Go-Go Baby Bento

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Stop Eating (and Feeding Your Kids) Yucky Oatmeal

I know what you are doing. I know, because wanting to be healthy myself I used to do this, in fact, I remember doing this almost my whole life at different times.

I ate yucky oatmeal.

Really, there are no excuses but we do it anyways. Do we even know we are eating yucky oatmeal? Maybe that’s the real culprit – we’ve been eating the yucky stuff for so long that we actually think it tastes good. Shame on us.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve stood in the cereal aisle comparing the nutrition labels of various types of instant oatmeal to try and figure out which one is the healthiest. Which one has the most fiber? The most protein? The least amount of sugar? The fewest calories? Perhaps like me, you bought the “healthy” one only to discover it tasted like gravel . . . . or dog poo. There. I said it.

Instant oatmeal is yucky.

After converting to “real” oatmeal, I soon discovered that even the organic instant oatmeal tasted pretty gross. My taste buds had changed – and boy was my body and wallet all the happier for it. I would like to think I am going to rescue you from eating pulverized mush – that would be great. Instead, I’m going to tell you how to get the convenience of instant oatmeal with a bigger bang for your buck and something your kids say “YES!” to.

First of all, forget about buying those little packets. Unless you are feeding your kids you know you need at least two of them to fill you up until lunch. ADMIT IT. So here are the facts for one little packet of Quaker Oatmeal with Maple & Brown Sugar: 160 Calories, 3 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar and 4 grams of protein and about 15 ingredients. Now double it (unless you’re a kid, and if you are a kid – why are you reading this dorky blog? Go play or something): 320 Calories, 6 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar and 8 grams of protein.

And you’re still hungry after only two hours – argh!

So, let’s try this makeover instead.

1. Buy the 3lb container of quick oatmeal that has 30 servings for $4 (as opposed to 8-10 little dinky packets for $3~ish). The only ingredient should be whole grain rolled oats. Put 1/2 cup in your to-go container.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of ground flax-seed. Seriously, it will add a great nutty flavor to your cereal.

3. Use Almond or Soy milk to cook the oats in the microwave for 90-120 seconds. I carry the milk to work in a separate water bottle and mix it when I’m ready, but for children you can precook the oatmeal and send in a thermos.

4. Throw in some sliced bananas or a handful of blueberries, raisin or craisins.

5. Keep a bottle of squeeze honey at your desk to modify the sweetness.

6. Now you have some wholesome oatmeal that looks like that fancy stuff you can buy at Starbucks – enjoy!

Here you can see how I might make it for my son for school (if he actually ate oatmeal) and how I take it to work.

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Now let’s compare:

The Yucky (2 packets) – 320 Calories, 2g fat, 260 mg sodium, 6g of fiber, 24g sugar and 8g of protein

The Yummy – 260 calories, 9.8g fat, 155mg sodium, 8g of fiber, 11g of sugar, 9g of protein.

The Yummy Plus Banana – 350 calories, 10g fat, 156mg sodium, 10.5g of fiber, 22.5g of sugar, 10g of protein.

Now you can have the most awesome oatmeal that rivals the Starbucks fancy stuff for a lot less, only $0.50 per serving as opposed to $3-4 at Starbucks.

Starbucks Oatmeal – make it at home, make it to go!

Now, I think I know what you are thinking – you are thinking “Wait a minute – the fat content is way higher for your special oatmeal!”

Well duh – that’s the flaxseeds. Do I have to tell you that flaxseeds are a superfood with essential omega-3 fatty acids and are used to feed those chickens that lay fancy Omega-3 eggs? Do I need to tell you that there’s also evidence it reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes – now is that something your yucky oatmeal can do?


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When Donuts are Deadly

Image from shipleydo-nuts.com

Living with allergies can be a terrifying experience.

I’m not talking about Hay Fever, sneezes or runny noses.

I’m talking about food allergies, life threatening allergies, allergies that can kill the ones you love.  The type of allergies that require you to carry an epi-pen and pray you never have to use it.

Our son Michael was diagnosed with dairy and peanut allergies by the time he was five months old – at the time he was still exclusively on breast milk.  He has never had cheese, ice cream, yogurt, pudding or macaroni and cheese.  At times, I’ve offered him non-dairy versions of the things most toddlers eat on a regular basis.  Most of the time he rejects the alternatives.

We frequently have to educate Michael’s caretakers about allergies.  For some weird reason there is this misconception out there that a little exposure to an allergen will help a person or child with allergies develop an immunity to whatever they’re allergic to.  It doesn’t work that way folks – allergies are not like the flu where you take a flu shot and hope you don’t get the flu.  Every single exposure can lead you closer to that day when Benedryl is not enough, when you have to use an epi-pen and hope your child is still breathing, when you have to pray you have an epi-pen on hand, when you pray the epi-pen will work.

