A very simple but eye-opening slideshow displaying a few of the more obvious ways some foods aren’t exactly what they claim to be:
At the Farmer’s Market, a set on Flickr.
What you’re missing if you’re not shopping locally!
How’s that for a title? Think it will get me more hits??
Not if you’re a savvy parent, a been-there-done-that-with-two-or-more-toddlers parent. You already know that there are two things you can never “make” your kid do: eat and sleep. I would add, on behalf of certain friends, you also can’t make them poop. Although I suppose there are medicines for that.
Wow, not two paragraphs in and I’m already talking about poop! I must be a parent!
Anyway, on to the “how to” get kids to eat. This post isn’t actually about how to do that. It’s about all the stupid-ass advice that does not get them to eat at all. At least, not if they are my kids, who can smell my desires from miles away and take off running in the opposite direction. My best guess is that all of this advice has been compiled by people who either don’t have children or have extremely compliant (read: dim) children. Ha ha! Just kidding! A little.
Advice #1: Have kids help with menu planning.
OK, this actually works. It works fantastically well. And if you want to eat nothing but macaroni and cheese and hot dogs – which admittedly, many of us would – then this is the way to go. You will not have hungry children. You might have some issues with diabetes down the road, but hey, that’s at least ten years away, right?!
Advice #2: Take kids shopping with you so they can help pick out ingredients.
What insane parent actually believes this nonsense??
First: what child enjoys grocery shopping? None I live with. Dragging their lazy butts along with me so I can listen to nonstop whining and/or placate with cookies from the bakery (only to face a sugar crash right at checkout time*) does not sound like my idea of a good time for any of us. My grocery trips are my sacred ME time, and you will not take them away from me. You may also go in front of me with your loaded cart. Please. I don’t mind waiting another 20 minutes. I’ve already picked the longest line on purpose. There’s nothing more fun than calling home to say, “Oh sorry, hon, I’m stuck in line STILL!” (while you hear screaming and crashing in the background).
Second problem with taking kids shopping is related to the first piece of advice: they probably will not be willing to assist in picking nutritionally sound choices. Now maybe they’ll go for a little fruit here & there. But if they’re like mine, they’re going to be a lot more intrigued by cartoons on boxes or fancy pasta shapes or verboten treats like candy or beer than they will be interested in going up and down those boring outside aisles of the market. And…cue the whining.
That reminds me of one of my favorite Maggie stories, from about age 2. While I was picking out beer she very loudly announced to the surrounding patrons, “I don’t like beer. I only like wine.” Ah, good times.
Third problem with taking kids shopping is the “help” they give (this will come up again later when we get to cooking; you already know where I’m going with this). If you think it is “helpful” for someone to drop half your cart on the floor (especially glass!), or surreptitiously return items to the shelf that you’ve crossed off the list, or wildly grab extra items that are decidedly not on the list, or demand to sit IN the basket NOT the BABY SEAT thereby crowding out any room for actual groceries…well, then you probably do need some help.
So. Taking kids shopping is just a disaster waiting to happen. We agree?
Advice #3: Have kids help with cooking.
I’ll just skip the part where I talk about how this makes everything take forEVER and creates an insane mess for you to clean up later. You already know that part. What really pisses me off about this little suggestion is that it does not work AT ALL. This whole blog post actually came about because a good friend of mine emailed to say, “What is UP with this stupid advice??” Exactly.
Witness Mr K, the nearly-three-year-old, who LOVES helping his dad cook. He wants to be there for every part of the process and takes it in with his little toddler sponge brain. He tastes judiciously as he’s cooking. He suggests more salt, perhaps that nice fleur de sel this time, let’s not be cheap. The Honest Toddler & he would get along well.
Anyway he and his dad have this lovely bonding over their cooking and all is going swimmingly and I hear him saying, “Mmmmmm” many times and “I wuve this!” over and over. So what happens when we sit down at the table?
You know what happens. He won’t touch it.
He’s definitely going to be a chef. Or work at Taco Bell.
Advice #4: Make food FUN!!!!!!!!
Oh man, how do we even deal with this level of chipper ignorance? It seems cruel to dismiss such naivete out of hand, so many of us have indeed tried it.
