Monday, August 8, 2011

The Assertive Food Phase

Hello readers! I feel like it's been a while. My toddler (wow, no longer my infant!!) has been keeping me busy. Most people would call the phase we just finished his "picky" phase - I call it his "assertive" phase. He tells me what he wants and more clearly, what he doesn't want. I want my child to be able to have choices and feel that he can control his surroundings so I've been meeting his needs. It's definitely made me a much more creative momma. Below are some of my experiments, not all successful with my kiddo but might help those of you out with your child's "assertive" phase.

Homemade chicken nuggets - organic chicken seasoned with pepper, pan fried in coconut oil with a touch of sesame oil. Half the nuggets with coated with whole wheat flour, and half with panko. Kiddo refused both but he's just generally not a fan of meat at this age. :)

Two things to note: 1.) Sesame oil has a very low flash point and so use sparingly otherwise your kitchen will be smoking. 2.) Pan-frying is a bit more difficult because of the possible oil splattering. I suggest using a recipe that allows you to bake them. I would experiment if my child showed interest but he isn't a fan.

Whole wheat wrap with turkey, avocado, spinach, banana peppers, roasted peppers from a previous batch that I froze and some dill Havarti, grilled on the Foreman Grill. Kiddo thoroughly enjoyed picking it apart or "deconstructing" as today's celebrity chefs would say. How much of it he ate is up for discussion. 

Our new favorite product - The Nibble Tray from Dr. Sears. I tried creating my own with a muffin pan, but the portion sizes were too big and kiddo liked dumping that all over the floor. For some reason, he doesn't do that with the nibble tray. Thank you, Dr. Sears!!

Dips on top, left to right: Artichoke/spinach hummus, homemade tzatziki sauce, garlic hummus.
Top section: Chopped organic mozzarella sticks
Second row: Pineapple, grapes
Third row: Beets, Sesame crackers
Bottom row: Black beans

The biggest hits were the beans, fruits and cracker and dips. This helped my little mister learn the word dip, which he now says as he dips his cracker. I have learned that while he loves organic mozzarella sticks, he wants them whole and not chopped up. Did I mention I love his assertiveness?!
Those are just a view of a few of the experiments that have been happening the past few weeks. While we have always allowed our son to have his own meal schedule, he now is snacking about once an hour and it's been working wonderfully to get some more nutrients in him, as well as put on some weight.

A typical day for us would be:

6:30 a.m. - Yogurt
7:30 a.m. - Waffle/milk
8:30 a.m. - Pineapple
9:30 a.m. - Cheese stick
10:30 a.m. - Hummus/crackers
11:30 - 1:30 p.m. - Nap
1:30 p.m. - Milk/beans/sandwich (He's in a big almond butter and banana phase right now)
2:30 p.m. - Baby carrots
3:30 p.m. - Frozen grapes (Note: We make sure to chop these up before freezing because of the choking hazard). This works wonders during the days he's teething and also works as a wonderful dessert.
4:30 p.m. - Diced broccoli (He's not a huge fan of green vegetables right now but I continue to offer them daily in hopes that he will learn to share mommy's love for them.)
5:30 p.m. - Whatever we are having for dinner and milk. Tonight it's an organic chicken salad with artichokes, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and a yogurt sauce instead of mayo. Did I mention he likes to eat food deconstructed? ;)
6:30 p.m. - Sliced avocado
7:30 p.m. - Milk and goodnight!

Now, while that sounds like a lot of food, he generally takes a few bites of each item. So he may eat two carrots, and then a little while later, half a cheese stick, a few frozen grapes here and there. Snacking is very healthy and completely developmentally normal at this age. Also, some days we show him the snack tray and he says "no no no!" and we leave it at that. There are days he eats a lot, there are days he picks but I think for his personality, the constant offering, the snack tray and sharing meals with him have helped to make food a social and comfortable experience for him. We also have a shelf for him in the fridge where he gets to pick from for the items that don't fit in his snack tray and also a section in our pantry, where he can reach in and grab what he wants. These are all great ways to meet his need for independence and I have seen him flourish through these methods.

To close, some quotes from my favorite, Dr. Sears:

"Snacking their way through the day is more compatible with these busy explorers' lifestyle than sitting down to a full-fledged feast. "

"Grazing minimizes blood-sugar swings and lessens the resulting undesirable behavior." While I greatly dislike his use of the word undesirable behavior (since really a tantrum is just one more way of expressing discontent), I understand what he means. I get cranky when I don't eat on time as well.

"For young children, what and how much they are willing to eat may vary daily. This capriciousness is due in large part to their ambivalence about independence, and eating is an area where they can act out this confusion. So don't be surprised if your child eats a heaping plateful of food one day and practically nothing the next, adores broccoli on Tuesday and refuses it on Thursday, wants to feed herself at one meal and be totally catered to at another. As a parent in our practice said, "The only thing consistent about toddler feeding is inconsistency." Try to simply roll with these mood swings, and don't take them personally."

Happy grazing,
Mama A

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