Category Archives: Food

Sugar substitutes and metabolic syndrome

I’m assuming you guys have seen this article about the study that found that even a can of diet soda a day increases your risk for metabolic syndrome by 34%.

Or this piece on Good Morning America about the article. (You have to sit through an ad first before the story starts.)

I wonder if this is going to make companies stop putting sugar substitutes in otherwise healthy things, like yogurt and food for kids.

I think this also puts the nail in the coffin of soda consumption for many of us. Too dangerous to drink sugar substitutes, and way too dangerous to drink high fructose corn syrup. Plus the caramel color is bad for us, and so is the carbonation.

I guess it’s back to water. (Until Passover, when some of the stores in NYC stock kosher-for-Passover Coke sweetened with regular sugar, which I’ll indulge in.)

I also wonder if this is going to give stevia (a no-calorie sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant) any traction, since it’s just a refined leaf, not a chemically-altered substance.

Q&A: introducing nuts at a year, plus a question about post format for the readers

Sorry about skipping yesterday. I was off work to take everyone to the dentist, and thought I’d have time to write a post in the morning. Ha. No one had any cavities, but it was a loooong day for me.

Here’s an admin question from Rachel:

"Adore your site, adore your advice, but is there anything I can to do convince you to split up the multi-part posts?  I mean the ones where you put out three or four unrelated topics in one post.  Instead, if you have a lot on your mind, could you put up multiple posts in one day?  That way people could comment on the different topics separately.

Part of what’s great about AskMoxie is the sustained conversation that goes on in the comments, and if there are multiple topics, you lose that continuity.  Yesterday was particularly distressing to me on that front, because the very personal and worried-sounding post about sex dreams got swamped by everyone talking about T-Tapp.  Both interesting, but they really didn’t belong on the same plate.

Thanks for considering it."

What do you guys think? I was putting them all together figuring people wouldn’t want to have to click on multiple posts, plus the ones below the first one just wouldn’t get viewed. What do you guys think? (And can I just say how much I love that my readers don’t just write in saying "I luuuuv you" or "You suck," but instead give thoughtful comments with well-reasoned positions? It makes me feel special.) I’ll go with what the crowd wants.

And now, especially to annoy Rachel and people who agree with her (ha! not really, just because it’s a shortish question and I don’t actually have a real answer) is a question from Kate about nuts:

"At our daughter’s one-year well check today, we discovered that she hadn’t grown much since her nine-month appointment.  She’s not falling off the charts, but has slid down considerably.  The pediatrician wasn’t too concerned but suggested making everything J. eats count, meaning that we should give her as much healthy high-fat, high-calorie food as she’ll eat.  I was shocked when the pediatrician recommended nut butters.  We’ve all heard the no-nuts-until-age-three mantra repeated ad nauseum, but our doctor claims that the latest research shows that it really doesn’t make any difference whether you introduce nut products to your child sooner rather than later, as long as the child’s parents and siblings don’t have nut allergies.  I’d be curious to know whether you or any commenters have heard this, and if following said wisdom has backfired on anyone."

Maybe my brain is just fried from too much time at the dentist’s office, but I think my pediatrician said a year for holding off on nuts way back when my older son was a baby. And we never asked if there were any revised guidelines for my younger one, mostly because he grabbed a hunk of his brother’s peanut butter and honey (yeah, I know) sandwich when he was 6 months old and shoved it into his mouth. Yeesh. But I’ve been laboring under the impression that it was one or two years for nuts, not three.

Anyway, my thought is that they’re now finding out that the nut allergies are a gene, so that they’re something you either have or don’t, not something that you develop from too-early or repeated exposure. Who knows if that’s what’s going to shake out to be the recommendation in 10 years, but I’m guessing that’s where your ped is going with this.

The bottom line is, though, that if you don’t feel comfortable introducing nuts to your daughter, don’t. I mean, there are tons of people who don’t want to give their kids juice, or trans fats, or meat, or things that aren’t kosher, or brussels sprouts, or whatever. And no one should feel forced to give their kids something they don’t want to, as long as the child’s nutritional needs are being covered and there’s no food coercion going on.

