Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mac and Cheese: Hold the Squash

Last week, I served my children macaroni and cheese for dinner.  And they both refused to eat it.  Now, you might wonder what kind of children refuse the classic childhood comfort food that is beloved by so many others, but before you get too concerned, I should probably confess -- I altered the recipe.  Considerably.

Macaroni and cheese is typically a favorite in our house.  Whether it's in the infamous blue box (Kraft), Daddy's favorite (Velveeta), the healthy one (Annie's organic), or the homemade casserole version straight from my mom's tattered copy of Betty Crocker, my kids always devour it.  So what went wrong?

Well, in retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have replaced the pasta with quinoa and added a whole butternut squash.  I'm thinking that maybe the combination of the two might have changed the flavor just a little too much  . . .

As parents, we often struggle to turn fresh, healthy, whole foods into meals our children will appreciate (as my quinoa and butternut squash debacle clearly demonstrates).  But if recent studies are any indication, we have to keep trying.  Obesity is a growing epidemic among American children, whose diets are typically high in fat, sodium, and sugar, and shockingly low in the nutrients that they're growing bodies desperately need. 

So what, exactly, are parents to do?  How do we improve our children's nutrition while still offering snacks and meals that are easy for us to prepare and enticing to them to eat? 

The fact is, it doesn't have to be quite as difficult as I seem to make it.  There's a long list of culinary disasters that preceded my attempt to destroy macaroni and cheese.  I've served beef stroganoff over green spinach noodles, and made muffins without any sugar (or honey or maple syrup or even molasses, no sweetener WHATSOEVER).  I don't blame my kids for not eating a lot of the things I've tried to serve them. 

But the good news in all this is that I've learned a lot along the way.  You don't have to slave away for hours in the kitchen over food that no one ends up eating.  There are plenty of simple, quick-fixes for boosting the nutrition of foods that kids already know and love.   Stay tuned for my next post, where I plan to share some of my favorites!

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