Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chapter 4, Molly's Story

On a really cold and rainy Hood River day about three winters ago, I spotted my friend Molly at the pool with her two sons. We both looked way too white in our bikinis, however hers was a cute little red one with yellow strips, and mine was a 5-years-old-boring-black suit that was borderline see thru in the butt from the pool’s chlorine ruining it. Molly always stylish and Sarah always business and practical. Nonetheless, the two of us were buddies when we randomly saw each other.

The idea of writing this book had been banging around in my head for a few months and when I saw Molly whip out gummies and pretzels for snacks, I knew she was the missing link to this manuscript. You see, Molly has the ability to take the most horrific moments she has a parent, and with words on paper, make others laugh out loud. I also knew that she was a mother on the go: teaching music classes to all—literally all the kids in Hood River while raising two boys and pregnant with a third. If I could get her to try my Cleanse and write about it, maybe I could actually get the masses as well. Thankfully, on that cold winter day at the pool she immediately jumped on board. So please get comfy and be prepared to laugh with Molly as she records her attempt at an early version of Less Sugar More Veggie Cleanse. Besides making you laugh, I also hope Molly’s story gives you inspiration to really give this cleanse a try and document it yourself. 

Side bar: it should be noted that when Molly and I first came up with the rules to the Cleanse we didn’t allow any sugar, but after reading her journal when she finished, I really felt it would be easier to make this diet a long-term habit if we allowed one sugar snack. So, when your kids are munching on pretzels, thank Molly.

Without further ado, please meet Molly Schwarz!

My background

allow me to fill you in on who i am. my name is molly. i am a 40 year old mother to dane, age 5 and cassady age 2 and am pregnant with my third boy tentatively named lazerwolf. i work part time teaching a music program for children. i am not a natural in the kitchen. however...

i love food. i love going out to restaurants where skilled chefs make the food and people with good balancing skills bring said food out to me. when it comes to preparing food at home, i lack a lot of tools; namely, confidence. i’m good at one pot meals, like crock pots and the like, but it takes a lot of forethought and planning to create meals. forethought and planning make me tired. did i mention i’m 11 months pregnant at age 40? EVERYTHING makes me tired.

ok, so i don’t think i am in a desperate situation. i think i do an average job of feeding my kids. they don’t drink juice at all, only water and they eat a fair amount of veggies.

cassady is 2 years old and loves food. he’ll try pretty much anything. but before i toot my horn about that, i think back on my now 5 year old, dane. he used to be like that.  french onion soup, steak, lobster, a nice glass of veuve cliquot...wait, that’s me.

but really, until he turned three, he was open to anything. then he turned three and a change in personality occurred. this is a food based essay, so i won’t go into detail about how many times i locked him in his room for being an asshole, or how many times he laughed in my face the angrier i got.  age three was the pits.

i was exhausted by negotiation so i fed him lots of orange things. not carrots or mangoes but orange things from the good ol’ american kraft company. pirate booty for lunch. mac and cheese for dinner all.the.time. pasta in general with sauce from a jar. cheese sticks. so much processed cheese it’s a wonder he ever pooped.

but when cassady came along and started to show an interest in our food, i became aware of the crap i was serving. i mean, i knew it was crap but i felt like i was really starting to fail. i felt like a teenager who was babysitting.  

and then there’s the sugar. the delicious nasty drug called sugar. i’m an addict for sure. why, just this very morning i ate an entire sleeve of thin mints. did you catch that? “morning”? “sleeve”? thank the lord those cookie pushing vixens only come round once a year. it’s THEIR fault, of course.

my husband loves sugar as well. but one day about a year ago, after reading something probably on my news source of facebook, i decided to DO SOMETHING about our kid’s sugar intake. i announced this to my husband. his reaction was something akin to “yeah, we’ll see” or something equally supportive in nature. he mentioned before that he thinks the kids have too much sugar and that their dinners are sub par in nutritional value. as the primary caregiver to our kids, this made me feel angry and unappreciated. I’M the one cooking, I’M the one cleaning, blah blah blah it’s the age old marital struggle BUT he had a point. there were far too many promised “special treats” upon visiting various bakeries and coffee shops. special treats were literally a daily occurrence.” oh, it’s raining! special treat, mommy?” or “mommy, i breathed air today! special treat?”

so instead of getting self defensive, i got proactive. I decided that i would cook ONE meal. a FAMILY meal. and if the kids didn’t like it, they didn’t have to eat it but that would be it.

