Recently, a lot of bloggers have been talking about this article in the New York Times.
If you can't access the article, the basic premise is a mother who fights with her children's school about cupcakes and junk food being served. She even went as far as to steal some sprinkles and syrup off a table at a function that was serving ice cream. Now, while I do think this mother's tactics are extreme, I must admit that part of me sympathizes with her.
We are vegetarian. We raise our daughter vegetarian. Our daughter is fed mostly organic food.
A vegetarian diet has been shown to extend your life, lower the risk for almost every type of cancer, lower the risk of heart disease, keep cholesterol levels in check, prevent and/or cure type 2 diabetes, etc, etc.
It also is one of the easiest ways to positively impact the environment.
And yet, we constantly get made fun of. We are called "hippies". We are asked where we get our protein from (such an annoying, uneducated question). People roll their eyes at us.
If you know me in real life, you know that I'm not preachy about my vegetarianism. If someone wants to Talk to me about it, I gladly answer questions. I rarely talk about it on this blog because it tends to draw the crazies out of the woodwork, but this article opened up a flood of emotions for me.
The same thing happened to me a few months ago when I was reading a parenting magazine and there was a list- "Ten things NOT to feel guilty about" and one of the things was "Feeding your niece, little miss organic. her first twinkie."
Like feeding your kid organic foods is "wacky".
For us, it's not just about vegetarianism either, it's about eating healthy.
Our daughter is only given healthy food 99% of the time. Our belief (in addition to wanting her to be healthy) was that if we only give her healthy food, if she goes through a picky phase (which she has) at least what's she's eating is still healthy. We pretty much steer clear of foods packaged for kids (I think it's so sad that the food packaged for kids is usually the worst for them).
However, I also know that if we make something taboo, then Willa will likely be drawn to it, so we let her try things. At a birthday party several months ago there was ice cream cake. Willa was very excited about it and asked to try it. I let her. She took two bites and then went back to eating her melon.
That is typically what happens- she sees something that looks exciting, like a cupcake, and she takes one or two bites and then goes back to eating her healthy food. I love that she doesn't have a taste for these things. I love that at a Halloween party she was playing with candy corn because she didn't realize it was edible.
At the same time, I don't want her to miss out on experiencing special treats, or baking with her mother (especially since baking with my mother is what ultimately made me go to culinary school), so occasionally I bake something like banana bread, or (recently) oatmeal cookies. I make healthy versions, but the idea is still the same. However, Willa still mostly refuses them. She'd rather eat as much cantaloupe as she can get her hands on.
I don't think feeding my child a healthy diet is obsessive or unrealistic. I'm trying to set her up for a life time of healthy eating. She's only 25 months old. She has plenty of time to eat junk and sweets. She will still have the opportunity to live on cereal and pizza when she goes to college. I'm sure once she starts going to school and hanging out with other kids she'll start eating more unhealthy food, but I feel like while we have control we need to instill healthy eating habits.
I am a vegetarian, but I don't have a great diet. I'm the pickiest eater I know. I hate that about myself.
Both of my parents had HORRIBLE diets. Mostly processed, refined carbs, tons of butter on everything, tons of sugar, never anything exotic or spicy. Add that to the fact that they got divorced when I was two. My dad only saw me a few times a year, so he didn't want to be the bad guy, so he never made me try anything. My mom hated her strict upbringing where she was forced to eat things she did't like. She didn't want to do that to me, so she never insisted I try anything either. Growing up I lived on sugary cereal, and fruit roll-ups, and when I did eat something healthy, like strawberries, I would put sugar on them. Now, as an adult I struggle every day with my diet. I have to force myself to eat healthy things. I have no taste for them. If it was up to me, and was healthy, and had no impact on the environment, I would exist on Cap'n Crunch and bagels with cream cheese. I DREAD my daughter being like me. I have fought to make sure she's not.
I think a lot of parents are feeding their kids unhealthy things for several reasons:
1) It's easier. I understand that, I really do. But, feeding your kids healthy food is not that much more work (you cut up some fruit or vegetables instead of opening a package), and the benefits are worth it. It is OK to be lazy about doing the laundry, or scrubbing the toilet, but it is not, in my opinion, OK to be lazy about something that impacts your child's health.
2) "I ate it when I was a kid, and I'm fine." I hate this excuse. Don't you want better for your child? Don't you want the BEST for your child?
3) People are uneducated. People do more research when they buy a car then they do when they have a child. People might argue that it's easier for me because I went to culinary school and was certified in nutrition, but the reality is 90% of what I know about nutrition I taught myself.
4) They want to eat unhealthy things too. It's kind of hard to tell your kid to eat their healthy food if you're sitting their eating crap. Having Willa has forced me to eat healthier, so I can lead by example.
Everywhere I go I'm fighting the battle to steer my kid in the direction of healthy food. That's why I can commiserate with the mom in the article. In a few years Willa will be spending the majority of her awake time at school. It would be nice if she wasn't constantly bombarded with junk.
I admit that a large part of why we picked the preschool Willa will start attending in the fall, is because they serve fruits and vegetables from the farmers market for snack instead of goldfish crackers or apple sauce (with high fructose corn syrup).
I really hate that because I feed my kid a healthy diet I'm viewed as an extremist, or uptight. (And here's the part where I'm sure a lot of commenters will jump down my throat) I think that a lot of people crack jokes or make fun of people who feed their kids a healthy diet because it makes them examine what they are feeding their own kids.
It's almost as if my action of feeding my kid healthy food is automatically viewed as me judging those that don't. That's not the case at all. I'm just, like most parents, trying to do what I think is best for my child.
I think the woman featured in the article could be more constructive about the way she deals with things, but I must admit, I'd probably rather have my kid go to her house for a playdate.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my kid is asking me for a banana.
*If you're interested, a few months back I wrote an article for Alphamom about getting your kids to eat healthy.