Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

Yesterday, I read an article in the newspaper titled "100 Days of Eating Right." In case you don't have time to read the article, here's the summary: A family of 4 in Charlotte decided to get rid of all the junk in their diets, meaning no processed foods. They are only eating "real" food, those that contain only five ingredients or fewer. Oh, and they have a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old. So, the mom is pretty much making everything from scratch, but using no sugar (or maybe just no refined sugar?), no white flour, and are buying nothing like Goldfish or breakfast bars for the kids to snack on. I'm enthralled.

According to the article, the family wasn't so healthy before. They ate white bread (gasp!) and took the kids to Chick Fil A, the article reports. Now the mom goes so far with this that she even makes cookies (without sugar - too refined) for the kids to take to the birthday parties they're invited to.

Reading the article really got me thinking. I will admit that while I have the best intentions when it comes to my kids' health and nutrition, the reality is that they eat a lot more junk than I'd like. And when I say "junk", I'm not talking about cookies or candy. I just mean easy, convenient, ready-to-go foods.

 I am a bit nutty about what I eat, and eat very little junk. We actually do not eat white bread. I eat meat about 2-3 times a week, at most.The kids eat lots of fruit, and a few veggies (although those are fairly limited, and it's getting worse). But they are picky (Ava more than Davis at this point), and I cater to that pickiness a lot more than I like to admit. Davis snacks on Cheerios, Goldfish, and Trader Joe's breakfast bars. Ava has an affinity for those high-fructose corn syrup-laden "fruit" know, the gummy ones that contain no actual fruit? (I no longer purchase these, but they are begged for EVERY time we go to the store).

Back to this issue of pickiness for a moment, and a couple of points I need to make. First, I am certain none of us recall ever being given a choice about what we ate. At least I don't. By the time I was Ava's age (5ish), I know that I was eating dinner with my parents every night (and I would even wait until 7pm!), and I just ate what was put in front of me. And I don't recall there being much that I didn't like. My mom can probably tell you better, but I'm pretty sure the rule was that I needed to try what was on my plate, even if I didn't think I would like it. Now, my own daughter, as you may know, is a teeny bit dramatic. So, if something as disgusting as say, a tomato were to cross her plate, it would be greeted with extreme and visible repulsion. Lots of "EWWW!!" and even some shudders to really get the point across that the vile tomato is not welcome. It really gets under my skin. I mean, please. I have prepared your dinner. Please do not insult the chef. Just taste the damn thing.

I also feel that I have gone wrong somewhere along the way when Ava announces, "I really don't eat any animals. Only nuggets from Chick Fil A and cheeseburgers from McDonalds." We need to work on changing that to, " I eat only grass-fed beef and free range chicken." But, being 5, that's probably not going to happen just yet.

I want my kids to eat what we eat, but our schedules hardly ever work for us to eat as a family, and Ava & Davis eat early. So, they get kid-friendly fare. I'm not happy about it. Really. Tonight, for instance, they had chicken nuggets. Gross. (And if you have ever watched Jamie Oliver show a group of West Virginia school kids how nuggets are make, you will understand why I flinch at the idea of serving nuggets to my kids. if you haven't watched it, here you go:

So, back to the nuggets at my house tonight. Ava ate 3 of them, and to make it worse, I allowed her to dip them in ranch. This was probably Davis' third or fourth time being offered nuggets, and he refused to eat them. In fact, he tasted one, and immediately spit it out. I offered him a bite from my hand, and he very clearly shook his and and said, "NO." Okay. Maybe I should take this as a not-so-subtle hint. And maybe I should stop and ask myself why I am trying to make this toddler acquire a taste for something he never needs to like. Is it just to make dinnertime easier for me? If so, it's time for some rethinking.

So, while I'm not willing to go as far as the family in the article, I do find myself freshly inspired to do right by my kids, and put into their bodies the healthiest foods I can manage. You definitely won't find me forcing my kids to turn down treats at a birthday party - to me, that's just denying one of the great pleasures of childhood. But maybe we can start passing up the free cookie at Harris Teeter. And maybe, just maybe, I'll start making one dinner for the whole family, finicky eaters be damned.

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