Tag Archives: food

everything you ever wanted to know about our diet, part 2

Last week I shared with you about our dietary history and the principles of our current diet. Today I’m going to pick up where I left off and share about where we shop for food, how to choose food carefully at box grocery stores, kids and pickiness, Papa’s food plan for work, food and weight, our typical grocery list, and a few recipes! While none of these subjects are complete, I believe I will have touched on the major food issues we can relate to. If I miss anything let me know and we can chat in the comments.

where we shop

We’ve used a number of sources for food shopping, including a food co-op, natural food stores, farm stands, small farms, small groceries, and chain groceries. Each have served different purposes at different times, depending on the season and what diet we’re following. With a few exceptions, the following are our current primary food sources.

our own veggies and herbs

For much of the year now, most of the vegetables we eat come from right here at home. We grow foods we like to eat, including vegetables, berries, and culinary herbs. One of our long term goals is to grow more staple foods, including potatoes, corn, and an older variety of wheat. During the winter we eat a lot of home-canned vegetables, but buy additional vegetables at the grocery store to fill in the gaps.

This has been a gradual learning experience; we didn’t jump into full time farming or even an acre garden. Each year we add a little more space to our garden and fill it with a few more varieties of seeds. Even though I have dabbled in gardening since I was a kid, I fully admit that I am a novice when it comes to managing a garden, and each year I face new challenges that I must overcome in order to produce food. Like last year’s mildew on the squash, or the tomatoes that I planted too late the year before, resulting in them rotting before they were ready to be processed. All I can say is, thank goodness for grocery stores while I figure this gardening thing out!

milk from a small farm

Last year we started buying raw milk from a farm in our area. We now buy a gallon each week, which we usually drink at breakfast. You can learn more about our choice to drink raw milk here.

beef through a small grocery beef from a local farm

For the past two or three years we have been buying steak and hamburger two to three times a month through a small grocery store and a general store. Because the carcasses are processed on location the beef tastes much fresher than if we were to buy them at Walmart.

Because these two sources are known for selling local food, and because the beef is processed locally, we made the stupid mistake of assuming the beef was local. What were we thinking?!  To confirm this theory I called both stores and asked them where they sourced their beef. They told me they bought it through two different companies, which I was unfamiliar with, but after a few minutes of research online I made the embarrassing and sickening discovery that the beef we’ve been eating came from a Tyson-owned company, and could have been slaughtered in one of their locations. Needless to say, we haven’t purchased any more beef from them.

There is a farm about a half hour from us selling organic meat they raise and slaughter; chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, and more. This week I’m planning my first trip to their store to purchase meat. It will be a little awkward getting meat there simply because it is out of our way and will require advanced planning, but I know it is absolutely worth it. Plus, the prices are comparable to what we were paying before, so we can easily afford the quality. Even though the chicken we’ve been buying is from a good source, we will likely transition to buying chicken from this farm as well.

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(a typical lunch of a veggie or two, a fruit or two, nuts, cheese, and occasionally a treat – a biscuit and a cookie today)

Discovering that we were eating Tyson beef, even if it was processed locally, is humbling to admit after suggesting that we prefer eating local food, and really gross to think about since we know Tyson has had a long, bad history. But, we live and learn. We can’t expect ourselves to know everything – we simply have to hold ourselves responsible for the knowledge given to us as we learn. There will always be room for growth, but today we choose to act on what we have learned recently and start eating better meat.

everything else from Walmart

Yes we buy a lot of food at Walmart. We’ve also used Shaws and Hannaford’s, but there is a Walmart right next door to where Papa works, and it is generally cheaper there than elsewhere anyway. We may not be unemployed, but we still have a budget!

Ideally we would use farmer’s markets and co-ops to purchase food we can’t grow, but they are too expensive for us to use on a regular basis. I understand why, and I wish we could support them more often, but it doesn’t make it any easier to afford them.

