Lest You Think I Know What I’m Doing . . . .

Every now and then I’ll meet a mom who knows about (but doesn’t read) this blog and I can tell right way she assumes I have the whole “healthy feeding” thing down pat – that it’s nothing but raw kale and quinoa, 24/7, in the TLT house.  And sometimes she even gets a little defensive, as if I must be working undercover for the Food Police and secretly looking down my nose at her own failings when it comes to feeding her kids.

But if you actually read The Lunch Tray regularly, you know I struggle just like everyone else to get healthy food (that my kids will actually eat) into lunch boxes and onto the dinner table each night, with decidedly mixed success.  I also do what I can to stem the tide of junk food my kids are exposed to each day, not making any food taboo (and therefore even more desirable) but just trying to impose reasonable limits while teaching lessons about balance and health.  Sometimes it all seems like it’s working, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Well, allow me to recap a weekend where things went entirely off the rails:

On Friday my son and I were on our own for dinner, a rarity in a household that makes Friday Shabbat dinner at home a big priority.  He and I attended a school-related event just before going out to dinner, where my son wolfed down a bunch of iced cookies and some cider (on my imperfect watch), thereby totally killing his appetite for the meal.  Great.

On Saturday, my daughter attended an all-day extracurricular event (lasting from 7:45am to 7pm), which meant that lunch and all the snacks were provided by the school.   Here’s what she ate during those twelve hours (and, in fairness to her, there just weren’t any healthful options to choose from):  a bag of cookies, a bag of Funions, a bag of Chex Mix, two slices of Papa John’s pizza, a donut and a Coke.   Seriously.   I later found out that the 8th graders were tasked with supplying all the food as a class fundraiser, which certainly explains a lot.

The next day I took my daughter out for breakfast, our new tradition on Sunday mornings.  Despite all the junk consumed the day before, in an admittedly weak moment I caved and allowed her to get the chocolate almond croissant she adores.  But I also told her she had to round out that unhealthy breakfast with some eggs and fruit.  And guess what was actually consumed in the end?  Just the croissant, one miniscule bite of eggs, no fruit.  Sigh.

Later that day was the kids’ piano recital and parents were asked to bring refreshments for enjoying after the performance.  Except for the item I brought, it was a table full of nothing but sweets — frosted cake balls, donuts, brownies, cookies — along with juice and sodas.  And my kids, who have always regarded the recital treats as a reward for all their hard work, eagerly partook of everything they could get their hands on while I was busy talking to their piano teacher.   Nice.

Later that night, our plans for dinner at a healthy Asian restaurant fell through – it was closed for a corporate party – so we had to hastily make another choice.  We wound up going to a nearby, upscale-ish chain restaurant (and, not to sound horribly food snobby here, but it was the first time I’ve stepped into one of those in about a decade).  The food was not just mediocre but mediocre in that overly-processed sort of way, where you could just taste the complex food chemistry at work.  Blech.

So, there you have it, people.  I really don’t think I could have planned a much worse food weekend for my kids if I’d tried.

But I figured it’s important to share with you the failures along with the successes.  We’re all human, we’re all working against the same societal obstacles, we all have moments of parental laziness and weakness, and our kids don’t always listen to what we tell them.  All we can do is pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and try again to get our kids on the right track.  I’m off to the grocery store now, in fact, and I can promise you it really is going to be kale and quinoa in our house for the near future.

At least until the next frosted cake ball rolls across our path.


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  1. Timmi says

    Well on the bright side at least for us and me, when we have a bad couple of days of crap food, all of our tummies don’t feel the best and pushing some fruit rice and veggies seems easy!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      That’s how I always feel after a lot of junk, but my kids’ capacity for sweets seems endless. I didn’t mention that when finishing at the chain restaurant, they actually asked if they could get dessert, as though all the junk they’d had at the recital hours before was a but a distant memory. :-(

  2. says

    I had something similar… baby shower and my daughter’s 13th birthday party… I even joined in by eating tostitos and salsa and kettle corn. Sigh. I don’t want to quantify why they ate.

    Sometimes you just can’t do it.