So go with avocado (tons and tons of vitamins, plus good-for-you fats) until you feel fine with nuts (if ever) and be thankful that you have a pediatrician who sounds so a) sensible and b) up on the latest research. Perhaps we can clone her/him.

Comments?

Q&A: feeding problems

Great comments yesterday. Some of you have some heavy stuff on your minds! Much worse than my "problem" of having to make several dozen Norwegian vaffler for the end-of-the-year International lunch today…

You know those composite sketches artists do? Well, I’m going to smash together a couple of emails I’ve gotten recently on the same topic into one post.

Several parents write some version of:

"My son is almost
2-1/2 and can use a spoon and fork just fine — but he won’t. We call it pasha
mode: He waits for us to feed him, which we eventually do because we don’t want
every meal (especially in the morning when we’re trying to get to work) to take
3 hours. Whether we sit with him or not, eat our own meals at the same time or
not, offer him finger foods or food that he needs to eat with utensils (or
both), he waits. Sometimes he’ll start by himself and then say "You do it." It’s
driving us nuts! Please tell us what to do."

Pasha mode–heh. This is just the flip side of the same old control game back from this post and several others just like it. Assuming he doesn’t have a metabolic or feeding disorder/allergy/GI imbalance of some sort, and it sounds like he doesn’t because he lets you feed him just fine, it sounds like he’s trying to exert control.

I think you have two choices (you probably have more, but these two are what I’m coming up with now): A) Keep feeding him until he grows past this stage and moves on and starts feeding himself, or B) Just ignore the food issue after you serve him his plate, and then when the meal is over clear away anything left on his plate.

Before I decided what to do, I’d check with his daycare provider (or anyone else he spends time with, if you’re a SAH with this same problem) to find out how he eats for them all day. If he eats fine at school, then you know for 100% sure that it’s all about control, and then it’s just strategy for you. (Parenting: A Minute To Learn, A Lifetime To Master) Plus, you know that he’s getting plenty of calories at daycare, so it’s not going to hurt him if you choose option B above and he doesn’t eat much for a few meals in a row.

If he doesn’t eat all that well at daycare, and you really want to make sure he’s eating a lot, then it may be worth it to you to choose A. In my mind, the problem in this situation isn’t the feeding or the not feeding, but the control part of it, that you three are locked in a Battle Royale over eating. So by deciding that you will either just feed him straight off, or that you don’t care how much eat eats, you remove the control as an element of the interaction.

Speaking of which, Sarah writes:

"I was wondering how to know if my baby has a feeding problem.  I know a
lot of babies stop eating around a year, but I’m more concerned with
the fact that my (almost) 11 month old just is not progressing from
baby food to table foods AT ALL.  I have been told to "pack up" the
baby food by 1 year of age and I just don’t see how he won’t starve if
I expect him to eat only table foods in one month’s time!  His
repertoire of table foods is minuscule.  I wish I had never fed him the
purees to start with.  I know some babies want "real food" and protest
being spoonfed bland mush, but my baby is the opposite: I fear he will
never move past baby cereals, which are still his staple and the only
thing he eats a lot of consistently.  I don’t think he has a swallowing
problem, since he can manage finger feeding a total of about 5 items
(toast/crackers/cheerios/muffins/quesadillas — basically, carbs
completely dry to the touch).  He has never, not once, picked up a
fruit, vegetable or piece of meat and put it in his mouth.  Do I
take away the baby food and hope he gets hungry enough to eat table
foods?  Do I keep feeding him the jarred stuff?  Why can’t this be
easier???  I feel like I am losing my mind in frustration.  Any
thoughts or advice?"

This, again, is all about control, but it’s the control that the external culture has over Sarah in telling her there’s something wrong if her son doesn’t like table foods at this point.

All kids are different, just as all adults are different about what we eat and won’t eat. I love tapioca pudding, but I know half of you just squirmed in horror and revulsion at the thought of tapioca. There are plenty of healthy normal children all over the world who are still consuming only breastmilk or formula up to and past a year because they’re just not into food yet, even the mashed stuff. And some kids get so completely into table foods that they can barely choke down any milk once they start eating foods.

