Sunday, August 21, 2016

These Medals Are Snack Gold!!

How cute are these medals!? As the "games" come to a close today, I decided to share this cute and healthy snack with you.

It's super simple to make! 

Award-Winning Medals

You'll need:
- Orange
- Apple
- Kiwi
- Animal Crackers 
- Fruit snack - the strip kind

How to:
Cut the fruits in 1/4 inch slices and stack them starting with the orange, then apple, then kiwi. Place an animal cracker on top.  Cut the fruit strip in half to serve as the ribbon.  I had to cut mine in quarters because it was the last one left in the box...
I bet you could use any fruit that you have at home, just cut them round and be creative!!! 

My kids were so eager to eat them that my daughter couldn't wait any longer to grab hers!!

This recipe is adapted from the back page of the August edition of Ranger Rick Jr. kids magazine. Actually the only thing I changed was using a natural fruit snack instead of the one they suggest.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Bites Game

How many times have you made dinner and your kid simply rejects it and will not even try? A bazillion? That sounds about right. While I still cook my son's preferred foods here and there, I am also starting to get more confident in planning new dinners and serve the family healthy recipes that we try together.  Last night I made a delicious chicken pot pie that was super easy to make, very delicious and healthy. Chicken pot pie is one of my husband's favorite foods, and I had never made it before.  Since he is gluten free I had to find an easy GF recipe that looked good enough for all of us to eat.  It was a success! Even my son's friend who was over ate the pie. I swear, I didn't know how that would work out because I know the friend can also be particular about foods. I was prepared to make the kids a grilled cheese sandwich expecting a big fight.  However, I decided to first give the "Bites Game" a try.  Let me tell you, it was a success!!!
All the kids ate their food.  Yes it took a lot of cheerleading, high fives, and the promise of ice cream after dinner, but they ate all their bites!
Tonight when dinner time rolled around, I decided to offer the leftover pie again.  My picky son shouted "hooray!" from the other side of the room. I was seriously taken aback. Where did my picky eater go?  I have gotten him to try foods in the past, but never to want it again the next day. I'm starting to notice a change there. I do think the age plays a big part on this, he's 5 now.  But nonetheless, I'm super happy about that.  Can you tell!? 

How the game works:

Getting ready for the first bite
Like all the games I post here, this is a very simple one.  All you need is a piece of paper, a crayon to mark the bites your kid takes.  In the beginning (or if your kid is still young) you can make the check marks for them. I just estimate how many bites it will take and make that number of squares, hearts, clouds, or circles - whatever they choose at the time, I started with just boxes in the beginning. Make sure you agree on a prize before hand. The prize does not have to be candy or ice cream like we did yesterday.  Kids love that and you may start with those treats first. Kids usually respond well to electronics time after dinner if they eat their food.  Many times I've used 30 minutes of iPad time as an incentive.  You know your kid, so you know what would work for him/her. Then for each bite your kid takes, you can check a box.  It's that easy.  Give praise for each bite taken and make it fun! They love that.  

Coloring the shapes in this modified version

Mission accomplished!

Hope this simple and easy game will serve as a tool to get your little one to eat the foods you prepare.  My goal is to never again have to make separate dinners.  While I'm still not there, it is happening more often now, and I love that!! 

Even the little one is in on the game, and she's not even picky
Good luck! And let me know in the comments below if the game is working for you or if you have any questions! 

Also if you have some time (I know that is hard to come by!) read 15 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Better from Parents Magazine.  Really good info, some of wich I touch here. I agree with most points, but not so much with 8 and 9.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why You Should Throw Away Your Kids' Plastic Fork today

A few people have noticed that on my posts with the kids I do not use plastic plates, plastic forks and plastic cups on most of my posts. I started this a few months ago in an effort to reduce harmful chemicals exposure in my family.  Nowadays we find many products with buzz marketing words like BPA free, PCB free, phthalate free, this free, that free.  But this always made me wonder, what are they replacing those chemicals with to create a plastic that does not melt in the microwave?  So I just started paying more attention to chemicals exposure and how I could make sure my family wasn't being unnecessarily coming in contact with them.

