Many parents have issues with kids and food. I have to say that running a family and making sure they stay healthy is not easy, especially when your kids are babies and your heart aches with them whenever they are sick.
I added the connection between food and health to my bible after a huge pain of trying very hard to get rid of Eden’s pneumonia when she was just an 18-month-old baby. By the time she was 2 years old, Eden had been sick with pneumonia 3 times already and had been constantly on antibiotics and inhalers. Before those scary 6 months, I had never thought about what I ate and had just gone to the supermarket and bought the same things my parents and Gal’s parents had.
One of my friends, who was trying to help me, told me Eden should eat certain things and avoid eating others to improve her health. I thought she was not normal (which was true, but in a good sense) and that food had nothing to do with germs and health problems. It was only later, when we discovered Eden was sensitive to dairy food, that I realized just how tight the relationship between food and health was.
Food, and only food, was the difference between having a very sick girl (with pneumonia that 6 months of antibiotics could not fix) and having a healthy girl that went to see the doctor only once in the following 20 years. Food, and only food, was the difference between being anemic and having a healthy iron level. During my second, third, fourth and fifth pregnancies, while every other woman had to take iron tablets, my iron level was strong and stable, even the doctor was shocked. Food, and only food, was the difference between Gal having sinus surgery to unblock his nose and not needing that surgery until today.
I figured that since my goal was to have healthy kids, what goes and does not go into their precious bodies was going to be in my parenting bible.
- Expose your kids to eating a variety of food and they will not be fussy eaters. Fussy eating is an eating disorder that will make their life hard. Make sure you are not a fussy eater yourself if you want to raise adventurous eaters. I was a fussy eater and Gal is totally the opposite. When Eden was about 4½ years old, we moved to Texas and started eating out a lot. As long as we ate at home, everything was easy – I made the food and we ate it – but when I had to choose what to eat at a restaurant (good food, not junk), I realized how fussy I was, so I made a choice to try something new every time I ate out and taste from everyone else’s plates. It is OK not to like the taste of something, but it is not OK not to try. This has been in my bible for 17 years, I have 3 kids who are very adventures with food and I am proud to say I am now adventurous too.
- Do not prepare special food for each member of your family – a home is not a restaurant. This sends a message that fussiness is acceptable. Food disorders should never be a way for kids to get attention. When I had an early childhood center, I asked the mothers to take turns bringing food for all of the kids. One mom did not want to participate and said her daughter was so fussy she would never eat anything the other moms made and would stay hungry. She had 4 kids and in-laws living with her and when she prepared food for them, she would make 7 different meals. Her family members were so fussy that she did not work outside the home and all she did was care for the kids and make food. I convinced her to let her daughter participate in our food exchange program and 3 days later, she said it was unbelievable that her 2½-year-old daughter ate cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese at home. I realized that her parenting bible contained the rule that being a good mother meant making everyone whatever they wanted to eat and I said to myself, “This is NOT going into my bible. Everyone eats what’s on the table”.
- Never give food rewards – most of the world’s obesity and the emotional struggles of people to lose weight are caused by their association of food with reward and comfort. Save your kids from this lifelong heartache. Verbal affirmations and hugs are the best rewards and if you need something tangible, stickers and balloons will make your kids plenty happy (and healthy).
- Do not serve desert in home meals – there is no need to eat something sweet at the end of every meal. If kids (and grownups) get used to finishing a meal with a sweet, it will be hard for them to stop it. If you really have to, serve fruit as the best sweet to finish your dinner.
- Water is the essence of life – drink plenty of water. Most health problems are associated with dehydration. Make sure you drink 1 liter of water for every 22kg (48lbs) of weight. I learned this rule from my Reiki Master when I lived in Singapore and for many years, I have confirmed it over and over again. My youngest daughter becomes asthmatic when she is dehydrated. If I tell her she must stand next to me and drink water before she is allowed to do anything else, within couple of hours, she is perfect. Drink plenty of water!
- Stay away from food colors – I learned this rule during my special education studies. During childhood, I loved everything that had colors. The more colorful it was, the testier it was for me. During my studies, I discovered so many learning difficulties and health problems related to food colors that I added not having them to my parenting bible. Food colors are poison! I know that not all of them are, but I believe it is safest to try and avoid them all.
- Have junk events – go out for some junk food or bringing junk food home from time to time to stop your kids’ craving for it and take the sting out of eating it. I learned this on myself. In my family, we hardly ever had any ice cream. It was expensive and my parents bought it only on special occasions. Loving it and not having it turned it into a need, rather than a want. When Gal and I moved in together, I went to the supermarket and bought every flavor of ice cream in the freezer (our fridge had about 6-7 kinds at all times) and ate it for months. It was not wise and certainly not healthy, so I stopped after a while. Save your kids such struggles. Junk is OK as long as it is eaten in proportion.
- Make the most of your meals at home – you never know what others add to the food, but you can guarantee that what your kids eat at home is healthy. I learned that from my mom who was a chef and told us what was added to the food to make it last longer and look better at restaurants and food factories.
- Find a fresh food market and buy your family’s food there – if the refrigerator is full of fruits and vegetables, the whole family will eat more fruits and vegetables. Take your kids shopping with you, teach them how to choose good food, let them pick their favorites and get them to wash and store the produce so they feel part of the process.
- If you do not buy it, your kids will not eat it – if you do not want your kids to eat something, do not buy it. By the time they have enough money to do their own shopping, they will have healthy eating habits that will stop them buying junk even if they can afford it.
Come back next week for Ronit’s Parenting Bible rules on babies.
This post is part of the series Ronit's Parenting Bible:
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Who’s in Charge?
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Love
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Food
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Babies
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Change
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Role Model
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Manners
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: School
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Money