Travel With Kids! Yeah! As Much As Possible, Please!


I opened my Twitter feed this morning (I’m @urbandaddyblog if you’re not following me yet – and if you’re not… SHAME!) and the first tweet that greeted me was this one;

“Up next with on Travel Edition. Are healthy eating and traveling even possible with hotel stays and security restrictions? Tune in to hear more…

Then I thought about all of the travel we have done over the years with the kids and food, make that nutritious food, has never been an issue… anywhere!

By “travel”, I’m not just referring to East York, Mississauga, or GASP, Richmond Hill – which if you live in or near the Greater Toronto Area, you will know take 40 minutes to an hour no matter what time of day, and literally used to take “5-minutes” when I was younger…

Here are some of the places we’ve taken the kids (current ages are 8-13);

  • New Brunswick
  • Nova Scotia
  • PEI
  • England
  • France
    • Paris 3 times
    • Drove the country heading south
  • Spain
    • Barcelona
    • Madrid
    • Seville
    • Drove the country / took trains
  • Italy
    • Venice
    • Rome
    • Amalfi Coast
    • Florence
    • Drove the country / took trains
    • Tuscany
  • Ecuador
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Belgium
  • Holland
    • Amsterdam
    • Ghent
    • Edam
  • Florida

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some…

We’re big into the experience, so I’m not including cruises, but we backpack – take the least amount possible, and when we look for places to stay, there are no hotels.  We want to experience our destination as the locals would, which is why Air BnB is great for us.

With Air BnB not only do we save on accommodations because 5 people at hotels require an extra room, or extra charge, but we ensure we have WiFi, Air Conditioning and most importantly a kitchen!

With a kitchen, the food, especially healthy food, never becomes an issue.   We are so lucky to have a spouse who is almost certified as a nutritionist, and who is so incredibly organized that when we (read: she) plans our accommodations and itinerary around grocery stores so we can gather the food we need for breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Without having to rely on eating out all the time, we save money, and eat much better and much healthier, plus we have snacks available for taking with us on our excursions / day-trips.

That’s how we get to experience the world with children, while eating healthy, and having a ton of fun.

 

 

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Son, You Cannot Just Eat Carbohydrates!!!


Frosted Flakes cereal
Special K and Flax cereal with 1% milk

How many times have you told your kids they cannot exist on carbohydrates alone.

We’ve told all three of our kids that exact message but it seems to be lost on our oldest son, Linus.  He went from being an adventurous eater of everything my wife made, to a super=picky eater who got white bumps on his tongue during our cruise last year because he would only eat carbs.  Bread, plain white pasta, potatoes, french fries… BORING.  Also very unhealthy.

Now he likes his raw vegetable as well, so he did have some cucumber slices and tomatoes, but the acid in the tomatoes were burning his tongue so that ended quickly.  He loves broccoli but not in any of the sauces that they came in on the ship, so that was out of the question. 

It finally took 4 days of him watching the rest of us eating the odd sweet treat before he caved in and started eating like a human again and he got better quite quickly.  I even remember him making googly eyes with the chefs in the buffet area and no matter how long the line was at the pasta bar, if my then 6-year-old son arrived with a plate in hand and caught the eye of one of the chefs, they would immediately throw penne noodles into a pan with butter and serve him a double portion covered in shredded parmesan cheese at the side of their station away from where everyone else could see.  He provided a smile and a quiet thank you and they went back to serving the angry masses.  He got his pasta and we got him eating protein with it.

So it’s no surprise then, that we make him eat breakfasts which include protein with his carbs.  He loves, for example, almond butter on bread, or an egg omelet with his toast.  He also loves cereal but we battle about this breakfast choice all the time.

Once he was able to read labels and understand the nutritional information, he began to realize that a bowl of cereal – with milk – had more protein that an egg because anyone can see that a large egg has 6g of protein while a cup of 1% milk has 9g of protein.  Therefore, in his logic, he should be eating cereal every morning.  He does understand, by the way, that an egg has no sugar and his cereals have around 5g of sugar, so he has always had that argument to get around, but he does need his protein so every now and then we give in.

Well on October 2nd, Linus asked for and received, cereal for breakfast and he proceeded to eat all the cereal out of the bowl, and he left behind the milk.  A lot of the milk, to be honest. 

