The trouble with teens, Ethicurean-style

The following is a guest post from Grocery Goddess, budding Ethicurean and friend o' Omniwhore. She writes about a true omnivore's dilemma -- what to do about a teen eating machine.

teen-boy.jpgNothing is quite so intimidating as having an Ethicurean in the house when you are unloading the groceries.

You see, Omniwhore recently left her cell phone out in the rain and decided to come-a-callin’ the old fashioned way: she showed up at the front door.

I had just returned from an evening trip to the local supermarket, to which I was accompanied by my 15-year-old son, heretofore referred to as Teen Boy. Getting Teen Boy to the store required threats and coercion along the lines of “you will have to settle for whatever deodorant, toothpaste, and face scrub I choose for you,” motivated by my desire to just spend some time with the kid.

I was once a mother who put careful thought into my child’s diet. He had no processed sugar until he was old enough to ask for it from Papa, with the exception of the obligatory first birthday cake (albeit from an upscale bakery, not one of those icky ones off the shelf). I still make it a point to serve well-rounded meals. You know the ones: protein, vegetable, starch, and a glass of milk. We don’t do fast food and I don’t fry anything.

But I digress. On the night of Omniwhore’s visit, unpacking of $158 of items from the supermarket exposed the truth of the matter: my kitchen is Corn Syrup Central. I had not realized how bad it had become. Kool-Aid. Sticky gooey store brand oatmeal bars – s’mores flavor. Triple chocolate ice cream. Pre-sweetened single serve oatmeal packets. At least I rejected the candy corn that mysteriously appeared in the shopping cart, even though it is October.

The loss of dietary diligence in my household had been exposed. Not that Omniwhore, who is known for her keen observational skills and at times, brutal honesty, made any judgmental remarks. She points out that the Ethicurean experience is learning your own way, being curious about food, and of course, baby steps. (OK, truthfully, she may have made a comment about the grape soda, but I know it was out of love.)

So tonight I decided to broach the subject of food choices over dinner with Teen Boy. On our way to catch The Rocky Horror Show live on stage, we stopped at Whole Foods for dinner. Teen Boy made wise choices of tofu spring rolls, grilled salmon Caesar salad, iced green tea, and an organic chocolate bar. I chose cooked vegetables and noodles with walnuts and gorgonzola. $35.47 later, we were enjoying our meal when I initiated the conversation.

“You know, I think we should consider the food choices in our home. Do you know what high fructose corn syrup is?”

“No, and I don’t really care,” replied Teen Boy in his oh-so-charming Teen Boy way.

“Well, I have been thinking that as a growing young man, it is important to consider what goes into your body and to make healthy choices like you did tonight.”

To which Teen Boy responded, “I’m not really worried about my diet.”

Teen Boy Mom was mute. Sure, in hindsight there were plenty of appropriate responses, but partly due to my own ignorance I could not think of anything to say. Besides, he kind of had a point.

Teen Boy is one of those fortunate kids who has virtually no body image issues other than wanting to put on weight and muscle. He is six feet tall and 150 pounds and requires about a bazillion calories a day to keep him going in his never-ending physical activity. Nothing seems to stop the broken record of “mom, there’s nothing to eat” and “mom, I’m starving.”

So what is Teen Boy Mom to do? Apparently I have done a few things right over the years. He will eat anything but beets, and has been known to choose an Indian restaurant or “somewhere I can get good tofu” for a birthday meal. However, he is to some extent a victim of the high school cafeteria, and even acknowledged that Friday night he threw up after eating some “bad” nachos for lunch.

I realize I no longer have control over the choices he makes outside of the home. He doesn’t exactly ask me before helping himself to the sixth meal of the day, and the recent offer to pack his lunches was met with utter mortification. Nobody takes a sack lunch to high school.

tate-tot2.jpgSo, I am resigned to setting a good example by being more Ethicurious in my own eating habits. For the next few years I will buy what goes into the fridge and pantry, and I can and should take charge in that area. I fear that it will take some work to balance the budget for healthy food choices with the caloric requirements of Teen Boy’s bottomless pit of an appetite.

For a relative newbie like me, the time to plan and prepare meals and snacks in copious quantities fills me with trepidation. But how can I expect him to make good choices for his diet when good choices are not available?

After all, I don’t allow him to stay up all night. I preach safe sex (some day), water conservation, saying no to drugs, and good dental hygiene. Why would I not spend at least as much time teaching him about mindful eating?

And no more threats and coercion; Teen Boy is no longer invited on supermarket runs, at least not until I reclaim ownership of the shopping cart.

3 Responsesto “The trouble with teens, Ethicurean-style”

  1. La La Linda says:

    Enjoyed this post and the reality of communicating with a teenager--particularly in an area that is not perceived to be of any particular importance to said teenager...You have the right idea, for sure -- maybe Teen Boy can learn from mom (leading by example) and limiting or "editing" what's available on home turf...

    And in some cases (mine, for example) moms can learn from their offspring who are studying up and passing on real research and information about what it is we ARE putting into our mouths!

    Guess it's true...it's baby steps all the way!

  2. grocery goddess says:

    Thanks, La La Linda, for reading and enjoying my story. I plan to report back on progress... as soon as I figure out the next step!

  3. Savarin says:

    When my son was growing up (he's now 19) I made plenty of mistakes at the grocery store and even at restaurants, but over time introduced him to enough fresh wholesome food that he's become a part-time foodie himself, with pretty high standards for a Teen Boy. He too is tall and thin and always hungry, so I understand the occasional descent into a calorie-pounding expedition, albeit sans soda pop, thank goodness. But for the most part, he revels in fresh vegetables, loves fruit, is justifiably afraid of the beef supply and wants to know how big we could make the garden if we took out the whole front lawn. I think it all started with exposure to garlic, olive oil, sea salt and fresh herbs. And then it was all downhill from there!