The other day I posted an image of a green smoothie on Facebook to share how after a few months of regularly offering smoothies, L took two sips. I was so happy that she was becoming less scared of them because she usually refuses them all together! Soon, someone commented to share a smoothie recipe that her kids enjoy—but ended by saying that mine “looked healthier”.
A few weeks ago on Instagram, a blogger I like shared a photo of her child’s lunch and called it “healthy-ish” because in addition to lots of produce and whole grains, there were pretzels.
A mom friend of mine recently apologized for serving ketchup with our Indian chicken dinner because it was the only way that her daughter would eat the chicken.
In my head, I refer to this as “hyper-nutritionism”, which is a complicated way of saying that we’re all worrying way too much about nutrition—and feeling so much guilt about what our kids are eating. I know that generally speaking, kids need all the help they can get when it comes to eating a wide variety of wholesome food. But as parents, I really want to try harder to stop pitting ourselves against each other.
Feeding our kids is not a competition. There is no gold medal for having a child who eats a perfect diet. Because, spoiler alert, there is no perfect diet. And even if there was, you wouldn’t want to be raising a child on one because it would likely only cause them to go overboard on less nutritious foods later in life. As I’ve said before, we really don’t need to be sneaking nutrition into every bite that our kids eat. And no kid should feel like they are doing something wrong if they eat a snack food here and there (or ketchup!) based on a look or a comment from a parent. I’m not saying that we mean to do this, but I think we might do it more than we realize.
I know that this is often intensified on social media, simply due to the nature of how things are shared, but I think there are a few other factors at play.
Maybe we worry that someone will judge the food that we serve our kids, so we judge it first as a sort of defense mechanism.
Maybe we don’t really believe all of the facts we know about how normal toddlers eat—including that they prefer carbs, are widely variable with their appetites, go through a totally normal stage of more selective eating from around age 2 until 6, love one food for days and then won’t touch it for years, make no sense when it comes to preferences, and have a really (really) hard time trying new foods—and are worried that our houses are the only ones where these things happen.
Or, perhaps we worry that one serving of pretzels undermines the rest of what our kids are eating because we feel guilt about our own intake when it’s not 100% organic/clean/real.
I know that this phenomenon won’t stop, especially not for those of us who spend a lot of time online. But if you ever feel like you’re not doing a good enough job with what your kids are eating, you worry that you’re the only one with a toddler who only eats bread at —or who hardly eats anything at dinner—or that everyone else’s kids are downing green smoothies while yours just wants cereal (or crackers, or pasta), it’s okay. It’s not a game and no one is keeping score.
And my kids are just like yours.
If we can keep in mind the bigger picture of raising healthy eaters who trust their appetites and are able to eat without guilt most of the time—and who grow up learning to enjoy their food, whether it’s spinach or a special treat—that will always be enough. And maybe we can start to treat ourselves with that same level of perspective and respect.
I know that it’s easy to get wrapped up in the meal-by-meal intake of our little ones, but if we can remind ourselves to step back and look at a week instead, I think we’ll all be able to relax a little.