Mom's Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

*This recipe was originally published on the Big City Moms’ Blog. To see the original please click here.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN, and Mom

Every week I whip up a batch of “homemade pancakes” for myself and my oldest son. Everyone loves these pancakes— including my clients who eat many meals with me. Make them Sunday morning and serve hot. Freeze or store the remainder in a Pyrex dish to serve each weekday morning. These pancakes taste so yummy that I can almost promise your kids will go to school having eaten a balanced breakfast. And while most moms don’t have to time to make everything from scratch, these pancakes are what I call “value added” or “nutrition added.” For time’s sake, I start with a basic wholesome pancake mix and then add in the nutrition.

 

See full recipe on the Big City Moms’ Blog.

Gluten-Free: Diet Trend or Medical Necessity?

Gluten-Free: Diet Trend or Medical Necessity?
By Julie Holland Faylor, MHS, CEDS

 

Open a magazine, visit a restaurant or shop for groceries and you’re likely to observe the gluten-free diet craze. Books, magazines and blogs claim various health and weight loss benefits from eliminating gluten from our diets, restaurants tout separate gluten-free menus, and grocery stores have added whole aisles dedicated to gluten-free foods. In fact, the gluten-free eating trend has become so pervasive that there’s even a gluten-free Girl Scout cookie!

For many people, gluten-free eating is the latest fad. However, for people like me with celiac disease, it’s a necessity. According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, only 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune illness that damages the small intestine and restricts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. People who have this disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. If any gluten is ingested, even a small amount, uncomfortable medical symptoms develop shortly afterwards, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and constipation. In addition to those with celiac disease, there is a portion of the population who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. These people also cannot tolerate gluten, and while they may experience similar symptoms, they don’t experience the same damage to their small intestine.

As an eating disorder specialist, two things are concerning to me about the swift rise in gluten-free diets—the connection between dietary restriction and eating disorders, and the impact of the growing popularity of elective gluten-free eating on people without medically-verified gluten intolerance or celiac disease.

Eating disorders often begin with a seemingly innocent diet—medically indicated or otherwise—and many diets call for the elimination of entire food groups like gluten, dairy or meat. Sometimes, dietary restriction can lead to disordered eating behaviors like “orthorexia,” a condition characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating. In other cases, dietary restriction can lead to a full-syndrome eating disorder (the dieting behavior activates the latent genetic predisposition toward developing an eating disorder—remember, eating disorders are hereditary! Link to first post) For individuals without a medically diagnosed gluten intolerance that elect to stop eating gluten, I encourage them to think about why they are making this significant change to their diet. In general, whole grains are an important part of a balanced pattern of eating, and labeling foods as “good” and “bad” can stigmatize eating and reinforce the cycle of dieting and dietary restriction. A simple best practice following any significant change in food intake is to consult with a registered dietitian to establish an optimal nutrition plan. While doing so, it is important to specify that the gluten-free change is a dietary preference rather than a medical necessity. Regardless of our diet choices or mandates, it is important to keep wellness and balance in mind.

Photo Credit: Whatsername? via Compfight cc

Additionally, the gluten-free diet fad creates a misperception that gluten-free is merely a preference, not a medical necessity. As a result, gluten-free standards have relaxed to the point where many products and menus claiming to be free of gluten actually contain some measure of wheat, rye or barley. This makes it more challenging to practice a medically-indicated gluten-free diet. While food products must list their ingredients, gluten-free menus at restaurants can be blatant offenders, not taking the time to truly understand what gluten is and in what products it is used. In my personal experience at many restaurants, I have ordered meals from these special menus that actually contained gluten ingredients like soy sauce, and I felt terribly sick shortly after. In a sense, it seems as though elective gluten-free eating has trivialized a celiac disease diagnosis. I encourage those with gluten intolerance to be hyper-vigilant about their product choices and restaurant visits—in light of the gluten-free trend, we have to listen to our bodies even if a label or menu item claims to be gluten-free.

In today’s culture, dieting is pervasive. Gluten-free eating is all the rage this year, the latest in a long line of fads and gimmicks like low/no-carb, high protein, raw, fat-free, sugar-free—the list goes on and on. While the majority of diets are elective in nature, some diets—including the dietary restrictions of individuals with celiac disease—are medically indicated. Regardless of the motivation for the diet or the diet’s underlying philosophy, it is important to understand the connection between dieting and eating disorders. In fact, research has found that 35 percent of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting, and of those, 20-25 percent progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.* With this statistic in mind, caution must be exercised when any sort of dietary restriction is taking place.

