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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kids and Food - My Philosophy

So it's no secret that I can be a bit fanatical when it comes to my philosophy on how to feed my children.  (I'm a bit of a food snob - there, I said it so you don't have to.)  It's been on my mind a LOT since Samuel started kindergarten.  I thought that he had too many opportunities for junk food in preschool, but my word, there are a ton more now that he's in elementary!  (Not to mention the "food" that they serve in the cafeteria.)  It's something that I find challenging, but it's also a great passion of mine.  And since you're reading this, you're probably in my camp, too.  ;)
First day of kindergarten
My mission with feeding my kids is this:

I want to feed my children in such a way as to give them a healthy diet for optimal growth and development while developing in them a palette for healthy food so that they will be equipped to make healthy choices for themselves in the future. 

I believe that during these formative years it is so incredibly important to give them what they need for proper nutrition to grow their bodies and brains to their greatest potential.  That's what we all want, right?

I need to teach my children to make the right decisions because they can't expect to know how to make good choices on their own - they're just kids.  If I don't give them the tools that they need to be able to make good decisions, then how will they know how to make good choices for their health in their adult lives?  Sure, they might learn, like I did (I didn't grow up eating very healthfully), but statistically speaking, it's not likely.

There is a ton of research stating the obvious benefits to feeding your child well.  You can check here and here for a couple of studies, but there are a ton out there.  Sure, I do allow for snacks a few times a week that are not beneficial for them, but moderation is key for us so that they don't begin to feel left out all of the time.  I also don't want the pendulum effect, where they go crazy and eat their little hearts out when they're away from me, so I allow for snacks within the moderation that our pediatrician stated was proper for them: one serving of sweets (desserts, candy, pastries, etc.) or junk (fast food, processed snacks, etc.) no more than twice a week.

As a friend reminded me yesterday, healthy is all relative.  As she said, to some people healthy means that it's not fried.  I used to be in that camp, but today I have many more requirements to be able to call something healthy.  Whatever place on the spectrum you are, there's no judgment.  I would just hope that you're moving toward the healthier side by making tiny choices everyday to be healthier.  All of those tiny choices add up.

So why am I getting all preachy on you all of the sudden and not posting a craft or an embarrassing story?  (I do hate being preachy, sorry, I'm just in a hissy.)  Because our society is being flat out ridiculous when it comes to food, y'all!  Seriously, it's driving me mad.  I shouldn't be being the weird one for trying to feed my kids healthfully.

I know I've said this before, but this generation of kids is going to be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.  Is no one else outraged at that?  (I know you are, but I'm talking about all of those vast unknown peoples.)  ;)  It's not some mysterious cause, either.  Like, 'Oooh, that's weird - I wonder why - I guess it's just destined to happen.'  No, it's not!  Come on!  Parents have a responsibility to their children.  I feel the weight of that responsibility on my shoulders every time I go to the grocery store, cook, and hand them something to eat.  

Okay, sorry for yelling.  But it just gets me.  I think I'm ready to step off of my soapbox.  Can I get a amen, though?  I'm not the only food-crazy, am I?
Family Friendly Food at Serenity Now

13 comments :

  1. well we all know what happened when I went down this road... I have a whole blog dedicated to exposing the truth about school lunches. You ask is no one else outraged about this. Not nearly as many people as you would think are. They just go along to get along. but I am going to give you an Amen cause I agree... 100%

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  2. I can definitely understand feeling daunted when it comes to school lunches. Hell, I do. The only thing I do about that is send a lunch. But all we have to do is feed our own kids well at least.

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  3. Word sister. French fries offered everyday in the school lunch line... criminal.

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  4. Amen! We are trying and doing our best and everyone is so amazed at how well Emma eats and maybe it is just coincidence and maybe it's just because I only introduced healthy things and not just the sweet things, so her palate has not grown accustomed to sugar only. Anywho. That was a long sentence :-) I know it only gets harder from here but I hope that we can stick with it. I remember in college, a professor was talking about this even then and talked about how she only gave her son whole, home cooked food. When presented with McDonald's at a Montessori school (someone's birthday, I think) her son said, "I don't want that!" That is my goal. Not that my child will ever NOT eat it. I'm sure it will happen. But ya know. . .

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  5. I’ll give you an amen for wanting the best for your kids. I admire your dedication and perseverance in that regard. Your devotion to your children is one of the things that I admire most about you. That said, the following is only my opinions from my personal experience on this topic and it’s OK with me to disagree with my perspective on what I’m about to say about my own personal experiences.

    Growing up, my dad wouldn’t let us have sugar in our oatmeal and we had to drink reconstituted powdered milk with ice cubes. We only got white bread as a treat when we went to our grandparent’s house and even then I remember feeling guilty for eating it. Besides the aforementioned powdered milk, we ONLY drank water. We never got Kool-Aid , soda, tea or even so much as apple juice. We NEVER ate fast food or even at a sit down restaurant except once a year individually with mom and dad on our birthdays.

    Don’t get me wrong. I realize that my dad meant well and it wasn’t until I became a father of my own children that I began to understand his motivation (although I disagree with his motives) for his way of promoting healthy eating. I get it now. He wanted us to simply be healthy and he went about it in the best way he knew how. Being healthy isn’t a bad thing. Wanting your kids to be healthy isn’t bad either. It’s a very reasonable desire for our next generation.

    However, his promotion of healthy eating had an opposite effect on me. As far back as I can remember I began sneaking food. I would go into the kitchen dozens of times a day and take a piece of bread here and a little snack there. I would hide in the pantry and eat it fast so I wouldn’t be caught. These undercover habits eventually grew into full blown food addiction and culminated into the morbidly obese adult I am today.

