There are so many challenges when raising kids and so many joys too of course! For me, one of the greatest challenges has been trying to raise healthy eaters in a culture that relentlessly combats that at every turn. For a long time I thought it was an impossible task. I was constantly trying to get my kids to eat real food, yet at daycare, school, and friend’s houses they were fed the crap that our culture calls “kids food” – hotdogs, macaroni and cheese from a box, some weird processed substance that was once some part of a chicken, breaded and fried and dubbed “chicken fingers.” Their young palates were assaulted with the addicting combination of sugar, salt and fat that the food industry spends tons of R&D dollars on to reach the perfect “bliss point.”
Part of the problem too was my own knowledge about eating and nutrition, and when my kids were young I didn’t place the importance I do now on eating only (or at least 99%) whole food. Although even if I did, I believe the challenges would have been much the same. Pleading at meals to try a new flavor and finish the vegetables. Hearing the pleas of “all the other kids get junk food in their lunch bag.” At least they are able to recognize it as junk food. Maybe this is the first step. Just instilling that knowledge of real food vs food-like substance and planting little seeds and leading by example and talking about the food and flavor industry, and the effect of all that on our bodies and planet. They don’t have to look past their classroom or neighborhood to see the obesity epidemic happening.
My kids don’t eat the way I wish they did. They eat way too much sugar, salt, and fat and shun healthy choices too often. But I’m not without hope. In the last year I have really cut way back on the processed food I buy. I do still buy them processed snacks but I choose relatively healthy ones with fewer ingredients and no artificial colors or flavors. For school lunch my son gets one of these store bought snacks plus a baggie of homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. He seems happy with this and I’m happy with the compromise. Recently I gave in to pleas to try the cool ranch dorito taco from Taco Bell. His response, much to my surprise and delight, was that it isn’t nearly as good as it looked and he didn’t even finish it. Just this weekend I allowed another rare crossing of the line and bought them a pizza hut pizza and breadsticks. My younger son, “this really isn’t very good, and the breadsticks taste like cardboard.” This is the best Mother’s Day gift he could have given me! To know that his palate is learning to appreciate real food over processed junk gives me great hope.
Even though my kids are 19 and 15 I think it’s too soon to know whether or not I raised healthy eaters. I certainly didn’t eat healthy at that age, or for many years to follow. The proof will be in how they eat when they are grown and out on their own, and if they have kids, whether they will face these same struggles with them.
Happy Mother’s Day!