Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hey! Who Invited the HFCS and the FD&C Red #40 Along on Our Vacation?

Kids are notoriously picky eaters. Things that make adults salivate often make kids cringe. It's no wonder that restaurants came up with kids' meals. Parents need to keep kids busy, not to mention willing to eat the food being served. Hungry just won't do it. A kid would probably be willing to suffer hunger pangs from hell rather than eat something deemed "gross". Yes, family friendly restaurants have it all figured out. Crayons, activities printed right on the kids' menu, kid-friendly choices to keep the kids happy while mom and dad enjoy their meal in relative peace. Except...

The food is crap! That is to be expected at a fast food restaurant, but "real" restaurants are getting in on the act, too. Economically, it makes sense. Why put  a lot of money into food that may be dropped, tossed, spit out or picked over and thrown out?

In most places (Panera, McAlister's, the restaurant at the hotel we stayed at...), the food is OK; choices like mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and pizza are the norm. Side dishes include vegetables and/or fresh fruit. Of course, other choices are french fries or chips, but it is possible to find a healthy selection. My issue is with the "extra" treat that is becoming the trend.  While on vacation, hubby and I made sure the kiddo ate healthy foods with only a few treats (although to her, a chocolaty mint at the end of the meal was a treat). Unfortunately, that meant fighting off insidious attacks by Teddy Grahams, the Blue Bunny, and Snap, Crackle, and Pop (who now make pre-packaged Rice Crispy Treats). At least most servers ask parents if it's OK  before they give a child a dose of crap. However, that is usually done after the moment of truth--that moment when the kid realizes that the high-fructose corn syrup-ed, preservative laden, FD&C Red # 40-filled mess in the shiny package is for them. At that point, you may very well have a "situation".

Here is my idea of the worst case scenario. Breakfast: juice, sugary yogurt, sugary cereal and a pastry. Lunch: grilled cheese, chips, packaged Rice Crispy Treat, chocolate milk. Dinner: mac and cheese, fries, ice cream sandwich, lemonade. Oh. My. Gosh. That is a lot of chemicals and hardly any nutrients. Yes, I know we are talking about eating out on vacation, when it's OK to eat out for all three meals, but there's no need to take a vacation from common sense. Just say "NO" to the sugary yogurt and cereal, and say "YES" to oatmeal and eggs. Say "NO" to the chips and the Rice Crispy Treat and the chocolate milk and say "YES" to fruit and regular milk. Say "NO" to the fries, ice cream and lemonade and say "YES" to vegetables and water.

It can be hard to say "no". As parents, we want happy kids, and with tons of crap being waved in our faces on a regular basis, it's hard to keep fighting that and to not give in. Sometimes, a treat can make a kid's day. I know this from experience. When we were on vacation, the kiddo asked if it was OK to get fries instead of vegetables--and she loves vegetables, but the pull of the fries was just so strong...but here's the thing: as much as we want happy kids, we want healthy kids as well. Fries for dinner one night? Not the end of the world. All of the aforementioned crap in one day? Not acceptable.

Hubby and I ended up saying "no" quite a bit, but we reminded the kiddo of our reasons for doing so. Mostly, that meant reminding her that some choices were not that healthy, and she would feel better if she ate nutritious food. But before you criticize me for being a self-righteous b**** (too late?), I have to confess that we did allow some treats. Of course we did! Treats for all three of us, not just the kiddo. We enjoyed frozen custard, fudge, and (drool) a Britt's donut, the best in the world. These are specialty items, sold where they are made and meant to be savored as much as the sound of the surf or the orange of the sunrise, not mass-produced, ready-made bits of mediocrity that are forgotten five minutes after they are gone. Because hubby and I want it all: a happy, healthy kiddo, and an occasional treat.

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