Over the past month, I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of sugar in my family’s diet. I don’t think our sugar consumption has been massive compared with what most people regard as “normal” but, compared with World Health Organisation guidelines, it was. I’m not overhauling the way we eat entirely, just trying to increase our vegies and find healthy swaps for some of the foods we eat.
With my family’s health at stake, I have been doing a lot of research on healthy eating (listening to “experts” speak on YouTube video while preparing dinner). Apparently, almost none of the food supplied to us is good to eat, putting some kind of strain on our bodies that they aren’t designed for. There is someone to warn us of the health risks of almost everything we eat, including the polyunsaturated oils we’ve been told to use instead of saturated fats, inorganic plant & animal products, alternative sweeteners and, even, wholegrains. Most of the health concerns around these foods boil down to the fact that almost all of our food is interfered with in some way. I have concluded that just about everything I buy at the supermarket poses a health risk and, without the budget or time to source healthy alternatives, I don’t know what to feed my family anymore. And then there are the ethical and sustainability issues!
I have been feeling exasperated and, even, angry that I can’t trust our food sources. The quality of my family’s food feels largely out of my control unless I move the family to a farm and we grow all our food (organically) ourselves. This is not an option for me as I struggled so much with our small home veggie patch that I pulled it out and turned it into a play garden– I’m better at nurturing children than plants.
To complicate things even further, because our minds, bodies and spirits are so closely connected, the way we eat also feels like a spiritual issue to me.
WHAT MY CHILDREN EAT IS A SPIRITUAL ISSUE BECAUSE…
…it affects their spiritual connection. When our bodies are struggling to cope in some way with what we’ve eaten, our minds aren’t clear enough to be able to tune in to Spirit. To illustrate my point – imagine trying to meditate when your blood-sugars have plummeted and you need something to eat, when you’re feeling jittery from too much coffee or when your stomach feels sore because it’s struggling to digest something your body doesn’t like. At these times, we’re too preoccupied by our bodies’ needs to be able to tune into our spiritual needs. Our children’s natural spiritual connection can be compromised when their diets lack nutrition or their bodies are stressed.
…it impacts our environment and animals. We are closely connected with the environment and all other beings in a spiritual way. I know that the impacts of getting food to my table are far-reaching and often compromise the environment and animals. All these issues came up for me again recently when my son, Jake, and I were discussing how the meat we eat comes from animals. He was asking me a lot about the process of how an animal becomes his favourite macaroni-and-mince dish, concerned about the animal getting hurt. His final question was, “Do you think that’s right (to kill animals to eat)?” I replied that animals in the wild have to hunt and eat other animals in order to survive but that I’m really not sure if it’s ok for us to do the same. We’re sitting on this question… and many others.
…good health helps them to live full lives. I want to see my children have the energy and wellness to enjoy their lives, to contribute to others’ and to live their spiritual purpose. If the way they are eating compromises their health, they can’t do these things. Simple as that.
WHAT MY CHILDREN EAT IS NOT A SPIRITUAL ISSUE BECAUSE…
…there are only so many hours in a day. I don’t have time to grow, raise, harvest and butcher our food as well as cook it from scratch to make sure it is all perfectly healthy, sustainable and ethical. I don’t even have time to trapse from shop to shop to source ingredients which have a clear conscience. My weekly trip to the supermarket is already quite the label-reading mission – if I don’t take my boys with me, it can take 20 minutes just to get down the first aisle.
…healthy food often costs more. Most healthy foods are not mass-produced like the food I get at the supermarket is and are, therefore, more expensive. Economically, I understand the reasons for that and I sincerely want independent farmers etc to thrive – but my wallet does not.
…something is better than nothing, surely. Here, I refer to the general fussiness of children when it comes to their food. Did you know that young children are biologically wired to be sceptical of new foods and have strong sensory responses to food that often put them off, as well as a natural sweet-tooth? Food fussiness is a whole other post but my approach is to serve up a mixture of healthy foods and foods they will actually eat. I don’t want them to go to bed hungry, unable to sleep because they wouldn’t eat anything on their plate. To put some pasta with dinner gives us all a better sleep, despite it being deficient in nutrition and environmentally unsound.
A SOLUTION – 3 STEPS
I fret about my boys’ food for so many reasons. To add the spiritual implications to the mix adds to the load of concerns to wade through. Before I had children, I couldn’t have imagined that feeding them would be so difficult. But, I tout my blog as practical spiritual parenting so let’s be realistic about this. This is what I’m going to do to make it a little easier –
Decide which concerns are the most important. For some, it might be reducing sugar. For others, it might be eating ethically-sourced food. For many, it might be keeping the family afloat financially and stretching the grocery dollar as far as it goes. Trying to tick every box would make feeding our families an enormous stress and a full-time job.
Accept what we decide not to do. With acceptance, we don’t need to feel guilty about the less-than-ideal food choices we make for our children, knowing we have focussed on our priorities. Remembering that it isn’t possible to tick every box helps too.
Eat mindfully. In our family we begin meals by saying grace. Enjoying our food is another way of appreciating it and valuing all the labour and sacrifice involved in getting it to our plates.
IN SUMMARY – MY LAST SUGGESTION
Feeding our children can become a source of stress for many parents. There’s fussiness, meal-time battles and emotional eating behaviours to deal with. Having bigger issues like health, sustainability, ethics and spirituality to also take into consideration can feel like too much at times. My final piece of advice, based on my own efforts to reduce my family’s sugar intake, is this – once you’ve decided on your priorities, make small, incremental changes to keep things manageable and to keep your children on-board. For example, the first changes I made to reduce my family’s sugar intake was to switch afternoon tea to savoury foods – raw veggies, cheese, nuts and crackers instead of fruit and baking – and to reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. All the best!
Much love to you and your little souls,
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