I have added a new category over there, called "You Are What You Eat" to corral my food posts. I feel more food posting coming on in the future because I've been thinking and reading a lot about food lately.
I mentioned before that Nat, the toddler, has an issue with being spoon-fed and so I've had to change strategies for making sure she gets what she needs. Someone wrote me to ask about those strategies, so I figured I'd post them here.
My main tactic with feeding Nat these days is to think in terms of nutritional insurance. For instance, I know she'll have 24 oz of milk every day. So I mix her half-and-half (organic) formula and (non BGH, non antibiotic) whole milk. The formula is packed with nutrition, so I know she's doing okay, even if she eats pickily one day, if she gets her 24 oz of milk.
Similarly, I have adapted the cereal I used to feed her for breakfast and dinner into a finger food by not thinning it when I make it in the food processor. I combine several grains, chick peas and soy beans along with nutritional yeast, wheat germ, molasses and sweet potato puree for a "whole breakfast" and the same thing with spinach or brocolli (instead of sweet potato) for a "whole meal."
I freeze those into cubes and when they are thawed, they are soft, but have enough heft to be cut into bites and given her to eat with her fingers. If she eats one orange one and one green one every day (which is pretty easy, since they're small--she usually eats two per meal) she is at least getting nicely rounded nutritional content in whatever she does manage to eat.
(Yes, these whole meal food cubes sound gross to me too, but Nat gobbles them down with enthusiasm.)
With those basics, I add as she'll let me. She'll always let me add fresh or frozen fruit. She would eat six kiwis a day if I let her (can you imagine the diapers???). She also loves strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, grapes, tomatoes, oranges and lemons (which she gets out of our iced teas when we eat at restaurants). On a good day, she'll eat some green or orange veggies too: brocolli, kale, bok choy (more about that below), green beans, carrots, sweet potato, avocado (not quite a green vegetable, but good for her, anyway). And if I have made a stir-fry, she'll usually eat whatever's in it, including garlic cloves and onions.
Another "insurance food" I use a lot is bread. I bake bread in my legendary bread machine using whole wheat flour and soy flour, plus molasses. I have taken to cutting it into crouton-sized cubes and carrying it in my purse instead of the organic O cereal I used to carry. Even Earth's Best and the other organic baby brands have more added sugar than I want to give her on a regular basis. This is not because I think sugar is totally evil, but because while her tastes are forming, I want to minimize her chances of getting too sugar-addicted and expecting food to always be sweet.
Since I know my bread is rich in protein and iron (for bread) I also feel pretty good if she's having a picky day, but eats a slice or so of it. I also use nut butter-based spreads (we've decided to be peanut-free, because Nat's best pal, Amaya has an allergy, though Nat, it would seem so far, does not) on the bread to boost the protein content along with other good things nuts have.
I took some left-over jars of baby food fruit (we bought them for travel when she was eating spoon-food) and tossed them in the food processor with cashew butter, nutritional yeast and molasses (yes, there is a theme here, and I know molasses is sugar, but it is packed with iron!). I froze that in food cubes too, and one is just about the right size for half a slice of bread. She eats "sandwiches" a lot. Many times for lunch she'll have a half-slice of bread with a nut butter spread, some sliced cherry tomatoes and a string cheese stick. She's fairly willing to eat that combination of food and it's pretty well-rounded, nutitionally.
I try not to be pushy with food, so if she doesn't have an appetite for a day or two, I try not to worry about it. I just make sure that every calorie she does take in is worthwhile, then I feel okay. I also feed her strictly when we're home so that when we're travelling, or out at a restaurant, I feel okay about being more flexible and breaking the rules once in a while.
The baby food book I used last year (and still consult occasionally) has a chart with various food items put into boxes organized according to what nutrients they supply. I looked (elsewhere in the same book) for the number of servings of each of these that is needed every day and wrote the number in each box. That is taped inside my kitchen cabinet. I don't read it every day, but once in a while I glance through it and calculate in my head what she's getting. I usually find she made it through everything by afternoon snack time and dinner can be a fun, new food introduction time with no worries that she's had what she needs. And of course they say nutrition should really be calculated on a weekly basis, not a daily one, so if your kid eats nothing but cheese for two days and nothing but cereal for one and nothing but bananas the next, it likely evens out over a few days.
Okay. I have come clean about what a food tyrant I am. I am really, really careful about what Nat eats. She does not get processed "cheese food." She does not get white bread (or really any white flour products). So far, she's had no meat but tuna (which she didn't like at all, after two tries separated by three days, and I was surprised, because she likes EVERYTHING). She does not get dairy products that do not say directly that they have no BGH or antibiotics and she eats organic frutis and vegetables 99.9% of the time. In fact, most of the ingredients in the food I make her are organic.
Before she was born, we scoured the internet for a source for organic infant formula by the case. If I wasn't going to breastfeed, I was certainly not giving my baby bovine growth hormone-laced formula.
I admit freely that part of what contributes to my Nat-food-obsession is compensation for having had no control over her prenatal care (she had poor nutrition in utero, which I do realize hurt her mother more than it hurt her, as babies will take what they need from the mother's body directly if the mother isn't eating well) and for not breastfeeding her.
But I have also just gotten a lot more interested in food in the past few years.
About 5 Lents ago, I gave up meat (meaning all but fish, which I realize doesn't count for some people), just to see what it would do to my life. And I found my life was not changed much. It turns out I wasn't eating much meat anyway, so I just never started again.
But when I started consciously excluding meat from my diet, I started consciously thinking about my diet. And because I had given up meat in order to eat lower on the food chain and consume fewer resources in the global picture, I started to think a bit more about how the rest of my food fit into a global resource consumption picture, too.
Then, when I moved to the prairie to be with Cole, there was nothing to do but work on my dissertation and cook, so I cooked. And of course, I wanted to cook tasty, healthy food for Cole so I started reading up a bit more on how to do that. When we started planning for Nat, I got the baby food book and started learning a lot about nutrition. I found it really interesting. Doctors (well, most of them) just don't mention it at all, and yet, well, "you are what you eat" so what could be more important, right?
And so far, in her entire life (everyone pause here to knock wood) Nat has never had a fever. She had a runny nose the week of her first birthday. That's the entire extent of her illnesses today at 15.75 months old. (And no, she doesn't go to group child care, but she does chow down on shopping cart handles all over Central Illinois, and she eats directly off of restaurant tables across America that I have not cleaned, so she gets her fair share of community germs.)
I don't know how much credit I deserve for this. It's one of those things that could be my nurture or it could be her first family's fabulous genetic heritage. But I'm guessing it's a combination.
(Now watch, baby #2 will be sick all the time--please do knock that wood, okay?)
To Be Continued