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Eating Wisely


Michelle Brode
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 2 March-April 2000 pp. 62-63

Children seem to live by snacking. It feels rewarding to see your toddler eat the food you made for dinner, but it does not always happen that way. They may have just found that muffin their older brother left on the floor of the playroom and quietly devoured it while you were chopping the broccoli for dinner. When dinner comes around, they are not hungry. What to do?

Breastfeeding mothers know that babies live on very different rhythms than adults. They are the original "grazers" and need to eat often. Once babies start to eat solid food, this additional nourishment must be worked into their schedule of eating small amounts throughout the day. This applies to small children too. They are built to burn energy fast and re-fuel often. Snacking seems to be part of being a child for many years. It can also be a great part of being a nursing mother. Some health care providers believe it is healthier to eat lightly several times a day instead of having three large, widely spaced meals. The key to healthful snacking is that the snacks you and your family eat need to be good for you, that is, whole foods in as close to their natural state as possible. (Sound familiar?) So relax into snacking and enjoy it.

If you have a repertoire of nutritious snacks, you can always provide food you are glad to see your children eat. Sometimes it can be as simple as peanut butter and banana sandwiches or apple slices dipped in yogurt or soy yogurt. Snacks can be as complicated as eggs benedict or homemade pizza kept in the freezer. Just be creative.

For beginning eaters, all meals are snacks, so you can be very flexible. Mashed sweet potato is a perennial favorite. Bananas and avocados require no cooking. Overcooked carrots and broccoli are also fun, even if just to mush around.

Then comes the dipping stage. Any food seems yummy when children can pick it up with their hands and dip it in something. Applesauce is a perfect dipping sauce for many children. Dip waffles or dumplings in applesauce. Spaghetti sauce is a good dip too, but it stains. You can mix nut butter into tomato sauce to make it more nutritious. Steamed vegetables are fair game for dipping, as are toast fingers. Even eggs dip well if you cook them long enough.

For older children who crave a sense of mastery, you can set up a snack bin. Put a large plastic container in the refrigerator and fill it with good food; muffins, hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks, cheese, apples, peanuts, whatever you know will be a hit. Then present it to your child and explain that now she is free to open the fridge and explore her box for snacks on her own.

The following recipes are snack foods that both adults and children can enjoy. These foods supply a lot of nutrition and are also fun to eat. Try them, then sit back and relax while your children snack.

>Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

From Feeding the Whole Family
By Cynthia Lair

3 C. whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. cardamom
2 C. pumpkin or winter squash puree
1/2 C. maple syrup
1/2 C. soymilk
1/3 C. cold pressed vegetable oil
2 t. vanilla
1/2 C. pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil muffin tins or line with paper muffin cups. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large bowl; set aside. Put pumpkin, maple syrup, soymilk, oil, and vanilla in a blender; blend until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and fold gently using a minimum of strokes. Gently fold in the pecans. Fill muffin cups to the tops with batter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

Banana Toasties

1 piece whole grain bread
toasted apple butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter
1/2 banana sliced into thin rounds
a few raisins
cinnamon to taste

Spread the toast with the spread of your choice. Arrange a layer of bananas. Push the raisins into the spread. Sprinkle the top with a tiny bit of cinnamon.

Quick Almost Halva

Halva is a Middle Eastern sweet made from sesame seeds blended with honey. This recipe approximates it. Tahini is sesame seed paste. You can find it in all health food stores and many mainstream grocery stores.

1/2 C. tahini
1/3 C. honey
1/2 C. coconut flakes
1/2 C. wheat germ
1/2 C. sunflower seeds
1/2 t. cinnamon

Combine the tahini and honey in a bowl. In the food processor, buzz the rest of the ingredients to blend well. Add in the honey-tahini mixture and mix again. Roll into balls 1 inch in diameter. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Tamari Toasted Almonds

3 C. of raw almonds
3 T. tamari (soy sauce)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet. Bake them for 8 minutes. Put them immediately in a bowl and sprinkle on the tamari. Stir them up and spread them back on the baking sheet to dry.

Tofu-Ranch Dressing

This dressing is excellent for dipping celery, carrots, jicama, red peppers, and french fries. Silken tofu is the kind sold in the aseptic packs that do not need to be refrigerated.

1 C. or 8 oz. silken firm tofu
3 cloves of garlic peeled
1/2 to 1 C. fresh dill
1/4 C. fresh parsley
1/4 C. lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. salt
1 T. Old Bay Seasoning or Crab Boil or Cajun Spice

Put the garlic in the food processor and whiz it until the garlic is chopped. Add the tofu and whiz again. Keep scraping down the sides of the processor so that all the tofu is blended. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix again. Store in the refrigerator tightly covered for up to a week.

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