Super foods for toddlers

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I’m super exited to introduce you to Ashley, from Ashley’s Health blog, who is guest posting here today, with her great post on super foods for toddlers:

Being a parent brings on a whole variety of challenges, challenges that feel impossible to handle. It’s not easy to admit, but these challenges secretly make parenting such a valuable, rewarding experience. If you haven’t had kids yet, don’t worry it will be a thrill of a lifetime and you won’t regret it !

One big challenge that I’ve personally recognized, that’s a common struggle among parents, is getting  kids to eat healthy. Nutrition at the toddler stage plays a significant role in their development.  Some parents get that, and that’s why it’s truly challenging when children don’t want to have anything to do, with good and healthy food.

I know most children hate veggies. It’s a significant challenge to get kids to eat them. It doesn’t even matter if you hide the vegetables in other foods; kids just seem to smell them out and avoid them like the plague.

Sure, veggies are an acquired taste, but they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients that kids need, in order to grow healthy and strong. Therefore, the best way to give toddlers what they need is through superfoods, which disguise their benefits in a yummy taste.

1. Goji Berries.
Serve goji berries as an anytime snack. They have a sweet taste that kids love, and are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. It’s not a small amount of antioxidants either, they’re are packed with antioxidants. With the technology available now, to check antioxidant level, I was amazed on how powerful goji berries were with increasing antioxidant levels. These antioxidants will build your child’s immune system. Goji berries also have tiny seeds hidden inside that offer extra fiber for toddlers.

2. Blueberries.
Blueberries contain rich antioxidants, and research suggests they help improve brain function. Serve them as a snack, or blend them together with water and freeze them for an afternoon blueberry ice pop. Many companies are creating snack foods with dried blueberries in them and I know my kids love them.

3. Tomatoes.
Kids pick tomatoes off their burgers, but they might not know that tomatoes are the main ingredient in pasta sauce. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which may help protect against many illnesses. Tomatoes can be an acquired taste, so for some toddlers it can be tough for them to consume. My big recommendation with tomatoes is to stay away from ketchups that are high in refined sugar. There are ketchups and pasta sauces that have no refined sugar in them and they’re really good. It’s good to get your toddler started on healthy tomato items.

4. Oatmeal.
Oatmeal with a little honey starts any breakfast right. It’s a fiber-rich grain, which digests slowly and gives your toddler plenty of energy through the morning. Granola also contains oats and makes a good snack when it’s combined with raisins, goji berries and nuts. Oatmeal is incredibly good for you. The problem is that food companies have killed the nutritional value of oatmeal. Once people buy the processed and sugared up oatmeal, they end up adding more sugared up processed ingredients to it, which ends up killing all of the value oatmeal really offers. Get your child started on really healthy natural oatmeal and it may surprise you how much happier your child will be.

5. Fruit.
Fruit of any type contains loads of vitamins and minerals for growing toddlers. Instead of chips and candy bars, replace them with berries, melon balls and apple slices. Fruit also contains fiber and keeps toddlers regular. If your budget doesn’t allow loads of fruit, opt for frozen fruits, which also make good snacks for total rehydration.

6. Sunflower Seeds.
Sunflower seeds have to be the most underrated, or least talked about superfood. These seeds are packed with valuable nutrients and antioxidants. The best part though is that kids love them to snack on. They work well for a small pre-meal snack because they aren’t going to make your toddler full. The vitamin E is what makes these seeds worth it. Watch out for the salted seeds, because thigh levels of sodium naturally kills the value these seeds offer.

7. Cocoa Powder or Dark Chocolate.
Kids can have their chocolate and enjoy it, thanks to cocoa powder’s benefits. Cocoa powder contains a high amount of flavonoids, which are known to improve heart and oral health. Some studies suggest, that they also protect skin from sun damage. Avoid processed cocoa powder that removes the flavonoids and contains more sugar. Kids can get addicted to milk chocolate, so it’s better to get them used to dark chocolate. When they want candy at the store, get them the darkest chocolate and it will impact their life for the positive. Opt for at least 70 percent cocoa powder or dark chocolate.

Other superfoods that toddlers could benefit from include broccoli, sweet potatoes and avocados. Shredding these foods and placing them in casseroles, burritos and salsas is a great way to hide them all, and still give your toddler foods that benefit their growing bodies.

If you’ve been having any troubles with getting your child to eat healthy, hopefully this helps. These are also really good health rules, that I believe parents should understand, if they’re trying to help their children eat healthier.

About the Author : Ashley Erikson.

