When You Eat Great & the Kids Eat Junk
I was once in line at HEB behind a lady checking out with a cart full of brightly colored packages featuring cartoon characters. Of course I did what every childless young person does. I silently judged her.
She chatted with the cashier about how school was out for the summer and she had to stock her fridge and pantry with “kid food” so her children could feed themselves over the next few weeks- months. “It’s not kid food” I thought. “It’s junk and my kids won’t eat that way.” Flash forward a few years to the me I said I’d never used become- the lady ordering a salad at chick-fil-a and a side of chicken nuggets for my toddler. How did we get to the land of kid food vs adult food otherwise known as real or healthy food?
The first problem is that we compartmentalize food.
We live in the era of food industry documentaries and a constantly revolving stream of fad diets. It was drilled into our heads that fat makes you fat and you should buy butter substitutes. Now we’re supposed to eat fat bombs (whatever that is) and pizza crust made from cheese because carbs are the enemy and fat burns fat. Every other label advertises the absence of some macronutrient or hormone or chemical or farming practice thus imparting a negative connotation on gluten or eggs from caged chickens or whatever. On each aisle there are specially designed packages of food clearly displaying the intended audience they are marketed towards. Infant puffy rice snacks, Trix are for kids, Hungry Man meals, and low calorie Smart Ones for mom. We have become conditioned to label food both good and bad and for individual demographics.
Another common pitfall is convenience.
After all, there’s nowhere to put a label if the food isn’t prepackaged. Summer food shopping mom knew this all too well. Kid food needs to be quick and easy-either to instantly gratify a fussy toddler or to allow a latch key kid to microwave his own hot after school snack. Drive through fast food is the quintessential kid’s meal and comes complete with a toy to entertain the little stinkers so you can eat your meal once you reach your destination.
Lastly, we should consider why kid food is synonymous with junk even if it doesn’t come with a toy or feature cartoon character. I believe that this is because we don’t value food as fuel for a healthy lifestyle. Even when we eat “well” it tends to be for a limited time when we have weight loss goals. It may be more likely that we don’t really eat well and feed our kids differently. Rather, we feed our kids according to our own habits and as adults intermittently go on a “health” kick. We make changes that may not even actually be the best option for our long term health but opt for things with fewer calories or the promise of a quick change in body composition.
The resolution in my opinion is to stop labeling food and stop buying food with labels. Feed the entire family a diet of whole foods and make it a lifelong habit. Make real food convenient by prepping fresh, healthful, balanced meals and snacks. Allow room for treats every now and then without the guilt of eating something “bad.” Go ahead and grab those nuggets when you need to mama and know you can have one yourself because you AND your kids are eating well the majority of the time.