A few years ago I started heating up food in the microwave only using ceramic plates or glass bowls. My husband got tired of me asking him to cover the plate with a towel or another plate and decided to give me a microwave cover for us to use.  I guess he didn't realize that the plastic cover was exactly what I was trying to eliminate.  I might have hurt his feelings by rejecting a "gift" he thought was so thoughtful! But, I cannot make myself use plastic in the microwave.  Didn't do it then, won't do it now.

Still I didn't think it was enough.  I was still storing food in plastic containers.  I would make a big pot of beans and freeze portions for easy thawing out and I would just have to make rice and veggies.  I would put the still hot cooked beans inside the plastic container and put it in the freezer for later.  When I was ready to use it, I would transfer to a ceramic bowl, cover with a ceramic plate and thaw it out in the microwave (hey, I do know some people have a problem with microwaves, but I am not there yet...). I thought that was enough.  Until last summer, when my husband and I watched a documentary that is completely not related to plates and cups.  This documentary just confirmed that you are not just what you eat, but also what you are exposed to. There's so much information in that documentary, which I will say, is mostly about breast milk, what gets stored in our fatty tissue, how we are passing all that we eat/touch to our babies, and how breasts have changed overtime. This documentary is fantastic! Here is a preview – you need to find it by name on Apple TV, Amazon or Netflix in order to watch it in its entirety. It is called "Truly Strange - The Secret Life of Breasts"

While watching the documentary, this is what jumped out at me that made me try to reduce exposure to all these chemicals:
- There are 80,000 registered chemicals in the US, less than 1,000 have been tested for potential hormone disrupting effects
- In the US, chemicals are allowed to be sold until proven harmful, so we don't know what the impact they might have on people and environment
- They examined breast milk and breast tissue from 10 Australian women who showed exposure to PBB (flame retardant), phthalates (makes plastic more flexible and harder to break), PBDE (another flame retardant), PFDA (non-stick coating in pans), PCB (present in electrical equipment) and DDT (a pesticide banned in many countries) and found out they had high levels of those chemicals in their breast milk.  The scary part about this fact is that Australian women levels were 95% lower than US women.
That's why I came to the conclusion that I wanted to reduce my kids’ exposure where I can.  I won't stop living, we still have modern lives and I'm not going to start building my furniture anytime soon.  But on the other hand, I think that making one small change in how I serve them can have a greater impact on their health in the future.

After watching that documentary, I switched all my plastic storage containers that used to get stained, warped and ugly, with easy to clean, hygienic and plastic free glass containers.  I love it! Yes, the lids are still plastic.  But unless I fill the container all the way to the top, food usually doesn't touch the lid.

I am fully aware that I will not be able to 100% eliminate plastic from our lives, but I will sure try to limit our exposure to it. That's why I decided a few months ago to get rid of all the kids plastic containers, except for a couple of beloved cups, that eventually will get tossed (don't tell the kids!). You know, I thought I would be freaking out each meal afraid they would break a plate a meal. But all honesty, accidents happen less frequently than I thought.  Yes we've lost a plate or two, but that's why I purchased inexpensive, on clearance usually, plates at Target. If you're really concerned with breakage, Corelle makes some hard to break tempered glass ones if you don't mind spending a little bit more.  For cups I have started using the Life Factory small cups that have the silicone sleeve around it, so it doesn't slip from their hands so easily, and they come in fun colors that kids love.

As far as sending food to school, I didn't think that glass would be a good idea just because it involves other people's kids too.  So I found these steel containers that work great for small portions and are also safe from chemicals.  Again, these ones have plastic tops, which I would prefer they didn't.  Since I made the switch last year, I've seen all metal lunch boxes that are on my radar for purchase.

