Cooking away the CSA, week 15: On raising a kid who likes vegetables
Every Monday when we pick up our CSA bag from Rolling Prairie, our 4-year-old son goes with us. And every Saturday when we go to the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, he goes too. And when we harvest (or work) in the garden, he’s out there, bending over the rabbit fence, checking to see how our peppers are doing.
He knows so much more about food than I ever did at his age. This is not a knock on my parents at all. I think I just wasn’t interested like I am now, and as he’s turned out to be.
And let me tell you: I’m so happy he’s interested. Because we’ve had a much easier time trying to get him to eat healthy, real food, I think because he knows what it is, sees where it grows and helps us pick it or buy it or lug it home from our CSA.
We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible with where food comes from, and I think finally it’s starting to rub off.
You see, I wouldn’t say our kid eats any better than yours.
It would be completely wrong of me to suggest he’s a little angel who thumbs his nose as ice cream while chowing down on kale. Truth is, he absolutely loves ice cream and only eats kale if I hide it in his morning smoothie (though, usually, he can tell it’s there and will tell me it’s “gross”).
At dinner, he’d prefer to have some form of cheese and carbs (quesadilla, grilled cheese, etc.) as his main meal with a side of fruit and avocado, followed by chocolate/ice cream/or nothing if he didn’t clear his plate. The vegetables he’ll eat out of hand — and usually with some sort of bribery involved — are pretty much limited to baby carrots, cooked peas and corn on the cob, if I’m being really honest.
But, every so often, we have a breakthrough.
You see that carrot pic? He hadn’t eaten a carrot like Bugs Bunny in a long time, but decided this week to go for it. He even peeled it himself.
Same goes for cucumbers and sweet peppers — he used to turn his nose up at them, but now he’ll eat them sliced and he’s happy to do so, no “if you eat five bites, you can have a chocolate chip,” type bribes. And most of that is thanks to our repeated growing and buying of those two vegetables locally. We must have offered slices of each to him a thousand different ways, and this summer, it’s finally taken.
I say all this because I posted that carrot pic on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it was really great that we were raising our kid to eat healthy foods. I think it’s sweet that someone thought we’re doing a good job, but here’s the thing: While we are raising him to eat healthy foods, he’s still a kid. And kids are notoriously willful about what they’ll eat.
He doesn’t eat junk — I firmly believe in avoiding having it around to begin with — but is he going to eat carrot a la Bugs every night? Probably not, even though that would be lovely if he did.
We do our best and that’s all we can do. Perfection would be, well, perfect. But balance is much, much more attainable. Even if it kills me to admit it.
So, this is my message to Lawrence parents, who probably fret, like I do, if our kids are eating healthy enough: Just try. And don’t beat yourself up if your kid doesn’t take to kale right away.
It’s easy when you read a blog about someone else’s life to think they’re perfect or at least pretending to be. I try to make this blog as accessible as I can, and I just thought I’d point out that though fruits and vegetables are king and queen of our household doesn’t mean we’re glaring at you for doling out ice cream sandwiches instead of watermelon on a hot day. Nobody should do that to anybody.
I’d much rather spend my energy on teaching my son about good food than yelling at him for enjoying something that isn’t idea.
Instead of expecting him to be perfect and non-ice-cream-sandwich-loving, we spend our time immersing him in the act of growing, picking and purchasing food than do trying to force-feed him kohlrabi. We also spend time making dinner with him and letting him help by stirring, peeling and just generally being a part of the whole eating process.
And that is working for us at this point.
So, of our CSA goodies from last week — kale, potatoes, green beans, onions, squash, broccoli, corn on the cob — how much did our son eat? Only the corn. Yep, and that’s OK. Even if it’s not perfect.
Our goodies this week? Cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, yellow squash, cucumbers, onions, blackberries and potatoes.