Coconut Almond Crunch Granola Bars

By Laura Cipullo RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

FullSizeRender

From ready-made breakfasts to kids’ camp snacks, granola bars are a go-to choice for on-the-go moms and dads. What better way to enjoy granola bars, than making them yourself? They’re also a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen!

Time: 30 minutes cooking, 15 minutes cooling

Yields: 10 bars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup nut butter
  • ½ cup dried fruits (raisins, craisins, dried cherries)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Toast oats on baking pan for about 5 minutes, shake or stir the oats on the pan once or twice.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

3. Coarsely chop the almonds and place onto the pan with the shredded coconut and place in oven for about 8 minutes, the coconut will start to turn golden and have a light aroma.

4. While the nuts and coconut are in the oven, pour the honey and nut butter (I used creamy almond butter) into a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, stir occasionally.  Simmer the mixture for 3-5 minutes until it is a medium golden.

5. Remove honey and nut butter mix from heat and stir in oats, almonds and coconut.  The mixture may seem dry, but should be evenly coated.

6. Sprinkle in dried fruits (I used a mix of raisins, dried cherries and cranberries) at the end of mixing.

7. Pour whole mix onto parchment lined baking pan or 8 x 12 cake pan and spread evenly.

8. Compress the granola mix so that there are not any spaces (this will prevent your bars from falling apart when you cut them).  You can use the bottom of another pan covered in parchment paper to flatten out the mix.

9. Wait about 10-15 minutes for mixture to cool before cutting into 1 x 4in bars.

10. Store in air tight container and enjoy!

Fun Adaptation: This recipe also makes a yummy granola! Just crumble the mix after it cools or chop into smaller pieces for a fun yogurt topping!

Finally Free from Fruit Fears?

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

So you may recall my disclosure in a previous blog, sharing that my son is anything

but a fruit lover. He politely refuses whenever offered any – whether it’s the

sweetest, most amazing strawberry, or the crunchiest red apple. When he has tried

the occasional bite, his eyes water, he gags, and just can’t move beyond it. He’s

made it into his teens allowing only raisins, applesauce and an occasional juice into

his otherwise varied nutritional palate. While he enjoyed fruit as an infant and

toddler, something switched when he became a more independent preschooler, and

while I accepted that there must be a lesson of humor and irony for me as his

nutritionist-mom, I inwardly believed that he would just shift out of it as he became

older and around other kids who ate fruit freely.

While I’ve held onto that hope, I’ve become a little more concerned that the mood

may never just strike him out of the blue. I doubt he’ll wake one morning saying,

“Cool – today’s the day I’m super excited to try blueberries”, unless I give him a little

more assistance. And that help must somehow go beyond “just try a little bite”. A

wise friend and extremely gift occupational therapist, Wendy Chen-Sams, MS, OTR,

NDT, actually confirmed my suspicions. She said that the likelihood for young adults

to expand their palates greatly diminishes once these teens have left their childhood

home, particularly when there are strong aversions to flavor and/or texture, as is

my son’s case. Fortunately for him (and me!), he’s become more curious and

actually would like to explore and expand. He’s motivated to grow to his height

potential, and assist his overall health. Cool – the critical first step of motivation is

achieved!

Wendy recommended that we not only move slowly, but also focus on only one

sensory area at a time. Since he seems to have some taste and texture aversions, she

suggested we begin first with introducing a new, mild flavor. Of particular interest

to me was the fact that colder fruits would be much less likely to trigger his gag

reflux, and will slightly numb the sensors so it’s less overwhelming — homemade

popsicles are going to be our new friends!

Our first step will be to combine familiar flavors – banana (which he loves in

pancakes & bread) and orange juice – with a new one, pear. Because we aren’t

exploring texture yet, we will be blending them together until smooth, then pouring

into popsicle molds. Once they’re ready to go, he will explore the taste receptors on

his tongue, particularly on the tip and sides. The receptors at the back of the tongue

are more sensitive, so we’ll gradually make it to those.

Once he’s tolerating (hopefully enjoying, too!), we will introduce some ever-so-

slightly larger pieces of pear within the pops, and graduate to even more texture.

As his acceptance of taste and texture improve, we’ll gradually introduce the same

pear flavor at refrigerator temp. The ultimate goal is for him to eat a pear or new

fruit without any processing. As important as it is for kids to repeatedly try new

and different foods as they begin to acquire a taste and tolerance, it’s also crucial

that we don’t try the new food every single day. A few times a week is just fine, says

Wendy.