I encourage you to watch the documentary and draw your own conclusions. Don't be nervous about making the switch to real glass plates/cups, rest assure the kids will learn to eat with real cutlery and real plates.  They actually use "real plates" in Montessori schools and kids as young as 18 months learn how to use them.  Yours can too! Lowering the exposure to chemicals that we don't even know about is far scarier to me than having to clean up a broken plate/glass mess from the kitchen table. Call me paranoid, but why not try to reduce exposure where you can, right!?

PS: I know you are a mom and time is precious.  But if you find some time for another quick read, here is a good explanation on BPA and its effects as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Serious Matter - Choking Threats for Children

The other day I learned about this little lady that lost her life at a party because she choked on a marshmallow.  She was 11 years old. There are so many things that pose a threat to our young kids and sometimes we don't realize how dangerous food can be. You may think that your kid is safe because he/she has always eaten certain foods well a million times before and nothing has happened. This is a very sad story and can, in many instances, be avoided when people know what to look for and how to react when faced with this emergency. People of any age are succeptible to choking. It is not exclusive to any age. However, young kids and older adults are more at risk.  For young kids it is an anatomy thing, their bodies are just not strong or big enough. Kids also tend to be jumpy, talk a lot, eat to fast, hold food in their mouth and that makes it more likely for them to lose control of the food in their mouth and get it stuck beyond a point.

Choking is one of the scariest experiences not only for the person suffering from it, but also the ones around.  So knowing what to do if that happens around you is key. Did you know that within 1-2 mins of starting to choke one can lose consciousness, 2-3 minutes one can start to sustain brain damage and 4-5 minutes one can die? Needless to say choking is a SERIOUS EMERGENCY.

Many foods are obvious that are a choking threat for small children, some obvious examples are hard candy, whole grapes, uncooked carrots, but did you know that kids can choke on peanut butter? I give my kids peanut butter all the time! And after learning it is a choking hazard I will consider how I will give it to them.

These foods can be dangerous for children under 4
Hot dogs (especially cut into a coin shape), meats, sausages, and fish with bones
Popcorn, chips, pretzel nuggets, and snack foods
Candy (especially hard or sticky candy), cough drops, gum, lollipops, marshmallows, caramels, hard candies, and jelly beans
Whole grapes, raw vegetables, raw peas, fruits, fruits with skins, seeds, carrots, celery, and cherries
Dried fruits, sunflower seeds, all nuts, including peanuts
Peanut butter (especially in spoonfuls or with soft white bread)
Ice cubes and cheese cubes
Foods that clump, are sticky or slippery, or dry and hard textured

And of course, always keep an eye out for small objects in your house that can be a hazard. The size of a kid's windpipe is approximately the diameter of a drinking straw. So if your little likes to put things in the mouth to taste or try out be extra vigilant.  These items include latex balloons, coins, marbles, toys with small parts, small balls, pen or marker caps, button type batteries, medicine syringes, screws, stuffing from a bean bag chair, rings, earrings, crayons, erasers, staples, safety pins, small stones, tiny figures, and holiday decorations including tinsel, or ornaments and lights (we tend to overlook those, but if they can put in their mouths, it is a hazard).

Food Danger
Hotdogs cut into coin shape (red plate) are a choking hazard. Cut them lengthwise twice then widthwise to reduce risk of choking (blue plate). Soft cheeses can also be a hazard, as can slippery hard boiled egg.  Watch kids closely while they eat!

Lessen the chances
Cut food in small pieces for children under 4
Instruct your kid to stay seated - never let them walk while eating
Always keep an eye on your children while they eat - it is very likely if they are choking they will not do anything
Don't let your kid eat in the car (I'm so guilty of this one!!)
Offer liquids during meals
Don't rush kids during meal or snack time

Learn what to do
There are things you can do to help a person who is choking.  I am not qualified to teach you what to do in case of a choking emergency, but please watch this video to learn how to identify when a person is in trouble and how to help.  Share with all in your family so everybody knows what do. This is so important! The video is 8 mins long and worth every second of it!

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Let's all keep an eye on our babies! They don't need to become a statistic! Choking injuries and deaths are preventable.

