Food rules

A t the parent’s orientation of our school in early June, one of the new things we covered was Quezon City’s new ordinance on canteen food.
The Anti-Junk Food and Sugary Drinks Ordinance of 2017 prohibits the selling and promotion of junk food and sugary drinks to students in schools or within 100 meters of the school.
A list from the Quezon City Health department circulated among the parents.
Honestly, I did not know how to react to it. The list contained 49 allowed items, and 37 prohibited ones.
The list of allowed food was oddly specific with items like suman sa ibos and squash maja. The more generic items are followed by a sub-list like “boiled root crops (cassava/kamoteng kahoy, sweet potato/kamote, yam/gabi, taro, arrow root/uraro).”
Meanwhile, in the prohibited column, I read “Deep-fried food (e.g. french fries, shing-a-ling, fishballs, kikiam, tokneneng, squidballs, calamares, chicken skin, banana cue, camote cue, maruya, pilipit, karioka, turon).”
There were also more open-ended items like carbon-based drinks (should be carbonated drinks) and “Any processed fruit/vegetable juice with added sugar of more than 20 grams or 4 teaspoons per serving.”
I’m guessing the list was inspired by food commonly found in Quezon City school canteens. It looked to me, however, as if the writer just tried to cover all the bases by creating a list that very few people would remember. I imagine canteen workers referring to the list every single day to see if their planned menu fits the bill or not.
While I laud this effort and definitely support it, I wonder where our nutritional senses went. If the government feels that canteen workers do not have access to nutritional information, one caveat will suffice for all – “Too much of one thing is bad.”
The prohibited column lists seven types of sweets, six types of breads, six types of cold sweet items. All of these confusing items can be compressed into one rule: All items containing sugar is banned. Some items from the allowed list, like kakanin, will become banned as well.
Most health recommendations say children ages 2 to 18 should not have more than six teaspoons of added sugar daily. What we need to see here is that we and our children do not need any of these added sugars at all.
Furthermore, remember that most of everything we eat nowadays have hidden sugars. Breads and cereals have sugar in them. I recommend to check the nutrition label always. We also consume natural sugars throughout the day, especially those from fruit and honey. These are okay because food that have naturally-occurring sugars typically also contain other essential nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Instead of writing 18 entries for different types of drinks that are not allowed, why not stick with allowing just plain water? Likewise, the guidelines for disallowing high fat, high sodium, low nutritional content, pre-packaged snack food, and so forth can all be subsumed under “No processed food.”
As my children study in Quezon City, our school canteen has to follow the rules. Parents are also encouraged to follow the rules with the baon we make for our children. The main question now is how to include vegetables for finicky children.
Many of the suggestions centered around hiding the vegetables inside the food like omelettes, soups, casseroles. I disagree. Children are smart. As much as you hide the veggies, they will eventually realize it. And once they do, then the move just made the vegetable something “bad” to be hidden.
Instead, how about speaking to your children frankly about the food they eat?
There are only three food rules for my family: 1) try everything, 2) no wasting and 3) bad food is bad.
Bad food refers to junk, processed food. Bad drinks are all drinks that are not water. When they were younger, everything that wasn’t water was bad drink. All unhealthy food choices are bad food. The bad is quite powerful for very young children. I was able to steer them away from candies, chips and processed canned products.
Now that they’re older, they know about the dangers of fats, sodium, sugars but we continue to use the term bad food/ drink. They know that they can avail of these bad items, but also know that if they have had one soda or fruit shake this week, they couldn’t ask for more until next week.
Trying everything means trying food items again and again, not just once. I tell them about how I used to hate wansoy (coriander), but one day in China when I was 37, there was really yummy fried fish on a bed of chopped chilies and wansoy. I wanted to eat the chilies, but could not pick out the tiny wansoy, so I had to eat them anyway. Lo and behold, the combination was so awesome, I am now addicted to wansoy in all its forms.
The key here is that they are willing to try. Achi used to eat all sorts of vegetables with no issues until she turned three. All of a sudden, she would just spit them out. When she turned four, I asked her what she did not like about vegetables. She really could not explain it, but I think she didn’t like the vegetable taste.
The solution? For one meal, I put malunggay in adobo, on top of rice to steam, and fried it with egg. Since the rule was to try out one bite, she did. She liked the adobo and the omelette but not the plain steamed malunggay. We then had a conversation about how leaves do not really have a taste of their own and would just adopt the taste of the sauce. Ever since then, she agreed to eat vegetable leaves.
A few years after, I did ask why she didn’t like stems. I thought she was just picky.
She explained that she does not like sandy textures like beans or stringy vegetables. She apparently likes slimy textures, so she eats okra, eggplant, alugbati leaves, saluyot leaves and even uni (sea urchin). Vegetables that can become mushy like squash, sayote, papaya are also okay for her.
Now that she’s 10 and helps us cook, she gets to try so many more varieties of food. This is another recommendation for picky eaters. Have them help cook. Achi tried bottled pesto and hated it. I suggested that we make our own, so we bought the ingredients and ground them ourselves. She kept tasting the pesto, kept adding cheese and cashews to the basil-oil mixture. We ended up with a really cheesy and nutty pesto that I found quite yucky, but she likes it and we’re all good.
We try a lot of things, and I ask the girls to help me experiment. We often end up with epic fail recipes that we all hate, but we all eat it anyway because of rule No. 2. (Okay, okay, we usually pass it on to their dad). This is my last tip.
When children are involved in the conversation and food preparation, sometimes, not all the time, they will still eat the vegetables and fruits, even if they don’t like it.
My most recent experiment is grilled pineapple with basil and mint. They took one bite each and forced themselves to swallow the bit before making really gruesome faces and said, “We hate pineapple!” The good news is, they asked if I could turn the pineapple and mint into a smoothie instead.
That’s a win in my book.

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