It Starts With Food

it starts with food

When I was growing up I was regularly given Findus crispy pancakes and frozen ready meals for dinner. I was free to drink coca cola all day and eat endless amounts of sugary snacks. I was that kid eating chocolate for breakfast on their way to school. One of the casualties of such an upbringing is disgusting teeth. I have fillings in almost every one, root canals in four, crowns on two and veneers on the front ones. No amount of brushing, flossing and mouth-washing twice a day will undo the damage this early diet has had on my poor gnashers.

My mother, half brother and half sister have all had weight issues for as long as I can remember – last time I saw them they ranged from fairly overweight to morbidly obese. Growing up I knew I wanted to be different, but not knowing how to be I ate crap on a daily basis from leaving home at 15 until the age of 21. I would think nothing of having a McDonald’s for breakfast the morning after a big drinking session to ‘cure my hangover’. I often ate processed ready meals for dinner and would eat stodge at lunch time. After seeing the photos from my 21st birthday party, and being disgusted by how much weight I’d put on, I knew it was time to do something different in the eating department.

Change doesn’t happen overnight but over the next couple of years I taught myself to cook, and moved towards cooking from scratch being the rule rather than the exception. Eleven years ago I declared divorce on fast food chains, and am proud of myself for not caving between then and now. I get a kick out of knowing that McDuffs haven’t had a penny of my hard earned cash in a over a decade. That my children are oblivious to the golden arches.

Anyone following my blog will know that I’m currently doing the GAPS Diet, in a bid to cure food intolerance and other gut issues. I’ve always been really strict with what my kids eats though. From weaning they’ve had a diet very low in sugar, processed carbs and general junk. Thankfully both my girls enjoy their food, and good food it is. They could eat cashew nuts, chorizo de leon and seabass until the cows came home. I love nothing more than to see them eating the same meals as hubby and I have with pure gusto.

I used to feel like I was under pressure quite a bit to let them eat what I consider to be crap. It breaks my heart that my 5yo lusts after white bread sandwiches, maize based crisps and cheap chocolate when we’re at parties. I sometimes wonder whether her allergies are a blessing in disguise for me, because at least I have a valid reason to be such a control freak over what she eats.

I’ve been thinking about the long term effects of all this recently. Ultimately I don’t want this type of food to become taboo, as they will more than likely raid their piggy banks and sneak off to the corner shop to buy sweets and chocolate as soon as they are able to. It’s a path I will have to tread carefully. I must ensure that in trying not to repeat history, I don’t give my children a whole other set of other issues that will plague them in the years to come.

What’s your stance on this one? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

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58 thoughts on “It Starts With Food

  1. Thanks lovely. Rebelling at high school is what I fear the most, but I guess if it’s going to happen there’s not much I can do to stop it at that age. I’d like to hope the good start with food will ground them, and it would be a short lived phase!

  2. Sounds sensible Karen, moderation is definitely the key here. I don’t want to push mine the other way either, which is why I always have home made treats in the house…

  3. I’m glad 5:2 is working for you Caroline, I know a few people who have had great success on it. I’m currently on the GAPS diet, in a bid to cure my food intolerances. I like to think being aware of this kind of stuff will put us a little ahead of the game. Sounds like you have it under control in your house 🙂

  4. Good luck honey in getting him back on track. I didn’t realise that GD can lead to the child getting diabetes in later life, I always thought it was just a pregnancy thing?

  5. I think you and I are quite similar with our trickery lovely. I’ve got mine to eat some weird and wonderful concoctions over the years too. Got to be done right? They also view yoghurt as a treat and juice because they don’t have them all the time. They love my home made biscuits and cakes, which are usually ground nuts and dried fruit. Just hope it continues xx

  6. Thanks honey. That’s a good attitude to have, and best to be really strict in the earliest days of weaning anyway. I definitely think treats are fine, as long they don’t start replacing meals 🙂

  7. Thanks Suzanne. I think it’s really important, and definitely not a responsibility to be passed off to anyone but us parents. Teeth are a real issue aren’t they, I have seen some shocking gnashers in my daughters reception class 🙁

  8. It’s great to hear that Izzie, it’s what I hope for happens with my kids too. We all drink water here, and occasionally they have fresh juice as a treat. All eating the same food definitely helps xx

  9. Thanks Cathie, lovely comment. As you said banning everything is a dangerous game, as one day they will go off and source it elsewhere. Mine have home made treats, which are sweetened with honey or fruit. As long as sweets aren’t the only thing the kids eat, then I agree that they definitely have their place 🙂

  10. Sounds like a good plan hon, encouraging an active lifestyle will always put the kids ahead of the game. Fortunately we’re all so much more aware of the pitfalls than our parents were so can keep on top of it. I think as long as the treats are made from the best ingredients they can’t do much harm xx

  11. Sounds like you have it nailed with the moderation. I actually can’t bare the thought of what went into Findus pancakes! Certainly not grass fed (Oxford educated) beef 😉

  12. What a shame – even with a diet that good your brother ended up with bad teeth because of the polos. I guess they were pure sugar back then, so if he ate a lot then it stands to reason that would be the case.

