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« REVIEW: Crave Bake Shop (Let's move to Oregon) | Main | 10 Steps to Living Allergen-Free (& Doing it Well) - Women's Lifestyle »

Review: The Magic of the BellyFULL Kit (from The Hopeful Company)

The Tender Foodie welcomes regular guest blogger, Melanie Potock of My Munch Bug.


The BellyFULL Kit

When the mailman recently delivered a box from The HopeFULL Company, it took a minute to recall what might be inside: “Oh, right” I pondered.  “This must be those funny shaped frozen pop molds from those gals in Minnesota…”  As a feeding therapist, I love to try new products that help kids be more adventurous eaters. Whether I am working with a medically fragile child or a garden variety “picky eater”, I am always thinking of how to make eating fun!
But, another frozen treat mold?  Really?  My father always taught me: Never judge a book by its cover.  There had to be more to this.  I opened the box and began to examine what new treasure had arrived that day while discovering how I might use this to help children be more adventurous eaters.  The box contained a complete BellyFULL Kit, which included…

1.       An adorable chef’s hat: the essential accessory.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good hat?


 It’s adjustable too!  I have a huge head and I suspect the hat is meant for kids, but of course, being 52 going on 5,  I had to try it on.  It didn’t quite fit sitting on my blockbuster noggin, but if you undo the Velcro in the back and slip it on like a pilgrim hat, it’s absolutely fabulous.  
Me in my "Pilgram" hat

2.       A silicone mold: if you’ve got kids, you know the absolute delight in anything wiggly and jiggly!

This bright orange flexible mold allows the 8 frozen pops to be well, “popped” out with ease.  In feeding therapy, we know the first step to interacting with new foods is being willing to handle the container.  For many kids, this can be as challenging as spooning out a Brussels sprout from a family serving bowl.  With the BellyFULL mold, the container is so enticing, kids will be eager to handle it, fill it and pop out the nutritious treats.  It’s irresistible!



3.       100 Birchwood spoons that your kids get to push into the pop with the bowl of the spoon sticking OUT, like a little handle.  

The spoons are just the right size for little fists and offer just enough of a handle that the pops won’t flip out of their grasp.  Have you ever noticed that a traditional frozen pop stick is just too narrow and too long for little fists to hang on to?  Plus, the curve of the spoon bowl fits nicely with the curve of your child’s thumb, adding extra stability while holding the pop.  Hesitant eaters don’t want their food waving in front of them.  They want to feel secure and stable with it before they put it in their mouths.  



4.       My favorite part: the coated recipe cards (easy clean!) on a ring (brilliant!) with fun, playful graphics that will elicit plenty of belly laughs!  

My favorite card was the recipe for “Applesauce-A-Saurus” pops, with a silly photo of a ferocious dinosaur about to devour an orange tray of frozen pops!

The photos are entertaining conversation starters to help kids decide which recipe they want to make that day.  When you have a hesitant eater, introducing a new food truly begins with something silly, like a dinosaur eating popsicles or putting on a chef’s hat upside down!  If you can engage them in the kitchen and get them involved in the preparation of the food, you are that much closer to that first taste.
More than just a ring full of recipes, each card includes a “Kids Can” text box with fantastic suggestions for helping kids experience all the sensory aspects of cooking.  The suggestions on each card are helpful reminders for parents to get their kids involved and include recommendations like, “Kids can…squeeze the pulp out of the halved avocado into the blender” and “Pack the spinach leaves to measure.”
Spinach?  Yes Popeye, spinach.  This isn’t an effort to hide healthy food in a sugary treat; this is a mission to get your kids involved in washing the spinach leaves, pulling off the stems, packing the measuring cup and dumping it in the blender along with the other wholesome ingredients for the “Raspberry Robot” pop.  Hear the blender whir and watch as the leaves disappear along with the avocado, almond butter, raspberries and yogurt.  Don’t be surprised if they announce that they love frozen spinach!


Substitutions for Food Allergies & Texture Works!

The result of this blenderized magic is a smooth, velvety frozen treat that offers just the right consistency for little munchbugs learning to tolerate frozen foods.  For example, the Raspberry Robot pop had a texture similar to a traditional fudge bar, easy to bite into and quick to melt in the mouth.  Because my job involves helping children learn to tolerate new textures, I experimented with this recipe a bit.  I substituted frozen cherries for the raspberries and blended just a tad less to keep some extra texture (cherry skins) in the mix.  Another time, because so many of my clients have food allergies, I substituted sunflower seed butter for the almond butter and tasted no difference.  A third time, I used orange juice instead of almond milk and the pop was a bit more like a traditional icy treat, requiring a bit more strength to bite into and providing a more solid chunk in my mouth.  For kids who are taking that next step in jaw strength, the ability to change the recipes in order to change the hardness and texture of the frozen pop is appealing.  Substitutions were always simple and tasted great!
Now, some kids have trouble with temperature, especially “frozen” foods.  My favorite therapy technique is to have a narrow glass filled with water to dip the frozen treat.  It makes the outer layer melt just enough to help a child take their first lick.  Kids love to watch the colored swirls in the glass as you twirl the frozen pop in the water and slowly, over time, adjust to the temperature.  


Gentle Eating for Those With Cancer

Know what I love best about The BellyFULL Kit?  That it came about quite unexpectedly from a random act of kindness.  Jessica and Stephanie, the two sisters who founded The HopeFULL Company, reached out to help a family friend who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.  
BellyFull Founders, Jessica and Stephanie
They said “Like many people undergoing chemotherapy treatments, eating was no longer an enjoyable activity for our friend. She struggled to find foods that she could tolerate and that would give her enough calories and nutrition. Knowing we both made homemade baby food for our children, she asked us to make her meals which were small in portion, packed with nutrition and without strong flavors. We were thrilled to help and dove enthusiastically into the project.”
What began as an act of kindness to nurture a dear friend grew to include a new project:  The BellyFULL Kit. Jessica and Stephanie tell us that “this kit was inspired out of a desire to introduce whole foods to our young children in a way that nurtures their curiosity for food, fosters a love of whole foods and desire to eat healthy. The BellyFULL Kit makes it easy to introduce whole foods to young children in an adventurous, playful way. Our frozen BellyFULLs make eating whole foods fun for kids, and preparing them together can create memories which will last a lifetime! BellyFULLs are perfect for finicky little eaters, children with sensory issues, little chefs in the making, parents who made their own baby food, upcoming kid birthdays or mommy-to-be/baby showers!”
And to that I shout from my happy belly: “BRAVO Sisters! BRAVO!”


About Melanie