My toddler doesn’t eat junk food. He has never tasted ice cream, chips, fast food or soda. He has yet to partake in a birthday cake, including his own. And the cookies and muffins that he has eaten (fruit- and veggie-based, of course) were baked by me (or bought at the farmers market). It doesn’t stop there: he also doesn’t eat processed food like breakfast cereals and Goldfish. We don’t offer him homemade, ethnic desserts made by his own grandmothers. We’ve only given him juice on two occasions: prune juice for when he was constipated, and apple juice for when he had the stomach flu. And the one time we gave him a serving of plain frozen yogurt from Menchies, I just about thought he’d got suckered into the dark side of unhealthy eating.
Here’s the thing: I eat the very foods I shield him from. Most of the food I eat is pretty healthy, but once in a while I’ll treat myself to something normally off-limits. Just today, I had a cup of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a Filipino dessert of sticky rice cake. I pour myself a bowl of Cheerios yet insist that he still eat yogurt or oatmeal. And I’ll easily pop some chips and dip in my mouth with just a twinge of regret.
I am the biggest food hypocrite my toddler has yet to meet.
I suppose this healthy binge started when I was pregnant: my husband and I wanted our little fetus to grow as healthy as possible. If we’re this anal about LO’s eating now, you can just imagine how we were when I was pregnant: I refused to eat any deli meat (even though it was perfectly fine to eat it heated up). I didn’t drink a single cup of tea, decaf or not. And I not only stayed away from the major fish they tell you to stay away from, but found a “fish chart” that rated seafood mercury levels and ate only the ones with the lowest risk. I ate shrimp and salmon so often that the fish guy at the farmers market would beat us to the punch and ask, “Shrimp again this week?”
Then when LO started eating solids, we wanted to introduce only the healthiest of food. I wanted him to eat healthy like how we (usually) do, so we offered him only whole food and shied away from any kind of sweets and processed food. And it worked—he loves his fruits and vegetables and all our home prepared meals. Once he graduated to eating table food, we made sure that all the ingredients were healthy and wholesome. At family potlucks, I would ask my siblings, “What’s that dish made out of? Is it organic milk? No? Oh, then never mind, he’ll have to pass.” I’m pretty sure my sister wanted to smack me in the face right then and there.
Now we’re a bit more flexible. We’ll eat our families’ potluck food, organic milk or not. Our toddler has also eaten at restaurants (albeit, preferably independent restaurants than chain restaurants). He’s even eaten crackers and grocery-bought bread from time to time. But overall we’re still a bit freakish when it comes to ensuring LO’s healthy food.
I always told myself that if he’s interested and asks for a treat, then I would consider letting him have a bite. I can imagine him attending a birthday party and wanting to try the cake that all his friends are eating, so I would probably allow him to have cake, ice cream and whatever other treats I currently eat from time to time. But should I even introduce ice cream when my toddler isn’t at all interested in it or has no idea what it even is? And am I living a double life because I’m noshing on Ben and Jerry’s while he’s taking a nap, just so he won’t see what I’m up to? I guess my biggest fear once he has junk food is that he won’t go back to healthy food. Who wants a pita bread when you can have a Cheeto?
I suppose I ought to take a look at what my long-term goals are for my toddler. I’d like him to grow up with a preference for healthy food but I also wouldn’t want him to fuss about the treats he has once in a while. I’d like him to know what’s in junk food and why it’s common advice to stay away from it. And I’d really, really like it if he doesn’t have the same sweet tooth that I have and could actually turn down dessert once in a while.
For now I don’t plan on introducing my toddler to junk food. I just can’t see myself giving him any when 1) it’s not exactly the best food for him and 2) he could care less about it. Maybe if he starts asking for some, we can start off with homemade treats. In the meantime, I’ll just have to hide away when I eat my bowl of Ben and Jerry’s and hope he doesn’t catch me with chocolate smudge on my teeth.
How did you decide to give your kids treats and junk food? Did you try to hold off for a period of time?