About 50% of the time, dane says he doesn’t like whatever i make for him. about 100% of the time cassady shows his approval by eating multiple helpings of anything i make, saying “good dinna mommy!” bless his heart. when dane does like something i have slaved over, i feel like i won an oscar.

this past week, however, there have been multiple dinners of mac and cheese and pasta with no sauce, just butter and cheese which is basically mac and cheese. i made a yellow box cake yesterday which i’m ashamed to say, is half eaten by me. there have been twizzlers and mcdonald’s ice cream cones and french fries. (god, that is such a good combination). i can’t help feel a twinge of pride upon seeing both my kids dip their fries into the soft serve. i taught them that. that’s bad, right? ok, i need help.

Saturday March 29th

It is 2 days until d-day. the “d” standing for  “damnitiloveprocessedfoodsandi’llmissthemsomuch”.
the other day i decided to break the news to dane, over his 10 bowls of cereal, that we will be having a fun time coming up this week where we’ll make healthy choices to make our bodies happy and strong.

his face fell. “no more cereal?” i responded in a cheerful tone, “nope!” i think the breakfast will be the hardest sell for him and that dinner will be the hardest task for me. nothing about this will be hard for cassady, as long as there is food being shoved in his face hole.

i will know much more after i meet with sarah and we go over the meal plan. i’m hopeful.

Meeting with Sarah, Sunday evening March 30th

sarah came over to our house of chaos around bed/bathtime to discuss the upcoming week. we loosely threw some ideas around focusing a lot on the snack/ lunch areas.

it was time to go grocery shopping. when we got there sarah said, “you know you never go down the aisles right?” i laughed uncomfortably. my scandalous aisle trips are for procuring life cereal and rice chex, coffee, sugary applesauce, monsters inc. mac and cheese (it’s dane’s favorite because clearly monster shaped things taste better), tortillas, hard pretzels (my favorite), condiments, t.p. and diapers. don’t even ask me to try the cloth ones, ok? it’s a hard NO. i guess i don’t love planet earth as much as i should but it’s a hard NO. i’m trying, ok? i don’t use paper towels anymore.  you’re welcome, trees.

almost $300 later, i was ready to begin. yeah, $300 is a lot of dough but i had to remind myself that i was buying food for a whole week of breakfast, lunch and dinners and snacks in between. but still… that’s a $6 box of crackers i just bought. and normally, i don’t buy crackers at all. i just all of a sudden got nervous about snacks and lunches. no sandwiches? no lunch meat? no string cheeses? what the hell will i feed my kids?

Some thoughts on lunches and snacks

normally, i pack dane a pb &j sandwich or a turkey and mayo on wheat bread. this wheat bread contains high fructose corn syrup. this is not in the plan. sugary delicious peanut butter is also not in the plan. nor is most jelly. so, an alternative to sandwiches are wraps or tortillas. these also have sugar in them. sarah guided me to the healthy area of our local grocery store and showed me some brand of brown rice tortillas. they are frozen. this is a problem. i am the person who thinks that i can freeze that chicken breast i didn’t use and NEVER unfreezes that chicken breast. see? i didn’t even say the right word. THAW. the only thing that belongs in the freezer is ice cream. and eight freezer burned chicken breasts. so you can imagine my trepidation upon buying more frozen things. we’ll see…

Day One


I woke up at the sound of cassady calling to me and the first thing he says is “cereal now?” man, have i created cereal monsters. i said. “no, not today!” all cheery-like. since i am me, i did not have any oatmeal prepared and my kids are hungry first thing and ten minutes in toddler time is unacceptable. i offered cassady plain greek yogurt with strawberries, raspberries and honey while i prepared the oats. he was happy with this. then dane woke up and asked for cereal. i told him the plan (again) of trying new things this week and he seemed to accept it. that is until i set the steaming delicious bowl of oatmeal dressed with frozen raspberries, honey and milk before my prince.

