Raising Adventurous Young Eater

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A lot of parent appears to be in a lot of constant struggle (including myself) with their children when it comes to eating.  Every day is different, they can be the best eater one day and the next is “NO, NO, NO” for all the foods they used to like before, leaving parent scratching their heads.

I believed that eating is a learned behavior and we can foster that sophisticated palate at a very young age.  What is young you ask?  The answer is infancy (Day 1) You can expose your infant to different flavor through your breast milk. How neat is that?!?!  Mother’s breast milk changes according to the types of food she’s eating. So, the more variety of foods you eat, the more complex taste your milk will be and the baby is less likely to reject new foods later on as they already are familiar with the flavor .

Well, formula mamas don’t get discouraged either, any duration of breastfeeding you can provide still shows good benefits and reduces their risk of becoming a picky eater when they reach pre-school age.  Remember: Any breastfeeding is better than nothing. You can still teach your young child to eat a variety of foods when they are starting complimentary foods (right about 6 months of age).

Here’s a few tips that can get you started:

DINING ATMOSPHERE

The eating environment for your child should be enjoyable.  No distraction of TV, video games, phone and tablet. All electronics to be turn off at meal time. Meal time should be around the same time everyday. Kids does well with routine and it does take about 6-7 weeks to build up a new habit. All family members needs to sit down at the table and eat together. Everyone needs to eat the same food (correct texture and consistency for the young infant), family style. Let the children pick and choose what they wanted, at least all food should be sampled.  No yelling, shouting or force feeding as we don’t want your kid to associate eating with bad experiences.

ROLE MODEL

Baby and toddler are smart, they observe adults behavior and emulate them. They also learn to manipulate the parent so they get what they wanted. So parent needs to be consistent (Both mom and dad) in relaying the same message for their kids when it comes to food and eating. If you are not an adventurous eating, please don’t expect that your child will eat everything you ask them to.  Be a role model for your children, eat and try new food in front of them.

IT TAKES MORE THAN ONE TRY

The key is “Try new food”, it takes repetition of 9-10 tries of introduction of the same food before the kid will accept/like them.  Just because they don’t like it in the beginning, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t try it again. Sometimes is the texture they don’t like, so be in tune with the types of foods your child enjoys.

HAVE FUN WHILE LEARNING

For young children less than 3 years old, let them play with the food.  It’s going to be messy but allowing the children to play with food will reduces their anxiety of eating them later on. Set them up on high chair or booster seat and teach them about the food, play (brush their teeth with it, splash, smash, tear) and then show them how you cook with it in food later on.

Take them to grocery stores and let them pick a new food (preferably fresh foods, not processed) from the isle and both of you can explore together what to make using it. Making food into fun shapes and sizes with cookie cutter would work too.

Educate your young child why the food is good for them, whether it be strong bones, good vision, become a super hero that they admires or becoming strong and tall like the athletes they wanted to become or grow tall enough to get to the rides in adventure parks.

DON’T SKIMP ON FLAVOR

Food doesn’t have to be bland. It can have some flavor.  Infant less than one year old is best to stay away from salt but you can include other herbs and spice (Not spicy) to amp up the flavor of foods. But, if your children prefers bland food, that’s ok too, as long as they are open in trying different foods.

 

NO SNACKING 1 1/2-2 HOURS BEFORE MEAL TIME

Children stomach capacity is small. If they snack too close to meal time, then they wouldn’t be hungry at meal time. Then you’ll be struggling to even get him/her to take a bite of food, but then later at bedtime they will be asking for cereal when they become hungry.  Occasionally that’s ok when you don’t want to deal with power struggle with your stubborn child (we are all human after all).  However, if it continuous, then the children will learn that it’s acceptable for him/her not to eat lunch/dinner because he/she will get to snacks all day and eat their favorite cereal at bedtime.

REWARD SYSTEM

Kids thrive on being praise and feeling proud of themselves. So, if they eat a new food, reward them with things they like to do, whether it be a chocolate/ice cream after meal or 20-30 minutes more play time with his/her favorite activities.

Bottom line:

  • Breastfeeding from Day 1.
  • Let the young kids explore with food, have fun while doing it.
  • Don’t make separate meals to cater to them. Eat together as a family.
  • Be persistent, consistent and patience.  Routine is your best friend !

 

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Exploring Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Eating local and practicing sustainability in Oregon has always been at the forefront of their residents.  Organics/whole food groceries and small family farm has bloomed dramatically, particularly in the Eugene/Springfield township that I lived in thanks to the local demand. Farmers market has turned into the hot spots for the locals to hang out and enjoy the local produces/fruits, dairy and pasture during the peak growing season.

I love shopping at farmers market compared to patronizing whole foods stores because I know I’m supporting local business. I enjoyed going to Whole Foods, Market of Choice or Trader’s Joe don’t get me wrong, but their items are overpriced as it is and the items may be organic but it doesn’t necessarily is local. Eating healthy sometimes can be very expensive if you didn’t plan ahead.