So I would pay more attention to how you feel about his eating. You know he can eat things with texture, so it sounds like he’s just not choosing to. Do you feel in your gut like there’s something wrong? If so, ask your pediatrician for a referral to have him tested by a speech therapist. If you don’t have any strong feeling that there’s anything out of place, then who cares when you’re "supposed" to start feeding what? (The whole "stage" idea for jarred baby foods cracks me up because it’s such a brilliant marketing gimmick.) He’s going at his own pace, and it may not be what you’d like him to be doing, but he’ll get there eventually. IME, some kids just sort of click into eating at around 13 months, so maybe that’s what’s going to happen to your guy.

For more support on following your child’s lead on feeding, especially in the first year, here’s the link again to my favorite study on babies and solids.

Please, everyone, contribute anecdotes about your kids’ eating habits. If anyone does have kids with diagnosed feeding issues, could you walk us through how you knew and how it’s resolving? I think it’s helpful to have all sorts of data points so we all know what’s normal, and what’s normal but needs some extra help.

School lunch cry for help

Hey, have any of you tried the new Amazon Kindle? They keep sending me emails about it. It’s a wireless device that you can load books onto and read. I have to admit that the idea of eliminating all my stacks and stacks of books (seriously–they’re like wire coathangers in the way they seem to multiply) is tempting. (I wouldn’t get rid of my current library–perish the thought–but would be able to avoid new acquisitions.) The $400 price point seems kind of decent. But then I just can’t imagine how it would be comfortable to read from a screen, any screen. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s tried it. (The Amazon.com review are predictably conflicting: "It will replace the book by next year!" "It’s unconscionable!")

(Also, I don’t know if I’m really supposed to release this little tidbit yet, but Mothertalk.com is going to start a book club soon. Hooray! An online book club, and I don’t have to do any work on it. I’ll post more info when I get it.)

Now, on to the school lunch outcry. From Lisa:

"How about a starting a discussion on school
lunches?

Every mum I know has trouble thinking of healthy
tasty food that doesn’t go off in a hot lunch box, that their kid will actually
eat!  Any change from the humble sandwich would be a treat in my
house!"

I know we’ve talked about it before back at the beginning of the year, but here we are in the thick of things, when school lunches have gotten to be routine. Some kids like that (mine, although he allowed me to add clementines to the mix this morning), while other kids want variety.

I should report in on the results of the Laptop Lunchbox experiment: My older son decided he didn’t want to use his anymore, because it wasn’t a licensed character lunchbox like his best friend S. has. So much for innovation. The kid’s apparently a victim of peer pressure. His little brother loves the Laptop Lunchbox, though, so he’s been using it for snacks.

We’ll see what happens as they get older.

Every day we need a lunch (doesn’t usually get eaten, because they’re too busy running around) and a snack (usually gets eaten completely). So I’m packing a small lunch (today was a half sandwich and a clementine) and a larger snack (cheese, fruit leather, crackers, cucumber).

Here’s a shot of my RL friend Beth’s bento boxes for her kids. Here’s the Vegan Lunchbox site (want vegetables? talk to the vegetarians). More bento boxes for kids’ lunches ("frozen rice"? Interesting…).

Please post your ideas or links. I’m interested to see if we get any kinds of regional foods, or if parents all over the world are packing the same things.

School lunch concern day, contains book review of Lunch Lessons

Today I’m posting a question and a book review all rolled into one, and the topic is school lunches and our problems with them. (Blossom is "helping" me by chasing the cursor on the screen. Kittens. Whee.)

