Tuesday, April 07, 2015

happy belated easter. no secrets, ok?

Happy belated Easter everyone.

I hope you've all recovered from the chocolate and hot x bun overload, not to mention daylight savings ending coupled with school holidays. I know, sugar high plus sleep deprivation what a combo.

Whether your eggs and buns were sugar loaded or spelt or paleo or fairtrade or organic, the main thing is I hope you all spent some good time with people you love because really that's what holidays should be about.

I've been pondering some things this Easter to do with parenting and food, I can actually give myself a headache thinking about this sort of thing so I thought I'd throw it over to you and get your thoughts and insights.

It all started with cheese balls and coke. Yep. Cheese balls and Coke, words I bet you never expected to read here.

My oldest son is 8 going on 9 and I can see his curiosity growing about many things, including food, how other families do things, their rules, what other kids eat and so on.

We spent some time with friends from Melbourne one day on the holidays and after a morning at the skatepark the three boys were hungry. I didn't have my usual snacks of dips and rice crackers with me so we walked to the nearby supermarket.

My friend who we were with has a different approach to food with her boys than we do with ours in that as long as her boys eat fruit and vegetables, they're allowed to eat a bit of 'junk', processed food.

My approach generally is that even the 'junk' has to be a good version of junk. I was curious as we entered the supermarket as to what the boys would go for. A packet of chips was the request.

Usually I would head for the 'health food' aisle and my boys could choose veggie chips or organic plain potato chips.

On this day we left the supermarket with cheese balls. I didn't look at the ingredients, I didn't make a big deal about it, I let them make their choice all the while knowing that they knew it wouldn't be something that we'd ever regularly do.

You see, I don't want to always say no. I don't want to set up a 'good' and 'bad' food battle that can later be used against me. At the moment with our boys aged 5 and 8, Pete and I are instilling our values in our them, guiding them, educating them. But when it comes down to it, they will grow into who they are and make their own decisions and I'm becoming more thoughtful about ways to raise them so that they do not make decisions out of defiance or...in secret. Secrets = shame. (Unless the secret is a surprise party or a gift of course, that = fun!)

Over Easter I took the boys to Melbourne and we went out for lunch to a cafe. We ordered our meals and then my oldest boy asked, "Can drinking one coke make you sick?" I explained that Coke has a lot of sugar in it so if you're not used to having a lot of sugar it might make you feel sick in the tummy but it wouldn't make you really, really sick (he was meaning like heart attack or cancer sick). To my surprise he then asked, "Can Sol and I share a Coke?" I laughed. I thought he was joking.
But he wasn't. He explained in all seriousness that he wanted to taste Coke and could they have one.

This raised lots of questions in my mind. Will my boys feel like they have to hide junk food from us if they want to eat it when they are older and have their own money to pay for it?

Food is about so many things, not just health and nutrition. There is the emotional and social aspect and unfortunately for children and teenagers being raised to not eat processed foods, they can feel like the odd ones out. While this isn't a reason to just start eating processed food, to 'fit in', it is something I'm aware of and the challenges it can present to young people when all they want to do it fit in and be like their friends.

River and Sol didn't drink Coke that day, they had water with their lunch. I explained to River that I understood he was curious about Coke and that one day if he wanted to taste it he could but it wouldn't be today. He persisted, "Why not today?" So I added that along with all the sugar, Coke also has caffeine in it and caffeine isn't good for children. Thankfully he was happy to leave it at that!

At the Easter hat parade at school on the last day of term I was chatting to one of the teachers about all the Easter eggs being passed around, the teacher said "The kids who eat things like this all the time aren't fussed about them, the kids who don't get much of this sort of thing go crazy for them."

I'm interested to hear your thoughts and experiences. How do you handle requests for junk food?
Are you concerned that your child feels like they need to sneak or hide junk food because they know you won't approve? I'd love to hear and I'm sure others would too. Tell us in the comments.


