Friday, April 19, 2013

feeding Lydia

"I can't get my kid to eat anything but junk food!"
"Somedays she'll eat a ton, then nothing for a few that normal?"
"My kid ate my whole bag of kale chips."
"I'm exclusively breastfeeding, when should I start solids?"
"When can I start rice cereal? Do I have to?"
"I feel like my kid eats only peanut butter and bananas."

I hear it all at WIC. in our community. at the grocery store. anywhere there are little ones...
what do we feed our kids?

first off, I'm going to give a list of what Lydia ate/is eating at different stages of her life:
(all items in tables should be assumed eaten in following age stages as well as those listed)

0-4.5 months
4.5-6 months
6-12 months
12 months-present
Breastmilk (til 20 months)

Pizza Ranch Mashed Potatoes. Don't judge! :)
Green beans, spinach, celery (gummed it), broccoli, squash, zucchini, peppers, parsnips, turnips, rutabegas, potatoes, cucumbers (and pickles), pumpkin
Juice with breakfast, goats milk when my supply started dropping, and whole organic cow milk at 20 months, herbal tea

Eggs (yolk and whites), bison, chicken, beef, pork, catfish, panfish
Peanut butter toast, bowls of cereal

Peaches, prunes, pears, applesauce, banana
Rice, couscous, hummus, beans, quinoa
Cheese-all varieties (favorite so far is goat cheese!), whole-fat yogurts

Sweet potato, peas, carrots
Ground flax, wheat bran, baked goods (muffins, etc.)
Tacos/breakfast burritos/wraps, pizza, salads

Rice cereal, oatmeal, mixed grain baby cereals
Cooked pasta, lentils
Dried fruit

Tropical fruits (mango, papaya, pineapple), coconut and coconut milk
Nuts in baked goods, millet

Sherbert and ice cream
Candy--loves peanut M&Ms

Spices--cinnamon, etc.
Venison in any form

Seafood--loves shrimp!

this isn't a perfect food schedule. the only thing pretty textbook about it is that Lyd breastfed exclusively for almost 5 months, and she continued to nurse in addition to solids til 20 months old.  otherwise feeding her was by the seat of our pants. we rarely followed the "try one and wait a week" method of trying new foods when she was an infant, mainly because we were so excited to feed her solids. side note--with subsequent children I will nurse exclusively much, much longer. starting solids after exclusive breastfeeding does begin the weaning process, no matter how you look at it.

now, the trained WIC breastfeeding counselor in me says, "foods before a year are for fun!" but the parent who has a very very eager and happy-to-try-anything-once baby begs to differ. one of the many cool things about breastfeeding is that babes get the flavors of what you eat through your milk, but in all of the foods listed above, check out the different textures, much for them to experience!

Feeding a toddler--now here is an experience. Lydia's been able to eat on her own since about 10 months old: scooping with a spoon, using a 'big girl' fork, cutting up soft things with a butter knife, spreading her own peanut butter or jam, pulling the end off a shrimp, drinking from a glass and eating ribs off the bone, etc. are all eating skills acquired in her short girlhood. Sometimes she'll go in jags, where she'll eat like a horse for three days, then literally nothing but water and fruit for one. Sometimes something she liked the day before is "yuckos!" today. There are many tried and true foods we know she'll eat, but we keep pushing the envelope and exposing her to new foods nonetheless.

Here are my family's guidelines for feeding a child at any age:
1. Nutrient-dense foods. A child should eat a rainbow of different foods in a day in order to ingest vital nutrients for optimal growth. We try to have something of each food group on her plate at every meal--good protein, veggies, fruit, and complex carbs. Hotdishes and other one-pot meals are great for this, which is why I love my crockpot so much. One favorite meal here is brown rice cooked in free-range organic chicken broth, with sweet potatoes and seasoned chicken thighs, steamed veggies or mashed cauliflower on the side, fruit salad, and milk. I will do a post later on our favorite family meals but this is just one example. We don't eat a lot of processed or non-nutritive food (think chips, crackers, jello, fruit snacks, etc.) here; obviously we're not exempt and she does get treats, but that's all they are--treats, with undefined guidelines as how to acquire them. Just by the grace of her parents ;)

2. As local and organic as possible. Farmers market. Local butcher. Wild game, preferably shot by Daddy. Buying local is smart economically, nutritionally, and environmentally. There are many reasons to buy organic foods. The USDA Organic label tells you that fruits and veggies weren't raised using manmade chemical pesticides, fossil fuel- or sewage-based fertilizers or genetically modified seeds. On meat, the label indicates that the feeds provided met those same standards, and that the animals weren't administered hormones and antibiotics. Bottom line: "Organic" is more sustainable and healthier -- for the environment and farm workers, certainly, and often for you and your family. How is organic healthier? It's healthier because some studies suggest that organic produce has more nutrients than its conventional counterparts, probably because the soil is left in better condition after repeated plantings, and healthier because you avoid ingesting any harmful pesticide residues left on conventional produce.

3. Enjoyable. Food should be fun! I make landscapes out of her food, cut sandwiches out with a cookie cutter, let her bake and cook with me, and we always try and sit together as a family to eat. We have picnics, go to potlucks, pancake breakfasts, restaurants, you name it. Making toddlers/children happy with food isn't too difficult. :)

There you have it--the ins and outs of feeding an almost-three year old. I'm excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of growing our own food and raising livestock, chickens, goats...There are so many aspects to a healthy lifestyle, and food is a massive part of what makes up our bodies, minds and hearts. Have fun!

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