June just turned three but eats like a 45 year old truck driver: Pancakes, butter, syrup, hunks of meats, gravy, fried eggs, sausage, bacon, BLTs (hold the L and the T), French fries. All that’s missing from her meals is a slice of plumber’s butt and a chaser of Maalox.
I don’t know where this predilection for truck stop fare comes from since I — the primary cook of the family — hew more toward healthy cooking — Asian slaw, fruit salad, roasted carrot thyme ginger soup, hard boiled eggs, all natural crunchy peanut butter, Kimchi…foods that give you gas, basically.
Because I don’t want her to end up on cholesterol meds by age 7, I have to be sly about how I feed her. Presenting her with a delightful green salad tossed with a light raspberry vinaigrette won’t cut it. She’d look at it like a professional wrestler presented with a bag of spelt cooked sous vide.
Which is why I was intrigued by Happy Family’s “Stories From the Bright Side” campaign. The organic meals company invites moms and dads to submit their own “Stories From the Bright Side” — parents’ funny tales involving their kids and food. The humorous anecdotes can be relayed either by video or written story with photo and posted to Happy Family’s Facebook page. All submissions will be judged by a panel from Happy Family for a chance to win $20,000 toward your child’s college fund! Some funny stories from top bloggers will be acted out by improv troupe Upright Citizen’s Brigade.
I immediately thought of June’s love affair with ketchup.
She eats it, slurps it, drinks it, licks it, makes art of it. To get her to eat items on her plate NOT found inside the rotating weiner kiosk at a gas station, I find myself adding a little dollop of ketchup into one quadrant of her plate. Carrots, celery sticks, tomatoes, crackers, cucumbers, even grapes all get swiped before she’ll deign to put almost anything into her mouth.
This irked me at first because I think ketchup is gross (I’m a mustard snob, myself), but as I’ve watched June venture nibbles of grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, corn salad and even the occasional sauteed mushroom — all dipped in the cloyingly sweet red stuff — I’ve begrudgingly come around. Whatever it takes to get a toddler to eat healthy, right?
So here are 6 reasons why eating ketchup at practically every meal is not such a terrible thing for a picky 3 year old (also known as, Parental Rationalization Number 645).
1. It’s tomatoes. And tomatoes are full of “lycopene,” or as I prefer to say in an Irish brogue, “like o’ peen.” So what if I get the feeling June likes ketchup primarily because it’s laden with high fructose corn syrup and other additives? Like o’ peen lurks in that plastic squeeze bottle somewhere.
2. It makes mealtime fun. Carrot sticks, pickles, pretzels, cheese sticks become so much more fascinating when dragged across a pool of goopy red sauce. It’s like a reverse Etch-A-Sketch. Only not really.
3. It invites experimentation. Ketchup mixed with Mom’s organic cottage cheese equals — BAM! — pink goo! Ketchup stirred into applesauce equals — fruity sludge! Think of the science fair-like possibilities!
4. It goes great with gravy. June loves gravy. Gravy loves June. Mixed with a little ketchup and you’ve got…Kravy! (Or if you prefer a more old fashioned pronunciation: Gratsup.) Why has no one bottled this yet? Turkey will never taste the same.
5. It engenders artistic expression. When the drudgery of lunch becomes too much, June has been known to plant her palms in the ketchup and perform an interpretive “hand dance” across her plate. Fascinating stuff. Especially when she forgets the ketchup on her palms and rubs them all over Mommy’s dining chairs.
6. Ketchup helps her clean her plate. Okay, she more often than not just sucks the ketchup off the carrot stick and throws the limp stick back on her plate, but at least the ketchup provides the vehicle for mouth insertion. This, friends, is progress.