Get Your Kids Off Crap by Michigan author Kathryn Shelton is a no-nonsense, no-holds barred cookbook filled with all the recipes, knowledge and power needed to help you help your children on a path toward better nutrition. Kathryn Shelton is a fellow Trader Joe's/Whole Foods mom and her company, Real Meal Foods, prepares and serves mostly organic lunches at Eagle Creek Academy in Oakland Township, MI.
Kathryn's military writing style in Get Your Kids Off Crap is both inspiring and refreshing. You may think that getting proper nutrition for your kids may be difficult to achieve in the kitchen but Shelton practically wills the reader toward healthier food choices by making the approach as easy as possible with over 175 easy recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even desserts. Getting Your Kids Off Crap is more than recipes; it's a guideline for creating healthier kids.
I had a chance to interview Kathryn about her book, her company, her take no prisoners writing style and her healthy eating tips for kids.
Oakland County Moms: How did you become indoctrinated into taking the organic approach into your own kitchen, into your business (Real Meal Foods) and into your book?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: As with many or most I daresay, great ideas, they usually start with the people closest to you. For me it was really about my daughter. My mother, who watched my daughter for me when I worked, was a processed food junkie, and I was seeing the effect that this food was having on my daughter’s behavior.
My first hot lunch gig was at Oakland Steiner School. I partnered with the hot lunch cook there, and I was at that time pretty oblivious to food issues. My partner, Shana Henry, (who is now the program director at Skyline Camp in Almont), gently steered me onto an organic path. This was happening at the same time that my mother was dying of pancreatic cancer and my daughter’s behavior was becoming erratic, to say the least. The nexus of these three things, my mother’s illness, my daughter’s behavior issues, and Shana’s commitment to real food, culminated in a kind of food epiphany for me.
Oakland County Moms: When I read your book, I feel like I'm talking to you and I find that approach very effective, especially when considering the subject matter. Did you feel when you were writing your book that you had to tone down your intensity or was that the hook to inspire change?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: I’m so glad that you found this approach refreshing, as I was a bit worried about it. The school that I’m now at, Eagle Creek Academy, is pretty mainstream, so I don’t really stand on a soapbox and shout at these people. I was vacillating between a kid-glove approach and this one. In the end, this approach really represents who I am, so I decided to go with it.
I also went back and forth (and back and forth and back and forth) over the title. I was concerned that it was too abrasive. I was discussing my concerns with one of my favorite vendors at a farmers market and she said to me “the food IS crap. Call a spade a spade.” It was then that I made the conscious decision to stick with the no holds barred approach. (I’m big on epiphany moments, I guess.) I believe in this cause, and I believe that the processed food that’s out there is complete crap, and I believe that people should stick to their guns and be true to themselves.
Oakland County Moms: Why do you think so many moms are reluctant to start the path toward healthier eating for kids? Is it cost? Feeling like they can't do it?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: I feel that cost is an issue, but I think the huge hurdle is time: just about every mother that I know feels like they can barely catch their breath at the end of the day, and adding one more thing to their overflowing plate of things to do is just more than they can fathom.
I really want people to get past this. It’s really not that hard! I think that anyone who has adopted a real food lifestyle will tell you the most challenging part of the process was making the conscious decision. After you’ve decided to change the way your family eats, the rest really does fall into place. Feeding your families real food is (or can be) actually cost, and time, effective.
Oakland County Moms: Outside of purchasing your book, what's a great first step for parents seeking better nutrition for their kids?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: The most effective first step, I believe, comes from engaging your children (Michelle Obama just published a book about healthy eating, and she agrees!) Starting a garden is a great way to achieve this objective, as it’s much easier to get kids to eat food that they’ve had a hand in growing. Involve them in the entire process, from the decision to change the way they eat, (including the “why”) to the shopping, the growing, the food preparation, and the actual meal. Making pizza dough is more fun, and certainly more rewarding, than any video game. Children want to be on the same side as their parents, they want to be involved in what they eat, and they’re very tuned in to environmental issues. They’ve all heard of high fructose corn syrup. Explaining to them why it’s so harmful, and offering healthy alternatives, is not over their heads. They need to be a part of the process.
Oakland County Moms: How long have you lived in Oakland County and what local resources do you use for your meals?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: I’m Oakland County born and raised. I went to Berkley High School. I lived in Chicago for about two years when I was a young adult, and I spent a semester of college (MSU) in London, England, but apart from those two brief respites I’ve lived here my entire life and that is by choice. I have relatives in Wisconsin and Washington DC, and after losing both of my parents (to cancer) they really pushed me to move, as I don’t really have family here (just my daughter and my sister.) I refused. I love Michigan. “Big Food” hasn’t really taken over here, at least not to the extent that it has in the rest of the Midwest, and there are still small farms and local businesses here. I love the “get to work” attitude, the
friendliness and the abundance of natural resources that Michigan represents.
I also love the farmers markets here. At the end of each market us vendors “go shopping,” trading our unsold foods with each other, and I always come home with local, organic food that feeds us for the entire week. That’s reason enough for me to continue going to them. A few of them (Nature’s Pace Organics in particular) donate their leftovers to Real Meals Food Company, and I incorporate whatever I can into Eagle Creek’s hot lunch program. I get everything that I possibly can from local farmers. I also patronize Meijer quite a bit, as they are a Michigan company and committed to organic and local as well.
Oakland County Moms: Tell me about Real Meals Food Company? Are you a one-woman show?
Kathryn Shelton, Author of Get Your Kids Off Crap cookbook: Pretty much. My daughter, who is now 16, is my baking and vending assistant during the summer farmers market season, and she also helps me when I have catering or event jobs. During the school year I prepare lunches by myself, and I have two middle school students who assist as servers. I’ve been approached by a few different (private) schools to see if I could start real lunches there, and I’m exploring that option. The public schools are unfortunately a long way from adopting a “real food” lunch program, and awareness is paramount, which is why I decided to put my energy into writing this book.
You can purchase Get Your Kids Off Crap - the Hows and Whys of the Real Food Revolution through Amazon or Shelton's website for $14.95. You can also find Kathryn selling organic baked goods at Oakland County Farmers Markets in the summer.