How to approach a child and ease a collaboration?
Whenever it is possible, a child chooses what and how much it will eat. Maybe this isn’t important (or possible) to conduct it every single day but it is very important whenever you feel that the child is under pressure, or when you sense resistance. Give him control, in safe conditions. How do we do it? All the food in the house is safe for consumption and we arrange everything. There is no regulation. The only mandatory thing is eating green vegetables for lunch and dinner. If he is not hungry, he doesn’t eat, but there is no other meal until a reasonable time passes until the next snack or meal. I do not expect that a child will refuse candy or simply watch other people eat. I always make sure that we have an alternative. Whenever they celebrate someone’s birthday in kindergarten, he brings a cake with him. Whenever there is an occasion where there is a chance that he will be offered something sweet, I bring a cake with me. I experiment with recipes and try to include him. I always tell him that I will try to teach him so he can do such things by himself. He helps me grate the cauliflower for pizza, stir the bread and he makes a chocolate chia pudding all on his own. I teach my child that it is possible to enjoy a dessert, while having a normal glucose level and carrying on with his day.
My goal is that my child becomes unburdened by his illness and I believe the only way to achieve that is by being responsible. I know parents oftentimes want to help their child and not single him out, that they want to offer him everything healthy children eat. Unfortunately, that type of approach, although led by good intentions, puts a great burden on a child because he cannot play or study normally if he is in constant fear of hypo and hyperglycemia. Technology is constantly advancing, which is great news but it never will replace good life habits.
Are we limited?
Ultra-processed food is something that doesn’t exist in my family, regardless of diabetes. I look at things as though there are only two choices: to eat whole food and keep an eye on the kind of carbohydrate or to eat whole unprocessed food regardless of its glycemic influence. I tried both, and I chose the first one because it is endlessly simpler and it makes living with diabetes easier. Every child who has been diagnosed with diabetes will encounter some kind of a restriction at one point of life. I will be free and say that every child, regardless of diabetes, at a certain age, will meet a limitation regarding food or something else, if he is under the care of responsible guardians. A child cannot make certain decisions because it doesn’t understand long term or short term consequences. We hold the child’s best interest in our palm and we try to make as little mistakes as we can, while at the same time trying to allow him the maximum liberty inside those boundaries we had set for his safety. It is a well known fact that having too much focus on food highly increases the chances of getting sick with various eating disorders. Also, a certain focus on food is necessary if the diabetic plans to have a content, happy, calm and safe life. And so we find ourselves in a true dilemma. We live this dilemma by mostly relying on my experience (luckily, I have been through a lot and I have some insight into what works and what doesn’t, at least on a personal level). We encourage maximum freedom (while being safe), even if that sometimes makes me feel as though I am running a restaurant and not a household.
Whenever possible, my child chooses what and how many food, which is in the house, will he eat. I always have something prepared or I am willing to prepare it. Greens are a must for both lunch and dinner, and I always try to squeeze in a bare minimum of protein. If he doesn’t want to eat a meal, he doesn’t eat it. Once a child figures out that the decision is up to him, no one will oppress him, bribe him, beg him, blackmail or threaten him, or ground him, which leads to hgim making decisions based on his own sense of hunger and own wishes. Also, if he refused two meals in a row (which rarely happens), I don’t have any problem saying „OK, I get that you’re not hungry but I can’t let you to go to park or to swim without having ate…“, because it is dangerous and I’m afraid your sugar level will be too low. So, the child chooses what he is responsible for: will he eat and how much. I choose what I’m responsible for: what I will offer to eat and I have to take care of the child’s safety. Of Course, we’re talking here exclusively about situations when the child is healthy and doubt that any pathological event will happen has been excluded. Children rather quickly accept their responsibility when they know no one will force them to do anything contrary. If we are cool, relaxed and if we accept their decision, the child will accept his responsibility very fast and he can barely remember when they refused a meal. I try to include him into the food cultivation, buying the groceries, preparing and serving the food, and I try to give him the control to choose what will be on his plate, as much as I can. I try to be extremely careful and not to comment on the amount of food which he eats or doesn’t eat. It’s his decision. As he is growing up I will also be madly thoughtful and not comment on his weight. I didn’t find such dana but I am fairly sure that all eating disorders started with the first diet which was an attempt to lose weight. I will try to redirect any such desire.
