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As a parent, I hate being mostly responsible for making sure my children are given the nutrition they require.
I mean, no matter how many kale and spinach-infused fruit smoothies I force down their little throats, I’m not sure it makes up for the ridiculous amounts of plain macaroni noodles they eat. Or the peanut butter sandwiches.
And I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about their nutrition. Some call me, let’s just say overenthusiastic, which is probably much nicer than what they say behind my back. I like to be conscientious of their diets. I try to buy and use as many natural and whole ingredients as I can find and afford and I limit snacks to fruit or pretzels, yogurt or cheese. Sometimes there are some crackers thrown in.
They do not drink any powdered drink mixes, which in my childhood days were referred to as “The Kiss of Death” by my parents, so I have absolutely no desire to share that nutritionally worthless, overly-sugared drink with my still-developing children.
Heck, even juice is limited in my house, and when it is given, it’s 100 percent, no-sugar-added juice. And really, I don’t understand why there are other options available. What’s the point? It’s all sweet enough without high fructose corn syrup.
But my point is that it’s stressful. Some days the kids eat whatever is put in front of them. And then there are days like a day last week when pretty much everything I’ve tried to give them has failed miserably and so to compensate — and also put everyone in a better mood — we went out for milkshakes.
So I’m almost positive they are not receiving the ultimate nutrition they are supposed to, even with the kale smoothies, which are delicious, by the way. But I want them to at least have a good base. When they are older, I want them to know carrots are better for them than a chocolate bar, and to more often than not choose the carrots. I want them to know nutrition is important, that when you eat better, whole foods, your entire body feels better.
Of course, I do not always practice what I preach. Unfortunately I am a little too addicted to coffee and sodas are my not-so-secret guilty pleasure, only indulged in on the weekend.
But for the most part processed foods are limited as much as possible. Lord knows I love sweets, but when we have them, mostly they are homemade. Except of course for that pile of Valentine’s Day candy my son brought home from preschool.
And so I worry. Every day. Which is why I’m excited about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill. From what I’ve read, it seems school menus will be filled with healthier options. As much as I loved my high school’s chicken patty sandwiches, they are not what I would prefer my children to eat.
So maybe I can breathe a little easier when the oldest starts kindergarten. That’s one less meal I have to worry about. I will not be in control of it, yet I can trust he still will be eating food I would consider worthy of his little body.
I am not naïve. I know there’s only so long that I can force my kids to eat broccoli by hiding it in spaghetti sauce, or spinach by hiding it in fruit smoothies or pizza sauce. And you’d probably be surprised to know that I am not as rigid as this essay would sound. We do eat chicken nuggets on occasion and both the kids love mac and cheese.
But nutrition is important. And fast food, while both fast and food, is not an acceptable, everyday option.
And the more diligent I am about it now, hopefully, the easier it will be for them to make the right food choices later in their lives.
But even so, there’s always a place for milkshakes on a bad day, right?
Jaime Thomas is a stay-at-home mother of two who lives in Elizabethtown. She blogs at jaimalaya.blogspot.com and can be reached at email@example.com.