The Breakfast Battle

As we reach the end of nutrition month, I have one more topic to look at with you under the realm of “Take the Fight out of Food”: The Breakfast Battle.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Our body has gone into “fasting mode” over night and slowly uses glycogen stores from our liver for energy to stay alive. Glycogen stores are like starch in the body…stored glucose. Our brain and central nervous system can only run on glucose so we need to replenish the body when we wake up. If we wait too long to eat, then the body will go after our muscles to glean the glucose backbone of body proteins.  We don’t want that! We work too hard to build muscle to use it that way! And for our children, we want their brains fed and ready for busy days of playing, learning, and growing. It is important that we, as parents, model making breakfast a priority for ourselves and our children.

Common questions/comments I get on this topic are:

  1. I feel sick if I eat in the morning.
  2. I am not hungry in the morning.
  3. My children will not eat breakfast.
  4. We do not have time for breakfast at our house.
  5. I find breakfast food boring!

Any of these sound familiar? Here are a few thoughts and tips for each one.

  1. I feel sick if I eat in the morning. This is likely due to the fact that your body is not reacting well to coming out of fasting mode. Try to eat at least something…even if small, and then eat a more complete meal as soon as possible after that.
  2. I am not hungry in the morning. Hunger can present itself in different ways. In the morning you may not “feel” hungry, but that does not mean that your body does not need nourishment. As I mentioned above, try to have at least a little something. If you wait too long to eat, you are more likely to overeat later in the day.
  3. My children will not eat breakfast. Having children sit down for breakfast is a routine that can be encouraged by parents just like any routine. The earlier you model this and create it to be a habit for you and your children, the better. If you have older children that refuse, then having a “grab and go” option for them is better than nothing. For example, a smoothie in a “to go” container, a whole grain wrap with almond butter and sliced apples or peanut butter and banana, or overnight oats that can be eaten on the run. You can check out the lovefullyfuelsimply blog for some amazing overnight oats ideas!
  4. We do not have time for breakfast at our house. Mornings can be a very busy time in homes…especially with small children. As with anything, making time is the key. This means planning ahead and prioritizing. Setting our alarms at a time that allows for breakfast oriented activities is important. If you want to plan ahead, you could make pancakes or waffles the day before and then pop them in the toaster in the morning. If you like cereal, you can pre-pour it the night before and just add milk and fruit in the morning. I always pour our kids milks into their cups and store them in the fridge that way overnight so those are ready right away no matter what. I have a friend who makes sure that water is in the kettle and her tea is portioned and ready so all she has to do is turn the kettle on and pour water….that is organization!!! For more information on strategies we use and breakfast ideas for kids, you can check our this post.
  5. I find breakfast food boring! It is so true that toast and cereal can become boring and old super quick! Some people love the idea of an easy breakfast that doesn’t take too much brain work or time and that is great. Others like to have variety. Here are a few ways that you can keep breakfast interesting.
  • Try typical weekend breakfast ideas on week days: waffles, pancakes, French toast and omelets don’t have to wait for Saturday and Sunday. They can be a quick and easy option on a week day if prep is done ahead of time. You can make extra waffles or pancakes or French toast on the weekend and just pop them in the toaster on a weekday as I mentioned above. For omelets, you can mix everything together the night before and all you need to do is take a few minutes to cook it. Great options to add to an egg are diced peppers, tomatoes, and cheese, then add avocado once it is ready. Yum! Pair with some whole grain toast or English muffin and you are good to go!
  • Change up your fruit…you could serve cereal or toast with peanut butter everyday and still keep variety with a great rotation of fruit on top or on the side.
  • Try a homemade muffin and smoothie sometimes…or everyday with a variation in smoothie and muffin flavours. If you search the term “muffin” on this blog, you will see many options for keeping a good variety.

Until next time….stay healthy!

Milks…are they all the same?

