The Drevitches, Week 5: The Candy-for-Veggies Exchange

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

lynn benjamin drevitch picture

Lynn and Benjamin went to a Halloween party as a pair of fitness fanatics. (Those are her old high-school soccer sweats!) Credit: Gary Drevitch


There is a nine-pound bag of candy in my house.

It was collected by the three kids, especially our ever-aggressive 9-year-old, Benjamin, on All Hallows' Eve in a frenzied two-and-a-half-hour tour of our Manhattan neighborhood. (In the big city, where one medium-sized apartment building may have 15 or more donor families, the candy can accumulate quickly.)

Oh, and that bag just holds the half we're giving away. There's another sack, of equal weight, sitting in our kitchen, a nightmare vision of sugar, fat and high-fructose corn syrup.

The good news: I haven't had a single piece. At 13 pounds lost and counting, I'm feeling too invested in this project to throw it away on a handful of Tootsie Rolls (although they are my favorites ... and the kids got some of the delicious flavored kinds, too). And, so far, we've limited the kids' intake as well. They're getting a couple of bite-sized pieces in their lunchboxes, and maybe another one in the late afternoon, if they've eaten some fruit first.

I know, I know, the experts frown on using candy as a reward for children who eat what's good for the children, but come on, the kids know what's in that bag, they want it, and they'll do whatever they can to get it. I will reward -- and deal with the consequences later.

When our nutritionist, Marissa Lippert of Nourish, first came to our house, she asked the kids to agree to try one new fruit and/or vegetable each week as part of a set of steps to improve their overall nutrition. I'll confess that Lynn and I have not been especially diligent about making that happen, but we've had our moments, and there has been some progress.

Moving beyond their dinner-plate mainstays of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or peas, the kids have over the past couple of weeks eaten sweet potatoes (a favorite from toddler days that had been absent from our kitchen for a long while), spaghetti squash, yams, brussels sprouts and string beans. Sometimes it's just a bite, sometimes a bite so small that no mammal could possibly make a judgment on taste, but sometimes, even if grudgingly, they finish a whole portion.

Natalie, 7, likes to try something new and report, "I like it some, and I don't like it some," which I've come to translate as, "I like it just fine, but I won't give you the pleasure of hearing me say it."

Four-year-old Adam, who can be pretty erratic when it comes to eating, well, anything, has taken a liking to some new fruits, such as white plums, and he embraces the idea of having fruits or vegetables with dinner to earn dessert, even reminding us some nights and offering suggestions for what he can try.

Benjamin is a pretty sophisticated eater when it comes to international cuisines and entrees, and usually eats the veggies put in front of him at dinner, but he's not budging on the new-fruit front, and if he does take a minuscule bite of something new, he announces that he's done his duty for at least the next two weeks. When Marissa returns next week, we'll have to see if she has any thoughts for working with him.

What the kids may not realize is how much we've incorporated Marissa's other tips into their daily lives. We've replaced the Trader Joe's fruit-and-cereal bars they had been eating with healthier bars from Kashi's TLC line (more fiber, less sugar). And their late-afternoon snacks, often a necessity given that we typically eat dinner late so that we can share it with Lynn when she's home from work, have morphed from a handful of pretzels or Goldfish to something more like crackers with peanut butter, cheddar cheese or hummus, which holds off their appetites better. Also, they're no longer getting dessert after dinner seven nights a week, and when they do, it comes closer to the end of dinner to avoid sweets close to bedtime.

And me?

Well, I've been a pretty good role model for the kids lately, as I limit my carbs and cut out mindless snacking. But I don't have a particular love for most fruits and that is certainly why the kids don't. They've never seen me cutting into a melon for breakfast or snacking on a persimmon. I've made a lot of progress in the past few weeks (except -- sorry, Marissa -- I haven't given up Diet Coke). My next step should be a fruity one, to better balance the kids' diets and my own.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.