Sensitive, Picky Eaters? Listen in as I’m interviewed on this very topic!

Listen in tonight at 7 as I discuss with Donna Ashton my signature system for building food curiosity into your family culture.  Learn the four words that are derailing family dinners.

Donna is the founder of The Waldorf Connection, where parents can get support giving their children an education of art, music, and movement.  Donna is a champion of home-schooling ease and a mentor for family-first home-based businesses.
My talk is free, so just click here to jump on the call.

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To cheat or not to cheat… on your kids

Eat more veggies.

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Smiling veggies

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I haven’t been a fan of sneaking food into kids.  But.

New studies point more to clearly to the importance of healthfulness in kids’ early diets in predicting long-term health “What your child eats now will make an enormous difference to his adult health….Produce may ward off asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, artery-clogging plaque” and more (Parents, June 2015, p. 66).

When my micropreemie was two and still underweight, my mom put a cotton ball on the ceiling fan and hit the switch.  Yes, one could see it as an early introduction to mindless eating, sneaking it in while he laughed hysterically.

vintage botanical print of spinach

Click this image to purchase it from Vintage Inclination.

When he was about 5, I bought a cookbook of recipes for foods that had healthy ingredients secreted inside them.  Unnoticeable.  Don’t ask, don’t tell — toddler style.

Does that strategy “teach” kids to like or tolerate, say spinach?  A nursing student mom I know says yes, some other moms say no.  I opted for a little sneaking in while I worked on educating their palates.

But what if — what if we re-thought brownies let’s say.  What if brownies could just BE a dessert that had a healthy dose of spinach?  What if “spinach” came to be associated with spinach pie, greek pizza, salad with bacon, AND chocolate spinach cake, aka brownies?

What if we eliminate the stigma on healthy foods?  What if we just stop sneaking, but don’t stop making those same recipes? This is my goal.

Our chocolate chip cookies have mashed beans in them, and Thing 2 just doesn’t care any more.  “They taste good, that’s all I need” he says.  A few of my best dessert recipes are available on my Free Resources page… then head on over to Facebook and tell me how they turned out for you!

“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one”

ice cream print

Click this image to see more fine art from Laura Row Studio.

“I have an ice cream and you can’t have one” Eddie Murphy chanted in a singsong voice. Decked out in a red leather suit in 1987.

Oh, we laughed at the ice cream skit, how manic the kids get when they hear the ice cream truck coming, telling everyone on the block “ice cream man is coming, ice cream man is coming!” — and how they lorded it over the other kids when they got their ice cream.

blue milk poster

Click this image to shop for lots of amazing prints from Poster Fresh.

Do you remember the next line in Eddie’s song? “I have an ice cream, and you can’t have one, coz you’re on welfare.”  Yes.

And we laughed — little kids marching out someone else’s parents’ distress and gloating over junk food.  Would we laugh now?  Probably not.

Because it seems like now, the adults are saying it, and it’s serious. “Is junk food child abuse?”

Google called up over a million articles when I asked, and lots of people are saying yes. And they’re not on crazy hippie web sites; they’re in the UK’s Daily Mail, Huffington Post, TED talks….

I have scowled to myself at the playground, haven’t you?  But, our judgement gets in the way of solutions.

compassion

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Poor folks need knowledge, in their language, to help them make good choices. They need access, in urban centers AND in sad rural wandering roads, to grocery stores. Here in Pittsburgh, folks take several buses to get to an affordable grocery store. Growing up in rural Maine, it was a long haul to one. Folks need the means by which to purchase foods, or foods need to be affordably priced or grown at home — or all three.  I’ve written before on how folks also need time to cook at home.

So that trigger response of “what are they feeding these/those kids?” is a sign.  A sign that compassion and social action are called for. What to do? Go to a town meeting about public transit and make sure poor neighborhoods have access to grocery stores, vote in local elections about zoning laws, support your local WIC program (Women, Infants, Children – a nutrition program started by president Carter targeting at-risk kids), donate to a food bank.  Or start by exercising your compassion — on the playground. In the grocery checkout behind someone with food stamps. Or when you see kids of different sizes.

