Our kids are what they eat..

So what’s the deal with so many picture of Isadora’s lunch that I have been posting lately?? Well, I think I posted a picture on my Instagram account just for the fun of it.. and I was amazed at the many questions about where I got Isadora’s lunch box and also the many comments about when do I have time to pack her lunch the way I do, or will she eat everything I pack as other kids are so picky and they won’t touch any fruits of vegetables. So I started taking more pictures of Isadora’s lunch and kind of answer some of the questions many of you had.

Eating healthy is not something that I just woke up one day and realized.. oh I have to change the way I eat. I was lucky enough to grow up in a poor communist country, with very limited amount of choices on food. I am talking no cereal, no candy, no chocolate, not even bananas or orages, sugar was given on a ration so we had to be very careful how we used it. We pretty much grew up on what you would call here a farm, but everybody in my village had a farm, and it was not a big farm like here, everybody had to have animals like cows and chickens and ducks around the house and also had some land next to their house where they would plant potatoes, onions, beans, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and all the vegetables that we could grow. We made everything from scratch.. And I MEAN EVERYTHING!!!!

Got the milk from the cows, meat from the animals, fresh fruit and veggies from our garden, even bread because we could not buy it from the big city cause we didn’t have a city licence we had to make bread from scratch and that meant from getting the wheat, taking it to the mill, bringing home where we would use it to make bread. We had very heavy winters in Romania so no fresh fruits and veggies, so in the fall we had to be very creative to store enough food to last us through the winter.. Oh how I hated those fall seasons. There was soo much work to do, digging the potatoes and storying them in kind of an underground basement, getting all the vegetables and pickle some, the rest put them in the same basement but making sure they would stay somehow fresh and not freeze. I remember the carrots we used to put them in sand boxes.. I think that kept them from getting soggy.

We would go in the forest to pick fresh mushroom (we learned as kids which mushrooms are good and which are bad), and use the mushrooms together with vegetables to make some spreads that we would use for the bread, or just pickle them together with other vegetables. There were wild berries that we would also pick to make all kind of jams for the winter. And I could write a whole book about how much more work we had to do in the fall to prepare for winter but also in the spring when we had to get the land ready for new crops, to plant and care of the new vegetables that we have been so anxiously waiting to eat some fresh tomatoes, or fresh strawberries after a long winter when we just didn’t have that luxury to eat the tomatoes or strawberries fresh.

For meat, as sad as it sounds and I could just not do it now anymore, we would raise chickens, cows and pigs and then we would… how do I say this.. but yes eat them:(… I can’t believe that my parents taught me how to butcher a chicken.. I was maybe 9?? And I had to do it all on my own.. learned how to clean the chicken after it was butchered, with hot water to pick all the feathers out, then put some rubbing alcohol on a lid and light it with fire to burn the extra fuzz left off, and then how to cut around to get the thighs out, the wings, the chest, the neck, and the heart, gizzard and liver were always a treat that we would fight over:). It’s hard to believe when I write this down that we were taught to do this but if we didn’t know how to do this we would not survive.. So that was life for everybody back than..

Milking the cows was always an adventure and if we were too hungry in between the meals we would just learn how to milk the cow and aim it straight in our mouth. That was quite an art to master:).. Ohh those were some hard times.. but now looking back so many memories that we created.

The first time I saw a bottle of Coke I think I was 12 or 13 maybe? Somebody had shipped us a few bottles from England and we had to share a small little bottle among the 5 of my siblings. It tasted pretty interesting:).. Banana and oranges again.. we didn’t have them as the communist wanted us to not know life outside Romania so we would have nothing to compare it with and to keep us from not maybe revolt and ask for me. Same with candy, gum, chocolate.. That was always such a privilege when somebody visiting another country would bring some of these treats to us, but again, there were 5 of us, there were cousins and so many other kids that those special treats had to be shared with.

So that’s a bit about my background on learning to eat healthy:).. I guess I was lucky enough to just not know any better. Than I came to United States when I was 21. There was of course MacDonalds here that we didn’t have back there (now there are some), Donkin Donuts, cereal in the morning for breakfast, sweet and sour chicken (?????? WHAT??? a food that is main food to be sweet??)) that was such a hard concept, and so many other foods that I could barely wrapped my mind around. I gave it a try for a bit but just never got to really get addicted to any of them because my taste buds were just not too crazy about the new foods. I would eat out here and there but I always craved a home made, all from scratch old Romanian soup. If I was sick all I wanted is a homemade chicken noodle soup..

Didn’t really intend for this to be a long blog post but I guess I got carried away with memories. But once Isadora was born, it’s not because I was very strict or anything but I just could not imagine giving her any of those baby food jars. It could say as organic as they want on it. All I could think was well I can make it myself. So when she first was able to eat some solids I would buy fresh fruit and vegetables and puree them myself with this little $39 puree blender. I would make soups and puree those, and then for desert puree fresh fruit.

