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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Puttin’ Down The Ritz

By Rachael Nachtwey

I always feel impending doom from about October til the end of the year when the cover of every women's magazine is screaming at me to watch my apparent expanding girth. I have to Beware of the Eggnog Calorie Punch! and Find Alternatives to those Home-made Cut-out Cookies (What??) Then there are the headlines of January and February which both encourage and back-door chastise you to an ostensibly better life. SAY GOODBYE TO THE POST-HOLIDAY PAUNCH - 30 DAYS TO A HEALTHIER YOU! Of course, it is a reality that we tend to get a little binge crazy over the holidays, later hating ourselves with sweat drenched afternoons on the elliptical. And as much as I hate those 80 point font headlines, there is usually some truth behind them and plain good advice, like how to lighten up your mom's turkey stuffing recipe.

It's gotten me thinking, though, about these “warnings”. I think most of us are pretty aware that hot buttered rum cocktails and gingerbread cookies are not the path to slim thighs. What we really could use is some help with the calorie laden foods that insidiously creep into our lives throughout the year. Specifically, parents and caregivers could use a preemptive warning about the temptations that will face them upon the arrival of toddlerdom.

If you're anything like me, you have gradually gotten away from the junk you subsisted on through childhood and college. Post college, you can no longer shrug your shoulders and exclaim, "But I’m still just a kid!" and continue a diet of ramen, frozen pizza, and Ho-Ho’s. Slowly, you shift to skim milk, baked Lays, and incorporate vegetables and perhaps even (gasp!) organic foods into your diet. Your expanding environment of vegan restaurants, juice bars, and farmers’ markets encourage you to continue in this ridiculously healthy direction.

And from what I’ve learned, if you become pregnant yourself, aside from some of those crazy “I need a chili dog wrapped in bacon!” moments, you generally find yourself craving healthy foods. It’s as if that little fetus knocking around inside is kicking you to EAT HEALTHY FOR CRISSAKES! Then comes the baby and breastfeeding so you remain on the appropriate track. You aren’t about to get boozed up, only to come home and let little Mikey suckle on your bourbon infused milk.

So on and on you go until toddlerhood strikes. Suddenly, Mikey’s doc encourages you to make the transition to whole milk and crackers. Now your calorie counting has gone from your own (“Didn’t you know, I only drink skinny lattes now!”) to Mikey’s (“Five hundred measly calories? How is my dear, sweet baby supposed to grow on that?!?”)

But the worst part of it all is that you are re-introduced to all of those tasty, fattening things you have spent the past 15 years purging your cupboards of. As a nanny, I’d like to say that none of it goes into my own mouth but let’s be real and look at the facts:

  1. Toddlers don’t finish anything they’ve started.
  1. If you are Slobby McSlobster like me, you really can’t help but spill, dump, or truly accidentally stick your finger in whatever you are trying to serve up. End result: Unintentional but never-ending taste tests.

    Further results: The pleasure receiving sensors in my brain have informed me that my Dannon Lite and Fit crap has NOTHING on Ethan’s whole milk Greek yogurt. And speaking of Ethan, although my 22-month-old charge continues to be a very fussy eater, his mother discovered that he adores Ritz Crackers. And guess what I’ve found out? I love Ritz crackers, too! As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, every family gathering included cheddar and salami wedged between two fantastically crisp Ritz crackers. How did I ever let the rich, buttery goodness of these biscuits out of my mind?

Umm, probably because of that rich, buttery goodness part. Rich, buttery goodness = nappy time (not “I’m gonna work on my book!” time). Rich, buttery goodness = sudden discontent with baby carrots unless they are coated in a mayonnaise dill dip. Rich, buttery goodness = not fitting into one’s pants after a while. And this girl has no money to buy new pants.

    So I have regressed. I have found that I now crave things I hadn’t touched for years….Nutter Butters, chicken nuggets, chocolate milk! I have great admiration for the moms I see on the playground who dig out those organic juice boxes and baggies of peanut butter laden crackers and offer them to their children without intercepting anything into their own mouths. What can I say? I’m running around on the playground after the kid. I get hungry, too! Can I help it that all I have for nourishment is a strawberry Go-Gurt?

    Well, yes, I can. I could actually pack something healthy into the ole’ Maclaren but then I couldn’t justify a little guilty pleasure. And really, five Ritz Crackers are only 80 calories. That’s the same as a banana and last time I checked, I ain’t no monkey. Therefore, I will indulge myself this afternoon and make a healthier choice later.

So here’s my “warning” to all of you caregivers and parents-to-be. Yes, there will be a whole lot of deliciousness headed your way but you don’t always have to fight it. Throw out a blanket and have a picnic with your little one now and then, fatty snacks and all, because life is short and believe me, the elliptical will always be there. Your little one in his two-year-old body will not. So go savor the sweet goodness now…before I snatch that cracker right out of your hand.

Nachtwey is a Brooklyn Nanny, a freelance writer and regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama. She can be reached at Rachael.Nachtwey@gmail.com.