When I was young there was a commercial for Breyer’s Ice Cream where a kid was reading ingredients from the back of a competitor’s ice cream box and couldn’t pronounce any of the words. Then he read the Breyer’s box and there were only four ingredients and they were all recognizable which of course made that ice cream more delicious.
It was an adorable commercial. I mean what’s not cute about a kid furrowing his brow to look quizzically at the camera and saying, “carageeeeeeeenan”?
There is more to this commercial though and I’ve found it’s been the key to getting my kids to eat health(ier).
I found as a mom that I rely on the same belief I had as a teacher, “Don’t ever underestimate the inherent intelligence of a child, no matter how young or old.” I’ve always been very forthright with kids, both in my classroom and in my home, and so far it’s working out alright.
As I learn more about nutrition, I let my kids in on the reasons for the dietary decisions we make here. I don’t want them to be paranoid about FDA (non) regulations or Monsanto’s Mob-like ways to market and grow its GMO soybeans. My kids won’t be watching Food Inc. any time soon, but I am as honest as developmentally appropriate about food growth and processing and the Why behind what we eat. I’ve touched on the topics of pesticides, trans fats and GMOs with just enough detail to make them aware-not crazy.
What it comes down to in this house is this: can we recognize everything on a package? If not, we might want to choose something different. This keeps my daughter from worrying about fat and calories, which is the road she was going down when she had her first “nutrition” lesson at school. It keeps my boys interested in what makes their muscles work the best and their tummies feeling good.
My kids are aware that they should be aware, of where their food comes from, how it’s made and what it does to their bodies. The best part is that this has made food even more of a celebration than it ever was. I feared that so much instruction would make food into just fuel instead of the joy that meals should be, but that hasn’t happened at all. We talk more at the table. We unload the produce shipment box together and explore kale chips as a family. The kids see how much I enjoy making food and their dad enjoys eating it. It’s become a bit of an adventure and we’re all in it as one unit. Our tastes are different, but our intentions are the same: share meals, eat real food and love as much as we can.
I’m not promising that this way eliminates fights over vegetables. I mean, they are still kids who would always prefer candy to carrots. But giving them explanations and arming them with information includes them in the decision making and that sure does cut down on the screaming.
Most of the time.
Give it a try. Let me know how it goes and most important, share any other tips that are working for you!
Cristie Ritz King is a mom of three and a Certified Holistic Health Counselor. Between those two roles she spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food. Cristie writes about family life and food on Right Hand Mom and glorifies food as a key to wellness at Real Life Wellness.