he immediately said he didn’t like it but he also knows that he has to try things before declaring such statements. so he tried it and FOUR BOWLS LATER he was full. he exclaimed multiple times how delicious it was. success! cassady, on the other hand, refused to try it. my little guy who i was just bragging about earlier, screams and cries in protest. i couldn’t believe it. i even put the spoon to his lips in the hope that he would taste it accidentally but nope. it was unsuccessful.


this particular day, dane didn’t have pre-school so we decided to go to a local museum. This meant packing a healthy, sugar free lunch.

i packed:
brown rice snaps with a sugar free chocolate peanut butter spread
grape tomatoes
apple/apricot sauce

let me be honest, even i didn’t think any of this looked good, but no matter, it was off to the museum. when it came time to eat, the kids were less than enthusiastic. the crackers literally tasted like paper. the delicious sounding spread was not a hit. the tomatoes were not ripe. the applesauce was really runny and tasted mostly like apricots, which, for my kids was an unwelcome departure from the regular high fructose-y deliciousness to which they are accustomed. so it was pistachios for lunch by default.

needless to say we were all pretty hungry by the time we got back home so i served an afternoon snack:

granola bar and cheddar cheese for kids
avocado and cheddar cheese for me


i made pork tenderloin which is actually pretty easy as long as i don’t overcook it.  i served this with a side of roasted veggies.

pork loin (salt and pepper only)
roasted cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes and capers
brown rice made with chicken stock

full disclosure: i serve all meat i make with a side of honey for dipping. this defeats the purpose, i believe, of the whole no sugar diet. i know this in my heart but i was scared. it was the first day. i had taken away their beloved cereal for godssake. the very least i could do was let them dip that meat into obscene amounts of honey? right? don’t answer that.

they ate up that honey, i mean PORK. they ate the rice. they dissected the veggies. out came the sweet potatoes. out came the capers. who the heck doesn’t like sweet potatoes? my husband. he hates them. but he also doesn’t like chocolate. how did i even MARRY that guy?

Day Two


“salty tears served with a side of heaving sobs coming right up!”

this morning dane “elected” for pancakes as if i were even offering pancakes. apparently the absence of cereal implies that anything else is possible. thank god he didn’t ask for eggs benedict. i’ve never poached an egg in my life.

i remembered a healthy pancake recipe involving bananas and oats and no sugar. this recipe sounded easy but it did call for “pulsed oats”. ugh. that means out came the vitamix. did i mention how lazy i am?

so for the first time, i let the boys watch something on the computer while i whipped up this new healthy breakfast. this was very exciting to them as morning videos never occur.

banana pancakes:
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 c. pulsed oats
½ c. oats

mash bananas, add eggs, add oats.  let sit for 5 minutes. (if too thick, add a splash of milk, soy or yogurt)
form into pancakes and cook them, you know, like pancakes.

i have to be honest with you, i doused those mother effers in honey. in fact, can i be totally honest? i doused everything in honey. this may not be protocol for the no sugar diet. i need to ask sarah.

i really enjoyed these pancakes. like really, really. they were kind of chewy and full of flavor. kind of like a warm granola bar. dane, however did not share my enthusiasm. he tried them and then so politely declined anymore and then asked so politely for regular oatmeal, that i just had to acquiesce. plus, it was easy for me because i had lots left over from the previous day’s breakfast. noooo problem.

cassady cried heaving sobs over the pancakes. he refused to try them and i already knew that oatmeal was out of the question so i just left the pancakes in front of him while he sobbed. then the strangest thing happened: he tried them. and guess what? he actually liked them. he ate 2 of them.


dane’s lunchbox:
string cheese
cherry tomatoes
sliced cucumbers with crazy salt

he ate all of that boring lunch. man, what a boring lunch.

cassady had:
raw broccoli dipped in hummus
leftover pork loin (cold) dipped in yes, you guessed it: honey

