Twinfant Tuesday: Finger Foods For Infants

As much as I would love more than anything to remember the infant years of my twins, they have become a complete blue to me.  With a husband who works 80-90 hours a week, I was pretty much left to raise them on my own.  I was completely sleep deprived.  I would even go as far as saying that I ran on 3 non-consecutive hours of sleep a night, at the most, for the first 3 months (I hated that saying “sleep when the babies sleeps”).  But what I do remember is when my twins started finger foods around 8-9 months.

I can still remember the first time I decided to try out finger foods with my boys. As a nutritionist and foodie, I had been looking forward to this stage forever. I remember watching other parents in restaurants giving their toddlers pieces of food they could hold and eat on their own, allowing mommy and daddy to eat their meal. I was so envious as I fed my boys their pureed food and asked for my meal to go. In my brain I sincerely thought the day when my kids started finger foods would be magical. A few months later that day came…and it was NOT so magical. I was all alone and after making and offering many types of fingers foods, all of which were treated like a baseball, the three of us were covered head to toe in food. Since my kids were hungry, but didn’t actually eat any of the food I worked so hard to make, I had 2 screaming toddlers on my hands to boot. What did I do? I cried!!! That’s what I always do when I don’t know what to do next. And I have no shame in admitting it to anyone.  From that day on I developed a fear of giving my kids finger foods. But I did persevere and got through that messy eating phase just like all of you who have and who will.

It can be an extremely messy stage, especially with twins, but it is fantastic for your toddlers’ development and it builds self-esteem.  It also frees up some of your time so you can eat while they are eating (or pick up most of the food your toddler has decided to throw off his or her tray rather than eat, like I do – less cleanup later on always makes my day).

Like I said, extremely messy!!!

Little Fufu has always eaten whatever I put in front of him (and whatever I put in front of his brother).  He’s very pro-food and gets very excited about the thought of eating.  Nibbles, on the other hand, well that’s where he got his nickname.  He doesn’t really like the idea of food and eating too much, although I can’t complain as he is getting much better.  He likes to take his little fingers and tear of teensy weensy pieces of food (almost crumb-size) and veeeeerrrrrry sloooowwwwly put them in his mouth.  So I do know firsthand the frustration of dealing with a picky eater and not being able to come up with ideas to feed him or her can make it even more stressful.

It’s pretty clear from this picture which one Fufu is.  He loves birthday cake just like his mommy.

As a nutritionist and a mom, I was constantly asked what types of finger foods I gave my kids.

Here are some ideas for infants aged 9 months and up:

Dairy:

  • Mild cheeses, cubed or grated (ie: marble, mozzarella)
  • Ceam cheese, goat cheese or ricotta (on bread, crackers or rice cakes or as a dip for steamed veggies)
  • Yogurt (if using a spoon)
  • Cottage cheese, with or without fruit (if using a spoon)
  • Cottage cheese muffins or pancakes
  • Homemade yogurt popsicles

 Grains:

  • Cheerios or other low sugar cereal (ie: Bran Flakes, Rice Crispies, Puffed Corn)
  • Rice cakes
  • Crackers (preferably whole grain)
  • Pita triangles (with or with a dip)
  • Mini muffins (ie: carrot, zucchini, banana, apple, sweet potato, bran)
  • Mini pancakes (ie: pumpkin, blueberry)
  • Waffle strips
  • Well-cooked whole wheat pasta with homemade cheese sauce, tomato sauce or butter and parmesan cheese
  • Ravioli or tortellini, cut into pieces
  • Well cooked noodles (ie: soba, rice, vegetable)
  • Toast, cut into strips (with or without a topping)
  • Rice (squish into small globs to make it easier to pick up)
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal (if using a spoon)
  • Corn muffins
  • Homemade rice pudding (if using a spoon)
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Polenta cakes
  • Naan bread
  • French toast fingers
  • Sandwiches without curst cut into strips or small pieces (fill with egg salad, tuna salad, peanut butter, hummus, cream cheese, mashed avocado)
  • Grilled cheese (you can add finely chopped veggies)
  • Homemade pizza, cut into strips or pieces
  • Homemade cheese quesadillas, cut into strips or pieces (can also add veggies and/or beans)
  • Baby Mum Mums
  • Cookies (preferable whole grain and low in sugar)
  • Homemade fruit and oat bars

