How do we get kids to WANT to eat healthily?

drink cold water

drink cold water (Photo credit: Jay Hsu 藍川芥)

New research indicates that kids who understand more about food, the nutrients it contains and and what they do in our body are more likely to want to eat their greens.

This totally jibes with my experience – although my example is with drinks rather than food. At around 2 my kid discovered juice and (though we dilluted it and only gave her about 1/4 juice or less) it got so that she wouldn’t drink water on its own. I was really not happy about this but there were extenuating circumstances: a) I could see that she drank much more fluid when there was even just a splash of (organic, 100%) fruit juice in it – and I know the importance of hydration to the body; and b) I often used the taste of the juice to disguise her probiotics, fish oils and other supplements – mostly aimed at helping ease her eczema. So the juice was also helping in a way. But, at the same time, I am aware of the effect of even fruit sugars on blood sugar and teeth.

So, a few months back, we started talking to her much more about the importance and advantage of drinking plain water. I think the tooth-health argument really got through to her. We never made it scary or threat based. We didn’t want to scare her into drinking more water, we just wanted her to make an informed decision based on more than just taste. And, now, at 3.5 she has decided that most days she’ll drink only water and occasionally drink juice… and actually she hasn’t asked for juice since she made this new resolution, a couple of weeks back (though I know this can still change at any moment lol). Still, I love this. I am very proud of it, actually (hey, you got celebrate the ‘wins’, right?)

And I get that much of this is because at 2 or 2.5 when she started wanting only juice she didn’t have the cognitive whereabouts to grasp the finer aspects of the nutritional choices she was (unconsciously) making – she was guided by her taste buds alone. And now at 3.5 she can get this stuff, make connections… but I am so proud that she did get it and made the choice by herself without any real pressure from us. Okay we told her water was better and explained why but we kept cheerfully giving her the juice until she chose the water, for herself. We gave her freedom and time so she could decide for herself.

Would this exact approach work with all kids, in the same time-span? Possibly not – but I bet it would work with most, sooner or later. Given good information, (most) kids make good choices, in my experience.  This new research from Stamford seems to indicate my gut feeling might just be right, if you give kids credit for the ability to understand and care about their health, they will rise to it.

Here is the piece on the Stamford research on the effects of teaching pre-schoolers more about nutrition. Enjoy!

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Breathless

English: Chrystalleni Trikomiti, a rhythmic gy...

I am desperately unfit. I am not exaggerating when I say that a few minutes of dancing around the living room with my little one and I am breathless. It is shameful, really. I used to be a rhythmic gymnast. I practiced 20 hours a week and competed at national level (albeit it in a very small nation, Portugal) for eight years. After that I stayed active, as well as teaching Rhythmic Gymnastics for a couple of years, I have done rowing, dance, kung fu, chi kung, yoga and zumba – some of it quite seriously, particularly kung fu… and now this. I can barely go up a flight of stairs without wheezing.

I eat really quite healthily and yet, what kind of role model am I being to my child? What kind of mother am I gifting to her, even, when I am so unfit?

This I share with you now, by way of a kick up my own a*se. I need to get out and do more exercise. I mean I walk quite a lot… but it is becoming less and less and has a lower impact now that I find I no longer carry Pipoca in the Ergo (as I did for her first two years of life). Something needs to change.

English: Heart diagram with labels in English....— — —

How about you – are there areas in your life you are realising you need to step up to for your own health and wellbeing as well as to become a role model to your child, so they too may be inspired to live as healthily as they can?

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PS no, that is not me in the photo!… but yes, I was once super flexible, I was fit (ish) and could jog 30 minutes or so without it being a big deal. Now my ambitions are lower but I do want to get heart-fit. Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, right? I need to start my journey. Won’t you join me and tell me about yours?