So I called him back to the kitchen counter, showed him what he already knew he left, and let him know that I expected him to finish the milk before he left for school, otherwise he was not going to be allowed to have cereal until November 1st.

He complained that his tummy hurt, that he was too full, that he had to go brush his teeth, get his bag ready and get to school.

I felt compelled to remind him again of the consequences of leaving the milk, by phrasing it this way; “Linus, you need to finish the milk from your cereal.  By choosing  not to, you are choosing not to have cereal again until November 1st.”

He said he would finish it, so I followed him to the front door and left the bowl there. 

He asked for it to be poured into a cup so he would drink it and when I went back into the kitchen to get his cup, he used that opportunity to leave the house with his brother and mother for their walk to school.

Consequences.

So when he arrived home after school, I asked him if he was aware what the consequences of his actions this morning were, and he casually advised me that he understood that he would not be allowed cereal for breakfast and that he could handle not having until November 1st.

Ok, I thought.  “And you know today is October 2nd, right?” I reminded him. 

He showed a little panic, but settled his emotions and proudly proclaimed that he would be up for the task.

OK.

And so I reminded him on the 5th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 25th, 27th, 28th and 29th when he asked for cereal for breakfast, that he was not allowed.  I could tell he was thinking what all of us thought at the time (and his friend told him upon find this out), that he should have just drunk the milk!

So on the morning on November 1st, Linus had cereal for breakfast and he drank all his milk.  He did so again on the 2nd and he showed me both times that he finished the milk down to the last drop.

Alyson Shafer would be so proud!

Thursday Thirteen: 13 Weird Eating Habits


Small tomatoes in Korea
Small tomatoes.

This week’s (late) Thursday Thirteen is about 13 foods that my family will eat… In one form, but will not touch in a different form.   I’m sure as parents we have all tried to get our kids to try new foods and it can be super-frustrating when one of the foods is a food they love, but in a different form they refuse to even try it no matter how many times you explain to them it’s the same food.  See if any from our list are also on yours, and please share your as well.

So please, sit close to the table so nothing drops on the floor, use your napkin not your sleeve, and get that fork away from my leg.  Let’s get ready to look deeply into our children’s brains and figure out their peculiar eating habits.

13.  My son Stewie loves eating peanuts and enjoys eating almonds, however, he refuses to eat peanut butter or almond butter.  I have even let him read the ingredients in the President’s Choice blue menu peanut  butter which is 100% peanuts to explain to him it’s the exact same food, but in a different form, but no dice.  He won’t even try it.

12.  My kids love fruit.  Love it.  Stewie, however, refuses to eat jam, even though my sister makes the jam we eat and it’s just fruit and very little sugar.   I’ve asked him to smell the jam – he said it smells like fruit, yet he refuses to taste it.

11.  I have a couple of folks in my household with tomato issues.  One eats fresh tomatoes and tomato sauce but refuses to eat tomato-based soups, while the other (ahem: older) one will eat tomato in sauce if its blended (like a pink / rose sauce) but will not touch a raw tomatoes.

10.  I’ve also got some weird egg-stuff going on here with Stewie who will only eat boiled eggs – and not the yolk, whereas Linus won’t eat boiled eggs, but likes scrambled eggs or egg salad. 

9.   I’m pretty sure all parents have this one – my kids love raw veggies in all forms but will not eat a salad.  What’s up with that?

8.  My entire family loves cucumbers.  We buy and go through 6-7 english cucumbers a week, and they also love sour dill pickles but will not eat a new dill pickle which is basically a pickle in a garlic brine before it gets sour.  It’s just crunchy.

7.   Linus loves to eat wasabi peas, but he won’t even touch a piece of sushi if it’s within 6cm of the pile of wasabi.

6.  I also have a family who like to drink orange juice but do not like to eat actual oranges. 

5.   My wife cannot eat oatmeal – says it’s a texture thing – but loves to bake and eat oatmeal cookies.

4.   Every year we fill our front porch with pumpkins and once Halloween is over I crack open a few of them, rip out and bake the seeds, then try to make some recipes so the vegetable doesn’t go to waste.  When I roast the seeds in an over it’s with a bit of oil, salt and cayenne pepper and my kids devour them whole.  But if I try to get them to eat an already opened pepita they make faces and won’t even take a bite…

3.   I noticed that our nanny, Gamay, loves her sweets, but only if she can eat them, she will never drink them.  I don’t get that one either…

2.    Here is another I never understood.  My kids eat marble cheese and will only eat marble cheese strings out of the house, but if they are given the same cheeses but in a non-marble form, it’s noses in the air and walking on by.  It’s the same cheese, I tell them to no avail.

