I see so many parents who before they have kids say things like, “My child would never snack on crackers or cookies.”, or something along the lines of “My toddler will eat his veggies or go hungry.”, or even better, “My child will eat when I feed him and not snack all day.” Some of these moms have children who end up doing just as they said, and some of these moms end up feeding their child crackers and cookies. Some kids will easily eat their veggies, and some kids will refuse or spit out veggies when they are hid in the meal. Some of these kids will snack all day, and some of these kids will have rigid snack times. My point is that life and momhood (and dadhood!) do not always go as planned. Sometimes we decide to throw in the towel and not battle our precious little ones over food. But we should be battling over food!!!!! Here is why:
- Eating habits are set very early in life. It is much easier to spend two years putting in the effort to not only feed your child healthy food, but to eat healthy food yourself. Your child sees what you are eating and will want to have the same. Battle it out early moms and dads, it’s easier to put in the time now than to try and break those bad eating habit later. Think of a habit that you want to change, have tried to change, and have failed at. Now picture a small incompletely developed mind trying to understand why last week he had cookies and chocolate every day, and this week he is being given carrot sticks. He doesn’t get it. Don’t start a habit that you don’t want to become part of his or her daily routine.
- Small bellies get full very quickly and you should be thinking ONLY of putting food in that small belly that will have a benefit of some kind. Empty calories do not count! Think protein, iron, vitamins, calcium, fiber, antioxidants, etc. If you need to rethink your own diet along the same lines then do it. Is what you are putting inside making you stronger and healthier? If the answer is no then you shouldn’t be eating it or giving it to your small one.
- You are what you eat. It’s an old saying that actually has some truth to it. Do you know that sugar stimulates the reward receptors that you associate with pleasant things? It’s a sugar “rush” because it does give you a rush. And even if your child doesn’t understand why he wants more sugar, his brain is being wired by YOU to ask for more sugar. There are also a lot of emerging studies in the medical community regarding the gut-brain connection. They show that what you eat does influence not only your overall physical health, but your mental health as well. Foods that are inflammatory and overloaded with simple sugars and simple carbohydrates can actually put you at increased risk of mental and physical illnesses. Why would you take that risk when you don’t have to? Why would you put your child at risk when you don’t have to?
The increased rate of overweight and obese adults in the US is staggering. What’s even more terrifying is the trend in children. YOU and your partner are in charge of what comes out of your kitchen and onto your children’s plate and into their bellies. You decide to stop at the drive through and buy them over processed fake food. You decide to buy the cookies, crackers, chips, desserts. Try this instead- You decide what to offer your children and they decide if they want to eat it. I have never in all my years as a registered nurse come across a child who was starving because he refused to eat. If they are hungry enough, they will eat some of what you offer. Offer fruit and veggies at every meal. If they don’t want to taste it or eat then keep planting it on their plate until they do. Never offer up a “reward” of dessert for eating meals. You are training them to see dessert as a reward and wiring them to think it is something very special. Only put out what is making you and your family healthier and stronger!
Finally, when you think about buying fruit and veggies for your family, if possible, you should buy organic or local. There are some disturbing reports that are linking pesticides including Monsanto’s widely used pesticides with autism and a host of other issues. The way I see this is as follows. “Chemicals designed to kill are being sprayed all over fruit and veggies that then absorb these chemicals as they grow. We then eat this. How can this be anything but bad???” Have we not seen what has happened to the butterflies and the bees???? Why do we think that we can spray this all over food and then eat it and be immune to its intended toxic effects? There are no long-term studies on these pesticides because they haven’t been around long enough to see the damage they are doing. Play it safe please! If a fruit or veggie grows in the ground, buy it organic. If it is a leafy green that sits on top of the ground and is open to all the spraying of chemicals, buy it organic. If it is a fruit or veggie that has a thin or soft skin (think berries, peaches), buy organic. Look for frozen organic food to save some money if fresh is too expensive. Don’t even get me started on GMOs, that is a topic for another day!
Happy Healthy Eating Friends!