5 steps to losing weight the AP way

Attachment parenting II

Image by bricolage.108 via Flickr

I was a size 6 before I was pregnant. I don’t know what size I was immediately after birth, I just lived in old sweats (hah!) but when Baby was about 8 months old I celebrated getting into size 8 jeans! Now, I am a size 2. That sounds tiny to me. I am one size away from the infamous size 0. How the heck did that happen?!

This is controversial I know. There are two kinds of mamas out there, I reckon, the ones who didn’t lose the baby-weight and don’t want to talk about it and the ones who did lose all the weight and dare not talk about it. Anyway, I am going to break rank and brave the topic even though I am on the skinny-cow side. I am not crazy skinny, so don’t go getting jealous or anything like that. I am actually a flabby (non-toned) size 2 – if that isn’t too much information! And I am spotty and have a big c-scar, remember, if you need it for balance.

I have not dieted (certainly not with the intention of losing weight) and I don’t do any organised exercise… at all. So how did I do it? I credit Attachment Parenting. Here’s the rundown of what worked for me.

Weight loss the AP Way:

  1. Breastfeed at will/on cue: if your kid is anything like mine it will be a big challenge to consume as many calories as they are sucking out of us each day – and I, for one, love to eat! If I eat light for even a few days (and by light I don’t mean ‘less’ I just mean better quality/more greens, soups, salads, etc.) I find I automatically lose weight, without trying. This was especially noticeable in the first few weeks as my uterus contracted back into place, magically and seemingly overnight. And now, in the long term, I can see that breastfeeding is definitely linked to my new shape.
  2. Co-sleep: … which basically means you continue to do the above – breastfeed on cue – even through the night! Ooops, I just dropped some more calories just thinking about it, I think- and certainly without trying.
  3. Baby-wear: I have been pretty much exclusively wearing/carrying my baby since she was born. She is now 18 months old and at the 90% percentile for weight. I still carry her most places – if it is too far for her to walk or just easier to carry her. That has got to help, don’t you think?
  4. Walk: not strictly an Attachment Parenting practice but it definitely falls squarely within the Natural Parenting movement, especially if it is used as a greener alternative to driving. I love walking. For the longest time there, especially when Baby was smaller and hated to be in the car seat, I would just go for long walks – sometimes one or two hours at a time – with her in my front pack. I am not super fit, but I can walk and, again, I am sure this really helped the weight drop off.
  5. Eat Healthily: I try and eat as green, alkaline and fresh as I can… I am far from perfect, but I don’t eat wheat/gluten, dairy or meat and I limit refined sugar (the almost permanent stash of chocolate doesn’t count, right?!). The couple of times I got the flu, since Anya was born, I did nothing but eat ‘green’ for two or three days: all vegetable soups (with no carbs). I recovered quickly and I lost weight. You gotta be careful with this. You don’t want to lose too much weight when you are breastfeeding as it will affect your supply (it did mine) but eating healthily is always a good thing, to my mind.
So I lost lots of weight. Still, I want to acknowledge the role of luck in all this. This month I am this size, I hope it sticks but my love of eating has got me in trouble before, let’s hope I can keep balance, stay healthy and get way, way fitter so I can keep this trimmer figure which I am so enjoying (even now I don’t have the super-boobs, anymore).
Really this post should be about being healthy, the AP way. It is not about trying to lose weight, it is about doing what feels right for your family, going with the flow and taking care of you, too. If that so happens to bring a more optimised weight for you, hooray! I know plenty of hardcore AP mamas in all sizes and shapes. They nurse and baby-wear, eat healthy and still feel weight-challenged (and/or are happy and celebrating their womanly curves) so this is not a cure-all that works easily on everybody. But it worked for me. I guess now it is about finding what will work for you, but you can’t really go wrong with walking, breastfeeding and eating a diet with lots of fresh, green veg, can you?

So many different ‘healthy’ diets – which one is best for my kid?

We are all interested in feeding our children the healthiest diet possible… but there are so many different ideas about what one should and shouldn’t eat out there, how do you know what is really going to be best? Is meat the healthiest because of B12 and easy to use protein or is a vegetarian diet best for baby and environment? Are fats fattening and heart clogging or essential for brain function? Where do you start?