So it’s time to go back to basic: eating seasonal and local foods. Foods that are the closest to our home tends to be a little bit environmental friendly as well, therefore, choosing local farmer’s market or joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) makes more sense to me. Since I don’t have the green thumb to grow my own food (friends have laughed at me for this since anything grows in Oregon’s ground), I’ve decided to join CSA to try it out instead. To my surprised, just in our county alone, there’s more than 50 farms that provides CSA services, choosing one definitely is not easy.

I’ve decided to join Food for Lane County youth farm because I liked their objectives to teach limited income teenager about food/nutrition, helping them gain skills about leadership and teamwork. Another plus for joining the youth farm for me was convenience of picking up my own CSA shares right at my work place. Most CSA has full share (feeding 3-4 people), and half shares (feed 2 people) available through the season.

The total half-share for 20 weeks cost me $350, averaging out to be $17.50 per week. Really not a bad deal for fresh, local produce. After two weeks of picking up my CSA box, I noticed that I have minimal waste on  the veggies compared to before that I’ve always had some wilted veggies in my fridge waiting for me to throw away.  It also forces me to be creative in making dishes with those items as well.

If you wanted to learn more about CSA, visit  “IFOAM organic international” website to explore what’s available in your area (North America, Japan and Europe).

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Week 1 Bag: Strawberries, beets, garlic, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, Italian kale.

Menu Created for Week 1: 

  •  Steamed Carrots with Butter
  • Strawberries Lemonade
  • Roasted Beets
  • Sautéed Beets Greens with Garlic
  • Lettuce Wraps
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Sautéed Kale with Chicken
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Week 2 Bag: Strawberries, Bok Choy, Italian Kale, Broccoli, Zucchini, Carrots, Green Onions

Menu Created for Week 2:

  • Strawberries Greek Yogurt Popsicle
  • Beef with Bok Choy
  • Roasted Kale
  • Broccoli & Tofu Stir Fry
  • Roasted Carrots
  • Zucchini & Carrots Soup
  • Garlic & Scallions Chicken

This is quite fun and I will continue to share my weekly finding and what menu item that I come up with. Hope you all can start exploring your local CSA and share your experience with me !

Surviving the Holidays

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You’ll be in shock when you realize Christmas meals can rack up to 7,000 calories over the course of the day. What?!?! Yes, it’s true! Everything adds up, from the moment you take a bite of your breakfast toast to when you have the last morsel of post-dinner dessert. The added calories will ultimately lead to at least two to three pounds of weight gain. If you don’t want to end up feeling bloated and miserable the next day, try making some of these little changes to help you stay below 2,500 calories!

Limit or Avoid Empty Calorie Beverages
Soft drinks, wine, beer, eggnog, cocktails, and punch all provide empty calories with very little nutritional benefits. Instead, try flavored water, sparkling water, fruit infused water, or iced tea. If you must drink alcohol, limit it to one to two small glasses of spirits through the day.

Work Out Before the Big Feast
Try to sneak in some exercise on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day. Not only does exercise provide you with endorphins (feel good hormones), but it will help you feel less guilty if you later indulge yourself. Not an exercise junkie? No problem, try yoga, take the dogs on a walk around the neighborhood, or play interactive video games with the kids (boxing, tennis, dancing, etc.).

Aim for Smaller Plates
Use the small plates, so it tricks your mind into thinking you’ve filled your plate with delicious food (technically, you have). With smaller plates, you can even go back for seconds and still have fewer calories than if you had used a big plate.

Take Time to Enjoy Your Food
It takes time for the brain to register you are full, usually about 20 minutes after eating. So take time to chew your food, mingle, socialize, and enjoy the company.

Eat Salads and Veggies First
Fiber in vegetables helps us feel full, so eat the salads first and go light on the dressing. Choose steamed and roasted vegetables over fried ones or casserole dishes (e.g. green bean casserole).

Make a Few Low Calories Dishes
Most traditional meals are high in fat, thus high in calories. Bring or make something light, such as fruit salad, a vegetable tray, or 100 calorie appetizers.

Don’t Skip Meals
People tend to skip meals before the big celebration, thinking they are saving room for the big meal. This really isn’t a good idea, because you’ll tend to overeat when the time comes. So eat smaller meal/snacks instead, staying between 200-300 calories per meal. Then you can still enjoy a 1,500-1,900 calorie feast later on.

Go Easy On the Gravy
Gravy made from fat drippings are a big source of calories. Either skip the gravy or drizzle just enough to coat the meat and potatoes.

Think Half for Dessert
Dessert can easily pack up to 400-500 calories per serving. Only take half of what you normally would eat, and go back for a second smaller portion. This will not only give you time to think over your decision, you’ll only have had one serving if you decide to go back for the other half. Always stick to one dessert you know you enjoy most or gives you the most satisfaction. Don’t waste your calories by sampling a few different ones.