From birth there are some eating habits I’m happy my children will accept as normal. These are six different eating habits my kids will have compared to my childhood. It isn’t a criticism of my parents generation, that was just the way things were. And I’m glad we have the choice and knowledge to feed ourselves more positively these days.
Sugar on cereals
We coated our cereals in white refined sugar. Weetabix with a crusty layer of granules. Cornflakes with pockets of dissolved sugar and full fat milk hidden gathered in the curves. It was unnecessary considering some cereals already contain sugar.
When I met my husband he was having white toast on a daily basis, one of the few things I managed to change in our lives. And now the kids will only ever know wholemeal bread (except when they go to Nanny’s house). Not once have they questioned it (but they are still young, so I’m waiting…).
To be fair, we didn’t have pudding every meal time as a kid but I’m still gobsmacked with the school meal menu that sort of sweet dish follows each meal. And I mean a cake or traditional sponge type pudding. This is gradually changing, with fruit and yoghurt on some days, chocolate and beetroot cake on others. In my book, proper sponge and custard puddings should be saved for special occasions and weekends.
Deep fried crisps
Kids need fat in their diet, good fats. I’m not one of those, no fat, no sugar, no fun parents. But kids are also still heavily targeted in the snack market, it’s hard to shield them completely from ads wooing them to try the latest snack-fad. When I was a kid, we had a pack of Tesco own brand deep-fried potato crisps in our lunch boxes almost daily. We haven’t banned crisps but steered them towards lighter variants such as Pom Bears, Skips or Quavers and only have them a few times a week rather than daily.
My two aren’t that fussed by chips. They’ll eat them but they won’t harangue me for them. We get potato waffles, at school they have a choice of jacket potato (thanks to some local campaigners I should add) and they love a bit of mash. And I’m pleased because I LOVE chips. Especially those hand cut, deep-fried types with skins on you get in pubs these days. Or three times cooked chips, boiled, fried and baked! Ouch my heart. So I’m riding on the crest of this wave with my girls and don’t have them at home.
A while ago I found my school books from aged 8. Each Monday morning, in my weekend ‘news’ I wrote about Saturday, “Mum came in and said, ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ and I said,’yes'” To be fair, it was milky with sugar, so not exactly a caffeine-loaded experience but it bought back memories of drinking it and having my own small mug. My kids are aged 4 and 7. Coca-Cola is a dirty word, tea and coffee are only for grown-ups and that’s all they need to know right now.
But…experiences my parents gave us which I struggle with
Home cooked food from scratch almost every day
Mainly driven by economics in our household but we benefited from having lovely home cooked meals most days right through to our teens. Consequently my mother has fallen out of love with cooking now and it’s no wonder, as kids pallets are hideously boring, I think I would become jaded rustling up shepherd’s pie each week. We rely on the school menu, mezze style evening meals, pasta sauces in jars, fish fingers and baked beans.
When the Crawley branch of McDonald’s opened in the 80s it was the event of the decade. Our grandparents used to take us there after begging. It was the post-birthday meal of choice after the cinema and we travelled from my hometown in Horsham, to meet up with friends on weekends. I hate myself for going there now but it’s a winner with the kids and sometimes irritatingly convenient. I try to ease my conscience by telling them each time it’s a treat and the food’s not altogether healthy. I think the message has sunk in, as my eldest declared to my mum the other week she’d eaten very unhealthily while staying with them which included a trip to Maccy D’s. But grandparents are allowed.
Adult sized ice creams and chocolate bars
Technically, I don’t allow adult sized ice creams and chocolate bars. During my childhood, I remember mainly having small lollies (sometimes homemade) and those thin milk chocolate bars. My children’s 4 and 7-year old bodies are still too small for adult-sized treats in my view and I’d have them on Mini-Milks and Freddy Frogs every time. But it is hard to stick to that rule. Luckily, many of the parents I hang out with have similar rules so there’s rarely awkward situations where one kid has been allowed something mine aren’t. But in school holidays and on the occasional weekend, the kids deserve a treat. The pop-up Smartie ice-creams for example are a nice compromise, so when my eldest angles for a Magnum (which even I find sickly) I steer her towards that!
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