WutsupBaby | Organic Quinoa Cereal

Say hello to WutsupBaby, a healthy, high-quality meal option leveraging the nutritional power of quinoa.  

 


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WutsupBaby | Organic Quinoa Cereal

Learn more at wutsupbaby.com
Ensuring our kids are getting regular nutritious meals and snacks sets them on track for a life of good health, and that’s one of the best gifts we can offer them. That said, it’s hard for busy parents to find the time and energy to prepare nutrient-rich meals every morning. Say hello to WutsupBaby, a healthy, high-quality meal option leveraging the nutritional power of quinoa.  

Overall Rating: 4.67

Rating Scale: 1-5

Innovation Rating: 5

The quinoa powder is pre-cooked so you just add your liquid of choice (water, juice, or breast milk). The individual packets are a totally portable and convenient snack option made from simple, nutritious ingredients: quinoa, fruits, and vegetables.
 

Usability Rating: 5

Packaged in appropriately sized 0.5-oz. easy-to-open packets, you can have breakfast made for your 6+-month-old (4+ months with the “original” option) in under three minutes while holding her in one arm. (I did this.)
 

Price Rating: 4

$10 – $11
With eight packets in a box, you’re essentially getting a week’s worth of breakfast options for approximately $1.25 per serving. The 0.5 oz. size is just the right amount for a single serving if you slice up some banana or mix with applesauce or yogurt. If you buy in bulk, you can find quinoa for $5 to $8/lb (~$0.25/serving). Ask yourself if the time and energy to grind, heat, cool, and mix before feeding your kiddo in the morning is worth that $1 difference. For me, it totally is.

The Honest Truth About Food Costs in This Country

If we just planned our food budgets better, we could all allegedly spend less money and get better quality food at the same time. But is that really true?

Food costs have long been the subject of many national debates. Americans may not be aware that food has come to occupy an ever smaller part of their budget. As recently as the 1960’s, Americans spent about seventeen percent of their income on food. This was down from more than 40 percent at the turn of the century.
Today,  the average American household spends about ten percent of their income on food. This is a relative pittance compared to some other countries. The French and Japanese spend a lot more than we do.
Food is everywhere in the United States and it is often far less expensive than our forebears might have dared imagine. For many contemporary Americans, the question is not the cost of the food we eat. It is the quality of the food on our tables.
Americans, we are told, eat too much and eat food that is of poor quality. If we just planned our food budgets better, we could all allegedly spend less money and get better quality food at the same time.
One recent meme posted on a popular website takes direct aim at American food spending habits.
Food Price Comparison 3
The top half of the meme has a fried chicken fast food meal. In this scenario, the buyer gets eight pieces of chicken, four biscuits, two small side dishes and that’s about it, all for twenty bucks. In the second half of the meme, the buyer has the same twenty bucks to spend. Only this time, the buyer gets a lot more for the money.
Gone are the fried chicken and side dishes. Instead, the buyer gets all kinds of healthy food. This buyer, we are told, will have two pounds of chicken, ten pounds of potatoes, eight ears of fresh corn, a gallon of skim milk, a pound of lean ground beef, eighteen ounces of oats, two pounds of frozen peas and a pound of dried kidney beans. For dessert, they get a pound of peaches and two pounds of yogurt.
On the surface, this would seem to illustrate the problems with American food consumption in a vivid and accurate way. Most people believe this meme demonstrates just how much Americans need to change their food buying and eating habits. After all, isn’t healthy, cheap food vastly preferable to unhealthy, expensive food? Shouldn’t we all think twice about how better to spend our food dollars and get even more food for less money?
One intrepid Chicago parent saw this meme and was inspired to find out the truth behind the pictures. Was it really possible to buy five or more single, healthy, nutritious meals for the cost of a single takeout meal? Could she buy all this food at her local area supermarket, all for a mere twenty dollars?
Nicole White is a working mother of two with a passion for health care and nutrition. As a nurse in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, she sees clients who struggle with funds for food each day during the course of her practice.
Her Community Nursing project was on obesity in the low-income Black community on the South side of Chicago, giving her a firsthand look at the problems that often result from the food that our poorest citizens consume.
She knows that perhaps her patients could use their food budget in ways that might make their food dollars go further. Yet, she was upset at the prospect of people blithely chiding others for failing to use their food dollars well.
With that end in mind, she looked carefully at the bottom half of the meme and headed to two places. Her first stop was to a Walmart in the same low-income neighborhood where she works. This particular Walmart, unlike full sized Walmarts that are denied permits, was allowed to open specifically because it is in the midst of a food desert. In short, it is no suburban gathering place but rather the store where the powers that be expect poor people to do their grocery shopping.
Her second stop was to the local outlet of her fast food chicken chain.
The net result of her little excursion?
At Walmart the two pounds of chicken ran her over thirteen dollars not the two bucks in the meme. Ten pounds of potatoes was nearly four bucks, not less than three, as was quoted in the meme.
While some items will be more expensive at this time of the year as it is not summer (three nectarines cost her over four dollars while eight ears of corn were about eight bucks) others are in season all year round and still far more expensive than stated in the meme. A pound of lean ground beef was more than five dollars, not the three asserted by the meme.
She also headed to her local fried chicken place where she bought a standard meal including a chicken and three large side items along with four biscuits.
The fried chicken cost? $22.10. The final tally for the food in the bottom half of the meme? A whopping $47.40. While you might think that perhaps costs food costs are higher than other parts of America, this is not true. Many food items like rice, tomatoes, and oranges come in below national averages. Moreover, again this is a Walmart specifically intended to serve the needs of the poor with good, nutritious, cheap food.
Similar food costs can be found all over the country.
Let’s be honest. No one is advocating eating junk food all the time or even more than a few times a month if that. Fried chicken and coleslaw are once in a while items and that’s it. Many Americans could well afford to revamp their food budgets and use them better. Even at about fifty bucks, the second food bill is still a far better use of money. Oatmeal, fruit, chicken, peas, fresh corn, potatoes, and yogurt are all more nutritious than a fast food dinner.
But that’s not why this meme was put out there. It wasn’t put out to remind us all we could choose to use our food dollars better. It was put up to shame people. It was put up to imply that some people spend their food dollars well and others don’t. And that is why, like so many other such assertions, it fails miserably.

