Believe it or not, I have seen these two questions pop among other moms that are health nuts like myself. If you are not a health nut, I know that it may be hard to understand, but think of this way. To feed a kid a blow pop is the equivalent of feeding them a toxic chemical to “healthy” moms. That is how their brains internalize it (at least it is how my brain internalizes it). It is no surprise then that a lot of “healthy” moms are now finding themselves in this predicament: What do they do when their friends and family do not share their food values?
Although I know many will disagree, here is my take. Healthy moms, stop worrying about it so much. Don’t misunderstand me. I am all about pushing daycares and schools to provide more wholesome foods for our kids. I am about pushing our leaders to stop subsidizing bad food practices. I am about pushing restaurants to provide better options. I am about educating people about food. It is one of the reason I have this blog. And yes, if a family member or friend watches your kid on a regular basis, then it is important to lay out your expectations as far as what they can and cannot eat. But there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with people. The wrong way is to be confrontational. The right way is to be gracious and loving.
People do not need a lecture about how bad they eat. They also do not need to be belittled because they may not have the same food standards as you. The more time that friends and family spend with you, the more they will notice how you eat without having to hear it from you. With time, they may even come to you for advice on how to be “healthier.” Better yet, you might find that when you go visit, they will have some of your foods on hand. I know, because that has happened to me. Even if they do not, that is okay too. Enjoy and be thankful for the relationship.
On the flip side, if you constantly refuse what friends and family offer your kids, feelings are going to get hurt and that can turn into bitterness. They are more likely to sabotage your efforts rather than help you. I will never forget an incident when I first started on this health journey. A “healthy” mom came to my house and asked if she could have some of my kid’s baby food. She then proceeded to read the ingredients and lecture me on how bad that was for my kid. I now know she was not trying to be mean, but I was so hurt at the time and it certainly did not help our relationship.
A few years later, I found myself in her shoes. I chided family members for giving my kids unhealthy foods and then I saw the hurt in their eyes. I was rude, obnoxious, and arrogant. Thankfully, I came to realize that what matters most is building and establishing relationships. Yes, I get it. Once you know that yellow no 5 ( found in popular kids products like Kraft food’s macaroni & cheese) is toxic, you cringe at the thought of your kid even having a bite. However, the reality is that your kid is not going to die from it because you spend 90 percent of the time feeding your kids only healthy and nutritious food! The exception is not going to be the demise of their health, but letting bitterness build up and letting relationships fall apart because of food will affect your health and your kids’ health.
I encourage you to read this article to put things in perspective and learn about the women who refused to leave the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They live in an area where the soil, water, and air are the most contaminated in the world. If anything will kill you, it is living in the area affected by one of the greatest nuclear disasters of all time. Yet the women that returned to Chernobyl have outlived those that never returned. Why? They were happier.
I think about the relationship my toddler has with her Uncle Richard. I found him giving her a lollipop when she was about 10 months old and who knows what else he has given her when I had my back turned. Yet my toddler and Uncle Richard have an amazing bond. It brings my daughter joy and that joy is more important to me than the junk he likes to feed her when I am not looking.
All of this can be summarized in one simple proverb:
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones (Proverbs 17:22).