Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We're all on a diet

This morning, over my grapefruit, I read this article from the Baltimore Sun. It’s about how local chefs feed their own children. I relate to many of the stories about picky eaters and bringing “odd” lunches to school. My girls aren’t really picky, but they do cycle through likes and dislikes. One week raisins are a favorite of my five year old. The next week she won’t eat them and boxes come back untouched in her lunchbox. It’s the same for my eight year old. Sometimes she wants grape jelly on her nut butter sandwich and then suddenly she’ll tell us not to put any jelly on it. There’s not an issue with their preferences changing, other than frustrating my husband and I while packing lunches. We don’t like when food comes home spoiled and uneaten. We pay for that food! We want it to go to the use it was intended: nourishing their growing bodies.
The leading chefs of the article pack their children seemingly “odd” food for lunch. For our family, though, there is nothing odd about it. Pureed bean dips, brown rice sushi, red peppers and hummus. It’s all ordinary food for our family. In preschool and kindergarten S did not get comments from other students at school. But in first grade she started getting “ewws!” from neighboring eaters in the cafeteria. She shared these stories with me, probably to feel support for her food preferences, but the other children’s opinions did not deter her from eating her food.
Then one day she said something I found odd. Another student had a salad in her lunchbox and told S that she was on a diet! Okay, I’d read that girls as young as seven were concerned about body image, but I don’t think this child has that issue. I think it just has to do with the stigma salad has as a diet food. She probably saw or heard this somewhere, from TV, parents, or friends, and wanted to feel special about being on a diet. S talked with me about this and I tried to have her understand that people use the word “diet” incorrectly to mean eating to lose weight. It’s really not that at all, I told her, it’s just a word for the way people eat. People can eat many different diets, like a raw diet, a vegetarian diet, a low fat diet, a sugar-free diet, a dairy-free diet, etc. She suggested some of those, so she gets it.
The truth is, I do feel special about my diet and the diet I give my children. It’s not perfect and I’m not an expert on nutrition, but I do read a lot about it and I do my best to give us a varied, nutrient dense diet. The chefs in the article expressed the same feeling. Some also wanted their children to be adventurous eaters. My oldest was an adventurous eater as a toddler. She was a roly poly little girl and one pediatrician, the first time I took my daughters there, told me it would be a good thing when she gets pickier in the preschool stage. I certainly didn’t want my daughter to be picky, but I DID want her to eat good food. She had always readily eaten fruits and whole grains, and when I described her healthy diet, the doctor suggested I give her more raw vegetables, like peppers. So I did. At first S was not a big fan of red peppers, but now they’re her favorite. Any kind of sweet bell pepper, really. That’s when I decided salad consumption would be a goal I had for my kids and kept giving them raw vegetables. It’s worked out for us and neither one really had a “picky stage.”

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