For her bedtime story recently, my daughter chose a book about eating too much junk food. It really made me think about my role in preventing obesity in my children. It also forced me to recall my personal childhood choices when it came to eating meals and snacks. I am using the term “choices” lightly, because I really did not have any say.
When I was growing up we had three solid meals per day. Desserts were only served on special occasions. My family was very adamant about children eating all their food, especially fruits and vegetables. Most of our meals were chased by a tall glass of milk or water. During trips to the grocery store my grandmother only purchased items that were on her list, and the list usually consisted of items that were going to be used solely to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
But my flexible parenting style has led to an à la carte menu selection for my children when it comes time for meals and snacks. My children and I not only have three meals per day, we often indulge in at least two to three snacks per day (bedtime snack is non-negotiable with my children). I do not force my children to eat all of their food. Needless to say, when I am preparing meals I make various side items because I know there are some foods that my children will not eat. My son has appointed himself as the official “family drink server,” and he typically pours mostly juice and pop. When we go to the grocery store I am lucky to have room in the cart for items that were initially on my list because of all of the yummy snacks and items from wonderful food displays filling up my shopping cart.
When I was younger, obesity in young children was not a major issue. I feel that most children in my community did not snack because they were forced to eat everything on their plate or simply because snack food was not as readily available. Historically, parents were very strict about eating fruits and vegetables. Children were forced to sit at the table from sun up to sun down until they swallowed every fruit/veggie that was on their plate. I am not saying that the latter eating habits enforced by parents were right, however meal time, snacking and the “choices” children could make about the foods they consumed were totally different. How can we find a happy medium between then and now?
I am so glad that my daughter selected the book about junk food as a bedtime story. While I definitely understand the importance of healthy eating, I have been reminded about how my parenting choices can and will have an everlasting impact on my children’s eating habits (and how much I can do to make sure that’s a positive impact). In order to take a detour from my children’s trip to obesity, I may need to revisit some of my grandma’s meal time and shopping traditions.