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/camusa/533918010/

Hybrid Rasta Mama and I have been having a dialogue about healthful nutrition. She looks at it through the prism of the Weston Price’s ‘Traditional Diet’. I look at it from an Eastern-inspired neo-Macrobiotic point of view.

I first read her piece on the ‘Traditional Diet’ here, on the Natural Parents Network and I posed a few basic questions about this diet to which so many healthy eaters here, in the US, seem to be attracted. I really like the clear, succinct way she explains the tenets of this diet, so I turned to her to help me with some of my misgivings, not least about the starting point of this diet that claims to represent the traditional diet by distilling ‘the best of’ the customary diets from all over the globe, which are in their very nature very different from each other (compare the traditional diet of hunter gatherers in Africa which is mostly roots, berries and occasional meats, with that of Mediterranean people who eat lots of fish, salads and olive oil). And though it seemingly starts from this very wide view it quickly narrows in and makes some very specific, one-size-fits-all prescriptions, such as that everybody should eat cod liver oil (which clearly not all traditional people do, nor would that necessarily be a response to the individual challenges of the environment *you* live in or a response to the health challenges you as a unique individual are faced with at this time).  Jennifer (aka Hybrid Rasta Mama) came through with some singingly clear points which bridge many of the gaps between our two approaches. Here is her second post, in response to my questions: http://hybridrastamama.blogspot.com/2011/03/traditional-diets-q-session-part-1.html?showComment=1301811541668#c786034488986848544. (You can find my questions in the comment section under her original NPN post, here).

Have I been ‘converted’? I am not sure I will start eating meat, let alone offal tomorrow, but I have found much we agree upon. My diet is informed by a need to stay alkaline, eat lots of living, green and fresh foods. I continue to be influenced greatly by my studies at the College of Natural Nutrition, in London, where I learned to tailor the diet to the person and their individual health needs, I am nourished by my Macrobiotic roots, a system I still find so beautiful, almost poetic in its approach which urges us to stay in tune with the season (which I interpret as: eat salads in summer, roots in winter, for example), with the region you live in (eat fat-rich fish if you live somewhere cold like Alaska or fresh, water- and electrolyte-filled fruit if you live near the equator) and with your body’s constitution and state of health (eat simple, vegetable soups if you are unwell or your digestion is impaired, branch-out and eat more complex foods when you are strong and energetic).

But I have also been around the health food movements long enough (all my life, really) to have seen that many different diets work for many different people. I have (literally) met people who have reversed severe arthritis (among other conditions) through a strict macrobiotic diet and others who have beaten cancer through an all-alkaline diet. I know people who swear by a Paelo Diet and others for whom a Vegan Raw Diet has changed their lives and their health pictures. For that reason and because my broad view has really left me with a relativist belief that different diets work miracles for different people, at different times, here is a list of diets you might like to explore further:

  1. The Macrobiotic Diet – Balancing your diet according to season, where you live, your lifestyle and your state of health
  2. The Weston-Price Traditional Diet – based on diets humans thrived on for centuries, millenia even
  3. The Vegan Raw Food Diet/Living Food Diet – a simple diet based on eating food brimming with live enzymes, untouched vitamins and minerals. Raw foods are  just so vital, full of energy and nutrients.
  4. The Alkalising Diet – based on the understanding that disease only spreads in an acidic body, this diet is honed to bring your body (the pH in your cells and tissues) back to an alkaline state by eating a diet of predominantly fresh green foods
  5. The Paleo Diet – is all about eating as our (way back when) ancestors did – the cavemen – on the principle that our bodies  bodies are evolutionarily adapted to that way of eating. In practice this means consuming mostly animal protein and vegetables with no grains or flours.
  6. Eat Right for Your Blood Type is an interesting theory which takes your blood type as an indication of your constitution (based on the tribe you hail from – or the type of civilisation that evolved that blood type; eg hunter-gatherers vs settled aggrarian people) and then tailoring your diet to that
  7. Ayurvedic Diet – again tailors your diet to your constitution, which in this ancient traditional Indian system they call doshas and understands not all people respond the same way to certain foods like grains, fats or sugar – some people tolerate them better than others
  8. Traditional Chinese Diet – Traditional Chinese Medicine is a rich system, perfected over centuries of practice which views the human body as a complex interaction of different energies symbolised by the five elements. Food is seen as medicine and the right diet for you will be based on the energy flow to your various organs. This is a deep system really worth investigating fully… but the link I posted here is just a dainty flavour of it. Do delve in deeper.