Afternoon snack:

for both boys:
a banana
cheesy g.f. crackers


dinner was a bit of a bust. i realized i gave them a snack way too close to dinner time. plus, the dinner i made was pretty bad.

chicken breast marinated in a sugar free soy sauce.  chopped and cooked with coconut milk. added to that red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and broccoli.  tossed all together with some thai noodles.

this sounds good and all but the sauce was really bland and all the veggies were mushy.

cassady used the noodles as a head band. dane HATED the meal. i had to threaten dane with going straight to bed unless he ate a few bites. that’s good parenting right? i mean, i didn’t mommy dearest him or anything but still…
basically the dinner was boycotted big time. it must be mentioned that i, too, am following this meal plan and i managed to choke some down.

Day Three


cassady wakes up and first words out of his mouth are a hopeful  “cereal now?”. man, i have created cereal addicts. when i say an overly cheerful “nope!” cassady dissolves into tears. again. this is not a fun way to start my day. (i haven’t even had my coffee sans chemical creamer! i love the chemical-y french vanilla creamer but i have given it up for plain half and half.) so it’s banana pancakes again for cassady and oatmeal again for dane.

Morning snack:

dried organic mangoes and apples
string cheese
smoothie hand delivered from ms. sarah. a very green one filled with goodness. cassady and i loved it. dane hated it.


hard boiled eggs (i forgot how much we all love them, hooray!)
grape tomatoes
carrot sticks

Afternoon snack:

popcorn…really can’t go wrong with that!


Baked chicken breast (pounded thin)
sautéed onions, fresh spinach, parmesan, feta cheese, green onion, parsley, garlic
place the sautéed ingredients on the breast and roll them up and then roll in bread crumbs and bake.

this is a seriously yummy dinner that my kids seriously disliked. damn it all. cassady tried it and didn’t like it but true to his form, he tried it again and ate it. and true to dane’s form, he disliked it from the start BEFORE even tasting it and chose to go to bed hungry. i really need to broaden dane’s taste bud horizons.

Day Four


for cassady, plain greek yogurt and honey
for dane, oatmeal again.

dane asked, “how many more days till we can have cereal again?” this question bothers me because haven’t we detoxed yet? they are still addicted to the sugary greatness of cereal. it’s been 4 days! oatmeal is delicious and pancakes are delicious! methinks we have a long way to go.

Dane’s (school day) lunch:

string cheese
crackers with s.f. peanut butter
pureed mango/pear baby food squeezy thing i found in our cupboard

a really great thing that dane does genuinely love is the sugar free peanut butter. thank the lord.

Morning snack for cassady:

delicious green smoothie from the local health food store.

Lunch for cassady:

cheddar cheese slices
pirate booty
dried mangoes and apples


Falafel w/ greek yogurt dipping sauce

this was so super yummy and so super quick and easy. sarah pointed out this dried falafel mix in the bulk section of our grocery store. it couldn’t have been easier. guess what? the kids didn’t like it. i know, such a shocker. in their defense the falafel mix was pretty spicy. they pretty much just had yogurt for dinner but at least that’s something.

Day Five


Pancakes for cassady
oatmeal for dane

for some reason cassady did not like the pancakes this particular morning. perhaps just to drive his mommy a little crazy. perhaps breakfast was going TOO well.

Morning snack for cassady:

smoothie made by mommy- spinach, frozen mangoes and raspberries, apples and coconut milk.

the verdict: deeeelicious. cassady drank so much of it and it really was a great feeling to prepare something so fresh and healthy to give to my sweet little boy. i should try this more often.

Dane’s school lunch:

tortilla with peanut butter and honey (tortillas found in the natural food section-all natural, no preservatives or weird stuff)
string cheese


Daddy made “Daddy’s Special Eggs”  which are scrambled eggs with tomatoes and cheese (added avocadoes for cassady). Don’t you know everything tastes special when you add the word special to it?

Day Six


Oatmeal with sliced bananas for Dane
yogurt for Cassady


Tortillas with s.f. peanut butter and honey for both boys
Thank goodness for these tortillas. they are soft and delicious and taste even better than the preservatively delicious mission ones.


