Compared to 50 years ago, we Americans eat drastically fewer vegetables and whole foods. Yet we are bombarded by toxins in enormously increased amounts. In 1980, we manufactured or imported 200 billion pounds of manmade chemicals a year. Today that figure is 27 trillion pounds.
First and foremost, as citizens we should find ways to reduce the burden of toxins in our environment, and change the system that allows this assault on our children to continue.
As prospective parents, start eating healthy foods even before your child is conceived, at least twelve months before you plan a pregnancy. (One scientific article on the subject bears the title “You Are What Your Mother Ate.”) But that should include both partners. Some physicians recommend that pregnancy-planning women get tested for their nutritional levels; it probably makes sense for the partner to be tested, too.
How to get a young child to eat more produce and whole foods? Here’s what I learned (unfortunately, too late for my own grandchildren) from a wise friend:
• My children eat these foods because their taste buds are not polluted with synthetic flavorings or sugar. I was careful to not introduce junk food to her and to my son. Let’s face it, a carrot will not taste sweet and delicious if your child is getting donut holes or Captain Crunch for breakfast.
• Just because an infant spits out a food at your first attempt to give it to them does not mean that they don’t like it. It’s just different to them, so you reintroduce it time and time again until they accept it. Since babies learn a lot from facial expressions and voice tone, new foods should be introduced with a smile on your face and words of encouragement.
• We’re a one meal household: If there’s a family member who does not like a particular food I’m making for dinner, I will not make a separate dinner to their liking just for them. I will never cater to such pickiness. If a child skips a meal because they hate what you are serving, that’s ok because they won’t starve to death from missing one meal; however, there’s no junk food in the house for them to fill up on till the next meal.
• It’s more difficult to get a child who has been altered by having junk foods to switch to healthy foods, but it is doable with patience. I’ve made extensive use of children’s picture books that get the message across. When possible, children should be allowed to help prepare the meals or do the shipping. They also seem to like to grow the food and eat it right from the garden.
P.S.: If your young child has a Fisher Price play kitchen set, throw out all the ‘garbage’ plastic foods that it comes with and replace then with plastic fruits and veggies.