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Make Baby Food from Family Food

March 8, 2011 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

We’re all pretty sick and tire of being sick and tired…

But, here’s a quick product mention. Though the days of grinding or making baby food are behind me, this is one gadget I think would have been nice to have.

In my variuous home visits, I’ve seen several different kinds of gadgets, from small pink or blue blenders to hand held immersion units to things that looked like a giant garlic presses with plastic mesh.

The KidCo food grinder is the unit that pediatric nutrtionist Hydee Becker used to grind her family’s food when she was doing a combination of finger feeding and spoon feeding.  Hydee has put every meat imaginable in here, from ground beef to pork chops. So many parents tell me they worry about protein, and the texture of most meats is so tough that many children won’t eat them reliably until they have molars (M was at least 2 before she reliably ate most meats.) For many parents, the protein worry in particular leads to the chicken nuggets that become the staple because it’s the only “protein my kid will eat.” Here’s an alternative.

Feeding your baby the same foods you eat is the best way to teach them to learn to like the foods you eat. Prepare your squash, chicken breast, rice, or casserole, or whatever you are eating. Sit at the table together, pull your little one up to the table, put some of your chicken through the grinder (add a little broth or water if it’s too dry,) mash up some squash, have a little iron fortified cereal to go with it in the first months and enjoy! (This is not a comprehensive how to feed solids, but a typical way a meal with the older infant might look.)

Allow your little one to play with the food, touch it, lick it, spit it out, put it in their hair. Help her pull the spoon to her open mouth, or skip the spoon altogether. This little gadget can help introduce the variety of flavors she will be eating growing up.

What are your favorite feeding gadgets?

Poop and Weight Labels

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

Many of you probably know what I think of arbitrary labels for children and weight–adults too for that matter!

Well, I had a funny conversation with a friend the other day and it illustrated the absurdity of it all. We are both moms, feeding our children very well, they sleep well, they have opportunity for physical activity, they are happy and thriving, they are growing in a steady and predictable way. One is at the very top of the growth curve and always has been, the other girl is at the very low end of the growth curve and always has been.

We both shared how we would get worried before their checkups because they are growing at the extremes of the bell curve, but are growing in a healthy way for them. What was crazy was that a few ounces one way or the other would mean a few percentile points. Perhaps enough to be labeled “obese” or “underweight” or flag some concern, when in reality, clinically all was well.

“I hated it when she pooped right before her visit, then I knew her weight would look like it went down,” my friend confided.  I chuckled, because my little one was pooping every other day, and it was more than a few ounces in my estimation.  ” I was worried if she didn’t poop!” I said. “If she pooped, she’d drop a couple percentile points, and no one would care!”

Because really, in small children a few ounces can make a big difference if you live in the land of the extremes and arbitrary labels. ( According to the bell curve, ten percent of us will live at the top and bottom five percents happily and healthily.) In a five-year-old girl, 5 pounds can span the range from “normal” to “obese.” And while a few pounds may not be clinically significant, telling the mom of a five-year old girl that her daughter is ‘obese’ IS significant.

Did any of you worry about weigh-ins?

The School Lunch Police

December 9, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

What’s the first thing you do when you pick up your child from school or daycare? Take a minute.

Many parents do a quick “hello” (some even skip that part) and then launch into quizzing about what and how much the child ate for lunch. Lunch boxes are handed over, opened and examined closely, followed by either,  “Good job! You ate all your sandwich!” or a “Why didn’t you eat your carrots?” I think it’s so automatic for many parents, they don’t realize they do it. What purpose does it serve? What do you do with that information?

One client I worked with around her son’s picky eating (he was basically subsisting on plane rice and pasta when they contacted me, much to his mother’s chagrin) admitted that the first things she did was check the big dry-erase board that listed all the kids and what and how much they ate from their packed lunches.  It was too much information. Her mood was up or down based on what her son ate that day, and she noted what all the other kids were eating and got depressed when her son was the “worst” eater. How could it not feel like a reflection of her mothering? Why was all her effort around encouraging, cooking with her son, begging, bribing and withholding desserts not helping?

The thing is, it’s hard to let go of control with feeding. If we feed with the Division of Responsibility, we put the food in the lunch box, with options that are balanced most days. The child chooses how much from what we pack. That’s it.

Then we plan and serve and sit with our child while they eat snack, and we get to do it again at dinner time. It’s a lot or work, and for parents feeding in the standard control model today, they are also responsible for how many portions of fruits and veggies, and how many calories, and how much sugar actually goes into the child. It’s too much and it’s not helping.

It’s hard to let go of the things we can’t and shouldn’t try to control.

My homework for that client one week was to not look at the dry-erase board. To let go what she could not control. To not let if and what he ate at lunch color her mood, heighten her anxiety and eventually lead to the  pressure, bribes and power struggles that were undermining rather than supporting her son’s learning around food.

Do you do the lunchbox rifling, the quizzing on the way home?

Here’s a challenge. For one week, be ignorant of what and how much your little one eats at lunch.

What would happen? Would you do things differently? Does it make it easier to not pressure or push at meals and snacks? Does your child notice? Wouldn’t it be nice to just start with, “I’m so glad to see you,” instead of,  “Did you eat all your sandwich?”

School Lunches in Paris

October 18, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

This delightful cultural bit came into my hands recently about school lunches in Paris.

