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Healthy Eating as a Family: A New Era of Fast Food

June 4, 2015


Our boys would live on air and crackers if given the opportunity.

I don’t know if it’s because the weather is finally nice, and  they don’t want to slow down long enough to feed, or what. I feel like I’m constantly dragging them by their ears back to the dinner table.

“Eat,” I say, trying to be heard above the protests. “It’s vegetable soup! It’s your favorite!”

At the ages of four and seven, however, what was their favorite food yesterday, could not possibly be their favorite food today. And they’re never hungry - NEVER! Until you ask them to do something they don’t want to do. Like go to bed. Or do homework. Then suddenly their hunger is so fierce they get lost for many minutes as they root through the pantry or refrigerator — as if they were secret passageways to freedom from all things boring.

I try not to worry about this too much. I’m guessing if they’re able to run around defying me, this is a strong sign they are not starving to death. Wiley-ness, in my mind, is a sure sign of health.

But as a breast cancer survivor, I can’t help but narrow my eyes in their general direction and plot how to cram every bit of nutrition into them I can. Blueberries may not cure everything, but they and their superfood friends sure can do a lot.

There is a school of thought that we as parents can trick our children by slipping healthy food into not healthy food to keep them on the up and up. But I’m just not that clever, and I don’t have the patience. Baking brownies with spinach? Spaghetti sauce with carrot puree? Holy cow, who has the time?

Instead, we take a straight-forward, honest route. Antioxidants, vitamins, fiber, sugar counts — these are things we regularly discuss with our boys, whether they want to hear it or not. Knowledge is power, right? Nothing like a little logic with your lunch.

I often wonder how much of this they’re really grasping. But then, out of the blue, we’ll be at the grocery store and I’ll spot them reading the labels, and they’ll call out gleefully: “Mom, this cereal only has 9 grams of sugar! We can get it!”

Healthy eating can backfire on you, though. My friend Jamie, who is Korean, and has cooked down-home Korean food for her children every day of their lives, has been known to wish that just once — ONCE — it would be nice if her kids would eat something so simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

Our boys have been known to reject easy chicken nuggets for dinner until we fibbed and told them they were made out of broccoli. Thinking they were broccoli nuggets, they then decided they were good enough to eat. Kids!?!

In fact, their love of broccoli is so deep, it’s one of the only ways I can convince them to come inside from playing. Our dog was almost named broccoli. And this past week, at a school assembly, the kids were asked in a joking way if they loved broccoli, and my child raised his hand, not realizing he was supposed to say, “Ewww...no!” In fact, I secretly curse that dang assembly, because now this week, they no longer like broccoli. They've moved on to cucumbers.

Listen, I’m not gonna pretend we’re  perfect little nutritionists by any means in our house. You’ll find little bags of chips in the cupboard. There’s a nearly-empty pint of ice cream sitting in the freezer as we speak. And we all love these treats, every one of us in the house.

But we’ve also found that our little ones really respond to our very honest explanations of why some foods are awesome and others not so awesome. It’s just a matter of slowing them down long enough to get it in their gullets. 

Tonight, we’re trying a new tactic: as they race past us, we’ll see if we can flick carrots into their open mouths. Maybe this is the new era of “fast food”?

Kristen Geil thumbnailErin Gadd is the director of public relations for the Parma City School District and writes the “Mommy Wars” column for the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. You can connect with her on her blog at erinlgadd.wordpress.com.

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