Food Revolution: Phase 2 Snacks Redefined

snacks redefined

When eliminating snacks was unsuccessful for improving dinnertime, I was back to the drawing board.  First, I considered our goals for dinner, and with feeding in general.

  1. We wanted the kids eating a well balanced diet that was adequate for health and growth.  This was critical since our family has experienced chronic constipation, food allergies, and our children are much smaller than same age peers.
  2. We wanted the entire family to have pleasant mealtime experiences.

Since banning snacks basically created hangry children, I decided it was time for everyone (adults and children) to redefine snacks.  Over the past few years, we developed poor snacking habits.  The majority of the time, snacks consisted of food with minimal nutritional value.  Snacking wasn’t the problem itself, the bigger issue was these foods often became substitutes for meals and the kids weren’t getting adequate nutrition.  Keeping this in mind, I tweaked the snack menu.

When our typical afternoon snack time arrived, I started offering several choices that included primarily fruits and vegetables, and other sources of protein such as nuts or dairy.  In the beginning, the kids were NOT pleased with these options, and often on their own volition skipped snacks altogether.  On many occasions they demanded off menu items.  Instead of catering to their whims, I continued offering a variety of options that included items I knew they’d enjoyed before.  We have two tiered basket on the counter top that is always full of fruit (often chosen by the kids during shopping trips), and these were consistently offered as snacks.  In addition, if someone didn’t eat part of a meal, and it was an item I knew they liked, I put it into lidded containers color coded by child.   Leftovers could then be added to the snack menu.

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Here, we had left over Greek yogurt, apples, and pasta that was untouched at lunch.

 

After the weeks trudged on, the kids finally started trying their new snack options and enjoying them.  I could not believe it when Sydney chose apples for her snack, and then gobbled them with a huge smile on her face.  This was a BIG deal, people. Sydney is a self proclaimed “carnival” (e.g. carnivore) who loves to nosh meat and carbohydrates.  Fruit and  veggies have never been atop her preferred foods list, yet she decided apples were indeed tasty.  While we were shopping, she requested grapes.  This was huge for her.

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Raw carrots for snack?  Why yes!  And look at those smiles!

 

During this process of redefining snacks, our snack menu is somewhat limited.  At the same time, our previously enjoyed foods are not “forbidden” either.  I want the kids to learn how to enjoy a variety of food and feel satisfied with some of the most nutritious foods, but to also appreciate treats.  I enjoy desserts and salty snacks, why shouldn’t they?

Even with better snacking habits underway, improving the kid’s nutritional intake, my second goal was not yet achieved.  The kids were often fussy at dinner, claiming to be “very hungry” then refusing to eat anything presented to them.  It was not uncommon for one or more children to proclaim something such as “This is DISGUSTING!” (Thank you, Pixar for Inside Out, and adding “disgust” to the children’s emotional vocabulary.)  It seemed that the kids took turns having a dinnertime tantrum so we’d experience at least one per night.  Even worse, tantrums occurred even when we served favorite meals and despite the fact we told them they didn’t have to eat anything they didn’t want.  Dinner was an exasperating experience most nights.

At this point, we were on the cusp of accomplishing both of the feeding goals, but weren’t quite there.  Stay with me, I know many others are having similar struggles and are eager to discover what finally made all the difference in the world.

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

 

 

Food Revolution Phase 1: Snack Detox

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I was ecstatic when the quads were able to start eating purees.  I genuinely enjoyed preparing homemade baby food and introducing new foods to their palates.  They had favorites, but typically tried whatever landed in their mouth.  Beginning table foods was another exciting adventure for us.  The quads loved practicing their pincer grasp to stuff morsels of food into their mouths.  As babies, they were relatively good eaters.

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When making baby food, I froze purees into silicone ice cube trays.  Then, I thawed combinations of purees to create meals.  This one was a favorite: mango and avocado.

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Then toddlerhood began.  Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters and my foursome was no exception.  Just before age two, they became VERY opinionated about what they would or would not sample.  We decided early on we weren’t catering to anyone’s whims and we continued to present a variety of food at each meal.  We never forced them to eat certain things, but encouraged them to taste since children often need at least a dozen opportunities to sample something before deciding they like it.  As our finicky toddlers transformed to preschoolers things went from bad to worse.

 

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As preschoolers, the kids began articulating their strong opinions about food and how it was served.  If we so much as cut their sandwich in a triangle instead of a rectangle, someone would burst into tears.  If a preferred food didn’t materialize when requested, tears.  Dinner became frustrating.  After working hard to prepare fresh meals I’d hear protests at the table, tears streamed, and some kids ate nothing from their plates.  On occasion, dinner tantrums were severe enough that kids needed breaks away from the table to compose themselves.  By bedtime, whining of hunger would begin since no one ate a decent dinner.

