what's for dinner

Feeding a baby is not easy. Well, I should rephrase that. Providing a baby with healthy and wholesome foods can be a laborious process. For us, the actual feeding is easy. It just takes the following 10 simple steps:

  1. Make food. It really doesn’t matter what. The baby will eat anything put in front of her.
  2. Hurry to cut up food because the baby in the high-chair is HUNGRY!
  3. Leave bigger pieces of food, because a) screaming baby and b) she has teeth, now, right? Then she can chew a little bit.
  4. Put food in front of baby.
  5. Watch baby shove handfuls of food into mouth and attempt to swallow without any chewing.
  6. Place hand in front of baby’s mouth and say “Spit it out!” in an authoritative voice. Catch slimy, spit-covered food in hand.
  7. Break food into smaller chunks.
  8. Attempt to eat your own food while being stared at by a small person who wants to eat from your plate. (See number 2, soooo hungry. And really guys, give me a bite, pleeeeaaaase.)
  9. Give baby some of your food. Realize that her plate is empty. She really didn’t chew at all, huh?
  10. Wipe down baby, chair, table, floor, walls, etc.

Really, nothing to it. Step six comes in especially handy when she tries to eat rocks from the gutter in front of the house.

So, given the fact that Brooklynn will in fact eat just about anything we put on her plate (turkey, chicken, beef, salmon, tilapia, peas, carrots, corn, zucchini, squash, bell peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, waffles, pancakes, crackers, peaches, grapes, pineapple, ketchup, yogurt, etc.), we really do work on putting decent things in front of her.

Yes, she has the occasional cookie at the grocery store or a little ice cream from time to time, but she has never had pop or juice, and we try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

She loves her some Sponge Bob macaroni and cheese from a box, and we think it’s because she can pick up the noodles easier than the standard mac and cheese made with elbow macaroni. But other than that, we do attempt to use food that does not come from a cardboard container and list several unintelligible ingredients where possible.

It isn’t easy. This weekend, we were making some homemade Cold-Stone like ice cream creations and needed to pick up caramel. I’ve made my own caramel. I love caramel. So, when presented the choice between caramel “flavored” topping and what looked like true caramel goodness in a glass jar no less, which do you think I picked?

I looked at the back of the “flavored” el-cheapo stuff (which I have had and think is actually quite tasty). Ingredients: High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, etc. Now, the back of the glass jar, real caramel version. Ingredients: Corn Syrup, High-Fructose Corn syrup, etc.

See. The real stuff is obviously so much better, be cause there’s more plain corn syrup than the high-fructose variety. Obviously.

Now, the last time I made caramel sauce, I’m confident the recipe didn’t call for corn syrup of any kind, or any artificial flavors or colors or preservatives. Homemade caramel ingredients: Sugar, Butter, Heavy Cream.

Period. Nothing else. Of course, it only has a refrigerated shelf life of around two weeks, but let’s all be honest here. I have never had a batch of homemade caramel last anywhere close to two weeks to actually test that out. So we got the cheap stuff that I knew tasted good, because I wanted some ice-cream (actually frozen yogurt) and I wasn’t about to take the time to make it myself.

When I was growing up, sugar was bad for you because it would rot your teeth, or at least that’s what we were told every Halloween. Now, with preservatives and corn-this and soy-that, sugar is healthy. There are “throwback” versions of pop, made with real sugar, and they advertise it like it’s great. Our pop has real sugar, not fake sweeteners, so it’s good for you too!

Between hormone enhanced beef, mercury laden farm-raised fish, and ground up soy products leading to surplus of estrogen production fears, it’s hard to know what to feed your kids. Sometimes, I think eating out at restaurants is the easier option, not because the food is any less processed or healthier, but because there are no ingredient labels on the bottom of the plates.

Ignorance really might be bliss.

In this economy, the price of food seems to come up on the evening news and morning talk shows every other week, and there always seems to be a segment highlighting someone who clips coupons and buys only sale items and seems to feed a family of 15 for $2 a day. And when you look at their cart as they go through the checkout, it’s stacks of boxes and cans and bottles and very little fresh meat, fruit, or veggies.

Manufacturers don’t make coupons for vegetables, maybe because there’s nothing to manufacture. Same with fruit. And if I buy a steak or roasting chicken, I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many artificially processed ingredients there.

Don’t get me wrong and think I’m naïve. Farming and ranching is big business. As much as we’d all like to imagine our cows were in the pasture last week eating fresh grass, that isn’t the case. Chickens aren’t roaming a barnyard only to scatter when the farmer idles through on his tractor. Feedlots. Cramped conditions. We just feign ignorance and move on.

So, we shop on the outside of the store as much as possible, and most of the time, it means we don’t have a lot of food that lasts more than a week in the fridge. Some of it is frozen, once in a while some of it gets moldy and we through it away. We buy some organic and make a lot of food at home. We spend more than we could scrape buy on and less that we would if we ate out more and feel fortunate that, overall, money is not a factor in what we choose to eat.

I read a statistic that the average one year old needs 1300 calories per day. Considering adults should be somewhere around 2000 calories, that’s a lot of food for a person who is hovering right around 25 pounds. When you look at the nutrition facts on raw veggies and fruit, it takes a lot of food to get to 1300. I have no idea if we’re doing the best thing for Brooklynn. I don’t know if I do the best thing for myself most of the time.

I like to think we’re doing the best we can with the knowledge we have. And I know that some real caramel and ice cream from time to time is never a bad thing.