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This scene from The Breakfast Club is such a classic. Yes, it's funny when you're a kid. How can you not laugh at the horror of Allison trying to wedge a Cap'n Crunch and sugar sandwich into her mouth? What's really great about it is when you become a parent and you've experienced the various stages of food-battles with your kids, you see the scene through new eyes.
Now that Caelan is a 15-year-old boy, we find ourselves in awe of his dinner plate each night. I've read you're not supposed to make a big deal out of the size of the portions teen boys put on their plates but we're all about being real here. When his spaghetti is spilling over the sides of the plate as he tries to load his fork with each bite, it's kind of hard to pretend like that's not unusual. He's hungry. He's active. He's growing. It's not abnormal and he knows it's OK. So we all, including him, get a laugh from the part of the scene where Andy plops his paper grocery sack on his lap and begins unloading the contents.
Caelan takes his lunch to school every day. He has since he started going to school away from home 4 years ago. I went through the guilty-mom phase for 3 of those 4 years. If your kid takes their lunch to school, you know what I mean. What in the heck do you put in their lunch bag every day other than PBJ, a bag of potato chips, and a couple of cookies? Even if they have access to a microwave, by the time they stand in line waiting for their turn, there's not enough time to eat whatever it is that they're reheating. And honestly, we're very whiny left-over people. Most things that have meat in them end up with that gross reheated meat taste. So that's left me alternating PBJ and lunch meat sandwiches every day. I'm not so concerned about either one of those. I use natural peanut butter and, while it's not the same as whole grain bread, he'll eat them on fortified "wheat" (carmel colored) bread. But the rest of the stuff that goes in the bag, it's really easy for that to add up to a whole lot of empty calories and unhealthy grams of fat.
Caelan would love it if I'd put a full-size bag of potato chips in his lunch every day! Not only does being a life-long nutrion label reader stop me, but with potato chips costing $3 a bag, the rest of us would have to live off of Ramen noodles if I caved to that wish.
With the guilt of looking at all the unhealthy choices I was making with his lunch bag each day, knowing I was instilling habits in him that would carry into his adult years when his metabolism wouldn't be able to handle what I'd taught him to eat, I started working with him toward the end of his Freshman year to come up with some better alternatives. There was some complaining in the beginning. Once we passed that hurdle of believing he had to have cookies or a piece of cake with his lunch each day, things got much easier. Now I deal with his disappointment when he goes to fill his container with salad and I don't have any made.
While we've made progress with him voluntarily taking salad and a couple of pieces of fruit each day, the potato chip thing is still a bit of a struggle. He doesn't expect to have them every day. I try to put some in his lunch once a week. But the other 4 days, he still wants something salty and crunchy. We've found a couple of things that make both my budget and his tastbuds happy. Chex Mix and Wheat Thins. Sam's Club sells a big bag of Chex Mix that works well for us. It's still works out to be about the same price as potato chips but since neither Shawn or Will go looking to eat anything that healthy when searching for chips, a bag of Chex Mix lasts a lot longer around here than a bag of chips does.
Wheat Thins are a new discovery. The problem with them is I think they are outrageously priced. At $3.00 a box (which contains a bag half the size of a bag of chips) they end up being every bit as expensive. So last week, I began looking on the internet for a recipe for homemade Wheat Thins. I've been experimenting with this recipe from Recipeland.com.
This is my first batch and I learned a few things. First, this recipe calls for too much sugar. Second, when it says to roll the dough out to 1/8" inch thickness, it means to roll it out to 1/8" thickness, not between 1/4" and 1/2". Caelan affectionately renamed these Wheat Thicks. When the humor of that wore off, Shawn began calling them Wheat Bricks. Between all the jokes about broken teeth, developing diabetes, and watching Caelan trying to force his jaws closed with his hands as he ate them, he ended up praising me for being a good sport. We ate every one of them and he asked for more.
I made a second batch tonight and only used about 2 tablespoons of sugar. I think next time I'll use about 1/4 cup, although he really likes them the way they are. The problem is now Will won't eat them! I rolled them thinner this time and they are perfectly crispy.
I'll share some more of our healthier alternatives to potato chips and cookies in the future. If you have any suggestions for things that work in your own kids lunches, I'd love to hear about them!
Now I'll be working on trying not to associate the flavor of Wheat Thins/Thicks/Bricks with the communion wafers the Catholic church used when I was a kid!