Menu Planning: Grasshopper Grub
Ok, so Grasshopper isn’t a mini Anthony Bourdain but he does enjoy food, cooking, and lately he enjoys putting together his own menus for lunch and school snacks. I like to cook but I do often get in a rut. Once a food item or meal fits nicely in the intersection of my daily vin diagram of “Nutritious Food,” “Grasshopper Approved,” and “I Know How To Dose Insulin For This Food,” I am loathe to change it out of rotation. If it WORKS and he LIKES it then by golly, you can have that every day of the week for lunch, son. But does that fly with the Grasshopper? Nope.
I can plan meals, cook meals, serve meals, carb count them, carefully balance the protein, fat and carbohydrates in Grasshopper’s meals. But do you know what I can’t do? I can’t MAKE him eat any of it. We certainly subscribe to the parenting school of “This is what we made for breakfast/lunch/dinner, so that’s what there is to eat” but I have a stubborn Grasshopper who will sometimes go to bed hungry rather then eating what is in front of him. EVEN IF HE HAS ALREADY BEEN GIVEN INSULIN FOR THE FOOD IN FRONT OF HIM, which gives me, his mother, the (silent) screaming heebie jeebies because I know exactly how much insulin I injected into his body for the food that he left sitting on his plate.
When he started kindergarten I figured a sandwich would be easiest for him to eat on a regular basis and I thought we could just change out the type of sandwich every other week. 1/2 a pound of turkey or ham can get him through one week of school, so that was the plan. Done. Next item of business. Nope. Soon after school started he began eating slowly at lunch. It is a problem we deal with at home. I think it is due in large part to the fact that he doesn’t have control over many things in his life and this is a way to exert control. Unfortunately when he takes a long time to eat it can cause some pretty severe fluctuations in his blood sugar because the insulin is working to bring his blood sugar down but he hasn’t yet eaten enough carbs. His blood sugar will drop and then after the meal his blood sugar will go high.
With all the planning and prep there still is a little 5 year old with opinions and agendas of his own. There are so many factors when dealing with type 1 diabetes and he’s one of the wildcards in the deck! I can’t plan and arrange everything. He’s a little person, not a robot. And apparently my little person likes to eat something different every day.
His eating at school had slowed down so much that most days he wasn’t finished by the time his class went to recess immediately after lunch. One would think that playing outside with friends would be enough motivation to gobble down the rest of lunch. No. Grasshopper is stubborn and has an iron will. I collaborated with his teacher and school nurse to see what they thought might help. We use a timer at home if he is taking too long to eat. His teacher (who has been so helpful and kind) wisely suggested cutting his sandwich in quarters, so I did that for a couple of weeks. It was better at first but he slid back into slow eating, taking an hour or more to eat his lunch. After texting with his fantastic school nurse on a particularly frustrating day, I asked Grasshopper if he was bored with his lunch. He said he was. Breakthrough! I explained that that was ok, he just needed to tell me and we could work out something else for lunches. He was excited about that. The next day we went to our favorite grocery store, Publix. I jotted a chart on a random piece of paper and told Grasshopper that I would write down whatever he wanted for lunch (within reason). He was thrilled that I was writing down what he said and generally asked for nutritious foods he eats anyway, but he wanted them in different combinations than I had been offering. Because he is The Grasshopper he threw in a few silly requests too. “Mama, on Tuesday I want to eat a couch and a side table.” “Can you eat that whole couch at lunchtime? That’s a big meal!” He declared Wednesday “Hard Boiled Egg Day.”
This is all very much a work in progress. I make the chart on Sunday and we fill it in as the days go by. Sometimes I ask him about lunches or snacks a few days in advance but usually the planning happens in the afternoon or evening. I’m guiding him to understand what a balanced meal is for his needs. If he asks for something with only carbs, I remind him he needs some protein too. It takes a mental load off of me and it helps him to have more control over what he eats. For the most part, Grasshopper Grub meal planning has also improved his time eating lunch so he can go play with friends at recess. This may seem like a small matter but for us it is a big victory. Here we celebrate EVERY victory, big or small!