We were enjoying a lovely dinner at Olive Garden, M’s new favorite. I dipped a bread stick into my soup, and said to M, “Try this, it’s heaven!” (I know, we were really hungry, and all my foodie friends will have to grin and bear this post…) So M did, then she says, “Mom, dip yours in my marinara sauce, it’s beyond heaven…”
I giggled, then noticed her naming colors. “Red sauce, green salad, I had orange carrots at lunch…” I knew exactly what had happened. Someone had told her to “eat a rainbow every day.” Sigh. I asked anyway, and she told me that she has to eat a rainbow every day because it’s “healthy.” (M is a sweet child, but she also likes to please the adults in her life, so she is particularly vulnerable in my mind to the insidious nutrition messaging she is beginning to hear more and more…)
Where to begin. So, I started with helping come up with yellow (the top of the bread stick) and we agreed that blue was really hard (there was some purple cabbage in the salad). We had blueberries that morning in our smoothies, and then I delighted in naming her blue freezie pop, and the blue laffy-taffy she’d had earlier in the week, the blue Icee she had the previous month at Skyzone… I’m sure NOT what the “eat a rainbow” crowd has in mind. We also talked about white and brown meals that are healthy, like chicken and cauliflower and potatoes. We agreed that eating rules are silly, and some days you might eat all the colors, and others you might not, and that it’s all OK, and that listening to our bodies is the best way to eat. We talked about how the idea of “eat a rainbow” might help remind people to eat lots of different foods, and that’s okay, because eating different foods helps you be healthy. We talked about how you could eat rainbow-colored candy all day, but that wouldn’t be healthy…
I also thought about the kids in her camp who are on free lunches and who maybe can’t afford the stop-light bag of peppers, or maybe blueberries or orange peppers, and if they can, it sure as heck won’t be organic, and how all these food rules can makes kids feel bad about how they eat, what their parents provide and what they can afford. How maybe they’ll eat a lot of peppers for a few days because that was on sale, or eat a lot of corn because it’s fresh…Sigh, again.
I wonder if eating a rainbow goes along with eating local or seasonal. Not much of a rainbow in Minnesota in the winter… Kiwis? Bananas? Not local or seasonal. All these food rules are getting confusing…
What do you think? I know I’m hypersensitive to any food “rules,” because so far my daughter eats so intuitively and such a great variety with so little cognitive noise that I want to protect that as long as I can. And even pretty rules like “eat the rainbow” are still rules and noise that can mess up her intuitive eating.
Oh, and back to the Division of Responsibility, it’s MY job as the parent to decide what she eats, MY job to buy the variety. When we tell small children to do the jobs of the grown-ups in their lives, it’s simply not fair.