The kids and I had homemade nachos for lunch today, with girl scout cookies for dessert. Later, for an afternoon activity, we made and decorated sugar cookies. And no, I’m not concerned about any of us. As a matter of fact, the kids had ice cream sundaes for lunch yesterday, and I’m still not worried.
The unconventional diet is only partly because we’re in extended survival mode, trudging through the Snowpocalypse, with Hubby away for what feels like the past month. Honestly, we allow wacky deviations like these at baseline.
The reason I’m not worried? I know that if our kids’ diet is represented by a pyramid, then not just the base, but almost the whole pyramid is made up of berries and yogurt, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, macaroni and cheese, sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches, baked pea or lentil puffs, and Cheddar Bunnies. Babygirl is, apparently, vegetarian, as well as finicky… I can safely say that her pyramid is mostly fruit, yogurt, and Cheddar Bunnies.
They’ve never eaten at a fast food chain, and only occasionally get things like hot dogs and fries or pizza. (Actually, Babygirl won’t touch any of those things anyways.) They’ve never had soda; they drink tons of milk. Yes, they get juice boxes in their lunch bags. Neither child has an overwhelming sweet tooth, and they enjoy dark chocolate or Fig Newtons as much as anything else. Kit Kats, MnM’s, and marshmallows have all served as potty-training prizes, but sadly, neither kid is that interested. (I’d let them eat those things all day if it would get either of them 100% potty-trained!) They do love the occasional donut run; we make it something special. The girl scout cookies, hey, we’re supporting our local troop! They’re small, and they’re seasonal. Who can resist a Caramel deLite?
I don’t think there’s much nutritional difference between nachos and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, pasta with butter and parmesan, or cereal and milk. It all breaks down to the same molecules: some carbs, some dairy protein. We try to buy whole grain and organic dairy (today’s nachos were gluten-free quinoa and brown rice chips with organic cheddar cheese), but we’re not sticklers. Lower-sugar juice boxes, free range eggs and whole wheat Goldfish crackers may not be that different from their nutritionally and financially cheaper versions, but we feel a little better.
Hubby and I love to cook, and we let the kids help. Nothing fancy: soups and stews, salads, grilling. With plastic knives, they help chop cucumbers, melon, strawberries, pineapple, whatever. We bake plenty of cookies, brownies, and rice krispies treats, but in all honesty, they seem to enjoy mixing the batter more than eating the final product. (Ergo, our church and my office enjoys a regular supply of homemade sweets!)
The kids also help with shopping for groceries, especially with picking out produce. Babyboy continues to be obsessed with eggplants and peppers, insisting that we buy these every time. He’s never even tasted these things, but no matter. He knows what they are, and sees us eating them. Ten bucks says when he’s older, he’ll try these, and like them, too.
On the ice cream sundaes for lunch yesterday, there is a story there. It was Saturday, and I was solo with the kids. I found out that there were two last-minute openings at my gym’s child care center, and I dragged them there so that I could exercise. It was probably the coldest morning yet, and they were so, so good. I was able to get them dressed, in all of their crazy winter gear, in the car and to the gym within thirty minutes: a minor miracle. I dropped them in the childcare room, noting that the two “sitters” were very young and especially crabby. Still, I said bye and got myself a much-needed workout.
When I picked them up, Babyboy was sitting alone in a corner, quiet and sad. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, so seriously: “Mommy, please don’t leave me here again. I don’t like these teachers.”
The girls said they’d had to put him in time-out for not sharing. I’m sure the time-out was appropriate, but he’s a special kid. It wasn’t fair of me to stick him with people who probably have no training in autism spectrum behaviors. He needs things explained, really spelled out, and he responds best to a kind style of discipline. I felt like a selfish jerk.
Since we then had to go to the local grocery, I told him he could get a special treat, and he said he wanted ice cream. To make it really fun, we bought Hershey’s syrup and whipped cream along with the Brigham’s classic strawberry. Hence, my kids ended up having ice cream sundaes when we got home, and it only made me happy, because they were happy.
I did ask a fellow mom if she thought that was a “bad mommy move”. Probably knowing Babyboy, and that both of our families eat in the similarly basically healthy way, she was fully supportive, and shared that she’d had a hard morning, and so served something “fun bad” to her kids for lunch too.
In the big picture, our kids are normal weight and developing fine. They’re reasonably physically active, even in this endless winter. We’ve gotten them outside to play almost every day, even when there’s been a blizzard or deep freeze (if only for a few minutes). Today, Sunday, the kids and I went out icicle-hunting and built snow forts in the comparatively balmy 36 degree morning. Hubby and I strive to run, ride the spinning bike, or go to the gym whenever we can, hopefully setting an example of prioritizing and enjoying physical activity.
I think we parents can go too far in either direction with our kids’ diets, from stressing about an all organic, plant-dense menu with loads of restricted or banned foods, or, ignoring the whole idea of nutrition and allowing daily intake of sodas, fast foods, and sugars. I really believe that the healthiest approach is somewhere in the middle… As they say, everything in moderation, including moderation.
And sometimes, we all need something “fun bad” for lunch.