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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.

A Night to Remember

There will be so many first in our kids’ lives. I personally live to whitness and experience every one possible with them. Last night the Babe suffered through her first upset stomach (to put it in less gross terms). This is one first I hoped would never happen, but knew the odds weren’t in our favor given that she is almost two. I suppose we should be thankful that she made it this far without having to experience the horrible feeling of nausea and everything that follows. A parent’s first response it to just do everything you can think of to make all the hurt go away and the second is to help the little one get better as soon as possible. In our house we weather the stomach bug with a lot of TLC, patience, Lysol and diet. This begins with nothing to eat or drink until we are sure it is not coming back out again. After a little time has passed they can have some clear liquids and if they tolerate that well, we’ll move on to some dry, bland foods (crackers, toast, etc.), maybe some applesauce. But this is a very slow process, at least taking all day before moving on to foods that are easier on the stomach (plain chicken, cereal-without milk, pasta with a touch of butter). I will even admit that I am so freaked out by vomit, I will even be careful with what she eats at least half another day just to be safe. Granted this is for a mild case of illness, if she was unable to keep anything down or if symptoms remained for more than a day, I would absolutely have her on the way to the doctor. Hopefully the worst is behind us and by the time she wakes up tomorrow, this day of really gross illness will be long forgotten.

What does your body good?

Whole, skim, almond, organic and everything in between. There are so many options for “milk” out there it can be incredibly daunting deciding which one is right for you and your family. Some people have allergies/intolerances to dairy, nuts or soy that limit their selection. For the majority of Americans, all the possiblilities are available so they must choose the best one for them. According to the USDA general guidelines, children ages 2-3 years old need about 2 cups of milk a day, children ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 cups, and anyone ages 9 and older need about 3 cups a day. It is also important to know that babies under 12 months of age should not be fed any milk other than breast for formula and that toddlers under the age of two should be drinking whole milk. (The USDA guidelines provide other options that equal one cup, such as 1 1/2 oz hard cheese, 1/3 cup shredded cheese or 1 cup yogurt). Now, one of the main purposes of consuming dairy is to have enough calcium in the diet, which brings us to having many more choices besides cow’s milk due to fortification and other products that naturally contain calcium.
The body needs calcium and vitamin D for bone health. However, more is not necessarily better, too much calcium can cause kidney stones or impair the body’s absorption of other important nutrients. Here are the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s) for both calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium Vitamin D
0-6 months* 200 mg 400 IU
6-12 months* 260 mg 400 IU
1-3 years 700 mg 600 IU
4-8 years 1000 mg 600 IU
9-13 years 1300 mg 600 IU

*Adequate intake (AI) for babies under 1 year.  Over 12 months recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is given.

Some of other options for those who choose not to or cannot consume cow’s milk or other dairy are as follows:

Cheese (swiss) 1 oz has 270mg calcium           Cod liver oil, 1 T has 1,360IU vitamin D

Yoghurt (nonfat, plain), 8oz, 490mg                Salmon, 3oz, 497 IU

OJ, (Calcium fortified) 3/4 c, 260mg                Tuna (canned), 3oz,  154 IU

Ice cream, 1/2c, 90mg                                           Yogurt (varies by brand), 6oz, 80 IU

Let’s begin the great organic versus conventional debate. There are positives and negatives on both sides of the argument. Conventional cow’s milk is considerably less expensive and easily available to most people. Also in a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Organic Foods, Health and Environmental Advantages, they found NO nutritional difference between organic and non-organic milk. The negative aspects of conventional milk centers around the farming practices of the cows. Some of the largest concerns are related to hormone and medication delivery and feed composition.
Organic milk has a high set of standards that the farmers must abide by to be certified organic. These include cows that are fed exclusively organic feed, no administration of hormones/growth promoters or antibiotics in the absence of disease. It is often ultra-pasteurized, which gives it a longer refrigerated shelf-life. This could be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view as there are many that oppose pasteurization due to the vitamins, minerals and other properties that may be lost during the process. (Personally I believe, along with the federal government, that it is a necessity to ensure a safe product for the masses). But when you pay an upwards of $4 a half-gallon, you don’t want a single drop to go to bad. Which brings us to the major negative aspect of organic milk. It seems like if you can find it for around $3 a half-gallon you are getting a great deal and anything less is a steal. Now in case you were wondering, in our house we use a milk delivery service that brings us regionally sourced whole and 2% milk. The milk is not organic, but the cows are humanely raised, only given medication when ill and are not administered hormones. Extravagant? Yes, but it is a premium we are willing to budget in for the product and the convenience for this family of four that consumes much of three different types of dairy. We also have soy milk in the house since I am lactose intolerant.
Here are the nutrition facts for some commonly used “milk” products that can help you to decided what one is best for you and your family.

