Carina has been typing on the internets before there was a www in front of everything. This is why she’s cranky and wants to know when you’ll get off her lawn. She resides in a hopelessly outdated home in the Mountain West with a mathematician and three children hell-bent on destruction. Her laundry is not done, but her Twitter is totally up to date. Carina does not have a Tumblr, because get serious.

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What Are You Feeding Your Kids?

Are you as sick of the food that’s pushed on our kids as I am?

I’m not talking about fast food and restaurants, I’m talking about what you buy at the grocery store–weird processed foods that are advertised for every meal, or for every snack.

Look, I’m a realist. My kids eat hot dogs. They love the occasional chicken nuggets. Even though I make delicious homemade macaroni and cheese, they are no stranger to the blue box.

I might wince when they eat a hot dog, but I hope I’m also setting them up for a lifetime of eating choices: most of the time I cook healthy, from scratch meals with fresh vegetables. They give me grief about it, but I don’t care. So what if the ratatouille served over stone-ground polenta with an herbed grilled chicken breast elicits groans. Yes, I make them eat their vegetables. I even make concessions: serving more raw veggies, which they prefer, over cooked or steamed. They might have a blue box night, but they’ll also have carrots, celery, and bell pepper sticks to dip in a vinagrette on the side. I don’t withhold “kid” foods from them completely because I think that can back fire.

Once I served whole romaine leaves and called it "Giant Salad." They loved it. Easy to dip and novel.

They ask for stuff all the time that I don’t give to them: strange, artificially colored foods are out. Sugary yogurts, out. Almost anything with a cartoon on it? Out. Sugar cereals, no way. Soda? Not on my watch. Juice? Rare. If it’s in a box, has a litany of ingredients, I question whether it should come into my home. If my grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, why should I feed it to my children? (That’s one of the big turn-offs to extreme couponing for me–most of that stuff isn’t healthy and I don’t want it in my house–call me when the quinoa and squash have coupons.)

Someday they’ll grow into their tastebuds, preferring real food over processed. I hope they grow to learn how their bodies feel after a healthy meal, and after a meal that sinks like a rock. I’ll keep serving them colorful, whole foods, with a balance of proteins and plants, even when they fight me. How else would I have found out that they’re crazy for salmon? It’s worth it. They’re worth it.

I worry that since so many families my age don’t cook, we’re raising another generation of kids who can’t cook–perpetuating a vicious cycle of dependence on processed foods.

So let me ask, how often are you making meals from scratch for the kids? I’ll volunteer that we’re at about 80% scratch, with 20% short cuts.

What types of healthy foods have you tried with your family that you were surprised that they accepted? Where do you draw the line? What are the indulgences you allow?


And stay tuned this week for ideas on quick and healthy foods!

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Comments (14)

  1. Anastasia B 09/06/2011 at 3:47 pm

    I am so with you on that! We’re also around 85/15 for meals from scratch/shortcuts. Nothing with cartoon characters here, don’t use coupons because they are mostly for packaged foods, don’t drink soda ever… I have it easy because my 2.5 year old isn’t really aware of the things that are out there. She has never been to fast food place. She had some [processed, premade, sugary] cake at a birthday party this weekend and sometimes when we visit people I wince and let go off the fact she’s eating genetically modified food. But at home we all know how good we feel after a healthy from scratch meal, I would never change that! It also worries me that so many kids are growing up on frozen and boxed meals without any clue how to cook.

  2. vanessa 06/06/2011 at 8:23 pm

    oh i loved this post. let’s see I would say my %ages are around yours, 80/20. i really draw the line with meat and dairy items, i am really strict on where those come from. i find myself “cheating” with desserts and summertime popsicles. for snacks we either make them or buy from the 364 line at whole foods. my girls cook with me probably 5-6 times a week. this is probably the ONLY thing i do right as a mom….someday i’ll add other things to the list. but for now i do feel proud of myself for making sure they know where food comes from and raising them on REAL food.

  3. Sisifo 06/06/2011 at 1:33 pm

    My girls love hummus on pita chips or rice crackers. I’m pretty sure they’d eat it with a spoon if I let them. They also love smoothies. I use whatever berries I have in the freezer (no ice needed!), bananas, and chocolate soy milk. Sometimes I’ll throw in frozen orange juice. I’m allergic to soy milk, but the chocolate doesn’t bother me as much-thank goodness! If we go to the dreaded McD’s, we get salads and those apple dippers, minus the caramel. My girls love it!

  4. dbug 06/06/2011 at 10:55 am

    ohhhh…i love this. when my girl was tiny, she’d eat all kinds of good stuff. now, at nine, she’s getting picky. she will try new things, though, so i cook as often as possible. lots of salads and grilling in the summer…too hot to turn on oven. we snack on fruit, but potato chips are the universal downfall over here. fruit snacks…never allowed.