So, given our choices, this is how we (and you!) can choose food carefully at a chain grocery store to meet our budgets and still eat well ~

  • We choose deli meats that are not cured and from well-raised animals
  • Veggies and fruits are usually organic and/or from local farms
  • We choose mostly foods with ingredients we can read (eg. peanut butter made from peanuts and salt, fish sticks made from single-type, non-ground up fish parts)
  • We choose whole wheat instead of white bread products (though I do bake with non-brominated, unbleached white flour)
  • We look for terms like – organic, all-natural, no pesticides, no growth hormones, no artificial flavorings, no preservatives, and no sugar added.
  • And we love it when we see the source of our food labeled right on the container, whether it’s made in Florida or Maine, we like knowing where the food was sourced.

our budget

Because of our experience having to tighten the belt out of necessity and not just frugality in 2011, I enjoy splurging a little on food. When you add all the more expensive healthy snacks like cheese, nuts, and extra fresh fruits and veggies, we now spend between $130-150 on food every week. This goes down a little when we are eating our own produce, but it is still probably a safe bet for cost on average.

It would be nice to think that we could reduce this cost again eventually, especially as we grow and preserve more food, and possibly raise some of our own meat eventually, but even if we are growing and raising our own food, it still costs money to do that. After selling extra eggs, it still costs us about $10 a month to feed our chickens. That’s not bad for the amount of eggs we use, but it’s still $10 a month. If we wanted to reduce the cost of our groceries, we would have to either figure out a way of producing our own animal feed and raise all of our own seed for starters, or figure out a plan for selling extra produce and meat.

kids and pickiness

When we introduced Buddy to solid food he ate everything we gave him. When Girlie was a baby she ate enthusiastically. When Pal was a baby he ate anything I put on my plate. Yes, my plate. Though Chickie still is pretty good about eating whatever we give her, the older three have become insanely picky. They would rather go without supper than eat a large number of things. To say it is hard to find a meal we all enjoy would be an understatement. Just last week, all three threw up one morning because they refused to eat a creamy broccoli and cheese soup the night before, which Buddy had helped to prepare!

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Here are the methods we have tried to get our kids off that difficult and discouraging path:

  • Deceptively Delicious (hiding blended veggies and beans in other recipes)
  • “Take one bite and then you can stop” (that only works if you want to force feed)
  • Bribes and threats of consequences (they would be great at withstanding torture)
  • Showing how we enjoy the food (they look at us with disgust)
  • Letting them help cook it (no problem there unless we expect them to eat it too)
  • A variety of foods to find what they like, including common classic favorites for kids (their favorites are very limited)

In the end, I try to put at least one thing I know they like on the table, even if it’s a side dish or favorite veggie, but if they don’t eat what’s on their plate they have to wait until the next meal. It’s not to be mean, it’s because I don’t feel like eating pizza, hot dogs, pancakes, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, spaghetti, and kraft macaroni and cheese on a seven-day weekly rotation for dinner.

As Buddy has gotten older we have found he is slightly more willing to try foods, even if it’s just a bite, but food is often still a battle, even with him. I’ve gone out of my way to serve food I think they will like, even spending far more time in the kitchen than I like, simply to prepare foods that they say kids love. No luck. I’m faced with making two meals for each dinner, which I can’t afford to do, either with my budget or my patience. It is precisely because of this that I gave up trying to wean them off a wheat-based breakfast – each morning began with tears, whining, and tantrums without it.  I guess they’ll have to wait until they’re older to expand their taste buds.