 

* Shisslak, C.M., Crago, M., & Estes, L.S. (1995). The Spectrum of Eating Disturbances. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 18 (3): 209-219.

Are Your Words the Cause of Your Child’s Eating Disorder?

What Do Your Children Hear When You Say…?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra via Compfight cc

As I surf the net, I read so many blogs that also say all foods fit. Yet they go on to say certain foods are treats, certain foods are bad, and certain foods should only be allowed if the child doesn’t have a weight problem. So how do parents handle this delicate issue?

 

First we must address our own food issues. If we have them—and we probably do (as I don’t know too many people without food confusion)—we need not verbalize them as black and white statements to our children.

For example:

You can eat ice cream because you are young and thin, but Mommy needs to be good because Mommy’s belly is too big.

That is clearly a mother’s issue being verbalized to the child. Mom is implying ice cream is bad, but the child can have bad food because they are thin—and Mom cannot.

 

Next, we must be careful not to place a moral or value judgment on foods. This means avoiding good and bad food labeling. This backfires because a child typically feels bad when he/she eats something bad. This can even be true of using words such as “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” but perhaps that takes it to extremes. Some children’s programs use the colors of a stoplight to signify how much of something to eat. I’ve always found myself telling clients to listen to their bodies. However, I also know I would tell them to focus on the nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and that the remainder of the time it doesn’t matter. We began calling these foods “everyday foods” versus “some of the time” foods. This is a perfect solution, no? It really categorizes foods with higher nutrition versus lower nutrition.  This is the way I typically explain foods to my children. The sure thing we know is that the good and bad connotations lead to negative relationships with food. So steer clear of using words implying judgment and move towards words that are science-based, such as “high in vitamin C” and “low in vitamins.”

 

Another catch-22 is saying that our children need to lose weight and thus should only eat healthy food. This is quite far from the truth. If you, a child, or me needs to lose weight, we must explore the why. Moms and Dads, especially dietitian moms/dads or parents working in health and wellness, need to be so careful of this. Instead, explore behaviors and emotions surrounding the foods.

Photo Credit: 藍川芥 aikawake via Compfight cc

Questions to ask are:

  1. Is the individual eating beyond his/her physical cues?
  2. Are you or your child stressed and eating to numb yourself?
  3. Is your child not in tune with his/her internal regulation because you have restricted him/her and forbade all processed foods?
  4. Is your child skipping meals at school or is unable to feel full off of the school lunch?
  5. Is this weight healthy for me even though the doctor says differently?

 

Again, this is not about eating nutrient-dense foods. That is merely just one piece in the food puzzle.

 

The “beware of’s” can go on and on, but the most important concept to truly be cautioned against is that of “perfect eating.” There is no perfect eating. If you eat too healthy, it can be significant of anorexia or orthorexia. If you eat chaotically with no boundaries whatsoever, this too can be very unhealthy. Instead promote balance, listening to your internal physical needs, eating for fuel and for pleasure and health too! Eat real food when you can, but don’t go crazy over avoiding processed foods. Enjoy apples just as much as your cookies.

 

Below is a handout from the book Healthy Habits, which you can download.

Weight Gain in Puberty: Is It Normal and Healthy or Something Else?

Weight Gain in Puberty: Is It Normal and Healthy or Something Else?
Written By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CDN
Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor
Edited By Lindsey Reinstrom and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: ToniVC via Compfight cc

It could have been yesterday that “Miss Chris,” my ballet teacher at age ten, told me—in front of the entire class—to “stop eating so many cakes and cookies.” She said that I was a promising dancer and I simply must “slim down.” This confused me because I ate normally and didn’t really have so many cakes and cookies!

 

What I did have was an earlier puberty than many of my friends. This powerful body-shaming message has stayed with me for more than forty years! Flash-forward to both my daughter’s and son’s puberty, and this dietitian/mom was well equipped to explain that in order for adolescents to develop normally, a little extra fat around the middle is essential and a normal part of growth and development.

 

During the middle-school years, a major growth spurt usually occurs, which can be very confusing to both kids and parents. Appetite soars in preparation of a growth spurt. Consequently, many tweens and teens get heavier before they grow taller! All parts of a child’s body change, and it is not unusual to see even a fifteen-pound weight gain over a relatively short period of time. This happens to both females and males.

 

When Should You Be Concerned? Is This Healthy Or …?

Your child’s healthcare provider will measure height and weight annually as part of his/her wellness visit. A measurement called a BMI (body mass index) can show weight and growth trends. The BMI can be used as one tool in noticing patterns in your child’s weight and height. Used correctly, it can help identify weight gain and potential correlation with your child’s natural range on the growth chart over the years. The growth chart may reflect a jump in weight range but not height in this prepubescent phase. Now, it is your job as a parent to determine if this is necessary weight gain in preparation of puberty or if the weight gain is a result of your preadolescent’s habits and/or behaviors. For example, if your daughter or son reports eating due to an increase in appetite, you can surmise that this is puberty related. However, if you notice that your tween eats when procrastinating, studying, or when he/she eats with friends even after a family dinner, this may reflect behavioral eating. Or, if your tween eats every time he/she is sad or stressed with homework, this may indicate eating for emotional reasons and not as a physical response to increase energy needs for puberty. So, if it is a true physical need, let your child enjoy his/her body and help prep him/her for more changes while experiencing puberty. If you observe a trend of behavioral and emotional eating, especially of foods low on nutrient density, you may want to have a calm and neutral conversation about self-care, coping skills, and eating for physical reasons.

If you still have concerns about your tween’s proper growth and development, it may be worth talking to his/her physician or a registered dietitian who specializes in pediatric nutrition and intuitive eating.  If you are worried that any recent changes in your household could be contributing factors to less-healthy eating behaviors, it might be helpful to consult with a mental health professional trained in disordered eating and adolescents about your concerns.

 

How you communicate about body and food choices with your tween or teen can have a significant impact on his/her self-esteem and future relationship with his/her body and food!

 

Strategies That Are NOT Helpful:

1) Do not talk about your teen’s eating habits ALL OF THE TIME.

2) Do not nag or preach to simply “eat less.”

3) Do not put your preteen or teen on a diet.

4) Do not bribe or reward your child with food.

5) Do not reward or comment on weight loss/weight gain.

6) Do not weigh your daughter/son.

7) Do not reject your child for any changes in their natural body weight.

 

These strategies can lead a vulnerable child towards disordered eating and poor body image. When parents try to restrict their child’s food intake rather than teaching him/her to listen to levels of hunger and fullness, it usually backfires! Often kids with restricted diets end up eating secretly and eat larger quantities of food than their body needs, which can lead to weight gain.

 

Strategies That Are Helpful:

1) Do not panic! Explain calmly that weight gain is normal before and during puberty.

2) Help your child to identify if a dramatic change in body weight is related to:

    • Puberty
    • Something else such as emotional eating due to school stress
    • Behavioral eating when with friends after school
    • Less physical activity than usual

3) Focus on healthy habits such as recognizing hunger and fullness, rather than focusing on external numbers such as body weight.

4) Lead by example and be a positive role model for healthy eating and exercising.

5) If your child is gaining weight due to emotional eating, help your child to develop coping skills, healthy ways to express their emotions, and provide a listening ear.

6) Prepare home-cooked meals and have family dinners as often as possible.

7) Keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with “every day foods” that are nutrient dense, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and naturally lower-fat dairy products.

8) Help your tween or teen learn how to eat a variety of foods without labeling any foods as “good or bad.”

9) Help your tween or teen learn to differentiate between eating foods for fuel versus eating foods for fun.

10) Do explain that people naturally come in all shapes and sizes.

11) Teach honor and respect to our body by ways of self-care.

12) Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and less nutrient-dense foods some of the time.

I am amazed that I still remember my ballet teacher embarrassing me in front of my peers, despite the fact that I was at a healthy body weight for my stage of puberty.  Whether your child is gaining weight in preparation of puberty, by emotional/behavioral eating, or through problems with regulating his/her sense of hunger and fullness, please make home a safe haven of love and support. Offer hope and guidance, and, of course, speak to a health professional about how you as a family can best support your child.

Preventing Food Jags: What’s a Parent to Do?

Preventing Food Jags: What’s a Parent to Do?
By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

*This post was originally published on ASHA’s online blog. The original can be found here.

Photo Credit: r.nial.bradshaw via Compfight cc

As a pediatric feeding therapist, many kids are on my caseload because they are stuck in the chicken nugget and french fry rut…or will only eat one brand of mac-n-cheese…or appear addicted to the not-so-happy hamburger meal at a popular fast food chain. While this may often include kids with special needs such as autism, more than half my caseload consists of the traditional “picky-eaters” who spiraled down to only eating a few types of foods and now have a feeding disorder.  I  even had one child who only ate eight different crunchy vegetables, like broccoli and carrots.  Given his love for vegetables, it took his parents a long time to decide this might be a problem. The point is: These kids are stuck in food jag, eating a very limited number of foods and strongly refusing all others.  It creates havoc not only from a nutritional standpoint, but from a social aspect too. Once their parents realize the kids are stuck, the parents feel trapped as well. It’s incredibly stressful for the entire family, especially when mealtimes occur three times per day and there are only a few options on what their child will eat.

It’s impossible in a short blog post to describe how to proceed in feeding therapy once a child is deep in a food jag. Each child is unique, as is each family. But, in general,  I can offer some tips on how to prevent this from happening in many families, again, keeping in mind that each child and each family is truly unique.

Here are my Top Ten suggestions for preventing food jags:

#10: Start Early.  Expose baby to as many flavors and safe foods as possible.   The recent post for ASHA on Baby Led Weaning: A Developmental Perspective may offer insight into that process.

#9: Rotate, Rotate, Rotate: Foods, that is.  Jot down what baby was offered and rotate foods frequently, so that new flavors reappear, regardless if your child liked (or didn’t like) them on the first few encounters.  This is true for kids of all ages.  It’s about building familiarity.  Think about the infamous green bean casserole at Thanksgiving.  It’s rare that hesitant eaters will try it, because they often see it only once or twice per year.

#8: Food Left on the Plate is NOT Wasted: Even if it ends up in the compost, the purpose of the food’s presence on a child’s plate is for him to see it, smell it, touch it, hear it crunch under his fork and  perhaps, taste it.  So if the best he can do is pick it up and chat with you about the properties of green beans, then hurray!  That’s never a waste, because he’s learning about a new food.

 

To continue reading, please click here to be redirected to ASHAsphere.

Should my child become a vegetarian?

Is It Safe for My Child to Become a Vegetarian?
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Pabo76 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pabo76 via Compfight cc

My daughter was ten when she refused to eat meat because she didn’t want to harm animals. A class discussion had raised this topic and she was sold.  I listened calmly to her rationale, and it made sense. The bigger question for me was how to manage dinner for a vegetarian and a meat-and-potato-loving husband and preteen son!

Preparing different meals is a common concern I hear from parents with kids becoming vegetarian. Additional questions I often hear include: Is it safe? How will my child get enough protein? What other nutrients should I worry about? Here are some suggested guidelines for responding to the topic of vegetarianism if your child or teen brings it up:

Listen. Talk calmly with your child about their reason for eliminating meat. If it is about animal rights or another reason that you feel makes sense to your child, be respectful of his or her choice(s). It is not worth a power struggle and shows that you value what your child feels. If you have any concerns that your child is cutting out a category of food(s) for weight-loss purposes, it is important to talk about balanced eating and healthy habits rather than weight. In some cases, a sudden change in diet can indicate potential eating-disordered thoughts, and you may have to take the opportunity to address this swiftly.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A healthy vegetarian diet will contain a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and calcium sources. Your child must learn that a steady diet of pizza, pasta, mozzarella sticks, and bagels does not constitute a “healthy” vegetarian diet.

Photo Credit: elana's pantry via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: elana’s pantry via Compfight cc

Nutrients in shortest supply in a vegetarian diet, particularly a vegan diet (one that excludes dairy and eggs), may include:

    • Protein: Vegetarian sources can include eggs and cheese, legumes (beans), nuts and nut butter, seeds, tofu, and other soy products.
    • Calcium: Vegetarian-friendly sources of calcium include: cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese, calcium-fortified soy, rice, oat or hemp milk, calcium-fortified juice, and tofu, broccoli, leafy greens, beans, almond and almond butter, sesame seeds and sesame butter, and soy nuts.
    • Iron: Rich sources for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, enriched breads and pasta, eggs, beans, and dark leafy green vegetables. Soy products such as veggie burgers are generally fortified with iron. It is important to consume a good source of vitamin C in order to increase absorption of iron. Vitamin C is found in citrus, tomatoes, and peppers.
    • Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products including eggs and dairy. If your child is a vegan, he or she will need supplementation. Many soy products and milk substitutes are fortified, so read labels.
    • Vitamin D: Considered the “sunshine vitamin” since our body can make it from exposure to sunlight, some vegetarians who do not consume fish, eggs, or dairy and/or do not spend time in the sun will benefit from supplementation.

 Do I need to prepare two dinners? A vegetarian diet can be healthy for the whole family, so this is your chance to slowly introduce some new foods into the entire family’s diet. I usually involve my kids in planning several meals for the week.

Simple meal suggestions my kids came up with:

    • Whole grain pasta with ground turkey (son) AND vegetarian crumbles (daughter). We added salad and soy milk for calcium and protein.
    • Stir-fried vegetables with chicken AND tofu and quinoa or brown rice.
    • Rice and beans was a great main meal for my daughter and a side dish for my husband and son. Smaller amounts of red meat and vegetables rounded off the meal.
    • I experimented and would make dishes that everyone could enjoy such as whole grain vegetable lasagna using tofu instead of ricotta cheese, with lots of vegetables and soy cheese instead of mozzarella.
    • Turkey tacos and bean tacos were common fare.
    • When I made breaded chicken cutlet, I make breaded tofu cutlet.
    • On hectic nights, I confess that I have used frozen foods such as Amy’s Organic Bean Dishes, Morningstar Farm or Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers, or Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods frozen vegetarian meals. Even a dietitian needs a night off from cooking!

 

Where can I read more about vegetarianism? Some great websites for vegetarian nutrition include:

 

 

 

 

How We Do Dessert

“What’s For Dessert?”
By Adina Pearson, RDN of Healthy Little Eaters

Photo Credit: Alexis Fam Photography via Compfight cc

Why I Serve Dessert With The Meal

In most households, dessert is served at the end of the meal.  When everyone has gotten their fill of the main course and sides and is patting their full tummy in satisfaction, the hostess clears the table, vanishes into the kitchen, and then reappears flashing a proud smile as she presents…DESSERT:  The decadent reward for getting full on nutrition!  The hard work is done, you may now enjoy a moment of pleasure.

^Not teaching that lesson is one reason why we now serve dessert with the meal in our house.  I don’t want to teach the unintended lesson that dessert is for full bellies.  I want my children to stay tuned in to their signals of fullness and satisfaction.  Sweets are desirable enough to children that they can learn to override their fullness if they have to do it to get cookies–especially if cookies are scarce.  A small study in Appetite demonstrated that kids will eat more calories in order to squeeze in dessert if it was served at the end of the meal.   The study authors interpreted the results as a way to help kids eat fewer calories.  But that’s not really what I take from this.  I’m not into micromanaging calories because I think kids do an adequate job of regulating themselves when they get reliable meals and snacks.  What I take from this is that the way we feed our kids can either support their natural self-regulation and ability to respect their fullness or it can teach them to overeat to get what they really want.  My personal experience is that if they know it’s coming, they’ll just get antsy at the table or become preoccupied enough with the-sweet-thing-to-come that they won’t stop to eat the main meal.  It certainly was the case with my 4 year old before we made the switch.  But each child is different and older kids may be more willing to do the required ‘eat your veggies first’ work in order to win pie at the end.

That’s something else I don’t want to teach.  I don’t want the meal to be considered ‘work’ while the dessert is elevated to a higher status.  When it comes to picky eaters it is all too easy to slip into the dessert-for-broccoli power struggle: Okay, darling, eat another bite of your chicken and two more bites of your broccoli and then you can have dessert.  I see this happen in the families who come to me for nutrition counseling.  I see it happen with picky eaters whose parents are worried because of their low weight and with picky eaters whose parents are concerned because of their higher weight.  It’s not working for either group.  Broccoli is wonderful!  Chicken is wonderful!  Dessert is wonderful!  Yet we certainly make a big deal out of sweets.  When dessert is a reward it takes on more power.  Kids are already naturally drawn to strong sweet flavors, we don’t need to make those sweet flavors into a bigger deal.  Plus bribery & coercion as well as other types of pressuring kids to eat typically makes them eat worse, not better.

What If That’s All They Eat?

You might now be wondering, what if that’s all they eat?  How can it be okay for kids to survive off of cake and cookies until their tastes mature?  Well, for one thing, I don’t serve dessert at every meal or every day.  How often you serve dessert is entirely up to you.  And portion size matters because, it’s true, dessert may very well interfere with the nutrition of the meal if it is served ad libitum.

It’s Okay to Limit Dessert Served with a Meal

At meals we only serve one portion to each person at the table.  And kids get a ‘child-size’ portion rather than a full adult portion (translate that to suit your preferences).  It’s treated very much like a scarce food item (filet mignon, $9-a-pint raspberries, etc) and there are no seconds.

Some examples of portions I’ve served: 1 square of chocolate, a lollipop, small slice of pie/cake, 1 coconut macaroon, small brownie, 2-3 tiny candy pieces, teacup full of pudding, teacup full of yogurt mixed with fruit, 1/2 to 1 cupcake (depending on size).

If my kids want to start with their cookie, fine.  I know it’s not all they will eat.  And even if my kids gobble up their dessert and consequently decide they are done eating for the meal, they  probably weren’t terribly hungry to begin with.  If that is the case, without that dessert at the table, they would not have eaten much of anything anyway.  The dessert didn’t ruin any appetites, it just masked their lack of appetite.

With my kids, it seems the presence of dessert actually warms them up to the idea of coming to the table and relaxes them immediately, improving their attitude about the meal overall.  They don’t eat any worse, and possibly better with such a sweet ‘appetizer’ on the table.  I love when I catch my oldest going back and forth between bites of dessert and bites of the meal.

Unlimited Portions as Snack

Any food that is scarce, especially one as desirable as sweets, can create a strong preoccupation in a child.  For some kids with a strong sweet tooth, that desire or preoccupation can lead them to overeat the desired food when they get the chance.   Serving only a small child-size portion of dessert creates a kind of scarcity.  To mitigate this scarcity and to allow my kids a chance to regulate their own portion size of dessert, I will, occasionally, serve an unlimited portion of sweets at snack time.  If snack time is appropriately timed (so it’s not too close to the next meal) it won’t interfere with meal food.  Serve the dessert with a glass of milk (for example) and you’ve got a balanced snack.

I have to admit, the first candy experiment left me practically biting my fingernails as I waited for my daughter to complete her snack.  But with each ‘ad lib sweet snack’ I’ve served, I’ve never ever been disappointed in my kids’ ability to stop.  They have never eaten a whole cake, half a cake, or even a quarter of a cake.  And I’m confident that my trusting them teaches them to trust themselves around sweets.  After all we have serious structure in place.  Eating happens seated at the table, not running around.  Eating happens at set meal and snack times, there’s no all-day grazing.   And I get to choose how often I serve various foods.  But within that structure, the freedom of the Division of Responsibility, teaches some important lessons that I don’t think I could teach if I micromanaged every bite.

Photo Credit: chotda via Compfight cc

How Often Should Dessert Be Served?
Honestly, I think only you can answer this question for yourself and your family.  I love desserts and baked goods.  I love chocolate.  I could live without them, but I sure prefer not to.   For me I serve dessert often enough for us.  I know I’ve gone perhaps too long when my kids start begging for dessert–or if I’m longing for it.  And if I serve something sweet just to keep them from feeling too deprived, it doesn’t take much to accomplish my task.

 

Adina Pearson, RDN has been a registered dietitian for 12 years. Before having children of her own, she had no interest in pediatric nutrition. Kids change things! She’s now most thrilled when she sees a child patient on her schedule. Her new passion for helping parents feed their kids well inspired her to start a facebook page and blog. More recently, she has started an online toddler feeding course in collaboration with another dietitian.  Adina lives in southeastern Washington with her husband, two kids, and two labradoodles. To read more on Adina head to her website: www.HealthyLittleEaters.com

Is Your Tween Hiding Her Lunch?

