News flash—it’s OK to let your kids eat only mac & cheese! Really! I checked!
I confess, my inner child yearns for comfort foods right now. That you-know-what boxed mac & cheese is high on my list. In the Vancouver neighbourhood where I grew up, moms creatively threw in hot dogs or a can of Woodward’s brand tuna. There was even a contest around the weird things we added. While my taste buds have grown to appreciate homemade versions, it’s still my go-to food. On occasion, I even make that boxed stuff—along with my Grade 8 cooking class recipe for tuna noodle casserole.
So, back to nutrition. This week, a New York Times article lead with this mac & cheese announcement. Truly, I was thrilled, but felt due diligence was in order before sharing. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, kids stress eat too. And stress eating can mean plowing through a plate of fresh cookies, sugary cereals, french fries, a tub of ice cream (with a spoon), or maybe a huge bowl of plain white rice – or boxed mac & cheese. The positive news? Kids growth won’t be impaired by a few weeks of less than balanced eating. Even for a child with underlying health issues, there may be room to loosen the reins with a safe, favorite food.
Sure, get kids helping with meal plans and prep: washing, peeling, cutting and stirring promotes tasting. But don’t be upset if the eating part doesn’t happen. Getting thumbs up on a new food may need lots of “look-ats” and bites first. Also, maintaining a meal and snack time schedule helps little tummies feel hungry when the rest of the family eats. Sitting together for a meal is success in itself.
Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, but now is probably not the time for a food fight. While all parents worry about the foods kids consume, for a few weeks, toddlers will thrive even if the family dog gets a bit tubby from bits tossed on the floor. With so many concerns these days, take a breather on this one. Health is not just about food choices, it is also about spending time together and giving lots of cuddles so that kids feel safe and loved.
PS: there are a couple of inexpensive organic boxed mac & cheese brands now—they’re yummy and go great with tuna!
A Message from Kelly Stone,
President & CEO, Families Canada