Papa’s work week plan

Papa on the other hand is fairly easy to please. I don’t even make him lunch. When we got married I was prepared to make him breakfast before work and pack a lunch for him each day, as I had helped my mom to do for my dad. He made it very clear though, that he preferred taking care of his own work meals and didn’t want me feeling like I needed to do it for him. I think this was as much out of his love for me as it was out of his own interesting preferences :::smile:::

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(smoked salmon, hash browns, and asparagus for dinner)

He doesn’t have a big appetite, so Papa frequently has a small breakfast on morning break, and a protein-rich lunch that is easy to prepare. Turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips with humus, granola bars, nuts, and yes, donuts, are a few examples of food he eats at work. They have a fridge and microwave he can use there to aid in his meal preparation, but he generally chooses things he can toss together real quick and eat while on the run, as he also likes to work through his breaks on personal projects, like Bags On Sticks.

weight and food

When I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a long time it is not unusual for them to ask how I stay so thin. I have a few areas that could use some toning for sure, but I have worked to maintain my weight within a certain range that I feel comfortable in. While caring for kids, working outside, and breastfeeding all help/helped tremendously, the truth is that I believe food has a lot to do with it. Similar to how a diet diary keeps a person focused on how certain foods and proportions effect their weight, I try to pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. I only weigh myself every couple of weeks usually, but I know when I have eaten too much sugar or helped myself to too many servings!

Eating three meals a day of good quality foods in appropriate sized portions, and only snacking on healthy choices like fruits, veggies, nuts, and cheese are what I believe help me to maintain my weight.

As for Papa, he is on his feet all day, walking all over the manufacturing plant as part of his supervisory position, and when you combine that with his 2-3 smaller meals you can see how he maintains his weight. But it wasn’t always that way! A couple of years ago he went on a sugar splurge, and frequently ate candy bars and m’n’ms to keep him energized throughout the day. He gained 20lbs just from that change in diet. When he realized his pants were getting far too tight he cut sugar from his diet completely until he lost the 20lbs, in about four months time. Now he says that if he is going to eat sugar, it is in the morning so that his body has time to metabolize it during the day.

Recently, I wrote a post about role models, which included an example about weight. It produced some interesting discussions in the comments that you might find interesting as a follow-up of sorts to this subject. I know food and weight are touchy issues for a lot of people, and different people have different needs. Papa’s and my choices are not right for everyone, and I don’t intend to judge others’ choices through this post, I am simply sharing our story.

typical grocery list and meal plan for the week

As everyone knows, a family’s grocery list is going to change from week to week. Some weeks have more baking products on the list, others have more snacks, meats, frozen foods, whatever. When I thought about what to share in this section, I struggled with how to include a typical grocery list because it changes depending on need. I’ve including a picture of what a sample grocery list looks like for us, jotted down on some notebook paper. This is not a good way of judging what we buy every week, but rather one week out of many.

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(a typical menu and grocery list)

Papa does most of the grocery shopping for us. I come up with a meal plan and text him our grocery list every Thursday morning and he goes shopping after work. He’s good at comparing prices, can move quickly when by himself, and since Walmart is next door to where he works it saves money on gas for him to do it. Though he does the actual shopping himself, choosing foods is still a team effort.

The foods we buy on a regular basis:

  • A wide variety of veggies, mostly fresh if we don’t have home canned or home grown
  • A few varieties of fruits, mostly fresh
  • A variety of nuts and seeds
  • Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
  • Cage-free, vegetarian fed chicken (we buy Harvestland chicken)
  • Non-cured meats (remember we’re transitioning to buying local meat)
  • Lots of cheddar cheese (no cheese product)
  • A small amount of cottage cheese, yogurt, and butter
  • A small amount of whole raw milk (from the farm)
  • A small amount of rice, non-brominated, unbleached white flour, organic sugar, and ground flaxseed
  • A small amount of prepared wheat products
  • Other miscellaneous foods – can’t forget the coffee!

4 recipes

I honestly tried to pick out only two recipes, but it was just too hard! I had several favorites I wanted to share so I could give you a better look at what we eat, but there just isn’t enough room for that. So here are four classics from our home.

