I remember before we started eating a real food diet full of saturated fats and no refined sugars, we were trying to eat ‘healthy’. I was put off by children’s books that contained ice cream and cupcakes as the central thread of the story. Those were ‘junk’ foods and were ‘bad’ – why should they the coolest part of the story?! I could see that this approach would lead to a negative perception of certain foods and this did not jive with how I wanted my daughter to be raised. I didn’t want food categories to be labeled ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘junk’ and I certainly didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking she was ‘bad’ if she ate ice cream or cupcakes.
A new perspective
This past year has given me a whole new perspective on my attitude to food in general. It is amazing how different your brain treats food when your body is well nourished, full and happy. However, there was still the challenge of thinking through how to talk about this new way of food thinking with my three year old daughter. She is and will be surrounded by processed or ‘fake’ food (as we call it) we just don’t eat. But I did want her to be able to distinguish a ‘real’ cookie from a ‘fake’ one. I had to come up with new words to describe these foods. And I had to put this in a positive and empowering light for her. I could get overwhelmed by how the cards are so stacked against real food for kids today. I could view it as stressful and just give up. Instead I viewed this as an opportunity.
So what has been working? Surprisingly enough, I think what works the best is our taste buds! The food we make now just tastes so flavorful and ‘real’. The food we eat out just tastes so boring and flavorless, it kind of makes my job easy talking to my daughter about these differences. It is amazing how much she does understand. She knows what tastes good and what doesn’t. I am teaching her what nourishment tastes like. Because we don’t eat processed food often, we all feel it in our bodies in a negative way when we do eat it. I devised a way that works for us on how to talk about what real food is but also to balance that with a respect and appreciation of food and for those who provide us with food. I wanted to teach my daughter to enjoy food, not be fussy about it and also to be thankful for it no matter the situation she finds herself in.
Real Food Talking Points for Kids
- Real food is homemade, takes time to prepare and doesn’t come in colorful packaging with characters.
- Real food has colors from nature, not bright colors like your markers.
- Fake foods are full of chemicals that can make us sick.
- Eat foods that will fill you up your tummy like eggs, meat and cheeses so you can make it to the next meal without being too hungry.
- Respect animals and only eat them if they are raised on farms like in your favorite books (like The Big Red Barn).
- Real food treats are made with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.
- Sugar is toxic and eating it will give you crooked teeth and cavities and can make you very sick when you are older.
- Bread makes our tummies hurt if we eat too much of it.
- Eat ‘sour’ foods (our word for fermented) with every meal to get the ‘good bugs’ in our tummies so we can help our bodies fight ‘bad bugs’
- You don’t have to love all foods you are served, but you do have to try them with a smile and a thank you to the person who made it for you.
- What you decide to eat is your choice – it is your body – not mine!
I know that last one is shocking but I have found when I tell her that she really does end up making the right choice because it takes the power struggle out of the equation – she is in charge!
Do you talk to your kids about food? What tips can you share?
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