Our lives became a little [EXTRA] special on February 15, 2011 in a way we never expected.

This is about our journey and the [EXTRA]ordinary people we meet along the way.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Foodie

Many people ask me about food. No, not big people food. Baby food.

And, as it was never my intent to become an amateur Baby Foodie, it just kind of happened.

See, my kids are great eaters for the most part. We are able to give them a great variety and they don't really complain. They have preferences and things they definitely don't like, but overall the only struggle we have at mealtimes right now is getting Eden to eat her dinner in under an hour (holy slow poke!) and getting Wyatt to stop smirking at me while he chucks food over the edge of his high chair onto the floor. Sneaky little stinker.

So, after many requests and my own failed attenpts to put together a Baby Food seminar for our East Side and Extraordinary Friends Mom's group (one of these days, I'm telling you, it'll happen). I thought at the least I'd jot down some good points here on the topic.

So, how do you create good eaters? I say 'create' because I do think parents have great influence on children's eating habits.

First, I think it starts with educating yourself. My sister made alot of her own baby food for my niece and so it all started when I got some basic tips and information from her. One of the best resources she offered me was the Super Baby Food Book by Ruth Yaron (the website is nice, but you can find it used on Amazon for cheap HERE). This is a great resource for me because Ruth really details when to introduce certian foods. And her list goes WAY beyond introducing peas and carotts. And once I started really reading about feeding my baby and how a heathy diet early on can support brain development, self feeding and create life-long heathy eating habits, I was sold on making this a priority in my kids lives. So talk with other [EXTRA]ordinary Mom's and read whatever you can get your hands on. I highly suggest you get Ruth's book.

The second important part of creating a good eater is VARIETY. That means making your own baby food. Today's baby food market has really taken off compared to four years ago wehn I was starting to feed Eden. Now, you can get those Organic baby food pouches that have a built-in straw-type thingy (yes, I'm sure that's the technical term) and baby food comes in lots more variety than ever before. I admit that I do buy those pouches, mostly for convenience, but the majority of my kids' food came right from my little food processor. So, even with those pouches on the market, you still want to make your own, because those things are expensive! Whew! Usually over $1 an ouch. I mean pouch... I average a 50% savings per serving when I make my own food. Sometimes more, sometimes less depending on produce costs and what I buy. And as saving money is awesome, I revert back to my initial point of variety. Variety is super important. If you feed your child the same things over and over again, they will never get used to trying new things and experiencing new tastes. So you have to offer variety. My kids ate beans, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, winter veggies, summer veggies, every kind of vegetable and fruit I could get my hands on! And that's easy sometimes when they are a baby, but the secret to variety is DO NOT STOP! Once you get past the baby phase and you're moving into toddler phase, don't stop the variety. You will undo all the hard work you just put in over the last 6-12 months. You must be purposeful about presenting variety in your children's diet. That means ythey have to try new things. And on that note, please don't let one bad experience keep you from serving a food again! It takes anywhere from 10-20 times for a taste to be developed! Keep trying it again and again. Eventually, they might like it!

Now that you're planning on making oyur own food and keeping your kids' diets full of variety, you have to make sure you have the right tools. Please, don't spend a ton of money on those commercial baby food making sets you see on TV. It's a waste, IMHO and I have a much easier and cheaper solution. This idea is in Ruth's book, but I used the Freezer cube method for storing baby food. Here's how it works: I use a small mini food processor to puree food. I can make food super smooth with this or I can pulse it to make food chunkier as time goes on. With Wyatt, this was very important. Kids with Ds can have low tone, which makes eating a challenge sometimes. Since I was making my own food, I could control the consistency of foods for him so that I could find the best blend for his ability, so he wouldn't choke and so that food wasn't just falling down his throat. I could add water or other foods to the baby purees to help thicken or thin a food so he could be successful in his eating. So many baby foods are just one consistency. This is not helpful when trying developing those all-important mouth muscles for clarity of speech later down the road.
HERE is something like the style mini-processor that I used, but they don't sell my version anymore.

