What's a vegetable?

On a recent family trip to Chicago, we did a lot of eating out because we had no kitchen in our hotel room. One of the things that became shockingly clear to us is how terrible kids menus are. No matter how creative the offerings were on the regular menu, the kids choices were always the same: chicken fingers and fries, pizza, mac and cheese, mini-burgers and hot dogs. No sides of vegetables or salads, nothing creative which used healthy ingredients. The refrain (or "self-fulfilling prophecy," if you will) seems to be: they won't eat anything else. (Shrug.) Well, they won't if that's all you're offering them.

Consider these common kid options, often occurring on the same menu: pizza, macaroni with cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich and spaghetti with butter and parmesan, which are all the same exact thing. And that thing is crap. White flour, sodium, saturated fat from dairy and perhaps a few grams of tomato paste with sugar if dipped in ketchup or from the sauce on the pizza. These are the cheapest, most ubiquitous processed ingredients available to national restaurant chains and people feed them to their kids all the time. This is near zero nutrition, near 100% profit for a multinational corporation. Their bodies get finished sorting through the crap, find no nutrients they can use, so they put out the call again (in the form of hunger) for more nutrients, which we mistakenly interpret as the call for "food." And we answer that call with a milkshake or ice cream with sprinkles, and the body sends out the call for nutrients again and the cycle continues. Hasn't anybody heard of kale in this joint?

So when the Department of Agriculture recently decided to back off reforms of the school lunch program in the U.S., they backed waaaaaaay off. They now classify pizza as a vegetable and put no limits on the amount of french fries served. Shockingly, this is due to "intense lobbying from the pizza and French fry industries." You're kidding! Lobby groups have this much power over what our kids eat? The corporate hegemony strikes again! Reaction from pundits and commentators has been unsurprisingly harsh - with thanks to loyal reader C.E.Y. in Fort Myers for this article.

Kids should be eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day and it should not be hard for them to find these things on a restaurant menu or in a school cafeteria. Our kid knows that she should "eat the rainbow" every day, meaning a fruit or a vegetable of each colour and she loves to help us pick them out at the grocery store. I found this valuable online resource which catalogues various options sorted by colour. Notice that "beige" is not one of the colours noted. Beige is the colour of french fries, chicken fingers, spring rolls, hamburger buns and hospital hallways. You can also take the advice of new but already quite loyal reader M.K.M. in London and "eat the seasons" with help from this other valuable online resource (you can switch between North America and Ireland/UK) showing vegetables in season. Keep those articles coming, people. It just means less work for me in the end. Love it.

I also love cooking and making up recipes, but it is always nice to come home to the smell of dinner already underway, as I did this past Tuesday. "What delicious thing are you cooking?" I said, followed by, "Wait, let me get my camera." So, not only did I get articles forwarded by others, I got this week's recipe courtesy of a referral from my lovely and talented wife. For pictures, see recipe above. We served these (red) bean burgers [they also contain (white) onions] in whole grain pitas with a side (green) salad and some (orange) sweet potatoes. Some (blue) blueberries with yogurt would have made a great dessert, if we had only thought of it. Love those colours!