I think way too much about food. Maybe it’s because I am the main grocery-shopper and menu-planner and food-maker for my family of 6. Maybe it’s because I am always planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, baking or cleaning up food. But food is an all-consuming part of my life. (Pun intended.)
As my soon-to-be-husband and I exchanged expectations of each other in marriage, I confessed to being the furthest thing from a gourmet cook and told him to expect what I made in the kitchen to turn out about 75% of the time. He wouldn’t starve, but those cookbooks we opened later as wedding gifts, would be more like decorations or ambiance, like the fake presents you see in store windows at Christmastime.
Now this is where it gets interesting. I am still a foodie. I’m just not a fancy foodie. You see, I grew up on buckwheat pancakes, quinoa casserole, and Rice Dream ice cream. I drank goat’s milk, ate tofu stir-fry and thought fruit leather was the best dessert on the planet. As a teen, I discovered Ben and Jerry’s and had my fair share of Taco Bell, but I have never quite broken free of my health-nut heritage. In fact, as an adult I have come to fully embrace it and want to share it with my kids.
Enter my husband.
As a child, while I was munching on my rice cake with almond butter, my other half was sitting down to a can of pop and two Little Debbie snack cakes. Say what?! Even now, he would be content to run through the McDonald’s drive-thru for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while this mama is planning to stop by Mississippi Market to grab organic, low acid coffee beans and hormone-free sausage.
Before you start thinking we are doomed and headed for divorce court, let me assure you we have found our way through the food dilemma. I am happy to say we’ve learned quite a lot, and not just about diet differences. So much of how we were raised bleeds into how we raise our own children. Whether it’s a desire to continue the legacy of our childhood or a commitment to do things differently, we accept the challenge as parents. We not only blend our decision making with our spouses or significant others, but do this in light of our children’s varied needs and personalities. But what does this look like when it comes to how we feed our families?
Warning: I am no food or health expert. These are just a few thoughts that have helped me along the way of my own food philosophy. Maybe they’ll inspire some ideas for your family, too.
Discover the 90/10 rule.
I love the 90/10 rule. Eat nutritious, healthy food 90% of the time. The other 10% is when you are out with friends enjoying a sugar-filled coffee to wash down that double chocolate slice of cake. Or what about birthdays and movie nights with the kids? Teaching my kids good eating habits is important to me, but so is teaching them when and how to splurge. I love that my kids know what bok choy is and that almond milk isn’t weird. You know what else I love? The spontaneous early morning donut run that was my husband’s doing. Ideas on opposite ends of the spectrum can co-exist peacefully, even when it comes to bok choy and apple fritters.
Celebrate the victories instead of lamenting the failures.
I personally would LOVE to eat all organics. With our current situation, that is not monetarily possible. I used to feel SO guilty passing up the $8.99 per pound organic grapes and grabbing two bags of “regular” ones for much less. I would be racked with guilt holding a can of BPA free, organic canned beans and the generic brand and having to make a choice. What mother wouldn’t want to give their kids “the best?” The mental torture was so much that I knew I needed a mindset change. So I decided to celebrate every time I could buy the food I wanted instead of lamenting all the times I couldn’t. Or I celebrate how little money I saved for all the food I bought. Now I look for sales, try to follow the food budget, price compare between stores, and when I come to the check out, there is always something to be proud of: I only spent $200? That’s amazing! Good for me! Or I got organic yogurt on sale? Score! Even getting grocery shopping done at only one store can be that victory to celebrate, especially if you are short on time.
Reserve judgment on others when it comes to food choices.
It never feels good to be looked down upon for our choices. Whether you are feeding your kids cinnamon sugar graham crackers or the sugar-free, gluten-free granola bites you made from scratch this morning, you are still feeding your kids. As moms, we try to make good decisions. Remember to give others the benefit of the doubt—you don’t know their story or why they do what they do. When my neighbor moved in, she hesitantly shared that she was vegan. She said, “Does that scare you?” I smiled and said, “I am fine with you being vegan as long as you’re okay with me being an omnivore!” As I got to know my neighbor, I learned she made these diet changes as a way to help her beat cancer and keep it from coming back. Did you read that? BEAT CANCER! While I don’t feel the same changes are necessary for my body, neither of us are threatened by our differences. Instead of judgment, conversation takes place. Why not simply learn from each other? As a result, she has introduced me to several ways to eat cauliflower…and enjoy it! And this was something I never thought possible!
In some circles, I am considered way too healthy, weird, and a food snob of sorts. In others, because I don’t live on a farm with pasture-raised and hormone-free chickens (which I sometimes wish I did), I’ve got nothing to add to the conversation. Balancing food history and habits can be tricky, but we all make the choices we feel are best for our families as a whole. So whether you’re more likely to be in the drive-thru at McDonald’s or perusing the pesticide-free produce at Mississippi Market, keep up the good work.