Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Totally guilt-free children's popsicles!

It cracks me up when I have to tell people my son is just too "busy" to eat.  My experience with my son's eating habits is nothing new.  When he was a baby I breastfed as much and as long as I could, I made nearly all of his baby food, even on Valentine's and Halloween I take all of his candy (hey! It's the perk of being a parent, right??  I don't eat them in front of him.  That's cruel and confusing!  "Why does mommy get to eat that stuff but I can't??")  But no matter how hard parents work to keep their child's diet healthy, when they hit those glorious toddler years you begin to learn that eating is more of a process of trial-and-error all over again, but not like when they were babies.  In this age along with refusals to eat certain foods --like when they were babies-- toddlers have developed a sense of self and a definite sense of rebellion, so they feel they decide just how feeding time is going to go.

The Busy Little Bee
When he's not playing, he's "helping"
in the kitchen.  He's too sweet!
My son thinks he's everything from a train conductor, a car detailer, an artist, a computer analyst, and a modern-day Ashton Kutcher in Punk'd.  In a nutshell, he's what all mothers and grandmothers call "busy."  It's such an absurd term because what could a child possibly be "busy" doing??  Well to them everything they do is 100% the single-most important thing they'll ever do in their lives, and 5 minutes later the next thing is the single-most important thing they'll do in their lives... Strangely enough, these actions are some of the most important things they'll ever do because it's totally invaluable learning time, but when food is presented in such a loving, home-cooked way, why on Earth would they not want to sit down and eat it??  How food not on the forefront of their minds like many other children?  It's a toss-up every meal time whether I can manage him to sit at his little table for longer than 5 minutes before he's distracted by his next "project," so to cope with this I try to make some of his favorite foods but I load them down with healthy items without his knowledge --or sometimes

One of his favorite foods...
Would definitely be popsicles.  What kid doesn't like popsicles??  No matter how tempting it is to buy the "100% fruit" popsicles, they're still loaded with sugar, stabilizers to keep them smooth, and there's no telling how long they've been on the shelf.  I'm not saying they're the DEVIL, I'm just saying their packaging is so alluring you'd think you're doing something good for your child when in reality it's almost like giving your child a snack.  In fact, many pediatricians say things like fruit cups, even in their own juices, are considered a "snack" because they lose so much nutritional value being cooked, pasteurized, and processed, and also packed in a fruit juice that is solely there for sweetening, not for nutritional value.

So what do I do to make popsicles on the cheap and easy?  First you go to your local Walmart store and on nearly every aisle you'll find these Crayola crayon-shaped popsicle molds. They're always hanging around, begging for an impulse-buy, and I finally give in.  They're inexpensive, they are really nice, hard plastic, no BPA, and there's seriously nothing cuter than the giant crayon shape.  Of course you don't have to use these particular molds, but that's what we have in our house!  So there's the first super-cheap step.

Secondly, I have a blender.  A food processor (even a mini prep processor) works just as well.  Blenders for this kind of work are super cheap so you don't have to break out your $1,200 Blendtec.  You can easily get away with a $20 Rival brand for these popsicle recipes.  It's crucial though unless you like to endure the pain of a mortar and pestle every night --and I do make these every night.  Here are the recipes I make the night before and you'll see some repeating ingredients, but that's because they've always been shown to work wonderfully.  BIG PLUS: A lot of the ingredients I choose are because my son is underweight, so I've got some fatty, yet healthy, ingredients in what would otherwise be a zero-fat snack!

Recipe 1: The Orange Creamsicle, revamped!

1 container Activia regular vanilla yogurt (not "lite") or Greek-style
2 T heavy whipping cream*
Approximately 4 oz. fresh-squeezed or Simply Orange juice (can be fortified)

Thicker & More Protein!
Mix together yogurt and cream, take a regular cereal spoon and put in a layer of the yogurt, then a layer of juice, and alternate until the mold is full to manufacturer's specifications.  You should have nearly nothing left over since each popsicle holds about 2 oz. of liquid.  Freeze, enjoy :D  They really taste like creamsicles!  Unlike creamsicles, however, they pack a good source of protein (especially the Greek-style yogurt) antioxidant vitamin C, calcium, vitamin D, and even more calcium if you buy the calcium-fortified orange juice.  This isn't just for kids, folks.  I genuinely enjoy these popsicles myself!  Oh, and since it's Activia, you can rest assured your kid is going to have a nice trip to the potty ^_^

Recipe 2: "Fudge"-sicle

Approximately 1/3 cup of whole milk
2T heavy cream**
Quarter of an avocado (check out my article about avocados! Holy Guacamole! Article)
1/2 cup Carnation Instant Breakfast Chocolate (of course has a lot of sugar, but in moderation, and it's loaded with essential vitamins and minerals that definitely can't be found in a traditional fudgesicle!)