Soul Crushing Kid-Favorite Foods From the Dark Side

I don’t want to hate on them because they really do save my life most days. But have you ever tried to clean up three hundred grains of cooked rice?

As a mama with four little girls under the age of nine, I normally LOVE any food that they will willingly eat without me pinning them down and shoveling it into their mouths. Day after day, I prepare three square meals for four very different individuals with very different preferences. That is TWELVE VARIED MEALS A DAY, if you are keeping count.

Tomatoes on this plate, cucumbers on that place, no pork for the youngest, no crust for the middle child, the oldest hates ranch dressing, the others consider it life blood. Everyone is screaming, everyone needs more, foods cannot touch, and GOD FORBID they are required to use the same spoon for both applesauce and cottage cheese.

What cruel mother would even suggest such a rotten thing?

The mealtime song and dance is getting so very old and, quite frankly, it is starting to crush my soul day…by day…by day. This is why it kills me to write a post like this. I’m about to hate on the foods that give me the will to carry on. These foods are foods that all my kids willingly eat. In fact, they love these foods.

The problem is that I haaaaaaaate them. How ironic is that?

Let’s start with that a-hole rice. Yeah, rice, I’m talking to YOU. Rice is just about the the easiest thing on the planet to prepare. It takes a mere three minutes, and my family would gladly eat up an entire box every single evening. Super. Except that rice is evil.

Have you ever tried to clean a boatload of rice off hardwood floors? Holy mother of hell, it is a nearly impossible task. It cannot be swept up, and if you try and sweep it up, you will just drag the ricey residue across the entire floor. It gets stuck in every single possible crack and crevice within 20 feet of the dinner table. Not cool, rice. Not cool.

Then there is popcorn. Oh, popcorn. At first you seem so simple, but what a fallacy that is! Each popcorn kernel has the ability to break into a million microscopic pieces and then multiply in the abyss that is your couch cushions. Well then, how amazing!  

As an added torture bonus, the kids manage to spread buttery grease onto every surface of the house. Double whammy! Alas, it isn’t a true movie night without this greasy mess, so we are stuck with you, popcorn.

Cereal. This one truly breaks my mom heart. I want NOTHING MORE than to love cereal. Nearly every single morning, that rectangular box of crispy goodness stops my band of screaming misfits from destroying my will to live. What could possibly be the problem with cereal, you ask?  

Well, first of all, cereal is a serious smoke and mirror act. At first you want to worship it for saving your ass at 6 a.m., but then it turns on you. Yep. Too soggy, too much milk, not enough milk. It spills, it sticks, the twins paint the counters with it, and then I get to chisel it off the granite later in the day. We are f**king done, cereal. Waffles it is. Waffles would never do me wrong like you have.

Another food my kids absolutely adore is a nice ripe cherry. Cherries are a great and healthy snack! They are also the fruit of Satan himself. Have you ever combated a cherry stain? It’s the pits. (See what I did there?) No, really though, once that juice hits any fabric, you might as well toss the article or burn it. You will never EVER get that antioxidant laced goodness out. It’s so unfair.

Why can’t my kids love Kale like they do cherries. Kale is an antioxidant abundant super food and it has never threatened to destroy me with its super staining powers. Cherries come with a real added torture-bonus in that they contain pits. In my world, this means all kids screaming at me in unison to remove the pit from their cherry. If I’m really lucky, they succumb to their impatient tendencies, discover the pit in their mouths, and spit it across the room. Or choke on it.

Moving right along to our final food offender, we have applesauce. I’m going to be straight with you all. Applesauce can go straight to HELL. I have been messing with this goopy demon since the girls were babies, and I really don’t think that, in 10 years, they’ve gotten any better at maneuvering the slop into their mouths.  

It is sticky, it creates a film on all surfaces, and it doesn’t even hold any nutritional value. It’s kind of a stupid food, actually. Why not just slice up the apple and call it a day for humans over the age of two? Another great question would be why does an applesauce hater like myself find herself throwing a giant container of this shit into the grocery cart week after week? Got me.

So there they are. Five foods that I continue to feed my children daily even though they are crushing my faith in humanity. 

