LIFE IN OUR MOUNTAIN TOWN: Raising healthy kids
Recently my husband and I went away for the weekend, leaving our kids in the care of a friend of ours, who reported back to me that she had enjoyed having a conversation with my children regarding their eating habits.
My friend, who knows me pretty well, decided to mention to my kids that she noticed that we didn’t seem to have any food in the house that contains dye.
This unleashed an earful of opinions from my two daughters about how they are known as the healthy kids at school, a stigma of which they are not exactly proud.
My children have had fruit leather packed in their school lunches for years. It wasn’t until recently however, that I learned that they like the fruit leather, not necessarily to eat, but because they use it as a bargaining chip. When I asked them what they get in return when they trade their daily piece of fruit leather, my older daughter told me, “Oh, you know, cheese doodles or potato chips or anything like that.”
Now it’s not that I have a problem with potato chips or cheese doodles per se, except I do think that certain brands have dye added which has been known to cause cancer in rats, according to my sometimes extreme beliefs when it comes to food.
The one thing my kids really don’t appreciate me packing in their school lunches are carrots, a sure sign that they are total food geeks.
“Please, mom, no carrots,” they will say. I almost always abide by this request. The problem is I happen to think the organic carrots that I buy are so super sweet and delicious, I personally would love to eat some for my lunch, so of course I want to share such tasty food with my children. So, in an effort to be considerate of their feelings when they beg for no carrots, I will pack dried apricots instead.
I also learned recently that when my husband packs the kids’ lunches, he likes to include a few cookies. Hearing this made me realize that perhaps I have been a cruel mother all these years. Cookies have never occurred to me. A piece of fruit and the fruit leather always seemed like dessert to me.
Another thing that goes along with healthy food in kids’ lunches is the container in which it is packed. When my older daughter was very young, she came home one day and asked if I could please stop sending her food in reusable containers, and use plastic sandwich bags instead. At the time, I was trying to make a conscious effort to help save the earth so I found myself quoting to my 5-year-old some figure that I had read in the newspaper about 400,000 plastic sandwich bags go to our nations’ land fills daily. I don’t know what this statistic was measured against – whether 400,000 baggies are disposed of daily by a town the size of Truckee or by the greater Sacramento area, but anyway, I quoted her the fact.
When she calmly explained that she just wanted to be like all the other kids who brought their sandwiches packed in plastic bags, I found myself telling her, “You’re on the cutting edge and you don’t even know it.”
I think she looked at me with an expression that said, “Huh?” and soon after, we switched over to using plastic bags.
I try to balance my efforts in feeding my family healthy foods with the realization that once in a while they are going to run across food that I might not buy. Besides school, another place this happens is at snack time during any given sports season, be it soccer or softball. There is a wide range among Truckee families of what’s considered a healthy snack. And while I like to think that I have not entirely given up on caring what my family puts in their bodies, or what we put in our landfills, I also believe I am not a total fanatic when it comes to food. I would never forbid my children to eat the dye-laden, empty calorie treat at soccer. And I continue to pack fruit leathers in their lunches. Because in the big picture, I know that my family tends to eat fairly well.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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