The ketchup as a vegetable controversy refers to proposed United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regulations, early in the presidency of Ronald Reagan, that intended to provide more flexibility in meal planning to local school lunch administrators coping with National School Lunch Plan subsidy cuts enacted by the Omnibus Regulation Acts of 1980 and 1981. The regulations allowed administrators the opportunity to credit items not explicitly listed that met nutritional requirements. While ketchup was not mentioned in the original regulations, pickle relish was used as an example of an item that could count as a vegetable. A similar controversy arose in 2011, when Congress passed a bill prohibiting the USDA from increasing the amount of tomato paste required to constitute a vegetable; the bill allowed pizza with two tablespoons of tomato paste to qualify as a vegetable.
Does it scare anyone else to know that we are raising our children in a society that would allow tomato paste/ pickle relish to be considered a vegetable, or even really a food group. Listen, by no means am i here to take away your child’s favorite condiment. If anything i am a strong believer in moderation. If variety is the spice of life than moderation is the key to enjoying that life.
This is truly not a post about ketchup but while I have your attention let me refresh your memory about ketchup. Ketchup has more sugar in it gram for gram than a crispy creme donut. More often than not ketchup is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of natural sugar. Ketchup is not a vegetable and while it does contain tomato paste many of its nutritional values are compromised in the process of turning this into a child’s favorite condiment.
Nutrition is clearly one of my favorite subjects and I constantly struggle with creative ways to sneak it into my children’s meals. Kids tend to be picky eaters and if you don’t start them off right you may find they are even pickier as they grow. I, just like many mommas am someone who is constantly looking at sneaky ways to incorporate whole foods and vegetables into my kiddos diet. Let’s talk about my top 5 favorite healthy hacks for meals and snacks.
1. Macaroni and cheese. Even though we primarily eat plant based in our home we give the kids Mac and cheese probably once a week. Some of my favorite healthy habits for this dish
are I use whole wheat pasta. I use Annie’s cheese pouch (Annie’s brand is a great healthy option for many things including this kid favorite). We also sneak in organic carrot purée found jarred in the baby aisle. They never know the difference because it is orange. We use almond milk (unsweetened original organic) to make it creamy.
2. Peanut butter and jelly. Our kiddos love pb&j, and we know they will eat it. So we always ensure it is sandwiched between whole grain bread. This is where it gets tricky. Many
varieties and brands of sliced bread add sugar or high fructose corn syrup. It’s a little more money but I swear by Dave’s killer bread. It is filled with whole grain and seeds and it tastes great. Peanut butters of course can pose the same sugar threat. That is why we always use natural peanut butters with no added sugars or chemicals. Of course then there is jelly. Opt in for jam instead and take the time to ensure it is all natural as opposed to having high fructose corn syrup in it. Again with that balance (with kiddos you have to pick your balance). Thankfully they will be too distracted by the yumminess in-between the bread to notice that the bread itself is healthy.
3. Zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. Yes! This is one of my absolute favorites. Both of these are great tasting options that are a sneaky way for the kiddos to get their vegetables. Most kids enjoy spaghetti sauce. Whenever possible get one that is sugar free (again there is sugar in virtually everything so you have to read those labels). I use the local grocery store option (from HEB) it literally contains tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper. My kids and husband love it and sometimes I will spice it up with my own veggies (and purée them for an added veggie bonus). Spaghetti squash is easy to cook just cut it in half and roast it in the oven until you get the desired consistency. Zucchini noodles can either be bought spiralized or you can spiralize them easy with a special spiralizer tool- this is a great investment.
4. Smoothies, throw in some spinach, kale and cucumbers to go with your banana, milk choice (we use almond), berries or fruit, avocado (for thickening)and if you have it add some manuka honey (filled with antibacterial properties and so good for anyone over the age of one) I promise the kiddos will love it, and the adults can relax knowing they filled their glass with vitamins.
5. Popcorn! Most kids love to eat popcorn especially while watching a movie or as an after dinner snack. I personally also love popcorn but one can be rid of those unnatural microwave popcorn once and for all with the traditional method. Find some non-GMO organic kernels at the local store. Throw some olive or coconut oil into a medium to large pot on the stove. Add three kernels and cook on medium. Once two of the three kernels have popped cover the bottom of the pot with kernels. Cover and shake intermittently until you don’t hear quick consecutive pops. Place in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The kids and the adults will love this treat. Popcorn is an excellent source of fiber and the olive oil contains monounsaturated fats (the heart healthy good kind). It’s a win/win for a snack option.
Sometimes it just takes a little creativity in the kitchen. Remember every bit counts so whether your child eats ten pieces of broccoli or one- you are doing something good for them. If you feel they need just a little more try adding cut up fruit/berries or carrots/cucumbers on the side of their meal. You may be surprised at how much they actually do eat. As we continue into 2018 we now know the importance of nutrition to our quality of life and health. Our children don’t have the luxury of knowing or understanding these facts. Their future is in your hands or more literally on their plate... and you are what you eat… so eat (and feed them) well.
H.R. 7765 – The Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1980; December 5, 1980, accessed from The Library of Congress
^ Jump up to:a b c d e f "H.R. 3982, "Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981"". August 13, 1981. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q (September 4, 1981), "National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Child Care Food Programs; Meal Pattern Requirements", Federal Register 46 FR 44452, Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture