Weird Food, Inc.

I realized the other day that I recently ate curry for four consecutive meals. For those of you scoring at home, it was a sweet potato, potato, and garbanzo bean curry served over Basmati rice. And yes, if you were wondering, that consecutive meal streak did include one breakfast. While I used to cook a reasonable variety of foods, this curry is about the only decent and somewhat new thing I ever make anymore. Otherwise, my repertoire is pretty stale and consists of the same three or four meals I’ve been routinely cooking for the past ten plus years. So, eating it four meals in a row doesn’t seem unreasonable. Plus, I usually don’t care what I eat these days because I have kids. Yeah, did you remember that? It’s pretty much why we’re all here.

Speaking of which, you know who else doesn’t really care what they eat? Kids.

Oh my, where to begin on this topic? Let’s see. First off, I have a pretty complex relationship with food. For the past fifteen years or so I’ve cycled through periods of overly extreme dietary restriction and periods of relative indulgence, or at least, apathy. I tend to keep up with the latest news on dietary research and the links between different types of food and health. That sounds like a good thing to do, but if you have the wrong type of mental make-up (mine) it can cause some anxiety. And certainly my food anxieties come almost entirely from the what foods are going to kill me fastest perspective rather than the what foods will make my body look the best perspective. Because, of course, if I were most concerned about appearance, I wouldn’t aim for gangly and slightly emaciated.

Anyway, the point is that I worry about eating healthy, so it’s only natural I would worry about how my kids eat. Unfortunately, worrying about a thing and being able to do anything about that thing are totally different. So, how am I doing at converting worry into positive action? Pretty terrible, thanks.

For example, my four year old recently asked if he could have Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, and graham crackers for dinner. I initially said no, because that was ridiculous, but then I just decided to go with it because that is my modus operandi in parenting and in life. To my credit, I was able to weasel a few apple slices in there as well. OK, yes, there was honey accompanying the apple slices.

This came on the heels of two other recent food travesties. The day before, this same four year old concocted a dinner that consisted of a cornbread waffle topped with apple sauce and corn kernels and seasoned extensively with salt and pepper (pictured above). So yes, in case you were wondering, not only do we eat nutritionally awful foods, we now eat them in weird and nauseating combinations. The good news: he loved it. Until, that is, the fifteenth application of pepper turned out to be one too many.

Similarly, when we were eating at a restaurant, my two year old tucked into a meal of miniature corn dogs dipped in apple sauce with great voracity. I tried to avert my eyes, but the grotesque image remains burned in my memory.

What’s a well-meaning dad to do? More specifically, what’s a well-meaning dad who doesn’t want to expend too much of his limited energy or reserves of tolerance for interpersonal interaction arguing over foods to do?

So far I’ve come up with a few affirmations that help ease my stress. They probably don’t really get to the root of the problem, but still, I try to do what I can.

  1. My children’s eating patterns aren’t fixed. How they eat now isn’t how they will eat the rest of their lives. I used to eat terribly as an adolescent, but now I’m much better.
  2. Research suggests that being overly finicky or restrictive with your children’s diets might be the worst thing you can do. Being overly restrictive about food choice or demanding that they eat certain amounts can lead to eating disorders down the road.
  3. I’m tired.
  4. If I keep putting decent foods out every now and then, maybe they’ll eventually come around. I mean, it could happen.
  5. No matter what, in the long run we’re all dead anyway. Cheers!