    It’s great that your son will eat everything, makes all the difference. Everything in moderation seems to be the key here.

  13. I’m hearing you Zena, sounds like we had similar upbringings! Old habits are hard to break, but not impossible. In order to avoid the food industry and their evil marketing, everything has to be made from scratch, which I know is a challenge for lots of people.

    I’m following your Thinking Thin series with interest, good on you for recognising the need and wanting to change!

  14. Courage of convictions is one thing Sam, but evangelical preaching is a tad tiresome. I think we all do what we’ve got to do to get through our day. It might be different but it’s always with the best interests of our kids in mind. Sounds like you’re doing just fine lovely 🙂

  15. Sounds like you have a very sensible 7yo there Cat! My 5yo is into healthy foods too, and often tells me that the things we eat are healthy. My problem is that because she can’t have a lot of things due to allergies she hasn’t been able to work out she wouldn’t want them anyway. I’m hoping when the day comes for her to be able to try these things she won’t be very impressed with them (fingers crossed anyway!) xx

  16. That’s fab Sara, sounds like you’ve really struck the balance. Treats are important, mine have something treaty after dinner – be it cake, a cookie, ice cream – but it’s all home made, allergy friendly and low in sugar… then there are occasional extras like Booja Booja ice cream this weekend. I guess I shouldn’t over worry and hope mine turn out like yours lovely 🙂

  17. I’m sure it’ll be fine because they don’t go without treats. I should have said that in the actual post really! It’s just their treats are home made from obscure ingredients, as long as it tastes like chocolate. that’s all that matters 😉

  18. Thanks so much for your kind words Denise. Learning about food and how to cook was definitely one of my smarter moves back in those days. Now I couldn’t imagine myself not cooking from scratch. The down side is that I’m too fussy with my food and have impossibly high standards…

    I love your stance on minimal packaging and being eco conscious. Sounds like you’ve brought your girls up to make good decisions for themselves.

  19. What a fab post. It really makes you think. As you may be aware, we aren’t perhaps as strict as we should be over Lucas’s eating habits and I think his love for Haribo is VERY well documented!! Saying that, he LOVES fruit which is something I will always encourage. He’s not a fan of vegetables but he likes nothing more than making homemade pizza with me. I think you cannot ban all sweets/processed food from a child’s diet as, like you say, they will be raiding their piggybanks and sneaking it into their diet. There’s nothing wrong with a treat now and then, and also rewards for excellent behaviour. Great post – loved reading this. #pocolo – sorry to reply so late though 🙂

  20. Ooooh I don’t know Lisa, I cringe at the thought of what went into those pancakes… glad you’re managing to be a bit healthier, as you said habits can be hard to break!

  21. Your childhood sounds similar to mine…I’ve lost so many teeth already it’s beyond a joke but man alive those crispy pancakes were delicious! At the time though I stayed stick thin and now I’m wishing I’d had weight gain then as now it’s happening I’ve got far too many bad habits to try and break all at once.

    One good thing about living alone though is that I do almost cook everything from scratch…my ex used to be very generous at buying takeaways for half of the week so I’m on the right track now but it’s very hard work!

  22. Firstly, kudos to you for taking control of your diet and getting on track! With kids, it’s always a tough call. I stick to once a week for junk food so it’s not entirely banned in our house.

