Image: iStock. By Carrie Saum.
Tonight, my 2.5-year-old is insisted on eating organic coconut oil and Kerrygold butter for dinner. Just fat. Straight. No bread, no noodles, no potatoes to soften the fat blow. I gagged a little in my mouth as handed him a chunk of butter and spooned out another glob of coconut oil.
Listen, this isn’t my idea of a well-balanced dinner, or even an appetising dinner. What person over the age of five wants to eat butter as a meal? But here’s The Thing: I trust my son to know his body at this point. (Watch: Parents reveal their secret favourite child. Post continues after video.)
In his 31 months on this planet, my son has been exposed to a wide variety of foods. He eats veggies and beans and meats and fruits and whole grains. He has been overcoming severe food allergies and aversions for most of his life. He boycotted ALL food except my pumped breast milk for three months. So, if he tells me he wants a stick of butter for dinner, I hand it over to him and TRUST HIM. I trust that his body needs the fat.
I trust that his brain, which is comprised of 60% fat just like mine, needs fuel to make the next developmental leap. And I trust him when he tells me what his body needs because that is the most important thing I can do as a parent: believe him. And here’s an unintended consequence of believing him: I believe myself, too.
For those of you who still might be clutching your proverbial nutritional pearls and decrying the notion of fat being a meal, or (gasp) healthy, I say this: Stop fat-shaming my toddler son. Fat will not make him fat. Fat does not make him unhealthy. Tomorrow, all he will want to eat are green beans and frozen blueberries and string cheese, and I’ll hand them over without another thought.
The day after, he might want frozen waffles and red meat and corn cereal. I will give them to him. Scrutinising every single thing he puts in his mouth helps nobody, and certainly doesn’t help him form a healthy relationship with food.
Food is not the enemy. Fat, in all of its forms, is not our enemy. My thighs, your burger, that scoop of peanut butter on your spoon or handful of sweet potato fries smothered in mayo doesn’t mean a single thing other than they’re all comprised mostly of fat. It is vital to our healthy existence on this planet. (Post continues after this gallery.)
We need to get this through our fat heads because it is important. I look at what he’s eating a week at a time. Not a day, not a meal, not a bite at a time. One week. Then I make adjustments to what I am offering him if he needs me to help him round things out. But guess what? That almost never happens.
I have deep respect for what my son has endured and learned through his tumultuous journey with food. I have deep trust in his ability to read his body and am happy to help him if he needs it. I apply that to my own way of eating as well and it feels damn good to eat and look at my choices as a whole instead of beating myself up over the chocolate I ate yesterday or feeling like a goddess for choosing the salad because I wanted to eat greens because it FELT JUST AS GOOD AS EATING THE CHOCOLATE.
I’m not a hero for eating that salad any more than I’m a terrible mum for letting my child eat his brain’s weight in healthy, saturated fat.
Fat is not our enemy. Food is not our enemy. We are. So let’s lay down our self-righteous forks and accept that there are actually one million ways to nourish our families and ourselves. And pretty much all of them include fat.
Eat up, Buttercup.