what do you do with picky kids?

I was driving far away to a tennis match with my team, this week, and picky eaters was the topic of discussion.

If you think this blog entry is going to fix your picky kids, let me lower the bar right now. Your picky kids will still be picky when you finish reading this.

Sorry.

You can read my more complete (and hopefully much more helpful) thoughts on the topic in the 12 Steps to Whole Foods intro. But what I’m writing today is kinda just for laughs.

My kids have the delightful habit of giving me an uncensored stream-of-consciousness regarding what I make/serve. This is partly my fault because I was soliciting their feedback while developing recipes, for a couple of years.

Now what I want is for them to just shut up and eat it. But it’s too late: they think they are food critics.

My mother (AKA “MomPam”) didn’t indulge opinions on food. Didn’t much care what you thought. You could have ONE food you hated. (You still had to EAT it, but you were allowed to hate it. Mine was this store-bought spinach soufflé she liked. My choice came down to a tossup between that, creamed corn, and mushrooms. Like I said, you just got the ONE.)

(Later, when she quit buying the soufflés, I switched to creamed corn, which makes me convulse. If they served it in the Cannon Center when I was a freshman in the BYU dorms, I walked in the cafeteria, stopped dead in my tracks, and wheeled around and walked out. Skipped dinner. My roommates would look at each other, sniff the air, and say knowingly: “CREAMED CORN.”)

We weren’t allowed to say “hate” or “don’t like” (let alone “gross,” “nasty,” etc.). My mom once helpfully offered “I don’t care for that” as an acceptable dinner-table statement. The eight of us said that, in an exaggerated, proper British accent, well into adulthood.

My longtime friend and tennis partner Laura always has a way of making stressful or annoying parenting situations funny. For instance, we were discussing kids looking at porn on the home PC, and she said she told her 3 boys, “If you look at porn, I will see it in the Google history, and I will call you in and we will look at it TOGETHER.”

If Laura’s kids tattle on each other, they have to do it SINGING.

She said her kids are allowed to say anything at all about what is served, as long as it is followed by,

“And that’s just the way I like it!”

So, imagine this:

“Mom, this is a slimy, disgusting insult to the human palate and it makes my intestines revolt. And that’s just the way I like it!”

Your own tips for dealing with picky kids will be highly appreciated by GSG readers!

bowling and baby food

Caveat about this post (two days after I wrote it): I mean NO disrespect to any parent. Parents are just doing their best! My intent is always to expose the refined-foods industries and their products for what they are, to raise awareness and help others get educated earlier than I did. In about a week, I will post a blog about my oldest child and the garbage I fed him. When I had my first baby, I was young and actually believed that because the jars were pasteurized, they were safer than raw fruit was! So, I cast no stones here ……

So I went bowling with my kids, nieces, nephews, siblings and parents last night.

(Here’s what we often get when we’re out, that’s really healthy. This will mean something only to those in Utah/Idaho. Café Rio or Costa Vida, whole-wheat tortilla in a vegetarian salad. No rice, chip strips, or cheese. Extra romaine, pico de gallo, black beans, and guacamole.)

When we were hanging out afterward, I noticed my sister-in-law taking little things out of a container and putting them on my baby nephew’s tongue. The container said Parents’ Choice Little Puffs.

I am always fascinated by how products have changed since I was a mom of babies. That chair that vibrates your baby to sleep–where was that 15 years ago?!

Anyway, I asked her what the point of these little things are. They look like the marshmallows in Lucky Charms but not as brightly colored.

She and my brother said they help keep the baby quiet when you’re out with him. They melt on his tongue so they can’t choke a breastfeeding baby who is unaccustomed to food.

You get this stuff at Walmart. (But please don’t.)

It has all kinds of synthetic stuff in it that I cannot pronounce. Like cyanocobalamin. And pyridoxine hydrochloride. But it also has “natural strawberry flavor.” That’s comforting, right? Because it’s NATURAL! (What does natural mean? Pretty much nothing, according to the law. Refined sugar is technically “natural” because it derives from actual food if you trace it back far enough–cane juice being a food.)