Another topic that I was asked about “taking the fight out of” was the topic of milk. Now this is a big one but I am going to try to tackle it. The truth is that the variety of milks out there have many similarities, but important differences as well. This post is not meant to sway you to include or not include cow’s milk in your diet or your child’s diet. It is simply meant to inform you of the differences in the milks and the nutritional requirements that we are trying to meet with milk and milk alternatives at different life stages.

Cow’s milk: Cow’s milk contains 2 main proteins: casein and whey. It also contains lactose which is a sugar made up of glucose and galactose. There are many micronutrients that naturally occur in cows milk such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12 (among others), and then vitamin A and D are added as per government regulations. The nutrients in milk work together to help us build and maintain strong bones and teeth, but also serve many other purposes as well. Milk comes in various fat levels. Whole milk (or homogenized) is 3.25% fat. This is the best milk choice for children age 12-24 months who are no longer breastfed due to its high fat content. Fat is essential for brain development in children and choosing a lower fat milk product at this age would take away from the fat in their diet. For a child who is allergic to casein or lactose intolerant, breast milk or a non casein based formula is best until 2 years of age. For children ages 2 and up, 2% milk is a good choice as it has sufficient fat. Ideally children 2 and up are drinking 16 oz of milk per day…no more, no less. So what about children who are allergic/intollerant to casein, lactose intolerant, or vegan? Well that is when it gets confusing. I am going to try to “take the fight out of milk choice” for you now.

Soy milk: Soy milk has the same fat percent as 2% milk so it is a suitable option for children over 2 years of age. It also provides the same amount of “complete protein” as one cup of cow’s milk.  It does not, however, contain all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as cow’s milk. So if you are choosing soy milk, then please ensure that you choose one that is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 at least and ideally others as well. Because the micronutrients are added, they do not stay suspended in the milk very well so it is best to shake the carton of soy milk very well before pouring it to ensure that you are actually ingesting what you have paid for. Some people do not want to consume soy milk because of its estrogenic properties, so then we have to look at other milk alternatives.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is the nest best option for children as it has the same fat content as 2% milk and soy milk. However, that is where the similarities end. Coconut milk is not a source of protein or any micronutrients. If a parent is choosing coconut milk for their child, then they need to replace the 16-18 grams of protein that would be provided by 2 cups of cow’s milk or soy milk each day AND ensure that the coconut milk is fortified and (as I said above) shake the carton well. A nice way to add a complete protein into coconut milk is to blend in hemp hearts. These are packed with protein and omega 3 and just add to the creamy nutty flavour that is already in coconut milk.

Two other milks that I am commonly asked about are almond and rice milk. These milks are not a source of fat or protein and are only a source of micronutrients if fortified. These milks are not suitable for young children unless they are mixed with higher fat and protein sources such as hemp hearts and chia seeds.

One other thing to consider is that a pure whey protein powder that is casein free is a nice complete protein alternative for a child that needs casein free but can handle whey.

I hope that this information is useful and as always, please comment below with any questions. If you want to read about our journey to dairy free with Clay, you can do so here.

 

 

Ten Tips for the Toddler vs. Veggies Standoff

The theme for Nutrition Month in Canada is “Take the Fight out of Food”. I asked my Instagram followers for suggestions on what they would like to have the “fight” taken out of when it comes to food and the top request was information about toddlers eating vegetables so that is what this blog post is focusing on. The tips that I mention can be used for older children as well though!

Tip 1: It takes up to 20 exposures to a food before a child knows if they actually like it. An exposure can be seeing the food on a plate, helping to prepare the food, touching the food, tasting the food, and/or actually swallowing the food. For example, a child may help to tear spinach leaves up but never ingest any…this is an exposure. A child may pick up a iece of broccoli and touch and top feeling soft and spongy and the bottom feeling firm. This is an exposure. I child may lick a piece of watermelon but then set it back down. This is an exposure. Continued exposures in a safe, non pressured environment are is one of the best practices that will lead to a “well rounded eater”.

