Living Naturally: Counter-Cultural Health and Kids; When Its Hard To Be Different

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Yesterday, Chris’s Money Matters article focused on Counter-Cultural Finances…which loosely translated means “how to cut costs and maintain a budget, while your friends think you’re weird and cheap because you don’t have an ipad, but you come to realize that that is ok…because there are more important things in life”.  And for the record, yes, we here at Cheeky Bums do believe that there are more important things in the world than owning an ipad (disclaimer: Apple, If you would like us to review a complimentary ipad, well, we’d take one for the team… ;)) 

So today, lets take a look at Counter-Cultural Health.

Back in the day, when our family traded in Wonder Bread and Velveeta, for sourdough and aged cheddar, well, quite frankly, that was kinda weird to a lot of people.  We were the “food snobs” that shopped at the health food store.

You know the type.

They make everything at home.  They don’t use coupons very often.  And they buy flax seed, kefir, kombucha and whole wheat flour. AND they know what to do with them.

OK, so that might be a bit of a sarcastic stretch, but my hubby and I both grew up with a steady diet of tv dinners and pb&j on white, sans the crust thankyouverymuch.  When we started looking into the causes of our (and our childrens’ ) allergies, our entire perspective on nutrition changed.  All of the sudden, we were “not like every one else”.  We didn’t eat what most people ate, and we were MUCH more selective about what we were putting in our bodies.

This was totally fine for the hotty hubby and me.  We truly didn’t mind if people thought we were crazy, because physically, we felt SO.MUCH.BETTER.

But what about our kids?  My daughter and I both have ADD. I know what happens when she eats much processed food, refined sugar, or anything resembling a soda – diet or otherwise.  But to her, they are the forbidden fruit.

So what do you do?

Well, I’d love to say “Here’s my list of 10 things that you can tell your kids to make it all better”. But I’m no where close to that…(And if anyone does have a list like that, please link up here, because I’d LOVE to read it!!!)

But I can tell you how we fumble along try to handle it.

  • Don’t try to deter them from junk by telling them that M&Ms are gross.  That’s a lie.  If they didn’t taste so good, then by golly you wouldn’t want to eat the entire bag.  Be honest with your kids so that they know that they can trust you.  They’ll see right through the M&M ruse. They’re little, not stupid.
  • Provide alternatives.  When my daughters recently attended the birthday party of a friend, I told the mommy in charge of my daughter’s food sensitvities and asked if I could bring another dessert to share with the group.  She was TOTALLY fine with that and even made a little something else for the party, so that the birthday guests had options.
  • Teach them WHY.  I know – much easier said than done, but explain to your kids WHY, as a family, you’ve chosen not to eat certain things.  More than likely, they won’t follow you and they will have no clue what an enzyme is, but engage them in your family decisions so that they feel included and important, even if it doesn’t make perfect sense.
  • Put it all into perspective.  My daughter is not at risk of death if she eats a small slice of cake.  Will we have a miserable next few days?…well, yes. more than likely.  However, there are certain times and certain special events that cannot be avoided, and if possible – shouldn’t be avoided.  When I was growing up, once a year, on vacation, we would stop at this tiny little ice cream stand, just outside of Traverse City, Michigan after spending a day at the beach.  When I was older and could take my own kids, we continued the tradition.  This ice cream stand defies all meaning of the word “healthy”.  However, watching sun-bronzed little girls in swimsuits with wet hair slurp down mint chocolate chip ice cream is the stuff of memories.  We indulged and I don’t regret it.  Put everything into perspective, and unless medically necessary, don’t miss out on special occasions or the chance to make a memory because you were afraid of a sugar-rush.
  • When you consume less, then special treats really are SPECIAL.  We recently attended the wedding of a very close family friend.  The reception was amazing…there was an entire dessert BAR…candy gallore.  The rest of the kids at the wedding had found a permanent perch in front of that rainbow colored, sticky gooey heaven.  We were “those parents” that allowed our children to share one item.  The funny thing is, our kids were fine with that.  Now don’t get me wrong: would they have jumped head first into the chocolate fountain if we had let them. ABSOLUTELY.  But “treats” really are a treat in their mind and not an extension of dinner.  Teach your children to cherish “special” things and those things no longer become “rights” or expectations.
  • And sometimes, there’s no easy answer.  We all want to be included and fit in.  We want the easy (a la microwave dinner) solution and we don’t want our kids to be “THAT kid in class that eats those weird things”.  However, as much as we want to protect our kids, shelter them, indulge them…sometimes…[gulp]they just need to be different.  As mommies, we want to hold their hands and make sure that no one ever dares make fun of them or says degrading things to them.       It’s not possible…So train them, teach them, love them and show them that being a Counter Culture is okay, because the choices that you are making as a family truly are better than the norm. They just are.  Not because you’re elitists, but because you know cause and effect, action and consequence.  One of the greatest lessons that we can instill in our children is self confidence – so that when the rest of the culture looks on questioningly, they don’t waiver in what they know to be truth.