Broccoli Pesto Spaghetti

  • 1 pkg whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 heads broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 vegetarian bullion cube
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • black pepper to taste

Cook the pasta. Steam the broccoli (or boil it if you don’t have a steamer). Blend the remaining ingredients and the broccoli until smooth. Add to drained pasta and mix well before serving hot.

Poor Man’s Meal

  • 2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 med potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 4 kosher hot dogs, sliced

Saute on med-high heat until potatoes are cooked through and crisp. If you wish, add a small can of tomato sauce, and salt to taste.

Wheat-Free Apple Muffins

  • 2 c rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c butter, melted
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and oil a 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl mix melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add soda, powder, and salt and mix well. Stir in flour to combine, followed by the apples. Put mix into muffin tin by spoonful and bake about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for about five minutes before serving.

Crunchy Potato Balls

  • 2 c very stiff mashed potato
  • 2 c fully cooked meat, finally chopped
  • 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 c mayonnaise
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2-4 TBSP flour
  • 1 c crushed cornflakes or prepared bread crumbs

In a large bowl combine all ingredients except flour and cornflakes. Add enough flour to make a stiff mix. Chill for one hour. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in cornflakes. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice to crisp on all sides. Serve hot. Makes about 6 dozen balls.

to sum up

We’re not perfect, but though certain foods (like heavily processed foods with additives) we choose not to eat most of the time, we otherwise stick to a “less of bad, more of good” motto. For example, if we’re concerned about a wheat intolerance but it’s not a major issue, we’ll eat wheat 4-6 times a week, but not 2-3 times a day like we used to (with the exception of the kids eating more wheat with breakfast than Papa and I).

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(marshmallows over the fire, yum!)

We’ve made enough changes to our diet that I’m confident we’ll be fine if we eat modestly with mostly good choices. Many have a passion about a certain diet, and we don’t really stick to a certain one. (Read this really good post by The Prairie Homestead about the food war.) I don’t like feeling like I have to stick to a specific diet or else, but I like knowing that most of my veggies are pesticide-free and most of our meat is antibiotic-free. And like I said, our family is on a food journey – as we learn how to take better care of our bodies we try to make small changes to accept responsibility for new-found knowledge.

And that, my friends, is what our diet looks like.

everything you ever wanted to know about our diet, part 1

Melissa, the winner of our photo quiz here, chose the topic for today’s post. I was excited when she asked me to write about nutrition. Knowing I have briefly mentioned our past vegan diet, our current interest in local eating, and other nutrition-related subjects, Melissa is curious about why we chose to follow the path we did, and what it looks like now. I had been looking for a chance to share about this, so I’m glad she asked!

Because this quickly became a super-long post, I decided to make it a two-part series. This week I’ll share with you our food history and the principles of our current diet. Next week I’ll share with you how our current diet works, including, among other things, where we shop, what our typical menu looks like, how we deal with picky eaters, and even a couple of recipes!

Our nutritional history

Papa and I grew up on fairly similar typical American diets. Our parents gave us meals consisting of meats, veggies, fruits, grains, and the occasional sweets and fats. Both sets of parents generally had a certain food budget to work with, but Papa and I both remember growing up on foods we mostly enjoyed (who wants brussel sprouts as a kid?!) and appreciate the lessons our parents gave us on eating nutritious foods in modest amounts.

Our journey through various diets has been inspired by new-found knowledge about how our bodies work, how food affects our lives, and personal interest. While it is probably influenced by our childhoods, the way we eat continues to be a learning process that will likely continue as long as we live, governed by our passion for feeding our bodies in the best way we know how.

veganism (2004-2007)

When Papa and I married in 2004, we enacted our plan to cut all meat products from our diet. Everything from obvious sources of meat and dairy to the hidden sources like cereals, crackers, and baking products containing dairy byproducts. For three years we reserved such “special” foods for birthdays, holidays, and eating as guests in the homes of friends.