Posted on Categories Back TalkTags

The Lies I Tell My Son So That He’ll Eat His Dinner

It may not be a sustainable system, but for now, lying to our kid to get him to eat healthy food seems to be working.

We were in the grocery, waiting to check out, when my son spotted that tantalizing row of colorful candy bars shining in the impulse aisle. “What,” he gasped, “is THAT?”

“This?” I asked, holding up a bar of pure milk chocolate filled to bursting with creamy caramel. “You wouldn’t like this. It’s medicine.”

“Ew,” my son said. “I don’t like medicine.”

“This one’s really bad,” I told him. “It tastes like dog drool. You’d really hate it.”

It wasn’t my finest moment. Ten years ago, if I’d seen a parent lying to their child in the brazen openness of a supermarket, I’d have tsked and quietly told myself, I’ll be a better parent than that.

Today, though, I am a parent, and I am not better than that. My wife and I lie to our son about food often enough that it’s almost a family policy. It’s not something we’re proud of, and it’s not something we’d recommend to other parents – but it is something we’re doing.

And it’s working.

We have our reasons.

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Because we can’t beat happy meals.

My son loves McDonalds. When we pass by the golden arches, his eyes light up, he leans forward, and he shrieks in delight. To him, the thin, processed pieces of meat they shove between two stale pieces of bread are the greatest delight any culinary mind has conceived of.

We found out why one day, after insisting on Subway as a healthier option. Admittedly, eating at Subway to stay healthy is like twiddling your thumbs for the exercise, but we took the compromise we thought we could win.

Our son wasn’t thrilled.

“Does Subway have a toy?” he cried. “No! No toy! Who’s going to give you a toy at Subway? Nobody, that’s who!” It was a freak-out at a third grade level. A part of me couldn’t help being a little proud. Still, we weren’t going to let him win.

It was my wife who had that flash of brilliance. She grabbed a toy from the nearest dollar store and snuck it into the hand of a Subway Sandwich Artist. When it came into my son’s hands, she beamed a proud smile and said, “See? They do have toys after all.”

It’s almost become a tradition now. When we eat, we’ll sneak off to the waitress and make her into a co-conspirator. It’s dark and dirty parenting, and isn’t going to work forever – but right now, we get to eat wherever we please.

Because it gets him to try new things.

Another breakthrough came when we got our son to take his first bite of spinach. As the soggy, bitter taste touched his tongue, his face scrunched up into a look of total revulsion – until lying saved the day.

My wife suddenly put down her fork. “Wait a minute, did you see that?” she said, the words slipping out of her breathlessly. She placed a hand at the top of his head and stretched her other down to his foot and stared at him with a look of total amazement.

“He just grew an inch taller!”

I nearly leaped out of my chair. “He did!” I said. “It must be the spinach! Try another bite! Let’s see if it happens again!”

By the time dinner was done, our son had eaten an entire bowlful of spinach and was still begging for more. When he sees us cooking, he’ll ask for it. Spinach is now his favorite food.

Granted, at this point my son believes he is 9’10” – but at least he eats his vegetables.

Because everybody else accepts lies about food anyway.

Our son believes he can spontaneously grow a foot by eating a leaf of spinach – but at least the lies he believes about food are good lies.

“Cheese is healthy,” one friend assured us as she dumped a pound of it into a melting pot. “And I mean, I think this is real cheese, too, so it’s definitely good for you.” Picking up the package, she added admiringly, “Yep, it’s even local. See, it says right here they’re American Slices.”

“Y’know, I read somewhere that chocolate is good for you,” another told us as she slipped open a jar full of Hershey’s. “It has oxidants or vitamins or fights cancer or something. Anyway, you can eat as many Hershey’s Kisses as you want.”

Newspapers across this country are full of studies about how chocolate and red wine are the key ingredients to any healthy diet. We’ve been tricked into believing some insane things by companies who want us to buy bad food – so is that wrong to trick someone into eating good food?

Because he can’t know what good food tastes like.

There was a time when our son’s diet wasn’t as strong. Before he turned two we were just happy to get something in his body – and, nine times out ten, that would have to be chicken nuggets.

I would spend hours sitting with my son, holding a carrot in front of his face and trying anything imaginable to get it in his mouth. “I will buy you a bicycle,” I would say. “I will literally run to the store right now and buy you a brand new bicycle if you just take one bite of this carrot.”

My son would watch my eyes to see if I was wavering, look at the carrot and consider for a long while. Then he’d stare me dead in the eyes and say, “Big bike. I want big bike.”

He’s forgotten what nuggets taste like now, but if he ever finds out it might all be over.

It’s a constant risk we live with. Just the other day, I let him try a cheesy nacho fajita bowl and he was unable to stop. “This is good,” was all he could say as he trusted spoonful after spoonful of thick, stringy cheese into his mouth. “This really good. Wow. Oh wow. You got good food, Dada.”

It was a like he was having a spiritual experience. It didn’t take long before the mound of food I didn’t think I’d be able to finish on my own had slid over to my son’s side of the table, and he passed me his plate of rice and broccoli with a, “You can eat this.”

Lying to your children is not an approach I’d recommend. It is not a sustainable system. We are going to regret it. We are creating deep-rooted, long-term trust issues that will scar him psychologically later in life.

