One of the biggest challenges that moms face is navigating the expectations game. After seeing friends’ pictures of nut- and berry-filled spinach salads and homemade vegetable ravioli on Facebook, it’s easy to feel guilty for offering my kids yet another bowl of noodles with frozen peas and carrots.
That’s why I was happy to read this piece in the New York Times on all the studies confirming that canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones. In some cases, the packaged produce was found to be even more nutritious because it was preserved at peak ripeness, while fresh produce degrades during transport from the fields to the market to your refrigerator.
This is a welcome reminder to time- and cash-strapped parents that we shouldn’t assume that all short cuts short-change our families. Fresh fruit and vegetables are great, of course, but sometimes, as a parent, it seems that there can be a sort of fetish around fresh foods and that to use anything else is a failure. The facts tell us otherwise.
Unlike many of the moms I know, I don’t enjoy cooking or even preparing food. It’s a chore to me, just like folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I do it because I have to. The idea that only garden-picked spinach and peaches plucked straight from the tree are healthy enough makes me want to give up. That’s not the message we should be sending parents.
Parents ought to hear that they are doing their job of providing healthy food to their kids even when they use frozen and canned products (so long as they pay attention to see if anything has been added to them). All the food nannies out there who are searching for ways to cajole Americans — through regulations, taxes, and taxpayer-financed marketing campaigns — to eat healthier should keep this in mind. Rather than making providing health food seem endlessly complicated, it would be nice for them to remind parents that the cheap frozen vegetable section in their local big-box grocery store can play as much of a role in a healthy diet as their local organic market.
That’s assuming, though, that the food nannies real purpose is to help people be healthier. Is it?