Like I’ve said before, I’m kind of sensitive to the idea of categorizing foods as either “good” or “bad,” not just because I specialize in eating disorders as a professional RD, but also because—on a personal level—I too once restricted myself from sweets and seemingly evil foods. (Really, who hasn’t at some point in their lives?)
My approach may not be black or white, but it’s simple. Rather than distinguishing food as good or bad, I prefer to consider their nutritional value. Some foods, like fruits, vegetables and oatmeal, are wholesome. Others, like brownies and ice cream, are less wholesome (lower in nutritional density). At the end of the day, however, none of these foods should be designated as good or bad.
My goal for my own kids and, for that matter, my clients as well, is to cultivate this neutral mentality. And while my kids may not eat enough vegetables, they at least seem to have mastered this concept.
Here’s a perfect example. On the last weekend of summer, my hubby and I decided to trade in our usual Hamptons weekend for a trip to the Jersey Shore. The kids were thrilled. They love the beach, the ocean and, of course, the ice cream stands lining the two-mile stretch of Wildwood’s boardwalk. They were especially excited to ride the kiddie coaster and eat cups of delicious and refreshing ice cream all weekend. And they did.
On Saturday afternoon, Hubby and Grandpa took Billy and Bobby to the boardwalk to ride the motorcycles, roller coasters and carousel. They topped off the day with ice cream.
Then on Monday, we went back to the boardwalk. Mommy wanted ice cream, so of course the boys asked for ice cream too. Without thinking twice, I said sure. What’s the harm in ice cream, after all?
But what happened next is shocking—even unheard of! (Though in my household, it happens all the time.) Billy took two bites of his vanilla chocolate swirl with rainbow sprinkles before getting distracted by a water gun game and tossing his treat into the nearest garbage bin. Apparently, his desire to win a sword just like Bobby’s was stronger than his need for a sugary snack.
My husband and I stood ogling Billy, who was now ice cream-less. He just threw away a perfectly delicious $4.00 ice cream! It’s not that I wanted him to eat it, especially if he wasn’t hungry, but my hubby and I would have been happy to take it off his hands!
What it comes down to is this: because Billy was never taught to think of ice cream as some taboo form of food, he didn’t feel the need to chomp it down to the last bite. Apparently, he views ice cream as a neutral food. Check!
Recently, I mentioned another example of this while discussing the “one lick rule.” In case you don’t remember, Bobby and Billy had wanted pizza and a brownie, and I allowed the boys to have both. During that instance, the boys were able to use satiation cues as they ate their pizza to save room for their brownie. Even then, they only ate a small portion of the brownie and gave the remainders up. They both did this on their own intuition—so go boys!
Do you discuss different foods in terms of “good” and “bad” in your household? Are your kids able to stop themselves from consuming an entire brownie, or do they prefer the entire treat at once?