  3. andrea says

    I can certainly relate. The hardest thing for me is how things that are supposed to be once-in-a-while treats show up about daily: a party here, a meeting there, a quick dinner grabbed somewhere.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Exactly! If you spaced these things out, it really would be no big deal. It’s the onslaught that’s hard to grapple with. Thanks for relating! :-)

  4. says

    This is one of the trickiest parenting/food problems out there – in my opinion. How to teach (convince?) kids to moderate their intake of junk when it’s all around. And during the holidays, end-of-semester school events, it’s even harder. I have been stressing planning ahead, proportion and moderation For instance, my daughter’s school play wrapped up yesterday, and with it a week of lots of pizza, chips, and assorted other goodies so I was a little surprised when she asked me last night if she could have some hot chocolate. I told her to wait for another, less toxic day. (Proportion) And, before she went out with friends after the play I told her to make sure she came home hungry enough to eat dinner. (Moderation). I considered it a success that she went to the pizza place with friends but didn’t really eat. When she came home, she was indeed ready to eat my healthy dinner. I call this success. Did she eat more crap than I would have wanted? Sure, but she’s also learning how to manage lots of tricky eating situations. In the long run, it’ll pay off.


    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Dina, it makes me feel better that you recognize how hard this all is to navigate, but what I found particularly troubling about this weekend is that my kids seemed to have very little self-regulation, or maybe they were self-regulating (in that no one ate to the point of being sick or anything) but not to the degree I would have hoped, given that they’re 9 and 11.

  5. Jennifer says

    You win some, you lose some. You still had time with your children (dinner with your son and breakfast with your daughter) which, in the long run, probably means more than what they did or didn’t eat. The fact that they’re aware that they probably didn’t make the best choices will sink in, over time. It’s hard when that big spread of cake pops is right in front of you.

    We dropped the kids (ages 4 and 2) off at Grandma and Grandpa’s for their annual sleepover with all of their cousins. When we got there, Grandma asked me what my kids’ favorite Happy Meal is, because that was going to be dinner. I had a split second to formulate my response, which ended up being, “I have no idea, we don’t eat at McDonalds so they don’t know what a Happy Meal is.” I got the raised eyebrows and “oh” from Grandma.

    Upon picking up my children on Sunday, Grandma reported that my children really don’t know what a Happy Meal is (right – apparently it was inconceivable that a child would not know what a Happy Meal is and she didn’t believe me.) My children, always good eaters, ate every bite, and had donuts for dessert. Donuts. Plural.

    I suppose I could have been a better mother and spoken my mind on all of it, but I wasn’t up for it. We just found out that we have to buy a new furnace and I ate an entire bag of Stacy’s Simply Cocoa pita chips in my misery, so really, who am I to quibble over donuts.

    (As long as you’re beating yourself up, I will blame you for the Stacy’s pita chips thing. It’s clearly your fault that I ate the whole bag.) :)

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      There are so many things that make me laugh about your story, starting with the incredulous Grandma and ending with my role in your life as a Stacy’s pusher! LOL. Meanwhile, since I’m clearly talking to a fellow Stacy’s addict, just what DO we think of those new cocoa ones? I found them intriguing but, in the end, I guess I’m a Simply Naked sort of gal. So to speak. :-)

  6. Chris says

    I am *lucky in that my grrls are sensitive, so when they do get into junk-processed, dyes, HFCS- they feel like what they ate.. and are now old enough to listen when I say maybe you shouldn’t have eaten XYZ… and they both want to be healthy and fit and so do not in general eat crap.. my oldest is on ADHD meds and so I have to watch her as her appetite will be bad, and then she will be ravenous- so I have to be prepared with high calorie food she likes and that is quick.. healthy *cookies* lol Aussie Bites etc from Costco have been good, as are smoked salmon and peanut butter.. but sometimes they seem to need to learn by doing.. so I have to let them get sick… grrr

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      I can see that in a way their sensitivity really is a blessing, in that they get some immediate feedback that other kids (my own, clearly) are lacking.

      • Beverly says

        You bake a cake and squish it up with the frosting then scoop it out and make balls out it. The balls are then covered in chocolate. My brother sells them in his candy store. I told him I guess I am officially old because they are way too sweet for me and I have an undying sweettooth!

  7. Gretchen says

    I’m dying to know – what did you bring to the recital? (I have to bring a snack for a holiday party at school on Friday and am looking for ideas!)

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      OK, now I am totally outed! I was really hoping no one would ask me this and I could let you all think I brought some lovely platter of cut-up fruit or steamed vegetables or something like that. But no, in point of fact, I completely forgot about the snack thing until ten minutes before leaving the house, and therefore I had to “shop my pantry.” The best I could come up with was some sort of cheesy cracker-y stick thing which probably was nutritionally only marginally better for the kids than the cake balls. [slinks away in shame.]


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