I have a confession: I like my in-laws. I know, it’s soooo not the cool thing to do. In-law issues keep advice columnists and wine shops in business. But mine are energetic, kind, patient, funny people who love my children unconditionally, striving only to make my gaggle of four happy.
Sound too good to be true?
As dictated by the laws of grandparenting, my in-laws enjoy providing my tykes with what they call treats. Treats come in the form of sleepovers and movie marathons and board games and ice cream cones and that’s all fine and dandy. I can even sort of look past the gumball machine in their basement that spits out jelly beans for free.
Then, last week, they picked up three out of the four from school (the littlest was already with them) and – as usual – my kiddos expected a treat. Into McDonald’s they went for what? Oh – well –let me just tell you. Two double cheeseburgers, fries, “one of those new green smoothies” (according to Caroline, talking about the get-em-while-they-last Shamrock Shakes) and forty Chicken McNuggets. Yes. You read that right. Four-Zero. 40. Forty.
As many of you know, I do have a sugar addiction that I am working through with some self-help books and a package of Girl Scout cookies, but in general I am pretty particular about the food and drink in my house. That’s why I love working and writing for Epicurean. They whip up the most delectable dishes but never fall back on the fake stuff. It’s good food that just tastes way, way better than when I make it.
My in-laws internally roll their eyes at my endeavors to keep my kids and my kitchen healthy. My father-in-law is not a fan, refusing to eat turkey burgers or sunflower butter. But, the food at our house is usually organic and real (and expensive – but I will save that for another blog). Sodas are scarce, as are Doritos, (mostly because GOD what a mess, and don’t get me started on the breath) juice boxes filled with high-fructose corn syrup and any cereal with a tiger or a captain on the front.
So when I heard that my kids had inhaled a week’s worth of fat and sugar in one sitting not because they were hungry, but because they had their grandparents wrapped around their little fingers, I was a little sick. And angry. Not angry at my in-laws, but at my children. They know better! It was as if they saw their chance and took it thinking: How many Chicken McNuggets will it take before I either vomit or someone makes me stop? Let’s just see….
But if you can’t beat them, join them, right? The treats aren’t going away. Nor should they. My own mother spoils my children just as much, but with excessive amounts of shoes. And then dresses. And then some hair bows. And books. And pajamas. This is because she never eats, so feeding them junk wouldn’t even occur to her, as she’s too busy organizing (and re-organizing) their closets. And mine (and the neighbor’s.) We all have our issues.
This got me thinking: What is the best worst thing you can eat? Well, first let’s talk about the five WORST things to eat: donuts, soda, French fries, potato chips and processed meat top the list. No surprise there. And while we all know that choosing a salad at the drive-thru is a much better choice than, say, anything with the word ‘deluxe’ in the title, it’s probably not going to fly as a ‘treat.’ Nor is the baked potato at Wendy’s or the Subway sandwich. Let’s get serious:
The Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s has a whopping 530 calories, 15 grams of fat and 86 (yep) grams of carbs.
The McDonald’s Fruit N’ Yogurt Parfait weighs in at 150 calories, 2 grams of fat and 30 grams of carbs. Not so bad when you want to be bad, but not too bad.
The Wendy’s Jr. Frosty Original? 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 32 grams of carbs. Doable, not deathly.
TCBY Yogurt, due to the variety, lists nutritional value for all their concoctions separately, but 4oz of the chocolate flavor is 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbs. Reasonable, yes, just watch out for those toppings (damn you toppings!).
After finding this information, I was feeling slightly less sick and a little more hopeful. Then I boldly checked on Burger King’s chocolate chip cookies, which was a mistake. At 440 calories and a staggering 16 grams of fat, I can only think “what a waste!” I’d rather have four frozen yogurts for that, plus I have the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies to resist at home.
The good news is that this is America and we have choices. The bad news is that this is America and we might have too many choices. I’d rather see my children eating an ice cream cone from a local confectionary than watch them eat a handful of Skittles. When it comes to real versus fake real always wins, except in beauty contests and reality shows. At least ice cream comes from milk and sugar instead of wherever Skittles come from (where do they come from?)
At the end of the day, I am all for a treat – within reason. Forty Chicken McNuggets is not reasonable. Nor is the Shamrock Shake and double cheeseburger that accompanied them. Cold treats, like the yogurt sundaes and mini Frosty seem the smartest, least frightening of the bunch. The author of Eat This, Not That is a quasi-genius, helping the average Joe swap out an unhealthy choice for something less scary. Take a look at his list here, and in the meantime, forget about that Shamrock Shake – it will be back next year. I promise.