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The Enforcer, or I Can’t Believe it’s Come to This, or I’m Mad as Hell

Children amaze me. They are known as the world’s pickiest eaters. Yet, if there was sugar involved that they could potentially obtain, they could gnaw through a cardboard box in about 28.2 seconds.

My kids are no exception to this rule. They ate very well as babies. It brought tears to my eyes when they finished their tiny baby food jars of spinach, green beans, and squash. Things that even made me queasy to think about. They ate them up and wanted more. I really thought I was the luckiest parent in the world. I couldn’t wait to brag about their healthy food choices at family gatherings and play dates galore. Not that they really had a choice back then, but they didn’t exactly refuse it either.

When their little teeth started showing up, so did their change in attitude. No longer did they want the delicious dark green vegetable-like pudding I’d been serving them without complaint all the while before. I upgraded them to toddler style vegetables. “Cool,” I thought. “This is what all the hip kids at the sandbox are eating. Don’t you want to be like them? It even has wagon wheel pasta!” My kids were unimpressed. One bite and both of them spit it out. I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road to the teenage years. And one with limited vegetable intake.

Being ultra open-minded and forgiving about differences in palates, I tried many different ways to serve vegetables: squashed, boiled, minced, raw, cooked, strained, frozen, fresh. Time and time again, the responses were the same: “Yuck,” “boo,” no,” “stinky poo poo,” “barf,” “no no,” “blech,” “ick!”

It made me cry inside when my sister would casually mention how her young daughters loved salad. “SALAD?!?I would scream in my head, in a therapeutic and cleansing way. “SALAD?!?” I would scream as I punched a pillow in my sleep. “Salad,” I would sigh as I stirred my coffee, watching my kids staring at their plates full of food. “Salad.” I would say, defeated, as I watched commercials on TV about kids loving to eat their vegetables. “Must be that they’re girls,” I would cheer myself up with. My boys don’t like vegetables. Must be a gender issue.

Now let me get something straight. It’s not like my kids won’t eat any vegetables. They only eat certain vegetables. I will list the vegetables my kids will eat, as follows:

1. Candy Corn

2. Jelly Beans

Sigh. My recent approach to vegetable intake on the junior level is that I will prepare vegetables to make myself feel better. I serve them on the side of their entrees, more of a colorful garnish rather than an expected nutritional component of their daily vitamin and mineral allowance. For that we supplement with good old fashioned Flintstones vitamins. Occasionally, one of my kids might eat a kernel of corn. Likely, because it was stuck onto something else they were actually trying to ingest. Still, it makes my heart go pitter pat. I beam as I calculate the vitamins they just enhanced their diet with. I block out all realizations it’s more likely just sugar. I rationalize that even if it’s fiber, it is still a healthy thing to eat.

This morning I had a new attitude. As my youngest son sat staring at his delicious plate of hard boiled egg and yummy toast, I realized I’d had enough. I strongly encouraged him to eat his healthy breakfast, but all he would do was have a few bites of toast…..the part of the toast that didn’t include the crust that is. It then dawned on me that this was a kid who could tear through Jolly Ranchers, Laffy Taffy and probably chew a door off our kitchen cupboards if he knew there were marshmallows hiding within. Something in me generated a frustration like TV news anchorman Howard Beale when he goes off the deep end in the famous movie “Network” and says, “I’m a human being, god damn it! My life has value! And I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

So I did something that surprised even me. I had a secret weapon I’d been drinking for years. Something that could be used in the war against picky eaters. I sat down a large bottle of V8 Juice next to my son’s plate. I told him, calmly, that if he didn’t eat his egg and toast he was going to have to drink a glass of vegetable juice to make sure he was getting a healthy breakfast. My son thought I was kidding at first. But I sat down next to him, and the bottle, and stared at him until he ate his food. I was amazed at how quickly this simple trick worked. Within minutes he’d eaten half his breakfast.

For the first time ever I can now see how vegetables will improve my kid’s nutrition – not by my children actually eating them, but by my threatening that my kids will have to eat them! I hated the fact that I had to make vegetables the bad guy, but you can’t argue with success. And who knows? Maybe someday my kids will actually want to eat vegetables. But until then, at least I can truthfully say vegetables are an important part of my children’s nutrition. And, yes, now I can finally boast at family functions and play dates galore that my children are always eager to eat a healthy breakfast.


About Fortyteen Candles

oh, let's see...distinguished Gen-X'er, frustrated writer, suffocating in the confines of a small town that thinks it's a big deal. A few years ago we were home to the second largest Walmart in our state, don-cha-know. Oh, and I was voted "Most New Wave" in my senior high school year book. Actually, that last sentence alone is really everything you need to know about me.

