Thursday, February 18, 2010
free range: kids, food
A few books I've picked up lately. I finished Free Range Kids last week, and am currently making my way through the last section of In Defense of Food (haven't gotten to the book on power struggles yet). Both of these books have blown me away. I highly recommend them. Not everyone might agree with everything in Free Range Kids (even I had a thing here or there that I didn't agree with) but overall it is very eye-opening, and makes you re-think many of our standards today as parents. It helped remind me of how crazy and unrealistically high the bar has been raised for parents (so much so, that when Alice at finslippy writes this post, the comments section is filled not with shock and alarm but with a loud chorus of "Me, too!"s), and also opened my eyes about a LOT of cultural myths (for example, did you know there has never been a single documented case of anyone purposefully poisoning Halloween candy or putting anything sharp in fruit to hand out? Like, ever?).
Also, if nothing else, in a world where most parenting books seem to have the sole purpose of telling you how you're doing things the wrong way and if you don't do them the "right way" (aka what the author tells you) you'll end up with kids who are messed up and hate you for the rest of their lives, it is really friggin nice to read a book that instead says, "You know what? Most of how your kids turn out is nature/genetics anyway, and chances are no one of those little decisions you make each day (short of outright abuse/neglect) is really going to cause long-term damage. So relax. It's OK."
In Defense of Food has also been incredibly interesting. I'm always a little weary of reading these kinds of books b/c afterwards you feel morally obligated to make all sorts of changes to how you eat, and then feel guilty when you don't follow through. Fast Food Nation, for example, almost but didn't quite manage to make me give up red meat (though it is now a rare treat now and then). But, so far it's just been insanely interesting, and motivating. It helps that Zach has been on a huge greens kick lately, buying collard greens and bok choy and other dark, leafy greens at the market every week and figuring out how best to cook them (turns out copious amounts of butter help quite a lot).
And that's part of what's nice about this book-- it's not about how this is good for you, or that's bad, and don't eat sweets, blah blah blah. In fact, one of its main points is that there isn't one type of food or nutrient that is inherently really good or really bad (ok, maybe trans fats...) but that you really should look at the big picture when it comes to food. The rules are simple: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Mainly, avoid processed foods. Try to eat a balance, but don't obsess about your intake of fats vs protein, vitamins and omega-3, etc. And that we're probably better off overall eating those sauteed greens, even with all the butter, than having another pasta-based dinner.
Next week, D will start spending a couple hours in a nearby home daycare center, 2 mornings a week. One of my goals for that (glorious! wonderful! can you tell I'm excited!) extra free time I will have, is to spend more time on the food we eat-- planning, shopping, cooking. I'm not much of a cook, but I'd like to change that. I want to foster good eating habits, for Zach and I and also for D who is forming his food/taste habits now. Luckily, we live in a place where it is easy to find fresh, whole foods, and that is something to take advantage of.