Anyway, for her birthday, she requested a few close friends for a sleepover and ice skating the next morning – all good. Then, she asked “can we please have normal food for my party?”
By normal food, she meant pizza, chips and lollies. My first reaction was to say, sure, then proceed to make them all from scratch myself, as I have done for all their parties for the last 5 years. Then she said “and I mean actual pizza you buy from a shop, and real chips and lollies, not those healthy, additive free, natural colour ones!”.
I took some time to think about this request…
I want my kids to grow up knowing their bodies, understanding what foods satisfy them and what makes them feel good and not so good.
I want my kids to grow up informed enough to make their own food choices and, unlike me for so many years, not feel guilty about those choices, whatever they are.
I want my kids to grow up knowing that Real Food will make their bodies sing, that preparing this food can be simple and easy and that by eating this way, they are reducing their risk of chronic illnesses in the future.
I also want my kids to grow up without disordered thinking around food and their bodies.
So over the last 5 years, I have tackled it like this…
I fill our fridge and cupboard with lots of healthy, nourishing options.
I don’t have food at home that is highly processed, full of artificial colours, flavours and other harmful additives.
When they go to a friends house or a birthday party, I put no restrictions on what they choose to eat.
We occasionally eat take away, ice cream cones or cake at a cafe.
Why do I do this?
Because I don’t want the very food I want them to avoid to become something they fantasise about or crave or binge on when they do have it.
When my son was 5 years old, all his friends were having ice creams when we were at the park and he wanted one. He hadn’t eaten anything like this for about 18 months (since I changed our diet) and he was looking at it like it was a magical unicorn and saying things like “why do THEY get to have ice cream all the time, why can’t I have it?”!
I made the decision then (and I stick by this now) to let him choose what he wanted to eat, without guiding him to something I was more comfortable with so that he could learn how to make informed choices based on how he felt after eating it.
He chose a “Bubble O Bill” ice cream as this is what a lot of his friends had chosen.
Just for interest – here are the ingredients of a Bubble O Bill
Dairy ingredients (reconstituted buttermilk and/or reconstituted skim milk, milk solids, cream),cane sugar, vegetable oil, glucose syrup (from wheat, contains preservative 223), cocoa, gum base, emulsifiers (471, soybean lecithin, 476), gelatine, vegetable gums (412,410,407,401,414,415), flavours, glazing agents (903, 904, 901), colours (100,101,102,110,120,122,123,124,132, 160a,160b,141,142), glycerine, salt.
Contains milk, gluten (wheat and barley), soy and sulphites.
Made on machinery that also manufactures products which contain peanuts and tree nuts.
So about an hour after he ate this, he started to get angry…. really angry (he is usually a very calm child). He began yelling at me, then he started to hit me because I told him it was time to go home. He had never behaved like this before. Then he started crying, then sobbing and holding his head. He was beside himself and said to me “I feel really weird, I feel scared”. By the time we got home, he was sitting in the back of the car, very quiet, with his eyes kind of glazed over.
He slept badly for the next 2 nights, was highly sensitive to anything we said or if we even looked at him the ‘wrong’ way and he had a headache and stomach ache. It took about 2 days for the effects of this ice cream to wear off.
So while this one ice cream had a massive effect on my child’s tiny body (and it was very hard to watch), I didn’t want him to label these types of food are “bad” or “junk” or that he was bad or should feel guilty if he chose to eat them. I wanted him to have the experience of eating it, then work out for himself how he felt after wards so that he could make the choice for himself.
When I first changed the way we ate as a family, I was told by friends and family members that I was depriving my kids of a childhood. I would feel guilty about this – should I give them chips and lollies more often? Am I depriving them? Then, after this experience, I knew that I was doing the right thing. After my friends and family saw my peaceful little boy turn into a head spinning exorcist style character, they understood too.
I have done the same with all three of my children and I believe that this will set them up to be healthy, well adjusted adults with a healthy relationship with food.