Clarissa Johal: The "New" Kid Food Pyramid

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The "New" Kid Food Pyramid

My mom was a health nut. Growing up in the 70’s only fueled her fire to subject myself, her only child, and my step-father to her nutty, crunchy ways. Many times we found ourselves eating questionable food—we knew it was healthy, but we were never quite sure what was in it. Combined with the fact that I also grew up in a household that was forever pinching pennies, there was never the option of not finishing my dinner or being picky to any degree. Casserole? Who knew what leftovers were lurking in it? We ate it all. Meatloaf? We ate that too, even when she was going through her soy nut-loaf phase. Sunflower seeds, homemade bread, barley soup? Those were always in my school lunches; shelled and unsalted, crusty and burnt on the bottom, stinky and lumpy (but nutritious!) I ate it all. Penny pinching led my mom to make some very unpopular choices. When the ferries went on strike and we couldn’t get milk delivered to the island we lived on, we drank powdered milk for an entire three months out of necessity. After the ferries were able to bring the "real stuff" to our island, my mother decided that we had saved so much money drinking the powdered stuff, she would continue to purchase it.
And there is nothing that tastes more disgusting than powdered milk.
But, we drank it. Because we had no choice.
Fast-forward many years later to myself and my own two children.
Where did I go wrong?
We are all well-acquainted with the Food Pyramid set forth by the USDA. It is well-balanced, can be adjusted for different cultural groups and dietary needs, and looks sound and sane...on paper. There is even a separate Food Pyramid for children.
It is comprised of; 6 oz. of grains, 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, 1-1/2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk, and 5 oz. of meat or beans.
Let me pause for a moment because I cannot write and laugh at the same time.
Here is the Food Pyramid for children, as it exists in my household.
There is the “White Food” group. It is comprised of potatoes, rice, noodles and milk (not powdered) and includes bread, with the crusts cut off, and bagels with cream cheese. It is well received, coveted in fact, as long as you don’t try and put anything, I mean anything, upon or in the first three things. A serving size could range anywhere from several grains of rice to a spoonful of mashed potatoes or quite possibly a whole entire, small bagel with a smear of cream cheese.
There’s the “Fruit” group. No issues there as long as there is no white stuff left on the peeled oranges or bruises and other suspect color variables on the outside of the fruit and it’s skin. A serving size could be 20 blueberries or even a whole, entire banana...on a good day.
There is the “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” group. Without this group, most children would starve. As long as the jelly is grape. If there is a one inch by one inch cube missing from the very center of the sandwich, chances are, the sandwich is finished and can move onto the bird feeder outside.
There is the “Sugar and Other Yummy Things that Mom Won’t Let Us Have” group. Let your mind go wild with that one. Serving sizes vary according to how generous I'm feeling that day.
And then there’s the other one. The “Vegetable” group.
Oh yeah, those things.
Serving size: whatever you can sneak or suffer "The Look" through.
Once, in a fit of despair and self-righteousness, I chopped up broccoli and mixed it into my daughter’s peanut butter for her jelly and peanut butter sandwich.
It was not well-received.
I tell my children that because they do not willingly eat their vegetables, I am forced to hide them within my cooking.
Cooking. Ha. Let me digress a bit.
A definition of cooking is as follows. Cooking: to combine several single ingredients thus creating a new and complex dish that is both edible and palatable.
Not in my house.
Combining ingredients would mean that two or more things would be touching each other on the same plate and we all know, that would be breaking an unspeakable kid-law punishable by looks of disgust, screams of pain and torture, and retching. In other words, I don’t even try.
So, here is my letter to the USDA Food Pyramid people.

Dear Sirs or Madams Who Do Not Have Children of Your Own:

While the Food Pyramid undergoes revisions to include the Vegetarian Food Pyramid,the Mediterranean Food Pyramid, the Asian Food Pyramid and the Latin-American Food Pyramid, it appears that your Kids Food Pyramid may need some revisions as well. In order to keep parents everywhere sane and boost our crumbling egos, please revise your Kids Pyramids along these lines:

(Serving Suggestions will be omitted in order to better facilitate parental and child harmony.)
Thank you,
Clarissa Johal

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