For more talk on food and kids, join in on Funnermother on Facebook.  We can make a change.

Rice served thrice: batch cooking for easy meals

blue pottery rice bowls

Click this image to see more gorgeous pottery from Hughes Pottery.

We are very busy, poor meal planners, and have kids that suddenly don’t like dishes they used to like.

You may not be surprised by this Funnermother fact. 🙂

So our cook once, eat thrice technique allows us to focus but not actually be tied to a menu that might not work at the last minute.

brown rice soap

Click this soap image to see other lovely items in Ninas Paris Tea shop.

Honestly I’d rather order takeout every night, like on that sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. 🙂

But it is too expensive, and not as healthy.

Last week’s blog post, Winner, winner, chicken dinner, walked you through several days of yes, chicken dinners.

brown rice drawing

Click this link to see more stunning drawings from Country Charm Art.

This week I’m giving you a sneak peek into some of the ways we use rice.  Rice has come under scrutiny because it absorbs arsenic; at the end of this post you’ll find reputable resources for making the healthiest choices you can about rice by your purchasing decisions and by rinsing it.

We have not stopped eating rice, though we never did eat it every day or even every week.

I cook a double or triple batch on the stove top, and use it over three days or three meals.

brown rice cookery

Click this image to see more delightful vintage kitchen items from Tommys Kitchen Stuff.

First, I serve it as a starchy dinner side dish with fish or chicken and maybe a dash of tamari or sliced cooked mushrooms stirred in.  You could also toss in toasted pine nuts — though Thing 1 is happiest with plain rice.

The second time we see it, I toast several servings of rice in a frying pan and add ginger and soy, scrambled egg, frozen peas and either shrimp or minced meat. Ta-daaa!  Fried rice that I sometimes will supplement with takeout dumplings or store-bought frozen eggrolls.

rice

Click this image to see more gorgeous stock photography, sold with a signed release form, from Blasdel Photography.

For our third use, I may serve it as a side with a cheese omelet topped with salsa, with refried beans inside or as a second side.  With fresh chives or green onions sprinkled all around, usually by Thing 2.

There you have it.  Dinner, lunch, breakfast — diverse flavors and easy meals with  batch cooking!

Rice and arsenic in the press:

In January 2015, Consumer Reports wrote: “White basmati rice from California, India, and Pakistan, and sushi rice from the U.S. on average has half of the inorganic-arsenic amount of most other types of rice…. white rices from California have 38 percent less inorganic arsenic than white rices from other parts of the country.

Brown rice has 80 percent more inorganic arsenic on average than white rice of the same type. Arsenic accumulates in the grain’s outer layers, which are removed to make white rice. Brown has more nutrients, though, so you shouldn’t switch entirely to white. Brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan is the best choice; it has about a third less inorganic arsenic than other brown rices.  Rice that’s grown organically takes up arsenic the same way conventional rice does, so don’t rely on organic to have less arsenic.

Grains lower in arsenic

The gluten-free grains amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and polenta or grits had negligible levels of inorganic arsenic. Bulgur, barley, and farro, which contain gluten, also have very little arsenic. Quinoa (also gluten-free), had average inorganic arsenic levels comparable to those of other alternative grains. But some samples had quite a bit more. Though they were still much lower than any of the rices, those spikes illustrate the importance of varying the types of grains you eat.

Cooking to lower arsenic levels

You may be able to cut your exposure to inorganic arsenic in any type of rice by rinsing raw rice thoroughly before cooking, using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup rice, and draining the excess water afterward. That is a traditional method of cooking rice in Asia. The modern technique of cooking rice in water that is entirely absorbed by the grains has been promoted because it allows rice to retain more of its vitamins and other nutrients. But even though you may sacrifice some of rice’s nutritional value, research has shown that rinsing and using more water removes about 30 percent of the rice’s inorganic arsenic content.”

A February 2015 article from the Cleveland Clinic corroborates these preferences and methods for reducing arsenic in rice.

Livestrong hosts a 2013 article listing other potential problems with brown rice, such as fungal growth on leftovers.

Moms’ self-care: yet another task?

bath tub at the ocean

Click this image to purchase it from Korpita.

