Parenting

When It Comes to Healthy Eating, Let Your Child Motivate You

The other week my mommies group was loaded to the gills with junk food. Bags of Froot Loops, handfuls of Cheez-Its, Big Bird cereal bar wrappers amidst toys, and conversations of potty training with Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s. Amidst it all my son sat there with a dish-towel tied around his neck munching on a plum from the local farmer’s market. After that he drank his milk and slurped some homemade chicken matzo-ball soup.

In no way am I a perfect mom. By pointing out the dietary habits of my friends’ kids I don’t mean to imply that I’m somehow superior. The mom who stops at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through every morning for coffee and munchkins for the kids is a lovely woman. She just isn’t me. Or, rather, I’m not her. I can’t be. If I was, I’d crash from my caffeine and sugar-induced adrenaline rush by 10 a.m.

New motherhood is exhausting. You’re so focused on making sure your child stays healthy that your own health is often the first to go. This is especially ironic given you’re their primary care provider, but such is the reality of motherhood today. Fortunately, my son made healthy feeding easy: his tastebuds prefer vegetables. Before long I was feeding my growing boy tons of greens. I, on the other hand, had slipped back into the old habit of relying on coffee and granola bars to get me through the day. If I wanted to have the energy to keep up with my son, that simply wouldn’t do.

So, as he started breaking into table food, I broke out the blender. Go figure, he’s a fan of smoothies, too. Ones involving spinach and kale, to be precise. He’s not super-crazy about meats, so a good bit of his diet is still based in vegetables, fruits and grains. I now try to base our menu on the like, so that I’m not double-cooking too much. As a result I’m exploring vegan recipes I’ve never tried before, like Cold Avocado Soup for sweltering summer days.

How are we avoiding the pancake addiction that plagues most toddlers? We simply don’t make pancakes. Or waffles, for that matter. We don’t eat foods that we wouldn’t want our son to eat. Right now, his idea of a sweet treat is either a roll from the bakery, or a rice cake with sunflower butter. Eventually he’ll learn what cookies are, but for right now he’s content, so why mess with a good thing?

Yes, cooking fresh is more work. And eating healthy can be pricey. When my supermarket issued me coupons for bakery cookies after I bought boatloads of non-couponed vegetables, I was furious. But, avoiding pre-packaged foods is ultimately easier on the budget and better for our health.

Bad eating habits aren’t inherited, they are learned. It isn’t enough to do what’s easy. Parents have to do what is right. That doesn’t have to mean going organic or sugar free. It just means replacing a snack bar with a piece of fruit, or pasta with vegetables. It means sticking to the outer-ring of your supermarket and avoiding the inner-aisles as much as possible. Most importantly, it means avoiding double standards at home and not forcing your child to eat healthy while you eat junk.