So this is part of our summer adventure, and you can be sure that I will keep you

posted as it unfolds!

________________________

Of course there are a plethora of different sensory food aversions, and I am aware

that my son’s are quite mild. If you have a child struggling in a manner that is

interfering with his development or quality of life, it is crucial that you seek some

additional assistance, first checking with your pediatrician who may then refer you

to an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and/or registered dietitian who

specialize in this arena.

 

Two suggested reads:

Meals Without Tears: How to get Your Child to Eat Healthily and Happily,

by Dr.Rana Conway

Just Two More Bites! Helping Picky Eaters Say Yes to Food,

by Linda Piette

Making Sunday Brunch with the Kids

Mushroom-Quiche-e1393425394555

By Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN

Ahh, Sunday brunch. Who doesn’t like the thought of a lazy Sunday morning spent in bed followed by mimosas, French toast, and eggs benedict?

BK (aka Before Kids), Sunday brunch was a favorite pastime of mine. These days my Sundays are a bit different. We wake up early and get ready for a busy day, often filled with birthday parties or some other activity that will tire out the kids before we head back home for their nap. Sunday brunch happens sometimes, but often it’s an easy bagel brunch at home or a chaotic meal at a restaurant. Luckily my girls love to eat, so we’ve actually been pretty lucky with being able to have some good brunch meals out. They’re not the way they used to be back in the day – calm and relaxing; but it is possible to have a nice family brunch with the children at home. How?

I’ve said it before: when children are involved in the cooking process, they are more likely to try new foods since they had a hand in cooking them. And cooking with kids increases their competency in various domains, including fine motor skills, math, science, and reading. If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you, here’s one that will: when the kids are cooking with you, they’re occupied and having fun, meaning you don’t have to worry what trouble they’re getting in elsewhere and you can get a nice meal on the table. And maybe you’ll be able to enjoy a mimosa too!

One Sunday brunch recipe the whole family will enjoy making and eating is this Mushroom Onion Quiche.

 

When I posted this picture on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I received so many likes and comments asking for the recipe. Come back tomorrow for the recipe and tell the kids to get ready to cook this weekend! Not sure what they can do? Here’s a video of my two-year old girls helping me make this recipe.

*You may want to lower your volume for the first 6 seconds to avoid a whining child. 

 

*Link to original post found here.

Fresh Zucchini and Corn Cakes

 

Photo by Whole Foods
Photo by Whole Foods

Our Mommy friend, Danielle, and her little girl, Lucca love these zucchini and corn cakes from the Whole Foods recipe and we’re sure you will too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk or low-fat milk
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Kernels from 1 ear sweet corn (~3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper until smooth. Add corn, zucchini, onion, and stir until combined.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches, drop batter by scant 1/4 cup measures into skillet.  Cook, turning once, until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side; lower heat if pancakes begin to brown too deeply before middle is cooked through.  Add more oil between batches if necessary.  Serve the pancakes warm or room temperature with crême fraîche.

Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Original recipe by Whole Foods can be found here.

Panera Bread: How Head Chef Feeds His Family and Yours

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

IMG_4494

Looking to clean up your eating out? Panera has even more big news! The last time we talked about Panera, we were excited about their announcement to remove all artificial ingredients and flavorings from their menus by 2016, but Panera is not stopping there.  In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend Panera’s Pantry, a pop-up space in Soho, only opened for two days. At their event the first night, Head Chef, Dan Kish, and Head Baker, Tom Gumpel, presented to us a demonstration and sampling of some new sandwiches and salad recipes from their upcoming Fall menu!

As we tasted, listened (and took lots of pictures of our plates!) Dan and Tom explained the trajectory of Panera’s journey and how they had designed the beautiful space where the event was held.  Displayed along the walls and shelves of the space were all 450 ingredients used in Panera’s dishes–the ones they love and the ones they are phasing out–total transparency.

IMG_4504

Panera has been a leader in the food industry, from one of the first to announce their removal of articulate ingredients and flavors, to working with registered dietitians to formulate ensure their meals not only tasted great, but were balanced and provided healthy choices for a individuals and families eating out. We’re giving Panera another big thumbs up as they continue on their journey, and can’t wait to try what they come up with next!

