Advice on Feeding Our Children and a Book Review: Green Mama by Manda Aufochs Gillespie

Today’s post is a bit different than my normal Thursday book review because I’m gearing up to participate in OXO Tot #FirstBites. I had recently started a post about feeding our children when I was sent this book for review. A lot of the author's thoughts line up with the way I feel about childhood nutrition. Even though today’s book talks about green living and not just nutrition I’ve decided to combine the two posts. I know I’m being a bit long-winded today, but I hope you’ll stick with me to the end because this is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about. As part of OXO Tot #FirstBites I’ll be sharing several recipes of my own for home made baby food, including some fun summertime treats, so keep your eyes peeled for those over the next few days.

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Did you know that childhood obesity rates have doubled in the past 30 years? This was something I wasn’t particularly aware of before my son was born, but once I discovered this alarming trend I knew it was time for some serious changes in our household. We decided to make slow changes to our diet and go on from there because we knew that our child would follow the examples we set. If we couldn’t even show him how to eat nutritiously, then how could we expect him to ever learn what good nutrition was? As Manda Aufochs Gillespie, author of Green Mama, mentions in her book, “whether you start big or start small, just start!” The hardest part was knowing where to start, because when it comes to nutrition, especially childhood nutrition, there is a lot of conflicting advice. 

Doctors have a rather shocking lack of nutritional education, I often found myself butting heads with my doctor over the guidelines I was given for feeding my son. I disagree with them as well as the latest food pyramid, in my opinion they’re setting us up for a life of obesity. As you can tell, I’m very opinionated about this and it’s something I’ll likely be talking more about over the next few days. I will say that the best advice I was given, which is also touched upon in this book, is to look back at previous generations who were green by default. They made their food from scratch, often from gardens grown themselves; there were no corner stores, pre-packaged food, or fast food restaurants to worry about. 

Modern generations have become accustomed to these types of conveniences, but these conveniences aren’t necessarily doing our health a lot of good. They’re especially affecting our children and we need to speak up and let restaurants and manufacturers know that we demand better. Change often comes slowly, but it starts with us and what we allow our children to eat. By not purchasing unhealthy foods we’re sending a message to the manufacturers that we want something different, but sending them an email doesn’t hurt either! As parents we need to remember that we are the ones in charge of what our children eat, they may want the sugar coated cereal with the cartoon character on the box, but we have to be strong and tell them it isn’t nutritious for them. As the author points out in her book we shouldn’t “give in to the temptation of biscuits, bars, or crackers in lieu of real food. Whether you are trying to buy a few minutes of peace while you run an errand, are worried that he must be starving because he hardly ate dinner, or are just reaching for an easy snack, these quick fixes can turn into a serious junk food habit. If children know that a processed, and often sugary, substitute is likely, they will figure out a way to get it.”

I couldn’t agree more! 

It's blindingly obvious that we all need to make a concerned effort to foster not just a love of food, but a love of HEALTHY food in our children. However, many of us struggle with this because manufacturers have played a large roll in telling us what is healthy. It’s time we stop listening to them. We need to ignore the labels that tell us we’ll meet our recommended daily intake of such-and-such vitamin if we eat their processed food and start getting our nutrition from real food. It’s only within the last few generations that we’ve begun to eat processed foods and the manufacturers have a huge advertising budget they use to turn our eyes to their product. 

It isn’t just the food we eat that we need to be concerned about, baby food is more processed than ever before. If you haven’t been down the baby food isle recently, it may shock you to see how many processed snacks now line the shelves. These pre-packaged foods are full of added sugar and preservatives, so now more than ever it’s important to read the labels to see what your child will be consuming. If you haven’t yet decided to make the switch to home made baby food I’ll give you a suggestion that I hope you follow: go buy a jar of baby food, open it, eat some of it. Now ask yourself if it even remotely tastes like what the label claims it to be. We played a guessing game at my baby shower were we tasted the food and tried to identify what was in the jar; hardly anyone was able to identify the foods because they taste nothing like real food. It was a real eye opener for me and helped fuel my determination to feed my son home made food. If you’re looking to bypass feeding your child processed baby food this book has plenty of suggestions for first foods as well as tips to ensure you child eats a healthy, balanced diet. There are also tips to improve your diet so that if you choose to breastfeed you are passing on the most nutrition possible to your child.

While I’ve spoken mostly of nutrition in this review it is actually a small part of what Green Mama offers. You’ll find information on improving air-quality, limiting toxic chemicals, making your ownDIY green cleaning products,and a whole host of other helpful tips. There are also lengthy discussions on nursing and while the book mentions “breast is best” the author doesn’t shame you into thinking you’ll fail your child if you are unable to breastfeed. This is something that I really commend her on. Many of the other references I’ve consulted over the years made me feel that way, even though I knew I was acting in his best interest by choosing not to breastfeed. The medication I take everyday for my epilepsy causes a whole host of problems in children. Unfortunately many other resources don’t look at the whole picture before taking their stance, this book does and I find it incredibly refreshing. This book also recognizes that not everyone can afford to be green all the time. There are sidebars titled When Money Matters More filled with ways to make more green choices without breaking the bank and many helpful tips to be green in smaller ways.

Before I end my review I’ll leave you with one last bit of important advice I found in this book. “Green doesn’t necessarily have to mean ‘more expensive,’ although it can mean spending more on one type of item (like food) and less on another (like toys).” I think this is advice that everyone, not just new parents, should take to heart. If we make a conscious decision to cut out some of the less important items in our life we can take those savings and apply them where they really matter and where they will make the most difference in our lives and the lives of our children. Small actions can make a big difference, we just need to take the first step.

Where to Purchase

Disclosure

This book was sent to me for review by Dundurn Press through NetGalley. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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