Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Feeding a kid for a week: what I bought, what I cooked, and what he actually ate

My 11-year-old stepson spent spring break with us last week, and in preparation for that, I had to buy a lot of things I don't normally buy.

To wit:
Sandwich bread (three kinds: rye, honey wheat, and oatmeal; he won't eat homemade bread)
Ham, to put on the sandwiches
Hot dogs
Hot dog buns
Yellow mustard
Cheddar cheese
Croutons (since he won't eat homemade croutons)
Salad dressing (ranch and Italian, since he won't eat homemade salad dressing)

And a lot more of other things:
Milk (which he never drank)
Hamburger buns
Salad stuff (lettuce, tomatoes)
Peanut butter

I briefly considered buying orange juice but didn't, since we had plenty of oranges for fresh juice at home. My grocery bill was pushed up a good $100 by buying kid-friendly stuff, most of which he didn't touch.

(Parents, note: adding a third person to my usual menu for the week would not have increased any costs by a noticeable amount. Having to buy special kid stuff--hot dogs, sandwich bread, etc.--is what increased the costs. If you can get your kids to eat what you're eating, your grocery bill will drop substantially.)

Here's what I cooked over the course of the week:
Cheese pizza
Turkey burgers with sweet potato fries
Sweet potato and collard green risotto (I knew he wouldn't eat that)
Roasted tomatoes
Lots and lots of carrot and celery sticks, with ranch dip

Here's what he ate:
Cheese pizza
Hot dogs
Some grapes
Possibly an apple

Shocking, I know.

He never touched the cheddar cheese, the turkey burgers, the oranges, the salad part of the salads, or any of the other stuff we ate, and he may have eaten two or three carrot sticks over the course of the week.

On the days we both worked, he was on his own for breakfast and lunch. Which meant he ate no breakfast, and then wolfed down four hot dogs on two consecutive days. Despite me leaving him a ham sandwich, apples, and handfuls of carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing, which he never touched. One day I asked him if he'd had any fruit or vegetables that day, and he told me he'd eaten part of an apple. Then I went downstairs and counted the apples, then checked the trash can just in case, and realized that was a big fat lie.

Well, fine. I'm not fighting that battle with him. I told him he was in charge of feeding himself: if he didn't like the dinner options, he was welcome to fix himself a PB&J. I fed the adults, and left him a plate of fruit and carrot and celery sticks each night. I also fixed him a bowl of salad, with his favorite croutons, until I realized he was only eating the croutons. So that was the end of the salads.

Each night he picked at his plate of healthy stuff and watched us eat risotto and salad and turkey burgers and whatever, and he never once fixed himself a sandwich. I don't know if that was because he gorged himself on hot dogs when we weren't looking, or because he doesn't yet understand that he really can get up and fix himself a sandwich. Or maybe because he just wasn't that hungry. But he didn't starve to death, so I'm leaving that ball firmly in his court.

I left water, fruit (apples, bananas, grapes), carrot and celery sticks, and nuts out at all times. There was no soda, no chips, no crap available to him. While he didn't eat much of the fruits and veggies, at least he wasn't eating a lot of junk. (I take some small comfort in the fact that the hot dogs were at least all-beef kosher and the buns were whole wheat.)

On his last night, he did request that we make french toast. I showed him how to make it, then we ate it with fresh whipped cream and real maple syrup. Not the healthiest meal, but it was the first time he'd ever had fresh whipped cream and real maple syrup, and hey, at least we used quality ingredients. Then we dyed Easter eggs, and I had to explain to him what a hard-boiled egg was. (Seriously, he didn't know.)

I'm hoping this summer, when he's with us for a longer stretch, his fruit-and-veggie repetoire will expand a little bit. I'm also hoping that I can show him how to make other things. I told him I was going to show him how to make mac-and-cheese, and he was completely astounded by the fact that it was possible to make mac-and-cheese. "What do you do at home?" I asked. "We just go out and buy organic mac-and-cheese," he said.

I'm also not buying any more croutons.

The good news is that he's not giving me the deer-in-the-headlights stare at meals anymore. He may not be eating the vast majority of what's around him, but he's at least eating something (which is an improvement, believe it or not; there were several weekends in California when he didn't eat at all). He's a good kid, and he's so much like his dad it's scary; it just breaks my heart that he's so timid around food.

1 comment:

  1. He sounds just like my nephew. Same age, same taste. I read a story about a guy who made pizza sauce with whole veggies, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, etc. by putting them in the blender until they were unrecognizable. Next time he left the pieces a little bigger, next time a little bigger. Until the chucks were identifiable. The kids never complained and would enthusiastically eat it up.