Keep Your Family Moving…Yoga and More

As you know if you read this Mom Dishes It Out blog on a regular basis, I have two sons who are picky eaters. But what you may not know is that my two picky eaters are not only exposed to various foods but various forms of movement as well. As a young child, I remember my mom doing her leg lifts to Jane Fonda on the TV. I also remember a magnet on the refrigerator that read something like: “Don’t break your DIET! Don’t open the frig!”

I always viewed my parents as being overweight. Now I look back at old pictures and think: “Wow, they were so much smaller in the 70s and 80s than now in 2013!” Back then, we were a pretty active family. We always went camping during the summer, hiking on weekends, and skiing in the winter. Mind you, my parents did not ski. But they definitely helped us children to be active. Eventually—and unfortunately—they became inactive. They stopped camping, hiking and even doing little Jane Fonda-like exercises. They became the parents that hung their clothes on the exercise bike. They’d pay for gym memberships for an entire year, but never go!

On the other hand, I kept active through school sports and then later via gym memberships. In college, I was blessed with opportunities to rock climb, mountain bike, backpack, and snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains along with other great physical activities. My dad was ecstatic that I loved the outdoors like he had when he was young…and gladly footed the bills for all of my expensive equipment. And I was happy to experience the thrills as well as the sense of accomplishment these activities brought me. 

Well, now I’m a parent too. But I don’t have the luxury of a home in the suburbs with a big backyard. This is my choice! For a variety of important reasons, my family and I choose to live in New York City. What I do maintain is a true love of movement. I also know how critical it is for parents to role model healthy behaviors such as active movement on a daily basis. This does not necessarily mean pumping weights at the gym or sweating it out on the stepper in LuLu Lemon!

My father never hiked, biked or camped with weight loss or even heart health in mind. He did so for enjoyment only. Unfortunately for my dad—and my mom too—they stopped enjoying the activities. And they stopped engaging in them! Of course, they should have continued for health reasons.

Well, I persisted and still continue to be active today. I must admit, however, that I did at one point get lost and confused. I was exercising—especially running—for a calorie burn rather than enjoyment and overall health. Thankfully, I didn’t get lost for too long. Believe it or not, an injury forced my introduction to new types of movement and a renewed adoration for moving to increase my energy, to decrease my stress levels, to balance my body, and to straighten my posture. And to just have fun while keeping my heart healthy and my body efficient.

I want to pass this love of movement on to my kids. I think I have passed it on to my husband, who didn’t exercise at all when I met him…in part because he hated running. He now spins and practices yoga because he tried these activities with me and loved them. Together we have taken the kids hiking, skiing and on active family vacations through the mountains of Colorado. Just the other day I heard my son Bobby tell my mother that I had just retuned from spinning and then he corrected himself and said: “Oh no, I mean Pilates.” Not only does this create dialogue around physical activity, but our boys, just like any other children, observe that their mommy and daddy enjoy different physical activities for different reasons and with different people. 

For example, while pregnant with each of my boys, I practiced yoga and Pilates. Unable to find a prenatal yoga class six years ago, I found a yoga instructor willing to barter with me instead. I would provide nutrition education and she would provide yoga in my home. Well, it has become the best deal ever because for years now, my sons have watched my husband and me practice yoga together. Sometimes they even join the session, but for just a few minutes. However, this past week was different. Our yoga instructor, Jen G, came to the apartment for a session. My husband joined in and so did my children. It was the cutest thing ever. All four of us were doing yoga together. And the boys lasted for 30 minutes! It was definitely not the most de-stressing yoga session, but it was absolutely the most fun. When thinking about our family yoga session, I also realized that not only has movement positively affected our lives as a family, but yoga specifically has also helped me to teach the boys to take a deep breath and “Om” when they’re frustrated or just need to let off some steam.

As parents we are endlessly prompted to role model healthy behaviors and to exercise for our own health. Just remember that all of our behaviors—whether healthy or not—are indeed observed and then reenacted. Please don’t ever connect exercise with weight loss because your children will come to think about it as negative, dreadful and fruitless. Rather, explain how exercise helps to guarantee their health.

We have the ability to help our children to love their bodies and love to move…and ultimately move for the right reasons. As a mother and a dietitian, I encourage parents to teach their children to be physically active for strength, heart health, strong bones, stress relief, and most importantly, fun. Remember, the best exercises are those that we enjoy and want to do again and again. So don’t wait! Get up right now. Grab your kids and go to the ice-skating rink…or wherever your family can share some healthy and fun-filled physical activities.