When you pray and hope your child will not die from an allergic reaction.

We had an allergy scare about two weeks ago.  I had picked up Michael from daycare and noticed cupcakes on the counter – apparently it was someone’s birthday and their parents brought cupcakes to celebrate.  I asked “Michael didn’t eat one of those did he?”  “No, we gave him some fruit instead.”  Nodding, I led my son out to the car, buckled him into his car seat and started the hour long commute home.  Within 5 minutes of driving I could hear Michael coughing, and then coughing some more.  I look back and notice he is scratching all over and he starts to cry saying “hurts momma, hurts!”  I looked at his arms and legs and notice they’ve turned bright red  and as I looked back at his cute little face I saw more red.

At that moment, I knew.

He was having an allergic reaction and I didn’t have any Benedryl in the car.  In a split second I knew I didn’t have time to get him home, I would be lucky to make it to the drug store.  I had to think quick to remember where the closest one was and began praying, “Lord, let us make it in time.”  When we got there I carried  Michael in as he started screaming and crying “hurts!”  Fortunately, I quickly found what was needed and was able to get Michael to drink a dose.  Within minutes he began to quiet down.  Back in the car I held him tightly listening to him breathe trying to decide whether or not to take him to the ER.

In the end, we did take him to the ER, just because we had never seen a reaction that bad and I couldn’t bear the thought of him going to bed and me waking up in the morning to discover the unthinkable had happened.  In the end, everything was okay.  In the end I was glad I did have an epi-pen and recently had made sure the school had one too, even though we didn’t need to use it . . . this time.

That’s the thing, right?  We were so lucky that everything turned out okay, but can you believe it – just two days later Michael managed to steal some donuts off a table and run off with them.  It was terrifying but funny at the same time.  It was terrifying because we knew those donuts could kill him.  It was ironically funny because he had never tried to steal food before and it just seemed so cute that I really wished he could have had one.  Michael’s been such a picky eater that no one thought he would even want to try a donut but he somehow managed to climb up a chair and grab them from the center of a large table.  Needless to say, donuts have since been banished from our house (and they were pretty rare to begin with).

But now we are trying to figure out what to do about school exposure.  His class is peanut free but it’s pretty onerous to request they go dairy free too.  After our scare, I bought a big red button that says:

Today, his class is having another birthday party with cupcakes and I worry.  Of course I worry about the obvious, you know, the cupcakes, but I also worry about his teachers isolating him at a separate table to protect him.  I worry about him being separated from his friends and being forced to eat alone.  I worry a lot.  I want Michael to fit in and have friends but at the same time  I do not want him to die from sticking his fingers in his friend’s cupcake and then licking them (he’s only two you know).  I worry that he won’t like his “alternative” snack, that he’ll want what everyone else is having.   I worry that I’ll forget to send an alternative and he’ll be left sitting at a table all by himself watching his friends eat cupcakes.

And this is motherhood, worrying about our children.


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What’s in Your Chicken Nuggets?

So after telling you we gave Michael chicken nuggets for his school lunch I started to think about about a scene from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Episode back in 2010 where he tries to convince a group of children that chicken nuggets are gross. Basically, he throws a chicken carcass into a blender, makes some patties with the mush, adds some junk to make it taste good, covers it in bread crumbs and fries it. I think most rational people who watched the episode reacted the same way I did – “That is disgusting!” And to my horror the children happily ate those chicken nuggets. Here’s a refresher:

I have never been a chicken nugget fan myself, I cannot even remember asking my parents to buy me chicken nuggets. I was more of a burger kind of gal, but chicken nuggets are a staple of many toddlers, youth and adult diets – I know because my husband and his brothers like to eat them. I personally think they don’t taste like chicken (any amens out there?), but they are sooooo lovable! Our kids love them, heck my adult relatives love them! Does the fact that we know they are not good for us stop us from buying them? No, they are like a crazy addiction that we can’t deny or explain. It’s like my addiction to diet coke – I know it’s making me fatter but I can’t seem to stop drinking it and it drives me bonkers!

In these cases, knowledge is power. The more we know, the better decisions we can make about the food we eat and feed our children. Remember the uproar about Pink Slime? Again, it’s Jamie Oliver that made it real for us:

Pink Slime Described by Jamie Oliver

Ignorance is bliss. So long as we didn’t know about Pink Slime we happily ate it, fed it to our families and allowed our schools to serve it for lunch. Essentially, we let ranchers sell us inedible meat really cheap by adding crap to it.

But have you looked inside your chicken nuggets?