 Vegetables:

  • Sweet potato, cooked and cubed or cut into French fry shape (season with cinnamon or chili powder)
  • Sweet potato and black bean patties
  • Roasted vegetables, cut up
  • Mini carrots, cooked
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Asparagus tips, cooked
  • Green beans, cooked and cut up
  • Butternut squash, cooked and cubed
  • Broccoli and cauliflower pieces, cooked (can add butter or parmesan)
  • Tomato, cubed
  • Grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • Beets, cooked and cubed
  • Zucchini, cooked, peeled and cubed or sliced
  • Potatoes, cooked and cubed (can add butter and season with parsley, garlic and/or paprika)
  • Cucumber, peeled and cubed or sliced
  • Pickles, chopped
  • Potato pancakes
  • Roasted sweet peppers, chopped
  • Pureed vegetable soup (if using a spoon)
  • Vegetable stir-fry
  • Veggie and cheese patties or muffins

Fruit:

  • Bananas, cubed or sliced
  • Banana slices coated in pancake batter and cooked in frying pan
  • Avocado, cubed (or mashed and used as a spread on bread/crackers or a dip for vegetables)
  • Apples, cooked and cubed (or cut into French fry shape and cooked/softened in microwave for 2 min, sprinkled with cinnamon)
  • Cherries, halved and pitted
  • Peaches and pears, sliced
  • Mango, cubed or sliced
  • Melon, cubed
  • Kiwi, cubed
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries and blackberries, halved
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Mandarins and clementines cut into small pieces (can use canned mandarins, drained and rinsed)
  • Plums, peeled and sliced
  • Applesauce with cinnamon (if using a spoon)
  • Grapes, halved or quartered
  • Olives, chopped
  • Raisins (softened in boiling water)
  • Freeze-dried fruit (no sugar added)
  • Homemade fruit popsicles

Meat and Alternatives:

  • Tofu, cubed (marinate to add flavor)
  • Meatballs, cubed
  • Pork, cubed
  • Turkey, cubed
  • Beef, cubed
  • Chicken, cubed
  • Chicken nuggets (preferably homemade)
  • Chicken/turkey/meat loaf
  • Salmon or salmon/potato loaf/patties
  • Tuna patties
  • Fish sticks
  • Cooked fish such as salmon, sole, tilapia, halibut or haddock, flaked (you can use pureed vegetables as a sauce or just some butter)
  • Hard boiled eggs cut into pieces
  • Frittata or omelet with veggies and/or cheese, cubed
  • Egg muffins
  • Homemade turkey and apple breakfast sausage
  • Nut butters (on bread, crackers or rice cakes)
  • Beans (larger ones should be cut in half)
  • Baked beans
  • Lentils
  • Edamame, shelled
  • Falafel balls, cut into small pieces
  • Chickpeas
  • Hummus (spread on bread, crackers or rice cakes or used as a dip for steamed vegetables)

Unsafe finger foods:

  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Gum
  • Whole grapes, grape/cherry tomatoes and olives
  • Popcorn
  • Candy
  • Raw vegetables
  • Fruit that isn’t very ripe
  • Thick globs of nut butters
  • Hotdogs and sausages
  • Fish with bones
  • Stringy foods like asparagus or celery or stringy meat

Fufu is so happy with his plate of food, as usual.

Nibbles just poking at his.

Giveaway: Nutrition and Fitness Books

Enter the hdydi.com Parenting Book Giveaway Feb 11-13 2014 for a chance to win 'One Bite at a Time', '42 Days to Fit' and 'Wholesome Baby Food Guide'

Welcome to Day 2 of parenting book review week! Today’s giveaway is a package of books for keeping mommy fit and baby well-fed! This one’s for all parents with wee ones, regardless of whether they’re multiples, so tell your friends with singletons too.

