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protein + whole grains

For some reason, my eldest child seems to always give me a rough go of things for several weeks right around her birthday. I remember it when she turned six. And it happened again this January when she turned seven. Maybe it's coincidence. Maybe not. But this year, to be honest, it was a particularly tough several weeks.

It was one of those parenting seasons where I began to question all the decisions I was making for her, wonder if I was somehow "wronging" her, and how I'd failed as a parent. I found myself faced with situations where there was nothing in my parenting bag of tools and tricks that seemed to work.

Eventually, things began to settle down. I think a big part of it, was my change in perspective, which seemed to have a calming effect on our home.

Dan and I also began to notice a pattern. Many of our tough episodes with her seemed to be related to food–whether she was flat-out hungry or coming off some sort of sugary-high. So my focus began to shift, and I realized that I needed to start making some eating habit changes around our house.

On one particularly rough evening, I called Emily and we talked about all this. By the end of the conversation, she encouraged me to focus on two things: getting protein in at every meal (and snack), and making the transition to more whole wheat and grains.

food issues

I also started counting points, like I mentioned before, which always helps me be more mindful of where the calories are going, and keeps more filling foods in our diet.

And I have to tell you, the changes have been really good. The rough season appears to be behind us. And on the rare occasion that it shows its ugly head, she's in a much better place to be able to deal with it, and move on.  Me, too.

So I'm back to meal-planning. I'm getting very familiar with my Cooking Light magazine again and delving into out my grandmother's old Moosewood Cookbook.

food issues

But you all never fail me…what are some of your best high protein snacks, or whole grain meals and dishes? What's your favorite way to cook with beans? What resources, magazines or cookbooks do you like best? (have you seen this super natural recipe search?? It's great!)  I'd love to have some more recipes and ideas in my repertoire, I think most of us would. Share a link, a post, a recipe. And hopefully, I'll have some time to combine them all into one place so that they are easily accessible for all of you, too.

Thank you, friends.

For some reason, my eldest child seems to always give me a rough go of things for several weeks right around her birthday. I remember it when she turned six. And it happened again this January when she turned seven. Maybe it's coincidence. Maybe not. But this year, to be honest, it was a particularly tough several weeks.

It was one of those parenting seasons where I began to question all the decisions I was making for her, wonder if I was somehow "wronging" her, and how I'd failed as a parent. I found myself faced with situations where there was nothing in my parenting bag of tools and tricks that seemed to work.

Eventually, things began to settle down. I think a big part of it, was my change in perspective, which seemed to have a calming effect on our home.

Dan and I also began to notice a pattern. Many of our tough episodes with her seemed to be related to food–whether she was flat-out hungry or coming off some sort of sugary-high. So my focus began to shift, and I realized that I needed to start making some eating habit changes around our house.

On one particularly rough evening, I called Emily and we talked about all this. By the end of the conversation, she encouraged me to focus on two things: getting protein in at every meal (and snack), and making the transition to more whole wheat and grains.

food issues

I also started counting points, like I mentioned before, which always helps me be more mindful of where the calories are going, and keeps more filling foods in our diet.

And I have to tell you, the changes have been really good. The rough season appears to be behind us. And on the rare occasion that it shows its ugly head, she's in a much better place to be able to deal with it, and move on.  Me, too.

So I'm back to meal-planning. I'm getting very familiar with my Cooking Light magazine again and delving into out my grandmother's old Moosewood Cookbook.

food issues

But you all never fail me…what are some of your best high protein snacks, or whole grain meals and dishes? What's your favorite way to cook with beans? What resources, magazines or cookbooks do you like best? (have you seen this super natural recipe search?? It's great!)  I'd love to have some more recipes and ideas in my repertoire, I think most of us would. Share a link, a post, a recipe. And hopefully, I'll have some time to combine them all into one place so that they are easily accessible for all of you, too.

Thank you, friends.

