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Thanksgiving Cooking for Kids

With Thanksgiving coming up, I have visions of turkeys and cranberries dancing in my head. It won’t be long before Hudson is ready to start eating solids. Wow, time really does fly. And yes, I’m planning to make all his food, just like I did for Maisie.

Oh, stop it! I see you rolling your eyes at me, but just hear me out. First off, I want to know what I’m feeding my kid is actually good for him. I spent all this time avoiding food when I was pregnant and breast-feeding. I’m not going to throw that out the window now. His little brain and body are still forming and need the right kind of energy to do so.

Plus, have you tasted baby food? It’s downright nasty! No wonder kids spit it out. It’s important to me that my kids have a wide palette. I refuse to live with picky eaters. And so far, Maisie does eat just about anything. Of course, she’s a toddler, so one day she loves something the next she hates it and the day after it’s her favorite again. I seriously believe she eats well because she had all that yummy, homemade food as a baby. Sure, she prefers chicken nuggets to roast chicken, but the point is, she’ll eat the roast chicken. She’s only ever had whole-wheat pasta with turkey meat sauce so that’s what she likes.

The best cookbooks I’ve found are by a woman called Annabel Karmel. Her recipes are really easy and quite yummy. You make a whole bunch of something and freeze it into little cubes to use later. It’s very simple. Not only does she have a great book on baby purees (her baby recipes use ingredients like leeks!), but she also has great ideas for things to make for older kids. I made cannelloni that looked like sleeping kids the other day. It was easy and delicious!

Of course, all the hard work you do making a good, healthy meal at home can quickly be undone when your kids start school. They come home with backpacks stuffed with candy wrappers and boycott anything except chicken fingers and French fries. Face it. That stuff tastes better, plus it’s what all the cool kids eat. Even if you pack a lunch, it gets tossed out and the vending machines provide the day’s nourishment. The result is our kids are getting sicker and fatter. Did you know that 25 percent of kids aged vice to 10 already show signs of heart disease!?

You’re probably thinking, “That’s not my kid. My kid’s great. Plus, I saw the school’s menus and they look healthy enough.” Aw, but what do you really know about the food at school? Have you tasted it? Have you sat through a lunch there? Are there fresh fruits available? Do kids eat dessert instead of lunch? Is the cafeteria clean? Do your kids have enough time to eat?

There’s a national movement started by a mom right here in Westchester County named Dr. Susan Rubin. I heard her speak recently and was moved by what she said. She and another woman, Amy Kalafa, did a documentary film about moms fighting to get better school lunches called Two Angry Moms The flick ruffled a lot of feathers and launched betterschoolfood.org. Check it out. What you see will frighten you—then inspire you.

The basic gist is that our kids are too often eating crap at school and finances are a big part of the problem. it’s cheaper for the schools to cook unhealthy food—but you can make a difference. Go to your school. See what they serve. See from where they get the food. Investigate.

It may seem like too much trouble, but nutrition today makes a huge difference tomorrow. By teaching them to eat well—at school, too—you’re setting your kids up for a lifetime of good health.

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