I will admit it. I have problem with my weight. I’ve struggled with it for years and I know the problem lies with me. There’s also something to be said for the lack of awareness of what ‘good food’ actually was when I was growing up, because we definitely had a diet of dinners that had been bought in the frozen aisle. Don’t get me wrong, my parents encouraged us to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, but there was definitely access to processed foods, fizzy drinks, sweets and generally fattening foods like chocolate and crisps.
Nowadays though, the research, information and understanding of how much we should (and shouldn’t!) eat of these types of foods is completely clear and you can’t avoid it. Unless you’re in denial, and many parents are.
I really don’t mean to judge, but when I see a toddler sitting in a pram (that they are too big for and should be walking themselves) with their hand crammed into an adult size bag of crisps….it really gets to me.
This isn’t because I’m some perfect Mother who only feeds her child organic foods and avoids processed sugars, its just that I’m aware enough of the dangers of over-consumption of these foods due to my own weight issue, and I don’t want to pass it on to my kids.
I’m determined not to make the same mistakes with my children, both Amelia and the one on the way. I knew, even before I became a Mum, that I was going to have certain rules about what sorts of food I would and wouldn’t give my kids. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a vegan-whole-foods-no-meat-grow-your-own type; far from it, and I understand the limitations of being a modern mum and having to be able to afford good quality food but at the same time being able to make something that your children will actually eat, and not turn their nose up at.
But one thing I really feel strongly about is sweet treats and sugary drinks. I had a major addiction to a well known brand of cola (ahem) when I was a teenager, and I knew that when it came to bringing up children, that I wanted to instill in them very early on that juice and fizzy drinks would be a rare treat. And so far so good. We don’t keep juice in the house and Amelia doesn’t ever get that at home. Occasionally, if we are out for lunch or eating out for the day, she will be allowed to have a natural fruit juice box and it’s considered a treat and something ‘special’. At home, it is strictly milk or water and she never even asks for juice at home – she just seems to know that it isn’t part of home life. I consider that a real success.
Another thing I feel quite strongly about (getting on to my soap box, here) is portion sizes. Again, being someone who has issues with portion control, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make that mistake with my kids. Recently, my Mum and I took Amelia out for lunch to a local cafe, and I noticed (as usual) that when the food we ordered for Amelia arrived that the portion was HUGE. I mean, why would anyone expect a small child to eat it? It happens every time we eat out – and it’s wasteful too, if you ask me, because she doesn’t have the ability to eat it all, most of it ends up going in the bin. What worries me though, is that more and more kids feel that they need to eat ‘everything that’s on their plate’ and invariably end up scoffing way too much food. Hence the weight gain at a young age.
I found out recently that The Safefood Campaign informs us that on average, a child in Northern Ireland consumes more than 16 kgs of foods like chocolate, sweets, biscuits and crisps every year – that’s the equivalent of approximately 140 small chocolate bars, 105 tubes of sweets, 36 packets of jam filled biscuits and 118 bags of crisps. And that doesn’t even include foods like ice cream, cakes, pastries, buns and puddings that a child would typically eat which would bring that figure up to 24kg!!!
These figures really are shocking, and they remind me every time I reach to give Amelia a treat….is it really a treat? How many has she had already today/this week? Am I treating her? Or simply setting her up for childhood obesity and perhaps further into adult life? So I stop. And I think. And if she has had a chocolate lollipop on a Saturday morning, then she simply doesn’t get an ice cream later on, or a chocolate biscuit. And we never even introduced crisps to her, so she doesn’t ask for them. In the end I think it is all about communication, telling your child why they can only have a small portion of something, or why they aren’t allowed juice today and standing your ground. If you set those boundaries and approaches early on, then they hopefully never get hung up on sugary treats.
Now my only task is to get back to my own healthy diet and lose all this pregnancy weight!!! Maybe Amelia could give me a few tips…