I recently got asked to submit some story ideas to a magazine that focuses on healthy and organic parenting. I’ll pause so that those of you who have seen the petrified chicken nuggets rolling around my car, often in styrofoam cups, can regain your composure.

My two older kids are some of the pickiest eaters I’ve ever encountered. I can literally name everything the two of them are willing to eat. Here goes: Bo will eat chicken nuggets, french fries, pepperoni pizza (but not any other kind), cheese, salami, bacon, pancakes, hot dogs, cheese quesadillas, ice cream (but only vanilla) and apples. That’s it. Rudy, I’m pretty sure, eats her own weight daily in cheese and yogurt, but she will also eat cheese pizza (but not pizza with toppings), chicken nuggets, french fries, cheese quesadillas, pancakes, bacon, bananas, ice cream, grapes and jello. That’s it. They both will actually shriek if you give them something green. Bo pretends that he’ll eat corn on the cob, but he actually won’t. Rudy doesn’t even pretend.

So how does a mother who guiltily feeds her children only foods that are yellow or beige write for the organic world? With a lot of stickers, that’s how.

You see, I’ve already gone to the bad place — many times — in the fight to make them eat healthier. My husband and I eat healthy and, as babies, Bo and Rudy would eat anything. I used to feed them steamed and pureed kale and they happily slurped it up. But not anymore. Dinner has become a nightly battle, a test of strength. And, let’s be honest, the kids are kicking my ass.

In fact, a few weeks ago I served them each a Kid Cuisine — a Kid freakin’ Cuisine — a frozen dinner designed specifically for picky-eating kids. They devoured the chicken nuggets and the gummy bears but neither nibbled at even one corn niblet. I urged, I begged, and finally I threatened. I told Rudy that if she didn’t eat one little niblet, I was going to spank her. She looked at the corn, looked at me, then got up from the table, walked in front of me — AND BENT OVER.  She chose the spanking over eating one tiny kernel of corn. That’s what I’m dealing with here, people. (And, yes, I did spank her then. I had to.)

A few weeks ago I had an epiphany: What if I rewarded them AND appealed to their constant competing and bickering? I created a sticker chart with both of their names and “Food” as the first category. Then I had extra room so I made a wishlist of other behaviors I’d like to encourage, adding “Cleaning Up”, “Chores”, “Playing Nice” and “Respect”. They get a sticker every time they do what I tell them to do. The one with the most stickers at the end of each week gets a prize. It’s working okay. They love beating each other and run to count up their stickers, but it’s only been moderately effective at getting them to eat more healthy food.

So then I decided to just trick them into healthy eating. Years ago I’d heard about Jessica Seinfeld’s (Jerry’s wife) cookbook that features recipes for sneaking vegetable purees into brownies and what-not. I scoffed at the notion when the book was released, thinking, “Kids should just eat vegetables. I if I hide the spinach in brownies then they won’t learn to just eat spinach.” Fast-forward several years and I have kids who won’t eat corn. They won’t even eat mashed potatoes. They run screaming from spinach. Bring on the deception!

I’m about three weeks into the puree experiment and it’s working pretty well. I’m already cooking and pureeing baby food for Lucy, so now I just make bigger batches to use in the big kids’ food — but I haven’t been too bold yet. So far I’ve made pancakes with sweet potato puree, mac and cheese with butternut squash and cauliflower and a few other similar easy sells, and they’ve at least tasted what I made — a major win for me. But with kids who won’t eat meatloaf, chili or many of the other kid-friendly foods features, I’m kind of at a loss.

So tell me, how do you get your kids to eat?

 

 

 

 

So MONTHS ago Shanna, a fellow Army wife, asked me if I’d like to review some Happy Baby products on my blog. Now, I don’t normally do reviews but I do have a baby, and I do have a blog, and Shanna is a sister wife in a Big Green Machine sense of the term and (most importantly) “review” means “free stuff”. So I said yes. She dropped off a box full of Happy Family stuff — rice cereal, oatmeal, applesauce and baby-style finger foods.

And then life happened. I didn’t think much about the review because, when Shanna gave me the stuff, little Lucy had only just started on rice cereal, her first solid food (if by “solid” we mean gruel so weak it could be sucked through a straw). I took the box and set it aside. Lucy wasn’t ready for most of it anyway. At the time I was staying in a condo my mother owns in Florida because we were mid-PCS. We were being sent to Florida from North Carolina and had a house to sell. Since it was summer and I have three kids and a dog, we decided to get out of that house so that it would stay clean enough for someone to actually want to buy it. Well, lo and behold, our house sold and I had to go back to it to pack up. We also found a new house in Florida and so I toggled between the two, lugging the box of Happy Baby foods with me because I wasn’t sure when we’d be settled somewhere or when little Lucy would be ready to eat them.

Well, we’ve been in our new house for several weeks now and Lucy has polished off most of the food Shanna gave me, so (drumroll) here’s my Happy Baby review:

 

 

I love it.

 

 

 

No, seriously, that’s all I want to write.

 

I mean, what can I write about free, organic, baby food? There’s just no downside. Lucy loves it. I love it, and I really love the pouches. When Rudy, my now 4-year-old, was on baby food they didn’t have these pouches. I had to sit there and spoon mashed mystery purees into her mouth and it took forever and was very messy. Now, with these pouches I can just kind of hold and squirt the food into Lucy’s mouth — which is much quicker and cleaner. With three kids and a husband who isn’t home much to help, I need every extra minute and extra convenience I can find.

(I did find one way to really make feeding Lucy even quicker and easier for me — we’ll just call this “outsourcing”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d already started Lucy on regular rice cereal (Gerber brand, I think) and so she didn’t really care for the Happy Baby rice cereal, which is made from brown rice, when I first fed it to her. And, really, who can blame her? White rice is sweeter. Brown rice has that faintly cardboard taste. I got around this by mixing the white rice cereal and brown rice cereal together and Lucy was totally cool with that and ate it … happily.

We moved on to the fruit purees with great success. Lucy is a big fan of food and, while bananas seems to be her favorite, she’s pretty happy with anything I squirt into her mouth. I’ve just started trying the Happy Baby Sweet Potato Puffs, which are like Cheerios but they dissolve in her mouth and taste like sweet potatoes. Her coordination isn’t quite up to the finger food challenge, so right now Hank, our dog, is a big fan of the puffs. His new favorite hangout is under the high chair. Lucy likes them, too, when she manages to get one into her mouth.

We’re out of the free food now, so the one downside I can find is that Happy Baby is pretty expensive, about $1.25 — $1.60 a pouch, depending on where I buy it.  (Shanna tells me that they’re cheaper at the Commissary, but I haven’t bought them there yet.) But it’s no more expensive than the other organic baby foods in squeeze pouches. I steam and puree most of Lucy’s food for her myself, but I buy the Happy Baby pouches to take with me when we’re going to be away from the house for awhile.

So there you have it — my review and my very happy baby.