Thursday, February 19, 2009

A word about kids and organic living

Most kids hear the words organic and think – something that tastes weird and is supposed to be good for me. At least that’s the assumption my kids were working with when this all first began. They said the word “organic” with the same inflection they might use for the words “brussel sprouts”. They always assumed the worst and were constantly suspicious of every food I put in front of them. “Is this organic?” would be the first thing out of their mouths, even if the dinner in question was one of their favorites. It took awhile.

I’m not going to tell you that it was easy and now my kids are true believers. It took a long time. There were plenty of moments when I’d throw up my hands in exasperation when I served them something that cost a fortune and tasted fabulous, yet they would refuse to even try it.

The two big things you need when trying to convert your children to the organic life are persistence and compromise. You have to keep putting things out there. At the same time I did recognize that there were a few non-negotiables for them. They weren’t willing to give up their pancake syrup (never mind how much better maple syrup tastes – that’s not the point!) or their cheez-its. So we compromised. I buy that nasty, preservative laden, imitation flavored, artificially colored syrup on special occasions and birthdays. They can have one box of cheez-its each week. We’ve had this policy in place for nearly two years now, and while they have held fast on the syrup, they have slowly lost their devotion to cheez-its. My husband sees this as a good thing since maple syrup costs a mint and my children tend to bathe in their pancake syrup.

I doubt that any of my children even remember what ultra-pasteurized milk in a plastic jug tastes like anymore. Same for Peter Pan peanut butter (formerly their favorite). Slowly, by consistently offering them healthy alternatives, they have changed. They even seem a little proud that we eat organically.

I think it comes down to what a lot of things come down to in parenting – holding your ground. You have to draw your line and then stick to it. This is the way we eat now. Forever. It won’t change when Mommy loses interest, because it’s a change for the better. Mommy won’t lose interest; she just might get less preachy about it (promise!).

The bottom line is that organic, local, healthy food tastes better. It truly does. Your kids will figure this out too, as long as their attitudes don’t get in the way. Sometimes it takes awhile, but they’ll come around. And they won’t starve meanwhile – honest.

One more thing – and this is important. Even though you know that eating organically is better for your kids, you cannot push this on other parents. When my kids go to other houses, I never question what they will eat. They can and should eat whatever is served. I’ve had parents apologize for feeding my kids pop-tarts or Doritos, but I always assure them there’s no need. It’s important to teach your kids that manners matter, and everyone makes their own decisions about how and what they eat – and we respect that. No judgment. My kids happily scarf down all kinds of treats at birthday parties, playdates, and school events. And that is fine. I know that the majority of what they eat is healthy and they are young, their bodies can handle a little bad stuff now and then. Funny thing is, they are finding out that when they eat a bunch of store bought birthday cake or too many chips, they don’t feel so good. Hmm, maybe they don’t need me to make the connection for them. They’re smart kids.

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