Once she got older, because that’s all I had around, always lots of fruits and vegetables, she just got used to not having chocolate bars, and candy around the house but rather fruit. Of course there are many times when she will have a candy, or some chocolate but now her bud tastes are kind of not used to those sweet foods and she will say.. this is too chocolaty for me. She will eat the cupcake but take the frosting away. And as much as there are other parents that are way more strict than I am, I don’t want to go that way as if I don’t let her have anything than she will grow up and just try to indulge in all the things I didn’t let her have. I tried to teach her in fun ways how fruits and vegetables are so good for her and look at this cute video I think she was about 3 when she woke up and her skin was sparking because she ate some tomatoes. Of course I had to make her day and woke up earlier and put some sparkles on her little face:)..

With all this said, we come back to Isadora’s lunches. One trip to have lunch with her and see the food the cafeteria was offering and you can my now realize that every single fiber in my body was in shock. Nachos, sugary oranges from a can and chocolate milk was on the menu. Maybe I went on the wrong day but I could not imagine putting that food into my daughter’s body. I started packing lunches and it was so hard because she could just not find all the foods I packed or the sandwich would get all smooshed, no way to pack a really healthy lunch. Till 2 years ago when I came upon something called the Planet Box. I saw it online and wow my heart sank when I saw the price, $60??????? for a lunch box??? I didn’t have that kind of money.. but I also didn’t have the kind of money to just throw away all the food Isadora was brining home cause she did not see it way at the bottom of her lunch box. As crazy as I thought I was at that time, I just bought the planet box but in the back of my mind I was thinking this will be another waited lunch box and this time a very expensive one. But the moment I got it. I LOVED IT!!!!!! The food was so much easier to pack, Isadora was able to just open the box and all the food was there for her, and more importantly I could pack all healthy food and be creative with it that she will love it.

And off we went on our Planet Box lunches. There are so many ways to go overly the board creative with her lunches, I could do cats and dogs, and hearts and butterflies and flowers and balloons and at one time I really thought I could do all that. But my time is so limited, I am a single mom, running around all day, dividing my time between raising her, taking care of the house and running a business. I blamed myself for maybe a day or so for not going the extra mile to do all the fancy lunches but than I gave myself permission to lower my standards and just pack a healthy lunch with a touch of fanciness. I do have a few shapes that cut her vegetables into cute little flowers that I use sometimes, I put a little green lettuce leaf to decorate it, I make the fruits all colorful.. That is about as fancy as I get in order not to drive myself crazy that I won’t have time to pack her lunch and to still be content with the yummy lunch she will enjoy. A great compromise that really works for me.

I know there are so many resources out there to really go out of your way with the kids lunches, but unless you have a lot of time on your hands, don’t worry so much about creating a perfect lunch. Start with small things like having a fruit and a vegetable always in their lunch box, than if you feel creative one day you can buy the little flower shapes ( I got mine at AMAZON ) and cut surprise them with fun shaped vegetables, but for the most part if you just pack a healthy lunch and teach them healthy eating habits is way more important than going all out and buy every single cute little tool to create elaborate designs.

Hope this answers some of the questions on why I pack the lunches I pack and the choice of foods for Isadora’s lunches. There will have to be another post on how to buy food for your kids lunches, well and even for your lunches, and since along with the many jobs I had in my 36 years of life was one of a truck driver, I will share with you how our food is treated behind closed doors, that will really make you not want to have that ice cream anymore, and what stores have the best and freshest food. Sorry for all my Iphone pictures.. I will try to use my big camera from now on.. Just that time is limited in the morning and didn’t have time for that. I will wake up a bit earlier to take some better pictures that hope will do a better representation of her lunches..

Kim - January 29, 2013 - 10:18 am

Thank you so much for this post, Lidia! I grew up in the rural South and my grandparents lived off the land, much as your family except that they could purchase their own flour and sugar. My grandparents also heated and cooked only with wood stoves. I remember helping pick the feathers from the chickens that were butchered(I hated the way they flopped all over the ground after their necks were wrung!!), as well as watching my grandparents and great-aunts and uncles butcher hogs and cows. It was hard work and a hard way of life, but I really do love that I have these memories and am thankful that I grew up that way. You are doing a wonderful thing teaching Isadora to eat healthy!

I also want to say that I absolutely LOVE your work! Your photography is beautiful and your actions are my absolutely favorite. They make my life so much easier, as well as bringing my photos to life!

