I can't even tell you how excited I was when YumEarth contacted me to try out some of their new products. My family depends on the products of this company on a regular basis. Here's the thing: I have friends who have young children not in school yet who would cringe at the idea of giving their kids sweets at all. I have others who allow their toddlers to drink Coke (ick!). The truth is, no matter how healthy you and your family may be, your kid at some point is going to be left out unless you figure out how to 'merge' your healthy eating habits with the standard American diet of pizza and soda. Sure, when your kids are at home all day or just in preschool some it can be easy, but when they are old enough to realize they are 'different', they can feel confused at times and it can be lonely being the ONLY kid in class who is forced to sit and stare at his classmates when Suzy's mom brings cupcakes into the class for her birthday.
For those of you parents who have not lived through these yet, you will....so learn now!
Lesson 1: It is important to constantly (without nagging!) talk about healthy options and to discuss with your young children why you choose to eat healthy and why others don't. Having a school age child with friends who eat far differently than us allows us plenty of time to casually discuss the topic. I have explained to her that although eating 'bad ingredients' will not usually make you sick immediately, that over time it can cause bad diseases and a weakened immune system. I explain to my 6 year old that an immune system is the system in the body that keeps us well and helps us to not get sick, and helps heal us when we do get sick. I have pointed out how many of her friends have 'real' food allergies and how many of them get sick far more often than we do and how much they go to the doctor. She knows that we eat the way we do so that we don't have to go to the doctor all of the time because we heal ourselves when we can. We have been talking about this since she was 3 and I can almost guarantee she knows more about health than any other 6 year old. When she told the man who offered her a free sample of beef jerky at the farmers market, "No thank you, I don't eat meat", he asked where she got her protein from (SMH!), she told him exactly where she got it, eggs, tofu, veggies, fish. The more you talk about it, the more second nature it will become.
Lesson 2: You have to understand that if you are stringent, your child will rebel. She will drink soda at a friends house. She will share food in the lunch room. The trick it to allow sugar in small doses, make it organic and PROVIDE SUBSTITUTES that look like the real thing as much as possible!
Scenario 1: Your child is invited to a friends birthday party. There will be cake. There may be ice cream. There will likely be loot bags full of high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, red #40 and all sorts of other chemicals that candy companies will try to pass off as edible.
What To Do: I bake my own dairy-free, mostly organic cupcakes and I will bring one with me to the party. If you feel the need, explain to the parent hosting the party that your child is 'allergic' or 'sensitive' to certain ingredients and you hope its ok but you brought a cupcake for your child to eat during cake time. I once did this and the party host had purchased princess cupcakes with Disney princess rings on the top of each. Since she had planned for my daughter to receive one of those anyhow, she allowed me to remove the ring off of one of hers and put it on top of mine. The trick is to allow your child the same crap....but without the crap. ;) If the party is at a friends house who knows our diet, I will bring a pint of dairy-free ice cream. If it is not, I will explain to my daughter that if ice cream is served, that she I will make sure she gets some as soon as we get home and I thank her for being so good and understanding. We also privately share how much better our ice cream tastes and that keeps her sane while the other kids dig in and cover their faces with chocolate ice cream. She would rather have our dairy-free Mint Chip or Cookie Dough anyhow. I also will bring some YumEarth lollipops, jelly beans and gummy bears to stash in my purse in case of a pinata or candy-filled loot bag.
Scenario 2: You go to the bank and your child is offered a lollipop by the teller. OR You are walking your child home from school and your daughters friend who is walking with you has a lollipop and offers one to your child
What To Do: For unexpected occasions like this, I always try to keep a small stash of YumEarth lollipops in my bag. I swear to you I am not being paid for this, lol. They are the only brand of organic lollipop I know of that is reasonably priced and easy to find. So, I buy them by the big bag and keep them in my purse for anytime when a situation may arise. They also make gummy bears and peppermint candies and other sweets that are perfect to substitute for the junk your kids may be offered. Another good brand is SurfSweets for jelly beans and sour gummy worms!
Scenario 3: Its Halloween! Your child is dressed up with pail in hand but do you let them go collect junk?
