I am slowly trying to transition my three-year-old twins to a healthier, closer-to-Paleo diet from a "healthier version" of the SAD (they currently eat meats, fruits, veggies, dairy, whole grains, legumes, limited sugar, limited processed foods, and at least 50% organic or local). I am a single mother and a Ph.D. student with a very limited income. My boys qualify for WIC (Women, Infants, Children nutritional supplementation program), which I must take advantage of in order to make sure we have enough food/calories to eat (especially during the winter when I can't grow my own produce). WIC works by supplying me with checks each month which I take to the local grocery store and exchange for SPECIFIC foods with some room for choice, but not much.
Here is what my boys qualify for during each two week period, including the choices I am allowed to make. I've starred the ones I'm most unsure about.
3 gallons of non-organic "regular" milk - can chose between skim, 1%, 2%
6$ worth of fresh or frozen veggies or fruit - can choose organic, local, etc.
1 lb. non-organic store-brand cheese - can choose cheddar, mozarella, colby or montery jack
1 dozen non-organic, white, store-brand eggs
1 can evaporated milk - must be low fat
*legumes - can chose 1 lb. of slit peas, kidney beans or pinto beans OR an 18 oz. jar of peanut butter
*2 64-ounce containers of juice - can choose apple, tomato or pineapple (the tomato juice doesn't have any added sugars and contains fiber)
*36 ounces of store-brand cereal -- can chose from bran flakes, frosted mini-wheats, corn chex, rice chex, cheerios or plain instant oatmeal (I'm thinking oatmeal???)
*2 "whole grain bread products" - whole wheat bread (I can get a sugar/HFCS-free brand), whole wheat tortillas (sugar/HFCS-free), corn tortillas, or brown rice (I'll add that my boys don't like corn tortillas and aren't big fans of rice so I'd rather not push grains that they can already live without.)
What do you think are the healthiest, most Paleo choices in this context? Are there any foods here that you just would not feed to kids under any circumstances, even financial hardship? The juice is the most objectionable one to me, although my boys really like the chili I make with the tomato juice and they won't eat tomatoes otherwise. Maybe it's not bad as a transition, learning food?
Thanks for your help.
You sound like an amazing mum - you're going to get some fantastic information from other PH'ers here! I don't have bebe's so other mum's advice will be more spot on than me, but I thought to offer up a few helpful things that you may, or may not know about.
The Wholesome Wave program which allows you to double benefits at farmer's markets. It's spreading across the US so maybe you have access in your area?
There is Snap which also provides the "one to one" match on your benefits. So if you spend $20 you get an additional $20. The link for Snap is for the MA area but it breaks down how to use the service nicely.
I also found some information on the WIC Farmer's Market Nutrition Program that looks to be active in 48 states.
This is a great question!
I think the legumes are fine but I'd look at traditional ways of preparation a la WAPF with soaking before cooking.
I would probably opt for the Rice chex as I think those are at least gluten free.
As for the wheat bread/wheat tortilla I think I'd have to compare labels and pick the least offensive one. I honestly wouldn't blink at bit of sugar in anything but I'd focus on finding one with the shortest list of ingredients with words I can pronounce.
I think your choice of tomato juice is a good one especially since you can use that in chili, soups, etc.
I have no idea what in the world you would even do with a can of low fat evaporated milk. I can't believe they have this on the list?!
heidi, ive got a 2 and 4 year old, and our unemployment benefits just ran out. while we are waiting for food stamps and WIC, we are eating from a local food pantry and ive had to really make a lot of tough decisions about how to feed the kids. i totally feel you on this one. are you yourself getting any SNAP benefits? do you have a local pantry that you can use to supplement some of the food choices from WIC?
for the choices on your list, personally i would do the following:
*i would choose the 2% milk if you cant get whole
*the evaporated milk is so weird to me. i thought people just used that in baking or to make dulce de leche! haa!i guess you can use it as a cream to fortify a soup or something?
*for the beans, get dried instead of canned (dont know if they make a distinction?), lentils are great if you can get those, soak overnight.
*the veggies are TOUGH. $6 is not much, but better than nothing. i agree with mer to get things you know they will eat, or that are particularly calorie dense; squash, carrots, i like spinach because its so versatile and easy to hide in meatballs or sauce. peas are pretty noncontroversial and inexpensive.
*definitely tomato juice- can use it for cooking and making soup and stuff, as well as drinking. on a side note, i sort of cant believe they are giving benefits for JUICE which is like so optional for kiddos! why cant they just drink milk and water and put more $$$ into the veggie allotment? oy gevalt.
