Photos by bhofack2 via Getty Images

Thanks to my Health Mom™, I know what’s good for me and what’s BS

Rebecca Firkser
Updated: April 17, 2018

When people ask me to describe what I ate as a kid, I include this caveat: I have a Health Mom. She was mostly vegetarian in the 1980s, and her friends jokingly called her “the rabbit,” when she’d order a salad as an entree or eat an apple as a snack. “But how do you get protein? people would say. “What IS that?” they’d ask, horrified, as she opened up a container of freshly ground peanut butter slick with a layer of oil. Fast-forward three decades and those same friends who made fun of my mom are now doing following fad diets and wellness cleanses, anxious to fill their bodies the very whole grains and fresh produce she and our family had been eating for years.

I didn’t really appreciate the whole-grain, artificial sugar-free, natural foods when I was 10, I just wanted to eat Trix yogurt and Skippy peanut butter and wash it down with a Yoo-hoo like my friends. Now, of course, as we enter into a new age of “wellness,” where every bone broth popsicle promises to be the Next Big Health Thing, I feel more equipped to weed through the drivel when it comes to “healthy” foods. Thanks to my background in these ingredients, I’m able to separate the nutrient-dense foods from the buzzword-heavy sugar bombs that go by any other name.

If you’re looking to feed a kid (or maybe just yourself) some foods that were nutritious even before they were called superfoods, here’s what I had for breakfast growing up.

The Yogurt-Banana Pop

While my classmates chomped on frozen strawberry-banana Go-Gurt, I was given a different kind of pop. My mom would dunk half a frozen banana stuck with a Popsicle stick into plain yogurt, then into wheat germ. She’d toss it back in the freezer for five minutes, then hand it to me. To be honest, even though I really wanted the neon yogurt, I loved these pops.

The Health Cereal

Hop in a time machine and peek at the cereal cabinet in my childhood kitchen: you’ll find no Cookie Crisp or Frosted Flakes. We munched Kashi GoLean Crunch, chomped Barbara’s Multigrain Shredded Spoonfuls, and popped Panda Puffs. In the winter, it was oatmeal or brown rice hot cereal with maple syrup and raisins.

The Natural PB&J

I used to dream about swirls of thick, creamy Skippy peanut butter. I would arrive at my friends’ houses and promptly dive straight into their family-sized tub of Jif. In my house, a peanut butter and jelly was natural peanut butter (sometimes freshly ground from the Health Food Store or Fresh Fields—yes, we went to Whole Foods before it was even called Whole Foods) with chunky jam on sourdough or whole wheat bread. Now, I’d probably pay top dollar at a hip brunch spot for a chunky nut butter and jam situation.

The Health Food Store Breakfasts

We didn’t go out for casual meals too often, but when we did, it was to the local Health Food Store (I’m sure it had a real name, but that’s what we called it, so it gets to be a proper noun). We’d get big bowls of miso soup with fat chunks of tofu and wilted spinach, stock up on natural fruit leather, and leave with a fresh carrot juice to go.

The Whole Wheat Baked Goods

Buckwheat pancakes, whole wheat carrot muffins, spelt bagels—our freezer looked like the bread basket at an all-day cafe specializing in gluten-free treats.

The Soy “Milkshake”

I was maybe 6 years old when I found out what a milkshake really was. For my entire life up until that point, I thought a milkshake was a combination of vanilla soy milk mixed with skim. Suffice it to say I don’t make those shakes too often any more. 

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