I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
September 30, 2013
When I married eleven years ago, my stepdaughters were 8 and 10 years old. I was eager to do everything “right” as their stepmother, which in my mind meant taking them to church each Sunday and making sure that they ate healthy foods. Church was easy- We found one we loved pretty quickly and we went every week.
Fruits and vegetables were another matter.
My girls would have happily subsisted on nothing but Kid Cuisines and Fruit Snacks if we’d let them. I spent hours poring through recipe books, searching for nutritious dishes they’d actually enjoy eating but more often than not, they turned their noses up at anything ‘healthy’ that I put out on the table. If it wasn’t spaghetti and meatballs, burgers, or quesadillas, I could pretty much forget about them doing much more than pushing it around on their plates and complaining. I resorted to steaming and mashing up cauliflower, broccoli and carrots and secretly adding the puree to their ground beef and pasta sauce. Feeling sad that the girls didn’t like my cooking, I hoped that my secret nutritional “compromise” was enough.
A few years passed, and then a strange thing happened. The girls, who were teenagers by that time, began asking to try the salads and vegetables and lean meat dishes I was making for my husband and myself. And miracle of miracles, THEY LIKED THEM!! By the time the girls finished high school, both of them loved most of the healthy dishes I made. And now that they’re in college, I can look back and see that they know how to live a healthy lifestyle, not so much because of the things their father and I told them to do or put in front of them and forced them to eat.
They learned it from watching us.
Dennis and I try very hard to eat healthy most of the time, and so the girls know what a healthy diet looks like. We have always gone to the gym and exercised regularly and now both girls do the same, on their own. It’s not something we really talk about– In our family, it’s just what you do.
Having gone through all of this before, I’ve always had a more relaxed approach with our little ones, who are so far very much like their sisters were at the same age. They DON’T like vegetables. They DON’T like most of my cooking. And right now, I’m pretty much biding my time with them. I stock up on the healthy foods they do like (fruits, string cheese, milk, baby carrots, yogurt, chicken), I make sure they take their vitamins, and I sneak in pureed vegetables whenever and wherever I can.
Unlike the first time around, though, this time I’m not stressing out about it. I have confidence that they’ll grow to appreciate many more healthy foods, including vegetables- My 9-year-old daughter is already requesting to try many of the foods Dennis and I eat and her diet is expanding weekly. My son, well… He’ll get there eventually.
But here’s the thing you need to know– While I keep our refrigerator filled with healthy snacks, I’m not the slightest bit ashamed to say that I buy treats for the kids as well. I let them have two cookies after school sometimes, dipped in milk. I keep Capri Suns in our garage refrigerator for school snacks and outside playtime. I often put a small handful of Cheetos in my daughter’s lunches, or Pringles in my son’s lunches. I bring the coveted McDonalds Happy Meal when I join them at school for lunch. I personally don’t believe that banning the things they’re going to be exposed to for the rest of their lives is the answer. Instead, I want to teach them how to enjoy these kinds of things: in moderation.
And I’m guessing that a lot of you out there are just like me. Am I right? We’re mostly all doing the best that we can where our kids’ nutrition is concerned. We all have better days, weeks, months, than others. We all want to teach our children healthy eating habits and we want them to learn to love physical activity and exertion. We’re making this happen in our own ways, and some of us have an easier time of it than others.
That’s why I have a hard time with the fact that so many moms these days seem to believe they are official members of the Food Police.
These are the moms who give you the side eye if you dare to bring bags of Doritos as the team snack after the soccer game. They write vaguely disapproving comments if you post a photo on Facebook of the chocolate muffins you made your kids for breakfast on Saturday morning. They question whether your child (YOUR CHILD!) should really be having that ketchup/fruit drink/breakfast pastry, because don’t you know it’s loaded with corn syrup/sucralose/genetically modified wheat??? They were around when I was raising my stepdaughters, but now, I swear, y’all. THEY’VE MULTIPLIED.
It has gotten to the point where I brace myself for the comments and e-mails sure to follow every single time I post a recipe that contains sugar, or admit that my children eat or drink anything that’s not organic or paleo-friendly or non-processed. And I’m getting a little tired of feeling shamed into silence about the fact that yes, I DO allow my children to eat small amounts of cake. Or cookies. Or potato chips. Or even, on occasion….
(I’m pretty sure at least one reader out there just fainted dead away.)
I have no problem whatsoever with moms who DON’T allow their children to eat these things. If you’re passionate about that, if it’s working for your family, go for it. I won’t say a word. I also think it’s great that moms out there are crusading for healthier food choices for our kids, and writing to legislators and companies and spreading the word in general about ingredients in foods that may not be as healthy as we were led to believe. That allows me to make better choices about what I’m giving my kids, without feeling like the food police helicopter is hovering over my house with a giant spotlight.
The truth is that when a mom turns her passion into direct criticism of another mom’s choices, it’s not helping anyone. It’s just fostering negativity and divisiveness. And seriously, how does that do anyone any good?
And so with that, I’d like to take this opportunity to bravely proclaim that this morning, while I had totally planned to make nutritious breakfast cookies for my kids with whole wheat flour and oats and other good-for-you stuff I don’t even remember, I stayed up too late last night watching ‘This is 40.’ And I was tired. And so instead of wholesome breakfast cookies, my kids got the emergency stash of Toaster Strudels for breakfast. Furthermore, they liked them.
Yes, Food Police, I am freely admitting that my children have ingested ingredients I cannot pronounce. Like carrageenan! And soy lecithin! And dipotassium phosphate! And I am also admitting here and now that I don’t know what any of that stuff is!
As a result of reading this shocking confession, you may decide your kids will no longer be playing at our house. Or you might opt to leave a snarky, anonymous comment on my blog. Or you could choose the harshest punishment, and pretend not to know me when you see me at Kroger. But I have to go with my gut here. I think my kids are going to be okay. And if I (or any other mother) don’t have your vote of nutritional confidence?
You might want to consider keeping it to yourself.