Foodie Friday: “The Rules” of Eating

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Categories Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Solid FoodsTags 5 Comments

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.

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Foodie Friday: Make-Ahead Mama

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Shortly after my now-four-year-old girls came home from the hospital, I feared my husband and I would never eat a “real” meal again.  When the delectable gravy train of home cooked meals from friends and neighbors slowed to a halt, Hubby and I found ourselves standing in front of the refrigerator, deciding between (yet another) ham sandwich or a frozen stir-fry meal-in-a-bag.  While I anticipated some degree of “camping out” with two newborns in the house, I was afraid I would never again have the time or energy to prepare anything more.

Once upon a time, I loved to cook….to spend a couple of hours chopping and dicing, sautéing and simmering….to put a three course meal, perfectly presented, on the table for Sunday evening dinner.  I came to the realization that it’s going to be a while before I can enjoy the luxury of engrossing myself in kitchen heaven for hours on end.  But I am proud to say that we eat more than ham sandwiches, and I found my passion for cooking again, although in a much different light.

The crock pot is one of my best friends.  I have become the master of make-ahead casseroles.  I love being able to assemble a dish the previous night, and then pop it in the oven an hour before dinner.  And when I do cook something “fresh”, I often cut down on my time in the kitchen by doing the prep work….my beloved chopping, dicing, and sautéing….ahead of time.

Yes, we eat a lot of one-dish meals these days, but at least they’re not all out of a bag from the freezer.  There’s something I find really satisfying about being able to pull it all together.  But rest assured, I do reserve the right to serve up a delicious ham sandwich now and again….which I think is more than fair for a mom of multiples!

What are your tricks for getting dinner on the table?

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.

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Foodie Friday: A Healthy Debate

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DDSeinfeldDo you ever cook dishes in which you hide nutritious ingredients that your family would usually refuse? Many home cooks have been doing this for decades, but Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious shows how mainstream it’s become to sneak fruits and vegetables into our children’s food.

SaraBeth’s Perspective

My husband is a picky eater.  I resigned myself to the fact that I’d need to get him eating better before we had children so he could set an example.  I see “sneaking in” some standard vegetables to be a great way to make a comfort food favourite into something with a little more nutritional punch.

I bought the Deceptively Delicious book for my sister at Christmas a number of years ago for her eldest daughter who lived on a beige diet of bread, chicken fingers and milk.  I decided to adopt some of the ideas for us adults to get us into the habit of getting a little more nutrition without sacrificing the flavor.

After reading Deceptively Delicious myself I started using some of the fundamentals of the book to get us eating a little bit better.  I’d routinely add spinach to casseroles, stews, sauces, eggs, I’d add a cup or two of bananas or blueberries to my muffins or pancakes or I’d make soups that pack a lot of blended vegetables to get us eating a little more green.  I sometimes even try some desserts that focus on fruits more, but would make those anyway because they taste so good.

When the minions were born my husband and I had a big talk about integrating food in a way that would get them exposed to a variety of different dishes, spices and so on.  Luckily both of our kids are good eaters, my daughter has a bit more of an adventurous palette with a penchant for spicy hummus, dill pickles and curries.  My son is a bit more meat and potatoes guy but still regularly chooses sliced vegetables and fruits for his meals.

Sometimes we need a bit of help reaching our fruit and vegetable quota for the day, parents and children included.  I think that adding fruits and vegetables into certain dishes has become more of a healthy recipe revolution than a sneak attack.  Then again I haven’t resorted to dehydrated kale chips or mixing spinach into chocolate shakes just yet, but I know that my children and their tastes change every day, so never say never.

Sadia’s Perspective

It took becoming a parent for me to realize that I wasn’t the expert on child-rearing I had always fancied myself to be. One of my most humbling realizations is that my M is an enormously picky child when it comes to food. Despite her willingness to try all sorts of things when we was a young toddler, she is picky, picky, picky today. I walked my talk and exposed my daughters to all sorts of flavours and textures when they were younger. Still, M has turned out to be difficult to feed.

I worried about M’s nutrition. Every time she refused a meal, I pictured her sliding even farther away from the growth chart than she was already. I decided to jump on the hidden food bandwagon. I hid pureed beans in muffins to give her a protein kick. I made my own ketchup from tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and pureed whatever-vegetable-I-had-on-hand. I hid cauliflower in macaroni and cheese only to discover one day that M suddenly hated mac and cheese, with or without cauliflower.