But we’re doing it. And for now, at least, we can make it through the checkout aisle full of chocolate bars he thinks are medicine without fighting through a tantrum.

And I can cough, grab a Snickers bar, and tell him, “Dada has a cold.”

Why You Need to Rethink What Your Teenage Athlete Eats

Teens can be grumpy and surly enough without hanger creeping in. Here are a few ways to manage their healthy appetites.

In a world where many parents might be concerned about their children overeating and putting on weight, I have the opposite problem.

I have to ensure that my daughter – a gymnast who trains over 12 hours a week – eats enough nutrient-dense calories and protein-rich food to not only get her through the long school days, but to sustain her through her training sessions.

The trouble with the high school lunch rush.

I’ve put a considerable amount of time and effort in to making sure my children make healthy eating choices, however, I didn’t account for the difficulties of being the youngest group in a huge school. The younger ones are basically at the bottom of the food chain at my daughter’s high school. In other words, they get what’s left. That meant my daughter would be lucky to grab a panini for lunch and fill up on some other white carb and sugar snacks to get her through the day.

With a 12-hour day at least three days a week, we began to see a real change in our daughter’s personality. Often too tired to eat when she came home after gymnastics, she was sustaining herself on very little food and this made for one very grumpy girl. Blood sugar highs and lows don’t mix with pre-existing teenage temperaments and something had to change, for all our sakes.

Teens don’t always want to take their parents’ advice.

Thank goodness she’s dedicated to her sport enough to take my advice when it comes to eating sensibly and thank goodness she lets the comments about her relatively low weight roll off her back because she knows it’s just typical teenage jealousy talking.

Since coming to the decision that school lunches weren’t enough to sustain her, I started putting together protein-rich and calorie-dense lunches that would. I didn’t want to completely take away the decision-making freedom that high school gives you, so I involved her, bringing together both of our ideas to make something that would not only be more nutritious, but that she would also eat.

On a gym day, her lunch box looks something like this:

This may seem like a lot of food, but bearing in mind she leaves home at 7:30 A.M.  and gets home at 8 P.M., it’s enough to see her through break times, after school and post training.

Change in diet = personality transplant.

Gone is the whinging, lethargic girl who struggled to keep up with her day. In her place is a girl full of energy, happy, relaxed, and fun to be around. This change was necessary in order for her to take her gymnastics training to the next level.

We had also warned her that in order to do all this training, she must keep up with her grades at school. Eating properly is key to being able to do that, and if she wants to silence her critics about not eating enough, she can always show them what’s in her school bag. I think they might be surprised by what they find in there.

What Happens When the Parent is the Picky Eater?

It’s not always the parent trying to coax the kid into eating more adventurous eating. Some of us are raising tiny incarnations of Anthony Bourdain.

At his favorite restaurant, a gaudy massive Chinese buffet, my son Owen fills his plate with baby octopi. He doesn’t just eat them, he dissects with commentary. For a picky eater like me, listening to descriptions of texture and anatomy is almost more than I can bear.

My first child ate virtually nothing after he gave up nursing. My husband and I are robustly built people who couldn’t get our little one to eat more than a bite or two, leaving us a very physically mismatched family. The kid is nine now and still considers food an annoyance that interrupts his life.

So when baby Owen arrived, I was ready for food fights once again. But from his first joyous bite of applesauce — no spoon, straight from a pile on his high chair tray — Owen has loved food. Not just treats, not just when he’s bored, not just when he’s hungry. The kid savors flavors and wants to explore them.

Miso soup is a favorite, full of umami and salt. “What are the white squares?” he asks.

I don’t want to ruin it for him so I’m wary answering. “It’s called tofu. It’s like…hmm.” I hate tofu so I’m at a loss for words.

Owen doesn’t wait for my explanation, though. He scoops a few cubes into the deep spoon, looks carefully at them, and then eats.

“It doesn’t taste like anything.”

The food adventures began as a male bonding exercise. My husband loves trying all kinds of food, especially the ones that make me squeamish. Owen learned early on that a willingness to sample new foods made his father proud. He was an early adopter of asparagus and artichokes, salmon roe and stinky cheeses, long before he could even tie a shoe. Father and son became a team.

Owen’s food love has grown past his father-son relationship. For his fifth birthday he wanted our friend to make him obento for lunch. I’d made arranged standard America fare into cute bento box style for months, but that wasn’t what he wanted. Hard-boiled egg cut into the shape of an animal, seaweed wrapped rice ball looking like a masked ninja, tiny sausages steamed into tentacle creatures. Our friend was thrilled to have a fan club so she went all out on my boy’s special Japanese lunch. It was easily his favorite part of the day, far surpassing the Spiderman festooned cake.

Seafood and Asian specialties are at the top of Owen’s list. The funkier the smell, the better. He enjoys his foodie identity as part of what makes him unique. I love this about him. He’s unswayed by the kids at lunch with their boring sandwiches. I pack him nori (dried and crunchy seaweed), Thai dried shredded fish, and cantaloupe.

