Monday, September 14, 2015

Baby 101: Toddler Tableware

For the first several months of finger foods, we just dumped bite-size foods on C's high chair tray and let him go to town.  Once he was over a year old, I realized we should probably start teaching him to eat like an actual human and not a barbarian - you know, off a plate and with utensils :)  This is still a work in progress; he holds the utensils but doesn't know yet how to stab/scoop up food with them, although he can feed himself if we help him get the food onto the fork or spoon.  These are our favorite toddler tableware items:

Playtex Anytime Straw Cups

These are what we use for C's water and milk with meals; we prefer the straw cup to the typical sippy cup for oral development reasons - plus, it makes for an easy transition to kid's meal cups when we're eating at a restaurant.  We use the 9-ounce size without handles, although we started on the 6-ounce size with handles while he was learning to drink from a straw.

Munchkin Plates

We initially started with the Nuby sectioned plates, but they only come with 2 in a package (so they end up being more expensive per plate) and they do not "nest", so they take up too much room in the cabinet and aren't steady when stacked (they tend to avalanche).  We needed more plates so we ended up switching to the Munchkin brand plastic plates; they're less expensive and stack well in the cabinet. According to the box they're microwave and dishwasher-safe, although we try not to microwave any of C's food in plastic (even though they're BPA-free).

Gerber Graduates Kiddy Cutlery Forks and Spoons

I really like these forks and spoons; they have a thick rubber handle, making them easy to grip for C's little hands, and the actual eating surface is stainless steel, which holds up better than plastic to teething, seems easier to get really clean, and has a little more weight to it than some of the flimsy plastic cutlery they make for toddlers.  It also has a little foot built in that keeps the fork/spoon from resting directly on the table surface, so it stays cleaner while eating.  We just bought the forks and spoons in 3-packs (6 of each); they make a 3-piece set that contains a fork, knife, and spoon, but I can't imagine what scenario my toddler needs a knife for.

Gerber Graduates Bunch-a-Bowls

These little plastic bowls are the perfect size for C's oatmeal, yogurt, or applesauce - bigger than the small Pyrex cups we used when he was eating baby food, but still smaller than our regular cereal bowls.  I also love that they come with matching lids; if he doesn't finish something, we can just pop the lid on it and stick it in the fridge instead of having to transfer it to Tupperware.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Baby 101: Toddler Finger Foods (and Food Label Reading)

Feeding C is so different now that he can pretty much eat most of what we eat.  It's easier, in that I don't have to make separate food for him, but also a pain to cut up everything into little tiny bites (not to mention messier with how much ends up on the floor!)  

For the most part, C can eat whatever we're eating.  However, we normally eat salad with dinner every night, so I normally end up making C a different vegetable since he can't eat salad.  If I'm using frozen vegetables (like I typically do for peas, broccoli, green beans, etc.), I'll usually just steam 1 or 2 portions (to have leftovers for the next day) at a time; for fresh vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, butternut squash, etc.), or frozen vegetables that are the steam-in-bag variety (so you have to make the entire bag at once), I'll make a huge batch at a time, cut them into bite-size pieces, and freeze them in 4-ounce portions in these silicone ice cube trays.  

Then, I can just reheat a cube at a time, similar to how I did with his homemade baby food purees.  This freeze-and-reheat method also works great for black beans (which I cook in a Crockpot using dried beans to avoid the salt content of canned beans) or leftover rotisserie chicken.

I'm always curious what my friends are feeding their 1-year-olds so I can get more ideas!  Here are some of C's staples since about 11 months.  I feed C mostly plain foods (without sauces, cheese, or casseroles) because I want him to taste the food itself and not cover it up by hiding veggies in a casserole or pasta dish.

  • Broccoli (steamed from frozen)
  • Green beans (steamed from frozen)
  • Peas (steamed from frozen)
  • Carrots (cooked from fresh, then frozen in 4-oz cubes)
  • Cauliflower (cooked from fresh, then frozen in 4-oz cubes)
  • Butternut squash (frozen steam-in-bag, then frozen in 4-oz cubes)
  • Sweet potatoes (baked and/or grilled until soft, then cut into bite sizes)
  • Avocado (fresh)
  • Grape or cherry tomatoes (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Black beans (cooked in crockpot from dried, then frozen in 4-oz cubes)
  • Pineapple (thawed from Trader Joe's frozen pineapple tidbits - already perfect bite size!)
  • Berries (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Peach (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Mandarin oranges (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Grapes (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Bananas (fresh)
  • Watermelon (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Cantaloupe (fresh, cut into bite sizes)
  • Unsweetened organic applesauce (I used to make this myself until I discovered it is actually cheaper to buy it and the ingredients are the same - apples and water)
  • Whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • Applegate Naturals deli ham (I used to use the turkey but now avoid it because it contains carrageenan - more on that below)
  • Grilled or rotisserie chicken
  • Hamburgers
  • Meatballs (from frozen)
  • Dr. Praeger's veggie burgers
  • Dr. Praeger's fish fillets
  • Grilled salmon (wild caught)
  • Whole wheat pasta (with or without sauce; I read labels to find spaghetti sauce that does not contain any sugar or high fructose corn syrup)
  • Whole wheat toast with peanut butter (I read labels to find peanut butter with no added sugar or oil - just peanuts and salt.  Our favorite brand is Laura Scudders)
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Homemade whole wheat oatmeal pancakes
  • Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt (I do not give him the fruit-flavored kind because of the sugar content; he'll eat it plain - since he doesn't know there is an alternative - or sometimes I'll add applesauce and/or cinnamon)
  • Organic whole milk

Reading labels

I try to avoid feeding C processed foods in general; for the exceptions, I always read the labels to make sure I recognize all of the ingredients (one reason I love Dr. Praeger's products) and there aren't any hidden sugars (peanut butter, applesauce, pasta sauce, yogurt, etc.)  

Another ingredient I look for (and avoid) is carrageenan.  Carrageenan is a seaweed extract found in many food products for its gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties; it is often found in dairy products and dairy replacements because it can mimic the full-fat mouthfeel.  Although its use is permitted by the FDA, many people experience gastrointestinal issues (gut irritation and IBS-like symptoms) resulting from ingesting carrageenan; since C is too young to tell me if his tummy hurts, I try to avoid carrageenan entirely.  It is hidden in lots of things I wouldn't have expected - almost all milk substitutes (almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk), infant formula, lunchmeat (even Applegate Naturals brand turkey has it), sour cream, and even toddler "training toothpaste".  

Another thing I check labels for is dairy pasteurization; C drinks organic whole milk with his meals and I make sure it is pasteurized but NOT ultra-pasteurized.  For some reason, organic milk sold by the gallon tends to be pasteurized, while organic milk in the half-gallon-size container tends to be ultra-pasteurized (the label will specify which pasteurization was used).   The downside of pasteurized (rather than ultra-pasteurized) milk is that it doesn't have as long of an expiration date (~21 days) as ultra-pasteurized milk (~70 days).  C drinks almost exactly 1 half-gallon per week (2 meals per day on weekdays and 3 meals per day on weekends), so a gallon lasts us 2 weeks.  Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to a higher temperature, which kills more bacteria (including good bacteria/enzymes), allowing it to last longer before expiring.  Ultra-pasteurization kills virtually all of the enzymes and bacteria to the point that the milk cannot even be cultured to make yogurt or kefir. It is commonly referred to as "dead milk", and, from the research I've done, pretty much negates the point of buying organic milk in the first place.
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