Last post, I gave some background into my personal history with food and health. I started reading about radical unschooling when my daughter was 2.5. I read a bunch for months, and started applying some of the concepts in other areas first. I knew food was going to be a difficult one for me, and I wanted to be confident in my choice to try first. Slowly, over time, I tried to just say yes more. I stopped trying to scare my oldest into avoiding certain foods, and I tried to stop using such extreme black and white language about food (poison for example).
So what does removing arbitrary limits surrounding food look like? Does it look like a kid stuffing their face with candy, cake, ice cream, chips, etc., all day long? Not usually. Although, my oldest has a sweet tooth, and if she has candy she will often eat it all at once, not without offering to share with everyone though. My 3-year-old doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth at all, so he will often only take a bite or two of most sweets.
Many times it looks like begging me to make broccoli because that is a favorite vegetable around here. Sliced apples are also often requested.
It always looks like asking what everyone in my house would like on the grocery list. That question gets different answers ranging from orange juice, to start fruit, to cheese puffs from Trader Joes. I try to always say yes to their requests the same way I try to get my husband’s requests.
Occasionally it looks like having ice cream before breakfast, because what is the difference between having a bit before breakfast or later in the day? It’s nutritional profile certainly doesn’t change if you have it after dinner. Occasionally it also looks like turning down desserts because they just don’t feel like it, or they it is not a favorite and they feel no need to eat it for fear of getting nothing else for a while.
Sometimes it looks like a kid not enjoying what I made for dinner and asking for something else. My daughter has a lot of texture issues surrounding food, and my son is a meat and potatoes kind of kid. So easy, no-hassle foods get offered instead. Sometimes that is peanut butter and jelly, buttered noodles, or a smoothie. Sometimes that is yogurt and fruit.
It looks like accepting that it is okay that the kids like cereal. I am not a failure for not having a fresh made breakfast every single day. I try to buy the “healthier” versions of their favorites, but I say yes to this now.
This means not taking every single morsel so seriously. Yes, they can have birthday cake at the party, sure they can have the sucker their friend offered, and yes they can have snack at church, even if it is not something I would usually pick for snack.
Yes, I can add frozen broccoli to the list, yes you can eat frozen blueberries for a snack, yes we can make popsicles out of smoothies. Yes you can eat your Easter candy at whatever pace you choose.
This means we talk about which food gives us a little energy very quickly. And which foods will sustain us for longer. Sometimes this looks like me saying “You haven’t had much protein today, would you like xyz?”
I want my kids to have a much healthier relationship with food than I ever have. I want them to learn what makes their body feel good, and what makes it feel not so good; not what I tell them should make their body feel good.
I want them to choose to try new foods when they are ready. You may think they never will, but the more I have let go of trying to force them to try new things, the more they have willingly chosen to take a taste. Not at first, but with time, healing, and the realization that they have control of what goes into their body.
I want to bake with them, let them add things to the list, and figure out what their favorite things are. I want food to be nourishing to the body and the soul.
Let me put the disclaimer here that I am not all the way there, I may never be. I still catch myself feeling fear around food, and sometimes I put down limits that upon further reflection, were arbitrary. This is a journey. My kids also have no allergies that threaten their life, and if they did I would try my best to find acceptable alternatives.