Recently I've had a few friends challenge me about the changes we've made to our family diet. The underlying question is whether or not we fear we are depriving our kids of "normal" food and that someday our kids will grow up and devour any and all the junk food they can find. Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVE how my friends and I are close enough that we can challenge each other on issues such as this and it only brings us closer.
This is definitely something that crossed my mind when I started making changes to our everyday eating habits at home. So much so, that I held off doing anything until I read, read, and read some more carefully developing a strategy for approaching healthy eating with the kids. When I finally did start implementing some new foods onto their plates I did it a little at a time. Throughout the transition phase I spent a fair amount of time educating the kids about the benefits of eating certain foods. It was more important to me to focus on the benefits of healthy food to start, rather than telling them why so much of the food I had been feeding them was bad.The book "Eat This, Not That For Kids" got me off to a great start! The author outlines a variety of "superpowers" different colored fruits and vegetables provide. The kids really got into the superpowers and every night at dinner it became a bit of a game to see just how many superpowers we could consume in one meal.
Several weeks into our transition to healthier eating I got a little more in depth with the kids about how important protein is for our brains. I looked for opportunities to comment about how certain foods my kids are eating are helping their brains, or helping their healing powers, etc... We looked at labels on some of the food we had around the house and I showed the boys where to find the protein/fiber/sugar content. I explained what sugar does to their bodies and how in a sense it wipes away the superpowers they get from eating fruits and vegetables. The moral of the story is that my husband and I have spent a great deal of time educating our kids about food and how it effects their body in the hopes that they understand why we eat the way we do.
Just this past week I was sitting by the pool in Arizona reading "The Happiness Project" (a great read, by the way!). In the book the author describes a recent study by happiness experts who advocate periods of deprivation to sharpen pleasures. This hit home for me because I feel as though that is EXACTLY what is happening with our kids. Last year our boys had sweets and treats on a daily basis (that might be exaggerating a bit, but it was VERY close to everyday). A "treat" wasn't really a "treat"...it was just a normal, everyday food. Now, when the boys get a treat...it's an honest to goodness treat! Plus, so many of the foods I've been making lately taste even better than the "fake" food we lived on before.
When we were preparing to leave our hotel yesterday my son was in tears because he didn't want to leave Arizona. He loved the sun, the new friends he met, the pool...everything about it he loved. He said he wanted to move to Arizona and live there every day so he could swim and play. It made me think about the point I read about deprivation. If we lived in Arizona and my son had an opportunity to swim and play outside EVERY day of the year would he have enjoyed our vacation as much as he would if it were an occasional visit? My gut says no.
My son just celebrated his 8th birthday last week and a dear friend of mine made him a cake. A cake filled with white sugar, white flour, food dye and a few more scoops of sugar. I didn't stress about my son eating a piece of cake on his birthday and he enjoyed every bite. It was a special day and I didn't have any qualms about celebrating the day with a mound of sugary cake.
So, do we fear that our kids will grow up feeling deprived? Maybe? But, maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Here's a photo of the sugar-filled goodness he enjoyed on his birthday:
My son was still a little sad this morning about having to leave all the fun behind in Arizona. I tried to encourage him by telling him he'd be happy to see all of his friends at school and get back to football at recess. As a surprise, I sent him to school with a box filled with his favorite lunch foods...including one sliver of leftover birthday cake I kept in the freezer while we were gone. Another one of my crafty friends loved the idea of including a little note in my son's lunch boxes so she made up an assortment of "lunch notes" for me and is now offering them on Etsy here...how cute are they?!!!
Today's lunch includes:
peanut butter lavash bread roll-up, pesto hummus with carrot sticks, string cheese, kiwi/blueberry, birthday cake