It’s hard to believe my two (not so little anymore) boys are grown and off to college. As a nutritionist, my hope was to instill a sense of healthy eating habits that would follow them into their adulthood, even when I wasn’t around to bug them about eating their veggies.
With that in mind, I tried to have some sense of middle ground regarding household eating rules. I knew that if I was too strict, there was an increased likelihood that the whole thing would backfire on me; once released into the world on their own, their deprived stomachs would resort to eating as much candy, sugary cereals, and junk food as they could get their hands on. So although they lived without Lucky Charms, soda, Cheetos, and Oreos, we had our share of household snacks and limited sweets, and there were no rules set upon them when visiting grandparents or friends houses. I did NOT make them throw away all their candy at Halloween. And despite what Will says, I do remember occasionally taking them to a fast food joint!
I am happy to report I think I did a pretty good job overall. Ben, my oldest, now lives in his own apartment off campus and regularly texts me pictures of his latest smoothie creation or plate of roasted vegetables. Will (who seemed to have the harder time with my rules growing up – see below!), has become quite the cook, and was fortunate enough to land in a freshman suite that actually has a full fridge and 2-burner stove. The real clincher? He decided to get the most limited meal plan so he could cook many of his own meals, which he knew would be healthier than cafeteria food.
It dawned on me when they were home this summer that it might be fun to have them write a little piece about what THEIR experience was growing up in our household. I told them to be totally honest (the good and the bad). Here is what they had to say:
Growing up with a mother for a nutritionist was not always easy, and I had my share of complaints. Most of my friends at lunch would come in with Lunchables, packs of Scoobydoo gummies, and other surgery snacks. My lunch consisted of either a turkey sandwich or a PB&J accompanied by pretzels, grapes, carrots and a healthy (read: no added sugar, no food dyes) granola bar. Needless to say I was often jealous and would attempt to make trades, although at the time not many of my friends wanted to trade with me! Playdates also gave me a window to see what my other friends got to snack on. Again they had “better” snacks; packs of gummies, Capri Suns, Cheetos or cheese puffs (or something along those lines). They also always had soda. Luckily I did not like the taste and therefore have never really enjoyed soda, much to the delight of my mother. Then there were experiments on dinner. Something new and healthy was constantly being incorporated into my diet. In the past, when I was not as inclined to try new things, my mom would have to try and sneak them by me. For instance, there was once a big incident with walnuts being put into meatballs. Don’t ask.
Though my mom’s food choices for us sometimes seemed unfair when I was younger, it has turned into something truly positive as I have gotten older. Two of my best friends were overweight while I was growing up and have both recently lost weight and gotten into much better shape. Now they complain about how their mothers have unhealthy snacks in their houses that are tempting to eat and they wish they had a nutritionist for a mother who would keep only healthy snacks around. Many of my friends have also started cooking dinner for themselves more frequently because they want to make healthier meals than their parents are offering, which is something I know I will never have to worry about. Just about every night I have a healthy and (almost always) tasty meal that I enjoy. Also, the snacks that I was desperate to give away as a child have become some of my favorite foods. I still eat the same packed lunch at work today that I ate when I was in elementary school, middle school and high school and fruits and vegetables have become something I cannot live without. I prefer to eat them over a bowl of ice cream or a candy bar (well most of the time), not only because I know they are healthier but also because I enjoy the taste.
Along with all of the healthy and tasty food that I got to eat growing up I also have learned some lessons along the way. Portion control is one thing has been seared into my mind. I know it’s OK to have candy or other treats as long as I don’t eat too much of it. My mother was never one to deny me those things as long as I didn’t overindulge.
All in all, growing up with a mother as a nutritionist has been huge plus. Making everyday healthy food choices is something I have done all my life and I will continue to do so when I move into my own place in the next week. I like being in shape and I like being healthy; my body legitimately feels better when I eat nutritious food. And I’m not just saying that because my mom asked me to.
Not in a million years would I have thought I’d be writing about how amazing it is to have a mother as a nutritionist. I can remember staring (for what seemed like hours) into the pantry looking for something with more than 6 grams of sugar, or anticipating dinner at a friends where they might just order KFC.
Didn’t my mom realize how much junk food meant to a growing teenager? Young people enjoy indulging in sweet and unhealthy treats without ever thinking about the future consequences, or heeding any advice from their elders. And I was like every teenager out there. I wanted Wendy’s. I wanted Taco Bell and KFC. I wanted unlimited sweets and soda.
To be honest, I was far from happy about it. It seemed like no other kid was told what to eat or drink, only me. It wasn’t until I grew up a bit and became closer to my immediate friend group that I realized the blessing of my mother’s profession. Never, in my years of friendship with the same people had I once seen them eat a fruit or vegetable. I truly believe I have eaten more fruit in one day than my friends have in their entire lifetimes!
Ah but I have endured. It’s usually not until someone gets older until they start embracing a healthy lifestyle. But I had no problem transitioning because I had been developing good eating habits my entire life. Many of my friends continue to eat junk every day, including bags of Doritos and liters of soda. I believe now that will hinder their health in the future. Knowing what that stuff can do to the body deters me from eating like that, even when my mom is not around. Many people have no education on the detriments junk food can cause someone. But I did. I was lucky enough to have a mother who looked out for me, taught me healthy eating habits, and guided me to become the healthy teen I am today. Even though it was rough at times, I realize now that it was all for a reason. Millions of people suffer from obesity simply because their parents are either uneducated or just don’t understand the value of practicing and teaching healthy eating habits. I owe my good health, and the future health of my family entirely to my mom. Needless to say, it was all worth it.
So now I would love to hear from you. How do you handle food and snacks in your household? Do you have a tough time making rules around junk food, fast food and soda? Share your thoughts and experiences!