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You have done your best to talk about sustainable farming practices, dangers of pesticides, humane animal husbandry and traditional food preparation to your kids. They seem to get it. They have all the right answers when you ask them about a particular food product and can tell you if it’s real food or not. You have invited them into the kitchen with you to prepare meals and get a deeper understanding about where food comes from and how do we prepare it for our bodies to be nourished. You have given them all the information they need to make wise choices. But then, they walk out that door…
Off to school, or a friend’s home, a party or event, maybe to grandma’s house.
Not everyone agrees to what extreme we should carry our real food lifestyles to. There is a full spectrum ranging from bringing your own food everywhere to eating whatever you are offered outside of home for courtesy and much in between. Do we fret about what they will be eating away from home? Do we trust that our teachings will hold and they will make good choices (at least most of the time)? Will they be considerate and gracious to those who choose to eat differently? Can they win over any converts to REAL food by leading by example?
Recently I interviewed 20 children from about the ages of 4 to 16 to talk about some of their experiences with real food outside of the home and how they deal with it.
When asked if they ever ate differently outside of home such as at school or a friend’s home, most of them said that they did. Many said they might eat a snack or have a meal that they would not otherwise have eaten at home, but there were a few that said they just don’t eat elsewhere or otherwise their mom packs them a snack or sandwiches.
“Yes, because at home I only eat organic, but only a few of my friends eat like that. The rest I have to eat normal food full of pesticides and chemicals.”-Age 14
When at a party or event most of the kids said that they make the best choice that they can with the options that are available. A few said they either bring their own food or fill up on a good meal before they go to a party, so they won’t be tempted. And there were about 30% who said they eat whatever they want when attending a party or event.
Most of the kids expressed that it is difficult to make good choices away from home because the other food looks so good, there are not what they consider to be any healthy options or because everyone else is eating it. However, there were also many kids who said that it is not difficult for them at all to make good food choices because they prefer to eat for nourishment. These kids said that they either choose the healthiest options available or bring their own food.
“Kind of, because sometimes it’s really hard to find where the ingredients are so you don’t know what’s in it. Sometimes I want to eat the bad for me food, but not McDonald’s.”-Age 8
One thing is for sure, we parents must be talking to our kids about how we hope they would act and choose food when they are not at home. Do we want them to politely decline food offered to them that is not REAL food, or would we rather they eat what is offered to be polite? What is the most tactful and helpful approach?
“Say, ‘No, thank you!’”-Age 5
“I tell them no thank you and I would feed that to the pigs” –Age 8
“Eat it to be nice.” –Age 8
Things to Consider Before Talking to Your Kids about Eating Away from Home:
- How much time are my children spending at other peoples’ homes, events, church or parties?
- Is it possible to take our own food with us everywhere?
- Do we have an understanding with friends/family about our food choices or would they be offended if we don’t eat their food?
- Do I want my children to only eat what we give them?
- What do I expect my children to eat away from home?
- Are there allergies or food sensitivities that make eating away from home harder?
- Do I want my children to learn to make good choices about food no matter where they are?
- Where does our family stand on the moderation spectrum?
Jami Delgado is the Editing Manager at Eat Nourishing, a free REAL food recipe sharing website. Jami is well known for involving her young children in every aspect of the kitchen — from chores, to meal prep, to cooking. Her family enjoys cooking together, and her children benefit from a good work ethic and healthy eats. She is also a guest teacher at GNOWFGLINS where she teaches an eCourse called Real Food Kids: In the Kitchen. You can also like Eat Nourishing on Facebook or follow on Twitter.