Indeed. Why should my son who asked that question of me? Why should I? It got me thinking about ‘First World Problems’ and starving children, but, let’s be honest. Generations of parents have tried to convince their children that they should eat something nasty just because there are people in the world who would be happy to have that nasty thing which is WAY better than nothing. But it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for children OR adults. Empathy is not the forte of the young, especially when it really doesn’t make sense. It is sad that others do not have enough to eat, or what they want to eat, but my son will say that if there is something he prefers right there in the cabinet, then why can’t he have that right now? He knows what he eats for dinner won’t affect that poor child’s hunger either way. So how to answer that question for him, and for myself. In a culture that emphasizes choice, reward and satisfaction, why shouldn’t we always have something we like to eat?
I’ve got 3 responses to share with my son and myself:
A) You can acquire a taste for things / change your taste for things;
B) You have 1 body which you would like to be able to navigate through as much of this world / life as possible; and my personal favorite….
C) Because I made it and we’re all sitting down here together to eat it, dammit! i.e. this is about more than your personal satisfaction.
I know, that’s all a bit flippant, so allow me to expand…
A) Indeed you can acquire a taste for things and even lose a taste for things! I recently splurged on a purchase of some fancy Italian ice cream which was labelled chocolate / peanut butter. Who knew the fancy Italian ice cream would have little peanut butter cup candies in it? My mother will think I’m lying, but I removed the candy peanut butter cups because they were too sweet. They made the ice cream cloyingly sweet to me, so I didn’t eat them. Mind you, I used to ADORE Reese’s peanut butter cups. They were my candy of choice and Younger Big-Bro could always get a good trade out of me at Halloween if he had Reese’s cups to offer. However, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and heavy duty sweets because I stopped eating them and learned to love other things that are not so sweet instead. It can happen. It took awhile! Baby Steps friends, remember to take Baby Steps – small changes a bit at a time, like reducing amount or cutting it with something. With chocolate you can slowly switch over to darker chocolate. For more info on making switches – either fast or slow, see Baby Step #1 The Ol’ Switcheroo, or Baby Steps Boost which makes suggestions for how to take Baby Steps away from some common unhealthy foods.
It can also happen that people’s taste buds change as as they mature and as they age. Little Sis will tell you that Miss Picky Pants (my adorable niece) has taste buds that can change overnight ;-) If they haven’t tried it in awhile, have them try it again. And not the touch the corner of the fork with your tongue and then make a face try. An actual try that involves a bite, followed by chewing and swallowing. We require 2 bites because the first one is still colored by negative expectations, or a poor guess. This rule goes for adults also. As a precursor to answer ‘C’ I say, “Put your Big Girl Panties on and just eat it – it won’t hurt you even if you don’t like it.”
B) If children were left to eat without any input, some of them just might develop some serious nutritional deficiencies. Heck, many adults have serious nutritional deficiencies. Personally I am low in iron. I try to eat greens and cook in a cast iron pan to amend that situation. I’m sure you know the basics of balancing protein, carbohydrates and including lots of veggies and fruits. Perhaps more information about what nutrients are in our food and what those nutrients do for us would help allay the tendency to eat pizza every night. Check out some resources for nutrient information:
– Charts on the nutrients in fruits, vegetables and fish
– An extensive list of foods and the nutrients they contain – this is a pdf booklet – you have to go through about 10 pages of other info before you get to the chart, but it is a good resource.
As we mentioned in the Baby Step on getting your kids engaged with change, try to tie in their personal goals with their food intake. In other words, if they want to be an athlete stress the nutrients needed to help them get stronger and to grow healthfully. If they want to do well in school stress the foods that will feed their brains….
Understanding the physiological need for a variety of healthy foods and the physiological benefits of a variety of healthy foods can be helpful in convincing yourself and others to eat things that are not your first, or even second or third choice.
C) Eating is about more than personal satisfaction. It is part of the ritual of converting the bounty of the planet into bountiful community. It takes a village to feed one gaping maw. Recognizing the involvement of community, family or personal involvement on the resulting meal or even packed lunch takes a little emphasis off the pleasure and places it back on the living, necessity of eating. So when our culture shines through in my son’s belief that he is entitled to have something delicious every time he eats, I can try to re-focus him on all of the reasons and all of the work that goes into feeding people. Little Sis’ family starts the evening meal with some thanks to the one who prepared the meal. What a great way to re-focus the meal on the bounty of being fed…. the bounty of having good nutrition…. and the bounty of being together and taking care of each other.
Should we live to eat? or eat to live?
Here at the Pantry we usually fall in the middle on such spectrums of possibility. It surely seems too stringent to do either exclusively. But there is definitely room in most of our lives for a little more eating to live. Such a blessing to even have a choice!