Here’s a secret: the only things that make food fun are grandparents and playdates. Kids eat all kinds of crazy stuff when there’s a Grammy or a friend’s house involved. They’ll nosh on Cuties. They’ll burn through pistachios. (Those are two actual real-life examples of things my children won’t touch at home but they devoured at other houses.) My mom’s big trick is to put food in fun containers for them. Yeah. Doesn’t work at home. At all.
Or my friend who inspired this post, she says, “They both love hamburgers but when it’s fun – made into meatballs and on sticks! <– FUN, dammit!! – they won’t touch ‘em!” No. No they won’t.
The fact is, you can do everything right – make the food into a smiley face, dine al fresco or en living room, put sprinkles on broccoli, serve the entire meal on toothpicks out of muffin trays – and if they’re not in the mood for it, they’ll decline to partake in your SUPER FUN DAMMIT meal attempt (on a good night – on a bad, it’s a one-way trip to CrazyTown).
Those are all actual “fun food” things I have tried. That did not work.
There’s no fun silver bullet. Not if you’re the unlucky person who gave life to these little dictators.
Advice #5: If they won’t eat what you serve, they don’t eat at all.
Ah yes, the “tough love” approach so many of us grew up with. Or its cousin, the “clean your plate there are kids starving in Africa/China” guilt approach (to which the clever/smart-ass child always replies, “Then send this to them”).
Here’s the thing: this is, once again, a punishment for the parent, not the child. First, because the parent has spent a lot of money & energy on this meal that is not going to be eaten. That sucks. Second, because the parent knows that if that kid doesn’t eat something, he is going to be waking her up all night long to complain of being hungry. Now if you are the kind of parent who locks their kid in their room and says, “tough luck” then I suppose this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m just not. I’m also not really into starvation as a compliance tactic. So I suffer, not them.
What happens is, eventually, the kid gets to eat something relatively healthy that is packed with protein and/or fiber, so that at least her belly won’t groan so loud all night that you confuse it with your husband’s snoring.
And you once again question why you bothered with dinner at all.
The Truth, Plain & Simple: there is only ONE way to ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEE that your children will eat a meal. That they will devour it and beg for more. How? How do you accomplish this voodoo, you ask??
You make something that only you really want to eat and you assume they won’t touch. Something truly weird, like octopus (true story). Then you make only enough for the adults at the table.
You will be hearing, “I WUVE OCTOPUS!!!” in no time.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
*One honest-to-goodness sarcasm-free truly real tip: if you are faced with children along when you shop, and you go somewhere with bakery cookies, do NOT let them TOUCH that damn cookie until you’re in the checkout line. it’s not to placate in the store, it’s the reward at the end of the trip. This has worked wonders for me.
This is it…the moment we’ve been waiting for! Drum rolls! Huzzahs!
It’s a GIVEAWAY!!
If you’d like to try the Squooshi pouches that I reviewed yesterday (click here if you missed it), this post is for you – thanks to generous mom (and Squooshi founder) Shannon, we have an Assorted Four Pack of washable & reusable baby food pouches to give to one of our lucky readers.
Since this is our first giveaway I’m gonna get all crazy controlling about it and make some rules. ‘Cause my house, my rules.
First: You have to read my review.
Second: You have to post a comment on THIS giveaway blog entry, telling me what you’d put in your Squooshis, should you be the winner. You may also say nice things about my review and/or make further suggestions for how to thicken my smoothies (I have already been schooled in the frozen fruit trick).
[note: just saying "Squooooooooooooooooshi!" will not qualify you - but it will make me laugh]
Third: I’ll pick a recipe to try. If my kids like it, you win!
Ha ha just kidding. They like everything in a Squooshi. You just win if I like your idea the best.
Yeah, I’m not doing any of this random number generator crap. That just leads to people posting asinine “Pick me!” comments and leaves luck up to … well … luck. And frankly I believe in effort and creativity over luck!
Plus yes I am a little bitter that my many pithy and fantastic comments have always been overlooked by evil random number generators which I am pretty sure work for my enemies and will one day take over the world.
(I reserve the right to use a random number generator if I can’t decide what comment is best. So please don’t let a lack of energy to come up with something be the reason you don’t enter. If you want to enter without a recipe, just leave a comment about your favorite part of my review. Kissing up is always welcome.)
