Do garden fresh vegetables make a difference?

My favorite vegetables are beets and broccoli. I have friends who bring their kids over and I've introduced those children to broccoli. They find out they like broccoli from the garden. I've started a lot of kids on those kinds of those things. I used to be a foster mom and I would have kids who tried things at my house for the first time. Their parents would say, "How do I fix that?" I sent home recipes with the kids. That was always interesting for foster kids who had been living on junk food. My favorite fruits are apples, oranges, watermelon and muskmelons.


How did you become aware of a need to change?

I wrote down everything I ate for a week. I then looked at that list and said, "This is where my problem areas are. I ate too much meat and not near enough fruits and vegetables." I had to make a conscious effort over the last year to change that. I'm still working on it. It doesn't happen overnight. I was raised on a farm where we ate beef and lots of vegetables out of the garden. We didn't have a lot of fruit. My son just loves fruits. If I bring home fruit, he just inhales it. I have to fight to get it sometimes.


Is there an alternative to fast food on the road?

If I'm out on the road for work, sometimes I'll stop at a grocery store and get a banana rather than getting a hamburger. Sometimes I don't have time for a whole meal for lunch. It's going to be something real quick. It doesn't take any longer than going through a fast food restaurant. When we travel, we don't stop at fast food restaurants. We stop at grocery stores and pick up a few things and have a picnic.


How do you help kids learn about fruits and vegetables?


I always try to take something because I know fruits and vegetables are things my kids don't get a lot of. It doesn't matter what time of day it is. I'm teaching the kids right now to eat all these fruits and vegetables. I said you can get this from apple juice and orange juice and pineapple juice. They're still getting their fruit in. The vegetables would probably be the hardest thing for them to get during the day. In the afternoon, I tell them, "When you get in from school, instead of getting potato chips, get some celery and put some peanut butter on it or something that you like."


What foods do you give the kids to try?

I always use green pepper, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, something that I know they might try. I tell them to try something they never tried before. With the fruits, I use kiwi. A lot of kids haven't tried kiwi, or they haven't tried an Asian pear. Apples and oranges always go over well, as well as grapes and things like this. I try to give them something they normally don't eat. I tell them it's always good to try something new because you never know if you will like it or not.


What is a fruit and vegetable attack?

I like fruits. I tell the kids I have a fruit and vegetable attack. I really do. If I don't have it at home, I just panic. Like a person craving a cigarette. I'm like that when it comes to fruits and vegetables. I just stop at the City Market and get what I need and take it home, then I'm perfectly happy for the rest of the week.


What do you tell the kids about fat in foods?

There is low fat cream cheese or salad dressings that are low fat. There are low fat versions of almost everything. I told them the things we put on our food is what makes them high in fat. So, it's not the spaghetti or the noodles. It's just what we put on them that makes them fat.


Tell us about your job teaching nutrition to kids.

I go to different schools and community centers. Michigan State University Extension has designed a curriculum called Eating Right is Fun. A nutrition program that I do with the kids is a six-week lesson and I just walk them through the five food groups. I basically focus primarily on the food guide pyramid. I teach them some good eating habits and tell them that, instead of going home and raiding the refrigerator, eating cake and candy or whatever they have, try to pull an apple or fresh vegetables out in between meals. They graduate from the program.

I always like to find new information to give them. I can teach them about the food guide pyramid and how many servings they are supposed to have within a day. And food safety and how to get around in the kitchen, how long servings of food is supposed to be left out, and things about that. And they ask me a lot, "My mom leaves food out...." And I tell them, "You can't get parents to change old habits. So what I'm trying to do is get you to think about changing your habits." But I tell them, you can't go home and tell mom, "You can't do this here." She is going to say she's been doing this for all these years so why should she change. I was like that, too. So, until you start teaching nutrition, you are not going to change those habits because it's hard.