I’m a happy mom of three healthy boys. They’ve taught me many valuable lessons over the past ten years and it’s been a roller coaster that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I started off my career as a physical trainer but recently I have begun my journey as a nutritionist. You can view my thoughts, and website at AshleysHealth.com

Why do people get offended by nursing in public ?

Normalize breastfeeding

So let me tell you one thing. It’s all because of porn. And baby formula. There, I said it.
Now you’re probably sitting there, choking on your coffee, asking yourself since when do I write about porn, and what does this have to do with harmless, sometimes life-saving baby formula ?

Ok, so think about this for a minute. Around 100 years ago, nobody had ever heard of porn. There were no formula-fed babies either. Of course most women didn’t nurse in restaurants, but they didn’t hide in toilets either, and most people would have seen their mother nursing a baby, or their sister, or a neighbour. It was normal to use breasts for feeding babies. Every one was doing it. It was as obvious as the sun above us.

At the same time, porn didn’t exist. People didn’t see naked bodies a lot. Actually exposing a knee or an ankle was quite sexy. Some rich and educated men had access to the first nude photos or could find some kinky literature, but there was no media bombarding them with images of half-naked bodies.

What they did see were women nursing their babies. Using their body parts: breasts. And if they saw a knee, they got excited.

And here we are now. The twenty-first century, progress and all that…
Women are hiding in nursing rooms or behind covers to feed their babies. If they don’t, they risk being told that they disturb, that they are offending others or that they are seeking attention. At the same time, you can walk around in shorts that show your butt. Media that are heavily influenced by porn are showing erotic images everywhere you look. Women in underwear are the ultimate images that sell it all: from cars to cosmetics. And porn aesthetics shape our behaviour.

Why no, you say, you are by no means influenced by porn, you don’t watch it; you don’t approve of it! Well, the images in which young women in their underwear pose for a perfume or apparel ad are influenced by porn. Wanting to buy these items after viewing these ads means that you are influenced by porn. We all are. Shaving one’s bikini area demonstrates the influence of the porn industry which first started it. It’s mainstream culture that is responsible for over-sexualizing women’s bodies in general, and their breasts in particular.

The funny thing is that the stereotypically appealing breast shape in Western culture is the one of a breast full of milk. How ironic. Porn stars, actresses, and women who believe that they to need to be sexy above all go under the knife to have breasts that look just like the breasts of a nursing, full-of-milk mom. Yet full-of-milk mom is not supposed to show her breasts any more. She should hide.

Of course, she has the choice to bottle feed in public like all women do in media, in movies, tv series. Do we see nursing mom breastfeeding on TV? Not really. So why should we see them in real life?

That’s why I say that it’s all because of porn and formula. Porn has over-sexualized our bodies and influenced mass media. The existence of baby formula has allowed people the choice to switch to a “decent” way of feeding.

And the generation that was bottle fed doesn’t have the reference that the generations before did. They are not used to seeing women nurse because they weren’t. They didn’t see their mothers, aunts and neighbours nurse. They learned to believe that breasts are for sex and that milk comes from a bottle.

That’s why it’s all because of porn and baby formula. Breastfeeding in public is called offensive because of porn and baby formula. And I refuse to agree with that. I refuse to feel like I’m doing something wrong or socially incorrect by simply feeding my baby in the oldest, simplest and most natural way possible.

I feel that it’s a black path of history that we’re walking now. I know that one day it’ll be only history, but for now I feel that we need to normalize breastfeeding.
Nurse in public, especially around kids so they’ll grow up seeing women’s bodies as fantastic life-giving, food-producing organisms rather than sexual objects that exist to please others.

Egg donation dilemmas

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Imagine this: a lovely, warm and gentle woman has been trying to conceive for 10 years. She and her husband have tried everything. She can’t get pregnant, but she can’t imagine a life without having a baby, without experiencing pregnancy and birth.

And there is another woman, smart and sensitive. She’s already a mom to two busy toddlers and a pre-schooler. She had no problems getting pregnant. She loved being pregnant, and her babies’ births were beautiful and empowering experiences. She feels deeply touched by this couple who wishes for a baby. She decides to help them, and she offers her egg. She’ll become their egg donor. This woman is my friend.

I’m incredibly moved by my friend’s decision. It’s not an easy process, egg donation; it takes weeks of preparation, it’s painful and rather unpleasant. But she has decided to do it. The recipient is not even her close friend; she’s a woman that my friend sees a few times a year at backyard barbecues. She’s someone experiencing infertility who could use my friend’s help.

I think my friend is an angel. She’ll be giving the recipient couple a possibility to have a newborn in their arms: to have a baby to care for, to kiss and cuddle. A toddler to run after. A kid to craft with. A family. I’m so uplifted by her act and so impressed by her unselfishness.

