As I sit to write the boys are in the bath, happily playing after a pretty big day. They attended a seven-year-old birthday party where the weather was sunny and beautiful and they ran around with all their mates at the nature playground. When we departed the boys were given their token party bag, which they clutched with glee despite my repeated words that they were not to open it until we were in the car. The minute they were locked and loaded in their car seats, they began to devour the mix of lollies and sweets in their bag, wrestling with wrappers and trading for their favourites. Needless to say, that afternoon they were sugar-crazed and rambunctious. I was exhausted. It was only when they were tucked into bed that they finally began to come out of the sugar haze that had ruled the day.
In general, the boys are healthy eaters. Their school lunches are filled with corn, carrots, apples, and watermelon. They do eat biscuits and cakes, but in moderation. We talk about ‘always’ foods like fruit and veg, ‘sometimes’ foods like chocolate and lollies and those ‘rarely’ foods like Twisties! I am not the mother who makes them green smoothies and spirulina shakes, but I can whip up a pretty mean beetroot cake and zucchini slice. We eat dinner together as a family most evenings, something that numerous researchers and academics say is a predictor of kids staying out of trouble and succeeding later in life.
I will say one activity that can be challenging is getting in and out of the grocery store without a heap of rubbish making it into the trolley. I love that many of the larger shops have now placed baskets of free fruit, like apples and bananas, at the entrance and I admit when my four-year-old Jack and I enter we often take two or three! I go in with a list and a plan. I try to linger in the fresh produce section, exploring the various types of fruit and veg, trying samples, and pointing out new and unique vegetables that we have never seen before. I also try to skip the aisles with chocolate, chips, and cookies and divert the gaze of the children when passing packages of tiny teddies and other confectionary items. It’s not easy, but the greatest challenge lies before us at the checkout.
When we have finally crossed everything off our list and we approach the checkout I pray that we whiz on through without having to linger there for long. When we do get caught there is often a chorus of “may I have this?” and “can we get that?” as the boys are faced with lollies, sweets, and soft drinks. Of course, all of these items are strategically placed perfectly at their eye level.
Rather than letting this stress me out, I use it as an opportunity to talk about the importance of healthy eating, things that are naturally sweet, and the ingredients in food and non-food (those things filled with numbers and emulsifiers). We talk about how tempting it can be but how we really don’t need any of the things that we see. I can see other adults or parents giggling or even listening, but I know they too have been faced with these perils. It’s a challenge, but one that we often rise to and I celebrate every time we make it through without something extra.
I have seen that there is a new wave of stores that are lining the checkout with fresh fruit and veg or basics for cooking that we often forget as we wander through the aisles of the grocery store. How wonderful this is, and could be, to have your children ask for an apple or some grapes as you wait to pay rather than a chocolate bar or fruit tingles. It’s slowly catching on and hopefully, will become the norm someday. Until then, I will continue to have some strategies in place every time we go to the shops and keep the faith that we can make it out alive!