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How To Feed A Picky Eater

picky eaterSince the days my daughters were born, I’ve been reading books and articles about how to address picky eaters.  To many people, there is nothing worse than the picky eater.  We grip the sides of the kitchen table and plead with our whole selves.  Let. Me. Feed. You.

Restaurants assume my kids are picky eaters.  Schools assume my kids are picky eaters.  I know picky eaters. I’ve dealt with picky eaters.  My daughters are generally good eaters but they have been picky plenty of times.  Recently, at a talk we gave to a local women’s group there were early questions about how to address picky eaters and when we began giving our thoughts a second quick question followed, “but how old are your kids.”  Meaning, my kids are older and (oh, boy) get ready.  They used to eat well.  I’d be lying if I didn’t start to worry just a little bit about what was ahead for me.

Kids grow and change and stretch out what they are willing to do (and not do) according to our plans.  That’s not going to change.  Quite frankly, I’m doing all of those things too.  I eat chocolate cake when I know an apple is a better choice.  I also feel the freedom to do that.  Kids often don’t.

So, here are the top tips that I’ve read about that work for my family.  Hopefully they will help yours.

1. Don’t give up.  Kids need to try something anywhere from 10-15 times before they like it.  In my house, my latest battle is grains (rice, quinoa, farro).  I make these grains often and serve them night after night in an attempt to lessen the meat consumption of my family (that’s for another time…).  Many times I get complains, whines, rolling of 5-year-old eyes as soon as the meal hits the table.  But I refuse to give up.  I never force them to eat, but they will eat if they are hungry.  Last week, I made one dish that my daughter loved.  Rice!  I tried not to celebrate or make a big deal.  The next time I served rice, she wasn’t interested.  But I know it’s possible so I keep trying.  Don’t give up.

2. Get the kids involved.  Depending on their age, kids can be very helpful and involved in the kitchen.  Mixing ingredients in a bowl, fetching items from the refrigerator, slicing and dicing on the counter top.  Whatever is appropriate.  Aside from asking them what food they like and adding it to the weekly meal plan, you can also involved them at the store level.  Let them choose a new vegetable or fruit.  Kids spend so much time being told what not to do.  They get excited when they feel in charge.  Especially when it comes to what ends up on their plate.

3. Don’t make a big deal about what they eat, but make meal time special.  Throw on a table cloth.  Turn on some soft music.  Turn down the lights and light a candle or two.  Pretend you’re at a restaurant and take turns being the waiter or waitress.  Make it something to look forward to.  Especially if you can find a meal where the whole family is sitting together.

4. Don’t use dessert as a reward for eating.  This is a tough one.  I’ve never done this but my daughters are constantly bombarded with this message.  Eat your dinner and you’ll get dessert.  Eat your dinner or you won’t get your dessert.  Do you want ice cream?  Then you better eat your broccoli.  Tons and tons and tons of research shows that these types of conversations can lead to misinterpretation of what food is used for and good for.  It can create (not prevent) the idea that vegetables (in this case) are “bad” and dessert is “good”.  That vegetables are what we trudge through in order to be rewarded with the good stuff.  In some cases, it has even been shown to lead to eating disorders.  Time and again, we are advised to not make a big deal about food, including dessert.  In my house we have a one bite rule and no matter what happens during dinner, we always serve dessert.

I’m not an expert and I will face more challenges at my table.  But these feel good to me in my house.  What do you do in yours?

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Saying “I Love You Because…” Every Day

Last year at this time I started a fun tradition of reminding my family why I love them.  Initially, it seemed like a cute, fun way to decorate the bedroom doors of my home with heart-filled declarations.  A beautiful side benefit of this activity is that it reminded me how much it means to my daughters to see me love my husband.  They take in everything and smile a little brighter when they see that my love exists as much for him as it does for them.  Since I can often be louder and sloppier about it with them.

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Here are just a few of the proclamations that will adorn the walls of my hallway this year:

“I Love You Because”…

– you make funny faces at just the right time

– you trust me

– you make me feel brave

– you love when I’m silly

– you take care of your friends

– you make me laugh

– you truly listen

– you think of others

I put these up on February 1st and finish up on Valentine’s Day.  It makes me feel just as happy as it does them.

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Megan Mondays: Boost your Immune System!

WHAT EXACTLY DOES MEGAN USE IN HER HOME? HERE’S A RUN-DOWN OF MY IMMUNE-ROUTINE STOCKPILE (I am making these recommendations based on my experience with them):

Zinc – my older son (2.5 years old) takes 10 mg of zinc per day as preventative and I up it to 20 mg a day for a few days when sick to give an extra boost. We use one of the following brands: Life Extension, Kirkman Labs, or BrainChild Nutritionals (liquid form)

Astragalus root extract – my son takes this every day as preventative measure. We use BrainChild Nutritionals brand; it’s a liquid form that’s easy to take.

