Monday, April 18, 2011

Toddler Treats: Beyond Crackers

Toddler nutrition is serious business around here.  I'm personally a bit more lenient, much more likely to bend and slip a candy or piece of chocolate into Aias's tiny hand to get him to stop screaming in a shop, but Morgan rules nutrition with an iron fist. Food items rarely pass Aias's lips without going under the tough scrutiny of Morgan's nutrition lens.  And I'll tell you, few items live up to his standard.  If he had it his way, Aias would never have refined sugar, white flour or rice, or anything that isn't organic.  The child would live on a steady diet of quinoa, salmon, yogurt and berries if Morgan had his way.  And honestly, that's fine.  Aias does love those types of things and when it comes to lunches and dinners, and they are excellent meal choices. 

However, there is the matter of snacking.  Snacks being items I can shove in my diaper bag when we are out, or items that I can grab in a pinch without having to prepare anything.  For the first 6 months when Aias was exclusively breast fed, this obviously wasn't a problem.  If Aias was hungry, you just popped a boob in his mouth and all was well.  Then around 7 or 8 months when Aias started to want to snack, the battle for the "perfect healthy snacks" begun.  I fought hard for Organic Baby Mum Mums and I was victorious, so long as Aias wasn't having more than 3-4 of them in a given day.  From about 8 to 12 months, things got even more messy.  I noticed lots of moms were giving their kids Cheerios, so I bought some.  I thought this was an innocent enough act.  Of course, I was immediately informed by my in-house food police that  Cheerios were the devil because of their salt and sugar levels, the fact that they are not organic, and the presence of trisodium phosphate.  Oops?  So began my quest for snack food that did not possess these apparently horrible traits. 

My search began at Whole Foods because certainly there would be a magical baby snack food there, right?  Well, sort of.  I walked up and down the cereal aisle and I swear to you, I read the back of every cereal box.  Even the products that were made specifically for toddlers to snack on had sugar in them, and organic cane sugar doesn't fly around these parts much more than regular old refined sugar does.  To be honest, I was getting sort of annoyed at this point.  Annoyed that I lived with a food nazi even though I knew he was looking out for our son's best interest, but mostly annoyed that there wasn't a single company out there that seemed confident enough to create a product without adding sugar to it.  I'd bring home a food item, Morgan would look at the back, he'd find an ingredient he hadn't heard of, and then he would Google.  I'd stand there stewing.  Then it would come:  "X ingredient, it does this... it's bad for this reason..."  and suddenly my find was reduced to a waste of money.  We'd sometimes let Aias get through it but just not buy it again, or sometimes we'd just eat it ourselves.  We eventually settled on plain Organic Kamut Puffs, and these puffs became our go-to finger food snack for Aias until he was about 12 months old.  He seemed find with those and everyone was happy. 

After 12 months, Aias started to want more than just some Kamut Puffs. He wanted food with substance.  I started toting blueberries, cut up apples, and other types of fruit with me.  Of course, sometimes I would forget about it, and find it a few days later, having fermented and turned to an unattractive mush in my bag.  No one is perfect, right?  I needed something EASIER!  I returned to the cereal aisle and once again I left with broken dreams, asking myself how Whole Foods could forsake me.  Finally I came home with a box of Annie's Organic Cheese Bunnies, and I plead my case.  The stupid box was $4.99 which I considered a bit of a rip off, but I let Morgan know that if he was going to be this picky, he was more than welcome to go to the store himself and find this perfect food he imagined for Aias.  Annie's ended up being fine; Morgan was happy, I was happy, and Aias was in heaven.  He loved those things.  After a few months he would walk right over to the cupboard himself, open the door, reach in and grab some bunnies for himself.  

Well, about 6 weeks ago we ran out of cheddar bunnies and I didn't bother buying more.  It wasn't intentional, it just happened.  In this time, I started giving Aias things like blueberries, salmon roe, pickles, and apples as snacks when were were hanging around the house, and just giving him bites of my food when we were out.  This seemed to do.  Also, now that Aias is a bit older and the initial standard of "perfect parenting" we held ourselves up to at the beginning has worn off (or at least, it has begun to wear off), we are a tad more lenient.  And by "we" I mean Morgan.  Nevertheless, there's still a standard we try to uphold, not because we think sugar or salt or non-organic food is going to kill Aias, but because we want to expose him to as many foods as possible in hopes that he won't be the picky eaters we once were ourselves.  I've long since given up on the cereal aisle, and traded it in for my new favorite place in the grocery store... the bulk foods aisle! 

So now that I've rambled long and hard about our struggle to find the perfect toddler snack food, I want to share some interesting treats Aias has taken to lately.  They are organic, sugar free, and free of white flour, but most of all, they are delicious!  I also like that they are relatively inexpensive ;)

I'll go clockwise starting from the bright pink bowl on the left, which is filled with delicious organic spelt sesame sticks.  At $1.39/100grams, these things are delicious.  They are flavoured with a bit of cumin and not a lot of salt. 

Next we have unsweetened organic banana chips, which sell for about 79 cents/100grams.  What cracks me up about these is that Aias will not touch a banana under normal circumstances.  However, he thinks these are chips, so he eats them.  I'm only human, of course the child has had an Old Dutch potato chip or 20 in his life!  When I offer these to him I say "want a chippy?" and he gets all pumped up.  Not really lying, right, they are banana CHIPS after all. 

Next we have organic blueberries.   Ok, I know that's cheating.  I know blueberries don't last forever, and they certainly leave a purple stain that lasts forever, but nothing hits the spot for Aias quite like a blueberry.  I always have a few with me in the event of a melt down.  The best thing about blueberries is that you can get them freeze dried or dried, and they taste almost as good. You can also get them while they are in season and freeze them!

Next we have wild rice sticks which sell for $1.19/100grams. These look exactly like the spelt sesame sticks, but they are made with rice flour and wild rice.  These things just taste delicious!

Finally, organic dried cranberries sweetened with juice, which sell for about $3.50/100grams.  They are basically candy, let's be honest, but maybe a bit better for a person?  Sometimes I cheat and buy the kind that are sweetened with organic sugar cane because they are $2.00 cheaper when they go on sale, just don't tell Morgan.

Other ideas for snacks; sesame snaps, dried peas, brown rice crackers, any variety of dried fruit, and Aias's personal favorite, sunflower seeds.  Although I have to say, be warned about the kind of diaper you'll be changing if you give your kid sunflower seeds. It's not pretty. 

What snacks do you give your toddler?  Do you and your partner see eye to eye on your toddler's nutrition? 

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  1. You guys would probably like these freeze dried apple/pear/banana/strawberry packs we get. They're Brother's All Natural, and the there's no other ingredients besides the fruit! We usually get them from Costco, but Amazon sells them too. I take them everywhere with us. Instant fruit serving without the mess :D

    Morgan would probably hang his head in shame at us. I'm pretty lenient with food. As long as it doesn't have a lot of sugar and it's relatively healthy, I'm cool with it. Don however will give them sweets galore. He gets bitched at a lot because of it. When the girls tell you they're hungry and it's around noon, wouldn't you think to I don't know, MAKE LUNCH? Cookies are not lunch!

  2. Cory loves rice crackers, but I give him Cheerios too...bad mom. Pretty much as long as it doesn't contain massive amounts of sugar or salt, and doesn't have high fructose corn syrup or mono-sodium glutamate in it, it's allowed in our shopping cart, and he's allowed to have at least a taste. Our ordinary in store snack is raisins. Bad bad mom.

    But you may have inspired me. If Cory seems up to it in a bit we may take a trip to Mustard Seed today to check out the bulk foods.


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