41 comments on “protein + whole grains”

  1. Thanks for the response to my last post. 😉 We plan our meals too. For many reasons. A couple of them are Diet restrictions and saving money, and just plain being organized. I love my mom’s old moosewood cookbook. I like allrecipes.com too. you can pick and save all your recipes for the week and print out a nice neat grocery list, it rocks! God Bless

  2. Emily and I had the snack talk too!

    our go-to’s: edamame, peanut butter on rice cake, pretzels and hummus, trail mix (cereal, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, chocolate chips), fruit of any kind, frozen yogurt (i buy the tubes and put them in the freezer – instant protein popsicle!), popcorn.

    i’m not as good on the meal planning, but i am trying!

  3. Lately for a good protein and fiber mix I have been eating whole wheat pita pockets for breakfast and/or lunch.Breakfast I put eggs and salsa, and sometimes ham too.Lunch I have a laughing cow spread cheese, with ground turkey, or left over chicken, and lettuce.They are really good and with the fiber protein combo they keep you pretty full for awhile.My 2 year old Harriet loves eating “pockets”!

  4. I highly recommend “Simply In Season”- a cookbook focusing on cooking in season, using more whole, bulk items, cooking with less ingredients, & buying locally- all wonderful ideas to focus on while filling your belly.

    My fiance & I are both college students & we still make many delicious meals while maintaining a hectic schedule.

    🙂

  5. we like ‘moon eggs’ aka hard boiled eggs, hummus and carrot sticks, tamari almonds, almond butter on rice cakes, all of what erin shared…we make ‘coconut bombs’ [i posted that recipe somewhere on one of my facebook status ;)…i’ll try to find it and copy/paste it to you], dino chips [kale broken into pieces, drizzled with olive oil + baked at 300* until dry and crispy about 20 minutes or so…it needs to be watched carefully], celery and peanut butter, whole grain crackers and sliced cheese, tortillas wrapped with cream cheese or tofutti, baked tofu in cubes with a toothpick, fruit smoothies [with some frozen spinich thrown in for good measure 😉 ], banana/chocolate smoothies, baked mochi with a nutbutter spread inside . . . this is only snacks [and i usually don’t eat the same ones, counting my own points as well] i will think about books that we continually turn to and meal ideas too ! 🙂

  6. thanks for that link – it looks like a good one. eggs are a great protein source. peanut butter. for on the go, we love “z” bars. and, smoothies are good too.

  7. I’m a get cranky if I’m hungry kinda girl too! Yogurt is always good. Also, string cheese or a slice or two of cheese is great. Both have good protein. Also, for some reason pickles make me less hungry. I think it’s because they are salty. Peanut butter on crackers, hummas on chips or crackers or pretzels, apples, trail mix (I like to make my own with all kinds of things, but it always has raisins and chocolate).

    What can I say, I’m a snacker!

  8. I also have a seven year old and fortunately I figured out a while ago to keep him fed haha. I have found for him there’s nothing better or quicker than scrambled eggs and honey toast with a few bites of cheddar cheese. He really digs into this as soon as he comes home from school (famished every day) with a tall glass of cold water. We also do yogurt (plain with honey) with fruit and sunflower seeds on the side as a quickie snack. He also likes toast spread with almond butter and honey, and just plain almonds and raisins and semisweet chocolate chips mixed together. For snacks to take in the car I usually do cheese again, either a swiss cheese and mustard sandwich or cheese and crackers as well as fruit. The other thing he’s really into right now is cornbread with butter and honey. I have found for him that they key is regularly scheduled eating, I can usually count on him being hungry for an after breakfast snack at 9:30 and an after lunch snack at 2:00 and I HAVE to remember that if we’re going to be away from home at those times.

    He actually is helpful about keeping the sweets limited, because after one particularly bad scene and loss of privileges, I was able to make him understand that his behavior was affected by all the sugar he’d had, to his detriment.

    I’ve tried all the schemes for menu planning out there. What I have found the best for my situation is just buying meats and seasonal or frozen vegetables and putting it together with a carb (rice, pasta, potatoes). Like this week I bought chicken, steaks, salmon and we’ll have two vegs and a carb with it for three or four nights and then spaghetti with jar sauce and leftovers to fill it out. I can’t plan what to have on what day because if I have to work late or come home with a migraine then it won’t pan out and I find that stressful. Also I can’t make plans for new recipes during the week so we eat what I already know how to cook on weeknights (keeping it simple) and I fiddle with new stuff on the weekends.