Blend all together in blender (easy enough!) Fill molds according to manufacturer's instructions, freeze, and
enjoy!  I even find this popsicle to be mighty tasty... I've even added peanut butter to this recipe once for a nice kick of iron, fat, and protein.  These are a great source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and Instant Breakfast is crammed with vitamins and minerals already so it's fortified with more good stuff.  That doesn't mean you can skip out on the fresh ingredients!

Recipe 3: The "Poop-sicle"

Wow... Really should have thought through that title...

1/2 container Activia vanilla yogurt or Greek-style yogurt (NO LITE!)
1/3 cup "Plum Smart" juice
Tastes more like cran-grape!
This is quite possibly the easiest one yet!  It's surprisingly tasty and you just blend these two ingredients together and fill the molds according to instructions, then freeze.  You can even skip the Activia, but since I'm is prune juice, has been formulated so that it's much tastier and it doesn't have that super-heavy prune juice taste.  I for one love prunes, but prune juice?  It's not too wonderful.  Boo me!
not using whole fruits in this recipe I like to supplement it a little bit with some protein and calcium so I don't feel quite as bad about just freezing juice.  Either way you do it, it's a winner in this household because "plum smart," though it

Recipe 4: Banana-Berry Spinach??

Whole container of Activia regular Vanilla or Greek Style (Again, no "lite."  No artificial sweeteners.)
Half sliced banana
Palmful of blueberries (fresh is best, frozen is still great!)
A few baby spinach leaves (make sure you blend until they are merely teeny flecks!)
2T heavy cream*

Blend together until the spinach leaves are nearly undetectable.  If your mixture is too thick, feel free to add in watermelon or a tiny smidgen of fruit juice --whatever you have on hand.  Mix to your desired consistency, fill the molds.  You know the drill!

Notes: You can add just about any ingredient you can think of with these recipes, these are merely "starter recipes" and ones I use most often.  Encourage yourself to go nuts with them!  Some recipes I add silken tofu, some recipes I add sweet potato puree, sometimes I even throw in very-finely shredded carrots.  The key here is to pack in as much healthy stuff as possible!  A lot of these recipes are considered a half serving of fruit, dairy, vegetables, lean protein, and good fats.  Another important thing to know is that "fresh is best" and though these are horrendously-convenient and you can feed them to your child every day without feeling guilty, you should never entirely substitute fresh fruits and vegetables with popsicles.  Not only is that giving their bodies less of a chance to process their own foods, it's letting a toddler "win" by being rewarded with popsicles instead of a piece of fruit.  So if you have a busy little man like I do, it feels good to give him a snack he can carry around while he's pretending to be "Sir Toppam Hat" or calling relatives on our phone :)

Also, these recipes can be put in an ice cream maker and turned into a nice, soft ice cream.  Your child will never be the wiser :)  It also helps letting your child get involved when you make the popsicles the night before.  It can become a new bonding routine!  Every night, pull a chair up next to your "workstation" and let your child pick out what goes into their popsicle the next day.  Chances are they'll come up with some pretty creative combinations and eat them regardless of taste and feel proud about what they've created, rather than balk at the idea of having to eat... Again. This really goes for all food preparation, really.  Within safety reasons, let your child get involved!  Let him/her make a mess, it'll all come out in the wash, and soon you'll have your own little chef you never knew existed :)  Who knows?  Maybe one day he'll cook your dinner! haha.  That's not happening any time soon with me, but Elias does clean his dishes and with great relish!

Happy eating, y'all! xoxo
-Elias's mommy
Contact me!

*Can be omitted; I use it to add extra fat because my son is very petite, just like I was, and in combination with his extremely-active lifestyle he burns a ton of calories.  I don't feed him junk, so it's hard for him to pack on the pounds.  Plus, it does add a bit of creamy-dreaminess to it.  If your child is lactose-intolerant, you can skip this step.  Yogurt usually doesn't upset tummies of lactose-intolerant children, but always talk to your doctor if you are unsure about a particular ingredient.

**Again, can be omitted.  In this recipe it does "double-duty" because not only does it add a good amount of fat, it ads a bit of a creaminess that is reminiscent of fudgesicles.  If your child has a lactose sensitivity, feel free to replace this and the whole milk with yogurt.  If the recipe is too thick, add a teensy bit of fruit juice, or just don't use Greek-style yogurt which is much thicker than regular yogurt.

HEED! This blog entry should not substitute true medical advice from your pediatrician.  It is merely a mom who has done her research and is sharing recipes and ideas that have worked for our family.  If you have any concerns about your child's weight, food sensitivities, refusal to eat, or anything you find to be alarming, always check with your pediatrician.  These recipes are designed to be customized in any way, shape, or form you desire, so the best advice is... Have fun!

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