I know this is a topic so widely discussed nowadays. But since I became a parent myself, it has turned into a cause. I don’t think I’ll ever cease my efforts to argue it out with people why it is important for children to eat healthy food. More precisely, why it is important for parents to take it seriously. Because it’s up to us, adults, and it’s not about forbidding food. It’s about good choices.
I strongly believe it is our responsibility as parents to choose wisely before our children could choose themselves. This is the bad news because healthy feeding should start right from the beginning, in your baby’s first months. Not that it would be too late to change family’s habits at a later stage, but it definitely would be much more difficult and traumatic. So the earlier parents get it, the better for their children. We all want to raise happy kids, don’t we? We want them to be healthy and full of energy. Then why so many parents out there don’t seem to care about their offspring’s diet? We buy heaps of toys, tablets, stupid games, whatever, and we still insist healthy food is expensive? Is an apple more expensive than a doughnut? What about a kilogramme of bananas, isn’t it cheaper than a pack of chips? No excuses here. Broccoli and spinach taste bad? Roasted meat is boring and breaded chicken is awesome? You have a very special role to play. Cook. Show your kids that healthy food could be delicious.
I don’t say I have succeeded, it’s too early to reach such conclusions. But I strive hard to show my son that homemade food is better. And so far my methods have proved to be working. I am painfully aware that most people see me as the weird mother who “deprives” her child of so many tasty stuff. I don’t mind and I’ll tell you why I think they’re wrong – because these days we have an utterly distorted notion of food, and we prefer to bury our heads in the sand rather than face the problems that poor diet brings on. Food is one of those little pleasures in life, true; but it should heal and not cause diseases. Obesity among children is something to worry about. Let’s stop pretending it does not exist.
I haven’t made a strict diet plan for my child (of course not!) and he has tasted almost everything. The keystone is moderation. Our family can eat junk food from time to time, but we know this is not the kind of food we eat daily. See his mother – I’m addicted to chocolate and often eat goodies, they’re just a piece of relish, but now I have control over it (I hope so 🙂 ) and I have found some substitutions as well (honey and fresh dates, for instance). So don’t forbid! Teach your kids about food, explain why something is good or bad. When I say to my boy he’d better not eat jellies, I explain why they are harmful and what they could cause – he will have his teeth damaged and his stomach will ache. He can try one or two, no prohibitions. But he understands this is not an everyday food and since we don’t have them in our cupboards, he is not that tempted when he sees them in stores. He also knows which things we consider unhealthy and very often he says: “This is harmful.”
BUT it is a long process and not an overnight success. I have been telling him about healthy and unhealthy food since his baby age. They say we should talk to our babies all the time, about everything around them, and I did. If I am advised to read tales to my baby (I did that, too 🙂 ), why shouldn’t I talk about food as well? Sounds preposterous? If you have a little infant, try it. It might make sense a year or two later.
Not only do I talk about food, but I also give my son tonnes of fruit and veggies. I believe that children should be offered any possible healthy options, once they start eating solid foods. Yes, even spinach and broccoli – these disgusting green things you hate so much and never cook. Well, your baby may like them. If not, leave them out for a while, never force them on your kid. Children change their food preferences just as adults do – they eat something, then they don’t like it anymore, and vice versa. I’ve learned to respect that. For example, I love Brussel sprouts and avocado, whereas my boy doesn’t want to put a single piece in his mouth. That’s OK. Maybe one day… But no constraint, please.
This leads me to my next point – cook tasty food! Is it possible your child doesn’t like the soup just because it’s insipid and flavourless, and not because there is a bit of broccoli in it? Yes, it is. I’ve discovered this myself. If I cook something with no enthusiasm, I can see my son is not so happy to eat it. Because it’s not that good indeed. Eating is not an unpleasant obligation for kids to do 5 times a day, then neither is cooking for mummies. Fortunately, I love spending time in the kitchen; however, even if this is not the case with you, there is still hope for you to start considering cooking enjoyable. How? The most powerful argument – you’ll be pampering your family with lovely meals and that will make you feel really proud of yourself. Besides, you don’t need to devote hours. Find quick and easy-to-follow recipes. In fact, healthy food is usually easy and not time-consuming. Get inspired by some brilliant chefs, watch their shows or buy their books. How about Jamie Oliver, Jacques Pépin or Lorraine Pascale? Check these out:
- Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver,
- Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals,
- Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals,
- Jacques Pepin More Fast Food My Way,
- Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy Food,
- Eating Well Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale.
Now we’ve seen cooking can be fast and pleasant, there should be no excuses. OK, you don’t feel like preparing food every single day. Go to the supermarket and pick up some healthy stuff – bananas and not candies, ready-to-eat salad and not French fries, wholemeal bread to make sandwiches at home and not a greasy burger… Peeling an orange won’t take much longer than opening a waffle; a pack of raw nuts or natural dried fruit is as convenient as a pack of crackers, but it’s simply that – nourishing, tasty and healthy. All good and delicious choices, but your children need to get familiar with them firstly.
I hope you now understand why I don’t care when people disapprove my approach to children’s feeding. On the contrary, I’ll be extremely happy if I can make more people believe in the importance of children’s healthy and balanced diet. I really want to make them realise that “depriving” kids from all that colourful crap seen in the ads is depriving them of harmful substances. For goodness’ sake, do you store all those chemicals from the labels in your kitchen? So why do we give them to our precious? They don’t need them, neither do they need such large amounts of salt, refined sugar, fats and empty calories. I don’t call it deprivation. It’s an act of love towards our children and not a parental whim. It has nothing to do with mummies’ dieting to lose weight; it concerns health. Give it some thought and change your own eating habits if necessary. Now let’s go shopping with our kids and make good choices together.