Raise your hand if you too have a child (or were a child) subsisting on the all-carb diet. No, not good carbs like fruits and vegetables. We’re talking white bread and ketchup, people. Who’s with me?
My Boo Boo (who apparently is too big to be called Boo Boo, his father informs me) is not a vegetable lover. He is not a vegetable liker. He and vegetables are not just separate species. They are clearly in different political parties. And I fear that Peter, like Grover Cleveland, may one day develop gout if his taste buds and my healthy dinners can’t learn to get along.
I have a bit of a stupid obsession with food and nutrition documentaries on Amazon. I am fascinated by the genre, because the more documentaries you watch the more you realize that so much of what is convincing and compelling is not necessarily the science– because they all have doctors and experts and studies on their sides– but the storytelling.
Last year we watched That Sugar Film and gave up sugar as a family for just over a month. It was an interesting and definitely worthwhile experience that has been nearly impossible to repeat because it was SO DAMN HARD. A few years ago I watched The Perfect Human Diet (spoiler alert: it’s Paleo) yet found myself unconvinced. The crux (literally) for me here is theology. If Paleo were the perfect diet, then I cannot see Jesus Christ saying “I am the Bread of Life.” I think he would have said “I am the Lamb Chop of God.” Of course, that’s about as unscientific a refutation as I can give, but it works for me.
Last week while Doc was away (because he really doesn’t share my documentritionary obsession) I watched Food as Medicine. This was very interesting and I entirely buy in to the idea that the quality of the food we eat directly effects our health. This is not news either to me personally or, you know, humanity as a whole. But Food as Medicine also basically promotes the Paleo Diet. Contrast this with some other well known food followings; for example, the Weston A. Price Foundation ideas*, or something like the “plant-based whole foods diet” touted in the documentary PlantPure Nation, which is, fascinatingly, just good-old veganism that for some reason they are not calling veganism.
*Three years ago I delved into a copy of Nourishing Traditions my dad gave me for Christmas–not because he had any idea what it was about, but because he was at a used bookstore and it was the biggest cookbook he saw. After reading it I floated the idea of switching us to Raw Milk to Dr. Awesome, who said, “BIG FAT SCIENTIFIC NO” or something like that. (We couldn’t afford it anyway.) But he was willing to compromise on the $6.50/gal grass-fed pasteurized milk from the organic market.
What do these three different theories (or “ways of living”) have in common? Precisely what my son refuses to consume: A lot of very high-quality whole fruits and vegetables.
Some of the fault here is in when I present the foods. I usually reserve veggies for dinner. (Cucumbers he likes at lunch, but that’s technically a fruit anyway.) This is a mistake; typically, he simply refuses to eat most of his dinner and goes to bed voluntarily hungry. I realized also that we just aren’t eating enough produce, period. Over the summer we eat tons of fruit– organic berries, watermelon, and corn are favorites with Pete. Organic berries are expensive, so I only buy them in season. But since school has started I realized that, along with his asthma getting much worse, his produce consumption has drastically dropped. Coincidence? I doubt it.
I’m on a mission to pump him up with produce. It’s miserable. He complains and whines and screams about all of it. A thing he willingly eats one day he refuses the next. It’s a power play combined with a serious aversion to all things mushy-textured. If it weren’t for cucumbers and broccoli, there would be no green getting into him. So we eat broccoli three times a week.
All the experts I have consulted (i.e., Googled) say that the best way to get over the picky eating hump is to just keep calm and keep serving the vegetables. I never make a separate dinner for the kids, but keeping calm in the face of “WHY DO I HAVE TO EAT VEGETABLES? I don’t LIKE vegetables!” every single night is not easy, especially for those of us who carry that recessive red-hair gene. And I know the stubborn willingness of my kid to pick hunger over healthy almost every time.
So how do you serve the vegetables? I need some fresh ideas.