Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A while back, I wrote about being a one-trick lunch pony. We have quesadillas every day. Even though they’re delightfully tasty, they’re super fattening and I’m ready for a change.. I just wish my children were as keen on something else…

I’ve finally encountered a few new ideas for lunch, like grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches, noted on Wholesome Toddler Food.


This is super simple. Just butter one side of two slices of bread, slather some peanut butter on the other side (or sunbutter if there are allergies) and lay in some thinly sliced bananas. Set it in a pan and flip when the bread on the first side is toasty. When the second side is toasty, you’re done! Cut into quarters so there’s more finger-food to go around.

Also, Alli ‘n Son has these waffle sandwiches which looks really good as a breakfast, lunch or snack and so simple.

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The research appears credible enough, though I think the headline / pitch of this article is sensationalist. Just another reason to watch out for how many cheetos and ho-ho’s I’m letting my children have. The trouble is that my son is a natural born junk foodie. He’s the second-born, which means that he’s been given access to sweet treats much earlier than his sister was. He sees her having the occasional cookie or cupcake and gets understandably upset. They’re so close in age (22 months apart) that it’s hard for him to see the difference between the two of them. When my daughter was young, we just didn’t have cookies around, but now it’s a small part of our world. I just wish the little dude didn’t get to partake!

Unlike my daughter, however, my son REALLY reacts to the cookies, or chips… basically anything “junk” related. He’s so keen on it that he’ll spot things in the supermarket we’ve never let near them (candy bars, gum, etc) and have little fits trying to get it. Of course we don’t buy it for him. Our #1 most basic rule is that if we don’t have it in the house, we can’t give it to the kids, so we just don’t keep much junk around.

So, here’s the report on addictive junk food. What do you think?


Image provided via Creative Commons License from Mauricesvay

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Let me preface this by saying that I am not one of those moms who trawls the Internets in search of information about anti-vaccination, unlearning and rationalizations to never brush your children’s teeth. I’m sure there are plenty who see me as fairly fringe in my views, but where I live, I’m actually extremely…moderate!

One of my big rants, however, is about food — its production, particularly the predominance of corn byproducts in our food system. That’s all a diatribe for a different time, however. The simple point is that, from a food perspective, I try to feed my children as healthfully as possible. I wrestle with the idea of giving them sugar, yet also recognize that it’s important to expose them to all types of food, including (*gasp!*) junk food. I grew up in a mostly sugar and tv-free household, which was great… until I could get my grubby little paws on candy with my allowance money, or whenever I went to a friend’s house with more liberal tv standards… I had no idea how to moderate my “consumption” of sugar or tv whatsoever. I’m now in my mid-thirties, and I still don’t, for that matter, which is why we only watch tv online and I moderate how much sugary food I bring into the house. If I don’t have it in the house, I’m not going to eat it, and I’m also not going to give it to my children.

As a parent, I wish I could guard my kids from the pernicious effects of television and junk food completely. Unfortunately, unless I plan on locking them down in a commune-setting for the rest of their lives, this tactic doesn’t prepare them for the real world. Even the some Amish communities are smart enough to let their children, upon entering young adulthood, experience the world beyond their realm and choose for themselves (Rumspringa). At a certain point, you have to trust that your children will be able to navigate the world and all its pitfalls… but you can only do that if you’ve taught them how to read a map.

So, food is, along with the topics of gendering (princessing, for girls), raising an unbranded citizen, facing religious crossroads and cultivating character in my children, a complex issue for me. We belong to a sustainable CSA, where we get most of our meat and a fair amount of our vegetables. We have a small backyard garden, mostly so my children can be have an intimate understanding of where food comes from and an excuse to get their hands dirty. I try to involve my children in cooking as often as possible,  and have them help me select produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Yet, I get caught in the same food traps as anybody else — the picky eater who will only have quesadillas every day for lunch, leveraging food “treats” as a means to get decent behaviour from my three year old, passing limitless little baggies full of peanut butter pretzels and goldfish to the shorties in the backseat, etc. For someone who bothers so much with thinking about good food, you’d be amazed at the the low quality of many of our daily nutritional devourings.

On second thought… after reading that last paragraph… maybe I am one of those moms and just don’t know itdamn that’s scary! Let me qualify so you can see the “moderate”: my daughter has had McDonald’s french fries (c’est horrible!!), loves fish sticks slathered in *non-organic* (gasp!) ketchup, prays to God every night that she’ll have a popsicle the next day (sacre bleu!!!) and has had almost all the recommended vaccinations (mon dieu!), though I regret having given her some. My son, at 19 months, races to the couch whenever we put the tv on to put on an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” or “Mr. Rogers” (c’est la vie.)

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Last winter, we were pretty house-bound during the rains. We had a young infant, but I also had a toddler crawling the walls and you can only go so long before you want to flip on the tv just to numb out.

I picked up a few books from the local library with information about “Montessori activities.” I’d like to say that I poured over the books and had daily educational projects set up for my daughter, but I’d be lying.

I did glean a few nifty project from my quick skimming, though, and one of them was this: a spice “tasting.”

Basically, I pulled out a whole bunch of spices and let my daughter sniff them. I also let her sample the ones that would taste fine without being cooked. We’d talk about each spice and she LOVED the experience! We did this a few times over the winter and even now, a year later, she requests being able to sniff the spices.

Outside of this being a fun way to spend some time, I feel like it’s stimulated one of the first building blocks to raising someone who will cook their own food – a passion for spices!