You can win ebooks One Bite at a Time, Revised: Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends and 42 Days to Fit as well as a hard copy of The Wholesome Baby Food Guide: Over 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids.

Win this package of fitness and food books for moms at hdydi.com

Just leave us a comment on any post from this week to enter the giveaway!

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Don’t forget to let your mommy friends know!

Twinfant Tuesday: Feeding Utensils 101

Feeding Utensils 101My twins’ first experience with solid foods was around the 6 month mark. Since then, I’ve had more than my share of of hits and misses when it comes to buying their bowls, cups and other feeding utensils.

I used to think it was just a matter of walking into a store and grabbing the cutest cup/bowl I could find. No siree! I quickly learnt the lesson that you can easily waste spend an embarrassing amount on sippy cups and bowls if you start off on the wrong leg.

To date, I know we may have gone through up to 40+ sippy cups (TWINS!) and probably the same number of bowls and plates. If I had to do it again, here’s what I wish I would have known:

  1. Plates and bowls - Should be microwaveable if you make and freeze your own baby food.  When I had bowls that couldn’t go in the microwave, I would have to defrost the foods in ceramic bowls before transferring to the babies’ bowls. For me, it was just additional dish washing that I would have preferred to avoid.
  2. Bowls – To suction or not? Yes babies have a tendency to grab their bowls, wave them in the air (because they really don’t care!) and create a food shower. Bowls with suctions on the bottom can reduce the frequency of this occurrence BUT the thing with suction bowls is that the ones with permanently attached suctions are not microwaveable.
  3. Sippy cups – Valves or no valves? There is a place for both. I recommend no-valves for when the babies are just learning to drink and don’t have enough suction power to overcome the valves.
  4. Sippy cups – What type valve? The Playtex sippy range has a valve system that consists of 2 joined pieces of rubber that fit into the spout and air hole. Guess what? My babies have really strong arms and enjoy banging their cups against the high chair tray. A few hard knocks and the valve becomes dislodged making the cup spill-proof no more. The Phillips-Avent type spouts have a different, less leaky mechanism but they are hard to suck out of. It’s a trade-off.
  5. Sippy cups – Handles or no? To eliminate problem highlighted in #4, I started using the Take and Toss Spill Proof Cups that do not come with handles.
  6. High chairs – Full versus booster? If floor space is an issue, then go for the booster type that attach to normal chairs.
  7. High chairs – Cloth versus plastic? No matter how easy to clean the cloth material is, the high chair is still going to be a grimy mess. Plastic can be wiped clean, cloth has to be laundered. Consider your laundry tolerance when choosing a high chair.
  8. High chairs – Tray washability. A lot of high chairs now boast of trays that are dishwasher safe. The problem is that those trays are not however dishwasher sized. The trays on the highchairs I’ve had did not fit into the dishwasher or the sink. If you really want to be washing the tray in the dishwasher, shop with a tape measure.
  9. Spoons’ bowl size. When the babies started solids around 5 months, some of those cute spoons had bowls that were too wide to fit into their mouths. My recommendation, start off buying spoons with smaller, tapered bowls.
  10. Washcloth. Regardless of what utensils you buy, an easy-to-clean washcloth is the cornerstone of your solids-feeding arsenal because ovens come with a self-cleaning button, babies do not.

One more free tip: Just because a baby can use a spoon, doesn’t mean you should leave them alone with a bowl of yogurt

Feeding Baby

Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice.  She blogs at mytwintopia and has officially learnt to never take her eyes off twin babies with yogurt.

Twinfant Tuesday: The Logistics of Feeding Two Infants

My fraternal twin girls just turned five on Sunday.  Over the past week, as I do every birthday, I’ve done a lot of reflecting.  In thinking back to their infanthood, the complicated logistics of feeding are still very clear in my mind.  By now they’re fond memories…but at the time, I remember any new stage bringing about great stress.  Here are the highlights from our journey…

My twin girls, born at 34 weeks, came home after 10 days in the NICU.  While we don’t have family nearby, my husband is a teacher and he was able to take an extended leave to be home with me those first few weeks.