My belief is that, if you listen to the core of you, you will be drawn to the right diet for you – maybe not first off, maybe it will be a process of trial and error and you can certainly find some incredibly knowledgeable guides along the way (in the form of teachers, nutritionists or books) but my faith is that, ultimately, the body knows and the truth will show.

It is also true, from what I have observed, that a diet that may work for someone for sometime may not be in their best interest in the long term. For example a raw food cleanse may do your body a whole load of good for a month even a year or two (ridding it of toxins and the debris of a lifetime of meat consuption, for example) but you may – depending on your constitution, where you live, etc. – find that after  prolongued adherence to this strict vegan diet your body is clean, yes, but also stripped and depleted of certain minerals (like calcium or iron – unless you are very good at eating your greens) and vitamins (B12, for example). So sometimes very restrictive diets have an expiry date, I find.

In any case, as I said in my response to Hybrid Rasta Mama (which you can read under the comments of her two articles, linked above), I think the basic summary of what most of us interested in healthy eating agree upon is this: eat ‘real foods’ (not refined, processed, pasteurised or hydrogenised cr*p). I am convinced that if everybody on the planet stuck to this basic principle, and ditched the junk food, much of the (predominantly) Western ‘epidemic’ of chronic illnesses (from arthritis to heart disease, high blood pressure to cancer) would be abated. The rest (whether you and your children eat more meat or grains, whether you all take cod liver oil or not) are details. Easier said than done, I know (my diet is far from perfect), but at least the principle to aspire to is nice and simple: eat real food.

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Friendly disclaimer: the views in this article are my opinion and should not be taken as replacement for the advice of a medical physician. Consult with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/camusa/533918010/

Blog re-branding: Loving Earth Mama

Hi guys,

So as you know I have been thinking deeply for a while now about how or whether to continue this blog. My solution (for now at least) is to continue this blog in a slightly new way. This shift has been happening already gradually over the last few weeks. Here are some of the changes:

  • New look – I am thinking you noticed that :)
  • The blog’s name. You may have noticed  also that I changed the blog’s name from ‘The Blessing Tree’ to ‘Loving Earth Mama’. I have used the moniker ‘Loving Earth’ for many years now in different online media. I immediately thought of it when I was registering this blog, unfortunately it had already been taken as a WordPress blog name (by a cute environmental blog so I did not begrudge them)… so I had to come up with something else. But in truth I never thought ‘The Blessing Tree’ really fit this blog. Now I have bought the domain ‘Loving Earth Mama’ and really like it. I hope you like it too.
  • There are now ‘Wordless Wednesdays‘ – which capture a mothering or toddler moment in photo form. This is following a well-established mama-blogging convention which appealed to me (as an amateur photographer)…plus it is nice to have a break from ‘words’ but still share the joy for your parenting journey.  They are not always ‘great’ photos in the technical sense. Sometimes they really just are snapshots of a moment that touched my heart like this one, for example. Others worked out as both photos I like technically and which capture some toddler fun I want to remember, like this one.
  • I have been slowly moving from purely describing my experience and Anya’s milestones in a journal-type fashion toward a more reflective and broader style of writing which I hope will both represent more mother/parent’s experiences and act as a springboard for people to discuss or think about their own approach to parenting.
  • There is now a facebook page – open to all – linked to this blog which we can use as an easy, open and accessible forum to discuss any topics and issues that come up for us directly in relation to blog posts here at Loving Earth Mama or in general, out in the world. Topics related to conscious mothering, healthy childhood, gentle discipline, etc.