After months of this, I decided it was time for a food revolution.  I assessed our eating habits and noticed that afternoon snacks seemed problematic.  I’m not against snacking, and know that a grazing pattern is good for one’s metabolism (I’m typically a grazer), but snacks were seriously interfering with dinner.  I was allowing the kids to fill themselves on salty carbohydrates (e.g. goldfish, veggie straws, pretzels) and by dinner they weren’t hungry.   Initially, I tried using small Gladware containers to monitor portions, but things didn’t improve.  It seemed that if these kids consumed a single goldfish it would expand and fill their stomach before dinner.

For a few weeks, I put the kibosh on all afternoon snacks.  It was a difficult transition.  The kids whined after nap as I prepared dinner, but I stuck with it.  ABSOLUTELY NO SNACKS!!!  To accommodate the change, I started serving dinner about half an hour earlier than normal.  The kids were hungrier no doubt, and they ate a little more at dinner.  Our problems were only partially solved, however.  There was still plenty of moaning and lots of tears about dinner.  Our frustration continued, and dinner was a stressful time.  Eliminating snacks was clearly not the solution to making dinner more pleasant.

Stay tuned to find out what we did next, and what we did to finally improve dinnertime.

Do you have afternoon snacks at your house?  Is dinner time stressful for your family?

 

Hugs,

 

Amber


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Stupid Cupid

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In case you were oblivious, Cupid has landed and love is in the air.  Apparently Mason spied the solar powered Cupid bobble head in the playroom window after he woke up.  He darted into the kitchen and in giddy tones proclaimed the following:

Mason-“I saw Stupid in the window!!!  It’s Valentine’s Day!”

Me- “What did you say?  You saw what?!?!”

Mason- (with a puzzled expression) “What’s that little Valentine’s angel named?”

Me- “Do you mean Cupid?”

Mason- “YES!  (giggles) I think I was speaking Spanish!”

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Naturally this little Freudian slip unleased questions about the word stupid and resulted in a teachable moment about appropriate use of the word “stupid”.

 

Hugs,

 

Amber

 

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Old McGuire’s Farm

Quite a while ago we promised the kids we would take them to visit our friend Ed’s cattle farm.  The kids periodically asked when we’d go, but we never carved out the time.  We even started singing “Old McGuire’s Farm” instead of “Old McDonald.”  This winter our farm visit finally came to fruition.  The weather turned out to be far cooler and windier than we anticipated, but everyone had a delightful experience nonetheless.

We started out with a cozy hayride to visit the angus cattle and buffalo.  I must admit, baby buffalo are cute critters.

 

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Then it was time for each of the kids to take turns riding in various vehicles, including my favorite, a John Deere tractor.  Being a vehicle aficionado, Harper was elated!

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One all the tractor rides were complete we were feeling pretty chilly.  A little hot chocolate and fire roasted s’mores helped keep us feeling warm, at least temporarily.

 

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High straight line winds eventually convinced us to head into the barn for more adventure.  There, the kids took turns pretending to drive Ed’s vintage cars and chatted with his mounted deer.  George’s ventriloquist act thoroughly impressed the kids who genuinely believed the deer spoke to them.

 

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Everyone had such fun exploring the farm that we cannot wait for a sunny spring day when we can go fishing in the pond!

hugs!

 

Amber


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An Answer for Everything

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I am constantly impressed with Rylin’s quick responses to life’s little conundrums.  For three years old her insight is impeccable though sometimes a tad sassy.

 

When we entered the playgroup with our local school district, the teacher greeted the girls.

Teacher: “Rylin & Sydney you look so pretty in your purple clothes, and your nails are painted to match!”

Rylin: “Actually, my nails are fuchsia.”  (and of course she was correct!)

Teacher: “I think she’s mastered colors.”

 

When Grandaddy and Aunt Carol were babysitting, Grandaddy was going to the grocery store.  Harper begged to go too.

Grandaddy: “Harper, you can’t go because I don’t have a car seat for you.”

Rylin: “Next time, you could ask my mom and dad to leave a car seat so he can go.”

 

At birthday party another child spilled a cup full of water, which spread all over the table.

Rylin: “Little kids probably shouldn’t have open cups.”

 

Oh how this little lady is keeping us on our toes.  She’s attentive to everything around her and is listening even when you think she’s not…

 

hugs!

