Let’s face it people – when it comes to raising kids – and HEALTHY ones too – I just don’t have the experience. Sure, I can offer opinions, but do I really know what it’s like to feed and care for little campers? (heads up – I call all children ‘campers.’ Blame it on my forever love for all things camp related )
So since first hand knowledge in this area is quite limited, I decided to begin a segment where I interview REAL people (not fake ones) and get hands on opinions and tips for raising healthy kids.
For our first feature Mom – I didn’t have to look far – Mrs. Rivkie Brownstein!
Rivkie was a classmate of mine and now currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. A long time advocate of positive parenting, I’ve always been impressed with Rivkie’s way of imbuing not only a sense of healthy habits but also healthy attitudes and character traits as well. Her parenting articles have been featured in the Nishei Chabad newsletter. Rivkie prides herself on being a stay at home mom and was kind enough to sit down with me for our interview below.
How many kids do you have? How old are they?
Rivkie Brownstein: Three kids K’ah (kayn ayin hora)Ages 6, 3 and 14 months K’ah
**Duby: Kayn ayin hora is a phrase that people use which means “without evil eye” Jewish people use this phrase when speaking of their children to ward off any superstition
DL: What are some tips for getting your kids to eat their veggies/ fruits?
RB: One thing I do is put the fruits and vegetables in the middle of the table at meal times. This is always good because eventually kids might start to realize they like something they thought they didn’t. In my house we talk about how its “brave” to try new things, especially things that are good for you and keep you healthy. This makes them eager to try things.
DL: I like that idea – I’ll have to put the broccoli in the middle of the table so finally my hubby will eat his veggies!
RB: As for getting kids to eat fruits and veggies, fruit smoothies are a great way! You can put any kind of fruit frozen or fresh, and then you can freeze the extras into those homemade popsicle shapers so that it can be a yummy healthy snack (fruit ices). You can even add some plain yogurt for some protein and many kids won’t even notice because of the sweet flavor of the fruit. As for vegetables, many times kids will eat them if they are pureed such as in tomato sauces for meat or lasagna. If the veggies are pureed it can go unnoticed by many kids who wouldn’t otherwise eat vegetables.
Some kids get more interested in eating fruits and veggies if they are in fun shapes like making a smiley face with grapes and peppers, or filling celery with peanut butter (the non hydrogenated- oil kind). The most important thing is to show a good example to our kids and to educate them that fruits and veggies are good for us without forcing it upon them.
One more thing – frozen fruits are a really yummy treat like frozen blueberries, frozen pineapple… I tell my kids its HaShem’s (G-d’s) candy and they get so excited to eat it 🙂
DL: Wow! Those are all awesome ideas! I especially like the “G-d’s Candy” idea… Any tips for creating healthy meals – on short time?
RB: I wouldn’t be the right person for that since I am a stay at home mom, I take pride in having the time to make really good nutritious meals which is one of the reasons I feel good about staying home. Here are some ideas that I do have though:
You can make one big soup each week and put it in containers to heat up and use throughout the week. I try to keep things simple. Easy to make, tastes good but is still healthy. For example if i am making chicken I will put rice on the bottom of the pan, clean and take off the skin from the chicken and put it on top of the rice, just put spices and cook that together in the oven, which makes it a dinner all in one dish. The spices taste delicious without any added unnecessary ingredients.
If you have ground meat and don’t have time to make meatballs you can just brown the meat add a can of tomato sauce and serve with some whole grain pasta or rice and you have a delicious quick meal…
DL: Ok I think I’m getting hungry… What kind of difficulties do you encounter living in an apartment (such as no backyard where kids can play etc.) And how do you combat those difficulties?