Topics on this blog will continue to include (among many others, no doubt):

  • Attachment Parenting
  • Baby Sign Language
  • Breastfeeding
  • Healthy Eating for Mamas, Kiddos and Whole Families
  • Mothering as Spiritual Practice

Do join me (and join in on the debates on facebook, here or in your own homes, even) as this wonderful, surprising, challenging and fun journey of motherhood continues. Thank you all. In joy,

Gauri

Conscious eating (take II)

Food for Life distributes food on an internati...

Image via Wikipedia

I want my child to grow up to love food. When I think of people who love food I think of Italy and France, of large families eating together, outside under the vines and overlooking green fields. They are gathered together sharing stories, laughter and food made from homecooked, fresh, whole ingredients. I don’t think of people who guzzle their food at such a speed that it needs to be hyped up with artificial flavouring and frankly it doesn’t matter what else is in it ‘cos nobody is going to take the time to enjoy it let alone think about what it is doing to their innards.

But I don’t live in rural Italy and my family is nowhere near by to come join me at the table for a long afternoon lunch every week. What is more, I don’t live to cook, I cook to live. So how to do this? How can I impart a real, deep love for food to my child in this hectic, modern, urban lifestyle I live?

Honestly I don’t know the answer fully, yet. I have a sense that it starts with me. I need to re-find my own love for food, as I was saying. Knowing too much about nutrition can kill your love for food almost as quickly as not knowing enough about it, I find. Not that I am that knowledgeable but I have studied it a bit and lived and worked with people who know a great deal about this stuff and consequently I have been thinking a lot about these issues, oh, all my life, really. So, while for some the journey is one of learning, of re-gaining some control over what comes onto their plate (rather than handing over those decisions to multi-national food corporations, marketing industrials and supermarket conglomerates) for me the journey may start with letting go a little, relaxing, letting my hair down in the kitchen (metaphorically only, of course).

I need to infuse my own relationship with food with real joy and hope that feeling is contagious. I don’t want to ‘teach’ Anya how to eat but I’d love to inspire her or perhaps better still, I’d love us both to enjoy making and eating food together in the years ahead. Now, that feels like a good start to me. And, in truth, there is a whispering in me that reminds me that you don’t need to make a kid love food, I mean she clearly already does. It is just a question of not standing in the way of that.

Is my toddler’s gluten-free, dairy-free diet ‘restrictive’?… or a start to a life of passionate, conscious, healthy eating?

I wonder what other people think when I tell them what my daughter eats. Please don’t give her (*deep breath in*): wheat, milk, yogurt, cheese, sugar, sweet treats, citrus, apples, tomatoes, meat…

I grew up eating differently. I was certainly made to feel that I was weird because I didn’t eat what other people were eating – this in conservative, Catholic Portugal in the 1980s where conformity was all there was, it seemed. Eating a diet of ‘brown rice and veg’ was not mainstream – far from it. I remember, poignantly, being laughed at for eating brown bread at school; or kids turning their noses up at the homemade, whole-wheat carrot cake served for my 7th birthday party. That was then. The world, the mainstream of it even, has come a long way. What is more, I live in California now where consuming a diet of whole foods is positively de rigeur. Even in Portugal, when I go back now, I have to chuckle when some friend (easily one of the ones that would have laughed at me when I was young and made me feel ‘different”) invites me to go to the hip new macrobiotic restaurant, like it is the new ‘in’ thing… ‘you are joking, right?!

Yet perhaps it was not what I ate but what I didn’t eat that most made me (makes me?) stand out. Today, my eating has gravitated much to the healthy diet my parents (blessedly) gave me when I was a kid – thanks for that again, by the way. I eat whole-grains, veg (salad, soups, stir-frys, etc), legumes (beans, chickpeas, peanuts, soy), nuts and seeds, some fruit and some fish. I don’t eat gluten (especially wheat – save on rare occasions), dairy or meat.

