I am doing my best – this is my mantra. Like most parents I feel the daily dose of guilt – am I playing with My Food Baby enough, is she stimulated enough, having enough fun, cuddles, love, is she warm enough, is she too warm, is she tired, should I leave her to cry, should I comfort her? Argh! It seems like a day with a baby is chockfull of opportunities for parental guilt, and meal times are no exception. One of the wonderful things we can give our children is a healthy start in life and a balanced nutritious diet is vital. I know that when it comes to food, what is healthy is certainly debatable. Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian or anything in between, people have a wide range of views and I don’t know enough about them, or have the inclination, to debate their various merits.
In our house Mr. Food Baby is your true blue meat and three veg Aussie, I eat everything except meat (so I do eat fish/seafood), and Miss Toddler and My Food Baby eat everything. I like to think I eat (and cook) relatively healthy food, I don’t like to eat too much unhealthy stuff myself as it leaves me feeling crappy, but that’s not to say that I don’t love pizza, (hot) chips and chocolate, and not necessarily in moderation! I just prefer to eat them cooked in a particular way or from certain places. Mr. Food Baby would happily eat pizza 8 nights a week – haha! So it is down to me to make sure we don’t……
I have my own views on the type of food I prefer to buy, and this is where I get into my “I’m doing my best” mantra – we are a family of 4 on a single income, and so all organic is, for us, not a practical reality. If I had unlimited time (inclination) and money I would buy all organic and cook every single thing from scratch – but I don’t have or do either. I do the majority of my shopping at Aldi, I find that I can buy the most fresh food, and do the best cooking by spending my dollars there. Where there are organic options I buy them, where there aren’t I try not to panic.
I say I try not to panic, but it doesn’t stop me worrying, agonising over whether I am doing my daughter serious harm in giving her non-organic strawberries. She LOVES strawberries, if you follow @myfoodbabyblog on Instagram, you will see she regularly has a strawberry in one hand with whatever else she is eating in the other. I have read that strawberries are one of the deadly dozen – ok so in all fairness I think it is actually dirty dozen but my guilty mummy brain reads, thinks, remember, agonizes over deadly! The dirty dozen are 12 fruits and veggies that have the largest amount of pesticides and chemical associated with their production. So this is my predicament – I currently don’t have access to organic strawberries – I feed My Food Baby lots of strawberries – am I a terrible person? Am I doing serious damage to my daughter? Or will she be completely fine? I am sure that there are people that will tell me that I am doing as much damage as putting bleach in her sippy cup and this scares me a little, but then I never had organic strawberries and I have all the right numbers of eyes, fingers, toes etc, and am a relatively healthy person, so for now I will continue with my deadly strawberries, and live with the gut twisting guilt when it washes over me.
When it comes to buying chicken and eggs I would never buy a product that wasn’t free range and when I buy something that contains egg, such a mayonnaise, I make sure the ingredients state free-range egg. I know that people will say that free range is not good enough, or it can be manipulated etc, but this is the best I can do, and I am strict on it. If “farm fresh” is the only option, then they don’t get into the trolley (or more usually, underneath the pram) and we go without. When it comes to meat, I buy the best available option, outdoor reared, free range, organic, that is within my budget. I am a big one for buying when things are on special offer, or when they are reduced and I will change that night’s meal to fit that in if it doesn’t affect whatever else is due to be cooked or go out of date at home.
I try to avoid processed meats, but then I do waver on this as I have started buying turkey breast slices for My Food Baby and her daddy’s lunches. I am torn on these. On the one hand they are probably not very high welfare, so this concerns me, and they are processed so they are somewhat unnatural, but on the other hand, they are a lean protein so they fall into the healthy (depending on your stand) category, they are easy and affordable and together these three positives override my doubt, but don’t assuage my guilt. Again, argh!
I buy, what I consider to be, very little processed food, but my condiment shelf would probably disagree. I take the point of view that for example tomato sauce / ketchup is fine, you know what you’re getting and you use it accordingly, but with jars of sauces like pasta sauce, all the hidden salt, sugar and whatever other crap goes into it can be a bit of a trick – you see the picture on the front with lovely tomatoes and other nice veggies and you think it’s lovely and healthy, but sometimes you’d be better of mixing a snickers bar into your spaghetti. However that is not to say that in a pinch I would never ever buy a jar of pasta sauce – it’s unlikely, but it is conceivable. Baked beans is another contentious one for me, I am a big fan – must be the British in me! But I worry about all the salt and sugar in them for baby, I know they have the salt/sugar reduced ones but the levels were still significantly high for me to feel that the ridiculous price of them was not worth the miniscule benefit….I plan to make my own, apparently it’s really easy, but as with so many things I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Last weekend I gave My Food Baby a teaspoon’s worth of regular full salt, full sugar Heinz baked beans when we had a yummy Sunday breakfast with eggs and mushrooms and hash browns. I’m not sure if she actually ate any, or if they went on her clothes, the floor, or in the dog, but I gave them to her. I felt bad, and guilty and ok about it at all at the same time. I don’t put any salt in my cooking, I avoid anything that could have a high salt content, like soy or fish sauce, and so I think, and hope that the odd time she gets something like a small amount of regular baked beans she will survive and her kidneys won’t shrivel up like raisins.
I think feeding My Food Baby is an excellent metaphor for how I feel about bringing her up in general. I am naturally a highly anxious person who is regularly engulfed by guilt, for real or imagined mothering transgressions. I am very lucky that Mr. Food Baby regularly tells me that he thinks I am a wonderful mother, which means the world to me, and helps soothe my anxious mind. I try to do the very best I can to be a giving, warm, engaging and loving mother, I want to ensure my daughter is safe, happy and learning. I do my very best, most of the time, with the resources I have available – sometimes, most of the time this means good fresh food, cooked from scratch sourced from the best possible origin, and sometimes toast is a perfectly acceptable meal. To all of the mummies and daddies out there, raising babies, doing the best you can, trying not to drown in a sea of self-doubt and guilt, remember you are doing a wonderful job and you’re not alone!