Friday, January 13, 2012

Eating Real Food Can Be Fun!

Fuel up on real fruit snacks! Here are the apple & grape car snacks I made and posted on my Facebook page yesterday:

All you need is apples, firm grapes, and food picks*:
  1. Slice an apple into wedges and trim the core.
  2. For each apple wedge, slice 2 grapes in half, widthwise.
  3. Push the pick through the sliced side of one grape half, then through one end of the apple, then finish with the other grape half,  sliced side out. 
  4. Repeat with the other end of the apple wedge and 2 more grape slices, and they should look like little cars :)
*I used short plastic bento picks, but toothpicks would work as well - maybe break them in half. If your kidlets are a bit young to have toothpicks in their food, uncooked linguine or spaghetti noodles might be better, if the pasta was thick enough to not break in the process.

Some great variation suggestions were made on Facebook too:
  • pears with cucumber wheels
  • carrot slice wheels on a cucumber car 
  • banana wheels 
  • cheese wheels
There are plenty of nutritious possibilities for this simple fun snack! 

[update 4.24.13]  My car fruit snack is featured in the May 2013 issue of Family Fun magazine & website, as Treat of the Month!


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Now, on to my post about talking to my 10 year old son about real food:

Yesterday, Beanstalk, my 5th grader, came home from school with some carrots in his bento box - but I hadn't packed him carrots - (he says) he doesn't like them. When I asked him about them, he said his teacher gave them to him, because she didn't think his lunch was very nutritious.

Now, my first reaction was to feel miffed and defensive. But then, I thought about what was in his lunch that day and how it might have looked to her. I don't have a pic, but it was a Lock&Lock 4 square bento box, packed with Granny Smith apple slices, white cheddar popcorn, and an organic Clif Kid Z Bar - but the Clif bar was cut in half in one of the little squares - I bet it looked like a brownie to her! Now that I've thought about it more, I'm thankful that she cares about his nutrition  :)  Here's something close to yesterday's lunch - only he had popcorn in place of the bread and ham (which we were out of):


I was happy he asked for popcorn in his lunch instead of bread or crackers! I'm happy anytime he wants to try something not part of his usual repertoire :) The Clif bar does look like a brownie.

A little backstory: Beanstalk is very picky - always has been since he was a baby - and slow to gain, with little appetite. We actually got Pediasure by the case free when he was a toddler because his doctor prescribed it. He just doesn't have much interest in eating. So, I am glad when he lets me pack him a lunch and put anything into it other than a nutrition bar (like Power bar or Clif bar) and a Boost drink.

Anyways, his teacher criticizing his lunch gave me an opportunity to talk to him about nutrition. "See," I said, "even your teacher agrees with me. You should eat more real food, not just meal replacement bars." We talked about how some processed foods may fill you up, but that your body doesn't use all of it, so that "filler" is empty calories, and how filling up on empty calories may make you feel full, but you didn't eat anything your body needs, and now you don't have room. I told him it's okay to eat some empty calories - he does share my love for candy - but only after you've eaten enough of the good kind of calories that your body needs for fuel. (If there are any dietitians reading this, constructive criticism on what I told him would be welcomed!) Here's another typical Beanstalk lunch, in a Fit & Fresh Chill container:


Oh, I am turning this into a long story... get to the point right? I told him I would really love to see him try more real food. Yes, there was nutrition in his Boost and Clif bars - but they were processed, and what if they suddenly weren't available? And really, he might find out he likes things that he thinks he doesn't - he's been saying "I don't like ______" for so long now, it might not actually be true anymore - our tastes develop and change as we grow, and he might like something now that he didn't 5 years ago.

So, I asked him if he would be willing to try new foods if there was an incentive. He suggested video games. Figures. But, that's what he likes, so if the promise of video games gets him to try more real food, is that so bad? I hope not... I suggested this:  If he tries something from each colour's list on the Today I Ate A Rainbow chart every day for a full week, I'll buy him a previously-viewed video game (they cost less).  Deal! And he wanted to get started right away too - last night he ate a whole strawberry! (OK here's where those of you with good eaters are thinking - one strawberry? Big deal. But I don't think this kid has eaten a real strawberry in years, in fact, for longer than I can remember.) He started slowly, with little nibbles and a grimace on his face, but the last couple of bites he chewed and swallowed without his gag face. Woo, celebrate!  *sigh* Wish us luck with the other colours of the rainbow!




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36 comments:

  1. I think it's wonderful that he ate a strawberry!! :) Getting a 5th grade boy to do anything they don't want to is no easy feat lol.

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  2. So happy for your success! And the cars are really cute.

