I am you. You are me. We are we.
I recently had the sad realization that my children and family are different. But the thing is, we actually are just like you. You and your family are just like me. In fact, aren’t we all on this journey together doing the same thing? Trying our best?
Let me explain.
Two of my three kids came home in the past few weeks upset that someone in their class was making fun of their lunch. Just for reference, this is a sample of what lunch looks like.
Yes, my family eats whole foods inspired. Why? Because it is important for our health and wellness (this should come as no surprise if you have read the SOAR blog).
So as my kids shared their story of some classmate teasing them about their food, I had to stop myself. We talked about how they are rarely sick, and many of their classmates miss school because of illness. In fact we couldn’t recently recall a day when they missed school because they were sick. This is relatively new, since we made the whole foods transition about 2 years ago. I even considered adding just a little “junk food” to their lunch so they wouldn’t feel different.
If I am totally honest though, my initial gut reaction was to become defensive. My husband and I said, “You tell them that your parents care about you and feed you healthy food so you can be smart, healthy and strong!” But as we discussed, that would imply that this other child’s parents don’t care. And that is simply false.
We are all doing what we think is best and within our means. Our choices on what to feed our children are based on what we know to be true. Whole nutrient rich foods are superior in nutrition than any processed foods. We all inherently know this, even without research to validate.
So, it makes me sad that what my children eat actually is different.
As parents, no matter what we feed our children, don’t we all feed them dinner? It takes time and money to drive thru the drive thru, make a packaged meal at home, or cook from scratch. It’s a different result, but we all are investing time and money into the same activity.
Some people think that I am “Supermom” for making lunches for the kids that look like this. Please. Don’t give me so much credit. First of all, whenever possible, the kids make their own lunches from what is available in the refrigerator (yes, I am in control on what is stocked in the refrigerator). But all parents feed their kids lunch. Again, it’s the same time and money, just a different result.
So how do we as parents make a transition for the family to eating whole foods?
A qualitative population survey done in 2014 comparing parental views of their pre-school children’s ‘healthy’ versus ‘unhealthy’ diets found two main differences. The parents of the ‘healthy’ group have more partner support in relation to child diet, a willingness to say ‘no’ without wavering, and consider their child’s daily physical activity when deciding appropriate food options. (Cool! That’s what we do too. All that whole food helps my kids learn while at school and gives them energy for sports) A majority of parents in the ‘unhealthy’ group attempted to disguise vegetables and healthy foods for their child and reported experiencing increased levels of stress regarding their child’s fussy eating. 1
Another systematic review looked at a total of 9041 articles on the associations between friendship networks and dietary behavior in youth. They concluded that there was longitudinal evidence that an individual’s unhealthy food consumption tended to become similar to friends’ unhealthy food consumption over time. 2 I can only imagine that this is because a young child only wants to fit in with their friends. Again, don’t we all want to fit in? We are the same right?
We are all in this together, kids and parents alike. Let us not identify our differences, but acknowledge our likeness. We need to eat food to live. I hope that one day my children will not be different because they eat real food. Because the fact is, they are the same as your children. My kids are thriving and learning, and I hope that all of their classmates will be too. And I hope my children’s classmates asked their parents about healthy food.
Remove. Replace. Restore.
Remove judgment of each other. Remove convenience parenting; in the end it is more difficult to “hide” vegetables when cooking, leads to more parental stress and results in a fussy eater.
Replace with identifying our likeness to each other. You and your partner practice saying “No” , together. Your child will NOT starve.
Restore health, mood regulation and learning in the classroom. Then go play hard after a healthy lunch with energy, not hyperactivity.
Eat well. Move well. Sleep well. Soar on.
1. Peters J, Parletta N, Lynch J, Campbell K. A comparison of parental views of their pre-school children's 'healthy' versus 'unhealthy' diets. A qualitative study. Appetite. 2014;76:129-136.
2. Sawka KJ, McCormack GR, Nettel-Aguirre A, Swanson K. Associations between aspects of friendship networks and dietary behavior in youth: Findings from a systematized review. Eat Behav. 2015;18:7-15.
Dr Carolyn Dolan DPT, Cert MDT, MSHN
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