Who knew that a reality TV show would be the best source of basic “nutrition education” I’ve witnessed (other than me, I hope) for my almost first-grader? I’ve written a lot (here and here and here are a few…) about how harmful “nutrition education” can be for children, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the messages in Discovery Channel’s Man, Woman, Wild (so far) where a husband and wife team face survival challenges.
Here are the basics. Husband and wife, Ruth and Mykel, are dropped into the wilderness with no food, shelter etc. (For some reason, they always have a big honkin’ knife, but I digress.) They are hungry.
And here is how it plays out and why I like what M is taking in…
They talk about food for what it can do for the body. When they talk about calories, it’s to keep their energy up, and they are thrilled to find something with fat and protein in it. Usually”fat” is a dirty word — as in the recent incident where my then-Kindergartner was taunted for enjoying 1% milk with FAT in it! Gasp! Ruth and Mykel eat raw fish and smack their lips. Vitamins, minerals, water, fat, protein and carbs help our bodies in different ways. A calorie is a measure of energy— nothing more, nothing less. There is no judgement, only gratitude when they find food.
“Mommy, where does meat come from?” This is a great resource for that discussion. Ruth kills to eat the way I have done (rarely fish). She winces, gets all squirmy and says “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” but gets the job done. (Okay, I do that with the worm when I put it on the hook to catch said fish too.) Both she and Mykel thank the animal and are respectful about it. Seeing this may help some kids, and may turn others off. Watch a few episodes first and see what you think before loosing this on the kids. (A good rule in general with TV.) Overall for M it has been a positive spark for discussions about how we eat meat in our family.
It motivated M to eat her first banana in about three years. On the show the other day, they were on a volcanic tropical island and were gushing about how great their banana find was. M said, “Mom, can I have a banana?” Frankly, I was happy to chuck the usual structure and no grazing routine we try to follow and jumped on this rare interest in bananas (which she has turned down regularly for years). I didn’t want to seem too eager or pressure her, so I said, “Well, it’s not too long until dinner, how about you have half as an appetizer.” She marched over and cut off half a banana. She asked to have some honey to dip it in, and I said sure. Huh. Who knew that a survival show would be the thing to get her back on the banana bandwagon?
And that’s just it, with selective or cautious eaters, you NEVER know when they will be ready to try or revisit a food or why. Patience, perseverance and waiting for whatever mental block to finally melt away? Having a show that neither praises not demonizes food, that shows naked hunger and gratitude is so different that it just may help.
On another note, the hosts are respectful, work together, and encourage one another and seem to have a genuine affection, not something you commonly see on TV either.
Have you seen positive messaging around food, nutrition in the media? Where?