Educate Your Child About Food

We need to teach our children what real food is.

My 3-year-old son and I were at Walmart today. Yes, you can shame me if you want (we only shop there a couple times a year to get certain items). I rarely shop anywhere besides the grocery store, and our grocery store is also a health food store, so when I walked into Walmart it was a bit of a shocker. The first thing I saw was a long row of Easter candy–Peeps and chocolate bunnies–right along the entryway on my left. To the right, I saw shelves full of doughnuts. I could smell the fresh bread of Subway wafting through the air. It was making me hungry.

Walmart is pretty genius at selling things to people by putting certain products in strategic places. It’s a dangerous place to shop if you don’t have any discipline. Or kids that don’t have any discipline. The little boy happened to notice one of these strategic displays full of Doritos. He loves chips (not my fault, by the way) so he pointed them out.

I said, “Those are not good for us.”

With serious enthusiasm, he said, “Yeah, those are not good for us. That is yucky for our bodies!”

I said, “That’s right. We need to put good things into our bodies so we can be strong and healthy and so you can grow big and tall.”

I’ve found myself saying stuff like this a lot lately. I’m always as honest but keep it simple. I tell him which foods are good for us. I tell him which foods are not good for us. Sometimes these are foods that are offered to him or that he sees others eating. I will say “That’s not real food,” if it’s clearly not real food. Other times I will say “That it is not good for us,” like if it’s too much sugar or something. Or I will say, “We can’t have that right now,” if it is something nutritious but not allowed on our gut-healing diet.

Not real food.

It’s a lot of talking about food. I want food to be simple, something he simply eats and can regulate simply by listening to his body. But we live in a modern culture with modern foods and modern foods make things awfully confusing. So I educate him. He doesn’t always understand, but he’s starting to get it. He knows we eat certain things because we have this goal of being healthy, and that other certain things will not get us there.

It reminds me of how my mom talked to me about drinking and smoking. She was matter of fact about it. She said it was bad for the body. I believed her. It was easy for me to stay away from those things because I valued my body and didn’t want to harm it. By educating my son about food, he is learning to value his body, and also learning to be a savvy consumer. By the time he is old enough to make his own decisions about food, he’s going to have a pretty solid understanding of what is and what isn’t healthful.

Do you educate your child about nourishing their body? What strategies do you use?

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4 thoughts on “Educate Your Child About Food

  1. yeah, i say similar things to her. but i’m not 100% happy about it. something feels off. i don’t know. like too much emphasis on food, or too much control over her choices…. perhaps i’m very aware of not ending up creating a neurosis in her, lol. i’m hoping that it just becomes easier as she gets older. to discuss it.

    also, my girl is very independent and simply saying something isn’t good for us can go either way. she’s great now about accepting such things, but she will question me (which is fabulous) and i do wonder if she might rebel later. like – chill out mother! 🙂 i know my parents talk about smoking left me wanting to try it – i was also a rebel 😉

    i do wish for the ideal, that she wasn’t exposed to rubbish at all. although i can’t stand extremes and don’t feel chocolate and cake, cookies, etc are evil. i’m hoping that the lack of sugar in her diet makes her tastebuds naturally not want sugar, and she HAS rejected something for being too sweet. she was exposed to chocolate and so i have found fructose chocolate and explain that we have a little so our tummys don’t get sick. but who knows, perhaps the restriction will simply have her wanting it more. especially when she sees other kids scoffing the stuff!

    i’m hoping that homeschooling or a steiner school will help buffer a lot of what kids these days are eating. there really is so much awful fake foods out there. and the supermarkets in uk are exactly like your walmart – entrance full of doughnuts and chocolates etc, exit full of similar snacks. makes the case for local shopping even stronger huh?

  2. I understand what you mean about not wanting to create a neurosis. I cannot even believe how hard it is to avoid unhealthful foods. Even at his Montessori school, they have some white flour products I don’t approve of. If it weren’t for his gut problem, I’d be more lenient about it. I think leniency is fine as long as it isn’t enough to hurt their bodies or allow addictions to develop. I also think of children with food allergies who absolutely cannot have certain foods. I don’t *think* they develop neuroses over it. I also make him sweets so he doesn’t have to feel he is left out. I really wish it was simpler, but perhaps the key is in the approach.

  3. I’ve been doing this for a while now, ever since he knew what food was. A good example is when our church puts out doughnuts after Mass every Sunday. Yep, he asked about them once or twice. I told him it wasn’t real food and would make us feel icky. He never asks now, he doesn’t even look at them.
    Another one is that at family things if he starts eating something bad Ben or I will take him aside and say that could make your tummy hurt because it’s not real food. He always takes it back and sets it down. He knows it’ll make him sick.
    I feel awesome about not giving him that kind of stuff because now, even when having paleo treats, he eats until he’s satisfied which is almost always not very much. I’m very grateful to have learned about real foods and having a good diet so that I could teach my kids. What a blessing.

    1. I’m very grateful, too. I wish I had taken this approach sooner. There are things he doesn’t care about because he’s never had them. Then there are things he’s had in the past and will ask for them.

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