  1. I recently started having the 'birthday party battle' with myself & my 3 year old. He is gluten & dairy free so already we are up against it, add a 'normal' birthday party with lollies & I'm starting to worry. In consultation with our chiro, as long as I try my hardest to ensure I take lollies based on corn rather than wheat glucose (harder than you'd think to find!) & keep Ted away from the other stuff, it is ok. Ted asks me before he dives in at the snack table. Luckily we don't have the softdrink battle here, as I just tell Ted the truth - he hates fizzy drinks! Our problem at the moment is more based around alcohol & how we represent our enjoyment of a glass of wine (or beer) over dinner to him. It is enough for now to calmly explain that alcohol is bad for growing brains and that we will introduce it to him when he is much older. My argument for coffee/caffeine is the same. For example, at our local cafe Ted knows he can share my chai latte but can't have any cappuccino. He asks "Does this have caffeine in it?" with his spoon hovering over the foam! I worry though if we are conditioning him to enjoy coffee and wine when he is older because we don't hide our enjoyment either? One thing I do know: parenting = angst!! Thanks for the thought-provoking post, these are things that are certainly on my mind. Much love xox

    1. Thanks Audrey for sharing your experience and thoughts. Interesting that you raise the point about alcohol because I do think about that too, it is kind of a whole other conversation but my husband and I are very conscious about the messages we give our boys about drinking alcohol. For us it is an occasional thing, wine with dinner at a restaurant or friends house, champagne for celebrations. Yes! Parenting = tricky times knowing how to get things 'right', good to know we're all in the same boat. Xx

  2. Hey Nikki!

    Long time, no comment. Sorry about that, I've been reading on my phone, but so busy I never seem to get on the actual computer and comment.

    I have more relaxed rules that you in that outside the house, I don't worry what the girls eat as at home, it's wholefoods all the way. That said, when we eat out we tend to go to cafes that serve high-quality 'wholer' foods, never takeaway. Most of the time when we're out and I ask the girls what they want, they choose sushi. Fine by me!

    As for snacks, I usually stop at a cafe and buy them a muffin I know has been made fresh. Even though it's got sugar in it, I know it's made from actual ingredients and not nasty stuff. There's a few places we go that we can raw, GF and natural sugar treats. The most sugary snack they get are a bread roll from a bakery chain. Both girls think it's the bees knees of treats and I guess it's much sweeter than the usual homemade sourdough they eat at breakfast!

    They've never had soft drink, although love mineral water. I suppose they'll ask about coke sometime and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!

    Hope you're all well! Linda. xx

    1. Hi Linda, no need to apologise we are all in the same boat when it comes to time! I am more relaxed outside our home too, particularly when we visit other people. I am planning a series on wholefood cafes it is so great to find places outside of home serving beautiful food. I hope you're all well and warm xx

  3. Whilst many (most) of the parents in our rural community find our families' approach to food 'strict', 'weird/hippy' and devoid of treats, I have found the children themselves would beg to differ. Providing them consistently with a broad range of whole foods means that they have learnt to recognise and enjoy real food, and even to define themselves as 'healthy' in relation to many around them. On weekly tuckshop days, where all the children in our small school of 24 kids buy party pies/chicken nuggets/hot dogs and treats packed with sugar, after some trial and error we now send our kids with a small amount of money to try something if they like, but as they often find these options are not to their liking (full of refined sugars and grains and highly processed) and virtually inedible, they take their own food from home as well. This way they don't feel left out, have learnt to make their own choices, and also learnt to recognise that they don't enjoy junk very much.
    Mostly, when it comes to junk, we have provided information about the products the junk contains and what affect those products can have on our bodies. The boys still refer to the time years ago they had an ice-block during a remote road trip with friends which had blue food colouring that made them feel awful, and have since never wanted to go near anything like that again. I think modelling good food choices ourselves has also made a huge difference - and kids mostly want to please. When we are out with friends we don't deny them treats such as chips or the occasional icecream. We also have plenty of 'treats' at home made the whole food way, and there was certainly chocolate for Easter! So all in all we don't get many requests for junk and we haven't had any incidences of sneaking junk yet - I think it just comes back again to the overall food culture at home and about gradual learning, both through what they actually eat and also through understanding about food. Like all learning, we have to expect a few hiccups along the way.

    1. Agree Pauline! I love your words 'food culture at home' that's what will leave the lasting impression on our children and their habits and choices I believe. x

  4. I have a similar approach to Linda in that at home wholesome food is on offer but nothing is "banned" as such when my kids are in someone else's home. I haven't had incidences of sneaking food, probably because there is no strict regimen, what I would like is that they grow up appreciating a variety of good foods and everything in moderation. They actually prefer homemade treats and the requests around here are for me to make something rather than for junk food...the only problem is that it's hard to keep up! I have noticed that my 7yr old helps himself to half a cup of coke at parties but my 10yr old doesn't drink it. They both are crazy for chips, but flavoured chips have only recently come onto the market where we live so party snacks are usually plain potato chips and salted popcorn. I think that real food undeniably tastes better and they are just following their tastebuds. The fact that they are energetic boys with big appetites also comes into play - they have realised that processed snacks just don't fill them up and seeing as they have to wait until dinner once afternoon tea is over, they prefer something that will see them through...so they might arrive home from Nonna's with a packaged "brioche" that then gets abandoned in favour of something better!