  23. Well done on breaking the cycle for yourself and your family. I think it’s about balance though, the odd treat is fine so they don’t rebel as they get older, my brother and I did at 11 when we went to high school and had access to the tuck shop! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

  24. Very interesting. We have always been quite strict on what our children eat, lots of healthy food, fruit, veg etc and not much junk. They have only been to McDonalds a couple of times. However, I do wonder like you sometimes if I am going to be pushing them the other way and they will rebel as soon as they can and over do the bad stuff. So My kids do have ‘bad foods’ now too, but in moderation. #PoCoLo

  25. A great and interesting post, it is hard to change the habits of a lifetime and what we were fed growing up becomes so normal for us as adults. I certainly am more aware now I have children of what I feed them and try to restrict their sugar and fat intake, although they just think I am being mean, I would rather restrict their diet than set them up for a lifetime of food issues. I agree though not to totally deny certain foods as then they become so taboo that they are irresistible. I have been trying the 5:2 diet and have been really enjoying the control over food it gives me. #sharewithme

  26. I have Gestational Diabetes meaning my son can get Diabetes later on in his life. I was so strict with him before. I breastfed him exlcusively for 6 months and then breastfed, fed him with healthy food till he is 2. Then he became a fuzzy eater. Nothing suits him. No veggies and fruits. Just apple and banana forever which is good but not good when its just that. I gave in with the chocolates and sweets and recently he has got cavity and he is only four which is an eye opener for me to lessen his sweets. I am trying to have balance now. Vegetables and fruits and sweets are all welcome but the sweet ones in less than moderation. I am still working on it. #PoCoLo

  27. Oh we grew up on proper crappy food! And it is really hard isn’t it? I did all homecooked food for my two when they were weaned but if they see a wotsit or smartie they go crazy!!! I have come to terms with the fact that as long as they are healthy most of the time treats are ok. We have a treat box and sometimes I may have kidded the children that things like yoghurts are exciting snacks! So they are fooled. I think you should just do what makes you and your little family happy and healthy! xxx

  28. This is a good one!! Firstly I think it’s amazing that you’ve transformed your lifestyle so extremely, that takes a very very strong person! I also worry about the way Arthur views food. When I very first started weaning I was a little obsessive and I’ve relaxed quite a bit since then. My current stance (although I’m sure this will change many times) is that I think it’s good to see some food as treats. As long as they really are kept as that and don’t sneak in to become the norm then it’s all good.

  29. I think you’ve done an amazing thing breaking the cycle and learning from the mistakes of your upbringing, so few people are able to do that. Sadly, my kids don’t eat brilliantly. They were brought up on home cooked food from weaning, but quickly became very fussy and my view became that survival was the most important thing (I’ve heard ‘if he’s hungry, he’ll eat’ more times than I care to remember, but I know my own kids and seen how long they will refuse!). My kids eat mainly food from the freezer, with a bit of home cooked stuff in there. The bread is brown and they are given fruit every day. Their diet isn’t terrible, but it’s not brilliant either. I do try them with new foods and I hope eventually they will eat balanced, healthy diets.

  30. So relevant! There has to be so many mothers out there along with us, questioning their decisions and choices about our kids food again and again. Reassessing again and again!
    …I think we’re going to keep doing that too… Our opinions will change over time, and if the journey of wanting the best for them is one we really want to make, different decisions are going to be made along that path the more we learn, and as we start to understand the consequences of our choices better!

    We’re going to come back to the same questions again and again!

  31. This is such an interesting read and I’m most impressed that you managed to buck the trend and learn to cook. It just goes to show that parents are very much responsible for teaching children to eat well. So many kids have awful teeth and diet! Well done for teaching yours to eat differently 🙂 x

  32. Thanks so much hon. Changing my eating habits back then was definitely one of my better life decisions! I know several people whose kids won’t eat fast food because they are used to home cooking, and find it comforting. I’m sure the odd slice of pizza and ice cream won’t do you any harm, especially since you’re so active 🙂

  33. I love this and good for you. I recently had McDys for lunch which was the first in 15 years. I am not a fan of any of them. I don’t feed it to my children often and only since on vacation did the situation arise that I had to let me 1 year old and 2 1/2 year old have their very first McDys ever and to be honest I hope it’s their last. I call it fake food. Must be hard to grow up and have all that stuff readily available and not have something come of it whether it’s weight or teeth or both. As a child we don’t know these things. I try to eat better myself as I am a fan of pizza and ice cream. Bad vices I know and I do try to limit it. You motivate me. Way to go you on your new healthier way of life. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  34. It’s so hard to get the balance right and I’ve always had an everything in moderation attitude to family mealtimes. My daughters never really consumed fizzy drinks and often drink water to this day. I always left small bars of chocolate out, but more often than not they’d choose fruit instead. They also ate the same meals as mum and dad from a very young age. All in all, they both have a great attitude to food now that they’re all grown up. Good luck x

  35. My mum was quite strict with us growing up with junk food/drinks but when we were 16 and making decisions we did tend to be a bit unhealthy. But back then we were both incredibly sporty.