 

Amber

 

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Outdoor Play, Everyday!

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I hate it when I don’t take my own advice with the kids, especially when it involves one of my “soapboxes”.  This is one of those instances.  Professionally, I receive numerous requests to consult with parents and teachers regarding behavior and academic problems in children.  Over the past decade I’ve observed hundreds of classrooms in many different schools.  I often find myself fidgeting while observing lengthy lectures in elementary classrooms and think to myself, “I can’t sit still this long, why are KIDS expected to do so?!?!”  For behavior problems (e.g. off task behavior, verbal or physical aggression, fidgeting) I always recommend additional opportunities for sensory motor activity.  I’ve advocated for hyperactive children to get additional recess, or at least extra opportunities to move during their day.

When school staff uses removal of recess as a consequence I’ve encouraged them to at least consider what I dubbed “alternative recess” where the child is not permitted to use the playground, but instead can exercise, run laps, walk the perimeter of the playground, etc. to avoid making them sit still.  When teachers are told they cannot provide more than 15 minutes of recess per day, but struggle with behavior problems, I encourage them to sneak physical activity into their lessons.  Some teachers take breaks between lesson and lead in classroom exercises while others take the class outdoors for lessons.  In order for children to be ready and able to attend and follow directions, they require adequate physical activity.   This year I cringed as I overheard a kindergarten teacher announce “You won’t get recess tomorrow if you are hyper like this again!  You can’t handle recess.”  and when another teacher opted for indoor recess because it was “too cold” (it was about 50 degrees and sunny).  Kids are not equipped to remain still and quiet indoors for long periods of time, and there are ramifications when adults expect it.

During the heat of the summer, I took the kids for walks around the neighborhood and we played in the front or back yard at least once per day if not more.  If it was miserably hot, we used water to keep things comfortable, or ate cold snacks like watermelon and popsicles.  Sometime around October I mentally thought it was too late in the season to do water play and put all the water toys away, but it was still HOT here.  There was less daylight at that time too and the rain came.  It must’ve been about that time of year that we stopped playing outside daily.  We got into a rut of indoor play and being quite lazy.  When the holidays came, we over indulged in television.

No surprise, the kids weren’t napping well and were often cranky.  DUH!  They didn’t get adequate physical activity and outdoor play.  Since having that “ah-ha” moment, I’ve made a conscious effort to take the kids outside to play at least once, if not twice daily.  If it’s cold or damp, we dress for the weather and find few legitimate excuses to stay inside.    The kids typically balk and fuss about going outside, but once they start playing they forget they wanted to stay indoors then fuss when playtime ends.

Outside, the kids have noticed shapes in the clouds, experienced static electricity, and “cooked” meals using garden harvests.

Sasha has enjoyed sunbathing again and the chicks found plenty of bugs to nosh.

Our play equipment has been enjoyed again.

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The American Heart Association recommends that children two and older get at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.

One of the major reasons we moved from our old house was for a yard with ample space for play equipment, a garden, kids to run freely, and to house backyard chickens.   We’ve invested quite a bit in the yard to make it a sanctuary for our family and it must be used every single day.  Since getting back outdoors, the kid’s behavior has improved.  They sleep better, are in better moods, are using their imaginations, and are learning.  I’m reaping these benefits and so are the furry and feathered members of our family.  Outdoor time serves us well!  Sometimes it takes a little effort to get kids dressed for outdoor play, but it’s always worthwhile.


 

Related Articles:


Peppermint Mocha

 

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During the holiday season we took the kids to Starbucks for a hot cocoa date and ordered a peppermint mocha for the adults.  When Sydney batted her big brown eyes and begged for a sip, Daddy obliged. Her thoughts on the beverage….

“Mmmm, coffee!  It tastes like chocolate toothpaste!”

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A toothpaste flavored beverage doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable to me, but Sydney seemed to enjoy it, and I thought it was a good peppermint mocha.

 

What will these kids say next?!?!

 

hugs,

 

Amber

 

Money Saving Tip for Grocery Shopping

 

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Every time I look over the family budget, our grocery bill is the easily the largest expense after our mortgage.  I try to meal plan, which helps, and I compare prices when deciding what to buy.  I do NOT have time for coupons or shopping at several stores each week, and I want to provide my family with lots of fresh and healthy foods that aren’t necessarily inexpensive.  Yet, I knew we could whittle our bill down at least slightly.  Months ago, Megan from Twin Talk shared her grocery list tip and I immediately put it to work.  I created a spreadsheet in Excel with an inventory of our pantry, freezer, refrigerator, and basic household items sorted by location in the store.  It only took about 15 minutes for me to put this list together, and it’s on the computer so I edit it whenever necessary.  It’s so simple.

