Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gimme what?

This post is from my blog. It's been a couple weeks, but I am still laughing about the incident.

Okay, okay. It's a proud mom story. Bear with me, please.

So, we're at this petting zoo, like an educational farm. We go there often. The kiddo gets to walk a lot and see lots of animals and plants that you find on farms, feed baby goats, drive little tractors ... It's fun, actually. Alright, I am a bit too tall for the tractors, but I get to push and make engine noises at least. The baby goats like me.

We're sitting in the garden area, near the vegetables. And, this family comes along, our kids end up sitting next to each other. The mom looks at my kid and holds her hand up in the classic "Gimme Five!" position, but says, get this, "Gimme a McDonald's Happy Meal!"

Blank stares from us both. Clearly the woman is insane, or Happy Meals now cost five bucks. Which is even more insane.

So, she ups the ante, "Gimme a Happy Meal with FRIES!!!"

I finally realize she is serious and talking to my child.

"Uh, she has NO idea what McDonald's is, or a Happy Meal," I said. "She thinks a slice of whole grain bread and edamame are a treat."

It was the other woman's turn to stare at me like I was from another planet. Here, we are surrounded by corn and okra, cabbages and tomatoes, and about twenty other veggies growing in the little farm patch. Surrounded by fresh meat, still on the hoof or claw, and eggs under the chickens in the chicken house.

"Oh," she finally says, "that's nice."

Then they quickly left. In case what we have is contagious, I suppose. I hope it is.

True story. Frightening, huh? No, not me. The Happy Meal lady. If you are not scared, perhaps you should be. According to the article "Rethinking First Foods" by Pamela Paul, published in Time magazine's June issue, French fries are the number one vegetable eaten by toddlers in America. In fact, according to the FITS study cited in the article, by age 12 months 13 percent of toddlers are eating French fries every day. FITS stands for Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study. This study tracked diets of over 3,000 kids.

My child has had fries exactly twice in her life. She actually likes roasted potatoes better, with rosemary and olive oil and shallots. In fact, she eats every vegetable I have ever put in front of her (or, I should say, us) except Brussels sprouts. Who can blame her there?

How is this possible? What is the amazing secret behind this culinary miracle? Are you ready for this? It's not exactly a huge revelation, certainly not the cover material for Parents magazine. No "Ten Easy Ways to Hide Healthy Food in Junk." Nope, nothing that fancy. Okay, here goes: You have to eat your vegetables, too.

Amazed? Astounded? Or disappointed? C'mon, they're good for you. You wouldn't be pushing them on your kid if they weren't, would you? It's that simple.

Think about it. They imitate everything you do. Right now, my little one thinks helping Mommy mop the floor is the most fun thing to do all day. The window of opportunity is open, but not for long. Food preferences are set in children as early as age two. They aren't born with a natural hunger for Happy Meals, either. It may seem like it when it comes to the control games at the table. You go with what works just to get something, anything, into them. It's an easy sell. But you end up selling out your own child.

Want to win the control game? Relax. It's not human nature to starve with food in front of you. You can win by not winning the control game. Turn the table, so to speak. When you place a new food in front of your child, make sure there are other favorites on the plate just in case. Let your child see you enjoying the new food. Let her feed you a bite of the new food first before she has to try it. See? Now, she feels like she is in control. New foods are fun. It may take a few tries to warm up to a new food or texture. If it doesn't work the first time, try it again another day.

The point is to enjoy the time together. Interact. And turn the TV off. You will be setting a lifetime precedent of bonding over the dinner table. It's an ancient art these social units called families used to practice in order to remember who belongs to the family unit.

I know, I know. Life is busy. Fast food is fast. Even stay-at-home moms have a rough time finding a moment to make dinner.

I work, too. By the time I get done at work, through traffic, make the pick up, and get home, I have a hungry child clinging to my hip. I've got fifteen minutes to produce a meal, one-handed and exhausted. And yet, my child has never had fast food.

You can do it. Leftovers are a Godsend. Make extra helpings on the weekends when you do get time to cook. Freeze individual portions. It is possible. Even if it is lunchmeat, frozen veggies, slices of fruit and a half slice of whole grain bread, it's a balanced meal. And tastes better then imitation-chicken-flavored lumps fried in old grease and trans fats. Read the ingredient lists. They are posted online at the food chain web sites.

Once you do, you'll realize maybe I am not the crazy one afterall.


Class said...

My folks (who made sure I didn't taste fruit roll-ups til I was just about old enough to buy them myself) passed your blog my way, and I'm glad that they did.

If you and Jennifer Schmoo ( combined forces, you'd be an unbeatable superhero team! ;)

The Expatriate Chef said...

Thanks for the nice comments. It means a lot to me that people are visiting, and that the posts have some meaning.

David said...

Thank you. This poat has given me a big smile. Again, thank you for sharing.