It was during a regular review of my parenting priorities that I began to realize that hiding nutrients wasn’t for us. My first life priority is the girls’ immediate well-being, and hiding sneaky recipes accomplished that. My second priority is their long-term well-being. I realized that by hiding the good food I was providing my daughters, I was standing in the way of their learning how to make good food decisions. I decided that teaching J and M good decision-making was more important than their food intake on any given day. For a while, I tried sneaking vegetables into the girls’ meals and also offering them what I wished they would eat. Before long, I got rid of all my sneaky recipes, and I haven’t looked back.

On occasion, J or M will refuse to eat the meal I’ve prepared. Instead of getting all flustered, I have the ungrateful picky child prepare a meal for herself. Lunch and dinner at our house must include a grain, a protein and a fruit or vegetable. A tortilla, a fistful of cashews and some apple slices? Sure. Cheerios, deli meats and carrots? Why not? Cinnamon toast, refried beans and mandarin oranges? Whatever, honey. I’m not seeking elegance, just nutrition.

The takeaway

Sneaking ingredients that your family wouldn’t eat into food that your family will eat is a great tool, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re struggling to get your children to eat a balanced diet, it may be worth a shot. Check out some ideas.

What do you think about “sneaky” recipes?

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Foodie Friday: Quitting the Recipe Quest for My Picky Eaters

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Categories Difference, Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Frustration, Health, Older Children, Perspective, Preschoolers, School-Age, Solid FoodsTags , , , , , , 1 Comment
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?

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Energy-Smart Nutrition for New Moms

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The concept of “eating for two” has always been associated with pregnancy, but you shouldn’t stop eating for three (or more!) as soon as your children are born, especially if you’re nursing. What a new mom eats can have a direct effect on her babies’ health, so it’s important to be aware of what foods and drinks you’re putting into your body and to make sure you’re getting enough calories and calcium for everyone.

Additionally, new moms who follow healthy, balanced post-baby diets will likely be more energized and better-equipped to handle the stresses of newborns, no matter how many you have! To keep yourself and your new children healthy as you head into post-pregnancy life, use the following guidelines to get an idea of what nutritional choices are best for new moms—and their new multiples!

General Guidelines:

New nursing moms should still be eating more calories than they just need for themselves and should focus on getting a lot of low-fat calcium. Avoid spicy foods like chilies and peppers and stick to foods that are easy to digest. Eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks at regular intervals to keep your energy up; you’ll need a lot of it if you’re dealing with multiples!

Protein

One of the best ways to keep your energy up as a new mom is to make sure you’re getting lots and lots of good-for-you proteins. Lean chicken and salmon are two great ways to consume this protein; salmon is especially high in good fats and can assist with brain function, but be careful not to eat too much of it since it’s high in mercury. Aside from meat, eggs are also high in protein. Tempeh, tofu and beans are good vegetarian and vegan food options.

Whole grains

Whole grains provide folic acid, a nutrient crucial in newborn development. Aside from that, whole grains are wonderful sources of fiber and iron. Make a bowl of oatmeal, use whole grain bread for sandwiches and choose whole grain pasta options to make sure you’re getting a good dose.

Calcium

New moms need more calcium than most women, so make sure you’re filling your body with good-for-you calcium sources. Low-fat yogurts, skim milk and low-fat cheeses are easy to work into quick and easy meals and snacks; add some fruit to your yogurts for an extra serving of nutrients.

Fruits and Veggies

Getting plenty of vitamins and antioxidants as a new mom is crucial for a healthy diet and will assist with your babies’ healthy development, too. Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants and oranges are a great source of vitamin C for nursing women who need extra quantities. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are also good antioxidants and provide a host of other vitamins new moms need.

Drinks

Although you may feel like you need a constant stream of espresso with newborns, going overboard on the caffeine isn’t a good idea. A cup of coffee is fine, but drinking one every five minutes will backfire when you when you crash later on. Keep the caffeine to a minimum and instead energize with some of the foods mentioned above.

Author Bio: This is a guest post by Meredith K. on behalf of Lightlife®. For high-protein products and vegetarian recipes for new moms on a vegetarian diet, visit www.lightlife.com.

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Teach a Child to Grocery Shop…

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My husband has a very physical job, and our daughters, M and J, are incredibly active kids. It takes a little more effort on my part to fit exercise into my day, since I have a desk job, but I do my best. I will admit that I haven’t been good about working out since we moved to El Paso, so I’m thankful for Goddess in Progress‘s weight loss contest giving me the push I need to get back in shape. I like aerobics and Pilates, with the guidance of exercise videos in the privacy of my home. The twins and our cat join in with differing levels of effort.