During that time, we generally each fed one baby.  (I would breastfeed a baby, then supplement with a bottle, and then pump…rinse and repeat, again and again and again.)  During those first few weeks, we were mostly waking the girls to feed them.  On the rare occasions when I had solo duty, I woke one baby (the faster eater) and fed her, and then fed the other baby immediately thereafter, trying to keep them on the same schedule as much as possible.

As my husband neared the end of his leave, I began to panic.  How would I ever feed both babies by myself?  Keeping the girls on the same schedule was a huge priority for me, and I knew the wake-one-baby-at-a-time method wouldn’t serve us long-term.

I reached out to the only other twin mom I knew at the time for some advice.  (Actually, I didn’t know her…she was the daughter of a former colleague who lived about 150 miles from me…but she was kind enough to take my phone call at random.)  She described how she bottle-fed her infant twins, who were about three months older than my girls.  She somehow held both babies in her lap, facing the same way, her arm wrapped around one of them from behind.

Mar4'09 036

Two Boppy pillows were a lifesaver at our house!

I couldn’t begin to imagine how I’d manage my girls in that fashion, but her advice encouraged me to try propping up the girls in different ways.  I remember the look of astonishment when my husband came home to find me feeding both girls…with a huge smile on my face, to boot!

This set-up worked for us for many months, until I started giving the girls bottles in their highchairs, probably around 7 or 8 months old.

Once I finally had bottle-feeding under my belt, I was feeling pretty good about myself…until the pediatrician told me it was time to start feeding the girls cereal.  WHAT??!!!  I **just** got comfortable with milk!!!  Can a twin mama get a break??!!!

I set the girls up for their first feeding, their highchairs side by side and the husband and the camera at the ready to capture what I knew would be the most adorable faces.  Their faces may have been adorable…but the MESS they made wasn’t.

Getting Ready for the First Feeding! 051709 (2)I quickly decided I would take to spoon-feeding the girls one at a time to curb as much of the MESS as possible.  That approach I never changed, although I did have to devise a system, as one of my babes wasn’t very patient once she learned how yummy those fruits and veggies were.

While I have since read about some twin mamas who adamantly rotated which baby was fed first, I never did.  I put Patient Baby in her swing and fed Anxious Baby first.  When Anxious Baby was finished, I could sometimes put her in the swing to feed Patient Baby.  There were times, though, when I would position Super-Anxious Baby in a bouncy seat at my feet.  I would wedge my foot under her and bounce and jiggle while I fed Patient Baby.  Once the spoon-feeding was complete, I would load both girls into their highchairs for bottles.

It was not until the girls graduated to finger foods, around 14 months, that I let them eat at the same time.  And I was right there in front of them…yes, to make sure they didn’t choke…but also to try to keep the smearing of avocado cubes in the hair at bay.

So…in looking back through the trials and triumphs of feeding two babies during that first year or so…I can’t say I had a consistent, or even judicious approach.  But I did manage to experiment to find a methodology that worked for us through the various stages.  It’s OK by me that the girls don’t read this post in a few years, though.  Unless they have twins themselves, may they never know that one was temporarily labeled Patient Baby, and one, Anxious Baby.

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

DSC_0761This picture was taken on the girls’ fifth birthday.  Yes, they’re still wearing bibs, as this mama still tries to avoid messes, when possible.  And yes, they’re still a mess…but in their partial defense, they requested homemade blueberry syrup for their French toast…and this mama just let them go to town.

Foodie Friday: Baked Chicken and Vegetables…and Then Chicken Noodle Soup!

I’m sharing a recipe that I made a couple of times a month when my girls were smaller…juicy, flavorful chicken and tender, yummy veggies, all from scratch…what’s a toddler (and her mommy and daddy) not to love???  Almost five years later, this recipe is still a favorite.

This recipe uses all REAL ingredients, which is something I strive for.  And it makes enough for my family to eat two meals…plus extra veggies…PLUS stock for a small batch of chicken noodle soup.  That’s a home run for time-crunched mamas in my book!

