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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monkeying around with food

Today I was visiting with my friend Sonya and, as women do, we got around to discussing our eating habits and weight loss. Naturally, since we are also parents, this discussion morphed into our theories on how to teach our kids about food.

We both have a fondness for starchy and cheese laden foods, as well as sugar. Knowing that too much of these kinds of foods are not good for us, we have already begun to come up with ideas on how to thwart bad eating habits in our children.

It seems like with food, everyone knows what they don't want. For instance, Sonya and I agree that we don't want our children to attach emotional rewards to certain foods, as we do.

We know that we don't want our children to overeat or to eat things that will give them long-lasting health problems like high blood pressure or heart disease.

But the conversation got me to thinking.

What do I WANT for Annika. Not just what do I not want, but how to I want her to view food?

And just what is the best way to go about helping her learn the best way to view food?

Personally, I seesaw between being puritanical about food and binging. I don't like cooking and I lack the creative sense for making it look good. Therefore, I will eat whatever is put in front of me as long as I can stomach it and I am hungry.

My ex-husband, who was in the Air Force, used to tease me about my laziness in the kitchen. He once told some friends that if I was stranded and I had all the makings for a three-course meal, but I had to cook it, and my other option was an MRE (acronym stands for meal-ready-to-eat, those freeze dried camping thingies, also used for military) that I would choose the MRE. He was right. At the time anyway. I think now I'd take a stab at the cooking.

BUT, I also have certain go-to foods when I am depressed, anxious, bored, lazy, lethargic.... You get the point.

Food can be emotional for me. It seems that it is for a lot of people. Maybe everyone? I don't know about that. But I'd like to think that food doesn't have to be overly emotional. I guess that is what I want for Annika.

Sure, I'd like her to enjoy her food. I want her to be able to find enjoyment in all areas of life. But I don't want her to attach certain emotions to certain foods, like for me, when I get depressed I need chips and salsa. (When I went through my divorce, I practically lived on them. I am NOT kidding.)

But, back to my conversation with Sonya. I found that our goal is essentially the same -- to have children who make healthy choices and don't have weight problems or other health issues caused by eating habits -- our approach differs somewhat.

I tend toward the idea that with food, less is more. And more is less. In other words, little to no regulation of food is a good idea. This idea is otherwise known as unfooding.

Sonya's approach is to make healthy food attractive to her son.

I've realized that these are both good ideas and I want to find ways of making healthy food more attractive to Annika so that she doesn't struggle with making choices based simply on what tastes good, but what is the best choice for her health and how it makes her feel physically.

In order to learn how to make choices, one must HAVE choices. And food should be something to enjoy just like anything else.

This is what I struggle with. How to balance the enjoyment of food without overeating?

Annika doesn't seem all that interested in real food. She'll still nurse any day over eating regular food.

Lately I've been thinking about ways to give variety and make food attractive, like making monkey platters (the name is from unschooling/unfooding mama, Sandra Dodd) and using Bento boxes. From what I've heard, variety is key with little kids and also it helps give them extra choices.

So for now, I'm looking for ideas on how to put some variety into Annika's diet while also giving her healthy food choices.

A sad and pathetic first attempt at a monkey platter. She seemed to like it anyway.


  1. My mom always made these growing up. She didn't cook on Sunday nights, so we either had leftovers or she made what we called a snack tray. She made a big platter with ham, turkey, cheese, crackers, pickles, carrots, fruit,etc. Sometimes we had popcorn with it, or my dad would make a big bowl of salsa. I made a snack tray for Emma just a few days ago but she didn't eat anything on it. She is in a phase of not so good eating. I'm not sure why, but she is refusing just about everything, and traditionally she has been a great eater. Yet she constantly askes to eat, but I'm having much luck getting her eat what I offer.

  2. Maybe she's teething? Might be 2-year molars. Although, you've probably already thought of that. I love the idea for popcorn! I don't think Annika's ever had it. I bet she'll love it.


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