Online Exclusive: How one family took the Yum for Kids Healthy Eating Challenge. And lost.
“The government has released new dietary guidelines,” the Yum for Kids editors announced recently to our editorial advisory board. “We want everyone on the team to follow those guidelines for a week as you cook for your families, and then explain how you rose to the challenge for a Healthy Eating feature for our next issue.”
Ummmm … a week?
So in the next issue of Yum for Kids, you’ll get advice from parent cooks who aced the challenge. Here, online, you’ll get lessons learned from a parent of 4 boys (ages 7 thru 14) who failed. Miserably. Among them are …
We’re supposed to be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables than we currently eat. Some of the government’s recommendations were a cinch for us already — low fat milk and water instead of sugary drinks, for example. New to me and hard to swing is the new recommendation for fruits and vegetables. Apparently, the old “5 a day” is no longer enough. “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables,” the USDA advises in one press release. That’s hard, given that one of my sons eats only about 5 fruits and vegetables total. In his life.
Secret weapon #1 — smoothies. If you stash a few bags of frozen fruit in your freezer, you can start everyone’s day with a serving of fruit — even on frantic mornings. If things are really bad, mom can close her eyes and dream it’s a Mai Tai.
Secret weapon #2 — fruit in pancakes. “Sorry,” I announced on Saturday morning. “We’re out of chocolate mini-chips, but you can have blueberries or apples slices in your pancakes.” Yes, I lied about the mini-chips, but every one racked up one more serving of fruit than they would have had without my prevarication.
Embrace pre-dinner munching for everyone — as long as the apps are fresh, raw veggies. Who cares if they “spoil their dinner” if they did so with several servings of raw carrots?
Realization: Sometimes the Jolly Green Giant is good enough. Yes, my husband and I loved the new recipe for potato & leek pancakes I made, but our 4 boys were unimpressed. I learned I shouldn’t knock myself out getting the very freshest things and trying creative recipes on evenings when I’ve had a hard day at work. On some nights, frozen asparagus pleases everyone just as well.
Make sure they don’t escape. One Saturday evening, I made a special Italian meal chock-full of veggies — cannellini bean “hummus” with fresh lemon and rosemary, zucchini risotto, and a special “new nutritional guidelines” marinara sauce. Just as I was putting all that healthy goodness on the table, my older two came in, announced they’d crashed a hot dog roast down the street, and said they’d pass on everything I’d made. They were stuffed, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t make the nutritional guidelines that day.
But we’ll keep trying. That’s why I’m looking forward to all the practical tips in the next issue of YUM for Kids.