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How Do We Best Teach Our Children The Fine Art Of Dietary Balance?

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:46pm
This weekend I read a very relatable article in the New York Times Magazine called “Forbidden Nonfruit” by Joshua Yaffa. While Mr. Yaffa speaks in the most amusingly comic terms about being brought up in a household that was devoid of any type of junk food or sugary indulgence, his experience hit home hard for me.

He goes on to describe how these in-home food restrictions drove him and his sister to behave like sugar-crazed zombies whenever given the opportunity to break-free from their parent’s nutritional strong-hold. For me personally this is an issue I wrestle with on a daily basis. While obviously, given the name of my blog, I strive to make the best possible food choices for me and my family, I am sometimes concerned that my dietary reigns might be a bit too snug at times, resulting in the risk that my children will also behave erratically when faced with a dessert buffet and no parental guidance. In fact I've already seen hints of this on those occasions when we are visiting friends or family and my children I surrounded by lots and lots of dessert options that are not commonly found in our home. They seem possessively drawn to the table and unlike their friends and cousins that might not suffer the same degree of daily deprivation, pile their plates high as if it were their last meal on earth.

I ask all of us the question “Will restricting our kids’ consumption of “bad” or what we have collectively defined as the “the wrong kinds of food” result in a generational backlash years down the road? If we turn the word “sugar” into the “evil-doer” are setting our children up for a lifetime of playing catch up with the sweet and powdery monster once they are set free into the world and are able to make their own food decisions?

As I’d discussed in my Halloween post, life is about moderation, not deprivation. Rationally, I know that we must as parents strive for balance and teach our children that in order to live our lives to the fullest and to make the most of this journey, there is a place for everything, including banana split sundaes. However, we must also teach them that life is about choices and that some choices are better than others in the bigger picture, especially if we want to live a long and healthy life. Of course this all sounds good, but I feel I have not found the most comfortable way to strike this balance without going overboard on either side of the ship? Sure, we need to be good role models for our children. Also, we should not use junk food as a reward for good behavior (now this is one I’ve wrestled with since childhood) and mealtime should be about spending time together, not just about the food -- but I suspect I could be doing better. If anyone else has better insight on how to best accomplish this balance I’d love to hear from you.

Click on the link above to read Mr. Yaffa's story for yourself -- if you are anything like me you'll find it worth reading.
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