BEWARE THE CHICKEN FINGER CREEP
Stay-at-home mom Tracy Cooper kept junk food away from her kids in the hopes that they wouldn’t develop a taste for it. That strategy worked – at least for a while.
Chocolate chip cookies, chicken fingers, pizza. Sigh… Hamburgers, french fries, cake. Swoon…. Yes, although it makes me feel bad – literally and figuratively – when I eat it, I like junk food. I like whole foods, too, and that’s what we mostly eat in our house. In fact, I like junk food so much that I generally don’t have it in the house. An opened bag of potato chips would whisper to me from the pantry until I devoured it. And chocolate chip cookies? I justified a four-a-day, 320-calorie habit for a while there because I was burning so many extra calories breastfeeding. My love of junk food is one of many weaknesses I don’t want my kids to pick up, so avoiding it was a priority when Mary started eating solid food.
Is there any one of us without powerful emotional attachments to foods we ate as children? For me, it’s comfort food like toutons (bits of bread dough pan-fried and dipped in molasses), vegetables boiled with salt beef, and roast turkey and gravy. But that feeling of nostalgic noshing also extends to junk food like the mint milkshakes McDonald’s used to serve around St. Patrick’s Day, Swedish berry candies and maple ice cream. If you can get your kids attached to whole wheat pasta and homemade tomato sauce instead of hot dogs, that’s got to be better in the long run.
Of course, as in all things, I was much more puritan about what I fed Mary at first than with our second child, Adelaide. I vowed that a french fry would not pass her lips before she was two years old, and that she would not try chicken fingers before she was out of diapers. My hope was that when she eventually tried such foods, she wouldn’t like them. It worked for a while. Now, Mary’s four years old and chicken fingers have crept into our family’s dinners every once in a while. And it’s hard to argue with picking up a pizza on the way home from a busy day at suppertime when everyone’s starving. Junk food is all around us, and it’s very much part of the culture. While we allow junk food occasionally, we limit it consciously. Recently, we took Mary to her first movie. Her eyes grew wide as she tasted cola for the first time in her life. “Ooh, this is spicy. It’s delicious!” So cola is a treat that’s just for the movies. Right now, Mary’s go-to craving is plain yogurt with honey and blueberries. She shovels it back the way some people would inhale their favourite ice cream. Dessert is served every night: fresh fruit. We’ve never once bought either of the girls junk food at the grocery store check-out – and I quietly decline when grocery store clerks ask if they can offer the girls lollipops. At Easter and Halloween, the girls are allowed one treat from their haul per day. I have found that within a week or so, they forget to ask and I eventually get rid of the stash.
We’re doing okay on the junk food front, at least for now. If someone could just let me in on the secret to getting the once broccoli-loving Mary to eat even one vegetable, we’d be all set.
Published in August 2010