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Published April 19, 2011, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: What’s a fair food fight over sugar?

It’s hard not to like a guy who has passion – a guy with the guts to fill a school bus with 57 tons of sand just to make a point.
The man is British chef Jamie Oliver and the point, in the second season premiere of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” was to show parents in Los Angeles just how much sugar their kids consume every week at school.

It’s hard not to like a guy who has passion – a guy with the guts to fill a school bus with 57 tons of sand just to make a point.

The man is British chef Jamie Oliver and the point, in the second season premiere of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” was to show parents in Los Angeles just how much sugar their kids consume every week at school.

Do you suppose if I offered him my minivan and a few old sandbags, he’d come to my house?

Like most moms, I struggle with how to get the kids to eat right. I wage a war in my head every time we’re in that aisle of the grocery store, “Mom, can we get this?”

My husband’s attitude is junk food is a nonissue if we don’t even bring it in the house. Despite what he might think, I do weigh his opinion as my kids are begging for Cupcake Pebbles cereal (yes, apparently, Fruity Pebbles wasn’t sweet enough). But I also remember something a friend told me years ago. She says that while her kids were growing up, she made a cake every week and set it out on the counter. She claims by doing so, sweets lost their power. They were just always in the kitchen like milk or bread. She says they learned no food is bad. It’s all there and available to you all the time. And it’s up to you to make healthy choices. But at what age does that start?

I struggle. Do I use all my mommy power and create a sweet-free kitchen, or do I have sweets there and treat them like any other food and hope they learn to make good choices? I, of course, like the last option better because of my major weakness for chocolate. I’ve been known to dig through cabinets to find an old piece of Halloween candy to satisfy my craving. If they could, I bet the Keebler Elves would get a restraining order out against me.

I do try to model good behavior for my children most of the time. I put vegetables on our plates almost every night at dinner even though the kids often don’t eat a bite. I want them to know that the veggies aren’t going away anytime soon. That’s why last year I bought that Jessica Seinfeld cookbook where she shows you how to make regular meals but then sneak in pureed vegetables. I was busted when the kids saw me putting a Ziploc bag of mushy yellow squash paste into mac and cheese. I think they thought I was trying to poison them.

It’s not all bad. There is small progress. I celebrate my minor victories. The kids prefer apples over fries at fast-food restaurants and will often pick turkey sandwiches over burgers. My older daughter now loves those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. That’s an improvement from a few years ago when she thought chickens were born in McNugget form. And just the other day, I saw my younger daughter grabbing something out of the freezer. I figured it was a Popsicle. But it was a bag of frozen peas. She loves to munch on them like potato chips. Pretty cool.

So maybe Jamie doesn’t need to pour sand into my minivan after all. Even so, I’d love to have him stop by for tea, frozen peas, and maybe just a little chocolate.


Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee of Forum Communications Co.

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