Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Feeding Toddlers

Many times when I am around other parents I hear this complain a lot that their children do not eat enough vegetables or fruits, or they eat too much junk food snacks like potato chips, coke.

I don't claim that my son's eating habit is perfect. I allow him to eat candies and chocolates at home as long as he brush his teeth after that. But I do not have problem with him eating vegetables and fruits.

In my opinion, parents who have problem with their children is because they introduce those junk food too soon before the good eating habit is well establish yet, and because at home, they have too many bad choices to choose.


Pic: While playing he went and grab the asparagus from the dining table and put it in his mouth! He is 2 yrs old in this photo.

The choices on the dining table should be between carrot, mango, or broccoli. Yes, it seems that I gave my son choices to choose when in fact, I don't!

What do you think he will choose if the choices are between carrot, potato chips, and pizza? And the drink of choices is pops or sugary juice? Instead at home, I insist he drinks milk. He only drink juice on his lunch break at school because I gave him the juice box.

For his fruits daily requirement, I would rather he eats the fruit with all their complete vitamins still there and their healthy fiber than if he drinks it in straw!

It's all about choices we gave them....

Beside giving him false choices to choose, I also telling him all about the health benefit he can get by eating those food that I prepare for him. For example, if he eat carrot , he will have healthy eye sight. When he eat broccoli, he couldn't get cancer which is very very bad. When he choose fish, he will be smarter. When he choose spinach, he will have enough blood which is like the transportation for all the nutrients to reach every part of his body. So while he is eating healthy, he also feels good about himself because he knows that he is doing something good to his body.

I really do not like it when my mom came and she likes to pile up all those unhealthy snacks on my dining table. It's so easy for a child to be bad and it's so hard to train them to be good. It's also an annoying thing that I have to be the bad guy. It's just not fair for me who has been trying so hard since Kai Kai was old enough to eat to make him loves healthy food. Luckily my father help a little so now when my mom is here, there are less unhealthy snacks on my table. Just a few ....

A dining table should be clean of any snacks. The only thing allow to be there should be the well-prepared healthy food only. You can have bad snacks at home, just be sure to put them behind the locks!

In my experience, after school is the best time to make him eat healthy food because he is always at the hungriest around 4 to 5 o'clock. Too early for dinner, yet way too late for lunch. For breakfast, I choose cereal, oatmeal, yogurt ( remember my new best friend, the yogurt maker? ), eggs, pancakes and waffle ( when I have time ). And usually my son doesn't feel too hungry around lunch time. So he usually a little bit more picky. But after school, he usually comes home famish because when the school end, he always play hard with his classmates at the school playground until he sweat a lot and he always comes home looking for food on the dining table.

So I make sure that before I left to pick him up from school, there will be some sort of healthy snacks ready for him to eat. If not, always offer him cereal first. When he is this hungry, he really doesn't care on what he eats, he just shove everything into his mouth so even though maybe at lunch or dinner he didn't get enough vegetables or fruits in his body, this is the time to balance things out! So I make sure that I won't miss this opportunity.

The easiest is to precut all the fruits and just lay them on the plate at dining table.

Then you can make all sort of sandwich off course. Peanut butter is not a bad thing. The jam maybe because of all the sugar content in it.

In my fridge, there is always a big bottle of milk that my son can grab himself when ever he is thirsty, and I make sure that it always full.

Another way is making vegetables dip. Clean, and cut the vegetables into smaller and easy to hold pieces. Then you make the dip.

His favorite dip is this blue cheese Dip and they are pretty easy to make and the taste is way more superior than if you opt to buy from the store. But again, the point is making them eat more vegetables so if you think making the dip is too troublesome then by all means go buy it!



BLUE CHEESE DIP

1 1/2 cups crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese ( I like milder taste, smelling it can give you a hint on how strong the flavor is going to be )
1 cup good mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream ( you can use yogurt )
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, Worcestershire, salt and pepper in the bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade and process it until smooth.


From my experience, kids loves sweeter vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, and red bell paper. But they can like others too like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, beets , mushrooms, and Belgium Endive as well. Just let them try it first.

