If you know us, you know we like food. Like, really really like food. We've been known to drive to other states to try pie or plan vacations around restaurants. I hesitate to call us "Foodies"-it sounds so "hipster"-so let's just say "Food Aficianados".
This is all the more reason why food has been so important for me in Xavier's life. Food connects us to who we are and where we are from. Food can bring back a memory and take you back to a certain place and time. Food cheers us up when we are down and makes good times that much better. I mean come on, BIRTHDAY CAKE! But food is also the basis of a healthy life. It makes us grow big & strong. It makes our brains all lubed up to function well. It keeps are heart in tip top shape. These are all things that a little boy like Xavier needs.
Food + Xavier has always equalled "Mommy Anxiety" for me. Maybe it's because it took him so long to take a bottle. Or maybe it's because it's so important for him to gain weight and get stronger. But it's also been because I've always felt like we were bombarded with words like "aspiration", "G-tube", "swallow study", "lip closure", etc. etc. These words aren't necessarily bad words. They just aren't words anyone really feels like hearing. Sometimes, I wonder if he's eating enough or drinking enough. I tend to forget that, like any kid, there are days where he tells me to beat it and he doesn't want what I'm trying to shove in his mouth. It's compounded by the fact that, unlike other kids, he can't say "Hey Mom, go get me a glass of milk. Chop chop."
I've learned that I'm not the only parent of a child with special needs to think these things. In fact, nutrition is something that is talked about a lot on special needs message boards. I think even though our children tend to struggle sometimes in these areas (and even if they are completely G-tube fed) it makes us as parents all that more diligent about what we feed our children.
Because of this Xavier eats better than probably most people I know. Myself & Anthony included. When we go to Whole Foods most of the time it's for him. He gets lots of organic fruits & veggies, a variety of beans & grains, yogurts and juices.
I always knew I wanted to make my child's baby food. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of jars of Gerber and Beechnut in our pantry. But cooking up carrots for your child that you bought from the Farmer's Market really has such a great sense of satisfaction. Tonight, for instance, I made Xavier's meat for the week (which happened to be a lovely locally raised ground lamb browned in coconut oil and butter with garlic and sage. Ooo la la). I've learned that making a batch of ground meat and then freezing it into ice cube trays is a great way to sneak meat into his meals. He tends NOT be a fan of meat. Unless you count bacon and it's off shoot bacon grease. That's right, I said bacon grease.
One of the other things of having a child who needs a high caloric intake is that you look for ways to add MORE fat into meals. Would you like a splash of heavy cream with that? How about a cup? More butter sir? And let me tell you, my kid might be on his own growth curve but he's got a double chin thanks to all that cream, butter, and oil. As a matter of fact out at lunch the other day I ordered him a vanilla milkshake and mashed potatoes & gravy. Which unfortunately I made the mistake of giving him the milkshake first and then the potatoes and you would've thought the potatoes were hot lava with the face he made.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter what way our child eats being able to provide them with healthy meals (and fun sweets) is part of being a mom. I might not be able to control the fact that Xavier has seizures or some crazy gene but I can give his body the best food possible so that he can continue to grow and make strides in his development. Seeing him try a new food is just as fun and rewarding as having him learn something new because for him it IS learning something new. He learns how it tastes and what it feels like. He learns what he has to do to chew and swallow it properly.
So in case anyone is curious of some of the things we do feed X, here are some:
*I use Gerber, Beechnut, and Earth's best baby foods. They both are great and each have their advantages. I have found that Beechnut tends to have the most calories.
*I enjoy buying Ella's Organic, Plum Organics, Happy Baby, Earth's Best, & Sprout baby food. All of these foods are packaged in squeezable pouches. These are GREAT for the diaper bag. I tend to buy them when on sale at Target or Babies R Us because they are little more expensive than others.
*Not too long ago I discover NuturMe baby food. These are packages of dehydrated & powdered fruits & veggies that you can add the liquid of your choice to. This is great because I can add heavy cream to them but I also use them as thickeners in foods that might otherwise be too thin. It's much healthier than always using a rice cereal or such.
*I use Gerber, Plum Organics, and Earth's Best rice & oatmeal cereals. So far I like the Earth's Best the most. The consistency is very fine and mixes well into foods.
*To thicken foods I also use powdered mashed potatoes, finely ground flax seed, and ground quinoa.
*We make lots of smoothies. Whole Foods & Walmart are the only places I can find full fat yogurt. One of X's faves is yogurt with peanut butter (we use Peter Pan whipped peanut butter because it's smoother and lighter in texture) and bananas. We also buy or freeze fruit. This is great for smoothies.
*We puree lots of fruits and veggies. A big hit is beets. Take whole beets with skin on, wrap in aluminum foil and place in oven on rake at 400 for 30 minutes + until beet is knife tender. While still hot place beet in plastic bag and run cold water into it. Rub the plastic bag around the beet and this will help take off the skin and save your hands from turning a lovely shade of fuschia. Chop and puree with chicken stock.
*I swear by the Magic Bullet. Worst name ever for a blender but it has been a God-send.
*We use lots calorie "boosters"-avocado oil, sunflower oil, cocount oil (coconut oil breaks the bank though it is $$!), heavy cream. Puree foods with chicken stock or beef stock. It adds flavor and calories!
*Don't be afraid to puree foods for your child that are spicy or you think they might not like. Last week Xavier had his first taste of Indian food and LOVED it. Unless your child has a very sensitive stomach or reflux, what's the worst that could happen...they'll spit it or eat it. And they might have a nice surprise in their diaper. lol
*Don't be afraid to puree what you are having for dinner for your child. Xavier has had chicken pot pie, tacos, and more. I honestly think this has helped him eat so well because it has helped his palate be more receptive to different textures and flavors.
By no means am I a dietician or nutrionist. These are just things we do for Xavier and I wanted to share. Whether you have a child with special needs or not healthy meals are essential. (Geez I sound like an ad for the Food Pyramid. Which I've heard is not a Pyramid anymore. Sigh, I'm getting old).
And because I can't just type a bunch of words without a picture...
We like to call this "Beet Delirium"