Earlier this week, I led a workshop for busy parents about how to get fresh meals on the table fast. It was a lively evening, with parents sharing recipe ideas and strategies for managing mealtimes in households with lots of stressors and many moving parts. I presented information from my own experience as a mother and as a food industry professional, two hats I wear simultaneously.
And towards the end, as we were wrapping up, one parent raised her hand. We're indundated, she said, with all this information about what we should be doing to raise healthy, strong, well-adjusted children, and it's a lot to keep track of. How can we possibly do it all? Especially when the studies, and the science, and the research about food and nutrition seems to change by the hour?
I'm paraphrasing, but I was moved when she became emotional, because I remember what it's like. What it's like to have preschoolers, with their young bodies and delicate immune systems, what it's like to feed picky eaters and also prepare something palatable for yourself at the end of a long day. Those years are challenging, and it doesn't help when you're bombarded with media messaging 24/7:
Boost Your Child's Omega-3's! (OK, but how? am I supposed to give them supplements? feed them fish? but what about mercury? do fish sticks count?)
Avoid BPA! (OK fine, but are other plastics better? less dangerous? or have they simply not been studied? what about metal cans? can I not use those either?)
Ensure Adequate Vitamin D! (OK, but aren't I supposed to sunscreen my kids when they play outside?)
Feed Them More Fruits and Vegetables! (OK, but if I can't afford organic fruit, am I harming them with pesticide-sprayed produce? which is better, local or organic?)
Give Kids Milk! (OK, but what about chocolate milk? is it good, or is bad? what about the sugar, and obesity?)
And then today, just today, I saw this from the BBC: "Relying purely on breastfeeding for the first six months might not be best for babies, experts in the UK have warned."
What? Come again? Can you imagine how many new mothers are going to read that and rethink their commitment to longer-term nursing? Is that headline informative, or inflammatory and irresponsible?
And so, as the workshop wrapped up, and the woman's voice broke, I said to her what I say to myself, every time there's a choice to be made and the path isn't clear: consider the information, then pick the bits you can handle, and ignore the rest. It is too much. And we parents must simply plow forward, making the best decisions we can and trying not to beat ourselves up if we don't follow all the advice, all the time.
Research around food is never-ending, and it changes. It's political, and imperfect.
Do the best you can.
And ignore the rest.
My 2011 food trends list has just been syndicated by BlogHer.