Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feeding Children

Child raising principals:

1. Children belong to God. They are only on loan to their parents.

2. The greatest ministry any parent will ever have is their children.

3. The parents are the bosses in the house answerable to God for what their children learn and do.

4. How a child responds to their parent is how they will respond to God as adults. So how do I want my children to respond to God?

      a. Cheerfully
      b. Quickly
      c. Completely

5. To allow a child to disobey is to allow him to sin (“Obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” Ephesians 6)

I have observed many parents having problems with their children over food. I have seen many engage in a battle they won’t win. In fact, many of the parents I have seen are setting their children up for obesity by what they teach their children at meal time. Because of this, I determined when my oldest was little that food would never be a major point of contention in my home. I set up a few basic principles that we live by;

      1. We have assigned, consistent meal times. Breakfast is at 8:00, lunch is at 12:30, and supper is at 6:00. Because of my Hypoglycemia and the fact that children have small stomachs we add snacks in at 10:30 and 4:30 (this last one is a big part of why we don’t have that killer, before-supper, stress time anymore. All the blood sugar levels are evened out and no one is cranky from being starving.) I also give them one glass of milk at about 7:30pm. This consistency helps digestion and is best for little ones especially.

     2. Each meal has an assigned, nutritional content to ensure maximum health for everyone:
          a. Breakfast is 1 protein, 1 whole grain, 1 fruit. (This can be oatmeal with raisins and a glass of milk; eggs, orange juice and toast; bacon, pancakes, and canned peaches, etc.)
          b. Morning snack is a protein (helps school go better). (Cheese sticks, leftover chicken, boiled eggs…)
          c. Lunch is 1 protein, 1 whole grain, 1 veggie, and fruit until you are full. (Peanut butter, jelly on whole wheat with carrot sticks; mac and cheese with whole wheat pasta and celery; etc…)
          d. Afternoon snack is a fruit (apples, oranges, fresh peaches, etc.) or at the end of the week when we can be short of fresh fruit, cookies made with whole wheat, oats, honey, raisins.
          e. Supper is a protein (dead animal by hubby’s request), bread of some sort (pasta, mashed taters, tortillas), veggie, fruit and usually a green salad.
          f. We only serve desert on the weekends. These are usually some sort of junk food like Twinkies or jelly beans.
          g. And as I said, one glass of milk before bed. Milk is high in tryptophan which aids sleep.

     3. My children get NO snacks other than those mentioned above; no candy, cookies, chips etc. I don’t even have them in the house except for hubby’s stash most of the time. I attempt to feed them good enough at home that it doesn’t matter so much what they eat away from home (which, since we homeschool, is only once or twice per week). Because our meals are nutritionally balanced, I know they are getting what they need to build strong, healthy bodies.
     Junk food isn’t bad so much because of what is in it but because of what you don’t eat when you eat junk. If you fill up on foods that are devoid of the nutrients you need to live you either have to over-eat to get your vitamins and minerals or you simply don’t get them. If you eat chips you aren’t eating carrots and getting your beta carotene. If you are eating candy bars you aren’t eating apples and getting your fiber and B vitamins. If you drink sodas you aren’t drinking water, milk, juice and teas that provide you with minerals essential for life. This lack of nutrition is probably the actual cause of most of our modern diseases.

      4. Other than one taste of veggies and two bites of protein at meals, I don’t insist my children eat. The last thing Americans need is to be forced to eat even more! Making a child eat when they aren’t hungry is setting them up for obesity. I trust them to know if they are really hungry or not. If they say they aren’t hungry, I believe them. Little kids really won’t starve themselves (though I have no idea how 3-5 year olds survive. They don’t seem to eat anything!) To force them to eat is to teach them to eat after they are full, again, making them fat. Besides, a little fasting is good for the soul. The self-discipline necessary to choose to go hungry is very good for any of us to learn. It is the same self-discipline that keeps a man from raping a pretty girl or keeps a girl from maxing out her credit cards at the local sales or gossiping about her neighbor. Since our meals are regular and frequent, I know that even if they don’t eat at one meal, it won’t be that long until the next one (though I have been known to (cheerfully) remind them at supper that it is a long time until breakfast).

      5. I absolutely don’t let them snack between planned eating times. If they eat between meals, they won’t be hungry at meal time and since snacks are easier to give in to the junk-food cravings, that means they aren’t getting the nutrition they need. (I did read about one woman who let her children eat literally any time they wanted to. The catch was that the only thing in her house to munch on was her fresh baked, whole wheat bread filled with whatever her farm was producing at the moment; eggs, milk, fruit, veggies. She figured this bread was so nutritious that it didn’t matter when they ate.)

     6. I don’t praise them for eating. Again, this sets them up for obesity. I act very unconcerned whether they eat or not. Now, it IS an act. I watch their consumption carefully. But they don’t know that. I show no pleasure or displeasure when they eat a lot or a little, though if their appetite drops I look for signs of illness later.

     7.  Everyone must stay at the table until nearly everyone is done eating. Children will get so excited with what they are playing that they will barely sit down until they are up again and then realize half an hour later they are hungry. When they are done eating, I tell them they need to stay at the table and visit until most of the family is done (if our family was smaller I would make it until the whole family is done). A child who is too busy to be hungry if allowed up imediatly will nibble down a full meal if he just sits still long enough. Also, one child may really not be hungry and eat no more, but if I let him up others (especially little ones) will want to get up before they are finished. Besides, it is rude to leave the table before every one is finished.

      Over all, I make sure they have good, nutritious foods available at meal times, don’t allow them to fill up on junk, and don’t make a big deal of the amounts they eat. The only time we have had “issues” over food is when a two year old refuses to eat his green bean (yes, singular and all but one child has chosen to fight me on green beans). That is a discipline issue, not a food issue and is dealt with as such.

      With eight children and a hubby to feed, this plan has the benefit of keeping me from being a short-order cook. They eat what I serve or “fast” until the next meal. That is their choice, and as I said above, this builds great self-discipline for many other areas of life, too.

      We mommies must be tough. I know it’s hard when your little one comes to you teary-eyed saying they are hungry just an hour before or after a meal. It’s heart-breaking. But it is essential for their future health (physical and spiritual) that we don’t give in. We need to be as tough as when we hold them still for their vaccinations. It really is what is best for them.