Monday, January 11, 2016

When Calories are Hard to Come By

One of my sons has a very hard time getting enough calories throughout the day. There are many reasons for this issue. He doesn't feel hunger most times. He only eats because I put food in front of him and say it's mealtime or snack time. He also has a lot of sensory issues tied to foods in the way they smell, taste, or feel. This makes feeding him hard. I feel like my life is focused on food all day long. It got so bad that, no matter what therapies he had (and he had a lot for these issues), no matter which tricks we used (we tried them all), he couldn't get enough in each day to meet his calorie goal set by his dietitian. He ended up with a g-tube placed to help him get his calories in each day. This lead to a GJ-Tube because he was refluxing his formula. 
What we really wanted for our son was to eat like a typical kid. We wanted to have the complaints most parents did that they ate too much pizza or burgers and not enough vegetables. We had a son that loved veggies as a toddler and hated meat. That was our first steps into sensory issues. Through the years we have had to learn how to make calories count. We can't simply give him a meal. We have to count every calorie in every item on the plate and add very specific foods to make sure each item is as calorie rich as possible. 

But, it doesn't have to be hard. It really doesn't. Sometimes it's just thinking ahead. 

Here are a few examples:

Everyone says to cook foods with less oil. I disagree and so do our nutritionists and dietitians. In fact, they encourage it's use for calorie enhancement. But don't choose junk. Make sure you are getting healthy oils. 
  • Olive oil - 119 calories/Tbsp
  • Avocado oil - 124 calories/Tbsp
Avocado oil is on of my favorites. It has a wonderful light flavor and you don't taste like you are eating guacamole with everything. I use it in my sons eggs, for anything I cook that could be cooked in oil. If I bake, I try to use a high calorie oil (some have nearly 150 calories/Tbsp). Needless to say, I have quite a few oil choices in my pantry. 

More Oils
Coconut oil is very often overlooked. It's awesome. It's solid in the cold and liquid in warmer areas. You can use it as a spread (mix a bit with some honey and put it on toast, yum), in fat bombs (don't know fat bombs, you need to), and more. I mix it in candies I make to add fat to the chocolate, peanut butter, etc. I put it in anything I can because it hides so well. Oh, and don't leave our real coconut milk (not the kind that comes ready to drink, I am talking about the thick, white, creamy coconut milk you find in cans. You can use it in cakes (talk about rich) and other baked goods. You can also make coconut milk whipped cream which is delicious and easy to make. Two hints: Chill in fridge overnight instead of one hour and add 1 tsp of vanilla for a va-va-voom flavor. 

Nuts have gotten a bad wrap over the past few years. But, most of us are not allergic to nuts and their use really helps kids get the fats they need in their diets, and also the calories. A good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be delicious, healthy, and a great calorie meal. Using average numbers for each item, here's the breakdown of calories
  • Organic Whole Grain Bread - 70 calories/slice (assuming 2 slices for a sandwich)
  • Organic creamy peanut butter - 190 calories/2 Tbsp
  • Fruit Spread - 30 calories/1 Tbsp (we use a chia spread with no pectin)
That's a total of 290 calories in a kid friendly meal. Add in a good dark veggie, a few chunks of cheese if you aren't dairy free (hello 114 calories/oz), and quality water to drink, and you have a nice calorie meal that most kids will eat. (not speaking of those of us with kids with real food issues) My son will now eat this meal. We have worked very hard to get this type of meal into him and it's a fairly typical meal in our family. For fun you can add in some sweet potato chips (114 calories/cup of sweet potato). They are very easy to make and quite tasty. 
Kids like dairy. If you use dairy in your home, use this with many meals. It doesn't have to be fancy. Add a few cubes of raw milk cheese to the side of a plate for 100 calories. That's part of this whole thing, you don't have to be fancy. Kids usually aren't impressed with a lot of effort. They like simple meals they can identify, so work with them and save yourself grief. 

A note about dairy alternatives. We use dairy alternatives for our younger son. He can't have dairy of any kind. So, he gets almond milk, coconut milks, etc. However, these usually give between 45-80 calories/cup. So, if you are using them just for calories, they aren't a winner. 

There are so many more options out there. Make each calorie count when you have a kid who struggles in this area. Fat bombs are great because a kid just sees candy. You see healthy fats for their brain and good calories for their body. The old adage of K.I.S.S. - Keep It Simple Sweatheart (we don't use that other word in our home) is so true. Kids don't expect fine dining. They are cool with a sandwich. If that bores them, add faces with veggies and fruit. When you have a child that has food issues, you don't worry so much about the small things. You worry about nutrition and health. But, this will even work for picky eaters. Have fun, keep it simple, and help your child work through this. If you need therapies for them, get it. Feeding therapy can work wonders for many kids. For those who have picky eaters, remember that there are a few things you can't control in your kid's life. Food is one of them. They don't have to eat if they don't want to do it. So, try not to get into the food battle with them. Don't cater but don't fight. 


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