I admit, I despair of those articles telling me all the things I must, should, or could be doing for myself.

Take 15 minutes, practice mindfulness, reach out to friends, take a bath.

self care is not selfish

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They are all great ideas, they are not selfish or outlandish, and they sound so do-able.

But they’re not.

Not for me.

I am a little jittery already, and taking time to smell the roses just… makes me uncomfortable.

Those self-care ideas still feel selfish, even though I know they’re not.

Or they feel like tasks: things I need to remember, maintain, or organize.

And before I could take a bath, I’d have to clean the tub.  Boo.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned some alternate self-care strategies!

self care

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I have, and they fall into three general categories: incorporate, schedule, outsource.

Incorporate nurturing things into your life.

After finishing a huge project I paid myself with luxurious flannel sheets, and every time I use them it is a treat for both eyes and skin.

Add a scent to your nighttime routine.

self care

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Or a luxurious soap to your morning routine.

self care

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“Surround yourself with” sounds like an enormous task of planning and commitment to me.

Instead, find one image that you love.

It could be a place, a trip, a person, a color, a dream.

Something that you will see and smile.

Then, put it where you will see it.

Or plant a perennial — my lilac tree looks good, smells good, and throws some shade.

Done once, enjoyed daily.

Schedule the things that get you through the week.

If you are reading this, you probably know that I love Mondays because it’s moms’ night out.

self care

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Every Monday, rain or shine.

And it must work, because our families respect it and make sure it happens.

Lunch, massage, a britcom, playing cards, a knitting or exercise class, a drink, or Wednesday evening gardening.

Schedule it once, enjoy it regularly.

Outsource what you can.

Start by getting your kids to do whatever age-appropriate chores they can.

self care

Click this image to purchase this kids’ safe knife from Atelier Saint Cerf.

Getting my kids to take out the garbage and recycling, and wipe and put away dishes, was far more gratifying and stress-reducing than I imagined.

And Thing 2 loves food prep: retrieving, washing, slicing. She loves setting the table.  Thing 1 loves lighting the candle if we have one.

It all adds up, and she chatters through the whole thing to the “audience” of her imagined cooking show.

Maybe you have someone who does your taxes, teaches your kids an instrument, or cleans your house.

self care

Click this image to purchase the print from Flourish Cafe.

And if you are juggling food sensitivities, diets, picky kids, or newly declared vegetarians– you can also hire an experienced researcher and planner to work with you on streamlining your family meal.  Me!  🙂  We can work together to get mealtime back on track.

Visit my website to see details on my short course on Feeding the Finicky and my more intense family meal overhaul called Kitchen Coaching.  And as always, pop on over to Facebook to catch daily tips and quips.

Dinnertime: A Seating Plan and Surveillance

rustic farm table

Click this beautiful image to purchase it from Keith Dotson.

Lilith's drawing

Thing 2 made a seating chart with plates and silverware drawn in.

We talked about making a family resolution a month ago…I suggested we start eating at the dining room table.

We usually eat in the living room, but now we have a tween in the house, he’s been squirreling away alone.  I didn’t like it, but it seemed like a harmless way to let him have some independence.

So I broached the idea tentatively.

And they surprised me.

I came home in the dark after working one Sunday at the swish boutique that carries my crocheted items.  Thing 2, age 7, was scurrying around in an apron setting the (newly cleaned off) dining room table.

She had drawn a seating plan, and had taped to the table pieces of scrap paper with our names written on them.

It wasn’t January yet!

We’ve eaten at the table every night but two, and we all seem to enjoy it.  My more traditional neighbor always sang the family meal’s praises.  She did it her kids’ entire lives, and still hosts the whole family plus a son-in-law every Sunday.  I continue to be surprised at the immediate change it made for us.  Everyone comes to the table, we talk, tell about our day, laugh, get antsy, do dishes together, and more.  And the “more” is this — I think my cake-eater eats more of his healthy dinner this way!  It could be because Mother Is Watching, or it could be that it has turned dinner into a more social affair.  I’m pleasantly surprised, and most of all because they actually did it without me!  Try it at your house and let me know how it goes.  Or tell me how to mix it up after the novelty has worn off.  And if you want the lo-down on inspired ways to feed those finicky kids, get my free 20-minute talk HERE.

