United Conservatory of Music January 2019

GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT HEALTHIER THAN EVER

Why January?

Do your kids get enough nutrients in their diet? If they’re like most kids, the answer is probably no. You want your children to eat more vegetables and less processed junk, but they certainly don’t make it easy. Even getting the average kid to chow down on a serving of broccoli can be a huge chore. In fact, food manufacturers have built an entire industry that takes advantage of our kids’ penchant for sugary cereal and fast food. However, a diet of highly processed foods can lead to a host of problems. Not only do these poor dietary habits carry over into adulthood, but a poor diet can hinder brain development and may even cause behavioral issues. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found links between poor diet and the development of depression in kids and teens. But how can you encourage your kids to eat healthier? Often, it comes down to presentation. A mound of plain old veggies is not appetizing — not to a 10-year- old and not to a 40-year-old. Instead of presenting vegetables as a boring side dish, think of them as an ingredient. Take lasagna, for instance. This tasty, familiar dish is easy to modify. Instead of using lasagna noodles, use zucchini. Simply slice the zucchini into thin, noodle-like strips, then layer them as you would typical noodles. The same can be done with other pasta dishes, such as spaghetti. Zucchini noodles — or “zoodles”— are delicious in marinara sauce and decadent in Alfredo.

THE ORIGIN OF NEW YEAR’S DAY

The month of January kicks off by welcoming the new year — there are countdowns, fireworks, and of course, the ball drop in a freezing-cold Times Square. But why? Why do we start our calendars when much of the U.S. is in the dead of winter? Why January? The short answer is Julius Caesar and Roman politics. The calendar had long been a political tool in Rome. Depending on who was in power, Roman pontifices would add or subtract entire weeks from the year, manually adjusting the term limits of elected officials. As you could imagine, this caused a lot of chaos, because months frequently slipped out of time with the changing seasons. After becoming emperor, Julius Caesar brought about some much-needed reforms. Inspired by the Egyptian solar calendar, Caesar fixed the Roman year at 365 days and instituted the leap year to keep months aligned with the solstices. He moved the new year from the spring to the day that elected officials traditionally began their year-long terms, Jan. 1. This choice carried spiritual significance, since January was named for Janus, god of doors and gates. What better month to celebrate new beginnings? Under Caesar and subsequent rulers, the Roman Empire expanded its reach, carrying its calendar with it. While much of Europe adopted Caesar’s calendar, New Year’s Day remained a hot-button issue for centuries. Thanks in part to the spread of Christianity and to the colder conditions in Northern Europe, there was a lot of resistance to the January start date. Religious leaders saw it as a pagan holiday, and much of Europe chose to restart the calendar on March 25, during the Feast of Annunciation. Much of Catholic Europe officially recognized Jan. 1 as the start of the new year after Pope Gregory reformed the solar calendar again, correcting certain mathematical errors made in Caesar’s day. There were still holdouts, however. In fact, England and its American colonies continued to celebrate New Year’s Day in March until 1752. So there you have it — we were very close to having our fireworks celebrations in lovely spring weather. Ultimately, the ubiquity of the Gregorian calendar won out, as the demands of our increasingly interconnected world made a shared calendar a necessity. So if you struggle to start your New Year’s resolutions this winter, blame Julius Caesar.

If push comes to shove, you can easily hide vegetables in foods your children already know and love. Did you know you can make brownies with avocado and black beans? Slipping in a few healthier ingredients here and there can deliver those nutrients in a pinch, especially during a chaotic school week.

But, if you’re hoping to foster long-lasting healthy habits, the best thing you can do is offer your child a choice. Say something like “You can have

the cauliflower, or you can have the broccoli. It’s up to you!” Let your child have that control. Psychologists and social scientists, including the famed Dr. Maria Montessori, argue that when kids feel in charge of a decision, they are more likely to embrace one of the options — even if it’s a vegetable.

Ultimately, as a parent, you are in charge of your child’s diet. Help them explore new foods and foster a positive culinary environment. Your kids will develop a taste for healthy eating in no time!

2 • unitedconservatory.org

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