Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Confessions of a Mean Mommy

I am a Mean Mommy. It's true. I don't let my kids eat junk food. Much. Ok, I see that I have your attention...now let's talk.

Do you ever think about how you ate while growing up? As a kid, dinner was Hamburger Helper, or Kraft Mac N Cheese. Sometimes pork chops, mashed potatoes,gravy and canned peas. Kitchen sink burritos, which was everything, and fried potatoes, too. We had Hostess sweets, Pop Tarts and overly sugared cereal. Healthy was brown bread over white.

My mother still bought white bread, usually. We drank a lot of milk. Ate a lot of ice cream, there was always snack foods in my house, usually more than one. For dinner, we ate a lot of red meat. How many kids do you know who sat down to dinner, complaining, "Not steak again!" Don't get me wrong, my mother was a good cook and a good mother. She fed us the way she was supposed to at the time.

Cut to today: In my family, we eat more organic foods (more is available) more fruits and vegetables, leaner meats. We drink very little dairy, and don't eat much cheese. Less packaged items. I tend to shop the perimeter of the grocery store: that's where you find the produce, dairy and meat departments. If you have the willpower, you save money by doing this. Of course, you also miss the cookie aisle, which you might want to hit, because, really, who can survive without cookies? Still, if you have a list, you spend less. And try to be quick: the stores know the longer you spend in the store, the more you will buy.

I don't love grocery shopping. All the expensive, preservative-laden, less nutritious food is at eye level. If it is marketed at kids, it is at their eye level. It is not fun these days to take a small child to the grocery store! Trying to wheel the cart while dealing with velcro kid hanging on at the knees and whining..."But I waaaaaant fruit snacks!" is definitely not relaxing. It is stress-inducing. Guess it is good that our grocery store has a Starbucks inside. Now, I've done it! This was supposed to be a post about eating healthy, and I have given away my biggest vice: Starbucks. Ah well, I plug on..

My daughter is a bit envious of the way her friends are able to eat. Pringles are for fiber, fruit snacks are "fruit." Apparently, no meal is ever complete without some sort of sugar to top it off. "Jell-O" is store-bought and comes in a plastic container, the better to quickly shove into a bag and tote it with you.

Of course, these people consider us strange, because I don't buy most of that food. Complicating this are so many choices! When I was a kid, there were two flavors of Pop Tarts, and now there are at least ten. Today's food panders to childrens' palates: oversugared, artificially flavored and colored. If you want to know if something is nutritious, first clue, if it is fortified, it means the food had very little vitamins and minerals to begin with. Hence, not a good choice!

For the record, I am the Mean Mommy and I don't buy any of the stuff my oldest daughter wants me to buy. Some examples: anything colored just for the sake of it. Blue applesauce, pink cereal, rainbow-colored goldfish. I see no point in filling our bodies with preservatives and additives if we don't have to. It's also something that some kids can have reactions to, such as tantrums, hyperactiveness, whininess. Red soda, really, artificial red anything doesn't enter my house, except on rare occasions. I have taught all of kids from an early age to be label readers.

They know what I will buy and what I won't. It might seem strict to some, but when obesity is such a concern in this country; when the state of California is advertising on television about the evils of sugary snacks ("Mommmy, can I have some diabetes??) I think that I am on the right track, teaching my kids from an early age to eat well.

You are thinking I am a health nut. Trust me, nothing could be further from the truth. My thought is that I eat dinner so that I can have dessert! I am very picky about what foods I bring into my home, but I absolutely do buy chips (Fritos, Kettle Chips and blue corn tortilla chips) and sweets. Currently, my favorite gotta-have-it indulgence is the new Pepperidge Farm chocolate cookies. They are just sinful. And I already busted myself by revealing my Starbucks addiction.

Fast food is easy. Frozen food is easy. We are all about easy...and I know, cooking isn't easy anymore. These days, time is at a premium for many, and so few people actually eat well. Dinner is what you grab on the way to something else. Hamburger Helper is now advertising itself as a "home cooked meal" and the idea isn't the food as much as the result: instant family togetherness. Between sports practice, lessons after school and many working, there is little time to cook nutritious meals Don't get me wrong, I am not spending most of my time in the kitchen, either! I am lazy. I admit it.

But I think we do eat better than many I know. Broiling a tilapia filet a fancy word for "piece of fish" with balsamic a fancy word for "dressing" isn't rocket science. I cheat and buy frozen organic vegetables and I do buy bagged salad. And though I love them, I don't buy tuna or salmon, due to ongoing mercury questions. I mentioned that we drink very little milk in this house; it is mostly used for cereal for my oldest daughter, and for coffee. Rice milk is what my two youngest are used to, and it actually tastes pretty good.

We haven't always eaten like this, but I have been heading this way for a long time. This Summer really was the catalyst. After reading about the Gluten Free/Casein Free diet as a treatment for autism, I decided to give my son a test run. So that he wouldn't feel singled out, I put me and the kids on the diet, too. J ate what he wanted, just not in front of my son. After about a month, we noticed improvement in bowel habits and attitude from J2. There was no difference in anyone else. So I pulled the girls off the diet, and continued my son.

Would there be changes and improvements such as others I knew had experienced? At that point, he was a bit resistant. I mean, you tell me...could you forsake bread, pasta, cookies, cake and dairy? Sounds like hell, doesn't it? But if you knew that it helped you to feel better? What if the very things that you loved to eat were making you sick? ....to be continued

T, loves being a Mean Mommy, if it means feeding my children well

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3 sent chocolate:

Cheryl said...

You're not mean at all. One day they'll have adult concerns over nutrition and in those years they'll be thanking you while other kids are looking at their waistlines and health issues and blaming their parents.

We avoid white meat burgers in any form - its the scraps of meat from near the bone, falsely 'fortified' with skin and fat to bulk it into something moist enough to be moulded into shape, and full of salt. Fizzy drinks are for celebrations and lucky Sundays.
We avoid all breakfast cereals with colours, chocolate bits, sugar. We go through loads of milk but its all semi skimmed.

Have you tried your boy on omega 3 and 6?

TLC said...

Thanks, Cheryl. Yes, he is on Omegas, and a multivitamin. Also digestive enzymes, every time he eats.

They all help.

Dorothy said...

I just started that here. Now that fresh fruits and veggies are available. The leaner meat thing I've always done. I just cut out caffeine totally and am reducing the junk and dessert. I'm also concentrating on asking the question "Am I full? instead of eating till I hurt.

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