Your kid isn’t healthy if they only eat two carrot sticks and a vegemite sandwich a day.
If your kid doesn’t eat enough meat/fish/veggies/tofu you’ll stunt their brain development and they’ll be stupid.
Make sure you give your kids lots and lots of dairy, ‘for their bones’.
But don’t give them full fat dairy, there is a childhood obesity epidemic don’t you know.
Sugar is evil. Or is it fat? Or preservatives?
Maybe we should be vegan, or eat like Neanderthal man?
Is it worth selling your soul to buy all organic?
My Mother told me…
I read an article…
The Maternal and Child Health Nurse said…
When did eating a meal with your family become so fraught with anxiety?
When did food become such a battle ground?
We want our kids to eat healthy, but sometimes we’d settle for them eating anything at all, regardless of the nutritional content.
We watch and worry about every mouthful they eat, or don’t eat.
We disguise and rearrange and hide food.
We enforce rules about trying everything… having 3 more mouthfuls… having to clean your plate.
We worry about becoming short order cooks… about spoiling our kids… about setting ourselves up for future problems.
I’ve been there.
I am still there, often.
I’ve wondered and worried about it all. I’ve even lost my mind on the odd occasions and screamed like a banshee at my non-eating child in a desperate attempt to get her to eat more than one grain of plain rice.
I been to all those places and back again, and I’m sick of it.
I don’t want food to be a constant battle.
I don’t want whether or not my child eats and what they eat, to somehow be inextricably linked to whether I am a good mother, to whether they are ‘good children’.
I don’t want food to be associated with fear, frustration, manipulation and guilt.
What message are we sending to our kids when food becomes such a big deal?
When we disguise vegetables in meals, how can we ever expect our kids to know them, appreciate them and eat them? When we try to trick our kids about what is in food, aren’t we just cultivating a culture of mistrust and deception?
When we don’t respect our children’s food preferences, when we fight them, coerce them and try to force them to eat, aren’t we just making food something horrible, dark and controlling?
Isn’t this the stuff that eating disorders are made from?
I want food to be healthy and nutritious but above all, enjoyable. I want sharing a meal to be a fun, happy event, the stuff childhood memories are made of.
I want my children to grow up understanding what food is healthy, and what is not so healthy. I want them to know what real food is, and where it comes from. I want them to develop their own tastes and preferences. I want them to be confident to try new things. I want my children to have a fun, healthy, respectful attitude to food.
How the heck am I going to manage all that??
I’m not really sure, but I know one thing, the first thing I am going to drop from my menu is guilt.
It is my job to provide good, healthy, tasty, interesting food. It is not my job to make my children eat.
If I want to encourage a healthy attitude to food I need to respect my children’s tastes and preferences. I need to trust that they know how hungry they are and accept their choice not to eat on occasion. I need to be open and honest about food, not hiding, or disguising food in an attempt to trick my children into eating it.
That doesn’t mean that I will cook six different meals, but I will always try to offer a range of options within a meal, especially if I know someone doesn’t like the main course. For example; two of my kids don’t like spaghetti bolognase, I don’t plan to take that off the menu but I will offer for them the options of plain pasta with cheese and olives.
Being respectful of other’s food choices and preferences doesn’t end with my children. It is not my job to judge other’s food choices, I only know what is right for me and my family. Respecting and learning about other’s interests, circumstances and choices is a good thing for both my and my children to do.
I’m going to read about new food ideas and diets with interest but not guilt. I’m going to stop worrying about sugar and fats and this and that. Instead I am going to try to be more knowledgeable and aware about what is in the food we eat and focus on providing ‘real’ food for my family, trying to limit heavily processed foods. I’m going to make sure my children learn about food, that they know where food comes from and involve them in growing it, shopping for it, and preparing it when I can.
My family will eat a range of healthy foods, as well as enjoying less healthy treats on occasion, with no guilt or lecture.
Really I am just muddling through all this like everyone else. I don’t have any magical answers to get kids to eat more of x and less of y. I don’t have all the knowledge or an enormous food budget, or unlimited time, or killer kitchen skills…
In fact I don’t have any of those things. But I believe that being informed, and respectful is a big part of healthy eating, and that worry and guilt is not. So this is my beginning… what is yours?