Take care, and I look forward to your post about the foods we buy and eat. You are helping us more than you realize!

lisa - January 29, 2013 - 10:43 am

You are a true inspiration to me. You should write a book about your life. It is so interesting. Thanks for all of your tips!

Melody Coarsey - January 29, 2013 - 12:01 pm

Thank you so much for this! I was not raised the way you (obviously growing up in Southern California), BUT I want my girls to eat more fruits & veggies & healthy foods. My husband & I did a fast last month & ate healthier & now that we are off we are trying to only alter it by adding some chicken & fish. Only doing whole wheat (rice, breads & pasta), we already make our own bread & pizza dough (& sauce) because of my low sodium diet I have to be on & potatoes only once a week. Now we are TRYING to get our girls to eat what we eat. Which is hard. But hopefully it will work. With my oldest being SO picky & wanting her to eat more healthy foods & going to Kindergarten next year I may have to spring for one of these lunch boxes. So I can separate her food, portion control it & keep it healthier than what the lunchroom is serving. Especially if it will keep her peas (or green beans or corn all of which she will eat) hot, then she will be doing MUCH better.

Jeanne Fleischhacker - January 29, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this Lidia and sharing your experiences growing up with us. Really puts things in perspective for me. Thank you again!

Tracey D'Arcy-Wright - January 29, 2013 - 1:32 pm

Thank you for sharing your story! Isadora has amazing lunches (and wow, LOVE the lunchbox!!!). My oldest is three and I am trying to start her off right, but it’s not always easy, most days she doesn’t touch what’s in her kindy (your preschool?) lunchbox. I try to be persistent and eventually she tries most things. Thankfully my one year old is keen to try anything so long as it is food! These are the kinds of lunches I hope my kids will enjoy when they get older. I have always struggled with food, so I think the best gift we can give our kids is a healthy attitude to food.

Tracy - January 30, 2013 - 10:27 am

I’ll also add, that it’s not an expensive lunch box that makes the healthy meal, it can be done just as easily with other types of lunch boxes or ziplocs. Don’t let something like not having a fancy crazy expensive box stop you from doing it.

Christie - January 30, 2013 - 3:18 pm

Wow, Lidia! I do not know if you realize how eye opening this post is! Born and raised in America we take SO much for granted! I know other countries do not have as much as we do….but to have to grind your own wheat for bread?!—wow! I would think that happened 100 years ago…not in your young lifetime!
I really hope your future posts will include more about your childhood and what brought you to the U.S. It must have been hard to leave your family. I would think that they would also desire to leave Romania…unless much has changed since you were a child.
Thanks for the lesson on another lifestyle and also on gratitude!

Colleen - January 30, 2013 - 3:44 pm

thank you for sharing…for teaching…for loving…for blessing. you are indeed unique, special, and beautiful.

Pamela - January 30, 2013 - 3:47 pm

You are so cool. :) Thanks for this wonderful post! I think I’m going to go buy that lunchbox for my own daughter. xo

Sarah lynn - January 30, 2013 - 9:18 pm

Thanks for the great story! Along with being a full time mom, photographer and fitness instructor for yoga classes, I too try to teach the importance of people being different, enjoying life in a healthy fun way! My kids don’t get the typical granola bars or Rice Krispies at school but instead get fresh fruit and yogurt or veggies and dip for a snack with hard boiled egg sandwich and different variety of healthy choice for lunch. I not only do it for my kids to BE healthier and learn it but also it helps them in there day at school. When it comes down to it a sugary snack will not tide them over until lunch yet alone help them concentrate in class! Great job and love some of your ideas and pictures( even if taken with a phone) ;)

Jeanette - January 31, 2013 - 10:28 am

Thanks for this post. These lunch boxes look so awesome I went straight to the planetbox.com site and bought one for my 7 yo and one for myself. I can’t wait to try them out. And thank you for sharing your experiences growing up. I grew up in Germany and although we didn’t have problems getting food, money was tight and we always watched what we ate. I also experienced a ‘culture shock’ after getting married and moving to the U.S. where so much was available and stores were open 24 hrs. Unfortunately, my waistline is paying for our busy lifestyle. Your post was a bit of an eye-opener to remind us to get back to healthier eating habits and to pass them on to our kids. Thanks :)

[...] a lot lately and I just so love to use everyday to pack Isadora’s lunches. I have a blog post here about why I love this box so much and how it’s really not that hard to pack healthy lunches [...]

Gwen - March 5, 2013 - 9:33 am

I want this for myself working in a school we always have to bring our lunch to eat on the go plus all the cute shapes could spice it up. Who knows maybe the kids will start eating more healthy.

Gina Evans - March 5, 2013 - 11:18 am

I would love to send my son off to his first day of Pre-K with this lunch box…and LOVE the shape cutters, Isadora is one lucky little girl <3

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