Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Thick and Thin Of It

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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

homemade wheat thins
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!
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Pam said...

Ha! I just watched The Breakfast Club yesterday! Always a fun one!

You are very dedicated, I'd rather just buy them! I'm way too lazy!

Debbie said...

I have a friend who makes her own wheat thins and she also calls them wheat thicks! haha just too hard to make them as thin as "REAL" wheat thins! They are yummy though.

Farmers 8 Daughters said...

You tell a story so well! I really enjoy reading all the antics of your family.

I have been making homemade granola bars lately as I don't like all the junk in store-bought ones, and they are pretty pricey.

I tell my boys that pretty much everything you see packaged in a grocery store got it's roots from some Mama's kitchen :-)

jkhenson said...

Our girls had gotten tired of the pbj and lunchmeat everyday, so we were doing "sushi rolls" which aren't real sushi-they are fake crab meat, a cheese stick, and sometimes shaved carrot wrapped in cucumber, shaved with a potato peeler. Something different. We have done a variety of those. We've also done whole wheat tortillas with lots of fillings like honey and banana. These things can all be packed pretty well. We haven't tried making our own wheat thin/thicks! :) But we will! :)
(Also, a side note, the chips disappear quickly here, too... which is why I can nolonger suck my gut in... ;))

Jennifer said...

Plain old light microwave popcorn is a winner in my house, and also I've been buying Lay's whole wheat corn chips. Here in the UAE hummous is everywhere (sometimes I buy tubs of fresh at the deli section of the supermarket, sometimes I make it myself with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice), so I serve that with wedges of toasted wholewheat Arabic flatbread (pita bread etc). Mine do get a sweet treat each day: if I'm organized it's a home made cookie or banana muffin, but periodically the evil and totally-without-nutritional-value-Oreo will make an appearance ...

PS quilt is half made. The difficult half remains ...

Haggith said...

how about leftover grilled chicken sandwich? Don't need to the chicken, just add a squirt of mayonaise and voila.
As I type this, I'm eating leftover pastasalad. It's cold, doesn't need to be reheated and it's delish. any kind of pasta (except the long, spaghetti kind), green beans, some broccoli, boiled egg, grilled chicken, some ham. The dressing is pesto with olive oil. That's it!!!

Kendra said...

Pam, I'm cheap so I MUST make them!

That's funny that someone else calls them Wheat Thicks, Deb!

I want you recipe, Tammy!

Those sushi rolls are a cute idea, Jen! And Oct 18, the battle begins. I've decided to start round 2 that day, too!

Thanks for the hummus idea, Jennifer. Didn't even think of it and Caelan love hummus!

Same with the pasta salad, Haggith. Caelan loves Kristi's recipe so I think I'll make some today.

Farmers 8 Daughters said...


The base recipe I used was from under thick and chewy granola bars. I try to incorporate a lot of healthier fats and sweeteners into recipes, so used organic coconut oil instead of butter, and honey/maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

The one my boys like most we call "tropical". I use almond butter (make my own with almonds and coconut oil in the blender), unsweetened coconut, almonds, dates, dried pineapples, and white chocolate. I don't have to "buy" any of these things as I have bulk on most from our wholesale baked goods business ;-)

I have made them several times now and keep cutting back on the sugar, as I think they are too sweet. I'm at the point where I am not putting any sugar actually, just the liquid sweetener to bind them - I use some of my maple syrup, but am sparse with that as it is the most time consuming project I make :-) Ours probably don't come out as "sticky" as hers, and don't hold together too well at room temp. I wrap them and put them in the freezer and we eat them cold :-)

Have fun playing with the recipe!


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