Tip 2: Do not get caught up in meals vs. snacks. Ideally we will capitalize on our children’s hunger and offer veggies at their “hungriest/most alert” times. Put a veggie tray out mid morning while you play and enjoy some veggies with them. Or have one ready for when they come home from daycare or school and you may find that more veggies are consumed than ever would be on their supper plate. Perhaps your children are hungry in the car on the way home from school or day care…this is a perfect opportunity for some diced peppers and sliced cucumbers!

Tip 3: Include your children in grocery shipping and meal prep. There are a lot of fun ways for children to help in the kitchen and many of them surround veggie prep. You can see a more extensive list here.

Tip 4: Offer dips. Children LOVE to dip. Whether it is hummus or Greek yogurt or tzatziki  or your favourite homemade salad dressing…kids LOVE to dip!

Tip 5: Help your child sort their thoughts out. When you child expressed that they do not like something, it could be more that they are worries what it will taste like and or feel like and do not feel safe to take the risk of trying it. We have had lots of fun in our house with “Today I tried…” which creates a non-pressured adventure of trying new things. You can find out more about that here.

Tip 6: Recognize “normal” behaviour. Food jags will occur and are expected. This means that young children love a food one day and hate it the next. This is most typical from ages 15 to 36 months, but certainly can still happen in pre-school years. It is part of normal development and one of many ways that these adorable tiny humans can drive parents crazy by exercising their autonomy and reaching to see where limits lie. The truth is that the best thing we can do is support our children in this journey. The “division of responsibility” is key to dealing with food jags and “picky eater” behavior in general. It is our responsibility as parents to offer healthy food throughout the day. It is the child’s  responsibility if they will eat it or not. child’s responsibility if they choose to eat. That means ideals no filler foods like gold fish and puffs and ideally no “short order cook”. Children will soon learn that no other options are coming, so they may want to eat what is in front of them. This process can take time, and there may be some meals that end up in the garbage, but overall it leads to well rounded eaters and that is the ultimate goal for well rounded nutrition.

Tip 7: Please do not use food as a reward or give punishment around food. A child who is lead to believe that they are “good” or “bad” with relationship to food may end up on the path of emotional eating. If a child does not eat their broccoli, this is not grounds for punishment. And if they do, this is not ground for “deserving” a brownie. When it comes to eating healthy food, a kind word of encouragement is great but there is never need for feelings of guilt of reward.

Tip 8: Lead by example. Are you eating vegetables in front of your kids? Are you reaching for them while you make supper? Are you sitting with your children at lunch and eating a salad? Even if it does not seem like it, your children are watching EVERYTHING you do. Whether it is putting your coat away, making exercise a part of each day, eating your vegetables, or sitting down to pray. They see it all and the best thing we can do to teach our children is lead by example.

Tip 9: Try smoothie bowls. This isn’t a direct means of having the child eat the whole food, but it is still a way to introduce flavours and increase a child’s intake of new foods. Trying a green smoothie bowl may help the child feel more comfortable to try other green foods.

Tip 10: Last but not least, realize that every child will have a few “I don’t like foods”. I know I do and you likely do as well. Just keep offering all foods and over time it will become obvious which ones are starting to stick and while ones may be “off the table”.

So, in summary…we are looking to offer veggies at times when are children are most hungry; avoid taking up space with “filler foods”; involve children in meal prep; keep meal times low stress and focus on the bigger picture; offer all members at the table the same foods (no short order cook); and last but not least lead by example. And please…DON’T GIVE UP…you are doing a great job!

I hope that his is helpful for you. As always, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section or on my Instagram page.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

Does my child need a multivitamin supplement???

I have been asked several times since starting this blog to write on the topic of vitamin and mineral supplements for children. I have been hesitant to do so because it is really one that requires an individualized approach. Having said that, I have decided to write about it in general terms. If you have specific questions about yourself or your child, then I would recommend you see your family doctor or registered dietitian or contact me directly.

It it is a common question to wonder if we or our loved ones need a vitamin/mineral multivitamin or single nutrient supplements. Here are a few questions to ask yourself…

  1. Do they have allergies or intolerances that causes elimination of a portion or all of a food group? Are they vegan or vegetarian?
  2. Do they have intense aversions to certain foods that are not easily overcome?
  3. Has the child had nutrient deficiencies in the past?