So leave your comment below and let’s help each other fill our Squooshis!
On that vaguely naughty-sounding note, I think we’d better wrap this up.
Congratulations to ERIN who has won the Four Pack of Squooshis!
Full disclosure: I was given this product for free in exchange for the review.
Yesterday I revealed that FoodiEvangelist is delighted to be doing our first product review AND giveaway!! And I talked a bit about how this is a product our family has been waiting for for a long time.
After playing with these pouches for a few days – filling them, feeding them to my kids, washing them, and taking them on-the-go – I have found a lot to love about them. I’ve also got a few tips for you if you choose to get your own (or are the lucky winner of our giveaway!). And I’ve even got a couple ideas for Squooshi itself – I know you guys are listening!
(Skip to the bottom for a bullet list of pros & cons if you don’t want to read my fascinating-but-lengthy narrative review.)
So the first thing you’re gonna notice about these pouches is that they are really freaking adorable. I appreciate the effort they put into making the product cute (usually my son just has some company’s name hanging out the end of his gob).
They feel a little flimsy but they held up very well to everything I put in them. I wound up deciding that the Panda was my favorite design, not only because it is the cutest, but also, practically speaking, it is mostly translucent – which makes it easier to see the gunk inside when you’re cleaning. More on that later.
I received an Assorted Four Pack, the same item that we’ll be giving away (check back tomorrow for instructions on how to win!). This was a set of two large (4.5 oz) pouches and two small (2.5 oz) pouches, in each of their four animal designs. They arrived in a nice little reusable sack for storage. I believe I already lost it, but it was a nice touch.
Another thing I am sure I will be losing: the little caps. They are necessary for filling the pouches (you fill upside down, from the bottom – the big end – which then zips closed), and they are, thankfully, interchangeable between the sizes. Already one step ahead of me, Squooshi sells replacements. I also happened to have an old cap from a disposable pouch (probably a Plum Organics) in the bottom of the diaper bag, and that fit as well. Whew.
My daughter and I couldn’t wait to try them out, so we grabbed our organic applesauce from the fridge and doctored it with cinnamon just like she loves. Already I’m happy that I’m not spending the usual 50 cents on an applesauce pouch, and double happy that this one is twice the size of the ones I usually buy.
If you’re short on time, just throwing store-bought applesauce in these babies is still going to save you money and the kids are still going to have more fun (and make less mess) eating it than they normally would.
And then, our first snag: in my excitement I hadn’t read the directions very carefully and I overfilled the first pouch. You have to keep it at 3/4 full or less. Lesson learned. You also have to make sure you clean out the zipper part at the bottom so you can get a good tight seal. I was really anal about this for the first few rounds, and I decided my finger was the best tool for the job (I guess you could use a paper towel but then you un-do the environmental goodness; and my dishrags are always dirty). So if, like me, you tend to lick your fingers when cooking, make sure you don’t add anything to the pouch that you’re not especially fond of (e.g. bananas, for me).
ANYWAY…as it turns out, the seal is good. On another day we took them out in the lunch bag, and they didn’t spill at all. I was worried about that the whole time, but my worries were unnecessary.
So Maggie sucked the first (small) pouch right up – so quickly, in fact, that I was relieved I hadn’t spent a long time working on its contents. Right away I figured out that the small pouches were going to be too small for my kids. They would probably be great for a baby’s first foods. But my kids are half past 2 and 4, and they have healthy appetites. If you have preschoolers too, I’d definitely recommend the large pouches.
Another point about the smalls: I found it more difficult to fill them and to clean them (both cleaning the zipper to seal it and then later cleaning the whole thing). I’m really hands-on and I guess my fingers are just too fat to go in those little pouches! I much prefer working with the larger size. I’ll bet an even larger size would work for me & my kids, too! (are you listening, Squooshi?)
For our next experiment we went with a full-on, homemade smoothie. But I’ve talked a lot so I’m gonna just let you enjoy this one in a series of oh-so-fun photos…
OK, hope that was a nice break from my chatter.