Q: Can I teach my child with attention difficulties to be a mindful eater?

A Westchester Mom asks the question:

I have children with attention difficulties and because of this, I feel that their ability to detect hunger and fullness cues are dulled. Can this be taught?

Moms, Laura and Elyse respond:

All children, whether they have attention difficulties or not, can benefit from a quiet, calm and soothing environment that’s free of distractions, but it’s just as important to time all meals and snacks too. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can help teach your child how to recognize internal satiation cues over time.

Set the mood. Give your child a 5-minute warning that their meal will be served. Take this time to turn off any screens that may be on, and maybe turn on a little light, relaxing music in the background. The atmosphere can be a critical element as you begin to create a calming environment.

Take control. Because a hyperactive child may be impulsive, I recommend keeping the food on the counter or stovetop to prevent impulsive behaviors during the meal. Once your child is ready to eat, you can then go ahead and plate their food. It’s okay if your child requests seconds, but it’s a good idea to ask what their stomach feels like before going ahead and serving more. In other words, ask what their hunger or fullness level is before dishing out a second portion.

Hungry vs. Full. One good way to determine whether your child truly wants a second portion is to have them create a unique scale that allows them to express their hunger or fullness. Keep in mind that even adults may have difficulty determining the difference between hungry and full based on biological factors. A deficiency or resistance to the hormone leptin, for example, can impede on the ability to determine fullness. More research is needed to identify whether this holds true for children too, and if so, what the exact trigger is [1].

Create your scale. Try designing a child-friendly chart that ranges from 0 to 10—0 meaning starving and 10 being extremely full.

Let your child think up their own descriptions for the numbers 0, 3, 5, 7, and 10, but begin by asking them to describe what 0 and 10, or starving and stuffed—the most extreme sensations—feel like first, as these are most obvious. What does “extreme hunger,” or a 0, feel like? Is it dizzy? Is it crying? Is it sleepy? Is it a meltdown? Does your belly hurt? Are you nauseous or queasy? Then ask them to identify the opposite extreme. This would be overfull or stuffed and equal to a 10 on the scale. Does this mean belly pain? Belly sticking out? Nauseous? Want mommy to rub belly? Pants may be uncomfortable around their tummy? Not interested in eating more food? Can’t sit at table any longer? Can’t eat your favorite food if offered?

Each of these descriptions will differ slightly from one child to the next, but ultimately, it will help to jump-start this identification process, allowing them to both feel and recognize internal satiation cues. If it’s difficult for your child to verbalize their feelings, try using faces (happy, sad, etc.), stickers or pictures of children who appear happy, sad, angry, etc. to allow them to relate to the emotion.

Once extreme feelings are identified, then narrow it down by establishing what it means to be neutral, or not hungry and not full. This would be a 5 on their scale.

If your child is at a 5, but claims to still be hungry, then it’s appropriate to serve enough food to get them to a 7 on the scale. At that point, you probably wouldn’t need to serve an entire portion. (Of course, the amount will differ for each child, and individual parents can estimate and then let their child determine the rest.)

If your child responds that they are at a 7, explain to them that their body received all of the nutrition it needs for now, and they can have something to eat at the next meal or snack when their body is hungry again. (Remember, this all depends on your child’s personal scale. This may be a 3 for them.)

If your child asks for food in between meals or snacks, explain that food is only necessary when they are truly hungry, which may be when they feel like a 3 or higher (again, this may vary). The point is to teach them the difference between hunger and fullness, and while they should trust that you’ll serve them more when they are truly hungry, the scale will also allow them to identify whether they need more or not on their own.

Example of a H/F scale

10 = Belly Pain

7 = Comfortable fullness

5 = Neutral, can eat a little more

3 = Stomach growling, stomach empty, need to eat

0 = Starving

Institute a reward system. You can also consider offering a reward for positive behavior, for example, when your child sits nicely at the dinner table. The reward should be age specific, and consistency is key. This reward should not be food. The reward is not for eating but for sitting at the table. Never reward for eating or use food as a reward.

Photo Credit: bogenfreund via Compfight cc

One way to facilitate a reward system is to utilize tangible measurements of time, such as an hourglass. This can be placed before your child so they can monitor their behavior too. Start small, and work up to greater accomplishments. For the first week, if your child sits at the kitchen table for more than 10 minutes, regardless of what they did or did not eat, they would get a reward. At week 2, if the child sits at the table for 12 minutes, regardless of what they eat or how much, they would get a reward. Helpful Hint: The sand timer from Lakeshore Learning Center offers different time ranges from one minute to ten minutes.

Of course, all children—not just those with ADD or ADHD—have limited attention spans when it comes to sitting at the table. These strategic tactics are simply inspired by behavioral techniques utilized for children with special needs, though the goal is a common one: to ensure that your children get the nutrition they need.

  1. Aronne, LJ, Bowman A. The Skinny: On Losing Weight Without Being Hungry-The Ultimate Guide to Weight Loss Success. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group; 2009.

Guest Blog: Elyse Falk

Hi, I’m Elyse Falk and I am a registered dietitian in Westchester, NY and a mom of 3 wonderful, energetic boys, ages 11, 8, and 4. I initially decided to become an RD because I love good food—you know, the kind that makes your body healthy and strong—and immediately knew I wanted to raise a family that would grow up appreciating good, wholesome food as much as I do.

Through my education as well as my professional and personal experiences, I have learned that both parents and their children must play active roles in cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
As a parent, I am responsible for determining the types of food that are in the home and preparing these ingredients in a way that my family will actually eat and enjoy. In order to do this, I am always planning a day ahead and thinking about how to serve meals that include at least 3 to 4 food groups. Looking at my childrens’ diets as a whole, I ask myself: Did they get their fruits and vegetables for the day? What about lean proteins and low-fat dairy?

But it’s not just about what they eat; I am also in charge of structuring their meals and snacks throughout the day, deciphering how they eat too. My ultimate parental role is to educate my children so that they understand the difference between when to eat foods that “do good things” for the body versus when to eat “sometimes foods,” otherwise defined as those products or ingredients that don’t offer much nutrition for the body.   
Something I’ve discovered is that “sometimes foods,” like cookies (my boys love chocolate chip cookies), don’t necessarily need their own place and time. Instead, I find that they should be neutralized in order to eliminate the notion of treats. If they ask for cookies, for example, I allow my boys to eat them with their dinner, a decision which neutralizes dessert so that it is not necessarily the highlight of their evening intake. When I first started combining dinner and dessert, I was fascinated that my son actually went back and forth between eating his veggie burger and cookie at the same time, finishing both without an issue. This also proves how insignificant dessert really is to children; all they’re really hoping for is a “sometimes food” at some point during their meal.

All parents, myself included, need to serve as a role model for healthy eating. One way I accomplish this is by sitting down for meals with my children and showing them how I enjoy consuming delicious, wholesome food. As for the kids, at the end of the day, they are the ones who are in charge of how much food to eat and whether they want to eat certain kinds or not. While I encourage them to try new foods, I won’t ever push them to the point where it becomes an issue. (I do expect them to say, “no thank you” and “please,” though. Manners are important too.)

Photo Credit: ….Tim via Compfight cc

As my boys get older, they seem to be developing more adventurous tendencies. If one tries a new food, the others seem to want a taste too. (This is incredibly funny to watch as an outsider.) As they’ve grown, I’ve also learned a thing or two about their eating habits. For instance, I don’t celebrate if one of them tries a new food, because as soon as they see my contentment, they’ll stop eating it (it has to do with control). I’ve also discovered that some days they can eat me under the table whereas other days they’re just not as hungry.

Being an RD and working with clients with disordered eating habits has made me particularly sensitive to the way my boys experience food at home. As a mother of 3, I know that food can be both necessary and fun, and yet I’m also aware that it can cause stress and concern at times too.
Laura, my friend and colleague for 10 years, has asked me to join her efforts on Mom Dishes It Out and to contribute my experiences and expertise to give her readers yet another perspective on finding joy and balance in moderate parenting and feeding. I am happy to be a part of this project and hope all the feeders and eaters out there know that it is a constant balancing act, but it is one that is worth every minute.

Raising Children With Different Nutrition Needs

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE with Elyse Falk, MS, RD

Photo Credit: Marina K Caprara via Compfight cc

A Real Mom’s Question

How should a parent handle instances when one child has a HUGE sweet tooth, and is underweight but the other kids in the same family are a normal weight or overweight?  For example, at dessert time, all the kids want ice cream – maybe one child shouldn’t have a ton and the other really could use it.  How does a parent deal with this situation in a way that doesn’t create food issues?

Two Real Moms’ Answers

Focus on Equality

First and foremost, everyone should be treated equally at the dinner table. In order to prevent any type of discord between the kids, you’re far better off teaching them the importance of nutrition and their health in a more neutral setting.

Regardless of weight, children need to focus on eating balanced meals and snacks. Sweets, like cake, cookies, and candy, are what we like to call “sometimes foods,” because they are foods that are okay to eat some of the time.

The child with the huge sweet tooth has to learn to eat an array of flavors – not just those made mostly of sugar – otherwise they may develop nutrient deficiencies or simply close their mind to the idea of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, eggs and low-fat dairy. Even an underweight child should not make sweets his or her primary source of nourishment. Instead, teach them to focus on increasing the amount of nutrient-dense foods they consume throughout the day. Young children need to learn to eat the kind of food that’s necessary for their bodies, and observe healthy role models who guide them, so that they can grow into confident eaters.

Reassess

Did your family’s pediatrician recommend that your child gain weight, or are you assuming this? Do your children’s height and weight fall into in the same percentiles on the growth chart? If so, it is probably safe to assume that both of your children are at appropriate weights. In general, the focus should not necessarily be on gaining weight. Instead, it should be on eating enough nutritious food on a daily basis. Consider seeking counseling with a registered dietitian.

If your child’s weight is truly beneath their height on the growth curve, your child has not grown in a year, or if a physician prescribed weight gain, then you’ll need to focus on increasing the quantity of food your child is consuming while simultaneously looking for ways to add nutrient-dense foods to their intake (this refers to a small serving of food that is high in calories). As Mommy Faulk reminds, children have smaller stomachs than adults and often can’t consume large amounts of food at a time. Because of this, they may need to eat smaller, nutrient-dense meals more often.

You may also want to ask yourself: Is my child a picky eater? Don’t forget that, just because school sets aside time for lunch doesn’t mean your child is eating. Perhaps something happened at school that is causing them not to eat, or maybe they don’t have enough time to eat. This may be the problem, especially if your child has lost a significant amount of weight in the past 2 months (>/= 2%) and could possibly put them at risk of developing an eating disorder. In other words, in order to remedy the situation, it’s essential to first determine why your child is not meeting their nutrition needs.

Quick Tips to Increase Intake Without Increasing Quantity

  • Add 1-2 tbsp of wheat germ to yogurt, meatloaf, cereal, muffins, etc.
  • Add an extra slice of cheese to their sandwich.
    • Add granola to low fat yogurt or allow them to eat it plain.
    • Put peanut butter on their muffin.
    • Make smoothies with protein powder and lots of berries.
    • Add a morning snack of raisins or nuts at around 10 a.m.
    • Provide a snack of crackers and a spread like hummus before bed.
    • Encourage healthy fats such as avocado, olives, olive oil, nuts, and nut butters.
    • Have all-natural nutrition bars and packaged low-fat milk available on the go.
    • Let them have a mini-meal when they get home from school, like a sandwich, grapes, low-fat cheese, hearty soup, homemade English muffin pizza, etc.
    • Add olive oil to whole-grain pasta and veggies; let child dip whole-grain bread into olive oil with their meal.

Behaviors to Implement

  • Talk to the school to help your child to remember to eat.
  • Help your child relax before meals and decrease anxiety to prevent emotional fullness.
  • Encourage your child to help choose the menu.
  • Do not discuss food issues and/or weight at the table.
  • Focus on your child’s behaviors around food and commend them for trying new foods or practicing self-care.
  • Make meals an enjoyable time so they are not rushing to finish and leave the table.
  • If the pediatrician is concerned, have them talk to the child with a parent in the room and explain why they need to get more nutrition.

Send the Message with a Cookie

My son’s school recently invited parents to share their jobs with the students. I happily agreed, but as the event got closer, I continued to struggle with what to do with the class. There are so many fun options. And while I had already made the new MyPlate with both Bobby and Billy’s classes (see the picture), I was still left to decide between taste testing different fruits and dips, coloring placemats portraying everyday foods like fruit, veggies, legumes and low-fat dairy products, or something else.

Anytime I participate in an event like this, my goal is for the kids to have fun learning about different foods so they realize that nutrition and being healthy is both easy and delicious. Easier said than done though; they are, after all, only four to six years old.

One of my ideas was to use a lesson plan from my program, Healthy Habits, to educate the kids on what it feels like to be hungry and full, and then have them take a quiz using their newly learned cues. When working with such young pupils, however, I also want to make sure that the message touches their bellies—not just their brains—and I was afraid that this activity wouldn’t achieve that.

Unsure of what to do, I went to my oldest son, Bobby, and asked what he would’ve liked me to do. He said he didn’t know. So instead, I tried another tactic: I asked him if he knew what I did—what a dietitian does. After thinking momentarily, he went on to share this very insightful response. “You teach people what is healthy and what is sometimes food,” said Bobby.

