Real Families | Real Nutrition 02: Keeping it Simple with the Bootsma’s

I think most people would describe Bethany and her husband (and their 3 gorgeous children) as sincere, beautiful, trustworthy, industrious and generous.

She is someone that you can go to for advice ranging from parenting, sustainable fashion, relationships, femininity and anything else you might think of, she has a good head on her shoulders as the saying goes. Bethany’s input is wise but also practical, I know I have incorporated many of her tips and tricks over the years, Bethany has answered a few questions regarding managing a family’s health and food routines, she shares some practical ways and achievable ways you can care for yourself and/or family. She also has a fab account to follow @bethany.soul.

So without further adieu, an interview with Bethany:

What would you say are the most important values you have around food and feeding your family/self)?

Values around food are to provide simple, whole ingredients. I don’t think much fuss needs to be made when ingredients are natural and straight from creation! Our family goal is 80/20 – 80% we eat whole foods and a vegetarian diet, and the other 20%  (weekends, special holidays, etc.) we allow desserts, candy, pop, meat and things that we do not usually have in the home. Though we don’t eat red meat much, we are sure to teach the kids that we always eat whatever is set before us politely if we are served elsewhere.

What are you best tips for preparing for and dealing with cold and flu season?

My tips are from my day – fresh air, sunshine, exercise and enough pure water and sleep every day are my TOP priorities for keeping us all healthy. We also do good probiotics and cut out all refined sugar when flu season arrives. Of course holidays come and we lift those rules, but go back to them once the festivities are over.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I start my own day with green tea and have for years. I’m not a big breakfast eater, and my husband likes hot breakfast so he makes it for the kids. Otherwise they can choose between granola and oatmeal 90 percent of the time. We personally find that cereal is such a waste of money! We usually have a snack like an apple/energy bar around 10am and then lunch around 12. I remind my children that “hunger is the best sauce” and feeling hungry is a good sign and their food will be more appreciated when they have let their stomachs rest. I don’t think snacking every few hours is really necessary for most children (especially pre packaged “kids” snacks that are mostly empty calories) , and I prefer them to eat well at meals. Having a boring food option is telling if they are really hungry or just bored. If you’re really hungry you’ll eat a carrot or an apple and not complain. 

I’m actually terrible at eating lunch and usually graze on something around 2 or 3.

We eat supper at 5:30pm and don’t do evening snacks unless its’ a movie night (popcorn) or a weekend and take them for frozen yogurt or something. 

Can you think of a particular story where your family was impacted by nutrition and you noticed it was making a difference?

My middle son had a strange gut reaction to food after having a virus last winter and we cut dairy (we only usually have cheese and sometimes yogurt) and wheat out of his diet until he was healed. Now he has it in smaller amounts and if I think they are coming down with something (very rare) we immediately limit wheat and dairy again and both seem to get them right back on track. It’s about finding balance. No one needs waffles for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and a big pasta dinner for supper. We try and use different grains or only have a wheat item once a day. Sometimes we are successful 😉 

Any tips or encouragement for other families or individuals with regards to nutrition?

I encourage every family to do what works for them. Some people DO need more (organic)  red meat in their diet, or more omegas. 

I think unless you are strongly allergic to something to never make a production out of being a vegan or vegetarian or paleo or whatever. Do what works for you in the home, do not be a snob outside the home and teach your kids to value food for nutrition and building their bodies and microbiome. 

“Imagine a night sky with only 6 stars. It’s pretty dark still! But now imagine it with a million or two! that’s what it’s like inside your body when you put healthy/whole/new/diverse foods in it”. They love this image of filling their “night sky” with a million or two sparkling stars!

I tell my kids we try new foods for building our gut flora and explain it like the night sky “Imagine a night sky with only 6 stars. It’s pretty dark still! But now imagine it with a million or two! that’s what it’s like inside your body when you put healthy/whole/new/diverse foods in it”. They love this image of filling their “night sky” with a million or two sparkling stars!

Also to keep trying things with kids. Every Monday in winter I would make soup. For two years I did this until my kids liked soup! I say, “you don’t have to like it, you do have to try it.’ And then don’t make any fuss if they don’t try more than a bite. Drama around food is often linked to force-feeding, rewarding with too much dessert they don’t really deserve and sticking to bland basics when kids need to be taught to try new things over and over. The example set by the parents. 

Who were your greatest influences in how to care for yourself and your family?

My greatest influence has been my twin sister who has been about 10-15 years ahead of most people in her food choices. She never brags about it and leads her family in thankfulness for food instead of saying they dislike something. She also encourages her family and community to grow things themselves and learn to cook so they can take pride in meal preparation and know it doesn’t just come out of packages or a drive-through window. 

My husband comes from a Dutch background and I from a Mennonite, so meat-and-potatoes are what we both grew up on. We eat pretty differently from that, but it’s a practice – not something you change overnight. One small change at a time.

What is your go-to healthy meal you make when you need something healthy and fast?

Go-to-healthy meal is a green smoothie and some raspberry-bran muffins. Haha. We are not set on making dinner look like a “square” meal that was so popular in the 80’s. We also do “snack supper” which is a bunch of small items, similar to a charcuterie board. This is a great way to introduce new things to kids. Olives and buffalo cheese anyone? 

How does your faith play into how you care for yourself and your family?

I’d say honoring our bodies with not over-doing it on any one thing is a big one. My husband and I also make it a priority to fast (water or Daniel fast) to keep our bodies and systems in line as we get older. Beyond the health benefits it’s a great practice for self-control and realigning where our “needs” are. Again. something people need to look into for themselves and find out what works best for them and their lifestyle. 

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