A few weeks ago I went through a phase of trying to master homemade granola bars. After my third failed attempt, I came to the realization that homemade isn’t always healthier. Maybe I’ll try making homemade granola bars in another month or two, but for right now, homemade isn’t always healthier. I repeat: homemade isn’t always healthier. Why? Because there are plenty of great store bought options out there that help my mental health more than proving to myself that I can make a gosh-darn homemade granola bar. There are plenty of other foods I buy at the grocery store that we are told are healthier when they are homemade. Which usually rings true for most foods, as when they are homemade you can control many nutrients of concern, such as fat and sodium. But for me, I’ll worry about that another day. Lord knows there’s plenty to worry about when it comes to raising children— let alone feeding them. And finding the time to feed them well without losing a few of my own marbles [insert granola bar reference]. So what else do I buy at the store that I used to make homemade BEFORE kids? Read on!
Ranch Dressing: when I was in grad school, my roommate and I would make glorious salads with all kinds of homemade dressings. While I find it easy to whip up a vinaigrette for an easy weeknight salad, I don’t always have the ingredients on hand to make homemade ranch dressing. Plus, the only one eating ranch dressing right now is Joey, and it’s not on a salad. Yep, he DIPS veggies in ranch dressing— and he’s a fan of Hidden Valley Ranch. And guess what, I like it too! My Favorite: Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing.
BBQ Sauce: For the same reasons as ranch dressing, I buy this one from the store. Ted and Joey would bathe in BBQ sauce if it were socially acceptable. Or perhaps I should buy some stock in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Because both ranch and BBQ sauce are getting my little guy to try new foods, I’m not changing it up on him and his food routine. Why? We’ve got a good thing going! My Favorite: Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ. And if I have extra time I make my own. Recipe here.
Goldfish and Graham Crackers: This one makes me laugh. And I’m not laughing at the Pinterest folks that are making homemade Goldfish and Graham Crackers. I tip my hat to them. Clearly, the ingredients list on a packaged cracker concerns them. And I respect the fact that they are going to great depths to feed their family homemade foods. But for me, my energy and time are spent well elsewhere. But I’ll happily take shipments of the homemade stuff if you’re willing to share! My favorites: the good old Pepperidge Farm whole grain Cheddar Goldfish and Honey Maid Graham Crackers.
Marinara Sauce: This Italian KNOWS how to make a good red sauce, Sunday gravy, marinara, etc. But my freezer has limited space [thank you frozen breastmilk]. So when I make a pot of the good stuff it goes fast! I love keeping a good jarred sauce on hand for those nights when I don’t have 3 hours to slave over a pot of sauce. I’m sure my late Grandma would have said “where was I when this stuff came out in stores.” My favorites: Trader Joe’s Basil Marinara.
As parents we put a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves— and for me, the pressure comes from what I’m feeding my children and what they’ll actually eat. As a registered dietitian and self-proclaimed foodie, I WANT my kids to have eating habits like my own. But the reality is, their eating habits will be individualized and unique to them.
So if at 18 months old Joey only eats carrots with BBQ sauce, I’m going to keep offering the carrots plain with a side dipping bowl that has the BBQ sauce. My hope is someday he’ll realize the BBQ tastes better on a rack of ribs and the carrots are delicious enough eaten alone, with a little salt and pepper on them. Or heaven forbid, dipped in ranch.