1.  Number one is more a combination of eating habits that my kids have that makes me scratch my head, for example;

No one in my family will eat the ends of a bread

My kids eat the top off of broccoli but will not eat the stems.

Linus will not eat any bread that is not whole wheat, nor a challah (egg bread).

My kids will only eat a certain brand of cottage cheese and Stewie only one brand of cream cheese

My wife can only drink milk out of a jug.  Something about tasting the bag that it comes in.

So how do we stack up?

Honourable mention to my kids who love yoghurt and raisins but won’t touch a yoghurt covered raisin.  Why is that???

Are you hungrier than a 5-year-old?


Are you hungrier than a 5-year-old?

I doubt you are hungrier than my 5-year-old!

Let me preface this by saying when we moved 2 years ago into our new house the first thing we did was re-do part of the kitchen to allow for a much bigger fridge for Stewie.  The fridge that came with the house was not going to be enough for the 6 of us (Me, Urban Mummy, Linus, Stewie, Berry and our Nanny – let’s call her “Gamay”), but we were most concerned about Stewie!  This boy can eat and he’s only 5.  He’ll eat us out of house and home by the time he is 13-years-old.

For example, in the car on our way up to T&T grocery in the Promenade Mall in lovely Thornhill, Ontario on the weekend Ms. Urban Daddy was engaging the children, asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up when Stewie bubbled up and asked if there were going to be “samples” at T&T?  His mind is almost always on food.

As an aside, if you have never been to a T&T grocery store, you must go there!  There is a location in the Promenade Mall in Thornhill. and one on Cherry beach in downtown Toronto.  T&T is owned by Loblaws and they carry Asian foods.  Our children love T&T because of the samples they give out during the day and for the fresh dim sum and sushi they make which we pretty much always buy and eat for lunch or afternoon snack.

When the kids hear T&T they know they’re going to eat while we shop and since the samples are of things we hope our kids will want to eat, like tofu, fish balls, dumplings, and many other unique items we would never think to include in our very healthy diet.

Instead of buying a product, like fish balls, for example and experimenting at home, the kids can give thumbs up and thumbs down to them on the spot and if they like it and will eat it, we can buy it.  It makes a lot of sense and is a great way to expand any child’s food options.

The sample stations at T&T are usually manned and the kids know to ask nicely and in return they are given one sample to try unless there are different flavours and they want to try them too.  I won’t let them try coffee, or sweets or anything we will not purchase – like pork products – but we have tried some pretty crazy samples over the years.

The one sample per station rule works for everyone except Stewie – who already at 5 eats more in a meal that his 5 foot 11, 230 pound father (me).  At the store he tries pretty much everything and if he likes it – and if the food station is unmanned, he’ll eat and eat and eat until someone catches him.  He always uses a new toothpick, he’s a bit of a clean freak that way, and he’s not a pig eating everything he just casually takes another, then another with a giant smile on his face.  Free food!

That penchant for eating reminded me of our last cruise.

The last cruise we went on, when the off shore excursion was to the cruise lines private island, we got up, ate a huge breakfast, then hopped on the tender to the island.  By 9am we were baking in the hot sun, playing in the sand with the shells and laying on a raft.letting the tide take us away, when out of nowhere, Stewie started to get VERY agitated.

It was not just past 10:30am and the anger turned to frustration, which turned to tears.

We brought him back to the beach chair and spoke with him about what was bothering him.  The sun?  The heat?  The sand?

It was none of those.

He was hungry.

Fortunately, the cruise ship was setting up a lunch buffet on the island and were almost done getting it ready, so Ms. Urban Mummy walked over and came back with some fruit, some veggies and some water.

But Stewie did not want any of that…

So all of us walked over to the buffet and immediately, Stewie saw what he wanted.

“I want a burger!” he proclaimed.

“At 10:30am?” I questioned.

“Yes!  I want a burger!!!” he said, with his voice borderline agitated, frustrated and again close to tears.

