The Food Police and My Confession

16 Feb

examiner.com

This week I was reminded that I am a slacker mom, at least in the food department.  It started when I read an article about a North Carolina preschool that supposedly took away a preschooler’s lunch because it didn’t meet the USDA state guidelines.  According to the Carolina Journal, “The state guidelines require that one serving of meat, one serving of grains, one serving of dairy, and two servings of fruits or vegetables are provided with each meal.”  The preschooler’s lunch consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips.  Now, while I know that isn’t the absolute healthiest lunch a child can eat, it is certainly better than the alternative the child was offered which was battered fish sticks, corn, potatoes, peaches and milk.  The article was amended to say that the day care center was being reviewed by that state that day and that the lunches are not taken away from any child.  They are simply offered the cafeteria addition/alternative when their lunch is lacking.  The article also stated that some preschools don’t allow packed lunches at all to avoid that problem entirely.

At first, I was angry that the state was telling that mom that her lunch was inadequate when it wasn’t.  Then I was angrier when I found what the child was offered instead.  Finally, when I really asked myself what bothered me the most about the article, I realized it was how it made me feel about the recent nutritional choices I’ve offered my family.  You see, I’m the mom that’s always preached about good nutrition and the connection to behavior and health, and I have strayed from my own preaching and teaching.    

First, the cliff notes version of my adult food journey.  My oldest and middle sons both turned into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at about age two.  On any given day they would be playing nicely and having fun, and suddenly, like someone flipped a switch, they would be mean and nasty and hit people and throw things and be totally out of control of their emotions.  It was startling and frightening, and I started to seriously doubt my parenting skills.  Then I heard something on a talk show that changed my life.  A woman was talking about food sensitivities and how prevalent and undiagnosed they were.  She said that, unlike allergies, food sensitivities usually showed up as bad behavior in children because they didn’t know how to communicate that the food they ate was not processing properly in their body.  She suggested that parents keep a food diary and note when problems occurred.  We did that with each of our sons and found that hydrogenated oils (now known as trans fats) and red dye #40 were the culprits for our children.  We removed them from our diet and our sons’ behavior magically transformed.  They were happy and calm children once again.

The change was monumental in how they felt and how I shopped.  At the time, getting rid of hydrogenated oils meant no more of our favorite peanut butter, no more packaged snacks, except pretzels, no pre-packaged dinners like Hamburger Helper and no more pre-made items like frozen potatoes for French fries or Banquet frozen meals.  Even most of the cereals we ate were off limits.  Then we removed the red dye #40.  Out the door went our Kool-Aid, Hawaiian Punch and Doritos.  It also limited the types of cough syrup my son could have and made Valentine’s Day a serious food challenge day.  And while this was a huge challenge for some time, an amazing thing happened.  We started eating healthier than we ever had.  We shopped the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on meat, fresh produce, some frozen veggies and dairy.  My kids learned to like food that was good for them.  I remember a woman saying to me once that I asked my kids if they wanted broccoli and potatoes like she asked her kids if they wanted candy.  I loved that!

So, I read the original article and the amended article and it got me thinking.  My kids pack every day because they prefer their packed food to the cafeteria offerings.  Now that they’re older, I’ve slacked more than a bit on the nutritional front because they don’t react as strongly and frankly, it’s easier to buy pre-packaged foods for lunch.  The trade-off in the past was that, most nights, we had a dinner with a healthy protein and at least one vegetable.  We ate salads and other raw vegetables, some cooked vegetables, some fruit and a few prepared foods as well.  Heck, no one is perfect.  Lately, though, it’s been easier to give in to the drive through or the quick sit down at a restaurant.  The articles remind me that at least for now, I still have control over the quality of the fuel I put into my body and the bodies of my precious family, but lately, I’ve been fueling high performance engines with less than bargain fuel.  My family and I deserve better.  We can make better nutritional choices, and you can bet that’s what I will be doing, today, tomorrow and for as many days as I can.  It’s a complicated journey most of us have with food, but as we simplify our lives and our priorities, the food journey can get simpler too.  So eat well and be well, and maybe think about eating for an entire week or even just a day from nature’s bounty instead of something that is canned, packaged or frozen.  Let me know how that feels.  For me, it feels like a bad food detour has ended and I’m back on the good mom track nutritionally. I could go on and on, and maybe I will in another post.  What do you think?  My husband’s reaction was “Crap, She’s going to stop buying crap…again.” Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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One Response to “The Food Police and My Confession”

  1. mindfullyhealing February 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    My middle son has asperger’s and is gluten and dairy free, and the difference in him when we changed his diet at the age of 3 was astonishing. It did make me look closely at what I was feeding all of us, myself included. We’re very strict about Middle Son’s diet, but wow, it’s SO easy for the rest of us to slack off. Thank you for the reminder and the motivation!!!

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