Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wearing my Food Sheriff badge with ambivalence

I like to think I am moderate, erring toward healthy, when it comes to my diet and my kids'. I try to make sure we eat a variety of foods, whole grains (yay for whole-wheat Eggo waffles), fruits and veggies, yada yada. Luckily, the kids are not particularly picky. We don't eat a lot of organic stuff because it's not readily available where we live. (I could get it but I am a little too cheap and lazy to do so). But we shop at our farmer's markets as often as we can. I let the kids have candy and other treats sometimes and about once a week or so I give in to their begging for a snow cone after school. Otherwise, I try to limit the amount of processed crapola that they consume and the use of food as a reward.

And I have to say that even this small set of rules is really tiring to enforce. I feel like I am being undermined at every turn. Every time Jo goes to play at one particular friend's house, she has mac-and-cheese, juice, candy, and ice cream for dinner--no thought of any fruit or vegetables, ever.

My husband created the tradition of "cookies, Nukkies and bookies" when it's time for bed. Gee, thanks. Now he's giving out cookies every night regardless of whether the kids ate any dinner or how many other sweets they might have had the rest of the day. When we arrived at my mother-in-law's a few weeks ago, there was a giant box of "fruit" gummies waiting to greet us. Her co-worker had given them to her because the kids were coming to visit ("I wasn't sure if it would be OK, but I didn't know what to do with them"--so displaying them prominently in the living room seemed wise??). I let them have a couple of packs a day but in this as in every scenario, I am forced to be the bad guy just to maintain some semblance of health. I have no problem at all saying no to the kids. I just resent being forced to do so because no one else is paying attention.

I can't imagine trying to insist on a fully organic diet or cutting out processed foods altogether--because we don't live in a bubble, we live in a community. We live with other people who have different beliefs and value systems about food, and since eating is a communal activity much of the time, we have to work this out. How do you do it?

18 comments:

Magpie said...

It's hard - especially when you get undermined in your own home with Daddy handing out cookies or Pirate Booty. But like everything else in life, balance is all. I know that most of what she eats is good, so it's okay, healthy even, to fall off the wagon once in a while.

mayberry said...

Magpie, I know you're right. I guess I struggle with the line between "once in a while" and "too often."

mothergoosemouse said...

Aw, but "cookies, Nukkies, and bookies" is so cute!

You know I'm right there with you on every point. I feel like a shrew sometimes, but I have to figure that if we're not keeping crap in the house and handing it out at every turn, I shouldn't worry too much about what happens occasionally.

GHD said...

Thanks so much for posting this. This is something I worry about too and I'm curious what others have to say, too.

I try not to be too controlled, but I would like my wishes to be honored... particularly by the in-laws.

Kimberly said...

I feel your pain on this. In our home, we eat as much organic as we can, and if we can't get organic, we at least stay on the side of "all natural" and minimally processed. We eat whole wheat pastas, breads and cereals exclusively and we push fruit as a primary snack.

Then they to go preschool where parents take turns bringing in snacks and they are eating things like (no joke) chips and cookies and fruit punch everyday. I finally had to complain to the school and I felt like a total outcast/bitch doing it, but this year they supposedly are putting together a list of "recommended/healthy snacks." Fingers crossed that the other parents pay attention. It's so frustrating.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Great topic! I don't really know how to manage this, most of the other Moms I hang out with allow their kids things I don't allow my son. When we get together for a playdate, I let him have "just one". I'm so mean, I know! I try to make up for it later in the day with a healthy meal.

As far as organics, though, they are not readily available here. I wish I could go completely organic, but that would require my own gardening skills (of which I don't possess.)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

One of my neighbors is hard-core on the food front. I invited her & her son to my daughter's third birthday, and THEY DISAPPEARED before the cake came out, because she refuses to give her kid cake. I understand her desire, but it was hard not to feel both insulted and criticized.

So. I'm a moderate, too. I get a slew of organic veggies from a CSA but I can't bring myself to pay for organic milk. I buy regular pasta but go out of my way to avoid foods with corn syrup... I am making this up as I go, but here's some ad-(ass-)vice:

Bake your own nighttime cookies. Use applesauce instead of sugar, use oatmeal and whole-grain flour. Cooking Light has great recipes. Also, you could send your kids on playdates with food to contribute toward lunch/dinner, and those could be fresh fruit & vegs. Or your healthy cookies. My kids have taken raspberries & things like that, which children often consider treats.