    I wish I could help you out with beans, my husband and son draw the line there. But for myself I like to buy frozen limas and purple hull peas because they cook faster than dried and I like the taste better, cooked in chicken broth with ground red pepper. I usually buy canned black beans and mix with a cup of favorite salsa and simmer a bit then stuff into a flour tortilla with rice and the usual veggies and cheese and sour cream, etc. Best wishes.

  9. Not so much a recipe, but one of my favorite snacks is a little pile of unsalted roasted almonds (trader joe’s sells 1 lb sacks for $5, much less than the bins at whole foods) with a few dried apricots. Yum. I started eating that when I was working on losing 25 pounds in 06-07: it would keep me pretty full through the afternoon and ease that munchy feeling I get partway through the day, mainly because it has lots of fiber and protein.

  10. I have many cookbooks that I use to bring healthier whole grain choices into our diet. My favorite cookbook is put out by a retreat center on Cortes Island here in Canada called Hollyhock. It is an amazing cookbook and I can’t recommend it highly enough. We like feeding the whole family as well and a number of Vegetarian/vegan cookbooks are a good source of whole grain recipes. We like Dreena Burton and Nava Atlas. All these books and authors can be found on Amazon.

    My favorite grain recipe is my Spelt Salad recipe. You can check it out on my blog if you are interested. http://granolagirl.typepad.com/granola_girl/2008/08/granola-girls-spelt-salad1-cup-of-cooked-spelt-cooled2-carrots-chopped2-pieces-of-celery-chopped1-2-stalks-of-green-onion.html

  11. Eggs – mine love them. But watch out for the dried fruit type snacks – don’t know about your small people, but these give my kids the most apalling sugar rush and hideous behaviour accompanied come down.

    Mine aren’t big on beans, unless they’re in soup, so I’m scouring your comments for ideas.

  12. My favorite kid-friendly way to get some beans and whole grains into a meal is to make sloppy joes which include black beans with the ground beef and then serve them on whole wheat buns. It is recognizable as “kid food”, but much healthier! Shoot me an email if you want my recipe.

  13. We have a favorite protein rich snack in this house we call chickpea popcorn. Once the chickpeas are ready (either open the can or make the chickpeas so they are cooked through) then heat a pan on medium/ medium high with olive oil. When the pan is hot add one clove of garlic smashed and diced tiny. Also add some dried oregano or basil and saute until they start to “pop” and are smooth not chalky. Stick them in a bowl and enjoy.

  14. We’re big quinoa fans around here. It’s high in protein and lots of other good things. It makes an excellent salad, but I’ve also seen it used in other recipes.

    Also, mini quiches are great too. You can add cheese and veggies. Yum.

  15. Molly, I love your posts lately. I’ve been gathering good music, library and now snack ideas. Thank you.I did the weight watchers “core” program to lose baby weight after Julia. My life changer was buying a pressure cooker. I bought a fancy one from Williams Sonoma and it’s been worth every penny. You can cook wild rice in 20 minutes, brown rice in ten. Also, I have learned a ton from Lorna Sass who wrote “Whole Grains, Everyday, Everyway” So good. More than anything, she has good ideas about cooking large batches and freezing.Snacks are hard for us. Both of the kids are lactose intolerant and don’t do soy well either so I’m watching for ideas. I cook a lot of vegan meals, but also a lot of meat and grains and veggies.Good luck.

  16. At least twice a year, I have the epiphany (maybe that makes it a re-piphany) that if the kids are acting completely nuts, they’re usually either tired or hungry.

    I keep one of the drawers in our fridge stocked with string cheese, apples, carrot sticks and sometimes grapes. Doesn’t mean they’ll go for it every day, but at least it’s there. They also like to eat nuts. That’s Daddy’s snack, so I let him dole out the cashews.

