A while ago, before I gave birth and hung a “Closed” sign on my stove, a dear friend gave me some good advice on how to cook for small children:
“Just take a plate, put a serving of food that you’ve spent time cooking on the plate, then dump the food in the trash. Same waste of food. Less fight.”
She’s absolutely correct. At least three nights a week, I would spend about an hour and a half preparing and cooking a reasonably nutritious meal for my children. At least three nights a week, we sat down at the dining room table together and “ate” that meal. And at least three nights a week, I would scrape the food they’ve moved around their plate, or poured milk all over, or turned into Mr. and Mrs. Noodle, into the trash. Why I didn’t just take two serving spoons’ worth of whatever I’d cooked and just put it in the trash can first, I have no idea.
I worry about my kids’ nutrition. Maybe because I myself am not the most nutritious eater in the entire world. I am a notoriously picky eater. Until my mid-twenties, I could honestly say that I could count the amount of vegetables I would consider eating on one hand. I didn’t eat fruit. I didn’t eat vegetables. As Adam Carolla would say, I was stuck in The Yummy Phase (and still am, to a certain extent). I’ve made great strides in the last few years, incorporating more whole grains and vegetables into my diet, but I’m still far from being able to confidently say I’m a healthy eater. I still don’t really partake in fruits very much, but I eat far more vegetables that are actually worth eating than before. I try to fill in the nutritional gaps with juice and other alternative sources of vitamins.
I always just assumed that when I was pregnant, that’s when I would start eating healthy. As it turns out, pregnancy is the absolute worst time of your life to try to force yourself to eat something that you’ve convinced yourself for over twenty years that you don’t like (despite the fact that you’ve never actually tried the food in question). Weird, right? Then, when I had kids, I realized that I needed to feed these kids, and, furthermore, it should probably be something worthwhile. I learned more and more about nutrition, what to feed kids and when, how to introduce foods, etc. etc.
For quite a while, it seemed that everything was running smoothly. Phaedra ate any kind of vegetable (except green beans) and fruit (except cantaloupe) you put in front of her tiny little body. She’d even given chicken and fish the green light. Success!! Me, a terrible eater, had miraculously raised a good eater!! I AM AWESOME!!! CHECK ME OUT, Y’ALL!!!
That lasted for about a year. Just long enough for her to somehow acquire a mind of her own, and the ability to make decisions purely based on spite and color. So, in essence, she turned into a sixteen-year-old girl overnight. Meaning anything that was green and/or not fried or made of cheese, pasta, or breadwas off her menu. Most fruit was also still acceptable, thankfully. She’d do baffling shit like eat broccoli one week, then next week declare that she hates broccoli, and has never eaten broccoli.
Then Bella came along. Finally, a kid who will eat normally, right? No. Laughable, man. Bella is apparently following her own personal diet regime, which shuns fruits and vegetables but wholly embraces any and all kinds of meat. Last week I gave her a piece of bacon, and when returned for a second piece and found that it was all gone, she cried. Over bacon. Part of me wants to praise her for being smart enough to know how magically delicious bacon is, and part of me is crying for her forty-year-old clogged arteries. However, she has expanded her eating horizons to include grapes and apples, so that’s good news.
I guess in the end, there’s really no point in arguing with them about food. As the old saying goes, you can lead a child to a healthy, delicious meal, but you can’t hold them down and shove it down their stupid throats while you yell, “IT’S GOOD! WHY WOULD I FEED YOU SOMETHING DISGUSTING? JUST EAT IT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” I’ve seen way too many episodes of Intervention and Heavy to know that nothing good can come of waging war with your daughters over food. Better to just provide healthy options, limit the junk food as much as humanly possible, and hope that eventually the choices they make will be smart ones. Because right now? I am finding it extremely difficult to believe that eating cold macaroni and cheese three times a day, topped off with a late-night snack of mini pancakes and whipped cream are food choices that does a body good.