Thursday, February 9, 2012

unschooling and food control/choices

For the past five years my family has tried to eat a non GMO  diet. In this day in age it's simply not possible to go entirely GMO free unless you eat every meal at home. We eat almost all our meals at home, if I had to give a percent I'd say maybe 100% some weeks and others maybe 97% to 98%.  There are times, like the week we were moving, where the last thing I wanted to do was cook, so we ate fast food or went to restaurants. The fast food filled our bellies, but in that week of eating food like that, we felt a difference. I say "we" as not only did Bry and I notice a difference but so did Skylar (10) and Summer (8) in the way they were feeling also. I tell you, we could not wait for our first homemade meal in our new home!

In one of the unschooling groups I read on, there was a discussion on sugar and if it's really a poison.  Up until recently I preferred pure cane sugar or organic cane sugar and organic brown sugars for cooking and baking. But an event has happened in our life that has really changed my view on the safety of sugar. Yes, sugar causes health issues. To say it does not, or live life as if it does not is like burying ones head in the sand. Does that mean we won't eat any sugar ever at all? No, but it means we will be more mindful of sugar as we are with GMO and make our choices with knowledge. Think of all the items that contain sugar before you even add any yourself by way of actually sprinkling sugar on. Think of how we condition little children to wish for sugar by the way we feed them before they are able to make food choices themselves? I've seen little babies with sugar filled fruit juice in their bottles. Babies under 1 being given soda at the restaurant table next to me.
When you are a parent it's up to you to make wise choices before your child is able to understand making a choice. And when they can understand, it's helpful to arm them with information to make better choices. Not choosing for them or shaming them if they make a choice you would not.  But don't start off by setting your little ones up with that sugar craving before they are even out of diapers.

Here are some articles about the health hazards of sugar:
Is Sugar Toxic?
This common food ingredient can mess you your metabolism
The Hidden Story of Big Sugar 
76 dangers of sugar

I once read that a family who lives a more natural lifestyle may have a harder time with unschooling, because of control issues to avoid the "bad things". So how does a family who is practicing natural learning and unconditional parenting do it without putting rules and restrictions on foods? How do we avoid telling our children what they can or cannot eat?

I never withhold food from my kids or tell them which item from the pantry or table they must eat. When they are hungry they eat. No matter the time of day. No matter if a meal is coming up. The older girls might say they prefer to wait for the meal if they know one is coming or go with something smaller to tide them over. Or they might not want what I'm making and go with a Trader Joes hot dog or an organic turkey sandwich or PB and J instead.
I read a lot. I research a lot. I talk with my kids about additives in foods and why they add this or that. We talk about health problems that certain ingredients can cause if eaten in excess or on a regular basis. We have fast food from time to time. But the kids know if we ate fast food every meal, every day, it'd not be the best way to feed their bodies because of the ingredients that are used and the way it makes them feel. The older girls read labels when we shop. They ask questions. I don't lecture and talk down to them about food choices. I ask them what they like, what they are in the mood to eat and get their input. If they see something on the baked goods table at Trader Joes they'd like to have as a sweet treat, we pick it up to share with the family that night for dessert. Most of those are far healthier than what you will find in the traditional grocery store shelf.

The kids all have favorite snacks or treats so I make sure those are accessible easily to all of them and that we keep them stocked. These are all GMO free as well. Sams club is pretty much my best friend for a lot of these items.
Ember (2) loves fruit twists which are made by Cliff and are organic fruit. So those are low in the pantry for her to grab. And she loves any fresh fruit.
Decklin (5) loves fruit, especially bananas and clementines.
Summer (8) loves sweet things like kids cliff bars, fruit twists, dried sweet and tart cherries, homemade trail mix (adding some organic chocolate chips in) and honey wheat pretzels.
Skylar (10) doesn't care much for fruits or veggies but she does like homemade trail mix of raw nuts, some dried fruits and cheese and crackers, cliff bars, fruit twists and pretzels and pita chips. We buy the laughing cow wedges since they are easy access for her to do herself and grab some whole wheat crackers from Trader Joes.

We all take part in the menu planning for upcoming shopping trips. We shop bi-weekly on Mondays. Our menu plan is not set in stone, meaning just for ease of planning I jot it down on Monday on the menu plan (which is a month calendar) but we rarely ever eat that meal on Monday. Sometimes we are not in the mood for it until Friday. So the meal plan is very flexible. The goal being to just have 15 breakfast meals, 15 lunch meals, 15 dinner meals and 15 days of snacks. You may be thinking, 15 different meals for each day? But what it usually looks like is we put together a list of Breakfast options to choose from for the two week span and also do the same with lunch and snacks. Dinner is where I get more specific because of needing to buy ingredients for the meals. As we eat a meal for dinner from our menu plan I cross it off.
Any recipes I'm making for the week I keep handy so I don't have to go hunting for them. The other day we made zucchini cakes and they were not such a hit. So that recipe will not be coming out again : ).

Some things I just have never kept in the house before having kids, like soda and fruit juices or things like high fat snack foods (though we do keep better versions of the same foods made by Trader joes if we really like them - like their version of Doritos). We might have a soda or lemonade when we go out to dinner but it's just not something we keep here. But we all prefer water when at home. We just like it better.

How we eat, how we plan our meals and decide together is not controlling how anyone eats. Ultimately we make food a family affair and we all take part in choices, planning and of course eating.

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