DSC_0613Grease a LARGE baking dish (I use a big lasagna pan), and place 10 or 12 chicken legs with the skin on.  Around the chicken legs, place baby carrots (I buy the petite ones so they cook a little quicker), potatoes that have been peeled and sliced into wedges, peeled garlic cloves, and quartered mushrooms.

Finely slice an onion and arrange it over the chicken and veggies.  Then arrange pats of butter on top of the dish.  The recipe I referenced from originally called for 4 Tbsp. of butter, but I only use about half that.  I cut the butter into very thin slices and arrange it evenly.

DSC_0615Then sprinkle spices over the dish — I use a tablespoon of dried parsley, 1/2 a tablespoon of garlic powder, and fresh-ground salt and pepper, to taste.  Then pour water over everything, to about 1/2″ of the rim of the dish.  Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  Uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until veggies are tender and juices in chicken run clear.

I forgot to take a picture as I pulled this out of the oven (as my crew was clamoring!).  Here is the pan after the four of us ate supper.  You can see we had about half the recipe remaining!

DSC_0625This dish heats really well.  I separate the meat and veggies into one bowl, and then I strain the stock into another…and this is the dish that keeps on giving!

Refrigerate the stock, if you’d like, and it will congeal.  Skim the fat from the top of the dish and discard.

DSC_0677DSC_0680Heat the stock in a saucepan, along with finely sliced carrots (1 or 2), finely sliced celery (1 or 2 stalks) and finely sliced cloves of garlic, if desired.  If you have left-over chicken, you can shred it and add to the soup, too.  Bring the stock to a boil and add some egg noodles.  Cook at a slow boil 8 minutes, or according to the directions on the package of egg noodles.

Viola!  Super easy chicken noodle soup!

DSC_0682I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

MandyE is mom to soon-to-be five year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Foodie Friday: “The Rules” of Eating

I am a rule-follower by nature.  As a first-time mom, I was quite set on following our pediatrician’s instructions, particularly when our twin girls were infants.

When it was time to introduce solids, I was extremely pedantic about the order in which our girls tried new foods…first green veggies…then orange ones…then fruit.  I took copious notes (which I still have, of course!) to keep track of how many times the girls had had green beans, lest there be some type of allergic reaction.

Our girls are now 4 ½, and I guess old habits are hard to break.

No, I’m not still recording every bite my girls take, but I am still keenly aware of how many fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins they have every day.  It started innocently enough…replacing baby food bananas with fresh diced ones…adding in some avocados to round out their green veggie intake.

The first few months of big-people food, we ate a lot of baked fish and baked chicken.  It was easy for me to dice that for the girls and serve it with a side of veggies and fresh fruit.

It took quite a while for me to make the leap to casseroles and one-dish meals…does this mixture contain the proper amounts of protein and veggies?  Do I need a veggie on the side?  How do I log this into my spreadsheet?!?!  (I’m kidding about the spreadsheet…mostly.)

By the time the girls were about 18 months old, I was beginning to relax a little bit about what they ate.  Looking at how I still plan most of our meals, my “relaxation” is probably relative.

Breakfast religiously consists of a protein, a grain, fresh fruit, and milk.  I vary our proteins between scrambled eggs with cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt; and our grains between oatmeal and cream of wheat.  On the weekends I sometimes get a little crazy and make whole-wheat French toast to fill the grain slot.

About every other day, our lunch is two veggies and a fruit, usually with some cheese and a couple of wheat crackers.  On alternating days, I will fix a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat with one veggie and a fruit.

I’ve relaxed my “rules” the most at dinner time.  We sometimes stick with the baked fish / chicken + veggie + fruit model.  More often, though, I make a one-dish meal…a soup or stew or baked pasta or stir fry over rice.  I occasionally serve a veggie with that; we often have bread dipped in olive oil; and I always serve fresh fruit and milk.

This model works for us.  I buy lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and I try to limit processed foods as much as possible.  Most importantly, my girls eat a wide variety of foods, and I feel like they are getting a very balanced diet.

