In case you missed it there was a conundrum on my Facebook page yesterday - after I learned my daughter was buying items in the school cafeteria I was unaware of - that spawned more than 3,000 comments (on both posts in total). I don’t think I read every single one of the comments, but I did read most and noticed something very interesting.
We’ve all heard the warning, “If you are too restrictive with your kids’ food choices now, it will backfire later!”
There may be some truth to that and I do personally strive for a “healthy” (and guilt-free) balance when my own kids want to indulge, BUT what I did notice yesterday – that was different than usual and that I really liked – were many of the following comments that REALLY struck a chord with me.
Powerful Reader Feedback
These are the stories I think a lot of us don’t hear enough and also serve as a GREAT reminder to keep instilling healthy habits in our kids (despite the naysayers many of us have in our lives)…
“I WISH my parents had ‘forced’ a real food or healthy lifestyle on me. IF they had i would not still be 50+lbs overweight (since jr high) and have such a warped relationship with food!”
“I wish my parents made me eat healthy whole foods when I was younger. It would have saved me a lifetime of health issues that have pretty much subsided since I changed what I put in to my body.”
“As a child I was taught good nutrition and given good choices and for that I’m thankful. I wasn’t given fruit loops and chicken nuggets. I wasn’t allowed to order off the kids menu I had what the adults were having —lobster and seafood! I’m grateful as an adult that I don’t really crave junk food–not to say I don’t indulge once in a while, I’m human right? I would have loved to have had all of the organic and vegetarian choices back then that we have now. Bravo to any parent starting their kids off on the healthy track!!!”
“As a 26 year old who has struggled with her weight since third grade, I wish my parents had introduced me to real food sooner. We ate at home, but corn was the only ‘vegetable’ ever to grace the table. As a parent you HAVE to introduce those foods and “force’ your children to learn how to nourish their bodies, or they won’t know how to do it themselves.”
“I wish my family had had better eating habits when I was growing up. I wish I had never learned to put sugar on cereal for example. We didn’t have a lot of junk food but I learned some bad habits. And didn’t develop enough really good ones. Now I’m 50 and gluten intolerant and overweight and who knows what other damage has been done?”
“I chose what I ate because my parents were absent during mealtimes. Mac and cheese. Cereal. White bread. Pizza. Now, I have PCOS, insulin resistance, and gluten intolerance and because of these, am struggling to get pregnant. I’m not obese OR inactive, but my body was made sick as a child. I am SO PROUD of all of you mothers that are taking charge of your and your family’s health. It is SO IMPORTANT. You are enabling your children to live long healthy lives, especially your daughters who will have babies of their own. I have control of my health now (just turned 21) but it took 5 years to figure out what was wrong with me. It was food. Now I’m fighting to get my fertility back and I will succeed!!”
“My husband and I both grew up eating healthy for the most part and even now at ages 24 and 25 we would much rather eat a healthy meal than junk food. How you raise your children to eat follows them into adulthood.”
“I only wish healthy food habits were ‘forced’ onto me as a child. Then I wouldn’t have had to spend the last 3 years completely changing my diet to avoid weight loss surgery (2 of my sisters have had this), avoid an autoimmune thyroid disease, remove anti depressants and anti inflammatories from my daily routine and really enjoy my life! Thankfully, I now know better and I pass this information on to my own children so they can avoid these issues too.”
“I was fed all natural foods from birth (and that was 1980 when it wasn’t even cool, lol) and of course I had my sneaky moments, but I am obsessed with eating healthy as an adult. People are absolutely more likely to eat healthy if they are raised to see that as ‘normal.’”
“I wish my parents would have provided me with whole foods. I have struggled all my life with weight….”
“I certainly wish I didn’t have to work so hard to overcome the UNhealthy eating habits my parents passed down to me.”
“I am teaching my children now, what I wish I would have known growing up. Fresh whole foods are better for your body than processed foods.”
“I grew up in a house where my Mom sprinkled wheat germ on my yogurt and substituted tofu for meat…as a child, I didn’t even know that a soda and chip aisle existed in the grocery store. I have such gratitude for that, and have passed that on to my children.”
“I grew up in a house without sugar cereal, little debbies, and chips. As a child I was not happy about it but now I am sooo grateful. Now my family eats a clean diet…its my job to educate and provide healthy options for my family”
“I wish my parents would have cared more to teach me better eating habits because changing them as an adult was extremely hard since I really had no idea of what real health and real foods were.”
“I wish my mother had taught me healthy eating habits as a child rather than using food as rewards and to soothe. It’s taken a long time to break that. You’re their parent not their friend! Teaching them to be healthy is a good thing. Anyone saying otherwise is crazy.”
“I grew up on junk because my mom allowed me to be picky and let us eat what we wanted, and I have had a weight problem. So now I am trying to do better by my children and some people think I’m being mean and should let them eat whatever they want (the oldest being only two years old!). It is hard to make changes when you are used to eating poorly, so I want to make changes for them now and plant the seed of good health and eat real food. I think it is a crying shame for anyone to be ridiculed and put down for that.”
“I only wish my mother had the knowledge of eating clean and healthy growing up. My whole life, I ate unhealthy. Processed food. Fast food. I didn’t know any different. And all I knew to cook for my husband was the processed food my mom taught me to make. It’s so hard to change my eating habits of 22 years.”
“I feel so fortunate that healthy eating habits were ‘forced’ upon me as a child. I thank my mom all the time for that b/c I believe I am a healthier adult b/c of it. And I am passing along the same healthy habits to my children.”
My Own Childhood
There was also one comment (that I just cannot find again to quote!), but it said something like,
“I was allowed to eat all the junk I wanted growing up and I still snuck candy and other treats behind my parents’ back.”
And actually now that I think about it I was that kid, too. We were provided homemade dinners complete with vegetables of course, but beyond that I do recall a childhood filled with plenty of packaged food options (including Doritos, Kraft Mac & Cheese, Golden Grahams, Little Debbie Snacks, Frozen Pizza, Snickers, etc.). And even so I’ll never forget how many of my grandmother’s chocolate chips cookies I would eat as a child (while no one was looking!) when we visited her house.
During the holidays her famous chocolate chip cookies would be out on a tray in the dining room, and every single time I passed by I would pop one in my mouth. Man, her cookies were good. It’s not that I wasn’t “allowed” treats by any stretch of the imagination (although I am sure my parents did have some limits!), but there I was still eating an embarrassing amount of cookies and I don’t think anyone knew except me. Even despite my sneaky ways as a child though, I’ve always had a healthy relationship with food. So long story short – junk food restrictions or not – children might sneak food and while the issue certainly shouldn’t be ignored, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to be set up for a lifetime of negative health consequences as a result. Just my two cents based on my own experience.
So now I am really curious – what was your childhood like from a food perspective and how did that shape you as an adult? It seems there is really no “one size fits all” answer here so I’d love to hear your stories as well.