Today’s post is from Jenny Ramsey. She was last here talking about breastfeeding, & she’s back again to share her thoughts on feeding kids.
The thing is, Jen is not plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free.
In fact, her family’s diet, aside from our mutual love of rice & beans is probably quite different from my own family’s. But despite this difference, I wanted her to share her perspective on what it’s like to feed a small army every day (she has 6 kids).
As a busy, loving & attentive mother who also happens to be an expert at not taking herself too seriously, I think we can all learn a thing or two from her. Namely, I hope her words (I especially love points #2 & #3) will get you to cut yourself some slack & focus more on the principles of good parenting, rather than getting caught up in the unimportant minutia that can so often happen around meal time with kids.
And, I can so relate with Jen–feeding my kids has become so much more about utility & practicality (for the sake of my sanity & our grocery budget).
I don’t sweat it if not everything that graces their lips isn’t local & organic, concocted in a the most enticing & cutesy way. I do my best to give them a wide variety of fresh & wholesome foods, but some days it’s the same ol’ PB & J, oatmeal, beans & rice, just served in a bowl.
And you know what? Like, Jenn says, It’s okay!
Our responsibility as parents is to do our best feeding & nurturing our kids, meeting their basic nutrient needs, NOT providing gourmet edible artwork at every turn (though as Jenn points out, if you like doing that sorta thing, that’s cool too).
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a leader in the women’s organization of our church, and asked to speak at an upcoming meeting about preparing healthy snacks and lunches for children.
This is the part of the story where you should start laughing. If you know me, you already are. If you don’t, just trust me, it’s funny.
I gave her a little chuckle and waited for the punchline.
I considered beating her to it with something along the lines of, “why yes, I’d be happy to come talk about how to throw a box of pop-tarts into the middle of the room and yell, ‘to the victor go the spoils!’.”
But she was serious. As in, she was actually asking me to do this, not as a joke.
This is one of those situations where one of two things is happening in the universe.
A) I have somehow managed to fool the general public into thinking I feed my kids healthy food regularly.
B) This is one of those times when I’m being dished up a big bowl of humility with a slathering of irony sauce on top. I’m guessing it’s the latter.
So I’ve been working on what I’m going to say at this meeting.
Somehow I don’t think the pop-tart thing is gonna fly. I’ve been all over Pinterest, looking for ideas and seeing if any of them match what I do (maybe I’m actually feeding my kids real food and I just don’t remember…it could happen?). What I found was that we are living in a world gone mad.
Let me just give a disclaimer: If you love to make art work out of your child’s lunch, if it makes your heart sing to spend time and energy making little cucumber “sushi” rolls tied with a string of chives, if you find great personal fulfillment in making a haunted castle with cheese and carrot sticks, then please, please do so.
I firmly believe that even as parents, we have to make time to do those things that are enriching to us as individuals.
I also believe that feeding our children is personal and what we feed them and how we prepare their food is ENTIRELY up to us (unless you aren’t feeding your kids, which is a definite no-no).
With that in mind, here are a few of my personal philosophies on making snacks and lunches for your kids. Take these suggestions with a grain of salt…or a bag of popcorn…or celery sticks…or whatever you like to eat with suggestions.
1. Make a list.
My kids have extremely different tastes.
One of my kids will eat virtually anything and will pick salad over a cookie (no, I’m not lying…I think it’s a mutation), whilst another one of my kids sustains life off of cheese and bread and variants thereof.
Having a list of healthy foods that my children like, helps me to put together lunches that I can feel confident will be eaten. Are they the lunches of my dreams? Are they filled with colorful vegetables and green smoothie pops and homemade fruit strips? No. In most cases, they aren’t even close. But they are real and that brings me to my next tip…
2. Don’t obsess over what you wish your kids would eat.
Focus instead on what they will eat. I find that experimenting with new foods in lunches often leads to lots of wasted food. I introduce new foods and encourage previous discards at dinner time, where I can be there to bribe lovingly encourage the consumption of said foods.
For school lunches, I try to stick to what I know they will eat, incorporating as much variety as I can for that child’s particular palate. If you homeschool, you might still enjoy adapting this particular concept for lunchtime, if for no other reason, that to have a mealtime that is battle free.
If you are one of those parents whose children love all sorts of food, why are you here? Shouldn’t you be doing a happy dance and rolling on the ground thanking your lucky stars right now? Yes, you should. Get to dancing.
3. It doesn’t have to be art.
As I said before, if you find personal fulfillment in creating masterpieces out of lunchmeat, then go for it. If you are like me, that seems more like a bizarre form of torture. Seriously, don’t you remember how upset you got when some other kid knocked over your castle of Lincoln Logs? Imagine your creations being doused in stomach acid and slowly digested. Uh huh. For real though, children are easily impressed.
Save yourself the time of putting faces on the pepperoni slices and a bunny face on the hard-boiled egg and toss a few mini-marshmallows into their lunch box. I promise, they’ll be happy. Think about a food that you don’t like. I personally couldn’t care less if you served me a plate of calamari constructed into the form of a unicorn, I would still think it was disgusting. Impressive, but disgusting. Just hand me a snickers and make both our lives easier.
4. Let your kids help you.
Last year I had morning sickness for several months of the school year. You know those women who puke and keep going and you never even know they’re pregnant because they just keep on trucking even when they feel like death? It may come as a bit of a shock to you, but I am not one of them. I basically lie on the couch, or the bed, or the bathroom floor, what have you, for ten weeks and try not to die.
During this time, my children did a lot of lunch-packing. I honestly don’t even know what they ate most of the time. I vaguely remember Eggos and string cheese being a prominent component of their diets. There were a lot of frozen peanut butter and jellies and handfuls of cold cereal. I’m praying a carrot stick made its way in there somewhere. But honestly? I wasn’t having to do it and at that point in time, that was invaluable. Liberating even. Do you hear the people sing?
Feeding children can sometimes feel like distributing rations in a barn (I’ve done both and they really are strikingly similar).
You can absolutely drive yourself mad if you focus on getting it all perfect.
It’s food! Relaaaaax Max. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you know you’re gonna be tired of packing lunches and the kids will be eating a box of pop-tarts in the middle of the floor.
It’s okay. It’ll be our little secret.
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out:
- Kid’s fruit sushi
- 5 things your kid *actually* needs
- What to to feed your babies & toddlers on a plant-based diet
- Dear first-time mom: what 5 pregnancies taught me
Jenny is a wife, mom and self-proclaimed vampire expert.
If she’s not scraping children off the ceiling or smooching her hubby, she’s probably curled up with a tub of Blue Bell Lemon Bliss ice cream and a book (not the enlightening kind but the swoony, immature, urban fantasy kind).
She is passionate about motherhood, her family, her church and chocolate. She currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with her crazy family, a bearded rabbit and a very lazy cat.