Monday, May 4, 2015

nutritional nugget therapy

I am not the best cook and my kids are not the best eaters and this is not a winning combination. This is probably my cosmic retribution for being a total know-it-all before I had kids. When he was a baby, my nephew suffered from a rare form of Epilepsy known as Infantile Spasms. I had never heard of it before, and honestly, when my sister first told me about it, I thought it was another one of her whimsical Web MD diagnoses (she is convinced I have Multiple Sclerosis, Aspergers, and several other rare diseases). But it was legit, and her alarmist tendencies were probably life-saving in this instance!

Anyway, because of his medical issues, my nephew was on this crazy ketogenic diet, and after that he became the world's pickiest eater. For a while, he subsisted on a diet of instant oatmeal and M&M's. I gave my sister flak but she swore that was all he would eat. I said "If he gets hungry enough, he'll eat real food." Ha. Well. This is (probably) true. But what I didn't know is that between the steps "Deny child food he wants" and "Child is finally hungry enough to eat the food you want him to," there are seventeen increasingly painful and tortuous levels of hangry hell.

Karma, you clever minx.

I have tried to get my own kids to eat a diverse and flavorful array of grown up foods because "They" say if you introduce foods enough times, kids will finally come to accept them. Well, I don't know what that magic number is, but I can tell you it is more than 4,733.

Eventually the pendulum swung in the other direction. "Fine!" I said. "Eat chicken nuggets and pasta with butter for the rest of your lives. Sure! Let's see how long you can survive on condiments alone!" It got to where I would make one meal for the kids, and make something different for us grown-ups. If anything's worse than making dinner, it's making two, separate dinners! But at least the kids actually ate. Until they didn't.

I finally realized that kids are going to eat, or not eat, at their whim. You can't MAKE them eat, and attempts to do so will drive you INSANE. But there are a few things you can do to make meal time slightly less stressful, sometimes, when the little gremlins are amenable.

First, let them "help" make dinner. And by help, I mean, make things three-to-five times slower and more difficult for you. Seriously though, they get a lot more excited about eating it when they were invested in the preparation process.

Second, always put something on their plate that you know they will eat. (For me, this is actually nearly impossible, because my kids will only eat chicken nuggets on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays when Venus is in retrograde. Pizza will be consumed when heated exactly to 99.2 degrees, and covered by 2.7 pepperonis spaced at least one inch apart. Only organic quinoa fusilli or "wegular" spaghetti (NOT Angel Hair) with clarified Irish grass-fed butter will do. Baby carrots if they are perfectly symmetrical and don't "look weird." Persian cucumbers hand-delivered from Iran. Cheese of any kind except on major holidays and full moons. And, almost always, yogurt.)

Third, trick them into thinking they have some sort of say in what's for dinner. For example, let them choose between two meal options (Here's a tip: Let them take turns choosing on alternate days, or flip a coin, because it is physically impossible for two (or more) children to agree on anything, ever.) Let them serve themselves. Let them omit their least favorite side. Etc.

Fourth, don't stress too much. I've come to realize that the more worked up I get about my kids eating a perfectly balanced meal, the less likely they are to actually do so. Choose your battles. They probably aren't going to starve.

Fifth, try to make it fun. Now, I know what you're thinking. "MAKE IT FUN?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN, MAKE IT FUN?! I actually MADE dinner, instead of ordering pizza or hitting the In-n-Out drive-thru, so I basically think I deserve a medal, and now you're telling me I have to make paper cranes with my kids napkins, flambe their fish sticks, and juggle their tangerines?! Yeah, no. Why don't you take your little dog and pony show to the circus, where it belongs." And I hear you. I do.

But. IF you have a little spare time and can afford to use a little cookie cutter on fruit and sandwiches, or even use fun little food picks and colorful serving trays, kids eat that stuff up (literally!)
Bento Picks
Silicone Baking Cups
To that end, (and because yogurt squeezies are one of the few things my children will reliably eat), I took the Chobani Kids challenge, which is all about encouraging a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition.

Here is a super easy craft that your kids will love, that makes eating one of their favorite snacks that much more fun. It will also negate the need to hand-feed them a yogurt tube like a baby lamb because it is TOO COLD TO HOLD.

Step 1: Buy some felt. (Or, conveniently have a giant pile in your erstwhile craft closet.)

Step 2: Cut felt to proper yogurt squeezy koozy dimensions. (I just folded it around a yogurt tube and eyeballed it, this isn't rocket science).

Step 3: Use special "felt glue" (also conveniently located in neglected craft closet) to glue the edges together. (If you are super crafty and have access to a sewing machine, that would probably be a quick and more durable way to do this, but I didn't/don't, so glue it is).

Step 4: While waiting for the glue to dry, cut a bunch of little strips/shapes for decorating the koozies.

Step 5: Realize that fancy felt glue doesn't work at all. (Which may or may not be because you didn't read the directions.) Resort to SuperGlue (or The Kragle, as my kids call it).


Step 6: Let kids go to town with felt strips, stickers, and adhesive bedazzlation. (Then, if you're anything like me, put the kids to bed and get down with some glitter glue and your bad self ;))

Step 7: Voila! Cute little yogurt koozies. The kids "super much" love their "beautifow yogut life savers." (In case you can't tell, we're into Star Wars around here ;))

Happy Nerf herding!

Sorry about the mess.

May the force be with you.

PS, Step 8: Realize, after looking at 4 different stores, the product you THOUGHT you were pimping may or may not even exist anymore. Find out that the product you're SUPPOSED to be pimping is these handy-dandy yogurt pouches. Take quick pictures with your phone as an afterthought, koozy-free, because Mama ain't got time for two rounds of craft wars in one week.

FYI, the kids were legitimately stoked on these Chobani Kids yogurt pouches, not least because Spiderman is on the front. They both requested them in their lunch boxes this morning. Which is in strict violation of the superhero stoppage at the preschool but oh well, I am NOT going to argue if my kids are requesting to eat something healthy!
This is what happens when I try to be a real blogger.

Lesson learned ;)

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