I’m never going to be a brave eater. I abhor anything white or creamy and, honestly, this is fairly limiting. But each time Owen grocery shops with me we try to select a new food to try out as a family. Cactus fruit, cinnamon sticks, the olive bar with its dozen options, rambutans. The cactus, nopales, will not be coming back even with the spikes taken out. Some olives were more popular than others with their strong brine, though I find all varieties vile. But the alien looking spiky fruit spheres with a sweet gelatinous layer inside covering the enormous seed? I love those things! Without Owen, I never would have tried them.

I love to watch Owen overcome his fears – of food, of cockroaches, of anything – and surpass me in life. And it’s not just the food. I like to think my little son is more open to unfamiliar experiences in general. Will he bravely go off to science camp with strangers? Skydive? Choose an unpopular political opinion? I hope he’ll listen to his own voice – not just about what to eat, but what to think, and who to be.

We’re planning a family trip to Thailand soon. I’m excited to explore, and try new things. But I’m nervous too. Big cities, unfamiliar culture, unknown language, and the sheer mass of humanity. Oh yeah, and the pan roasted bugs I’ve heard so much about.

I know that with Owen’s guidance, I’ll step outside my comfort zone, order something more than plain steamed rice, and try to open up to whatever comes my way. Even if it once lived in the ocean, or worse yet, under a rock.

6 Simple Tips That Will Get Your Kid Psyched to Make Dinner

Your kid doesn’t want to help at meal time. What they want is to be in charge. You can let them.

Getting my almost-7-year-old to set the table is mostly an exercise in exhaustion. He doesn’t want to set out the napkins. His brother should do it. Apparently, he’s willing to help by tossing four forks haphazardly across the table. And that’s that.

After this, again and again, I was beaten down, ready to give up. And then, last Sunday, it dawned on me: My kid doesn’t want to help at mealtime; he wants to be in charge. So I delegated dinner to him. All of it—from the planning to the plating, napkin-setting included. And… It was a raging success.

So that you, too, might try this tiny-guest-cheffing approach with your own kids, I offer the following steps how of this kid-boss dinner went down.

1.  I encouraged him to take requests. I did this because

1) I wanted him to realize that even though he was in charge, it was important that he consider the wants and needs of our crew; and

2) as a health-focused eater, and kind of control freak, I wanted an  opportunity to improve the nutritional profile of our dinner without presenting as a micromanager.

I suggested that J serve broccoli as a side to his selected dish of homemade macaroni and cheese. Little bro requested bacon. Luckily for all of us, he agreed to both.

2. I asked him to write out a menu. The purpose was to keep him engaged and excited while I wrote out a real shopping list for the rest of the week. The bonus was that the menu—featuring  “bacon” (with an accompanying illustration), “mack n cheese,” and “strobraries”—is a sweet keepsake of this special supper.

3. I took him food shopping. This wasn’t a new thing. I’m a big fan of grocery shopping with my boys (preferably one at a time): it presents an opportunity to talk about new-to-them foods, health and budget considerations, and the difference between a drip and espresso coffee grind. On this day, it also offered a chance for J to revise his menu based on what looked fresh and delicious—something good chefs do. In the end, he decided he wanted to serve raspberries instead of “strobraries.” With whipped cream and chocolate. He also picked out a bunch of pretty (and inexpensive) flowers for the table.

4. I resisted the urge to take over. During the many steps of prep, I acted as my son’s sous chef (and boiling water/hot oil handler). He measured, shredded, chopped and sprinkled—all quite nicely, I might add. He even delegated some stirring to his brother, who happily accepted the task.

5. I suggested he make the table feel super special. This basically was a giant ploy to get him to set the table (the original pain point, as you may recall). The purple-and-yellow bouquet, procured at Trader Joe’s for a mere $3.99, helped. He picked out matching placemats, deftly folded napkins and laid out forks straighter than ever before. And actually seemed excited about it.

6. I handed him dishes. And proudly watched as he proudly plated his creations.

J’s next dinner is scheduled for Sunday. For the past few days, he’s been dreaming up delicious dishes and eagerly perusing cookbooks (including two of our family favorites, Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal and Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week).

He hasn’t set a menu yet, but there’s been lots of talk of nachos and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Chef’s choice. We’ll take it.

I Tried Baby‐Led Weaning and My Son Still Hates Vegetables

Some say baby-led weaning can lead to better dexterity and a more sophisticated palate. But it’s not a guarantee they’ll gobble everything up.

There is always a new parenting trend to try. If it makes sense to me, and doesn’t take too much effort, I will likely give it a shot. That’s how I came to baby‐led weaning.

Baby‐led weaning is a fancy term for finger foods. It basically means you skip purees and go straight to real food, food that babies can grab with their fat little hands and gnaw on like animals. This is for babies around six months to a year, when food is a supplement to milk.

According to the trend‐setters/preachers, the method is supposed to improve dexterity early on, get kids acclimated to real food, and introduce them to a wide variety of colorful roughage that promotes healthy eating for a lifetime. Think all children are picky eaters? Not baby‐led weaners, no sir!

As someone who is solid frenemies with food of all shapes and sizes, I’d like my son to have that healthy relationship. If baby‐led weaning was a way to start things off right, I was definitely going to try it. Also, it promised to be quick and easy. I’m cheap and a bit on the hippie side, so store‐bought purees weren’t for me.

