Friday, February 24, 2012

WICked nutrition

Today, the wee-est one and I had our fingers pricked to test our iron levels. I got a resounding pat on the back  for my own diet, with a spot on 13.5. Unfortunately, not so the case for baby. His mediocre number of 9.5, wasn't too shabby - but it wasn't great either. A great number for a 1 year old should be 11, so he's over a whole digit below. As I said earlier - not bad at all.... really. A bad number is apparently less than 8 (or did the nurse say 6?), but that didn't matter too much to me. The way I saw it we didn't nail the test... and boy do I hate that!

Have I mentioned yet that I can be a tad bit harsh on myself? This has been true for me since as long as I can remember. It's not that I'm a perfectionist per say.. I just like - no, NEED - to do really really well on anything measurable, especially tests. Give me an A.. or that First Class degree... or 13.5 on the iron test and I'll be as happy as a clam.

When I didn't pass the initial glucose screening test for gestation diabetes with flying colours, during my first pregnancy, I was appalled with myself. I didn't actually fail either - at least not badly enough to have to take the extended glucose test. My numbers were borderline - enough to raise concern - and to whip me into a much healthier diet for the rest of my pregnancy.

In fact, that near fail was enough to shake me into a much healthier lifestyle altogether. So, in hindsight, it was the best result I could have gotten - look at my iron number! It's just a little disappointing that I didn't arm my little fella with the goods to whup the test too.

Ego aside, it's actually a massive surprise that the kid didn't blow the test results right our of the water. He's an amazing eater! And has been since he first realized what food was. At four months he was already yelling to be spoon fed whatever he saw us eat. And at one he still doesn't discriminate between whatever selection we lay in front of him - it all goes down the hatch!

My toddler, however, requires more forward planning and sneaky behaviour to ensure he gets the goods. Now, that kid DID nail his iron test when he was 1- and that didn't surprise me either. He lived all day on massive amounts of boob juice and a nightly vat of iron fortified baby cereal with mashed banana and cows milk. He never ate any meat though (still a fight today), or eggs (not on your life Momma!) so I wasn't quite as confident going in. He really wasn't happy about having his finger tip stabbed..

Baby on the other hand was an absolute trooper. He eagerly held his finger up high in the air - just like Mummy had done. And he didn't flinch - not at all like Mummy had done. The plaster was not a hit with the little guy. He didn't complain though, and it took him less than 2 minutes to work that thing off his wounded digit. It's hard for me not to explode with pride at my babies' antics and performances. Once his number was read out though, I was a somewhat taken aback, and admittedly a little humbled. I'd thought I was bang on with his nutrition - but those numbers don't lie.

The biggest misconception with Anemia is that it's a milk deficiency. Not so the case! Too much dairy in the diet fills us up and prevents us from getting sufficient iron from the rest of our diet. I'd already acquired that snippit of knowledge that from my earlier WIC appointments with our eldest boy, so it hadn't concerned me too much that neither of my boys were big cows milk drinkers. Instead, I'm pretty neurotic about daily yogurt and cheese for calcium requirements -maybe a little too neurotic as it turns out. Baby did start using the 'more' sign because of his affinity for cheese...

The nurse gave me a list of all the foods that are really rich in iron, which I quickly scanned over. The boy eats ALL of them! Even the ones she told me I was supposed to wait until he was 2 before he could have them (oops). So she went on to question his fruit intake, which I was (misguidedly) proud to inform her is 'off the charts'. ''Aha! There's your problem!'' (she didn't actually say it like that -she was a very kind and diplomatic lady).

It turns out that low iron is a very common (though fortunately not too serious) problem in most 1-2 year olds, especially as they're quite often making the transition from breast milk to real foods. Apparently most toddlers only want to live on milk and juice (luckily I don't have that problem with my fellas). The WIC clinic is fastidious in pointing out that kids don't need as much milk (and now seemingly fruit in vast quantities) as we all believe. Quite a conundrum to me as one of there biggest benefits is free milk and juice - by the gallon!

Anyway, it turns out that the little lad is only supposed to consume one cup of fruit a day - he's quite possibly doing that to the power of 3! Too much fruit means too much sugar in the blood, subsequently combating your iron levels, and, bingo bango boom, 9.5! No way! I hate to ration fruit. I've definitely wondered (even googled) about any possible negative effects. But my kids get the full range of goods, and they don't eat sweets on a regular basis, so my thinking has always been that fruit sugar surely can't do any harm, 'Let Them Eat Fruit!'

And so his fruit goes into everything!  In our house we love to juice - it's one of my best ways to get veggies into the boys (including Papa bear)- and juice definitely needs sweetening with apple - what can be so wrong with apple?! And baby fruit puree goes into Momma's Magic yogurt mix (another veg loaded power food) - and it gives his nightly cereal a yummy pop! Not to mention just his regular plane old cart loads of fresh fruit he likes to put away on a daily basis; namely bananas, apples and pears, plus whatever more exotic selection I've scored on sale at HEB that week! Here I am awarding myself  'mum of the year' for his varied and plentiful fruit intake - and all the while I'm ignorantly stripping him of his vittles!

It just goes to show you what you think you know!  

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