    I meal plan every week. I rely heavily on Cooking Light, Everyday Food and my new favorite cookbook, Apples for Jam. I wish I could expand my meal planning beyond one week, but I can’t bring myself to put it together. I’m looking forward to the return of grill season. Somehow it’s a little easier when I know all I have to do is throw some meat and veggies on the flame.

  17. Ooh, I agree with lots of the comments here. My babes have a hard time with hunger/sugar rush, too, which at our house means protein at every snack or meal. Also, my girls will sometimes only eat meals, but not snacks, or vice-versa- which makes it extra important for them to get protein every time I put something on the table. I did a few posts on meals/snacks in our house:

    http://aresohappy.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/breakfast-and-snacking-around-these-parts/

    http://aresohappy.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/lunch-and-supper-plus-a-bedtime-snack-bonus/

    http://aresohappy.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/q-a-more-about-food-including-a-couple-of-recipes/

    We love quinoa, too! A very protein-rich grain that you can cook up a myriad of ways (it makes an awesome couscous substitute, too!).

    xo, K

  18. Don’t know how kid-friendly this is, but as soon as the cold weather leaves, I have some variation of this salad in my fridge:

    grain + beans + chopped hard veg + herbs + a little dressing

    I usually make it on a Sunday. Cook some kind of grain in my rice cooker, or if I’m home all day, I’ll cook up smaller amounts of various grains in relay (since I don’t have to keep an eye on it, it’s super easy). Add a drained and rinsed can of whatever kind of beans I have on hand. Add some chopped celery, carrots, onion or some such thing. Throw in some chopped herbs if I have some. Mix up a dressing. Toss it all together. That’s it. I eat some with lunch every day through the week, and since I change up the grains/bean/veg/herb combo each time, I don’t get bored.

  19. We saw similar patterns with my oldest. The skeptics that say sugar doesn’t affect behavior have not met my children!

    My all time favorite cookbook for whole grains is “Whole Grains Everyday” by Lorna Sass. We LOVE the corn chowder in there that uses amaranth and quinoa. I also switched from making white rice to making brown, and then just started boiling Kamut instead. My kids like to call it rice on steroids. The special wheat grains plump up nice and big and are so good with a bit of butter and salt and pepper or sprinkled over salads.

  20. Our go-to meal around here is what my son calls quesadillas (although it’s probobly more of a burrito, technically). Basically it’s whatever protein is fresh or leftover (chicken, pork, pot-roast, steak, meatballs, etc); chopped up veggies (he prefers peppers, tomatoes, carrots, string beans); shreadded cheese; and a small dollop of sour cream to hold the hole thing together when we tuck one end in and fold the two sides over. This is a sure thing every time. Oh, and I set out all the ingredients and let him assemble it which helps with those lovely meal-controlling behaviors which emerge sometimes….

    Oh, and I read long ago in The Spirited Child (by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka) that negative behaviors always seem to emerge around children’s birthdays and half-birthdays. It has ALWAYS proved to be the case around here. Never fails.

    And, when at work, I always tell parents that they will see big regressions before a huge leap forward developmentally. As a parent, I always, always forget this concept until after the fact. But, at least in hindsight, it is so true.

    Just some food for thought!

  21. My snack mantra is fruit,cheese yoghurt. I do let them have one chocolate bar a day usually at with their lunch.The sugar doesn’t seem to be so isolated there.I always include protein in lunch and dinner.Nuts are a winner too as are home baked oaty goodies like flapjacks. Bread (wholemeal pref) in any form and cold cooked plain pasta are good stand bys too.

  22. I’ve totally noticed this with my own kids. NEVER go on a hike without peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (and some m & m s for the last leg of 5 miles- get out of the woods now, suffer later)

    Protein is really important. We ALWAYS have hard boiled eggs on hand in the fridge. Hummus is good to have on hand too. Or even chick-peas right out of the can.

    But don’t forget some carbs WITH the protein. The carbs pull them back up, and the protein keeps them there.

    i.e. cheese and whole grain crackers. Or cottage cheese and pineapple. Or tuna with tomatoes.