“Good Ingredients, Good Food” Claims McDonald website. When you look at the Q&A on the quality of their meats it claims “The only meat used in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets is chicken breast meat.”

Yes, the only meat is chicken, but that’s not all that’s in your chicken nugget. The ingredient list for the “meat” part is actually: White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning [autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid], sodium phosphates, natural flavor (botanical source). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dextrose, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Now, you don’t need a masters degree to know that chicken nuggets should be little more than chicken, flour, salt & pepper, panko and maybe some other seasoning, but the “chicken” part of this chicken nugget has 13+ ingredients. The breading has 21 ingredients and it’s “prepared” in 7 ingredients, including this mysterious TBHQ, which is lethal to humans in the amount of 5g – apparently you have to eat 11lbs of chicken nuggets to get 1g so you’re safe dude.  Now I could write a lot about some of these ingredients, but then this post would get long and boring, so I’ll move on to the more important issue: What can we do?

First, I don’t know about you, but I am too darn busy to make a load of fresh chicken nuggets to keep a stash in the freezer. I have other things to do – like 20 loads of laundry, okay? I am not superwoman or supermom. Fresh chicken nuggets come around about once every 8 – 10 weeks in our house and Michael wouldn’t even touch the darn things the first 20 times I tried giving them to him; he insisted on those precut, preformed versions from the store or drive-thru.

So we buy “better” chicken nuggets and I hope you will too.

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These still have a lot of ingredients, but at least I recognize all of them and they have whole grains to boot.  This is our go-to chicken nugget and the good thing is we can get 5lbs for about 12 bucks – not too shabby for the frugal family looking to feed their kids a better chicken nugget.

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Ho-Hum to Yum

 

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Today I want to talk about transforming lunches.

Did you know that toddlers are more inclined to eat when presented more colors on their plate? A study was done at Cornell University that revealed that children prefer to have seven items with six different colors on their plates. Ever since I read that, I try to add a lot of variety to my son’s lunch.

So, last night was burger night at our house. We usually do fast food on Thursdays, and usually it’s pizza because Michael’s preschool has pizza for lunch on Fridays and I don’t want him to feel left out because of his allergies. However, last night we weren’t feeling pizza so we decided to do burgers instead and we picked up some chicken nuggets to put in Michael’s lunch the next day. My husband, being helpful, threw the leftovers into a bento box and stuffed it in the fridge. I don’t blame him, nights at our house are hectic. We get home usually around 6:30 and we have an hour and a half to make dinner, feed the kids, give them baths, get them ready for bed and make sure Michael gets his 30 minute breathing treatment for asthma. As soon as both kids are snug in their beds we start cleaning up and preparing for the next day: breakfast, lunch, milk bottles, etc. And then we crash . . .

Our mornings go something like this: I wake up first to make coffee and pack lunch bags for everyone, then as I start to get ready my husband gets up, throws some clothes on and then gets the kids ready to go. It works out pretty well most days.

So this morning I woke up and pulled out Michael’s lunch box and decided to do a quick transformation and you can see that it went from “ho-hum” to “yum” just by looking at it. It only took 10 minutes to transform his lunch but the results fit what I learned from Cornell: six different colors and seven items (ketchup is outside the box). I have included three different veggies and two kinds of fruit. I admit, the chicken nuggets are not the healthiest thing we could have put in there, but overall it’s a healthy lunch that I think my son will like. I know he’ll most likely eat the nuggets, corn, peas and fruit – the carrots are the wild card.

I have not been able to get Michael to eat carrots in my presence. I’ve seen him put them in his mouth and spit them out again, but I’ve never seen him swallow them. That said, there have been days I’ve picked him up from school and heard his teachers say “today he ate everything” to which I ask “even the carrots?” . . . “Yup, even the carrots.”

I can’t explain it, why a different environment can make a difference but it does, and that’s why I continue to pack things in Michael’s lunch I think he probably won’t eat.

What tricks do you use when packing your kids’ lunches?


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Picky Eating: It’s not our fault! (well, maybe it is but I won’t judge you)

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Hello everyone, my name is Rhonda and I am living with a Picky Eater.

I can’t even get him to eat a special vegan cupcake but he will eat Cheerios . . . on the floor . . . . Hey, don’t judge!  At least I get to eat the cupcake when he’s done making a fuss about how he doesn’t want to eat it.

I have a dear friend, bless her heart, that has two beautiful young girls who eat broccoli.  So even after I posted “don’t tell me about your kid that eats broccoli” she immediately e-mailed me to tell me her kids did in fact eat broccoli, and why was I such a broccoli hater?  Actually, that’s not how it went down, I knew before my post that her kids loved veggies and I have been secretly harboring a mommy jealousy ever since I learned about it. . . . I take comfort in the fact her girls still refuse to eat brussel sprouts because they “smell like feet.”

