The Daily Battle of the Food Warrior Mom

warrior

“It’s just one Oreo.”
“One donut isn’t gonna kill him?”
“Oh, sorry, you guys don’t do sugar?”
“He can have gum, right?”

It’s a typical week and the battle rages on. A relatively healthy, clean diet versus peer pressure and not-making-them-live-in-a-bubble.

As much as we may strive in the quest for dietary perfection at home, the real world is rife with obstacles. It still never ceases to amaze me how most people are completely oblivious to high fructose corn syrup, GMOs, artificial colors and dyes, and generally harmful processed crap. We know about the links to ADHD, diabetes, and even cancer – and we know that half of these ingredients are BANNED outside of the U.S.  But knowing isn’t half the battle – it’s like 10%. And the world is peppered with gummy bears from the dollar store, blue lollipops, and munchkins, munchkins everywhere.

As careful as I am, my strictness pales in comparison to some parents I know. But, in general, I still come off as “that crazy green mom who won’t let her kid have Starbursts.” But, lest you think I am fanatical for not purchasing Cheerios, let me give you a breakdown over an average three days in the life of a food-and-eco-conscious parent.

Day One – Preschool

7 a.m: We make the children organic frozen waffles or the Cascadian Farms organic version of “Life” – and occasionally their still-sugar-heavy organic version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

8:30 a.m: They complain that they are still hungry so they eat Earths Best fruit bars on the walk to school.

10 a.m: Snacktime at school. Sometimes it’s conventional fruit and sometimes it’s a combination of Goldfish and Cheerios. And then there is pretzel day, where they eat massive soft pretzels, leading to:

noon: Lunch. Mostly uneaten, as seen by the remnants of organic peanut butter and jelly, fruit, and random leftovers.

3 p.m: Afternoon snack at school. It’s someone’s birthday because it is always someone’s birthday. And it’s always Munchkins.

4 p.m: We head to the park. I’ve brought some organic fruit snacks and yogurt drops, maybe even a few organic cookies. But Jane’s parents have brought Cheez-Its and Jack’s parents have brought gummy worms. My children no longer like what I have brought and beg to share with their friends. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no.

4:30 p.m: The Mr. Softie truck rolls up to the playground blaring it’s siren song. All the children run to the fence. Some of the kids get ice cream. Mine don’t.

4:45: The Nesquick bunny enters the park with an igloo full of “chocolate drink.” We rapidly head out.

5:30 p.m: We prepare a healthy, mostly organic dinner for ourselves and our two-year-old, Evelyn, who blissfully still eats what we serve her. My five-year-old, Sam, subsists on about six different things (because we have failed.) But we will make damn sure those six things are organic, so Annie’s Mac and Cheese is served.

6 p.m: I prepare homemade fruit and almond milk ice cream in the Vitamix with an unhealthy amount of conventional chocolate chips (because Fresh Direct doesn’t sell the organic ones and Whole Foods is always out). Sam doesn’t want it because he wants real ice cream. He finally gives in and eats what I’ve made. Five minutes later he complains that he is hungry again and eats four pickles, a cheese stick, and an errant Girl Scout cookie bought out of guilt from a friend’s daughter.

Day Two – Saturday

7 a.m: Breakfast

10 a.m: Sam needs to get a haircut, so he is plied with healthyish snacks to prepare him for the 10 minutes of captivity. After the haircut he is offered a small cup of peanut M&Ms by the well-meaning barber and we let him eat them.

noon: A begrudgingly eaten and picked at lunch.

12:30: My parents arrive with their requisite Dunkin Donuts chocolate chip muffins, which are literally dotted with granulated sugar. I have fought with them about this ad nauseum, but I can not win because it “gives them pleasure” to ply my children with crap.

1 p.m: They want to give them Oreos. I say no. We fight. Sam cries.

1:30 p.m: They want to know if they can take him to CVS to pick out some candy. I say no. Sam cries. Evelyn is oblivious.

2 p.m: Commercials for McDonalds, Gatorade, and Frosted Flakes.

