Is that an oxymoron? Fast food tends to be on the, shall we say, less than healthy side. Still, I like to have a nice place to take my kids for a healthy meal – other than my house. I figured I’d share my favorites in case you were looking.
We have several favorites, but the first two are big chains that are doing a lot about making “fast food” better in quality and taste.
Sharky’s is one of my favorite restaurants. They have organic options as well as low calorie options. They also have a kids menu that isn’t limited to chicken fingers or grilled cheese like most others. We like to get a half power plate for the kids to share. This includes a protein (chicken, steak or tofu) and two sides. They have some great sides to choose from also. We like to get black beans and yams. Their yams are supper yummy. They are basically like mashed sweet potatoes. They also offer brown rice, pinto beans, and veggies like broccoli. I’m so glad there are restaurants out there that value growth hormone free, preservative free, steroid free, and antibiotic free meats. THANK YOU SHARKY’S! Sharky’s also has plenty of highchairs for us to eat in the restaurant with friends who have toddlers as well. They are always friendly, helpful, and never give us dirty looks for the inevitable mess that follows toddlers consuming food.
Chipotle is another favorite. They also offer hormone free meats and dairy products. They use local, organic ingredients when “practical” and keep the big picture in mind. They consider not only people (family farms), but animals (many free range animals and naturally raised animals), and the environment (recycled napkins and local produce when practical). Did I mention how good this food is? We usually get a chicken quesadilla with cheese and a side of black beans for the kids. I’m a big fan of the burrito bowl. Have I mentioned how good it feels to know that the chicken I’m giving my kids is from chickens that eat arsenic FREE feed? THANK YOU CHIPOTLE! Chipotle employees have also been very kind and have highchairs for several kiddos.
The Natural Cafe has been a healthy favorite for some time now. We have plenty to choose from here! Our 26 month olds LOVE “The Natty Cafe(‘s)” (as we call it) soups! They are pretty tasty. We all enjoy sharing a carrot shake as well. (It might sound strange, but it’s flavored with nutmeg and is SO GOOD!) My kids like the grilled tofu and almost anything they can reach from my plate, including lots of veggies. I think their favorite Natural Cafe meal is a shared soup and side of hummus. They have eaten veggie soups from this place that I never thought they would. Cream of asparagus? YES. Ate it and said “Yummy mommy!” The Natural Cafe is also very environmentally conscious. They have water glasses for you to fill yourself (so as not to waste water you don’t drink or water to wash a glass you don’t use), and recycle containers for glass bottles and cans. (Why don’t ALL restaurants recycle? It seems like a no brainer to me…) The Natural Cafe has plenty of highchairs for us to meet with friends to eat and not have to bring our own portable chairs.
I hope this has inspired you to look into some of your local favorite places to eat. I think it’s important to support places like the above listed. I’m proud that they are trying to make a difference in the world while continuing to produce great food!
Because we like to take the kids out to eat, it has been my mission to find a great booster seat. We have tried several. Some of them were great in many ways but not right for their age. Here are the ones that we tried and one I wish we had tried!
This was the first one we tried. I saw “My Little Seat Infant Travel High Chair” at Target for $20.99. I thought the creators were genius! How easy and compact these seats were! We started using them when the twins were 6 or 7 months. They are great (if maybe a little bit of work to get everyone fastened in correctly) BUT… they are missing the “booster” component. The kids were sometimes left at chin level with the table which makes learning to eat finger foods a bit more difficult. This can also get CRAZY if you have a little one who likes to throw their head all around. If you want them to be safely strapped into a chair for your meal time and don’t plan on pushing them up to the table these will do great!
Our second booster was scored at Target as well. It is the “Fisher Price Healthy Care Dlx. Booster” and sells for $24.09. This has been one of my favorite all time kid purchases. We take this to picnics, the grandparents houses, the fair… basically anywhere we need a highchair and we aren’t guaranteed they will have two available. My friend Amanda keeps hers in the car for those times she is at a restaurant with us and there aren’t enough highchairs available. (It has come in handy waaaay too many times. Two great features of this booster are 1) The tray table has a lid. This is awesome for when we picnic and I can’t wash the tray off while we are out. I just put the lid on and the mess is contained until we get home! 2) The height is adjustable. You can keep it flat or pull out the legs for added height. We use these all the time but they are not practical to take into a restaurant along with a double stroller and two kids. They have a carrying strap but aren’t super compact.
The “Munchkin Travel Booster” was a impulse buy ($26.99) to get away from having to put a highchair cover on the restaurant highchairs all the time. It is a compact awesome little seat. My only problem is that does not have a 5 point restraint. This first time we used these the kids were still in need of all available restraint. My son started leaning way over and I quickly took him out of this seat and put him in a regular restaurant highchair. This is great for older stable kids or for in a booth if you aren’t worried about it not being secured in place. I think boosters in restaurants should have a lap belt so these are a great replacement for restaurant boosters. They also have a neat storage compartment for place mats or snacks!
