My biggest parenting regret. Not sticking to Healthy Eating.
“Mommy, I really don’t like these lumps.”
“I know honey, but they are just strawberries and bananas, two things that you like.”
It’s Sunday, and we’re at the breakfast table. My husband watches this conversation and looks at me, questioningly. “I’m moving him over to regular yogurt now, and he’s having trouble with the transition.”
Oh, how I wish I could turn back time. My sons are now 7 and 10, deeply entrenched in childhood. And guess what? I’m coming clean. They basically eat like toddlers.
So despite all the challenges I’ve had with Kevin, and the IEP, and the seizures and all the other issues we face….I think that how I started feeding my kids is my biggest parenting mistake so far. Because it’s been the hardest one to turn around.
Some days, I feel like the Talking Heads–“How did I get here?”
The best of intentions.
I was only going to breastfeed! I’d make my own baby food, and it would be homegrown and organic! They were only going to eat what we eat. My list of good intentions goes on and on and on.
And now, at ages 7 and 10, my kids are still eating chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs and yogurt specially made for kids that has umpteen grams of sugar. Even when I do feed them healthy things, like say watermelon, I worked too hard at making it palatable. Now, if he sees a seed, he’s DONE. I wish I hadn’t catered to them so much in this arena. I was so afraid that they’d choke on a seed or something. Or that I made all their food bite-sized and clean.
How to raise Healthy Eaters.
So for new moms, this is my biggest tip.
- Decide to feed healthy.
- Make a plan.
- Stick to it. Stick to your guns, even if it means tears.
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT be sucked into the giant marketing machine of food products targeted at kids. They often contain more sugar and salt. They also will have fewer food faults (such as seeds from fruit or say, red areas on a peach from where it touched the pit) and can be more expensive. Oh, but they were sooooo convenient with their little packages of stuff that I can just throw in a bag. And of course all these items have the characters on them that they just love. I mean, a cracker that has the words ‘healthy’ or ‘natural’ in the name, and with Sesame Street characters, how do you resist?
Even those baby carrots! That is NOT what a carrot grows like! When we grew carrots in our own garden this year, I pulled them and showed them to my son who promptly snubbed them. They weren’t cleaned and bite sized and all smooth like he’s used to. But they were carrots, grown right here in our own yard, without pesticides, from seeds that we put in the ground. That is certainly what I prefer.
Trust me, just say NO to all of it right now.
I bought a kids’ yogurt, and it was raspberry. My kids have eaten it a zillion times. Recently I bought yogurt made at a local dairy, vanilla flavored. It is thicker and creamier than most grocery store yogurts. I tossed a few locally grown, recently picked raspberries on top….and they snubbed it. The complaints ranged from “it’s thick and weird” to “these berries have seeds!”
Apple sauce in the little cups? They gobble them up. Locally grown apples, which I peeled, sliced and made crock pot applesauce….nope. “There are too many chunks in it.” I looked at the label of the other one to see that it has HFCS in it, among other things.
Peaches that are locally grown that I peel and slice-they’ll eat them, but not without complaining. They much prefer the ones packaged in the little plastic containers, you know, the ones often covered in syrup or juice. And we’ve have these same battles over every food item that I’ve made for them–from homemade chicken nuggets to salad to homemade spaghettios and tomato soup. Ok, admittedly I went too far with the homemade spaghettios and threw in some kale. But trust me, without the kale they taste just like spaghettios!
I get it! We’re busy moms! And so much of this stuff is targeted at kids. And it’s also marketed as healthy, so you grab it and throw it in your cart. But if you can be strong now, it will pay off later.
I’m trying to turn our household around. More healthy eating. More local eating. Less processed stuff, more homemade. The marketing industry has convinced moms that cooking is just oh so hard, and really, it’s not. Because the thing is, it’s killing our kids. The sugars, the salts, the preservatives, the focus on sugars rather than proteins, lack of fiber, the extra un-needed calories…it’s all contributing to obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. As well as their learning.
We started out correctly.
I actually started out fine. I have video of him eating cherry tomatoes as a snack as a toddler. For his 4th birthday meal, Brian chose Chang’s Spicy Chicken from PF Chang’s, which was his favorite at the time. Brian used to eat anything. And then I got lazy I guess. People used to marvel at all the unusual things we’d give to Kevin and he’d eat.
How to get back on track with healthy eating.
So where do I go from here? I’m going to keep plodding along. It is actually getting better. We have added our eating issues to my younger son’s chore chart as a ‘deal breaker.’ What that means is, eating meals is not a chore. But, he must eat fruits and veggies with every meal, and no complaining. If he does, no allowance for that day, even if he does all his other tasks. He also has to drink a certain amount of water each day before he can have anything else to drink.
As far as my son with disabilities, we took him to feeding therapy and while I haven’t kept up with all of it at home, his assortment has increased. As with everything else we do with him, progress will be slower and the steps will be smaller. But I have no doubt that he can get there. Still, some days you have to choose your battles. I just need to muster up the strength to fight this battle more often.
I read some place that a child must be introduced to a food at least 10 times before becoming accustomed to it and accepting it. The journey of 1000 bites begins with the first taste, right?
What are your feeding challenges, aside from disabilities? How do you conquer them?
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