First, a question from Emily:

"Hello — I’m anxious about getting plastic out of my life but I am completely stumped about what sorts of containers to use for packing lunches. I bought a metal bento-box-esque tin in Chinatown but 1.) it’s impossible for a small child to open 2.) it leaks and 3.) I think it might actually be aluminum, which — I think — isn’t great either. I’ve dorked around on the Internet looking for ideas but haven’t turned up much. Glass seems dangerous and heavy. Do you or your readers have any ideas? (possibly people don’t think it’s that dangerous to pack food in plastic, or certain kinds of plastic…happy to hear good reasons to support that thought too)"

Well, I think plastic is dangerous and scary, too, and am scared at how it’s absolutely everywhere. But it didn’t really seem to be as big an issue in my life until we started Kindergarten a few weeks ago. I’m kind of stuck at this point, because the choices seem to be a) let him eat school lunch every day, which I think may actually be plastic (actual quote from last week on the first day he asked to eat school lunch instead of bringing it: "I don’t know what it was but it was good and I dipped it in ketchup!"), b) keep putting organic "baby" carrots into ziplock plastic baggies, thereby putting lipstick on a pig, or c) spend $30 at ReusableBags.com on the Laptop Lunchbox set (more about that later).

[I thought I’d maybe solved the problem by considering getting a thermos-type food container to send hot soup or bi-bim-bap or something like that with him every day. But when I asked about that he uttered the cryptic "I only like cold foods at lunch because we only don’t go out to play when it’s raining." Um, OK. No hot bi-bim-bap for lunch. Got it.]

Which segues into my review of the book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes. The intro of the book was beginning to irk me, because we got a lot of statistics about how school lunches are so horrible for kids, and are contributing to both this huge obesity epidemic and the harmful consumer culture that’s sweeping over us like a tidal wave. And then they talked about how well the kids eat at a private school in the Hamptons (a very wealthy area of Long Island, NY) of which one of the authors is the chef. And I thought, "Fabulous. They’re scaring the crap out of us and then bragging about how their school is so great, but none of this is within reach of normal kids or parents." But then…

…they tell you how other schools and districts changed their crappy lunch programs into nutritious programs the kids are really into. Followed by a chapter on starting to break the cycle of crappy foods and choices that are bad for the environment. And then there’s a chapter about what kids’ actual nutritional requirements are that was helpful and realistic and doesn’t make you feel guilty. They talk a ton about farmers and making sure kids can participate in and understand about how food is grown, and that they really understand the life cycle of the foods they’re eating.

They have a whole bunch of nutritious, mostly-delicious-sounding recipes that you can make for breakfast or pack for your child’s lunch. But the book is really focusing on lunch programs that are nutritious and help teach kids about how food is grown, and how you can try to get some of those principles into the lunch program at your child’s school. It’s simultaneously raising a huge alarm about how important but minimized school lunch is, and giving you the ammunition and morale to start making good changes on small and bigger scales. I love this quote about why they’re working for change and encouraging us to, too:

"It may seem overwhelming to take on something as large as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and it would no doubt be infinitely easier just to use the recipes in this book and cook more healthfully for your own children than it would be to take on the larger system.  But for us, there are two major reasons to fight this fight. First, we have a moral obligation…The second reason is that kids learn habits, both good and bad, around their peers….It’s not about changing the entire National School Lunch Program at once, it’s about changing one school and one district at a time, just as the early proponents of the NSLP did."
p.32

If you send your kid’s lunch to school, the authors recommend the Laptop Lunches bento box system.

Lunchlessons

(The photo on the front of the book is a Laptop Lunches box.) They go through the different kinds of plastic, and which are safest and least safe. The plastic the Laptop Lunches is made of is the safest kind. You pay a little more for that, and because they’re made in California. But I’m getting to the point* that I’d rather spend $30 once on something that I know isn’t leeching chemical into my child’s food, and which is super kid-friendly and might inspire him to actually eat all the stuff I pack, than just keeping on buying ziplock bags (spending way more than $30 a year) that get thrown away and aren’t good for us anyway. (You can buy one at www.laptoplunches.com, but I ordered mine from www.reusablebags.com because I also got another Sigg water bottle for my 2-year-old in the same order. The Sigg bottles are expensive, but are virtually indestructible, and are of aluminum with an inert lining so nothing leeches into the liquids in the bottle. Plus the kids think they’re way cooler than sippy cups. And I’ve never lost one, while I’ve lost more than a dozen sippy cups over the years, so financially I’m coming out ahead vs. sippy cups, and far far ahead vs. buying bottles of water on the go.)