I am going to cut out that last paragraph of yours and paste it to my refrigerator. It's the best summation of the food battle I've read!

nonlineargirl said...

When I was a kid we had pre-bed "cookies and milk" (a veiled attempt to get my lactophobe sister to down some milk). It seems like a pick your battles kind of thing. My gal had her first chocolate milk and first fizzy lemonade this week. I fear we will never be able to put the genie back in the bottle.

Lady M said...

Whole-wheat Eggos? I'm switching over to those on our shopping list. Thanks for the tip.

My husband is definitely more of the ice cream, candy, and cake persuasion. Q will ask him for ice cream at night, but when I'm the only one home, he won't even ask.

Bon said...

my own attitude to food is much like yours...i try to keep it pretty healthy but my son is still only sixteen months old so we haven't yet reached the external temptations age, too much.

our sitter has been willing to respect our preference for whole wheat and fruit over junk, and i don't mind a few treats (as i have a bit of a weakness for them myself). but seriously, why do people always want to give kids candy? it's perverse.

Lawyer Mama said...

Oh yeah, we have this problem too. At daycare, the parents rotate bringing in snacks & I cringe when I see a child toting in snack packs of cheetos.

I try not to sweat it too much and just do the best we can at home. But all bets are off at the granparents'!

Elizabeth said...

We serve at least one vegetable with dinner every night, we always have apples/bananas/grapes or whatever is in season available for snacks, and I put a fruit and vegetable into their school lunch bag.

As for what they eat at friend's houses, I know I can't control it. If someone else wants to have my kids over for lunch or dinner, it's fine with me!

painted maypole said...

thanks for stopping by my blog. :)

oh... this is hard. I give my daughter all sorts of stuff I thought I never would. It's trying to strike that balance, I guess, and it never seems quite right.

Kate said...

I have this thing about hot dogs. I think they are gross, and when it comes to cookouts, I insist we buy the healthier ones from Whole Foods. My son had dinner at another person's house a couple weeks ago and they "nuked him a hot dog". Oscar Meyer no doubt. Makes me cringe thinking about it. But it's few and far between so that's how I justify it.

NoMommy said...

At home we are really good about eating healthy, but also have lots of organic and healthy food choices at local grocery stores. If we're out and he's hungry I'm not above stopping for fast food, but I don't make it a habit. But he loves fruits and veggies and eats more of them than any 2 year old I've seen.

Grandparents indulge The Bug, but when he stays with them I pack his meals. I cringe at the snacks they give him, but I figure it is just once in a while and he never asks for it at home.

Daycare has a super healthy menu (they got a grant to provide high quality wholesome foods) parents aren't allowed to bring in food and on birthdays can bring fruit or rice cakes. Sounds gross to me, but The Bug eats the food there like he might never get another meal.

my minivan is faster than yours said...

We have personally made the choice to keep relatively healthy foods in the house (never any cake/candy) but we have different rules when we're out.

I am hesitant to make food an issue, lest it will become one.

Having said that, my son ate a hot dog for dinner and I was thrilled he got some protein! Must different with my other child who will eat tofurkey. Go figure.

Alex Elliot said...

We don't have a lot of junk in our house. Fortunately, my playgroup has similar views. However, there's a mom that we do playdate outings with every once in a while that always brings chips in the kids' packed lunches. My boys were constantly begging chips off of her kids so I consented to allowing chips the next time we met with her.

Much More Than A Mom said...

I've been known to say things like "We don't feed our kids cancer" because, well, I'm a bitch and my dad is fighting cancer so people understand. Thank goodness my husband feels the same way and most people don't push it. I know I can't control it forever but I want to create good habits and tastes while I can so I just don't give crap as an option. It's harder when you're out or at other people's houses. I send/bring a huge lunch bag full of stuff everywhere - all healthy/organic/natural - and it's usually the other kids eating stuff out of that because healthy is damn good if you know how to do it.