All too often, parenthood can come with an unhealthy serving of guilt.
For many mums, a lot of it stems from what you decide to feed your kids - and unfortunately it doesn’t stop at the bottle vs breastfeeding debate.
Mum-of-two Kate Save knows that lunchbox shaming is alive and well in Aussie schools, and even as a professional dietician, she isn’t immune to feeling guilty about what she packs for her daughters.
This is an example of a lunchbox she’s prepared for her five-year-old, and there are three elements in it that have left her with lunchbox shame:
Kate, from Be Fit Food, tells Be that her two girls are fussy eaters, and one thing she likes to include in their lunchboxes are Cheerios.
“My kids love Cheerios and other parents will say, ‘do you get the no added sugar ones?’ and I’m like no, and then I immediately feel guilty,” Kate says.
She feels this way despite the fact that Cheerios have less sugar than Coco Pops and Nutrigrain, and that she serves them to her kids alongside Greek yogurt.
The same goes for the baked beans - which people have questioned because of their high sugar content – but they are also high in fibre and vitamins, as well as being part of an important food group.
Another lunchbox item Kate twinges over are butter sandwiches.
“One of my daughters will only eat nut spreads like peanut butter, but she can’t have them at her school,” she explains.
“She doesn’t particularly like sandwiches, so if we want her to have one just so she has a sandwich like all the other kids, the only other thing she’ll eat is a butter sandwich or a mayonnaise sandwich.”
While Kate, who is also a Capilano Honey spokesperson, feels guilty about this because her own mum would never have given her a butter sandwich, her daughter will happily eat any kind of bread, so Kate is sure to include a healthy wholegrain one to balance it out.
“Having these beautiful lunchboxes with superfoods in them is all well and good if that’s what your kid actually likes,” Kate says.
“The key thing is making sure the kid will eat what you put in and giving them the best variety that you can within the scope of what they eat.”
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When advising other parents on what to put in a kid’s lunchbox, Kate often uses herself as an example, even though some of her lunchbox choices raise eyebrows.
“I tell [clients] what I put in my kids’ lunch box and they look at me like, ‘oh is the best thing?’, and I’m like, ‘no that’s what my kid will eat’,” she says.
“To me, you put in a lunchbox what you think they’re going to eat, you think about the overall balance at the end of the week or the end of the day.
“The worst thing is giving a kid a lunchbox they’re not going to eat, and they’re going to come home and not have eaten all day.”
Kate, who believes that parents put most of the pressure on themselves, stresses that the lunchbox isn’t the be all and end all of nutrition and that’s it’s important to consider everything the child eats from breakfast to bedtime.
“Any whole foods that they will eat, definitely offer them every day and anything else is really just to top them up,” she recommends.
“In an adult diet, I talk about a 90/10 diet where 90 per cent of the food is really good and 10 per cent is treat food.
“With kids you can push that, but when you’ve got fussy eaters it might end up more like an 80/20, and at the end of the day, the kids are far more active so that isn’t going to be a problem.”
If they’re a fussy eater who won’t touch anything healthy, Kate recommends continually pushing their boundaries and asking them to try new things.
“Keep challenging them with food and never stop trying new things because one day they’ll eat it,” she says, “I tell my kids it’s fine if they try it and don’t want to eat it, but they have to try it.”
Persisting with this, Kate has had success in slowly introducing some healthy whole foods that her kids initially rejected.
She got them eating carrot sticks by dipping them in honey and slowly reducing the amount, while she just kept putting corn on her daughters’ plates until they fell in love with it.