4 p.m: We head out for one of the daily neighborhood festivals that make city living so great. I know that this is one of those occasions where we’ll want to splurge on pizza and ice cream with no thought about ingredients, and so we do. But since Sam has already had M&Ms and a giant sugar-covered muffin and possibly other things snuck by my parents, this ice cream cone has put him over the top and he is high strung and freaking out. Evelyn is covered in sprinkles and is chewing on her shoe.

6 p.m: We all go home and eat cereal and grapes.

6:30 p.m: Sam is hungry again.

Day Three – Sunday

7 a.m: Breakfast

9 a.m: Sam and I take the dog for a walk and the dog drags us into the dry cleaners’ where he knows he will get a treat. And Sam knows he will get a small Hershey bar.

10 a.m: The first birthday part of the day. It is at one of the many establishments where it is mandatory to consume their provided cuisine – cardboard pizza and Hi-C. I am forced to go with the flow.

noon: Cake with blue icing.

12:30: The new requisite piñata, pre-filled with candy you can’t even believe still exists like Laffy Taffy. (For a really fun and easy DIY piñata alternative, see here).

2 p.m: Birthday party number two. Same thing, different bounce house.

5 p.m: Dinner. Hahaha!!!

7 p.m: I pick through the goody bags and hope no one will noticed that I’ve thrown away 3 Blow Pops and something that looks like it’s actually bleeding chartreuse.

My children are not sweet-deprived. They aren’t living in some candy-crushed world where they are only permitted to eat things they’ve grown with their bare hands. We are simply trying to do a little bit better, because we know what’s in this stuff.

We know how it effects our children in the short term and we are terrified of how it will effect them in the long term. We would be remiss and frankly, ignorant, to just let all hell break loose in a blaze of red dye and pesticides.

So, please, please, don’t tell me that one Oreo won’t kill my children. Spend a day in the shoes of a parent forced to wage combat in the universal food wars, and you will know that every crumb counts.

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  • I swear the only reason I know this is different than my life is you have 2 kiddos and they attend school. We fought like this for years. Now, they’re 16, 14 and 7. It does get easier. We had to really educate them and when they felt like crap from sneaking and eating the foods “well intentioned” people gave them I pointed out the food that caused it. And, when they didn’t have belly aches I pointed out the foods that kept their bodies happy. I do wish it was different now….but it’s still a fight to feed our kids healthy foods.

    ~Honey

  • Thank you so much for admitting you pick through bags of goodies to throw away some of your children’s candy. Because I’ve been doing that for years…and some other parents might judge us as harsh and spoiling their sugary/red/yellow/neon/hyperactivity-inspiring fun! It helps to know I’m not in this alone.

  • I agree with Honey. It does get easier. Just keep educating those babies mama! We very diligently educate our children about ingredients and talk to them about how the junk makes them feel when they do eat it. My 7-year old will now graciously accept the junk, but put it in the garbage the first chance she gets because she knows it’s not worth it. We’re still working on our 5-year old, but I know she’s going to get it in the next couple years too.

  • Oh how fun this sounds. My parents (and in-laws) always ask first, which is great! Except the first time we left my son alone overnight with my parents they gave him something I had asked them not to (I forget now what it was!) but that was the only time! Call me ignorant, but what is the deal with blue food dye again?

  • Paige Wolf

    Hey Rachel! Asking questions is NEVER ignorant! It’s only ignorant when we pretend like we didn’t hear the answer 🙂 Some info on dyes – http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/food-dyes-processed-foods THANKS!

  • Rachel

    We try to do a balance. Eat healthy at home, bring snacks when we’re out, and splurg on once off events: parties, holidays, baseball games. I’m the worst one in my family though since I didn’t grow up that way and constantly want the food I connect to great memories from childhood :/

  • You are not alone! It was refreshing to read your article because we go through the same thing all the time. Yes, we do not make it a free for all but the kids are hardly deprived. It only gets worse as they get older, btw. I have a 10 and 12 year old. My oldest goes to a school for kids with ADHD and other learning differences. You would think that they would be more aware of the impact of junk food but NOOOOOOO. Every week is peppered with ice cream sundae parties, BBQs full of Doritos and teacher birthday parties. Sigh.

  • I follow the approach that it is all about balance and teaching B to make smart choices. I think it’s important to not use food as a reward and to not desserts always be sweets (ie: yogurt and apple slices is a great dessert).

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