Mom is Trying to Kill Us with Organic Food by Julie Wheaton & Patrece Powers (Contributing Bloggers)
I (Julie) occasionally pretend to be a food fairy by sneaking healthy food into my kids’ meals. Industrial food processing has caused the path of food to fork in two directions: there’s food for health and food for profit. As such, modern food fairies face enormous competition from food-for-profit operations with their fancy displays, free toys, and slick advertising. As a counterpoint, I practice what might be called “stealth health” but which my three sons describe as “Mom trying to kill us with organic food.”
It’s true that I use various tactics to enrich good food with organic food, and it’s true that I don’t reveal my tactics unless I’m caught red-handed. But even after 26 years, I still have a few tricks up my organic-cotton sleeve. Here are five:
#1. I display food like a retailer.
My kids seem to get hungry only when we’re away from home. Once, in an attempt to make our food look more commercial, I shopped for a used deli case on Craigslist. I imagined stocking it with home-cooked food and then standing behind it at mealtime so my kids could feel like they were ordering take-out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a deli case to fit my kitchen, and remodeling was out of the question. From this experience, though, I learned that clear glass makes food look more appetizing, so I store cold food in clear-glass containers and dry goods in large glass jars, like the ones in old-fashioned candy shops.
#2. I re-use packaging from favorite foods.
I refill the brand-name peanut-butter jar with homemade peanut butter. I save bags from brand-name snacks and refill them with bulk-bin equivalents. Every so often, I buy a few bottles of popular sports drinks and empty them into the sink. I refill them with diluted juice or powdered drink mix from the healthy food store. Yes, it’s more expensive than buying plain water bottles, but it lets my kids feel like they’re drinking what everyone else is drinking. (Proceed carefully here. I’ve discovered mold in bottles that sat in warm backpacks, sports bags, or cars.)
#3. I stretch food.
This is my favorite fairy tactic because I keep finding more ways to stretch foods with healthier ingredients. To flavored yogurt, I add plain Greek yogurt. To smoothies, I add spinach. To granola, I add ground flaxseed and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to hide the taste. I extend store-bought trail mix by adding organic nuts and raisins. My neighbor blends steamed cauliflower into her mashed potatoes. And what food fairy hasn’t stretched sweet cereals by combining them with low-sugar look-alikes?
#4. I find news ways to participate in food events.
Our local baseball field has a snack bar that serves everything except snacks. It’s packed with donuts, candy, and soda—all made by food-for-profit companies. At the start of each season, baseball families are asked to donate money to re-stock the snack bar. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I found another way to participate. One Saturday, I made a tray of fruit kabobs and brought it to the snack bar. The kabobs sold out in two hours, and the proceeds satisfied the donation request.
#5. I use today’s terminology.
When talking food with my kids, I use trendy words. Instead of offering them lunch, I offer “a snack,” which is lunch cut into smaller portions and served on a paper towel. A bagel-and-egg sandwich is an eggel. Homemade smoothies are momba juice. Scrambled eggs with ham and bits of kale are called green eggs and ham.
Of course, not every trip to the plate is a home run; I strike out—a lot. Too much protein powder in the smoothie. Too many greens in the scrambled eggs. Lumpy milk (non-homogenized). Tofu hot dogs that made one of my son’s friends ask, “Why are your hot dogs orange?”
Being a food fairy doesn’t guarantee that my kids will eat what I serve or even that they’ll be healthier if they do. So why bother? Because being a food fairy is fun. I like seeing what I can get away with. When the kids discover one of my tactics, we share a good long laugh, usually around the dinner table. And what could be healthier than that?