The other option was to make baby food. This involves varying degrees of prep, which takes time. Time that is – when you’re dealing with a six-month-old – very much at a premium. Baby‐led weaning involved a little chopping, steaming, cooling, and… done. That sounded good to me.

The verdict?

Let’s start with the good news. Baby‐led weaning was incredibly easy. It took maybe five minutes to get food together for my little guy. Bonus: it was also adorable. I have endless pictures of my son grasping a stick of zucchini, smashing blueberries all over his face, and inhaling broccoli dipped in hummus. The whole process was disgusting and messy and ridiculously cute. (Make sure to put a drop cloth underneath the high chair. And get a dog.)

The bad news? That healthy-relationship-with-food thing. You know, the important part of the whole equation.

My son is now two-and-a-half and he’s just like every other toddler when it comes to food (and tantrums, but that’s another blog post). He’s a picky little monster, surviving on mostly bread and cheese. His love of vegetables? Gone. He will sometimes ask me to dip his broccoli in hummus, but I think it’s just nostalgia. It goes untouched along with the rest of his dinner.

I spend most of my life avoiding foods that are so wrong but feel so right. I run three times a week so that I don’t feel quite as guilty when I go for those nachos or that extra slice of pizza. But the guilt is still there – still way there – and I’d love for my kid not to deal with that.

We’re so lucky to be able to make bad food choices, but we also have the means and access to make good choices, too. I want my son to opt for the good, not because he feels guilty, but because it’s what he wants to do. For his health, yes, but for his taste buds, too. I want people to think he’s weird for wanting veggies instead of fries with his meal. I want him to be that guy who hates soda.

There’s research now that food habits begin in the womb, so… good news, moms-to-be! We get to start this food worry even earlier! As someone currently cooking up a baby, I often feel guilty-for-two every time I go on a cake‐eating binge or finish an entire bag of chips. Sometimes I take a beat, remember how much my son used to hate cake, and realize that habits change. For the worse, yes, sometimes, but maybe for the better, too.

This is why I refuse to make “kid food.” My son eats what the rest of the family eats. He won’t starve; he’ll always have his bread and cheese and fruit. And every now and then, there’s hope, like the chicken marinara he inhaled the other day. He asked me to lick the sauce off first, but I’m calling it a win. And not just because I got all that extra sauce.

I don’t regret trying baby‐led weaning. I do think maybe he would like soup and applesauce a bit more if he had been exposed to purees, but that’s not a huge loss. And again, it was SO easy. Maybe, for new parents, that is the most important thing.

I know I’m going to pass on bad stuff to my kids; that’s something none of us can avoid. The best I can do is keep putting those green beans on my son’s plate, keep ordering a side of spinach for the little one I’m growing, and hope the good will eventually outweigh the bad.

Posted on Categories Analog Life, FoodTags

Don’t Let Your Family’s Healthy Eating Take a Vacation This Summer

With summer vacation comes more ice cream, fried food, and soft drinks. Here are some helpful tips to keep your family eating healthily all summer long.

While dog-day afternoons and balmy summer nights might easily lull you into a more relaxed lifestyle, don’t put your family’s healthy eating habits on snooze while you downshift into summer mode.

Although you probably welcome this slower pace if your life normally runs at warp speed, you might need to put a new twist on your usual eating strategies to stay on top of special summer situations.

While everyone loves to indulge in a summer treat once in a while, don’t let an ice cream cone, concession stand hot dog, or interstate gas station stop turn into a summer-long binge of bad eating.

Whether you’re going on a week-long vacation or just taking a day trip to a baseball game or theme park, you need some solid strategies to keep your family eating healthily during the summer.

On Vacation

If you’ll be driving to your vacation destination, a little pre-trip detective work will help you eat healthily en route.

“When you’re going on vacation, planning ahead really helps. If you take the time to plan out where you’re going to stay, you should also scope out the restaurants ahead of time,” suggests Sara Haas RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, chef and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, based in Chicago, IL. “Instead of scrambling at the last minute to stop at a fast-food place along the way, you’ve got a list of restaurants that you know serve healthy food options.

You could even rely on smartphone apps (such as Around Me, Feed or Yelp) to suggest nearby options along the way based on your current location. Once you’ve found a place to eat with healthy options, watch out for this common trap: free drink refills.

“If your kids fill up on those bottomless glasses of soda, juice or even milk, they’re loading up on liquid calories and not really eating any nutritious food,” warns Haas. “Instead, just order water and ask the server to bring out slices of oranges, lemons, and limes to let your kids make their own flavored water at the table. It will give the kids something to do, but it will also give them an incentive to be creative and then drink the water they made.”

Another pitfall? Gas station convenience stores. When you stop for gas, kids get out to stretch and then make a beeline for the snack aisle in the store. “Go ahead and let them pick something,” says Haas, “but you choose three relatively healthy options and let your child choose from those three things. That way, you’re in control, but they feel a little bit in control because they still get to choose.”

Okay, you’ve finally arrived at your destination—now what? One perk of vacationing is the opportunity to explore new places, including local restaurants. But how can you enjoy trying fun new foods while traveling without loading up on sugar, sodium and saturated fat? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers some additional tips for eating right while on your summer vacation:

  • Sample small amounts of high-calorie food. You don’t have to avoid it entirely. Just eat a few bites.
  • Many restaurants serve very large portions, so don’t hesitate to split orders.

