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. ;)