Saturday, August 28, 2010

Picky Eating Doesn't Equal Unhealthy Eating

Owen is getting picky. It's a pretty new development, actually, which I've heard is quite normal at 16 months. There are some foods he just won't eat. He tends to be pretty picky with his veggies. But, there are other foods that some days he loves, and the next day he freaks out if it's touching his tray. (Of course, I have a "must-stay-on-your-tray" rule. He doesn't have to eat it, but he can't give it to me or throw it on the floor or stuff it in his seat, etc. He hates this rule so much!)

I think a lot of moms are in the same boat as me. Your one year old has developed some preferences and opinions about how he should eat, and it's very annoying. However, just because your toddler is picky about food, it does not mean that they can't eat healthy! I think one of the big mistakes parents often make when it comes to feeding their toddler is that they substitute the food their child is averse to with a less healthy option. This is especially difficult if your child grows attached one particular "less healthy" food option. From my experience and observation, it seems pretty common for toddlers to grow "attached" to a limited menu of foods, and often these are not the best foods.

So, is there any hope with toddlers? Any parents knows, there is no forcing a toddler to eat anything! I do think there is hope for even the pickiest of toddlers to continue to eat healthy. Here are some of tips (mostly the tips given to me by many veteran moms).

Make all his/her options healthy ones. If you only allow healthy choices for your toddler, beginning in infancy, they will not become attached to those unhealthy foods. If you don't want your toddler demanding McDonald's chicken nuggets at every meal, never introduce them! Or stop feeding them to him. If you only feed your child healthy foods, those foods your child becomes attached to will all be healthy (though no less annoying).

Should you never allow your child a chicken nugget or a cup of ice cream? I'm not saying that. But, those foods should be so rare that they don't become those "attached" foods. Often, your child will become attached to the foods they eat the most. So, feed your child healthy foods the most, and keep the foods you don't want them begging for constantly to a minimum.

Eliminate substitutions. This is a hard one. What do you do when your toddler will not eat? Should you allow them to skip a whole meal? The thought is enough to make a mother's heart ache with guilt.

I'm not saying that you should send your child to bed hungry. But, if you give your toddler his favorite food (even if it's a healthy one) every time he refuses to eat a meal, you'll teach them that they are the boss and can eat whatever they want. You are the parent, and you need to stay in charge.

So, what's a mom to do? Try pairing a favorite food and a new food at each meal. If your toddler refuses to eat the new food, at least he's not starving to death. Also, try to introduce a new food during at least one meal a day, but not all three meals. Try combining a favorite food with a new food. For example, if your child won't eat yogurt but loves grapes, combine the yogurt and grapes. If your child won't eat broccoli but loves chicken, make a chicken broccoli casserole. There are lots of ways to coax your child into food exploration. Toddlers are sneaky, and you can be too. ;)

Eat what your toddler eats. Try to eat what your toddler eats as much as possible. If your toddler is eating yogurt, you eat yogurt. If your toddler is eating peas, you eat peas. It's important for your child to see you enjoying the same foods. Be happy while you eat. Eat as a family. Say the food names in silly voices and have fun eating. Toddlers want to be like you, and that includes eating like you.

Don't expect too much from your child. Your toddler will probably not be a perfect eater. He probably won't eat everything you put in front of him. He won't want to eat everything all the time. There will be foods that he just doesn't like. You are the same way. I don't want to eat bananas every day. Some days, I want an apple or an orange. I don't like every vegetable or meat. Why should we expect our kids to be different from us? Recognize that your toddler is an individual. He will prefer certain foods and dislike others. All you can hope for is to instill a love of real food, an open mind, and a healthy appetite.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Recipe: Flour Tortillas

My husband LOVES burritos. I think it may be his favorite food, definitely if it comes from Chipotle. But, I've had trouble finding tortillas without soy, hydrogenated oils, bleached flour, etc. So, I thought I'd try my hand at making my own. They are quite yummy, if I do say so myself!

3 cups flour (I use 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached white)
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 oil (I use coconut, but olive oil would probably work just as well. I don't use any other veg. oils. And, lard would probably taste the most authentic, but I haven't been able to find non-hydrogenated lard in the store.)
1 cup warm water

1) Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and kneed.
2) On a greased surface, roll dough into balls. For larger, burrito-sized tortillas, roll balls a little smaller than tennis ball sized. For taco-size tortillas, stick to golf ball sized.