Alongside intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, social responsibility, and self esteem, my husband and I believe that it is our responsibility to teach our children about physical well-being.

Unfortunately, our daughters’ school isn’t helping. Although they have daily physical education, they’re teaching the kids all about junk food. Cookies and slushies are available to purchase at lunch time. No carrots. No sliced apples or bananas. After school, there are cupcakes and cookies on sale, tempting the kids right before they exit the school and are handed over to their parents. On Halloween, each child was asked to bring a bag of candy for the school trick-or-treat event. Every classmate’s birthday heralds cupcakes with neon icing.

The other day, J volunteered to accompany me to the grocery store while M stayed home with Daddy. As I reached for the box of Cheerios M had requested, J asked whether she could choose her own cereal.

“Sure,” I told her, “But you have to choose one that has 6 grams or fewer of sugar per serving. Any more than that makes it a treat cereal instead of a breakfast cereal.”

I showed J the nutrition facts on the side of cereal box I was holding, pointing out where the sugar grams were. She picked one brightly coloured sugary cereal after another, rejecting each one for having too much sugar. I suggested that she’d have better luck if she looked at some granola boxes. She finally settled on Kashi Honey Sunshine.

ServeImage“Mommy,” J asked me, “can I teach M how to look at sugar next time when she comes shopping with us?”

She had her chance tonight at dinner, when M asked for a third serving of Welch’s sparkling grape juice. My husband told her that he thought she’d had enough sugar for the day, and offered her water instead. J showed M how to read the label and exclaimed, “38 sugars! That’s a whole bunch.”

“That’s true,” I told her. “This juice is a treat. We drink it for the flavour, not because it’s feeding our bodies. It’s fine to have a treat every so often, but it’s very important to make sure that we get all the different things our bodies need. We need protein to be strong, and fiber not to have hurty poops. Our body needs some fat to stay healthy, but not too much.”

For the rest of meal, the girls pored over the nutrition label on the juice bottle, asking about the different nutrients. My favourite was J’s reading of calcium as “Colosseum.” There was something quite lovely about the image of ancient architecture bolstering our bones.

I taught myself about healthy eating in my early 20s. Both my parents developed high blood pressure in their 30s, and I didn’t want to go down that path. Rich, fatty Bengali curries with massive quantities of rice must have contributed to their cardiovascular issues and my father’s subsequent Type II diabetes.

It certainly helps that both my husband and I love to cook. It’s hard to put too much junk in our bodies when we’re aware of every ingredient we eat. We don’t tend to count calories, and we’re not averse to eating out, but we try to be responsible, while allowing ourselves our treats. I’m fond of chocolate, and my husband of red wine.

I hadn’t planned to teach our girls to read nutrition labels at 5. I imagined that the model we set at home would show them how to make good food decisions. Peer pressure, though, is a strong force, and M told us today that she had bought 6 cookies at lunch to share with her friends. We don’t want the girls to feel like they need to diet or deny themselves the occasional sweet treat. However, we do want them to understand that while eating is a social and pleasurable activity, nutrition is the primary role of food. Food for taste alone is an extra, and to be taken in moderation.

Are you surprised to hear that junk food is being sold in elementary schools? What would you do if you discovered this in the school your children were to attend?

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Kids in the Kitchen

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Categories Development, Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Preschoolers, School-Age, Solid Foods, ToddlersTags , , , , , , 1 Comment

Every time that I start to stress about J and M’s eating habits, I remind myself of our parenting goal: Healthy, happy, whole adults.

Of course I want our children to have a healthy diet in the here and now, but it’s far more important to me that they be equipped to make good food choices even when I’m not around. I’ve taken three basic approaches that have worked for us:

  1. Educating our daughters on what makes up a balanced diet, and how different foods contribute to their healthy growth.
  2. Including them in food purchase and preparation decisions and activities.
  3. Demonstrating that listening to their bodies is valuable and taking a non-combative approach to food.

I keep meaning to copy a friend’s brilliant idea of displaying the USDA food guidelines—the old pyramid, or the new plate—on the refrigerator.

ChooseMyPlate.gov image of a healthy food breakdown.