To make Kai Kai likes to try new thing, I like to take him to the grocery store and let him choose what he likes to eat. 8 out of 10, he always pick vegetables and fruits instead of new snack or candies. Every time I went to my Asian grocery store, he always ran and grab a lotus root.

Beside fresh vegetable with the blue cheese dip, I am going to give you other kids friendly recipes.

WHITE BEAN AND BACON DIP WITH ROSEMARY PITA CHIPS

The homemade rosemary-flecked chips are a great complement to the garlicky dip, but store-bought pitas or bagel chips are a fine stand-in.

Chips:
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
3 (6-inch) pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
Cooking spray or you can use a brush and oil.

Dip:
2 bacon slices, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 ( 19-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp paprika

Preheat oven to 350F.

To prepare Chips, combine first 4 ingredients. Arrange pita wedgesin a single layer on a baking sheet. Lighty coat pita wedges with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with rosemary mixture. Lightly recoat pita wedges with cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until golden.

To prepare dip, cook bacon in a small saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add garlic to drippings in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add broth and beans; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Combine bean mixture, onions, and remaining ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Spoon mixture into a bowl; stir in 1 Tbs reserved bacon. Sprinkle Dip with remaining bacon just before serving. Serve with pita chips.


There are tons of recipe out there that can teach you on how to make dips. Children loves dips, you can even cut the vegetables with cookie cutter into cute shapes, like flower shape carrot for example.

Another great idea is making a smoothie for them.

Another one again is serving them with different cheeses.

Boil or steam Soy beans for no more than 5 minutes. They should not be mushy. Then sprinkle them with salt. For extra flavoring you can boil star anise first for 10 minutes or so to infuse the liquid then you cook the soy beans with that liquid. Children usually loves to peel the skin of the soy beans.

Another thing as well, is when I make let's say chicken soup. I really add a lot of vegetables in my soup, because for every bite that Kai Kai put in his mouth. I want it to be full with nutrients. I think rice is just a filler, something to make you full without much nutrient to offer. This way works very well if you have 2 children with different age, the older one can eat the soup like we do, and for the smaller one, you can puree the soup until smooth. That's why adding lots of vegetables in the soup can help to get the right consistency for a puree soup.

This is a good recipe for soup for children that you can puree as well:

RICE AND VEGETABLE SOUP

1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 trimmed celery stick, chopped finely
1 medium carrot, chopped coarsely
1 L stock ( chicken or vegetable stock is fine )
2 (400gr) cans tomatoes
420g can four-bean mix, rinsed and drained ( any white beans should do as well )
1/2 cup (100gr) long-grain white rice
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large pan; cook onion, celery and carrot, stirring, until onion is soft. Add stock, undrained crushed tomatoes, beans, rice and sugar. Bring to boil; simmer; uncovered, about 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve soup sprinkled with basil and cheese.

This recipe is great for freezing as well.

For baby: Puree to the desired consistency.


Pasta is also a great help for mom. Since pasta comes in so many colors and so many shapes it's so easy to feed them to children.


Mixing tofu with ground meat, salt, pepper, egg white, garlic and onion then boil them and serve it with chopped vegetables is also great. Look at Kai Kai when he was almost 2 yrs old eating this tofu balls by himself.

Take your kids next time you go grocery shopping, take them to the fruits and vegetables section and asked them what they like to eat.

At home, asked them if they like to help you prepare the meal. The more involve they are in making their own meal, the bigger the chances they will eat their creation.

Let them play with their food a little. Children learn through play. Eating is part of that too.

When they said they are full. Respect that! They need to learn how hungry and full is like. So they know when to eat and when to stop.

Don't force feed the children just because they might not be hungry yet. Don't worry, trust your kids, I have never heard children literarily kill themselves through starvation. Their survival instinct is bigger than that.

Food should be fun. Not punishment. Candies or dessert shouldn't be a reward too.

Heck... If Kai Kai said for breakfast he wants chocolate chips cookies, I let him have it once in a while. I found that the more I trust him, the more he made a better judgment himself base on his knowledge of eating healthy food that will make him grow stronger. The next day, he asked for his oatmeal back again.


Pic: He grab the Belgium Endive salad from the dining table that I made for myself since I thought he won't like the bitter taste of it. He surprise me again with his broad taste. He likes the bitterness of it.

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