IMG_4506

But what does a Head Chef like Dan, feed his own family after feeding hundreds across America each day? We had the opportunity to catch up with Dan on his family’s favorite meal and what is important to him when making food choices.

MDIO: What’s your family’s favorite meal to make/have together?
Dan: Thanksgiving comes to mind first. That said, there occasions all year ranging from simple grilled bread panzanella enjoyed al fresco in the summer, to slow cooked meals on weekends in the winter that perfume our home with a delicious anticipation.

MDIO: “What’s your child’s favorite food at home?”
Dan: “Simple roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and really good artisan bread with butter.”

MDIO: “What are the most important things you look for when eating out or grocery shopping with your family?”
Dan: “We do our best to know who our food is coming from. Trusted sources are always the best.”

MDIO: “How do you get your kids involved in the kitchen and in learning about the foods that you and they are making and eating?”
Dan: “Our kids know and understand food because they were involved from a young age. When my children were little, we found it best to make them a part of the shopping process. Most effective was to go to local farmers markets and farm stands so they could engage with the people who grew, raised or harvested the ingredients that became the meal.
Salads are a great way to engage kids. Washing ingredients teach care. Making a simple vinaigrette teaches about ratios and balancing flavor and tumbling the ingredients together is fun.”

Grilled Pork Chops with Two Melon Salsa

image

We’ve been talking a lot about watermelons this summer! And as one of the most hydrating and tasty fruits, we’re happy to have one more reason to incorporate it into our summer dishes, just in time for your Fourth of July cookout!

Ingredients:

FOR SALSA

1 cup chopped seedless watermelon

1 cup chopped honeydew melon

3 tablespoons sweet onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalepeno pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

FOR PORK CHOPS

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed

cooking spray

 

Preparation:

1. To prep salsa, combine the first 7 ingredients and set aside

2. To prep pork chops, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Combine oil and next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl.  Rub oil mixture over both sides of pork chops. Coat pan with cookies spray. Add pork to pan, cook for 4 minutes on both sides or until desired degree of doneness.

3. Serve with salsa and enjoy!

image

The original post for this recipe can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

What we Learned at “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox”

By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.26.43 PM

Are you at a loss when it comes to creative kid friendly food? Well, Dishing with the Media gave Mom Dishes it Out some fabulous new recipe ideas! We attended the “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox” event in SoHo a few weeks ago, kid’s cooking expert and professional chef, Cricket, along with 15 year old Season One winner of MasterChef Jr., Chef Alexander Weiss, introduced us to some fabulous recipes and parenting strategies. They shared ways to incorporate nutritious foods into more common kid-friendly recipes, and some new recipes for them to try! Most importantly they shared helpful ways to get kids, as young as 2 years old, excited about helping in the kitchen!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.26.50 PM

The event began with samples of a refreshing green smoothie, “Nutribullet University Blast #2”, a delicious and nutritious summer snack for you and your kids. Even if you are dealing with picky eaters, you can show them how great it tastes by drinking it yourself! Cricket reminded us that the best way to promote healthy habits is to model eating behaviors yourself.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.26.57 PM

Another great way to include unfamiliar foods in your kid’s diet is to incorporate them in recipes they are familiar with. Cricket and Alexander introduced us to two creative recipes using foods kids know and love with others they might be less comfortable with. Cricket’s “Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese Cups” are the perfect way to sneak some veggies into a delicious bite of mac and cheese. They are fun to eat and easy to pack in a lunch box! You can even individually wrap them to freeze and use later on.

Tip from Cricket: Try cooking the broccoli in the same pot as the pasta (add it a few minutes after the pasta) to reduce dishes!

Chef Alexander uses a similar approach with his “Tofu Bao”, a recipe he created to mimic the Pork Sticky Buns many of us know and love. Instead of using pork belly however, he replaces it with tofu to create this tasty and easily packed lunch option.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.27.04 PM

Chef Alexander explained how tofu is available in many varieties types of firmness, pre-baked, cubed, etc.  For those of you unfamiliar with tofu, it is a low calorie, high protein, soy-based product that can be used to replace protein and vegetables in many common dishes. Soft tofu can be blended and used to replace eggs in many recipes to make them healthier. (He advises not to use it in baking as it will make the desert too dense.) Because it is used to replace meat in this recipe, Chef Alexander recommends using a firm variety and to blot it to remove excess water before cooking. He also recommends a non-stick pan for searing tofu in his savory marinade. This sweet and salty dish was one definitely our favorite- delicious!

