Rx: French fries with gravy, butter, and ranch dressing.

Josie had her 18-month check up the other day.  We flunked.  Besides screaming through the various measuring tools that masquerade as torture devices from the perspective of a tired toddler, the one thing she was able to tolerate was the weighing scale and it read the same as her last visit.  So our doctor put on the concerned furrowed brow and asked me what she eats.  Now, for some context, let me say that I am someone who loves to feed people.  Nothing makes me happier than having company over and cooking a smorgasbord that leaves them loosening their belts and exasperated when I pull out dessert.  So when my doctor gravely puts on the why-are-you-starving-your-daughter look, it strikes a particular chord of failure for me.

Josie isn’t starving.  Here’s what she looks like…..and what my doctor wishes she would look like:


I’m kidding of course, but I agree that she should have gained some weight since our past visit.  It was a good wake-up to be reminded that no matter how much it seems like Josie is a ‘big girl’ she’s still growing like crazy and her metabolic needs are vastly different than ours.  Over the last few months, we came to the perspective that, except for whole milk, Josie should pretty much just eat what we eat.  Doing so would make her palate diverse, staving off the I-only-eat-white-food rut that some toddlers get in.  It also saves time on making a whole separate meal.  The problem is, that we eat a pretty healthy low fat diet.  As an adult the last thing I’m trying to do is pack on the weight.  Not so with little ones.

I’m not overly concerned though.  Josie is a dainty eater, and always asks to leave the table with a ton of food left on her plate.  My brother, on the other hand, has to dole out food at a reasonable pace for his 95 percentile son to inhale without choking.  So even if Josie “should” be heavier, making up a little weight is something that is easily corrected.  To help us with this, our doctor gave us a handout on high calorie foods that has recipe ideas and suggestions on how to pack the calories into a toddler.  This handout is crazy.  On it is a cartoon Arabian genie smiling with a bowl of fruit in one hand and a stick of butter in the other.  Usually your doctor admonishes your eating habits and implores you to eat healthier.  Here is a sampling of some of the meals my doctor is prescribing for my daughter:

  • Cooked oatmeal, butter, syrup and cream
  • Any fruit dipped in whipped cream
  • Spaghettios cooked with added butter, vegetable and cheese
  • Ravioli heated with added butter and cheese
  • Macaroni and cheese with extra butter and cheese
  • Mashed potatoes, butter and meat gravy
  • French fries dipped in tartar sauce
  • Eggnog
  • Pudding
  • Fried chicken with skin
  • Spareribs
  • Fried beans
  • French fries dipped in ranch dressing
  • Tator tots with melted cheese
  • Cheeseburger and French fries
  • Deli-sliced meat dipped in gravy and cooked vegetable with butter
  • Deli-sliced meat spread with cream cheese, rolled up and sliced
  • Fish sticks dipped in mayo or tartar sauce
  • Meat pate
  • Cheerios dipped in cream cheese
  • Ice cream (avoid those with nuts and/or other hard pieces)
  • Mashed potatoes with butter, gravy, or sour cream

My favorite lines in the handout are,

“Try not to use foods labeled as “light,” “low fat” or “fat free.”  Some high-fat crackers are Mini Ritz Bitz, Cheez-Its, and Chicken in a Biskit.”


“Young children, and especially children with problems gaining weight, need higher amounts of fat to provide enough calories to fuel their greater growth requirements.  Later, as growth reaches appropriate levels, the emphasis on fat can be reduced.”

This handout is kind of messed up.  To it’s credit, it does have some healthier suggestions, but ‘Deli-sliced meat dipped in gravy and cooked vegetable with butter?’  ‘Chicken in a Biskit?’  Seriously?  Can’t we do a little better?  Where was fettuccine alfredo on the list?  I remember being told once that a plate of that is equal to, like, three Big Macs.  Or how about a croissant, or butternut squash soup with cream base and topped with sour cream and chives?  This American idea that kids like to eat garbage reminds me of that Buzzfeed post that went around a few months ago featuring pictures of school lunches from around the globe – many of which look like combo meals from Baja Fresh or Panda Express.  Then there are the photos of American lunches, which give the impression that we take our culinary inspiration for children’s lunches from what comes out of their rear ends.

And that last quote cracks me up.  I’m pretty sure that many parents who receive advice like this for their growing children don’t let off on the gas once ‘appropriate levels’ are met, and I bet their children are all too happy to continue scarfing down tator tots slathered in mayo.  After all, children continue to grow and put on weight until their teens, right?  And I’m guessing in a few years if you try to take ‘little’ Jonny’s fried chicken, french fries and eggnog and replace it with a plate of pesto, green salad, and a glass of 1% milk, it’s not going to go over so well.  Your taste and preferences for food are culturally conditioned from a very young age.  No wonder, according to the CDC, the rate of childhood obesity in this country has nearly tripled since 1980, up from 7% to 20% as of 2008.

I agree that if your toddler, for a non-medical reason, isn’t gaining weight and has dramatically fallen from his/her typical weight percentile, then yes, by all means, grab the gravy and dust off your old college beer bong.  However, I think we would be doing a disservice to our kids, and the larger health of our country, if we starting serving milkshakes made with Hidden Valley Ranch every time a kid goes sideways a couple percentage points.  Yes, I’ll be adding some cream to Josie’s milk for the next couple months, some extra peanut butter to her sandwiches, and buttering her toast pretty thick.  I’m just guessing, but I bet by her next weigh-in, I can get her back up to her “normal” percentile curve at her next weigh in without turning her into collector of Happy Meal toys.


5 thoughts on “Rx: French fries with gravy, butter, and ranch dressing.

  1. This makes no sense to me! Once a toddler starts running/walking they start to thin out! I have had the same weigh in results (minus the guilt trip) with my older two and not a word was said about it!
    How weird that your Ped made such a big deal about this. She looks like a very healthy you lady. If there were other developmental issues along with her weight, that would make sense.
    Chris, being a stay at home mom of 3 little girls, I think youand your wife are doing a wonderful job. Some Peds just wake up on the wrong side of the bed!

    • Yeah that’s kinda what I thought too. I know my ped is very conservative, so things like this I take with a grain of salt. I didn’t bring it up with her at the appt, but I thought that one of the reasons why I taught Josie sign language for ‘food,’ ‘water,’ milk,’ ‘more,’ and ‘all done,’ was so that she could tell me when she was hungry and when she wasn’t. Since I don’t think she’s dieting, and she sits down at the table A LOT during the day, I think things are A-okay. Thanks Holly.

  2. Chris, Josie looks just fine, and I wouldn’t try to intentionally pack the pounds on her just to conform to standard height/weight charts, so the doctor can give you a shiny gold star at your next visit! She’s eating healthy, and that’s a great habit to encourage for lifelong habits! Had to explain to my family why I was chuckling in the corner as I was reading your blog…the sumo baby cracked me up.

  3. It’s funny what our doctors tell us sometimes – but in the end, it’s your gut (no pun intended) that you have to listen to. Sebastien was in the 98% when he was born, at 12 months he was 4%. YIKES! I was worried for a few days but then i just got over it. He eats just fine – the same food we eat, like you say – and we are going to keep it that way. We go for his 15 month tomorrow so we shall see if he fattened up at all 🙂

  4. Your daughter is soooooo cute and looks just right. OMG that handout if just insane! Time to find a new doctor. My daughter was in the 30th percentile forever. Teeny Tiny little thing. Her first doctor said she was “failing to thrive” and gave me the major stink eye and all but threatened to turn me in to CPS. Two weeks later I had a new doctor who said with a smile “Your daughter is PERFECT.” 13 years later I still have the same doctor for my daughter! And she is still perfect. And she is strong and healthy and smart. There is nothing wrong with a kid who prefers fruits and veggies to carbs and fat. Like others have said – it is a good life long habit. Better to start now rather than after they get fat and have to take off 50 pounds.

    You’re such a good dad – I really enjoy your blog – keep posting!!!!!

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