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Regrouping

Much has changed since the last time I posted on here.  We have all grown in numbers, size (and maybe a couple of pounds).  The babe has begun her official academic career in kindergarten, her brother continues on to third grade, a German shepherd puppy has joined the family and while we continue to reside in NOVA, we have reentered the world of home ownership.  Everyone is happy, healthy and excited about the prospect of new adventures.

Myself, I am attempting to navigate this new world of an empty nest as a stay-at-home mom. It is bittersweet as it means the kids are growing up (too fast) but it allows much more time to devote to this business of nutrition.  I can focus more on all the fun and interesting aspects that involve food, eating, behavior and the science behind it.

Good stuff is coming folks, please stay tuned…..

 

Lunch Box Fun

The school year is upon us, today is AJ’s first day of school.  This year is a big one for us, the Babe is beginning to go to preschool and AJ is starting kindergarten.  Like every other parent who has gone through this and will go through it in the future, life is just happening too fast.  The kids are so excited to start at their respective schools, meet new friends and teachers, play and learn all day long.  But you know what I am most excited about, school lunch.  Yep, I have thoroughly enjoyed shopping for all of the fun food to pack in the kids lunches, letting AJ pick out what he would like to eat and planning on what to fill their little bellies so that they will be at their very best for the school day.  Hopefully the task will still be as appealing a couple of months into the school year, because we are at the beginning of this game.   It is a fun challenge to figure out that fine balance between what they will definitely eat and  what is yummy and good for them.  The plan is to utilize some prepackaged “kid” food along with fresher foods and beverages, cover most if not all of the food groups and make sure they are getting enough protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.  So today when I let AJ choose what he wanted in his very first kindergarten lunch, he more than eagerly started rattling off a list of his favorites to but in his brand new shiny lunch box (there is NO question whose child he is).   He selected whole wheat crackers, natural peanut butter to dip them in, two Baby Bell mozzarella cheese rounds, two clementines, water and a juice box.  There is just something so appealing to kids about miniature foods that seem to be just their size.  We talked about washing our hands before we eat, his ability to open any of the packages on his own (and in retrospect, we should of discussed not sharing- in case of allergies).  All in all, I think he is more than prepared for a successful first big kid lunch in a real school cafeteria.

Let’s just hope he eats it.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

National Breastfeeding Week was August 1-7 which was the inspiration for this post.  So I thought I’d show a little support to all the breastfeeding mammas out there (better a little late than never).  Having breastfed both AJ and the Babe, I understand firsthand all the joys and challenges that come along with this method of feeding our babies.   Wether or not you choose to breastfeed your child is a very personal decision and I am not in the business of judging those who do not.  It is not easy and all sunshine and roses for everyone, but there is no question that it has many, many benefits.   As a strong supporter of breastfeeding,  this post is nothing but positive and will share what I think are the top 5 (of a long list) of benefits.

1.  Breastfeeding helps boost the baby’s immune system.

Breast milk contains antibodies and the protein lactoferrin which broadly kills bacteria, viruses and fungi and has anti-inflammatory properties.

2.  Breastfeeding can help prevent overweight and obesity in children.

Studies have found greater occurrences of overweight and obesity at different stages of childhood/adolescence than babies that were breastfed at least 6 months.

3.  Helps the mama lose weight too.

Breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day!!!!

4.  Its green.

There is no packaging, no waste, no fuel or energy used in processing.

5.  Its free.

A breastfed baby can save a family $60-$100 a month in formula costs.

 

There are many great resources out there for breastfeeding families.  La Leche League International ( llli.org ) is a fantastic one and so is kellymom.com.

Keeping Your Kool

In every relationship there are disagreements on how to manage your household.  As the person who does the shopping, prepares the meals, and oh gee, has the most knowledge of food in the house, I like to have control of the kitchen and what foods enter our home.  But there is one item I cannot shake.  The tropical punch Kool-Aid.  My husband has this deep-seeded need to have the occasional glass of the red-dyed, sugar-filled beverage.  I was cool with the idea when AJ was little, but now both of the kids want to join in on the artificial fun.  The list of forbidden foods for our home is pretty short and artificial food coloring tops it.  We have even weeded it out of medicines, vitamins and toothpaste.  There is definitely a difference in AJ’s behavior when he eats foods that contain the dye.  When we are visiting friends and family, I am not so strict and allow them to partake in what their peers do, but I have done very good job of keeping it out of our home.  Except for that Kool-Aid.