3) Roll one ball of dough as flat and thin as you can get it! This is the tricky part. Make sure your work surface is well greased. Tortillas should be very thin.

4) Heat griddle to Medium heat and heat tortilla until both sides are slightly browned.
5) Repeat for all tortillas.

Total time: About 20 minutes Total yield: About 10 Total cost: About 50 cents

This is not a difficult recipe. However, the first few tortillas you make may be a little tricky. I had trouble getting the tortillas thin enough at first, and also rolling them into symmetrical circles. I also like to make a double recipe batch and freeze them for later use.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Real Food and Pregnancy

I'm 25 weeks pregnant with my second child. The pregnancies have been similar. I started out heavier (I was still breastfeeding when I got pregnant, and I hadn't lost all the baby weight), but I've gained weight more slowly. Being completely candid, I'm not the best at eating right while pregnant. So many things sound gross to me and for other things, I have a insatiable hunger. I've ended up eating too much sugar and too little produce, and I blame it on my first trimester of only being able to stomach grains. However, even with my many eating "sins", there are a few things that I try to do diligently, because I believe that they are essential to a healthy pregnancy.

My Essential Pregnancy Foods:
1) Whole Milk
Pregnancy completely depletes your body of calcium, and pregnant women should eat as many calcium-rich foods as possible! The stories of women with severe tooth decay during pregnancy completely gross me out. I craved milk like nothing else when I was pregnant with my oldest son, and I drank it to my heart's content. When I went to the dentist near the end of my pregnancy, my dentist said I had some of the healthiest looking "pregnant teeth" he's ever seen.

So, give in to the dairy craving! If you don't prefer milk (and I recommend whole, because the fats are essential to your little baby's brain development), give yogurt, cheese, broccoli, or broth a try. Yes, I said broth. Broth is a very rich source of calcium. In cultures that aren't particularly fond of milk, like Asian cultures, they traditionally eat broth at every meal! Eat as much calcium as you crave, and probably more!

2) Healthy Fats and Protein
I know that sounds gross, but I really have a hard time eating meat while pregnant. It really ruins my appetite to cook it, and I often don't eat the dinners I cook. However, healthy fat and protein are essential. You are building a child, and, if you breastfeed, everything you eat and drink will sustain that child well beyond the delivery. A baby's brain needs lots and lots of fat. Wild Salmon is a great, low in mercury choice for healthy fats. I also never feel bad about indulging in a piece of homemade bread with lots of butter and a big hunk of cheese on the side. Fat and protein will also help you crave the carby, sugary foods less.

Also, don't skip the salad dressing or the butter on your veggies! Your body needs the fat to absorb the nutrients in the vegetables. Eating a salad with fat-free dressing or your veggies steamed with nothing on them is a waist, a moot point. It's a waist of money and time, because your body doesn't actually get anything from your food. Generally, produce costs more than crap. So, if you are spending the money on veggies, get your money's worth and put a little butter on it.

3) Water
I'll go ahead and admit, I was a little better with this one when I was pregnant with Owen. It was cold and dry outside, and I was talking and singing all day long. I drank water like it was going out of style. I'd fill up my water bottle 3 times before lunch, and another 5 or 6 times after that. Sufficed to say, I was in the bathroom a LOT! But, water is great for you and baby. Your blood volume has increased 40% and your making amniotic fluid. Drink lots of water to help bring down swelling as well. As soon as I start feeling swollen, I begin downing water and it usually brings down the swelling most of the way, if not completely. Your body retains water if you aren't drinking enough. So, drink a lot of water!

There are lots of other things that are good to eat while pregnant. Produce is essential! You should eat lots of it every day. Fiber-rich foods will help you "go", since constipation is one of the most pleasant things about pregnancy. Cutting down on sugar and carbs will increase energy, but don't feel bad about indulging in a bowl of ice cream every now and then. It's not a completely empty food, like a potato chip. Rich in calcium and fat, it does have a few things you need. If you are going to buy ice cream, go for the vanilla bean. It usually has the fewest added ingredient. Add a little cinnamon and some pecans and enjoy! (But not too much! It still has lots of sugar!)