Saturday, April 21, 2012

Keeping your Kids Healthy in the Face of Adversity

When the whole world seems to think that cheese pizza is healthy and doesn't understand the true implications of their actions when eating, it is unfair when we who know better are the ones that are the outcasts.  This is especially hard for children and for the parents knowledgeable about health to love their children enough to not allow them to eat junk just because all of their friends are doing it. 

Addison had a birthday party to attend today for a sweet little girl in her class and as always, it was a mildly painful reminder of how hard it can be for a 5 year old who is 'not allowed' to eat dairy.  Parents tell me all of the time how they don't let their kids eat crap and how healthy they are at home, but they almost always, without fail, allow their children to indulge in junk when they are out.  A hot dog at the fair, birthday cake at parties and you'd be a terrible parent for not allowing your child to go trick--or-treating and stuff their faces with all of the tootsie rolls and snickers bars they could! 

Not me.  I love my children too much.  I have another post on 'moderation' coming soon, so for now Ill spare you that novel.  No, I will not allow my child to mindlessly gorge herself on candy laced with artificial colors and sweeteners.  And NO, eating the spare-body-part stuffed pig assholes at a carnival or cook-out is NOT an option!  And HELL NO knowing that dairy protein in lab tests literally turned cancer ON and OFF, I will not allow my precious babies to consume it!  No way.  No how. 

So how do you handle the birthdays?  The cook-outs?  The trip to Chuckie Cheese?  Avoid them at all costs and lock your child in a closet filled with carrot sticks and romaine lettuce?  No.  You lead by example, teach your children well and keep a pantry and freezer stocked with healthier options!  You also teach them a little trick called the little white lie.  No, I am not generally advocating teaching your children to lie, but you have to teach them that THEY are wiser and you have to dumb it down for people who just don't understand.  Congratulations, kids, you are officially ALLERGIC to artificial food!  At restaurants; At friend's houses; At school: Your child is allergic.  It is easier for them to understand and they will take you far more seriously.  If you tell someone you CHOOSE not to eat dairy, you will soon find your children force fed junk somewhere.  I have had family members sneak Addison M&Ms.  It is infuriating.  Take it seriously.  Treat it like a genuine severe allergy.  Make others do the same.

It is essential to make your own lunches for school and pack your own snacks and food for outings.  And, I really do NOT want to hear anyone complain about not having time on their hands.  Ive listened to people say that and caught them hours later in front of the boob tube.  If anyone doesn't have time its me....and I make time!  Its not freaking easy, but what choice do I have?  Eating shit is NOT an option for my family. 

Sit your child down.  Tell them what your family eats, what they don't eat and why.  Do not under estimate your children.  Talk to them like adults.  My daughter was 2 1/2 when we talked.  As you lead by example, the understanding will set in.  We still talk about it.  We talk about how most people think a certain way, but that we know better.  We feel sad for everyone else that doesn't understand how bad dairy and other ingredients can be and we watch as our friends get sick and suffer from allergies, while we are healthy almost all of the time.  Now 5, my daughter understand very well and I'm told, she has no problem educating her friends at school about it. 

Birthday parties is a tough one.  Before every birthday party, we sit down and have a talk.  We sit down and talk about the food that will be there and come up with favorite foods she can eat when we get home.  Pizza, cake and ice cream are most often the culprits.  Today, we ate right before going since it was a short party.  At time, Ive made vegan pizza and took it along.  Rude?  To some.  Do I care when it comes to my daughter feeling included and being healthy at the same time?  Not a freaking lick.  Ive brought my own cupcakes to parties for her.  But if we don't we agree to pig out on vegan ice cream or some other healthier version of (still) junk food when we get home.  Today, she pigged out on some So Delicious Coconut Mint Chip ice cream when we got home! 

There was one time when a dad piped up and made a scene about Addison, making her cry about not being able to eat the birthday cake.  To this I A) Piped up and told him in front of everyone exactly where he can shove that cake using as few 'potty' words as I could for making a little girl cry and B) Took Addison into the other room, sat her down and asked her how she felt and redirected her attention to the cupcakes we were going to make together at home.  (She LOVES to help in the kitchen!)

At cook-outs, Ive never had anyone give me the Stink Eye for bringing my own food.  Sure, we'll be made fun of in good humor but its always in fun and hosts will happily oblige by throwing a vegan hot dog or veggie burger on the grill. 

Halloween: Am I going to make my little angel sit at home while all of the neighborhood kids are running around like crack addicts in costumes on the streets?  Nope!  She goes trick or treating!  The past 2 years we went shopping prior to Halloween and let her pick out a couple of new toys.  These new toys were to stay in the packaging in a closet until after trick-or-treating.  We talked about what would happen and how she would have a pail filled with candy that she wasn't allowed to eat.  We talked about how when she got home, she could eat the candy OR she could trade in the candy for the toys and surprises.  I bought her a small arsenal of organic candy and dairy free chocolates and she had the new toys.  If a kid has the option of HALLOWEEN CANDY or OTHER CANDY AND TOYS, they will choose the latter.  You still need candy - just better kinds.  :)    As the child gets a little older you can trade for money.  Each piece of candy they trick-or-treat = .25 or so.  But save it until when all of the other kids are diving face first into their trick-or-treat pails.  It gives them something to look forward to so they still want to participate in the fun of dressing up and trick-or-treating.

At school events:  I have baked a dozen 'healthy' cupcakes, iced them and froze them individually.  Give them to the teacher for when other kids' parents bring in cupcakes for the class.  At Addison's Christmas and Thanksgiving Feast when parents could sign up to bring food, I literally signed up for half of the entire list.  Yes, it was a LOT of work making 4 casseroles and mashed potatoes AND a dessert to bring, but I damn well did it.  Three month old on my hip and all.  I will go out of my way to keep my child healthy and do whatever it takes so that she does not feel left out for being so! 
Most of all, talk to them.  Before events when you know they will face being an outcast, sit down and discuss what will happen and different ways you can handle it.  Then, reward!  Organic vegan cupcakes!  Dairy-free ice cream!  Hooray!

1 comment:

  1. Good advice on the allergy angle. I get so sick of having the same conversations over and over ("I don't think it's right to deprive your child of entire food groups" "It's wrong to make that decision for your child and deprive her!" "How do you get your protein?!" "Oh I wish I could eat like that! I just love steak/cheese/someotherrandomcrap too much!") and I'm not interested in discussing it anymore. I used to be more hyped about educating people but now I'm much more 'to each their own' about it.