Simple Ways to Raise Better Eaters

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I do not profess to have this parenting thing down, I’m learning new things about raising little humans every day.  We’ve tried a lot of unsuccessful things and stumbled upon a few things that have really worked along the way.

One of those lucky stumbles was how our kids eat. They are happy to eat a good variety of foods, regularly. No, they don’t lick kale off their plate but for kids, I like to think they are better eaters than most. Here’s what has worked for us:

We aren’t a restaurant.

Whatever is being served for a meal is the meal. No substitutions. Occasionally I make things that the kids just don’t like such as chili so I will make an alternative.  My daughter has never liked potatoes so we don’t require her to eat them. If I make something a little too spicy, I add cream cheese, sour cream or coconut cream to cool it off.  But if the meal isn’t eaten, there isn’t a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to follow.

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7 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat More Veggies

1.  Start early.  Several years ago, I was reading an article about healthy snacks for kids where they mentioned hummus. Comments from parents ranged from “great idea” to “what kid eat hummus?” My first thought was “my kid eats hummus”. I fully attribute this to our early introduction of hummus, along with other foods that kids haven’t traditionally eaten like quinoa, lentils, couscous, and beans. We were just feeding our daughter (and now our son) what our family eats. We didn’t make separate meals for them. And for us, it worked. Both of our kids eat a lot of different healthy foods.

2.  Be the example.  If you aren’t eating veggies, your kids probably won’t either. Put them on the menu for every lunch and dinner. This point was recently proven to me when my daughter was playing house and said “I need a Coke. That’s what mommies drink.” Ugh. If you’ve been reading MGG for long, you know I have a love-hate addiction to Coke. Obviously it’s a bit on the “I love you so much, how do I survive without you?” side right now.

3.  Sneak them in.  When I was making pureed food for our infant, I thought it would be so easy to sneak those pureed fruits and veggies into our meals for added doses of healthiness.  I’m not the genius who came up with this idea, there are plenty of cookbooks that have great suggestions on how to do this like Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef.

4.  Prepare ahead.  One of my personal goals for 2010 was to eat more veggies myself.  I figured if they were easily available throughout the day, I would snack on them.  So between buying pre-cut veggies and spending time cutting veggies into bite-sized chunks, I put them in glass storage so I would see them every time I opened the refrigerator.  I did begin to eat more of them until I came up with #5 below.

5.  Leave them out.  Because our fruit is stored on the counter, it gets eaten quickly. I figured the same would happen with veggies so I started putting them in pretty glass dishes around the kitchen and living room. This is my current method of extra veggie consumption and it totally works. Both the kids and I are snacking on carrots and tomatoes many times a day.

6.  Grow your ownWith your own backyard garden, kids are bound to be curious.  My daughter (and friends) love to comb the garden to see what they can pick fresh off the vine.  Your garden can be as simple as a tomato plant in a container – that is how I started several years ago.  Each summer, I try to plant something new so we can practice our gardening skills and expand our taste buds.

7.  Get creative.  When I was a child, I would often come home from school to a message on the counter spelling out ‘I Love You’ in chocolate chips.  Of course, we swallowed them as fast as we could.  Although she used chocolate, the theory could apply to veggies, too.  Here are some great ideas resembling Sesame Street characters with veggies like corn, radish, peas, spinach, tomatoes and carrots.

How do YOU sneak more veggies into your family’s diet?


BPA-Free Canning Lids

We have some yummy strawberry jam stored in the freezer to be used all winter until next June when we can pick those juicy berries again.  That’s the only canning I do but I know people that do it year round.  Just like any food storage products,  you want to make sure you are using BPA-free canning lids.  Last fall, when we found out that canning lids had BPA in them, we could only find one alternative.  Since then, a few more have popped up.  Here’s those that make the list:

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids – You can use these with any standard mason jar and metal screw band.  They carry both regular and wide mouth.  If they wear out, Tattler will replace them for free.  They are plastic, infinitely reusable and dishwasher safe.  Made in the U.S.A.

Weck – Weck is a German company that makes beautiful all glass canning jars and lids.

Ball Plastic Freezer Jars – These are great for freezer jam or sauces.  They are plastic and come in 8 ounce, 16 ounce and 32 ounces. Top-rack dishwasher safe.

Lehman’s Reusable Canning Jar Lids – These plastic lids can be used with any standard metal band in pressure canners, water bath or vacuum sealers. The company states that these leads “do not contain BPA, lead, mercury or phthalates”.

Have you found any other companies that make BPA-free canning lids?  Let us know in the comments!


Organic Baby Formula and DHA

When we did a review of organic baby formula, we briefly talked about an ingredient that is generally included called hexane processed DHA/ARA.  Since then, hexane processed DHA/ARA has been banned from organic baby formula (although it doesn’t appear to have been removed from organic formula yet).  The reason?  These DHA and ARA additives are produced using a potential neurotoxin known as hexane.

So once hexane processed DHA/ARA is removed from organic baby formula, should you switch to non-organic formula or is DHA even important?

What is DHA?

