Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kid-Friendly Muffin Recipe

As we try and battle this picky toddler stage, I find myself trying to find different ways to get more nutrients into Nathan's daily diet.

Muffins are convenient, portable, and pre-portioned! One issue I took with many of the popular muffin recipes I find online is the high amounts of sugar and low amounts of vitamins. So, if you want a big more bang for your nutritional buck, try a few of these substitutions with your favorite recipes.

Substitute some (around 1/3) of your flour for flax meal. Also, because flax can absorb quite a bit of liquid, add ~2 TBS extra liquid to your recipe to make up for it.

Add 1 cup of shredded veggies - zucchini and carrots work very well. They don't take over the flavor too much and add vitamin C (zucchini) or vitamin A (carrots). Shred them extra-small for particularly picky eaters. Also, zucchini contains lots of water, so you could reduce some of the liquid in your recipe ~2 TBS to make up for it (if you do this AND sub in flax meal, it breaks even!) Or, you could lay out the shreds on a paper towel for a couple of minutes to dry them off a bit.

Less Sugar:
Reduce the sugar. So many muffin recipes have dessert-worthy amounts of sugar, when I always thought muffins were supposed to be healthier than cupcakes. I have been able to cut sugar amounts in half and had no problem getting the little guy to eat the resulting cupcakes!

I adapted the following recipe from allRecipes and Nathan has loved them. Here is the adapted version:

Cranberry Zucchini Muffins

1/2 cup flax meal
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups chopped cranberries
1 cup zucchini, shredded

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray or grease a 12 cup and 6 cup muffin tin.
-Mix together the flax meal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.
-Add shortening; stir in juice, vanilla, eggs, cranberries and zucchini. Pour into muffin cups and bake for ~25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dealing with Children Who Are Picky Eaters

Having a picky eater can be frustrating. Heck, BEING a picky eater (this is coming from experience) is frustrating and a little embarrassing. There are quite a few things that can be done to help prevent it, or to overcome the picky toddler stage.


Constantly offer your little one foods of all sorts and varieties. This means that they don't eat the same meal all the time. It's one thing to pull out the old classic macaroni and cheese once a week or so, and quite another to have that each day for lunch. If you get your children used to trying new foods, it will continue to be less of a struggle. On the opposite end, if you only feed your child the same foods, they could start to prefer ONLY those foods.

Overcoming picky stages of life

At a certain point in toddlerhood, your child might start to be picky. This comes from a smaller requirement for calories as their bodies are settling and growing less, physically. It is ever so easy to just want them to eat something, anything. They are probably starving! The poor thing.

Kids won't starve themselves. Offer them a variety of healthy foods (maybe 2 or 3 items) and let them eat whatever from those options. I like to give a variety that includes protein, vegetable, and dairy, and follow up with a fruit. If he absolutely refuses to eat something, he must at least try it before I give him something else. I require the little guy to try 2 bites of something, and then he can decide whether or not to eat the rest. The first bite is often swallowed so quickly because he "doesn't like it", that it is barely (if at all) tasted. The second bite helps him to actually taste the food and give him a chance to like it.

They say kids won't officially "like" something until they've tried it ten times. So keep offering it, and keep having them take little bites.

At least for my little guy, if he sees his parents eating it he'll want to eat it as well! Much easier to get him to try something we are eating.

Do not make mealtimes stressful. It is easy to get frustrated and want them to JUST EAT THE FOOD but we don't want to create food issues for them later in life. This was an issue for us. We just wanted him to eat more healthily, and he seemed to refuse everything except chicken nuggest and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mealtimes became a battle of wills, and if it gets to that point with a toddler, parents have already lost. Just set the expectation ("If you eat 2 bites of this, you can have chicken nuggets", or whatever motivates the little one.

Make meal times more fun! 

Toddlers love to dip food, see if you can disassemble a meal a bit, and have the little one dip part of it. Think toasted cheese "sticks" in tomato soup, veggies in ranch or hummus, quesadillas in sour cream.

Cut foods into fun shapes - circles, triangles, hearts; depending on the food (and maybe your knife skills) the sky is the limit!

Have themed meals. One of my favorite ideas to have come across is movie night with a themed meal! I admit, I have trouble coming up with largely varying ideas (SO FAR!) but it gets easier as time goes on. Work that creative side!

Cars is always Nathan's movie of choice. We can make apple wedge "cars" with grape-half "wheels" (set on the plate to resemble cars). Baby carrots can be called traffic cones. Slice up some bell peppers, red, yellow, and green, and place in cups alongside one another to represent a traffic light (plus ranch, or something to dip!). You could even fold up some deli meat into a car-ish roll and slice some cheese into circle wheels. It might be silly but it definitely is fun.

Have toddlers help make the food. This is not only to get them to learn what goes into meals (and thus be more likely to eat them) but also, down the line, kids learn to be more independent and helpful around the kitchen.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

KETO: Low Carb Diets and Plateaus.

One of the most frustrating things about trying to get healthy is hitting a plateau. For those who haven't heard the term, a plateau in weight loss refers to the unchanging weight for an extended amount of time. As always, I highly recommend pictures and measurements over using the bathroom scale for progress. If you are building muscle, that weight could very well increase while you are trimming down.

