A couple of months ago I intended to blog on this fabulous book (The Sneaky Chef) we had bought, hoping to increase nutritional value for our whole family, particularly Alex. I mentioned Alex’s food quirks and “rules” a little in my post “Islands in the Stream” and promised to check back in about the book.
Well, here I am. A little older, a little wiser, a lot more cooking under my belt than I typically do. I enjoyed my experiments and the creativity exercised in the kitchen. I really enjoyed that because of my abnormal level of fatigue and pain (yay, isn’t arthritis fun!) Jeff did the dishes and the grocery shopping so I could focus on inoculating tasty and fun foods with extra nutrition to make one of kiddo’s primary personal goals (and one of our goals as his parents) come to fruition.
Alex wants to grow up big and strong and healthy.
And we want him to grow up big and strong and healthy as well. (By big we mean: Not frail)
We have always avoided the concept of “the clean plate club” as in my million plus years of Weight Watchers meetings I had seen and heard of the fallout of such parenting & nutritional methods. And, as someone who has been on a diet since 3 weeks old (yes, you heard me: weeks) and I am still experiencing the fallout from that (I’ll cover that in another entry, at another time. Promise.)
So I am particularly sensitive to not taking the warden approach to nutrition. Our goal for Alex, in all aspects of his life, was to give him the tools to be able to make the best decisions, for himself, in his life. This applies to work, health, his personal life, etc… I do want to thank Early Intervention for asking us the important question of what we want for him and his life. We learned to keep it non-specific enough that we don’t suffocate him with our expectations, but enough that we can build goals. Good and important stuff.
So, we decided to start “Sneaky-cheffing” more nutrition into his regular foods and he even helped me (we both got so messy! he didn’t freak out completely! it was wonderful!) prepare a few recipes.
But guess what we found out? Our experiment reiterated that kiddo will probably never eat a casserole or anything remotely resembling a casserole- even homemade macaroni & cheese with real cheese rather than packet of powdery stuff is too much of a multiple texture experience for him. He’ll eat Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese but not the stuff I spent so much time planning and prepping and cooking. He also won’t eat any whole vegetables other than carrots. Think about it: Carrots are the same consistency all the way through- I can’t think of another vegetable that does that…Maybe peeled and cooked potato chunks-but then there’s a certain graininess, and with sweet potatoes a certain stringiness… Anyway, this goes beyond regular little kid dislikes and pickiness- these textures actually make Alex dry heave (or barf. Depending how deep we are into the meal.)
Some ideas from The Sneaky Chef worked beautifully- the idea of adding extra nutrition everywhere has stuck with me- even as far as adding water to a recipe (or instructions on a box)- I don’t add water (well not every time, I still need to work on the planning thing!) but use a nutritious liquid instead. I learned that blueberry juice doesn’t curdle milk and makes a fun colored alternative to plain white milk (or soy milk…Alex seems to change his preferences every couple of weeks)…
I also learned that we can sneak some of the purees suggested in the book into some foods, without objection.
Then Alex saw the jars. Ok, when I first started using the book I made my own purees. But as backups we had the recommended jars of baby food (not all of the purees are available as baby foods, and the homemade purees and mixes are much cheaper and not difficult to make and freeze).
Alex saw the jars. I took a deep breath. He voiced a little panic about baby food being for babies.
So I asked him (remember, he is deeply logical and literal and rule based. Think Spock to the nth power):
ME:Who eats baby food?
ME: Are you a baby?
ALEX: No. I’m a big guy. BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGG! (makes war face and flexes and almost knocks himself over)
ME: What do you eat?
ALEX: Big Guy food.
ME: If you eat a cracker is it Big Guy food?
ME: So if you are not a baby and you eat the stuff in this jar then what is it?
ALEX: I’m not a baby!
ME: That’s right! You are a big guy! SO, if you eat the stuff in this jar & you are not a baby then the food in this jar cannot be baby food! It’s only baby food if a baby is eating it.
If a BIG GUY is eating it, it’s called “PUREE”!
ALEX: I like puree!
So, after all of our experiments trying to sneak “puree” into his foods we found out that Alex doesn’t like it mixed in. He likes it plain and separate from his regular food.
Of course, he has to announce, at the start of the meal, “It’s only baby food if a baby is eating it. If I eat it then it’s puree!”. Seriously. He says it every time.
Perhaps, if he adjusts to the taste this way, he’ll be more accepting of various textures eventually. Until then, I’m happy to serve him his vegetables in this manner.
A wise person once said, in regards to parenting, “Pick your battles”.
As he slugs down jars of summer vegetables (a sneaky way of disguising what actual veggies are in there- summer veggies are ok, broccoli & spinach, etc -not so much. Don’t forget, on top of our Adventures with Asperger’s, our Alex is still a kid. Sometimes, I guess that maybe it’s like having twins.) I realize that we both are winning and we can focus on moving forward to bigger and better things. I try to point out that it’s like a bisque, but he corrects me “Puree!”
I still think The Sneaky Chef is totally worth the purchase (Amazon has copies from <$2.00 + shipping to brand new…any which way, I think it's worth it) it was a great jumping off place for figuring out some small ways to enhance nutrition for the whole family.
(We have been getting various supplies through Amazon.com lately- yes, the Prime program is awesome! They do carry Earth's Best in 12 packs and Annie's Mac n' Cheese as a 6 pack- actually, with Prime, it winds up being less expensive than our chain supermarket and they are delivered right to our door. I'll post a link to my amazon store soon, where I'll have all of the things I have mentioned with links, to make things easier for everyone!)