John McDougall and Jack LaLanne were well-known to us, we watched numerous documentaries on the food industry, and read a number of books, all bringing attention to the vast number of potential problems caused by eating meat, dairy, and processed foods. We learned about government intrusion on small farms, why some people are more likely to have digestion problems when eating dairy, and how cheese is made to be addictive for the financial benefit of others.

My pre-wedding experience working at a vegan health institute, tending gardens and cooking in the kitchen helped me to learn about preparing healthy, well-rounded vegan meals. These meals kept us satisfied and healthy, despite the popular belief that vegans only eat salad. We enjoyed our meals and the nearly illness-free benefit that accompanied our diet.

Even though we decided to change our diet, it is because of our experience being vegan that I have added a number of yummy vegetable-based recipes to my collection, and the reason we still focus on a whole-foods diet.

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(fried eggs and a spinach salad for a recent lunch)

vegetarianism (2008-2009)

When I was pregnant with Buddy in 2006, I remained meat and dairy-free, but I craved cheese like there was no tomorrow. I wished that I could suspend our vegan diet just long enough to have the baby and then get back to it. Because I’m stubborn and didn’t want to give in, I stuck with indulging at my baby showers. So when I discovered Girlie was on the way in late 2007, I talked to my midwife and to Papa about this and we decided to reintroduce dairy back into our diet. The exception was milk, as we had both grown to dislike the taste since becoming used to soy milk, and continued drinking that instead.

During this time, our diet looked much like it did between 2004 and 2007, but we became more lax in what products we bought; beginning to buy things that had casein in them and such. Favorite splurges like Cheeze Its and Honey Bunches of Oats were now permissible.

We continued our vegetarian diet after Girlie was born.

introducing meat back into our diet (2009-2010)

I know it is completely possible to have a healthy pregnancy when you are vegan or vegetarian, but I admit that it was my pregnancies which triggered some of our changes in diet. In 2009 I became pregnant with Pal, and this time the normal 1st trimester fatigue stuck to me like glue. Long after the 12 weeks were up, I was struggling to get off the couch, unable to sleep enough to keep up with my lack of energy.

Then I started craving steak. Now, I’ve never, NEVER craved steak before. I don’t think I had ever even ordered a steak at a restaurant. But now I wanted it, and I was salivating just at the thought. Hmm. Could it be the iron I was craving? Was an iron deficiency causing my fatigue?

Papa and I started buying and cooking up steak once a week, and within just 2-3 weeks my fatigue was nearly gone. My craving for steak disappeared soon after. I’m glad I listened to my body’s messages, and now I recommend steak to all my pregnant friends who complain of being tired! Haha.

After that we started adding beef and chicken back into our menu, and said goodbye to a vegetable-based diet.

frugal eating (2010-2012)

In 2010, Papa was laid off from his carpentry job. This is why we moved off-grid into our camper when we did. One of the effects of this experience was me learning to cook healthy meals for less. The Mennonite’s More-With-Less cookbook became my best friend, and by the time Papa became employed again at the end of 2011, I had nearly mastered the cheap, but healthy diet, bringing our food bill down to about $70 a week for our family of five. And I was eating for two at the time!

We tried to base our diet on whole foods, but wheat was a big part of our diet, since I could make cheap snacks and less-expensive meals by basing a good-sized portion of our nutrition on whole grains. I started gardening more, allowing us to eat fresh, cheap food in the fall at least. And meats were bought on sale. In addition to the meats we bought on sale, eggs from our hens and all-natural peanut butter played a huge role in our protein intake. We also benefited from a food box given to us by the food pantry at least once a month, which was always overflowing with veggies, fruits, meat, and some wheat products.

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the local, homegrown, whole, raw diet (2012-2013)

After Papa became employed again, our diet slowly developed into a slightly more expensive, yet more local and/or homegrown, whole and/or raw diet. If we didn’t grow it, we tried to buy it from a Maine-based business, even if they were selling it through a grocery store. We preferred eating raw vegetables over cooked and meals made from basic foods instead of processed, prepackaged meals.

