Slice of life

by Meg Heiman

A few years ago, I worried about my young children’s eating habits, as many new parents tend to do. Now that I’ve got a few years of parenting under my belt, I have a broader perspective on the eating issue. What I’ve discovered is that there are many things to worry about as a parent concerning children. Eating needn’t be one of them. <BR><BR>My first born was raised on a strict organic diet until he was almost two years old. Refined sugar didn’t pass through his lips, nor did an artificial flavor or color. His first birthday cake was sweetened with apple juice and made with whole wheat flour. I was such a neurotic first-time mom that I kept a food journal to ensure that he ate the proper nutrients daily. <BR><BR>He was the child I insisted finish his meal before being excused from the table. He was the child who was TOLD what he liked (You like peas, remember?) and what he disliked (That is colored sugar water in wax. You don’t want to eat that.), and the one who suffered the result of his mother’s reading too many parenting books that advised reintroducing foods until a child “liked” them. <BR><BR>It goes without saying that today he is a bit of a junk food junkie. All right, he’s a big junk food junkie. But I don’t think I can take credit for his being that way any more than I can take credit for one of my other son’s eating habits. <BR><BR>This guy came along after his mom gave up on organic and whole foods. He had a sucker in his mouth before he had teeth. His first birthday cake was made from a box and had so much green food coloring in the icing that all of the children who attended his party and ate the cake had green stools for a week. <BR><BR>Yet this fella chooses carrots and celery over cookies and juice over pop. And what his poor, unenlightened mother has learned is that children’s eating habits are nothing to get worked up about.<BR><BR>I have one son who insisted he couldn’t eat spicy foods on Tuesdays (his being so young at the time that he had to be told the day of the week before he stated his restriction), and another who took a three year sabbatical from milk. <BR><BR>I have sons who caught moths just to lick the powder from their wings and who have eaten dirt, worms and pencil erasers, yet they turn up their noses to lasagna and meatloaf. <BR><BR>I have one who ate a peanut butter (only Jiff) and jelly (only grape) sandwich (crust off) every day for lunch for years and another who won’t touch anything tomato-related unless it’s in the form of ketchup. <BR><BR>What I’ve discovered more through observation than participation is that children can do a pretty good job making good food choices on their own without being nagged or forced to eat something. And most of the things we’d rather they not eat won’t kill them. <BR><BR>I’m not advocating total anarchy. We parents can be a bit creative in what we offer and how we offer it. For example, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli with ranch dressing to dip in and put out on the table before dinner may be more likely to get eaten than if they’re steamed and put out with dinner. Vegetables shredded in cake or fruit blended in smoothies may also be appealing. And so on. <BR><BR>Kids’ tastes and appetites are as unpredictable and changing as the wind. From a mom who knows, it’s hard to force them to shift to a parent’s desires. And it’s often unnecessary to worry when they don’t go in the direction one wishes. Instead, it’s best to go with the flow. Enjoy!<BR><BR>CARROT CAKE <BR><BR>3 c flour 2 t soda <BR><BR>2 t cinnamon 1 t salt <BR><BR>2 c sugar 1 1/2 c oil <BR><BR>3 eggs 2 c finely grated carrots <BR><BR>1 can (8 1/4 oz) crushed pineapple <BR><BR>2 t vanilla 1 1/2 c chopped nuts <BR><BR>Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan or a 9-by-13 pan. Sift flour with soda, cinnamon and salt. In large bowl of electric mixer, combine sugar and salad oil. Beat in eggs. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Stir in carrots, pineapple, vanilla and nuts. Pour into prepared pan and bake 60 - 70 minutes in tube pan or 30 -40 minutes in rectangular pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Store in refrigerator.<BR><BR>