Tag Archives: nutrition

Parenting Forward

CLEANHOUSE

I recently met with a student who was having a hard time reconciling her mother’s instinct with the pressures from family and friends to parent in a more socially acceptable way.  We had a long, heartfelt talk, and here are some of the “heart-lights” we had that I want to share with you.

If nothing else, remember that you alone are responsible for your child.  You have to live with them, you alone will bear the joy and the guilt of all your decisions. Acknowledging and accepting that, know that trusting your instinct is right and worthy.

Parenting with the end goal in mind looks different than parenting decisions made for immediate behavior modification.  Yelling when it’s not an emergency, hitting, slapping, intimidation, etc., will probably get your child to stop doing what they are doing or get them to do what you want them to do against their will. Taking the time to think about why you are seeing this behavior, asking ourselves if there is a way to change their focus or solve a problem takes time…and if your child is having a full-blown public nuclear meltdown, it may activate our own issues with “being a good/bad parent” or attracting attention, or our stories about acceptance and rejection.

It can be so hard to parent what I call the “long way” when your child is acting out. It is much easier to bargain, bribe, or force the outcome that is easiest in the short term.  Going the long way means letting them cry or tantrum in public, taking the time to ask questions and listen to your child, try to figure out exactly what they need or find a solution, and then patiently see it through so that interactions are loving and peaceful. It may mean changing our plans and trying again another day.

Speaking specifically to the times when our children get loud, the goal of parent intervention is to stop the tears or the tantrum.  We have stories deeply ingrained in our culture about parents who can’t control their children, and therein lies one of the problems. It is a mindful decision to treat them as little humans with their own set of feelings and desires, instead of chattel to control or do our will.

In my mind, the first thing we can examine as a culture is this idea of needing to control children.  Why not start with changing the paradigm? Instead of “children that behave” why not shift the focus to “adults that can make decisions”? It means acknowledging that children are human beings that are going to need to learn to navigate life, with all its ups and downs.

When we start to parent with the idea that our children need to be equipped to be whole, loving, and capable humans when they leave our home, it may drastically change the reasons why we chose to do or not to do when the time comes to teach them the lessons that come with the situations that challenge them.  With that mind, it gives us permission to parent them per what we feel is best for them. Each child is ready for different milestones at different times.

Here are some of the different areas of disagreement with heart-led parenting versus socially-based parenting that came up in our discussion.

Sleep:
Some children are ready to sleep on their own before they are a year old, other children need the warmth and comfort of a parent or sibling into early childhood or the elementary years. Would it help you to know that in other cultures, they consider our practice of tucking children in to sleep by themselves is considered neglectful and sad for the child? Read THIS article or THIS article by Dr. James McKenna on The Natural Child Project site, and THIS one on Fatherly.com (warning: the title is a bit abrasive).

Breastfeeding:
Oh the places you could go with this topic.  Here is the information on the side of extended breastfeeding if that is your choice…

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are breastfed at least until 6 months old, and to continue breastfeeding after that point – link HERE.

Drs. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold published a STUDY in March 2010 with these findings: If 90% of new mothers in the USA were breastfed just to the six-month mark, it would save $13 billion in healthcare and other costs – read more about that HERE

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is two years old…really!! Read their statement HERE

So there are three huge pros in your corner if you want to breastfeed, and continue past the 12-month “normal”.  I hope you are encouraged to follow your own rhythm when it comes to breastfeeding your Sweet Pea.

Food:
This is the age of mindful eating. We know there are inflammatory foods (list HERE), we know the benefits of probiotics (links HERE and HERE), we know that when offered healthy food,  children will eat it (read THIS fascinating study).  It is okay to trust that if you consistently put healthy choices in front of your child, they will not starve, and they will eat healthy food.

So what if you don’t eat out at fast food restaurants, or it takes you five minutes to place your child’s order at a restaurant? You alone are your child’s advocate until they know what is good for them and know how to place their own order.  And you will be so proud of seeing their healthy food choices and their awesome physical health when you see how they compare to their peers.  They will spend more time in the classroom and less time in the doctor’s office when they eat healthy, whole food.  It is worth it!!

Behavior modification:
Another loaded discussion.  I would invite you to trust your mama bear instinct here.  Also, try to address your own hang-ups about being a “good” parent and/or giving and receiving love.

This came roaring to a head for us when Otter was three years old.  She went through this phase of hitting me when she was angry…and one day when I was tired and worn down and I couldn’t believe what came out of my mouth, “When you hit me, it makes me feel like you don’t love me.”  That came from a deep and old place, a story that I had from my past. It validated why I do not want to hit our children, and made me even more dedicated to the theory of “gentle parenting”.