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.27.16 PM

Another one of our favorite recipes from this event is “Libby’s Veggie Confetti Dip.” It’s a great afterschool snack including a vegetable, protein, and dairy. Cricket showed us how Libby’s vegetable cups can be used to make a tasty dip using only a few simple ingredients: a microwavable Libby’s vegetable cup, yogurt, raisins, and herbs. During her demonstration, Cricket stressed the importance of getting kids involved in the kitchen and turning into a learning experience. Both Chefs agreed that “everyone can cook” so give your kids a task they can complete; an 8 year old can read the recipe out loud and measure ingredients, a 4 year old can use a plastic or butter knife, and even a two year old can help by tearing the herbs! Cricket believes that the more kids are involved in preparation, the more they will want to try the food. She also reminded us to give children “choice within your boundaries” by letting them choose the type of Libby’s vegetable cup!

Tip: This dip goes great with crackers, salmon, grilled chicken, burgers, and can also be blended in a Nutribullet to make a sauce.

We are so excited to get our very own Nutribullet and to recreate these recipes ourselves! All recipes from this event can be found here!

Confessions of a Former Control Freak

IMG_7626

By Dina Cohen, MS RDN CEDRD

One of the best cures for perfectionism has got to be having twins. One baby definitely changes the dynamics of your life, but when there are two, the odds of things going as planned are even more drastically reduced. If one baby manages to stay clean, the other one will surely spit up all over her carefully matched outfit – and yours. If one accommodates your busy schedule, the other refuses to nap. If one happily consumes the meal you worked hard to prepare, the other may turn up her nose at it. Raising twins effectively erases the last vestiges of any illusion of control.

While I was expecting my babies, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, an American author now living in France, and I was enthralled by her description of the way French kids eat. Apparently, they enjoy a sophisticated, varied menu, and picky eating is seemingly nonexistent. Wow! Imagine having kids like that! I knew it would take more work to ensure that my babies tried a wide range of foods from a young age, but I wanted my children to have a healthy, positive relationship with food, and naturally, I sought to avoid the power struggles that can result from dealing with picky eaters. Excited by what I’d read, I looked forward to starting my twins, Adele and Rebecca, on their first solid foods.

The first few weeks were a lot of fun. They are seven months old now and I still love watching the funny faces they make when they taste their first spoonful of a new food. Because I spend so much of my time working to help kids (and adults!) try new healthy foods, it’s a pleasure to be able to serve items like salmon, tofu, beans, and avocado to eager customers who don’t know yet that some people consider these foods yucky. But I’m learning that the only predictable part of this process is the work I put in. After I’ve cooked, mixed, and pureed the day’s treats and settled the babies into their high chairs, all I can do is hope. They are generally easy to please, but sometimes they’ll eat just one spoonful of a new food and turn down the rest. (Quinoa, for example, was not a success…but we’ll try again!) Some days, one or both will refuse a previously enjoyed food, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Their appetites will vary from day to day and meal to meal, and I never know exactly how things will turn out. Adele is clearly the more enthusiastic eater and seems braver when it comes to new textures and flavors, but a couple of nights ago, after tasting turkey for the first time, she went on strike. Rebecca, who is usually much more hesitant with food, happily finished her sister’s portion. Feeding my babies it teaching me to let go of my expectations and to respect each baby as her own little person with her own unique preferences.

Much of my work with pediatric clients is based on Ellyn Satter’s philosophy of division of responsibility in feeding children. I explain to parents that they are in charge of the timing and content of meals and snacks, but they are not responsible for how much their children eat or whether they choose to eat at all. They also do not have control over how their children’s bodies turn out. Adele and Rebecca provide me with my own miniature twin study right here at home. Adele is fascinated by watching her parents eat, and she’s the one making eager little noises at mealtime. When Adele is particularly hungry, she may get two spoonfuls for every one spoonful Rebecca gets. And guess who the bigger baby is? Surprise…it isn’t Adele!

