Wednesday, January 27, 2010

kids menu

We're on vacation which means eating out more often. We are lucky to be sharing a condo with a kitchen so we can have some decent, cheaper and reliable meals (the breakfast buffet at the resort is $20 a person!) We've had salads and chicken, sandwiches and chips, beans and avocados. We can also keep snack food on hand like boiled eggs, yogurt, shrimp, blocks of cheese, crackers, fruit etc.
What makes me crazy are the kids' menus at restaurants. At least a few of them include pasta and marinara, but the standard fare of chicken fingers, fries and hotdogs rule the day. Don't get me wrong, we (all) had hotdogs for lunch yesterday and Mac n Cheese is for dinner tomorrow, but the assumption that kids can't or won't eat the food their parents eat is a self-fulfilling prophesy.


Two nights ago we were at a steak, seafood and sushi place. M tried the pickled ginger, loved the calamari, licked a hand roll and declared it "ewie." What she really wanted was steak and mashed potatoes. Why restaurants don't provide half portions of regular food is beyond me. (Well, I actually guess it's because the frozen deep-fried fare served to our kids is really cheap for them and means a high profit margin...)
So she had a steak with rice (no mashed potatoes available) and broccoli. We took half home and she had it the next night for dinner. I fried up some mushrooms with a little butter and mixed it with the leftover rice and added some green beans and the steak. She loved it both nights.
What are your food tips when you're away from home?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

breaking all the rules...

Count how many "rules" I break in the following narrative of our day. See if we agree at the end...

When I talk to families struggling with feeding, I stress the importance of structure. It is important to offer fat/protein/carb at every meal and snack, roughly every 2-4 hours. Most days I practice what I preach and things go pretty smoothly. Sunday was another matter and an example of how challenging it can be. In an effort to not go crazy indoors, we have been visiting the Oxford pool as M is really into swimming now. (After months of intense fear of getting her head wet.)

Anway. We enjoyed pancakes for breakfast (mostly carbs) with about 1/4 cup of high protein Greek yogurt. I had some business calls (which is rare on a Sunday) and spouse had to work- which is less rare. So, M watched TV with some cut up apples and a big bowl of popcorn which she nibbled from about 10:15-11:30. At this point I was starving so we had lunch around noon. M of course wasn't hungry having grazed all morning, so she had a cucumber with Ranch. (I had whole wheat bread, ham and cheese sandwich, cucumbers, clementines and milk.) Then we went to the pool. By 1:30 she was asking for food. I had packed clementines, a banana and a small rice Krispie treat. (The snack bar there serves popcorn, nachos, ice-cream and cookies...) She ate the Rice Krispie treat, half a clementine and then was dying to get back in the water. By 3:15 she was crying that she was hungry, which considering that she had had a mini cucumber and rice krispie treat in the last 4 hours was understandable. (For those of you who have heard me talk or read Child of Mine, imagine what her little blood sugar charting would have looked like. Probably crashing right around then.)
So we got home, she had some TLC crackers, cream cheese and a clementine. Then rushed off to church where they gave her a snack of raisins at 4:45, then home for dinner which was cut up veggies and dip, a salsa-based stew which turned out to be really spicy so we gave her left over mac -n-cheese (we had no fresh bread available.)
We ended up with a really haphazard day which felt off and chaotic. She didn't have time to sit and tune in to hunger (TV, the draw of the pool, rushing to church, then a snack on a snack.) Then I broke the cardinal rule and let her eat separate food (short order cook.)

So, we all have crazy days, and break the rules– but I'm not worried. It was an aberration, it wasn't alot of fun. It will happen again, but not too often I hope! Nobody is perfect, nobody has to be perfect. Do the best you can, be honest if you think you can do better, and realize that part of eating normally is "breaking the rules" sometimes.

What days like this in fact do is remind me of how much better our days are when we sit down to eat without distraction, take our time and have balanced offerings. It's a great motivator to keep up all that work.