I don’t know why, but I was amazed that Bobby was able to give such a brief, succinct description of what I do, and I especially loved the fact that he used the phrase “sometimes food.” My efforts and practices are most definitely influencing my son. As an RD, but most importantly as a mother, I felt proud.

This is when I prosed the idea of making healthier cookies. From my encounter with Bobby, I knew that the kids could understand the idea of “sometimes foods” and “everyday foods.” (It doesn’t have to be cookies either; you can modify any recipe at home, like turning traditional spaghetti and meatballs into whole-wheat pasta with turkey meatballs and all-natural sauce.) For the purpose of my upcoming show-and-tell though, cookies would do just fine. They take just 20 minutes to make, and they’ll certainly send a kid-friendly message. Better yet, the kids may even bring the recipe home and share it with their siblings and parents.

So that is what I’m planning to do for bring your parents to class day: to turn a “sometimes food” into an almost-everyday-food and a decidedly healthy and delicious snack option.

Here is the recipe for our wholesome chocolate chip cookies (dark chocolate that is) if you want to try them out too:

Wholesome Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tina Sweitzer – Mom to Young and Chef

 Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE – Mom to Robert and Dietitian

For ~ 2 dozen cookies

 

Ingredients Wet

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white

Ingredients Dry

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole grain oats rolled
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt

Finishing touches

  • 8-10 oz. package of Whole Foods Dark Chocolate Chips or 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now just mix and bake them like a batch of normal chocolate chip cookies. In a mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (partially soften the butter in the microwave, just be careful not to melt it too much). Stir them together with a spoon. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Now carefully stir in the dry ingredients in with the wet. Now stir in the dark chocolate chips. 
Place cookies on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 10 – 14 minutes.

Download a PDF of the recipe here.

Guest Blog: Fluffer Nutters vs. the Apple… which one really wins???

This weeks guest blog is written by Collen Colletti and addresses school lunch. Colletti is a mom, teacher, writer and equestrian. She describes herself by the contents of her purse: “In the contents of my purse you would most likely find the normal necessities, with a few exceptions.  First there is my USB stick filled with lesson plans to teach my students.  I love the feeling I get when I see a child’s mind exploring and learning.  Next one may come across a pair of spurs, I have spent countless hours at the barn with my horses.  Riding is both competitive and therapeutic for me.  If you dig a little deeper, there is a small writers leather bound journal that goes with me every where. It is constantly capturing my story ideas.  Lastly, a package of Barbie bandages for my girls, the most rewarding job I have ever had.  They bring more joy to my life then I ever could have imagined!”

Fluffer Nutters vs. the Apple… which one really wins??? by Colleen Colletti

“Ring, “my alarm clock yells, indicating that Monday morning has arrived and the usual craziness of getting my husband, two children, and I ready and out the door for the day begins! Each morning I select a delicious energy filled lunch for my children, drop off at school and wish them a splendid day.

I arrive at work, a middle school classroom. Throughout my teaching career, I have watched as many of my students arrive to school sluggish. At lunch I see those same students enjoying a processed filled lunch, or trading aspects their nutritious meal for a bag of chips. The problem is simple, you send your child to school with a healthy balanced lunch and instead of eating it, it is traded for a sugar or additives overload. Not only does an unhealthy diet affect your child’s energy, it also may have health implications later in life. Yet how do we get our children to eat the lunch we send them? In kids eyes how does healthy food compete with what other students bring into the lunch room. Are we really reaching our kids or do the Fluffer Nutters win out?

Photo Credit: Ibán via Compfight cc

So how does one fight against the endless sea of fast food restaurants, bakeries, treats brought into the classroom, and the food exchange at lunch. In my household, we believe in providing a variety of food choices. My husband and I feel that banning certain foods simply makes the child want it more. Instead we allow our children to enjoy goodies, but provide healthy alternatives to the processed foods. For instance, instead of store bought chocolate chips, we offer cookies with all natural ingredients and dark chocolate instead of milk. Another big hit in our home are the fresh fruit ice pops. I liquefy strawberries, pour them into a kid friendly mold, and add a few strawberry or raspberry chunks and freeze over night. In the morning, they always love to have a fresh ice pop, and I don’t mind giving it to them, because it is all natural. An added bonus to these sweets is that it fosters quality time with my children. They love to put the cookie dough on the tray or berries in a bowl. I agree that between little league, ballet, or any other after school activities, it is much easier to simply buy pre-made treats, but are we really helping our kids? So in reality, how do I find the time to bake or cook? The answer is simple… make extra! I don’t bake or cook like my mother, whom every time you walked in the house the aroma of fresh goodies filled the air. Instead, I create fresh meals every few nights allowing for healthy leftovers. In terms of snacks, every few weeks I enjoy a Sunday afternoon with my children baking. Half our delicious snacks, I place into a jar and the other half go in the freezer. My children have become accustomed to natural fresh ingredients and in many cases shy away from the lack of quality and taste that processed foods offer. As a result, this method has helped expand my children’s taste buds in a way that is fun and healthy for them.

