Eating Lessons: Forget Rules

Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with my daughter about a school project she’s working on. Her eighth-grade language arts class has been assigned to write a food memoir. The teacher has asked the students to choose a food that is meaningful to them and write about it, including their associations, feelings and history with the food (the only restriction is that it must be a food that the kids have participated in creating and they must share the recipe with the class).

I think it’s a lovely project and it has the potential to be quite educational, too. After all, what better way to teach kids about the emotional power of food and eating than to have them examine those feelings?

We were talking about which food she might choose to write about and she mentioned the homemade frosting that I make for birthday cakes. I’ve always made the cakes for my kids’ birthdays and I use a frosting recipe that my mother used to make when I was a kid. I remember sitting and watching her work, knowing that any leftover frosting would soon be mine to spread on a Ritz cracker.

I can still taste the delightful salty/sweet combo.

When I became the mom and began making the frosting for my own cakes, I introduced my kids to the frosted Ritz cracker — and thus, a family tradition linked the generations.

Originally, the teacher had wanted the kids to prepare their foods and bring them in for the class to sample. But the overzealous health and wellness policy at my children’s school has ruled that out. Apparently, the school thinks that if we don’t remove all “inappropriate” foods from the cafeteria and classrooms, our children are doomed to a lifetime of obesity and bad habits.


So much of learning to make healthy choices is recognizing that it’s your choice. That’s why this post by The Fat Nutritionist really resonated with me. When we take away the choice, we make certain foods forbidden — and that’s not usually a good thing, especially for someone like me, who bristles at any sort of authority figure.

Yes, I let my children eat frosted Ritz crackers. And they usually devour one or maybe even two. But do they reach for a third? Not usually. Because frankly, the first bite or two is the best and then you pretty much start to feel ill.

But if I forbade those frosted crackers? I’ve seen firsthand what happens to kids who aren’t allowed any sort of “bad” foods at home. When they get the chance to partake, they eat…and they eat…and they eat because they’re never quite sure that they’re going to get another chance.  

All things in moderation. And part of learning to moderate is understanding what happens — and how lousy you feel — when you go overboard.

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