"mistake" count: TV, rushing, did not offer protein with snack, short-order cooked, let her decide when to eat (though this was a byproduct of our off-schedule morning grazings)
6 and counting probably...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

jeans and body image

I had a meeting with a friend at a coffee shop this morning and the Barista (that's the person who makes the coffee...) said, "Wow, you are rockin' the boyfriend look. Where did you get those jeans?" I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently, my ill-fitting, over-sized, road salt-stained jeans from Old Navy are fashionable. I love these jeans because they are comfortable and functional. I also love to wear pretty colors and flowy dresses, and sometimes more form-fitting clothes in anywhere from a size 8-12 depending on the clothing item. My mom would hate these jeans (and would not hesitate to tell me.) Now, as thrilled as I was to be informed that I was trendy, it made me think about clothes and how they fit and how we feel in our clothes and in our skin and mothers and weight...

These jeans are too baggy for her taste. It reminded me that all the clothes I have bought with my mom, or that she kindly offers to buy me are invariably too tight and uncomfortable. She wants clothes that are "slimming" or have stretch. (Of note, she is quite fashionable and did come of age in the 60's with the bee-hives and mini-skirts.) I used to protest that I couldn't breathe right or bend down during fitting room negotiations, but she would usually convince me to allow her to buy me the smaller clothes. Even now, the message I hear is, you don't look skinny, and how other people perceive your size matters. Recently I did a talk in a pair of my black "work" pants and couldn't get a deep breath. I literally sat down and unbuttoned them during the talk. (Hey Wisconsin workshop attendees, did anyone notice?) I wondered if all that wonderful bread I was eating was changing my body. Then I realized these were pants I had bought with my mother...

One mom of a now college-aged girl lamented that she had tried to motivate her daughter to lose weight, already in middle school, by buying her nice and trendy clothes in sizes that were too small. She has a good relationship with her daughter, but her daughter does struggle with body-image and eating. Her daughter recently told her how hurtful that was, and how it made her feel bad and fat and ugly, and that her mother would love her more if she was smaller. This was not her mother's intention at all...

We should love ourselves and our children as we are. Find and buy stylish clothes (if that is important to you) that fit and that are comfortable. When kids pick up on, or are told directly that they are fat, or too big, or that you would prefer them to be any other way than they are, they can't feel good about themselves. In fact, kids who think they are too big feel flawed in every way. They feel less smart, less capable, less lovable and are more likely to engage in counterproductive behaviors like dieting, disordered eating and less physical activity. See my article on "Talking to your kids about food."

Monday, January 11, 2010

affordable organics in bulk

Refilling this bottle with organic Italian herbs cost .52 cents. A new bottle would be $2-4. I bought Bay leaves recently and paid about 20 cents for a $3 bottle size.
It's not too hard, but does take a little more thought.
You can use any bottle, tupperware etc. Here's the procedure. (Or just fill the little plastic or paper bags at the store and tag them. Bring it home and refill your containers there...)
Bring your container to the front desk (place like Whole Foods) and ask them to weigh it empty. Use a Sharpie or sticker and put that number on the top of the container. Then fill with what you want (herbs, couscous etc ) put the number of the item on the sticker or label and bring it when you check out.
At co-ops like Mississippi Market, Wedge etc. there are often scales for you to pre-weigh the container yourself. I think you also post-weigh and label it. I've messed up before and they've always been really great about it. (Forgotten to label, or pre-weigh once...)

Items I buy in bulk with major savings...

whole wheat couscous (I don't care much for whole wheat pasta, but this is good)
tea leaves
flour (sometimes)
I keep meaning to do pastas and more, but this is what I've managed so far. Do any of you have bulk favs?

Friday, January 8, 2010

toothbrushing tips

One thing I never got was the whole oral hygiene craziness. I doubt our parents were wiping our newborn gums. You read about it in Parenting magazines. You know, you're supposed to be wiping down the infants gums twice a day, then start brushing the minute a tooth shows up. Did anyone actually do this? I admit, we tried brushing her teeth, and she didn't like it so we continued our half-hearted attempts. (Early toddler-around 15 months.) I remember reading so many different opinions. "Don't force it..."
I knew this was important, but wasn't sure what to do. I remember my pediatrician saying, "It's that important. You need to make her do it. After a few days she won't fight anymore."
So that's what we did. The first few times was a team effort. She would open her mouth a little, and Dad helped to hold it open. It was brief, but got the job done. Within 2 days, she understood that we would hold firm and this was going to happen. We never had a tantrum again. Now, that's not to say we didn't get protests on occasion... Her teeth are spaced pretty far apart, and we haven't gotten into flossing yet... One more thing to feel guilty about!

