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What Exactly Should We Be Feeding Our Children?

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When I gave birth, 3 times, I didn’t automatically become a nutritional expert in the labour ward. In fact, bar the information on breastfeeding, there was nothing at all, at the birth, or indeed after that, that turned me into a food know it all. Yet, its very clear, I should indeed know it all. And if I don’t, I can be accused of all levels of bad parenting or wreckless decisions for my childs future. This comes from the media, social and otherwise, TV programs,TVads, but also from those experts who are trying their best to impart what they feel is a balanced diet.

What bugs me the most is that information we do receive can be conflicting and frustrating.

It’s a minefield of allergy reaction dodging, healthy school rules, nutritional values we must adhere to and worst of all, allowing our children treats of any kind is clearly going to lead to Type 2 Diabetes in childhood.

Heres a couple of expmples. A month ago, our school had a nutritionist attend as part of the Parents Association meeting. There was a lot of talk about Nutribullets. Here’s the very thing. Some people tell me these things are amazing and great for getting all sorts of fruit and veg into my kids….but the massive conflicting advise I also get is to NEVER give children smoothies: “There’s too much sugar, there’s no fibre”!

Another piece of advice I was given was to give them yoghurts for Calcium and growing bones. I have also been told there’s too much sugar and to NEVER give them certain yoghurts. I have a son who will never eat fruit except for apples. Oh! And dried Mango. It is mainly a texture problem for him and something I challenge all the time and I hope if I keep going, one day, he’ll manage something new. While the apples he eats are great, that’s it for fresh fruit. I have been told that dried Mango is full of fantastic vitamins but also its extremely bad for teeth and full of sugar. The exact same thing is said of raisins.

Following this meeting, I gave him smoothies and I was extremely smug about this.

  Four fruits in one drink, I was winning the Mom Olympics.

But then, I read online that I had that one all wrong. Smoothies are indeed full of sugar but is the right sugar, or is it THE WRONG SUGAR!!??? Jeez, what’s the difference man? Aren’t they still fruit?

Nuts. What about nuts? Well besides they are completely banned in most schools due to allergies, we rely on just having hem at home but while they are meant to be healthy they are also high in fat. While that’s a good fat apparently I’ve also been told they are extremely bad for children. So, the question is: Should we be giving our children nuts? And seeds? And worst of all, those healthy nut bars, don’t they contain SUGAR? The Good sugar? OR THE DEMON SUGAR? In fact isn’t Maple Syrup a non refined sugar? But it’s bad I’m told but oh! So it honey but its better than actual white sugar which is awful sugar but actually don’t give them any of that because it will give them a taste for sugar. Ok, I get you, wait, what?

…and what about fussy eaters?

This also doesn’t help those of us with smallies who pick and choose what they eat. Some days I just want my kids to eat anything.

If I can get calcium in with some sugar that’s the sacrifice I have to make and what I don’t want is to be made feel guilty for that decision.

A little of everything in moderation is absolutely key to how I shop and feed the family.

Sugar tax? Really?!!

And what about this Sugar Tax. What a load of cr*p! First off, we don’t drink fizzy drinks in our house. That’s not the issue so really this tax on full sugar drinks has zero impact on us. But for people who do enjoy them, is it really going to make a difference? Lets call it what it is and that’s a revenue driving exercise for the government. Ultimately, I don’t think the message will hit home with something going up in price. We saw that work only marginally with smokers. What we need is incentives to buy positively and healthily. I know that my local supermarket had one push on one fresh healthy food. One. 7 apples for €2.50. I’m aware of other supermarkets offering a selection of super foods on special but its really not going to win the health war is it? Not when you compare it to all the other sales of chocolate, fizzy drinks, crisps. This is just snacks! This is before you start to look at the allegedly high sugar yoghurts, the pizza and ice cream deals. There just isn’t enough incentive for healthy foods and in my opinion, as a mother doing a weekly or monthly shop, the meal deals and the low price options are clearly attractive. What needs to change is an attitude to food.

Starting with the retailers. What needs to change is the damn marketing of unhealthy foods. Labelling needs to be clearer. Yes, I’ve taught my children about the red light system on packaging but we all know that Low Fat can mean High Sugar. Is High Protein ok for children? Should they avoid those? Way more transparency is required, more education, more information and less finger pointing. Perhaps even more accountability from the manufactures.

I don’t know how this can be done but I do know I am a consumer and I’m a mother with genuine concerns. I do plan on continuing to educate myself but the experts can conflict on so many levels that I can only try and do my best. As with most mothers, we feel we’re only doing half the job but feeling double the guilt.

Here is the thing – we are all struggling with budgets and juggling children’s meals and hoping the secret 5 veg tomato sauce will keep them growing well and healthy. But, the healthy food is not always priced for all budgets. Certainly certain foods are just not attractive on price. I have noticed lower sugar options on beans or ketchup but you pay extra for those. Someone counting their pennies needs to offered healthier food options and it needs to come from those making them and those selling them.

Let me outline one thing for you. I am extremely aware that my kids are not perfect eaters. I have a daily, hourly struggle to get them to eat “the right food’ but I try. Its an on-going battle between leading by example, educating them on what you can and hoping for the best. Explaining everything in moderation and knowing that we just need to keep going and doing the very best we can. Without the guilt and finger pointing from those in the know. Mothers and Fathers are just doing their very best. We all are. But lets face it, more accountability and more education is absolutely key. I put it to the relevant authorities to look at how food is marketed, examine and report…and I beg that the right message get through.