Ten things I wish I had known

aka “Words of wisdom for weaning”

1. Take a deep breath. Relax. Nothing you do out of love regarding food/feeding at this point is going to scar your baby for life. It’s okay!

2. If you decide to make your own baby food, do so with the knowledge that much if not most of it is going to be thrown away rather than consumed, and with the attitude that that’s okay. If you can’t take that attitude, you may want to rethink making the food.

3. If you “cave” and buy baby food, even the non-organic Gerber food, that’s okay, too. It’s actually rather liberating. There are good options for pre-made baby food out there, and you can still teach your child to like good wholesome food. It’s also very convenient, and you need a little convenience once in a while.

4. Save some effort and use a food mill to puree some of what the family is eating. Why spend extra time making something for baby if you don’t have to?

5. If baby refuses a food, try again later. Later could mean tomorrow, in a few days or even a few weeks.  If you forget to introduce the food again for a few months, that’s okay too. It may even work better than giving it again right away.

6. Don’t feed your baby rice cereal unless it is very thin. And if you’re waiting until your baby is 6 months before trying it, she probably doesn’t need it to be very thin, so you may want to just use a different cereal. Believe me, you do not want a painfully constipated baby.

7. Work on introducing a cup or bottle. This is especially for breast-fed babies. I don’t think it matters much whether you pick a bottle, sippy or open cup, but your child will need extra fluid as she nurses less. Make acceptance of your chosen vessel a priority to avoid a dehydrated, constipated child.

8. Children acquire new skills at different rates. Just because your friend’s son can hold and appropriately use a spoon at one year doesn’t mean yours will. It’s okay.

9. Plan on sleeves and shirts getting dirty. If you don’t think you can mentally handle this, strip the kid down before meal times, and hose her off after she eats. Or just think of messy meals as an opportunity to change your kiddo into a different, but equally cute outfit.

10. As American women, we tend to over-analyze everything. Just remember that women have been having babies with no idea how exactly to do any of this stuff for thousands of years, and yet the human race has managed to survive and thrive. Also, your child will have no recollection of any of this anyway. I think God knew we were going to make some stupid mistakes, and this way our kids won’t be able to bring them up ad nauseam for the rest of our lives. Relax and enjoy this phase. It’s going to be okay!

What about you other moms? What do you wish you had known when you were starting your child on his or her food journey?

The power of words

Sweet Potato is really learning to talk now. She knows several letters and numbers, the names of a few of her friends, several animals, and of course foods!  She had never been a fan of cheese, but one night she was sitting in her high chair waiting for dinner with shredded cheese also waiting for dinner in front of her.  I was finishing getting the chili and cornbread together when I heard Sweet Potato say “cheese!”, and thought What the heck? Just because she hasn’t eaten it before doesn’t mean she won’t eat it tonight.  So I walked over, put a small amount of cheese on her plate and proceded to be surprised by how much cheese she ate that night.

Yesterday she did it again. I gave her a fried egg at breakfast, and she ate it saying “egg! Num-ee!” even though she hasn’t deigned to eat eggs in months.

I think part of both of these food acceptance experiences can be attributed to language.  Sweet Potato is so excited about knowing the words for things and being able to say them and communicate, that she was excited to eat the foods she was talking about.  I hope she continues to try and like more foods as she learns to say the words for them.

Flexitarian meals

Last week a friend an I were on a long run, and got to talking about healthy eating.  It turns out that there’s a lot of evidence  that humans are healthiest when we eat little meat and mostly plants. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”  My friend has been thinking more about how to cut meat down in the diet of her family, and this is something that I have been working on for the past year or two, so I thought I’d share some meal ideas.

A recent one for us is fried rice. I know, it sounds unhealthy, but it isn’t too bad.  First I scramble two or three omega-3 eggs with a little lite soy sauce.  Then I sautee some mushrooms, snow peas or whatever I feel like adding in while also nuking a bag of mixed veggies.  I often use the SteamFresh “Asian medly” because it has a little seasoning. I normally don’t like to buy frozen vegetables with a sauce, but I figure this sauce is going to flavor the whole dish, so why not?  When the veggies are all cooked, I throw them in the wok with about 2 cups cold left-over brown rice, heat the rice through, then sprinkle a little more soy sauce on top.  The whole meal takes less than 10 minutes to fix, it’s tasty, and as my husband says, “this will be good for lunches.” It’s also good with some edamame thrown in to up the protein content.

Fried Rice

This was made with a little left-over mixed veggies and quinoa, as well as more frozen mixed veggies and brown rice.

Other meatless meals we like are Crustless quiche (from Simply in Season– a wonderful cookbook), beans and rice burritos (without the tortilla is good too) and chili sans meat. I also like to cut down on the amount of meat I put in some dishes. I find that I can make a big pot of spaghetti with 1/2 pound of ground beef rather than a full pound, and I honestly don’t notice the difference. I like to make chicken curry using 1/2 pound of chicken and about 1 cup of chickpeas for the protein source. When I’m eating out, I really like red curry made with tofu, but I haven’t gotten my husband to be quite that adventurous yet.  Most of these meals are pretty heavy on the starches, so adding non-starchy vegetables in the mix, or just having a small serving of the main dish along with a salad would be a good way to increase your vegetable intake as well as decrease your calorie intake.  Basically, you want about half of your plate to be vegetables.

This plate could use more vegetables and less quinoa. The meat portion looks right, though.

What are your favorite meatless or low-meat meals?