Another tip to keep your healthy vacation eating on track? Keep your eating forays in check by eating in more than eating out if you can. Try renting a condo with a kitchen or bringing a small cooler to store a few perishable foods. Head to a nearby grocery store and buy a week’s worth of milk, cereal, bread, fresh fruit, vegetables and canned tuna or chicken. You’ll save money and calories by preparing one or two meals each day in your home-away-from-home. Keep in mind that it can be easy to “graze” while on vacation. Try to set meal times and stick to them.

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On a Day Trip

If your family plans to go to a baseball game, state fair, theme park or even the beach, planning ahead once again tops the list of ways to eat healthier while enjoying summer family fun.

For the car ride, place coolers and lunch bags in the back seat instead of the trunk to keep them accessible. Pack them with healthy snack and meal options, making sure perishable food doesn’t sit unrefrigerated for more than two hours.

Try these healthy options:

  • Stock up on fresh vegetables and fruit for snacks, like cut broccoli florets, carrot sticks, and apple and orange slices.
  • For beverages, bring canned or boxed 100-percent fruit juice, canned tomato juice and bottled water.
  • Pack easy-to-transport, shelf-stable foods. Good choices include cereal, trail mix, popcorn, single-serve applesauce, and peanut butter sandwiches.
  • Deli sandwiches, yogurt and low-fat cheese make a great lunch.

If you want to increase the chance that your kids will eat healthy snacks (whether at home or on the road), Haas suggests letting kids make their own snack bags. Make it fun so they’ll want to eat them. For example, put them in a brown bag and put stickers on them. In fact, a study from Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab found that any sticker encouraged a healthy choice (like an apple) over an unhealthy choice (such as a cookie). With younger kids, in particular, sometimes all it takes is a little creativity to make healthy food more appealing.

While you’re on the road, talk to kids ahead of time about what kind of drinks and snacks they can have once you arrive at your destination. “Offer up a few choices that they can pick from, such as a soft pretzel, peanuts or a box of Crackerjacks,” advises Haas. “If you don’t prepare them ahead of time, they’ll probably keep asking for a lot of junky snacks throughout the day. You’ll end up saying no all day, which can spoil everyone’s mood. If you lay the groundwork before you get there, your kids won’t be surprised.”

Some places—like many zoos, theme parks, and water parks—often allow you to bring your own food inside, or offer picnic eating areas outside the front entrance. Take advantage of that option to save money and maintain better control over what your family eats for lunch. Then splurge on a treat later, like a round of frozen lemonades or ice cream cones.

“When we go on vacation or to special places and events, we tend to think, ‘Oh, let’s just treat ourselves because we never do this.’ And I think that’s totally fair,” says Haas. “But I think it’s better, especially if you have kids, to not talk it up so much. Don’t hype up how awesome it’s going to be when you finally get that ice cream. Just enjoy the splurge without making a big deal about it.”

Finally, be aware that marketers pitch their high-calorie beverages at places they like to call your “points of sweat”—the beach, golf course or theme park. But downing these drinks often adds up to plenty of empty calories that don’t satisfy your appetite. The solution? If the venue allows it, take refillable water bottles with you so you’ll have a sugar-free, zero-calorie thirst-quencher on hand to keep hydrated.

With these solid strategies, you can keep your family eating healthily on the road and away from home this summer.


Cranberry Pumpkin Granola Bars

Make a batch of these healthy granola bars for your next road trip!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup prunes, very finely chopped (or pulsed find in a food processor)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, very finely chopped (or pulsed find in a food processor)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300’F. Line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper. (Using two overlapping strips works well here for removing the bars from the pan after baking.)
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats and pumpkin seeds.
  3. Heat a small pot or pan over medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, stir in the pumpkin pie spice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the pumpkin puree and cook 1 more minute. Stir in the maple syrup, salt, prunes and cranberries. Remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture.
  4. Pour the oat mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly across the bottom. Using a piece of foil, wax paper or parchment paper, cover the granola bars and push down evenly on the top to compress the mixture. The firmer the bar, the better it will hold together after it’s cooked. Remove foil, wax paper or parchment and place in the oven.
  5. Cook bars for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and set on a rack to cool. Once cooled, transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours. Using the parchment paper, remove the bars from the pan and cut into individual bars. (Why chill them? This helps them firm up, which makes cutting them easier!)

Notes:

Cut the pan 5×3 to get 15 bars. Keep them in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to two months.

Recipe re-printed with permission from Sara Haas, RDN, LDN. Find more of her healthy recipes at sarahaasrdn.com.

For additional healthy eating tips, visit eatright.org.

I Didn’t Let My Kids Snack for a Week. Here’s What Happened

My children have less meltdowns because they are better nourished. And I have fewer meltdowns because there are fewer demands on me.

Despite all the money I spend on groceries and all the energy I pour into making meals, my kids mostly survive on crappy (although often organic!) snack foods.

Their constant snacking makes it so that they are never hungry enough to sit down and eat a meal, yet starvation seems to strike suddenly in the most inopportune times. The lack of structure means I hardly ever know if they’ve eaten enough, which perpetuates the snacking cycle.

