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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

The Chicken Nugget Diet

Our son is like most kids. He loves soccer, being outside, video games, and chicken nuggets. When we first adopted him, I nicknamed him my little chicken nugget because that’s what he liked to eat. At the time, I didn’t think anything about it. Yes, I wanted him to eat healthy but it was after all chicken so it was ok, right? Plus every kid eats nuggets.

As our family has worked to improve our nutrition, through what was going into our pantry and fridge I saw our son start to get picky with what he was wanting to eat. I was reducing the packaged snacks, frozen pizzas and other things he was used to eating and he was really giving us a hard time at meals. He didn’t like this new food. It was technically the same type of meals only improved ingredients and less packaged staples. He questioned why the milk said raw milk now and the peanut butter wasn’t Jif any longer. I had quietly made these changes in the interest of improving our nutrition but it was creating disruption on my child’s plate.

Now his beloved chicken nuggets were coming under scrutiny.

Kids love the standard American kid diet because it taste consistent. A chicken nugget is always the same shape, consistency and taste. When you give them fresh blueberries compared to blueberry gummy snacks, a child will time and again go for the gummies. The taste and texture appeals to them for the consistency and fun shape. Sometimes it’s just easier to give in and let them have the nuggets too. I admit I don’t always have the stamina to try to convince him it is better for him and all the reasons why. Seriously, child just eat something.

I know this is wrong and it only adds to the mom guilt of how I am not qualified for this role. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary

It’s not just our kids though, it’s us too! We have all fallen for this idea that convenience equals easy and good enough.

Is it really though?

The truth is at an early age our children are given these staples of chicken nuggets, Goldfish crackers, and mac-n-cheese. In school lunches they get horrible quality foods that contain even more preservatives, sugar and salt as well as low-fat options that further strip nutrients and vitamins. The entire childhood diet in America is filled with packaged foods, fake flavored drinks and dyed things sold as food. It is not food though. It is nutritionally imbalanced that is causing harm to their growing phase and long term health.

What we are seeing in pediatric health are the ramifications of the convenience we have bestowed in our children’s diet. ADHD, behavior and sleep problems all stem from the diet they are eating. Sugar has been traced as the root cause of the majority of ADHD problems. Meals not eaten as a family with sufficient vegetables, fruits and proteins are influencing manners and relationships. I get the stress, responsibility and guilt of it all and feel it deeply just like every mom.

We have to do better though. We owe it to our children to set the example of good nutrition and what that looks like for ourselves and them.

I believe the reason we are struggling to constantly lose weight stems from this type of eating

behavior we have developed since our own childhoods. It’s what we know so it gets passed on to our children. There’s no shame in it but it is time we owned up to the need to do better by our own health and that of our family.

When it comes to getting our children to kick the nugget habit, that is the battle we are fighting in our own home currently. It is not easy for anyone in our home but we’re continuing to try. It starts with what goes in the grocery cart and being committed to improving our meals prepared at home. There is also the change of what makes a snack in our home. This is the hardest. Before it was so easy to just open the pantry door and grab a package of something. Now, we have to have conversations and sometimes there are tears and frustration… from all of us.

It is hard breaking up with sugar, salt, and most of all convenience. I’ve really had to work to redefine what convenience looks like and means in my family’s health. We as a family have also had to reconnect with real food. The tastes, textures, flavors, colors are different and inconsistent and yet they are what food should taste like. Our family struggled with that change but worked through it with a variety of ways like:

  • Trying different brands

  • Being curious and open minded

  • Shopping the farmer’s markets where we could smell, touch and sample

  • Buying smaller amounts so it didn’t get wasted

  • Being honest about what we liked and didn’t

  • Getting creative with recipes to remake family favorites with improved ingredients

  • Talking about nutrition as a family and what that looks like

  • Eating meals together

  • Preparing and cleaning up the meal together

  • Planting and caring for a family garden

When I hear people say their kids won’t eat something so they don’t bother trying, that used to be me too. However, because we are taking things down a new path, we are doing it as a family. All of us are trying new things and working together to find good nutritional foods that help us. When I used to say my kid wouldn’t eat something or was picky, I knew it was because I too wouldn’t eat something. I wasn’t setting the example, serving it on the table and making it a family meal. In our family, there are not separate meals made for each member of the family. We eat the same thing. If our son chooses not to eat what’s served, he doesn’t eat. Simple.

No it wasn’t easy and there are days I so just want to reach for a frozen pizza and chicken nuggets and be done with it all. I know though that we have made good progress and it is a journey. We will always be in this situation of being surrounded by foods that are not nutritious or fall into old patterns. That doesn’t go away so we will strike that balance where we are mostly eating good nutritionally and leave some room for those other things. Swapping the scale though to let those other things be the exception has been a great improvement in our pantry and meals.

So, yes if you open my freezer you will still find a bag of chicken nuggets.

I don’t believe there is a way to entirely eat organic, high nutrition 100% of the time. We can sure get closer than we are now but it has to be a family effort. We have to talk nutrition with our children and not leave it to the school system. We have to be engaged in the process with our family for defining what that looks like in our homes and building consistency to doing it as much as possible.

These changes, I believe, are what will change the health outlook of our own future and that our of our family. As a mom, that means a lot and gives me hope that lessens the mom guilt and shame of chicken nuggets.

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