Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food Revolution

This post was inspired by my dental hygenist's 5 year-old son who was rushed to the ER. They thought he was having a heart attack but he really had heartburn. Apparently they ONLY eat fast food.

When my daughter was 3 we traveled to Florida for Thanksgiving to visit Hubby's parents. We stopped at Wendy's to eat dinner and I ordered a potato with broccoli and cheese. My daughter kept reaching over to my potato and ended up eating all of the broccoli off of it. This is not extraordinary in our house because my daughter has always eaten broccoli. What was amazing was the reaction of the family sitting next to us. There was a mom, dad and three kids all eating burgers and fries. When the mom saw what E was doing, she leaned over to her husband and in a fairly loud voice said, "Look, that little girl eats BROCCOLI!" Like it was some foreign food and we were being abusive by allowing her to eat (gasp) a green stalky vegetable. My daughter does not like fries (how she didn't get my potato addict gene I'll never know), but she generally makes healthy choices when it comes to eating.

Many times when we go to restaurants, E drinks water because the restaurant only serves caffeinated soda or high sugar drinks. One waitress recently commented that she can't get her 6 year-old daughter to drink water, she insists on orange soda. I thoughtlessly responded "Well, we never gave her a choice." The waitress grimaced at me and I realized how pompous I sounded, but it was true. E was never allowed to have sugary drinks so she didn't get use to them.

I bring all of this up because I watched that new Jamie Oliver show where he goes into a school and tries to get kids to eat more healthy foods and he fights an uphill battle the whole way. I cook with all of my school-kids (except the 2 year olds) every week and it is a struggle to get them to try things. I was spoiled by working in a Montessori environment so long. My Montessori kids were trained from a very early age to try everything. My current kids...not so much.

I would say my current kids are a good representation of the average middle class American family. Some are wealthy, most are not. Some have a stay-at-home parent, some do not. But all of them bring in prepackaged junk food for a snack. And I don't count granola bars or even pretzels or goldfish as junk food. I mean oreo dippers, Trix yogurts, and moon pies. And when I cook something healthy with them, although they love the cooking part, most of them refuse to try the results. The only child who always tries everything is the daughter of our local chef.

But something else that came out on Oliver's TV show is that our kids are not growing up knowing how to use a knife and a fork. They are only allowed to use sporks at school, which means they are only being fed soft, spoonable food. You may think this show used the fork and spoon debate for drama on a tv show, but I can tell you, my parents freaked when they realized their kids are using plastic knives in my class to cut up bananas and spread peanut butter. It was a huge freaking deal. But I wouldn't back down and now every single one of my kids can make themselves a sandwich. Which doesn't seem like such a big deal, but it is. The child could feed him or herself if ever left home alone by accident. Or if the parent oversleeps, or is just a bad parent.

Lastly, our schools are rushing our kids through meals. My daughter's school lunch time last year was 20 minutes. That means if she didn't pack a lunch, she had 20 minutes to wait in line, get her condiments, open all of the packaging and eat. In that 20 minutes she also had to clear her spot and line up and wait for the other kids to do the same. She was being taught to inhale her food, essentially.

All of the other teachers in my school have a separate area for snack and stick to a strict 20 minute time. If a child is not finished eating their snack, too bad, they have to pack up and leave it for later. No, they are not starving, and yes, some of them are dawdling, but still....they are being taught to rush and focus just on the food. My kids eat in the classroom. We start out eating at the same time, but as a child finishes they ask to be excused and then can leave the table. I have some children that eat in 10 minutes, I have some that take 30. But no one is being asked to shove food in their mouths.

I am not the perfect mom. I pack my daughter's lunch everyday and yes, I do put lean hot pockets in there sometimes. But, my daughter, unlike me, is a very healthy weight, eats lots of different foods and will grab for an apple or banana just as soon as she will grab for a cookie. It can be done. A child can be raised to eat healthy foods. But the parents have to stop allowing the schools to feed their children processed chicken, sugared milks, spork-worthy things. A child's meal should cost the school more than $1.00 to make. I'm sorry, I know budgets are tight, but wouldn't children learn better if the food going into their bodies actually gave them energy and nutrition instead of just filling them up?