Of course it’s easy for me to say that, since my Laptop Lunches set just got here yesterday, so this morning is our first day. He may come home from school not having eaten anything, or having thrown away half the set accidentally, or telling me it’s not cool so he ate the school mystery lunch again. If I’ve learned nothing else from this parenting gig, I’ve learned that we all just do the best we can at every given time, but the kids can screw up our well-intentioned work without even realizing it. (I can’t be the only one who’s had the thought that parenting would be so much easier if it wasn’t for the actual kids.)

And that’s what I liked so much about Lunch Lessons. It doesn’t go into it with the idea that anyone can feed their kids perfectly. It’s just a process of continuing to try to improve the choices we offer (all) our kids within our own personal set of constraints and resources. So Emily, the authors would probably tell you to try the Laptop Lunches set if you can afford it, but otherwise look for containers made of plastic types 2, 4, and 5. Avoid plastics type 1, 3, 6, and 7. Or try the stainless steel bento box set from ReusableBags.com.

I’ll report back in a week or two on how our Laptop Lunches experiment is going.

*This recent round of Thomas recalls is contributing to that feeling.

Some updates

Danielle and I were just laughing because she sent me an email from her client (GoodNites) about a free confidential conference call about bedwetting they’re sponsoring with an expert tomorrow (Thursday in North/South America) and then discovered that yesterday’s post was about bedwetting, and the reader even mentioned GoodNights. Ha. Anyway, here are the details of the call:

"The client is GoodNites, the disposable
sleep boxers and sleep shorts for children who have issues with bedwetting. Our
original plan was to reach out to bloggers who are talking about their struggles
with bedwetting (with advice and free product), but when we did a conversation
audit, we were very surprised to find out that NO ONE is blogging about
it.

This is kind of upsetting, because as we all know, the best source of
information for moms is from other moms. If no mom bloggers are talking about
bedwetting, then the only sources of information are on product websites and on
medical sites like WebMD.

So, what we are offering up is a conference
call this Thursday at 2pm CST. The call will be with Judsen Culbreth (her bio is
below). She will answer any questions that anyone has about bedwetting, and can
offer up both professional and personal experience and advice. The call is
anonymous, we are just asking participants to register via a completely
confidential email to an account we have set up. They can also submit questions
via the email, and we will pass those on to Judsen. Also, we are inviting any
bloggers to the call who aren’t facing the issue, but would like to educate
their readers. Oh, and if you want to pass on questions for readers who might
feel embarrassed to email them, you can invite them to post them in your
comments, if you like.

Again, the call is this Thursday, September 20th
at 2pm CST. To get the dial-in information, just send an email to
parentchat@edelman.com.

Judsen’s Bio:
Judsen Culbreth is a mother, parenting expert and author
with both professional and personal experience on the topic bedwetting. 
Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother
magazine and Executive Editor at Redbook, Judsen’s editorial work has been
honored with many awards, including two Parents’ Choice Silver Honor
Awards.  Culbreth has also appeared on hundreds of TV and radio news programs, including NBC’s Today
show, CBS Evening News, ABC’s Prime Time Live and
CNN."

2 CST is 3 on the East Coast of the US and Canada, and noon on the West Coast. Check the world clock to find out what time it is where you are. If you don’t want to email in a question you can leave it in the comments here anonymously.

Heather writes:

"Even though I’m only an aunt I read your stuff daily, especially
about PPD which I am scared of.  I’ve bookmarked you series and already
told my husband that when the time comes he is in charge of everything
in those articles.

Imagine my surprise as I was watching Good Eats on the Food
Network tonight and saw him rework rice crispy treats in a way that
made me think of you {it was the flax oil that did it for me}.  I
thought maybe your readers {who aren’t hopelessly addicted to Alton
Brown & Good Eats} might like it."

Recipe for Brown Rice Crispy Bar from Alton Brown at www.FoodTV.com

(For those who don’t want to click, the ingredients are puffed brown rice, flax seed oil, honey, mini marshmallows, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and dried blueberries.)

