founders' perspectives part 1: parenting & food

founders' perspectives part 1: parenting & food

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We’re taking zing back to its roots with our new founders' perspective series! Over the next few months, we’ll be soliciting perspectives of our founders as part of our new ongoing Q&A series. We’re so excited to share more about where they are now and what they’ve learned since the beginning of their time with us here at zing. Today we’re happy to introduce Sandi Kaplan as our featured blogger.

How has being a parent shifted your perspective on food, how do you manage young kids and the constant sugar availability?

Oh my, parenting is such a humbling experience in so many ways. My husband and I had many strong ideas about how ‘purely’ we were going to feed our kids - a dietitian marries a naturopathic physician and that’s what happens. In fact, at our oldest child’s first birthday party, we put a candle in a banana because there was absolutely no way we were willing to feed him cake!

Over time, we learned more and our perspectives evolved. We read a lot of Ellyn Satter’s work and her approach shaped much of our thinking. We also watched other children at events like birthday parties and noticed that the kids who were never given treats by their parents, were often the ones hiding under the table or in the corner eating as much dessert as they could get their hands on. 

Our guiding principle became that we wanted our kids to have a positive and  joyful relationship with food and their bodies. So part of our job as parents was to model exactly that with our own behavior.
Our kids are teenagers now and we’ve had many conversations with them over the years about food and physical activity, and how those impact how our bodies and minds feel. Our job as parents has been to provide a  variety of food choices and our kids’ job is to decide what and how much to eat. Each kid has, at some point, had an experience of eating too much pizza or candy or ice cream and feeling sick. That’s an entirely normal part of figuring out portion regulation for oneself. They’ve had the experience of spending too much time in front of a screen and feeling lethargic, or shooting hoops in the backyard and feeling energized. As parents, we share how we’re feeling because we occasionally overeat or have a day or two of being too sedentary as well.
We are blessed to have a fridge and a pantry full of healthy foods, and we always have dessert in the house too. We have had years where we have grown veggies together and years where we have shopped for veggies instead. We have a kid who loves cooking and baking, and a kid who enjoys it less. We have helped each kid to find ways to move their bodies in ways that feel joyful for them - and we’ve done the same for ourselves. 
We’ve had to chat to a couple of extended family members who would talk a lot about their weight and their food choices in front of the kids. They understand that our family conversation doesn’t include phrases like “Oh I shouldn’t eat this” or “I’m going to be bad today and eat that” and they’ve been very respectful of our requests to not talk about food or bodies in disparaging or negative ways. Our kids understand that a less than healthy food choice or a number on a scale has no moral value. 
When the kids were younger, we’d be the ones to balance out the class party with a yummy fruit and veggie platter, and we still help our kids pack healthy lunches and snacks for school. But, if we’ve baked cheesecake, they’ll have a slice of that in their lunch too. They’ve figured out beautifully how to eat when they’re hungry and stop eating when they’re full almost all of the time. And most importantly, they feel empowered to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves (and those sometimes include brownies).