“Okay” we said and by 10:45am after a huge breakfast 2 hours earlier, Stewie was eating a burger.  We could see his demeanor changing as he was eating it.  There were some blood sugar levels dipping here.  But good little Stewie was not done with his first burger… He needed a second one, which he ate quite happily if my memory serves me correctly.  He was still 4-years-old at this time, too.

Then after being burned to a crisp, we headed back to the ship for nap time for Stewie and Berry at which point, Stewie started to put up a stink as he was, “hungry”.

So I took him upstairs to the buffet and we sat at he ate yet more food.

Man can that kid pack away the food.

I should have seen this coming.  This is the same kid who at about 1 1/2 years old was sitting in his high chair at a family resort just north of Toronto eating a meal – soup I believe – and very slowly, when the waitress came and took away the inch left in his bowl.  He did NOT like this and spent the rest of the week with his head on a swivel and every time a waitress walked near the table – ours or others – and he would wag his pointer finger and say, “Never , ever, ever take Stewie’s food away”.

Possessive a little?

His behaviour there came to light in his little sister last week when we at dinner at Safari on Avenue Road in Toronto, when 2-year-old Berry needed to go pee.  She looked back at the table and said, “don’t touch my food”, “don’t let anyone take my food”, “I’m still eating”. and she kept mumbling “I’m still eating” over and over again as she walked to the bathroom.  When she returned and her food was still there, she smiled and with a look of relief on her face, she said, “Oh!  My food is still here.  I came back, and my food is still here!”.

But back to Stewie… There was the time we went to St. Thomas, Ontario to see and take a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine and Stewie was probably 3-years-old.  After a full day of fun we went out for dinner to – of course – the Mandarin Restaurant.  After eating a pretty large meal, matching me plate for plate, I went to get a soup to wind down my meal and with that soup I grabbed 2 teriyaki shrimp to eat.

Stewie finishing his second bowl of soup too, turned to me nd said, “I want shrimp!”.

How did he know what shrimp were?

Okay, so I went back to the buffet and brought him back 2 peeled shrimp.  He stuffed them in his mouth so fast, Urban Mummy couldn’t take a picture of him eating them.

He finished and asked for more.

After bringing him another 10 shrimps, we were laughing as were the elderly couple sitting beside us watching how much food this boy has packed away.  Figuring he should stop before he explodes, I brought him teriyaki shrimp instead but he loved those too.

So fast forward now, and we’re all finished eating, when Stewie after finishing his 32nd shrimp declares that he is full.

We gasp, and pack up the family feeling sorry for the Mandarin who made money on the few noodles that Linus ate but lost a ton of the massive amounts of food that my skinny 3-year-old just hoovered back.

That trait remains to this day.

Just last week Urban Mummy made mini-pizza’s for the family.  5 small ones for Linus and Berry to split, 3 for her, 3 for me and 3 for Stewie.  She ate 1 and a half. I managed to eat 2 – but probably should have stopped at 1 and a half as well, while Stewie ate all three and needed a snack before bed.

And yes, we have had him tested for worms.

He’s fine.

He’s hungry.

He’s a growing boy!

The eating habits of a 4-year-old


Tonight as I gave my son a before bed snack, I was planning on preparing his usual snack – a bowl of plain yogurt with berries (fresh or frozen) and “seeds” which are usually some flax seeds and sunflower seeds.  Lately this has been topped by granola.  But tonight he asked for an apple.  A green apple, no less.  It was at that point that in donned on me that he has been eating an apple before bed for the better part of 2 weeks.  Prior to that it was yogurt and seeds for about a year.  Prior to that it was all about the banana – he could not get enough.  One or two bananas per evening for him.

Prior to that, was the grape phase where all he would eat were grapes.

Before that was the cheese sticks phase.  Instead of giving him expensive cheese strings, I would take a block of cheese and cut strips, or sticks, for him.  He would go through so much cheese in a week.

I’m sure there were more… I just can’t go that far back.

He’s like my wife… VERY much like her.

When she was pregnant with him she ate a lot of chocolate Lucky Charms cereal… A LOT.  Once she gave birth, that was it.  She has never eaten a bowl of any kind of cereal since.  She also went through a sour pickle phase.

Now she’s all about the almond butter spread on toast with a glass of milk.

And speaking about pickles… Stewie ate pickles, fresh strawberries and strawberry applesauce tonight, for snack, before bed.  Ugh.