Teaching my son how to make healthful food choices has taught me that pleasure and a little knowledge can yield good long-term results.
hildren do not turn suddenly into gourmets the day they turn 18. You need to start learning appreciating food now.” I clearly remember my mother telling me when I was about seven; that was music to my ears because I already liked to eat, but honestly I was more focused on quantity than I was on quality. My mother taught me how to prepare salad dressing and to cook a couple of dishes so I could start making simple dinners while she worked. She also invited me to restaurants when she could, not often, but only to good ones, to help me try new dishes and show good dining manners. While not every French kid is lucky enough to have such an experience, they are taught to enjoy food at an early age and they see what a big role food plays in social gatherings.
Today, I am trying to pass of the same lessons to my eleven-year old American son, Sasha. Every night, we are lucky to be able to eat dinner together as a family and spend some quality time discussing our day. When I introduce a new food or a new recipe, I ask him to rate it with a thumb up, down or sideways. Most of the time I agree with his ratings, and as he grows up his descriptions are becoming increasingly accurate. I want to make sure he understands that eating is something to be enjoyed and respected, like many other pleasures. And we all know that decisions made based on pleasure will almost always outlive those made by discipline.
As kids get older, their taste buds evolve as well. Like most kids, when Sasha was a baby he loved vegetables, then as a toddler he could not stand them; now, he understands that he needs to keep on trying foods because his taste buds are changing. He just surprised me last week by praising my spicy curry chicken. Leafy greens, however, still are a challenge. I am hoping that by teaching him to appreciate food, he will continue to voluntary stay away from less healthy options; so far so good. He knows that having fast food and sugar is the exception, not the rule. He has ruled cafeteria off-limits, because “it looks gross and unhealthy.”
I am teaching him how to cook. We are starting slowly with egg dishes; sauteed vegetables and tofu; and pizza dough. This is an area where reality shows have helped a great deal, as he really liked watching food competition. And, bonus, he can put his math lessons to practical use. Now, I cannot wait until he cooks me an entire meal.
We are trying to enroll Sasha’s help in our urban gardening efforts, without much results (weeding doesn’t quite compete with video games.) Sasha’s school, like many other public schools in Washington DC, has installed raised garden beds and adopted several egg-laying hens to teach kids where their food comes from, and also to provide some fresh ingredients for the cafeteria. What a great idea!
My husband and I are trying not to be overzealous in our efforts to be healthy. We let Sasha order sodas when we eat out, and he has store-bought pizza every couple of weeks. He understands, or so he says, that it is all a matter of balance and eating well most of the time; it is not about perfection.
Because of my training, we also discuss the importance of food choices on health. Recently, Sasha realized that one of his favorite foods, cheese, affects his breathing. He has been very diligent at eating nut-cheeses instead — while they are not bad, they of course do not compare to real cheese. But, breathing properly is also important! I joined him in his dairy ban, because leading by example is still the best motivator.
If you want to learn more about this topic, Marie- Anne Suisso from the University of Texas has done some conclusive research – read her article here.
I hope me sharing this information is useful. Please, got to the comment section and do share your tips to get your children to develop good healthful habits. Thank you!