We're all well aware of the deficiencies in the Standard American Diet and the dangers of Red Dye #40. We know about high fructose corn syrup and pesticides. We carefully check the labels in the grocery store, looking for items with "5 ingredients or less." We strive not to let our children consume anything but real food.But does running nutritional-interference for our kids truly empower them to make life-long choices for wellness? Or does it just make us mamas exhausted and nervous?
When my first baby was still a baby, I read the most alarming bit of scientific research: for the first time, children in America today are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, or at the very least experience a diminished quality of life in their golden years, due to obesity and the decline of overall health.
I looked at my sweet boy tucked up against my chest, with his eyes closed and his little fist resting on my breast as he nursed, and fear grabbed at my heart. I have to protect him, to prevent this dreadful hypothesis from becoming our reality. There is a better way. And so my journey into wellness expanded to include my kids.
I believe as parents that we have a great responsibility in teaching our kids how to be good stewards of their body, but I also realize how quickly wellness and health can become an idol and how fear of sickness can rob us of the freedom Christ offers.
And so my mission is this: How do I empower my children to make healthful choices without instilling fear in them?
Teach kids to listen to their bodies
Our bodies are great at telling us when things aren’t well. Our joints ache when we don’t hydrate well, our stomach rolls when we are anxious, our head feels swimmy if we eat something that our gut can’t tolerate. Teach your kids to listen to these clues.
Do they get grumpy when they haven’t eaten? Give them a snack, but also give them language for what’s happening. Your body is feeling grouchy because it’s so hungry. Your muscles need a snack. Your feet probably hurt because you need more water. Your tummy hurts because you ate 3 cookies instead of eating lunch.
Set real-food boundaries, but don’t obsess over them
It’s definitely okay to make rules like no added sugar, raw dairy only, or leafy greens with every meal. Just don’t emphasize them to the point of obsession. We want our kids to know how to sort through all of the food options in the supermarket and choose the most healthful, but we don’t want them to be afraid of food.
Example: I don’t buy pop-tarts for my kids ever, but the grandparents do and that’s okay. When the kids ask me to buy them, I casually explain that those are a treat that they have at grandma’s house, but we don’t eat them every day because that’s not a food that helps our muscles grow (5 year old boys are especially concerned with their muscles). I don't stress about whatever it is they're ingesting in those pop-tarts, because they only get them on occasion and it's not worth the anxiety.
Empower your kids to wellness by empowering yourself
You can only truly teach your kids from a place of empowerment when you yourself feel empowered. If you live in constant fear of the dangers lurking in our food, then you aren't living in freedom, and I absolutely believe that God desires freedom for us. Do the best you can with what you have and let the rest go.
Rachel Stone's book Eat With Joy, Redeeming God's Gift of Food is an excellent read for anyone desiring to eat mindfully without being controlled by the fear of poor health. She "does a beautiful job of setting the table theologically for the idea that food is more than fuel. She takes her cues from the creation and salvation narratives, which portray God as the gracious host of creation."
What are some ways that you talk to your kids about food in order to empower their choices? Let us know in the comments so we can learn from each other!
P.S. If you're a real foodie, then you're probably interested in holistic wellness! You can download an Essential Oil Safety Sheet for Kids here.