So the dilemma is the different viewpoints of my husband and I.  He perceives it in a manner similar to the beer and wine we have in the house.  That it is off limits to the kids.  While I think that since they are growing older, we need to set a good example and not drink it ourselves.  The problem with his viewpoint is that it is not really off-limits because whenever he has a glass and they are around, they seem to always partake in the sweet-red potion.  To be fair, my methodology prevents the kids from participating in a lesson in moderation and self-control.   So who is right?  Clearly at this present time, it is not a disagreement that I am winning.  I am not giving up though, the debate will continue every time the container of the fake juice runs out.

These Times, They Are a Changing

May and June have been a crazy couple of months for the McGrew family.  My husband, Tim graduated from the MBA program at William and Mary, AJ graduated from preschool, we have had tons of family visiting and most recently our family has relocated to Alexandria, VA.  It is just a few hours north of our happy home in Williamsburg, but it is like living in a totally different universe.  While my husband and I are excited about all of the great things our new city has to offer, the Babe and her brother are not quite as enthused.  We are trying our best to make a smooth transition as possible for them, getting the house together, visiting the new school, joining a pool, but it is still definitely challenging at times.  While AJ is really just moody, the Babe is trying her best to take control over every aspect of her world that she can.  Truthfully, I am not sure if it is the move or her setting a prime example of the terrible two’s.  Most likely it is a combination of both.  The most frustrating thing is that she has decided to demonstrate her power over her food.  As every parent knows, you cannot force your child to eat, and it appears that the Babe has figured that out too.  We all know how it goes, making progress (in any aspect of child development) and then BOOM!, back to square one.  She had been doing so well, sharing meals with us as a family, eating most of what she was given.  Now who knows where her mood will take her, there are some meals where she literally will take one bite.

So what’s the game plan?  We are sticking by our guns and still starting with the same foods that the rest of the family is eating at the meal. On average, she is initially refusing the meal about 90% of the time.  At that point one of two things will happen (after sufficient time has passed for her to debate about it and for us to at least eat something).  We will A. bribe her with small pieces of a coveted snack (currently pretzels) for taking bites of her dinner.  Or B. offer her other nutrient-dense,  easily prepared foods (cheese, PB & J, fruit, etc.).  Now you may not agree with these tactics, but in our house they are not permanent and our goal is to get her to eat the dinner or something substantial.  Dinner is really the picky time around here for both the Babe and AJ, mainly because it is the one meal where they do not get to choose the main course.  It is the meal where we push them to try new foods and new ways to prepare familiar foods.  At breakfast and lunch, they are given several options for what they would like to eat, so those meals are usually met with minimal resistance.  Just as we have done before, we are going to stick with it, try not to get frustrated and just keep moving along until this phase is over.  We have to remember the big picture, that as long as she is healthy, growing sufficiently and happy it really won’t matter that for a month or so she had to eat a piece of pretzel between every few bites to motivate her.  This too shall pass.

Hold the Peanuts.

Recently I had the privilege of attending a workshop on food preparation for those with food allergies and intolerances with the Virginia Dietetic Association.  It seems that everyone and their child has an issue with at least one food or another these days.  So I felt my very basic understanding of food allergies and various intolerances needed a little beefing up.  Now I get to share all the juicy information with you.  This was a four hour workshop, so I’ll stick to the major take-aways.

Before we get to the workshop let’s just clarify the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  In very basic terms a food allergy is when your body has an immune system response to a protein (usually) in a specific food. The response may range from very minimal (a rash) to life-threatening (anaphylaxis).   The most common foods that people have a reaction to are tree nuts, milk, shellfish, egg, peanuts, soy, wheat and fish.  A food intolerance occurs when your body as trouble fully digesting a food.  Now back to what I learned at the workshop.