Here are some of my favorite parenting resources for you to explore:

Laura Markham – aha! parenting – gentle parenting resource

Janet Lansbury – gentle parenting resource

L.R. Knost – Little Hearts – gentle parenting resource

Positive Discipline – great ideas to help set boundaries and keep them without intimidation

Five Love Languages – discover what moves your family members, and then love them the way that speaks to their heart

 

What are your thoughts?  What are other areas you feel heart-led about and you find hard to talk about or outright disagreements with your family or friends?

 

Munchkin Meals: Food On The Go

Another month has passed and Munchkin Meals from A Healthy Slice of Life are back! Nothing remarkable has really changed with T’s meals and/or eats so I thought I would switch it up with some things he has been enjoying on the go.

Snacks are always a little hard for me — nothing *too* messy since it will end up all over him/me/the stroller/the car, needs to be something I can grab fairly quickly while trying to get us out of the house, I don’t like to default to bunnies, O’s or the like and variety is important to me since he is more of a snacker/grazer than a three meal a day kind of kid.

So what have we been taking with us these days?

Fresh Fruit 

I know, this is easy and obvious, but… it is easy and obvious! (And nutritious). Berries are still in season here on the coast but will probably be slowing down right about now. Super fast to throw raspberries, blackberries or strawberries into a snack cup & go.

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Grapes are another awesome farmer’s market find these days and again, just throw into the cup & head out.

Apples, plums, and asian pears are abundant right now from one of our local favorites, Inzana Ranch. I chop the plums and pears but these little Fuji apples are such a perfect toddler snack with minimal preperation. I just peel the skin and he eats them whole.

20131105-183905.jpg It is a great car/stroller activity too and I have recently read across the internet that apples have enzymes or acids in them that are supposedly supposed to help with teething pain which is another major plus since T is currently cutting all four incisors at once (:

taking an apple out with him on Halloween!

taking an apple out with him on Halloween!

As I mentioned last month I have a love affair with bananas despite their long distance travels and nothing has changed this month. They are just so darn easy!

loves his bananas

loves his bananas

perfect for stroller rides

perfect for stroller rides

Dried Fruit

T is LOVING on raisins lately — lucky for us in addition to great fresh fruit Izana Ranch also stocks various types of yummy raisins!

this week we decided to try the "crimson"

this week we decided to try the “crimson”

These dried blueberries from Trader Joe’s are also great, nothing added — just freeze dried blueberries.

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Baked Sweet Potato Rounds

I make up a big batch of these at once and they are perfect for on the go. Cutting them in rounds makes them less squish-able then chunks and therefore less messy for us. T loves them.

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Gluten Free Grahams 

We are lucky enough to live very close to a Whole Foods & T has really been happy about these gluten free cinnamon graham crackers lately. Again, trying not to make a habit of it, but they are super easy to just throw into a snack cup and be done with it.

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Chickpeas

I forgot to snap a picture but recently I have discovered what a great snack whole garbanzo beans are! I buy the Eden Organics because their cans are BPA Free or else I make our own using dried beans. Beware, they will get stinky QUICKLY if left in a car, diaper bag, etc. but they are a nice switch up from fruit and crackers and a great source of fiber plus some protein. They are the perfect size for little toddler fingers, too.

What foods do you take for your toddlers or children when you leave the house? Do you have any go to or easy snack options? T & I both thank you in advance for any ideas (:

 

 

 

 

Munchkin Meals: Another Month of T’s Eats

I can’t believe another month has passed since the last time we featured Munchkin Meals! My son, T, is turning 19 months old on Monday (he is now closer to two than one, aaahhh!) so below is a sampling of what we offered him during his 19th month of life!

Breakfasts

sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil & cinnamon, banana slices & cheese with a side of 1 parts fresh apple juice & 3 parts water - simple, simple.

sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil & cinnamon, banana slices & cheese with a side of 1 parts fresh apple juice & 3 parts water – simple, simple.

He opened the pantry & asked for some “o’s” this particular morning, so I obliged..

+ the beloved O's!

+ the beloved O’s!

