Can we have an honest talk for a moment? Now, I realize that this is our first time meeting and because of that you may have a preconceived notion of me based on my job title. You see friends, I am a nutritionist. In a nutshell, that means that I teach people about all the wonderful, whole and nutrient dense foods they should be eating to look and feel their very best.
I love food. I love cooking it, talking about it and you’d better believe I love eating it. To me, creating a delicious meal from scratch is one of life’s simple pleasures. I love it so much that my pastimes include religiously reading recipe blogs and scouring the grocery store aisles for some obscure new ingredient that I can try. Ya, it’s that serious.
Do you want to know what I don’t love? The part of my daily foray into food that brings me no pleasure at all?
Making my son his lunch for school. Every. Damn. Day. Shoot me in the eye, would you? Lemme s’plain.
In the perfect make-believe world inside my head, my son is a fabulous little eater who cannot wait to scarf down whatever it is I put in front of him. The real world outside of my head is far less pretty.
The challenge of getting my child to eat well is one that we have been waging for his entire seven years on this planet. When he was a tiny green-eyed smiling cherub I had fantasies of careening spoonfuls of homemade organic pureed veggies into his open mouth while he squealed in delight and greedily motioned for more. The reality was far less picturesque and involved a lot more tears (me) and a lot less smiling (him).
I don’t want to bore you with the details so let me just “nutshell it” by saying he hated 80% of what I fed him which resulted in me developing a real love of “make your own wine” establishments. (You can get a Groupon for 14 bottles of wine for like, $40! That shit it the best!)
Fast forward to the present day. My son and I both survived the last 7 years of picky eating. He developed his favourites, some of which are vegetables, thank god. I figured we were over the worst of the food battles and were finally in the clear. I had no idea the daily horror that awaited me in the form of school lunches.
Like I said before, I am a nutritionist and that means my world revolves around food. I teach people about what to eat. In my private practice I have come across some difficult characters but none has ever given me more trouble than my own child.
The concept is simple enough– place various food items in a lunch bag for him to consume throughout his day. He will then return said lunch bag to me each night empty of it’s contents for me to refill for the following day and so on and so forth.
The daily lunch battle, I mean bag, goes much like this: I pack Cooper a healthy lunch of a chicken breast on a whole grain wrap, an apple, veggie sticks and dip, and a treat like a nut-free granola bar. I feel good about myself and my efforts and silently pat myself on the back for a job well done. At the end of the day Cooper brings his lunch bag home to me. It is suspiciously heavy. I open it to discover a slimy ranch covered array of what used to be food. The wrap lies untouched in it’s resealable sandwich sack, the veggies are strewn about the bag like he was playing a game of carrot pick up sticks and the apple that has one bite taken out of it has now turned brown and mushy. The only thing that is eaten is the granola bar. I know, shocking, right?
The conversation goes as follows:
Me: Cooper, why didn’t you eat your lunch?
Cooper: I don’t like that stuff.
Me: You liked it yesterday.
Cooper: Ya, but I don’t like it today.
Me: I’m not a restaurant, Cooper, you need to eat what I pack you. What are you going to do, simply not eat anything all day?
Cooper: Mom, I ate the granola bar!
And so the battle goes. Everyday, I try something new: I cut his food into fun shapes. I create little salads for him. I carve stupid cartoons into his banana peel so it turns brown and a magical picture appears. And everyday I brace myself for what is going to greet me when I open his lunch bag.
Each time the lunch bag comes home, full of it’s contents, another little piece of my soul dies. I have now reached the point where I think, fuck it, I’m over this daily lunch dance we have been doing and this is what happens: I pack things that I know he’ll eat for lunch. Are they healthy? Nope, they’re not. Does he eat them? Why, yes he does.
Cooper’s Shitty School Lunch
- Yogurt: Is it packed with sugar? You bet.
- Ritz Crackers: Processed and fried? Most def.
- A granola bar: Organic? Sometimes. But only if they were on sale.
- Turkey kielbasa: The fact that it’s turkey makes me feel better but it’s still junk
- An apple: This basically makes me mom of the year.
“But Stacey, you’re a nutritionist. How can you feed your child such crap?” I’ll tell you how, because my sanity is worth it. Is this a long-term plan? Hell no, but just as he grew out of the evil two year old stage where he ate nothing, he will grow out of this.
Now before you roast me and blacklist me as a nutritionist, let me tell you the rest of my story.
For breakfast each day he has a smoothie packed with fresh fruit and veggies and every possible healthy thing I can think to cram into it: Hemp hearts, chia seeds, spirulina and flax and he loves it. Dinner each night is cooked by me from scratch so I know he is getting the quality foods he needs. Seriously, I go to a local butcher to buy hormone free, grass-fed bones and make my own stock. I’m that person.
Dessert, if we have it, is fruit because he has met his sugar quota for the day (month) at lunch and he’s got a thing for berries.
My theory is that 2/3 meals each day ain’t bad.
Here is my advice for you if the thought of making your child’s school lunch freezes your blood in your veins. Always aim for great but do the best you can. If you are feeding your child nutrient dense, high quality foods the majority of the time, well then I think you’re doing just fine.
Children grow and change as do their tastes, so just because they are little terrors right now that won’t eat a damn thing does not mean they will be that way forever. All you need to do is keep trying.
“But Stacey, is this all for naught? Does it ever get easier?” Fear not, new friends, for there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Here is a little glimmer of hope for you. The other day while watching TV, something educational, of course (Web of lies. I was watching The Office reruns). My son turned to me and said “Mom, can we eat only really healthy things from now on? You know, like salads and beans and stuff?”
What the shit? Who was this kid?! I turned to him, careful not to move too quickly in case I disturbed the parallel universe we were in and said “Sure buddy, but why the sudden change of heart?” To which he replied “I just want to grow up to be healthy and strong.” Jesus Christ Almighty, I almost had a heart attack. Do you mean to say that the things I have been telling him about food are actually being absorbed by his little brain, mixed in there amongst the useless Minecraft facts? It turns out they are! I just have to be as consistent with my healthy food talk as I am with my “get down from there” or “put your pants back on” talk. Really drill it into his brain.
The moral of the story is: This is going to take some time. Don’t beat yourself up if your kids are not eating 100% perfect 100% of the time. You’re doing great, mom and anyone who tells you otherwise can shove it.
StaceyGreenLiving’s Sneaky (Healthy) Smoothie
- 1 Banana
- 1 cup diced pineapple
- ½ cucumber, peeled and cut in half
- 1 large handful of baby spinach
- 1 tbsp. of hemp hearts (eyeball it)
- 1 tbsp. of chia seeds (eyeball it)
- 1 tsp. Spirulina (optional)
- 1 cup of Fresh squeezed OJ
- 1 cup of ice
Pour your liquids in first then fill your high-speed blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add water if it’s too thick. Drink half immediately and reserve excess for snack or drink the rest yourself!
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