REAL GRANDMOM ASKS: My 11 year old granddaughter is hiding her sandwiches and lunchables that are packed for her lunch in her room; sometimes before she even leaves for school. She takes a bite out of the sandwich or lunchable and puts in back in the container and seals it up, then hides it in her room. She doesn’t have an explanation for this and you can tell she is embarrassed when you talk to her about it. None of the food is new or disliked, that is why this is such a puzzle to us. My daughter is going bonkers over this and I simply don’t know how to advice her. Maddie has hidden evidence of “sneaked” food before when she was very young but this is a new behavior.What do you think? Thanks,Debbie A., a perplexed Grammy

 

REAL MOM LAURA ANSWERS:

Thank you Debbie for your heartfelt question.  I am sure many other grandparents and parents share in your sincere concern for both their daughters and their  granddaughters. There are a few things you can do without alarming your granddaughter. Be sure to keep this a confidential as possible. It is  a very sensitive subject and privacy will help to ensure your granddaughter’s privacy and thus minimize any shame or embarrassment. I will answer the question directed at a mom (or dad) since mom (or the primary caregiver) will need to do the follow through.

Photo Credit: sherimiya ♥ via Compfight cc

In general when any tween is hiding food, consider checking in with the school nurse or guidance counselor (in private) to see if your tween is:

A)   Eating a different type of food at school?

B)   Eating any lunch at school?

C)   Attending lunch at school (some students hide during the lunch period to avoid social anxiety, bullying or to enable skipping the meal for restriction purposes)?

This will give you a better idea of what is happening for your daughter.  There are many things to consider such as is your child:

A)   Embarrassed to bring a home packed lunch?

B)   Perhaps your child doesn’t like the way their food smells?

C)   Perhaps your child is uncomfortable with their changing tween body?

D)   Has anyone said anything to your tween to make them feel shameful of their body?

E)   Is your child restricting their intake in effort to gain a false sense of control due to changes in friends, family, school…?

F)    Is your tween newly aware of her body and thus restricting her intake to prevent it from maturation?

Next and most importantly, sit down with this wonderful child and let them know you are there to listen. Let them know you promise not to be angry (if you truly do) and can help to support them. Validation is the most important piece. Moms don’t need to solve every problem rather we just need to listen.  Tell your tween you love them and are there for them when they feel ready to share. Giving your tween an unbiased outlet and a few hugs may get them to be honest with you.

If your tween is not ready to confide, you can also offer to take the tween food shopping to see if that helps to resolve the issue. This may give you a better sense of what is going on if your tween actually takes you on the offer.

If the issue continues, it is best to have your tween see a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (therapist specializing in eating disorders) or a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (RD specializing in eating disorders). This accreditation is only given to experts trained in the  prevention and treatment of eating disorders by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (www.iaedp.com).

This One is for Moms

Is Restricting Really Normal?
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

 

“We don’t keep bread in the house.”  “One serving is enough – kids don’t need seconds.”  “We just have protein and veggies at dinner.”  “Why is my child sneaking food and snacking all the time?!”

 

Hmmm – at first glance, these may seem like separate, unrelated statements.  There is, however, a common thread and a chain reaction that is in play throughout the scenarios…and it all starts with restriction.   If you consider the unrelenting headlines that tell us obesity is an “epidemic”, that individual foods will either kill or save us, and the sneaking messages that lead us to think we’ll only be happy if we are a certain size, then it makes some sense that people are grabbing at the latest food rule (aka, restriction), to take control of their or their kids’ lives.   Yet the more we reach for restriction, the more out of control we become.

 

Let’s keep it straightforward.  There are some basic side effects of over-controlled under-eating:

  • It confuses body chemistry, triggering it to more readily lose muscle and regain weight as fat
  • It causes feelings of deprivation and depression that often rebound to overeating
  • It creates a lowered self-esteem, and disconnects individuals from their emotions and sense of well-being
  • It creates irritability, decreases concentration and memory, (especially if carbs are limited) and can cause tension in relationships
  • It can disrupt a female’s menstrual cycles
  • It makes exercise ineffective, because there isn’t enough fuel to run your body’s basic processes

 

So when you feel the need to snack on cookies and chips after the kids have gone to bed, notice if you’ve eaten enough during the day or pulled carbs out of the meal prior.  We can’t function effectively if we are depriving ourselves of enough fuel – and we are destined to swing the pendulum the other direction to try to create balance.