"Only an aunt," pshaw. Anyone who’s interested in kids is welcome here. As for these bars, though, well, I love flax seed oil more than most, but I don’t think I could go this far. The flax seed oil and dried fruit would be great for postpartum moms (the dried fruit has a lot of great fiber), but this recipe reminds me of the stuff my mom used to try to pass off to us when I was a kid. (I have lots of memories of going to co-op breakdown day to divide the huge bags of carob chips and wheat germ into packets for the individual families. Good times.) Even the lack of raisins doesn’t make me want to try it. I’d eat the dried blueberries by themselves, though.

And now for an anticlimactic update on my Kindergarten situation: I still don’t like the teacher and don’t trust her as far as I can throw her, but she seems to think my son is kind of funny so she’s being nice to him. I worry that if what my son says is true, the teacher is scapegoating another kid in the class (call me crazy but I don’t think a 5-year-old should be sent out of the classroom three times in the first three weeks of school unless the behavior is violent or seriously disruptive). I’m still going to talk to the principal, but it may be more of a general "what’s really going on with her?" session than a "help my kid" session.

He was fine about going to school yesterday, but then freaked out when
it was time for me to leave, and wouldn’t go back into his room for
awhile. But at least he wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably like before.

Things I don’t want to have happen that have happened to different people in my family: Skip a grade and still end up the smart ostracized kid only younger than everyone else to boot, sit in the back of the room bored reading the dictionary until the teacher yells at you and moves the dictionary too high for you to reach (although you end up with a stellar vocabulary up through the letter H), be told by your kindergarten teacher that you’re too "wild" for school (because you have boy energy) so you barely graduate from high school because you believe her, mentally tune out from school from Kindergarten on because there’s nothing for you there, be told you’re so smart so often that you end up afraid to take any risks because everyone’s invested in your success.

That’s what I’m afraid of, not a little boredom. And there are a bunch of reasons we didn’t end up in a GATE program this year. Once of which was that I felt I was going to be able to trust a Kindergarten teacher, because all the K teachers I’ve ever known have been resourceful, smart about little kids, and kind. I’m pretty gobsmacked by my instant mistrust of this teacher (I have to say that everyone else at the school had been great).

Jenni, I didn’t go in telling her he could read because the teacher and former-teacher commenters here told me not to (not me specifically, but parents) a few weeks ago. They said that teachers figure out the kids quickly anyway, and don’t need or want the parents to bring their own prejudgments into it. I was surprised that she hadn’t picked up on the fact that my son’s reading fluently, especially in light of this whole "read at all costs" thing they’ve got going with the forced reading at the beginning of class.

Speaking of that, I’m finally getting my routine down so I’m not as frazzled in the morning. My son is insisting on school lunch ("I don’t know what it was but it tasted good!" Help…me…) and doesn’t eat anything I pack him ("I ate one grape tomato, Mom!"). So I don’t have to pack him anything. My babysitter meets us at school and takes the little one. But still, the whole set-up is basically for the birds. And I’m still pissed about all the school supplies (it’s not like we can all just pile into the car and stop at Target–it required at least two stores for that list).

How are you guys?

Update on sleep problems, and food

An update from Anonymous (who was writing that she was smacking her baby to get her to sleep)! This is why I write this blog–the support you guys gave her helped her totally rethink what had been happening in her house and come up with a creative and clever way to shift things around so she could get herself into a better place to be able to mother her child the way she wants to. Yay everyone!

"An update on the sleep issues. I was so encouraged by the
comments that i started to feel better. But i knew that we had to make
a change so i thought about things and realized that we spend a lot of
the week just getting take-out food which really begins to add up. So i
talked to my husband and we agreed to cook at home or get frozen foods
for a week so we could get a babysitter in and i could get some time
for myself. That, and the fact that she just started sleeping a little
better right around her 11 monthday, last week, has really improved
things. She is still not sleeping through the night but i have gotten a
few nights of 4 hour chunks which along with a couple of mornings to my
own have made a lot of difference. Thank you to you and the commenters
for not being judgmental and really helping me realize i am not
alone.

