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Doughnut Feed Me That.

"These are treats," I said to Birdy as she clamored for a doughnut at Dunkin Donuts.

"Yes, a treat.  Not something we have all the time.  But we can have it some of the time."


Our pretend doughnuts.  We play with them in moderation?

What kills me is that the price of a doughnut at Dunkin Donuts is a matter of two or three quarters.  If I want to buy a dozen doughnuts at the grocery store, it might cost me $1.99.  But if I want a bag of four avocados, it runs me upwards four and a half dollars.  Keeping the food options in my house, and in my life, reasonably healthy means shelling out the extra money, even when we're like "holy shit, that's an insane grocery bill."

Chris and I talk about the cost of food all the time - how healthy food costs are on the rise, how easy it is to keep the grocery bill down if you buy things that aren't particularly healthy (see aforementioned doughnut example), and how so much of what's marketed as "food" is over-run by chemicals and crap.  (Not to mention that there's an actual science behind the addiction - check out this fascinating New York Times article about that very theory.)  But one thing we are constantly harping on, in our own home, is the "kid food" conundrum.  When we go out to eat, the kid's menu is most often comprised of chicken fingers (fried), pasta and meatballs, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese.  This is not what I want to feed my kid as a standard meal. 

For my daughter - my growing child and the person I care about the most on the planet - I think these menu options are crummy and drive an agenda of junky foods over healthy foods.  Recently, at a restaurant we frequent pretty often, we noticed that french fries have been augmented with a "broccoli" or "fresh fruit" option, which I found encouraging,  But still, the majority of what I see marketed and pushed towards my kid, outside of our home, is food that we'd classify as "treats." This is "kid food?"  Why is my kid "supposed" to eat the crappiest food?

There's nothing wrong with having these foods, in moderation.  Most things, in moderation, are fine.  (Isn't this the theory of finding balance in a life with diabetes?)  But a steady stream of breaded, factory-mashed chicken nuggets and macaroni aren't what I'm hoping for, in terms of my kid, or the rest of my family.  The fact that she likes carrot sticks and cucumbers, and grilled chicken and lentil soup is encouraging.  We work hard to earn our grocery bill, and we take pride in our daughter's concept of what a "treat" is.  Sure, she's grossed out now by avocado (and tells me with her mangled cave woman speech: "You can eat that, that avocado stuff because I don't like it.  I eat it when I be bigger."), but she did eat it all the time when she was a baby.  And if I keep offering it to her and helping her develop a taste for things like it, hopefully she'll lean towards healthier options instead of defaulting to ketchup and french fries. 

"But I like french fries," she argues with me.  

"I know you do.  But you can eat other things, too."

"Okay.  And when I be bigger, I can eat just french fries if I want to, and you can eat just avocado."

I want "kid food" for my kid to simply be food that's essentially the same foods as what her mom and dad are eating, just cut into smaller bites.  (Except coffee.  I hope she doesn't inherit that bad habit from me.)  This is a work-in-progress, but if her life can include a healthy balance of doughnuts as treats and spinach as standard, I'll eat "just avocado" for life.


Birdy will end up just fine. Both you and your husband are obviously on the same page and that will really help her later in life. She'll know what the healthy foods are for her--even if she doesn't eat avocado. My parents weren't super strict, but they did insist that I finish what was on my plate (including canned vegetables) if I wanted dessert.

I was lucky, though, to actually see what a diabetic had to go through from a very early age like Birdy, because my oldest brother developed Type 1 diabetes when I was in First Grade. Making the adjustment was MUCH easier for me when I developed it 38 years later in 2009 than the average bear. The most you can do for your child is your best. YOUR best is very good.

Ugh, I war with this every day. We have limited sweets/snacks in our house as it is, but the main problem is trying to get our almost-2-year-old to eat anything green. I am amazed at how her food choices already lean towards the processed and unhealthy, even though we consistently offer healthy and organic options (that cost out the yin-yang at the grocery store.) We always feed her whatever we are eating at meals, but getting her to actually eat the asparagus is a struggle (she will eat the meat options with no complaint - I think she survives on grilled chicken.)

I've often wondered and worried that my weird relationship with food (because of diabetes) is going to harmfully impact any future children I have, mostly about letting them have treat-like things or snacking too often. That last part I credit to my lack of snacking on MDI.

Anyhow, my point is that it's really nice to read this and see how you handle food and the little one. Maybe I won't be insane with my hypothetical children.

School throws more challenges your way. You can control lunch but it's amazing how many treats come their way. I'm on a mini-campaign to encourage parents to bring in non-food birthday treats at Ryan's school, and many folks consider me quite the party pooper.

Adding to the financial cost of healthy food vs junk, is the time it takes to make a healthy vs slapping down the science experiment foods you write about.

I can scratch make a reasonably health moderate amount of salt chicken pot pie. Takes a long time. A fat laced salt bomb pops out of the microwave and sadly tastes fairly fantastic if not at all like any actual food alleged in product by the photo on the box.

Great post, friend. I cannot imagine how infuriated I would be by the crappy options available to children, if I had my own. I get infuriated enough as it is, for myself ;-) I'll leave it at that, and depart with I will never understand why avocados are so freaking expensive.

Hi Kerri,
We attempted to have our baby daughter eat squash. She did not like it and still does not like it. Veggies, which are cut and left out for a choice bring a different game into play. She would make her choices. Yes to raw little trees. Seasonal fresh fruit adds a sweetness and does have a taste. Sometimes children will mix certain foods which can bring an interesting and unique combination.

ive been telling my kids from when they were young they must eat something green with every meal, always no matter what. they are now 7&8 yrs. old and it is now a part of their routine. great job doing what you are dong. and i agree about the food bill... i feel like that is our highest monthly bill bc of the organic/ non processed, gmo, pesticide, ugh, ugh stuff we feel better buying.