I’ve come to accept that as with so many things in life, my children’s eating is going to be unpredictable, and that my efforts and their outcome are often unrelated. I must admit that while the babies enjoy my homemade yogurt, their favorite food seems to be jarred fruit. They’ll eat their broccoli, but they clearly would rather have applesauce. (My dietitian brain knows it’s their innate preference for sugar, but I have a feeling they know they’re American!) I’m going to keep doing what I can to ensure that the girls get the best possible start, but I realize that that’s all I can do – set the stage. My babies will eat the way they want to eat and grow the way they’re destined to grow. And while they’re busy experiencing new tastes and flavors, their mom is savoring the sweetness of stepping back and letting go.

 Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD provides nutritional counseling for clients of all ages and specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She is dedicated to helping kids and their families develop lifelong healthy habits and a positive relationship with food. Her private practice, Eatwellsoon, is located Lakewood, NJ, where she lives with her husband and twin daughters.

Summer Fun Positive Food Activities: Make Your Own Muesli

Summer Fun Positive Food Activities: Make Your Own Muesli

By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Team

Now that the summer months are here, as a mom you’re probably lining up activities to keep your kids busy. Here’s a fun, creative, way to get your kids involved in making a nutritious breakfast or snack balanced with all three macronutrients – carbs, proteins, and fats. A trip to your grocery store, choosing their favorite ingredients, and mixing it may become a weekly pastime to cherish the entire year! Making your own muesli is affordable, easy, packable for day trip snacks, and flexible with the ingredients so perfect for picky kids and promoting the health.

Main Stream Breakfast Cereals

Many traditional breakfast cereals marketed at your children are made with refined grains, hidden sugars (like rice syrup, corn syrup, maltose and tapioca starch), and other “food additives.” Take a look at the “ready-to-eat”1 boxed cereal you have at home. Look at the Ingredients list, not the Nutrition Facts). Ingredients are listed in descending order, so if you see sugar listed as the first, second or third ingredient, just realize your cereal contains more sugar than any ingredients listed after it. This is cool with us, just use this as information. Know that this cereal is likely a low nutrient dense food (aka “Sometimes Food”) and is best eaten as a side to a sandwich at lunch or with a more filling food.

Also look to see what and how many ingredients there are. Many of the ingredients you don’t recognize, known as “food additives”, are meant to enhance the product’s texture, taste, appearance, nutritional quality or increase its shelf life.2 While fortifying cereal with vitamins and minerals improve the nutritional quality, other food additives like flavor enhancers (ex. artificial sweeteners) and preservatives (ex. sodium) generally do not. Most children’s cereals with refined grains are enriched with the vitamins and minerals lost during the refinement process.

The American Dietetic Association released a study in 2008 on the nutritional quality of children’s breakfast cereal showing that they are significantly higher energy, sodium, carbohydrate, and sugar, and significantly lower in fiber and protein than “non children’s cereal”.1

So consider buying cereal products that are for you, rather than kids! They are just as yummy but more nutrient dense. Most importantly, kids are incredibly active during the summer months, and need an energizing breakfast, that will fuel their days in the sun and keep their body clocks ticking.

Did you know?

Stronger cognitive benefits in breakfasts of oatmeal than for “ready-to-eat” breakfast cereals1.

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 8.02.57 PM

The “Recipe”

There really isn’t a recipe, which makes this idea so fun! You and your kids get to pick the ingredients. Go to your grocery store (preferably one with a “­­­­bulk department”, like at Whole Foods) and let your kids fill a bag with a cereal base of oats, granola, etc. Then, let your kids to find the rest of the ingredients! The set-up of most bulk food sections much resembles a candy store, so your kids will love it.

Here are some ideas:

  •  Nuts/Seeds: Walnuts, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds
  • Grains: Millet, Oats, Cooked Wheat-berries
  • Dried fruit: raisins, cherries, dates, cranberries, shredded coconut (no added oils or sugar)
  • Optional: dark chocolate
  • Cinnamon: add cinnamon 1 tsp to 1 cup muesli.

Let your kids be creative with this recipe, even let each kid make their own! As long as the base of oats/granola makes up most of the cereal, the added ingredients should be entirely up to them (with your direction, of course). It is important that kids have a healthy relationship with food. Show them how excited you are to pick out nutritious ingredients for your own muesli, and they will get excited with you! Happy Eating.