  23. Do you know about Rancho Gordo beans? They could make me eat beans everyday, they are so good! And they have great packaging too. Their website includes recipes for some of their beans, so it’s a good resource for that.

    http://www.ranchogordo.com/

  24. I love 101cookbooks.com. It has some amazing food. Lots of whole grains and unsweetened or naturally sweetened recipes.

    We make our own yogurt and Granola

    As for whole grains we eat brown rice, couscous(so quick and yummy), and quinoa. Waldorf spelt bread is also a great way of getting whole grains. Little read caboose as a recipe from a few months back.

    Homemade peanut butter and some crunchy veggies are a wonderful snack.

    Hope this helps!

  25. We discovered the magic of meal planning last year when our life changed with our new baby. Wow does it make evenings MUCH easier. Plus, we’ve found we both then look forward to cooking our meals, or we might do a bunch of tag team food prep together on Sunday (one cooks, other plays/feeds/baths baby).Our go to awesome cookbooks!Deborah Madison “Vegetarian Suppers”. This cookbook is awesome. Seriously, everything is amazing and most of it is really easy. Lots of bean recipes you might like.Veganomicon – Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Another favorite. Lots of good recipes. The last recipe we made was “Snobby Joes” – a lentil based sloppy joe. My husband eats meat, but he prefers these. I think kids would like them too.We love our pressure cooker for cooking bean, much quicker. We also have an awesome rice cooker. It’s a neuro-fuzzy. Makes the best brown rice and you don’t have to monitor it.These are foodblogs I check for inspiration too. http://smittenkitchen.com/ and http://www.101cookbooks.com/ and http://orangette.blogspot.com/

  26. Hi Molly,

    Kudos to you for slowing down and taking notice. I think it’s a brilliant move.

    Regarding recipes, have you seen http://www.101cookbooks.com/?

    Fantastic recipes and her Super Natural Cooking book is very good. I borrowed it from the library and it’s now on my wish list.

    Hope this helps.

  27. The way you described your daughter sounded exactly like the conversation that my husband and I had about our daughter recently. (she is just about to turn 7) I’m anxious to see what recipes/comments people have on this subject…I need to modify our diets as well, I think.

  28. Hi:Try the “Apocalypse Chow” cook book by Robin and Jon Robertson. It’s great and has a lot of vegetarian/vegan meals that we, even though we are meat eaters, enjoy. We have the “Beat the Blahs Black Bean Cakes” at least once a week. We add rice, applesauce, (that I use like an actual sauce over my BB cake) and carrot salad to round out one of our favorite meals. I also love, love, love “Cooking Light”!

  29. I really need to get better about this too but here are my suggestions (now if only i’d follow them myself!):-hummus saves my life. And my kids will eat lots of raw veggies with hummus. I am picky about it thought. I will only buy it from Trader Joe’s or Costco.-mini bagels with cream cheese-nuts – cashews, pistacios! (again, costco), almonds-frozen peas (“ice cream peas”)

    A really great cookbook is http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Whole-Family-Cooking-Foods/dp/157061525X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236794577&sr=1-1It uses only whole grains and whole foods. It’s really good.

    I’d also second trying quinoa. It can be a little bland so I usually try to cook it in Chicken broth and mix it in with other stuff. You should be able to buy it bulk at most places and Trader Joe’s carries it in a box. We also have tried to switch to whole wheat pasta and using white whole wheat flour for cooking. I will usually do half of whatever the recipe calls for in the white whole wheat flour (except for pie crusts).