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  3. Love the super cute cars, thanks for sharing!:) I have to borrow your idea sometime soon. My son is very picky and difficult to get him to eat fruits and veggies at times:(

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  4. Love that he was willing to make a deal with you to try different foods. My 5-year-old is ridiculously picky. He is still getting one Pediasure a day. When he was 2, his doctor had him on two Pediasures a day. He is making some progress. Lately, he has been trying new foods so that he can reach 40 lbs. He has to hit 40 lbs before we will get rid of the 5 point harness carseat. Good luck with your rainbow eater.

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  5. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing. Though I'm not a nutritionist, I think that what you said sounds perfect... I look forward to hearing about the other new foods that he tries! Sometimes you just need to break out of the food battle/ resistance, and if he can focus on the video game, it takes the focus off of the food, allowing him to be more open (and the fact that he excited to try the new foods was very telling that for you and you're son, you're obviously on the right track!!)

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  6. Yr childrens nicknames are cute and I love the apple recipe!

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  7. I will definitely be making these! I made apple ships before.. kind of similar (http://www.cakestudent.com/i-saw-a-ship-a-sailing/). beanstalk might like those too?

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  8. Anonymous2/03/2012

    Seriously? Just give them fruits and veggies with every meal. If they don't eat them, don't give them anything else. I've raised three kids who LOVE fruit and vegetables. Making it into a car just makes them feel like they are controlling YOU. And pretty much just makes you look like a huge dork to other adults.

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    1. I think Candy Girl is an inspiration. I enjoy getting so many great ideas from her blog. My children would eat fruits and veggies that look like fruits and veggies but they are only my little kids for such a short time. I like turning their fruit into cars simply because it is fun and it is a blast watching them play with and get so excited about their food. I like being crafty. My kids just happen to eat my crafts. Keep up the good work Bent on Better Lunches! I can't wait wait to see what you come up with next :)

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    2. Are you implying she's a bad mother because her child is a picky eater? That's not fair. Look at what this mom does for her kids! She's clearly paying attention to them and making healthy foods a priority! Not all kids are the same, and not all kids are 'eaters.' And what works for one kid ('give them fruits and veggies with every meal') doesn't work for ALL kids. My kid usually eats her veggies. But my niece has to be cajoled and threatened. For 4 years they've put veggies on her plate every night, and she hasn't eaten them. In fact, she often throws a screaming fit if she can even SEE them on her plate! It doesn't mean they're bad parents. It means that in exchange for having a child who goes to sleep on her own and stay in her bed all night, they got a picky eater. I got the good eater and bad sleeper. No child is perfect, and I have yet to meet a parent who didn't do the best that she could for her child. I HAVE met snarky judgmental parents who have no right to judge someone else until they've been in their shoes, though!
      So congrats on having veggie eaters. It's more luck of the draw than skill though. You were lucky to get good eaters, and your skill was in giving them the tools they needed to make healthy choices. But this Mama CLEARLY tries to give her kids the tools they need. Not all kids choose to use them though. So save your criticism for Mamas who beat or starve their kids. Everyone else is doing the best they know how.

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    3. Anonymous2/09/2012

      to anonymous- relax! Just because you didn't have picky eaters or make food fun, do not "hate" on moms that do! You sound like you are in high school, who cares if another adult thinks i'm a dork for making apple cars??? Kids love that fun, creative stuff! It's nothing about control!

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    4. Anonymous,
      Just because she wants to make apple cars for her kids does not mean she's dork. Anonymous (the one directly above me) is right- you do sound like a high school-er. This mom CARES about her kids and wants them to eat healthy. Making fruits and veggies into cars doesn't have anything to do with control. if your kids are controlling you that means you give them fruits and veggies, the don't eat them, and you shrug it off. However, making them into fun shapes they'll actually eat is more like you controlling THEM. So maybe you should think about it and stop hating on people and apologize to candy girl. If anything, YOU sound like a dork.

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  9. I have worked as a teacher and in the lunch room and trust me, what your son brought for school is *nothing* like what I've seen some kids bring. There were elementary aged kids whose mothers didn't make them lunch. One little girl in 4th grade, dumped her lunch on the table in front of me, it was a bag of chips, a snickers bar, a twinkie and a can of coke. I asked her where her sandwich was, thinking she already ate it, her reply was that she makes her own lunches and that was all they had in their house to eat! I was shocked! So, please, continue with your positive attitude that the teacher does care about his nutrition and, while she probably is insulting some parents with her wording (she sure could have picked better wording or gave some to everyone), she probably is tired of seeing many of the kids bring lunches like I saw and is actually trying to help the kids who don't have parents that care.