The packaging touts that the product is “Naturally Flavored! Whole Grains and Real Fruit!”

Well, the second ingredient is sugar. And there’s lots of processed stuff in it, even if there’s a pinch of whole grains and a pinch of something that started as a fruit.

I’m underwhelmed on behalf of babies everywhere. They need nutrition, real food, more than anyone.

processed meat: it’s on my “never” list

If you’ve read my books, you know there are two foods I never eat and I don’t let my kids eat either. We are virtually 100% about good nutrition at home, but at a party or in a restaurant, we make good choices but aren’t perfect.

The two “over my dead body” foods, though:

One, processed meat. (Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami, deli/luncheon meat.) Two, soft drinks.

Here’s a meta-study (my favorite kind–a review of lots of different research studies, in this case almost 1,600 pieces of research) showing how damaging processed meat is to our health:

http://health.yahoo.com/news/reuters/us_heart_meat.html

Nearly 20 years ago, I read a study examining childhood cancers. Kids who developed cancer had no risk factors in common except a prevalance of high (11 or more monthly) hot dog consumption. I have no idea why I remember that–11 hot dogs a month–but I do. Then my best friend worked for Bain & Co., out of college, and one of her clients was a meat-packing plant. After working inside that business, she said to me, “Promise me that you and any offspring you have will never eat a hot dog. You would not believe how disgusting all the ingredients of that product are.”

Everything I’ve read since then confirms those original seeds planted in my brain that hot dogs are . . . well, nauseating. Get the vegan kind at the health food store if your family likes hot dogs.

That’s why you’ve heard them called “cancer sticks”–they are not just full of salt, but also nitrates and nitrites, which are well documented to be highly carcinogenic.

I’ve had ONE bite of a hot dog in the past 20 years. That was when I was on national television with two cameras and 20 teenagers chanting, “EAT. IT! EAT. IT!”

You know I’m here to nurture you towards better nutrition without being radical. But some “foods” really don’t qualify as such and I ask you to consider a full-on ban in your home of processed meats.

double header Saturdays

Today I did what I’ve come to think of as quintessentially SPRING for me, for the past 10 years: DOUBLE HEADERS! One of my favorite things in the world is 4 hours of baseball on a sunny day.

My 16 y.o. Cade said something slightly snippy to me the other day about all those green smoothies he drank in the dugout that made him look like a “tard” in front of his friends. (I used to make his friends GS when they came over, too.) I reminded him that if it weren’t for GS and good nutrition in general, he might not be throwing 80 mph and hitting a GRAND SLAM this last week against Timpview HS and hitting 6’2″ on his 16th birthday. (Lowest ERA, by far, of all the pitchers, the most triples of all the batters–okay, I’m done bragging now.)

After all, before I educated myself, he was on FIVE COURSES of liquid steroids before the age of 2. Read the intro of my book The Green Smoothies Diet: his pediatrician told me 5 courses “virtually guarantees stunted growth.” That’s when I “checked out” of the doctor’s office forever and took my family’s health into my own hands.

So it was Tennyson’s double header today. He’s 9. He hit several doubles as “cleanup batter” (strategically placed #4 in the lineup) and struck some guys out as pitcher. As 3rd baseman, ran to field a ball at the pitcher’s mound and tripped over the pitcher, but not before throwing the runner out at 1st.

Ah, so many memories of my boys drinking their pint of green smoothies in the dugout at Burgess Field in beautiful Alpine, Utah. I wish I had a camera, today, for the shot of Tennyson slurping his GS, next to a kid drinking a Gatorade, and two other kids on the other side who were munching on Cheetohs and drinking a soda. What a great photo that would be for the kids’ book on nutrition I’m going to write.

Ten said that the kids asked him for some of his green smoothie. I love it!

Who ever said that baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the ultimate Americana? I’m going to pick and choose in that lineup.