RB: Yes! you do have to be more creative in a small apartment. I have a huge container with drawers to organize lots of art supplies with glue, scissors, tape, beads, paint, watercolors, different types of materials, different colored paper, clay, play dough, sequins, popsicle sticks, googly eyes… buttons.. cotton balls…….. On rainy or hard weather days, we take it out and do lots of art. I also bake a lot with my kids, such as whole wheat pancakes, healthy oatmeal banana cookies… we make challah for Shabbos together. I actually have exercise movement tapes/videos and a trampoline that helps them with that…
I must say it’s really hard not having a backyard. I try and take my kids out as much as I can, so yes it is a lot harder because that means they can’t just run to the backyard but I need to take them to the park, library, museum… but that’s what we do because I know they need it to get out and enjoy their childhood, so that’s what we do 🙂 When I have a nursing baby going on certain trips is hard so we try and arrange play-dates for my kids to have some fun that way…
DL: I remember in the past you were trying to make some changes in your child’s school about the amounts of nosh given at birthday parties. Were you successful? How do you deal with all the candy at birthday parties, Shabbos parties, or even just going to stores (aka- NOSH WORLD! Nosh World is a Kosher candy store in Brooklyn) having that temptation all around ALL the time?
RB: I called the teacher and asked them to please limit the amount of candy at parties and she let the parents know that they can only put one treat in the party bag, and the rest needed to be prizes. For Shabbos party instead of having two treats, the teacher decided to have one fruit and one treat, which made a difference since it was every week.
DL: That’s amazing! Kudos for making that awesome change – it will be good for ALL the kids
RB: It really adds up! About Nosh World or other stores, I taught my kids right from the start why too much sugar and unhealthy things are bad for you. I never say you can’t have it, I just say what it does to you for example: makes you feel kvetchy, isn’t healthy for your body etc. I tell them to make sure not to have too much. I also try and be a good example by saying out loud things like “I really want another piece of cake but one is enough it’s not good for me to have too much.”
So if we go to a store that has lots of treats I usually let my kids choose one thing. If they already had their share of treats and we enter a store I just let them know their options for that time… fruit leather, fruit, yogurt drink, fruit drink (they like Odwallas…) and they are pretty good about it. I think if kids feel you aren’t saying “no” all the time and you talk to them about options they CAN have or about the special times when they could have it (like buying something once a week for Shabbos etc) then it’s easier for them.
I also explain the concept to my kids of putting things out of sight that are too much of a temptation so my daughter will tell me, “Mommy please put the cookies on a very high shelf otherwise it’s hard for me to wait to have them….”
DL: that’s a great idea! – my hubby hides the cookies from me all the time as well
DL: How do you ensure to take care of yourself even while being a busy mommy?
RB: I make it a priority. I believe if the mom is happy, then everyone can be happy. It’s very easy to forget about taking care of yourself while taking care of others!! I make sure to have lots of healthy food available in my house by being organized about my food shopping and taking time to make things for myself to eat before I get starving but also having things available that are fast for times that I am too busy, like soup in the fridge, hard boiled eggs for a quick snack, mixed nuts with cottage cheese etc. I also usually have a fruit and protein (like cheese stick or some soy nuts) or soy chips in my purse for when I’m late somewhere so I don’t get starving, which would make me feel stressed out and not have the right patience for my kids. It’s also important to drink lots of water so everyone in the family has their own metal water bottle to take along wherever we go… drinking enough water can prevent a lot of whining that happens when kids don’t drink enough..
DL: oooh everyone has their own water bottle! Me likey! And I noticed you said that they are “metal” water bottles – you are definitely up to date on the dangers and waste of plastics
DL: Along the same lines, how do you find the time to exercise?
RB: I make time. It’s something I find keeps me happy and fit so i just make the time. I exercise in the morning, 6 am till seven before my husband goes to minyan (services). Yes, it was hard at first and early but I make a huge effort to be in bed by ten because I know how good I feel when i work out. Working out before starting my day gives me so much positive energy to greet my kids happily and energized in the morning.
DL: Last and certainly not least, as an Orthodox Jewish mom, do you feel we have it easier or harder when it comes to raising healthy kids? In what way yes or no…
RB: It can probably be harder during Yom Tov time and Shabbos… but on the other hand it’s all about a healthy way of thinking in your mind and attitude. If you tune into your body and try to eat in moderation it’s ok to have a little treat here and there!! Then no matter if a person is religious or not I think it will be the same….
Thank you so much Rivkie for that jam packed and insightful interview!!!