Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fruit – It’s what’s for dinner!

I have shared this strategy with quite a few people and a number of times those same people have come back to me to tell me how much they appreciated the idea. So, it must be blog worthy. Right?

Our kids are now 3 ½ and 5 ½. So we have now twice been through the transition where your infant/young toddler goes from eating everything you offer them to eating a diet of 5-6 items. It is incredibly frustrating and the more you try to force and fight your kid to eat, the more they will refuse.

At least this is the case when you have children of the stubborn variety. I hear tales of kids who always eat everything that they are offered and regularly try new foods…but I believe that they are either myths or outliers.

You can’t control what a toddler eats. You can offer, you can make mealtime pleasant, you can involve them in shopping, gardening and cooking. But you can’t make a toddler or pre-schooler eat. Not going to happen.

(Caveat – we know families that have certain rules about trying a bite of everything or finishing certain things before getting seconds, etc. That’s fabulous if it works for your family and we’ll try it again when our kids are older. Rules like that result in huge tantrums and aren’t a good fit for our family right now.)

One book that I read had a lot of good suggestions concerning meals and young kids. One was to offer bread at every meal. This way if your child liked nothing else that you cooked, you wouldn’t feel the need to be a short order cook and cater to their whims. They could just have bread for dinner. We also had a rule for a while that if the kids tried a little of everything (or most things) and didn’t like them, they could have yogurt. Similar to the bread, it was zero effort for me.

Eventually, I came around to the idea of serving fruit with dinner every night. Both kids like fruit. They may occasionally decide that they don’t like a particular fruit on a particular day (that happens with everything), but if they are hungry, they will eat fruit. So I know that at least one item in the meal will be eaten and I stop worrying about what else they do or don’t eat.

And bonus, the fruit is good for the adults, too. We don’t always do a great job eating all of the fruits and veggies that we should, so this makes it easy. Also, it helps satisfy us at the end of the meal with something sweet, so sometimes we are less inclined to have dessert.

Here is the rotation of fruit that I serve with dinner:
Apples (lots and lots of apples)
Oranges – Navel or Clementine
Grapes – all colors
When we run low on fresh fruit or I want to sneak some spinach into their diet, we mix things up with a fruit smoothie.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Portable Homemade Breakfast

I eat breakfast at my desk each day at work. This is mostly because I am making lunches while the kids are eating their breakfast and also because I’m tired in the morning at work. I also prefer to eat my breakfast slowly, so I would have to get up notably earlier to eat my breakfast at the pace I prefer.

I have always found it a little tricky to bring a well-balanced breakfast to work. When I worked downtown, it was relatively easy to buy breakfast. But that isn’t a convenient option in my new location without spending lots of time and money at the Starbucks drive-thru.

For a few weeks I was bringing oatmeal cups or oatmeal packets and bowls to work. This was a good food solution, but I was either throwing away a lot of containers or eating oatmeal with a lot of added sugar. I remembered that I had seen references online to crockpot oatmeal, and I began to wonder if I could make a better breakfast…
We are on week three of the experiment and it seems to be going well. My first batch didn’t have enough flavor, but this week’s batch is basically perfect as a base recipe that I can add things to as I want. Below is my recipe for a week’s worth of oatmeal. I toss everything in sometime on Sunday morning/afternoon and later that day I scoop it out into 5 or 6 servings for the week.

Crockpot Oatmeal
1 ¼ cup Steel Cut Oats
1 cup milk
4 cups water
4 Tbsp peanut butter or almond butter or sunbutter
4 tsp honey
3 apples, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks

Put all ingredients in crockpot and stir together. Put crockpot on high for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once oatmeal is simmering, put crockpot on low and stir occasionally. You just need to stir often enough that the oats don’t stick to the bottom of the crockpot and so the peanut butter mixes well.

In 2-3 hours your kitchen should smell great. Turn off crockpot. Once mixture is warm, put in reusable containers and refrigerate. When ready to eat, microwave for 1-2 minutes. Add water to get the oatmeal consistency that you like and then heat for an additional 60-90 seconds.

In future batches I plan to try adding raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, pears or maybe even a little pumpkin in place of the apples.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lifestyle Change

Right now, I'm not choosing to make time for exercise.

I know, I know.

Really, I do. I know all of the reasons that exercise is good for me and how good it makes me feel. But for now I have to settle for the occasional walk or hike and the exercise associated with doing laundry or straightening the house. (Seriously, I have chore days where I barely sit down all day, so it’s not like I’m completely sedentary.)

The trade off at the moment is that I’m spending a lot of time focusing on what I’m eating. R and I are using the Livestrong app on our phones to keep our eating in check. It has reminded me that I don’t need to eat until I’m completely stuffed. I've stopped going for seconds at dinner, I'm no longer mindlessly snacking while I am cooking or cleaning in the kitchen and I am eating less crap. Mostly less stuff that is filled with sugar.

I am not giving up entire categories of food. I am not giving up chocolate. I am working to create a meal “plan” that I can live with long term because the weight is coming off very slowly. Which, honestly is good. These changes are sustainable for the next 6-9 months to get to my goal. (I’ve lost about 7 pounds in 2 months.) And once I get to my goal, I hope it won’t be hard to maintain my new weight since I have established a life strategy and not used a fad diet.

My favorite thing about the livestrong app is the reminder that you start fresh every day. Even if I go way over my goal one day…<>…the next day I start from scratch. It is a wonderful reminder that one day of extra calories does not *ruin* my efforts. It is just one day.

The reason that this is a trade-off for exercise is that I am spending more time planning around food. Meal planning, preparing and regularly shopping to have healthy foods available for all of us to eat. I really do enjoy vegetables a lot, but they generally take a little more forethought than fruit. If I plan, I can have them available so that I munch on red peppers and carrots instead of grabbing chips or bread while I make dinner.

I have slowly been building up my bank of recipes and trying to focus on meals that have more vegetables. Some nights I am making a batch of stir-fry veggies for me, a meat dish for R and a noodle side for the kids. They all go together as a meal, but each component has a certain family member in mind. Other nights I can make one dish or two that makes us all happy. Rare, but it happens.

All of this is a way of introducing a few posts that I have in mind about food. I just wanted to set the stage for what is to come.