This is the “Regalo Easy Diner Fold and Go High Chair”. It retails for $20.99 at Target.com. I haven’t seen this one in the store (which is probably why I never tried it)! This is the one I wish we had tried. I think it would have saved lots of highchair covering and looks like it folds to be pretty compact. This would be a nice travel to grandma’s highchair as well. This one has padding, unlike many of the other boosters and says it’s easy to clean. My dilemma is now, are they too big for this one? The weight capacity tops out at 37lbs. I think we might just have enough time to make it worth our while…..
Find all of these boosters at Target.com.
This is THE BEST BIB IN THE WORLD!!! Ok, this is obviously just my opinion, but we LOVE them! When the kids were smaller we rolled the sleeves once so that they didn’t hang down too low. These bibs catch juice from messy fruit and soup in the bottom pocket. They are water resistant and made from organic cotton. After a really messy meal I take a soapy washcloth and wash them down. If they are just a bit dribbled on, they get a quick wipe and I’m done with cleanup! PS I got my Mimi the Sardiene bibs on sale at BabySteals.com. But…. Keep an eye on Mimi the Sardiene’s outlet for great prices on their bibs!
So much of toddlers revolves around food. These are some wonderful items that have made meal time much easier. And… then I have a bonus item!
This is a place mat that suctions to many types of tables. The hubs and I used to use biodegradable, disposable, stick on mats. Uh, that adds up real quick when you use two each time you go out to eat! For the price of a pack of disposables you can buy a washable, reusable one. They are made from “TPE; a non-latex, non PVC, non phthalate, non-BPA material.” They have a great scoop that rests in front of baby, to catch all the mess. (Wait, did I say all the mess? Scratch that – it’ll catch some of the mess.) The question was always, will the kids play with the mats more than their food? Surprisingly, they don’t. And, we can still use it on a cloth table cloth – if we are very careful…
The link I have here is to a new blog I found with directions on how to make your own sippy cup leash! I love these things. I have a set for each of our two strollers. I attach a snack cup or sippy cup to the stoller with the leash and let the kids go to town. Now if they just had a hat leash…
We prefer the Munchkin Snack Catcher. It has worked great for us. I love how they advertise that snack cups prevent all the mess. News flash! The kids still grab more than one puff, Cheerio, etc. from the cup. So, don’t be surprised, even when you use a snack catcher, when you find that mystical puff in baby’s diaper. I don’t know how food can get through a onesie, pants, and a diaper, but apparently, it can. MAGIC!
BONUS! Binki Bear
I was just introduced to this and love it! I wish my twins still used pacifiers so that I could make use of this! It comes with a teether so I might get them one for a stocking stuffer… What a great idea! A teddy bear attachment for baby’s pacifier. The bear makes the paci or binki easier to find in a crib in the dark. Bravo. Wish I came up with it… like half of the baby things I use.
Well, I have hesitated to write this blog but i’m going to do it, (I’m being jinxed: After the last post about how great the kids do going out to eat, my daughter had a huge meltdown in a restaurant. I’m pretty sure it was related to her sprouting molars, but still…)
Sleep. This is one of the first concerns when you bring baby home, right? Will I ever sleep again? I must say that this worry was legit and doubled with twins. I don’t know what it is like to have one baby, but with two, by the time I breast fed them, burped them and got them both back to sleep (yes my husband helped but I stayed up when needed because he had to go to work), there were times when I got maybe 2 hours of sleep. Mind you, this was in the beginning, and wasn’t after every feed. There were feeds when they went right back down to sleep. It was the nights when one went right down and the other stayed up fussing for 45 minutes that were awful. I had to feed them at the same time in order to keep my sanity, so that meant waking the baby who was up the extra 45 minutes. The hardest thing to do as a new mom is to wake your baby to keep them on schedule. Many people think it is a mortal sin to wake your baby. The truth is they don’t know what is best for them. If they decide they want to sleep from 3pm-6pm every day and their bedtime is 7pm, that just won’t work. I will talk more about why it is important to keep them awake more during the day time but – back to addressing this concern about sleep… After 6 weeks, we started sleep training and the schedule from the book “A Contented House with Twins”. What a difference! My other sleep-life-saver is the book “Good Night Sleep Tight”. Here, I will mention some sleep basics that should help you get started with getting a great nights sleep.
When we brought them home from the hospital, we had them in a pack & play in our room by my side of the bed. Even though their room was right next to ours, it wasn’t close enough. So, I jumped with every squeak, snort, and sigh that came out of the babies. My son made this goat-like noise (literally, when my mom heard a goat, she thought it was my son). One of them could sound like a squirrel too. For 6 weeks I slept maybe 3 hours in a row at any given time. This most definitely contributed to my daily crying and feelings of overwhelmedness. I know that’s not a real word – but it sounds like it should be.
