November 3, 2013 by lytlejoc
One of the most important things that I have learned as a parent is that you should not, you should NEVER revel in or boast of your child’s stellar behavior… unless, of course, you WANT to look like a fool somewhere down the road. The little buggers strive to make a liar out of you, and unless you are wary of them in the beginning, they will succeed in this with aplomb. This realization struck me after numerous occasions, but most memorably in the beginning of what I like to call “The Nutritional Wars”.
When he began to eat solids, Toby inhaled with gusto anything I plunked on his tray: broccoli, tofu, black bananas, quinoa, cheese, spinach… anything. Well, anything except meat, but I was undaunted by this omission as he was eating enough to compensate. With immoderate pride, I told anyone who would listen that he ate anything I could poke into his mouth.
That was before he underwent that somehow silent but jarring transition from infant to toddler.
Things began to go downhill from here. Toby stopped eating everything that I could poke into his mouth and began to reject most of what I fed him, sweeping the contents of his tray onto the floor — a gesture ostensibly generous to the dog but enough to make me seethe with rage. My efforts thus rewarded, I lost my temper on more than one occasion, making mealtime a blitzkreig of suspicious glaring, sharp threats, and howls of indignation. Next he decided that sit in his highchair he would NOT. We have removed that chair from the kitchen entirely, its presence being completely futile. I catch myself wondering if I had maybe tried a little harder, I could have continued to have him seated there, but then I remember the contortions, the screaming, the wrestling, and I realize it is probably unlikely. This particular struggle was a battle of wills; and as the phrase “choose your battles” seems to be more relevant to parenthood than to any other stage of life I have encountered, I chose not to fight that one — my sanity being more important to me than his acquiescence. Instead, I now put a plate of food on his little Ikea table, and he takes his meals in bits and bites while roaming purposefully around the kitchen. This of course means he often won’t focus long enough to eat a whole meal unless he’s markedly hungry.
The Nutritional Wars thus started, I learned that I had to change my approach before I could ever hope to win. First and foremost was an attitude change: no getting worked up allowed. As long as he has eaten and as long as what he has eaten has nutritional value, then cause for alarm is not necessary. My mantra has become “He has eaten; he is growing.” It helps to say this aloud while breathing deeply when he is being particularly obstinate and has likely saved him from the rough side of my tongue at least a time or two.
The second step that I took was to stop preparing him special meals. This means that I am continually exposing him to things I want him to eat and sometimes he surprises me (butter chicken? Really??). If he will not eat what I’ve put in front of him, he gets a grilled cheese, or something similar, and a “Squeezie Pack” which is what we affectionately call those wonderful pouches of baby food that have come about in recent years. Since he really is too old to eat baby food, we only get the ones containing green vegetables, the biggest enemy to Toby’s side of the conflict, and can then rest assured that at least he has gotten something of that color into his diet.
The third step I took was to make note of the things he WOULD eat, and figure out how to make them as healthy as possible and as available as possible. He loves smoothies (though I think love may be too mild a word for how he feels about them), so I fill them with broccoli, kale, chia seeds and Greek yogurt. Oatmeal is something he never refuses and so I make it with eggs, chia seeds and whatever vegetables I can get to work — the best so far being a carrot and zuchinni combo. Spaghetti sauce at our house is filled with pureed vegetables. He never turns down fruit and so he gets plenty of that. In fact he never turns down anything that has even a hint of sweetness, and because I can’t justify giving him many treats with his diet distinctly lacking in a lot of other elements, I have to make his treats healthy ones.
My very favorite treat to make for him is what I simply call “Baby Cookies”.
A word about these cookies, though, is that if you have older kids, they won’t agree with that moniker. These snacks are much softer and much less sweet than their original counterpart. Call them what you want, in that case — snacks, blobs, mounds, monster paws, whatever — but if you want your older and more cookie-savvy kids to eat them, I suggest you steer clear of the C word. (And I don’t mean the one that just popped into your head, though I suspect that you avoid that one anyway, what with being a parent and all.)
– 1 banana, mashed
– 1/3 cup of peanut butter (If your child has a peanut allergy, you can substitute Sunbutter, Wow Butter, or even solidified coconut oil here with equal results)
– 1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
– 1 egg
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 3 Tbsp honey OR maple syrup
Blend all of these ingredients together well. Then in a separate bowl, whisk together
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
– 2 tsp chia seeds
– 1 cup whole wheat flour
– 1 1/3 cup rolled oats
– 1 tsp baking sugar
The whisking of these ingredients is a good idea for dispersing the baking soda, thereby eliminating any of those disconcerting sour pockets that can happen in baked goods sometimes. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir together until combined. Drop from a teaspoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat, then flatten and shape a bit with the back of the spoon.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then feed to your child.
These are healthy. Oh yes, they are. They have rolled oats which gives your baby that much needed fiber as well as slow-burning carbs, providing them with lasting energy (like they need that). Bananas bring the potassium,Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, and if you use peanut butter, you are providing them with a bit of protein too (an all natural blend is obviously best here). All that along with the magic of chia seeds (omegas! protein! iron! Oh my!) and very little sugar — natural sugar, at that — and you have a snack you can dole out without feeling guilty at all.
These “cookies” freeze really well, too, and you can even take one straight out of the freezer and hand it over; it’s soft enough that your ankle-biter won’t have to gnaw too hard to get a bite which works wonders in the throes of teething. Toby has been eating these for as long as he’s been able to hold them, and they have saved my stability on many, many days that he just wouldn’t eat ANYTHING. It might not be broccoli, but it’ll do.
What to you comfortably feed your child on days that they just won’t eat? And what are your healthy snack fall-backs?