Overprotection Series

On influencing healthy food habits

I Must Remember

I must remember…
Turkey on Thanksgiving,
Pudding on Christmas,
Eggs on Easter,
Chicken on Sunday,
Fish on Friday,
Leftovers, Monday.
But, ah, me –I’m such a dunce.
I went and ate them all at once.
– Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

As I start this post, I want to reiterate the lens I am seeing this issue through. We are a two-parent household with direct access to typical grocers, as well as local farm products. We also grow our own produce in season and have a small flock of laying hens. There are many families that are food-insecure or can only afford “middle aisle” processed (and much less expensive) foods, are home/land insecure or live in parts of our country that are void of fresh food options altogether (food deserts). In taking all of this into account, let’s have a discussion about how we feed our children.

IMG_4477Coming at it from an overprotection angle, I actually see this as a category where overprotection, demonstrated in the form of quietly monitoring food consumption and modeling healthy eating habits, can be a boon to a child’s wellbeing. I state this, however, with a caveat about pressured and/or restricted eating, which can lead to food fussiness and avoidance. In essence, having lots of healthful choices available in your home, within your means, and very few unhealthy choices, leads to healthy learned habits in our children. When they are able to open the refrigerator or pantry themselves and choose foods they find appetizing, and that are also good for them, they develop lifelong practices that will benefit them.

IMG_4335Much easier said than done, however. I, for one, have a sweet tooth like you wouldn’t believe that I am trying desperately to tame for my child’s benefit. I do my best to choose wisely in her presence and share with her how my body feels (for example, a stomachache) when I have made an unhealthy decision myself, not an admonishment to myself about weight or outward appearance. I think the education for healthy eating habits also lies in how we talk about our bodies and having body-positive attitudes. In our house, when we talk about why mom and dad are making a better effort to eat healthier foods, it is framed as helping us feel better, being able to do more, play more and ache less.

The processed foods and sweets are delicious and, let’s be honest, addictive. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t actively fighting this battle internally, but the good news is my 5-year-old has been kept out of this paradigm through very engaged food choices. She also has a sweet tooth and enjoys small treats regularly, but with much more moderation and typically on a full stomach as opposed to unsupervised gorging on an empty stomach. The shelves she can reach in the pantry and fridge are full of healthy choices, so those are what she sees and is able to select from. The treats are up high in cupboards that, for now, are unreachable and seem to remain out of sight, out of mind. So yes, I feel like I fall into the category of overprotection in this realm, but to the benefit of my child’s health.

IMG_7141What are some of the ways you encourage healthful eating in your children? Do you do battle in the grocery store when your child sees all of the cute designs on the processed foods and wants them? Do you stick to a list when shopping or do you stray with your eyes and stomach? Do you include your child in making the grocery list (this is something we do and it seems to work magic!)? Knowing that not all families have the same food availability or luxuries, what are tangible ways to provide the healthiest choices at the least cost and develop good eating practices? What are your go-to healthy snacks for hungry kids? Do you take another approach entirely from what my family does? I would love to hear from you!

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