Today I took my 3-year-old daughter to a cooking class for preschoolers and parents. I have taken her twice before: once in the fall and once on Valentine’s Day. The class in the fall was small (only 4 children) and the menu was healthy and delicious. I was eager to sign up for more classes AS SOON as registration opened.
The only two classes that fit my schedule were the Valentine’s theme class and today’s class, themed Goodnight Moon. I should have expected the Valentine class to be comprised of sweets, but with a vague menu of items like “Puppy Love” and “Love Potion,” I was hopeful it would be a healthy twist on a sugary holiday. Nope, it was all junk food—yummy, but merely empty calories.
Today’s class was called Goodnight Moon. What a great idea to create a cooking theme around a book! On the menu: Harvest Moon Macaroni, Blue Moon Cookies, and Mini Moon Fruit Salad. Sounds fairly nutritious, right? Surprisingly, the healthiest food we made today turned out to be the macaroni. But Clara was skeptical of it from the very beginning. “Breadcrumbs?!” she exclaimed as the bowl of crumbs was passed around for kids to sprinkle on top. She wasn’t sure about “fancy, restaurant-style mac ‘n cheese.” Plus, there were a lot of breadcrumbs and 3-year-olds tend to pour instead of sprinkle. When it was ready to eat, she took a few bites and gagged on a pile of breadcrumbs. Literally gagged. She was actually wiping the crumbs off of her tongue! She wouldn’t eat another bite.
The cookies were fun to make; we stirred the ingredients and rolled the dough. Clara ran over to the oven several times while they were baking to peek at the cookies. She always ran back to me with updates:
“They’re puffing up!”
“They are not turning brown on the edges yet!”
When those were done cooling, the chef handed each child a small bowls of blue frosting. Most kids loved “painting” the frosting onto their cookies. But not Clara. She scrunched up her nose and said, “Blue frosting? I don’t want blue frosting.” “You can say ‘no thank you,’” I urged. But secretly, I was grateful. I actually want her to take a nap after this meal--the less sugar, the better! She ate several plain sugar cookies while other kids frosted cookies and set them aside to take home for dessert later.
The fruit salad was Clara’s highlight. She enjoyed cutting up grapes, blueberries, bananas and oranges with a butter knife. She couldn’t resist snitching a few pieces of the salad before I whisked them away into the big salad bowl.
BUT THEN, the chef brought us a bag of mini marshmallows to add. The dad sitting next to me grabbed a small bowl and quickly scooped out some fruit for his daughter. I did the same. The kids added marshmallows to the big bowl. Then the chef brought us a carton of Cool Whip and had the kids dump it into the fruit salad. Clara happily scarfed down the fruit I had set aside for her but wouldn’t even let me put a taste of the Mini Moon Fruit Salad onto her plate.
And for a drink, we had “Blue punch” which was Kool-Aid. Clara had 2 sips of it and decided that she’d drink my water instead.
I’m relieved that Clara did not indulge in the sugary foods. But what does this say about our culture and its food? Why did the chef even think that Cool Whip and marshmallows were necessary? Why breadcrumbs on macaroni for preschoolers? Why Kool-Aid?
Something like 70% of chronic disease is rooted in poor diet. Why is it acceptable to start our children on the path of disease?
Here’s the menu for Goodnight Moon that I would have made:
- · Oatmeal (Goodnight mush)
- · Moon Fruit Salad (orange segments, banana slices; no marshmallows or Cool Whip)
- · Blueberry Tea or Sleepy Time Tea
- · Cucumber Crescents and hummus