Column: Dad won't sugarcoat edict, or maybe he will

By JASON RECKER

Bad news.

For the moment, we stopped buying Pop-Tarts. Even the cheap ones, the Great Value Toaster Pastries, have been phased out. And that’s saying something, because we buy more Great Value products than Sam Walton’s grandchildren — if somebody sold vehicles under the Great Value label, we’d have a fleet.

But this isn’t about bargain shopping. This is about the kids.

They eat too much. Not at dinner. That’s where they whine about how they’re too tired to eat broccoli and claim they don’t really like pork chops even though they just came back from Grandma’s house, where they ate 4 pounds of the center cut boneless variety then asked three hours later if they could snack on some of those leftover butterfly chops that Grandpa saved for the next day’s lunch.

This is about breakfast (doughnuts), morning snacks (tortilla chips), lunch (pizza rolls), afternoon snack (bologna — yes, really) and evening snack (ice cream). To them, bags of chocolate chips are not saved for cookies but rather served as an accessory to said ice cream. Or just eaten by the fistful straight from the bag.

Just now — seriously, perfect timing, a gift from the gods of column writing — my 6-year-old raced into the bedroom requesting a piece of candy and the 8-year-old interrupted my wife’s shower to beg for more popcorn. I presume the 3-year-old is knee deep in a bag of cereal. One hopes she didn’t mess with the milk.

At the moment, their bodies can handle an IV drip of high-fructose corn syrup and daily smoothies comprised of carbohydrates, saturated fat and Nestle Quik. But how many years can you live on a diet of Capri Sun and grape jelly?

My guess is at least 35. That’s how old I am. The reason the kids casually snag the bag of pepperoni from the fridge, dive in face-first and eat 27 slices at 2 p.m. without even considering it odd? It’s me. Late at night, I eat peanut butter from the jar. Or two bowls of cereal (always drink the milk, both bowls). Or strawberries, but only if we have something sweet I can melt in the microwave and cascade over the fruit.

I make my wife promise to love me when I sweat cinnamon because what I fear — more than natural disasters or home invasion or a random catastrophe like being attacked by a kangaroo — is dieting. I have tried it, under the auspices of Lent and a pact with my inner drive, and nominally succeeded. But it is pure torture. Tuna and rice cakes and oatmeal and cauliflower and quinoa are the kinds of the healthy entrees you should feed animals in a zoo.

Metabolism will one day, perhaps soon, fail me. But unless my gut blows up like a hot air balloon, I have left dieting behind.

I’d rather put the hammer down on snickerdoodle bread three times a day than desperately try to drop 10 pounds. Instead, I run often. Run to eat. Eat to run. And guess what — my last two half-marathon times were personal bests and I prepared for those by mixing into my training the late-night consumption of Fudge Rounds and McMuffins every Friday morning.

Sure, we eat green beans and peas and fruit is mandatory at breakfast. But in high school, I ate E.L. Fudge cookies for breakfast. Before nutrition labels and anxiety over HDL and LDL and the God forsaken body mass index, kids just devoured whatever they wanted. I didn’t start eating green beans — or basically anything involving the color green besides sour-cream-and-onion potato chips — until I was in middle school.

The food pyramid is nice and all, but everyone used to slather everything in straight-up lard, and is the world that much better with all these healthy alternatives? I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? I can. Because it tastes like a napkin.

So if the kids are looking to Dad for nutrition inspiration, they can find me in the pantry.

Middlle shelf. That’s where we keep the Pop-Tarts. They’re made with real fruit, you know. Eight essential vitamins and minerals, too. And they’re back on the shopping list.

Jason Recker is the news editor at The Herald. Did somebody say ice cream? His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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