One of my favorite childhood stories was the one about the demonic toddler who refused to eat anything but jars of split pea soup and apple sauce. For three months straight, every meal, every day, was green and beige. Her Mom tried carrots, eggs, oatmeal, pudding, some revolting looking beef mush. But the 18-month-old dug in her heels and pounded the high chair tray, shaking her head defiantly, steel jawed.
The parents worried: wouldn’t she starve? What if her brain failed to develop?
Her Dad thought he’d lay down the law, he’d get this done, and threatened to sit across the high chair from his willful daughter with a spoon of something else, as long as it took.
It took two hours. He gave up. I won.
And the pediatrician’s verdict backed me up: the peas provided protein, the apples plenty of carbohydrate, so leave me to it. The moral of the story is, if its healthy, let your little ones choose, and don’t turn eating into a power struggle. There’s too much great food in the world for anyone to have to eat what they don’t like. (The other point: kids love to hear about your bad girl moments.)
So by the time my son was three, he still refused milk, chocolate milk, strawberry soy milk, even smoothies. But he loved yogurt. I read where you are supposed to introduce a food 50 times before the child might agree to eat it. Who’s got that kind of time? He tried it at a friend’s house on cereal, but it was a fluke. Same with eggs.
Since my son’s favorite toddler word was “No,” I started trying to at least entertain myself by renaming foods to see if it made a difference. I started Mommy Marketing the meals.
A couple of my early winners were breakfast foods. The following have survived the years and are fairly simple for busy mornings.
COOKIE CEREAL (OH YEAH, WITH OATMEAL)
1 packet any brand instant oatmeal, preferably microwaveable
1 packet of Splenda
6 mini cookies, animal cracker-type
(I use what’s around, often Trader Joe’s mini oatmeal raisin, alphabet or low-fat cat cookies)
2/3 cup non-fat milk
Prepare a packet of instant microwaveable oatmeal, using non-fat milk to sneak in protein and calcium. When it’s done, stir in one packet of sweetener such as Splenda. Before serving, add a few mini-cookies. The kids can look forward to counting how many cookies they’ll find, or for preschoolers, reading words or making words out of the alphabet cookies. My child gets to the breakfast table faster with this. The cookies soften in the heat, and munch up to liven up the oatmeal.
The milk alone adds protein and plenty of calcium for growing kids.
2 slices of frozen, low-fat French toast from Trader Joe’s
½ T. whipped vegetable oil butter
Equal parts cinnamon and Splenda
In a toaster or toaster oven, cook the French toast a tad more well done than usual French toast. When done, spread enough spread to cover but not make soggy the center of the toast. Over all but the crust, sprinkle the cinnamon mixture, and then slice into thirds ala ‘’churros.” This brand has no preservatives or artificial colors, is low in Trans fats (the bad ones) although isn’t loaded with fiber.
If you’re the type who can spend a couple hours on the weekend baking for the week, try these. But shhhhh! don’t mention they’re healthy. I found this recipe in a 10/1/03 L.A. Times S.O.S. column and their name means “good day” in Portuguese. I use whole wheat flour to add protein and fiber, and replace ¾ cup of the sugar with Splenda.
2 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots (pre-grated work well, or about 3 medium-s
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (pecans and hazelnuts are delish)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup Granny Smith apples, with peel on (about 2 small)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
- In a large bow, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the carrots, walnuts, coconut and apple and mix together until moist.
- In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and vanilla.
- Add the egg mixture to the large bowl and stir until just combined.
- Bake in muffin tins with paper liners in a 300-degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.