THE “D” WORD
Often parents complain that their Doctors don’t recommend a diet for their child with IBD. One mother told me that her child just wouldn’t eat and she would entice her with ice cream. She asked her doctor about this, and his attitude was, “Anything she will eat, let her.”
My daughter’s doctor took a similar attitude about my daughter although the range of what she would eat was somewhat more than ice cream. And with these small, underweight, under-developed youngsters it is very hard to insist they eat properly. You’re doing cartwheels if they will eat anything at all.
We know as parents that teaching our children proper nutrition is important. And whether it is proven or not, we are sure that nutrition is somehow a factor in a disease that attacks the intestinal tract. (Be sure to read Gut Check by Jeffrey and Harriette Aron.) Today’s parents are truly challenged to instill proper eating habits in their children whether they have IBD or not. While we may have some different ideas on what is good to eat, most of us know what our children should not be eating.
When I was a child, it was common knowledge that too much sugar is bad for your teeth. Guess what, it still is. My mom wouldn’t let us have soda unless it was for a very special occasion. It was never stocked in our refrigerator.
Nowadays (I never thought I’d be old enough to be saying that) we know all about the wrong kind of cholesterol, too much fat, not enough protein, not enough carbs, too many carbs, more antioxidants, less caffeine, green leafy vegetables, green tea. What have I forgotten? Oh, the latest news about trans fats and the lack of labeling thereof.
We are inundated with information on nutrition, but what are you having for dinner tonight? Most families are working to the max and fast food is the fast solution. Even when we try to provide the correct nutrition, youngsters today aren’t happy unless there is a toy in the box.
The question is not what is good nutrition, but how do we overcome the ever present pressures to eat junk? While I’m sitting here at my desk drinking Alpine spring water instead of a sugary soda, (Mom’s influence) I can feel very righteous. Please don’t ask where I ate lunch. But I have a friend who is conscientious about nutrition and I’m going to pass on one of her methods for a healthier child.
When her eight-year-old daughter has friends over for dinner, they know they are going to have to eat one vegetable for dinner. Now, this mom is extremely reasonable. If the child’s favorite vegetable is corn, she’ll make corn or what ever it is that the child likes. But the rule is, at least one vegetable at dinner.
Granted, some kids cry that they do not want to go to her house for dinner. On the other hand, she often has moms calling her and thanking her saying, “She ate that at your house?” She had one girl show up at her door one day and announce, “I like those green things now.” Victory.
The point is we are the parents. We are not supposed to give our children carte blanch, we are supposed to impose reasonable rules and limitations so that our children grow up to be good citizens and healthy adults.
Now, I will tell you a bad example. When my daughter was in 1st grade she complained to her teacher that I would not give her a salami sandwich for lunch. We are vegetarians.
She complained to her teacher so much that I was embarrassed to go to school. In fact, finally, one day I packed her a salami sandwich, a little fruit cup, and a small bag of chips. (Hello, trans fat.) She looked in the bag and announced, “Now there is a lunch you can be proud of.”
Let me go back to my friend who doesn’t cave under pressure like I did. She actually went to the school and told the teacher that she did not want her using food as a reward in the classroom. Use stickers, use smiles, but don’t use food. Guess what? The teacher complied. She not only helped her child, she helped a whole community of children.
I agree it is hard. If you chat with other parents you may find they are concerned also. How about after a win on the soccer field, someone brings out a watermelon instead of something sugary? It’s a small thing, but you are setting life long patterns in your child.
We are up against a huge establishment that wants to make money and is not really interested in a child’s health. I was recently visiting friends and family in the city where I was born. There is a very prestigious clinic there that is known worldwide. My friend’s husband related a recent experience he had there.
About four years ago they had saved him from a heart attack. Then he got colon cancer. He had an operation and was going for radiation. His wife suggested that he should eat before the treatments because he might not feel well afterwards. So, before the treatments he had a fast food snack of a burger, fries and a shake.
He put on twenty pounds and was concerned about being overweight. He asked the doctor about a diet. This doctor usually sees patients that looked like skeletons so he was not about to suggest any diet tips. I can understand that. What I don’t understand is that they have a fast food restaurant on the first floor of this renowned clinic! Isn’t that like having a mosquito swamp on the first floor of a malaria clinic?
All I can say is encourage you child to eat nutritious foods at all times, especially when they are not feeling well. If you offer a variety of nutritious food, something will appeal to them. Be braver than I was about bucking the system. Chat with friends about ways to work together so that your children know there is a community of support for eating right. Try to eat right your self. (I’m working on that one.) There is nothing like a good example to encourage children to do the right thing.
As always, I wish you and your children good health and may your good times be naturally sweet.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber