raising a healthy girl

Last week, at her 5-year-old checkup and kindergarten “readiness” visit, Stella’s doctor informed me that she is anemic. This wasn’t all that surprising. I am currently vegetarian but even during the times that I am eating meat, it’s not like I’m cooking up hunks of beef. I have a couple of dishes in the general menu rotation that feature spinach and/or kale, but those dark, leafy greens aren’t exactly frequent highlights in our household. To say that I felt like a complete failure when Dr. Maxey told me this would be an understatement; of all the (relatively minor) things that could be at issue with my child’s health, it has to be the one thing that I am solely in charge of: nutrition.

So began a pretty fervent quest to add dark, leafy greens to our menu and cut back on extraneous sugar. The thing is, I find eating and nutrition one of the most difficult parts of parenting. I have a complicated relationship with food; I’m either starving or bingeing. I’m definitely an emotional eater. I don’t want to raise a young woman who has that combative relationship with food. But I also want her to be healthy and eat nutritiously. I will never be one of those people who sees food simply as “fuel,” something to be “taken” like medicine. I love to cook and bake, and enjoy presenting the things I make to others for their enjoyment.

I try not to discuss “body issues” of any kind around Stella. Absolutely, there is NO fat talk and if I hear someone say this kind of thing around her I will call them on it. I’m not going to forbid desserts because let’s face it, Dairy Queen Blizzards and homemade brownies and chocolate peanut butter cheesecake are fucking delicious and they make the world a better place. I’m thinking about instituting a once- or twice-weekly Dessert Day when we have a specially made or purchased treat.

Any insights? It’s the kind of thing I don’t want to make into a Whole Big Thing. Except it is kind of a Big Thing, now that I got that furrowed brow, look over the glasses at the computer thing from the pediatrician.


Kale Pesto and Goat Cheese Pizza by Heather Christo


  • 4 cups raw curly kale, stems removed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pizza dough
  • 6 ounces of goat cheese
  • Olive oil for drizzling


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Roll the dough out into a large oval and transfer it to a sheet pan. Drizzle the crust with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and put it in the oven to bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden.
  3. While the crust is baking, combine all of the Kale Pesto ingredients, (except for the olive oil and salt) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse them until well pureed.
  4. Stream the olive oil in with the processor running and run until very smooth. Season the pesto to taste with kosher salt.
  5. When the crust is finished par baking, spread all of the kale onto the crust.
  6. Add the goat cheese in chunks to the crust and drizzle the pizza with olive oil.
  7. Bake the pizza for another 8-10 minutes until the crust is very golden and the cheese is hot and a little melty.
  8. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil (or truffle oil if you are feeling fancy!) and slice and serve hot.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8


4 thoughts on “raising a healthy girl

  1. We’re part-time vegetarian, but seems everyone around us is quite carnivorous. At our house, we make it a game about science. I’m always asking stuff like “Who knows what has vitamins in it?” “Who can guess what the healthiest part of dinner is?” etc. We talk about food groups, vitamins, etc. We don’t really talk about fat/calories/weight, and when we talk about what’s in the food we eat, we explain what healthy things aren’t found in dessert.

  2. Girl, I know how you feel. I felt the exact same way at some recent doctor visits when I was unaware there is a divet in my son’s chest. I mean, how does one miss that everyday for 5 years? Anyway, we ask Oliver to eat something healthy or something with protein before he has a treat. However, he also appears to be a kid that could careless about food. He never eats his Halloween candy. Etc. Have a feeling Eleanor will not be like that! I also never make negative comments about myself or others in regards to weight and I don’t check my ass out in the mirror endlessly. I never make desserts because I will eat them, but we do keep cookies in our pantry. Usually a few times a week I cut a carton of strawberries up and sweeten with sweet -n- low and serve after dinner to everyone.

    Don’t beat yourself up. This parenting shit is hard. Good luck!

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