  5. Erin Oltmanns 06/01/2011 at 6:29 am

    Amen on the couponing issue.

    The biggest kid-food beef I have is with “fruit snacks”. If you read the ingredient list you’ll see that there is nothing fruity about them. They are as sugary as candy, yet parents dole them out like it’s no big deal.

    Don’t even get me started on “Go-Gurt”.

  6. jennie w. 05/31/2011 at 5:36 pm

    Which is why schools should be teaching cooking (and sewing!) instead of other, more pointless subjects (I’m not going to say math because I know it’s dear to your family, but if I had to pick a subject to get rid of . . . )

  7. Jenny 05/31/2011 at 3:52 pm

    My daughter has a fear of seeds, and my oldest son won’t eat uncooked vegetables. That being said, rarely do we have processed food at meals. Hotdogs, buns and chips in the summer a couple times and those potstickers from Costco and the occasional bag of cereal are the main offenders. It’s the snacks that kill us. They love wheat thins and craisins and granola bars and goldfish.

    I would only want homemade food if you were my mom.

  8. Kalli 05/31/2011 at 3:26 pm

    I make dinner almost every night out of necessity. Eating out is EXPENSIVE yo. I would say we are about 80/20 too and as far as snacky type foods go, I try my best to make sure it’s not total crap. The only cereal we do is Cheerios. I make homemade granola otherwise (try it with coconut milk, you will never be satisfied by anything else) and eat a lot of oatmeal during the winter. I have a hard time with oatmeal in the summer though. I try to keep a lot of fruit on hand, especially stuff like grapes, apples, and strawberries. I switched to natural peanut butter, buy fruit leathers from Costo in place of fruit snacks. Also, raisin boxes and craisins are excellent snacky foods and my kid loves them.

    Indulgences? Apple and prune juice for regularity’s sake, but I’ve been cutting back on that too. He loves nuggets from Chic-Fil-A (who doesn’t)? We probably have Costco pizza once a week. Oh, and Pirate’s Booty, we snack on a lot of that shizz. And I bake cookies, a lot. This is probably bad.

    I have a really hard time getting the 2 year old to eat vegetables. I know if I got him to eat more natural fiber I could wean him off the juice addiction. He will eat peas and carrots and if I put in in chix pot pie he’ll eat just about anything. He’s not a dipper so pairing veggies with a dip does nothing as far as appeal is concerned. I could use some help on that end.

  9. Fig 05/31/2011 at 3:05 pm

    Also, homegirl LOVES scrambled eggs and bananas, two things into which I am not. So already she’s a little ahead of me. This makes me happy.

    Now, if her Papi would just quit trying to feed her kippered snacks…

  10. whitneyingram 05/31/2011 at 3:03 pm

    Oh a subject near to my heart. So near. I have such passion about this stuff.

    I look at it as it is my job to teach my kids good food choices. They won’t change as adults. I need to teach them what food is for. To respect it’s purpose and not abuse it. example: Binge eating because you had a bad day.

    I keep a few acceptable ready-to-go foods for when we have had a crazy day. Bags of seasoned red beans and rice and The Blue Box. But I also plan ahead. If I am making marinara sauce, I double it and freeze half. I stick to a meal plan and shop accordingly.

    I don’t buy cereal mostly because it takes up too much cupboard space and costs too much. When I went out of town a few months ago, Daddy Darling bought a giant bag of Malt o Meal somethingorother and it took me a month to condition them back into oatmeal for breakfast and not sugared crap.

    What do my kids surprisingly love? Smoked salmon, black beans, kale, cod, shrimp, butternut squash, mushrooms.

  11. Fig 05/31/2011 at 3:01 pm

    We’re probably two parts whole, real foods to one part fake and delicious. My concern for the 1yo is less about whether her meals are nutritionally perfect and more about enough exposure to different stuff that she won’t be picky. I mostly hope she’ll have tried enough things to make good choices later.

  12. MJ 05/31/2011 at 1:45 pm

    Looking forward to your ideas! I have a hard time dreaming up dinner after a day at work. I’ve been feeling guilty that lately I’m not ‘cooking’ as much as I have before.

    • Carina Wytiaz 05/31/2011 at 2:45 pm

      I find I go in stages as well. Times when I am great at hitting every meal with fresh, homemade ingredients and other times when I’m cutting corners. It’s exhausting to come home from work and cook something, but you need the good food as much as your children do.

  13. Katie 05/31/2011 at 1:42 pm

    I am right there with you. With 2 out of 4 members of our household on a (medically necessary) gluten-free diet, I find that we rely very little on processed foods. I do allow the occasional indulgence because, hey, I’m a busy mom and sometimes that stuff just tastes good. (I’m looking at you, Trader Joe’s tater tots and Annie’s mac and cheese.) One thing we recently did was join a CSA, which encourages me to make even more meals from scratch so I don’t feel like I am “wasting” our fresh veggies.