Let Them Play

I am an adult dietitian. I’m not an expert in child nutrition…at all. So far I have one semi-picky child and two boys who eat just about anything you set in front of them. Like these dudes genuinely enjoy eating. I have pictures to prove the joy they get out of eating/playing. Is it a fluke? Maybe. Maybe not. Just last month I went to a conference and heard a speaker talk about eating behaviors in children. Letting children play with food can actually make them less picky. Seriously, no one wants a picky eater. So maybe letting them play can actually encourage them to eat better, healthier.

Because I have 2 kids who eat just about everything and one who eats fair (there are many frustrating meals and also some good ones thrown in there), I’ve learned that the oldest child is definitely the experimental one (I was the oldest too). Kids following the first may have a significant advantage! HAH! All kidding aside here’s what I see between my kiddos in how I fed them/allow them to eat. This may be the key to lessen picky eating…or it could just be a coincidence? Eh either way it’s worth a shot to try!

With my daughter I was going to do everything “perfect”. First-time parent syndrome. I was going to be the perfect dietitian-mom. All organic, low sugar, homemade everything, no fast food, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Yep I was one of those. I made all of her food for the first 2 years of her life. Seriously. Day care provided lunch but I packed hers. I spoon fed her (obviously) when she was a baby. She never got very messy when she ate…at all. Despite my best efforts I made the same few foods over and over and over and over again because, as a working mom, I could only do so much.

The boys are a different story all together. They are rainbow babies and after a high risk pregnancy my outlook on raising children changed a little…and they aren’t my first AND there are 2 of them. I ain’t got time to be perfect! 😉 Besides watching their dairy intake, (they have an allergy) those dudes eat whatever.  I let them eat with their hands mainly because I can’t feed them fast enough before they go ballistic so I let them have-at-it. They are 17 months old and have eaten everything from sauerkraut to Thai food to salads and even spicy chili.

This is a Thai cabbage salad the boys devoured!

Meals are messy and, although clean up isn’t awesome, they enjoy eating. Surprisingly more goes into their belly than their highchairs or the floor. They feel their food, squish it, pick it up, pinch it, scoop it, lick it, taste it, and enjoy it. Would I have let my daughter do this? No. Should I have? Maybe.

 
Recently I started inviting my daughter to help me cook and it has worked wonders! She has tried everything she makes and is excited about new recipes, baking, and helping me prepare the food. It’s awesome! She’s playing, learning, trying, tasting, and expanding her palate!

So my conclusion is: let kids play with their food. No matter the age! There are researched benefits to allowing babies, children, and teens play and cook with food…it’s not just me 🙂

  1. Let babies explore food. Feel it, squish, mold, pinch, pick up, lick it, and smear it all up.
  2. Give toddlers a spoon and even if they have a difficult time, let them try to hit their mouth!
  3. Let pre-schoolers start to help in the kitchen.
  4. Kids can begin to help meal planning (and continue to help cook).
  5. Older kids can meal plan and cook simple meals.
  6. Teens can take over in the kitchen! Let them plan, try new cooking techniques, and find recipes.

Check out this great website for kids cooking by ages.

Other great tips:

  1. There is no such thing as “kid foods”. They can eat whatever adults eat…seriously.
  2. You are not a short order cook. What you make for dinner, the family should eat (outside of a food allergy).
  3. Kids do not need to clean their plates but they should taste everything on their plate.
  4. Even if they don’t want to eat everything, taking a “thank you bite” gives your child the opportunity to try the food without the pressure of eating it all. Thank you bites are shown as gratitude for the cook.
  5. Let your kids have foods they like too! Make your kids a meal they truly enjoy once in a while shows them you do know what they like. For instance, macaroni and cheese as their starch or having pizza night (with a veggie of course)!

 

Parenting isn’t about being perfect, it’s about doing your best and knowing what’s best for your children. My daughter probably won’t be picky for the rest of her life (many times it is a power struggle not necessarily the food itself). There are many picky eating “fixes” out there. Try them but don’t make yourself crazy. I hope this helps for some of you out there.

Month of Me

Boy as I typed that it sounded so selfish. I love life. Truly I do. I’m soooo blessed all around and if you asked me on a scale from 1-10 how happy I am, I’d tell you least an 11…because I’ve got joy, ya know?

Me and my gorgeous husband cheering on the Pens

At any rate, I’m a mom of 3 kids 5 and under…2 of those are twin-toddler boys and one is a spunky 5 year old. My job is a nutrition blogger, consultant, stay-at-home mom, and wife. I’m never bored and time for my self is limited. That’s just where I’m at in life…and I’m sure a lot of you out there are right with me. I love being a mom. For real, these kids bring so much sweetness to life I never would have imagined it. I also know that time flies too fast and to enjoy the moment. Most of the time I do…I can do without the whole wiping butts, boogers, and caked on spaghetti sauce from ears and hair buuuuut I do enjoy this stage in life. But sometimes mamma is tired, ya know? Sometimes I just want to run and hide and change my name and sleep until noon and not wipe butts/noses/caked on sauce and never watch PJ Masks again…ever. It’s just how I feel sometimes (and I know other moms do too)…but we wouldn’t give up our mom status for ANYTHING because they bring soooo much joy to our lives.

