If you want to be cured of perfectionism, become a parent. I can’t tell you how much I am struggling to rid myself of this terrible disease, especially in the area of meals.
Before having kids, I definitely looked down on other parents for allowing their kids to eat McDonald’s and other fast food. Just the other day I told Eliza we were leaving the library, and she said, “So we’re going to stop at Old MacDonald’s for lunch and get chicken nuggets and then go home and eat and then take a nap. Okay? Okay.” How quickly they learn what’s behind the facade of those golden arches. It’s amazing how living out being a parent can quickly change you. I read a friend’s Facebook post about how she had two glasses of wine, a fudgesicle and a sleeping pill for dinner (sounds good to me!) and her daughter had pot stickers and chocolate milk. And instead of thinking about how awful that was (which is what she was implying), I thought, “Hmm, cabbage, meat, carrots, dough, oil, milk and chocolate. That just about covers all the major food groups.” See, I’m changing.
But kidding aside (because I do have to laugh about my kids’ eating habits, otherwise I would cry even more than I do already), I daily struggle with getting them what they need. It baffles me how a child can eat just about every vegetable known to man between the ages of six months and a year, only to shun every single one of them by the time she’s 18-months-old. Once you add another child into the mix, it just becomes more stressful, because every child has different tastes. (And I’m sure each subsequent child exponentially worsens the problem and can plunge you deeper into becoming a short order cook.)
Right now, Zach is anemic and Eliza’s iron levels are low. I am constantly walking a tight rope, where one side is force-feeding what they need, and the other side is letting it go. I try to stay in the middle, constantly offering good, nutritious food (along with special treats) and trying not to freak out when they refuse to eat it. I often require Eliza to eat a certain number of bites of whatever it is we’re having before she can be finished. But I also try to make meals that all our family can eat, which is very hard to do when you have a 16-month-old, a 2-and-3/4-year-old, and two adults whose idea of a delicious meal is a soy-ginger glazed filet of salmon on top of a bed of pea shoots. (If that sounds good to you, too, the recipe is here: http://aveceric.com/wp/recipes/season-1/seared-salmon-with-sauteed-pea-shoots-and-ginger-soy-vinaigrette/)
So, I figured I’d write about a few of the ways I TRY to keep my sanity when it comes to feeding my kids. Let’s face it – it’s one of the biggest struggles because they MUST EAT TO SURVIVE. Please, if ever you were to comment with helpful tips, now would be the time I would beg you to do so.
1. Meal planning – I generally don’t go to the grocery store without planning. I take a list based on the 4 or 5 dinner meals I plan to cook. I plan the week’s meals out on either Sunday, Monday or Tuesday (depending on when I get the energy and make the time). When I run out of inspiration and ideas, I look to the cookbooks and cooking magazines I have on-hand. To help plan out the week’s meals, I use the “What to Eat” pad from Knock Knock Stuff (http://www.knockknock.biz/catalog/categories/pads/kk-pads/what-to-eat-pad/). I write my grocery list each week on the back of the “What to Eat” sheet from the previous week.
2. I keep a list of meals that get eaten – It’s impossible to remember what works for each kid and also what they BOTH end up liking. Plus, their tastes continue changing and evolving. So, if I need some go-to foods or meals, I consult this list.
3. Breakfast is key – My kids eat the most in the morning when they are hungriest. I take advantage of this and generally cook old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal with fruit, or I make them a spinach and cheese omelet, or I do both. (I keep a frozen bag of spinach instead of the boxes of it, so I can dump a few ounces in a glass bowl with some water and heat for 30 seconds and voila – have a serving of spinach.) I save cereal for those mornings I just don’t have energy.
4. Sneaky sneaky – I add pumpkin to pancakes, parsnips to mashed potatoes, and do things like roast kale and call it “potato chips.” (At the very bottom is my recipe for kale and Eliza loves it!) If you make it fun and cool, your kids are more likely to eat it.
5. Don’t give up – I am constantly reminding myself of this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned a great meal, served it, and been greeted with blank stares and, “I don’t like its.” It is frustrating and exhausting. But just like every other parenting challenge, you must not give in and stop trying. If you eat a wide variety of healthy and nutritious foods, your kids will, too. You just have to stay the course.
6. Don’t give in – Eliza has to at least try every food I put in front of her before she can leave the table. My friend, Debbie, has a five bite rule. Your kids will not die if you force them to eat food they don’t like that you know they need. Remember, you’re the parent and you know best.
7. Give yourself a break – Date nights or nights when you put the kids to bed and cook together with your spouse or a friend are the perfect times for making a pizza or heating up some frozen chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries for the kids. I will be the first to tell you – it is OKAY to do this sometimes!
This will not be the last time I write about meals and planning them, I’m sure. I’ll try to post some of my kids’ favorite recipes over time. For now, tell me what YOU do! We can all use a little inspiration, even those of us who are perfect. 😉