Thursday, June 21, 2012

Raising Good Eaters

Raising my children to be mindful eaters is one of my primary goals as a parent. I believe that when I teach them to feed themselves well I am teaching them to take care of themselves, be good to their community (shop local), and live with sustainable values and compassion for others. I also believe that our choices in food have the greatest impact on the world. Every single day.

While my daughters are young (now 2 and 4) I am 100% in control of the food they consume. They completely depend on me. And so I am making choices and teaching them about food to help them develop a healthy relationship with good food. To respect food, know where it comes from, what is in it, and the value of what we eat. Food is something to celebrate and we do that every single day.

The obstacles to good food habits are already starting to show. And this is where I am really struggling (I am mostly struggling at staying calm and not losing it on people).

Last week they came home from their daycare singing a song about bubblegum. So of course they start asking me "what is bubblegum?" I gave little information and tried not to make it sound yummy or wonderful. Because, a 2 and 4 year old should not EAT bubblegum. So why are they singing about it?

It is the "subtle" things around us. A friend asking them if they want chocolate milk. What? They don't know what it is and what the what? My daughter asking for yoghurt in a tube (oxymoron) because that's what other kids eat at school.
It was then that she and I sat down and talked about why her lunch looks different.

It is honestly hard for me to control my anger over the fact that my kids' lunch looks different because they have organic (real) yoghurt scooped into a container, homemade meals, real slices of cheese, and whole pieces of fruit. And a water bottle. I am, at the same time, so sad that our world has come to this. Their lunch bag is not dissimilar from mine as a child. (growing up in False Creek and shopping at Granville Island market weekly was an even greater boost to my lunchbag, with a sandwich on French baguette).

I would love to see a simple PB&J at their school. But mostly, I see processed foods with way too much salt for toddlers and nothing of real substance. I have had to impose strict food rules with teachers to ensure there is no sharing after discovering my children had eaten some of the garbage other children brought to school. Argh. Do you hear the frustration as I type this.

But back to my goal of raising Good Eaters. I think its possible. My Mom did it. My sister and I love good food, can cook very well, and most importantly, live with moderation. We don't restrict ourselves. We enjoy the odd cupcake. We make food a positive part of life.

There will be many more conversations with my children. And simply role modeling a good relationship with food will be my best defense. And when we sit down to dinner, and my kids ask for more salad (like the one above which was dinner last night) I realize I am on the right track. But it isn't easy.