I was talking to a friend while on the treadmill at the gym a few days ago about her new-found love for clean and healthy eating. She was super happy that her family members, especially her children, were finally on board. This lead to a brief discussion on eating habits and how they form. She made the following remark that caused me to ponder on my own childhood: “I often wonder if I would have formed better eating habits if I had been presented with better choices as a child.”
Let me start by asking you to raise your hand if your elementary school lunch had a Little Debbie snack of some sort and/or a bag of potato chips(or another form of chips). Two words: Star Crunch. I’m not sure what it was, but I can assure you, I almost always had one in my lunch. Some of us grew up on Ho-Ho’s, some on TastyCakes. Some always got a bag of Doritos and a lot of us were allowed to buy chocolate milk with our milk money. True?
In high school, I recall receiving a weekly lunch allowance. I had to manage it myself and almost always spent the bulk of it on French fries and fruit punch from a machine that dispensed syrup, then water. Seriously! I was a child who was allowed to come home from school and snack on Cheetos (the generic kind) and Oreo cookies. I was also the kid who refused to eat nearly every vegetable presented to me, a person who had no idea what asparagus or Brussels sprouts were until I got married, and the adolescent who sat at the dinner table with a cold plate of broccoli for hours after dinner trying to gag down what I was instructed to finish before leaving the table. I remember on family vacations my sister being allowed to order a soda and a piece of ham for breakfast. Yep, really.
So, I have to question, like my girlfriend did, if I would have developed (or kept) better eating habits earlier on in life, had I not had so many poor options when I was a youngster. I feel fortunate to have adjusted my eating habits to healthier one, only allowing myself “treats” every so often as opposed to multiple times a day.
I also feel proud to be a mother who is introducing healthy choices to her child. Until about a year ago, I was a big fan of the easy way out, serving Easy Mac, breaded chicken nuggets and hot dogs. Heck, she liked them and ate them, so why not. I am happy to say that now one of my daughter’s meals of choice is fish and broccoli. She eats with us… a simple grilled halibut and some steamed broccoli, while we enjoy asparagus as our veggie.
She knows that with each meal she has to have a fruit or a vegetable and knows that treats are just that… a treat, not something you make a habit of consuming. She will tell me that she has to have milk with breakfast and dinner because she wants to have a juice box (of the healthiest/lowest sugar variety I can find) in her lunch. She’ll tell me that so and so had Cheetos or chips with his/her lunch and then announce that she likes her yogurt. This is something that makes me very happy.
Now, if only it would last. I know, as I pack her lunch and make her breakfasts and dinners, I have control. I know, at some point I will lose some of this control (as I already do on play dates and such), and at another point in her life I will lose more. My only hope is that my watered down, five-year old appropriate explanations of why we eat the way we do and why it’s important will stay with her.
I hope that she’ll continue to make good choices and continue to question the things she does, like, “I don’t want to have chocolate milk because it has too much sugar, right?” I hope that she won’t do a complete 180 degree turn around and save her allowance to buy the 3-for-a-dollar candy bars at the local Walgreens, like her mother did when she was younger.
I guess I’ll have to wait and see, huh? Is what I’m trying to do now helping her to develop life long healthy eating habits or is it harming her into developing bad ones because I’m a little too tough? I’ll have to make sure there’s a balance, I know and that I don’t bombard her, while she’s young, with information she doesn’t understand. For now, I’ll enjoy the control, as I know it will slip away before I know it!
Carri Nelsen of Gold’s Gym in Shrewsbury.
Got questions for Carri? E-mail them to blogs@TheZoneMag.com.