47 responses »

  1. Okay… I’m thrilled to be the first commenter here! This post describes our life exactly. And, yes, my daughter eats salad. My son would not touch a vegetable if it had a hundred dollar bill pinned to it. He eats Oreo cake. I am going to buy some cans of V8 Juice this afternoon. I think you’ve created a great solution… harkening back to those books on toddlers… offer a limited choice between two positive outcomes to create the illusion the kid’s in control! I love it!

    • LOL!!! So it IS a gender issue! I’m crying to hear your daughter eats salad. I wish I could feel that parental victory, but I have three boys. The dream will never be mine. Glad to share my secrets of success with you 🙂 Please let me know how it works out. And very glad to also have you as my first commenter!!

  2. What I love about the whole vegetable dilemma, is that there is always one parent who boasts that her child eats spinach for breakfast or insists on broccoli for movie snacks or is growing asparagus in a greenhouse they built themselves. It doesn’t matter if they’re just relaying information – it all sounds like boasting to me. Really? Well, my kid can inhale Twizzlers like they’re oxygen. So there.

    On a positive note, things we’ve been “introducing” to her for years are finally starting to take hold. When I say introducing, I mean threatening her until she begrudgingly eats a bite while she makes regurgitation noises and a pained face.So much drama! Hang in there!

    • Ugh! Glad to hear your story. Congrats on getting her to finally eat a bite! How many vitamins was that, did you calculate? LOL… I can’t imagine bringing broccoli for a movie snack. That is just twisted and cruel and an immediate set up for teenage rebellion, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. My daughter, at 16, has finally begun to eat salad. And a vegetable or two. I think it was peer pressure. Whatever it was, it took a long time. Hang in there.

    • Yay! She’s eating salad! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Peer pressure results in healthier food choices. Now that is something you don’t see on the news. Congratulations to you both!

  4. I can add one more to the list – my son eats corn and green beans. Occasionally he’ll eat peas but that’s a rare occasion. For some reason, I don’t have problems with him eating fruit so sometimes he’ll get fruit with his dinner.

    Speaking of V8 juice – I just tried the new V8 juice that looks like fruit juice. We tried the strawberry/banana one because it reminded him of a smoothie. This stuff has veggies in it but you can’t tell by the taste. And yes, I know about the taste because he drank 2 glasses of it and I finished the rest 🙂

    • At least you have two REAL vegetables to work with! Mine are just sugar based pretend vegetables. My kids never liked peas, for whatever reason. Yes, another commentor told me about the vege/fruit combo juice. I’ll have to price it. Sounds like my only chance to get vegetables in before they are adults! Thanks for your comments:)

      • My sister and I were worse then this growing up. Applesauce was considered a vegetable in my house, no kidding 🙂

        Funny thing is, I eat most vegetables but my sister, at 46, will only eat corn and the stuff that goes into salads like lettuce and tomatoes. She still won’t eat her veggies.

      • I like that applesauce is considered a vegetable. We buy it with no added sugar, so it really is just a piece of mushed up fruit. Good to know you can grow up and be healthy without eating many vegetables. It gives me hope! Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. My kids have eaten veggies without complaint for years, and now all of a sudden at the ages of 12 and 15, they grumble constantly about them. They still eat them, but I’m not liking this new whining. Perhaps I’ll try your vegetable juice trick. 😉

    • At least you had some good years…lol! Seriously, though, once their taste buds level out with their understanding of nutrition all should be well in the world. At least that’s what I’m going with! Let me know if you have to resort to the vegetable juice trick! It might be more of an incentive if it was dark green…to really emphasize the vetegable content within 🙂

  6. This is hilarious and I can so relate! Two boys here, and like you, was ALWAYS so proud when they gobbled the goop that came out of the jars. So much so that I actually was told by the pediatrician to stop with the orange veggies cause my youngest was developing a ‘tinge of an orange cast to his skin’. Alas, when they were old enough to distinguish COLORS is when the veggie devouring delight left the building. NOTHING green (seriously mom, it’s GREEN), NOTHING orange (seriously son, you used to BE orange), and God forbid, NOTHING purple (mom, nothing NATURAL is purple!). So for myself, I always attributed their sudden dislike of these ‘nasty but necessary’ side dishes to color and not taste or texture. To attest….they are both grown men now who DEVOUR the veggies once again.

    ps) I laughed so hard at the veggie ‘list’ and the crack about the cabinet door gnawing child. Absolutely hilarious! Thanks for tickling the funny bone!

    • Ha Ha Ha…I’m becoming more and more convinced it is a gender issue! Boys eat whatever they want and could care less about nutrition. My guys also had the orange cast…I’d forgotten about that! Thanks for reminding me of a side effect of healthy eating! Glad to hear your kids are now eating well. Thanks for your comments, and sharing your stories. Thanks, also for stopping by!