    I’m horrible at meal planning so I won’t even say anything about that. 🙂

  30. This is such an interesting topic, Molly. My 2nd and 3rd sons have both had problems with behaviour linked to eating. #2 we used to think of as a really angry child. He would have episodes where he would just loose it. He would get violently angry, It took us way too long (probably until he was about 7 or 8) to figure out that it was totally related to food. Not necessarily which foods he’d had, but just not having had enough to keep him running. He has a super fast metabolism. I have tried for years to use whole grains and add extra protein, cut sugar etc when baking. For him we found bananas as a fantastic quick fix…it was so hard to get him to eat anything else by the time he got to that stage. As soon as he had food he would become himself again and apologise for his behaviour. Child #3 (although a totally different build- much stockier) has similar problems. But he’s worse in a way. He becomes totally difficult to handle-he can’t think, he wants to punish himself-he won’t eat anything because he “doesn’t deserve it” even if it’s his favourite thing. I have to have snacks to give him before those moments hit. I have to plan ahead and have things ready for after swimming or gymnastics. I find I rely on granola bars (yeah I know-masses of sugar and fat, but at least the oats have the right stuff). Once he reaches that point, we almost have to physically force him to eat and then he totally changes back to himself again. The main problem is that he doesn’t register it as hunger. I spoke to my doctor about both of them…#3 had major problems at school last year; I am convinced partly because they had lunch very late and his teacher limited him to one snack. The doctor really didn’t know what it was and said the only way to test it is to bring on an episode and then take blood (as if that would be possible!!!). I think there are lots of kids out there who are like this in some way. I wonder how many kids have been diagnosed ADHD or ADD who really needed to be eating, or eating better-I know we had many people suggest it with our #2. I can’t wait to see some of the recipes that come out of your post-thanks for bringing this topic up. As for recipes…I know that when I bake, I grind nuts and put them in, halve the sugar or use Stevia instead. I always use wholewheat flour, I add ground flax, rolled oats things like that to try and pad things out. I’d love to try and use more beans and grains in dinner cooking.

  31. I don’t have much to add to the suggestions already here, but I will say that as a diabetic, I know exactly how your kids feel when they haven’t had enough protein in combo with other things. It doesn’t happen often that I crash, because I do keep very aware of how long it’s been since I last ate, but when I do, even though my brain knows what the problem is, by then I’m so far gone that I can’t function very well. I can’t make myself move to get food, I’m almost sick to my stomach even though I need to eat, and I’m exhausted afterwards as my body recuperates from the blood sugar plummeting. So I really applaud your efforts here. And while I think I do a generally good job, I’m taking notes here, too! Thanks.

  32. My best friend was having some major behavior issues with her son and the doctor told her to cut certain preservatives out of his diet. It really made a huge difference. I will find out what preservatives they were and let you know. It is always worth a try.

  33. She said she cut out anything that says artificial coloring or flavoring. She cut out everything that has red, blue, and/or yellow dye. She also cut out anything that has Bha, Bht, and/or Thbq in the list of ingredients. It really made a difference with him.

  34. Beans. Molly here is a post I did about how I prepare black beans:

    http://booksandcooks.blogspot.com/2009/01/would-you-care-for-some-beans.html

    I am lucky, lucky, lucky that my 7 year old loves them! And actually gets excited when we have them. I freeze them and it makes for a quick suppper. She loves anything in a tortilla so bean tacos work really well for us as do beans and brown rice with some cheese on top. The tacos work better when you mash the beans a bit. I have another post using pintos if you want to check that out.

    Cookbook-wise, I am a big fan of the Lorna Sass Whole grain book mentioned above, lots of basics and more involved recipes, also I love Veg Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

  35. Cottage cheese with fruit is a good protein source in our house – and various beans in the slow cooker always please the whole family. Black beans and pinto beans done mexican style are the most recent hit. Good luck – we all struggle with improving our family’s diets and it’s a constant effort.

  36. Our favorite tostadas are protein rich and vegetarian:One can of kidney beans1/2 prepared salsa1/c cup frozen corn, thawedSmall can of sliced olives1/4-1/2 cup of walnutsTbs chopped fresh cilantroToss together and serve on (or wrapped in) whole wheat tortillas. To get them crispy, brush lightly with olive oil and stick under broiler until they start browning.

    If making tostadas, top with a little cheese and place in 375-degree oven for about 5-6 min.

    Also yummy as a “salad” served at room temp.

    The recipe is very forgiving and you can add more or less of any ingredient. I tend to get the big can of kidney beans (28 oz) for my hungry family of four.

    Have fun!

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