Stand back, I am about to open a can of worms…… Brace yourselves!
I am a total convert to this healthy, nutritious way of eating, right? I’ve cut right back on the amount of meat, refined sugar, alcohol, simple carbs and other processed crap that I put into my body, so therefore it goes without saying that I’m doing exactly the same for my kids right? Wellllllll…….. not quite!!
On week one of my current course I watched a lecture given by Alicia Silverstone where she talked with great excitement and animation about her macrobiotic diet. She is a staunch believer in it’s many health benefits and maintains that her young son has also been brought up following the same strict regime. She said that he sees blueberries as a huge treat. Now, don’t get me wrong, my kids love blueberries, but I’m 100% sure they don’t see them as “ a huge treat”!
So all of this got me thinking about my diet and if, how or whether it should it impact on the kids? I think its safe to say that if as I mentioned in this post , I am now eating to get my body healthy (as opposed to just skinny!) then obviously it should follow suit that I should be working towards the same aim for my nearest and dearest.
But the truth of the matter is that with a 7 and 4-year-old, its not always that easy. Now maybe if, like Alicia Silverstone, I had fully embraced this way of living and eating BEFORE getting pregnant, then my children would have been weaned knowing nothing different from quinoa and kale, but that wasn’t the case. When I got pregnant (on both occasions) I was still locked in a full scale conflict with my body and although I breastfed both of them for the first 4 months or so, this undoubtedly coloured the the way I weaned them onto solids. With my first, I tried really hard with the Annabel Karmel school of puree-ing your own veg and making your own baby mush. But I can tell you, that as a sleep deprived, first time mum there are only so many point blank refusals you can take before thinking “bugger this….. pass me the jars!” With my second, partly because of the experience I’d had with my first and partly because she was my second and I was even more knackered, I bypassed the home pureeing altogether and headed straight for the shop bought stuff!
And I suppose that set the score. For a long while (and yes, even today) I have chosen the path of least resistance when it comes to my children and their food. Mum guilt definitely kicks in when admitting that, as far as picking my battles goes, I don’t always opt to fight with them over meal choices. Sometimes I’ll have the bit between my teeth and argue it out, but on other occasions, I figure that fighting about food is not the right way to encourage and embed healthy choices.
I’d like to point out here, that I have always been so worried about either of my children inheriting my food and body issues that right from the start, I’ve made a conscious effort not to mention diets or overtly criticise my own body in front of them. Now, I’m sure that some of my negativity over the last few years must have permeated through to them on some level, but I really hope that the positive messages that I’m pedalling at the minute will cancel out any subconscious negativity as they continue to grow.
So what do I feed them? Well, to start at the very beginning as it were, we have really tried to improve their breakfast choices. They currently have a choice between porridge, homemade granola, and cornflakes, rice crispies or weetabix. Now I know that the last three aren’t ideal, but in comparison to the myriad of other sugar laden boxes that are on offer in the supermarket, I think that they probably rank as the best options. After their cereal and milk, they regularly ask for a share of my green smoothie which I think is great and I’ve even bought them special little glass bottles to drink them from. I love the idea that a) they are getting a great hit of nutrients before school and b) they see drinking green smoothies as something normal and good. They also love to know what’s gone into their smoothies and they seem to get extra excited about the ones that contain the widest variety of fruit and veg!
When in school, they’re able to choose a piece of fruit or veg at snack time and then they both have………. a school dinner. Arghhhh, mum guilt strikes again!! I know that this in itself might be controversial coming from a budding health coach, but let me talk you through my reasoning. First and foremost is the fact that due to a current government initiative, they both get a free school lunch, and as my mother taught me, never look a gift horse in the mouth! Added to this, as an ex-primary school teacher, I also know that there has been a huge push over the last few years to improve the quality and nutritional value of the meals provided in our schools (thanks Jamie Oliver!) My other reason is that I feel that it is much better for them to have their main, hot meal in the middle of the day because with so many after school clubs, homework, and various other activities to fit in the 3-6pm window, it is often difficult to shoe-horn in time to prepare and feed them a hot, nutritious home-cooked meal. More often that not, dinner is often something light, simple and quick like eggs on toast or a cheese and cucumber sandwich.
When they’re at home during school holidays or on weekends, I try, wherever possible, to feed them same meals that Ben and I eat (I had a particular triumph this weekend with a lentil bake!) However, its not always easy as the meals that I cook are often quite spicy and to be honest, Ben and I sometimes like waiting to eat our meal after the kids have gone to bed, so that we can enjoy time and good food together without the pressure of child-tussling! If this is the case and I’m preparing them a separate child-friendly meal, I work on the premise of crowding out rather than cutting out. So for example, while I might bow to pressure and shove a shop bought pizza in the oven, I also make sure that I load up their plates with some lovely side salad that I know they will both go for. Likewise, their snacking habits have improved massively and while they don’t always immediately jump at the plain old fruit option, they are always really keen to munch on an almond butter stuffed date or some apple slices served with chunks of cheese or spread (again!) with almond butter.
I know that my children don’t eat an Alicia Silverstone- style perfect diet, but it terms of where we’ve come from and where (I hope) we’re heading to, I think we’re doing ok. I don’t want them to feel restricted or hugely different from their peers when it comes to the food that they eat, but I do want them to understand that the food choices they make, can have a huge impact on their health. I want them to make the links between eating to provide their bodies with fabulous energy, and not just because they’re bored (boy this is a tough one!) And I want them to be able to search for and spot REAL food in amongst all of the fake crap that they are bombarded with every single day.
It is undoubtedly, a tough old road to walk, but I hope that if we continue to take small steps then one day, those blueberries might just end up looking extra special!