Playing off from our vegan roots, we tried to respect appropriate-sized portions, eating foods that were easy to digest, offered plenty of nutrition, and would probably help us live longer.

New to this phase was the addition of raw milk (which you can read about here) and fish into our diet. Papa and I have never been interested in eating fish before, but we knew that fish have fats that are especially good for the human brain, and we wanted to stretch our comfort level to start benefiting from them. We started with haddock, tilapia, and other white fish before moving on to salmon. Now we eat fish about once a month.

more variety, less wheat (2014)

Our current diet looks much the same as it did in the past couple of years, except we are currently working on minimizing our wheat intake. Spurred by my concerns that Girlie inherited an irritable digestive system from others in our family, I began researching wheat as a suspect for triggering symptoms. I read Wheat Belly by William Davis and learned exactly how wheat weakens the digestive tract, making it very easy for waste products to contaminate areas outside of the digestive system, leading to systemic illnesses and diseases.

Because none of us have major chronic illnesses I hesitated to make any major dietary changes. I don’t like changing suddenly, nor frequently, so Papa and I decided together to start weaning ourselves off wheat gradually as a family. We don’t intend to become wheat-free, but rather to stop relying on it as such a major contributor of nutrition.

The principles of our diet

Our diet is far from perfect. We do cheat and eat things that are obviously not healthy, and we do eat too much of some things and not enough of others on a fairly regular basis. But we do have a certain foundation upon which we make our food choices. These are the principles of our diet.

whole foods

It can be argued that God did not design our bodies to digest foods made from man-made ingredients, or from “natural” ingredients whose genes have been messed with. As evidenced by the increasing number of health concerns, our bodies just don’t know what to do with all the crap we’re putting in them! So while we do occasionally buy a box of crackers or a pizza from the general store, most of the food we eat comes to us as a whole ingredients. A tray of meat, a can of nuts, a bag of vegetables, a carton of fruit, a block of cheese, a bag of flour… Then we mix, match, and bake as desired.

concerns about food group proportions

It is far too easy, especially for busy families, or those with a few kids (or more!) to rely on cheap, easy foods that aren’t necessarily nutrient-packed. I can SO relate! One of the consequences of this reactionary eating is to eat too much of certain foods and not enough of others. You won’t find me professing to eat 7 vegetables and 3 fruits a day, or whatever they say you’re supposed to eat, but I do find that when we don’t rely on less-nutritious foods, it is much easier to choose the healthy stuff – when I don’t have a loaf of bread in the cupboard, it is easier for me to choose to make a healthy lunch of whole foods instead of quickly tossing pb&j sandwiches together.

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(oatmeal pancakes with rice flour)

avoiding processed, pesticided foods

I really don’t like buying products when I can’t read the ingredients list. Really now, who wants to eat a bunch of chemical products for dinner? Any hands? I didn’t think so. Our diet consists of few processed foods so we can control what we’re eating.

Pesticides are another food concern, as probably most genetically modified foods, including wheat, corn, vegetables, and more carry pesticides either in their veins or on their skins. Pesticide-coated corn anyone? Anyone? We eat a lot of organic foods, or foods that are labeled as being pesticide-free to avoid as much of that as possible.

supporting local

Local commerce is important. We appreciate small businesses, including farms, selling their own products. This is financially beneficial to our community, it supports “the little man” more than the big companies, and you are more likely to get a product that is lovingly cared for. While not always possible given the climate zone of our area, we try to buy mostly foods that are fresh and grown right here in our community.

teaching our kids to grow

Recently Pal told me he was going fishing. But not just any fishing. He was going fishing for fish sticks. Say what? “Fish sticks!” He repeated. “Pal, you know you can’t catch fish sticks right? You have to make fish sticks out of fish and a bread coating”. “Yeah”, he answered, “but I’m just going to catch them”.