But I would never do the same. I couldn’t ever give my egg. For me, it would be like giving one of my kids. When I look at my older daughter Lili, it’s so obvious she’s mine. The fact that she speaks Polish like me and loves planes like her dad: that came from us raising her. But her temperament, her willingness to do new things, to meet new friends: that’s me. She would be like this even if raised by somebody else. And she looks a lot like me. My second daughter is still a baby, but I can already tell that she will have a calmer temperament like her dad’s. But she too has my smile. There is this genetic component that influences not only how we look, but also what our temperament is like. In consequence, it influences if we are spontaneous or not, if we are willing to try new things and open up to new people. That’s why, for me, it would be like giving up my kid.

Looking at another woman getting pregnant with my egg, I would feel that she’s pregnant with my baby. I would always feel like I’m also the mom.

However, I can totally relate to this woman who wants so badly to be a mother. I wanted that as well, but I had no problem at all getting pregnant. The minute I thought about getting pregnant, I was. And I really think that my friend is amazing, by giving her egg, her potential child.

Would you do it? Would you donate an egg to your friend? Or maybe it would be easier donating an egg to a family member? I know that even if I had a sister, I still couldn’t donate my egg. I’m really happy for my friend, though: I think that after this she’ll be going straight to heaven!

What all couples should do before having a baby

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I strongly believe, that before your life as a couple changes drastically, like I’ve already explained here, there are some things that you should do. As a couple. Things that will let you embrace the changes, and that will help you prepare. Because honestly, otherwise you could end up imagining your life without kids, and the unspoiled freedom aka happiness that you could live in stead of, let’s say, changing diapers at 5 am. And living an imaginary life is never really healthy.

So here are the things that I think every couple should do before having a baby, to prepare yourself for changes, and to live them happily when they happen :

1. Travel together.
First, because it’s much more difficult to travel with kids. Second because while traveling, it’s really only the two of you in a totally new environment. Meaning that together you’ll experience totally new things. And that’s something that usually gets people closer to each other. So either it’ll get you even closer together, either you’ll decide you’re not right for each other. ( Which is a good thing to find out before you have kids. )

2. Move in together.
As with travelling, it either makes you stronger as a couple, either it’ll expose that you’re not made for each other. Cleaning the house, doing groceries, and paying bills is not as romantic as, let’s say a trip to Venice, but it definitely helps you find out if you should live together. It gives you time to adjust to each other expectations. And it’s easier to negotiate who’s doing the dishes before there is a baby to take care of!

3.Have an important event/celebration.
For most of people it’s a wedding. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s really about a moment when you gather your family and friends, and you announce your love to each other. Surly, a wedding gown, flowers and gifts makes it even more special :). Later on, when you’ll wake up in the middle of the night for that crying baby of yours, you’ll have this beautiful memory that’ll help you go thru the night.

4. Talk money.
Think about all the possibilities. What if one of you will want to go back to school? Stay at home with kids? Are you going to put aside money for kids studies? What about insurance? These are some important things to figure out before you have a kid.

5. Have a pet.
A dog or a cat. Fish doesn’t really count because there is not that much work involved to it :). Yes, I don’t think that you should take a pet just for fun of it! I think you should get a pet to live a transformation period from a no-worries lifestyle to a I-have-someone-to-feed-and-clean-after kind of one! Having a pet together, let’s you learn how to care and raise a creature as a couple. It forces you to limit your freedom a bit ( no more last minute vacation) but with a bonus of some furry love. So it lets you live the first stage of parenting, before it actually happens.

6. Learn how to fight and make up.
Everyone fights. What’s important is how you do it, and how you make up : do you hold on to your anger? Can you let go? Do you forgive?
And if your way of fighting is raising your voices, smashing the doors and dramatically gesticulating, than maybe you should raffinate your communication skills before having kids ( it might be stressful for babies to watch you fighting ).

7. Talk about your childhood issues.
It’s great to know what you lived through, which of your parents methods you want to duplicate, and what you would newer do as they did. Make sure that as a couple, you are mostly on the same page here. If one of you can’t imagine a happy childhood with out travelling the world, and another thinks it’s a huge waste of money to travel with kids, cause they won’t remember half of what they’ve seen, then you better talk it through before.

8. Imagine future in 10-20-40 years.
When you think about your life in a long term, do you have similar visions, or completely different? Can you relate to one another’s visions of future? Are there kids and grandkids in your vision? Because if not, than maybe you’re not ready to have kids after all..

Of course these are my personal musts, but I’d love to know what are yours? And if you are a couple with kids, but you didn’t do any of the above, what is your secret to a happy family life?

