Food wars and why it is so hard to win them

Shunali Khullar Shroff

May 09, 2012

I have just finished baking a batch of blueberry muffins for my older child who is blessed with about 28 sweet teeth in her nine-year-old mouth. Since there is so much emphasis on whole foods these days I have taken extra care to use healthy ingredients such as oatmeal, milk, canned blueberries and organic cane sugar. Sounds gross doesn’t it? But don’t judge me till you have walked in my shoes. We had an episode last week where the child complained of such high intensity stomach cramps that the pediatrician had to be called in to examine and mercifully it wasn’t a case of appendicitis. It was, however, a case of amendicitis, if ever was such a word. My daughter had been officially told to amend her food habits in favour of high fibre foods by the good doctor.

It all started exactly four years ago when kindergarten snack provided by the school was discontinued for first graders. I had a happy face and absolutely no frown lines on my forehead at that time. But arguing about the contents of the school lunchbox and the Indian parliament sessions like scenes that enfolded in my house between my child and me have taken their toll and on some days I think I closely resemble  a Shar Pei dog.

My child feels persecuted because I refuse to give her Maggi, Sunfeast pasta and Oreo cookies in her snack box unlike some mothers from her class. We bargain with each other daily and since I am not one to completely relent, we meet each other “halfway”. Which means that I give her one healthy snack and one smaller snack of her choice along with it as added incentive and she usually brings the healthy snack back home with her. Hence the “halfway”. And hence the stomach cramps.

When we were kids, I cannot remember my mother ever stressing about what to pack for my sister and me in our lunchbox. She had it all worked out on a template and since we were not fussy children we ate almost all of what went to school with us in those boxes. Sandwiches, home made cakes, wraps with veggies inside them and cookies and crisps only when the domestic help went on their annual leaves and their reinforcements had not yet arrived. Bringing back uneaten food was not an option. Freedom to bring back uneaten food home usually came at a price, something I dare not mention here for fear that Amnesty International might chance upon it and decide to have a little word with our mother over this matter belatedly.

We were so busy being obedient kids back then that our mother could have given us a bowl of flaxseed each for lunch for all we cared and we would have eaten it without giving it a second thought. Of course our mother would never stoop that low, or even if she did I am not about to mention it here for she reads my blog now and then when she has nothing better to do.

Ever since I became a mother, I reserve a special kind of rage for fast/packaged food companies that have taken over our world. When kids see Mc Donald ads and signages all over the place, what else are they going to ask for, certainly not broccoli with hung curd dip! All the television channels with no conscience show Maggi noodles ads with a sweet looking self congratulatory mum who surprises her children with bowlfuls of Maggi every day. I can bet my kids fantasize about that mother and wish they could trade me for her. Maybe the husband sneakily indulges in a similar fantasy himself. As if.

Well anyway, the point I am making here is that the current environment does not make it easy for kids to develop healthy food habits. I wish all schools would ban children from bringing junk food and I did not have to look like Cinderella’s stepmother for shoving  healthy snacks down my older daughter’s fussy throat. I don’t mind the Oreo’s or Lays once in a way but I am not giving into junk on a daily basis.

I know somebody who has raised her children on raw broccoli, vegetable smoothies, organic high-fibre bread, no milk, no processed sugar and only organic whole foods. Her kids eat those foods with such joy that I have stopped feeling sorry for them. This organic mommy never introduced her kids to cooked or junk food. They got used to and developed a taste for whatever was introduced to them in the early years.

I would not have any such luck however had I had walked down the same path as this ‘Wonder mom’  for I could not get my kids to like green veggies just as I could not get my dog to take to dog food. We have a special meal cooked  for him daily because he would not have it any other way.

And so it is, that the food wars will continue, till they have children of their own. I mean the kids, not the dog. The dog can’t have children of his own as he had to be ‘fixed’. And no, he wasn’t being punished for being fussy.