Photo Credit: indi.ca via Compfight cc

What about those of you with a younger or older clientele? Daycare or nanny is prevalent even more today with a two household income. These environments are wonderful both socially and academically, except children are also exposed to sickness at a younger age. A wholesome diet, aides a healthy immune system cultivating their emotional, cognitive, and developmental skills. Some may say that the little ones are much easier to feed then the big ones. So how do we reach those opinionated teens? My experience with the young adult age group reaffirms what I do at home. Teenagers who have enjoyed fresh fruits, vegetables, essentially an all natural diet since they were little, continue those habits through their adolescent years. They are active members of the classroom throughout the entire day. No late afternoon sugar crashing! While, the students who have grown up on macaroni n’ cheese or Ramen noodles, will pack just that for themselves when they are in charge of their lunch. I always cringe when I see a growing child diving into a fast food lunch and diet coke on a daily basis. How do they have the energy required of them to study, play sports, and become active participants in their educational career?

In conclusion, as long as we teach our children to make the right choices, healthy choices… we are one step closer to winning the battle!

This Mom's Early Path to Nutrition

Many of my clients often wonder what attracted me to the field of nutrition. In truth, there’s no single response, and the reason can be traced back to a progression of events throughout my life that affected the way I view health and wellness today. Here is my honest answer.

My journey began with the family in which I was raised. I come from an Italian and German household. I have one sister. My mother, who is 100% German, was fantastic about providing balanced, home-cooked meals. She made us oatmeal and pancakes, packed our lunches, and prepared dinner menus that included stuffed peppers, roasted chicken, veggies and grains. Our lunches typically had 2 cookies as a side (I distinctly remember envying my friends with bags and bags of snacks.), and we ate dessert nightly.

I remember observing my father’s eating habits along with those of my extended family, including aunts, uncles and cousins. My family is not on the lighter side; rather, many relatives weigh on the upside of 300. Holidays and celebrations were centered on food. If we had 30 people, then we had 30 pounds of mashed potatoes. Portions were without limits. However, my sister and I ate intuitively. I never thought about portions or my health until 8th grade, when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol.

The doctors told me that I had “inherited” high cholesterol, but before they would consider medication, I was instructed to change my diet. Physically, I was still very petite, and though I ran track and stayed in shape, I also consumed a ton of high-fat dairy products like cheese and drank whole milk like it was going out of style.

The doctor’s prognosis made me much more aware of my diet, and so my mother and I began to educate ourselves. I eventually learned to lower my consumption of high saturated fat foods, eating less cheese and switching to skim milk. I ate plain pasta. Within a month, my cholesterol dropped from 236 to 180. Wow! If observing my family’s eating habits signified the first time I’d recognize differences in dietary behaviors, then this was the first time I realized the power of those behaviors and what we put into our bodies.

When I hit middle school and high school, specifically between 7th and 10th grade, my habits changed significantly, mainly because I started eating outside of my home on a regular basis. I ate a lot more pizza, Chinese take–out, and tons of muffins while working at DePiero’s Farm, which had a bakery I absolutely loved.

I specifically remember people telling me I would gain weight if I kept eating those foods—especially the muffins. Well, they were right. The next time I’d have a revelation of this magnitude was when I couldn’t fit into my clothes—the result of eating endless baked goods daily for lunch while working one summer. Puberty and growth may have been partially to blame too, but the weight gain was largely caused by an increase in calories.

Another piece to the puzzle was when I quickly lost weight as a freshman in high school—the result of playing sports all 3 seasons. The weight loss was unintentional, and when my friends and family noticed, they brought it to my attention. In an effort to re-gain the weight, I began to eat even when I wasn’t hungry. This helped me put the weight back on, but this routine of eating for no reason and at any time stuck around.

Sophomore year was challenging for me. I could no longer run due to an injury and I was eating for behavioral reasons, as mentioned above. Fortunately, I began to learn about health and nutrition in biology class. I became fascinated, and before long, I was hooked.

It was also around that time that my uncle Gene was diagnosed with diabetes and started seeing a registered dietitian. Kindly, he was open to me joining his sessions.

