The Sweet Life — by Jamie

When I was a child, I was a terrific eater; my mom often relates her memories of me gnawing on a lamb chop when I only had a couple of baby teeth in my mouth. And throughout my youth, I always loved to eat—both good foods and bad-for-me foods—as evidenced by my baby fat, which lingered far longer than it should have, well into my adolescence.

As an adult, I’ve embraced healthful eating by balancing a diet of lean proteins, whole grains, and lots of veggies and fruits, with an occasional sugar binge when I can’t ignore my ever-present cravings. I DO love sugar, but try to avoid it as much as possible. My daughter, Jayda, however, is a toddler, and has no self-control: Though I do allow her all kinds of treats—in moderation—she begs for cookies at 6 a.m. (as well as throughout the rest of the day!), and for ice cream every time she hears the music from the truck. She’s also the pickiest eater I know; aside from our shared love of sugar, her eating habits are nothing like mine. And it’s so frustrating.

When Jayda was a baby, she ate all of the vegetables I put in front of her; as a toddler, she refuses to consume any of them. Oddly enough, the only veggie she’ll willingly nibble on is an artichoke, but I think her pleasure mostly comes from emulating me (I’m an artichoke fanatic), and eating with her fingers—not from the taste of the artichoke, itself. The teachers at Jayda’s day care insist that my daughter likes the veggies they serve there once a week, but I suspect she’s just eating them because all of her friends are. Because when other kids are not around, it’s nearly impossible for me to even sneak veggies into Jayda’s diet. Sometimes, as a treat, I’ll give her a can of V8 V-Fusion, which combines vegetables with sweet fruit juice. I also bake low-fat zucchini/carrot bread on occasion—but I have to call it “pumpkin bread,” or my daughter, who insists she hates carrots, will refuse to try it (though, remarkably, when she perceives it as pumpkin bread, she’ll devour slices of it). But my creative solutions end there: Jayda won’t eat pasta with red sauce (so I can’t puree vegetables and hide them in the sauce, as many people have suggested), and she won’t consume anything green, no matter what I douse it in.

Similarly, when it comes to protein, Jayda’s not a fan. She’ll eat rotisserie chicken once in awhile, but nothing else. No hamburgers or hot dogs, nor any kind of meat. No fish or shellfish. Not even chicken fingers (which, secretly, I’m pleased about). And pizza? She takes the cheese off, chucks it, and simply eats the crust. She’s also the only kid I know who rarely enjoys macaroni and cheese. Cheese sticks? Never. Eggs? Sometimes she’ll scarf down a scrambled one on a Sunday morning…but most other times, she’ll turn up her nose. Fortunately, she does like yogurt, and Greek yogurt is a staple in my home. Sometimes, I mix it with a sprinkle of Splenda, generously smear it on bread, and call it “cream cheese.” Jayda always asks for seconds. Other times, I serve Greek yogurt and a bowl of fruit for Jayda’s evening meal. When I was pregnant with Jayda, I secretly worried about cooking family dinners. I’m no Martha Stewart and I stressed over the idea of producing hot balanced meals for both of us every night. Little did I know I’d have nothing to worry about; Jayda eats somewhat nutritiously, but not because I’m cooking nutritious meals for her.

Lately, I’ve been buying “Pure Protein” ready-made shakes; they come in a can, and I pour about 1/3 of the contents into Jayda’s sippy cup of milk and call it “chocolate milk.” She consumes about 15 grams of protein in several swigs, and both of us are satisfied. She also likes to take bites of the protein bars I eat after my work outs—and has even devoured a Balance Gold bar (also 15 grams of protein) all by herself after an active day at the playground.

I believe I’ve been fairly creative in seeking out healthy food choices for Jayda, because left to her own devices, my daughter would survive on cookies, candy, ice cream, and bread. Oh, and fruit, too (she loves every kind—which isn’t surprising considering her raging sweet tooth). But dining out is a complete nightmare; no matter what I order for her, Jayda just eats the dinner rolls that are put on the table, or worse—the French fries that come with her entrée. So, I’m forced to always bring a healthy, protein-packed selection of snacks with us wherever we go. While other kids are given potato chips to munch on with their sandwiches, in lieu of the sandwich (that Jayda won’t eat), I give my daughter what we call “chips”—a bag of Glenny’s Soy Crisps (low fat, high fiber, and 9 grams of protein in a bag). They’re delicious and nutritious—though a rather unconventional choice for a meal.

My daughter is healthy, active, and isn’t overweight. But her eating habits stink. And I often wonder if I’m doing Jayda damage by turning her into a perpetual snacker, and allowing her to eat so many sweet foods (even if they are healthy ones). Grazing is supposed to be healthy for adults…but is it a positive habit for a kid to develop? I have no idea. All I know is that I want my daughter to thrive nutritionally, to always enjoy her food, and that mealtimes should never be a battle for us; and for now, I’m sticking to those rules. I have too many other things to worry about!

  1. One Response to “The Sweet Life — by Jamie”

  2. I thought my child was the only child in the world to take the cheese off the pizza and discard it! People watch him do that in amazement. That's the best part of the pizza!!

    My son, at age 6, is far, far pickier than Jayda and continues to grow and thrive…through some unknown miracle. Jayda will be fine. Don't sweat the small stuff!

    By Cara Meyers on Apr 20, 2010