Thursday, April 29, 2010

Junk Food Wars

As kids mature they desire control over their worlds, their choices. It's normal, natural, inevitable and healthy. But at ages five and three their good judgment hasn't caught up with their desire for control. That's why God gave them loving parents to make sure their blossoming choices fall into proper and healthy lines, especially in the area of nutrition.

Kids' growing bodies NEED balanced nutrition to grow. They need proteins, whole grains, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, dairy, fiber. But what do they crave? SUGAR.

I'm not one of those health-nut moms who bans all salty or sweet snacks from the house. Rather, I'm trying to teach moderation and good choices. Lately, though, both my kids have chosen the arena of food to try testing the loving-parent-boundaries and they are testing HARD. They remind me of horses newly put into a paddock surrounded by an electric fence who go along the fence in each place and test to see if the fence is turned on.

My kids have waged a ongoing military campaign to see if they can minimize good, nutritious, healthy food and maximize the sugary, sweet, salty, fatty, preservative-laden junk food.

Today my daughter waged a major silent battle at Shari's of all places. To add insult to injury, we went there as a treat for the kids, but I wouldn't let her choose a bowl of Lucky Charms for lunch. She'd eaten only cereal for breakfast and I was not going to let her eat only cereal for lunch too. So we compromised on a smiley-face pancake accompanied by some sausage and bacon for protein. Not exactly a sugar-free entree, but better than Lucky Charms.

Stubborn Curly Miss sat sweetly abstaining from eating more than just a couple of syrup-laden, whipped cream covered bites. Although she has loved this dish in the past, joyfully eating an entire plateful, this time she sat primly, sending the message that this was not her first choice and she would not partake.

Little Mister lacked even her subtlety. "I don't want this. I want goldfish crackers instead."

Thinking she had scored a strategic triumph, Curly smiled when the meal ended and her plate of food remained almost untouched. Her smile faded, however, when I requested a to-go box and loaded pancakes, sausage and bacon into it. "Looks like we have plenty for dinner," I said maddeningly. Two can play at this little game.

Then my three-year-old piped up. "How about some Marshmallow pie, Mommy?"

Uhm, no.

The storm clouds gathered, the lower lip began to tremble... I saw the huge fit coming on.

Time for Commander Mom to send in a preemptive strike. I put on my meanest Mommy frown and reminded how we don't throw fits when Mommy says "no." Then I pulled out one of the most powerful parenting weapons in the Toddler Arsenal. Distraction.

"Can you help me carry this out to the car?"

It always amazes me how well this works. The clouds lifted, the sun came out, his little face broke into a big grin and he trotted importantly ahead of me, bearing his precious burden. Mommy: one, Junk Food: zero.

At home later I realized that the battle earlier may have gone my way, but the war is far from over. We had not been home long when a small voice drifted up the stairs toward me. "Mommy, I'm hungry. How about a cookie?"

Resisting the primal, frustrated roar coming up in my throat, I said tightly, "Not when you did not eat your lunch bites!" Then I headed back to Tactical Maneuvers and introduced the dreaded HEALTHY SNACK. Apples. Cheese. Carrots. Mommy: two, Junk Food: zero.

Despite my triumph earlier, I can feel my resolve wavering. I must stay strong. My poor, unfortunate daughter, forced to eat the sad remains of her lunch for dinner will likely sit in a miserable lump, tears on her pixie face, reproach shining out of her dark eyes. But, no, I am a mean, horrible mommy and I won't give in. Well, maybe I won't. Hopefully, I won't. Wasting food is...

Oh, heck, maybe I'll just give her Lucky Charms for dinner.

No, dadgummit! This is hard! This is one of those parenting gray areas where I feel like either I'm being a total control freak if I stay hard-nosed about enforcing something as ludicrous as eating for dinner the untouched lunch, but a failure if I give in an allow her passive-aggressive routines to work. Why can't she just eat her lunch when it was lunchtime?

I need some Lucky Charms.


  1. I know the feeling. I've lost this battle more times than I can count.

  2. You are an awesome writer! Love this post!! I completely agree with your reasoning that kids need to learn how to make healthy choices. And those lessons can be hard on everyone. I don't miss those days. :) But I do love Lucky Charms.

    Oh, that reminds me! We had a tradition in our house that the kids got to pick any sugary cereal they wanted for their birthday (once a year!!) and almost every year, they picked Lucky Charms. Usually we had bland things like Cheerios and Rice Crispies. Yes, I was a member of the healthy eating police.