This post is going to sound like it’s about two random things, but hang in there with me for a moment, ok?
Although this may surprise some of you, I have a bit of a slacker in me. I don’t think anyone with 4 kids can survive the experience without adopting a wee bit o’ the slacker mentality. I’m not lazy, and I do take things seriously. But I think that some folks are worrying too much about some things and not enough about others. As an example, take the topic of feeding kids well.
All over the blogosphere lately I’m seeing posts about children and nutrition. I have read a couple of reviews of Jennifer Seinfeld’s new book, including Tiffany Washko’s post here. Then I read a criticism of what seems to be a wonderful book. The blogger claimed that the book was too deceptive and counterproductive to raising nutritionally aware kids. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I’ll go ahead and post my comments to the author now.
“I disagree with your stance here. My kids (I have 4) aren’t terribly picky so I’ve been blessed, but from my experience, most people grow out of their childish aversion to vegetables as they get older. I’m not sure if it’s because of a conscious decision to eat vegetables because of their benefits, or perhaps it has something to do with our taste buds changing as we age, but it’s a pretty universal phenomenon.
I think we place too much emphasis on what kids are eating and not enough emphasis on how we treat them. Peace at the table and love and gentleness in our treatment of kids are every bit as important in terms of parenting behaviors as a cauliflower, maybe more so.
So sneak in the veggies, I say, if it’s the only way you can get your kids to eat them. And stop feeling guilty about it. Use that energy to play with the kids.”
(Side note, I did post a second comment assuring the blogger that I wasn’t assuming she wasn’t good to her children, but I meant that as a general observation.)
So, I don’t get it.
We Moms get to feel guilty that our kids aren’t eating enough vegetables but if we sneak them into their food we get to feel guilty about duping them?
There is no way to win this conundrum.
How about I just don’t do any of it and say I did?
Again – I am a bit of a slacker here, but intentionally. I posted recently about how my 4 year old daughter didn’t know what a hot dog was. That’s pretty intentional. And I do believe in feeding my kids a whole foods diet. I avoid white flour and too much sugar, and we do some generally considered as odd things like drink raw milk and kombucha tea, and I do like to soak my grains. My barometer is, if it makes me feel bad, don’t eat it. If it makes me feel good, go ahead. Pasteurized milk equals stomach pain and problems “going”. Raw milk, it’s all good. Soaked grains I digest better too.
But at the same time, I think there is so much contradictory information out there on the topic of nutrition, that I opt not to spend my entire waking life trying to get to the bottom of it all.
The jury still seems to be out on a lot of this stuff, and I’m not willing to invest too much in any one person’s opinion. The Doctors, health experts, foodie bloggers and authors of nutrition books are all better at reworking the research to prove their point than I am. I’m not an epidemiologist or any kind of scientist and there are no letters after my name.
Care to join me in a quick rundown of the existing opinions?
For every group that is absolutely convinced of one way of eating, there is an opposing camp with an equally logical sounding argument.
One camp says that meat is evil and will make you fat, congested, ooze cancer cells and die early, there are those who say you need it for optimal health and that our ancestors and all cultures the world over eat it and thrive.
One camp says that milk is nasty and slimy and causes everything from bad breath to constipation to failed marriages (ok maybe not but almost), and then there are those who say milk is a perfect heath food but it needs to be raw. Or better yet, fermented into kefir and yogurt.
One camp says that food should be eaten raw, the opposing camp says we don’t have multiple stomachs to digest raw fibrous vegetables easily and even monkeys have the sense to “cook” their food to get the maximum nutrients.
One camp says that fruit has too much sugar and it should be avoided, the other group says that the body can’t tell the difference between “natural” sugar and the white stuff once it hits your blood stream so go ahead and eat fruit … with a cookie on top while you’re at it!
One camp says that carbohydrates are from the devil, that they cause tooth decay, overweight, diabetes, low blood sugar, schizophrenia, mood swings and other evils, and the opposing camp says that it’s too much protein that is the dearth of humankind and that can lead to osteoporosis and other ills.
One group swears that fat is bad, the other says fat is a health food and necessary for brain development and nervous system health. This group even tries to debunk the cholesterol “thing” that the Doctors have been preaching for decades.
One group is convinced that food combining will make you live forever, the other group says that’s nonsense and that your stomach contains the equivalent of battery acid that can handle whatever you throw at it.
One camp says that you should only eat foods that work with your blood type, others say that’s utter poppycock.
One camp says fish is absolutely essential to good health and a veritable wonder food, and their detractors cry “mercury”!
One group says gluten, flour and wheat are bad for everyone and will make your teeth fall out, and that the grains you do eat should be sprouted, others say bread is the staff of life, a gift from God and the way to salvation. (The latest confusion for me on this topic? The phytic acid is the Devil versus phytic acid is our friend folks!)
One camp says that soy will prevent hot flashes and help you stay thin, the other side claims it’s industrial waste and a poison that will give your sons boobs and make your hair fall out.
Don’t even get me started on beverages either! Oh, what the hay.
For everyone who says coffee is bad for you, there is another study showing some health benefit to drinking it.
And the water thing. Some people swear that drinking gallons of it cures every disease known to mankind, others say Adam and Eve didn’t tote bottled water around and that drinking that much can actually harm the kidneys.
Here’s another thing to ponder: It confounds me that people all over the world eat profoundly different diets yet lead healthy lives.
How is it that the Masai peoples in Africa subsist on meat, blood and milk and are healthier than most vegetarians? And how is it that one billion people who eat mostly rice all day long are also healthy? And how is it that the native Inuit and other native tribes thrived on a diet of mostly fat with no (gasp!) vegetables or fruit? And the Irish built a civilization and they ate mostly potatoes and oats?
It’s enough to make a natural Mom a little nutso. Could it be that it just doesn’t matter as much as we believe it does? That we’re all just looking for something to feel constant guilt and obsess over?
I read an article once online, and I so wish I could find it because it was excellent and so spot on in my opinion. (I’ve googled and googled with no success.) It was on a website all about health and nutrition, but it was a bit of a contradiction because it urged the readers not to take it all too seriously. It basically stated that the pursuit of the perfect diet is not unlike an eating disorder in itself. (It’s called Orthorexia, and I interviewed a woman who had wonderful things to say about it.) It made a lot of sense.
Some people who are so obsessed with every crumb that passes their lips may be creating more dis-ease in themselves and their kids than those who have a more relaxed yet balanced approach.
You know, to our Grandmothers who lived during the Great Depression, all food was good food. They were concerned with milk and cookies, and hugs and kisses. And there was far less wrong with the world back then. Nowadays people are as passionate about their food choices as they used to be about their politics or religion. I wonder if we’re healthier as a result?
So maybe in the end, the best thing to do is flip a coin and pick a school of thought, and then don’t question it anymore. At the very least you would have more time to devote to other endeavors, like playing with your kids. And maybe I could get that frown line in the middle of my forehead to go away if I adopted this philosophy too.
The last book I read on nutrition (there I go again reading books on food!) was pretty dern convincing. And it may just be the last book I ever read on nutrition, ever. It’s called The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong Just one tiny thing about the book that I thought was Ab Fab:
There was actually a study done that showed that when subjects ate foods that they enjoyed, they gleaned more nutrients from that food, and when the researchers gave that food to people who didn’t enjoy it, their bodies absorbed less nutrition.
Bingo! Our brains have a lot to do with it. Gasp! Enjoying your food…. pretty controversial stuff.
More: Maybe the French have it right? I hear their kids eat whatever’s put in front of them!