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Have to feed them? Be afraid..be very, very afraid..

Feeding the preschool lot can be tricky business; we all know kids are just about the most disdainful and harsh food critics there are. Not only is it about the way food TASTES, but even if the food tastes delicious if it’s the wrong shape or even comes close to touching another food you might as well have served them garbage. They wrinkle up their cute little noses and push the plates across the table, folding their arms in indignation. Restaurants shouldn’t rate themselves according to Michelin stars, but rather how many grubby pawed high fives they can rack up in the under 1o crowd.

This Friday we had Izzie’s friend over for their very first friend sleepover, and to say we were a bit nervous would be a serious understatement. We discussed the potential that there could be virtually NO sleep, and wondered aloud if left to their own devices would they eventually fall into a stupor or would they just continue to play and giggle all night long, fueled by some inner wellspring of Tasmanian Devil-like energy. Just to be on the safe side we stocked up on Ativan and preschool appropriate videos..(the Ativan was for us, don’t worry).

We decided to take the girls to the Bellows Falls Farmer’s market, as they were having live music and goat races and we hoped that maybe we could pass the both of them off as small livestock and hopefully win something by harnessing their maniacal energy. I decided to pack a picnic dinner so that we wouldn’t spend $140 dollars on various and sundry foodstuffs that they would take two bites of and this discard. Which brings us to the real topic of this post; what on earth do you feed two kids with very different tastes and dietary restrictions? And when feeding another persons kid, do you stick to your rules or do what they are used to? It’s tempting to take the easy way out and just cave to any gustatory request, but with Izzie’s wheat/gluten/dairy restriction that just isn’t an option for her. And while we wanted her friend to be well satisfied and happy we weren’t going to cater to the I-only-eat-square-pizza request. I find in these situations it’s best to pack little bits of lots of things, this seems to appeal to the relative schizophrenia inherent to preschool taste buds; what they like one minute does not necessarily translate to the next minute.

So here is what we packed in our basket;

* baby carrots

* hummus

* peanut butter

* ham rolls

* rice cakes

* snap pea crisps

* chamomile tea with honey

* hot cocoa (with almond milk, cocoa and honey)

* apples

Here’s what amazed me about the resulting choices made my said preschoolers…when given the opportunity and many healthy choices, they tend to make balanced and thoughtful meals. For example; both devoured the ham rolls, a great source of protein and as we only buy antibiotic free, natural ham, still a healthy choice. Izzie’s friend nibbled the carrots, albeit dipped in peanut butter, but whatever works! Izzie ate snap pea crisps..also dipped in peanut butter (we couldn’t watch her eat this..but we didn’t stop her either..she’s going to be one of those potato-chip-pickle-peanut butter sandwich eaters). We didn’t pressure either of them to eat a certain amount but made it clear that if they didn’t eat enough healthy food there would be no dessert. We ended up getting them both gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from the Downstreet Cafe..hey, a cookie is a cookie, Izzie’s friend could have cared less that it was gluten-free.

After an amazingly uneventful sleep we made them both healthy breakfasts with a good balance of protein and offered up several choices. Izzie’s friend chose egg whites and turkey bacon with carrots and cherry tomatoes, Izzie chose gluten-free pancakes with an apple compote and turkey bacon. As far as beverages went at all meals we requested one glass of water before anything else, and their meal had to be finished before any juice or milk (this is actually highly recommended by many pediatricians, kids tend to fill up on their beverage and therefore miss out on a balanced meal).

So what’s the lesson here? Don’t shortchange your kids just because they’re “picky”. If you offer them good healthy choices and allow them some control over their meal they will get the balance they need. If you don’t offer unhealthy food they can’t eat it, and remind yourself that YOU are setting the foundation for their eating habits. So do your kids a favor and feed them a bounty..a rainbow of fresh and healthy food..if done right it can please even the “pickiest” of eaters.