Saturday, April 24, 2010

ControverSunday: Food!

This week's topic is food. What does your family eat? What do you feed your kids? Organic? Gluten-free? Whatever's in the cupboard? Or, perhaps, whatever your kids will actually eat?

So, by now you probably know my style. I'm very much about people doing their own thing, doing what works best for their families, and doing it without being harshly judged. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, babywearing or stroller-pushing, stay at home, work at home, work outside the home, and the list goes on. I try to maintain that as long as you are parenting with love and with a regard for your child's well-being, you can't go (very) wrong. And, I also tend to cut people (myself included) slack for the little things we have to do to get through the day. Things like turning the television on for your less-than-two-year-old when you need twenty more minutes of sleep in the morning, for instance.

But, food is one topic I think we can all be a little too lax about. The fact is this: if you are feeding your kids primarily processed, high sodium, high sugar, high fat diets, you're not doing your job right. Your job is to care for your children, and that includes their health. The childhood obesity rate in this country is obscene. And I am affronted on a daily basis by the image of a parent passing a soda to their severely overweight child or babies drinking lemonade from bottles. And the worst part is that I don't even know how many more of the kids I see are in poor health. Some kids have enviable metabolisms, meaning their toxic diets won't necessarily be evident by the rolls of fat on their thighs.

Look, I get it. We're all terribly busy. Or we're broke. Or our kids are picky eaters. I know crap food is fast and cheap. I know how hard it is to plead with a two-year-old to eat her peas. No, really, I do. I have spent many an an afternoon with my nieces, doing the whole "TWO more bites and then you can have dessert" routine. And I remember thinking that there was no way I could handle going through that at every meal. But, you know what? I would. And, I will. Because my kid's health matters.

There's been a lot of talk of food circulating lately. Between the horror-inducing images of factory farms and corrupt food conglomerates seen in the documentary Food Inc. and the grossly mismanaged school food system under attack in Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, it's hard to turn a deaf ear to the facts. Mainly, that we need to be eating better and educating ourselves about our food.

At this particular moment in time, Charlotte is a phenomenal eater. Every time I watch her shovel broccoli, tofu, brown rice, avocado, carrots, name it, into her pretty, little mouth, I positively swoon with gratitude. But, it hasn't always been so easy, and it's gonna get a lot worse in the future. And, hey, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my kid doesn't eat junk food. But, it's a treat. It's a special occasion when she does, and some people might even judge me for allowing ANY high fructose corn syrup or McDonald's mystery meat to pass her lips.

But, I'm a realist. I don't live in a place with food co-ops or farm-friendly butcher shops. I live in corporate-crazy suburbia. So, not everything we eat is 100% organic or fair trade or farm fresh. But, we try. We try to be good to the environment, society, and our bodies, without being too hard on our wallets.

Bottom line is, any produce is better than none. Preparing real food is more time consuming than opening a can or a box, but it needs to be done. Your picky eater might survive on nothing but bananas for a while, but that doesn't mean you need to give them Pop Tarts to add variety.

I love food, the good and the bad. I don't expect my daughter to never experience the sheer joy one can only get from the first bite of that cupcake or at cracking open a Happy Meal. I know there will be slip-ups and compromises in my quest to feed my family wholesome food. But, our destination will hopefully involve good health and long lives, so I don't mind a rough journey.


  1. Standing ovation!

    Yes, yes and yes. No one is going to be perfect, but there are some serious issues we need to address regarding what we and our kids eat. You took the words right out of my mouth (so now I am going to have to figure out what else to write!!).

  2. Thank you! And I'm sure you will be brilliant, as always. :)

  3. So true. The price of organic/fair trade means that I have to balance it all out. I try to eat and cook healthy, but sometimes it's a chore (and I end up compromising with myself). Thanks!

  4. Remember when I wouldn't let you eat any cereal with sugar? And then I got divorced and decided that if you wanted Froot Loops, you were so unhappy that you should have them. Glad it didn't rub off on you...

  5. I am joining Kathleen in the standing ovation.

    As a former nutrition writer, lifelong vegetarian, and fast-food hater, I was so excited when my son started eating solids and his fave foods were spinach and avocado. I rejoiced at his first birthday when he spit out the cake and then proceeded to gobble down the veggies we'd brought as snacks. "See?" I said to myself, proudly. "It is possible to raise a kid who isn't victim to America's food problem! Go me!"

    Oh, if I could go back and smack myself... I so would.

