Feeding Kids Disconnected Food

As most of you know, I have four children. I am also a Health Coach, Personal  Trainer, and Nutritionist.  You may think my kids eat everything healthy, organic, unprocessed, home cooked, and I never feed them junk food. Truth is, feeding my kids REAL food is a daily battle.  When I explain how important it is for them to eat healthy, my fifteen year old rolls her eyes and sarcastically quips, “Okay Health Coach Penny”.  My thirteen year old will grab doughnuts or cupcakes at sleepovers…one time she overindulged and learned a very good lesson about the effects of junk food, as she spent the evening regurgitating her sugar fest. I’m not alone in this fight…a lot of my friends, that are parents, struggle with this same issue: how do we teach our kids good eating habits when they are bombarded daily with opposing forces?  How can we teach our kids that they need to eat REAL food?   Food that is connected to the earth. What’s a parent to do?  I definitely don’t want to leave it up to the government or the advertising executives!

I believe we need to start educating our children about healthy food at home. We can control what food comes into our homes, we can prepare more meals at home, and we can try educating our kids at every opportunity.  The mindset of a lot of Americans is, “Why make something that we can buy?”.  This is producing a country that has become dependent on processed food, and that food has created a health crisis that is now affecting our children with alarming increases in diabetes, obesity, allergies, and other auto-immune diseases. I’m not saying we need to be ‘Food Nazi’s’.  I don’t want to raise kids that end up with eating disorders, or kids that wage war against healthy eating because they were abused with constant harassment by “Health Coach Penny” at home.  We all know what happens when the “preacher’s daughter” is finally left to make decisions on her own.  I feel that the most important thing we can do is set a good example, gently promote good eating habits during meals (at home), and hope it sticks.  Hope that they incorporate these concepts into their adult lives.

My kids tell me they notice the deleterious effects of the SAD (Standard American Diet) on their friends, and feel the side effects when they eat too much junk food.  They do admit that all my promoting of REAL food has made them more aware.  So, apparently, they are buying into some of my ‘soft selling’ and ‘REAL food’ shopping.  One of the ways I practice ‘shopping ninja’ skills (a total stranger actually called me that last week as I stealthfully made my way through the aisles), is to buy all organic and local as often as possible. Plus, I have fruits and vegetables on the counter and at all the meals,  I offer fresh, grass fed, free range protein, and home-cook as many meals as I can (with my husband’s help, he is the real culinary master in our home). I offer these items to my kids, but I don’t push them. I understand that a lot of kids won’t go for the liver, so sometimes we are preparing two different meals. I also bring in an occasional doughnut or box of Cheez-Its, if only to make sure my kids know that it’s okay to indulge once in a while. We are lucky to have no food allergies or intolerance’s in our family, so these once in a while treats aren’t too harmful. It’s really pretty simple, but it’s not always easy.  Especially considering the blitzkrieg of marketing our kids are exposed to.

It seems all our efforts at home are being slapped down at every turn by school meals, (check out what one mother did), peer pressure, and predatory food marketing tactics.   Mass marketing exposes our kids to an onslaught of messages designed to appeal to all of their senses.  Processed food peddlers are sneaky.  Placing products at a child’s eye level in the stores. Putting bright colors, cartoon characters,  toys, and any creative incentive they can think of, to trick the kids into harassing their parents to purchase the food. The food marketing industry also preys on the parents.  Touting the products as low fat, no sugar added, high fiber, gluten free, vitamin enriched, and how about adding Omega-3 that will make your kids smart! In our home we are always pointing out how commercials, billboards, and movies are trying to trick us into buying their products.  It has become a game for our kids to find the chicanery in advertising.  Here is a video that explains some of the tricks the food companies use:

One of the most common tricks the food industry uses is to label products ‘all natural’.  Few of the foods they market are truly ‘natural’  foods.   The bags and boxes they come in, and the processing and disfiguring of ingredients, is anything but natural.  Our food is so disconnected from nature the most natural ingredient may be the tree the box was made out of.  But food companies are in it for a profit, and there isn’t much profit in REAL food.  Check out the chart below, notice there is no targeting of REAL natural food such as eggs, produce, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and poultry, because there is not enough profit in REAL food.

You may think I am a bit over zealous in my concern about what my kids put in their body.  Below is an excellent presentation by a mother who came to discover just how important being guardians of our children’s food actually is:

 

This post isn’t meant to educate you about what processed, junk food, and the ‘SAD’ can do to your child’s health. These posts about kids are mammals, gut bacteria, and marketing, plus Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, will get you started in that direction.  You really don’t have to look very far to see the ramifications of poor food choices.  I am simply attempting to promote change in our homes, and to support every parent who feels alone in this daily struggle.  We need to teach our kids how disconnected modern food is from the earth, and show them how to reconnect.  Keep up the REAL food fight!  It starts at home.