I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am a mean mom. In my opinion, there’s no way around it. Sometimes, because we love our children so much, we need to say no to our children. (True story: they are in their respective rooms as I write this. I said no to the fighting. And we still have three more weeks of summer.)
Regardless, I could probably stand to say no more often, actually. It’s just so hard. (If you didn’t hear the whine in my words, read that last sentence again!) I hate to make light of serious world issues or to exaggerate about my family’s negative behaviors—although I’m about to do both here. I often “negotiate with [my] terrorists.” It’s never more evident than when I hear my four-year old say to me in an exasperated tone, “okay, fiiiinnne” after I’ve had to ask her three times to do something. Yes, I hear my words echoing in her voice; I’ve given in with the exact words and tone after she’s whined about something to me no fewer than three times. Just being honest…although I don’t always cave, sometimes it’s easier (albeit only in the short term) than sticking with a firm “no.”
But when it comes to healthy eating, I usually stand firm. I try to provide a wide variety of foods—and believe me, there are plenty of treats—so most times I don’t give in to unreasonable requests for junk. (Especially junk I don’t like. Do you do that as a parent, too?)
Nevertheless, at the store with my three children, I am barraged with questions: “Can we buy this sugar cereal? Can we buy these fruit snacks? We can’t agree on one, can we buy both these cookies?” Aside from the usual treats (if you know me, you know I can’t deny them ice cream and chocolate), and the occasional bribe, this mean mom says, “No. No. And no.”
And then this mean mom makes a mental note to self: do not bring all three children (or any combo, really) to the store, if it can be avoided. I highly recommend going shopping alone. If you know me, you have heard me say more than once, “If you see me at the store with all three children, you will know I was desperate for some ingredient(s).” Of course, going it alone doesn’t solve all nutrition-related problems, but it’s a good start. And it’s cheaper, calmer, and just plain easier.
Once at home, the testing continues. Just before dinner, “Can I have another snack?” During dinner, “Is it a dessert night?” And this summer, I have even been asked before breakfast, “Can I have a popsicle?” You guessed it: “No, no, and hell no!” I’m not sure why a popsicle after lunch is any more reasonable, but I try to hold out for as long as possible on the less nutritious foods…
Well, sometimes I like to be able to say YES to my children. It’s so much easier! So, my work around for “breakfast popsicles” is simple, yet well-received: leftover homemade smoothie frozen into popsicle molds.
While I myself hardly ever drink smoothies, I do make them for my kids now and then. Smoothies, no matter how healthy the whole-food ingredients, can quickly provide unreasonable portions, especially of sugar. And because they are liquid, they just don’t have the satiating power of solid foods because they are digested more quickly. Meaning, they will be back for more to eat before you’re even done cleaning the blender.
Most often, I make smoothies that are plain yogurt based with added frozen fruit, because it’s easy. I use plain, full-fat yogurt (organic and Greek-style if possible) to provide protein, fat and probiotics to balance out the carbohydrates. I don’t usually follow a recipe, because it’s hard to mess it up (here’s my smoothie recipe). However, because of this, I always seem to make more smoothie than we need. In trying to teach my kids about reasonable portions, I serve up a 9-ounce serving for each of them in these purple cups (with these amazing straw spoons) and then freeze the rest into several different popsicle molds, but the colorful silicone tubes (4 ounces) are our favorites.
Sometimes, thanks to my high-powered blender (mine is a Vitamix but many are just as powerful), I skip the yogurt and make the smoothies all whole-fruit, and sometimes they include a combo of fruit and vegetables, making for a green smoothie we affectionately call the “Shrek smoothie.” Although they are tasty, we haven’t tried freezing them yet.
All this is to say, it’s not rocket science or proprietary. I’m surely not the first to think of this. But it’s easy, real food that I feel good about serving to my kids. But perhaps the best part about it is that my kids get to eat popsicles for breakfast and I’m the best mom ever…if only for a moment.
Then it’s back to my usual “mother of the year” status…