A nutrition book for kids. What do you want in it?

Were any of you on GreenSmoothieGirl.com early enough to remember this photo of my daughter Emma, then 11 years old?

It used to be the concept the site revolved around. My original intent was to support moms in their quest to feed their families good nutrition even as the world they live in has made that very difficult.

My daughter was the “green smoothie girl” poster child I had in mind. She is now 14 and taller than I am at 5’9″.  Still lovely and healthy and enjoys green smoothies. She plans to try out for the soccer team of the state championship high school this fall.

As traffic on the site (and feedback) grew, I wanted to be more inclusive, as the moms on the site were joined by single people, grandparents, couples without children, and so many others whose health would benefit from a natural, mostly raw and plant-based diet. Others working with me convinced me to put my own photo up.

But I want to get back to the roots and possibly co-author a book with my teen daughter.   Any title ideas? I’m thinking something like this:

20 Reasons Why Kids Who Eat Right Kick Butt

Would you want your tween (age 10-15) to read a book focusing on the motivations compelling to that age group? A separate, illustrated book for the younger kids, may end up on my to-do list.

Obviously I have a lot of ideas of my own, but imagine this book containing the things you want YOUR kids to know. (Or grandkids, or any children in your life.) More and more dieticians/nutritionists are approached by desperate parents, saying, “Please help me teach this to my kid–she won’t listen to me!”

Those of you who have studied child development know that after the latency period of childhood (ending about age 12), the parent is no longer usually the pivotal influence. The peer group is. This, of course, makes me very motivated to reach the young moms who have the most influence, as well as control of the diet. But as kids leave home more often and are eating at school, friends’ homes, and social events, what might motivate them to choose natural, whole, raw plant foods? We can’t give up on nutrition just because a headstrong child has reached 13. Many parents are watching helplessly as their children slide into weight problems in middle school.

So imagine the book as an extension of your own pure motive to help your child eat a healthy diet. What should it cover?

You are always so helpful when you comment on my blog, so thanks so much for any feedback!

How can I promote healthy school lunch in my area?

After my Renegade Lunch Lady blog entry, Emily asked, “What I want to know is what can I specifically do in my area?” She refers to turning nutrition around in the institutions that serve our children. Especially schools. And any organizations that outreach to families.

Well, there are macro issues–for the community organizers and big thinkers. And there are micro issues, for those who just want to take a small task in their local area. ALL these ideas are good ones, and you can start with JUST ONE if you like.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers although I have done most of the things on my list below. So readers, please look deep and tell me,

What have you done?
What have you seen others do?
What do you see that needs doing in your community?

Macro ideas:

Talk to a state legislator and find out local laws, and start the grassroots movement towards good legislation. Find the legislator who wants to sponsor a bill and work with him/her.

Talk to your elementary, jr. high or high school principal about school policy. Propose one. Enlist the help of other parents, finding out what they’ll support. Start a petition.

Help your school (esp. private and charter schools) find a high-nutrition option for school lunch vending.

Petition to get rid of junk food vending.

Sign Jamie Oliver’s petition for healthier school lunches here:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution/petition

Micro ideas:

Make a veggie platter for your child’s school holiday party.

Go into the classroom and teach a little class about gardening, and get their hands in the dirt. Plant in little pots in the windowsill if planting outside isn’t an option.

Teach kids where food comes from. You think they know but they don’t!

Go into the classroom and do a green smoothie demo with samples. (Teachers will love it.) Talk about the power of green foods with chlorophyll, the “blood” of plants.

Do a tasting involving veggies and fruits, dips like yogurt or hummus or a roasted veggie spread on whole-grain crackers. Talk about why these foods are better for you than junk like
Cheetos and sodas and cookies. PRAISE children for their good choices and open-mindedness as they taste and express their opinions.

Other ideas, please share them. We have some rockstar parents who read this blog and are bucking national trends, so tell us what you do in your child’s classroom.