We’re the family that people hate to host. The kids have a dairy allergy, my wife doesn’t eat anything that had legs, we don’t eat gluten by choice. People don’t get it. Our families think we’re just being difficult. I get it. It’s a pain in the ass. People don’t know what to make of us.
But our family’s health is really important to us. My wife and I each grew up as the fat kid despite being very active. Kids were mean and relentless and it affected each of us emotionally. We had very little self-esteem. We both hated our adolescence.
The reason we grew up that way? We ate like crap. I grew up drinking full-sugar Kool-aid and cases of pop. We ate no vegetables at all in my house, unless you consider potatoes a vegetable or the can of corn at Christmas dinner. We had very little fresh fruit, lots of white bread, unlimited chips and cookies, boxed meals, and sugar cereals.
As a parent now, I shudder at the thought of feeding my kids that way.
Were my siblings and I picky eaters? Most likely. I can remember my mom making five different meals when I was a teenager.
As a stay-at-home dad who makes almost everything from scratch, I don’t have time to make multiple meals. The rule is that we all eat whatever is made. If it’s a crappy meal, then we all share in the crappiness. If someone refuses to eat it, then they go to bed hungry. No exceptions. If one of the kids wants a snack before bed, they finish their dinner first.
But we never force them to eat. If they say their belly is full, we don’t do the old two-more-bites thing.
My son was an incredibly picky eater around the time he was two. He would gag on things that don’t usually make people gag, like pasta. So we had to get creative at first. I made beet pancakes and spinach pancakes and zucchini waffles. Basically, if I told him it was a pancake or a cookie, he would eat it. We were persistent with vegetables being included in every meal. Gradually we introduced vegetables in their true form.
Now he loves everything raw.
My wife and I feed our kids real food. I make almost everything from scratch. I check the ingredients on everything I buy. If the word “modified” appears on the list, I don’t buy it. If I can’t pronounce one of the words in the list, I don’t buy it. If it says glucose-fructose, I leave it on the shelf. It’s expensive to eat real food. Is it overkill and pretentious? Maybe. Does it make me feel better, that I know what’s going in our bodies? You bet your ass it does.
I want my kids to continue making good choices when they’re old enough to choose what food they want to eat. I had no idea that half the vegetables we eat now even existed when I was a kid. I get them to help me choose the produce at the market or the store. It excites them.
Now I’m not delusional. I know full well they’ll eat at McDonald’s with their friends when they’re older and I’m okay with that. At home though, they know they’ll get a healthy meal every time.