Oreos for breakfast? Really?

 After reading ReelGirl’s ‘Notes to the babysitter‘  post on my ‘let them eat cake’ (for breakfast) approach to feeding my three daughters, Babble.com’s Madeline Holler blogs on strollerderby:

No bad food, no bad food, no bad food. Come on! Oreos are bad food!

But, she’s got an open mind:

I remember when my daughter was 3, a child development expert talked about how important that kids be able to have a food shelf that they have unfettered access to. I tried it, but (1) we lived in a super small place then, too — couldn’t spare a low drawer in the cabinets and (2) I copped out and put “good” crap in there that she wasn’t all that jazzed about (which I’m sure was exactly my plan!).

I know I need to share my kitchen, my shopping list and my food, and let my kids drive their own eating. We have very little junk in the house and lots of fresh stuff, which they like. Sure, my kids rave about junky sweets, etc., but they also ask for fruit to snack on, don’t blanch at whole grain pasta or bread and one even orders up lentils whenever she gets to pick what’s for dinner. All good!

So it’s really me who is in the way. I’m not particularly worried about eating disorders — whether or not I change my ways — but I think it can’t be anything but infantalizing for older kids to have to ask if they can have a popsicle. It’s got to start sometime. It might as well be now.

Like every parent, I’d love to see into the future and know if I’m making the right choices for my kids. All I know is that my decisions about food feel right for our family. Our meal times are peaceful, my kids eat lots of ‘healthy’ food, and are adventurous eaters. (My seven year old’s absolute favorite food is kimbap– do you know what that is? Read about it here.)

For me, it comes down to this: Can you imagine being told what to eat? And how much? What if you were in the mood for a crunchy salad but someone forced you to eat roasted chicken? What we choose to eat is so personal with many factors involved including how hungry we are, what we ate last, if it’s hot or cold outside, the list goes on. How could anyone possibly know what you ‘should’ eat but you?

I suppose following someone else’s orders about what to eat is exactly what a diet is. But could that be why we’re so screwed up about food? Because since day one we’ve been trained to have no clue how to listen and respond to our own bodies?

9 thoughts on “Oreos for breakfast? Really?

  1. I’m really torn on this…on one hand, I do find myself annoyed at “me” when I tell my son (7) he has to ask me if he can eat anything. Really? On the other hand, I feel like it is our job to regulate…portion control, sugar, too many carbs vs not enough protiens, veggies, etc. Granted, my kids have access to some snacks in the cupboard, and access to the fridge which is filled with fruits, veggies, healthy snacks (that they pick out and ask for at the grocery store). But things like crackers, cookies, candy…those are on the top shelves and they have to ask. And they have to ask because I am concerned about diabetes, and I want them to learn how to eat a well-balanced meal. I feel if I were to let them snack on chips and crackers all day, then they would be too full to eat the other nutritious stuff they need. Again, I get what you are saying about snacking on things they want so they are actually eating what their body needs. But, I don’t know. I don’t really run a dictatorship around food…I take them to the grocery store, I explain why we make certain choices (all whole foods, read the labels, find alternatives for junky things they ask for)…they make their own lunches (must have 1 carb, 1 protein and 1 fruit or veggie), I let them choose their breakfast, we talk about dinner, but I only make one dinner. But at dinner I will make sure there is at least one thing my daughter will eat (she is the picky one). I figure if she fills up on that one thing, then at least she ate something and won’t go to bed hungry. But I encourage them to try new things, and I have 4 kids, I’m not making 6 meals. But we do have lots of discussion and choices happening around food selection, so they are happy with the options available to them. I just wouldn’t feel right letting my kids eat oreos for breakfast, though I have caught them eating candy for breakfast!! But, it’s like my mother always said, “Everything in moderation.” I don’t know…it’s all interesting…would love that look into the future too!

  2. While I like the idea, the reality is that I’m the only one cooking and what I make for dinner (breakfast and lunch, I give choice), Everyone eats. I cooked it, so if my husband/son want different food, they need to cook it. I never make anyone finish their food and if they want accompaniments, like a cheese stick tonight for example, on their plate with their other food, that’s okay too. Most often I have two sets of dinner every night (I’m a strong believer in making enough for leftovers) so often they do get to choose between the two but that’s as much choice as they’re going to get. Since we eat so few sweets at the house, and it is not an oft requested item, I never say no when my son asks for them. I may ask him to wait until he has eaten his growing food first, though. And he may, like tonight, have forgotten all about the sweet by the end of the meal (and me too). The moment my sons (3yo, 1yo) want to cook dinner, I will be more than happy to let them eat whatever it is! But we’re still a few years away so I guess I’ll be cooking for now…

  3. Thanks for the link, Margot. And also, thanks for the detailed posts and openness about what you’re doing. Some of my readers say they do what you do as well. I’m planning to give it a shot! (First, must clear some space in the cabinets and fridge …)

  4. I guess I worry because most of our “healthy” snacks are refrigerated (fruit, hummus, yogurt, cheese etc.) but the things in the cupboard are veggie chips, cereal bars, pretzels etc. When I say I worry about her snacking all day it’s because she will literally eat 2 bites of her meal & then say she’s done & can she have a snack. *sigh* Our son has so much less interest in food & I feel like I am setting my daughter up for issues. I am sick of being charge of her eating – as much as I am trying NOT to be in charge! I’m going to give the shelf a try & see what happens. Thanks for your thoughts. It’s so helpful!
    -Gina

  5. I’ve been considering this idea of a food shelf since you mentioned it the other day. Intellectually, I know that the more I restrict things, the more my daughter will crave them. My fear is that she will snack all day long. But she is 4 & I don’t want to set her up for a lifetime of food issues by telling her when & what she can eat. I can sense the power struggle already & wonder if this would help. Thank you for the idea.

    BTW, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time & really it. :)
    - Gina

    • Hi Gina,

      What’s wrong with snacking all day? Many ‘diets’ say the ‘healthiest’ way to eat is six small meals a day. I think kids like to snack, their tummies are smaller! The issue, I think, is that we associate ‘snack’ food with ‘bad’ food. Snacking can include baby carrots with hummus, a rice cake with peanut butter, a cup of warm lentil soup (a grown-up has to warm that up, but I put some simple canned foods on the foodshelf so my daughter can see it and ask for it)

      Thanks for visiting ReelGirl.

      Margot

      • I eat 6 times a day and I’m an adult! I know someone who’s worried that her child getting used to snacking means all the time, not just 6 times a day and that they’ll have trouble settling into preschool where you can’t do that. However, I’ve noticed with my kids that if they’re involved in interesting activities like at preschool they don’t ask for extra snacks over the morning/afternoon necessary ones. I suspect “chain-snacking” probably means the child is bored.

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