    1. Isn't that great that your boys have realised junk doesn't fill them up. I hear you on boys and appetites, my 8 year old is permanently hungry!

  5. Growing up my mum made everything from scratch. My parents are from two different countries so we ate lebanese, yugoslavian and Italian etc. We had no junk food in the house but in my teens I use to sneak out to Mcdonalds with my friends. When I was in my 20's I moved to Newtown and became a vegetarian and made wholesome foods from scratch. Now I'm a parent I am like my mother was to me with my children. But my son is 8 and when he is a teen I will let him eat what he wants out of the house but of course on the condition he has to eat healthy meals at home. I really think it's a passing phase and you can always reach a compromise through different phases. We never ever have lollies or soft drinks in the house but when Max reached 5 I let him eat party food at Birthdays. I'm glad you are sharing this because I am very much like you and it's good to see this common predicament.

    1. Zena I would have loved to have been at your table as a child! All those wonderful cultural influences. By the way I just looked at your blog, your sewing is amazing! x

  6. This is such a curler ... I was raised completely deprived of junk food, and would come home from a birthday party feeling like I was going to throw up after eating so much ... and now I can see Olive doing the same thing. But as a parent it's such tricky ground to negotiate! I'm trying to encourage her to just have ONE treat thing at a birthday party. So far we are unsuccessful! But I do think if you raise your kids to think about health, no matter how far they veer from the (your) course, they'll come back to healthy eating. At least, I did, and I'm hoping Olive will too. Kellie xx
    PS Olive had a big tantrum when some of her friends (my friends kids) were drinking lemonade at the pub recently, and I put my foot down and said she couldn't have any. If it had have been easter eggs, I probably would have said sure you can have one, and I did wonder if my decision made any rational sense. But I am just so opposed to soft drink that rightly or wrongly I stood my ground.

    1. Hi Kellie,

      Birthday parties can be such a nightmare! I have started giving my four year old a smoothie packed with filling stuff, like avocado, banana, yoghurt, coconut oil, etc, along with something else like pikelets or a boiled egg before we go and it has made a huge difference. I can now leave him to it at birthday parties and find he only has one or two things. Christmas on the other hand was a disaster. My son vomited after eating all the junk his cousins were having. Sigh... Claire

    2. Hi Kellie, I know your right that even if they 'stray' they will eventually come back to what they know is great food. I am so anti soft drink too but I have to say if I was in the pub situation you described I would have let my boys have one lemonade and then if others were having more I would have said they've had one and now they can drink water. River would drink a whole one but I know Sol wouldn't because it would be overpoweringly sweet. The situation you describe is exactly the dilemma I am talking about, it is not just about the food or drink but the socialisation too. Ah parenting so tricky!!

  7. Great post Nikki. I've been MIA a while from the blog scene, but I am back.
    This is definitely a challenge for whole food parents and families. You want to do the best for your kids, give them the best start in life, especially when it comes to food. But you also don't want them to feel as though they are missing out at birthday parties when other kids get free run of the party food.
    With our kids, I trust that we are empowering them enough to make healthy choices as they grow up. When it comes to 'treat' foods, we would obviously prefer their intake to be nil, but a little bit every now and then at a party is ok...I just try to fuel them up at breakfast or lunch before the party so they won't feel so hungry that they need to 'pig out' on junk, and then it's a nourishing bone broth or soup after for dinner.
    We have hosted birthday parties where some of the parents have been amazed by what we have served to the kids (no junk in sight) AND how the kids all gobbled it up. I think many people go for the easy 'treat' option for kids birthdays - packets and preservatives seems to be the go.
    If there are enough whole food families in a community, then the influence will surely start to spread.
    It is a dilemma though...my husband went through his own food rebellion stage in his late teens, early twenties with loads of junk and packet stuff, after growing up mostly whole food and vegetarian. He went back to what he knew.

    1. It is weird isn't it how our society has become so accustomed to having parties that equal totally crap food, why is that?! And then as you explain parties can be about beautiful, delicious 'celebration' food that doesn't make everyone feel sick with sugar and preservatives. Thanks for sharing your experience x


Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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