It amazes me how simplistic kids’ minds are when it comes to food. Unless they can see with their own eyes where food comes from, they assume it grows the way they see it served at the table. And as for where it comes from, well, it comes from the store of course!

One of our food goals is to show our children where our food comes from. They have seen “our” milk cow give her milk, they have pulled carrots and picked pea pods, they have scavenged for chicken eggs, and milled wheat berries. We try to give them as much exposure to food as we can to avoid the ignorance so prevalent in our day. It teaches respect for our bodies, awe for their Creator, and just plain makes them smarter!

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(one of our favorite toppings for pancakes – real peanut butter)

foods we choose not to eat much if any of for health reasons

There are certain foods we try not to each much of for health reasons. The Bible does teach that certain animals shouldn’t be eaten, mainly because of what those animals consume themselves. Like pig and lobster. If we’re going to eat it, we want to know that the animal has eaten well themselves, or is going to offer us enough nutrition to make it worth it.

I do have to say that there is a range of healthy. A pig raised on grain at a large meat farm is going to offer a different level of nutrition than a pig raised on food scraps and grass at a small farm. We don’t completely abstain from these foods, but when we do eat them we try to eat meat that has been raised better.

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Curious to know exactly what we consider whole foods to be? What we eat every day? Where we shop? Stay tuned! Next Tuesday I will wrap up this two-part series all about the food we eat.

Eating Habits of the Spirited Child

This post features the second scenario I have chosen for my series on spirited children. To view the rest of the series, please visit the following links:

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I have a friend whose young boys will eat vegetables without a fuss. She’s never had a problem getting them to eat healthy foods. To her credit, at least one of them is spirited, but her luck is something many mothers would pay big money for. Everybody knows kids hate veggies, but spirited kids don’t just hate them; they will throw huge tantrums, refuse to eat for days, or willingly spend the entire day in bed just to avoid them. Hence my topic for today: how do you get a spirited child to eat healthy food?

Something I have found is that as children get older they naturally mature and may be more willing to eat healthy foods, but every meal prior to is an invitation for a disastrous battle. Doctors say kids won’t starve themselves, but I gave up when after three days of Buddy’s self-induced fasting over a bite of lasagna he started throwing up. We obviously needed to try a different tactic.

Each child has their own quirks and any method you try will need to be adapted to them for it to have a chance of working. Raising Your Spirited Child gave some specific examples of how temperment affects mealtimes:

  • Sensitivity fosters strong opinions
  • Intensity makes reactions forceful
  • Persistence makes them want to do it themselves
  • Perceptiveness leads to “grazing”
  • Slow adaptability makes getting them to the table difficult
  • Irregularity leads to erratic hunger pains
  • High energy leads to a desire to eat on the run
  • A negative first reaction leads to frequent refusals

If you have a  good idea what is leading your child to battle you at mealtimes, understanding their temperment enables you to communicate that you care how they feel, and to seek more effective ways to help them eat. The following are some ideas I’ve tried myself or taken from The Difficult Child or Raising Your Spirited Child.

Breastfeed. Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies, and provides countless nutritional benefits, even to toddlers. These benefits last well into adulthood, but more immediately, they make transitioning to tablefood easier. Because breastmilk has everything a baby/toddler needs (except vitamin D which can be obtained through sunlight) there is no reason to pressure your young child to eat a lot of food. You can offer them the freedom to experiment until they decide they like food afterall. We did this with our third child; he went straight from breastmilk to tablefood (with supplemental breastmilk) around 8 or 9 months, and so far we’ve had the fewest diet-related challenges with him.

Introduce new foods gradually, offer them over and over again, and whatever you do, don’t take personal offense when they don’t like it! Especially if your child is sensitive, or slow to adapt, it may take a while before they’re willing to like a new food. Also, don’t challenge their threshold. If they don’t like it, ask them to label what is bothering them (color, texture, flavor, temperature, etc.), and if possible give them two choices you can both agree on. If that’s not an option, teach them how to refuse food respectfully.

