A Letter To My Kids About Food

Dear Kids,

I love you so much. I see all the amazing things you are going to do and all the amazing people that you, as amazing people, are going to touch. I see all the brilliant, creative, and even practical ideas that you daily produce and will continue to produce for yourselves and the world. You are each precious to my heart. I often wonder how God can love each one of us human beings as special entities–and yet none more special than the next–and here, in my heart, I feel a meager bit of that bottomless capability. When compared to each other, you are each so different, but in my heart, you are loved with the same love.

What I want for you is to live boldly and freely, living up to your potential. Over the last four years, I have learned that for me to do so I must eat a real, whole food diet adjusted for some food sensitivities I have picked up (or maybe I was born with, I don’t know). You know how persistent I have been in keeping our diets clean, real, and whole. I do this because I see the effects it has on our allergies, our headaches, our stomach aches, our bowel control, our joint aches, our asthma, our skin rashes, our immune systems, and even our moods and concentration.

In essence, I persevere because I know now that what we all eat contributes to how well we can participate in life. And I want you all in.

Dear daughters, I want to tell you what I have told myself as I feed you to go do your work in life. Maybe it will help you when you have your own kids. Maybe it will help you now.

 

    Encourage and provide tons of vegetables and fruits.

Pay attention to which ones the kids like and how they like them prepared, making sure to keep those in the food line-up, while introducing new ones to stretch the taste buds.

Make it a goal to not buy pre-packaged foods. Give extra effort to buy whole foods without labels.  

I’ll admit we almost never reach our goal of “no labels,” but having this goal makes us very aware of our purchases and motivates us all to read labels. I love it when you pick up something packaged, and then put it down, saying, “Oh, we can make this. We don’t need to buy it.”

Don’t keep a lot of snack foods on hand other than nuts, vegetables, and fruit (seaweed is fun too), but respect kids’ needs for snacks.

I know the human liver was designed to certainly give three to four hours’ worth of glucose streaming in with no trouble. Perpetual snacks are not necessary in a healthy individual doing regular activities. However, sometimes, lunch was too small. Or supper not to the liking. Or volleyball camp consumed extra energy. Or friends are over. You name it. A well-placed snack is a good snack. But constant, mindless snacking is no good for the body.

Most kids like sweet stuff.

I’ve noticed you eat much better overall when you don’t feel deprived. I’ve also noticed you love a good smelling kitchen. Keeping you on track is easier when I prepare a dessert or sweet every now and then. How often? I honestly can’t say. I watch cues, and I know.

On vacations and certain occasions, step out of the way, letting kids enjoy the moment and the time with family and friends with abandon.

Sure, in the long haul, if a kid never ate ice cream or birthday cake or drank a soda pop, it’d be healthier. And there are probably some kids who will strike that path because of their parents’ rules. Then, there are kids who will just sneak it. Eat it with guilt and shame. Or break free at 18 from all the confinements. You can lie to your parents, but you can’t lie to the body. So eat some, then let it rest. For most people (not all), the body can handle an occasional gluttonous feast.

Do not equate food with body size or self-image. At the most basic level, food is eaten for the body to work right. (Most of the people we love most aren’t skinny.)

It seems like no matter what, somehow, everyone wants to bring it back to size and fat and how you look. I’d be lying if I said society doesn’t care about that. I try not to lie to you. But think about it. Most of the people we love the most aren’t skinny, so love and skinny can’t be equated. (It’s okay, you skinny friends. We adore you too!) Function is the most important, and whole, real food provides nutrition to keep those we love hiking and walking with us—and the processed foods keep them from doing exactly that.

Model real, whole food eating as a parent.

     Sometimes, you just have to say no.

One pediatrician I trained with always told parents, “If they’re told ‘no’ at 2, they’ll accept it at 16.”

I’ll tell you, once Halloween hits, the sugar bliss doesn’t want to stop until after Easter. I’ve seen the effects of all that stuff on your skin, stomachs, and noses. Sometimes, I have to be the meanie and say no.

Realize that even “healthy” things aren’t healthy for all people.

Food sensitivities are everywhere. For some, dairy is very health-promoting; for others, it flares up asthma. For some, whole grains lead to great energy; for others, grains, including whole grains, lead to listlessness and headaches. Sometimes, a parent will tend to think that how they eat is best, which may not actually be best for everyone, including their children. You know that I have a daughter who thrives on meat. I have another who doesn’t. Forcing one into one pattern and the other into another pattern could be highly detrimental to your lifelong eating patterns and health. Best to encourage you all to keep it real, not processed, and as fresh as possible, with awareness of food sensitivities.

     Teach what you know in the kitchen about cooking and actually talk about nutrition.

Life is not about food. It’s about living with your whole heart.

Love,

Mom

 

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