Kids are strong-willed, smart, and can survive on very little food. But when they are hungry, I mean really hungry, children will eat anything. Dr. Shah, of Mandala Integrative Medicine in Davenport, Iowa, and his wife, Ambreen, have a son who was diagnosed with autism at the age of four. At that time, the only food their son wanted to eat was chicken nuggets and French fries. Dr. Shah and Ambreen wanted him to eat other forms of protein and vegetables, but he hated textures of other foods and refused to try new things. Dr. Shah and Ambreen made the decision to change their son’s diet, and when he refused to eat the meal provided, they didn’t back down. Their son became physical with his parents and himself and eventually they had to use laminated cards to communicate their expectations. After two days of waiting, their son came around and ate what was given to him. Dr. Shah and Ambreen won the fight. The process of healing their son’s gut was extremely difficult, but they understand the importance of nutrition and their son’s success is proof that their journey was worth the struggle.
I tell this story because it opened my eyes. My children aren’t overly difficult to feed and don’t have extreme sensory issues, so I cannot speak to this from a personal perspective on this issue. However, hearing the story of Dr. Shah and Ambreen’s willpower brought me courage. As parents, it is our responsibility to make the decisions about what our children put into their bodies, until they are old enough to make smart decisions on their own. We wouldn’t allow a four-year-old to play with fire. When are we going to start treating the Standard American Diet as life threatening? Because it is and we need to wake up and toughen up a bit.
According to Surgeon General Richard Carmona,
“Because of the increasing rates of obesity, unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity, we may see the first generation that will be less healthy and have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
I understand there are several different types of eaters out there. Every situation is unique, and there isn’t one solution for all children. However, we also need to remember, if a less healthy alternative is waiting every couple hours, it’s not hard for them to hold off. When kids are given processed foods daily, food from the earth tastes like dirt. Our chemical-filled foods have brainwashed their little taste buds to only want fake food.
Here is how I have created a boundary to win the food fight at my house. My oldest daughter, the selective eater, ate five or six bites of her chili and a few vegetables last night at dinner and then claimed she wasn’t hungry. Even though I wanted to, I didn’t ask her to finish her food or just take one more bite, because I am a firm believer that we should listen to our bodies. In general, we should eat when hungry and avoid eating when we are not hungry. Plus, I didn’t want to have the argument.
One hour later: “Mom, I’m hungry!” My first instinct was to tell her, “Go get something to eat,” but I quickly remembered what she ate for dinner. Now, if my goal is to get her to eat more variety, letting her choose what she eats at this point would be counterproductive. The chili she picked through was still waiting for her in the fridge. This is now her choice.
As parents, it is our responsibility to create opportunities for healthy eating. Sometimes that means we need to wait until our children are hangry and then provide them with the nutrition they need. I have been outsmarted many times, because if my kids know they can hold off and be provided with something else later on, they will.
I know parenting, providing healthy food on a budget and managing the stress that goes with it is difficult and that is why I am passionate about providing support for families who want to eat healthier. Contact me for support at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.