Just like every other mother on the planet that has walked through a grocery store, I see the headlines. We are a fat nation. We are a fat nation getting fatter. And I think, “Not on my watch, not my family!” I know a polyester-saturated fat is a no-no (along with polyester wearing in general). I’ve read up on grass-fed vs. grain-fed animals. I want to be human to our four-legged friends. I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I don’t need any more corn in our diet than that we can bite off a cob.
Convinced that I can feed my family “healthy” food, in portions that won’t stuff an elephant, I enact a plan; if the changes are kept subtle and I don’t actually tell them of the mission, it might work! However, once in the trenches, it is harder than expected. With two toddlers—and a husband who believes every meal should be worthy of a Michelin star—there are more than a few restrictions on what my family will actually eat.
Basically nothing green should be on the plate. First, I tried desensitizing the boys to green food with creative use of food coloring. I explained that there is kitchen magic, showed them the bottles, and we ate rainbow-colored eggs for breakfast for a week (yes, inspired by Green Eggs and Ham). However, it turns out my boys have a great instinct about when a food item is intrinsically green and when it is food coloring. Instead of decreasing the “green food on the plate” emergency alarm, I ended up permanently staining our dish towels, which really makes me question the contents of food coloring.
Next, I pureed vegetables so there would be no chance of, “Mommy, pick it out!” But that, too, failed, leading to all my food presentations becoming suspect for a time. When I was accused of trying to feed them “purple orbs,” a.k.a undercover stuffed eggplant with the stuffing pureed, I gave up on serving baby food. I think the lack of required chewing for the meal put everyone off.
The idea of ‘whole grain’ is completely lost on my family. The boys don’t like seeds or nuts in their food. Picking sesame seeds off a bun tries my patience. And after telling them the sunflower seeds were mouse turds in a moment of mommy insanity where I thought it might appeal to their gross side, they now won’t touch them, let alone eat them. And really, how many creative responses are there to the bread “looks dirty?”
Then I discovered vegetarian cooking.
If you want to find great ways to spice up veggies, then vegetarian cookbooks it is! This is not your basic overly sauteed limp white cauliflower. I’m talking about Indian spices, amazing flavors that jump on the tongue, and slow-cooked veggie soups that scent the air.
This is meatless meatballs, meatless meatloaf, and meatless hamburgers that are actually tasty if you slather on BBQ sauce to hide evidence of vegetable involvement.
Now having moved on to vegetarian cookbooks for ‘healthier’ choices rather than to actually become a vegetarian...I found...on a dark cold night when I wanted to use up leftover breakfast sausage in the fridge...and after a glass of wine because I needed it...if you want really great tasting healthy meals...this is so ghoulish, but it even kept my husband from complaining... go ahead—add the meat.
I may be sinning against the great vegetarian cookbook rules; I may be banned from all vegetarian outlets from here hence forward, but I tell you, add the meat. The kids loved the new flavors. My husband was surprised at having new tasty choices on the table. And I just didn’t think it was respectful to let all the chicken and ground beef in the freezer go to waste.