Basically it explains that in France, the children are given from-scratch, challenging and varied meals in the public schools. No frozen foods, no menu repeated in a 32 day cycle. I have family living in France, and this is indeed their experience. Kids sit for up to an hour, have multi-course meals or go home for lunch. The daycare co-op served lamb and ratatouille, not mac n cheese. There is nothing wrong inherently with mac n cheese, but these kids live in a culture that values food, values the experience of eating and honors the children with spending the time and effort to cook and plan a variety of good tasting foods-and the children eat it. (Mostly)

Contrast that with the experiences of many children in Minnesota and America. Lunch shifts might start at 10:30. One parent described a scene where the children are all dressed in their snow-suits, ready for their 15 minute recess but swing by the cafeteria for lunch first. By the time the kids get their meals, they may only have 5 or 10 minutes to eat (not to mention how hot they must be all bundled up!)

Regardless of what is being served, does this scenario allow children to have a calm and pleasant meal? (The how of feeding.) Does it allow them time to check in with their bodies to see if they are hungry or full? Do they learn to gobble the food quickly, and as much as possible because they won’t eat again until school is done, maybe 5 or more hours later? Or are they so distracted that they might eat very little.

There is a lot of attention now (which is good) about improving the quality and variety of school lunches, but think also about the environment, the setting, what we are teaching children about food and whether we are supporting them in the best way as they form their relationships with food and eating.

M currently is in a Montessori program where the children sit at tables (they have set) with real plates, silverware, cups and napkins. They get about thirty minutes for meals which parents pack. I have to say I like this set-up, and wonder how this will change as her schools change…

What have your school meal experiences been? Could you eat in a snowsuit?

A carrot by any other name would taste as sweet

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

So we were eating carrots and cucumbers last night with our home-made ginger dressing. We had leftover turkey curry, home-made bread, and broccoli cream soup experiment. (More on that coming up.) My daughter used to like eating carrots cut into thin fingers. She was not interested last night, and I started cutting the carrots into little circles and dipped them myself.

“Would you like some carrot coins?” I asked.

My daughter thought this was pretty nifty and nibbled on several more carrot and cucumber coins.

I didn’t pressure, but offered another option, a fancy name. There are studies that suggest some kids eat more veggies when given exciting names like “X-ray carrots” or “Power peas.” Most of the time that feels like too much work and energy, but give it a shot.

Remember, kids are fickle. They like things one day and reject them another. They might like crust on a sandwich one day, and not the next. The more you can relax and keep the power struggles out the better.

About the broccoli cream soup experiment: In an effort to not throw so much food away, I froze leftover broccoli from the last two times we cooked it. I sauteed an onion, added a tablespoon of butter, a box of broth, the broccoli, and a half can of evaporated milk. I blended it all. Verdict? Good flavor, a little watery. Maybe I’ll add potatoes next time…

Pull up a high chair

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

How do you do a family meal with a 9 month old!?” I was asked. All too often the high chair is standing in the middle of the kitchen, someone puts a handful of Cheerios on the tray, a few mashed bananas and then cleans the kitchen or unloads the dishwasher. I get how crazy life can get so sometimes this is OK, but…

Pull your kids up to the table and sit down with them and eat a meal or a snack. Smile, chat, enjoy your food.

Most high-chairs today come with detachable trays so they can get right up to the table. If not, pull them up next to you and use the tray. These cool chairs in the photo are probably some of the smartest I’ve seen, but they’re really pricey. They allow for the feet to rest on a platform which can be really great for fidgety or easily distracted kids. (A child on the autism spectrum might benefit from a chair like this.) This is a great solution for several years. (I can’t tell you how many boosters and Kaboosts we tried. If I had to do it over again, I’d get one of these…)
As your children are able, you share the foods you are eating. Perhaps some softly cooked green beans mashed up, ground beef in broth or sauce, or pieces of watermelon or mashed potato…

Eat with them. Enjoy your time together. The pre-toddler phase is a great time to introduce lots of tastes as kids this stage are pretty accepting. (Children get naturally more picky as they get into the toddler and preschool years.) Enjoy the mess. Change out of your work clothes before sitting down, enjoy watching them intently scrape food into their mouths. Staying close is the best protection against choking. Know that some gagging is normal. Know that some meals they will eat a lot and at others they will eat less. Let them decide how much. Consider breast feeding or bottle feeding after they have had their meal with you. As they eat more solid foods, they will naturally take in less milk. They are still getting most of their nutrition through breast milk or formula, so don’t worry too much about fruits and vegetables. Remember, if the experience of eating is pleasant, and you offer a variety of fruits and vegetables and other foods and you enjoy eating them, chances are your kids will too.

Food: The Best Gift Ever

September 19, 2010 by  
Filed under K.Rowell

My mom was in town close to my birthday recently. The dreaded “What do you want for your birthday?” came up. Our home is small, so I insisted nothing I had to find a place for. Nothing I can’t consume or throw away. Then I said it, “Can you cook for me and freeze a couple meals?” I was going to be away working during parts of the visit and Mom put on the apron and filled my freezer with pouches of hearty beef stew, silky vegetable soups, spaghetti sauces and more. It was the BEST GIFT EVER!!!

Families are busy, and anything that can help get a home-made, delicious meal on the table quickly is amazing. Can’t tell you how great it was on a busy day to pull out a soup, bake a loaf of bread and make a salad. Thanks Mom! It wasn’t just food, it was a gift of sanity and more time to enjoy with my family.

Would you feel comfortable asking your family and friends to help out with a few meals? What about a meal circle? A gift for a new mom, or a mom in transition with work, marriage, housing?


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