Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Great Cereal Debate

There is a saying that what you don't know won't hurt you. This is so not true. Our body is constantly bombarded with chemicals and free radicals and whatever else you would call them. The damage happens whether we are aware of the science of nutrition or not. Whether we are busy or have an open schedule. Whether we are low budget or rich. Whether mom taught us well or we fended for ourselves. Whether we savour our food or subconsciously shovel it in.

We live in a marketing society. We are surrounded with products that companies make in order to bring in a profit. They may advertise safety or health or taste. But the main goal is to have an income from sales. To get you with the packaging. They will tailor their product to whatever will result in the highest income for them. Carefully worded claims. Following current trends. Adding chemical additives for taste. Using genetically modified seed. Employing harvesting processes that don't favour keeping the natural goodness. Failing to share the whole picture.

When we make purchases we all have different motivating factors. But sometimes we simply just want something to eat. How do we choose what we will consume? As a cancer survivor, one goal I have for my daughter is teaching her healthy living. I have tried to make things home made and limited the processed products (though I don't know if I'll even learn to make bread). But I am not the only one in her life.

Here comes the battle. Like many of you, my husband sees nothing wrong with processed cereal. Everyone eats it and the commercials say it is good. He loves it. He eats it every morning. And he shares with his daughter. She doesn't really give him a choice. In her day she consumes many things that, before I had children, I never would have allowed. I'm not big on crackers that have no nutritional value. Jam that is loaded with sugar when we could just eat fruit. Extra sauces and dressings that aren't necessary. I'd like to season with spices and natural flavours.

They say to pick your battles. I try to remember this even though her future health is at stake. Once in a while I appreciate daddy's differences. If I hadn't had to give in to someone else's way of doing things, my way would have remained very closed minded. As a result, I probably would have fed the fear that I was not teaching her well enough or nourishing her properly. (Who am I kidding? Probably? I most definitely would have tried to create a bubble around her if daddy hadn't popped it.) I think if given that option I would have had a lot of stress seeking perfection in her diet. (And there's another negative habit for the body's complex systems. Worry.)

But I have had to let go. I feel guilty saying that. Like someone health conscious is going to read this and judge me for going against what I know is right. But life is full of compromise. And trust. (So thankful I believe I can cover her with prayer too.) And learning and growing.

She enjoys her Goldfish crackers. She loves her Cheerios. And sometimes she has something processed. Like today. Dad made an amazing meal for his older daughter consisting of mashed potatoes and breaded chicken and corn on the cob. The meal included packaged stove top stuffing. Not that our munchkin ate any. She attacked the corn on the cob like it was a contest. Even her second helping. When hers was done she wanted what was on my plate.

She always wants what is on my plate. So I try to keep my plate healthy (though she still doesn't want any of the raw veggies). And I would love to get her dad's plate healthy as well. But changing the diet is very difficult. For anyone (pass the chocolate, please). There are the comforting, remind you of home foods. There are the easy, make in a pinch options. There are the wallet friendly budget purchases. And there is habit, habit, habit. I truly think everything right in front of us is against us. But what matters is the long term effects. The feeling good after consistent whole and fresh choices. The lasting health ramifications way into our later years. And that is harder to live for because we can't see it.

Everyone is born with a different chance of each cancer, each ailment. We don't know if we will get something sooner, later, or never. Our actions may not cause or prevent those ailments. But they will definitely alter the time line. Maybe my Luekemia was always going to be, but if I had eaten more veggies and less processed meats, eaten more consistently, never smoked, and exercised more, it would have occurred later instead of in my 20s. I couldn't foresee that I would have cancer. But I never lived in a way to prevent it. Because I lived for the now. My body needs me to live for its future. If I had taken care of myself and still got sick I would have had the opportunity to pronounce that healthy is pointless. But I probably would have bided myself more time.

It takes will power. It takes research. It takes budgeting. It takes prioritizing. It takes retraining the taste buds to need less salt and sugar. But it can be done. Healthier eating doesn't mean eating what you hate. You don't need to have oatmeal for breakfast of you don't like oatmeal. But there must be a satisfying healthy option that you can decide to eat. You don't need to consume salmon if it makes you gag. But what other ways can you get some healthy oils? You don't have to eat Brussels sprouts if you can't get them down. But you do need a variety of vegetables.

Variety is the best arsenal against the confusion over optimal diet. Sure, a cracker here or there. But then a piece of fruit. A vegetable. A nut. Some cheese. All things in moderation. (I know, I know-- no more making cookies and eating them all. I need willpower.) We can't know everything about diet, especially with propaganda and scientific research constantly being "updated". But instead of pulling the its-all-harmful card or the healthy-people-get-sick card and not caring, we can fuel ourselves with a mishmash of different foods, slowly make positive changes, and accept when we know something is wrong. My daughter doesn't need aspartame, hot dogs, high fructose corn syrup, pop, white bread. There are things that I will stay away from.

And there are other things we will keep to small amounts. Like cereal. Cheerios, Daddy?

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