It just struck me as funny a few days ago, though, when I made pulled pork barbeque in the crock pot and served it up to the girls…with a side of Brussels sprouts and diced mango.  That’s not exactly the type of barbeque plate I grew up eating.  ;)

I’m not sure if my pediatrician would be proud…or a little frightened at my [still] literal interpretation of “the rules”.

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

From the Archives: Saving on Food for Families with Multiples

Food expenses can really add up. The Moms have talked about their approaches to saving on nutritious meals over the years.

Baby Food

Making your own baby food is one option to bring down costs.

  • Making Baby Food:  breaks down exactly how she fed her babies their first solids, including calculating her savings over store-bought food.
  • Homemade Baby Food:  talks about how she made homemade baby food work at home and at daycare. (Yes, I just referred to myself in the third person. Because I can.)

What’s your approach to saving on food?

Foodie Fridays – The Mess and Mayhem of Feeding Twins

It may be a while now since my kids have been considered toddlers, but one thing I clearly remember about that stage is the mess and mayhem that was feeding twins solids.

Feeding Twins Baby Food

Mealtime Mess BabyWhen my twins first began eating baby cereal and foods, we didn’t have high chairs, so instead we used their baby swings for a while.  Eventually we acquired two random high chairs from friends, and then for Christmas of that year, my in-laws bought us those seat saver booster seats.  No matter what seats they were in, babies, bibs, seats, trays, chairs, and floor all become one disgusting mess.

I remember traces of food ending up on eye lids, lashes, hair, ears, diapers, everywhere!  My husband and I would just have to laugh at the mess that was twin mealtime.Baby food

I remember disliking feeding my children for a long time (okay, I still do a little bit).  Not only was I already spending a large amount of my day breastfeeding two babies, (or supplementing with a bottle), but on top of that I also had to feed two squiggly, sometimes unfocused and uncooperative, babies sitting in high chairs.  And then clean up afterwards.  It sometimes felt like the vast majority of my day was spent either feeding babies or cleaning them up.  I often had to remind myself that I, too, needed to feed myself!Infant sucking on feeding while eating

One of my daughters is an avid two middle fingers sucker, and meal time was no different.  In goes the spoon, then in go those fingers.  It would create an even bigger mess as her fingers and hands were rubbed on her head, the chair, and more: all was now covered in colorful baby foods.

And bibs were a bit of a joke in my opinion.  Maybe if I had been willing to spend money on nicer, bigger bibs (why are they so expensive?) with snaps instead of Velcro (I don’t like the Velcro ones as my kids just ripped them off and the sticky grip of them lessened after frequent washings).  But, we were poor and I didn’t want to spend money on bibs, of all things.  I more often than not just stripped my kiddos down when it was time to eat.  Skin somehow seems easier to clean.

Feeding Twins Finger Food

Once my children got to the finger food stage, I thought maybe they would be making less of a mess (no more soupy baby food), but the mess just moved to the floor.  And like other new mothers of multiples, one of the first things to go was a regular cleaning schedule.  And some of those foods would get stuck, superglue-style, to the floor, and their chairs.The Mess and Mayhem of Feeding TwinsMy solution, especially after we moved to an apartment that had a carpeted dining area (WHY?!), was to lay down a plastic disposable table cloth underneath the two chairs, which I bought for a dollar each at the dollar store.  Every few days, (or once a week), I would pick up the table cloth, carefully dump the loose contents into the trash, and then wipe the tablecloth with a wet dish rag.  After that I’d give it a good spray with some Lysol and let it dry in my kitchen, then lay it back down.  I am so cheap, that I didn’t want to throw it away after only a few days. Eventually it would end up in the trash and a fresh table cloth laid down.twins eating at tableThe Lysol was sprayed because, like most toddlers, they would occasionally eat some of the food that accumulated under their seats.  Yes, the five-second rule turned into the two-day rule on some food items.  It seemed as if one of my daughters preferred hard, crispy day-old whole wheat tortillas to the soft ones.

