The challenges of feeding the family
By Kris Kodrich
I wish we were the type of parents who routinely purée peas and carrots to create wonderful, nutrient-rich sauces that we slop over our kids’ food.
Instead, we find ourselves trying to coerce our girls into munching a carrot stick or a broccoli floret before they dive into a plate of 420-calorie-per-5.7-ounce-serving of orange chicken from Panda Express.
If Kalia and Bianka had their way, they’d eat at Panda Express every night–perhaps alternating with hamburgers hot off our patio grill and the occasional pancake or two.
It’s a constant battle to get our kids to eat better. We make sure they have carrots and oranges in their lunches, try to introduce them to interesting chicken or pasta dishes, and occasionally will celebrate when Kalia, 11, makes herself a little salad, or when Bianka, 7, demands that I buy strawberries, applies, grapes or kiwi. She absolutely loves avocados, and would eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we let her.
We declare small victories if they reach for the Cheerios instead of the Reese’s Puffs. We are thankful that they love spaghetti, chicken, soups, teriyaki stir-fry, baked potatoes and quesadillas.
Although we don’t push fruits and vegetables as much as we should, they are at healthy weights–the nurse at the recent checkup even declared Kalia “tall and lean.” We smile when Kalia and Bianka repeat a nutritional fact they learned at school or acknowledge that their beloved Nutella hazelnut spread really isn’t all that good for them.
We’re far from perfect parents, but we at least try to keep things healthy at home.
Eating out, however, can be much more challenging.
One doesn’t need to watch “Fast Food Nation” daily or be an avid reader of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s newsletter to know the ever-present danger of too much sodium, fat, sugar and calories.
And our family likes eating out–we usually go out at least twice a week. It’s fun, and we like trying new places. We particularly like taking our kids to neighborhood Italian and Mexican joints in Denver and Greeley. The biggest bonus of eating out, though, is we get to talk to each other. Kalia once lamented that our family doesn’t eat together much at our dining table because of our varied schedules. So I justify our dining splurges by the fact we are all together, talking and interacting as a family should.
Plus, as crazy as it sounds, we find that it’s usually much cheaper to eat out. With Groupons and Social Living Deals, kids-eat-free days, certificates for free meals and two-for-one specials, and a load of gift cards accumulated through rewards programs, credit cards, etc. , we rarely pay more than $5 or $10 total for a family of four. And we’re not talking McDonalds, either.
At casual family restaurants, Kalia and Bianka are learning to ask for orange or apple slices instead of French fries. Kalia now usually drinks only water with her meals, but we’re still trying to wean Bianka from soda. I have no idea how she acquired a taste for Coke because nobody else in our house drinks it.
But we still do like our pancakes. I am a sucker for all the free pancake breakfasts that seem to sprout in the summer. I will wake the kids up at 6am to head to Frontier Days in Cheyenne or the Larimer County Fair or any number of other festivals and parades that offer free pancakes. I know it makes no sense. You waste more in gas money and then there’s all that waiting in the sun to get the pancakes.
But free pancakes always taste so much better. As my kids get older, though, I’m finding it harder and harder to convince them of that. They’d rather just go to IHOP. Wait … I do believe I have a coupon for free pancakes there, too.
Kris Kodrich, who teaches journalism at Colorado State University, and his two daughters are getting ready for the upcoming fair and festival season filled with pancake breakfasts.