Category Archives: Nutrition

We’re creating their “normal.”

My son had a flag football game on Saturday morning.  I snuggled in a blanket on the sidelines with my daughter and we played with colouring books and hand clapping games while we watched him run around.  He’s only eight, and his teammates are in the six to eight-year-old range, so it’s a bit of organized chaos unfolding amidst a sea of mouthguards and football cleats.  Flags flying, kids running, and footballs dropping everywhere.  It’s childhood fun at its best.

The game was scheduled from 11:30am-12:30pm, so we packed snacks to eat at the field to tide us over for a later lunch at home.  Both of my kids are snackers, as am I- in fact, our sporting event snack bag looks more like a full grocery bag than a few snacks thrown into the bottom of a purse.  I’ve always been that way; I’m the mom with a full cooler at BlueJays games and a packed lunch for an afternoon at the park.  Nutrition is important to me, and I find that I have far less control when purchasing food than I do when I pack my own.  Food brought from home allows me to better manage the preservatives, the additives, the sodium, and the fat content of typical take-out on-the-run options.

When the game finished, we began to pack up our gear.  My children are still young enough that we usually pack like we’re going away overnight when in fact we’re only gone for the afternoon.  I gathered our blanket, our games, our snacks, our extra layers, and we began to leave.  My husband, who is the assistant coach for my son’s team, mentioned that team snacks were being handed out further down the field.  The post-game snack is a big part of the fun in young children’s sports, so my son hurried down to claim his share.  He came back with two things:

 

 

I cringed on the outside and raged on the inside.

Now, I don’t consider myself to be unreasonably strict with my nutritional standards.  Yes, I believe in high-quality food, and yes, I try to minimize my family’s intake of processed junk, but I’m not on the all-organic, all-homemade, no-sugar, no-yellow #5 train either.  I like to live in the world of moderation, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables.  All that being said, “normal” is based on one’s perception, and my household normal does not include multi-coloured goldfish crackers and KoolAid jammers.

As is always the case in parenting, I weighed my options.  I let my son have some of the above, and my daughter had a taste too.  We threw the rest out and we had a good, long conversation on the way home about properly fueling our bodies so that they can be at their healthiest and help us to perform and feel at our best.  As a lifelong athlete, I have learned first-hand the effects that nutrition can have on athletic performance, and that’s why I find it particularly troubling that these snacks are being given in a situation in which we are promoting fitness and sport.  The irony is not lost on me.  The same could be said for school cafeteria and vending machine choices- if we expect our children to perform at their best, physically and mentally, why are we choosing these types of snacks?

A pre-cut veggie tray and a block of cheese would be no less convenient.  A bag of apples and a box of fig bars would be no less costly.  A watermelon and some granola packets would be no less tasty.  We can change the food industry with the choices we make with our dollars, and we can change our children’s well-being with the choices we make with their food.

Please, let’s choose wisely.  After all, we’re creating their “normal.”

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Me versus Lunchables

I am certainly not perfect in my nutrition, and I’m far from perfect in my parenting, but I do have strong opinions surrounding both.

What really gets me are the weekly pizza days and the school program chocolate milks and the kid’s menus at restaurants.  It’s the never-ending Halloween candy and the overloaded Easter baskets and the individually wrapped, over-processed “snack foods.”  What used to be treats have become a part of everyday childhood nutrition.  It seems that everywhere I turn, unhealthy food is being marketed to my children as a healthy choice, and I’m tired of feeling duped.  “But Mom, it says these gummy fruit snacks are made with real fruit,” my seven-year-old read to me recently.  And off I go into a discussion of “made with real fruit” versus actual “real fruit.”

The other day, a patient was lamenting to me about how he’s put on weight due to his poor diet.  “I’ve been eating all of her stuff lately,” he said, referring to his five-year-old daughter, “all goldfish crackers and Bearpaws and Lunchables.”  But why are Lunchables even a thing?  Have you read their ingredients?  Take a look:

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I can’t pronounce half of these words, and I certainly wouldn’t eat this myself, let alone serve it to my still-growing, ever-impressionable children.  I cannot see one redeemable ingredient in this entire list; it’s full of chemicals and fillers and oh-so-bad-for-you stuff.  So WHY are we allowing this product to succeed?  We have a voice with our spending patterns.  If no one bought Lunchables, Lunchables would cease to be.

I’ve written about kid’s menus before, but their content still angers me.  The truth is, I think that kid’s menus should actually be healthier than adult menus; after all, their bodies are smaller, their development level much higher, and their potential much greater than ours.  Should we not be giving them the best start that we can, instead of filling them up with Kraft dinner and french fries and chicken nuggets?  Let’s teach healthy eating as we would teach any other life skill, and we will grow our children into adults who think choosing an apple is more normal than choosing an apple fritter.

This is a borderline rant, or perhaps well into a full-blown rant, so I must finish up here.  Yes, I agree that treats should be enjoyed and celebrated sometimes, but not all the time.  And I understand that we’re all just doing our best, trying to make the best choices for our family’s nutrition (in fact, many would argue against my huge egg intake), but I can promise you that the healthiest choices do not come pre-packaged with several-year shelf lives.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Blizzards and Accomplishments

It was the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show last week.  Not sure if you watched it, but I did, as I do every year, and this was my view:

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Yes, those are DQ blizzards.  And yes, I realize the irony of watching women with 2% bodyfat parade around in lingerie while downing 800 calories in a single go.  And that’s why I did it.  Because I am about enjoying the simple things in life, like couches and ice cream with my husband.  Because I will never be a Victoria’s Secret model.  Because my body-image has shifted ever-so-slightly over the years.  Because I love blizzards.

I’ve written about my personal struggles with eating disorders, so this isn’t a surprise to many of you.  But the surprising part to me is how my thinking has shifted away from my own struggles, and onto changing those  future struggles for my daughter.  As a mother, I’ve become much more aware of the images that bombard our young girls.  I can now see the damage that photoshop and magazine covers and yes, Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, can do.  Most of us will never be 6 feet tall.  Most of us will never weigh 110lbs.  And yet, skinny is still lauded and valued and praised.  As is height.  And blond hair.  And blue eyes.  And the thing is, I actually have a few of those qualities.  But I don’t have the skinny.  And so my body-dysmorphic thinking only focuses on that.

But instead, I have the strong.

This is a relatively new world for me.  A world where strong is praised and skinny is secondary.  A world where how much you can lift, how fast you can run, how high you can jump, are more important measurements than your 36-24-36.  A world where you can work hard, reach your goals, and keep striving for more.  Where accomplishments are calculated against your own personal bests rather than against external factors that you cannot control.

My three-year-old daughter proudly dressed herself yesterday morning.  When she was done, she went running to find her big brother.  “Look, look,” she squealed, “Look how beautiful I am!  I got dressed all by myself!”  Can you see why her statement is so magical?

Because she measured her beauty based on her accomplishment.

Brilliant.  She thought she was beautiful not because of how she looked, but because of what she could do.

And I’m going to do everything I can to keep it that way.

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