Trader Joe’s has these Toasted O’s that are gluten free with a short ingredient list that I buy occasionally as T loves them for stroller and car snacks & has fun putting them on his little fingers (:

figs, strawberries, avocado & more roasted sweet potatoes

fresh figs, strawberries, avocado & more roasted sweet potatoes

we always have breakfast while still in our PJ's (: banana, olives and pluot with a side of coconut water

we always have breakfast while still in our PJ’s (: banana, olives and pluot with a side of coconut water

nectarine, fresh fig, and a pancake topped with tahini & honey. The pancake is: whole wheat flour, egg, raw cream + ACV as buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, a little ground flax seed & baking powder.

nectarine, fresh fig, and a pancake topped with tahini & honey. The pancake is: whole wheat flour, egg, raw cream + ACV as buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, ground flax seed & baking powder.

I have since decided to finally bite the bullet and go 100% gluten free after various practitioners have been recommending it to me for years – literally about 7 years. If I am entirely gluten free then T will also be gluten free (until he can prepare food himself) so no more wheat pancakes, but we have been making really tasty oat and coconut flour ones! I love that they are filled with protein and good fats along with spices and no sugar. They are perfect to cut up and take as a snack too, T loves eating them with or without toppings.

pancake to go

pancake to go

Lunches

tortilla with almond butter, sweet potatoes, corn chips with homemade guacamole & healing movement orange blend cultured vegetables

tortilla with almond butter, sweet potatoes, corn chips with homemade guacamole & healing movement orange blend cultured vegetables

strawberries, fennel barley risotto, carrots, green beans & cheese

strawberries, fennel barley risotto, carrots, green beans & cheese

baked zucchini "fries", banana topped with tahini and heirloom tomatoes

baked zucchini “fries”, banana topped with tahini and heirloom tomatoes

roasted squash with coconut oil, banana with peanut butter & strawberries

roasted squash with coconut oil, banana with peanut butter & strawberries

corn and black beans, avocado, yellow nectarine and pluot

corn and black beans, avocado, yellow nectarine and pluot

baked sweet potato wedges, roasted broccoli, chicken and plum

baked sweet potato wedges, roasted broccoli, chicken and plum

shared lunch with mama: turkey, avocado & tomato on romaine topped with deli mustard

shared lunch with mama: turkey, avocado & tomato on romaine topped with deli mustard

Dinners

Again, I am so bad at taking pictures of dinner but I remembered a few more times this month!

roasted golden beets, adobo slow cooker chicken with mushrooms & onions, and banana slices. Not pictured: rice - makes such a huge mess, I try to help him with it as much as he will let me.

roasted golden beets, adobo slow cooker chicken with mushrooms & onions, and banana slices. Not pictured: rice – makes such a huge mess, I try to help him with it as much as he will let me.

HEAB/CD's dinner hash: yukon potatoes, grass fed ground beef, mushrooms, onions, and sauerkraut

HEAB/CD’s dinner hash: yukon potatoes, grass fed ground beef, mushrooms, onions, and sauerkraut

deconstructed tuna casserole: brown rice noodles, peas, and tuna fish all coated in the cashew/nutritional yeast "cheese" sauce

deconstructed tuna noodle casserole: brown rice noodles, peas, and tuna fish all coated in the cashew/nutritional yeast “cheese” sauce

local albacore tuna from our CSA topped with avocado mousse, white rice (was feeling brave this night letting him go to town on the rice alone) & radish/cucumber topped with flax oil

local albacore tuna from our CSA topped with avocado mousse, white rice (was feeling brave this night letting him go to town on the rice alone) & radish/cucumber dressed with flax oil

chili, corn bread and a little cheese.

chili, corn bread and a little cheese.

The only produce that we purchased outside of the farmer’s market this month (aside from one bag of frozen peas for the tuna casserole) was bananas. As we know, bananas grow *nowhere* near us, in a climate nothing like the one we experience. I have not researched banana plantations in depth and although I always purchase organic, they are still from Dole and as a large multinational company I will never entirely trust their practices. BUT, I just can not stop buying them for T, ah! They are so convenient to take with us out of the house, a great source of fiber, easy to top with healthy fats (peanut butter, almond butter, tahini) and have a long counter life. Do the benefits outweigh the negatives? Are there any good alternatives? What do you all think?

What have your kiddos been eating this month, I can always use new ideas and recipes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BLOG AP feeding

Attachment Parenting: Feeding With Love and Respect

I am so glad to be back in the area to take advantage of all the wonderful support groups the Phoenix area has to offer.  Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the Attachment Parenting International meeting in Chandler.  The topic was “Feeding with Love and Respect”, based on that principle of attachment parenting.