DHA is very important for brain development, it’s food for the brain and because 60% of our brain is made up of fats, we need to be feeding it good fats.  According to Dr. Sears, “The body needs two kinds of fat to manufacture healthy brain cells (the message senders) and prostaglandins (the messengers). These are omega 6 fatty acids (found in many oils, such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and sesame oils) and omega 3 fatty acids (found in flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, and cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna).  A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids (such as the LNA from flax oil or the EPA and DHA from fish oils) not only provides the body with healthy fats, but it also lowers the blood level of potentially harmful ones, such as cholesterol and, possibly, even reversing the effects of excess trans fatty acids.”

Dr. Sear’s continues, “In fact, there are two windows of time in which the brain is especially sensitive to nutrition: the first two years of life for a growing baby and the last couple decades of life for a senior citizen.  The most rapid brain growth occurs during the first year of life, with the infant’s brain tripling in size by the first birthday. During this stage of rapid central nervous system growth, the brain uses sixty percent of the total energy consumed by the infant. Fats are a major component of the brain cell membrane and the myelin sheath around each nerve. So, it makes sense that getting enough fat, and the right kinds of fat, can greatly affect brain development and performance. In fact, during the first year, around fifty percent of an infant’s daily calories come from fat. Mother Nature knows how important fat is for babies; fifty percent of the calories in mother’s milk is fat.”

Research has found that:

  • Infants who have low amounts of DHA in their diet have reduced brain development and diminished visual acuity.
  • The increased intelligence and academic performance of breastfed compared with formula- fed infants has been attributed in part to the increased DHA content of human milk.
  • Cultures whose diet is high in omega 3 fatty acids (such as the Eskimos who eat a lot of fish) have a lower incidence of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis.
  • Experimental animals whose diets are low in DHA have been found to have smaller brains and delayed central nervous system development.
  • Some children with poor school performance because of ADD, have been shown to have insufficient essential fatty acids in their diet. (This is a very interesting theory, read more about it here.)

So how can I get DHA in my children’s body?

1.  Breastfeed The level of DHA in your breast milk is affected by the level you ingest via food or supplements.

2.  Infant formula – Most infant formula on the market today DOES contain DHA and is labeled as such.  Currently, the only organic formula that does NOT have added DHA in it is Nature’s One Baby’s Only.

3. DHA supplements –You can find DHA supplements for your infant, children, teens and adults.  In our home, we use Nordic Naturals, a brand my naturopath recommends – DHA for infants and DHA for children.

4.  DHA food sources – The healthiest source of DHA is seafood. Two 4-ounce servings of omega-3-rich fish per week should yield a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA. Besides fish oils, vegetable oils (primarily flax seed, soy, and canola) are also rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids, with flax seed oil being the best. The two F’s, fish and flax, are the top brain-building foods for growing children, and adults.

I want to plainly state that I’m not encouraging anyone to give up baby formula because it contains hexane processed DHA.  I am a huge believer in DHA and have seen it affect change, particularly in our daughter (I’ll write more on that later).  I just wanted to point out the importance of DHA and that there are multiple ways to get DHA into our bodies.


DIY Organic Baby Food


I don’t enjoy cooking all that much.  I do it, but not with much glee.  So I was totally surprised at how much I enjoy making my infant’s baby food.  It’ SO easy and I love knowing exactly what is in his food – which isn’t much – organic fruits, veggies and water.  I like the versatility that I can make changes when I need to.  At 6 months, I started with thin purees but quickly realized that my son could handle chunky so I changed the texture.   I also love coming up with new concoctions – and seeing my son squeal with delight – for a little guy, he LOVES to eat.

If you haven’t ever made food for your baby, I promise you it’s EASY PEASY.   I make a new batch of food every 2-3 days, it takes about 15 minutes.  Here’s the method I use:

1.  Buy fresh or frozen fruits and veggies.  You can make the whole process even quicker by buying pre-cut items like broccoli florets or baby carrots.  I’ve also found butternut squash at Costco that is already cut and sliced apples. 

2.  Cut into small chunks unless they are pre-cut.

3.  Put fruits and/or veggies in a steamer basket until you can pierce with a fork – depending on the item, it’s anywhere from 5-12 minutes.   Save the water used to steam the food.

4.  Put the steamed items in a food processor and puree them until you get the texture your baby needs.  The thinner the puree, the more water you add.

5.  When you’re done, pour it into ice trays and put into the freezer.  Once they are frozen, put them into a freezer bag or freezer container to store. 

6.  Take cubes of food out when you need them and defrost in the microwave or refrigerator.

There are a dozen or more ways you could modify this to make it work for you.  There are tons of recipe books, I reference one called The Petit Appetit.  Better yet, there are great websites dedicated to making baby food, like Weelicious.   You can also find tools made just for making baby food like food grinders and baby food mills but if you have already have a handheld blender, blender or food processor then there is no need to buy something new – any one of these will work.  There are many ways to store baby food from the simple, like ice trays to the classic, like jars.  Again, you can buy storage made just for baby food but I’ve found that ice cube trays are easy to find and inexpensive – just make sure they are BPA free.

I’d love to hear how you make food for your baby!  What works for you?