 

Crossing the divide: will women ever get out of the kitchen?

Valuable recipes

1910s. Click the image to purchase this cook book from PlantsNStuff.

Thanksgiving’s traditional gender roles are getting stuffed.  That’s pretty exciting.  Want to know how I know?  Our local free paper ran that as its cover story last week! Unless I accidentally picked up an issue from the 1960s.  Or 1970s.

The article quotes one local 50-something housewife whose husband cooks at Thanksgiving: “I’m not going to complain.  I’m his assistant.  It’s nice.  Lucky lady, huh?”

refrigerator ad

1920s. Click to purchase this advertising proof from Surrender Dorothy, one of my favorite Etsy shops!

I don’t think I was supposed to laugh.

I’ve written here before about how “stress related to cooking healthy home-cooked meals night after night” is just not worth it to the women who do the cooking.  I’ve also written about the rise in diversity in the structures of American families.  And I wonder, as you probably are right now, how family structures could change –dramatically — and yet somehow the women are still in the kitchen.

SOS ad

1930s. Click the image to purchase this vintage ad from Estranged Ephemera.

Reading the cover article from our most liberal, most artsy, youngest paper I was struck not just by “the invisible stuff” women do at home (the article cites “making sure beds are made, towels are clean, and the kids have nice clothes on.”  I’m totally failing at my invisible work, but didn’t notice, haha), but I was also struck by the invisibility of women’s cultural work, which has by and large changed the shapes of our possibilities in the world.

The article does well to point out that the holiday can be a “third shift” for working women, and that “some men are crossing the divide and proving that traditions can change.”  And these are timely reminders as we rev up for a big holiday season.  Still…

vintage gas ad

1940s. Click the image to buy this vintage gas ad from Retro Reveries.

When I told a new friend what I do at Funnermother, helping lay out meal plans that negotiate diets, food allergies, palates, and finicky kids; or gathering a kit to make moving to a new school easier; or working out family sleep issues — all within the bounds of your family culture as it’s already built (how your family operates) —

dishwashing ad

1950s. Click to buy this image from Mamiezvintage.

she put her head down on her arms, and said “Oh thank god, then we all don’t have to spend our time reinventing the wheel.”  YES!  And reinventing the wheel seems to be what women end up doing over and over.

We do it in the kitchen, in the home, at work, and in culture at large, as we still press on about gender roles, pay equity, assault, catcalling…. but also home organizing systems such as meal planning, bedtime routines, moving — all with new emphases on our kids, and all things that women worked on in the 70s.

range ad

1960s. Click this image to buy it from SnowFire Candle Co.

And earlier.

If you want to work together on building flexible systems that work in your family, and take some of the “guess work” out of parenting, follow me on Facebook, sign up for my weekly-ish E-zine, or email me: Funnermother[at] yahoo [dot] com.

Supermoist Chocolate Cake – it’s healthy!

I’ve got a lot of strategies for feeding my finicky kids! At the same time, I do also sneak healthy foods into my kids.

Here’s the recipe for my latest awesome discovery:858cf7ed-23f4-4600-8152-6d90b7ab8639
Chocolate Beet Cake
Boil, then peel & shred 1.5 – 2 cups beets, set aside.

Stir:

1/2 C melted butter, 1/2 C olive oil, 3 large eggs, 1C sugar, 2 C flour, 1/4 C cocoa powder, 2tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 C dark chocolate mini-morsels, ½ C melted butter, ½ C olive oil, 3 large eggs, 1 C sugar, 2 tsp vanilla

Fold in beets.
Cook in buttered 13×9 pan, dusted with cocoa at 350 for 35-­‐45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Do you have a surprising family sneak?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Grocery store games: Feeding the Finicky

shopping cart

Click this image to purchase these blank grocery lists from ClaireChadwickPaper/

A great way to get kids invested in food — and have a wider palate — is to take them to the grocery store.  Young kids love to learn their colors, feel the produce, smell things, and talk with mom.

