Food for Thought

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If you haven't heard--Hanna Rosin's "The Case Against Breastfeeding" has every sort of mommy brigade in some sort of a tizzy. I have very little new to add to the raging debate elsewhere (is breastfeeding the new vacuum cleaner?), but the whole panic and uproar fed into something else I think about all the time: Feeding our kids.

With nursing you are the sole food source for your little guy which obviously leads to some of the pressure moms feel about the whole thing. Like Rosin points out, it is impossible to have an "equal marriage" when one of you is the only person capable of feeding your kid (and yes the author knows that you can pump and feed from a bottle but what couple do you know who does or did that in an equal way so that the father knows just as much about the baby's schedule and how much the baby eats as the mother?)

As our kids grow up though, it's obviously different. Which means there is ample opportunity for both the mother and the father to feel stress and mess up our kids. Ah equality.

I don't know one set of parents who has not thought about the sort of "eater" they want to raise (I am not sure I knew "eater" was a noun before kids). Even Top Chefs wring their hands over their kids' eating habits. Which is why this article gave me so much pause. In a nutshell, a growing number of specialists believe that we are raising a generation of children to have a "moralistic, restrictive and unhappy relationship with eating," which is "making kids nutty [and] sucking the life out of our relationship with food.” Apparently, our well-intentioned desires to have our kids eat organic and know their high-fructose corn syrup from their agave nectar are causing kids to be hyper-aware of food and--maybe--causing an unhealthy obsession with related body issues. The message? Calm down already.

The article has trainwreck stories about 8 year olds worrying about sodium intake and a girl whose mother would not let her eat white rice. But overall it seems a little over the top--instilling healthy eating habits in our kids is probably not going to make them anorexic, as the article dubiously seems to imply by way of anecdote. It would be like saying that raising them with a tolerance for all religions is going to make them close-minded zealots, right?

That being said: I know I obsess about my kids' eating and aspire for them to be "healthy eaters" (aka like my husband with his kale chips and not like me with my carb-laden diet and proclivity towards foods with misspellings--think Cheez It). It doesn't matter how many times I read or am told that "children will not starve themselves"--my heart hurts when I see my kid lethargic and sullen because he won't put some good food in his mouth. But it does resonate on an intrinsic, basic level that obsessing about things is not ideal for children...

So what's a mother to do, aside from hooking her kids up to IVs of spinach and calling it a day (and banishing the "bad foods" from her Midwestern upbringing from her home--sigh...!)? How should we somehow teach our kids to eat well without being overly serious and focused on eating at the same time? According to this study, to combat picky eaters, we should try to call healthy foods "cool names." Sounds retarded right? Well, file it under one of the many things you never thought you would do, but you do for your kids. With our sugar-loving toddler we are ready to try anything. Bring on the "Dinosaur Trees" (broccoli) with "rocket fuel" (tomatoes) please.
10 comments:
Kiva said...

thanks for these articles, espesially the one about freaking our children out, it will hopefully make my husband calm down about our daughter's eating.

Anonymous said...

I forwarded the "freaking our kids out" article to every mom I know, it's a good lesson to CALM DOWN, they will be fine!!!

Siobahan said...

Interesting read...but agree the conclusion is over the top. Raising kids with healthy eating can only do good things for them It was only a matter of time before some crackpot said otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I get so sick of thinking about my kids eating but I always am interested in "the newest study"!

s.k. said...

very interesting studies...

N said...

I always thought Collichio was a tool and now I have proof!

Usha J. said...

Same! Especially after he booted Radhika! Haha. Is it bad that I'm secretly happy that even a great chef has a kid who wants sprite and bad food?

B.V. said...

I love most cheese products as well, even those spelled with Zs. I let my kids eat what I eat, even the junk. I get looks when my baggies have that sort of thing (versus organic goodies) but I really think moderation as usual is the ticket. Plus I'm not ready to rid my house of all "my" snacks!

Anonymous said...

I think the best you can do is to offer them a variety. Usually kids want to eat what the parents are eating. Once they go out into the world of other kids, peer pressure starts and they want to eat what their friends eat.
With my one-year old, we're trying to get him to eat what we eat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. :P

rajkonya said...

my formula: once they're out of toddlerhood - everybody in the house eats the same meal; i don't have the time to cook two/three meals, one for the kids and one for the adults. When they're little, tone down the spice and then tweak as they grow older. Also, don't differentiate between "home food" and "outside food." In other words, learn to make pizzas and tacos and serve at home, along side Indian food (we're Indian); that way the kids don't associate non-indian food eaten outside the house as "special" or attractive. Mine are now in their mid-teens, and are total omnivores/omni-cuisines (?). Good luck out there!
Rajkonya

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