Micellized Vitamin A – what I use for all members of the family at the onset of illness. We only use this for 2 days at a time when sick.  I use Klaire Labs liquid micellized Vitamin A.

Multi Vitamins – on days when the whole food green smoothies didn’t get finished or we were out and about and not eating as many fruits, veggies, and other whole foods that we normally do, I will give a multi vitamin to fill-in the gaps during cold and flu season. I use Kirkman Labs brand chewable wafers with Xylitol.  The xylitol has been shown to help reduce cavities and it’s a better sweetener than sugar (which many common children’s vitamins are full of!)

Vitamin D3I consider this one of my must-haves and my sons take it on a daily basis. I also have their blood serum levels tested about 2 times a year to make sure they are receiving adequate amounts. I use Xymogen Labs liquid Vitamin D3, but also use Nordic Naturals brand and am happy with both.

Elderberry syrup – My sons also take elderberry syrup each day, with an increased dose during illness. I feel tht this has helped curb lengthiness of viral infections (like bronchitis) and it also helps with coughs.  I found an awesome homemade Organic Elderberry Syrup creator and distributor that will mail to your home.  She makes a syrup with local honey and a tincture (w/out honey) for babies and people sensitive to honey.  You can find her products here (no affiliate bonus; I just love her product and feel that it’s worthy to recommend!): http://www.naturallywellwithsamantha.com

Colostrum – we use Immulox spray, but have recently switched to using a powder form of immune-boosting polypeptides called IgG 2000 by Xymogen Labs. It mixes easily into smoothies, etc. and it’s also great for use after antibiotics and/or with digestive issues.  Please note both products are made with dairy, so those with dairy sensitivities cannot take.  There are non-dairy forms on the market, though.

Vitamin C immune blend – we usually take this at times when exposure to illness has happened or illness is coming on. I also give it with iron if my son needs to periodically take iron for a low ferritin level we’ve been dealing with since age 1.  It’s naturally flavored and kids like that it’s a liquid.  I use Brain Child Nutritionals brand.

Probioticsmy son has received probiotic supplements since birth, and I have routinely taken them for about 6 years now. I have noticed a huge improvement overall in my health, in addition to my digestion and immunity.  I use Kirkman Labs because they have a formula that is resilient to die-off (which is common with probiotics).  They also take stringent measures to keep probiotics refrigerated at all times during manufacture and transport, which is what a consumer should look for.  Probiotics that sit on a shelf tend to have little benefit by the time they reach the consumer.  I increase the dosage at times of illness and after antibiotics have been administered (which is not often)

Omegaswe are big on omegas in our house. The first line of consumption is through omega-rich foods like chia seeds, flax, nuts, and oils, especially since we don’t eat fish.  We use Nordic Naturals and Xymogen brand (pure cod liver oil).

Immune-building herb mix – Wish Garden Herbs company has a great array of immune-boosting herbs to use during specific illnesses.

Essential oils – I use Oreganol brand oil during times of illness, but also really like Frankincense, Tea Tree, Lemon, Clove, Cinnamin, oregano, Thieves, etc. for using in the home, on the skin, and even ingesting (for adults, only – the oils are too potent for children and there are not enough studies on oil use with children).

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Managing the Chaos…

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If your house is anything like mine, you are in a constant state of trying to stay ahead of the chaos.

I made each of my girls these little chore cards. Each kid got a different set, as they are certainly not all ready for the same things yet.  I used luggage tags (the kind that self-laminate business cards) and an old folder I cut up to mount the printed lists on.  Hole punch the top and tie together!

There are 5 cards in my school-aged children’s stack:

*Before School
*Chores
*Packing for overnights (trips to Granny’s)
*After School
*Before Bed

It seems oversimplified to add “Wash Hands” to the After School card, and yet has made a big difference on whether or not they actually remember to do this before having a snack!

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NBC Connecticut!

Yesterday was a fun day!

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What’s for dinner?

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So, even though at my house in North Carolina, we aren’t getting the amazing amount of snow that is falling in the Northeast tonight, it inspired a dinner of warm foods (and also perfect for a Meatless Monday):

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Artichoke and Potato soup
– this stuff is incredible.  A deluge of veggies, but smooth and delicious.  I let my kids eat this with toasted french garlic bread (or pita chips) instead of spoons! Also yummy with croutons in it.   I opted to leave the cream out, but I’m sure that would be great, too.

