Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Getting Kids to Eat Vegetables Or "How My Son Became a Tomato"

This post was originally written last May and posted on my other blog.   I just saw another blog post about the topic the other day though, and it made me think of this.  Lenny is, naturally a little older now and might not actually have a meltdown over being prevented from eating tomatoes.  Maybe.

I was just reading an article online about how to influence your child toward good eating habits.  Most of the tips involved actually exposing children to a variety of good quality produce.  At that exact moment Lenny was eating cherry tomatoes and a tortilla with ham and veggie cream cheese for lunch.  Mostly the tomatoes, though.  The container I bought new yesterday now has three tomatoes in it.  Half the tortilla was gone.  Finally I told him he couldn't eat any more tomatoes.  I snapped the container shut and put it in the fridge.  By the time I got back he was crying uncontrollably.  I explained that if he just eats fruits and veggies and doesn't eat other food he won't grow up to be big and strong.

It's not that he doesn't enjoy some junk food as much as the next kid.  Chocolate ice cream and pizza are at the top of his list.  But last summer when we were getting lots of amazing veggies from our "Community Supported Agriculture" farm he would rate food on whether or not it was "better than pizza."  Potato soup - with a variety of additions or just onions, potatoes, milk and salt - was high on his list. Pretty high on mine too because it was easy and used up some produce we had tons of most of the time.

Today he was upset because it was cloudy.  I told him that I don't have control over that and he said he wished I was God.  He said then I could make it so that he could have chocolate ice cream and go in the pool every day.  I didn't go into the theology behind that one.  Sometimes you really just have to let an idea ride.

Another idea in the article was to eat healthy as a parent.  I have been accused of being a healthy eater, but I think that it's more a case of being acutely aware of how food affects how I feel and eating accordingly.  When I really started having trouble with fatigue a doctor suggested I do an elimination diet and as a result I stopped eating wheat, corn, soy, non-organic eggs, most nuts and some other odds and ends I'm probably forgetting.  I stick to these "restrictions" pretty religiously because I hate to have migraines and some of the other symptoms that eating the foods above give me.  I also avoid most red meat because I don't like the cramps I get if I eat them.  So I cook a lot of foods from scratch and eat a lot of foods found in the the "health food" section. 

We had tons of "greens" last summer.  I like them best cooked and put them in soups and stews as well as sauteing them with onions.  It got to the point that when we had a meal without them Lenny asked "Where's the green stuff?"

My avoidance of wheat does not translate to a gluten allergy or intollerance.  I sometimes make my own home-made pizza, but since I don't eat yeast the crust doesn't really compare with store bought.  Lenny didn't like it as well as the frozen kind.  I haven't made it for a while as a result.  He recently suggested I try it again since his tastes might have changed.

Beats were another big winner from the CSA.  Actually they've been popular every year that Lenny was eating solid food.  I think if you look back you will find pictures on the blog of him covered in them.  Thankfully now he can eat them without so much mess, but last summer it was till wise to remove clothing that wasn't purple or dark colored.

So to make it a little more general, I would suggest the following:
  • Eat food you love - hopefully with veggies included.  We love curry.  Easy way to sell all kinds of veggies.  Stir fry, soups and stews, even tossing them into a creamy pasta dish are other ways of including veggies in foods you love.
  • Have the best quality produce you can afford.  Doing a CSA means that we have tons of great quality stuff in the summer.  But in winter we use frozen cooked veggies and bagged salad.  We do what we can afford and what works.
  • Serve raw veggies salad bar style.  That way everyone can pick the ones they like best and those who live in mortal fear of foods touching each other don't get stressed out.
  • Foods not touching is a stage.  Most people outgrow it.  I don't think it's worth fighting.  We didn't get any of those handy plates with dividers, we just pulled out multiple small plates to make sure foods didn't contaminate each other.
  • Don't worry about making every meal a nutritional powerhouse.  Personally, I just don't sweat it if supper one night is just frozen pizza.  Chances are there was salad at lunch or will be apple sauce for snack.  
  • At our house everyone has to at least try everything at a meal.  But if I know that something isn't a big hit I will take it off rotation for a while.  Food that is too spicy is an exception.
  • But don't give up on a food just because it didn't go over well the first time.  Tastes do change and sometimes it just takes a while to get used to something.
  • Get kids involved.  I know.  Sometimes easier said than done.  Lenny loves to help wash greens.  He's always up for helping with baking.  And if he doesn't get to help set the table he feels he's been cheated.  
  • Always remember:  different people like different things.  Some kids will be harder to teach good eating habits than others.  Some are more sensitive to texture or strong flavor.  Food is just another area where we do the best we can and try not to beat ourselves up when it doesn't look like some pie-in-the-sky ideal.

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