I was just having this conversation with my cousin the other day about our children, and I have to confess its really frustrating. See, i’m a full blown sugar addict. And from what I understand, once an addict…always an addict. The truth is that I’ve been eating healthy for almost exactly 2 years now…and I still battle with cravings for bad food. The cravings are much fewer obviously. They are usually triggered if i’m totally starving, or during an event if they serve something I really love to eat. Those cravings are to be expected…but every once in a while, its 3:00 in the afternoon, i’m working, I feel a jab of hunger and I think to myself..I could totally eat a chocolate chip muffin right now.
So then come the children. I believe any parent wants their child to be healthy and strong and develop well. Which is probably why even parents who are not particularly into a “fruits and veggies” kind of lifestyle will find themselves buying organic baby food during the first year of their baby’s life or even making some of their own. We all begin with the best intentions. But somewhere after the first year, we start moving away from the purity of it all, and start giving our children things we think they’d like. Well, what we think they like has a lot to do with our own upbringing and lifestyles and tastes. For example, if we were born and raised in India, we would likely give our children spicy food from a very young age, where as in my Cuban family, giving our children spicy food is foreign and even seems unhealthy for their tender little tummies.
Most parents generally try to be stricter with their children. Limiting sugary products at first, trying to incorporate healthy food, etc. But then come the grandparents and family members. In their never ending desire to please the children…without the pressure of having to actually raise them…they are constantly offering “fun,” “happy” treats to our kids. Lolipops, candy, chocolates, the list goes on and on. And their presentation is even more fun than the treat. “Look what grandma brought you….said in a high pitched voice with a huge smile on her face…. a lollipop!!!!” And the children are thrilled!!!
Then comes school, and school is a totally different animal because they are exposed to junk ALL the time.
So what do you do? My struggle is this:
On the one hand I want to teach my children to eat well. For various reasons: their health, their development, and also so they don’t have to battle with their weight or lifestyles when they are older…regardless of their genetic composition. But on the other hand, I don’t want my kids to feel deprived, or be the weird kid in the class, or rebel against a healthy lifestyle because I was too extreme. So I aim for a balance of the forces. I figure at home I will always provide healthy food, but I won’t be the mom who doesn’t let their child have a cupcake at a birthday party. I’ll try to make lunches “healthy fun” by making their sandwiches in shapes and providing foods that don’t appear to be too strange. And i’ll try to control the grandparents, knowing that they will always get away with giving the kids a treat of some sort. And the balance in my head seems to be fair and balanced and I envision my children being raised healthy and loving good, wholesome foods…all the while enjoying a dessert at a birthday party and not falling under either extreme.
And then comes reality.
My two year old lately tells me daily that he doesn’t like vegetables. And this is a kid who DEVOURS vegetables. But for some reason, he says he doesn’t want vegetables. He’ll say something like, “Mommy I don’t want to eat the carrots on the plate,” even though I know he loves carrots . And he eats them by the way, but it takes cajoling and patience. As if that is not frustrating, I find out from a friend that my 4year old is jealous of all the other kids’ lunches because they are so much more fun than his. OUCH!!!!!! Add to this the amount of exceptions we end up making. Holidays, birthday parties, doctor’s visit, school, grandparent’s house, a play date, I often wonder, are these really exceptions or the norm? Slowly I see that the other side of the coin is gaining strength, and our desire to create a balance and allow leeway and exceptions isn’t actually resulting in a balance of forces. And it begs the question, despite all of our efforts, are we too raising sugar addicts?????
The question is one I simply can’t answer yet. But one thing is for sure, no matter what the end result is, I will never give up trying to teach my kids a better way. So far this is my action plan:
- Eat really healthy so my children see the example.
- Refuse to have unhealthy foods in my home, no matter what goes on at school or at grandma’s house.
- Talk about food with my kids and the purpose of it. I started explaining to my four year old yesterday that eating is not only to satisfy hunger but also to feed our bodies with the vitamins and nutrients we need to be strong. (Don’t think he understood or was interested in any of it but I will keep repeating myself)
- Make sure breakfast and dinner is really healthy since I will have limited control over my children during school hours.
- Continue to promote healthy lifestyles in an effort that our community will shift their paradigms and help our children grow up healthy.
And as far as lunch goes…I asked my 4 year old what he liked about the other kids’ lunches, and one of the things he said is that they always get sandwiches. I guess he doesn’t want to eat lentil soup if his friends are eating a ham and cheese. So i’m working on some healthy sandwiches and hoping for the best .
Yesterday, I made:
GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD WRAP
- Grilled chicken
- sliced apples
- sliced carrots
- sliced celery
I chopped everything up into TINY little pieces and mixed it in well with the avocado so it had the consistency of mayonnaise. And then I put it in an ezekiel bread wrap. It was truly delicious.
Funny enough, when I picked up the boys at school, Justin had left about a quarter of the sandwich uneaten. I asked him if he liked the sandwich I made him and he responded that he doesn’t like vegetables. So when we got in the car, I handed him the sandwich and asked “are you still hungry?” He took the sandwich and started eating it. All the way home he ate his sandwich telling me how yummy it was. But I guess he doesn’t like vegetables 🙂
For all you healthy parents out there, I beg for your advise and guidance in this area. Please feel free to comment.
Have a wonderful week!