Breakfast and Picky Eaters

Breakfast remains to be one of the most important meals of the day. If you are dealing with a picky eater who only wants to eat, say, Frosted Flakes for breakfast, it is okay. Most important is they eat something before they walk out the door. This is the same for Mom and Dad. While it is important to try new things with your kids, force-feeding doesn’t work. Instead practice exposure therapy, let them make their muesli with the main stream cereal if that helps them expand their nutrition repertoire.

  1. Schwartz, M. B., Vartanian, L. R., Wharton, C. M., & Brownell, K. D. (2008). Examining the nutritional quality of breakfast cereals marketed to children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(4), 702-705.
  2. “Global Food Additives Industry.” PR NewswireMar 19 2013. Web. 31 May 2015 .
  3. Bulk Foods Aisle in Grocery Store. N.d. “Photo Courtesy Photos-public-domain.com”, n.p.
  4. “Harvard University; Dietary Intake of Whole and Refined Grain Breakfast Cereals is Linked to Lower BMI in Men.” Lab Law Weekly (2006): 88. Web. 1 June 2015.

 

What's the Dirt on Clean Eating?

What’s the Dirt on Clean Eating?

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

The mechanics of nutrition are based on science, yet at every turn we hear new headlines and buzzwords that make it hard to distinguish the difference between true, research-based science and the latest fad. One such catchy concept is that of “clean eating’” heard regularly in gyms, on magazine covers and throughout social media. But what is it? And how do we navigate it when it’s aimed at our children?

 

The truth is, there is not a legal, objective, research-backed or even consistent definition to the term “clean eating”.   To some, it means avoiding processed foods. To others, it’s interpreted as low carb, no meat, no dairy, non-GMO or a combination of various nutritional bends.

 

There are, however, many unintended implications attached to using the word clean, leading us to feel a sense of purity, superiority, a kind of “you are what you eat” mentality that takes on a moralistic emphasis.

 

Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc

There is a belief that if I eat this way:

  • I’ll be healthy, prevent diseases and have an ideal weight.
  • I’ll be okay, in fact because I’m eating ‘good’, I’m actually a good person.

And on the flip side, if I don’t eat this way:

  • I’m probably going to become ill, gain unsolicited weight, and be unhealthy.
  • I’m making ‘bad’ decisions, which means I’m probably bad.

 

For many, the path of clean eating is one that started from a positive place, where they wanted to improve their life, health or energy. This is truly an admirable thing, yet as we shift toward rigid ways of eating or behavior change, we begin a mindset and patterns that are anything but balanced. We give up experiences and social opportunities because of the need to comply with limiting eating rules.  We cut out

 

So as a nutritionist, I have had opportunities to work with individuals in the throws of self-proclaimed clean eating.  And while it’s painful to see the side effects of rigid eating rules in adults, it’s most saddening when children and teens become entrenched in it. Whether it’s through social media, friends, a coach or a parent, I’ve begun to see more young people following this good/bad food mentality and the results aren’t pretty.

 

Some of the considerations of ‘clean eating’ for kids (and adults, too!):

  1. Look at what’s missing: are certain food groups limited or completely avoided? While fruits and vegetables give us some carbohydrates, they in no way to can replace the vast benefits of grains. Kids in particular are growing and using energy and at a speedy pace, and they absolutely require regular replenishment of carbs to their body and brain.
  2. Too much of a good thing…isn’t. Focus on high fiber, for example, can be problematic for children, leading to digestive discomfort, diarrhea or potential constipation, but also interfering with the absorption of protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
  3. Limited eating patterns can not only disrupt brain function and overall energy, but also decrease our children’s ability to create hormones and progress on their normal path toward and throughout puberty.
  4. As we teach kids to eat based on rules of good / bad, they become further disconnected from their own bodies, the signals of hunger and fullness, and the awareness of their own individual preferences.   This also disengages them from the process of being an adventurous eater, and can create an overall sense of deprivation.
  5. The limited variety and over-focus on food can either set the stage for or activate a full-blown eating disorder.

 

There is certainly no perfect way of eating, much as there is no perfect body, career or person. When we label food as clean or good, unclean or bad, we’ve moralized it, and that’s a message that permeates deeply within our children’s impressionable young brains. Instead, let’s get back to food being simply food, providing a variety of enjoyable, nutrient-filled options and guiding our kid’s to trust their bodies, not a “foods allowed” list.