A Food Re-Education Starts, a Cool Food App, and a Heavenly Recipe for Lemon Angel Food Cake (Kids Cook Monday)
|September 24, 2012||Posted by Stacy under Food education, Healthy eating at home, Recipes|
Last week, I lamented about my 6-year-old’s distaste for vegetables (READ: Smart Breakfast of the Week: Healthy Whole Wheat Carrot Pancakes). But it’s actually worse than that. He barely eats any fruit, either. And more and more, I’ve noticed him craving highly processed junky stuff. I greet him after school with wholesome snacks like clementines and pistachios, almonds and apples, mangos and homemade flatbread—snacks that his 4-year-old twin siblings love. But despite being hungry, he doesn’t dig in. He says he doesn’t want it. What he does want is Doritos, Gogurt and candy. (READ: Can I have cotton candy?!? Tips for handling all those junk food requests).
Something has gone wrong, and as much as I’d like to blame it all on peer influence, I fear that I’m at least partly responsible. Like many well-intentioned parents, I approached food the wrong way when he was little. I lectured on the health benefits of broccoli. I pressured him to finish his peas. (READ: Confessions of a former food pusher (and why you should never bribe a kid to eat broccoli!). I meant well, but I was going about it the wrong way. Then, when his twin brother and sister were born and I was struggling to breastfeed them, I had almost no time to cook. We started giving him mac ‘n cheese and cheese quesadillas too often. And now we’re paying the price.
I wish I could have a “do-over.” But since I can’t, I’ve come up with an alternate plan. I suspect some of his eating issues have to do with control. So I’ve decided to get him more involved in the food planning and the kitchen. Like all of my kids, he seems to love helping me cook and is more excited about eating food that he helps prepare. Cooking with three young kids can be challenging, though. As is bringing them to the grocery store. But something must be done. So I recruited my husband to watch the twins and blocked off yesterday afternoon to start re-educating my eldest about food.
A trip to the grocery store Before heading out to the store, we discussed what dish we would make. I gave him a bunch of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks to flip through. He decided on lasagna (one of his favorite meals) with lemon angel food cake for dessert. Not a big challenge to start with since he already likes those dishes, but I just want him to get excited about fixing and eating real food made with real ingredients. Plus, I informed him that we would be adding veggies to the lasagna, but that he could pick which ones. He didn’t flinch.
A cool food app I’ve mentioned the awesome free Fooducate app on my School Bites Facebook page, and I’ve been having fun using it myself. But I had never tried it with my son. The app is available for iPhone and Android. All you do is type in or scan a food product’s barcode, and it gives you a letter score (from A to D). I hadn’t planned to use it yesterday. But as he asked to buy one junky processed food after the next, it suddenly occurred to me to introduce him to Fooducate and we ran back to my car to grab my phone. I had him read me the bar code numbers while I typed them in. When the cereals he wanted to buy based on the kid-enticing packaging (Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, and Apple Jacks) all got poor scores, he became determined to find a cereal that got an “A.” Suddenly, he wasn’t begging for the crappy stuff anymore.
A great afternoon with mom After we got home, he wanted to continue scanning some of the food products in our fridge and cabinets. So I gave him my phone and let him at it while I began making the lasagna. I couldn’t convince him to break from the Fooducate app to help me, so I showed him what I was doing. I gave him a look at the spinach and zucchini that I’d be adding. He just nodded as he popped a fresh raspberry in his mouth (which he had picked out at the store, without any prodding. Wow, was this experiment actually working?!?). When it came time to start making the angel food cake, he put on his apron and pulled his little chair up to the kitchen counter. He helped count the eggs as I cracked them and put his hand on mine as I beat the egg whites. He sifted the flour and sugar and folded them into the egg whites.
A very successful dinner All three of my kids devoured the lasagna. I served the lemon angel food cake (click here to get the simple recipe that I found in the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook) with sliced strawberries. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a crumb left on their plates. It was one of the more relaxed and enjoyable meals that we’ve had together in a while. Only time will tell whether my idea of “re-educating” my oldest child will work, but we’re off to a great start. If all goes according to plan, I will have another mother-son cooking date with him next Sunday afternoon.