Here are some Mommy tips to make it a little easier. (Thanks to my ECFE mom group for these!)
1) Keep a brush in the bathtub. She might go for it with her nightly bath.
2) Have two different brushes. Let him pick, "Spiderman or Diego tonight?"
3) Let him do it first, then you "double check," praising his efforts
4) Let your young toddler hold one brush while you brush with the other.
5) Have them make animal noises. Open mouth might be a tiger "Roar!" clenched teeth maybe a monkey, "ee, eee, eeee." Make it a game.

**One of the most important factors with the increasing cavities kids are getting these days is the frequency of meals and snacks. Kids who graze much of the day have more exposures to food and the bacteria that make cavities love to have frequent meals themselves. Even if it's not candy– say just pretzels or crackers– cavities will ensue.

Keep your kids on a schedule of eating every 2-4 hours, and only water in between!

Did any of you do the recommended dental hygiene, starting with regular gum-wiping? Did you do it with all your kids, or just the first one? :)
Do any of you floss with your preschooler?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

what we've eaten this week so far...

I just met with a great group of mom friends. One mom said she is just not creative in the kitchen. Here are a few thoughts. (A great book is Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family-Satter, or Quick Fix Meals- Robin Miller.)
Sometimes I meal plan around grocery items that are on sale. Sometimes I don't meal plan and rely on my freezer. (Tuesday night) This can be dangerous if you don't have a well stocked freezer. See post earlier in the week with frozen pizza, frozen soup and veggies...)
bulk buys I needed to use up: green beans, cucumbers, mushrooms

lunch: rotisserie chicken (sometimes you just can't face another sandwich,) home-made bread, cheese, ham, carrots, cucumbers and ranch
dinner: veggie stir-fry with shrimp (mushrooms, bean sprouts, broccoli) and rice
rotisserie chicken leftovers with mushrooms and tomato sauce on tortellini (store-bought) and oven-roasted green beans, home-made bread
(see photo) leftover frozen pulled pork (from a crock pot meal) heated with chicken broth served on whole wheat rolls with BBQ sauce or ketchup, cooked green beans, tomatoes and cucumbers with home-made ginger dressing
tuna noodle casserole (using the mushrooms)

I used something from each dinner in M's lunch box. Stir fry one day, tomato sauce and rice in a thermos, green beans in a thermos...

How to make a red sauce using left-over meat.
sautee in oil one chopped onion and 1 clove minced garlic
add meat (chopped small chicken, beef, pulled pork)
add one large can of crushed tomatoes
add 1/2 tspn Italian herbs and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve on pasta and can use parmesan cheese...

Monday, January 4, 2010

mushroom challenge

So, in an effort to save money (and buy some yummy bread) we went to Costco yesterday. My challenge? Figure out how to eat 24 ounces of mushrooms before they get slimy.

Yesterday had stir-fry. Tomorrow plan on Tuna noodle casserole... We'll see.

How not to save money? Buy fancy whole grain bread from Costco. (We love it and it was warm from the oven at $2.50 a loaf vs $4 for our Dimpfelmeijer that we get shipped from Canada.)
Then proceed to leave breads outside ( on purpose to freeze in the Minnesota weather before putting in chest freezer) only to be eaten by hungry and cold rodents (probably squirrels...) Lost 2 out of 6 loaves. Not smart, not saving money...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

taste the love

We talk about love a lot as I suspect many families do. We say, "I love you" but we also talk about how we can show we love each other in other ways. Doing chores, giving hugs, making a drawing or a card for someone, letting someone sleep in, going to work every day... I think that people who cook and prepare food for others also show their care and love. How special do you feel when someone bakes pie from scratch, or you smell home-made bread?
The other night we had pork chops, carrots and peas and oven potatoes. I said to M, "I put my love into the food I cook for you and Daddy and I," and she replied, "I can taste it!"
Made my heart melt. Often enough, even with an adventurous eater you get greeted with "Yuck" and "I don't like shrimp!" It is so nice to hear, "Great dinner Mom!" (The most raving comes on mac-n-cheese night, so effort does not necessarily correlate with compliments.) Remember, your job is done when you put the food on the table. You can feel good about yourself, your partner can model, "Thanks for making this great dinner," then let the kids eat, or not...