Healthy Meals – Why Bother?

I, like my fellow mamas and daddies, spend tireless hours finding new recipes, planning, shopping, prepping and cooking healthy meals for my toddler. On a good day, half of the food is actually consumed. On a typical day, half of the food “falls” onto the floor.

Parents’ goal is to protect our children, even if that means converting to brown rice, quinoa and ground turkey. Parents want to give children what they need.

Why do we bother?

Charli would rather eat a whole can of fruit cocktail (no sugar added) than touch my clean pot roast. She snubs my efforts to create a tasty, varied menu. If Charlotte had her way, she would eat sweet potatoes, corn, cooked carrots, saltine crackers and cookies. … LOTS of cookies.

These are the things she wants!

The most success I have experienced with feeding my daughter is when I set aside my aspirations of clean eating. For example, I baked pigs in a blanket tonight, and she loved it!

I doubt a hot dog wrapped in a crescent roll is filled with vitamins and nutrients, but what’s a mama to do?

Pigs in a blanket is better than no dinner at all! … Right?

So, my big question: Do I continue my efforts to introduce healthier meals that end up on my floor, or do I cave and make a menu out of corn-dogs, ravioli, chicken nuggets and PB&J?

How do you get your toddler to eat “better?”

My Little Sous-Chef

I love to cook.

I’m not a talented chef who knows how to pare different flavors or anything like that. I simply enjoy the act of cooking. Of course, I have a toddler running around so setting aside time to cook – I mean, really cook – is rare. Cooking actually takes away from mommy time with Charlotte.

(Lots of household activities encroach on time with Charli, but I use it to my advantage in most cases!)

Instead of completely giving up on one of my few hobbies, I’ve started engaging Charlotte in the cooking process. I ask her to choose between two different recipes or two vegetables or two fruits. I realize that her choices are probably based on what is most visually appealing at this age, but I’m hoping that this practice encourages her to make decisions for herself. Being an extremely indecisive person, I really want to teach her to importance of making decisions!

In addition to making choices for mealtime, I’m starting to include her in the cooking. She will drag a chair across the kitchen and slap the seat yelling “UH! UH!” (translation: UP! UP!) until I pick her up and place her on the seat. I scoot the chair up to the counter so she can watch as I measure and mix. I talk to her the whole time, explaining what I’m doing and what I’m making.

Yesterday, she helped me make turkey chili. She poured the different ingredients into the crockpot for me. After watching me stir for a few seconds, Charli decided it was the coolest thing ever! She stirred and stirred, and was not happy when I told her it was time to cook the chili.

Charlotte won’t remember this experience with me because she is too young. She won’t remember what it was like to have me leaning over her, wrapping my hand around her hand as I taught her how to stir the ingredients. She won’t remember the pure, innocent joy in that moment.

And she won’t remember that she refused to eat even one bite of the chili when it was done.

But I will remember. At least I hope I will.

It was one of the most bittersweet moments I’ve had in a while. It was such an awesome, happy experience, and it made me long for my mom so very much.

So it seems I have a new cooking buddy, my little sous-chef. I won’t have to give up my hobby, and I won’t have to miss out on time with my daughter. It’s a win-win… If only she would eat what she cooks!