Even my sensory defensive kid, overwhelmed by the lights and noises of our cavernous store, would go, wearing a hood or baseball cap — and if he could get in those enclosed grocery carts that look like cars (right) and “drive” around, he was in heaven. Some sensory kids like  ‘heavy work’ like carrying potatoes or a bag of flour.

produce market card

Click this image to purchase this postcard from Amy Lindroos.

My dear friend ran her family produce market, and I can’t recommend a small family place strongly enough!  Often she would have cut a melon or ambrosia apple or blood orange, and would give a little slice to the kids.  I credit her with a lot of our family’s health and regularity!  It was a great experience of community while it lasted.

Around kindergarten, we let the kids pick out our vegetable for dinner, or asked them to pick something new to try.  The grocery store is also a wonderful place to learn early math and learn to read!

Washington Apple

Click this image to purchase this vintage die cut from Retro Pickins.

Mine are past this age, and my 11-year-old son has started to protest that he can stay home.  And we have let him.

But we went to the store as a family recently, and I learned a LOT!

Thing 1 was a micropreemie, intubated, and sensory defensive.  He gags on gravy and yogurt textures.

So I have always served his food plain, and reserved the savory, tangy, and spicy sauces for us parents.  We went through the frozen food aisle and he pointed to the pictures of foods he thought he would eat.  They had sauces!

vintage look grocery sign

Click to purchase this double-sided sign from Plaid Ant.

I had him pick out a vegetable, and for a change, we did get a frozen dinner (chicken pasta ranch something or other).  I feel your frustration with your picky eaters, believe me I do!  But I’ve learned that it is an ongoing relationship with food that we are cultivating;  kids’ tastes change frequently and without notice, and given the opportunity, they usually want to eat something delicious and just need a little guidance.

I have a lot more to say about picky eaters!  I’m giving a free call Monday, November 10, at 12 noon.  Sign up here to join me, and if you can’t make the live call, you can listen to the recording.

 

 

 

My Top Two Tips for Picky Eaters

Walrus and Flamingo card

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My kids are 7 & 11, and they are OPPOSITES.

I have one defensive kid who likes bread and cake; one seeker kid who is a devout carnivore and eats raw purple onions… and chives right out of the garden.

Successfully feeding them both is an adventure!

If you have a picky eater, it may even be a grown-up.

painted paperclay landscapes

Click this image to see the stunning details in this landscape, or to purchase, from Babelvis.

It’s funny what grownups bring along with them… unfamiliarity with flavors or vegetables, family prejudices or favorites…  kids or adults, I want us all to eat together and work on making that pleasant for everyone at the table.

But of course I want it to be easy on me, too!  🙂

My best tip to accommodate picky eaters is this: Keep your ingredients separated.  Soups, casseroles, sandwiches…  Most of the time, that’s all it takes. Thing 1 will eat noodles, chicken, and carrots.  But not if they are mixed together in a broth.

gentle rhino

Click this image to purchase this darling rhino on watercolor paper from Doodleslice.

Once I figured this out, it saved me so much stress and worry!

Most of the time, he’s eating the same things we are, after all.  Perhaps a little more noodles and a little less everything else, but he’s eating in each food group.  And that is progress — no more chasing him with a spoon for “one more bite.”

I have also been working on tip2: creating delicious smells for them to come home to, or to sneak up on them if we’re all at home, and asking them to smell new foods or dishes to get acquainted with them.

orange abstract painting

Click the image to study or purchase this original painting from Helmerick’s Design.

The olfactory sense is an integral part of taste.  Cultivating an acquaintance and eventual pleasure of something baking in the oven or simmering in the crock pot is a hassle-free way to introduce new foods and new flavors.

Sometimes those savory aromas will convince your picky eater to try something where the foods are all touching!  Indeed, I credit the school lunch program at the little hippie private school they attended — where delicious dishes were cooked by moms from around the world — with enticing my kids into eating Indian, Russian, Asian, and Mexican flavors.

I’ll be giving a free call with more tips for picky eaters soon!  Get in the loop by following me on Facebook, following this blog, or signing up for my biweekly E-zine.  Thank you for reading, good luck!