist…as if a sip isn’t alot to a tiny child). I remember growing up our choices were milk, water and sometimes juice. We didn’t get sodas until late elementary school and that was only at family reunions or other special occasions.

Anyway….I think what you are doing is great. It inspires me to keep going when I want to give up. I get good ideas from here. And, I don’t feel so alone in my journey to good health. Thanks for what you do!

15 | Javamom

August 28th, 2010 at 9:10 am


I’m joining this conversation a tad late, but I have to share this little tidbit about pop:

Back in my days of working full time (pre kids…what was that like?)…there was a fellow co-worker who came from Arizona up to our humble Toronto town who insisted that she doesn’t drink coffee. Ever. Doesn’t like the taste. Which is fine, I guess. Some people prefer tea in the morning, or juice. To each his own.

Imagine my surprise, back in those days, when at our 8 am meeting she brought with her TWO cans of diet pop. AND she drank both.

Oh, she doesn’t eat breakfast either, and usually skips lunch.

Pop. For breakfast. Can you imagine? And yet, since that day, I have become more and more aware of just how many people do this regularly.

We offer our kids pop once in a blue moon, if we have it in the house for a bbq or something. They like Ginger Ale and the non-coloured stuff (Sprite, etc), but they rarely ask for it. They know we don’t drink it usually, and when they do get it, it’s not really called ‘a treat’ or ‘a special occasion’. It’s just what is there that day and they can choose or not choose to have it.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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