If your kids love their veggies, you deserve a pat on the back for figuring out the secret to toddler healthy eating habit psychology  – or you just have a freak of nature.

It reminds me of something I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago about how to prevent childhood allergies.  It goes something like this: 1. Delay the introduction of solids, 2. Exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months, and 3. introduce foods one at a time and for several days in a row to make sure there are no adverse reactions.  I had to comment that sometimes you can follow all the rules and still have a child that suffers from allergies.  I both breastfed and delayed solids until Michael was about 5 1/2 months old and by then, he had already been diagnosed with diary and peanut allergies.  I DID, however, supplement with formula for the first few weeks of Michael’s life because my milk supply failed to come in (I pretty much pumped it into existence) and I have wondered in the back of my mind if that’s what did it or my love of cheese while I was pregnant.  Or maybe Michael was just destined to have food allergies regardless of what I did.

I think it’s similar when it comes to feeding our children and their eating habits – sometimes you can do all the right things and your kid will still hate broccoli (or brussel sprouts).  We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it, we shouldn’t secretly hate MOCWEVs (Mothers Of Children Who Eat Vegetables), and we shouldn’t give up the fight to feed our kids right.

Getting kids to eat healthy isn’t something that can happen overnight.  It’s a process and it can be a very long process – there is no magic wand, Harry Potter, that can fix this.  I truly admire people like Jamie Oliver who have made healthy eating their campaign in life because often times healthy eating starts with the habits we form at home, either purposely or accidently, and are re-enforced by our environment.   Like what our schools feed our children, or what fast food options are available near our house, or what is served at the Zoo’s Cafe, or what is listed on the Children’s Menu at a restaurant.  Other factors like the cost of fresh produce vs. the value dollar menu also contribute to the problem – parents know their kid will eat the processed chicken nuggets in a happy meal but not fresh asparagus that costs the same to buy, takes time to prepare, doesn’t provide a complete “meal” and will probably be left untouched at the end of the meal.  Many parents simply cannot afford to keep offering their children foods that end up in the garbage.

There must be a way to meet the challenge – and that is why I started this blog.  More on this to come . . .

Go-Go Baby Bento

Every Mom Wants to be a Good Mom

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I have an addiction.  I think most women can relate to this addiction, you know, collecting cookbooks and then allowing them to collect dust after the initial excitement wears off. I have 20 cookbooks hiding in the pantry and two boxes of cookbooks in the garage – my favorite five are on a bookshelf.

I have so many that my husband likes to make fun of me, just like I tease my own mother who has several bookcases devoted to cookbooks – sometimes I wonder if there is a Cookbook Collectors Anonymous group out there to help stem women from buying another cookbook destined to sit first on the table, then the counter, and finally get designated a spot on the shelf (or in the pantry).

Okay, enough about my ridiculous addiction, the real reason why I am sharing with you these books in particular is because they demonstrate the desire in the deepest part of my soul to be a good mother.  Something about the idea of homemade goodness on a cute little baby spoon with an eager and willing baby ready to eat what I have so meticulously created says “good moms make homemade baby food.”  And the pictures! They make me want to eat baby food myself half the time.  I was suffering, unfortunately, from what I believe is the idealism of the First Time Mom.

What I discovered, to my horror, was that my sweet baby did not appreciate all this extra effort I was making to present him with yummy and wholesome food.  Purees were fine and all, it was when we started to get into real solids that the Baby Wars truly began.  Reality hit me like a brick – I was lucky if I could get my picky baby to eat something as simple as spaghetti.  Foods could not touch each other.  Foods could not be pureed or saucy.  Food should not include meat . . . or vegetables . . . or bread.  I was convinced for a while that I could count with both hands the number of foods that were acceptable to my picky toddler.  I couldn’t even sell him the extra fancy (read: extra expensive) automobile shaped pasta.

This my friends, is when life gets real.

I don’t want to hear about your kid that eats broccoli, okay?  That’s like listening to a woman that says natural labor didn’t hurt and the baby just slid out when she sneezed (sound familiar anyone?).

In real life, forget making anything from a toddler cookbook – moms and dads do somersaults just to get their kids to eat a carrot.  Getting kids to eat and eat well is tricky, it’s tempting to offer the typical kid friendly foods, you know – hotdogs, burgers and pizza.  I admit it, we have pizza at least once a week in our house and it’s usually the one night I know my kids are going to eat something, but we all want our kids to eat healthy and we want them to eat their veggies with a smile on their face.  So how do we do it?

More on this to come – Go-Go Baby Bento