Pop-Tarts Poison Your Soul
Does the saying "you are what you eat" ever make you worry—even just a little bit? Share your healthy eating tips for families on the go.
Before you judge me, please know that I love my children. More often than I am proud to admit, I feed my children macaroni and cheese, veggies in honey and salt (or a dash of maple syrup) and cold cereal in milk.
The worst part? I secretly crave Pop-Tarts—any flavor, any color—at night, and when my kids wander into the kitchen to find me stuffing an artificially blue, high-fructose corn syrup-laden pastry into my mouth from my hidden stash, I feel morally obligated to give them some of it. They deserve at least half of a tart because "do as I say, not as I do" is so ineffective.
On long road trips, we sometimes stop at McDonald's for cheeseburgers. I try to steer them toward the grilled chicken or filet-o-fish, because I know that if I took that toxic cheeseburger and set it on my front porch for a year, not mold nor bacteria, and probably not even a wandering squirrel, would consume it. Why on earth would we ever let our children eat one? Well, it was a huge mistake: that darn cheeseburger is now some sort of taboo, addictive drug. I at least draw the line at soda pop. They get ice water.
I'm not the perfect culinary mom, and this ineptitude causes much guilt. It is my responsibility to try harder to teach my children healthy eating habits. Why such a fuss? For Americans, obesity is now an epidemic. More than than 30 percent of Missourians and nearly 20 percent of children are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Somehow, we need to steer our society back toward basic, unprocessed foods. That is why the Seed-to-Table program at the Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center is so vital and so visionary. It teaches children where whole food comes from, and teaches children how to prepare healthy meals. Here are some of the healthier things I've learned while feeding children (please share your insights, too):
- Baked beans are sugary, but oh so tasty. Drain off that weird thick sauce, mix them 50:50 with plain pinto beans—they're a good protein substitute for meat.
- Boiled eggs are fun: kids eat the white (high protein), but hate the yolk (high cholesterol), which are mushy but roll well on hardwood floors.
- You can hide ground flax seeds, a source of healthy omega-3 fats, in meatballs, soup, sauces and oatmeal. However, if the kids detect the flax bits, calling them "chocolate specks" is lying.
- If fresh steamed green beans and carrots are too tough, boil/steam them for 20 extra minutes (to soften), and kids suck them up readily.
- A blend of skim milk, dash of butter, 1/4 avocado and a few overcooked (soft) carrots makes good pasta sauce instead of cheese. Blend until smooth, or until any vegetable that your kid thinks he or she hates is completely unrecognizable.
- Kids will eat lettuce and spinach to win the "Best Pretend Bunny" game.
- Flavored yogurts are sugary. Mix them 50:50 with plain unflavored yogurt and kids still love it. Beware of yogurt that's tinted colors reminiscent of Dumbo's hallucinations —those are not natural colors.
- Sugar cookies are yummy even if made with whole-wheat flour (more fiber).
- Honey really is a natural cough syrup. Love bees. Don't squash them.
- A dash of Cool Whip with lots of fresh fruit is "even better than cookies."
- Maplewood is lucky to have cheap fresh produce available 24 hours per day at Shop 'n Save, ALDI and even Walmart.
Although it takes more time (and money) to go out for dinner with kids in tow, many restaurants in Maplewood and Brentwood offer kid-friendly food as healthier alternatives to the much maligned fast food cheeseburger.
Check out Jimmy John's plain turkey and cheese half-sandwich with a giant deli kosher dill, Sansai's salads and teriaki bowls, Qdoba's bean quesadilla, the chicken pot pie at The Picadilly at Manhattan, or a variety of soups from Applegate's Deli. Last, but not least, you must try the peanut butter and banana sandwich at Camille's Sidewalk Cafe.