Twins Feeding Themselves

Slowly but surely, our twins started eating with utensils, making eating foods easier and less messy.  In the slowly part, I always tried to make sure my kids had their bibs on, were pushed up as close to the table as possible, and I was always sitting there to supervise.  If I wasn’t, they would take the opportunity to play and make an enormous mess.

What have you done to make feeding your twins (or more) baby food, and finger foods less messy at meal and snack time?

ldskatelyn is the mother of twin three-year-old girls and a bouncing baby boy.  She is so glad the messy mayhem of infant and toddler feeding is mostly behind her so she can spend less of her day cleaning children, clothes, chairs, and floors.  She loves her life as a stay-at-home mom and blogs about her family and all their adventures at whatsupfagans.com.

Foodie Friday: Quitting the Recipe Quest for My Picky Eaters

Fresh carrots

Photo Credit: Distant Hill Gardens

My friend Karl once told me that there’s a good reason that children develop pickiness in their food choices around age two. Around that age, hunter-gatherer kids would start to stray farther from their mothers. Their dislike of unfamiliar (and I assume a bunch of familiar) foods protected them from sampling poisonous leaves and berries when mom wasn’t looking.

As I discovered with breastfeeding, “natural” doesn’t mean “easy.” A picky kid, normal though she may be, is a pain to deal with. It seems ridiculous that in a time where nearly any food is available to us at any time of year, we struggle to get our kids to eat a well-rounded diet.

I have egg on my face from my bragging about what great and varied eaters my girls were during the early stages of solid food.

J is a little picky. She hates anything in sauce… unless it’s pasta in red sauce, dryish macaroni and cheese, or ranch dressing. The toddler who inhaled yogurt, bananas, fish and curry has turned into a school-age lover of pizza, sandwiches and mac and cheese. She won’t sit near anyone eating yogurt. She’s recently decided that all cheese is “slimy” unless it’s grated, so I’ve had to start leaving cheese out of her sack lunch sandwiches. She’ll eat most kinds of fruit and raw vegetables, although she’s anti-pear and anti-banana. She likes chicken fine and loves fish. She loves bready things of all sorts: sliced bread, rolls, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles. We stick with whole-grain at our house.

M is much pickier. Like Sissy, she hates sauce textures, although she will eat applesauce and has recently branched out to marinara. She even allowed herself a taste of yogurt the other day! We’ve come a long way from dealing with her texture aversion in feeding therapy. She’ll eat several kinds of raw vegetables: broccoli (stems only), spinach, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, jicama. She’ll also eat boiled or canned corn.

She loves apples.

"I love my mom because she always lets me eat apples when I want to eat apples."

Seriously, the kid loves apples. My Mothers’ Day gift was a declaration of love for me based on the fact that I “always [let her] eat apples when [she wants] to eat apples.”

Other fruit? Don’t bother, unless it’s a purple seedless grape. Green grapes are a no-go in the under-30 set at our house.

Protein is easier. Like J, M will eat chicken, pork, fish and eggs. And breads… she loves her bread. The kid would live on pancakes, apple slices and breakfast sausage if I let her, occasionally eating a croissant for dessert.

These children have inherited my sweet tooth, but that’s a tale for another day.

For years, I’ve sought out recipes that will tempt my children’s palates. When M was a toddler, I came to terms with her odd rhythm of living on milk for a couple of days, only toying with her food at mealtimes. She’d then eat a single gigantic meal before returning to 2 days of a liquid diet. I’ve learned to accept that the things that my kids will eat taste bland and boring to me. I’ve learned to focus on nutritional balance over variety. And I’ve learned that I’d rather spend time talking to my kids about their observations of the world than arguing over food.

In recent months, I had a flash of insight. If my kids prefer their fruits and vegetables raw and separate, why do I seek out vegetable recipes? My love for rich combinations of flavours and textures doesn’t mean that different concoctions and preparations will tempt my children. They can have their veggies raw. At least they’re eating them.