Think variety, not quantity. Who knew you could learn something so crucial from a movie star’s wife! A cousin gave me Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious for Christmas. Honestly, I didn’t like the idea of hiding veggies because I thought it would reinforce my kids’ belief that veggies are yucky, but since the fight over them wasn’t working either, I did it. I blended up spinach and hid it in their bagel pizzas. Read here to discover their reaction. In her book, Jessica talks about the need to give variety to childrens’ diets, but emphasises that they don’t need to eat as much as we do. Four bites of a vegetable offer significant nutritional benefits for children, and if battles over food are a regular occurence, hiding them until the kids are a little older may give you all a chance to rethink how you address food. Whatever you do, don’t get into the habit of making two (or more) separate meals at a time, it’s just not worth it!

Let them snack, and eat how much they want. This goes along with thinking “variety not quantity”, but it is important to remember that energetic little people cannot sit down for three meals a day. You can make them, but they won’t eat much, and they’ll complain of being hungry just 20 minutes later. Grazing won’t spoil your child. Eating together is important for many families, but for the spirited child you will not ruin their appetite by offering them healthy snacks throughout the day. In fact, you’ll just help them to be healthier.

Involve them in food prep, and let them know what’s on the menu for the day. Some kids are more willing to try foods if they help make them. If you’re like me, you’ll want to be left alone in the kitchen, but inviting the kids to help say, at least once a week, will give them a great opportunity to learn and explore possibilities. If your child is slow to adapt, sharing the daily menu gives them time to adjust and mentally prepare for the meals, perhaps making mealtime easier for everyone.

Rewards. Some kids will eat their food if you offer them a reward. You might think this is bribing, but the reward doesn’t have to be dessert. Some parents have success using the star system, giving their kids a small gift or privelege after a specified number of meals eaten without complaint. If you try this, keep the child’s age in mind. A 2 year old, for example, will have more difficulty lasting a week then a 4 year old.

Vitamins. If your child refuses to eat, nothing is working, and their health is becoming compromised, you should make sure they are taking good quality vitamins with minerals until they are eating well. When Buddy was about 2 years old he started eating the strangest things, like dust and baby powder. I did some research and found that childhood pica is often associated with a mineral deficiency. I switched him to a brand of vitamins that included minerals and the dust-eating stopped almost immediately!

We still sometimes have problems with our kids refusing food, but the research we’ve done and attention we’ve given to their temperments has helped us to manage most of the challenges we’ve faced. If you have any other ideas that have worked for you, do share!

The last two posts in this series are: Disciplining the Spirited Child and Planning for Success. Stay tuned!

our awesome solar dehydrator

D-Ration

The epic D-Ration

by Papa

Here is a fun little treat I found online searching for some survival bars. It is called the D-Ration, and it was made popular amongst the troops during WWII. This started in 1937 when U.S Army Col. Paul Logan ask Hershey to develop an (energy/emergency) bar meeting his four requirements. Which are:

1. it weighs 4 ounces
2. be high in food energy value
3. be able to withstand high temperatures
4. taste a little better than a boiled potato


So  knowing a potential government contract could bring in huge money, Hershey and his chief chemist Sam Hinkle got straight to work on the task. Using common chemicals know to us as; chocolate, sugar, oat flour, cacao fat, skim milk powder, and artificial flavoring they scientifically designed a high-tech power bar. Unlike soilent green D-Ration did not contain people, or at least it is not listed in the ingredients. However, the Army did welcomed this new bar and by the end of WWII a whopping 3 billion had been sent to soldiers.

I should mention that D-Ration was altered slightly in 1945 to have a sweeter taste because the troops were detesting them so. “Hitler’s Secret Weapon” was one nickname they gave to it until the alterations were made. To say the least, D-Ration did become popular and owns an epic history that no other emergency bar has.