Following on from Kelly’s fantastic post about terrible parenting, I too can hold my hands up and admit that, even as a nutritional therapist, I do occasionally let my kids have chicken nuggets, chips and fizzy drinks. (I hear your sharp intakes of breath!) However, the line between healthy and junk food is a blurred one and one which many people cross innocently, not realising what has gone into the production of a particular food item.
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Before Jamie Oliver started his one-man crusade to rid school dinners of poor quality, over-processed foods, most chicken nuggets from your average supermarket or frozen food store were indeed made of a mixture of chicken ‘bits’ (including beak and feet – nice!) plus fillers, flavourings and preservatives and rolled in artificially coloured breadcrumbs. I never, ever, gave my children chicken nuggets in those days; they grew up on fresh meat and fish from good quality sources. We never ate things in breadcrumbs or pastry mainly due to my gluten-free diet.
Now many restaurants in Jersey (where we live) and all over the UK have delicious breaded pieces of chicken breast (pure skinless chicken breast in natural breadcrumbs or batter) on both adult and child menus. They’re often named Chicken Goujons and you’ll see the difference immediately when you cut them open. The insides should look exactly like the chicken breast you carve for your Sunday roast. They’ll be white, not pink, and the meat should come apart in its natural strips rather than a mashed up texture similar to sausages. Two restaurants we’d like to recommend for excellent quality and value for money (chicken nuggets!) are Big Vern’s in St Ouen’s and Suma’s in Gorey.
French fries from fast food outlets have been deep fried and, due to their narrow shape, have a high fat content plus they’re generally coated in a light wheat based flour to stop them sticking together (and therefore not suitable for a gluten-free/wheat free diet), plus they have a high salt content. Making fresh potato wedges at home is a far healthier option, and delicious too. Simply slice one large baking potato per adult (and half of one for a young child), pop in a mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on sea salt and black pepper (plus cayenne pepper or Cajun mix if you prefer a spicier taste). I’ve recently discovered that sprinkling them with a little raw polenta (finely ground corn) stops them from sticking together or to the oven dish. This also works on your Christmas roasties too! Pop them in the oven on a high heat (220 degrees) for about 20-25 mins (they’re done when they’re slightly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside).
As for fizzy drinks, well, there really is no excuse. They’re full of sugar or artificial sweeteners and if you drink them daily, particularly when growing, the phosphorus in them will leach the calcium from your bones and leave you at risk of osteoporosis later in life. As parents, we all know that our little ones like to copy what we do, what we eat and what we drink. If they see us drinking a can of diet coke, they want to try too. It isn’t good to lie to our kids, honesty is always the best policy (apart from those few occasions when it isn’t!!) so don’t sit there and say, ‘no, you can’t have any, it’s bad for you’ – because they’ll just wonder why mummy or daddy wants to drink something bad; or ‘it’s a grown up drink’ – because they will see other children, possibly far younger than them, drinking it in parks, play areas and parties.
The way I see it, we have three choices: either we never drink fizzy drinks in front of them, or we choose not to drink those drinks ourselves, ever, or we teach them about nutrition and well-being, portion control and patience. We can teach them by allowing only what we believe to be a healthy, sensible portion. No cinema grab-bags of chocolates or family packs of crisps; no half-litre cups of cola or unlimited cans at home. If you want to allow your children all the regular treats, then do so in appropriate portions. Get them to split packets of sweets and duo chocolate bars. Pop crisps into bowls and eat at the table with a selection of raw veg or fruit. Share a 330ml can between two, in a glass with a straw and follow with water. Don’t encourage eating in front of the TV or with a movie. Yes it’s fun, but it can become a habit. Make sure ‘movie night’ is seen as a treat rather than an everyday occurrence.
The moral of the story, as with most parenting issues, is follow your beliefs and your heart, but also take time to listen to those around you, those with little nuggets of wisdom who might be able to help you lead a healthier, happier life. Don’t let people make you feel bad if you’re choosing to let your kids have fast food or Spar snacks – just don’t let those meals or snacks become a regular occurrence. It’s very easy when you’re busy, stressed, upset, or going through a generally dire point in your life (I know, trust me!) to reach for the convenience foods.
Whatever you and your kids have eaten today doesn’t matter. Put it in the past and make tomorrow more organised and filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and fish with some whole grains.
Enjoy food, enjoy life and enjoy your kids 🙂
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