Whole 2% Skim Soy* Almond* Rice**
Calories 146 122 90 90 60 120
Fat 7.9g 4.8g 0g 3.5g 2.5g 2.5g
Saturated Fat 4.6g 3.1g 0g 0.5g 0g 0g
Protein 7.9g 8.1g 8g 6g 1g 1g
Calcium 275 mg 285.5mg 300mg 450mg 200mg 250mg
Vitamin D1 25% 25% 25% 30% 25% 25%
Cholesterol 24mg 20mg 5mg 0mg 0mg 0mg
Potassium 348.9mg 366mg 400mg 300mg 180mg ~

All values are based on 8oz or 1 cup.

*Silk brand, unsweetend

**Rice Dream Brand

1- Percentage based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

These are some helpful websites and documents that I used when researching this blog.

iom.edu 

usda.gov (Organic Foods Production Act of 1990)

Calorieking.com

ods.od.nih.gov

 

Celebrate National Nutrition Month®

Every month of the year, our nation decides to devote much marketing and education about various topics.  Well, March is National Nutrition Month and the theme this year is, “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day”.

As parents we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves trying to do what is best for our families.  We read books, research online, talk to our friends and consult professionals like registered dietitians and doctors, all in hopes of finding the ideal methods of taking care of our children, in this case, what we feed them.  How great is it that we live in a society where a world (literally) of information is available at our fingertips?  The downside is that all of those opinions and knowledge can leave a parent feeling very inadequate or even guilty regarding the choices they make for their family.  It seems these days that if you aren’t buying  totally local, organic, farm-raised foods or if you feed your child something with even a hint of preservatives, dye, refined sugar, hormones, antibiotics, trans-fats (you the general idea), you are guilty of slowly killing your family.  Yes, some of those foods are genuinely bad for your body but there is much grey area on the effect they may have especially depending on how much and how often you consume.  There must be some balance because setting unreasonably high expectations can lead to frustration and disappointment for all parties involved.  Knowledge is power but only if you can decide what is “right” for your family.  Have confidence in the decisions you make, especially the ones that you take the time to research and educate your selves with.  Do not let anyone food-shame you, because only you know what is best for your family.

“Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day” sends a message of empowerment.  Seek out the knowledge for eating healthful and well, but also decide for yourself and your family the best way to utilize what you learn and apply it to your daily life in a way that is manageable and realistic for everyone.

Guacamole and Tortilla Chips

Guacamole has always been a favorite in this house.  A favorite among the adults that is.  While AJ will not touch the stuff, the Babe enjoyed dipping her homemade tortilla chips in it.  Guacamole is a fantastic snack or side dish chock full of B vitamins, fiber and minerals such as Copper, Magnesium and Zinc.  Most of all, it is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs).  These actually have the ability to improve your blood cholesterol levels, thus helping to combat cardiovascular disease.  So do not be afraid of the fat content in those avocados, it may be high, but they can pack a healthful punch.  My recipe also uses olive oil (more healthy fats), lime and tomatoes, providing even more nutrients to the dish.

Guacamole     

Serves:4

2 Hass avocados

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lime, juiced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp sea salt, ground

1/4 tsp pepper, freshly ground

1/4c onions (or more, to taste), finely chopped

1/2c tomatoes, diced

In a large bowl, scoop in avocado.  Add garlic, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Mash all ingredients together to desired texture or smoothness. Add onions and tomatoes and mix.

Enjoy

Nutrition Information (per serving):  Calories:  246kcal,   Protein: 3g,  Total Fat: 27g,  Saturated Fat: 4g,  MUFA: 18g,  PUFA: 2.5g,  Carbohydrates: 17g,  Fiber: 11g,  Sodium: 155mg

Baked Tortilla Chips

Serves 4

4 Flour Tortillas, soft taco size

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sea salt, ground

1/2 tsp pepper, freshly ground

Dash ground red pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Slice tortillas into equal eights pie shapes.  Arrange on cookie sheet in one layer.  Drizzle olive oil evenly across tortilla pieces.  Sprinkle seasoning across the tortillas.  Rub individual pieces against each other on both sides to distribute the oil and spices equally.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the tortillas begin to slightly brown.

Enjoy

Nutrition Information (per serving):  Calories: 111kcal,  Protein: 3g,  Total Fat: 4.2g,  Saturated Fat: o.5g,  MUFA: 2.5g,  Carbohydrates: 15g,  Fiber: 2g,  Sodium:  310mg