  • Thou shall not cross-contaminate.  Engrain this in your brain.  Apply it to ALL situations.  That plate, cutting board, knife, towel, counter top, jar of jelly used to prepare PB & J sandwiches (you get the picture), they all have particulate on them.  Even if it is not visible.  Either start with fresh utensils or wash all of those surfaces.  Even better, designate separate cutting boards, condiments, etc.  so there is less chance  of cross contamination.  To put it in perspective, little more than 10 parts per million can cause a reaction.  So never assume that just because you can’t see it you are safe.
  • Hand sanitizer is NOT your friend.  You know that little bottle you carry around everywhere?  It is useless when it comes to removing allergens or other particulate from your hands.  The only way to “clean” your hands when handling food for your child with say, a peanut allergy  is to thoroughly wash them immediately before touching their food.  Even if you already washed your hands prior to preparing everyone else’s food.  Better yet, just make the food for your child with the allergy first.
  • Let’s talk gluten-free.  Face it, we can’t discuss allergies/intolerances without addressing this subject.  There is much grey area regarding this issue.  Gluten-free diets seem to be a big trend right now wether you medically need to be on one or not.  (I am not broaching THAT subject at this time.)  So assuming you notice your child is having issues related to eating wheat (etc.).  DO NOT immediately place him on a gluten-free diet.  Take him to the doctor to discuss it and to undergo the proper testing for Celiac disease.   It you try the diet first and your child does have the disease, it will result in a false negative on the test.  Now if your child does have Celiac disease or a legitimate gluten-intolerance all of the same precautions for typical allergies apply too.
  • Be your child’s biggest advocate.  Nobody knows them better than you.  Also, most businesses out there are only concerned with one thing.  Money.  So learn to read those labels and develop a real understanding of what all those claims and terms mean. Dining out can be scary.  You must not be afraid to ask questions, no matter how the person who is answering responds.  (But know that kindness and a little explanation can go a long way).  When in doubt speak to the manager/owner or even the chef.  Things can change back in the kitchen that the server/cashier may not be aware of.  Also be cognizant  of cross contamination, it is riskier at establishments that use pizza stones, woks or fryers.
  • Have compassion.  If you are one of the fortunate people who do not have to deal with food allergies/intolerances on a regular basis, taking the time to accommodate for your friends that do can make a world of difference.  Chances are they will not expect you to so it will be greatly appreciated.  Coping with food issues can be exhausting.  But do not be over-confident about it.  I’ll share with you an experience I had at my home recently.  (Prior to attending this workshop).  We had some friends over for a play-date that graduated into lunch.  Our friend’s younger daughter has Celiac disease.  Even though she brought separate food for her daughter to eat, I was trying to be considerate and offered to make her an almond-butter sandwich on apple slices instead of bread so that her meal would be more like the older kids’.  My friend very kindly obliged .  While I was preparing the regular sandwiches for the older kids, I realized that our jar of almond butter was probably completely contaminated with wheat particulate. My well intentions could have been a disaster later for our friends.  All-in-all, our friends were very appreciative of the extra effort, wether it worked out or not.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to the Babe!

Today is the Babe’s second birthday. I know it is cliche to say, but time really does go by fast. Her big bash is on Saturday so for today we are celebrating with at trip to Sweet Frog (frozen yogurt). Nothing says happy birthday like an ounce of low-fat frozen yogurt covered by 10 ounces of candy. Truthfully, she’s probably just have fruit but AJ is on to it in the candy department. He is all about creating a dirt sundae. The last two years have been anything but dull since she arrived and we are so blessed to have her in our lives. These are some of the lessons she has taught in a way that no one else could have gotten through to me.

1. No two children are alike. (I know everyone says that, but do you really believe it until you experience it?)
2. Listen to your child, even if they can’t talk yet. Oftentimes they are trying to tell you exactly what they need.
3. Patience (Yeah, I haven’t totally mastered this one yet, every day is a lesson).
4. Go with the flow. The Babe does not seem to thrive on routine for every aspect of her life like her older brother, which was especially challenging in the feeding department. (My husband probably would disagree that I have embraced this, but hey, I try).
5. You are/should be your children’s biggest role model. They watch and ultimately mimic everything you do from what you eat to what you say.