*my first choice for cereal would be rice chex (they are GF, bot not all rice cereal is GF), second choice would be instant oatmeal if you cant get steel cut, but seems like you already know to look for the stuff thats not flavored or sugared.
*for the whole grain stuff, like others said, my first choice would be rice (cheap, versatile, bulky), second choice corn tortillas (i make little quesadillas and cut them into star shapes, or bake them to crispy and use them as a vehicle for avocado), and third choice HFCS-free bread.
i would never say theres something i would "never feed my kids", because you just do whatever you need to do to get those babies fed. theres a lot of stuff i feed my kids now that i said i would never let them eat, but we do our best. i guess i would really not ever want to feed them like frozen appetizers like the TGIFridays jalapeno chicken poppers or something, but of course if it was that or go hungry, then whatever, its freaking fiesta time. enjoy the damn poppers.
just know that this is temporary. i know how hard it is to make these compromises. i sneak bone or chicken foot broth into the kids every chance i get, we roast a chicken and eat it for days, then make stock with the carcass. at the deli counter you can get the "ends" of the roast beef for about $2 a pound. whatever meat on the bone is on sale, i buy it up and freeze. i know i have other tricks to save money, and ill edit as i think of more stuff.
good luck, mama.
Everyone has covered so much already! The one thing that stood out to me right away is that $6 does not go far in the produce section if your aim is to buy as many calories as you can. So I would personally go for the taters, the squashes and the carrots (since this is what my kids eat). Also avocados? Those will give you more calorie bang as compared to spinach and the like.
Rice chex to avoid the possible gluten problems.
You say that the corn tortillas are not their fave, but my kids will go for them if I melt cheese and roll up tight. (I admit that I don't have these on hand very often though so they may see them as a treat).
Like the oats, soak and cook your legumes well and you're golden. The peanut butter is tempting but it's so full of PUFAs that I try to steer clear of it myself.
Milk - I'd go for 2% or whatever highest in fat you can get.
You can stockpile the evaporated milk to make pumpkin pie maybe? What else can you do with that? Does WIC expect kids to drink it? Maybe you can make a custard?
Heidi, I know here at the farmer's market in DC, they take WIC vouchers. Though the cuts of grassfed meat is generally higher than supermarket prices, the bones and offal is dirt cheap- cheaper than the cheapest cuts in the supermarket. The vegetables are usually comparable to supermarket prices also. So if you would load up on bones and offal along with the vegetables, you could make delicious amazing stews and then use the bones for bone broth for soups and other things.
Of the choices you are given, there's really so little there that's very doable. Definitely the eggs. Oatmeal is probably cool under the circumstances. Go for corn products over wheat where you can. I'm not sure where you are on dairy but the 1 and 2% stuff is not good imo.
edit: as far as legumes go, lentils seem to be a good choice.
Legumes – any but the peanut butter
Juice – Tomato
Cereal – Oatmeal
Bread – corn tortillas or rice (I think you can probably get creative so they would eat them)
I admire your effort to give them the best possible nutrition!
The one I'd pass up is the cereal and bread, because the first meal of the day is pretty important and a super time to get some meat and fat in them before the outside world exerts its influence.
I'd also skip the legumes most weeks unless you really need them as an inexpensive alternative.
I'd take tomato juice and simmer it into tough meat as a tenderizing sauce. I'd take the other stuff as the best I can get right now for them.
I would buy my store brand milk from whole foods, so at least the corn is possibly better quality. Then I would buy organic cream out of pocket and splash some on top of each glass as I pour it.
I cook my rice in butter and chicken stock to get more nutrition into my rice loving toddler. Your kids may like it that way, too. Never forget to salt that rice! To make it I fry the dry kernels in the butter and salt, then pour 2x stock over it until boiling, then cover and simmer on low. This comes out AMAZING. Another option might be a bag of popcorn. A great vessel for butter and keeps kids full for awhile. Have them drink the milk with it for protein.
I would just buy beans and make chili non-Paleo. If our kids eat chili, then utilize it that way. I hated lentils as a kid.
I believe that cheddar is the most calorie dense of those cheeses. Also, using a fine grater, it makes a great tipping for that popcorn.
And you know what? A few grilled cheese sandwiches never killed anyone. We do what we can with what we have.
3 gallons of 2%
$6 worth of fresh or frozen veggies or fruit. Choose between organic and conventional based on this: http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214
Any of those cheeses raw/aged?
Take the eggs.
Do not use the evaporated milk!!
Take the peas or the beans; try to mix it up. No peanut butter (high in omega 6), unless your kids go on strike!
I would take pinapple and tomate.
Plain instant oatmeal.
Rice is best but if they won't eat it, go for whole wheat bread
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