Lentil Soup
Chicken stock, tomatoes, onions, carrots and salt and pepper.  i also added some honey to further the sweetness addiction. molly the enabler. ah well….

the verdict on the lentil soup: DELICIOUS. so so good. the kids didn’t like it but they both ate it. yes! i’ve successfully broken their spirits.

Quick story before i get to the last day.

I had to go to the grocery store to get something for dinner. I was in a huge hurry and went to a different store which I was not as familiar with. did i mention i was in a huge hurry and with both impatient whining boys? i bribed them with the promise of popsicles. i mean, there has GOT to be a popsicle out there with no sugar, right?

i grabbed a rotisserie chicken and began the quest for the treats.

damn it all, i looked high and low for these things. it was like looking for a mythical creature such as a unicorn. every box i picked up had sugar added, even the outshine brand claiming to be 100% fruit. again, i was unfamiliar with this store and the clock was ticking so i said the dreaded words, “i’m sorry but they don’t have any that we can buy”. dane dissolved into tears and as he was crying, a friendly clerk overheard our conversation and offered to go get the “sugar free” popsicles because he knew exactly where to find them.

what could i do? i mean, how sweet was that kid to run for me (granted i was ginormously pregnant) but he came dashing back like he had found the mythical unicorn and said , “see? sugar free!”. he handed over a box of fudgesicles. the sugar free kind. a quick glance at the ingredients told me that i had failed the sugar challenge. so many unpronounceable chemicals. my heart sank because i knew that i had to give those to my kids. i HAD to.

i thanked him through gritted teeth and went home. danny was there and while he unpacked the goods, he said, “this chicken has sugar in it.” MOTHER FUCKER. rotisserie chicken.

the ironic part of the story is that dane, upon seeing me freak out looking for healthy popsicles, thinks the sugar free fudgesicles are a healthy treat. he told our friend, jack, “ these are SO good and they’re actually GOOD FOR YOU!!”
no dane. no they’re not.

Day Seven. The Last Supper.


oatmeal with bananas for dane
yogurt for cassady
leftover biscuits with butter
daves killler bread toast for both kids. neither liked it. too nutty or some annoying complaint.

i didn’t want to make a big deal about it being the “last day” because that’s not really the point, but dane had been keeping track and when he figured it out he said, “YOU MEAN WE CAN HAVE CEREAL TOMORROW?? CASSADY! WE CAN HAVE CEREAL TOMORROW!!”

good lord, what have i created.


peanut butter and honey tortilla roll-ups
cucumbers and carrots for dane

yogurt with bananas for cassady because earlier he had fallen and split his lip. ouch!

dane never EVER eats carrots. but he ate them happily to my surprise. and yes, dammit all, they each had a dreaded popsicle. DON’T YOU JUDGE ME!


rock fish with lemon juice and scallions (and salt and pepper) baked in the oven
steamed cauliflower
raw snap peas

dare i say it? this dinner was a complete SUCCESS! holy moly, it feels so good to have made something 1. new and 2. healthy. dane, who is skeptical of anything new, gobbled it up.

Reflections on the week:

listen, i’m not going to sugar coat it (see what i did there??). being sugar free was not easy at first. it was work. especially in this age where seemingly everything has some form of sugar in it. personally, it’s not easy for me to be organized, to have meals planned out in advance.  it was hard to not take the easy route of cereal and goldfish crackers. yes, it was hard but it felt really great to give my kids healthy choices. if i’m honest with myself, i have a suspicion that i’ll never be the organized meal planner that i dream of being. i’ll also never have all my laundry done or have pee-free bathroom floors. but that’s really ok. i am a very busy mom of soon to be three (!) boys and i’m happy that i now have an arsenal of healthy choices for not only my kids but for myself, too. this week has opened my eyes to the fact that yes, it’s a little more effort on my part to take the time to really look at what i’m giving my kids but that’s the best part. to care enough to KNOW.

it feels good and i know my kids are better for it.

even though tomorrow they will be reunited with their beloved cereal, i know that there will be no more jiffy peanut butter and dinner won’t exclusively mean mac and cheese.

i’m trying, ok? i’m trying.