  7. O.K., I have never seen the movie “Network”. I laughed so hard I cried – a perfect clip for your story! It is also something that I think most of us parents can relate too. My kids used to eat tomatoes from our garden until their cousin visited us and turned her nose up and said, “Eww!” when I asked her if she’d like a slice of tomato. From that day forward, my kids said, “Eww!” to tomatoes. Yep, I was mad as hell!
    Thanks for the laugh!

    • LOL…Network is an AMAZINGLY famous movie from the 1970’s. The acting is incredible, the story plotting is timeless. Please watch it if you like a real thrilling, unique drama. It recieved many awards and much critical acclaim. And, of course, now it is helping me with my picky eaters 😉 Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. why am I here in a handbasket?

    v8 created juice boxes for kids. I bought them for my grandson and he loves them. Liquid vegetables that taste like sugary drinks. Hey, you do what you need to do. 😉

    • I’ve seen the fruit/vege combo. My kids have tried it before and liked it. It is quite expensive, but I guess worth it if the kids are getting their vitamins. I’ll have to shop around to see what I can find. It seems to be my only hope at this point! Thanks for your comments.

  9. Teresa Cleveland Wendel

    I’d eat my breakfast if it came to that or V8. I hate V8. I don’t understand how anyone can like it.

    • It is an aquired taste. My mom always drank it. I think I first started liking it in my teen years when I was more health conscious for the first time. It definitely takes getting used too….and rarely creates cravings for it!

  10. You are not alone…my kids don’t eat veggies either. It is a constant battle. I have a friend who disguises her kids’ food with vegetables, but I’ve never been organized enough to pull that off! She sneaks them in.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard about the fancy cook books that have you puree zucchini and spinach and bake brownies with them. I think that is a trust issue, personally. If my kids think I’m sneakily giving them foods they don’t like I’m afraid they’ll be suspicious of any meal I prepare! Good that your friend can do it successfully,though.

  11. We’re Flintstones vitamins family too — anything I can do to supplement the vats of chocolate milk my kids’ consume. What’s worse is that my girls are picky even about their vitamins. They never eat the purple ones, just the orange and pink ones. Picky to the extreme, I tell ya.

    • Have you tried Ovaltine? It’s chocolate milk that’s vitamin enriched! I’ve had my kids drink that before. The Nestle Quick is just sugar. LOL…I can’t believe they don’t like the purple ones. They are number two favorite in our house…following orange. They always put too many red ones in the jar!

  12. I can’t believe that your kids will eat the Flintstones vitamins! I absolutely HATED them as a kid. However, is my young adult years, I have discovered that adult gummy vitamins are delicious. Something to think about if they decide to start hating those Flintstones…

  13. LOL – literally! At our house, my son will eat anything I tell him, it’s the girl who is picky. PLEASE keep writing. You have talent!

    • lol! I guess it isn’t gender-specific, then. Thank you so much for your compliment! I really means a lot to hear it. Especially since I get no feedback on my writing outside of this super top secret blog. I will definitely keep writing, but I need to figure out more what direction to take it in. I certainly seem to have hit a nerve with my tales of parenting woes! lol

  14. Hey friend! Thanks for stopping by my blog on several occasions. Your particular brand of writing is so crisp and humorous and I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts, too. As such, I thought I would toss a “Beautiful Blogger” nod over your way — if you’d like to accept, head over to my post for the details!

    Thanks for writing!

    – Cal

    • Wow! Thank you so much:) You are very thoughtful and it is truly appreciated by me. I’m glad you enjoy my blog, hearing positive feedback on my writing makes it all worth while. Thank you for the nomination:)

  15. I love that they like their veggies; candy corn and jelly beans! That’s a hoot.
    My kiddos grew up not eating the healthiest of foods. And now they are blest with children who are refusing to eat the healthy foods that they, as parents, are trying to feed them!!

  16. Good plan of using the V8 juice! My children also believe that corn chips are vegetables. Candy corns and jellybeans – hilarious! My nephew eats salad, and I often wonder why my dudes won’t eat salad. Maybe because it is, as they say, gross. Who knows!

  17. Ha ha. Nice plan. I’ve always loved vegetables! I used to pretend my broccoli was a tree and that I was a giraffe when I was a kid. I’d also have food eating contests with my brothers.
    The part about candy corn and jelly beans made me laugh.
    Good luck with your kids and their veggies.

  18. This is so funny… and you are not alone on this one. Parents uses all sorts of tricks to get our kids to eat. 😆

  19. We had dinner at the table every night. There were always plenty of vegetables on our plates. The rule was that we were not allowed to leave the table until we had finished everything on our plate. Ever. My sister was anti-vege at one stage. My mother was clever; she gave her fewer vegetables than me, so my sister thought she had the advantage, and ate up anyway. One thing worse than hot broccoli is cold broccoli. 🙂


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