Nutrition and kids is a difficult topic and seemingly everyone has an opinion on what YOUR children should and should not eat. Heck, even most daycare systems these days do not allow a child through the door whose lunch box does not meet their ‘fruit and vegetables with whole grains’ guideline. My kids take a great deal of pride in the fact that they eat well. It should be a reminiscent reaction to seeing healthy parents who also take pride in their food choices. Children have a more naturally regulating appetite center, so know when they are hungry and full a bit better than adults because we have outdone our appetite centers with poor sleep, stimulants and junk food.
Our family challenge- a short story
My gym hosted a 30 day Paleo Challenge- meaning while there were no food restrictions just following of the Paleo Diet. Since my family and I already ate in a fashion similar to this , it really was not going to be that big of a deal for me. Other than the occasional ice cream or cheesecake daily, I would be cutting out a small amount of fruit juice, greek yogurt and dark chocolate. So as you can see not that big of a deal for me. So I viewed the challenge as a fun thing. My wife and my eleven year old viewed it similarly, though admittedly I am a nutrition geek and finding new and interesting ways to fuel my body is more fun for me than them.
For my ten year old it was pretty clear from the start she did not think of it as fun even though she was the first of the “core four” (what we call our family team) to sign up. After the first meal she wanted out, expressing that she did not think she could go thirty days without greek yogurt, that put a little smile on my face. If the worst thing your kid can imagine living without is greek yogurt, you are already far down the path. I do however think I missed the point very early on and therefore I missed a big opportunity for this to be fun for her. Everyone else in the family had something they could cling to as help but she did not, my wife added a Kombucha Tea, my oldest ate more chicken sausage and I decided to have a grass fed ribeye a day. She had nothing, in fact, it was even worse, I took away a couple of protein sources without replacing them. By day eight she was ready to be done and I felt like I had failed, not because I wanted her to restrict her intake in any way, shape or form but because one of my team members was hurting and she clearly did not want to let us down. Trust me when your ten year old comes into your room crying your first thought is “screw this, get this kid some Jolly Ranchers”. Clearly you see where this is going. The little things like comfort foods just started to add up and because she did not have any new comfort foods, it was starting to take a toll on her. In addition to that the weekends at our house tend to be a bit of a free for all in terms of meals, at the end of the second weekend it was very noticeable this approach was not going to work during this challenge because many of the foods my kids would normally choose to make for themselves were no longer in the refrigerator or cupboard.
The my way or the highway approach is not my thing
Normally the way we do nutrition for our children is to give in a bit. We want them to eat wild caught fish, they do not want to eat wild caught fish, the compromise is wild caught fish sticks. Yes they are breaded but in general I do not live in fear of bread, I simply avoid it and so do my children, under normal circumstances. Another example is that on Monday’s as a family we eat Mongolian Bar-B-Que. My girls typically get the pasta, they do not normally eat pasta so this is a good treat for them and they recognize it as such. We also have ice cream as a family on Monday’s.
A challenge is often viewed as something hard or maybe even impossible. Keeping my children engaged and listening to their concerns is the core of a healthy family relationship with one another and with food.