What To Do: Yes, I am the person on the block with pretzels, gummy snacks, organic lollipops and toys instead of the 'good' candy bars. But, when it comes to my kids, I take them out shopping the day before to pick out a toy. I give them a limit, like $10 and they pick out whatever toy they want. They are not allowed to open this yet. Then, I go to the health food store and grab a few organic fair trade chocolate bars, a couple vegan GoMaxGo candy bars (OMG Sooo freaking good!), some SurfSweets sour worms and jelly beans and YumEarth gummy bears and lollipops. I make a small basket for each child with the toy the chose, some candy and maybe a few other small trinkets. When they get home from trick-or-treating, they trade me! They get to open the toy they picked out and I let them stuff their faces with some of the candy. I throw the junk candy away because I'm a freak like that and don't want to be the person giving it to another child to eat and further contribute to any health issues.
Scenario 4: Suzy's birthday is today and her mom came into your child's classroom with cupcakes for all of the kids. Well,. except that your kid can't have it.
What To Do: At the beginning of each school year I initiate a conference with the teacher. I instruct them about our eating habits. I leave them with a bag of YumEarth lollipops and a ziploc of organic cookies or sweet that my child CAN eat. I talk to my daughter about birthdays and that this situation will happen at some point and that she can have the sweets I left with the teacher. She and her teacher both let me know if a birthday did happen and I make sure she gets a special treat after school for being so good and understanding. She usually picks out ice cream or we make cupcakes. Needless to say, when my dairy free ice cream is on sale, I LOAD up and keep it stocked in the deep freezer. I ALWAYS have ice cream and YumEarth lollipops in case of an 'emergency'. ;)
Scenario 5: Eating Out
What To Do: Restaurants. I had a friend who was invited for a play date at McDonald's. Though I myself would have declined such a trashy invite, lol, she took her son. She ordered a hamburger without the meat. She brought along a veggie burger and slapped it on the bun before it was wrapped and tossed into a box with fries and a toy. Her son never knew it. At my local pizza joint, I bring them Daiya vegan cheese and they gladly make us pizzas with it. The kids think this is the cats ass and though we don't do it often, a special night for them includes getting pizza! At the movies, we bring our own popcorn and snacks. Another great option for special treats is Zevia soda. It is sweetened with stevia which has no effect on blood sugar and is delicious!
Scenario 6: School
What To Do: SNACK TIME at school. When Addison was 3 and in preschool a few days a week they provided snack. Cheese and crackers was the most common. They also had a fridge/freezer there. I baked a dozen cupcakes, iced them and froze them. After frozen, you can wrap them in saran wrap and stuff them into a big zip lock bag. I brought a bag of a dozen iced and frozen cupcakes to her preschool for the 'birthday scenario'. I also bought a ton of vegan cheese slices since the other kids were eating slices american cheese, and they would give her the vegan cheese and none of the kids were the wiser. It looked the same! The cheese stayed in their fridge and the cupcakes stayed int heir freezer until needed. It is important to keep an open line of communication with your child's caregiver or teacher and stress the importance of health to them. If they don't take you seriously, tell them your child gets sick if she has anything other than what you give her. Better yet, find a good doctor that supports your lifestyle and have them write an allergy note.
A similar situation happened recently. My daughter was invited to go to VBS with a friend. Not knowing if there would be a snack time,. I sent her with a baggie of Annie's bunny grahams. When she got back she was still a little upset because apparently there was a 'treasure box' and all the kids got candy too. Next day, she was prepared with her lollipops and gummy worms. Most of the kids were jealous of her this time! Luckily, she is wonderful and shared with her new friends.
Additionally, when my daughter was in K4 preschool, her class had a treasure box. So what did I do? Brought in a giant bag of YumEarth lollipops along with a bunch of small trinkets/favors to fill it with. That way, there were plenty of great options for my daughter and her classmates.
When you take your health and the heath of your kids as seriously as I do it is hard to go unnoticed. Teachers, bankers, fellow parents, everyone will start noticing. A few may make every second together hell but for most, a little spark will be ignited. They see how happy and healthy you and your children are and soon the recipe requests start coming. My children lead normal lives and hang out with normal friends. I keep a stash of healthier junk food options for them. Can it be a pain in the ass sometimes? Sure, but having kids is not supposed to be easy. You are supposed to want better for them. To keep them healthy. To make sure they are happy. When I got knocked up I made the decision to be the best parent I could be. Serving them Pepsi and McDonalds does not fit that description. They deserve all that I can be and do for them.