Anya is eating very similarly to me nowadays for various reasons – even though her dad was brought up on a traditional Chinese diet (lots of fresh, home cooked veggies, rice, fish and, notably, meat) and he certainly makes more ‘exceptions’ for things like fun-food (read junk food) than I do – although less and less so, it has to be said. One of the reasons Anya’s diet was originally so selective was due to the fact that she was clearly reacting to things in my milk – according to what I ate. Eggs, soya, tomatoes were all things that made her less than 100% well. Eggs made her come out in a pimply-rash on her face; soya made her spit up, tomatoes gave her diaper rash. Other foods, like apples, were put on a suspect list – to be watched.

I also chose to keep Anya away from such challenging foods as wheat and dairy which are known to be very acid forming, harsh on the gut and mucus producing – I want to let her digestive and immune system mature fully before introducing these, which means waiting until she is at least two. I am not a super-crazy-stickler about this. She has had little tastes of bread if somebody else was eating it and she wanted to try it, I just  make sure I don’t stock these foods at home or rely on them as a mainstay of her diet.

Now, a good nine months into eating solids, I think Anya is an amazing eater. She likes everything – really, everything – we have given her so far. Some things need to be introduced a couple of times, but even that is pretty rare. Things she has been eating, include (among others):

  • whole grains: rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa (technically a seed but treated for all intents and purposes like a grain), etc.
  • vegetables including: chard, spinach, carrots, asparagus, onion, garlic, sprouts (like radish or broccoli sprouts), corn
  • legumes including: peas, kidney, white and pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzos), broad beans, lentils and, her absolute favourite: peas
  • root vegetables: sweet potato, yam (which she loves!), potato, ginger (this could be in a spice section instead… she does love all kinds of spices, too)
  • some fish: she has only really had little tastes of fish – white and dark – but has enjoyed it all
  • tofu: she seems to be fine (now, at least) with traditionally prepared soya (a legume, in fact) and really likes it
  • Some fruit: avocado (another big fave), pomegranate, blueberries, blackberries, pears, papaya, etc. We steer clear from the acidic stuff (tomatoes, apples, citrus) as they seem to produce a rash. We do try and eat local and seasonal, especially when it comes to fruit as it is very clear the body likes it better this way and can handle, for example, bananas better when we are in hot a climate (challenging, I know, unless we move to Ecuador!). But again, the occasional banana is a great treat for Anya.
  • Dried fruits: raisins, mango, etc.
  • Gluten-free alternatives to wheat-based products, including: rice cakes, rice, quinoa or corn pasta, gluten-free bread, crackers, etc.
  • Good fats: olive oil, flax seed oil, coconut fat and the like
  • Seaweeds: Anya loves, loves, loves nori and also eats other seaweeds like hijiki or wakame when cooked into rice, etc. These are great sources of many minerals including iron, iodine and calcium.

She gets most of her protein from combining whole grains with legumes, at the moment, as you can see. Her iron comes from leafy greens, sea vegetables, avocados and beans, mainly – and fingers crossed her hemoglobin levels will still be nice and high when we next get them tested, following the anemia episode (I was anemic during pregnancy, with low iron stores so why, oh, why did I think my breastmilk alone would get her own iron stores up??).