 

 

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Roasted Cauliflower – I stole this recipe from a friend (thanks, Suzanne!).  I think she might have invented it, but it is similar to the one found here.  I left out the Parmesan cheese, and no one complained.  They might have added it at the table ;)

 

 

 

cc-armendariz_roasted-sweet-potatoes-with-honey-cinnamon-recipe-02_s4x3Aunt Pam’s yummy sweet potato casserole thing: I picked this because I accidentally ordered enough sweet potatoes from the grocery store to last us a month.  Diced sweet potatoes, diced apples, a few cranberries (fresh or dried), a bit of butter, brown sugar (optional) and cinnamon.  Bake at 375 until the sweet potatoes are done.

 

 

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Cheese Tortellini with Butternut Hash

If you caught this blog last Sunday, you know that I’m a big fan of The Pollan Family Table Cookbook, which is why it should come as a surprise that I’m sharing yet another one of their recipes.  Since I’ve started cutting down on our meat consumption over the last year, I usually gravitate to the meatless recipes in a new cookbook first, and branch out from there.  I wasn’t initially drawn to the recipe below but ohmygosh, it’s now on my go-to list.  Easy, delicious and …did I mention delicious?

Brutal honesty: my husband made this one.  He is not the chef of the house (if we’re all being honest) but he does pitch in and likes to take up a challenge now and then.  He jumped in on this one and was not only pleased with what an amazing job he did, but how much he loved the outcome.  Win win.

We made some revisions from the original recipe (no hazelnuts for us) but overall, kept up with the theme and couldn’t be happier.

Cheese Tortellini with Butternut Hash (minus the toasted hazelnuts)

2 C peeled and diced butternut squash, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pound cheese tortellini (I bought frozen, organic 365 brand from Whole Foods)

6 T unsalted butter

1 glove garlic, minced

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the squash, oil, and dash of salt and pepper.  Spread the squash on the baking sheet and roast until golden brown (25 mins), flipping over halfway through.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Bring large pot of water to boil.  Add 1T of salt and tortellini.  Cook until al dente, 1 minute less than the directions on the package.  Drain in colander.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, stirring until butter turns brown (3-4 minutes).  Add garlic and cook until butter bubbles and garlic browns.  Turn off the heat and cool for 1 minute.  Add the vinegar, 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper.

Add the tortellini and butternut squash to the butter sauce and toss to coat.  Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (we also added avocado).  Serve hot.

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One of our daughters dove in immediately and the other was a bit unsure at first about this dish.  But after trying the first bite, she was hooked.  Plates were empty.  Next time, I might make a double batch for leftovers.

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Business Update: All Signs Point to Awesome

I seem to post business updates less and less but nevertheless, I realize how much you guys like them when I do.  So here is the January 2015 official update.  Five awesome things we have going on from the MSF headquarters:

1. Last week, we launched MySuperCookies in the Northern California region of Costco.  Sales are off to a tremendous start and Silvia and I spent the weekend in San Francisco meeting demo folks, local customers and getting to know the bay area as only a taxi driver might.  We are officially in love.

 

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2. Late last year we partnered up with Food Lifeline, a Seattle based nonprofit food distribution center that provides nutritious food to hungry, low-income people. As a part of the Feeding America network, Food Lifeline is able to support the 755,000 people in Western Washington state that visit their food banks every year.  We are thrilled to donate funds and work with this dedicated team as an extension to our partnership with Alaska Airlines.

3. Our SuperFamily grew by one when Jessica “Jess of All Trades” Kane joined us this year.  Jess is a recent grad from Towson University and was an immediate, enthusiastic spark to our team.  Her can-do attitude and commitment to our company purpose makes her a perfect fit.

4. Our Community SuperMama team is growing!  To help support the launch of 3 separate tests in Target stores across the country, we have begun working with 4 Community SuperMamas to help spread the work about our purpose (to empower parents and grow healthy superkids) and increase brand awareness across the country.  We hope to grow this network of smart, passionate, health-minded moms throughout the year.  Stay tuned to our blog and social media for more opportunities!

5. We are already working on the next SUPER addition to our product portfolio.  Let the recipe development commence.  (And don’t forget the taste testing!!)

Thanks for joining us on this exciting ride.

 

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Meatless Monday Recipe: Harvest Vegetable Bake

I honestly can’t express to you my love for the newest edition to my cookbook library, “The Pollan Family Table.” It comes from the family that gave us acclaimed author and food revolutionist, Michael Pollan who abides by the simple advice, “eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  As someone who doesn’t jump on a fad diet easily, this is advice I can get on board with.

I generally love trying new recipes and love flipping through cookbooks, so when I decide to buy a new one I often devour it within the first few days of purchase, flipping through and adding post-it notes to all the recipes I “must try” in the coming weeks.  The Pollan Family Table is no different.

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In keeping with Mr Pollan’s advice, today I’m sharing Harvest Vegetable Bake, a yummy, meatless casserole, perfect for a cold, winter night.

