Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Unseen Veggie

A friend has loaned me a cookbook. I read the back cover and I'm already up-in-arms. Here's part of what I read with abbreviations added by me in parenthesis:

"As a mother of three, (J.S.), like many busy parents, used to struggle to get her kids to eat right. (In her cookbook) she shares her solutions: easy, mouthwatering recipes that even the most overwhelmed families can make - stealthily packed with unseen veggies, pureed so kids will never suspect."

Why is it a struggle to get normal "healthy" kids to eat right? Kids will eat what is available. Don't have junk available. Simplistic? Just try it!

Why hide the vegetables? When these kids grow up never seeing one, how are they going to know to puree them and stealthily pack them into their diets?

This summer in my new house, I planted tomatoes and two kinds of squash along with strawberries and, of course, my fruit trees were bountiful. I had to have a rule: Do not pick anything! Otherwise, my bounty would be eaten before I ever saw it. Even the kids who supposedly didn't like tomatoes loved them when they came off the plant. In fact, each day when let them out to play, the kids would check on how much growing and ripening had occurred and report to me, sort of like, "I see a red one. Do I get that red one for lunch?"

In my house we celebrate the vegetable and the fruit. I've taught the kids that they will grow strong and healthy when they eat right. They love the VitaMixer. When I get it out they are very interested in what delight they are about to receive. Squash in smoothie? They think that's normal. Because it is to them. What have you made the norm in your home?

If there is a strong and steady dislike to something, then I won't give that child that food. If a particular child has a lot of dislikes, then something is wrong and it needs to be addressed.

I recently had a child linger over her lunch. She's 2 1/2, the youngest of three girls. I asked her why she was taking so long and she said, "I don't eat those," and pointed to her peas. I didn't blink and replied, "Oh, well at my house you do." And she did, with a SMILE. Turned out she liked them, which most kids do, and I'll bet that next time she has them at her house she'll eat them.

Now our adopted children do have issues around food that stem from many things. Hopefully, adoptive parents have educated themselves on how best to recognize and deal with this special circumstance.

But right now I'm talking about the average American kid. If you find yourself struggling to get your kids to eat right, here are some suggestions:

1. Cut out snacks. A hungry child is more likely to eat a meal.
2. Toss out all junk food and replace it with the good stuff.
3. Junk is packaged conveniently, so package your good stuff conveniently in reusable containers.
4. No juice, with one exception, pure orange juice, only 2-4 oz. per day. PURE orange juice, not the fake tropical stuff.
5. Lots of water, but not late in the day.
6. Add snacks as needed once healthy eating habits are in place.
7. At meals, the veggies must be eaten before anything else. This works great on the reluctant ones. No seconds until all firsts are eaten.
8. Follow through!
9. Make treats special, like an ice cream date.
10. Be matter-of-fact, explain briefly that certain foods are good for us and others are not, and that some, in little bits, are special treats.

Here is my typical schedule for my daycare kids, 8 months to 4 years:

8:15am they arrive, already having had breakfast, usually oatmeal, the 8 mon old just had a bottle.

9:45am I mix the baby some cereal with real pureed fruit. The older baby, 12 mon., who already had cereal at home, gets a bottle.

10:15am Snack for the toddlers. It's usually something breadish and a piece of fruit, like wholewheat toast with melted cheddar cheese and 1/2 a banana or apple. They get 2-4 oz. of milk or orange juice or smoothie. Juice if they have cheese, milk if not. Sometimes they get 1/2 a natural cereal bar or a homemade muffin. Sometimes it's melon or another fruit, but it's basically bread-like and fruit.

10:30/11am and it's nap time for all.

I get them up around 1:30pm and it's potty, beds and bedding away, then lunch. Lunch is always balanced, usually with a lot of veggies. They get milk if they haven't had any and water if they have. So lunch really happens about 2pm. The young baby gets a bottle, the older baby a solid lunch with a bottle around 3:45pm.

No more snacks so as not to ruin dinner, but they get water when thirsty. If we are having an outing, I give a much more substantial snack and another one later, sort of like a two part lunch. If it's hot, they get a frozen yogurt/fruit snack made in the VitaMixer, this hydrates and replaces electrolytes.

Today's lunch was grilled cheese and apple/strawberry sauce. The bread is always wholewheat, not the soft fluffy stuff, but the real nice dense stuff, and the cheese is always real, nothing pre-sliced. The sauce was homemade using fresh apples and frozen strawberries. No veggie today because this was what I consider fastfood. Oh, crust is not wasted but eaten. Tomorrow they are having quiche.

Yesterday they had whole grain brown rice with quick beef stroganoff with peas. As a child this was and still is one of my favorite meals. I call it peas and meat sauce on rice. I'll post the recipe next time I make it so I can take pictures. The ingredients: ground beef, or turkey, peas (entire bag), can of mushroom soup, sour cream, worchestershire sauce, mustard, rice. No salt, the soup is more than salty enough.

Last week it was shepherd's pie. I guess I'll have to post that recipe later, too. This meal is super quick, but, admittedly, comes from cans or frozen veggies, but you can do fresh, too. Remember, I'm making lunches, not dinners, for a daycare, not my family, so I do take a few shortcuts, but not at the expense of health. Ingredients: green beans, tomato soup, ground beef or turkey, mashed potatoes, and cheddar cheese.

I guess in between we had homemade macaroni and cheese, a nice sizzling baked one, and broccoli.

The older baby ate everything ground up except the sandwiches. The macaroni for him was mostly broccoli and the stroganoff needed extra milk because the rice is binding, but the shepherd's pie turns into great babyfood all by itself.

In just a couple minutes, I found these links that I would use. I'd use some for snacks, but most as part of a lunch:

American Dietetic Association: Healthy Snack Recipes
American Heart Association - For Kids
Wholesome Babyfood

I am going to look at the cookbook that I mentioned above, but with an eye of using her ideas to fortify foods for my daughter, who may need extra nutrition for awhile. I'll leave you this from the American Heart Association:

Top 10 Ways to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits

1. Be a positive role model. If you’re practicing healthy habits, it’s a lot easier to convince children to do the same.

2. Get the whole family active. Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.

3. Limit TV, video game and computer time. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease.

4. Encourage physical activities that children really enjoy. Every child is unique. Let children experiment with different activities until each finds something that he or she really loves doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it.

5. Be supportive. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.

6. Set specific goals and limits, such as one hour of physical activity a day or two desserts per week other than fruit. When goals are too abstract or limits too restrictive, the chance for success decreases.

7. Don’t reward children with food. Candy and snacks as a reward encourage bad habits. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.

8. Make dinnertime a family time. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get the kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.

9. Make a game of reading food labels. The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime.

10. Stay involved. Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.

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