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HEALTHY FAST FOOD FOR PRE-SCHOOLERS
By Lisa Rivero

"Peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich-and-juice, peanut-butter-and-jelly-
sandwich-and-juice."
     The chant usually begins to come from my pre-schooler's bedroom 
at about 6:00 a.m.  He wakes up early, and he wakes up hungry. 
For the rest of the day, our kitchen will be the busiest room in the 
house.  If he's not eating a meal, he's eating a snack, or requesting a 
glass of juice or soy milk.
     All parents of pre-schoolers know the challenge of providing 
nutritious, fast foods for our children. We are often tempted by the 
convenience of packaged "goodies," but we know our children are better 
served by wholesome meals and snacks. 
     Parents of vegan pre-schoolers face the additional challenge of 
finding healthful dairy-free and egg-free fast foods. And peanut butter 
and jelly goes only so far.
     I've found that by serving several mini-meals throughout the day, 
I'm less likely to succumb to a lot of packaged snack foods. By following 
a few guidelines, I've been able to keep my son happily and healthfully 
fed, without spending hours over a stove.

PLAN TO HAVE LEFTOVERS
     First, plan to have leftovers, especially leftover grains.  
When you're cooking pasta or rice for supper, make a little extra for 
tomorrow's lunch, then dress it up with a vegetable-based sauce.  
Introduce a variety of grains by occasionally making barley or millet 
instead of rice.  The next time you're in the grocery store, look for 
pastas made of corn (kids love the bright yellow color), amaranth, 
spelt, artichoke, brown rice, and buckwheat flours.  Children seem 
to like small pasta shapes such as spirals, shells, wagon wheels, 
elbow macaroni, and, of course, alphabet pasta. To make spaghetti 
more manageable for young children, snap it into two or three pieces 
before cooking.
     Some children like cold foods, and will eat leftovers straight 
from the refrigerator.  If you want to warm up leftover rice or 
vegetables, simply steam them for a minute or two, then fluff
with a fork.  Leftover pasta can be reheated for a few seconds in 
boiling water, then drained. Cooked vegetables and grains can also be 
pureed and used as sauces, spreads, or puddings.

BUILD ON FAMILIAR TASTES
     Pre-schoolers often have a few select foods that they like to 
eat again and again.  If your child is going through a nothing-but-
green-peas phase, serve peas with brown basmati rice or whole wheat
couscous, or even alone in a bowl drenched with a nutritious sauce.  
A little peanut butter mashed with cooked beans may be more acceptable 
to your pre-schooler than the beans alone.  Adding a bit of fruit 
juice is another good way to lend familiar flavor to unfamiliar foods.

SATISFY YOUR CHILD'S SWEET TOOTH NATURALLY
     Satisfy your child's sweet tooth naturally with ripe bananas, 
sweet potatoes, winter squash, and dried fruit.  If your child is 
used to having sweet desserts, try offering a fruit ambrosia salad made
with sliced bananas, cubed steamed sweet potatoes, and a sprinkling 
of chopped dates or dried apricots.

KEEP FOOD SIMPLE  
     Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than spending an hour making 
a complicated meal that your child refuses to touch.  Children are 
often less suspicious of simple dishes, and by spending less time
cooking, you can spend more time with your child.

LET YOUR CHILD HELP
     Let your child help to fix the food whenever possible.  Even a 
two-year-old can mash tofu or add dried fruit.  While you're in the 
kitchen, talk to your child about the ingredients you're using,
and give the child a choice when you can--for example, "Should we 
put a banana or an apple in this cereal?"

EAT WITH YOUR CHILD
     You'll not only be providing companionship, but if you eat the 
same food your child does, your example will be more influential than 
your pleading or reasoning.
     If you pack a lunch or snack for your pre-schooler, consider 
sending pasta salads made of multi-colored pasta, broccoli trees, 
and a simple sauce.  Or pack a fondue lunch with a thick dip,
cubed vegetables and fruit, and bread sticks or whole-grain crackers.  
Small whole-wheat pita pockets can be filled with bean spreads or stuffed
with shredded vegetables.  Older children enjoy home-made trail mixes 
consisting of pieces of dried fruit, nuts, and sugar-free cereals.

SAUCE RECIPES
     Here are six fast sauces that you can make in a blender, no 
chopping or cooking required. If you always have on hand pre-cooked or
canned legumes and some steamed sweet potatoes, you can make each of 
these sauces in five to ten minutes, just about the maximum waiting
time of a hungry pre-schooler!  If you've tried unsuccessfully to get 
your child to eat beans or tofu, these sauces may be your answer.
     My son likes these sauces over pasta, but you can also use them 
to dress up rice, pancakes, fruit, or vegetables.  Or you can reduce 
the amount of liquid, and serve them simply in a bowl with a spoon.

SIMPLE PEANUT BUTTER/TAHINI SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

Toss this comforting sauce with macaroni and peas, or use as a
dip for carrot sticks and pita triangles.