Even though we don’t have the picture up, we have always talked about meals in terms of needing a protein, a fruit or veggie, and a starch. We’ve also talked about the need for dairy, but since the girls drink milk morning and night, I haven’t required that they include dairy in every meal. I try to keep my explanations of why food choices are important accurate, but simple. We need protein for strong muscles. Fruits and vegetables help our bodies fight germs, and help us with healthy skin, hair, eyes and nails. We need carbohydrates from energy. Milk products help our bones be strong. Our body needs some fat so that it can get all the goodness out of other foods, but too much can be unhealthy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sweet or fatty foods, but they are just for flavour, rather than nutrition. I’ve rarely turned down the girls’ requests for sweets, because they ask for very reasonable portions: a cookie or a single piece of chocolate.

Our whole family enjoys food: eating it, preparing and cooking it, even playing with it. If only mine wasn’t the Great Black Thumb, we might enjoy growing it. The kitchen is the heart of our home; I’m old-school like that. It should come as no surprise that our daughters have always been welcome in the kitchen.

My husband may have shortened my life by a year or two by placing our infants in their bouncy seats on the kitchen counter while he cooked. In retrospect, though, I’m glad we’ve always had them with us. Once they could sit, I’d pull the girls’ highchairs into the kitchen, and give them each a plastic bowl and spoon to bang while I made our meals. When I had cleanup time on my hands, they would help me stir. If I needed to get my hands dirty, J and M could splash their hands in the bubble-filled kitchen sink.

As they approached age 2.5, M and J could be trusted not to put everything in their mouths, so their kitchen repertoire broadened significantly. They could help me measure out ingredients, even plan meals. I’d let them choose between fish and chicken, for example, or rice and couscous. Another great option was chef’s salad. I’d chop up lunchmeat and cheese, boil some eggs, grill some croutons, and present a selection of vegetables. As long as they included some of each food group, they were good. It’s easy to do the same with sandwiches, too. We baked cookies and muffins, too, but that was more of a game.

Now, at 5, J and M often help me plan our weekly grocery list. M recently observed that lasagne is a balanced meal in itself. J refused dessert at lunch yesterday because she was full. She knew there would be another ice cream opportunity soon enough. The girls came home from daycare recently telling me that they had been given soda at school. (Let me tell you that we’re not going back to that center.) They were as horrified as I was, but confessed that the cola was “sweet and yummy.” I told them that soda was a sweet treat, and they could have some when I did, a couple of times a month. There was no argument.

When the girls are full, we let them leave the table. If they’re not hungry, they don’t have to eat. They know that they won’t get anything until the next snack or meal. My husband and I both fight the urge to nag at them to eat more or clear their plates. I think it’s a natural parental impulse. We just have to keep reminding ourself that we want our daughters to stay as healthy, happy and whole as they are now.

How do you include your children in the kitchen?

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Ask the Readers: Handling Picky Eaters

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It’s been a while since we’ve Asked the Readers. Please, help us out in the comments!

What is your favourite trick for tempting a picky child at mealtime?

I was quietly ecstatic when my kids first took to solid food. Fish, spinach, fennel—they loved them all. I thought they were set for a lifetime of adventurous eating. I hadn’t read far enough into child development books, though.

At around age 2, kids tend to get pickier in their eating habits. It makes sense. The hunter-gatherer argument is a compelling one. 2-year-olds stop putting anything and everything in their mouths, including many foods, because that is the age they would start straying farther from their mothers in hunter-gatherer societies. This pickiness is a survival instinct that lasts until they are old enough to make mature choices regarding what is safe to eat.

Whether their pickiness is explainable or not, picky eaters present an enormous challenge to parents. When M was at her pickiest, she could go two days on nothing but milk if nothing struck her fancy. I worried that she would starve. She’s only recently begun enjoying food again.

Please share how you deal (or would deal) with picky eaters.

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Homemade Baby Food

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This post on homemade baby food was previously published on my personal blog in April 2009. Still, I decided to commit the sin of republishing a stale post in the interest of this week’s theme of trimming the budget with multiples.

A very messy baby.I made a lot, though not all, of our twins’ food when they first started solids.

I had nothing against jarred baby foods, but I wanted to provide M and J with fresh foods and more variety than I could get from the baby food shelves at the store. I started out using the jarred stuff, but soon realized that with two enormous baby appetites, it was far cheaper to make purées in larger quantities. At age 18 months, our twins averaged an even 12 lbs in weight, but could down the equivalent of three jars of baby food per meal, three times a day, each. That could easily have me spending over $100 per week on baby food.

