Mama Madison: Apple corps!

Getting kids to eat a healthier lunch

It's the same argument every morning. "Mom, what did you pack for me for lunch?" my eight-year old daughter will ask, somewhat challengingly. Every day I give her the same answer, "A bagel and cream cheese, an apple and some crackers."

"But that's what you packed me yesterday'" she'll complain.

I'll cross my fingers and pray that this morning might be my chance to add a little variety to her diet. "Want to try a roast beef sandwich instead?" I ask hopefully. "No, roast beef is gross," as is evidently almost everything else we have in the refrigerator. I am also 90% sure the apple I have packed her will come home uneaten. She'll have some excuse"it wasn't crunchy enough, or it was too crunchy, or too red, or she wanted green. It's like living with the lunchbox Goldilocks. Nothing is ever just right.

Food is honestly one of the things we fight most about at home. I feel like feeding my kids is a constant game of tug-of-war, and somehow I am always on the losing end"desperate for the kids to eat more of the healthy stuff and less of the junk. I need a plan, a strategy, but I just don't know where to begin.

Maybe I'll start small, just try to get them to eat more fruits and vegetables, aiming for the gold standard of five. It's positive"doing more of something versus less"and they tend to like most fruit, as long as it's not too exotic. Dragon and star fruit sure sounded fun at the grocery store, but didn't quite live up to their fantasy names once we got them home.

Vegetables are another story though; we have no super fans at my house. If I had a nickel for every sweet potato or asparagus spear they've turned their nose up at, I'd, well, have a whole lot of nickels. I considered, but rejected the Jessica Seinfeld approach . Besides the deceptiveness of adding liquefied broccoli to brownies--not that there's anything wrong with that -- it just wasn't practical for me. In a kitchen-full of small appliances, I don't think I even own the one that purees. I'm going to need to work on a much more transparent plan of attack for getting the kids to consume more of the leafy green stuff.

I know I am not alone in these battles. I don't think there is a parent in the world that doesn't think their child should eat healthier. And while I realize "What is healthy?" means something different to everyone, it's a goal we share. From organic, local and sustainable to grass-fed, free range, and cage-free there are so many ways my family could be doing better, it makes my head spin. I'm looking forward to picking up some advice and inspiration this Saturday at Isthmus Green Day and especially the "Healthy Food for Healthy Kids" forum at 1:30 p.m., which I'll be moderating. Folks from the REAP Food Group and MUNCH Madison will join a school district dietician, educators, parents and engaged kids for what I am sure will be an entertaining discussion about good tasting, good for you, kid food.

And I hope I'll walk away with ideas for serving rhubarb without a pie. Or for getting Goldilocks to say "just right" to that slightly bruised apple in her lunch.

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