Here are some of the ideas presented by Amanda, the API leader:

  • Feeding is about more than giving them food – it is an exchange of love between parent and child when you consider the time it takes to prepare and serve
  • Breastfeeding is the method that promotes the most bonding: closeness in proximity, it provides warm nourishment on cue, meets baby’s needs while meeting mom’s needs
  • Bottle-feeding can be AP, too: Keep your baby close, feed in your lap, make eye-contact: preserve what you can from the breastfeeding experience even when breastfeeding isn’t an option
  • As your child grows, there is definitely a decision to be made about making food at home versus purchasing processed food in the stores.

She made an interesting point that I had not thought about:  when we start solids, we literally start moving our child away from us.  Up to this point, all their food has come from mother and/or in proximity to a care giver.  Once they start being fed solids, children are usually set in a chair away from us.  It is not unusual for children to crave closeness and want to eat in your lap, which is exactly what Otter wants to do more often than not, especially when we are eating out.

Now I get it – she is in a strange place around people she knows are not in our family, eating a meal.  Mealtimes for her are usually at home, around our table, with people we know – no wonder a restaurant makes her want to be close to mama!! I will totally embrace her instead of hesitating to give her my lap space when we are supposed to be “eating out”.  It is totally appropriate for her to find comfort in my lap, because that has been and still is her “safe space”. She knows she is loved and safe when she is in my embrace.

Amanda also talked about weaning…she did say that AP teaches to offer breastmilk first (up to a year-old), and then to offer solid food.  There may come a point when baby totally bypasses you and goes straight to the table.  That is okay, too; it is honoring the child who does not want breastmilk at that instant.

We also had the pleasure of hearing Blue Russ share her perspective on food with the group.  Here are some interesting statistics she shared:
90% of the food in grocery stores is processed
If you think about it, we are advertised to almost every waking moment by billboard signs, computer banner ads, television ads and the radio.

She encouraged us to let go of any guilt that we have associated with our food choices, and instead, look at the choices we are making and accepting them as the choices that work for us in this time and space.  She reminded us that our children learn about food from us – they taste the flavors delivered in our breastmilk, they watch the choices we make, they learn our rhythm of life.  If we want them to learn healthy habits, then we have to live the habits we want them to learn.  Among them, to let go of any shame, guilt, blame and stress that we feel about food.

We have all been there – we are in a rush, we need to go, and we make the choice to go through the drive-through instead of feeding the food we “should” be eating.  One mama had a great perspective to share: she tried to remember it was more important to feed herself than go hungry, and that the opportunity to make a better choice existed in the future.

Blue invited us to look at the connections between our lifestyle, stressors, and our choices.  Could we see any correlations?  If we wanted to make changes, she encouraged us to look again at this day – just today.  What was one thing we could do, what decision would we make, to support the choices for a healthier lifestyle?

Here are some of the time-saving ideas shared in the group to help us eat well when we all feel the crunch of time:

  • Wash, dry and cut a bulk quantity of greens and/or other vegetables.  Then freeze them in meal size portions so that all you have to do is cook them when you are ready to eat them.  The question came up about freezing greens – yes you can! (think frozen spinach, or see top image)
  • Prepare a large quantity of main dish meals that can be augmented with sides for dinner.  Eat your portion one night, and freeze the rest in dinner size portions for later.
  • Make a stock soup in large quantities – use broth for enriching rice or pasta.  Puree veggies for a veggie soup, serve meat with meals, reserve some broth to re-heat for a quick “to-go” meal that you can drink.
  • Check out THIS link for more info on salad-in-a-jar and The Fresh 20; both time-savers.  The salads make for fresh, healthy convenience food, and The Fresh 20 is a planning/prep guideline that calls for one shopping/prep day and easy dinners on meal nights.
  • Prepare a week’s worth of food, and cut-up and label snack foods for fresh noshing.  Amanda makes a pasta salad that can be eaten cold for her anyone in her family to eat anytime, while staying out of her labeled items to be used later in the week for meals.

We also talked a little about how we prepare food.  One mama does Reiki over it before preparing/eating.  I shared that I say a prayer for God to bless our minds, our bodies and our souls with the food he has provided for us before I make a meal (especially when the meal is a gift to another recipient).  Basically, the idea was to prepare food with intention, because that is also part of feeding with love and respect…pouring our love into every action, including meal preparation, that will directly or indirectly be affecting our children.

In the Mexican tradition, we have a saying that if we are angry when we are preparing a meal, our food will be spicier.  Do you have any traditional beliefs about food in your family?  How about time-saving tips?  Any thoughts to share on the topic?

Munchkin Meals: T’s Eats at at 17/18 Months

Happy Thursday! In place of our usual Thoughtful Thursday, today I am participating in Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life‘s Munchkin Meals. A couple of months ago I shared a lot about *how* little T eats and thought this would be fun to showcase what he has been enjoying eating lately!