Sarah here again.

Okay, so Molly made a few mistakes, but she survived and her kids survived! Although Molly doesn’t continue to abide by the Toddler Cleanse rules, she and her kids walked away with incredible knowledge. The fact that Dane was bragging to his buddies about finding sugar-free popsicles is huge (never mind the popsicles actually had sugar). It was great to see Dane so proud of himself that he could eat so healthy! That’s success in my book.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Chapter 3, It Might Be Possible to Have Peace at Mealtime

Let’s face it, mealtime can really suck. In my house right now, Finnegan and Wyatt have this new issue: Wyatt won’t eat if he’s sitting next to Finnegan and Finnegan will only eat if he is sitting next to Wyatt. It’s been really fun watching Wyatt move a chair away from Finnegan to only have Finnegan then move a chair closer to Wyatt countless times. Tears and whaling screams—that’s how every meal in my house starts right now.

Believe me, I get how hard mealtime is and no matter whether you make the most ultimate log-cabin out of carrot sticks with a spinach roof or cook everything laced with honey, you could still have tears throughout dinner.

However, in attempt to help you reach a few peaceful meals here are some tips and rules that you might find work for your family.
Tip 1: Mealtime Schedule, Rules and Rewards

Mealtime Schedule:
I’ve already talked about a mealtime schedule in Chapter 2, under Rule 2, but let’s get more specific here.

In my house this is our schedule:

Breakfast: Usually served around 6:40AM. My kids have 15 minutes to eat it. I literally set a timer. Once the timer goes off breakfast is over. Otherwise my kids would sit there for an hour whining about their oatmeal being too hot, their juice not cold enough or the fact that their brother looked at them funny, and before you know it, were late for pre-school.

AM Snack: They can have it anytime after breakfast, but see the rules below for when they lose it. In addition, this is the only time they are allowed a sugar snack.

Lunch: Usually served around 11AM

PM Snack: I try to serve it no later than 3PM so it doesn’t affect their hunger levels for dinner.

Dinner: Usually served around 5PM and I’ve been known to set a timer for dinner too.

Bonus snack: Has to be served before they brush their teeth. Once teeth are brushed, kitchen closes. I allow the bonus snack because sometimes my boys are still hungry after dinner. So I let them have peanut butter toast, handful of nuts, dried mangos, frozen raspberries—whatever they want that doesn’t contain refined sugar.

Let’s add a little side bar here on ice cream and deserts. I know I’m horrible mom; my kids aren’t allowed ice cream after dinner. I actually rarely have the frozen goodness in the house so there is no temptation. Sugar consumed right before bed is a bad idea, especially if you are having bedtime battles.
Now, you might be asking yourself, does this crazy mom not allow her kids one of the greatest American treats of all time. I promise, I do. We just go all out when we have it! We make it a special event! Remember I have an exception for special events. Once a week we all pack into the car to head out to the greatest local ice cream shop called Mike’s. In the summer time the lawn is filled with kids balancing their scope on top of their cone while playing tag. Ryan and I always get a brief moment to simply smile at each other and sometimes even get the chance to give him a quick peck on the cheek to show my love. Our ice cream stops are awesome. Find a great local shop and make it a fun ritual in your family’s life! 
Back to mealtime schedule talk, the above times noted are the only time food is consumed in my house. No Exceptions! It’s not always easy to follow. Just the other night, we got home late from gymnastics and I was trying to cook a quick dinner while I had both boys clinging to my legs sobbing and yelling that they had to eat right now or else they’d throw their pirate ship Legos at me and hope that I’d die. My kids are total drama queens when they get hungry. Believe me, I was so tempted to give them something quick, but if I did they weren’t going eat the dinner I was making for them.

There is no right or wrong schedule. Many of you might not get home from work in time to feed your kids by 5PM, that’s fine. Make a schedule that works for you and your family. And you know what – if letting your kid eat desert after dinner works for you – that’s great! Really, don’t change what isn’t broke! I think the most important thing is to be aware of when your kid is eating sugar.