Now i know it’s probably not fair to ask another question so soon
but just in case you can answer to this. As i mentioned we get a lot of
take-out. That’s how it’s always been.. I feed my daughter everything
we eat (except i limit the sugar). I know that outside food is not the
healthiest and for her i always try to give whatever is healthiest in
the options plus supplement with some jarred veggies and fresh fruit.
What is the best approach to feeding your kid if you don’t cook a lot
at home?"

Ask away, Anon. I think you’re just such a sharp cookie for stepping back and looking at how you could shift things around to alleviate some stress instead of sinking into a morass of self-loathing. But I’m guessing that you’re probably not doing too badly already food-wise. I don’t know about "outside" food not being the healthiest. If you’re comparing a Big Mac to homemade pasta primavera, definitely, but if you’re getting falafel sandwiches or pad thai vs. Hamburger Helper, you’re probably better off with the outside food nutrition-wise.

It sounds like you’re on the right track with adding the veggies and fruit. In a few months she’ll really start being able to go to town on raw veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, etc.) and you can just ply her with those in addition to what you’re eating and call it done. (A friend of mine jokes that Midwesterners add frozen peas to everything. Guilty as charged, but if it gets some more nutrition into the kids without a struggle, why not?)

You could also try commenter Elizabeth’s trick of adding frozen spinach to smoothies. You really do not taste it. Honestly. (Surprisingly delicious, but gross-looking: chocolate ice cream, milk, spinach.) I’ve started making breakfast smoothies with raw spinach, and it’s a really easy way to get a ton of greens without having to chew them. (OK, I should ‘fess up that most mornings I show up at work with a truly disgusting concoction that my coworkers have nicknamed The Sludge, but which really actually tastes fine: frozen a├žai berries, frozen blueberries, frozen mango chunks, raw almonds, greens powder, flax seed oil, kefir, raw spinach, raw mung bean sprouts, and a little water to thin it out. Breakfast of Champions. The 2-year-old loves it, too.)

What do other who aren’t cooks do about this in-between stage, when the baby is aging out of jarred vegetables but isn’t really into raw ones yet?

Super picky eating behavior in toddlers

Judy Converse MPH, RD, LD of Nutrition Care for Children, responded to my post about super picky eating behavior in toddlers:

"I saw your post on this topic and have to jump in.  I’m a licensedregistered dietitian in private practice who has specialized in
pediatrics since 1999.

Here’s the scoop:
Doctors always tell parents not to worry about this.  Partly true:
Some defiance around foods is normal at the toddler stage.  But,
toddlers are also naturally curious when they are developing
typically.  While they can have jags with a certain food for a bit,
these should pass, as should the tantrums that can come with presenting
new foods.  A natural curiosity to put things in the mouth and try them
normally extends to foods.  In my experience, kids who simply will not
do this usually have nutrition problems that need correcting.

What
is not normal is for kids to continue exceedingly rigid eating patterns
into school age years.  If a kid still eats five or fewer foods at age
four, that is a red flag for me.  While they may get enough total
calories to keep growing (sometimes they don’t), they pretty much can’t
eat a diet that adequately meets their needs for learning, developing,
sleeping, pooping, talking – all the things toddlers must learn to
do.  If a child is truly entrenched in this, a nutrition assessment can
find out if it really is cause for concern, or if all you need to do is
add a good multivitamin with minerals and wait it out.

A
big clue:  Kids currently get many, many more meds than prior to 1980.
Antibiotics in infancy and toddlerhood can change eating patterns.
Children with entrenched, rigid food preferences often have had
antibiotics either very often (five or more rounds) or very early (in
the first 8 weeks of life).  Adjusting the gut ecology back to normal
often triggers an abrupt change in food preferences in children.  So,
for parents really tearing their hair out, try antifungal therapy for
intestinal Candidiasis.  This can be prescription or naturopathic
(herbs and probiotics) – et voila – your picky eater suddenly picks up
fish, steak, and broccoli.  The hardest part is convincing your
pediatrician to try this – they are trained to believe this is only
relevant if thrush is foaming out of your child’s mouth or anus.  My
experience with this is that it does matter if there is intestinal
candidiasis without thrush, and that it responds very nicely to
treatment.  There are medications like Nystatin that are very safe for
infants and children for this.  Even Diflucan is now used in infants.   