Breakfast

Breakfast always has fruit, maybe a pancake/french toast/muffin, sometimes cheese and then usually another random fat/protein source accompanied by a green smoothie

strawberries, chicken, cheese & banana with a side of green smoothie: kale, mustard greens, frozen fruit medley, 1/2 banana, flax seed & water

strawberries, chicken, cheese & banana with a side of green smoothie: kale, mustard greens, frozen fruit medley, 1/2 banana, flax seed & water

half a banana, french toast on local/organic whole wheat bread, grapes & strawberries

half a banana, french toast on local/organic whole wheat bread, grapes & strawberries

T saying "haaawt" to his french toast (:

T saying “haaawt” to his french toast (:

we usually make a green smoothie at home every morning but if we happen to be low on ingredients or in a rush T also loves these green smoothies from Trader Joe's!

we usually make a green smoothie at home every morning but if we happen to be low on ingredients or in a rush T also loves these green smoothies from Trader Joe’s!

AM Snack

While we are out & about during our morning adventure I bring T cut up fresh fruit, roasted sweet potatoes and sometimes almond butter/almond butter & jam sandwiches to snack on

Pre Nap Lunch

I usually put a light lunch out when we get home before T takes his nap.

green beans, chick peas & kidney beans & banana with half OJ/half water

green beans, chick peas & kidney beans & banana with half OJ/half water

peach, chicken & black eyed peas

peach, chicken & black eyed peas

strawberries, oranges, roasted sweet potatoes, white potatoes & raw milk cheese

strawberries, oranges, roasted sweet potatoes, white potatoes & raw milk cheese

frozen peas, blueberries, cheese & banana topped with almond butter

frozen peas, blueberries, cheese & banana topped with almond butter

decisions, decisions (:

decisions, decisions (:

After Nap Lunch

This is usually a heartier plate, I would say this is the time of day T eats the most food at one sitting.

strawberries, lentils & rice, beet saurkraut, golden beets, and a cut up leftover pancake from the AM (almond flour, egg, flax seed, olive oil, baking powder & banana)

strawberries, lentils & rice, beet saurkraut, golden beets, and a cut up leftover pancake from the AM (almond flour, egg, flax seed, olive oil, baking powder & banana)

strawberries, peaches, golden beets & lentils

strawberries, peaches, golden beets & lentils

strawberries, olives, curried green beans, carrots & potatoes

strawberries, olives, curried green beans, carrots & potatoes

white potatoes, red bell peppers, raspberries & a whole wheat tortilla wrap with almond butter & fig spread

white potatoes, red bell peppers, raspberries & a whole wheat tortilla wrap with almond butter & fig spread

Dinner

I don’t have pictures of dinner because we are usually all sitting down as a family and I don’t have my phone/ always forget to get a snapshot. T eats whatever we are having, often he just grazes off of our plates too. This night we were having black cod, sauerkraut, and a green salad. He ate the fish & sauerkraut and I filled his placemat up with some leftovers from lunch too.

strawberries, sauerkraut, miso black cod, leftover chicken, black eyed peas & cheese from lunch

strawberries, sauerkraut, miso black cod, leftover chicken, black eyed peas & cheese from lunch

So there you have it, a mix of all the different kinds of foods T has been discovering, playing with, and eating lately! We shop at the farmer’s markets for most of our fruits, vegetables and bread so a lot of things that are in season are recurring on his plate, especially strawberries :) As we venture into fall I am excited to see different crops offered (the first butternut squash made an appearance this week!!!)  and try out some new, seasonal recipes!

Personal Health Coach Blue Russ helps clients achieve a healthier lifestyle through a holistic approach to food and healing.

TT: Breastfeeding and Eating Habits

Thoughtful Thursday:  Did you know that breastfeeding naturally establishes healthy, life-long eating habits?

A little deviation from all the beautiful MotherBabys we have been sharing with you as we ruminate today!  Have you seen THIS article in the New York Times?  It prompted today’s post.  Here is an excerpt:

“A 2007 study, published in Appetite, revealed that 85 percent of parents attempt to get young children to eat more at mealtime using praise, food rewards and reasoning. Another study, published in Pediatrics this May, showed that more than half of parents asked their adolescent children to eat all the food on their plate, while a third prompted their kids to eat more even when they stated they were full.