    Now, as FC gets more into toddlerhood, and I've watched him drop growth percentiles, get grumpy from low blood sugar, and not fit into clothes that were too small a few months ago... and as I watch him refuse all "good" food and want to live on a diet of fruit, tortilla chips, pasta and peanut butter alone, I don't know what I think anymore. I certainly think we should all TRY to feed our kids the best food possible (and yeah, there's no need for McD's or soda before school social life intrudes), sometimes toddlers are tough eaters. And when that happens, you need to go with the flow and let them eat whatever it is they will eat...I try and at least give him all organic fruit, the healthiest tortilla chips, and pasta made from whole grains/quinoa, but sometimes, Trader Joe's rotini packages are all that he will consume.

    I guess what I'm saying is - I totally agree with what you are saying, and I feel a lot of guilt/anxiety about my child's diet right now. But on the other hand, I feel confident that I have done my best to make him a good eater - I couldn't lead by better example, and my husband eats relatively well too. I hope that this toddler stage will pass and that he will mature into better eating.

    However... I know this one mom (who I can't stand for a myriad of reasons) who deprives her daughter of many HEALTHY foods b/c she deems them "fattening"; just decided to not give her milk, which is totally fine in my book, but her reason was that "she doesn't want her consuming bovine", and she told us this as she sat there feeding her string cheese. Umm...whahh? Last I checked, cheese was made from bovine. She also wouldn't let her eat fruit b/c it was too sugary. This is a 13 month old we're talking about, who was nearly diagnosed as failure to thrive.

    Meanwhile, she sits there eating microwave Jenny Craig meals and chugging diet coke. Great example.

    I think that people can take things to extremes in both directions. What you're talking about here is the perfect amount of moderation, and I love you for it!

  6. FFF- Yeah, that lady is certainly not setting a good example! I agree with you that there is no need for fast food and soda before their peers start influencing them. That doesn't mean I will (or have, even) follow that rule, exactly, but I do know that fast food will need to be a rarity in both mine and my family's diet.

    And as for the picky eating, I think you're handling it in the best way possible. FC might not have the most well-rounded diet, and probably no toddler will, but at least what he's eating isn't junk, at least you are making an effort to feed him the healthiest stuff he'll actually eat!

    I know Charlotte will stop gobbling her veggies and go through a picky phase. But, as long as I keep offering the good stuff, setting boundaries, and not succumb to the dark side, I don't think we'll be in too much trouble.

  7. I'm obviously not there yet (and the thought of feeding a picky toddler has me wishing Jackson would never grow up), but when I get there I'm going to come back and read this post.

    Luckily, in our house we love veggies and fruit. We love to cook. We love to eat real food. Jackson will grow up with those influences. And having him makes me more aware of our bad choices than any number on a scale ever has before, so I'm trying to change the things I hope he doesn't grow up to emulate too much (mommy's addiction to salty foods and a little too much Chick-fil-a for example). I'm finding that he's a good influence on me so that I can learn to be a good influence for him.

    That being said, I also don't want to go too far the other way. My stepmom was obsessive about my half-sisters and candy, to the point that they were only allowed candy on Easter and Halloween for a few hours. Guess what happened? The girls would gorge themselves to the point of sickness because they so rarely got that forbidden food. There's a difference between limiting and forbidding and I think there can be consequences later of outright forbidding a food. There's got to be a balance...

  8. Thanks for all the support, guys!

    And, Ginger, I am ALL about the balance. To demonstrate my stance on the candy issue, here's a little tidbit from Easter.

    Me: Steph, what is Charlotte eating?!

    MIL: Umm, a Butterfinger.



    MIL: Megan, what is Charlotte eating?!

    Me: Umm, a Laffy Taffy.

    MIL: How is that better than a Butterfinger?

    Me: What's that over there? (While running away)

  9. Great post. I'm with FFF. I absolutely want E to have the healthiest diet possible and am thrilled when he seems to actually prefer spinach to all else.

    But lately...picky, picky, picky. What happens when the day comes when all he will eat is those damn crackers? Should I not feed him anything in hopes that he will eat spinach again? (Really, I'm wondering if that's what I should do.)

    And now I'm bringing my problems over to your block! Sorry! :( I'm glad Charlotte loves her veg and hope she keeps it up. :)

  10. Toddlers are soooo difficult. Despite our best efforts, the Bear hated vegetables until just last year (she's 4 now).

    I also don't mean to divert the blame too much, but sometimes these issues end up becoming parent-blaming issues. There are other players out there who love to influence your tastes and what you feed your kids - we're not immune to these influences. I guess what I'm saying is that as parents, we are only one of many influences that our children are going to affect our kids.

    Great post!