For more information, visit the Choking Prevention for Children page on the NY State Department f Health website. That's where I got the majority of this information.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Food Gamble

We came up with a new game for taking bites! This one is kind of silly but let me tell you, it worked. Every Saturday we like to have pizza for lunch or dinner.  Every Saturday I need to find something else to feed that dude.  I will do it, but we would like for him to join us.  Now slowly but surely he is starting to accept pizza. Hooray! However, he does not eat it without a playing a game to take each bite.  I tried using the Dinner Winner Plate again, but this time it did not interest him too much.  He is the one who suggested playing a "bite game," so I remember he was playing with a die he found in my husband's desk and thought that would be a good way to get his interest in the pizza.

There's no trick to it.  It is a pretty straight forward game. But it was fun playing it.  We will certainly bring it back next time we need him to eat something he is rejecting. 

- a hungry kid
- food you want the hungry kid to eat
- one die
- sense of humor

First assign an action to each side of the die.  These can be silly things like touching the tip of your nose, tapping your ears, etc.  Also assign one number for taking a bite.  This is an example of what we assigned to each number, but you can certainly choose different actions in your family. My only suggestion is choose actions that you can do without getting up.

1. take a bite
2. touch the tip of your nose
3. blow a kiss
4. tap your ears
5. blow a raspberry
6. wink 

This game might work better with bigger kids, but you can try for any age.

Let me know what actions you chose together in your family.  It was hard for us to be creative and come up with things that didn't involve getting out of the chair.  I can think of a dozen of things we can do, but it would take so much longer if anything involved standing up and then getting back down to eat.  I guess you can do it if you don't mind your kid getting up and down all the time. I'm curious to hear what you guys come up with!!

We let my daughter play too just to include her, but she certainly didn't need any incentive to eat hers, as you can see... (smiley face)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Heads and Tails

As the parent of a picky eater, you face many struggles on the daily to get your kid to eat.  I am there every day, every meal. I often joke asking "why do they need to eat 3 meals a day?" Of course I'm just kidding and I'm just referring to the struggle that we have getting kids to eat. I bet you can relate, a meal that should take 15-20 minutes lasts an hour because you have to beg and plea and implore for your kid to take one bite. I get it, I'm usually right there with you.

But why if it didn't need to be a struggle every single time? We learned one game that has served us well and hopefully will do the same for you. It is so mundane and simple that you probably have all you need at the bottom of purse.  It is a simple flip the coin game, but you and your kid decide which food bite your kid will take with heads and with tails.

The coin game works best with 2+, when you choose between two foods, and if your kid likes games (which let's be honest, which kid doesn't like to play a little game at meal time).

I was so surprised when I saw the therapist using this game with my son and him actually looking forward to the next bite.  Be prepared to chase the coin all over the place, they tend to throw it all over the place and not really flip it like you're supposed to.  And I'm not responsible for flying coins that might hit you... it just comes with the territory. Wouldn't you take a few hits of the coin if your kid is eating?

The Game

So basically if you ever flip a coin for anything, you know how to play the game.  Hard to explain, huh!? You just assign Heads or Tails to the foods before starting to eat, so there's no confusion on the kids head.  So I usually let my son choose what he wants to eat when it lands on Tails and when it lands on Heads.  That way he feels that he has control over his choices.

Not too happy with the selection

Playing the game made it a little better

He finished it... see the struggle?

This day picture here we went to eat out with friends.  It was a new place and he was not used to the way they prepare the quesadilla.  So he did not really want to eat it.  I pull out the coin and he chose one side for the broccoli and the other side for the quesadilla.  As you can see, not much later he was finished and we were all happy.  Well... at least I was!

Try it next time! I would love to hear how it worked out for you! Hope this helps!

Friday, March 25, 2016

We All Win!