This isn’t about pointing fingers at parents. After all, getting children to eat all of their meal was a necessity for most of human history, when food was scarce. Children didn’t have the luxury of taking only a few bites or skipping a meal, because the next meal wasn’t certain. But today, we live in a food-plenty environment in which the next meal, snack and eating opportunity is certain and bigger than ever. Despite this reality, children are still born with the ability to regulate their food intake. Unfortunately, research shows controlling feeding practices, like “clean your plate,” negatively affect food regulation skills as children age.”
NYTimesBlog: Motherlode – Adventures in Parenting
“Saying Good Riddance to the Clean-Plate Club” by Maryann Jacobsen
August 2, 2013

Did you know that breastfeeding naturally keeps a child’s “empty/full” satiety meter working?  A MotherBaby with a working supply and demand mechanism makes enough milk to meet all of the baby’s daily nutritional needs.*  Breastmilk is delivered in the quantity that a child needs.  How it works when a child is nursing for nutrition: once the child is full, (s)he stops nursing, and they move on with their day until they are hungry again.  As they grow and start solids, they can follow that same “empty/full” mechanism that works.  The chances are very good that when they say they are full, they really mean it.

Thanks to parental instinct, and then the La Leche League meetings on “Weaning and Starting Solids”, we have never forced our Sweet Peas to finish eating the food on their plate. We offer healthy food and allow them to choose what goes on their plate.  The standard is a protein, a veggie and a carb choice for their lunch and dinner meals.** If the kiddos have food left on plate and are asking for dessert, we’ll say that if they have room for dessert, they probably have room for two more bites. Two bites and a dessert later, plates are cleared to the sink with no drama.  And sometimes there are no more bites and no dessert, or two more bites and no dessert…whatever happens, we want the children to feel like they are in control and that they are honoring their bodies.

When the kiddos do leave a full plate, as parents we try to remember to make it the next snack and/or next meal. While we don’t want to force food, we do want them to honor the fact it represents work to provide it and work to prepare it for them.

This system works for us, although I get a lot of grief from the grandparents about how we feed our children.  It was nice to get confirmation from another source that we are not totally screwing up our kids, in this area, anyway!

What do you think?  Are there any food wars at your place?

*Did you have a hard time making milk for your baby?  Did you have to feed your baby formula?  I am so sorry.  This post is not a judgement on your inability to breastfeed your baby.  I wish you were blessed with a wonderfully supportive lactation consultant who taught you to feed the baby first, and that they helped you with formula feeding to keep your baby’s inborn satiety mechanism intact by recognizing feeding cues.  It was probably so hard to throw that expensive formula down the sink!  If you did have a great LC, please leave her or his name in the comments so that other mamas can use them should a need arise.

**How the “Bowman Buffet” works in practice:  There are always two protein choices because I am a vegetarian and Bruss is a carnivore.  As for the vegetables, there is a constant supply of freshly peeled and sliced carrot sticks because those are a kiddo favorite, and there are always greens in the house – so they can pick carrots and/or salad.  When it comes to carbs, we offer today’s freshly made selection or a reheat of yesterday’s leftovers.  Buffet!!

Cooking together: Sunday Morning Pancake Breakfast.  Getting the kiddos to choose the recipes and participate in the preparation makes for eager eaters!

Cooking with Sweet Pea Kids

We have been moving towards a whole food diet since Night Owl presented with food allergies as an infant.  The food that is easy to throw into the grocery cart for most families is not an option for us.  He is allergic to wheat (gluten), eggs, peanuts, coconut, hazelnuts, soy, watermelon, sugar, food dyes – all the prepackaged conventional snacks and treats are out for us.  People see that list and they feel sorry for us; they wonder out loud what there is that we can eat.

Answer:  Everything else.  I adjusted my outlook from despair at all the things he was allergic to…I had those moments when I wondered if we were ever going to eat “normally” again.  Now I look at it this way: those are only 8 foods/groups in the wide world of food.  We can eat millet, rice, corn, and quinoa based carb foods.  He can eat potatoes.  He can eat all the rest of the fruits and vegetables.  I looked it up…he has between 1,000 to 2,000 to choose from, depending on how you categorize the list.  Puma presented with the gluten allergy two years ago, so we made the switch to a gluten-free pantry and pretty much never looked back.

It has been the best thing that has happened to our family.  While some people struggle to make that transition from processed junk food and empty calories, our bigger challenge is how to change it up with the seasons.  How do we ensure that our kiddos have the best organic and conventional produce to choose from so that we save money and eat well at the same time?