2/3 cup cooked navy beans
2 to 3 Tablespoons peanut butter or toasted sesame tahini
1/4 to 1/3 cup water, orange juice, or apple juice

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 160    
Fat: 7 grams    Protein: 9 grams  


SWEET ALBERT SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

Drizzle this delicious sauce over a bowl of fruit chunks for a
special breakfast or fast dessert.

Half a 10.5 ounce package soft silken tofu
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 to 2 Tablespoons almond butter, peanut butter, or tahini
1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
2 to 4 Tablespoons water

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 102    
Fat: 7 grams    Protein: 5 grams


BANANA PUDDING SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

Pour over pancakes or waffles, or mix with cooked rice and sprinkle 
with cinnamon and raisins for an instant rice pudding.

Half a 10.5 ounce package soft silken tofu
1 very ripe banana
1/4 to 1/3 cup plain soy milk or water

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 112   
Fat: 2 grams    Protein: 5 grams


QUICK CARROT SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

Serve this Oriental-style sauce over rice and stir-fried bok choy
or thinly shredded cabbage. It's a great source of vitamin A
(beta-carotene).

1 cup grated raw carrot (1 medium-large carrot)
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
2 ounces soft tofu
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon dried ground ginger

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 81   
Fat: 3 grams    Protein: 2 grams



ORANGE RAISIN SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

Toss with wagon wheel pasta and steamed green beans, or
serve over brown rice and peas.

3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 to 1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/4 cup raisins 

Blend chickpeas, orange juice, and curry powder in a blender 
until smooth.  Stir in raisins.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 203    
Fat: 6 grams    Protein: 6 grams


SWEET POTATO FIG SAUCE
(Serves 2 to 3 children, or 1 child and 1 adult)

My son likes to eat this sauce with nothing more than a spoon. 
It's another great Vitamin A source.

3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/3 to 1/2 cup water or plain soy milk
2 teaspoons toasted sesame tahini
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 dried figs, chopped

Blend sweet potato, water or soy milk, tahini, and nutmeg in
a blender until smooth. Stir in figs.

Total Calories Per Child Serving: 255    
Fat: 3 grams     Protein: 4 grams  

TEN SPEEDY BREAKFASTS FOR PRE-SCHOOLERS
Beyond the Peanut Butter and Jelly Routine

Fast breakfasts for pre-schoolers can be almost any combination of
grains and vegetables or fruits that your child enjoys.  Here are
some ideas to get you started.  And remember, breakfasts can be
served any time of the day.

1)      Mash a ripe banana, add a spoonful or two of wheat germ, and
        moisten with soy milk.  Sprinkle with raisins and cinnamon.
        Children learning to use a spoon love this thick cereal.
2)      Mix leftover whole-wheat couscous with grated carrot and 
        peas.  Top with Orange-Raisin Sauce.
3)      Scramble some soft tofu, stuff it in a whole-wheat mini pita
        and drizzle with Quick Carrot Sauce.
4)      Fill a whole-wheat mini pita with Simple Peanut Butter/Tahini
        Sauce and choppped dates.
5)      Dip chunks of steamed sweet potato in Banana Pudding Sauce.
6)      Mix mashed cooked butternut squash with cinnamon or nutmeg 
        and diced apple.  If necessary, thicken with soft, fresh bread
        crumbs.
7)      Make a breakfast smoothie with soft tofu, soy milk, and your
        child's favorite soft fruit.
8)      Grind some low-fat granola in a blender (children sometimes
        have difficulty chewing whole nuts and seeds).  Mix ground
        granola with unsweetened applesauce, or sprinkle it over
        Sweet Potato Fig Sauce.
9)      Simmer a handful of bread cubes and some leftover rice with 
        mashed soft tofu, some soymilk and dried currants, and a touch
        of cinammon for a warm breakfast pudding.
10)     We call this dish Tofu Albert:  Toast one-half of an English
        muffin.  Top it with a very thin slice of firm tofu, add some 
        steamed broccoli or sliced bananas, and drench with Sweet
        Albert Sauce.

Lisa Rivero is the proud mom of a vegan pre-schooler.
______________________________________________________________
This article originally appeared in the November/December, 1994 issue
of _Vegetarian_Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
Phone: (410) 366-8343

_Vegetarian_Journal_ is one project of the Vegetarian Resource
Group.  We are a non-profit organization which educates the public 
about vegetarianism and the interrelated issues of health, nutrition,
ecology, ethics and world hunger.  For more information about the VRG,
write or call us at the address or number above, or contact us via 
email through Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@clark.net.

The contents of the Vegetarian Journal and our other publications
are not intended to provide personal medical advice.  Medical advice
should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

For comments or questions concerning this article, please email
Bobbi Pasternak at bobbi@clark.net.

This text file may be freely distributed provided it is not altered.





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