Food Conversations with Kids

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I embarked on a conversation about organic versus non-organic, hormones, antibiotics in the middle of the dairy aisle at the grocery store. She wanted to buy a yogurt that I had previously avoided because it was loaded with sugar and not made with organic milk. As she explained why she wanted to give it a try, I realized I had missed an opportunity to explain why we make certain food decisions in my house. (As an aside, I bought her that brightly colored, cartoon character-endorsed yogurt that day. I'm trying to raise flexible, open minded kids who have a voice in their food and as such, I have to model that.) 

chickens and eggs
cow

It's almost funny to have a conversation that touches on economics, politics, animals and the human body in the midst of grocery shopping but that's life. These moments present themselves at interesting times. At the time, I told my daughter that in our family we think that cows should be able to be cows. Chickens should be able to be chickens. Apples should be able to be apples, even if they aren't perfectly shiny and beautiful on the shelf. Animals and produce don't need anything extra to grow faster, bigger or more beautiful. My daughter was sad; why would a farmer give medicine to an animal that it didn't need? Tough questions. I answered as best I could. At the time, my goal was to let her know that while we would rather avoid antibiotics, hormones and pesticides, we can't do it 100% of the time and that's okay. I don't want my kids to be afraid of what they eat; I want them to be aware and to learn over time to make their own healthy decisions

chicken soup

Fast forward a couple of years. My son has been home this week with a fever that seems to have made itself comfortable here. Yesterday he kept me company in the kitchen as I made him some chicken soup. He saw the organic label on our chicken and said "Mama, why do non-organic animals get sprayed with chemicals?" 

Um, what? 

When it was clear that he thought meat was organic because the animals weren't sprayed with pesticides, I realized I had some explaining to do. Like so many things, it's going to take time. Just as I did with my older daughter a couple of years ago, I tried to convey the concepts of hormones and antibiotics and at the same time, let my little kiddo know that it's okay if we don't consume only organic meat, dairy and produce. Life is about balance and we can only do our best. Surely I should find ways to convey these complexities in a simple way... the topic will come up again when my third kid is a little older. But it's not simple. Feeding a family involves constant decision making, and those decisions may be affected by allergies, money, a change of season, the availability of ingredients or even taste preferences. The myriad of factors that influence why I buy organic strawberries but not organic bananas, and why we can't find organic lamb but we typically buy organic chicken are hard to explain to myself sometimes. It's understandably challenging to explain to my young kids. 

Do you talk to your kids about food choices? If so, how do you convey these topics in an understandable way?