Now I will step down from my soap box and you can return to your regularly scheduled blogging.


Anonymous said...

Good for you! We were the same kind of parents - milk or water only with meals. We only made cookies at holidays and always had fruit in the house. We have two healthy adults as a result who call home from the grocery store for fruit/veggie advice - one of my proudest moments. :)

Gina said...

I'm somewhere in the middle - I encourage healthy foods with my kids, but I can definitely do better.

I also get frustrated with the schools. Our kids are also rushed through lunch so they can rush back to class. I think learning is very important, but I have a hard time with rushing kindergartners through their meal so we can rush them back to science class. Our school is using a 6-day schedule (VERY confusing) so they can fit in more classes, while the arts and physical fitness are getting pushed aside more often.

Plus, our school has very strict rules about what we can send for snacks. Fine - my kids would rather have fruit and veggies anyway. But the school actually sells pop and chips (in the high school) and ice cream (in all the schools - including kindergarten) in the cafeteria. Hypocrites, much?

charli-tan said...

I had never heard of the knife thing. I wonder if that's a regional thing?

Oaks is definitely rushed through his lunch, no doubt. It irritates me. His school is like yours: 20 minutes for everything. It's not enough time!

As for the processed debate. I am in the middle. I think that there are extremes on either end, true and I saw the Jamie O show, too (love him!) and was also a bit freaked out at what I saw. Oakley was, as a very small child never given any options but juice, water and milk. He ate tofu rolled in wheat germ instead of chicken nuggets and had no idea that ravioli and pasta were any color but green. His fries were sweet potatoes and not fried and... well, you get the point.

But now, he has some capri sun mixed in. And a coke sometimes. And he LOVES little Debbi Brownies and is he eats his dinner, he can have one. I pack his lunch most days, but if he really wants the pizza or the mac and cheese from school, then he eats it. Despite my best efforts, he'd rather have a cookie than an apple, but he'll take the apple if I give it to him.

For me, I guess I want him to make healthy choices, but I also want his food to be fun and eating to be something he enjoys. Since I DON"T want this to be at the risk of his health, I am not willing to let him indulge in all fun all the time, but I had to learn to ease up. I was a bit of a control freak.

That said, we have people who come into the restaurant and order their 7 year old's coffee. COME ON!! or Coke for breakfast with their stuffed pancakes. Ewwww...

I was totally grossed out by the processed chicken nugget demonstration he did! And the kids still ate it! YUCK!

charli-tan said...

Oh also, our school is strict about snacks too. Only healthy snacks, but they can buy ice cream at lunch if they want. And they sell doughnuts.. no, SUPER doughnuts for breakfast! WTF?

Paige said...

I never thought about the impact rushing through lunch might have long term.

Good point

Anonymous said...

And then there is the child who is afraid of soda (seriously, bad accidental soda experience at a young age--he won't go near it now) and doesn't like juice so he drinks water, milk and lemonade only by default, although I'd like to take credit. You will be pleased to know that Z has now accepted the "no-thank-you bite" philosophy, and will try new things on Fridays. ONLY on Fridays.

That's my world.

Bubblewench said...

Love this post. This is one of those issues that freaks me out about having a kid. Hubs eats awful foods having been raised very poor. But I'll figure it out. Somehow. If I have to.

Anonymous said...

Stay up on your soapbox. (I watched Jamie's show too and loved it).

So, I agree with both of you... and I practice the same method that my mother used on me... If it's not in the house, they can't eat it. Taught from an early age that it's not good for them and if they have to have 'it' (it being anything not healthy) then it is a treat for a special occasion.

It's doable. Just have to get used to saying no. :)