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  10. I love the apple cars! So cute! My kids do pretty well eating fruits and veggies, but I enjoy coming up with new ways to serve them that make it fun. Thanks for the ideas!

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  11. Anonymous2/05/2012

    Love the cars! We have to bring snack to my son's preschool and I think the kids will LOVE these.

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  12. Dear "Anonymous" (the one a few comments up above),

    I'm pretty sure this blogger does not care if she looks like a dork to other adults. She cares about what her child eats, and I'm almost certain that your warning comment will not make her think twice about what other adults think of the way she presents food to him, in cute shapes or otherwise.
    Whenever I make cute shapes out of food for my kids they say, "Thank you, that's so cool mom!" I'm just not sensing any manipulative control behind their enthusiasm for the snack I've put in front of them. Making my kids eyes light up is much more important to me than if other adults think I'm a dork.

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    1. Completely agree Kelly!

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    2. My daughter LOVES her "beautiful lunches" (HER words for them!) And so far none of my mommy friends have said anything negative to my face about them. They have said how they don't have the time do do that, or that they wish they had my creativity, or that someday they'd like to try doing it. But NO one thinks I'm more of a dork than I was BEFORE making cute food! :)

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  13. Dorks unite! Seriously -- if making foods my son will actually eat makes me a dork, I will wear the label with pride. I could do what the first Anonymous suggests and refuse to give him other food if he doesn't eat whatever fruit & vegetable I set in front of him to try ... and then he would be seeing the doctor and I would be getting calls from child protective services because the stubborn little darling would opt to just not eat. He never asked me to start making him lunches that look like anything other than plain sandwiches. He never once said "I won't eat it unless it looks like a cartoon character." That's something I do as a gift to both of us -- he gets a kick out of it (and will often try something he might not have otherwise) and I get my creative juices flowing again.

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  14. Lauri Bell FItzsimmons2/05/2012

    Dear Anonymous (the "dork" comment), Who goes on a creative bento blogger's creative website and then insults them on their creativity? You had to actively seek out this site with the intent of insulting the creator. It's not like this blogger sought you out and asked for your opinion. So my question to you is this: why feelin' so aggressive, puppy?

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  15. I like your apple-cars so much! here you can see mine and I've also made a train.:)
    thank you for inspiration!

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  16. Loved this idea. Who says food can't be fun? Five star chefs work hard make food an appealing experience. Why can't we? :D

    Thanks for the blog post, found it on Pintrest and shared it with folks on The Daniel Plan!

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  17. Oh..I just LOVE how people who leave negative comments are always anonymous. ha..cowards.

    Anyways, awesome car! My 5 yr old just walked over and said it was cool and asked if I could make him that. :)

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  18. My 7 and 9 year old boys would even think this was cool. I don't think making appealing snacks is giving control to the child at all! :)

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  19. Anonymous4/19/2012

    Awesome, I'm going to use this idea for my 7 year olds birthday party and might give the strawberry mice a go too

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  20. Oh! What a great idea! I love it!

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  21. I love your apple and grape cars! I am a bit worried about giving children food with tooth picks hidden in it. How about sticking the wheels on with peanut butter or cream cheese?

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    1. You could try it... mine wouldn't eat them if I did that though - picky picky!
      My toothpicks are plastic and have one rounded end (no points) and little hearts & flowers on the other end so they aren't hidden. They wouldn't be safe to give toddlers but my youngest is 3 :)

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  22. Anonymous7/07/2012

    I think it is wonderful that parents and teachers both are interested in children receiving good nutrition. I have always tried to make food appealing and fun especially for children. Why would anyone criticize someone for great creativity. I'm a grandma now but still enjoy making wholesome food attractive. I am going to suggest these to our vbs snack committee. I know they will love them. Thanks for sharing.

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  23. "I want those some time, mama" --the bean (3 years old)

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  24. I like the second lunchbox setup (the one with rolled ham, I think). It looks like a sure shot at avoiding the hassle of worrying about the cost of nasonex these days.

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  25. Anonymous1/22/2013

    How do you keep the apple slices from "browning" before lunch? My picky eater will not eat anything that looks out of the norm. :(

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  26. These are ADORABLE!!!

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  27. Anonymous5/26/2013

    ADORABLE!! I just Love these cutie little cars! Aww, Beanstalk, you really should eat a little more nutritional stuff! I made an apple car for my 11 year old, and I think she threw it away secretly when I wasnt looking. :/ Oh well, I think your blog is awesome!

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  28. All i can think is thank goodness he was old enough to know that he's not allergic to carrots. What if?

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  29. I saw your apple cars on Pinterest! My boys have requested them for school snacks:-)

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