If the adage “you are what you eat” was true, by son would be a berry. Not just any berry, a blueberry to be precise. It is not uncommon for me to find my silly little toddler on a step stool raiding my refrigerator drawers for the last of the blueberries (mind you, I purchase at least a pint of them a week). It is also not uncommon for me to find every piece of clothing he owns stained in purple berry juice. For those of you reading who feel my pain, getting berry juice stains off of shirts is like trying to get red wine off of your favorite blouse – you win some, you lose some.
Despite my toddler’s penchant for berries, I was very concerned for a long time about his addiction to them. I was not afraid of the antioxidants nor were there concerns with the sugar levels in the fruit. My fears are deeper. You see, berries are among “the dirty dozen” foods that can be pesticide offenders. Like most fruits, they can be laden with bacteria from farming or being touched by human hands. Even organic varieties, I learned during my time as a food safety advocate, were not safe.
But he loves them so much. I knew, as a mom, to deny my son his favorite (and healthy!) treat was ridiculous.
So, I did what most other mothers do, I taught my son how to protect himself. I taught him about food safety. The lesson was simple, even his three-year old mind understood dirty fruit is yucky fruit. And what do we do with dirty fruit? We wash it and dry it with a paper towel. Over the course of a few months, I no longer had to ask my son if he washed his berries. It became routine. My anxiety of him accidently eating contaminated fruit dwindled. He no longer grabs and tries to eat berries off of a tree or in the supermarket because he knows they need to be washed first.
We found our happy medium.
Can we protect our children from everything bad in the world? No. But by teaching him early on about food, and how we can keep ourselves healthy, I can rest a little easier at night. To me, there is no greater love to be shown to your children than by allowing them the ability to be independent, and eat as many berries for breakfast as they want.