 Here are a few  things you can try to break out of your plateau.

If you are not to your goal weight/shape, and can't seem to drop any weight for weeks at a time, the first things you need to do are:

Hit Your Macros.
For the ketogenic diet, your daily caloric intake should be around  5% carbohydrates, 65% fat, and 30% protein.

Adjust as you see fit, depending on your goals or personal experience with ketosis. Some people can consume up to 100g of carbohydrates in one day, while remaining in ketosis, and  if you are eating 2000 calories per day, that is actually 20%.

Check Your Water Consumption.
Especially while in ketosis, your body will quickly flush out water. Make sure you are drinking lots and LOTS of water each day. It's getting colder outside, and broth is really helping me - especially when I'm fasting.

Which brings me to the next steps in overcoming a plateau:

Intermittent Fasting (IF).
Fasting can be very beneficial. In my experience, it has helped me feel better after an "off" weekend (sometimes I consume a few carb-laden foods over the weekend). It helps put me right back on track and go into the work week feeling good again. Fasting, by definition, is consuming fewer than 10 calories in an hour. That means you can eat a pickle, or drink some broth, black coffee or tea if that's what you like. If you are okay with using sweeteners there are a number of sugar-free drinks to choose from (although, check my final list item on this topic).

Fat Fasting.
A fat fast is when you consume a total of 1000 calories per day, and 90+% of those calories come from fat. This can be a challenge, but it is a short-term plateau-breaker. You shouldn't have to have such a deficit for long. Good foods that are high in (the right kinds of) fat include: almonds, nut butter, macadamias, cheese, avocados, olive oil, cream cheese, heavy cream, and coconut oil.

If you are already doing a regular workout routine, try switching it up. Add more strength-building exercises in if you generally only do cardio, or the reverse if you only ever do strength. If you are doing neither, try something active and get your blood pumping! Even if it doesn't end up breaking the plateau, you start to feel good after exercising, and it is great for your heart.

Check Your Calorie Count.
      Consume More Calories.
If you are restricting your calories too much, it could potentially cause a stall in your weight loss. Rather than jumping off of the keto bandwagon, try consuming 200-400 more calories each day for a couple of days. See if it helps.

     Alternately, Consume Fewer Calories.
If you aren't having enough water, or aren't quite hitting your macros, you might still be feeling hungry after consuming plenty of calories. And what happens if you eat more fat than your body will burn? It stops using your fat stores and stops losing you weight. So keep careful count (MyFitnessPal is great for this) and see what exactly you are eating.

Cut All Sweeteners.
So you've tried all of these. You're hitting your macros, chugging water, exercising, you've tried fasting and even a few fat fasts and your calories are in check. Try to cut all sweeteners (even the "good" ones) from your diet. That includes diet soda, sugar free flavors in coffee, and many (many) low-carb alternative foods. I recently did this and it absolutely helped me. In fact, this is the first thing you should try, listed last only because it took me so long to try it. After removing sweetener from my day, I find that I crave fewer sweets. At first I didn't care for unsweetened coffee, and sparkling water had no taste. But after just a few days, I began to prefer coffee without sweetener, and I can hardly drink diet soda as it is so darn sweet to me now.

Got any corrections? Questions or comments? Please let me know in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Review: Young Child Books

I was not paid to endorse these products, these words are my own. Affiliate links used.
One thing I never tire of is seeing my son look through ("read") his books. Since I am home during the day, and my husband is up at an unnatural time in the morning, I am the one to put our son down for naps and bedtime. This means that I read through the books - a lot. I am constantly adding new ones to our collection. Here are a few of my (and my two-year-old's) favorites.

Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? by  Brianna Caplan Sayres 

Quote: "Where do dump trucks sleep at night / After dumping dirt and rocks? Do they gather toys and dump them in a giant truck toy box?"

*Adorable artwork
*Fun to read, flows nicely
*Little guy loves trucks and definitely loves this book

Goodnight, Little Monster by Helen Ketteman

Quote: "It's dark little monster, bed time is soon. Come out to the porch to howl at the moon!"

*Cute artwork, depicting monsters as regular people
*Rhymes and flows nicely
*Lots of detail and little objects for kids to point out

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano

Quote: "One day in the pumpkin patch, the strangest little pumpkin hatched. Spookley wasn't like his friends, where they had curves, he had ends."

*Cute artwork, very detailed
*Rhymes and flows very well
*Has a message against judging others based on looks

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Quote: "He slowly folds his boom back in, and then with one last sleepy grin, he tucks himself in nice and tight, then cuddles in and says goodnight."

*Super cute, almost like professional crayon drawings
*Rhymes and flows nicely
*Perfect to end the nightly readings with

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Quote: "Bump, bump, bump. Did you ever ride a wump? We have a wump with just one hump. But, we know a man called Mr. Gump. Mr. Gump has a seven-hump wump. So, if you like to go bump-bump, jump on the hump of the wump of Gump!"

*Classic Dr. Seuss
*Fun to rhyme and read through it
*Long enough that it avoids feeling too repetitive
*Kids young and old love it (and adults!)