Long
short, no need for parents and kids to struggle through this.  You can
find out whether it matters or not with a good nutrition assessment,
and fix it."

Great information. Thanks, Judy, for setting the record straight and for giving us more clues to start piecing things together for our own kids.

Q&A: baby’s fluid intake

E writes:

"Hi. I’m not sure if I am worrying over nothing, but am a
little concerned about my baby’s fluid intake.

She is 7mths old. I give her a bottle when she wakes up at 7
and she drinks 210ml or 7fl oz. She has a solid breakfast about 9am and then I can
usually get her to take another one of those early afternoon/lunch time, she
has normally two jars of solid food at lunch a sweet and savoury or some
blended veg I make for her. Tea about five which is also solids normally two
jars. I then used to give her another one the same before I put her to bed but
the last three nights she has refused that.

The times I have tried to offer her water she wont take it
and I have been trying to spoon feed her baby juice as she won’t drink it from a
bottle let alone a beaker."

I’m not sure if I’m exactly understanding all the facts, but it sounds like you’re saying she has three 7-ounce bottles a day and three big meals of solids.

I think for a 7-month-old this is a really high ratio of solids to formula. Since the guideline now is not to start solids until around 6 months, and we know that breastmilk or formula is supposed to be a baby’s main source of nutrition and calories up to a year, it seems like she’s eating too many solids and not enough formula.

To remedy this, you should offer a bottle before you offer solids. Even if she only drinks a few ounces before moving on to the solids she’s still getting the good fat and calories of the bottle, plus the fluids. She has the rest of her life to eat solids, but this window of getting the high nutrient density of the bottle is very short and there’s no need to rush her out of it.

Also, there’s no need for juice, especially at this age. It can cause diarrhea or constipation, plus it’s just empty calories. If you’re concerned about her other intake, giving juice can backfire by making her less likely to drink formula.

I think backing off and offering her less food and more bottles every day will help ease your mind and get her intake back into balance.

Q&A: feeding solids but not purees

Onward and upward! writes:

"As a new mom, I am often questioning little details of raising my son.The vast amount of information and opinions available on the Internet
just seem to make it worse.

For example, he's having trouble
with constipation (despite breast milk and trying just about every
formula out there), so I started him on pureed veggies and fruits,
hoping it would create looser stools. It hasn't made a difference so
far. But then I go and read an article in the BBC news that says skip pureed foods altogether, and only give
them solid foods after about six months or so. The premise is that your
baby needs to learn how to chew first, and only after he is ready to do
so; and pureed foods can leave them constipated AND postpone their
ability to learn to chew. Huh. What do you think?"

Veeery interesting. And, yes, there's definitely too much information on the internet. If you click away now I won't be insulted.

First of all, before we get to the actual
topic, are you absolutely sure it's constipation? Many babies
(especially breastfed ones) don't poop every day, and some can go for
days without pooping, and this is absolutely normal. If they have gas
and strain to fart it can look like constipation, but the key is to
check the consistency. As long as the poop (I'm not going to call it
"stool," people) is soft and a normal color (not hard or black), it's
not constipation.

Now to the article: I don't think any of this is that
shocking. Even the most recent recommendation from the AAP
(American Association Academy [thanks for catching that perhaps not-so-surprising typo, Sarah] of Pediatrics, with whom I have a one-way
"eh"-hate relationship) is not to start food until six months. Before
that there's really no need for it (barring feeding problems like GERD)
and milk or formula has all the nutrition they need. There's a reason
babies that young can't chew, and it's because they're supposed to be
getting their nutrition in liquid form. There's also some thought now
that introducing carbohydrates (rice cereal, etc.) too early can mess
with babies' systems so they don't regulate insulin as well and are
more prone to developing diabetes later on.

So the recommendation not to start with solids until 6 months isn't making me take any particular notice.

Some of you are aware that my favorite study is about a baby-led approach to starting solids.