With a little menu planning and information about produce, it’s actually very do-able.  We use the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to decide which produce to buy organic and which crops to buy conventional.  We look through our cookbooks and find recipes that fit in with the ingredients that are in line with produce that is in season.  Now we are ready to make our shopping list for the farmer’s market and our local grocery store.

Here are our favorite cookbooks.  We have found that by working together as a family to choose recipes, the kiddos are vested in eating the food they help to prepare.  By allowing them to choose which recipes to try, there is a higher likelihood that they will taste the food that is served at mealtimes.

Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel

Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel

This is one of my favorite books for first foods.  Puma didn’t start solids until she was 11 months old – at her age, we used a food mill to grind up whatever we were eating and she ate on her own soon after that.  Since she pretty much started with whole foods, this was a great guide to help me design a plan for introducing solids.  We still use it today since there are a lot of whole food recipes that do not include Night Owl’s allergy foods, and the ones that do are easily modified.  One of our favorite recipes is the Broccoli Mac & Cheese.

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Here is another favorite as families learn to eat first foods and beyond.  I made my own baby food for NIght Owl, and then followed suit with Charger.  Since I was making purees to feed the boys, I used them in the rest of our dishes to add flavor and nutrients.  Our favorite recipe in here is the spinach and carrot “infused” brownies.  I still use the tip of mixing purees into tomato sauces – that red hides just about everything.  Since we are not pureeing anymore, I do shred our fresh market vegetables into the sauce and simmer it on the stove.  The house smells amazing, and I watch with delight at mealtime as Sweet Pea Kids (and Dad!) lick their plates clean.

Weelicious by Catherine McCord

Weelicious by Catherine McCord

This has been Puma’s favorite book, as you can see by all the pages we have marked.  We are stuck on the Apple-Cinnamon pancake recipe – life-changing!  It was easily modified for our gluten-free, egg-free kitchen, and we have experimented with different fruits and add-ins.  It is by far Sweet Pea Dad’s favorite pancake recipe *ever*.  He, more than anyone, laments the shift to the gluten-free lifestyle.  We have also made some of the soup recipes, and are slowly working through the rest of the recipes we have marked to try out this summer.

Kid's Kitchen Cards from Barefoot Books

Kid’s Kitchen Cards from Barefoot Books

These are a brilliant concept from Barefoot Books.  There are 40 boardbook-type recipe cards with an illustration and ingredients on the front, and the instructions on the back.  Each of the kiddos can take turns choosing a card and deciding what to try for a snack or a main course.  Our favorite find in this stack has been the fruit kebabs.

Sweet Pea Families: Cooking with Sweet Pea Kids

The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas

This is the last book that makes the trip with us pretty much wherever we are going to stay for a while.  After watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives” this year, one of my goals is to have at least one vegetarian family meal every day.  I have been vegetarian for 13 years now.  Sweet Pea Kids have been vegetarian until their first birthday, and then they eat meat as it appeals to them.  After seeing the devastating effects of meat and current practices around the meat industry, I am more mindful of teaching our children that meat is not necessarily a staple at every meal.  They are learning more about healthy protein options…here is my proud mama moment from last week:

Night Owl eating out - nothing on the menu appealed to him, so he ordered his own smorgasbord for lunch!

Night Owl eating out – nothing on the menu appealed to him, so he ordered his own smorgasbord for lunch!

Bon appetite!  I would love to hear your  tips and tricks for engaging your children in healthy eating – what does your family do?

Sweet Pea Kiddos eating a healthy, whole food snack. Sliced fresh fruit, vegetarian cheese, and raw cashews

Sweet Pea Kiddos eating a healthy, whole food snack. Sliced fresh fruit, vegetarian cheese, and raw cashews

Little Eater: How We Try to Create Healthy Habits

Eating is such a personal topic, some people love to eat, and others hate to eat. Some folks over eat, some forget to eat, some eat slowly, and some eat fast and often people are very defensive regarding their choices or habits. Anyone who has ever tried to research diet and nutrition also knows there is a vast, overwhelming sea of conflicting information out there over what to eat, how much of it, when to eat it, ways to prepare it, where to find it, etc.

Last time I was here talking about how we are still breastfeeding past age one, but today I am discussing baby’s other nutrition, solid foods! We first introduced solids at six months old and I thought I would share some things we have implemented over the past eight months that we believe will help our son establish a healthy relationship with food and learn to nourish himself optimally from the very start.

Baby Led Weaning:

Krystyna chronicled her family’s journey with Baby Led Weaning and their youngest child in detail here if you are interested in more information about the actual approach and implementation. We chose BLW because it allows baby to explore food in different forms, exposes them to different tastes and textures depending on preparation, is aligned with our “whole foods” approach to eating and most importantly allows baby to have control over physically feeding him or herself along with determining when to stop or continue eating.