If you are reading this I don't need to tell you that it is a struggle to get a picky eater to eat anything outside their comfort zone. In our case, hamburger and pizza are the two foods that my son will refuse to eat just by hearing the name of it.  I bet he would refuse candy if it was the shape of pizza or burger. It's not that I think that those two foods are the best thing to have; in fact, I know that many of you wish your kid would eat something other than that. Here's the thing, we think that if he tried it he wouldn't mind it as much as he thinks he does.  We want to eliminate the "I don't eat that" mentality that has been around for too long now. My thinking is that if you have never tried it, you cannot say you don't like it. Once we are able to get him to at least try, we know we will be able to go to social gatherings and not look like the parents that don't let the kid eat pizza (believe me, people think that).

Take birthday parties for example, every time we go to one we know it is very likely they will serve pizza and cake. He is usually the kid that refuses the pizza and just sits there while everybody else is enjoying a piece.  He just watches them eat, not participating much and giving me looks as if asking "what am I going to eat." "Well, dude, that's all they have to eat" is usually my answer.  So what ends up happening is that he only eats the cake. I'm certainly not going to be carrying food with me just so he can have a special lunch/dinner.  We've done that too many times now (when he was itty bitty I felt bad so I would have snacks for him - he's a big dude now and we moved on from that). There's a cute story about a party we went one time where they had the usual pizza and cupcakes on the menu, and the health conscious parents also had fruit and veggie trays.  While all the kids are gobbling up their pizza and cupcakes, my son is just eating a plate full of fruits (that's one thing I cannot complain, he's always liked fruit, I know it's a blessing!) and carrots.  The parents come to me and say: "Is it ok for him to have pizza, what about cake?" As if I was the one preventing him from having a piece. After I explained his picky eating habits they confessed they thought I was the one withholding unhealthy food from him! As if you can control your kids around birthday food.  Typically they devour it all! 

The Plate That Saved Dinner at My House

With those experiences happening to us more often than not, I decided it was time to introduce those foods and the first attempt of it was actually successful.  My son ate a burger, kind of a burger, but he ate it (I didn't have burger buns, so I improvised).  On Friday night my husband suggested burgers and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try this out.  I used Fred & Friends DINNER WINNER kids dinner tray and I couldn't be happier with the results. 

Fred & Friend DINNER WINNER Plate

They have themes like Enchanted Forest (for your little picky princess), Pirate and Supper Hero.  When we got ours they only had one kind, so I didn't get to choose.  But I probably would have chosen this one anyway.  It is right on point for my son!

One of our therapists recommended this plate after a few sessions because he noticed my son was into games.  We've had it for a while now but it has been a while since I last used it.  I got rid of all plastic or melamine plates for the kids to reduce chemical exposure, but I kept this one because it is SUCH A SUCCESS!!!! If you don't have one yet, click here to buy it now.  You need this plate! 

Look at the smile on his face!
You'd never know he's about to eat a
previously hated food!

What makes this so exciting is the fact that the kid is playing a game while eating.  They have to eat each square of food before moving on to the next (although in the beginning my son would eat his preferred foods first, so he wasn't completing the game in order, which is fine, he was still trying the new food to get the prize).

Reading each square - he's really into the game

The prize! That's is one of the pieces that makes this plate such a success to get your picky eater to eat.  As you can see, my son is SUPER EXCITED to see what's under the prize box (even though we negotiated what the prize was before dinner and he knew).  You might have to keep your hand on it the first few times, or the prize might disappear before it's time. One time I used carrots as the prize, even that worked... go figure!

Checking the prize - it still there!

I knew that we had success in the past, but to be honest he has always been so adamant about not wanting to try a burger.  Just before dinner I knelt down next to him and told him that we would have burger for dinner.  He just said "I don't want it" and continued watching TV.  I did tell him we would use the DINNER WINNER plate and he literally jumped up from the couch and came to the table to check it out. This plate might not work like this for all of you; I know each kid is different.  But if you haven't tried it yet, you might be missing out on the best way to get your picky eater to eat, hands down! I can't wait to try with pizza next.  I'll keep you posted on how that one goes.

So happy playing with his much earned prize!
And the plate is completely empty!

Just an FYI, I'm not paid by the company to write any of this.  But if you click on my links I might get comission from affiliate programs I participate.