Inspired by what I was learning, I knew I waned to become an RD and began apprenticing for my uncle’s nutritionist, Nancy. Just like that, my career path was set.

So like I said, my decision to become an RD can’t be pinpointed to any single moment in time. In the same way many others discover their passions in life, my desire to learn about nutrition and to teach others about its importance is the result of a confluence of experiences—from my childhood on. It was through all of these lessons that I personally found empowerment, balance and my ideal health. Today, as an RD and a mother, I can only hope to pass on my knowledge and enthusiasm for the field to others.

Going Nuts.

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Most parents are aware of the benefits of nuts, particularly almonds, peanuts and pecans, for our health and our kids’ health. These powerful pieces of nutrition provide essential fatty acids, proteins, fiber, and Vitamin E and help raise good cholesterol, known as HDL. However, the one drawback to this nutritious diet staple is that nuts can also cause a potentially fatal allergic reaction, known as an anaphylactic reaction.

Due to the potential seriousness of allergies, many schools have started to enforce restrictions on the kinds of foods students are allowed to bring to school. This raises some complicated questions for parents hoping to send their children off to school with healthy, nutritious food. What do we do as parents when our child’s school has banned nuts? For some kids, going without nuts means missing their vegetarian protein source. Should we pack our kids dairy every day and risk raising their LDL cholesterol? Should we send tofu and soy butter, which are more processed than natural nut butters? Should we send sunflower butter, which is also highly allergenic and can also cause anaphylaxis? Should we focus on peanut-free and not tree nut-free?

In addition to the immediate challenges these kinds of bans place on nutrition, they also have the potential to affect the ways our kids interact with one another.  Do we advocate for a nut-free table in the cafeteria, which would set kids with allergies apart? While a “nut-free” table would be organized with students’ safety in mind, in enforcing this rule we risk ostracizing them from their classmates. I have heard some moms in Connecticut are fighting with their children’s schools to allow their child with a nut allergy eat with the other kids. Do we go along with the nut -free school zone? Do we recommend establishing this nut-free zone on a class-by-class basis, pending if someone has an allergy?

Where do we draw the line? I understand this is a sensitive subject, and should be — the risks are very high. I do think a nut free elementary school is advantageous. However, when my son’s school proposed a ban on all food products made in a factory that may be in contact with peanuts (at a school where the children eat lunch in their classroom and there may be no allergy in many classrooms) I felt at a loss. I am a mom, RD, CDE and I am now going to have to take on the responsibility of feeding my kids as if they had an allergy, possibly decreasing their immunity to such foods. Busy parents are challenged enough as it is to feed their kids healthy, let alone nut- free food, and our choices are narrowed even further when we are expected to avoid products from facilities where peanuts may have been processed. I would gladly comply if a child in the class had a documented allergy, but to go through hoops and hurdles when it may not be necessary seems overboard.

This excessive caution seems all the more extreme when we consider how allergens and contamination are regulated (or aren’t).  Avoiding food processed in the same facility as nut products is not always effective. According to a recent article by a panel of experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases:

The FALCPA does not currently regulate voluntary disclaimers such as “this product does not contain peanuts, but was prepared in a facility that makes products containing peanuts” or “this product may contain trace amounts of peanut.” Such disclaimers can leave consumers without adequate knowledge to make objective decisions.

The EP identified 10 studies that examined whether standards for precautionary food labeling are effective in preventing food-induced allergic reactions. No study explicitly attempted to infer a cause-and-effect relationship between changes in frequency of severe symptoms from unintentional exposure (for example, to peanut) as a consequence of implementing food labeling. The identified studies mostly assessed knowledge and preferences for food labeling.1

If this labeling is voluntary, unregulated, and therefore possibly inaccurate, does it make sense for schools to use the kinds of labels to inform their policies regarding allergies? Many of my clients with peanut allergies still have tree nuts, and even peanut butter, in their homes and simply know how to prevent cross-contamination. Many of my clients with these allergies still eat foods processed in a facility that may share equipment with nuts, wheat and other common allergens.   So are our schools being too authoritarian? Are they smart for playing it safe, or is there such a thing as too much caution? Should sweets be forbidden from schools for fear of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, conditions that are just as threatening for someone with Type 1 Diabetes? Should grapes be forbidden since they are a choking hazard?

Instead, I recommend schools practice peanut/nut free or safe policies.  Focus on education, emergency plans for allergic reactions and having the epi pen to administer if there is an allergic reaction. Avoiding nuts or rather nut free facilities is not the best answer. Yes, precaution is necessary but we also need an action plan for as we know with voluntary labeling, kids still may be exposed and have an allergic reaction.

