14 March 2011

Everything in Moderation

My children, looking a little like pigs at a trough, 'we're eating our dinner, mummy'.

My boys eat fairly well, but not as well as I would like. As with most aspects of parenting I'd give myself a could do better in the food department.

I recently attended two blogger events that made me think more about nutrition and the psychology of food. I hope both companies are happy with me discussing them together in one post, as they had a similar message. They also both gave me the opportunity to catch up with some blogging friends and give my children a day out.

The first event was at Kellogg's HQ in Manchester. They called the event 'Snap, Crackle and Blog' and they looked after us parenting bloggers and our children very well. We were given a goody bag, lunch and as many cereal bars as we could eat. My sons took advantage of this!

We even got a visit from some poor juniors dressed up in animal suits.

The other event was put on by Nutella. Again they provided excellent entertainment for the children. The venue was Stockley Farm in Cheshire. Presley and Cash LOVED the farm. 

There was so much to see and do, including real tractor rides, animals galore and an adventure playground. They even had the owl from The Gruffalo!

Again we were given a goody bag and had some bread and Nutella delivered to our homes.

At both events we had access to food psychologists and nutritionists who gave sensible unbiased advice about feeding your family. Eating together as a family is important, as is offering a variety of foods. I already knew this, but it was reassuring to have it confirmed.

Here we are cooking with celebrity chef, Alan Coxon (not pictured), at Nutella. 

I remember watching a television documentary called 'My Child Won't Eat'. As a parent I could see how the small concessions you make to keep the peace at the dinner table could lead to some extreme behaviour. One girl would only eat Wotsits and chocolate. Clearly this is not a healthy diet, but the doctor who was interviewed said that the most important thing is getting calories into a growing child.

This stuck with me.

The most important thing is to get calories into a growing child.

This was backed up by the shocking revelation by Kellogg's that millions of children regularly go to school without breakfast. When you weigh it up surely a bowl of Coco Pops with milk is better than going to school hungry?  If a scrape of Nutella on a piece of wholemeal toast is the only way your child will eat bread, then surely it is part of a healthy meal and a sensible choice.

I'm not spouting any of this because I was told it by Kellogg's and Nutella. I'm saying that everything in moderation is a sensible approach to eating. 

Andy and I offer our children a variety of foods and they choose whether or not to eat them. We try not to make a fuss at mealtimes. We encourage them to eat, we don't force them. We ask them to at least try everything on their plate. Foods are neither good nor bad. Some days Presley and Cash eat fruit until their chins are dripping with juice. Other days all they want is garlic bread and chocolate buttons. I don't mind so long at they are eating regularly and over a week they have a little bit of everything in moderation. I'm not saying that we get it right all the time, but we care and we try. 

There are children who are malnourished because their parents feed them according to their view of what is healthy - for an adult. These growing, developing children are given sugar-free, fat-free, 'health' food, but they're not getting enough calories.

This has turned into a rant. It wasn't meant to be. I guess I'm on the defensive because there are some who think that chocolate coated cereals and chocolate hazelnut spreads are evil, whereas I don't. 

When Presley was about two years old he refused to drink milk. He also decided he didn't like cheese so I was limited to giving him yoghurts for his daily dairy intake. One day I offered him some Coco Pops and showed him the magic of the milk turning chocolatey. He ate them and drank the 'chocolate milk'. Since then I have gradually reduced the amount of Coco Pops in his cereal bowl and topped it up with other (non-chocolate coated) cereals. Now he has plain whole milk on his cereal. Occasionally he asks for Coco Pops for breakfast, but mostly he doesn't.

Everything in moderation.

Oh and I always wanted my face on a Cornflakes packet!

You'd think I'd look happier about it!




  1. Good for you for not making food an "issue." Because in my mind it shouldn't be. After going through the horror of "clean your plate or else" as a child I had a different take on it. When mine was small we had a three bite rule. If it was on your plate you had three decent bites. That was it. As a result, my son learned to try a bit of everything. And that's all I ever asked of him - to at least try it. And guess what? He turned out to have a very advanced palette and is a very healthy eater. He has his moments of weakness (don't we all?) - but for the most part I can't complain about his choices.

  2. Great post, I totally agree. My approach is that I want my kids to enjoy food and appreciate food for both its life and pleasure-giving qualities. So while I won't stuff them with junk, they are allowed biccies, crisps etc on occasion.

    My eldest was supremely fussy and I wrote about how many battles we had but turned out simply chilling out, not making a big deal and allowing him to grow was the best solution. Now he's a much better eater. I think it's easy to create issues around food that can last until adulthood when parents are overly forceful about their habits or overly conscious about what's supposedly healthy.

    Oops, you got me ranting too! Sorry ;-)

  3. I'm not sure why you're nervous - I think most parents realise that demonising a food is a daft idea.

    I always swore we would never have a row at the table, and we never have - Flea has some weird choices but then she's a kid, and I go with it.

    Sounds to me that your kids are getting a great start.

  4. You've hit upon an issue close to my heart, which is the way "big food" pushes unhealthy items onto our children.

    I agree that food shouldn't be a big issue in a family, but on the other hand, as a diabetes researcher I am very worried about the state of nutrition in the UK and the US. The best way to avoid diabetes is to avoid refined sugar and too much fat (especially the saturated kind) and to eat lots of whole grains and vegetables and to keep your BMI below 26. Though "everything in moderation" is a good mantra, and the occasional sweet is Ok of course, I don't think coco pops and nutella every day is "moderation". I do think that our kids would become healthier adults if there was no such thing as coco pops and soft drinks. Childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes (which wasn't even seen in kids until quite recently) is a far bigger issue than the occasional nut starving their child on a tofu and straw diet.

    It is so tough as a parent to know what is right, and of course it depends upon the eating habits of the parents and what they habitually have in the home. I know I sound preachy, but I have never had sweetened breakfast cereal in my house. A bowl of coco pops is no better than a Twix and a vitamin pill for breakfast. Which is better than no breakfast, sure, but as parents we can do better than feed our kids such a sugary processed product. It bothers me that the food industry promotes these nasty things as healthy for children. The fact that they resort to telling you that its better than no breakfast at all says it all really. Almost anything else you chose to have for breakfast would be better!

    The diabetes epidemic seems so insurmountable that sometimes I think that if I really want to help people with diabetes I need to get out of research and into policy.

    Maybe I should post this rant on my own blog. I in no way intend this as personal criticism, its intended as a dig at the food industry, and I confess that I do give my children sweets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and use them as bribery for all sorts of things, and have yet to figure out a way to break this habit. thanks for the thought provoking post xx

  5. I have the everything in moderation attitude too. I have seen so many children denied certain things and yet when their parents aren't around they have no self control.
    The other day I dripped some melted chocolate on the chair that M kept standing on to 'help' me. Then it disappeared before I had a chance to wipe it up. I asked him if he had stood on it, "No Mummy I licked it off" Hmmm. :)


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