Thursday, December 13, 2018

Food for My Family

E made her own lunch today, and she was very pleased with her choices. Nutella sandwich, and a sweet in each category: chocolate and fruit flavor. I was pleased that I didn't have to make her lunch. Everybody was happy.

I know I've written about how my kids eat in the past. At least, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it. But it's been awhile, and some things have changed, so I'm going to mention it again. The way we approach our kids' food has been liberating both for them and for us, and it ranks high on the list of things that have made day to day parenting easier. We have very little conflict about food (except when someone eats the last cookie, and then I get annoyed).

I'm not saying that this is the way to approach food with kids, but I thought I'd share in case there's something we do that resonates with you as something that would be worth trying in your own family. We came to our current system by seeing what worked for others and trying some of it ourselves, so I'm just passing along what I've learned along the way.

Basically, here is our deal. We loosely follow Ellyn Satter's food responsibilities. As parents, we are in charge of deciding what is available to eat and drink and when it is available. Our kids are responsible for choosing what they will eat from the available choices and how much. We don't follow all the Satter directives in terms of timing, because that part doesn't work for us. It's too regimented. Our kids can eat whatever they'd like to have throughout the day from the foods that are available (usually leftovers, fruit, and treats in our treat basket), though I've requested that they not prepare themselves the equivalent of a full meal when it's just an hour before dinner time.

Somehow they started asking me if they could have certain sweets (probably because I kept getting annoyed when someone ate the last cookie), which is nice because I sometimes will recommend they have something in addition to those sweets if I know that they will be hungry later without something more filling. But I nearly always say yes to whatever they want to have, because the deal is that if we've made it available, they can have it. A lot of people feel that this type of practice puts children in the danger zone for the dreaded obesity epidemic, but we have not found that to be true. I think that the causes of what is being called the obesity epidemic are a lot more complicated than unfettered access to sweets and calories in/calories out. So I do not worry about this at all. Often my kids will prefer what they refer to as food food to sweets or other "junk" food.

We eat dinner together as a family most nights. I make one meal for all of us, and I try to make sure that there's something on the table that each person in the family likes. Sometimes this means that one of us will only eat one thing on the table. This includes J and me. In my case, having battled chronic heartburn and finally managed it in a way that makes my life feel mostly normal, I know that I need to listen to my body in terms of what I should eat. I want my children to do the same, and so far it seems that they do. E doesn't eat as much veg as I'd like, but I keep making it an option. Sometimes it takes awhile for a kid to feel comfortable trying something new. Z sometimes has very particular reasons for rejecting a food, and I do my best to respect those. My only quibble with my kids choosing not to eat something is if they insult the cook in the process of rejecting foods. And as they are normal kids, sometimes this happens.

I don't think this system is perfect, but it is working out well for us for now. I am hoping to figure out more veg that all of us like to eat and to prepare more of a variety of meals. (I'm in a bit of a meal planning rut.) I buy more processed things than I feel is ideal, but at this point in time I can't make my own bread or most breakfast foods that my kids and I like to eat. Sometimes we have homemade banana bread or muffins, but mostly we have been having Tesco doughnuts, crepes, and other pastries. Our kids are growing well and are generally healthy, just picking up the odd cold or tummy bug like most kids do, so I feel that their nutritional intake is working for them. As the meal planner and cook, I'm happy with the low stress level of this style of managing food for our family. It's ok. Not ideal, but that's not what I'm aiming for. This works, and we will keep doing it until it doesn't.

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