A lot about this parenting gig is unclear. There are often no
right answers to our questions, or, more specifically, there are
often no right answers to the questions our kids have. As we muddle
along, we make choices--hopefully good ones. My daughter was
finishing preschool when she asked me this question: Mama, what's
better for you, a carrot or a banana? As I tried to explain to her
that carrots and bananas each have their own fabulous nutritional
benefits, she interrupted me (as 5-year-old girls tend to do) to
say that a banana is the better choice because it's good for your
brain, and while carrots are good for your eyes, you need to have a
brain for your eyes to work. Not sure I can argue with this logic!
And I was just pleased that she was taking the time to think about
the nutritional value of food choices.
Do Your Kids Know How to Make Healthy
We try to do all the right things for our children and make the
right decisions FOR them. We obsess over whether to sign up for
Montessori preschool or the co-op down the street. We agonize over
what backpack, what summer camp, what birthday party venue. And at
the end of the day, we want our children to learn to make their own
choices. There's nothing more simple and basic than learning how to
We used to have dinner-time
battles with our daughter. It seemed so important that she eat
the broccoli or carrots on her plate, and we would end up in a
power struggle. It got to the point that just the utter suggestion
of lunchtime or dinnertime would result in a tantrum. Was
eating really such a dreadful idea to a small child? It's
about control. Children want control over what they put in their
Now, we put healthy options on the table and encourage our kids
to try--without forcing the issue. I include a bowl of sliced fruit
as part of the meal and find that when our kids see it, they just
start munching on apples or pears and forget the obligatory "yuck…
I don't LIKE my dinner." The battle is diffused and little hands
start reaching for other food options. I'm not saying this works
for every family, but right now, it's golden for us.
What Does this Label Say? What's Even in
Now, as she is learning to read, should I expect our first
grader to read complicated and confusing terms found on food
labels? I want to teach her to make healthy choices for herself.
But heck, even I don't know
what's in some of those things at the grocery store. Sure, we
grown-ups know we're not supposed to eat processed foods that have
12-syllable words on the labels. And there are many blogs and
websites these days with suggestions and recipes for healthy foods.
(A couple of my favorite blogs include 100daysofrealfood.com
and Kriscarr.com). You've got
the information at your fingertips. But do your kids?
Here's the thing: children are inherently eager to learn about
how things work, and having early discussions about the nutrients
in food and how those affect our bodies can have a big payoff. At
the school Halloween party last year, I caught my little Rapunzel
finishing her carrot sticks--or as we call any veggie: "grow
food"--before even touching the candy corn sitting in front of her
(although she eventually did eat the sweets). Her choice. Her body.
The best part was that she was proud of that choice.
As I approach my 40th birthday, it's hard not to become
introspective about getting older. I can't turn back time, but I
have begun examining how I treat my body. A mid-life crisis makes
you do all sorts of things! For me, I revived my yoga practice. I
joined a gym and completed my first couple of 8K runs. I became a
vegetarian once again and juice or blend everything in sight. Moms
often forget to take care of themselves in an effort to take care
of their family. I now find myself in a different situation. I'm
taking good care of me, and hopefully I'm setting a good example
(at least most of the time) for my kids. But I wonder: Is the
message getting through?
How do you teach your kids about nutrition and
healthy food choices?