What do parents think? Do you believe in nut-free schools?  Do you believe in nut free schools banning food products made in a facility made that may have processed nuts?

 

1. “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States” Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Panel.”  The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 126.6, Supplement (2010): Pages S1-S58.

Quick Tips For Moms on Helping Cultivate Healthy Habits

Whether it’s Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, my friend’s talk in Westchester to the PTA or the development of a new Food and Nutrition Committee at my son’s school, Moms and Dads are advocating for positive change for health promotion. We walk a fine line while doing this as we don’t want to create more problems in regards to the already challenging job of feeding our children. Here are five simple tips to include in your “lunch box” of tools.

 

Teaching Not Preaching to Your Kids, Healthy Habits

Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services (www.LauraCipulloLLC.com)

www.MomDishesitOut.com

 

 

 

 

 

 1. Don’t preach instead lead by example:

  • Let your children know you are off to spin class or pilates
  • Plan active vacations whether it be skiing or hiking in Colorado

 

2. Practice exposure therapy

  • Try new foods with your children especially on vacation or during the holidays. St Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras offer different cuisines to tantalize your taste buds.
  • Leave the veggies on the table even if you know the kids won’t eat them.

 

3. Take your child food shopping

  • Shop at the farmer’s market or a food store that emphasizes sustainable, local agriculture and wholesome foods such as Whole Foods.
  • Limit shopping at grocery stores that offer more colorful, child focused boxed and processed foods.  There marketing sucks your kids in.

 

4. Encourage Trying, Not Winning

  • Tell your child you are proud of them for trying a new food or a new activity. It’s not whether they like the veggie or if they played the game correctly.
  • Focus on the great effort and fun your child had at trying a new sport like roller-skating not how they didn’t fall.

 

5. Practice self regulation

  • Let your child choose how much of the dinner to eat. No clean the plate the club!
  • Ask your child “Are you hungry, thirsty, bored or tired?”

 

How Do You Answer, "Is this healthy?"

 

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Recently, both of my boys have been asking the question, “Is this healthy?” Billy asks, “Is hummus healthy? Are hummus and pretzels healthy?” Bobby asks, “Is yogurt healthy? Is pizza healthy? Is Gatorade healthy?”

Kids ask so many questions, and the way we answer them shapes the development of their beliefs and habits.

I’m not exactly sure why both boys have started to ask this question. I just know they keep asking. And it can be hard to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer when my primary concern is trying to instill them with a moderate view of food. Here’s how I go about answering their questions quickly, yet also with thought.

Hummus? Yes, hummus is healthy. It helps your heart. (FYI, Billy eats hummus almost daily for dinner. He loves it so much that he eats it with a spoon at times.)

Hummus and pretzels? Yes, hummus and pretzels are healthy—if you also eat other foods like chicken and pasta. (I say this because Billy refuses to eat chicken, pasta and other seemingly normal foods. It’s my small trick for getting him to try new ingredients.)

On a related note, I can honestly tell Billy that pretzels are healthy because the ones he eats (unknowingly, of course) are made of either whole wheat or spelt. When we refer to chicken, again, it’s organic and hormone-free. And pasta is organic and whole wheat. The kids don’t need to know these details, and I don’t specify this regularly. Healthy ingredients are simply the norm in our house, and I think the boys will get this message over time. I do not want to inundate them at ages 3 and 5.

At times, I think parents and teachers can make children overly—and unnecessarily—anxious about the food they’re eating when using complicated details such as ‘whole wheat,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘saturated fat,’ etc. Kids need to first understand the basics, like the difference between an everyday food versus a sometimes food. It’s okay to eventually teach them about the aforementioned specifics, but at the right time. Otherwise, your children could eventually rebel.

Keeping this in mind, I try to answer Bobby’s questions in this same manner. Greek yogurt is an everyday food in our home. The protein in yogurt helps us build muscles and strong bones. Pizza is a sometimes food, as long as we eat other foods like fruits and vegetables. Gatorade is a sometimes drink for athletes, like someone who is training for the Olympics or exercising at an intense level for more than hour.  Yes, you can have a sports drink, but not every time you swim or skateboard.

So, as I’ve discovered, and as I hope you can see, the answer to, “Is this healthy?” is not a straightforward one. But you can use these small tricks for helping your children to understand what they’re eating in a positive and healthful manner. How do you answer your kid’s questions about healthy and not healthy foods? Do you use words like “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods” in your household?

For more information on everyday foods and sometimes foods, read A Blueprint for Your Child’s Nutritional Intake.