Newborn babies need 16-18 hours of sleep a day. If they are premature or have a low birth weight they are probably closer to needing 18, while average weight babies need closer to 16 hours. That means they are up for about 8 hours a day. If you feed them 7-8 times a day (every 3-4 hours) and those feeds take 30 minutes you are down to 4 hours of awake time without feeds. This, of course, doesn’t include diaper changing. If baby is well rested, well fed, and well burped (and free of colic or other health problems), those remaining few hours (divided in to 20-30 minutes here and there) will be much happier. This means that you can break down your day. Baby wakes, you change his/her diaper, you feed him/her, play & socialize for a bit and then they doze and repeat. The real key is to try to keep them awake for those 4 waking hours during the day time. It is easy to let them sleep in their swing and try to catch up on all the many things there are to do around the house, but if you don’t teach them the difference from day and night early, then it will be much harder later on. Try to keep baby very awake for feeding. Do this by unwrapping them if they are swaddled, playing with their hands or feet etc. If the temperature permits, take off their hat or extra layers and cool them down a bit while feeding. If you are breast feeding they are getting extra warmth from closeness to your body and they should keep a stable temp. After feeding make sure they are well burped. This is when mine used to try to doze as they loved having their backs patted. If you can keep them up for 30 minutes with each feed they will be quicker to go back to sleep after night time feeds.
It is also important to teach baby day from night. Let baby know when it is time to sleep by using techniques like swaddling and playing lullabies. Our sleep routine was; change diapers, swaddle babies, put babies in their swings, play soothing lullabies and when babies were drowsy (but not yet asleep), take them up to their room and put them in their cribs. Their room is kept super dark and we have a great Graco sound machine with MP3 plug (for when they get older). I would make sh-sh-sh noises to them to mimic the noises that comforted them in the womb and then, after putting them down, and say “night night”. By putting baby to bed drowsy but awake you are teaching them to put themselves to sleep. If you rock them to sleep there is always this game of “how quietly and gently can I put baby down, so as not to wake him/her”. The average sleep cycle (nodding off, restful sleep, deep sleep) for babies, is about 45 minutes, and usually babies will rouse slightly when that cycle is up. If they don’t know how to put themselves back to sleep, they will need you to come in and put them down, over and over again. This is how parents get trapped into going into baby’s room every hour to plug a pacifier back in or rock them back to sleep. So, KEY LESSON, put baby in their crib drowsy but awake.
Swaddling is important! Many parents think that because baby pushes or fights the swaddle that their baby is the one baby that just doesn’t want to be swaddled. Uh, probably not the case. Babies are used to being in snug quarters because they just came out of a uterus. They want to be continually swayed and snuggled. If you ever want to get some sleep yourself, the only way to give them half of what they want is to swaddle them. (You could give them everything by putting them in a swing swaddled but have you ever tried to sleep through the noise of a swing when your mommy sensors are on high alert?!?) We swaddled the heck out of our twins until they were 4 1/2 months. At that point we started swaddling with one arm out for a couple weeks and then they were done. Once the swaddling was over we moved them into sleep sacks so that we knew they would stay warm and wouldn’t smother themselves with blankets. When baby is sleeping for longer than an hour and has been through some sleep training it is important to give him/her a chance to put themselves back to sleep. You may not want to run in as soon as baby makes a peep. Give him/her a chance to sooth themselves. I wouldn’t let them cry for longer than 15 minutes (and as you get to know your baby, you will start to recognize his/her cries – if it is an inconsolable or an i’m hurt cry, by all means go in and check on them sooner). Most of the time, in my case, it turns out that they are just upset for some unknown reason and my going into the room just further wakes them. It is SUPER fun (smell the sarcasm) when it is nap time, I am alone and I have to console two upset babies. Those were the naps that I though I wouldn’t make it through. There were only about 2-3 of those days though. The babies took to the techniques very well and adjusted through each phase quickly.
Why let my baby cry at all? Why not snuggle with my baby as much as possible? In those first couple months snuggling all the time is great – except for those times you want to get some real rest. As soon as we put our twins in their own room (at 6 weeks, with a monitor on, and in the room right next to us) our sleep greatly improved. Yes, in the beginning, I had the monitor right next to my pillow. If you find yourself so freaked out that baby has stopped breathing or may be hurt whenever they make a peep, you may want to invest in one of those fantabulous new monitors with a movement sensor and/or video monitor. I would have saved myself many a headache if I had a video monitor! Sometimes I will even sush from outside the door so that they know i’m there and haven’t abandoned them but I don’t wake them further by going into the room.
Why listen to me? I only have experience with two babies. They are two completely different personalities. But…. they both slept 7pm – 7am since they were 4months, now sleep 7:30pm -7:30am, and nap for 2-3 hours during the day. What more could I ask for?
Don’t forget that “The Happiest Baby on the Block” DVD teaches all about the “5 S’s”, swaddling, side holding, “sh-sh-sh”, swinging/swaying, & sucking. This will help you get through those first couple months with much more than “our instincts”. Instincts are GREAT but experience is PRICELESS!