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The stay-at-home dad: The ever-expanding kid menu

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| May 1, 2021 1:00 AM

“You either eat what I provide or you don’t eat dinner!”

I admit to saying this once or twice to my kids, however, I don’t think it’s the right way to go when it comes to developing healthy eating habits.

In theory, I can understand the temptation. I want my kids to try a variety of foods, and I want them to enjoy healthy choices. If that means forcing them to eat cauliflower until they can tolerate it, then so be it!

It isn’t very realistic in practice.

I didn’t like cauliflower as a kid, and I still don’t like it as an adult. At least nowadays there are easier methods to inject a few more vegetables into a meal, with cauliflower being something you can hide in rice and meat with the right combination of spices and other kid-friendly flavors.

With four kids, I contend with four vastly different palates, and while I encourage new foods and anchor those new items with the go-to “greatest hits,” it takes quite a bit of variant options to appease every child. Saying, “Eat this or nothing,” requires more active parenting, and at 6 p.m. every day, I don’t have the energy for a tantrum.

Even if I hold firm, my kids know where we stash the good stuff in the house. My 7-year-old son in particular knows how to stealthily snatch four granola bars off the top shelf of the pantry without being detected.

Even with a universally liked meal, I need an arsenal of condiments to satisfy the mob.

Example 1: Chicken nuggets, rice and broccoli.

Order A: Nuggets with ketchup, rice with butter and salt, broccoli with soy sauce.

Order B: Nuggets with BBQ sauce, race with soy sauce, plain broccoli.

Order C: Nuggets with ketchup and mustard, rice with butter, salt and pepper, broccoli extra chopped with soy sauce.

Order D: Nuggets with no sauce, rice that’s “extra soft” (still don’t really know what this means) with butter and salt, one piece of broccoli with soy sauce chopped, which he’ll scream about eating before being bribed with some kind of dessert.

Example 2: Pizza with baby carrots and apples.

Order A: Sausage/pepperoni pizza, carrots with no dipping sauce, apples.

Order B: Sausage pizza (NO PEPPERONI!), carrots with ranch dressing, apples sliced extra thin.

Order C: Pepperoni pizza but with the pepperoni on the side, carrots plain that somehow end up being found all shriveled up weeks later behind a bookcase, apple slices with almond butter.

Order D: Plain pizza (NO CHEESE, NO TOPPINGS!), one baby carrot sliced into circular “chips” that get “dropped” on the floor, apples slices with sunbutter, but the apples are really just a utensil for sucking up sunbutter.

These are the only two meals with a four-quadrant success rate on the main entre. We had a third for a while, pressure-cooked spaghetti, but now two of them want extra garlic, one wants “less meat” and my 3-year-old has a very specific temperature preference: “I don’t want it HOT! I don’t want it WARM! But not COLD!” it’s very difficult to serve room-temperature spaghetti.

I tell you what everyone likes: Dessert. It doesn’t matter what it is. Blueberries, Ice cream, candy, cupcakes, etc. If it’s got sugar, everyone wants it. We’re a family united by cavities.

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Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and a stay-at-home parent to four kids, ages 3-9. He is tired. He can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.