Harvest Vegetable Bake

(1) 12-14 oz pack of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

(1) T unsalted butter

3T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C finely chopped shallots

4 cloves garlic (2 minced, 2 sliced)

1T dry sherry

1/2 C dry white wine

1C low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

Kosher salt and black pepper

1C sliced mushrooms

1C peeled and sliced carrots (I also added a parsnip)

2C sliced zucchini

2 1/2 C broccoli florets

2C packed stemmed and roughly chopped swiss chard (I used spinach)

2/3 C shredded cheddar cheese

3/4 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese

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Preheat to 375 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Arrange tofu in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes.  Flip once halfway through.  Remove and set aside.  Increase oven temp. to 400 degrees F.

While that bakes, place a small saucepan over medium heat and melt butter.  Add 1T of the oil, the shallot and the minced garlic.  Stir until they are translucent and become brown.  Add the sherry and white wine.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in vegetable broth, soy sauce, dash of salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside.

While sauce simmers, pour remaining 2T of oil into a large skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced garlic, mushrooms and carrots.  Saute for 2 minutes.  Raise heat to medium-high and add zucchini and broccoli.  Saute for 6 minutes.  Add Swiss chard (or spinach) and stir everything together for 2 minutes.

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Transfer vegetables to a large casserole dish.  Add the tofu, pour the sauce on top and mix together.  Sprinkle cheeses on top.  Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes.

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This is great on it’s own and would also do well over brown rice, quinoa or farro with a delicious winter fruit salad (blood oranges, grapefruit and pears) on the side.

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5 Easy Steps for Family Meal Planning

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know that we’ve offered up some family meal planning advice in the past.  There are several blog posts in the feed, but two that I think hit on the hardest areas to manage.  “Will they eat it?” and “How Can I Stay Ahead of the Tidal Wave?”

The first is addressed in a collection of some great tips, centered around the 30 meals (but honestly, start with 3, or 5, or 8 meals) that you know your family loves when it hits the table.   Another was about how to implement weekly strategies for getting and staying organized to avoid last minute panic at 5:30pm.  Both have some real ideas that the members of our team use regularly…or semi-regularly.  We recently even talked about some very quick meal ideas to help you with that last minute panic.  That seems to be a reoccurring theme, doesn’t it?

So, what is the big deal about dinner?  Is it the hungry children?  The hungry mama? The pressure that we aren’t doing it well enough?  The pressure to meet a standard of nutrition that we are afraid we fail at daily?  The stress of hearing “I’m not eating that” when it hits the table?  Maybe all of the above.

My sister offered some great advice to me when I was freaking out, caring for two newborn twins 5 years ago.  “If it’s stressing you out, make it less complicated.  If you’re not happy, no one is happy.”  Great advice in caring for newborns, making dinner 5+ nights a week or planning a birthday party.

Here are my 5 tips for simplifying family meal planning:

1. Get out in front of it.  Pick a day that you can dedicate to the grocery store.  Sure, you might be back there again (and again?) during the week, but figure out the best day that you can go regularly.  This will help eliminate the “we don’t have any food” on Wednesday crisis and stress of last minute scrambling.

2. Plan your meals.  My friends and neighbors who have been in my kitchen make fun of me for my weekly chalkboard meal plan.  “Do you seriously make this?”  The answer is usually yes.  At least 80% of what is on the chalkboard gets made.  A day or two before I hit the grocery store, I flip through my cookbooks and find the meals that I want to make for the upcoming week.  This might sound like a lot of work, but I’m never at a loss for something to make.  I wake up and the thought process is done for me.  If I decide that day that I don’t have time to make whatever is on the board, I skip it (remember: make it less complicated).  But at least I have all the ingredients I need if I decide to go for it.

3. Ask friends for recipes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Anyone with kids knows what it feels like to make a meal and hear,”what is that SMELL???” five minutes before dinner is served.  Ask around for recipes that work in other households.  Chances are, they might work in yours too.

4. Find a couple cookbooks that you like.  Go on amazon and spend a few minutes reading reviews of popular cookbooks.  Do the reviews and sample recipes look appealing?  If you have resources that you like, you will be more likely to cook from them.  I recently got rid of some cookbooks that did nothing by sit on my shelf.  I never used them but felt bad letting them go.  I have no idea why.  But now I have a collection of recipes that I know I like.  Check out our pinterest board for some ideas.

5. Use your freezer.  On any given day, I have several glass jars filled with soup and bags of muffins in my freezer.  These are quick, go-tos for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I’ve turned to frozen lasagna, homemade chicken nuggets, soups and other store-bought goodies (frozen tortellini, vegetables, pizza) for nights that I’m unprepared as well as nights that I am prepared.  What a great feeling to know that the work is already done.  Reheat and enjoy.

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