Assigning food values tricky proposition

Does getting kids to eat good foods in a non havoc-wreaking way every get any easier?

Upgrading her from formula to solid food wasn't the smartest decision we made. I didn't even save as much money as you expect. Sure, formula's expensive, but compared to fruit that goes bad because they don't love it as much this week as they did last week or vegetables they won't touch, formula was the easiest menu item ever.

Now, we fight four things: pickiness, cleanliness, nutrition and affordability.

It's a ranking game.

My girls love red sauce -- point.

It's very inexpensive -- point.

It's got tomatoes in it -- point.

They manage to get the stuff between their toes -- minus 10 points.

Macaroni and cheese is another big hit -- point for dodging the pickiness radar.

You can buy like, four boxes for $1 -- can't beat that.

The nutrition value is a little sketchy -- we'll just call that even.

Nikki especially loves it when she mixes in her chocolate milk and then squashes it into the table -- OK, there's some loss of value there.

Sometimes the ranking system goes wrong.

Bananas are a big hit around here. They're healthy and not outrageously expensive. That they stay edible for about 36 hours after you bring them home hurts a little. What hurts more is when I find a black, masticated lump of banana under the bed (not all the way under the bed, because I managed to find it by stepping in it).

What they don't tell you when you're jumping for joy the last time you buy formula is that you'll make up any direct savings in the increase in laundry detergent, softeners and stain removers. If you count the time you spend inspecting every inch of every piece of your kids' clothing for a spot and then determining which spray would best eliminate it, you're already in the hole. And that's not calculating the time spending doing the same inch-by-inch inspection before you move clothes from the washer to the dryer to make sure you got the stain before it sets.

I urge parents to get a nice, simple, cheap kitchen table. Save the good stuff until the kids are in college. That way, you don't freak when they're coloring on it, banging their glass up and down or mixing mashed potatoes with their sister's juice on the surface.

The chairs should match and not be covered in fabric of any kind. You're just asking for trouble there.

Finally, the floor should never be carpet. Even rugs are pointless. Ideally, your kitchen floor should slope to a drain so you can just hose the majority of the dinner you spent 45 minutes cooking into the sewer system.

I've decided the best way to deal with messy meals is outdoor dining. Then, neighboring dogs get to clean up the mess, and they're pretty happy about it. The downside is that they're so happy, they'll leave you a nice gift on your newly planted lawn.

OK, it's not a perfect plan.

In the winter, I think you should just put a hole in the bottom of a garbage bag and drape it over you child's head and they chair they're sitting in. That'll save on bath/laundry time, but need for a kitchen floor drain is still there.

It's my dream to return my girls to an all-liquid diet. It's too late, of course, they've already had a taste of all the wickedly sinful things that never get points for nutritional content.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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