So, here is my question to you, is Anya’s diet ‘restrictive’? I mean she appears to be happy enough with it, by and large – as I say she is a pretty good eater. We are lucky and blessed with that, I know! I am not worried about it from that angle. I also think nutritionally speaking she has a pretty good diet (well, even if you disagree with some of my food-beliefs, we will doubtless agree that her diet is all the richer and healthier because of what it does not contain: sugar, processed foods, hydrogenated fats, etc). But here is the crux: I suspect, actually, that her diet may be considerably wider than many-a-toddler. I mean she eats quinoa and buckwheat quite regularly and soup and…

My thought is that the very people who may be moved to feeling her diet is restricted are people whose kids’ (or their own) sustenance relies arguably too much on wheat/gluten based products and dairy. So for them, a diet without those things would appear ‘lacking’, somehow. Perhaps their kids eat sandwiches nearly every day… and/or pasta, and/or cakes, cookies, crackers, pizza, bread, pastries, pies, cherios or any of the other other gluten-filled goodies we find so easy to load up on, often unthinkingly. Is that good for the body? And what about dairy? Are they loading up on yogurt, cheesy goods and milk everyday?

I know dairy is a controversial one. It goes like this, you either buy wholesale the ‘got milk’ type campaigns that tell you milk is a life-giving source of easily utilisable Calcium or… you don’t. Do your own reading on this, please. And hey, I am not unsympathetic to the movement for organic, whole, raw milk – yes if you gotta do it that is a better way to go, for sure – but for many people (depending on your constitution and all) milk just means trouble – gut trouble, skin trouble, sinus trouble and on and on. And, fyi, the calcium from milk isn’t that easy for the body to use because milk also contains casein, a protein that (… wait for it) inhibits the absorption of calcium. You gotta laugh, right? But again, the point is, if their kids eat dairy based products every day, then to them, they might be left wondering what they would give their kids if two of their mainstays were taken away (wheat and dairy) and maybe within some people’s food knowledge and repertoire a diet without milk and bread stuffs would just be barren. I don’t find it so. On the contrary, I think we have a vibrant, diverse and colourful diet… but still, I find myself wondering (and sometimes even caring) what others think.

And, yes, there are days I wish I could cook my full repertoire of recipes for Anya and introduce her to the stuff all the ‘normal’ kids are eating and though that would be the easy option and probably would make her happy (hey who doesn’t like cake or ice cream) I am most likely going to continue doing the best I can with the knowledge I have, sticking to basics like ‘fresh is better than processed’, ‘whole is better than refined’, and ‘home-cooked is better than store-bought’. A little bit of me will still wonder also, at times, whether those kids with their bags of cherios and cheese sticks are, at home, getting a wider, healthier and more varied diet than my kid (and I am guessing the answer is some do, some don’t) but I don’t think I’ll be seduced into thinking that different is necessarily bad. I am making strong, conscious choices for my child’s health and wellbeing, laying down a blueprint of flavours she will probably enjoy for life based mainly on traditional ways of eating in pre-industrialised societies. I, the mother am guiding this process – not the ‘food’ manufacturing companies, the marketing agencies or the media. I am not perfect. I am learning new things about diet – which sometimes contradict everything I thought I knew, all the time, but I am trying and I am going into it consciously, rather than walking supermarket isles like a zombie (well, okay… sometimes I am part-zombie, but most days not).

And a cute little upside of this is… Kai and I have been looking forward to blowing Anya’s mind and her taste buds by introducing her to her first taste of ice-cream – an experience she might even be able to remember when she grows up! Incredible. So the idea is not to restrict, but to eat consciously and yes, still have fun. Indeed, we want her relationship with food  to be natural and effortless; for food to be viewed not just as fuel or comfort but as health-giving, nourishing, uplifting and for her to value the opportunity for social connection that comes with it.

Still, a healthy relationship with food is at least as important as a healthy diet, per se, in my view.  I hope Anya’s nutritional life will be driven by the heart, by a passion for fresh, home cooked food; not just by a rational understanding of what is good for you or a fear of what is bad for the body. Hmm… perhaps I need to do some work on this myself, after all she will learn first about food by watching us, so I need not to preach this stuff but to live it. I want to eat foods which make me feel alive, full of vitality and rearing to go and to re-kindle the joy of cooking. Lived like this, motherhood is good for your health.

NB The photos are vintage Anya… but convey the whole ‘happy eater thing’ quite well, no?