Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eat Like A Baby

Every Tuesday we watch The Biggest Loser, and every Tuesday I am astounded at how big those people are. One thing I've found especially interesting is how Jillian is always counseling those folks about conquering their fears, getting over their anger, believing in themselves as worthy people, and helping them uncover and overcome their negative feelings so that they respect themselves enough to take care of themselves by eating right.

Somewhere along the line, those folks lost their healthy relationship with food.

Contrast that with what I see everyday in my little 1 year old daughter. She's too little to have any pre-conceptions or issues about food. She's also too little to have emotional issues that would cause her to overeat a bunch of junk 'comfort' food, or starve herself into being too thin because of any societal pressure. She's still completely innocent of all that, and it's interesting to study her relationship with food.

Moana's relationship with food is a simple one, and it goes like this: Eat when you're hungry. Stop eating when you're not hungry.

So the million dollar question is then, of course, how can I help her maintain that healthy relationship with food? Um. Not sure. BUT, I start by not forcing her to eat when she doesn't want to. She lets me know when she's hungry (she's always been able to do this- first via her crying and now by showing me the sign or saying 'yes' when I ask her if she's hungry). She also lets me know when she's done (usually by spitting her food out or throwing it on the floor- though we're working on a better method of communication!). But the thing is, as soon as she shows me she's done, I take the food away. Now we don't play around with eating or not eating. Throw food on the floor? That must mean we're all done. End of mealtime. She might have been hungry the first time or two, but now she knows I mean business so there is not any food on the floor until she really is done.

As she gets older I will do my best to be a good role model and that's probably about the most I can do.

For now, in case you're interested, here's how we start each day. Somebody gets hungry and climbs into her chair*.

I think I've mentioned this before, (though I'm not sure I've ever actually spelled out the steps) she eats a breakfast Scott lovingly refers to as 'Green Gruel'**. It's easy to make with a little pre-planning and preparation and is as healthy as it gets. Cheap too. Basically it's a mixture of cooked grains (I usually mix two different ones), a bean, and veggies (again, I usually mix two). The cool thing about this meal is that even though it seems like it's the same every day, it's not. I mix different beans and grains and veggies to make sure that she's getting a good variety of foods and nutrition in this breakfast.

Step 1: Grind the grains/beans.

I usually buy these in bulk at the health food store and then grind them up in the food processor for a minute or two. Grains I use a lot are brown rice, steel cut oats, quinoa, kasha, and bulgar. Beans I use most for the gruel are lentils (red or brown) and split peas (green or yellow). You could use others. At first I had to be really careful about making sure I ground it all up into a fine powder (so she could swallow it) but now I don't have to get it that fine. Now I grind mostly b/c it makes them cook faster.

When I grind, I usually mix up two grains and a bean into each jar, store the jars in the fridge, and then cook 2-3 days worth at a time.

Step 2: Cook the grain/bean mixture. From experience I've learned that you have to boil the grains/beans with a good amount of water. I never measure... just eyeball it, but it's at least 2 to 1 (water to grains), maybe more depending on the grain. It's a pretty forgiving mixture b/c you can always add more water at any time to make it the right consistency. Essentially I boil maybe a cup of the ground grains in a pot with 2-3 cups of water for about 10ish minutes. That's it. Then I store the cooked mixture in the fridge until it's ready to be eaten.

Step 3: Steam, puree, and freeze the veggies. Tonight I did the spinach (enough for over a month). I buy vegetables in bulk at Costco.

I steam a batch of spinach, then puree it in the food processor and then spoon it into ice cube trays to freeze overnight.

It took me 4 batches of steamed spinach to fill 2 ice cube trays, which yields 36 cubes. After they are frozen, I transfer the cubes into freezer bags and store. Yes, my freezer is full of bags of frozen veggie cubes. Shoot- sometimes I add a spinach or broccoli veggie cube to mac-n-cheese to add a little extra nutrition.

Step 4: So in the morning, to prepare her breakfast, I just thaw out two different veggie cubes in the microwave (can be broccoli, sweet potato, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, squash, you name it) and add it to some warmed pre-made grain/bean mixture and Ta-Da! Breakfast.

She's working on eating it all by herself... which is why you will see two spoons in this video. We always need two spoons these days- one so she can try to eat by herself, and one that I can use to actually get the food in her mouth (though sometimes now she can do it by herself.) I think she's better at using the spoon when there's not a video camera trying to record it. ;) In this video you will also get to hear some of her Moanese language. I'm still trying to decipher much of it.

It might not sound that great, but really, it's a pretty tasty meal... and definitely Moana's favorite of the day. And once she's eaten this in the morning, I don't really care what she eats for the rest of the day. Seems like this is packed with so much nutrition that whatever she eats for the rest of the day is just bonus.

It doesn't take nearly as long as you'd think to make this meal. It's just about pre-planning (having the ingredients at your house) and pre-preparation (grinding/cooking the grains and steaming/freezing the veggies). I spend maybe an hour a week getting the prep work done. Once you've got the cooked grains and frozen veggies, it's just a matter of warming them together.

Anyway, my hope for Moana is that her relationship with food remains innocent. That she continues to eat when she's hungry, and stops eating when she's not. We could all probably benefit from eating more like a baby, couldn't we?

*We did not teach her how to do this. One day last week I got home from my morning workout and Scott said, "I don't know, I turned my back for like 10 seconds to make her breakfast and she was sitting in her chair??" We both thought that was really odd. So the next time it was my turn to feed her I asked her to climb into her chair and to my amazement, she did! Holy cow.