So during vacation this summer, on the way home from the beach, will we stop and get ice cream? Yup, probably. We’ve made other life style changes to better our health for the long term, so one ice cream cone?  and is that ok? sure is…

Have you started switching to Traditional Foods?  How is your family adjusting?

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This post was linked to:  Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Cooking Traditional Food, Simple Living Wednesday at Our Simple Farm, Women Living Well Wednesday at Women Living Well, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFGLINS, Your Green Resource at A Delightful Home, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food, Whole Health, The Sunday School Blog Hop at Butter Believer, Seasonal Celebrations at Natural Mother’s Network, Monday Mania at The Health Home Economist, The Welcome Home Linkup at Raising Arrows, Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead

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21 Responses to “Living Naturally: Counter-Cultural Health and Kids; When Its Hard To Be Different”
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  1. Love your perspective! I’d also add that sometimes it’s cool to be different, especially if your homemade food looks better than what the other kids brought for lunch 🙂 But I totally agree that it’s a minefield … wish it were easier, and more people were on board with the whole healthy food thing. And thanks for making the “sometimes splurge” ok 🙂

  2. Thanks for stopping by Lisa! It’s all a learning process – for parents and kids alike! I never feel good when I splurge, but I also know that one special treat is not going to undo the other 6.5 days of healthy eating 🙂 And I agree-more often than not the “health food” LOOKS SO MUCH better than the faux chicken, over processed veggies and skim milk of a school lunch! All the best! – kelsi

  3. I also love your perspective! My first child is just barely starting to eat solid food… but when he gets older, he’s going to be “that kid”. Hopefully it won’t be because he has all those allergies, but because we’re trying to avoid them (his cousins, aunts and uncles all have major allergies).
    I especially love your last point. It’s good for them to learn to be different!

  4. My daughter is only 18 months so she is being raised with more “traditional” foods, and I am gluten free so she is mostly gluten free. My husband on the other hand is having a difficult time adjusting because of the increased food cost (whole food AND gluten free) and because he loves his junk, so we buy him bread and ice cream so he doesn’t feel so isolated. I love this post! Hopefully my little miss wont feel too bad about being “different”, and I can learn to instill some pride for the way we eat.

  5. Thanks. This was a really good read. My Hubs and I (as well as our four kiddos) do not have any allergies that we know of, however, we are on a quest for a healthier lifestyle…food and home alike. I’m reading way more labels than I ever have and quickly putting them back on the shelf. Being an 80s baby, I grew up smack dab in the age of clorox, microwaves and prepackaged food. Kool-aid was the bomb. 🙂

    We want better for our children…as well as ourselves.

  6. I’m an 80’s child as well, so I totally sympathize! I used to LOVE Wonder Bread! it really is a culture-change..but totally worth it! – all the best! – kelsi

  7. I love the article! I think talking about why we make the choices that we do is one of the most important points. I find it to be an ongoing conversation because as my kids get older, they understand more. I also don’t want them to be judgmental about other family’s choices. I always focus on what we do.

    I also try to stay relaxed about it. 80% of our diet is whole foods. It does stink that my husband’s extended family still does not get that their medical issues are connected to their poor diet or the processed foods they still serve at parties. I just set easy limits like one soda and I don’t make a big deal about not eating vegetables at the party. The parties are only a few times a year, small change in the scheme of things.

  8. Barb, I’m with you! My husband’s family as well as mine both have all manner of health problems, 99% of which come from diet issues! I have to tell myself that health is the journey, not the destination! We take it a day at a time and just try to balance everything out! all the best and thanks for stopping by! – kelsi

  9. Daja

    I don’t know how old your children are, but I have been going through The Food Renegade’s Real Food curriculum with my kids. There is a grade school level book and a high school level book. We’ve been doing both (even though my oldest is only in 5th grade). And it has been GREAT! The kids feel really empowered, are reading labels, are able to explain WHY we eat the way we do, and best of all, they are making good choices for themselves now! Woooo-hoooo!!!

    If you haven’t see it, here is the link: http://www.foodrenegade.com/realfoodnutritiontext/samples.html

    I’m not an affiliate or anything. I just really have enjoyed these books in our home school with my kids!