Once you start blending, you need somewhere to put all that food. So go get yourself some basic but sturdy ice cube trays. One serving of baby food = one cube. Easy peasy. So you put your food in the trays and freeze. Then you store the cubes either in a zip lock type freezer bag, or if you are environmentally minded, you can put them in reusable containers that are meant for the freezer. When you are ready to feed your baby, just grab a cube and defrost. They are great on the go. Frozen in the morning, thawed by lunch! It's a great method, too because you can make large batches and not make food so often yet keep a large supply of variety. I used to make food on Sunday nights. It would take me about an hour every Sunday to keep my supply up with good variety.

Here's a few pictures of the process and my foods:

Cooking Kale with onions and garlic (yes, my kids eat this)
Freezer Cube method with fresh veggies - just LOOK at that COLOR! This was orginic zuchini and yellow squash grown out of a friends garden!

Watermelon puree - have you EVER seen watermelon baby food sold in stores? I haven't.

Next stage asperagus slices. Soft, gumable peices that are easy to chew. And I can even just throw in a few cubes to the adults dinner as an added bonus!

Here is a picture of my freezer, with all the zip-lock bags of baby food. Each bag is a different food!
Now my kids eat amazing this, like this homemade organic bean soup with shredded cheese and guacamole on top.     SO GOOD!
 OK, so please don't think I am this picture of pure health. Yes, my kids eat chicken nuggets (although mostly Morning Star Farms, so they are not really chicken, but we do visit Wendy's on occasion). And Eden loves Frency Fries and Wyat could eat a whole pint of ice cream (right along with me). But for the most part, they do eat great.

I think the final pieces in getting your kids to eat great is modeling and setting standard. If you eat crap, so will they. I was shocked when I was eating a salad and Eden asked for some one day. I laughed and gave it to her, thinking, yeah right, she's going to spit it out! Much to my surprise, she loved it and said something to the effect of "see Mommy, I eat like you!" Awwww. So model healthy eating for your kids, then set what I call the "I'm not a short order cook" standard. This is the final piece of the good eaters puzzle. I don't make seperate meals for the kids. Sometimes for lunch, sure, OK, they get peanut butter and jelly and I get a turkey sandwich or something. But overall they get what we eat. And if they refuse, well...tough luck, you're gonna be a hungry kid. Now we've been a little more leanient with Wyatt here and there because of his issues with weight gain. I will make a more hearty, calorie-heavy version of what we are eating for him sometimes. Thankfully, over the last month or so, he's really gained, so we are reverting back to 'all-in' meals. But don't make it harder on yourself. If you set the standard early and model good eating yourself, then you will have less trouble later!

I also want to take a moment here to discuss how Wyatt came to start feeding himself early. Self-feeding and eating solids can be challenging for kids with Ds, thus people also ask me about how Wyatt came to be such a good eater. For Wyatt, I find that his learning needs to be much more purposeful compared to Eden's ability to self-discover. Let me explain: Eden naturally began feeding herself and need little, what we call in the ed world, direct instruction. Wyatt needs direct, purposeful instruction. At 9-10 months, I would put him in the high chair and sit directly in front of him, with Puffs or Cheerios spread out on the high chair tray. Then I would slowly and very over-dramatically put a puff in my mouth and chew. Then say "yummy! eat!" and sign eat. Then I would put my hand on top of his, pick up a puff and put it to his mouth and simutaneously make chewing motions myself and say "Wyatt eat!" I followed this routine for at least one meal a day utnil at about 12 months, he just started doing it himself. And I felt really silly doing it so dramatically, but now, he's a great eater, so it obviously worked! We started working on the spoon recently, but I'm not overly concerned about pushing that right now. I just can't deal with the mess some days, haha!

He's interested, but even Eden didn't master the spoon until well after the age of two, so it's not a priority for me.

OK, I know this is a lot of info so let's review:

- Give your kids Variety
- Get the right kitchen tools
- Make them LOTS of great food yourself
- Continue variety through the toddler years and beyond
- Set the standard for healthy eating through modeling and don't be a short order cook
- For kiddos who may need a little more support, offer direct, purposeful instruction with some great modeling (and if you don't feel silly and over the top doing it, you're probably not getting their attention)

It takes practice and time to get some of these things down. Over time you'll get it and figure out what works for you. I have found this Baby Foodie journey to be an enlightening and rewarding experience and I hope you do too!

Please SHARE tips of your own below in the comment section or ask me if you have any specific questions on how to make your own food!


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