**I should mention that I got this cooking idea from a book called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. She goes into much more detail than I did here (and gives tons more good ideas) so if you're really interested in doing this, buy the book. ;)


Running and living said...

I do the same with my son. But, he has to sit at the dinner table with us even when he is not hungry, so we can talk about "our days". He is a pretty skinny kid (takes after my husband who can't put on weight no matter what) so at times I am concerned that he may not eat enough, but then the next day he makes up for it. Kids are teaching us a lot...

Staci Dombroski said...

Thanks for sharing the information! It is such good advice :-) I wish I was that organized!

Lizzie said...

Moana is just the cutest!! She really is a ham for the camera :) I love the brekky you put together for her. It's kind of like my oatbran (only w/out the veggies - I save those for my green smoothie!), but I'm more or a PB and agave girl :) You're definitely off to a good start with nutrition!!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Wow, I can only wish I was that organized!!

cherelli said...

wow, what great foods for Moana, sounds like you should open a super-healthy baby foods restaurant. Actually when I was reading about her communication at the end of a meal I was picturing how it would be if all of us at the end of a meal or when we stopped being hungry threw down some food on the floor or swept out bowl of the table as a finale...be kind of amusing :)

N.D. said...

That is so adorable Moana climbing into her chair! I am always interested in what other babies are eating! Thanks :) I am onto Super Baby Food and have the same thoughts as far as eating the rest of the day - but that is when I'm stumped on what to give him - what do you give the rest of the day? I give Nick broccoli, a green and peaches or a vitamin A in the oatmeal in the morning but with almond butter too, and flax! :)
Some days are easier than others to get him to eat it.

Is Moana on 3 bottles/ sippy? Nick won't take the sippy.

Sorry - super long.

Audrey said...

I would not be the biggest person on that show, but I could probably be on it. And as someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food, or did anyway, I can tell you that Moana probably won't have any problems with food. 1) you guys are really really active so she'll most likely be a really really active person as she grows up 2) you set a great example for her to follow in general 3) you are loving adoring parents who show her how special she is. I didn't have any of those things, I had a German heritage family that made tons more food than was necessary for the number of people present, my parents worked a lot so I was on my own most of the day and #3 was nonexistent. But I'm trying to make a comeback for my health and my child, so there's that. :D

Katie A. said...

I love Moana videos!
As someone who didn't always have a healthy relationship with food, this is the best advice and something I had to learn as I got older: eat when your hungry, stop when your full and eat a balanced diet. So simply yet so easy to forget. Hmmm, that breakfast does look good!

Anonymous said...

this is inspiring...really great that you take the time to ensure Moana gets healthy and nutritious food in her every day. I will definitely refer to that book someday!

Lizzie said...

Michelle, sorry to be a double poster today, but I happened to be reading this article in the NYT. Thought it was interesting after reading your blog post: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/dining/20gusti.html
If you click on the comments section at side, it's interesting to see what other parents say.

Charisa said...

Healthy eating is so great and she'll grow up with good examples from you :)

kerrie said...

Can you come make me breakfast?? Girls and food can be tricky but I think the single most important thing you can do is model your own healthy relationship with food. Kids learn through imitation.

Angela and David Kidd said...

I'm impressed you trust her with a glass cup. Zach is still to prone to liking to throw things although David has a habit of leaving water glasses around and I'll find Zach carrying it to me saying "water" so maybe he can be trusted. And he just raises his hands and says "Done" when he's done and we take everything away but then 10 minutes later he's begging for cheerios or fruit. Kid can eat. And I'm hopeful we'll continue to set a good example for him so that he'll make healthy decisions when he's on his own. I do think the whole relationship with food thing is easier with boys (finally, something that's easier with boys!).

And you are way more organized with meal prep than I am. No way could I pull that off.

X-Country2 said...

You are giving her such a gift. It makes me crazy to watch the way my in-laws FORCE my little nephew to eat things. "Come here and finish this [500 calorie] slice of pie you wanted. No you can't get up until you're finished."

What?! How do you think his parents got fat? Because "eating everything on your plate and not being wasteful" are somehow more important than stopping when you're full. Let him be done!

Maybe it's a Nebraska thing, but my future kids will never be forced to eat everything on their plate just out of principle.

Nitsirk said...

I love it, Moana is already doing pullups like her mama :)

Clare said...

awesome...we do a lot of oatmeal, i need to branch out. thanks for posting the how-to. and andra totally got whatever moana was saying.

TriGirl Kate O said...

I love the Pebbles curl on the top of her head!

Regina said...

I miss those days when my son would eat everything I made for him; all the healthy stuff. Once he started preschool and started having playdates, those glorious days were over. He was introduced to cookies, candy, or kids who didn't like certain foods so he decided he didn't either. Thankfully I am still the one in control, but it's getting harder.

Alicia Parr said...

I so agree with you on the desire not to screw up my child's natural instincts, of which eating until full is one.

The healthy cereal/bean mixture sounds great, but Remy decided that eating off of a spoon was no-go many, many months ago. Except peanut butter. He'll eat peanut butter off of a spoon. Which gives me an idea. We're going to try some cereal flavored w/ peanut butter and see how that goes.

Of course, we're so fortunate that his favorite foods are things like lima beans and broccoli. I really hope that lasts, but we'll see.

Katie said...

I'm totally saving this whole post for later, when Naomi actually has teeth and stuff! Thanks for sharing. I totally get nervous about raising a daughter, since I've had my own body image / food issues growing up... hopefully I can pass on to her something a shade better than I was given!