Monday, February 9, 2015

Stop Catering to Your Kids

This is a rant.  I'm climbing up on my soapbox and saying things I can't always say to clients (but sometimes do.)

Stop Catering to your kids!  You are not a short order cook!!!  Just because they want a $5 Starbucks IcedMochaFrappaExtra blah blah blah does not mean you go get it for them on the way home from school or soccer.  When you're at the grocery store and they start pleading for cookies, and frozen pizzas, and spicy Doritos, YOU ARE THE PARENT!  You have the power to say NO.

Recently Ryan and I went snow tubing; as we entered the chalet a mother and flock of kids was leaving.  One little boy was wining, "But I don't want to eat at hoooooome, I want to eat heeeerrrreeeee." She just matter-of-factly told him, "nope, we have plenty of food at home, we are going home for lunch."  Good for her.

There were plenty of times when I asked my mom for some special food product at the HyVee: Lunchables, SkinnyCow ice-cream, and orbitz drinks, and she didn't buy them for me.  Granted, there were times when she did.  But if she said "no," I didn't beg and plead until I got my way.  Ryan's mom had her hands full with 3 boys. He remembers when he and his brothers miss-behaved at the grocery store, she went back through the store, put all the groceries back on the shelves, and left.

At home, I ate whatever mom or dad made for dinner, even if I didn't like it (Tuna Helper Tetrazzini). By the time I went to college I was so sick of steamed broccoli I didn't eat it for several months, until I came home for a weekend and was craving vegetables.  Did I ever complain... I wouldn't have thought about it.

When did people start making 2-3 meals every night to cater to each family member's palate?  Over the years even my Grandma fell into this trap.  She used to babysit my cousins and I on Mondays. Lunch was always: Pringles, gherkin pickles, carrot sticks + veggie dip, grapes, and Oscar Meyer braunschweiger sandwiches on white wonder bread (we had the option of mustard or no-mustard).  Some days we got fudgesicles or chips-ahoy cookies. I'm not saying it was the healthiest meal, but it's what was served, none of us knew any better to ask for something different.  As time went on, she baby-sat great-grand-children, and they had options!!!  She would make 3 different kinds of sandwiches, and offer different sides depending upon each kids preferences. Two different kinds of pickles, because one kid didn't like one, and the other didn't like the first option.

I realize it's hard enough for an adult to make changes in their diet, and that kids and spouses are not always interested in trying to eat better.  Many clients are frequently concerned about the way their loved ones eat, and complain that their kids eat terrible, their husband is a sugar-aholic and continues to buy crappy food despite her asking him not to. In these times I encourage these women to do the best they can.  Focus on themselves first when it comes to diet changes, not the entire family.  She needs to eat a balanced breakfast with protein, fat, and veggies.  However, she needs to stop worrying about the kids eating cereal.  Perhaps she could buy them a better quality cereal, one without HFCS or hydrogenated oils.  And have them pour on organic 2% or whole milk so they get a little fat at their breakfast instead of just carbs.

Dinner should be non-negotiable.  If that's not the routine right now, find ways to work in the family favorites 1-2x week, while presenting real food meals the rest of the week.  Or find ways of making family favorites into a more balanced meal.  Take tacos for example: Instead of having tacos and chips for a carb overload, let the rest of the family have their tortillas, while you make a taco salad, and limit your tortilla chips to 5-7.  Maybe Friday is always pizza night.  Turn it into a family activity and make the pizza at home so you get to control the ingredients and then serve raw veggies with dip as a side.

As for the cookies, chips, crackers.... maybe your family isn't ready to have them banned from the house. That usually ends in mom-mutany. Similar to the cereal, talk with your family about making "better" choices.  If you don't have time to bake your own cookies using real butter, make sure to buy ones that don't contain trans fats, artificial flavors, and strange preservatives.  Get rid of artificial colors, these are toxic to our brains.  Replace cheeze-its with these crackers by Late July.  Or try these options to replace some of your family's processed and toxic foods:
Potato Chips
Tortilla Chips
Peanut Butter
Granola Bars

If you start introducing real foods when your children are toddlers, they will grow up preferring those.  In fact, when faced with fake-foods they will probably choose to not eat them.  Actually, several of my co-workers have taught their kids that Ronald McDonald serves food that makes people sick.  That made for an interesting afternoon when Mr. McDonald showed up at an elementary school giving out burgers for lunch.

It takes time and practice, but your life and health are worth it.  So is your family's.  Oreos and Gatorade are not healthy snacks, but a strawberry smoothie or beef jerky and nuts will keep your kids powered up between school, sports, and music lessons.

Maybe you are struggling with picky eaters, and think I'm nuts for suggesting you swap out your kids daily waffles smothered in Aunt Jemima for eggs and a side of berries.  Maybe in the past your family  put up too much of a fight when you tried to increase their veggies at dinner, so you went back to frozen french fries.  Ask yourself, how important is your family's health?  You don't have to make changes overnight, start slowly. In her book, French Kids Eat Everything, Karen LeBillion describes how she was able to transition/transform her two picky eaters into adventurous real-food eaters.  You are the parent. You decide what goes into your grocery cart, you decide what comes into the house.  Not your kids. We don't allow people to start smoking until the age of 18 because of the increased risk for cardiovascular disease, lung disease, brain damage, and cancer.  Why would you let them dictate that their diet include foods that do the same thing when they are 7?

Before I get a bunch of angry messages and questions about my personal life here's my disclaimer: I do not have kids, but I probably will some day. I will not give in to my kids every whim; mine certainly never did.  I am not talking about serving and eating the perfect diet (whatever that is).  However, I will set boundaries, and I will follow them.  And every once in a while I will probably break my own rules. We know that kids learn behaviors and habits from their parents.  If you don't want to be a short order cook, and you don't want your kids eating nothing but chicken nuggets, don't start the habit.  If that is their/your current habit, find small ways to begin changing it.
It's ok to eat pizza, just not every day.
So with that... I'm stepping off my box.