May is when we celebrate Mother’s Day. I’m taking this month for self care. Throwing caution to the wind and at the risk of sounding selfish, yep I’m taking May to do things for myself. I have a list of things on my “to-do” list that I’m going to check off this month. For me.

  1. Find new doctors – since moving I don’t have a Primary Care Physician (and others) so I’m going to find ones that fit me. I want a doctor that will listen to me, be a straight shooter, practice (or be open to) complementary medicine (both alternative and mainstream medicine), and down to earth. It’s important to understand your overall health and what you can do to improve it!
  2. Exercise regularly – I don’t (regularly)…I know. As a dietitian a healthy diet
    This is legit, raw, un-makeuped Amanda right there…with coffee, on the elliptical, early in the morning

    and exercise go hand in hand but I haven’t exercised regularly since my boys were born. I enjoy being active and exercising but I use #momlife as an excuse, ya know? My sister is a great workout motivator and we signed up for an 8 week exercise plan that I can do at home. I’m not here to advertise anything (it’s free) but I’m hoping it will be a good start to a lifelong change. I need to make time for myself to exercise. And I will.

  3. Read my Bible daily – sure I read my Bible but it’s not every day. It’s a few times a week and those times are incredible. I love my Jesus and in order to be a better me I need Him and I need His word. This is a huge part of my self care. I want to start with Jesus every day when it is quiet. I need to go to bed earlier so I can be sure to get up for some kid-free time!
  4. Connect – When I resigned from my job I gained precious time with my
    These ladies are some of the most amazing co-workers a girl could have ever asked for!

    children (and I don’t regret it for a second) but I also lost a lot (just being real). I lost my career, I lost my professional identity, I lost some of my dearest friends (I didn’t lose them but I don’t get to see/talk to them as much as I want), I lost affirmations that I was good at my job, and I lost the ability to talk to tons of people on a weekly basis. I LOVE people. Seriously. I miss having adult connection and it’s up to me to get out there, make friends, and connect with people.

  5. Say “yes” more – I’m pretty good about saying no if I feel like I can’t take something on. What I haven’t been good at is saying “yes” to different opportunities and sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. I use the kids as an excuse because if you’ve had twins you know it’s really not an excuse! haha but I don’t want to have regrets and I want to show my children it’s OK to be adventurous, try different things, be involved, say yes (all relatively safe and within the will of God…amIright!?). More to come on this one…I may have a surprise for you all! 🙂
  6. Cook different foods – I tend to cook “safe” foods for me and my family. Familiar, trusted, quick, easy recipes. Well…when I made the Thai chicken salad with peanut dressing a while back I was blown away at the flavor and that I COULD cook with an Asian flair and it WAS delicious! I’m going to make a list of recipes or ideas that look delicious and try them. I just may surprise myself…and my family.
  7. Date my husband – this is as much for me as it is for him, and as much for
    My buddy and me!

    us as it is for our children. We are best friends. When I say that I mean it. He’s my buddy, my pal. A happy marriage takes work and isn’t easy but it’s so worth it. My parents are fantastic and have given us so many more opportunities to have date nights since we moved closer to them. We aren’t super intentional about date nights and we need to be. I need us to be.

  8. Enjoy each day – Listen, being a stay at home mom is no walk in the park (neither is being a working mom but that’s a blog for another time). I’m at 3 kids beacon calls all day every day. I don’t get a vacation. But let me tell you something. I’ve gained what most working moms dream – I get the priceless opportunity to watch these babies grow up, meet milestones, take their first steps, say their first words, do all of the funny and wonderful things that kids do. I missed a lot of that when I worked while my daughter was little. I have a blessed life with a beautiful home, a loving husband, 3 amazing and healthy kids, wonderful parents, an amazing family, some of the best friends a girl could ever ask for, 2 encouraging church families, and little to no stress. So I need to enjoy/count my blessings.

This is going to be raw sometimes I’m sure. I’m going to feel uncomfortable writing some things because if you’re a mom, you know that it’s taboo to be “selfish”. It’s hard to be vulnerable but that’s all part of this journey for me…to say yes, to put myself out there, to connect, to be healthier, to be a better wife/mom/me.

Stay tuned as I walk this journey. I may have more things I want to do…or want to start to do! I sincerely hope you gain something from this and you take your own self-care journey. For you.

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!