5 reasons to have kids

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When I tell to some of my friends, that I’m not done having kids, they look at me in surprise.
Two isn’t enough ? And didn’t I just explain how having kids make you loose your independence and carelessness? I’ve written about it here, and in consequence some of my friends became really scared, and decided never to have children ;). However, I did gain a lot as well ! That’s why instead of crying in depression on my bed right now, I’m pretty chilled and satisfied, despite of all the changes that I wrote about. Yes, I get to play with play dough and watch Sesame Street again, but mainly I’m happy as a mom of two, and thinking about third, because of these reasons for having kids:

1. Attachment. While I’ve lost my independence I’ve gained this amazing and strong bond with my children. This mythic love that is stronger then anything you ever witnessed before. Yes, it’s breathtaking; to see your kids do stuff for the first time. To make them laugh. To see them asleep. To cuddle in bed. These are the moments of pure happiness that, as a parent, I get to live every day. And this is really awesome.

2. Community. So while the romantic stage of my relationship is over, I’ve gained a family, and the feeling of belonging to the bigger group of people. Because as much as while being a childless couple in love, it was only about the two of us, when we started raising kids, we realized that it takes a village :). That means that I was creating bonds with more people around me, and I started to value more my community, friends and family than before having kids.

3. Creating traditions. So yes, as you might have read in my text before, I plan more my every day life since I’m a mom, but I can’t expect all my plans to turn out as I wish. It would be annoying and frustrating, to plan and then get things turn out not as you wished for.
But there is a positive to it, which is planning holidays and activities as we want it, and creating our own traditions and habits, even through the unpredictable. Living the life you always wanted as a kid. But better :).

4. The positive body image. I’m amazed by my body capacities ! Before having kids I perceived my body more as a not-perfect thing, that I should shape to please others. Not any more. Since becoming a mom, I’m amazed by what my body can do: it gave me two beautiful and healthy kids, and it can feed them too! Thanks to becoming a mom, I started to truly accept my body and love it as it is, and for what it’s capable of doing. Hurray to that !

5. Caring and being cared for. By becoming responsible I’ve lost the carelessness with which I lived happily for so long, but I’ve gained the notion of care. I care because I love. I care for my family, for my kids, but I’m also being cared for. My little one always makes sure if I also had my snack with her, and if I had my dose of kisses too :). I think it’s a win-win.

And what do you think about these reasons for having kids? What are yours?

Are you ready for having kids?

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It’s funny how life changes, right? I mean, when I look at what my life is now, and what it was before I had kids, it’s like two different stories. Sure, I’ve moved far away from where I grew up, so obviously my life is different. But all of you who are having kids, you know, that it is “life-changing” in so many ways.

And it’s funny how my old friends, that I’ve met back in high school or at the university, are always surprised to see me now, as a SAHM, married with two kids. You see, back in the days I was a bit of a party animal… I used to love the nightlife, parties, travelling and meeting new people. Oh, the joys of youth! 😉

Funny how we change. And how our values do too. What we believe in, and the importance we give to our beliefs shapes pretty much our vision of happiness. If we live a life that reflects our values then we can pretty much call ourself happy and fulfilled.

So I was asking myself this question, what changed in my life, that I became ready for kids, and happy as a SAHM ? Which of my values and beliefs changed? What beliefs are opposites to a life with kids?

So here is what I’ve came up with. I believe that the way you feel about these 5 values, shows pretty much if you are ready for kids or not.
Feel free to disagree :).

1. Independence.
In our society it is seen as one of the most valuable assets. But if you think that your independence is the most important thing in your life, then maybe you should wait a bit before having kids. Because having kids means loosing your independence. All of the sudden there is this little creature totally dependent on you. If you nurse, you can’t leave it for more than 2 hours. No more spontaneous get togethers with friends. If you want to travel with an infant better start planning now. And pregnant and postpartum, you’ll need as much help and support as your grandma. Are you ready for that?

2. Romantic vision of relationship.
Pop culture is all about romantic love, the one where nobody and nothing exists except for the couple in love. The one that moves the mountains, the one that is stronger then death, the one forever and for always! This romantic image of the relationship in which you are the most important creature for your partner and vice versa. Well guess what, having kids means that it’s not only the two of you on this romantic island called love and passion. There is someone else, tiny and dependent, who steals all the attention, sometimes even all the cuddles. Are you ready for that change? If not, maybe having kids it not for you.

3. Planning.
This one is tricky. If you are a planning freak then maybe you shouldn’t have kids. You might get frustrated. Because, you may very well prepare your birth plan, baby activities that you’ll attend, and your family dream vacations, but it may all turn out totally different than you planned. Kids have there own temperament and character, and they don’t stick to your schedule.
But if you are a free spirit who never ever plans, then maybe think twice before having kids. It’s not advisable to run out of diapers/ milk in the middle of the night… Are you ready to start planning your groceries, laundry and nap time?

