Thanksgiving is upon us, and food is on my mind.

How much food can a teenage boy eat? I don’t think I truly want to know the answer to that question.

When our children are born, we don’t really think about the fact that we will be feeding them for a good 18 years; 22  if they attend a local college (quite possibly against our suggestion that they experience the joys of living “away”).

Children’s feeding patterns and tastes are cyclical. You think you’ve figured out a few appealing food combinations or recipes that will nourish and sustain them, and just when you sit back and breathe a deep sigh of relief, they turn on you.

For instance, they may jump up and down with glee as you serve them ravioli (substitute any food of your choice) on Tuesday night. They may smile as you make it for them Saturday night. They may look at you lovingly as you fill a bowl to overflowing with ravioli again six nights later. You think you’ve finally gotten lucky. Hit the jackpot. You’ve figured out a way to fill their little tummies.

Everyone is happy and the world is a magical place.

Then suddenly, two weeks later when you serve them those tender squares of deliciousness, they scrunch up their little noses and look at you as if you’ve put the head of an alien on a dinner plate and plunked it onto their place mat.

When my children were toddlers the food adventure escalated.

I remember an entire year when one of my sons subsisted on only bananas and hot dogs.

Another time, we were going to nominate him to be the poster child for the National Dairy Association. All he wanted was milk, yogurt, yogurt, yogurt and cheese.

Did I mention yogurt?

And parents most definitely have different tolerances and rules where the feeding of their children is concerned. Drew and I were never ones to unabashedly “cater” to our offspring’s’ every food wish. But having heard tales of my own mother sitting nauseously over a plate of (eventually) cold, creamed spinach until she had eaten every last forkful made me certain I never wanted my own children to hold such grievous acts against me.

Especially when the day comes for them to choose my assisted living facility.

Unfortunately, no matter how many vegetables, whole-grain pretzels and bricks of tofu you attempt to feed a child, they inevitably migrate to everything that is wrong with our food industry.

Why must they beg for Funions and Donettes? (I must confess that I had a crush on Donettes up until age 15.) I guess it’s the same reason, given the choice, I would choose a chocolate croissant over a whole-wheat dog biscuit.

“Bad” food always seems more tempting than good-for-us-food. Maybe it’s simply the fact that we know it’s bad. I’m not sure.

Of course, we don’t want our children becoming addicted to things like Lunchables and Fritos. But then there is the opposite problem, where they actually like things that are far too expensive for their young (and unemployed) taste buds.

Our family has always loved shrimp. Cold shrimp with horseradish-laden cocktail sauce is our holiday food vice of choice. We’d always gotten by having just enough on hand for the adults. Then one year, my 7-year-old finally got up the courage to sample a shrimp, and boom – now we had to order an extra half pound each time we had a crustacean craving.

It’s a joy to see your children’s palates expand and develop, but it doesn’t come without a price tag. My youngest son once developed a taste for Pellegrino and those yummy, chocolate-covered French schoolboy cookies. At first I thought, “How adorable.” After a few months of it, however, I decided I’d need to begin running a tab for him if he didn’t go back to tap water and animal crackers.

I hope this Thanksgiving finds you with those you love, enjoying Turkey or Tofurky. Or hot dogs. Whatever makes you happy. Let’s simply remember to count our blessings.

And don’t forget the gravy.

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No Sugar Added is Cape Elizabeth resident Sandi Amorello’s biweekly take on life, love, death, dating and single parenting. Get more of Sandi at or contact her at [email protected].

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