DSC03290I knew it was coming.  My son’s kindergarten class was tackling “Health & Nutrition,” and that meant he would be faced with information that was contrary to what he and I have discussed about healthful eating.  Today was the first day of this new unit and at dinner (lamb chops, mustard turnips, collards and a navel orange) he said:

“So, there’s this triangle of what you are supposed to eat, and at the bottom, which is what you’re supposed to eat the most of, is bread.”

(Every blue moon I will buy a high-quality gluten free bread and serve it to the kids.  But that’s a real treat.  Just so you know his context.)

Me: “Yeah, that’s called the Food Pyramid.  Our government designed that.  What did you think of it?”

Him: “I think bread should go right under sweets, and protein should be at the bottom.”

(I have to confess, my heart sang with joy.  Not because he was parroting what I had told him, but because he had THOUGHT CRITICALLY about the information he was offered.  Nutrition, politics, religion … it doesn’t matter the subject … critical thinking is one of the skills I pray I will help my kids cultivate.)

Me: “Why?”

Him: “Because bread doesn’t do much for you.”


Me: “Here’s how I like to think of it.  I don’t really like the whole ‘food group’ idea.  There are three things called ‘macronutrients’ and they are fat, carbohydrates and protein.  Every body needs all three of those.  But, we can choose to eat these three macronutrients in different ways.  We can make a choice to get our fat, protein and carbohydrates by eating foods that don’t have many micronutrients – those are the vitamins and minerals we talk about – or we can choose to eat foods that do have a lot of those micronutrients.  I try to choose foods that have the most micronutrients I can get.  So, like tonight, we eat these turnips for carbohydrates.  They have lots of good vitamins.  Bread, on the other hand, doesn’t have many nutrients except for what the producers put in them by fortifying them.”

Daughter (4): “They stick them in with a machine?”

Me: “Kind of.  Yes.”

Him: “What do turnips have in them?”

(I trotted over to the computer and pulled up nutritional data on turnips and collards.  We talked about the micronutrients they contained and what they did for the body – A, C, K, Calcium, Iron – and we even talked about fiber for a second.)

He then became entranced with the idea of weaving his collard greens in the tines of the fork, and the conversation ended.  For today.  It’s an ongoing dialogue.

I want to reiterate: I am not trying to brainwash my kids into believing what I believe about nutrition and nourishment.  I want them to think critically about the foods that they choose to put into their bodies.  I ask them all the time about how they feel after eating certain foods.  My husband and I both think it is hugely important that they develop self-awareness about how food fuels and affects their bodies.

I have never feared my kids exposure to nutritional data that opposes my own worldview.  On the contrary, I welcome it because it will spur dialogue like we had today.  And it is in and through that dialogue that they will learn more about who they are and how they feel about food.

If I can get my act together, I’ll get the recipe for the mustard turnips he said were “awesome” in tomorrow’s post.

3 Responses to “A Conversation with My Kids About Nourishment and the Food Pyramid”

  1. on 10 Apr 2013 at 7:56 pmDaphne Frazier

    I really enjoyed reading this article!
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. on 10 Apr 2013 at 10:16 pmKristine Rudolph

    Thanks for reading!

  3. […] Have a great weekend, and I will see you on the other side of it.  (Hopefully with that turnip recipe I promised you!) […]

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