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A copy of the list always hangs on the side of our refrigerator.  When we run out of an item, I highlight it on the list.  Then, before we head out to grocery shop, I scan our pantry, freezer, and fridge to make sure nothing is missing (this is often a good time to do a quick fridge/ pantry clean out).  After making a weekly meal plan, I scribble any extra ingredients on the list that aren’t part of our regular inventory.  Even when we are planning to make multiple stops, I use the single highlighted list for every store we visit.  It keeps things simple for me.

While shopping, we stick to the list and only allow 1-2 discretionary items.  Prior to this list we often added many items off list because we didn’t take good stock of our pantry.  This is where we wasted money.  Many times we bought things we didn’t need, and worse, more of what we already had.  For instance, after one trip, we discovered THREE boxes of Cheerios and we bought another two pack at Costco.  That was WAY too many Cheerios, even for us.  On the flip side, sometimes I’d begin cooking and would realize we were missing a critical ingredient AFTER I started cooking.  Not good.

Since beginning our inventory grocery list, I’ve seen the following results:

  1. Grocery trips (even by myself WITH kids) take less time because my list is extremely organized and I don’t waste time wandering around the store searching for items.
  2. We spend less money, especially at Costco because we stick to the list.  Granted groceries will probably always be one of our highest expenses with a family of six, we are saving at least $100 per month.
  3. Even if I don’t have a meal plan, I can whip up meals during the week without making special trips to the store because we have a well stocked pantry.
  4. We don’t waste food because we don’t buy duplicates of things.  Duplicates result in everyone becoming bored of an item and also things go stale when there is excess.

If you’d like to try this money saving tip, you may want to check out our list- Grocery List (Excel spreadsheet)to get started.  However, it’ll work best if you personalize it to your own inventory and preferred stores.

 

How do you plan grocery trips?   What are your favorite money saving tips for grocery shopping?
Hugs!
Amber

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Quadruplets Quoted

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The kids have been rather gregarious for a while now, but in recent days they’ve been coming up with some hysterical and sometimes heartwarming material.  In fact, I purchased a blank journal for each of them and have done my best to jot down our favorite quotes.  If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen a few cute ones posted.

This gem comes from Harper.

Harper was busily playing with his rescue vehicles when he announced,

Harper: “Mom!  The fire truck and ambulance are having a baby!”

Me: “Oh really…What kind of baby?” (I was thinking boy or girl)

Harper: “They had a train!”

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Harper and the happy new family!

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Happy Friday! Stay tuned for more quadruplets quoted…

hugs,

Amber

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Train Ride {Summer Bucket List}

Yes, you read the title correctly, it says “Summer Bucket List“, and it’s December.  I set out to take the kids on a train ride as part of our summer bucket list, but our trip was delayed significantly.  Nisey and Poppa gave the kids a train ride coupon for their birthday in July, and then we all decided it was much too hot to enjoy during the summer.  Nisey and I researched local trains and considered which would be most enjoyable for three year olds.  We determined the train at the zoo was both cost effective and ideal for preschool aged kids (e.g. classic looking train with a 15 minute  trip).  Then we waited crisp, yet sunny weather for our trip.  After Poppa purchased our tickets we boarded the Yellow Rose and awaited departure.  Harper could hardly believe we were riding on a legitimate train.

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While we were at the zoo, we also seized the opportunity to ride the old fashioned carousel.
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 And, we nibbled on a delicious picnic lunch…
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Oh, and we checked out some of our favorite animals.  It turned out to be a gorgeous day for a train ride and trip to the zoo.
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So that’s it, we FINALLY completed our summer bucket list.  Ta da!
  1. Movies
  2. Sea Life Aquarium
  3. Train ride
  4. Fire station tour
  5. Library story time
  6. Sprayground
  7. Zoo
  8. Bahama Buck’s
  9. Frozen yogurt
  10. Community pool
  11. Grill dinner outside
  12. Water Table
  13. Inflatable Pool
  14. Sprinklers
  15. Ice Cream
  16. Indoor playgrounds
  17. Lee’s Grilled Cheese
  18. Blow bubbles
  19. Chalk drawings
  20. Board games
  21. Play dates
  22. Summer Reading Club
  23. Dance classes
  24. Fireworks
  25. Sleep over with grandparents
  26. Nature Walks
  27. Bounce house
  28. Popsicles
  29. S’mores
  30. Sparklers
  31. Water pistol duels

hugs,

Amber

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