 

And the next time you feel the emotional tug to try the latest fad diet, label carbs as evil or tell your kids to stop eating, take a deep breath and remember:

Eating is Normal. Restricting is Counterproductive.   

 

 

Kids Eat Right

On Teaching Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Families
Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CDN
Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight cc

Hardly a day goes by without a headline warning of the dire consequences of our kids’ increasing weights and BMIs (body mass indices). Yes, we know that obesity leads to many chronic health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to joint and breathing problems. All too often, however, I have seen the negative consequences of focusing exclusively on a child or adolescent’s weight and body mass index. I am seeing an increase in the number of kids and teens on diets, and I am also seeing an increase in eating disorders and disordered eating as a result. I believe there must be a middle ground—and a different way of reacting to expanding waistlines.

 

I believe this middle ground is a philosophy called Health at Every Size (HAES) and a way of eating called “Intuitive Eating.” Simply put, we change the focus from the number on the scale to healthy behaviors from the inside out. We must educate families to take an active role in preventing weight issues in kids. Embracing a healthy lifestyle means honoring and respecting our genetic body types, fueling them with health-promoting, satisfying foods, learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, and moving our bodies because it just feels good!

 

Having taught weight management programs for overweight children in the past, I have seen the stress levels caused by frequent weight checks on a scale. I am excited to implement a wonderful program called Healthy Habits, written by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, into my practice to teach families how to eat in this healthy, balanced way using a system of “everyday” and “sometimes” foods. This eight-week curriculum is grounded in the health at every size philosophy, teaches parents and kids how to make healthy but non-depriving food choices, and promotes movement and exercise for pleasure. There are no good foods or bad foods. Parents learn limit-setting skills while kids learn portion control, honoring hunger and fullness and coping with challenging situations around food. I believe our best hope at preventing health problems associated with overweight and obesity is involving and educating the entire family about a healthy lifestyle.

 

I would like to share part of an essay that my nineteen-year-old daughter, Rebecca Leon, wrote:

I have what my family calls the “round genes,” which basically means that due to good old-fashioned genetics, I’m destined to have curvier hips and a slightly fuller figure than most. Throughout my 19 years, I’ve struggled with accepting this fact and have fallen in and out of love with my body more times than Justin Bieber has gotten into trouble with the law! Although I’ve never had an eating disorder myself, admittedly, I’ve grappled with some dangerous dieting habits. Last year I auditioned for very competitive musical theater college programs where looks are as important as skill.

“My solution was to eat less (way less) and exercise a lot more, even though I was already dancing 3 hours a day. I won’t go into any more detail, but to make a long story short, for a few months, I wasn’t eating nearly enough food for the amount of calories I was burning. Although happy with my looks and feedback I was getting, to put it mildly, I felt like crap. I felt cranky all the time, had no energy, wasn’t satisfied with the way I was performing, and I would freak out at any sign of bloating. Luckily I have a supportive, nutritionist mother who has been teaching me about healthy eating since the day I was born. The truth is, your body needs fuel in order to perform at its best. I soon realized that by depriving my body of its needs, I was, in turn, putting myself at a disadvantage. When it came time for my auditions, I went back to eating more regularly. Thankfully, I was accepted into many programs, which would have been impossible had I not given my body the energy it needed to perform well.

 “The best way to feel good is to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Living in this manner is the key to honoring and accepting your body. Let’s face it…human beings are lazy. Most of the time we look for shortcuts and the easy way out. Well, unfortunately there is no shortcut or easy way out when it comes to health. Depriving your body of food may seem like the quickest way to lose weight, but in reality, it’s not at all worth the emotional or physical stress, not to mention putting yourself in danger. Even though maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult, the hard work pays off. Personally, I feel the happiest when I have a daily exercise routine planned out and stick to a balanced, healthy diet that allows me to indulge in a yummy dessert every other night.”

 

August is “Kids Eat Right Month,” an initiative from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to educate and empower our children towards a healthier lifestyle. I believe Healthy Habits enables families to do just that.

 

For more information on Healthy Habits, click here.

For additional free resources on “Kids Eat Right,” click here.