As parents we want to nurture our children-keep them healthy and strong. We want to shape their taste buds so they crave the foods that nurture their bodies. However, from day one we are undermined and that can shake our confidence and make us second guess our choices.
When I wouldn’t give my 1 year old ice cream at a party I was told “you don’t want him to feel deprived” and when I wouldn’t buy him a sugar covered blueberry muffin I had a friend tell me that he will go off to college and binge on junk food if I don’t let him have it now. Seriously?! It can be very overwhelming. On top of that we are busy, rushed, and believe that we don’t have the time to commit to our children’s nutrition. Our understanding of what real food is has shifted and what we think of as food really isn’t. “Snacks” as we know them come in a package with colors and health claims such as “heart healthy” “made with whole grain” or “100 calories”. Our Children get use to having snacks that come in a package or a box. We buy into this marketing-It says it is healthy so therefore it must be. We associate “treats” and packaged snacks with love and happiness. So if you don’t give it to your kids you may feel guilty-like you are somehow depriving them. That is NOT the truth! We are very much addicted to processed foods and refined grains. Food does not equal happiness or love (wish I could underline that 3 times). The saddest thing to me is the lack of confidence that we have in ourselves to make healthy choices for our children. We constantly look to medical professionals and books to answer all of our questions. However, the Doctor and the Author do not know your child like you do. We have lost trust in our instincts and ourselves. We don’t believe that we can do it, and that to me is very disheartening.
Our children are bombarded with mixed messages about food on a daily basis. The messages are everywhere-and come from TV, magazines, family, friends, stores, packaging. They even discuss “nutrition” with students at school, even though I don’t agree at all with what they try to teach them. We don’t want our children to have a bad relationship with food. Yet images and voices are everywhere and it can be overwhelming. As moms we judge each other constantly-“so and so won’t give her son food options and only offers what she cooks!” “So and so gives her son way too many options and now he is so picky”
So how do we feed our children with love and confidence so that they may grow to have a healthy relationship with/understanding of food? This is the bottom line-it is what we all want to do.
Here are some tips that I think may be helpful:
* Don’t listen to the peanut gallery. Remember the saying “water off a duck’s back”…let it roll off. Ignore nay sayers. Change the subject. Do not try to convince people why you choose what you choose (unless they ask and really want to learn from you). You will not change their mind. You are the best parent for your child. You were chosen to be their parent for a reason, and you know what is best for them. You know their personality-no book, other family member, or stranger knows your child like you do. If you didn’t ask someone for his or her opinion, kindly change the subject. You do not owe ANYONE an explanation for your choices. You know your child best of all. We all know the people who feel the need to judge you do so because they have insecurities within themselves.
* Feed your child with love and respect. Food is meant to nourish us, and it can be pleasurable as well. However, I think the best way to show love is to feed your children foods that you know are nourishing their body. Feed them real, whole foods. Not because a TV commercial, family member, or a package said so…we fall for marketing big-time. Marketing is all about sales and the health claims are false. Feed it to them because you know it is real food. It’s challenging, but take it one day at a time. I’m still learning as I go. They do learn to trust their body and how different foods make them feel inside. This past generation put a great deal of pressure on children to “finish everything on your plate” and fed into the “good eater/bad eater” mentality. You cannot force feed a child-that is just plain old wrong. Teach them to listen to their own body. Don’t guilt them with “what? You don’t like my cooking?” “Why aren’t you eating this?” etc. Don’t hover over and watch them eat. Don’t tell them how proud you are of them if they eat their food. A child is not good or bad for eating or not eating. This creates guilt, fear and uncertainty around food. Children learn to feel the sensation of fullness and stop eating when they are full. They actually learn to trust their own body. Make the experience of trying new things pleasurable and calm. You can ask what they thought of certain foods-but don’t get upset with them if they do not like it. It can take SEVERAL attempts for a child to actually decide they like something.
* There is no need to offer several different meals to a child-or make them exactly what they want for each meal. In my opinion, that does create a “peanut butter sandwich” everyday kind of eater. They do not yet fully understand what is healthy for their body. I’ve had several people ask me how do you get your children to eat these healthy foods? I choose to be firm, yet flexible. My boys are use to getting what is offered at each meal. If they are hungry, they will eat something from the healthy choices on their plate. There just aren’t other meal options. With that said, they get several different choices on their plate (and I try to include something I know they enjoy)-healthy meats, veggies and fruits to choose from. Now when they have an excess of processed foods (like say at a birthday party) they tend to get a bellyache and say, “why did you let me have that?” Kids adjust and learn to find healthy foods palatable. Trust that they will.
* Stick to your guns, yet pick your battles. This is the hardest part of raising children-outside influences. I have the hardest time with this over everything else. Birthday parties. Public schools. Family. I have this conversation frequently with my friends. Everyone has a different opinion on this. Some choose to avoid these types of outings all together. Some take their children but pack their own food. I personally do not agree with the amount of processed “food” that we as a culture feel is okay to give our children. You go to a “play place” (ie: bowling alley, bounce place, birthday party place) that says no food or drink allowed, yet all they serve is food cooked in rancid vegetable oils, processed junk, and soda. However, I know my children cannot live in a bubble. I have to believe that if the foundation for healthy eating is created at home, they will continue to eat that way in the future. We don’t have much of that stuff in my house, and they know that. We do, however, let them eat food provided at friend’s houses, birthday parties, and when we visit family. I do speak up if I feel uncomfortable. For example-I am opposed to my children having soda. That is me listening to my gut, and knowing something is not right. Don’t ever feel bullied into someone feeding your child something that you do not feel okay with.
* One of the things I was recently discussing with a friend are the mixed messages children today are receiving such as processed food advertisements everywhere; yet at the same time everyone focusing on the obesity epidemic, dieting, and healthy eating. That must be so overwhelming and difficult for children to process. It is for me as an adult. I try to teach my children about real food, and knowing exactly where their food came from. I want them to understand how animals are treated, how to grow food, what GMO’s are…who monsanto is. My hope is that they will be educated about food, but not overwhelmed and stressed about it. Instead of placing the focus on healthy eating, diets and nutrition, I shift the focus to a basic understanding of what is real food, and what is not. I will build upon that, as they get bigger. We plan to visit the farm where we get our meat from this Spring when the babies are born.
* Whatever you decide to do, be confident with your decisions-Your children know when you are not. They can read you just as well as you can read them. If you let them have something you really don’t feel good about, let it go. You let them have it, now move on. Don’t give it to them and then get stressed about it in front of them. They are counting on you to guide them confidently.
If you are accustomed to feeding your child processed foods then take baby steps and go easy on yourself. Slowly start transitioning to more and more homemade foods and shift away from the inner aisles of the grocery store. Think outside the box (literally). Believe that you can feed your children real food, and you are not wrong, crazy, or overly strict for doing so! My next post will be all about real food snack ideas for kiddos 🙂
* Please note: This is a personal blog. I am not a Doctor or a Dietician. All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.