The girls’ daycare didn’t start providing meals until kids started table foods, and was very accommodating of the frozen or fresh purées I’d bring in every day. It actually wasn’t that much work. Once M and J were exposed to a pretty large variety of foods, I’d simply leave half of each dish unpuréed, salt it, and eat it myself. I don’t think the girls were any better nourished than kids fed Gerber or Earth’s Best goodness, but it worked for us.

There were definitely folks who found my choice to minimize prepared baby food in the girls’ diet to be pretentious. Perhaps it was. One thing that raising identical twins who are far from identical has taught me is that there is no right way to parent.

When new and expectant mothers tell me that they’re considering it and ask how I made it work, I give them a list of my favourite tools. Here’s what goes in my baby shower gift for friends who’ve asked my advice on how to start making their own baby food:

  • Annabel Karmel‘s book, Top 100 Baby Purees. The recipes were good, but even more helpful to me was the idea that baby food didn’t have to be bland. Onions and garlic in baby food? Cinnamon in fruit purées? Why not? I didn’t introduce salt or refined sugar until after Jess and Mel’s first birthday, but used other more mature flavours with abandon. Note that Karmel is British and follows Great Ormond Street guidelines on introducing new foods to children, so the age guides don’t always correspond to the recommendations of the American medical establishment.
  • KidCo food mill. This produces food that corresponds to a Gerber Stage 2 texture. The mill comes apart completely and can be washed in the dishwasher. There are no sharp edges, which is a necessity for someone as clumsy as me. It’s perfect for taking to restaurants so that you can share your meal with your baby. You turn the mill upside down, pop in your food, insert the base and set it on the table. Then you push down gently while turning the handle, and the ground up food gets pushed up into the bowl at the top of the mill. You can feed baby straight from the mill, and then pack it up in its carrying case to take home and wash. It’s the perfect size for one child; I did have to refill it to get enough food for both girls.
  • Ikea flexible icecube trays. Unfortunately, Ikea no longer carries the triangular icecube trays for portions that fit perfectly in Ziplock sandwich bags. Whenever I made a new batch of baby food, I’d keep out enough for a couple of meals, and freeze the remainder. Once the cubes were solid, I’d pop them out and store them in the freezer in Ziplock bags labeled with the contents and date. Three to four fully defrosted cubes made a full meal for both J and M.

There are a few generic tools that I consider a necessity.

  • A good quality blender. This is how you get the smoothest purées for a first introduction to solid foods.
  • A full-scale food mill. I used a handcrank food mill that I still use for applesauce and apple-pear-sauce. When I first started to introduce texture in the girls’ food, I’d process half of each batch of food through the blender and half through the food mill and mix them back together. Once they were ready for chunkier foods, I switched to the food mill.
  • Small bowls with lids and, yes, baby food jars. You’ll want to transport baby food from time to time. Baby food comes in jars for a reason! They’re a great size and very sturdy. I reused baby food jars many many times. I also loved Gerber Bunch-a-Bowls with lids.

Do you have any other tips or recommendations for cutting food costs without compromising nutrition and taste? Please share!

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Smoothie Addicts

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Solid Foods, ToddlersTags , , 12 Comments

My children have a problem. An addiction. Something they ask for morning, noon, and night. (Even more than they ask for TV.)

My kids are smoothie addicts.

Smoothie Addicts

It’s all my mom’s fault. She’s the one who introduced the smoothie into our lives. And indulged the kids’ every-morning request when we stayed at her house for the holidays (and last summer, and the winter before that).

Smoothie Addicts

Truth be told, it’s probably my very favorite toddler addiction.  To them: majorly awesome frozen sweet treat.  To me: fruit and calcium.  And it couldn’t be any easier.

The specifics, as we make them at my house, in case you’ve never made a smoothie yourself:

  • 4 (ish) strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup (ish) frozen blueberries
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup (ish) yogurt, any flavor or plain
  • 1/3 cup (ish) milk

Clearly, you can see I’m not scientific about this, I just dump stuff in the blender.  If I’m using fresh strawberries, I’ll often throw in a couple of ice cubes to keep things nice and cold.  Switch it up and throw different kinds of fruit (fresh or frozen) in there. Or, as we did at my mother-in-law’s house when I was improvising, a little scoop of mango ice cream.  You can’t go wrong, and aside from the occasional ice cream, you can’t argue with its nutritional value.

So, as long as my blender pitcher is dishwasher-safe, my kids can have a smoothie any day of the week.

P.S.  If grandpa is there when you’re making smoothies one day, and tells the kids to “hold their ears” because it’s loud, your son may do this every time you make one:

Smoothie Addicts

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