Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great new website - Hey Bambini

One of the main reasons I was keen to start a blog is that I feel there is not enough info available on where you can take your kids out to eat. Problem solved!

A playgroup contact recently sent me the link to Hey Bambini -

Hey Bambini reviews cafes and restaurants across Melbourne, ratine them from one baby face to five baby faces based on atmosphere, changing facilities and things for kids to do. How convenient! I think it would be handy to add 'quality of babycinos' as that is Leo's main concern when selecting a cafe.

Speaking of which, El Mirage (349 Lygon St, East Brunswick) serves theirs with hundreds and thousands - fabulous!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crouching child, hidden dairy?

If I had to list my three most basic nutrition questions for toddlers it would be:

1. How many vegies do they need (see previous post)?

2. What nutrients are most important for toddler development (still researching)?

3. How much milk/dairy do toddlers really need?

I guess there is the whole breastmilk vs formula debate always going on but in the interests of tackling this the easy way, let's assume the toddler is on standard cows milk somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

I think after some serious hunting the answer always seems to be around 600mls (English sites seem to delight in noting that this is approximately one pint).

This used to be super easy when Leo was having bottles as he loved to chug down a couple of hundred mls whenever he got the chance but now that I phased them out it seems to be a bit tougher. He'll maybe drink 100ml from a cup but the whole experience doesn't seem to grab him - even when I purchased a plastic Buzz Lightyear/Woody cup.

My main tactics are Leo tea (warm milo), milk on cereal or porridge, and heavy doses of bechamal sauce a couple of times a week. The odd babycino seems to work as well.

Anyone else got ideas??

Hidden vegies, how many does your crouching child need?

With most of the nutrition advice that I've found being pretty general, I often get to wondering how many vegies little kids actually need in a day. The advice for adults is pretty clear - five a day full stop. No blurry lines. Eat five vegies or something very bad will happen to you. For school age kids there are some specific guidelines too but for toddlers...nothing.

I've got a few child nutrition books and I've looked at a lot of online resources and I think the general answer is "some". I found one source that said you should go with one cup of vegies a day. Another says serve at least one vegie at each meal (I don't know where I'm going to put them between porridge and some slices of pear - maybe some steamed sprouts for entree??). Most articles/books/blogs seem to say as long as toddlers get some vegies in their diet at some time each day, you're doing ok. The key thing is that little ones get a range of vitamins and minerals and plenty of fibre rich foods.

I should note that I swore that I would never be one of those people who hides vegies for their kids (also noting that I had never in my life tried preparing a meal for a toddler before). I thought that I would go with the Maternal and Child Health Nurse's advice that Leo should eat whatever we ate. As it turns out he does not like Thai red curries (too spicy), lamb and chickpea salad (too chunky) or pumpkin tagine with cous cous (who knows what the problem is here??).
So I have joined the league of vegie hiders and have learnt a few tricks from a cohort of other toddler feeding parents. One told me that white sauce is the key - this led me to developing macaroni cheese with peas, broccoli and spinach. Consequently I have decided that pasta is the key, you can sneak anything into a sauce a la Bolognese with carrot, zucchini and spinach.

Leo also had a period that he preferred his food in pancake form which is when I developed my corn cake recipe (see below). If you are a grown up, I would strongly recommend serving these with bacon, relish and sour cream to cancel out the health benefits ;)

Eleanor's super quick corn cakes

1 small tin of creamed corn
1 cup of wholemeal self raising flour
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
chopped spring onion and coriander optional

Mix all ingredients in a bowl to a pancake batter consistency (you may need to adjust the amount of milk to get it thin enough.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.

Melt some butter in the pan - it should bubble lightly.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and wait for small bubbles to appear on the surface (approx 1-2 minutes).

Flip corncakes and cook briefly on the other side.

Toddlers will happily eat these as they are and you can also pack up leftovers for a snack later. They are good for a day or so in the fridge.

Enjoy! If your toddler is also going through a pancake phase, I would recommend risotto balls as another excellent option.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kids in the pub - playing fair

In December, I came across an article in the Age that basically argued that people who take their kids to the pub are ruining it for everybody -

This was pretty confronting for me, as Gaz and I like to take Leo to local bars and beer gardens to meet up with friends and generally think it works pretty well. Let me say up front that I still think you can definitely take young people out without upsetting anyone. However, I did take Jill Stark's point on a couple of things and I guess it led me to the conclusion that there are three key tips when taking little ones out and about in adult places so that you are being fair to everyone involved:

1. Go at a kid friendly time - I reckon Sunday afternoons and early weekday evenings are totally in but probably leave Friday and Saturday nights for the growns ups. It seems to me that you probably don't want to take small kids out around bedtime anyway as you are asking for trouble (for yourself and everyone around you). It's always best to have an exit strategy if things turn pear-shaped as well - Gaz and I tend to whisper "abort mission" across the table if it looks like Leo is about to blow.

2. Go to kid friendly places - beers gardens and massive noisy rooms are ideal as you really can't expect a kid to sit nicely on a bar stool. It's a good sign if you can see a couple of other people bringing their kids too. Anywhere where people seem to be enjoying a nice glass of red to a soothing background of Nina Simone is probably not the best place to try. I think it's fairest for everyone if you choose places where there is reasonable scope for running around and making a bit of noise (for adults and children).

3. Bring stuff - toddlers generally can't sit still for too long without attention and entertainment so you pretty much have to bring some books and toys for it to work. I can make some exceptions to this rule, as I know a couple of little girls who will happily sit in their pram and sip on a drink for an hour or so - what angels! Leo, however, will never do this and it always seems to go best when we bring a ball or some Thomas the Tank Engine books to keep him going.

Reading back, this all seems pretty preachy but while I took offence to being told that kids shouldn't be where grown-ups like to go out, with some thought I agree that sometimes I would also like to have a fancy cocktail in a quiet bar with no reminders of Yo Gabba Gabba.

I really believe that there are plenty of opportunties for parents to still be part of normal society and for us to be able to catch up with friends without spoiling anyone's day.
If anyone is looking for kid/toddler friendly bars in Brunswick - you are in luck! Here are my top 5 places to take your little one on a Sunday afternoon:
1. The Retreat Hotel, 280 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
2. The Brunswick Green, 313 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
3. The Sporting Club Hotel, 27 Weston St, Brunswick -
4. Penny Black, 420 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
5. The Comfortable Chair, 98 Lygon St, Brunswick East -
I hope to see you there soon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Welcome to crouching child!

Thanks for coming to check out Crouching Child Hidden Vegies. In summary it is a going to be a blog about all my research into children's nutrition that would otherwise go only into my head.

I am Eleanor, mother of one toddler, Leo, and I have been struck by the lack of really useful information about what a person needs in terms of nutrients to really grow and develop into a healthy, clever, active grown up. I am also a passionate cook and have some ideas to share about some of the things that have worked for me in making sure Leo gets a reasonable spread of different types of food. If he had his way, I reckon he would live on sultanas, cruskits and milk!

Gaz, Leo and I also love to go out and I'm keen to share my experiences of what does and doesn't work when heading out with babies and toddlers.

Despite my general view that there isn't enough advice about healthy eating for toddlers, I would like to recommend the following trusted sources if you are after something more definitive than my thoughts:

Look out for future posts on the best restaurants and cafes in Melbourne for babies and toddlers, my research into how much milk and how many vegies toddlers need every day, and my links to the best recipe sites when cooking for little ones.