They say you are what you eat. If that’s the case, my family is Cheez-Its, pretzels and ice cream. As hard as I try, my crusade to win over my family to eat wholesome, Dr. Oz-type food is falling on deaf ears. Still, I refuse to give up.
I know there are mothers everywhere who food shop regularly and continue to hear their kids complain, “There’s no food in this house!” For my kids, it’s not that there isn’t any food in the house. It’s just that they’ve run out of their Cheez-Its, pretzels, and ice cream. These food choices are “okay” nutritionally — which is why my husband continues to purchase them in bulk when I’m not looking — but when they’re in the house, my kids fail to see the healthier choices available to them, like yogurt, almonds, apples, oranges, and even crackers and cheese.
As long as the brightly packaged snacks find their way into our cabinets, my kids will never believe that the majority of the healthier food choices taste good and give them more energy and for longer stretches of time.
Part of the problem is that my husband “enables” the kids to eat the less healthy stuff, by slipping it into the shopping cart when I’m not looking or making a separate trip to the store to stock up on it. Somehow, this stuff is in the cabinets and the refrigerator. “It’s not like we’re eating Twinkies and Ring Dings,” is his justification for the Cheez-Its and half gallons of ice cream. He has a point, I suppose.
He and I were raised in families that didn’t have a lot of extra money to splurge on Doritos, Twinkies, Oreos and other desirable treats. We had junk food envy when we saw the snacks in other kids’ lunch boxes. Also, we seldom ate out at restaurants, so for him, all these things are desirable. We still laugh about taking our kids to Dunkin’ Donuts where my husband shocked even himself by exclaiming “Finish that donut!” to one of our kids. Is there any health benefit to a donut that would constitute not wasting even a single bite?
I outgrew my junk food envy, but my hubby did not and now he feels entitled to having it. And he is right that Cheez-Its aren’t all that bad for you. Cheez-Its “contain 100% real cheese”, according to the claim on the box. (Devil Dogs probably don’t have even a marginal amount of any food group). Still, most of us know by now that the closer a food is to its original form the healthier it is for you. A whole apple straight from the tree is better than a slice of apple pie, which is better than Apple Jacks cereal. You get the point. Cheez-Its aren’t bad, but I feel that we can do better.
Why can’t my family see my point of view that if we were to stock our cabinets and refrigerator with Dr. Oz-type foods** and eat them when we need a snack or a good meal, we would probably all feel fantastic and less hungry because we’d be eating well? We probably wouldn’t need to reach for Cheez-Its before dinner because we’d still be energized by apple slices, oatmeal cookies or Greek yogurt to name a few good choices.
Let me explain, lest you think I am a hopeless bore and need to get a real problem. It took me years to realize that eating a big plate of pancakes and syrup without any source of protein on the plate was the reason why I was famished and sometimes even faint, just an hour after eating. Likewise, it’s the reason I would get that same weak feeling after finishing a bag full of penny candy at the movie theater. Similarly, McDonald’s and Taco Bell taste great once in a while, but not regularly. They shouldn’t be a regular part of our diets, yet they always seem to be there, tempting us.
Little understandings such as these are the reason why I repeatedly encourage my kids to think carefully about what they’re putting in their mouths. Why not eat the food that makes them feel best? If I can influence their eating choices now, maybe they will eventually eat well when they’re on their own, like when they’re away at college. After all, we haven’t deprived them. We’ve given them the junk food experience, more or less… We just haven’t let it get out of control, thus far. And we have had our share of battles and survived.
My oldest child has no appetite when she wakes up, which is not uncommon. Although she knows that breakfast is really important, 6:45 a.m. is too early for her to stomach eggs and toast. Thankfully, she will finally now eat a Zone nutritional bar or a few apple slices with peanut butter for breakfast. It took years of coaxing, on my part, to get her to eat anything. She is finally making the connection that it’s essential to eat in order to feel alert enough to do her best. There is hope.
Thankfully, we are a family that is able to sit down together for dinner, if only a few evenings each week. What’s great about this, in addition to its bonding benefits, is that I still have some control over what my children are eating. (I just found out my daughter ate chickwiches — fried chicken patty sandwiches — every day for the two years she was in middle school). I’d like to think this was just a stage and that she now eats a variety of food at the cafeteria. My kids will eat pretty much anything I put in front of them. Sometimes they love it, but at the very least, they force a polite smile. There is hope.
Eventually fussy eaters mature and try foods they previously wouldn’t. You don’t see many adults ordering grilled cheese sandwiches or chicken fingers and fries at fancy restaurants. We reached a milestone recently in our house. I told my kids I was making baked macaroni and cheese for dinner and they were unanimously happy. Say what? Kraft Macaroni & Cheese used to be the preferred choice and they would let me know it, much to my annoyance. We’re making progress. (Ha ha, Kraft!)
Now if I can get the whole family to enjoy fish we’ll be in really good shape.
** Many people are convinced that the foods Dr. Oz designates as healthy are only the most expensive, exotic types. He does swear by the benefits of some pricier ingredients, but mostly recommends everyday foods. Here is a very reasonable list of foods that he suggests we eat, if you are curious: