Sneaking Vegetable Pureés Into School Food?

yuckvegetablesI have a tortured relationship with food-sneaking — the practice of surreptitiously slipping vegetable pureés into kids’ food to bolster their nutritional intake.

In a 2010 post, “To Sneak or Not to Sneak: Hiding Healthful Ingredients in Kids’ Food,” I expressed my ambivalence this way:

Maybe it’s just a sense that I’m violating the basic trust that ought to exist between any cook and any diner:  if you know I have an aversion to a certain food (rightly or wrongly), is it fair to nonetheless slip it into my meal?

But three years later, in “Learn From My Mistakes: A Story of Food Sneaking Gone Horribly Awry,” I described how, after buying a Vitamix blender, I just couldn’t resist slipping some carrots into my veggie-avoiding son’s smoothie.  Here’s what happened:

… my carrot-hating son took a sip and actually said, “This is the BEST juice ever!  You can make this for me every day if you want.”

Wow!  The script was playing out just like the movie in my head, only better!  All I had to do was keep my mouth shut and start planning tomorrow’s kale and spinach – oops, I mean “green apple” — smoothie.

But, dear readers, I just couldn’t do it.  One look at that sweet, trusting face and I felt utterly wracked with guilt.  If you have an aversion to eating snails but I just know you’d love escargots if only you’d try them, do I have the right pass them off to you as mushrooms?  Even if you’re my own child, I think I do not.  And as hard as it is for me to understand it, the feeling many people have about eating snails — utter disgust — is exactly how my son feels about eating carrots.

So I took a deep breath and confessed.  It told him I’d added “a little bit” of carrot, hoping he’d remember it was the “BEST juice ever” and just move on.

Well, he did not move on.  He looked totally distressed – almost to he point of tears – and then quite angrily reminded me that I’d once told him I was not the kind of mom who would ever sneak things into his food.  And what could I say?  He was absolutely right.  I’d been a complete hypocrite.  And of course he wouldn’t take another sip of the juice.

Since then, I’ve never again engaged in true sneaking, which I define as secretly adding a vegetable pureé to a recipe that otherwise would never call for it, like putting spinach in brownies.  (I do, however, continue to work as many veggies as I can into our meals, such as using a heavy hand with fresh herbs, onions and mushrooms in a pasta dish.)

I was thinking about all of this when I read in the School Nutrition Association‘s latest Smart Brief newsletter about a pilot study in which schools added a pureé of beans, tomato paste and carrots to school food entreés in order to boost their nutritional content.  The results of the study won’t surprise any parent who’s engaged in veggie-sneaking at home:  up to a point, kids didn’t detect the recipe change but once the amount of added pureé passed a certain threshold, kids started rejecting the entreé.  The study authors concluded that “adding puréed vegetables to lunch entrées may be an effective strategy to increase vegetable consumption and reduce energy intake of elementary school children. School nutrition programs can benefit by helping meet vegetable and nutrient requirements and reducing plate waste.”

Putting aside the difficulties some schools would face in adding pureés — specifically, a lack of equipment and labor — I decided that I’m actually OK — I think?? — with veggie-sneaking in the school context.  To my mind, it’s somehow different to slip carrots past my son at home when I know he hates carrots, but if he took a carrot-filled entreé off an impersonal lunch line, then no one is knowingly breaching his trust.  The school is just serving a dish as it chooses — and it chooses to include carrot pureé.

That said, I do have one big caveat.  Whether at home or at school, food sneaking should never be a substitute for also serving vegetables in their whole state, or else children will never grow to like these critically important foods in their own right.  So while I’d be fine with sneaking carrot puree into school pizza sauce, I would be very troubled if districts used that practice to meet their federal “red/orange vegetable” requirement, rather than serving items like baby carrots or roasted sweet potatoes. Given the budgetary constraints schools are under, maybe that caveat alone would make veggie-sneaking unattractive to schools.

So what do you think of all this?  Are my views about veggie-sneaking as muddled and illogical as ever?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 10,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page, join 5,600 TLT followers on Twitter, or get your “Lunch” delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing to my posts. You can download my FREE 40-page guide to “Getting Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom” and be sure to check out my free rhyming video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!

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Good News and Bad News in the Battle Over Healthy School Food

I said I wasn’t going to post on TLT while at Expo West, where I’ll be speaking later today, but this school food news is too important not to share.

STUDY:  Kids Eating More Fruit at School, Wasting Less Food

Eat Five Fruit and Vegetables Per DayFirst, the good news.  A new study from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has just been released, and the study title says it all:  “New School Meal Regulations Increase Fruit Consumption and Do Not Increase Total Plate Waste.”

After looking at school meal consumption both before and after the new healthier standards were put into place, the researchers summarized their findings this way:

Students responded positively to the new lunches. They consumed more fruit, threw away less of the entrees and vegetables, and consumed the same amount of milk. Overall, the revised meal standards and policies appear to have significantly lowered plate waste in school cafeterias.

The Rudd study, when paired with similar findings from a previous Harvard School of Public Health study, make a very strong case that we must stay the course on the new healthier school meal standards.

The SNA Shows its Hand:  “Flexibility is Free”

And now the bad news.

Last week I asked a question in this blog post: Is the School Nutrition Association’s Request for More School Funding a Priority — or a Ploy?  In other words, while I’m pleased that the SNA has finally decided to ask Congress for more money for school food, I’ve been worried that, in reality, the organization will instead devote all of its lobbying efforts to no-cost rollbacks of school nutrition standards.  And if a Congressional representative is presented with the choice of coming up with more funding versus a free “solution,” which is he or she likely to support?

Well, it looks like my concerns were fully justified.  In a piece on Politico Pro (subscription only) earlier this week, food policy reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich asked SNA President Julia Bauscher about the SNA’s funding request and was told:

she is not optimistic about such a funding increase.

Rather, Bauscher is more confident in achieving success on two of SNA’s asks, on [rolling back standards for] whole grains and sodium . . . .

“We all know what the federal government’s budget’s like — we’re not going to get any more money,” said Bauscher, adding: “We at least need to make the point that we need more money…and flexibility is free.”

Yes, it’s true that “flexibility” – the SNA’s cynical euphemism for ignoring science-based child nutrition standards – is free. But here’s what isn’t “free:” the future healthcare costs for a generation of children which has been nutritionally shortchanged, if the SNA has its way.

Once again, if you are a current or former SNA member who disagrees with your organization’s current legislative agenda, please show your support for healthier school meals by signing and sharing this open letter.  Thank you.

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 10,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page, join 5,500 TLT followers on Twitter, or get your “Lunch” delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing to my posts. You can download my FREE 40-page guide to “Getting Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom” and be sure to check out my free rhyming video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!

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Getting Kids to Try New Foods: My Advice

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine is the Food Issue and, if you’re a print subscriber, I need to apologize in advance for sucking much of the joy out of your Sunday morning.  First I shared on TLT the lead magazine story by Nicholas Confessore on school food politics (my companion New York Times Motherlode piece is here) and this morning on TLT’s Facebook page I shared a cool photo spread on kids’ breakfasts around the world.  So why not kill your suspense a little further by sharing another Food Issue article, this one from Mark Bittman: “Getting Your Kids to Eat (Or At Least Try) Everything.”

In the piece, Bittman tells us about raising his two daughters, now grown women, to be adventurous, healthy eaters.  While his girls did balk at a few foods here and there, Bittman tells us that in general they enthusiastically embraced whatever was coming out of his kitchen — even dishes like salt-grilled mackerel or squid.  Bittman says his and his then-wife’s approach to feeding kids was only intuitive at the time, but he now boils down his advice to this:

Parents should purge their cabinets and shopping lists of junk, and they should set and enforce rules on what their children are allowed to eat. I can be even more specific: Teach your kids to snack on carrots and celery and fruit and hummus and guacamole — things made from fruits and vegetables and beans and grains. Offer these things all the time. Make sure breakfast and lunch are made up of items you would eat when you’re feeling good about your diet. Make a real dinner from scratch as often as you can. Worry less about labels like “G.M.O.” and “organic” and “local” and more about whether the food you’re giving your children is real.

Let me say up front that I enthusiastically agree with all Bittman says here.  (And I just loved the piece generally for a glimpse into his decidedly unhealthy, non-foodie upbringing, and how that experience played into his approach to feeding his own children.)

But as regular TLT readers know, I’ve also been “blessed” with one child who’s been extraordinarily resistant to eating vegetables ever since he proudly announced, at the tender age of three, “I don’t eat vegetables anymore.” At the time I just laughed but, as it turns out, this kid really meant it.  As in: entire years would go by when nary a carrot or pea would cross his little lips, despite my application of various approaches, from the hands-off method I endorse philosophically, to the “For the love of God, just take just one bite!” approach I’d resort to in moments of total despair.

And the thing is, I pretty much followed all the rules Bittman lays out above, from the time my kids were tiny.  Not only that, my husband and I are very adventurous eaters, we’ve modeled healthful eating at home every single night, and the vegggie-avoider’s sister, though she certainly has her own clear likes and dislikes, never dug in her heels in quite the same way over vegetables.

My point here is this: just as I had one baby who would drift off to sleep in minutes and another who nearly drove us over the edge with sleep deprivation, I’m really starting to think much of a kid’s approach to new foods may be entirely hardwired.  In other words, who’s to say what would’ve happened if Bittman and his wife had a third child?  Maybe that child, too, would have tucked into salt-grilled mackerel with gusto — or maybe he or she would have made Bittman and his wife nuts by refusing to eat anything but bananas and buttered pasta.

In this regard, I really liked the blunt honesty of this post by food writer and cookbook author Debbie Koenig, “The Imperfect Family Kitchen.”  Koenig’s supposed to be the expert on feeding families, so I respect her all the more for being willing to admit this:

Here’s my confession: Lately, I hate cooking. The frustrations and challenges of coming up with creative, appealing, and easily reproduced meals that my insanely picky kid might deign to eat have sucked all the joy out of my kitchen. That’s why things have been so quiet around here lately. I’m tired, and I don’t have much to crow about.

But now that I’ve thoroughly depressed all of you POTPs (Parents of the Picky) by letting you think it’s a lost cause, allow me to recount an episode that took place in my house just last week.

The veggie-avoider, now twelve, came to me unsolicited to offer a dinner suggestion.  He wanted — and I swear, this was the exact request–  “portobello mushroom burgers with Gruyere cheese and pesto aioli.”  Now, that might sound totally improbable except that, thanks to my friend Sue’s fabulous mushroom tart (which I almost told my kid not to try!), my son realized about a year ago that hey, mushrooms aren’t half-bad.  And he now loves the complex flavor of Gruyere cheese from regularly eating this sandwich (thank you, Katie Morford).  (As for the “pesto aioli” thing, I have no clue.  That must have come from some fancy restaurant menu because it certainly hasn’t ever graced our dinner table before.)

So that’s exactly what I made for dinner and, yes, my son enthusiastically ate every bite.  But if you’d told me this story just a few years ago, I would have laughed in your face.  The veggie-avoider making an entire meal of a big, black and somewhat scary-looking mushroom? Not gonna happen in this lifetime.

So take heart, POTPs, and also take my advice:

1.  Embrace Bittman’s rules, not just because they may help your kids try new foods but because they make sense for all of us trying to eat well.

2.  Remember that you know your own kid better than anyone else.  So if an expert says the “one-bite” rule is a terrible idea, but you suspect your child would react well to that little push, then go for it.  And if another expert says the “one-bite” rule is a terrific idea, but you know it’s only going to ignite an ugly mealtime battle that goes precisely nowhere, then forget it.  Your intuition is worth more than the tallest stack of “expert” advice books on picky eating.

3.  And finally, most importantly, please take the long view.  It took us twelve incredibly frustrating years to get there, but now, apparently, portobello mushroom burgers with Gruyere cheese and pesto aioli are here to stay on this family’s dinner rotation.

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Using Junk Food Tactics – and Flavorings – To Market Carrots to Kids

Packaging from the original "Eat 'Em Like Junk  Food" effort
Packaging from the original “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” effort

In 2010 I told you about a new $25 million ad campaign, sponsored by carrot growers, to attract kids to baby carrots through the use of junk food-style packaging and marketing.  Back then I mocked the effort, saying:

Somehow I don’t think today’s kids are going to willingly trade in their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for carrots, no matter how cool the packaging (but at least with carrots, the orange doesn’t come off on your fingers.)

But it turned out the last laugh was on me.  Just one year later I reported that the “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” campaign, led by former Coca-Cola executive Jeff Dunn, was actually successful in increasing baby carrot sales.

Since then, many of us have learned a lot more about Dunn and his efforts from Michael Moss’s best-selling Salt, Sugar, Fat, which profiles how this once-enthusiastic promoter of sugary soda had a crisis of conscience, left his high level position at Coke and decided to use his marketing skills for good.

Yet despite Dunn’s early success with the “Eat ‘Em Like Junk Food” campaign, I still remained skeptical of his goals precisely because carrots lack the headliners of Moss’s book:  salt, sugar and fat.  It’s Big Food’s careful manipulation of these palate-pleasing ingredients that hook us on junk food and keep us coming back for more, and so it seemed to me that the humble carrot was never going to be able to compete on a serious level with the micro-engineered Nacho Cheese Dorito.

veggie snackers carrotsBut once again I’ve underestimated Dunn’s savvy.  This week NPR reports that Dunn is implementing the next phase of his carrot campaign, in which junk-food style flavorings like Ranch and Chile Lime are added to baby carrots in a product called Veggie Snackers:

When kids open the package and shake in the seasoning, the carrots take on some of the characteristics of chips like Doritos. “They give you that crunch and flavor,” says Jeff Dunn, CEO of Bolthouse. “You’re going to lick your fingers, and get that same sensory [experience] you get with salty snacks.”

(Here’s a video of how the Veggie Snacker packaging works.)

There are those who object on a philosophical level to the use of any junk-food marketing tactics to market to kids, even if the product itself is healthy.  (I should note here that the flavorings in Veggie Snackers are 100% natural.)  For example, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) tweeted yesterday:

Is commercializing the veggie aisle & selling kids on extreme carrots that taste like Doritos the best way to improve kids’ diets?

And Michele Simon of Eat Drink Politics, also a staunch opponent of any marketing to children, tweeted:

how will kids learn to eat more veggies if they must always be heavily seasoned and marketed?

But Barry Cohen, who tweets under the handle @GeneralHealthy, responded:

Idealism vs. meeting kids where their brains & their parents’ brains are. Is eating more veggies good?

And he also asked:

If we triple kids’ consumption of whole veggies and displace the real junk…isn’t that a good thing?

This debate echoes another, similar one that took place here on The Lunch Tray last November.  At that time, First Lady Michelle Obama had just announced that the Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) would join the Partnership for a Healthier America to help promote fruits and vegetables to kids.  Under the deal, which Mrs. Obama helped broker, PMA’s growers, suppliers and retailers are allowed to use for two years iconic characters such as Elmo and Big Bird in messaging and on produce sold in stores — without paying any licensing fees.

In that case, too, both the CCFC and Simon felt that any marketing to children was wrong, even for fruits and vegetables.  But as I wrote in “It’s OK, Let Elmo Be a Carrot Pusher,” I don’t believe junk food will ever disappear from our society, nor do I believe that our elected officials will impose meaningful curbs on the marketing of junk food to children any time soon.  And we also know that currently only one in five high schoolers are getting the recommended “five servings a day” of produce.  

Given those hard realities, and given that I will always be more of a realist than an idealist, I’m  willing to let people like Dunn try to beat the junk food industry at its own game and use the same tactics to draw children to healthier food.  And with respect to the flavorings per se, is the addition of a chile lime spice mix so very different from offering kids carrots with ranch dressing or hummus,or making sweetened yogurt- or sour cream-based dips for fruit — all time-honored, mom-approved techniques for getting kids to eat more produce?

But what do you think, TLT’ers?  Are you disturbed by the use of Doritos-style marketing and flavoring to entice kids to eat baby carrots? Or are you, like me, wondering if you can get your hands on this product at your local grocery store?  Let me hear what you have to say in a comment below.

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join over 8,600 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (and then adding it to your news feed or interest lists) to get your Lunch delivered, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also join almost 5,000 TLT followers on Twitter, see my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post. And be sure to check out my free video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!”

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Are Picky Eaters Doomed For Life?

A few weeks ago, my family stayed with friends in D.C.   The wife, a great cook, had prepared dinner for us on the night we arrived and as she led us all over to the table she said to me, “I hope it’s OK that I didn’t make any ‘kid food’ — I figured, these are your children [i.e., children of a health-conscious food blogger], so it will be fine!”

Now, if you’re a regular TLT reader, you know all about my struggles with a steadfastly vegetable-avoiding son and how even my “non-picky” daughter can drive me crazy sometimes with her occasional selectivity.  But a lot of people understandably assume that, because I do what I do, my kids must be model eaters.  And when I saw the particular dinner laid out for us (a wild mushroom tart, roasted brussels sprouts, salad and sausage) — and the concerned looks on my kids’ faces — I knew that misconception was about to fly right out the window.

I was about to say something reassuring to my son (though I’m not sure what — “Um, you can just eat the tart’s crust, honey?”), when some better instinct told me to just shut up and mind my own business.  And then I watched as he took the tiniest nibble of the mushroom tart, considered it for a second, and then tucked in happily.  (He’s since announced that he likes mushrooms and has asked me to make the same dish at home.) And my daughter, who always spurns Brussels sprouts at home, ate a plate of them and asked for seconds.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Whether due to peer pressure or timidity or a desire to please, we’ve all seen our kids rise to the occasion in other people’s homes in a way they never would with us.  So this past Sunday I was horrified to see this question submitted to the New York Times‘ Social Q’s advice column:

It was our turn to host Thanksgiving this year. My brother asked if he could bring chili for one of his children, who is a picky eater (and 20 years old). My sister-in-law routinely brings bananas and pizza for her 11-year-old son. Is this crazy, or am I wrong?

(The Social Q’s writer agreed these kids were too old for this coddling but advised the reader to let the parents bring the food anyway.)

Writing The Lunch Tray for almost four years, and being a parent for 13 years, has sensitized me to a lot of issues.  I used to pooh-pooh food allergies and now I totally empathize with the plight of parents of the food-allergic.  I used to think artificial food dyes were no big deal and now I feel we have legitimate reason to worry.  And I used to think picky* eating could only be caused by bad feeding practices and, at any rate, should be quickly outgrown.

My own son has certainly disabused me of the latter two notions.  I’ve also since shared with you stories of adult picky eaters who are crippled by their food selectivity, even actively avoiding social situations where a meal might be served, and I’ve reviewed a book written by a recovered, lifelong picky eater.  It seems clear from these people’s experiences that, at least in some cases, pickiness is hardwired.

In fact, just yesterday, writer Kristin Wartman had an interesting piece in the Times entitled, “Bad Eating Habits Start in the Womb.”  While Wartman was focused how poor maternal diet can affect a child’s propensity for obesity and related diseases, the findings she cites have implications for lifelong, deeply ingrained pickiness as well:

Researchers . . . have found that babies born to mothers who eat a diverse and varied diet while pregnant and breast-feeding are more open to a wide range of flavors. They’ve also found that babies who follow that diet after weaning carry those preferences into childhood and adulthood. Researchers believe that the taste preferences that develop at crucial periods in infancy have lasting effects for life. In fact, changing food preferences beyond toddlerhood appears to be extremely difficult.

So if you’re a fellow POP (parent of the picky), my heart goes out to you and no stones will ever be thrown from my glass house.  That said, I think members of our select club need to constantly remind ourselves that our kids can and will surprise us — but only if they’re given the opportunity to do so.  Moreover, even the pickiest children have to learn how to sit at someone’s table and get through a meal gracefully and politely.  It goes without saying that neither of those things can happen if you’re toting chili, bananas and pizza to someone’s home.

Last year I shared my best advice, learned over many years, for dealing with pickiness, and I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

______

* I’ve always disliked the term “picky” – here’s why – but I use it here for the sake of brevity.

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It’s OK – Let Elmo Be a Carrot Pusher

sesame street fruit vegetableLast week, First Lady Michelle Obama announced that the Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) will join the Partnership for a Healthier America to help promote fruits and vegetables to kids.  Specifically, PMA’s growers, suppliers and retailers will be allowed for two years to use iconic characters such as Elmo and Big Bird in messaging and on produce sold in stores — all without paying any licensing fees.

The arrangement represents an extraordinary boon to the produce industry, since, as Helena Bottemiller Evich notes in Politico:

By not charging the produce industry, the Sesame Workshop is forgoing millions in licensing fees. As its website reports, product licensing accounts for as much as 38 percent — the largest chunk — of the not-for-profit’s $113 million in annual revenue.

Now, there are some food advocates who object to the marketing of anything to kids, even healthy foods, on the grounds that

[m]arketing branded produce such as Kung-Fu Panda Edamame to children instills the unhealthy habit of choosing food based on marketing cues such as celebrity, rather than on a child’s own innate hunger, taste, or good nutrition.

A few advocates also criticize these sorts of corporate arrangements with the White House as lacking transparency and bestowing undeserved good PR on the companies entering into them.

But I’m fine letting Elmo push carrots on unsuspecting kids, and here’s why:

It’s a sad but undeniable fact that kids today live in a marketing-saturated world, with the food and beverage industries specifically targeting children with almost $2 billion per year in advertising expenditures, spent not just on traditional media but also online games, social media and other avenues that parents are hard-pressed to monitor.  And that marketing is invariably promoting the least healthy foods.

A governmental effort to curb that onslaught  through purely voluntary guidelines was soundly defeated by industry in 2012.  Moreover, as the Reuters news agency noted in a special report on food industry lobbying and childhood obesity:

At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children’s marketing in obesity.

Since I am (as you now know from last week’s Civil Eats post) more of a realist than an idealist, I’m not especially hopeful that our elected officials will suddenly find the courage to defy Big Food — and forgo its campaign contributions — nor am I hopeful that industry will change its ways voluntarily on a widespread basis.  So faced with this status quo, I’m willing to overcome understandable squeamishness about marketing to children and try to beat the industry at its own game.

And we know that character-driven marketing does work with kids.  A recent Cornell study, for example, demonstrated convincingly that children are more likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple bears a sticker featuring a beloved character — in that case, as a matter of fact, Elmo.

Moreover, as I noted in a prior Lunch Tray/HuffPo post (“Is it Wrong to Market Even Healthy Foods to Kids?”), the notion that actively marketing fresh fruits and vegetables to kids will override their “innate hunger” just doesn’t fly with me.

There’s a reason why one of Michael Pollan’s most famous Food Rules is “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re probably not hungry.” We mindlessly overeat when food triggers our hardwired love of salt, sugar, fat and refined carbs, but I don’t know of any kids — or adults, for that matter — who gorge on fruits and vegetables to a degree that’s detrimental to their health.

Or, to put it another way, right now only one in five high schoolers are getting the recommended “five servings a day” of produce.  If, as a result of the Sesame Street/PMA partnership, children are suddenly eating too many apples and carrots, that’s a “problem” I think we all can live with.

So kudos to the Sesame Workshop for letting Elmo and friends hawk produce for free.  Now stay tuned until 2016 to see if the plan actually increases kids’ consumption of these healthful foods.  I’m guessing it will.

[Ed. Note: To learn how Madison Avenue might effectively market broccoli to adults, check out last Sunday’s New York Times magazine story by Sugar Salt Fat author Michael Moss.  Interestingly, according to Politico, Moss may have played a tangential role in bringing Sesame Street and PMA together at the White House.]

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 7,000 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (and then adding it to your news feed or interest lists) to get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also join almost 4,000 TLT followers on Twitter, check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post. And be sure to check out my video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!”

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Fourth Grader Goes Undercover in the Cafeteria, Plus More School Food News

It’s one of those weeks when the school food news is coming in so fast, I can’t keep up!   Here’s a quick round-up of articles of interest:

A Fourth-Grader Goes Undercover in the Cafeteria – Are His Findings Accurate?

Many of you have already seen on TLT’s Facebook page today’s New York Times blog account of a New York City fourth-grader named Zachary who secretly filmed the lunches at his public school cafeteria, often revealing a startling disparity between the school menu’s glowing description of the meal and the dismal food actually served.

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 9.54.53 AMWhile the article could lead readers to believe that Zachary’s investigations are current, his family released last year a documentary about his efforts — “Yuck: A Fourth Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch.”   That timing means Zachary was likely filming his lunches before the reforms of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act were instituted, and that means he was allowed to refuse certain items on the lunch line, including the menu’s promised fruits and vegetables.  (A spokeswoman for New York City’s Education Department makes this same observation in the Times blog post.)  I haven’t seen Yuck, so I don’t know whether Zachary was using any discretion in refusing certain items — or if those grim, almost-bare styrofoam trays are an accurate portrayal of the lunches offered.

Apart from that possible quibble, the food Zachary filmed still looked pretty awful.  As I’ve written about before on The Lunch Tray (see “Many a Slip Twixt Kitchen and School“), districts face real challenges in ensuring that their school lunch rooms present meals in the manner in which they were intended to be served.  For example, when Los Angeles USD rolled out an ambitious new menu in 2011, the early, negative student response seemed, in my view, to have more to do with poor preparation than the changed offerings.  Similarly, here in Houston ISD, where one central kitchen serves almost 300 schools, I know our Food Services department struggles with ensuring that the workers in each cafeteria understand how to finish off and present the food in a palatable, properly heated state.

At any rate, it seems Zachary’s efforts have gotten the attention of the Education Department’s Office of School Food, which has reportedly asked him for feedback on the new menus in the district.

Open Campuses Hurt School Nutrition Programs

Here’s an article worth reading about how closed-campus policies do much to improve school meal participation — and overall student nutrition — at the high school level.

In-Class Breakfast Continues to Stir Controversy, Plus a Breakfast Development in Texas

Even though I recognize the problems posed by in-class breakfast (loss of instructional time, sanitation issues and, in some districts, the highly processed nature of some of the items served), I still support such programs as an important anti-hunger measure for economically disadvantaged students.  That’s why I was pleased to learn yesterday that the Texas state legislature passed a bill to expand the breakfast program in my state.

But in-class programs continue to stir up controversy among some parents and teachers.  In Los Angeles, there have been pro-and anti-breakfast protests and the school board will revisit the issue on May 14.

All-Vegetarian School Lunch

Finally, as I also shared on TLT’s Facebook page earlier in the week, a progressive public school in Queens has adopted a 100% vegetarian school meal menu.  You can read about that development here.

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Learn From My Mistakes: A Story of “Food Sneaking” Gone Horribly Awry

As followers of TLT’s Facebook page know, last week I finally bought a Vitamix after lusting after one for years.   My old blender (a wedding gift from 1998) could barely blend a banana without making alarming sounds and the motor smelling like it was about to ignite, so it’s been amazing to see what this powerful appliance can do.

Given the ability of the Vitamix to pulverize food so finely, a few days ago I had the sudden epiphany that I could sneak all kinds of healthy foods into a “fruit” smoothie with no one being the wiser.   I found myself looking across the kitchen at my veggie-averse son and fantasizing about the mountains of kale, carrots, spinach and other healthful vegetables I could start sneaking into that nutrient-deprived body on a regular basis . . . .

[Cue dreamy music, insert montage of beautifully lit vegetables, cut to happy child running through a field and smiling gratefully at veggie-sneaking parent.]

But wait!  Stop!  You already know I’m no fan of food sneaking (see “To Sneak or Not to Sneak . . . Hiding Healthful Ingredients in Kids’ Food.”)  And if I hadn’t been sure of my position already, I totally agreed with a recent and very timely post from Dina Rose of It’s Not About Nutrition on exactly this topic — using the smoothie to sneak in vegetables – and why it’s a bad idea.

And yet . . . there it was on my cutting board, one peeled carrot left over from a salad I was making, ready and waiting to toss into the orange-peach smoothie my son requested yesterday afternoon.  What harm could it cause?   Without much forethought, I threw it in the Vitamix with the rest of the ingredients and produced this beautifully colored drink:

smoothie

Then my carrot-hating son took a sip and actually said, “This is the BEST juice ever!  You can make this for me every day if you want.”

Wow!  The script was playing out just like the movie in my head, only better!  All I had to do was keep my mouth shut and start planning tomorrow’s kale and spinach – oops, I mean “green apple” — smoothie.

But, dear readers, I just couldn’t do it.  One look at that sweet, trusting face and I felt utterly wracked with guilt.  If you have an aversion to eating snails but I just know you’d love escargots if only you’d try them, do I have the right pass them off to you as mushrooms?  Even if you’re my own child, I think I do not.  And as hard as it is for me to understand it, the feeling many people have about eating snails — utter disgust — is exactly how my son feels about eating carrots.

So I took a deep breath and confessed.  It told him I’d added “a little bit” of carrot, hoping he’d remember it was the “BEST juice ever” and just move on.

Well, he did not move on.  He looked totally distressed – almost to he point of tears – and then quite angrily reminded me that I’d once told him I was not the kind of mom who would ever sneak things into his food.  And what could I say?  He was absolutely right.  I’d been a complete hypocrite.  And of course he wouldn’t take another sip of the juice.

So now I have the worst of all worlds.  I won’t sneak again – depriving myself of a convenient method of boosting his nutrient-intake — yet my son is still going to regard everything I serve him with well-deserved suspicion, at least until this incident fades from memory.

So what’s the point of sharing this story?  Learn from my mistakes.

If you think food sneaking is a great idea (and many people do) then go for it, but just make sure you have the stomach for being dishonest with your kids.  Because if your kid has expressly told you she doesn’t want to eat a certain food and you sneak it past her anyway, then you are in fact being dishonest with your child — even if your motives are pure, even she never finds out, even if it turns out to be a great strategy and your kid starts loving the hated food.

At its core, that sort of sneaking is lying.

And if you don’t have the fortitude to go down the sneaking path all the way, then please don’t be an idiot like me and go down it halfway, or you’ll only find yourself in hot water.

Or drowning in the rejected carrot smoothie of your own making.

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TLT Guest Blogger Dina Rose on “The Argument for Packing An Unhealthy School Lunch”

Continuing with our annual September series, “It Takes A Village to Pack a Lunch,” I wanted to share a thought-provoking post by Dina Rose that originally appeared on her blog, It’s Not About Nutrition.  Even though Dina and I don’t always agree on every kid/food issue, I love the way she delivers sometimes unwelcome truths to parents in a direct, no-nonsense way.   In today’s post, Dina chastises parents who pack “model” healthy lunches with the full knowledge that some of those healthy items are routinely being thrown away.  (Um, that hand you see raised right now is mine: when it comes to the fresh fruit I pack daily in my son’s lunch, I have no illusions that much of that fruit is actually being eaten.)  Instead of focusing so much on food, Dina wants us to focus on broader principles of proportion, variety and moderation.  See what you think.

 

The Argument For Packing An Unhealthy School Lunch

by Dina Rose

There’s a lot of pressure at this time of year to write a back-to-school healthy lunch post.

But I want to make an argument for packing an unhealthy lunch.  Not one filled with Coke, Fritos and Ring Dings, but not the vegetable-kabob, salad lunch of nutritionists’ (and bloggers’) dreams.

I’m talking about a lunch that might not have fruits or vegetables in it (yet).

Dina Rose of It’s Not About Nutrition

Packing an unhealthy lunch can be better than packing a healthy lunch if…

 1) Your children routinely throw out/ignore the carrot sticks or apple slices you pack.

I know a lot of parents who insist on packing fruits and vegetables (or yogurt, cheese…) knowing full well that their children will never, in a million years, eat these items. I get the rationale (you want to send the message that fruits and veggies are important, and you hope that today will be THE day) but it teaches the unintended lesson I call “Seek and Destroy.” For more on “Seek and Destroy” read The Bad News About Healthy Lunches.

2) You routinely send “healthy” versions of “unhealthy” foods. Think of this is as The (Chocolate) Milk Mistake argument on steroids. Eating pizza produces a pizza eating habit, even if the pizza is healthy. “Healthifying” food also distorts what kids think of as healthy, and this affects their habits too. Read Cookies and The Cycle of Guilty Eating to see how healthy cookies make it harder to teach your kids to eat vegetables.

3) You send the same healthy lunch everyday because you know your kids will eat it. This strategy limits your children’s palates, reinforces their ideas about what they should eat and teaches your children to expect the same food every day. Try introducing new foods after that.

You can use unhealthy lunches to teach your children healthy eating habits.

These lessons may not seem like much but these three principles translate everything your kids need to know about nutrition into behavior and, in doing so, they lay the foundation for better eating down the road.

  • Proportion: Eat foods in different amounts and frequencies according to how healthy they are.

I know this sounds like an impossible lesson to teach using unhealthy foods but it’s not. Help your children learn this concept with whatever group of foods they eat. Even if what you’re distinguishing between are not-so-healthy and really-unhealthy foods, you can still teach the lesson that “we eat this more frequently than that because it has better things for your body.”

  • Variety: Eat different foods from day to day.

Most parents think variety means new.  It doesn’t. Variety means different. Send a different, less-than-healthy lunch from day-to-day and explicitly tell your children why you’re doing this.  (Be up front: this is the foundation for new foods.)  I call this The Rotation Rule and it changes minds and taste buds.

If you think your children will only eat PB&J for lunch, think big. There are breakfast and dinner foods, and plenty of snack combinations that could fill a lunch box (raisins, crackers, yogurt and a granola bar for instance).

If your child must eat the same sandwich every day, at least put it on different bread or cut the sandwich into different shapes.  Do anything you can to make the sandwich different from day to day.

  • Moderation: Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. 

Don’t ask your children to finish their food. Rather, teach them to eat a little of everything in their lunchbox before they finish any one item.  The rationale?  Kids don’t know when they’re going to be full and so they devour the foods they favor and leave the rest as leftovers.  (This doesn’t seem like an important rule now, but it will stand your kids in good stead when they start eating better.) Read My Child Asks for Seconds of Pasta Before She’s Even Touched Her Peas.

It’s tempting to throw in the towel when your kids don’t eat well. 

Focus on teaching your kids how to eat, however, and you will still set your kids up for a lifetime of healthy eating.

* * *

Thanks to Dina for letting me repost this entry on TLT today.  Let me know what you think.

 

“Suffering Succotash:” Book Review and Giveaway!

Most of you already know about my youngest child, a “selective eater” who is not [understatement alert!] so fond of the vegetables.  Over the years I’ve shared with you my frustrations, my intermittent successes (including the recipes which have led to small breakthroughs) and my musings about the different approaches parents are often advised to follow with a so-called “picky eater.”

That’s why I was especially eager to read Stephanie Lucianovic’s new book, Suffering Succotash:  A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate.   The book seemed like a perfect way to get inside the head of a picky eater, someone who could clearly articulate what she was thinking as she recoiled from certain foods, and maybe that knowledge could help me understand my own child’s eating habits.

In Suffering Succotash, Lucianovic vividly (and humorously) describes her intense childhood food aversions and clever coping strategies, along with her surprising evolution as an adult into an omnivorous foodie.  Along the way she consults numerous scientific experts and fellow picky eaters (both current and former) to examine the issue of picky eating from almost every conceivable angle.  Among the many topics she covers are “super-tasters,” gag reflexes, the role of genetics, the impact of emotion on taste perception, sensory issues, and “feeding clinics.” There’s even an interview with a sword-swallower!

And while I can’t say that reading the book totally clarified my son’s vegetable aversions (we might need a consultation with an expert for that), I do feel helped by it.  Even though I know better than to pressure my son into eating something he doesn’t want to, in frustration I sometimes find myself doing it anyway.   But after seeing the picky eater’s side of the dinner table through Lucianovic’s eyes, I have a new appreciation of just how stressful that parental pressure can be.  I was also left with more empathy for my son’s food aversions and with greater hope that someday, like Lucianovic, he’ll move beyond his food fears.

I should note that Lucianovic writes with a chatty and at times digressive style, dropping numerous footnotes to share funny bits of trivia, going off on silly pop culture riffs, or addressing topics (like the sword-swallowing) which can feel a little beside the point  So, depending on your taste and your reasons for reading the book, you might get a somewhat impatient as you search among the jokes for solid nuggets of information about picky eating.  But it’s more likely that you’ll find yourself laughing out loud and enjoying the ride.

And now for your chance to win your very own free copy of Suffering Succotash!  Just leave a comment below by noon CST tomorrow (August 2, 2012)*** to enter the drawing.   You can tell me why you’d like to win or you can just say hi.  I’ll use a random number generator after the comment period closes to select one lucky winner and if you comment twice (e.g., to respond to another reader’s comment), I’ll use the number of your first comment to enter you in the drawing.   I’ll email you directly if you win and announce the winner on TLT’s Facebook page, too.  Good luck!

 

*** UPDATE!!  I inadvertently used today’s date, 8/2, when I meant tomorrow’s date, 8/3.  So today’s winner (drawn from all comments left before noon CST 8/2) will get the prize copy.  Then I’ll do another drawing from those comments entered between noon CST on 8/2 and noon CST on 8/3.  That winner will get my own (slightly) dog-eared copy of the book but with a little consolation prize thrown in!  Sorry for the confusion!  :-)

 

 [Blogger disclosure:  As with most of my book reviews, I received a free copy of  this book for my perusal.  However, I never accept any other form of compensation for the book reviews you see on The Lunch Tray.]

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Birds Eye Spending Millions To Entice Kids To Eat Their Vegetables – Will It Work?

Somehow I missed the news back in May, reported on again in today’s New York Times Business section, about a partnership between the Birds Eye frozen vegetable company and Nickelodeon to encourage kids to eat more vegetables.  As originally reported by Obamafoodorama:

Birds Eye said it will spend a minimum of $2 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014 on its veggie promotion campaign. . . .  Birds Eye also pledged over three years to distribute 50 million coupons for products that meet these guidelines, offering a 50% reduction in price for qualifying products.

birds eye gen vegToday’s Times report describes the roll-out this coming Monday of several aspects of the initiative in connection with the popular iCarly program:

The brand is starting a recipe contest, “iCarly iCook with Birds Eye,” for children to develop offbeat vegetable recipes. In an online-only video that will be introduced on the Nickelodeon Web site on Monday, Jennette McCurdy, who stars on the show, encourages viewers to “create your own wacky veggie dish” for the contest.

Also beginning Monday, commercials on Nickelodeon will demonstrate the sort of offbeat dishes they seek, including the “veggie sundae,” a scoop each of carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in a banana split dish, each scoop topped with a cherry.

Viewers will submit recipes, hoping they’ll be featured on an “iCarly” episode. The effort, which also includes print, in-store and digital advertising, will be promoted through the Facebook and Twitter accounts of both iCarly and Nickelodeon.

With American children bombarded annually by close to $2 billion of advertising for generally unhealthy foods and beverages, I can only be supportive of this effort.   But I do wonder if the recipe contest, in particular, will actually encourage children to eat more vegetables, as opposed to just making crazy concoctions with them and sending in the photos to Nickelodeon.  The Times reports that:

commercials on Nickelodeon will demonstrate the sort of offbeat dishes they seek, including the “veggie sundae,” a scoop each of carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in a banana split dish, each scoop topped with a cherry.

No one loves vegetables more than I do (I’d choose them over fruit, any day, and I sometimes eat them for breakfast) but even I am totally turned off by the iCarly “veggie sundae.”  Take a look.

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Some Dark Musings on the “Food Pouch”

Many of you read an article in today’s New York Times on the growing ubiquity of “food pouches,” i.e., fruit, vegetable and grain purees for young children, packaged like this:

I’d certainly noticed the recent proliferation of these squeezable foods in my own market, but with a 10- and 12- year-old at home, they didn’t make much of an impression on me.  But today’s article describes how parents are relying on these pouches not just as snacks but as meal substitutes for young children too over-scheduled — or just too distracted — to sit down for a family meal.

For example, the Times reporter describes how enthusiastically his 22-month-old daughter has taken to the squeezable meal:

After gymnastics class one Saturday morning, when she’d had little breakfast, she slurped down a mash-up of blueberry, pear and purple carrot. The next afternoon, on the way to a party, after a skipped lunch, it was a mixture of zucchini, banana and amaranth.

One night, when his daughter wouldn’t eat dinner in her high chair, he discovered:

moments later, my wife had given the freed girl a Yogurt Mish Mash pouch with berries, bananas and beets. She ate it while jumping around the living room, playing trampoline.

Now, I really try not to get judgmental here on The Lunch Tray when it comes to parents’ struggles to feed their children well.  My attitude is that we’re all in the trenches together and whatever works for you and your family, more power to you.

And yet . . . and yet  . . .

Maybe it’s because I just finished reading Karen LeBillon’s French Kids Eat Everything,* which describes, among other things, how deeply the French abhor between-meal snacking, eating food anywhere but at the table, and letting kids dictate their own menu.  Or maybe it’s my (shaken but still continuing) support for the basic theories of Ellyn Satter, the childhood food expert, whose central thesis is that parents, not children, should decide what, when and how food should be eaten.  Or maybe it’s because my own kids were trained from an early age to sit at a table, dine at regular meal times, and generally eat whatever I and Mr. TLT were eating (with minor modifications as needed).

Whatever the reason, I just could not read this father’s account without my inner voice screaming, “No, no, no!”  (Or maybe, due to Karen LeBillon’s influence, it was “Non, non, non!”)

Now, I have nothing against packaged snacks, which I certainly rely on when we’re pressed for time.  But when slurp-able pouches morph into actual meal substitutes, we need to step back and ask what is getting lost in the process:

Instead of being trained to sit at the table and eat with others (a slow and admittedly painful journey for all concerned), this author’s toddler is learning that squirming and complaining in her high chair will be rewarded not just with free play, but also a sweet and filling treat.  For that reason, she doesn’t ever get to experience the logical consequence of demanding to be let down from her high chair at a meal, i.e., feeling hunger pangs until the next scheduled meal or snack time.  So when the author mentions in passing that his daughter skipped breakfast one day and lunch on another, I think we can fairly draw the inference that she’s already figured out there will always be a tasty puree at the ready.

And what about this idea of purees, anyway?  While I have nothing against the occasional breakfast or snack-time smoothie, I have to believe that an over-reliance on “drinkable foods” could seriously impede a child’s acceptance of those same foods in non-pureed form, especially in these early years when expanding a child’s palate is critical.  Put another way, for the same reason I’m no fan of food “sneaking” (a la Jessica Seinfeld), getting beets into your kid via a pink, berry-flavored puree is no victory if your child won’t go near a roasted beet (or even stay at the table long enough to have the chance.)

But whatever my concerns, it looks like I’m in the clear minority.  The Times reports that:

Plum Organics conservatively estimates that its sales of pouches for babies, toddlers and children will be $53 million in 2012, up from around $4,800 when it put out its first pouches in 2008.

And the trend isn’t just confined to the toddler market.  Remember last year when I told you about PepsiCo’s forecast that the future of snack food is the “snackified” beverage?  That led to their introduction of Tropolis, drinkable fruit for older kids and adults (skewered here by Stephen Colbert).  At the time, one beverage industry commentator said:

If you are in this business, you want to get something into a consumer’s hand and get them put it down as fast as possible. And these products, it’s a whole lot easier if you have something that is, say, a combination of drink and a beverage where you don’t have to peel the banana or literally chew the apple. So you get the same kind of satisfaction from getting fruit or a dairy sort of product in a form that’s sort of between a food and a beverage. It’s convenience. The American consumer’s too lazy to chew, so you have find something where they can have their apple or their pear in a semi-liquid form.

With sweet liquid calories linked to obesity, do we really want to set very young children on a path of “lazy eating” via “drinkable” food?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

* Review and giveaway of French Kids Eat Everything next week!

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Will The Kale Wonders Never Cease? (Words of Hope for Parents of the “Picky*”)

So, for any TLT newcomers out there who haven’t read about my struggles, I have one child, now nine, who has continually astonished me since age two with his stubborn stance against vegetables.  While there have been little pockets of success over the years (remember the spinach malfatti and the “Miracle Mu Shu Vegetables“?), it’s been a long slow road, and he still generally spurns anything green (or orange or yellow) on his plate.

Well, last night I decided to make another batch of Andy Bellatti’s delicious kale chips, the same chips my daughter and I devoured a few weeks ago.  But I was pressed for time and instead of measuring out the topping ingredients I tried to eyeball them, and I wound up going overboard on the lemon juice and red pepper flakes.  The chips, which are inherently a little bitter even when properly made, came out way too sour and spicy.  Big mistake — or so I thought.

But I decided to serve the chips anyway, and I wasn’t even looking at first when my son — of his own free will and with no encouragement from me — took one from the bowl.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was amazed but also panicked.  Here he was, trying kale for the first time in his life, and it was going to taste awful.  It could take years to overcome this setback!  But before I could explain that this was a bad batch and he shouldn’t make any hasty judgments about kale generally, he’d already eaten the first chip and was reaching for another.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And you would have been so proud of me, people.  While inside my head I was screaming, “OMG, OMG, OMG, did you see that?  Can you believe it?”, on the outside I was cool as a cucumber.  I didn’t even look directly at him and  afterwards all I said was, “Hey, you need to wipe some kale crumbs from your chin.”

[Sorry – please indulge one more . . . .]

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So what can we learn from this development?

You Can Never Tell What Will Appeal to Kids

Trying to determine what kids will or won’t like is a futile endeavor.  For example, I sometimes serve roasted sweet potatoes mashed with a little butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and orange zest.   That dish has “kid-friendly” written all over it, right?  But my son will take only a nibble of it, at most, while the hyper-bitter, too-sour kale chips were inhaled.  Go figure.

Try Not to Pressure

It’s notable, I think, that my son took a kale chip with not a word of encouragement from me.  I feel quite certain that if the batch had come out well and I’d said something as innocuous as, “Hey, you’ve got to try one of these, they’re great,” his exploration of this new food would never have happened.  And this is what kid/food expert Ellyn Satter has been arguing all along – that even the mildest encouragement can feel, at least to some kids, like pressure, and that pressure often backfires.  Maybe your child does respond well to prompting from you, in which case, go for it.  But if repeated requests to “just try it,” or “just one bite” are not working (and they never have in my house), consider giving the completely non-interventionist approach a spin.  That said, you also need to . . .

Take the Long (VERY Long) View

As I’ve said here before, I’ve come to believe that any progress my son makes on the vegetable front is primarily a function of age and growing maturity, not some clever parenting technique on my part.  So if your four-year-old is digging in her heels about vegetables, don’t panic — but also don’t necessarily expect to see progress in a matter of months.  Maybe you’ll be lucky and she will quickly grow out of that stage, or maybe, like my son, it will take years and years.  Bottom line:  keep the faith and keep offering a variety of foods — no matter how discouraged you get.

You Need to Make These Kale Chips!

Finally, some credit has to be given to Andy Bellatti, blogger at Small Bites, for his excellent recipe, which has now converted both my children to eating kale.  My original post with his recipe and my cooking notes is here.  I also want to add a recent tip from my friend Karen who, upon hearing that the chips were not crisping up properly, suggested I use the convection feature of my oven (a button I have a tendency to ignore).  I took her advice and it made all the difference.

* * *

So if you’re a parent of a veggie-avoiding child like mine, good luck, stay strong, and feel free to compare notes with me and the rest of the TLT community.

[* =  I really don’t like the word “picky,” which labels a child from the get-go and doesn’t allow for the kind of slow growth I’ve described here.  Forgive my shorthand use of the word in a blog post headline, where brevity is needed.]

 

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 1,600 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (or follow on Twitter) and you’ll get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post.

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