Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables: they're mushy and disgusting

"Eat your vegetables, they're good for you,” was the dinnertime invocation of my parent's generation. Baby boomer parents might prefer to negotiate whether young Ajax eat his arugula or hummus first, but the dilemma of kids not liking vegetables seems to span the generations. If you are tired of fighting with your children about their picky eating habits, try some of the library's "parenting" cookbooks like KidShape CafĂ©: over 150 kid-tested recipes that will help your entire family by Naomi Neufeld (641.563 NEU). To improve the odds of your vegetable dishes actually being consumed, rather than merely idly adorning the tablescape, try Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop (641.65 BIS) or Great American Vegetarian by Nava Atlas (641.5396 ATL)

If you really want to scare your kids about eating junk food, read Twinkie, Deconstructed, my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined) and manipulated into what America eats by Steve Ettlinger (641.3 ETT) A chapter a night read aloud should do it, starting with chapter one: “Where does polysorbate 60 come from, Daddy?” Mr. Ettlinger does not just deconstruct Twinkies; any snack made with processed flour, chemical preservatives, coloring, flavorings and additives come under his thorough scrutiny. In chapter four, the author explains how enriching flour with vitamins started as a public health initiative in 1938 to fight certain diseases like pellagra, beriberi and other conditions caused by vitamin deficiencies. The program worked like a charm. It’s possible that many young family physicians wouldn’t recognize pellagra or beriberi or scurvy because these conditions have been all but eradicated in the U.S. where everyone eats enriched white flour. That’s not to say you should eat junk food for the vitamins, but a couple of servings of snack foods a day probably has enough added vitamin and mineral supplements that you could skip your Flintstone chewables for the day. I pulled Twinkie, Deconstructed from the shelf this morning and found it almost as addictive as Ding Dongs, Devil Dogs or TastyKake Krimpets (required personal favorite for all Philadelphia natives.)
Back to that 1950’s dinner table scene: in the interest of peace, my family had a small repertoire of vegetables that the pickiest eater among us would eat, namely corn, baked beans and possibly peas, although my father claimed they were more starch than vegetable nutritionally speaking and didn’t think they should fulfill the vegetable category at the main meal. I also had to limit the range of veggies to serve my children– and they had to be raw because my kids liked things that crunched. Our pediatrician assured me that kids won’t starve themselves and not to worry. Do they teach them that phrase in med school? While it’s true that kids won’t starve themselves, they can make cooking and serving family meals a frustrating, boring and contentious activity. The only revenge is to say, “wait ‘til you have kids,” the call of the desperate parent in the wild.

Related websites: MedlinePlus Food and Nutrition
Cornell Division of Nutritional Sciences Extension
FDA Food division
Mayo Clinic 10 Tips for Picky Eaters

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