What to feed the itinerant children of divorced parents? It’s a question with as many answers as there are varieties of dog, but I have to think the greatest factors are household income, time — and a kid’s discerning palate.
They look at what you took time, effort and love to fix for them with singular disgust; as if you’ve placed before them a slithering, translucent, gelatinous mass with sentient eyes that dare anyone to reach for a fork.
For those dads not sitting on a fat trust, settlement or lottery jackpot, time is money. A forty-plus hour work week doesn’t afford the average dad much time to establish his child(ren)’s favorite foods much less how to prepare them, and I mean prepare them just so. Any dad who has fried up a burger with the delusion that his kid will take to it like a Big Mac has likely heard a rendition of the “But I/We Wanted McDonald’s” rap. Conversely, caving in to demands for fast food sets an expensive and nutritionally bereft precedent.
Welcome to the Visiting Kiddie Cuisine Conundrum.
What gets me about this is the sheer vehemence with which some kids express food biases. They look at what you took time, effort and love to fix for them with singular disgust; as if you’ve placed before them a slithering, translucent, gelatinous mass with sentient eyes that dare anyone to reach for a fork.
I have fought the food battle with each of my kids at one point or another, but my little girl had easily been most defiant. This is where things got tricky.
I knew it was nuts to regularly engage my own child in a battle of wills over her preference for McNuggets to sauteed zucchini; this only wasted precious time and could have driven her to resent me. I also knew that American girls are susceptible to developing serious food and body image issues that result in eating disorders. Trying to push her at such a young age to make positive food choices could certainly lead her down that path. I was in over my head. It was time to jump online.
There, I was reminded that children need to feel a sense of autonomy, especially at meal time. I now believe the best way to teach children about nutrition and to expand their menu is to feed them what they like while gently, persistently offering them new and better options. No matter how many times the kids reject alternative foods, I keep them around and make a show of eating them. Sooner or later, my kids’ natural curiosity tends to trump their obstinance.
Another thing I learned is to develop my grill game. Becoming a better cook has saved me tons of money and time. Best of all, the kids and I take our meals together…and my daughter is eating well.