Food Fights

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 This article is featured in the December '07 Feeding Your Family Newsletter
"Beautiful" Roasted Vegetables  | What's in Season? Wheat Berries | Food Fights | Things We Love! The Ruler in the Kitchen |  Health Check: Artificially Colored Foods

By Larissa Phillips

Kids and food are always a touchy subject. But when you add holiday dinners, strange dishes and, well, overly-indulgent grandparents, mealtimes can get pretty dicey around this time of year.

A friend of mine spends the holidays with her in-laws in rural Wisconsin. She can't get to a natural foods store, and she refuses to feed her two boys the conventional snacks her mother-in-law keeps on hand. Her solution? She brings a suitcase full of healthy snacks - completely offending her hostess, of course. The two women have fought bitterly over food at almost every holiday.

Another friend goes to the Bronx, where her mother-in-law cooks vast quantities of festive Puerto Rican fare - things like non-organic roasted pork, deep-fried tostones and a surfeit of candy. My friend watches in quiet dismay as her children overload on candy, fried foods and industrially produced meats.

Still another friend has pleaded with her preppie New England relatives to stop feeding her children snack foods containing trans fats - to no avail. Her children come home from every holiday visit with their pockets full of artificially colored, trans fat-filled crumbs.

"It feels like such a hostile act for my in-laws to completely ignore my wishes," she says darkly.

It's no way to enjoy a holiday. But what's a health-minded mom to do?

I say let it go. There is more to health than what we put into our mouths. Community, positive family relationships and, especially, doting grandparents are more vital to the welfare of a child than eating healthfully every single day of the year. Turning the holidays into a battleground over forbidden foods is far worse than shrugging and letting indulgent grandparents have their way.

Besides, food is like religion and politics. Minds are not changed in fighting matches over the dinner table. Instead, try a little sugar on your in-laws. (I'm speaking figuratively, of course!) Ask if you can prepare one dish for the holiday dinner. Make it a healthy one, and make darn sure it's delicious! Also, try to find a favorite food from your in-laws' neighborhood: something from their local market or their culture. They'll be delighted to see you excited about something associated with where they're from.

When all else fails, remember the 85 percent rule: it's what you eat 85 percent of the time that matters. Give your in-laws the remaining 15 percent with your blessings.

Happy holidays!