It’s Not Easy Eating Green
Hell has frozen over. My 28 year old son eats spinach. He’s been telling me for a few years that the sight of a green vegetable doesn’t make him gag anymore, but I refused to believe it until I had visual proof. I spent last week in LA visiting him and my daughter-in-law, and I offered to cook dinner one night…a Phillies game night…one of the many nights when the city of Philadelphia gorges itself on cheesesteaks and hoagies and crab fries (which until last year I thought were French fries served with crabmeat, but have come to learn are simply French fries seasoned with Old Bay). Philadelphia eats so much crap on game nights that it’s amazing Camden, NJ isn’t suffocated by Philly’s midriff bulge. My health-conscious daughter-in-law’s enthusiasm at my offer was expected, but shockingly, my son agreed to watch the game on TV while eating home-cooked fare, including a spinach salad.
Over the years I have tried the following “sure-fire” tactics to get my children to eat vegetables.
1. I breastfed Dan for a year because of a study that claimed children who are breastfed for longer than 6 months will enjoy eating vegetables more than those who are nursed for a shorter period of time. I’m convinced Dan is written up in a medical journal somewhere as being the world’s most difficult child to wean. He finally got off the breast by landing in the hospital on an IV. I don’t think it had spinach in it.
2. Experts suggest mothers should model good eating habits. I was the Christie Brinkley of cruciferous vegetables. I swear my fingertips turned orange once from eating so many carrots. My boys were not inspired to mimic me.
3. I made smiley faced people out of salad items…cherry tomato eyes, cucumber ears, shredded carrot hair, red pepper lips, celery arms and legs. My boys found two hundred ways of mutilating salad people, none of which involved mastication.
4. I baked shredded zucchini into muffins and breads. Don’t ask.
5. One children’s cookbook author suggested putting mashed petite peas into guacamole. Are you kidding me? Guacamole is green before you add the peas.
6. Nutritionists are in agreement that children should help cook the household meals. Kids are more willing to eat foods they’ve had a hand in preparing. Great idea. Do we cook after the soccer game and before guitar lessons or squeeze it in between homework and The Simpsons? Do we cook in the back of the car on the way home from Hebrew school or WHAT?
7. I hid small pieces of broccoli under the pepperoni on their pizza once. They would have threatened matricide if they knew there was such a word. You couldn’t have pried their mouths open with a crowbar.
It all sounds funny, but I was a guilty mess for years over my failure to instill healthful eating habits in my sons. My inability to control their diets made for some horrific dinner time scenes, the memory of which gives me indigestion. I had nightmares about the sorry physical consequences my children would endure in later years due to my ineptitude in feeding them.
We are inundated with information about how to best take care of our children. It’s a wonder any of us have lived into our middle age given the fact that our parents didn’t have armies of professionals coaxing them along every minute of the day on 1400 television stations and 12 million internet sites.
There are plenty of children who do eat vegetables. It always makes me happy to hear this. Only good can come from developing healthy eating habits at an early age, but to all those parents whose kids are as stubborn as mine, I am ecstatic to report, after seeing incontrovertible evidence, that it is possible to survive childhood and live an active life into your twenties without eating vegetables.
Dan happily munched on a spinach salad while watching the Phillies game. I’ve also seen him order fish in a restaurant. My middle son loves my mushroom soup, the same soup he refused to eat for twenty years. He too, eats a healthy diet replete with all the vitamins and minerals fruits and veggies have to offer. My youngest just started college. All bets are off in college. But even he is coming around.
I don’t object to experts. I don’t dispute the need to prevent diabetes and obesity in our children. I think we should all ban sodas and trans fats from our homes. But, at least in my home, it was easier to jettison the crap from the premises than it was to force-feed the good stuff. Thank God for peanut butter and applesauce! While the experts espouse the benefits of betacarotene, iron, and anti-oxidants, it would be helpful if they’d also discuss the value of time.
Photo by Dana Hashim
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