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effective, non-judgemental ways to influence others?

I just wrote the following piece on the site, and I hope to get some good ideas from the community. fire away.....



Sun. May 31, 10:17pm

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One trend I have observed, when eating in the homes of others, is parents serving alternate meals or courses for their children. I think this discourages children from learning to enjoy a wider variety of foods. My children are served whatever I have prepared for dinner (no special adaptations), and whenever they have told me that that don't like something I have served, I have told them not to tell me what they don't like, but simply leave the item on their plate. I've explained to them that I spent time and energy preparing the meal, and to hear that they don't like it is discouraging. I've asked them to use their manners and simply leave the food on the plate if they don't like it. They usually try most things, and usually enjoy most of what they are served. Whenever we cater too much to our children, we actually unknowingly handicap them in some way. I suppose you are raising the warning about nutritionally handicapping them, and so many of us must be doing this because of the standard items available on restaurant children's menus--the same chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese and pizza, and fries always seem to be the default side. I can almost hear the waiter's surprise as we ask for a vegetable or fruit side instead of the fries. My kids ask for the fries, but I remind my children we can have those any time, and when we have other options, we should take them. They never make too big a fuss about it because of the standard set at home (you have available the choices on your plate/the table). I think as with anything, more people are won over by consistently good examples rather than preaching. I am aware of the families in my community who have higher nutritional standards, and I am always positively influenced by their example. Thank you for yours.

Sunday, May 31, 2009, 11:35 PM

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a more confrontational approach

Habib, some of what you wrote about has to do with where one lives, and is a proximity issue. Where you went to grade school is still something like 15 miles from the nearest Wendy's; it's that you have moved as much as that the world has changed.

That said -- You think you are rude? In California people are protesting the placement of fast food restaurants exactly where kids will walk to and from school. (Link goes to Berkeley Daily Planet.)


Monday, June 01, 2009, 1:05 AM

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I don't think you were rude to say what you wanted for your children.. if they were vegetarian or diabetic or had a particular medical need you would be asking the same question.. why does health not fit into the category of having a dietary need..

Just because something is an unspoken rule does not make it ok.. challenge the views of others.. push the boundaries - it's the only way to progress.

Good on you for saying something!

Monday, June 01, 2009, 1:34 AM

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Habib - I'm at a loss, too. I feel like...well, I don't know what I feel like, but I find myself keeping it 'a secret' that my kid has never been to McDonald's - as if by saying that, I'm judging the choices of other parents. And, deep down, maybe I am. Like the question you posed, 'Why is that the default?' Why there? What that?

I know countless friends who say they try and give their kids good food, but end up making the mac and cheese and nuggets every night when their kids complain. My first thought is, well why in the heck would they try anything else if they always have the back up meal available? (Kids wont 'only eat', kids are 'only served.') My second thought is, what's the bigger goal here? Good nutrition or 30 minutes of peace? I usually look to the bigger picture when it comes to parenting, and it's not always the most pleasant, peaceful choice in the moment - but big picture - it's the right choice for us.

I keep coming back to: the path of least resistance. I have to listen to nightly complaints from my daughter, but I do, b/c what's the alternative - give her the crap she craves and wants so I don't have to listen to the grousing?

It is an interesting topic, for sure. It's strange to feel like I have to go underground with my nutrition concerns - and I'm not even a hard core food purist! I'm just trying to find balance in a mac and cheese world!

Monday, June 01, 2009, 7:57 AM

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Kids Eating Right

My kids generally ate at home thanks to my husband who is great at making wonderfully tasting healthy food; the only time we went to Macdonald's was for a toy and they hated the actual food and wouldn't eat the happy meal. When we need a quick meal, we are fortunate to be able to go to local Mediterranean, Mexican, Sushi type places and get relatively healthy food. I also think it is a huge cultural thing and sitting with our in-laws for dinner on a regular basis gave an excellent foundation to us all! Italians know how to eat and live, but its hard to do in the US. Basically, we ignored all the hype and did what we felt best. Somehow our kids (now 16 and 18) are pretty healthy eaters. The other related issue is then the teenage eating disorders, which we've seen with some of our close friends.

Monday, June 01, 2009, 11:50 AM

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I too try to fix the healthiest foods for my family - we bake our own bread, tortillas, cakes, pancakes, and ice cream from scratch. We rarely buy items from the center of the grocery, but we do. So, I agree with all that has been posted.

I do want to bring up another point, however. Isn't our job as parents to teach moderation? It is teaching after all. Our children will leave us one day and be in the land of fast food. It will be their choice. So, I would rather teach them how to eat instead of keeping some foods as forbidden.

My husband grew up without sugary cereals. When he became an adult, he binged on them because he was never allowed to eat them at home. So, we compromise. For St. Patrick's Day every year, we buy a box of Lucky Charms. Yes, my husband still eats it. It teaches our children that you can eat things that aren't healthy, but eat them in moderation.

When my children come home from eating with friends' houses for dinner, we talk about what they had. It's funny that my kids eat the veggies that are served. They like that the parents comment that their kids never eat the veggies.

As parents, we are laying the foundation for how our children will eat for the rest of their lives, but we can't control it 100% of the time.

Monday, June 01, 2009, 12:28 PM

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"Mac and Cheese Moms"

I think the phenomenon of "Mac and Cheese Moms" is partially cultural. My parents fed me "right" but it was all they knew. In their culture serving vegetables and rice was the norm. Nothing special in their minds.

The Mac and Cheese moms are, for lack of a better word, generally "white americans" where that food is part of their culture. So you have to be careful- when you question a Mac and Cheese mom, you are partially questioning their identity from what I have seen.

Monday, June 01, 2009, 12:36 PM

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You can substitute mac and cheese for any number of 'foods' and the issue remains the same.

Monday, June 01, 2009, 1:08 PM

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my mom had the same feedback- i sent her the article and this was her response:

"Eating habits, as I see them, are cultural. I fed you guys what I was fed growing up (except fish was forbidden by Nani) ... albeit cooked by servants who were trained by my Dadi. Though i had to replicate that food without servants.

 I continue to be stunned by what people here put into their shopping carts. Everything for speed, convenience and, in Maine, for economics (thus instant mac and cheese and whoopie pies). 

I was at the Brooklyn Heights library and sitting next us was a chinese toddler with his Phillippino nanny. She pulled out a container of some rice and vegetable preparation that both the chinese kid ( and S.) gobbled up.

I'm off now to cook my Happy Meal: Dal and rice, dal chawal."


Monday, June 01, 2009, 1:35 PM

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I have recently done a purging of my cupboards of all the foods with chemicals/harmful preservatives, etc...i.e "poisons" I could find. I now try to make and buy only whole foods (either had a mother or grew from the ground), organic where possible. Believe me when I say that I get made fun of daily because I of the food choices I make for myself and my kids. These things are so prevelant, it has just become acceptable to ingest them in large quantities.

My mother has just left after babysitting my kids for a week and I have to re-detox my cupboards I am very aware of the pressures to just accept that my kids will eat the trans fat laden crackers every now and again; I'll take the mockery anytime and maybe someday I'll find a way to help others taking care of my kids to understand why this is so imporant, but in the meantime, I completely understand the frustration.

Monday, June 01, 2009, 2:17 PM

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