Only in a society which has such disrupted values, while the store price of cheap flour, oil and sugar dictates our everyday life, can we even wonder if whole food such as yoghurt, walnut or carrot is even healthier than waffle irons, fritters or pancakes? How can we ask ourselves if it is dangerous if the child eats peas and carrots instead of pasta made out of white washed flour? My child eats normal food at the kindergarten, while other children eat waffle irons. Who is deprived here? How did we, as a society, let our children, in organisations which we pay for, are being given food which disrupts their health? This is a question which I fight with both at work and at home. While our children are at this completely adjustable phase in which we have an opportunity to install good life habits in them, we give them food which, by any criteria, doesn’t fall into the category of food but it falls into „edible substances similar to food“ (Michael Pollan: Food Rules). And then we wonder how the level of obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome has increased, at a neven younger age. Is „let him be the same as everyone else“ a good enough reason to act in the contrary direction of health? Would we, in some other world and another time, say to him that it is OK to smoke cigarettes because everyone does it, so why would he be any different? Information on the harmfulness of ultra-processed foods with a high content of refined fats and sugars are equally unequivocal, as the information about the harmfulness of tobacco smoke once were. The money included in the sales and marketing of such substances is huge. We take comfort in the fact that it is enough to teach our children “moderation“ and we forget that we try to teach them to be moderate in the consumption of the food after which a whole trust of extremely smart, capable and highly paid experts stands behind, and their only goal is to make that food irresistible. Who will win? The fight is not fair. We are surrounded by an environment which is considered to be medically disabled (it encourages the growth of obesity). I don’t want my children to eat like everyone else, because everyone else in 80% of cases die out of completely preventable diseases caused by their lifestyle. Everyone else seeks a doctor at the age of 40 and panically asks for advice because they do not want to drink an antihypertensive drug, oral antidiabetics and statins. Maybe I am overly sensitive to that dana because of my profession but I definitely don’t plan to close my eyes to the facts. My main fear is that I won’t be able to protect my child who doesn’t have diabetes from such food in organisations, because I won’t have „a good enough health reason“.
Is this kind of diet healthy?
I consider it is not necessary to wait for some big shot to allow me to give my child beets and broccoli for as a side dish, instead of pasta or rice. Just like I don’t need a permission to make my child a pumpkin and cocoa cake, which I plan to give to my child who hasn’t got diabetes, instead of giving him a bought donut. The mentioned cake is incomparably better, healthier, tastier and more nutritious option which makes you full. In the newest formal guidelines you can find information that there is no ideal ratio of macronutrients which a person with diabetes should follow (https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/5/731).
Children, as the rest of the people in the world, have grown up and live din the most plain and most unusual conditions, in the cultures which mainly ate carbohydrates and in the cultures which mainly ate fat. For healthy children and healthy people of this world there is only one diet which we are not adjusted to and it is a diet based on ultra processed food. This goes for us, the diabetics, as well, but with one additional point. Because of the nature of giving exogenous insulin it is extremely difficult for us to properly and SAFE cover some carbohydrates which naturally appear in food and which are completely healthy and safe for the healthy population. Honey, whole grains and some type of fruit are wonderful, healthy and whole groceries. But if I serve them for a meal to myself or to my child, I am entering a very dangerous game of guessing the insulin and the fast carbohydrates. Because of my child’s and my own safety, LUCKILY I have a whole palette of groceries which are equally complete, equally healthy, satisfying, full of macronutrients, and which protect me from that dangerous game. And that’s what I choose. I exchange rice, pasta, potato and banana for broccoli, beet, almonds and strawberries.
The focus is on the complete ingredient. I have a profound belief that the ingredients can be found in nature in an optimal ratio and I try to respect that. Our approach to food doesn’t consist of frankfurters, hamburgers and commercial „protein“ shakes. Junk will always be junk and I teach my children to avoid it. You won’t be able to find it at ur home and you won’t be able to see us eat it. We tried those commercial „protein“ puddings and yoghurts a couple of times and I wasn’t pleased. First of all, because I don’t like to consume food which has ingredients which I do not understand on the back, I don’t know what they are or where they come from. Secondly, because all of those products are sweetened with maltitol which I don’t consider to be an optimal sweetener (we stick to eritrol, stevia and in a much less quantity to birch sugar). Thirdly, because I don’t like teaching my kids to buy stuff but rather to make them on their own, which they can do in a much better, more nutritious, cheaper and more amusing way. So we got back to the home-made chia pudding. I don’t buy protein yoghurt or the classical fruit yoghurt which is filled with sugar because I believe both of them are a by-product of the industry which doesn’t care for our health. Often times we eat the plain, normal and deliciously boring yoghurt. If we want to eat a fruit one, we add fresh berries into it (during the season), and off season we mix a spoon of jam made out of berries (without sugar) into it. We don’t buy protein bread for the same reason, I don’t know the ingredients, they seem complicated and expensive. We make our bread out of flax, pumpkin flour, kefir and eggs (or a similar version). Although, sugar is not important but the overall health is.
My child doesn’t understand the burden of diabetes. I am lucky to have diabetes and I have tried everything. I am the filter which receives only the best. I know my motivation because I have tried to live in a different way and it was difficult… a million times harder than my life right now. It was difficult to grow up in constant fear of hypo and hyperglycemia. It was so hard to go on check-ups, to be angry at myself, to be frustrated and isolated. I know why I chose a different path but my child may not know. Maybe he will need to find out on his own. And that’s OK. But when and if he wants to sail through the calm sea, my experience and example will be there for him, to guide him in order for him to experience health in the full sense of the word.