If the answer is “yes” to any of the above, then a supplement MAY be in order. For example, if milk and milk alternative intake is limited, then calcium and vitamin D are nutrients of interest. If meat, fish, poultry, and eggs are eliminated, then iron and vitamin B12 are nutrients of interest. The next step in each of these examples is to see if the child is consuming foods in place of the eliminated foods that provide similar micronutrients. For example, the child may be drinking fortified coconut milk which provides calcium, vitamin D, and other important nutrients. (As an aside…we know that protein is missing in this option, but that is off of this topic. More info on that topic can be found here.)

If the child has low overall food intake or is considered a “picky eater”, a parent may be concerned; however, this alone is not reason to start a supplement. Children have important nutrient needs; however, they do not need an overabundance of food. They need high quality and nutritious food. If presented with a small eater, my first approach would be offer nutrient dense foods at all times and be cautious to not allow the child to fill up on foods that do not contribute to their health such as gold fish crackers and puffs. In addition, I would ask the parents how much milk is being consumed. Children who drink more than 16 ounces of milk per day are at greater risk of iron deficiency. This is for two reasons….

  1. Calcium in milk can interfere with iron absorption, and
  2. If milk is filling their small tummy, then there may not be enough room for adequate amounts of other foods.

Having said this, if you feel your child may have low levels of important nutrients, they may truly benefit from a supplement. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for bone health. Iron plays a critical role in brain develop, energy levels, and more. The list goes on and on for why we need all nutrients in adequate quantities. As I said at the start, you may want to check in with your family physician of local RD if you are concerned. They can assess your child and even request blood work if deemed necessary. (We had this done with Clay and he was in fact iron deficient.)

Last, but not least, if you are choosing to go ahead with a supplement, please try to keep it as “low sugar” as possible. Giving children gummies and sugar coated tablets is not great for dental health and can be confusing for them. If a child thinks it is candy and accidentally ingests too many multivitamins they are at great risk for toxicity. In fact, iron poisoning is one of the top concerns for toxicity in children and can be fatal.

I hope that his provides you with some food for thought on this topic. As always, if you have any questions you can comment below, email me, or DM on Instagram @mealsformeandmyminis.

Until next time….stay healthy!

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Super Berry Muffins

Rhett has quite an obsession with Berry muffins these days. He wakes up asking for them in the morning and if it were up to him, he would have them at every meal and snack. This morning we didn’t have any left and he threw a small fit…you know the typical toddler “I want my way” tantrum. I explained that he would have to have something else for breakfast, but after breakfast we could bake some. This seemed reasonable to him, so that is exactly what we did. I like to keep fresh berries for eating as they are, so we used frozen in the recipe below. However, you could easily use fresh if you have an over over abundance on hand. I have called these Super Berry Muffins because berrie certainly are superfoods packed with nutrients and disease fighting antioxidants, but also because the boys were pretending to be superheroes while making them. The name seemed fitting all around. 😉

Ingredient

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 cup Baby Brain Organics (or an extra 1/4 cup whole wheat flour)

1/2 Tbsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup coconut milk (or alternate milk of your choice)

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (or other fruit puree)

1/4 agave syrup or honey

2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup frozen berries

Instructions

1. Mix together all dry ingredient.

2. Mix together all wet ingredients.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just moistened. Try to not over mix.

4. Spoon muffin mix into pan and then add berries. You may wish to add just one Berry to each muffin if you are making mini muffins or a spoonful if you are making large muffins.

5. Bake at 350 degrees F. Baking time for mini muffins is about 12-14 minutes and for medium size muffins is 22-35 minutes.

When we were making these, there was more of a mess than I anticipated as the kids were involved, but they tasted better for it and the experience was one that will keep me smiling all day long!

Hope you enjoy!

Until next time…stay healthy!

