In this blog series, Sharon Discorfano, Esq.,a Government Relations Intern at the ASPCA, will discuss her experiences with helping her nephew make food choices for better health and animal welfare. For more information about Sharon’s animal-related projects, please visit sharondiscorfano.com  or follow her on Twitter @shadisco .
My seven-year-old nephew, Nicky, is quite the fussy eater. Until a couple of years ago, I’m pretty sure he would have chosen to live on French fries, corn, and Grandma’s pasta and meatballs. He’ll eat a basic green salad with tomatoes at dinnertime, but is suspicious of any variations. Motivating him to take a more adventurous approach to food took strategy and sustained effort. As a former teacher who is now immersed in the world of animal welfare, I took on the task of helping Nicky make better choices for his own health as well as for the health of animals. I’m excited to share with you some of the things that have proven as fun as they were successful.
A Trip to the Grocery Store
It all started a couple of years ago with a trip to Trader Joe’s, the first of what has now become a regular thing for us to do together. Kid-sized shopping carts made it all the more of an adventure to Nicky. I handed him a five-dollar bill and set up the rules: one fruit, one vegetable, and something new. He went for familiar items first: corn and some cantaloupe—one of the few fruits he likes. “Something new” was a bit of challenge, but he settled on some Ritz-type crackers.
The following week, Nicky wanted to go shopping again. He wanted to get the crackers again, so we expanded his budget. Green grapes went into the cart along with cantaloupe cubes. For “something new,” Nicky surprised me when he gravitated towards a package of veggie dogs, which he recognized as something he’d seen in my own refrigerator. As finicky as he is, I envisioned Nicky taking one bite and making a puckered face. But Nicky’s reaction after the first bite: a big nod and, “Delicious!” Nicky now asks for a veggie dog whenever hot dogs are for dinner, and his family now keeps them in the fridge.
Two Cooks in the Kitchen
Nicky and I like to cook and bake together. These have become precious times to me—the conversations we have while we’re getting our hands messy range from school projects to the relationship between lightning and a clap of thunder. It’s as much about trying recipes together, and chatting as we do, as it is about the final result on the table. Recently, I stumbled upon a ridiculously sinful recipe: brownie cupcakes that each contained two stacked Oreos, stuck together with peanut butter. The individual ingredients were all things Nicky had tried and liked; the recipe consisted of just a few steps, easy enough to follow and not too time-consuming; and the idea of us both with fingers so sticky with brownie mix and peanut butter was too much to resist. These were not exactly healthy, but certainly worthy as an extra-special dessert. The brownies are long gone, but the memory of our baking activity is a keeper.
Check back next week for part two of this blog series.