It might shock some people that my children can choose whatever they want from the supermarket, just like I do. Our financial limits vary from month to month, but within our budget, they have the freedom to choose what they want for snacks and meals. They will very often take their own cart and just go off and shop themselves.
Honesty and balance are important values to me in the relationship with my children. A friend once told me that her child wanted some candy at the store. She suggested a banana and told her child that he would get sick if he ate the candy. I personally would never say something that wasn't true to my children as a means to control, coerce or sway them in their choices. For my kids, some candy would not make them sick. In fact, if I said that to them and they ate it and did not get sick, how would that affect the trust between us in the future? I know they wouldn't take what I said as truth very much after that, knowing that the "information" that I was giving them was false and a means of control.
I believe that any foods in moderation are fine for our bodies. I know there are people with allergies and food intolerance's and I am not talking about those people here. I know there are exceptions to everything. Right now, I am sharing about my children who are healthy, happy and thriving who have real freedom with the foods that they choose to put in their bodies.
What is interesting to me about how some parents process freedom surrounding foods is that they tend to think in extremes with fear as the backdrop. If children have had food restrictions and limits and have been controlled in the past, and then suddenly these restrictions are lifted, the natural response is overindulgence with the foods that were taboo. The children do not know when and if the restrictions will be reinstated, so they get as much as they can struggling for their own autonomy. A grocery cart filled with candy, cakes, soda and chips would more than likely be what their choices would be. This image is what most in our culture think children with food freedoms would choose. In my experience with four children with food freedom, this is not the case at all!
Children with true food freedom make very different choices than the average person would ever guess! Just like you and I have the freedom to choose what we eat and we do not fill our carts with candy, cakes, chips and soda, neither do children with true food freedom.
When kids are allowed to tap into their own inner knowing and bodily cravings and they know about their bodies and what nourishes them, they can make choices in what they are just drawn to. I believe that this is the healthiest, most organic way to raise my children surrounding food. A healthy, balanced person with freedom to choose does not make unhealthy choices. It wouldn't make sense to my kids to not eat a balanced, healthy diet. They love and respect their bodies and crave and desire fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, protein and also sugars.
When some people read about my feelings surrounding food and freedom they assume that I must be ignorant about health and foods. What they do not realize is that I am a research junkie. Being a childbirth educator, LLL Leader and Doula, nutrition is something that I am very interested in. Our family is educated about foods, and yet, we have formed our own beliefs from our own research and experience. Some of the films we have seen about foods are, Dirt: The Movie, Food Fight, Food, Inc. Fresh, Killer at Large, King Corn, Super Size Me, The Future of Food and we are looking forward to the movie, "Food Stamped", about how hard it is to eat well on a really tight budget. I've read from the book, "Fast Food Nation" aloud to my kids. We are very aware and educated about genetically modified foods and organic foods. It is one of my passions in life to learn and be truly informed about being a good consumer when it comes to food. My children are interested too, especially Devin right now. (He cried when we watched Food, Inc. watching chickens being kicked and mistreated.)
I also know that my feelings about the foods I eat is what I will experience. If I believe something is bad for me, it will be. If I believe that my body is strong and healthy and that I can eat anything - even fast food - in moderation and maintain my health, it will be my experience... and it is! I can count on one hand how many time over the last five years that my children and I have been sick. We are so healthy with the mindset that we have about food. We are educated, informed yet still hold our own beliefs as consumers. We don't make choices in fear. We make choices from a place of joy and love in what we are drawn to.
I also do not blame my children's "behavior" on certain ingredients in foods like so many parents in our culture today do. So much is blamed on foods and I believe this attitude is so unhealthy for the parent/child relationship. I feel that the parents aren't taking the responsibility for their role in their children's behavior and are using foods as a catch-all blame bucket. Parents today are desperately trying to control what their kids eat in an attempt to control them. A more respectful way to parent, in my eyes, would be to focus on the needs under a child's behavior, instead of trying to control behavior with food restrictions and limits.
Honesty and trust are paramount to a child having a healthy, balanced relationship with foods also. I personally do not have fears, or taboos with certain foods like many people in our culture today do. There is nothing off-limits to my family. The entire grocery store is our buffet and we choose from everything there, without limiting ourselves when we enter. We love farmers markets and we have a very large garden that the kids help with and enjoy also. We love food and trust our bodies.
I believe that the human body is not as fragile as most people believe today. I know that my body takes what it needs and what it doesn't need it gets rid of. I do not believe that there are foods that can damage my body. I believe that my body is strong, resilient, competent and I trust it completely.
There are so many evolving, changing beliefs surrounding foods today. I personally buy and eat what I am drawn to and know that all food is nourishment to my strong, capable body. Moderation and balance naturally takes place when you have no fears, taboos, limits or controls over foods in the family.
I think coming to this place in life surrounding foods and how I respect my kids choices is a combination of things. It is my personal beliefs surrounding my body and the foods that I put in it. It is the trust I have of my children's choices. I give information about foods and my children have the freedom to choose what they want based on their knowledge and what they are drawn to and craving.
Devin chooses fruits, breads, chicken and nuts when we shop. He loves smoothies too! Tiff and Ivy love berries, hummus and veggies, tuna fish, meats and trail mixes. Orion loved veggies, nuts, breads and fruit. My kids also enjoy popcicles, ice cream, pretzels and yes, even candy and potato chips! When they choose the candy I don't tell them, "You can get that, but it will make you feel sick". I respect their balanced choices and I know that they are healthy, capable and competent beings when it comes to foods. I have faith in their bodies ability to take what it needs and leave the rest.
I think when people envision children having food freedom they are basing their image on the distrusting, disrespectful ideas that most people have of children's choices. Most people have never witnessed truly free children. They are basing their beliefs on children with limits and controls which may have been temporarily lifted. Kids are often looked at as not capable, or experienced enough to know what is good for them and what isn't. I believe that children are so much closer to balance then adults are because of the fearful mixed messages and conflicting ideas surrounding food in our society that we have been conditioned with.
I also believe strongly in choosing foods that make me happy. It may sound simple, but it feels so right to me. In our family we all choose foods that make us smile and make us feel good. I know that happiness and good feelings are my guide in life. I have lived by this belief for almost five years now and our lives have never been richer. I love to share this with others because it is a little secret that anyone can apply to their own lives. Walk into the grocery store with love in your heart instead of fear. Choose items based on love and what makes you feel good. You'll be surprised at your experience and what you bring home!
My children make balanced, healthy choices of what they put into their bodies because they have true food freedom and have parents who value honesty and connection above all else. My only "agenda" is my child's freedom and happiness in life. Healthy, balanced food choices are simply a side effect of freedom trust , honesty and love.... Love of food and love of ourselves.