So my biggest worry with these things was how to get them clean. I know from experience that anything with strawberry seeds and/or yogurt in it is very difficult to get clean. I’ve destroyed many a reusable straw & cup with those ingredients.
Therefore I am being very anal about religiously washing these out every time I use them, before anything dries inside. Even when we took them to the zoo, we all tromped into the bathroom and rinsed out the pouches after snack. I can’t speak to how well they clean up in other circumstances because I just wasn’t willing to try.
However, I have been delighted with how easily they have been rinsing out and how, with just a little soap and warm water (even in a zoo bathroom!), they come pretty clean without too much effort. It helps to seal them up with the soapy water inside and squish it around a bit. I even let a small amount of soapy water slosh around in them all the way home from the zoo. When we got back, voila! Clean!
This is where the animal patterns come into importance – the Panda is the most see-through of the pouches, and thus it is much easier to see when it’s all clean inside. As for the straggling bits of this-and-that stuck to the inners & outers, I was especially frustrated with trying to clean the small one with my too-big bottle brush.
But then, a moment of sheer genius: my daughter was due for a new toothbrush and I realized her old one was perfect for getting right into all those little corners, plus brushing off the slim grooves in the cap device. WOW! I am really very pleased with myself for figuring this one out, and I offer you that tip freely – no attribution required.
By the way, they will go in the dishwasher, but in my experience this has taken the pictures off other products, breaks down plastics over time, and most importantly, doesn’t do much against dried-on smoothie (especially in nooks & crannies). So I suggest handwashing. With your kids’ toothbrush. Preferably after you buy kid a new one.
My only pseudo-disappointment with the Squooshi pouches is something that is obvious and unavoidable – and, ironically, part of their appeal: that the contents are always going to be fresh. This means that you can’t keep them in the pantry and you can’t throw them in the diaper bag and forget about them. You can freeze them – and they did defrost much faster than I expected – so this is a viable option as long as you remember to take them out of the freezer before kiddo is screaming for a snack.
If I had my druthers, I’d probably just buy one of the larger sets of the big ones, make contents in bulk, and keep a bunch of them in the freezer. I wish I could just get Pandas, though…(hint, hint).
For those of you “not into the whole brevity thing,” I hope this has been helpful and interesting. For those preferring bullet points, here ya go:
- Complete control over what goes in your child’s mouth – you can make it organic, local, fresh, and as healthy as you want (or as your child will eat!). Great use for all those CSA greens – hide ‘em in smoothies. A wonderful way to help develop your child’s palate!
- BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free…unlike many other baby food products, unfortunately.
- They save lots of money! [single-use pouches run $1 on sale these days and up to $1.89 each]
- Absolutely too cute – love love love the designs!
- Kids will eat a lot of stuff (read: veggies) in a pouch, even if they won’t normally touch it. You know they’ve gotten at least one good serving of something healthy.
- Less waste = better for the earth and therefore our kids.
- Saving money!
- Handy and fun for all ages. I don’t think my kids will outgrow them, and I already know they’re great in a lunchbox.
- I found myself finishing off the smoothie that didn’t fit in the pouches, so they helped me eat a healthier snack than normal too!
- Overall pretty easy to clean, no special equipment required (except snagging your kids’ toothbrush).
- Did I mention saving the money?
- Small size difficult to fill & clean – but also not enough food for my kids anyway, so I wasn’t very motivated to figure out how to work with it.
- The caps are easy to lose (but also replaceable).
- Not shelf stable (yes I just listed freshness as a con…sigh). Nothing to be done about that, it’s just the reality of real food.
- Have to think ahead to defrost (but does do quickly), and have to prepare ahead (though in a pinch, some spiced-up applesauce is a great filler and still saves money!).
- Your smoothie ideas may suck (like mine) – but fortunately the Squooshi site’s blog has a growing list of recipes!
- The whole endeavor takes time and effort. But if you invest in a decent number of them and freeze large quantities, you can mitigate this problem somewhat.
To sum up:
Squooshis are, like so many eco-friendly parenting choices, a commitment more than a convenience. But if you are willing to commit, I truly believe you will be doing right by your kids’ health, the earth, and your wallet.
Come back tomorrow for a GIVEAWAY of an Assorted Four Pack just like I tried for this review!