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I started watching this new show on Hulu, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” It’s kind of schmaltzy, but I’m interested to see his approach at getting people, particularly children, to eat fresh, local food. I’ve only seen two episodes, but they are pretty illuminating — first graders not being able to identify a tomato, the fact that most of the food a family eats is brown or yellow (pizza, chicken nuggets, waffles, etc).

One of the things Jamie talks about is that children need to know what food comes from – that the processed food they mostly get fed is an end product not a beginning ingredient. I agree that knowing how to grow and cook food are increasingly rare skills in our society – skills that every person should have, not just children. There’s a scene in the second episode where Jamie is mortified that school children aren’t given knives to eat with. Apparently, in England primary school children get knives and have their teachers supervising them during lunch, literally teaching them how to eat. Oliver’s point is that, with no knives up until middle school, that means the most convenient foods to give the children are processed — it literally hobbles them into being given processed foods only!

Anyway, I’m just glad on a whole new level that we started this garden a few years back and it’s already reaping its small rewards.

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I’m a haphazard gardener at best. Before children, I would usually think to buy a basil plant in late October. Although we live in an area that generally has year-round growing, even here it’s too late for basil at that point!

When my daughter was old enough to start getting dirty, we started a garden. I am not a talented gardener, by any stretch. Most things I plant don’t make it too long, not even cacti. Those that do are the ones that can thrive with neglect. Yet, we started this garden so our children could have an intimate understanding of where their food comes from – of what food is and what goes into getting it to the table.

Last year, we had tomatoes and bell peppers, an attempt at corn, some lettuces and herbs. At the beginning of the summer, my daughter, then two, wouldn’t eat tomatoes. By the time the tomatoes were harvesting, she LOVED them. She thrilled at picking them herself and most of the smaller varieties never made it to our kitchen – she gobbled them up as she went. Even now I’m surprised when we’ve had the occassional off-season cherry tomatoes in the house and she says “Oh, yay!!! Tomatoes!!! I LOVE them!,” because I just remember how adamant she was about them a year ago.

This year, we’re a little more ahead of the game in terms of early planting. We have some incredibly small lettuce heads just barely peaking out. After her nap this afternoon, just before dinner, I asked my daughter to help me collect some lettuce for a salad. There really isn’t enough in the garden to serve more than a 3 year old, so I let her pick and choose her own leaves. I gave the tiny handful of leaves a light wash and added a little dressing. At dinner, she ate exactly one leaf and I was delighted with that. It was a mesclun mix leaf, not a crunchy butter lettuce or some other more kid-friendly affair. Even if she didn’t like it (which she claims she did), I’m just glad she tried it!

At the rate of things dying under my gardening care, it’s unlikely we’ll have a lusty bounty of lettuce this year, but I think I may just keep buying starts as I need to and pop them in our garden to keep her interested in the process.

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You can learn more about the subject of leaving the house with small children and fathers here.

If you have nowhere to go and no particular time to be there, you will successfully have everyone out of the house in fresh diapers with snacks, spit-up free shirts, sunhats, water bottles and sunscreen in eleven minutes.

If you have somewhere to be, even if it’s somewhere that the children would like to be, such as gym class, accomplishing the aforementioned feat will take one hour and eleven minutes. Add forty minutes if you are feeling particularly stressed for time.

Exception: If you have somewhere to be at a particular time, but are being very, very, very zen about it, wearing life like a loose garment and accepting the scattering of time that herding toddlers and babies requires, you can make it out of house in thirty minutes.

Exception to the Exception: Don’t bother trying to fake yourself into being in a state of super-zen to get out of the house on time. Children can sense disingenuous lackadaisicality the same way they’ll refuse to eat even a cupcake if they think you really want them to eat it. If you opt for faux-zen, you are guaranteed to experience one (or all) of the following:

  • Getting out of the house one hour and thirty seven minutes later.
  • Having a complete conniption fit that puts your toddler’s worst tantrums to shame
  • Giving up on leaving the house altogether because —- whoops! —- so much time has been wasted tying shoes back on that were just put on four minutes ago, second and third potty runs have had to be taken, one blow-out poopie diaper (and outfit) have had to be changed, and spit-up has had to be hosed off of mommy’s one last “clean” shirt, that we’ve rounded the clock right back to another nap or meal time. It’s a veritable “Do Not Pass Go.”

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Isn’t that an oxymoron? Is it possible for both you and your toddler to enjoy yourselves while you get your shopping done? With a little creativity, the answer is, yes, it’s possible!

I’m constantly surprised at how, when I offer more “responsibility” to my toddler, she rises to the occasion. She really listens to me much better when I’m letting her participate in our chores, rather than just being toted along as a sidekick. As every parent with a toddler knows, a happy toddler = a much easier time for all!

Sometimes, when I’m shopping for just a few things at the market, I have my two year old carry the basket. She LOVES feeling like she’s being helpful, which, not counting how much extra time it takes to wait for her to toddle up and down the aisles, is true. Since we’ve started shopping this way, I’ve noticed a number of other benefits – my daughter helps me select which produce to buy – which apples look the best, which tomatoes smell the most ripe. I find that, since she’s involved in the process, I’m naturally teaching her about food as we make our way through the store.

Will she remember this information when she’s in college? No. But, I do believe that by immersing her in food and cooking early on, teaching her about fresh produce and letting her try the foods, she’ll have an inherent understanding that food doesn’t grow in shiny boxes and crinkly packaging… it comes from the earth.

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