4. Body image.
We are bombarded with perfect bodies by the media. As a society we tend to believe that as a women we need to be sexy. I’m sorry to break your bubble here, but heavy pregnant, with swollen ankles, crazy back pain and gases is not sexy. Postpartum with leaking breasts, swollen lady parts and mummy tummy it’s neither. If you are very attached to your body image and you feel like you need to stay sexy, then maybe wait before having kids.

5. Responsibility.
Before kids you are responsible for yourself. Maybe a cat or a dog. You can leave your pet to the neighbour and go spent all your money for a last minute trekking trip in Peruvian Andes. If you decide to have kids you need to be responsible. Ready?

Having kids is a life-changing, value-changing, lifestyle-changing decision. And the one that I never regret. What do you think? I’d love to know your opinion! 🙂

How to prepare a toddler for a new baby

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I’ve heard some horror stories about toddlers and new siblings. I’ve heard a story about this girl that even though she was potty trained she started to poop her pants. Every day. For weeks. I heard a story about this toddler that asked her mom if the baby can be taken back to the hospital. And another one about a little girl asking if the baby could go back to mummy’s belly. So many people have been telling me about the jealousy and tantrums that are a part of becoming a sister/brother. So I was scared. I didn’t want to break my little girl’s heart, I wished for her to love her sister and to feel equally loved by me. And now that our baby Mila is four months old, I really don’t see any jealousy in the soul of my two and a half Lilianne. She really loves her sister, she tells her friends with proudness that it’s her baby. She tells anyone who is willing (or not) to listen what’s her sister’s name, and what she likes (milk). Honestly that poor baby is literally licked by her sister! I really need to stop her from cuddling the baby all the time. And Lilianne never told me she wanted the baby to go back to the hospital, in my belly or anywhere. I’m pretty sure she understands that the baby’s place is home with us. And of course, she does have tantrums, she’s a toddler right? But she’s not jealous and she loves her new sibling :). So here are the things I’ve been doing to prepare her for a new baby :

1. Explain the pregnancy.
No, no need to go into details of how it started ;). But explaining that babies come from love of adults, that they slowly grow in mommies belly, that they can hear you, and smile at you even when they are still inside of mommy is ok. Don’t forget to explain that once the baby leaves the belly, there is no way back!

2. Talk about the differences between a big girl/boy and a baby.
Babies can’t eat chocolate, ice cream, bananas or whatever your toddler loves. Babies can have only milk. Can babies watch cartoons? No, but a big girl/boy can. Can a baby play with toys, go to the park or have friends over? No. As you see it’s all about making them understand that it’s cool being a big girl/boy and really boring being a baby ;).

3. Talk about changes.
If you plan to sleep in the same room with your newborn, explain it to your child, and repeat it often. Explain that when the baby comes mommy will do certain things, but won’t be doing others. Sometimes while feeding the baby she won’t be able to play. Maybe it will be daddy who will be picking you up from daycare or making breakfast. Your toddler might be small, but if you repeat often what changes are going to happen it will be less surprised and shocked by the change.

4.Help them visualize what’s happening.
It’s great for a toddler to imagine a baby growing in mommy’s belly. There are many books that illustrate pregnancy to children. My daughter had one and she loved it.

5. Involve them in baby preparation.
Let them help you choose whatever you need to buy. They can choose the colours.
They can help you set the nursery, or just the crib by choosing a stuffy that will be waiting for the baby.

6 Let them feel important and excited.
By involving toddlers in the baby preparation, by explaining the difference between the big girl / boy and a baby, they will start to feel important and excited.

7 Make them feel involved.
Before the baby comes plan with your toddler what you’ll be doing together with the baby. Can they help with bath time ( pass the towel ) or diaper change ( pass the diaper) ? Can they sing to the baby and hand the pacifier ? We planned all that she would be doing with the baby, and she was really exited to take part in all of the above!

8. Don’t lie that the newborn sister/brother will play with them !
Not at the beginning, that’s for sure. It’s better to tell them there will be a lot of crying. And explain that by crying, babies communicate because they can’t talk .

9. Show them other pregnant woman and other tiny babies.
If there aren’t any around you, stalk people at the grocery or at the shopping mall ;).

10. Show your toddler pictures of you being pregnant with them. Tell them stories about them when they where babies. Tell them that they cried, they drank only milk, and they liked gentle signing.

I wander what are your tips for preparing toddlers for new siblings ?