I grew up in a traditional home, which meant my mom was the chief cook and nutrition expert. When I look back, though, I see that I learned plenty from my dad too. Not that he ever started conversations with, “Here’s what you need to know.” Rather, he taught by example. Actions speak louder than words, as they say.
This Father’s Day I want to thank him for the knowledge he inadvertently passed on to me. Here are the top four lessons my dad taught me that have played a huge role in my overall health.
#4: Make the changes you need to make. My dad has had a few health concerns over the years, but he was never fazed by making the necessary changes to get his health back on track. When he was working through some cardiovascular issues, he greatly reduced his ice cream habit—which was legendary. And whenever he needed to shed a few pounds, he eliminated simple carbohydrates with seemingly no trouble. What I learned from his example is that you make the changes you need to make in your life if you want to be around for the people you care about.
#3: Move. Every day. Being a dairy farmer for loads of years, this wasn’t a difficult example for my dad to set. Even when he felt crummy, he still had responsibilities that he couldn’t put on hold. He moved pretty much all day, every day. Even now that he’s no longer on the farm, Dad can only sit still for so long. He walks with his dog every morning, even during the cold winter months of Wisconsin. It’s important to move every day because our bodies need it. While I’m also a fan of sitting in a hammock with a good book, I always feel better after I’ve gone for a walk or kicked the soccer ball around with my boys.
#2: Grow at least some of your own food. My family always jokes that my dad’s gardening philosophy is that if 6 tomato plants are good, 12 are even better. It’s in his blood to grow things, and he’s willing to share his knowledge with anyone who wants to spend some time in the dirt with him. Every Christmas, my siblings and I are the lucky recipients of a ginormous box of canning jars filled with the fruits of his labor. And we’re welcome to load up any other time of the year too. (Thanks are also due to my mom for all the time she puts into the canning process!)
We didn’t just have homegrown vegetables at our house. The meat in our freezer came from the cattle we raised, or the venison my dad hunted. Other times we raised pigs and chickens, which are both nutritious sources of food. Plus, my dad’s almost annual fishing trip to Canada kept us eating fish for months.
#1: It’s never too late to show-off your chef skills. When I was growing up, my dad was typically always busy outside, which is why I don’t have a lot of memories of him preparing daily meals. But I do remember his Sunday afternoon specialties: buttered popcorn (heated up in a super heavy metal pot) and a drink concoction he named “gobbledygook.” I’m not sure he even had a recipe for the drink—the only two ingredients I know of for sure were orange juice and lemon juice—but I can tell you it was delicious. Since those days, his cooking habits have changed. These days my dad loves coming up with new ways to prepare the pheasant and turkey he brings home from hunts. His fish fry is something we request every time we go home. And that’s not to mention his grilled barbeque pork sandwiches, the main attraction at many a graduation party, wedding, and family reunion.
With all the lessons my dad taught me, how great is it that this Father’s Day I can give him the new eBook from Selene River Press? Men in Kitchens: A Good Day to Dine Hard will make him chuckle, and probably spark some ideas for brilliant new dishes.
Thank you, Dad, for being such a wonderful role model for me throughout the years. I’ve enjoyed every tidbit of wisdom you’ve shared with me, and I hope to pass it all on to your grandsons.
What health and/or nutrition lessons has your dad taught you? Don’t forget to thank him for each and every one.
Photo from iStock/Britta Kasholm-Tengve