Of course, I start them off with a good breakfast, but with assurance they’ll be able to eat again in a half hour, they are easily distracted.

This is annoying for several reasons:

  1. All my cooking efforts are in vain.
  2. So much food gets wasted, especially the healthy stuff.
  3. The mess and work is constant.  As soon as I get one mess cleaned up, they’re already requesting something else. I’m sick of it. Sick of the perpetual slaving, serving, and wasting just to end up still worried about their intake and health.

I decided to implement Ellen Satter’s advice on how to feed children. She’s a family therapist and registered dietician nutrionist who is internationally recognized as an eating and feeding authority. You can read about her philosophies and guidelines here.

My Plan:

  1.  Meals and snacks are at set times during the day and we sit at the table for them (unless we are out during a snack time, then we improvised). No beverages, other than water, are allowed in between these times.
  2. I sat down and ate with them (mostly).
  3. When they left the table, the meal was over. I made it clear they would not be allowed to eat until the next snack or meal time.
  4. I offered a variety of foods. Maybe there were some new ones, but always options that I knew they liked.
  5. I didn’t remark on how much they ate nor did I ask them to eat more of this or that. I served them, and then let them choose how much of something they wanted.

Ellen Satter says the parent decides what, where, and when to eat, and the child decides how much.

Day 1

12941131_1735411973357663_1366459112_oThe night before I started, I told my 4-year-old that I’m doing an experiment to see what happens when we only eat our meals at the table at certain times.

I told him that once he walks away from the table, meal time is over, and that he won’t be given anything else until the next snack time. I told him that in between meal times he will only be allowed to have water.

We basically ate 4 small meals during the day and a bedtime snack after bath. The times were roughly 8:30 am, 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm, and 7:00 pm. These times weren’t exact, just a guide.

The first day was amazing, and I enjoyed the added structure.

Before implementing these mealtime rules, I tended to leave food out in case they wandered back around for another bite. But now meals had clear end times and messes were cleaned up promptly. I told my 4-year-old I’d deny his requests for a snack until the next time, so he made sure to eat enough.

The meals I served were mostly wholesome and balanced. I didn’t just sprinkle some cheerios around or throw them a few biscuits. I made sure to offer fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats at most meals. This didn’t make more work for me because I planned for it, and cooked all I needed at once.

I enjoyed the quality time of sitting with them to eat, and made sure to keep distractions (like my phone) away from the table. I was generally in a better mood because I wasn’t annoyed by constantly serving and cleaning just to be whined at 20 minutes later about hunger.

I also felt more confident. I was proud that my kids were eating well and that I was being present with them. Mom of the Year award, please!

You know what else was awesome? There weren’t yogurt smears on the couch cushions and cracker crumbs in the toy bins. No more of this:

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Day Two

With my new plan, making a grocery list was easier and I had a better idea of what I would serve at each meal.

I made a list and vowed to not go back to the store for a week’s time. (What a novel idea! ) Trader Joe’s gives out lollipops to kids, and it’s a crucial part of our shopping trip, so although it certainly wasn’t a scheduled snack, we indulged. There’s some wiggle room for this sort of occasion, right?

On this day my 4-year-old was distracted and playful at meal times. He kept whining and wanting to snack. I denied his request for crackers, but I did let him munch on some bell peppers while I finished getting lunch ready.

My son would have never eaten raw bell peppers before but because he was genuinely hungry he was willing to try new things. He even decided he liked them, so I sliced him another!

Day Three

12922431_1735412336690960_1733968926_oFeeding my children in this way makes me plan meals out better, so while I prepared lunch, I went ahead and cooked dinner, too! Feeling like a boss….

 

 

Day Four

My husband got home early and wanted to go out together for ice cream. I had to work my mind around schedules being a good framework to follow but not becoming too rigid about it.

Sure consistency is important, but so are ice cream dates. There must be room for flexibility.

Oh yeah, dear husband also wanted to eat in the living room. It’s not something we usually do, but he was extra tired so I obliged and pulled the kid’s table into the living room. I’d call it a win-win. Or perhaps a loop hole.

Day Five

I noticed that whenever my 15-month-old fussed, I was very tempted to hand him a cracker. I had to find new ways to comfort him, or just accept that he was going to fuss and I wasn’t going to pacify him with goldfish. It’s enticing to eat our feelings away, but maybe not the best habit to teach.

12952963_1735411990024328_1085727291_o 12953082_1735412180024309_487205484_o

Day 6

12970750_1735411953357665_400096841_oOh my gosh, I cleaned my car out on the first day of this experiment, and it’s still clean! It’s not covered with wrappers, crumbs, and stinking of rot. If someone needed a ride, I wouldn’t even feel embarrassed by the state of my vehicle.

That’s a first!

 

Day 7

The kids have adjusted to the new schedule, and we all have a better idea of what to expect.

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I’m definitely going to continue feeding my family in this way. They ate a great variety of foods, and our time at the table together was actually enjoyable.

I didn’t spend it nagging, and they didn’t spend it whining. They arrived to the table hungry, and they ate. My house is cleaner, my kids are happier, and I feel way more in control.

My children have less meltdowns because they are better nourished. And I have fewer meltdowns because there are fewer demands on me.