Now, instead of coaxing my kids to try the latest and greatest vegetable solution I’ve come up with, I lay out a raw vegetable or collection of veggies at meal time. The girls can assemble their own salads or keep their carrots from touching their jicama if it’s that kind of day. J can have her ranch while M and I forgo dressing.

Do they like what I like? Not yet. Are they getting their fibre and vitamins? Yes. Are they learning to make good food choices? Yes. Would I rather we could all enjoy Cajun okra or curried cauliflower together? Absolutely.

What’s your children’s take on fruits and vegetables? Do they eat them cooked? Raw? Not at all?

Mealtime at Our House

Ah, starting solids. The wonder of discovering different tastes and textures, of food spooned into the mouth instead of sucked. A rite of passage.

I’d like to invite you into our house, for this wonderful event that is mealtime. Please come share in the excitement. Here is a scene from dinnertime any day:

Ask Toddler what she would like to have for dinner. Answer is invariably chocolate milk or candy or ice cream. Scratch that, prepare for Toddler some pasta or chicken nuggets, foods she will at least attempt to eat.

While food is cooking, pick up Baby Girl (or Boy) from whatever she was doing, usually jumperoo or superseat or rolling around on the floormats. Take her to her highchair, buckle her in. Pick up Baby Boy from whatever he was doing, take him to his highchair, buckle him in. If they are already hungry or otherwise in a bad mood, this can be a tricky endeavor as they will not go in without complaint.

Prepare oatmeal/something-pureed/breastmilk mixture while Toddler’s food is finishing up. Ask Toddler to get in her highchair. Ask again, and again, and usually again. Toddler turns off her iPad and climbs in. Serve her food, tuck on her bib, pour her drink.

If babies are not screaming yet, putting on their bibs will definitely do the trick. I learned long ago that the molded plastic bibs are much better at catching food than regular cloth ones, so we go with these, but they do not like getting them put on. In fact, Baby Boy requires the plastic AND the cloth, because he does not lean forward enough to prevent food from dribbling into his neck and down his clothes. So I double layer him while he struggles. And cries. (Anyone ever wondered how tiny babies can have such freakishly strong arms and legs?)

Now I’m ready to start the feeding part, and I’m already tired. Good thing Toddler is settled in her highchair eating by herself. But wait, “Mama, it’s hot! Blow on it!”

Finally. Spoon some lumpy goo into Baby Girl’s mouth. She scrunches up her face, pushes most of it back out with her tongue. Try to scoop it all up and push it back in her now-closed mouth with the spoon before it falls in her bib. Let her savor that for a bit.

Baby Boy’s turn. First pull his head out of his bib because he is completely hunched over trying to eat it. Spoon some goo into his mouth. Immediately he will stick the index and middle fingers of his left hand in his mouth to suck on them. Yup, he has not yet figured out how to eat without sucking. So watch as the majority of the food just scooped in runs into his hand and goes in the bib, as well as down his arm and onto the highchair, his clothes, whatever else is around. Be careful, he gets frustrated and will fling his arms about if he doesn’t get enough food fast. But he makes that pretty tough as those fingers need to get pulled out of the way first!

Meanwhile, Baby Girl is grunting for her next bite. Very ladylike deep gorilla grunts. Quickly, or she will start eating her bib as well. The next spoonful usually does better after she’s adjusted to the taste. Happily, I quickly spoon a few more in. Oh, wait. Sneeze! Sneeze. Sneeze again. I am sprayed with projectile green/orange/yellow goo.

As I clean Baby Boy’s arm and highchair, wipe myself and Baby Girl from her sneeze aftermath, Toddler is yelling, “More orange juice Mama!” I ask her to wait and hope that she can until I am finished with her siblings, but she is persistent so I have to refill/wipe-up/change-out whatever it is she is yelling about before going back to the surely-screaming-by-now babies.

And funny how much Baby Boy can sound like a pterodactyl. Except it’s not funny at the moment, because his screaming is making his sister cry. And his other sister is now yelling “All done! Get me out!”

I feel a headache coming on. And baths are next. Not funny at all.

lunchldyd is mom to a daughter just-turned-three, and solids-eating (sort of) 6 mo b/g twins