    I try to have a compromise with H. I like him to eat healthily and he does love fruit/veg which is great. But I also like to give him treats. sometimes I say yes to easily for an easy life and because I feel guilty about working so much. But our family meals are wholesome and healthy and I will encourage a sporty/active life for him always xx

  36. It is tricky, getting the balance right. I don’t stop my children from eating anything to be honest. What I try to teach them is everything in moderation-and it seems to work. Neither of them go overboard when eating treats. I remember Findus pancakes-my they were interesting weren’t they?! Fortunately I don’t have issues with food and I’m trying to pass on this moderation approach too. But I know that food can be a huge issue-it sounds like you’ve got a really positive approach to me 🙂

  37. We ate a very good diet growing up. My mum cooked pretty much everything from scratch, we had the odd McDonalds, and the odd chocolate (no sweets), ate lots of fresh fruit and veg and good quality meat etc. But both me and my brother love food. I’m a chocoholic and my brother was really bad with polos throughout his late teens – he has tonnes of fillings, I have a couple from around having my son. I think as long as you have a balanced diet it’s fine.

    My son has largely a good diet too – he’ll eat pretty much anything, and gets a good mix because he eats at nursery with their good meals as well as at home with us. He does have a lot of fruit and dried fruit so I’m wary on his teeth, but I’m hoping that he’ll end up quite relaxed about food and use it for fuel like his father does, instead of something that’s a treat like I do.

  38. I can totally relate to your food legacy. Pies, cakes and chips were a huge feature for me growing up. Food was used as a huge pacifier and I wasn’t blessed with a mother who encouraged an active life. I envy our European cousins who enjoy wonderful food and very little junk. I’d love this lifestyle for my children but battling with food industry and it’s marketing is a major parenting challenge

  39. It is a tricky line to walk isn’t it? I see the whole, let them have a treat so as not to make it become a desired taboo, but sometimes giving them a little bit leads to cravings and tantrums and begging for nothing but that sugary hit. I’m afraid I crossed that line long ago. I try to balance it all out with healthy meals, even if its only cheesy beans on toast. The hubster has bad eating habits himself and is prone to filling the cupboards with crisps and chocolate. If I lived on my own with the kids I’d like to think it would be a different story… His ex wife (a dental nurse) has managed to raise a child who totally self-polices when it comes to drinks – she is a bit of an evangelist preacher on the subject which can be quite galling! Good on her mother for having the courage of her convictions on that one though.

  40. Great post and well done you. I wonder as well whether my two will ‘rebel’ at some point and find everything I have led them away from hugely desirable in the future… My 7yr old gave me hope just now though “most people at school don’t have fruit in their lunch, but I’m healthy” . I am not especially strict to be honest, I try to give them the honest information about what is in the food they ‘crave’ and then leave it to them to think about what’s best – well, that’s the theory – educate rather than ban – good luck everyone, let’s hope we all get there, I’m sure we will 😉 xx

  41. I think this is really interesting. My kids eat well, but they also have ‘treats’. As a result they have never become obsessed with sweets, they can take them or leave them and will generally just have one of something, rather than going mad. They do have ‘fast’ food occasionally, but it’s part of an otherwise very balanced diet, and again, they don’t crave it. I think one of the things that probably most affects them is seeing what my husband and I eat; parents do lead by example, and they see us eating well, having the occasional treat, being active and healthy. My husband cycles, I run and I make the kids walk rather than take the car 🙂 I do think that labelling anything as ‘bad’ can be counter productive, but it’s all in the presentation!

  42. You do make a really interesting point at the end. I guess there is no way of knowing, really, but if the junk food does not become taboo and they know and understand the reasons behind your healthy diet, there is no reason why they should become junk food addicts.

  43. I think you are amazing to have been able to do that all by yourself. When we don’t have a culture and have to invent our own in a vacuum… of course you have done that in many areas of your life, but it would have been so easy for you, as the rest of your family did, to resign yourself to what you already knew and look no further.

    This reminds me of the environmental stance I used to take with my kids, trying to minimise plastic packaging. In the early years of course I was in charge and everything went my way. In the middle years, maybe ages 9 – 13, I really moved away from my convictions to try to let them express themselves. Over the years though I became more relaxed but in turn, they came back to appreciating home cooked, non plastic wrapped foods and now we meet somewhere in the middle.

    I appreciate though that the allergies make the question much more difficult for you.

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