At lunch today, Caleb seemed to have a carbohydrate craving. He wanted peanut butter and jelly but not the quesadilla I was making for Ellie. Then he saw the tortillas and wanted those PLUS his PB&J. I denied him the tortilla.
His PB&J would be on a cinnamon raisin bagel, so I figured that was more than enough carbohydrate and processed food for one meal. I loaded up his plate with some favorite veggies (or fruit, depending on your definitions) and the argument was dropped.
As he expressed his enjoyment of the lunch, I asked him if he knew why I cared so much about what he ate. No, of course he didn't know, though he suggested that I was keeping him safe. I agreed that I was keeping him safe and reminded him that some foods are "growing foods" while others are not. He gave me examples of growing foods like the vegetables on his plate and the cherries he ate for a snack earlier. He then included his bagel sandwich in his list of growing foods, and I paused in my agreement.
Where is the line between growing food and junk or treat food? I started with the PB&J minus the bagel and decided those were real foods. Caleb remembered my making the strawberry freezer jam, and the PB has one ingredient - dry roasted peanuts. Caleb thought it was hilarious that one could make peanut butter from mashing up dry roasted peanuts. I think we will have to try this sometime. But what about the bagel? His bagel comes from a local bakery, so it is not mass produced. If it were mass produced, then the bagel could have all sorts of not so real stuff in it. For example, Lender's brand plain bagels contain:
Enriched Flour [Unbleached Wheat Flour, Malted Barley, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid (Folate)Ascorbic Acid (Dough Conditioner)Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Yeast, Cornmeal.
Just to show that it's not just Lender's bagels, here is the ingredient list for Thomas' plain bagels:
Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour [Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid]Water, Modified Food Starch, Oat Fiber, Wheat Gluten, Inulin, Polydextrose, Yeast, Cornmeal, Salt, Dextrose, Natural Flavor, Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid)Grain Vinegar, Monoglycerides, Guar Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Citric Acid, Sucralose, Soy Flour.
BUT Caleb is not eating a mass-produced bagel. He is eating a magnificent Rosenfeld's cinnamon-raisin bagel. I would have preferred giving him a plain or sesame, but we had no such bagel. So is his bagel real food? I decided it was real food, but that it is a more processed food than even the peanut butter and jelly. As we talked through this, I realized I have another thought about how I want my family (all of us) to eat.
I want us to eat more foods which are less processed and to eat fewer foods which are more processed. I don't think it is reasonable for our family at this time to say "no processed foods at all." I do think it is reasonable to eat smaller quantities of processed foods and to eat larger quantities of less processed/whole foods. I think real foods will end up being more satisfying and filling, and that we will be giving our bodies what they actually need rather the junk they claim to crave.