Meal Times & The Family Table:

When we first began giving my son, T, food to explore he sat in his Bumbo with attached tray. We would sit on the floor next to him and eat our food while he spent time discovering the food in front of him.

IMG_3277First Foods

When he outgrew the Bumbo seat we got a highchair that goes on one of the kitchen table chairs and pulls right up to the table, no attached tray. 

IMG_6816At our table – clearly, he is comfortable.

When he became increasingly more mobile and not content in the high chair, around a year old, we got a low to the ground kitchen table with floor cushions for our dining area and a wooden child size table and two chairs for his room. At the dining table he gets in and out of his chair when he wants, sometimes eats standing up at the table, and sometimes grabs food off of our plates. The table in his room usually has some snacks on it throughout the day for him to graze. I know this isn’t practical or conducive to everyone’s lifestyle, but it works for us. We love being on our son’s level and spend most of our days on the floor with him anyways so sitting on the floor at a low dining table isn’t really that much of an adjustment for us. We always place his food directly on whichever table we are eating from and use this silicone placemat from Green Sprouts.

IMG_7746Enjoying a snack at his table.

IMG_7849Unconventional eating :)

Incorporating our son into our meal times, what we are eating ourselves and the table we are eating it from, has been very important to us. We want him to see us fueling our bodies with the same things he is. We want him to hear as I tell my husband what I have prepared that night and how and to be involved in the mealtime because he wants to be, not just because he is constrained.

Variety of Healthy Choices:

We offer a variety of choices all day, every day. For breakfast it is usually two or more options rotating between fruits, soaked oatmeal, eggs, green smoothies, coconut/almond yogurt, and nut butters. Mid day snacks and lunch always consist of multiple different foods as well: quinoa, vegetables, rice, olives, possibly more fruit, avocados, more nut butters, hummus, beans, chicken, and fish and dinner is his own serving of whatever my husband and I are having. He honestly doesn’t have foods that he “hates” or “loves” yet, sometimes he will reject things, and sometimes he will gobble up those same foods. Sometimes he throws food on the floor; sometimes he feeds food to the dog. Sometimes he chews his food and spits it out and sometimes he wants me to eat something first and then he will. I don’t react to any of this behavior, when it comes to food, I am in charge of providing the options and he is in charge of what he does with them. No matter the outcome I continue offering a rotating variety of seasonal, whole foods.

Limit Refined Sugar & Sweeteners:

We had an absolute, hard and fast NO refined sugar or sweeteners rule until 12 months. Around twelve months I began using small bits of maple syrup to sweeten things like pancake batters and chia puddings. Around that time we also introduced raw, local honey for the first time and now use that sparingly in things like dressings, marinades, etc. We are very limited on the number of packaged foods T eats but there have been a couple of times he has been given good quality snack type bars with agave or some organic, gluten free snack bunnies that have cane sugar in them as a special treat in the car seat. I strongly believe that by very strictly limiting refined sugar and sweetener intake it allows his natural taste preferences for real, whole foods to flourish.

Relaxed Attitude:

Overall, I think our relaxed attitude towards eating behavior is what we feel will benefit our son’s eating habits the most. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and am starving, sometimes I have things I want to do first before I eat, and sometimes I don’t find myself hungry until 10 or 11 AM. In these instances my husband doesn’t force me to sit down and eat breakfast with him or ever force me to eat foods that don’t sound appealing. Some days certain things sound good, and others days they do not. Keeping in mind that our little man is just the same as us in this regard allows me to feel good about letting him choose how and when and what he eats. As long as all of the options provided are healthy, it makes no difference to me. I also always remember that he is still breastfeeding, so if he doesn’t eat a large quantity one day, there is no need to stress. He is getting plenty of nutrition from my milk and he will make up for it by eating more food in the coming days. Empowering T to not only choose but also then physically feed himself feels so great; watching him navigate food and eat still brings me joy like I am seeing it for the first time. It is much messier, sometimes wasteful, much more inconvenient at times, and takes a lot of work to not only prepare fresh food AND multiple options, but, as the saying goes: “Nothing worth doing is ever easy”. Doing what I believe could help my son learn to sustain his body naturally and optimally is definitely worth it to me!

I could talk food and eating all day and would love to hear from you in the comments! How do you feed your baby or toddler? Have you seen the impacts of your choices on your older children if you have them? What do you think best creates a healthy relationship with food and eating?