Mealtime Rules and Rewards:

Establishing rules and rewards for mealtime not only creates consistency in your toddler’s life, it also helps you be consistent about what you want to enforce. Target weaknesses in your families eating habits and create some rules that might help.

Problem One # 1 in my house:
The biggest pain in the ass in my house is my boys don’t finish their meals and I’m so tried of fighting with them over this.


I created a consequence for when they don’t finish their plates and a reward for when they do.

Consequences: In my house, if you don’t finish your whole breakfast, you don’t get your AM snack. If you don’t finish your whole lunch, you don’t get your PM snack. If you don’t finish your whole dinner, you don’t get your bonus snack.
And yes, if my child doesn’t finish his breakfast and hence doesn’t get an AM snack, he will be a hungry cranky monster and I still have to hang out with him. Oh well, luckily lunch is only a few hours away and chances are he will finish it pretty easily.

Reward: When my boys do finish their plates we celebrate! I cheer and hug and kiss them. I say, “I’m so proud of you for eating good food. Your body thanks you too!”
I also created a stamp chart. It has seven rows going down and seven boxes going across. I bought these super cool stamps and funky inkpads and they can stamp one square for every meal they finish. When they finish their row, they have two choices: (1) we can go to one of the amazing bakeries in town and buy whatever yummy treat they want. I know, I’m rewarding good eating with a sugar treat, but I can’t deny them the experience of smelling cinnamon cooking and the site of gigantic cookies lined up in the window. Or (2), I have a special box (it’s actually just an old cardboard box that I drew a star on it with a sharpie), and it sits on the top shelf of my closet. It’s full of inexpensive fun toys: the smallest boxes of Legos, little toy cars, mars mud, fake poop and whatever else I can find at the local hobby store. The boys can choose from the box when they finish their row. Pending the small toy, it actually ends up being cheaper than a trip to the bakery.

Problem # 2: Getting my boys to simply come to the dinner table! Why is it so hard? As soon as dinner is served they think it’s time to start taking every toy out and create the ultimate fort with all the pillows in the house.

When breakfast, lunch or dinner is served you have 15 minutes to eat. If you don’t finish your plate in those 15 minutes, you don’t get a stamp. In addition, if said child does not come to the table when the meals are served, said child has to go to his room.
I don’t force my children to eat, but they have to come and sit at the table for 15 minutes. Often these 15 minutes are awful. Wyatt’s favorite trick is to lay flat on his chair with his arms and legs sticking out like Superman. I simply ignore him. If he wants to be hungry for the next few hours, so be it.
Kids have an extremely hard time with transitions. What kid wants to go from playing with his toys to sitting at a boring dinner table? Not many. But I find that when my kids finally get to the table often they start eating.

  • Figure out key problems in your house and try and create some rules/rewards that will hopefully solve the problem or at least alleviate your frustration.
  • Write the new rules and rewards out and tap them to the fridge so that you and your children don’t forget them.

Tip 2: Sit Down Too

Many times I catch myself at the kitchen sink woofing down my oatmeal so I can quickly pack my sons’ lunches, while I make them sit at the table eating their breakfast. First and foremost, it’s really hard to get your toddlers to do something when you don’t do it. Think bike helmet again. If you don’t sit down and show them how to eat, they will never want to. Besides, you owe it to yourself to take a few minutes to slow down. Sit down at the table, take some deep peaceful breaths while ignoring the fact that your four-year-old just spilled his water for the fifth day in a row, and enjoy your breakfast.
I often hear many moms say, I don’t have time to feed myself. Or, I can’t possibly make myself lunch, it’s hard enough just getting the kids lunch together. If this is you, I challenge you to start thinking of yourself as one of your own children. If you had one more child, you wouldn’t not prepare that child’s lunch too. When it gets tough, I often say to myself, I’m the third child and deserve to eat too. And when my boys are screaming at me to finish lunch so I can read to them or play, I say, “It’s important for moms to eat well too. If I don’t eat, I won’t have enough energy to play and I will be cranky all afternoon.”

