Sneaky Cheater

WARNING: The next few posts are on a controversial topic.

I’ve blogged about the blond and the brunette before.  Sure, they’re adorable.  But can I tell you a secret?  We have a vegetable problem.  I’m not even going to go into the details of what will forever be known as “The Mushroom Incident of 2012”.  They’re extremely picky eaters.  There I said it.  It’s out there now.  I have a dirty secret – as important as I think food is, they hate it.  Well, they love it if it’s breaded and deep fried and coated in cheese, but if it contains a single nutrient or vegetable – FORGET IT.

That’s not the controversial part.

When I first started living with these little carboholics I thought it would be fairly straightforward to try to incorporate some healthy foods into their diets.  What a fool I was back then.  Anything new or nutritious was met with such anger, angst, stress, and tears that I practically  joined them in these little meltdowns.  My heart was broken.  I tried so hard to get them to enjoy the foods we served.  Treating each meal with renewed optimism and a cheerful attitude got me nowhere.  Dinnertime was a constant battle, the ECBF begging and pleading at first to get them to eat whatever we served, and then, as his resolve tightened, the pleading turned to demanding and commanding them to eat.  Then the inevitable tears, the early  bedtime and the quiet clean up while everybody sulked.

Well that was fun.

So I do what I do when I need to figure something out.  I read a book.  Actually, what’s interesting is that this book started out as a blog, which piqued my interest immediately.  French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon seemed like a great philosophy. I started talking to the ECBF about it, coaxing him to employ the, “they’ll be hungry eventually” philosophy.  The ECBF, unfortunately, is like most single dads, and I think his number one fear is of his children being hungry.  Irrational as it may be – because they do eat junk and some other food and would have found sustenance somewhere – without full cooperation from both cooks in the family, the French Kids philosophy will be a big fat fail.  The book is fantastic.  If I could have gotten support I think we might have been able to get somewhere with it.  That being said, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere fast, and we certainly would have had WAY MORE FIGHTING to look forward to.  I will say this – those boys are sure of themselves.  Well, good for them.

Back to the drawing board.  Ugh.

When this whole food thing started I was (foolishly) of the opinion that as an adult, we could simply say what they should do and they, as children, would do it.  Wrong-o Daddio.  Unless you’ve had a kid who has looked at you with such disgust and turned his nose up at a stem of broccoli on his plate, dug his heels in and started fighting with you about it, you probably don’t realize just how complicated the food/parent/child dynamic can be.  If your kids eat what they’re served, yay for you.  My boys, on the other hand, win every single mealtime.  And I’m no pushover.  They manage to push me over.  That’s when I decided that I was going to win this one, even if it meant cheating with the rules a little bit.

Be warned, here comes the controversial part.

Missy Chase Lapine, or The Sneaky Chef, as she’s known, writes a blog, and has written several books advocating this sneaky, cheater’s approach to feeding healthy food to children.  Why is it controversial?  Because a lot of people (and I mean, A LOT of people) are steadfast in their belief that cheating in this way is cheating children out of the opportunity to learn about healthy choices and nutrition, and setting them up to become bad eaters in the long-run by tricking them into thinking that things that are unhealthy are what comprise our regular diet (and the truth is, they shouldn’t).  Well these Cheater-Haters, as I will refer to them, may not have ever had to deal with the blond and the brunette.

Anyone who knows me has heard me go on and on about nutrition.  I’m a big believer in knowing about what we put into our bodies, understanding the importance of macro- and micro-nutrients and their role in our health and development, and making healthy choices overall when it comes to food.  I want my kids to know those things too.  The fact of the matter is, I explain that stuff to them until I’m blue in the face but it won’t get them to put a piece of celery in their mouths.  Children don’t make logical choices about stuff like that.  My boys don’t make rational or logical choices when it comes to dealing with their hunger.   More importantly, when dinnertime becomes only about the fight we have about whether or not they eat anything, we miss out on so many other important lessons that should happen at dinnertime – socializing as a family, finding out about how our days were, and getting  a sense about them as people through that good communication.  So, in a way, I have prioritized some of what I want my kids to learn, balancing that with their need for nutrients.  As much as I want them to know that the spinach is important for them because it contains iron, sometimes it’s better to just puree the heck out of that spinach, sneak it into the pasta sauce and instead of having the fight about the “slimy green stuff” on the plate, hear about how much the blond is enjoying his soccer team, or whether or not the brunette thinks he likes his science teacher.  I get the Cheater-Hater’s argument,  don’t get me wrong, but I think I know what’s best in this situation and with my kids, and so I’m taking the sneaky approach for right now.

So this is how it shakes out: The Sneaky Chef has a few recipes for nutrient-dense purees and you use one or two of these purees in each of her recipes.  As an example, you puree spinach with blueberry, or carrot with sweet-potato, or cauliflower with zucchini.  Those particular combinations seem to result in a mushy, tasteless substance, that you can incorporate into other things – like pasta sauce, meatballs, smoothies, or mac and cheese.  We still put vegetables on their plate, but we don’t freak out about whether or not they get eaten, simply reiterating how important they are to every meal, meanwhile, satisfying ourselves as parents that the correct amount of nutrients have been consumed in the course of the meal, whether they know it or not.  And the meal goes smoothly.  A win!

Over the course of the next few posts, I’ve taken a break from my baking bent to explore some of our experiences with the Sneaky purees.  I hope you don’t mind.  In the interests of deliciousness, I figured some of you might appreciate this little experiment we’ve undertaken.

Wish me luck.

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