    My theory for one of the root causes of my eating disorder is that an unintended consequence of food restriction (promoting healthy eating) was to make restricted foods (those high in carbs/sugar and so forth) into a special treat or reward. IOW, the restricted food was only obtained and consumed at happy occasions like birthdays, parties get togethers, holidays etc. and always in limited quantities thus making it seem more special. Sure those things were “bad” for us and we all knew it but the circumstances surrounding their consumption (parties etc) were feelings of pleasure and joy.

    In hindsight, I as a child, sought after the “happy” food became it was something consumed as a means to combat negative feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, boredom et al.

    Like most drugs, the positive effects of the food would last for only a brief time and the negative feelings would inevitably return compounded by the idea of that I was eating something “bad” to gain feelings of pleasure.

    Depression and guilt-->eat “bad food” to feel temporarily happy-->feel guilty and depression for eating “bad food”-->eat “bad food” to feel temporarily happy-->feel guilty and depression for eating bad food--> (infinity)
    (damn, this ended up being long enough to have been a post on my own blog.)

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  6. Huh, that's a really interesting insight. There does exist a challenge in not leading my children to those measures. It's something to keep in mind. What a challenge it is to give our children healthy outlooks on food, even within our good intentions! I appreciate your response. It's good food for thought. [snort]  Really, it is, though. It has my wheels turning on how to make sure that doesn't happen. 

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  7. I think John's comment is really interesting...actually, I can relate to it somewhat. I am much farther toward the "junk" end of the spectrum than you are, but I make 97% of what my kids eat from scratch (as I'm sure you do). Yes (yikes), some of what I make involves white flour and sugar, but I'm always able to know how much they've had that week (which is totally how I justify it). With kids, I think it's important to keep everything light and fun. So, after a rough week, I'll pull a Bill Cosby and make a chocolate cake for breakfast. They don't care that it has rolled oats and apple juice in it. They just like mom dancing around the kitchen and singing the chocolate cake song. As long as your (or anyone's) love and understanding of whole/healthy foods doesn't become a religious, joyless expression, I think you will accomplish your mission of teaching your kids to make the right choices. And from what I've read here, I think you're accomplishing your goals beautifully! :)

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  8. @John Great insight! Thanks for sharing.

    It's funny how we lived in the same house but got such different experiences. I knew we didn't ever eat out but I always thought it was because we were so poor. In retrospect I can see how that was dad's doing, but we probably still didn't have the money. The other memory I had growing up was dad making me eat everything on my plate because they thought I was too skinny. I would sit there, feeling full, until mom came in minutes later and secretly threw away my food. Different kids can have different experiences.

    Then I tried to eat your freshly microwaved chicken nuggets when you weren't looking until you caught me with a mouthful of chicken nuggets before I ran away. I digress into that story not because it serves my overall point, but because it's funny.

    I'm trying to help Samuel have a balanced approach toward food. Enjoy the treats, have fun with them, but let them be treats, i.e., don't have them all the time. If he's still hungry he can have something else, in the open, just go get it.

    Desserts aren't bad; they're great! To keep them great let them be special. Hopefully that will keep him from an all or nothing mentality toward food or to use it as a secretive means of coping.

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  9. @ michael: I was going to make the point that not all of us were impacted the same way but it was a tangent and my post was running too long as it was. It's a very valid point.

    Paul and I, IMO, had a much different experience growing up than you and especially Adam. I think the younger two brothers got more of a relaxed parenting style as opposed to the older two. That still doesn't explain the differences between Paul and I. From that fact alone it's obvious that multiple factors played a role. However, in my mind, what I stated in my above response was the primary factor...or at least that's the way it seems in hindsight. I could be wrong of course.

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  10. I was talking to another friend about this, and we were saying how balance is so critical (either extreme being dangerous), but it's so hard to know where that balance is. Parenting is freaking hard!

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  11. Adam - Oh no I don't have a reason why I'm fat!

    I will say that I am three years younger than Michael and his clothes have never fit me, even as a 2-5 year old.

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  12. FWIW...Here is the snack guidelines for our kid's elementary school.

    Snacks:
    Elementary classrooms may allow one nutritious snack per day under teacher's supervision. The snack may be in the morning or afternoon but may not be during lunchtime. The snacks can be provided by school food service, teacher, parent, or other groups but should be at no cost to the student.

    Guidelines for Snacks:
    1 snack per child in the classroom
    Snacks provided for other students must comply with the fat and sugar limits of the Public School Nutrition Policy
    Snacks provided for other students may not contain any FMNV
    1 juice, milk or water per child in the classroom
    All snacks that are passed out to other students must be store bought.
    Please refer to www.squaremeals.com for suggestions for nutritional snacks.
    Birthday Parties:
    The Texas Department of Agriculture recognizes that celebrating student birthdays with a classroom party is a time honored tradition that provides the opportunity for parental involvement that is beneficial to students, parents, and teachers. Foods otherwise restricted by the policy are permitted for classroom student birthday parties. These parties must be scheduled after the end of the lunch period for the class so that the celebration will not replace a nutritious lunch. Federal regulations do not permit FMNV to be served in the food service area during meal periods. All items for birthday parties must be store bought.

    Class Parties:
    The FMNV policy allows for schools to have three school days within the school year that do not have to comply with the policy. These days are:
    Winter Party (12/19/08)
    Valentine Party (2/13/09)
    Spring Party (4/9/09)
    All food items must be store bought.

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