  10. thanks so much for the tips! I will have to check it out! My oldest is only in 1st grade, but we homeschool as well and I’ve been keeping my eyes open for that kind of thing! thanks! – kelsi

  11. Couldn’t agree with you more. Due to severe food allergies (the kind that will kill my youngest) I have become a fan of whole foods lifestyle. 80% of what we eat (like Barb) is whole foods prepared by me. The rest? Yeah, I can’t sweat that. I have to look at the big picture and trying to keep my youngest safe from his allergens (which are very numerous) and trying to keep my 8th grade boy fed mean I’m cooking constantly. If they go to a party and eat chips? I don’t worry about it. Because in the big picture, the occasional party food just doesn’t really matter.

  12. Great perspective! I was raised in a family that was countercultural by the standards of a small prairie town in the 1980s: My mom baked whole-wheat bread and made yogurt, and we didn’t have junk in the house except on special occasions. From an early age I knew that eating any significant amount of sweets or junk food was going to make me feel crappy, so I became pretty good at self-regulating. My son is the same. He’s 7 now and actually negotiated with a grownup friend who wanted to treat him to a hot chocolate AND cinnamon roll, explaining that he might get a stomach upset if he ate all that, so they split the roll and got some water!

  13. way to go! When my kids turn down sweets, I couldn’t be prouder! 🙂

  14. I couldn’t agree more with your prospective on this, and if I hadn’t just featured one of your posts I would have featured this one. I love your style and clarity on the issues you discuss. Thank you for sharing this with us on NMN. Warmly, Rebeccax

  15. Aw thanks for the compliment Rebecca! So glad you are enjoying our blog! Love what you’re doing and thanks for the linkups!

  16. You hit the nail right on the head. I have ten kids and I have learned that it can be really hard on the teens who just want to be cool. Here is where alternatives is important. You want nuggets? Lets make some nuggets. But I have let them try things without giving them an opportunity to get too used to them. Last summer, the oldest was out with friends and bought a McDonald’s shake which he ended up throwing away. He said he couldn’t stomach it. I remind him gently to bring snacks (and some for friends so that they don’t need to stop at McDonald’s. And I make the shakes at home.

    I am linking up to this from my blog’s FB!

  17. Good post. I am not a “foodie”…I’m too tied to convenience, though I’m trying to put more real food in our diet. But I do try to regulate sugar. And its so hard. Holidays are the hardest, ones where treats are expected. I can’t imagine an Easter basket without candy, but at the same time I spend LOTS of time trying to decide which treats to put in and alternative things (cause I’m sick of the plastic flotsam too) because it’s so hard to keep it reasonable and still make a Easter basket that’s fun. School makes it harder because the hoard of treats he’ll bring home from any holiday party makes the more modest treats I offer them look kinda pitiful in comparison.

  18. What a great post! Things we struggle with over here as well. While me and my youngest son are strictly prohibited from most everything, our other two kiddos don’t have allergies that make these things prohibitions other than us just wanting better for them…But, we’ve noticed that they don’t finish sweets or treats nearly as fast (if at all) as they did before we transitioned over. Thanks again for the great post!! Definitely will be following your blog! 🙂

  19. thanks! yeah – the transition sometimes seems slow or insignificant, until I realize how far I’ve come when I really don’t *want* to finish a candy bar! Definitely not the “old” way I used to be and so I know that the small changes are working!

  20. Gale, thanks for your comment! I do miss the convenience of some foods, but you’re doing great! Just being AWARE of the fact that there are options out there for healthier snacks and treats is a HUGE step! You’ll be SO surprised to see how big of a change just small things make! keep it up! All the best! – kelsi

  21. Audrey

    As a parent I think you just know instinctively what is the right food to feed your children. My kids are now in their late teens and were brought up eating whole foods from the get go. (Everything we ate just went into the blender). It wasn’t always easy, but in the end the rewards and the strength of character it builds are so worth it. I believe it is why they have had far fewer ailments and did not have the ear infections, tonsillitis, etc that plague so many children. Their immune systems are strong, as are their opinions about things that really matter. I think food is such a wonderful tool to introduce meaningful conversations about acceptance and awareness of other people and cultures. It encourages a strong sense of who they are and the beliefs they stand for. We have owned a community garden plot, gone picking wild berries, caught wild fish and been a part of a farmer owned co-op. Teach them where their food comes from and how it is made. Food choices create awareness…
    Feed their bodies, feed their minds, feed their souls.