Yes! Yes!
When we go out to eat my kids order off the main menu. We don't even get kid menus. I let Dave pay the bills - I just don't want to know!

Great topic today! We eat relatively healthy and it is expensive. I've started teaching classes on how to save money at health food stores, but it does take a lot of time spent to save that additional money. and your savings are nowhere near what they are on conventional crap. I completely agree with your insight. Great post!

When eating out with kids, I have found Brio Tuscan Grill has The Best kids' menu!! Lots more options than most places!

So true. I become acutely aware of this when our family travels and is more reliant on restaurant meals.

In those cases, we find that it usually works better for us to skip the "kids meal" offerings and instead split adult entrees from places like Chipotle and Garbanzos.

I will say that there's a part of me that feels grateful to diabetes for giving me a heightened awareness of food and nutrition. I know my family eats better for it (and I try very hard not to pass on to them psychological food weirdness.)

Thank you for the post - I enjoy reading your blog.

I have always said this.
It is more expensive to eat healthy.
The place that I usually buy my groceries has weekly sales on seasonal produce, lean meats, grains, etc.
I base my purchases on what items are costing less than the others.
It takes more time, but I do save money this way.
And, when I am done shopping, I still have change left for DO NOTS ! (nobody's perfect)

Wow... have had the same thought recently about kids' menus, for our eight-year-old. We long ago said no to mac-and-cheese at restaurants, unless it can be verified as "homemade-style," since otherwise, it's often paying $4-5 or more on Kraft and the whole box can be made at home for about $1. But we went into a steak house and only 2 of the 6 options for kids actually included steak. What? I'm not taking my child to a steakhouse for the same chicken fingers he can get at any fast food place OR a grilled chicken breast that I can make at home!
To me, restaurant food doesn't have to be 100% healthy, because it IS a treat, but it should be an opportunity for a kid to try something new. Another area where things are being "dumbed down" for kids.
Oh, and while I appreciate the "healthier" options, substituting an applesauce or small pile of broccoli for the big pile of fries is often just not filling, esp. for bigger kids. Why can't a kid have two sides, like an adult, for a balanced meal?
We're starting to switch him to adult meals where appropriate and just take leftovers home if necessary.
One last side note - I bet you can find avocados for cheaper someplace - Aldi often has them for $0.50 apiece, sometimes even 4/$1. Most fruits/veg of which you don't eat the skin/peel are safe to eat non-organic.

Kerri, I too struggle with this. My husband and I want to eat better food, but we can't afford to pay for it all the time. We try to stick to fresh fruits and veggies and lean meats. If you are really interested in this topic - check out 100 Days of Real Food. Lisa has great recipes and tips on how to make healthy meals.

You may be interested in this campaign from the gals at Food Babe and 100 Days of Real Food. They're petitioning Kraft to remove dyes they don't use in other countries but still use in the US in their Mac and Cheese. Their blogs in general are awesome sources of information for eating less processed foods (and they have lots of tips for families and budgeting). https://www.change.org/petitions/kraft-stop-using-dangerous-food-dyes-in-our-mac-cheese

My son is not quite two, and we're just beginning to notice this trend of unhealthy "kid food" choices at restaurants. It was so much easier to control when I was breastfeeding or making the baby food! Even now, I'll often bring a side dish or two with us (the individual cups of unsweetened applesauce and fresh broccoli, for example) and just share my entree with him. I'm not sure what I'll do as he gets older and his appetite grows! When out with friends for a playdate a few weeks back, we realized it was lunch time. Several of the older kids in the group wanted McDonalds, so we went along. My son had his first McDonald's french fry - and he LOVED it... like, begging for more and salivating - LOVED it! But he also loved his apple slices (and I kept trying to convince the panicked voice in my head to chill out - he had 3 fries, and that's certainly not going to kill him). Thankfully, he's not a very picky eater... yet!

Take heart! I never ordered off kids menus when I was a kid - my mom thought kids menus were insane, and I think the same thing now too. I would just order a regular meal and take half of it home, or share what my parents ordered. I never understood why the restaurant thought I should choose from this tiny menu of brown fried things. The thing that makes me sad is that the kids menu is cheap, right? Which means that a lot of families feel like they can only afford to go out to eat if they restrict their kids to the kids menu...it's always interesting to me, the times I've been to weight watchers meetings, there's a lot of talk about how the weight watchers member (usually a mom with young kids) talk about how they cook different foods for their kids than for themselves. I always wonder, why teach your kids eating habits that they're just going to have to undo later?

I read that NYT article when it appeared, and it scared me to death. But I also have a feeling that your kid and my (now) great nieces and great nephews will be smart enough to forge a better way through the food wastelands out there.

It's funny that I'm reading this the day after I went shopping. With a wedding coming up in under 6 months, it's all healthy foods for me. When I buy frozen pizzas, frozen fried foods and other junk I spend like $50. But now that I want fresh produce from the local farmer, and fresh meat from the butcher, my grocery bill is up over $100/week for 2 people.

Now, as a grandma, I find myself "worrying" about this very subject in regards to my grandsons. I don't want to be "that mother-in-law" who meddles so I don't say much, but instead, try to offer healthier options when they are with me. My daughter-in-law, whom I absolutely adore, posted a picture of the baby hiding in the cupboard. My first thought when seeing the picture was, "Dang! Look at that cupboard full of processed carbs!!" In reality, the boys do eat a fairly healthy diet. I appreciate your take on this very real problem.

Watching the CNN-snagged Sundance film on Rescuing Healthcare in America, and a part about the cost of "healthy food" versus the less-expensive more-unhealthy foods made me think of this post. Worth a watch.

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