Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Veggie Police? Not me! I hope...

What is it with kids and vegetables? It's as if they are hard-wired to be immediately suspicious of them. My son at age two was already turning up his nose at carrots, green beans, broccoli...the usual suspects. I was completely stumped on how he could have formed this default opinion; he had spent 90% of his life up to that point with me, a vegetable lover. What part of his DNA was programmed to say, "ick," whenever something green and leafy landed on his plate? I think he got it from my husband's side of the family.

For years I have stubbornly put vegetables on his plate each day, made a big show of how much I looooooved to eat my vegetables, and like any self-respecting mother, I sneaked veggies into his food (*ahem* waaay before Jessica Seinfeld wrote her cookbook, just sayin') and took some comfort that at least they were getting into his body whether he realized it or not. I hoped that I could just keep being the good example and someday he would either taste them and realize what he had been missing, or just give up.

Neither seems very likely at this point; we are at a stalemate. But I am pleased to report that his gag reflex seems to be in good working order, which was evidenced last night by his response to our suggestion that he sample a piece of broccoli. After my husband and I presented our respective arguments, and after pointing out that broccoli has vitamins in it and reminding me that I had on previous occasions told him that he was allotted only one (chewable) vitamin a day, my four-year-old proceeded to stage a gagging and choking scene that almost made my husband leave the table to keep from laughing.

And I laughed, too. I'm a bit of a food cop, I'll admit it. I'm one of those all-natural moms who will gladly go out of my way to make my own everything, avoid artificial ingredients, bring my own food just about everywhere, and eat wholesome food made with pure, natural, vibrant ingredients that actually help our bodies function, not just satisfy an immediate emotional trigger to eat. I want my son to develop a healthy respect for the power of what we put into our bodies, and be able to make educated choices about what he chooses to eat.

Yes, he is four. So we try to teach by example. And after reading this article about the fuzzy line between monitoring the nutrition of our kids and sabotaging their future healthy habits, I feel pretty good about our methods. It recommends not forcing your kids to eat foods (although I am perfectly comfortable with the "take it or leave it" method of serving dinner), teaching by example (by not always being on some wacky diet), and teaching them about why its important to eat well.

People often ask whether my son is "allowed" to eat Halloween candy, whether I will buy him a chocolate bunny for his Easter basket, or if I bake him a wheat and sugar-free birthday cake. And while I do realize he is a kid and part of being a kid is wanting to eat candy and sweets, I do think there is a line to be drawn regarding the "fun factor" of food. It bothers me that I am perceived as punishing him in some way by not wanting to teach him that food is for entertainment purposes. But I figure 95% of what he eats is clean, wholesome, and healthy...and for the rest, he has grandparents.

There are some good tips here for creating a healthy relationship with food; one that is based on an understanding of the cause-and-effect of the fuel we put into our bodies and balanced with an example of how to manage situations that present...lower-octane fuel. :)

Yeah, he'll have cauliflower on his plate tonight, and I'll encourage him to take a bite and see what he thinks. But if he passes, that's okay.

I loooooove cauliflower. :)

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