Despite our best efforts (or, pretty good efforts) The Who ended up equating “dessert” with the end of the meal, after he has eaten the rest of his food. Although at home, we don’t insist on eating a certain amount of certain things before eating other things and we regularly allow a dessert-type food to be served along with a meal, we do discuss making sure to leave room in your belly for protein and food that helps you grow.
Last year, when he began Pre-K, he somehow learned, “Eat your healthiest first.” I’m sure he doesn’t always do that, though, and I can’t say that I really mind. (His lunch today was a peanut-butter and honey sandwich, a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios, an organic fruit leather, a bunch of fresh strawberries, and one marshmallow. I’d bet cash money that some of those strawberries come home, but there’s no chance the marshmallow does.)
Here at the coffee shop where I am planted, doing some work, a mom and her preschooler are having lunch. “Do you want chips? Then you need to have a bite of your peanut butter and jelly. No dessert if you don’t eat lunch.” The kid pretty much ate nothing, aside from nearly a full cup of what looked like Pepsi. (In fairness, it could have been iced tea, but I think I saw carbonation.)
I’m not writing this to criticize that mother. I just know that the notion of eating one type of food as a means to another type of food is problematic and although we try really hard not to do that, I still often fall into the trap of wanting to make sure he eats”good” food before, like, cake. (Speaking of which, labeling foods “good” and “bad” is problematic, too. We don’t use that language with him, though.)
It was easier to maintain this laissez-faire attitude toward food when he was younger and his exposure to non-nutritive foods was limited. Did it matter, when he was two, if he chose an organic, whole grain cereal bar vs. an organic, low-sugar cookie? Not really. But the choices are more complex now. Grilled chicken vs. artificially colored pink frosted cake. Seared steak vs. Cheetos.
I don’t know how to create a healthy relationship with food. I didn’t and don’t have one and although there seems to be a lot of information floating around right now, I’m not sure anyone really knows for sure.