With each little mouth that has been added to our family over the last few years, I have become more and more involved in researching any foods and medicines that go into all the little bodies I am responsible for. It’s quite a fine line to walk as our children grow. We want them to eat well and be healthy, but at the same time we don’t want to be so restrictive that they end up rebelling and going in a totally unhealthy direction once they are old enough to make decisions for themselves.
I constantly feel the struggle within myself of wanting every bite they consume to be healthy “growing food”. However, I do realize that they also need to live in the world today. Now that two of my kiddos have reached elementary school age, I’ve found that it’s even more vital that pretty much every meal we have at home is as healthy as it can be. From snacks provided at school to sharing treats from classmates lunchboxes to birthday parties and playdates, it becomes very clear early on exactly how true it is that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, that village doesn’t necessarily have the same views on what’s best nutritionally! The thing that bugs me the most is the attitude of “it’s just a treat.” When cheap, processed, chemical-laden foods are abundantly being consumed every single day by most children, I’m sorry, but that’s not one little treat. That’s a broken system, and it needs to change.
So, how do we change the system? In our house, we read labels. For everything. I am working with my boys to teach them about the food industry, farming, and how things are grown and produced (and that food manufacturers don’t have their best interests at heart!). When my 7 year old goes shopping with me and sees a snack at the grocery he likes the look of, he now knows to turn it over and read the label. If he sees artificial flavors or colors or high-fructose corn syrup, he happily puts it back on the shelf and moves on down the row. And for Mom, that makes me very happy.
I would suggest talking with your children. Read a label through their eyes. When my son doesn’t recognize a word, he asks me what it is. As parents, we should all do the same with food ingredient labels. If there’s a word or ingredient on a food label that you don’t understand…look it up, read about it, and determine if it’s a deal breaker for you to want to consume that food. My guess is, like me, you’ll find a lot of things changing in your house.
Living on an island in the middle of the ocean as we do, the vast majority of foods are imported (even bananas, mangoes, star fruits, coconuts and avocados…although you’d think we would have plenty of those!) and consequently very expensive. Even so, we try to make it our goal to eat organic and avoid genetically modified foods whenever it makes sense and is possible.
Below are a couple of my favorite links I like to refer back to. The Environmental Working Group ranks produce each year based on pesticide residues, and they release a list of the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, along with the top 15 or so things that are least contaminated. It’s a great list to follow when you’re trying to decide whether or not you should go for the organic version of things or not. Following that is a link to the Non-GMO Project… a non-profit organization which works to independently verify products and companies as using non-GMO sources. It makes me very happy to see the little “Non GMO Project” label on packages– and it is happening more and more!
Best of luck to you in your search for healthy foods to feed those YOU love!