Sit down and take time to eat. Value your nutrition as much as you value your kids’. All moms need level blood sugar and a full belly to handle toddlers.

Tip 3: Don’t expect much
Have a very low standard of what to expect from your toddlers at mealtime. This way when things do go well, you can be left pleasantly surprised! Really in all seriousness, it’s easy to expect too much out of our toddlers. It is impossible to get a toddler to sit perfectly still at dinnertime and eat every single bite on his plate and then delicately whip his mouth and say, “Thank you mom for making in incredible meal.” That’s not going to happen ever.
Think of each mealtime as a movie and you have no idea how it will end. It could be a comedy, a thriller, or sadly a tearjerker. Try to enjoy each movie for what it is. I have a friend that tries to write down one funny line her toddler says every day on a scrape of paper and merely throws it in a draw. Sometimes these one-liners end up on her Facebook page and they often come from mealtime and have everyone dying laughing. And many times, these one-liners were probably not funny at the time, but rather a result of a very miserable moment that when looking back on it you cherish the humor in it. Remember that even in our worst moments as parents, we can find humor. During mealtime take a deep breath, be prepared for the worst, and merely try to laugh it off.
In addition, toddlers can sense our frustration and often replicate them. If you are frustrated and mad at every meal, your toddler will be too. If you can be relaxed and easy going, you might find your toddler joining you in this quasi-happy state.

Don’t expect to have perfect meals where everyone is happy and polite. Try to enjoy the chaos.

Tip 4: YouTube it!

YouTube just became your best friend. If you don’t know how to cook something, YouTube and watch and learn. I really struggle with a lot of cookbooks. Honestly, they assume I know too much. I have no idea what braising, and I don’t care! Just tell me how to cook the darn chicken. And that’s what YouTube does. I had no idea how to cook a whole chicken, but after a quick five minutes on YouTube I was ready to go, and since my family is still alive, I know I didn’t poison them!

If this book ever takes off, I promise to post a bunch of videos of me cooking dinner with my two boys in the background trying to kill each other.

If you ever have a question how to cook something, simply YouTube it. After a quick video you will be all set.

Tip 5: Find a good grocery store

Here in Hood River we have a store called Mother’s Market and it’s a true gem. Not only do they carry really healthy food, they have the best green smoothie and juice bar. Ginger and wheat shots all around! My sons get a juice that taste like lemonade that contains a shot of wheat grass and they love it! Most importantly, the people who work there are incredibly knowledgeable and love sharing healthy tips. When I found out Wyatt was allergic to the world, it was the people in this store that held my hand while I re-learned how to feed my family.

I wish every town in the world had a Mothers store. Sadly, I know this isn’t the case. Too few people have access to incredibly good and healthy food. Even Whole Foods is a pathetic store compared to Mothers. Last time I walked into a Whole Foods I was applaud at how everything short of the vegetables was laced with sugar. Even if it’s organic sugar, it’s still sugar!

Explore your town and try and find a local market that aims to provide you with the best food.

Tip 6: Get Creative

Please don’t shiver if you’re not the creative type. Start thinking of what interests your kids. If your kids love magic, start calling your smoothies potions. If your kid likes dinosaurs, start telling them that collards and spinach was T-Rex’s favorite food. If your kids like Princesses, tell them that Cinderella ate carrots every day because it helped her sing better. If your kid is into soccer, tell her that all professional soccer players eat a full serving of broccoli once a week to ensure they can kick the ball super far. If you are serving black beans, line them up and make the beans look like a train, the broccoli like trees and the sweet potatoes like mountains. Okay – so some of you might be saying that I’m telling you to lie to your kids. Well, I don’t think I am. Who knows what T-Rex’s favorite food really was? And eating lots of vegetables is very healthy and will make everyone perform better, even soccer players and singers.

Tip 7: Change is hard

Change is hard for adults and really hard for kids. Know that any change you make to your child’s diet will be really tough and a sure way to create a tiny monster. Remember, decreasing the amount of sugar your child eats and increasing the amount of vegetables is a really good change and worth doing.