Over the Moon for the OVer

If you are walking through the mall, playing at the park, picking up your weekly groceries, or even looking out the window at a stop light in your car, you will see them…at least I do. ALL.THE.TIME! What am I talking about??? The OVer!

The Over is an innovative product that has entered into the “mama must have” market by storm. This past summer I contact Sabrina, the genius lady boss behind the OVer, and expressed my sadness with missing out on this product with my newborns (since it only hit the market in late 2015).  I then  asked her if it was something I could use with my toddler for nursing in public. She assured me that it would definitely be great for times when I wanted a cover for him while nursing and gave me one to try out. I was pumped!

Now, I need to tell  you that little man generally nurses without anything over him. Why? Well two reasons…one is that he HATES being covered up and secondly, I am not ashamed of nursing in public. The thing is that there are certain public places where I do prefer to cover up (ie. a restaurants or church or times when men are close by) and also there are times when it is really sunny or windy when I am watching my older two boys at the park and protection over Rhett would be ideal. I wasn’t sure if this new cover would be any different for him, but I wanted to try.

Well, I can honestly say that I was blown away by the OVer!!!!! It is SO soft and the material is perfect for moving around in while you get settled to feed your baby or toddler. Rhett is totally willing to be under it while nursing! He likes that he can see me as the head hole is quite large, there is tons of room inside so it is not constantly falling on his face, and he likes the feel of the material as much as I do. He plays with it while nursing…it seems to be calming for him. It washes up beautifully and shows no signs of pilling or change in softness after several washes. I also love that it provides a full cover while nursing as opposed to others that leave your back and sides exposed. I feel very confident and comfortable while using the OVer.

There are different weights of the OVer. I have the lightweight which was nice in the summer heat. Rhett was protected by the sun, but never super sweaty after nursing and now that fall is here it is nice to protect him from the cooler breeze. Also, now that fall is here I have been wearing mine as a scarf. That way I have it with me hands free whenever Rhett wants a drink.

I still wish that I could have used it from the start over a car seat and when nursing a newborn, but thankful that I have finally found something that I can use for my toddler! Whether you plan to nurse for 3 months or 3 years, this is definitely a “mama must have” and I can see why moms across Canada are getting their OVer on!

If you have other questions about this product, feel free to email me at mealsformeandmyminis@gmail.com or head on over to theover.co.

Until next time…stay healthy!

 

 

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

This morning my boys were super excited to try a new apple cake recipe I had put together. When baking with children, it is nice to organized first. I like to measure out all of the ingredients and then call them into the kitchen. I take things down to their level (on a clean floor or mat) and they all love to add ingredients and mix them together.

The recipe worked out really well to make a moist cake that kids will love the taste of and parents will love the nutrition of (relative to other cakes of course). We are hosting a Thanksgiving Brunch tomorrow and I will be serving the apple cake we made today along with an Egg Bake, Sweet Potato Soup, and a platter of fruit and veggies. A nice variation from the traditional turkey dinner…which we will get our fair share of this weekend too.

So, if you have apples in your home or you plan to pick some up soon, I hope you will try this recipe too! Here it is…

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup brown sugar

60 mL canola oil

1 cup milk

100 mL Greek yogurt

2.5 cups diced apples, with the peel left on (Spartan or Empire are the best varieties to use for baking, but any apple will work)

Instructions

  1. Mix together both flours, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
  2. Beat brown sugar and canola oil together until smooth, then add in the dry ingredient mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. Pour the milk and yogurt in gradually as you continue to mix.
  4. Then add the diced apples, stir only until the apples are evenly divided.
  5. Pour into lightly greased baking pan (can be deep dish pie plate or 8X8 square pan).
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 42-48 minutes, or until a knife comes back out of the cake clean.

Serving Suggestions

  1. As part of a snack paired with almonds and/or cheese and/or milk.
  2. As part of breakfast with Greek yogurt and fruit.
  3. As part of lunch with a spinach salad topped with colourful veggies and Swiss cheese.
  4. For dessert with a small serving of frozen yogurt.

Thanks for reading! Until next time…stay healthy!