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.

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?”

 

A Moment of Momzilla!

Photo Credit: tyczka1 via Compfight cc

Last winter I took my eldest son, Bobby, and my nephew skiing for their very first time. When Bobby did great on his first run, I decided to take my nephew down the mountain too. Of course, it was ridiculous to think I could handle 2 beginners. Bobby ended up falling.

I was convinced I had ruined skiing for Bobby forever; he was resistant to sports to begin with. I had already scheduled private lessons for the boys 2 days later, so I sent them anyway.

Bobby was not exactly excited to get back on skis after his initial spill. He resisted. He acted out. It was ultimately a failed attempt.

Hoping he’d maybe forgotten about his first experience, I tried to get him back on skis on another weekend at a different mountain. This time, he was like a limp noodle, refusing to as much as stand upright let alone listen to his instructor. Bobby only wanted to ski with me, but that was impossible since I had unfortunately been in a ski accident the week before and was forced to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the season. I was so distraught.

Maybe it was the concussion speaking, but I just couldn’t understand how my son—my own flesh and blood—didn’t love skiing as much as I did. I was looking into buying a ski house. What would I do with Bobby if he hated skiing? To add insult to injury, my nephew, whose parents don’t ski, was having the time of his life. I couldn’t stop thinking how reversed the situation was.

To me, this was a catastrophe. Sad to admit, but I even cried about this to my therapist. It wasn’t so much that Bobby hated skiing or that my dream house was quickly becoming a nightmare. No, it’s because I was suddenly becoming this mother that I didn’t want to be—a momzilla of sorts.

Refusing to accept Bobby’s athletic distaste (how can a dietitian’s son be physically inactive?), I gave the whole sports thing one more shot (he refused to play soccer too)—this time with mother-son rock climbing. The result? Bobby thought that scaling the smaller wall was fun, but when faced with the full rock wall, he went running for the hills. (Well, really, he hid under the mat as though he were a small animal.) I, of course, said all the wrong things—and hated myself as each word escaped my mouth. I offered rewards. I made threats. I knew I was completely out of line.

Both my therapist and husband said I was overreacting. They said when my son was ready, he would participate in whatever physical activities he wanted. So, heeding their advice, I dropped it. No more sports classes, no more private instructors, no more pushing or comparing or dreaming. I needed to let Bobby be himself and grow into someone different than who I may have thought he’d be, at least at that age.

Well, guess what? This fall, I enrolled Bobby in a school soccer program. I know you’re thinking, “Here she goes again.” But my husband and I send our children to progressive schools that encourage self-exploration, teamwork and learning through activity, and I hoped he would react differently in a more supportive environment, especially now that Bobby was older. I sent him to a soccer program that focuses on having fun—not on drills—and it worked. He loved the class and never complained.

Since turning five, Bobby has taken to a few other sports too. He smiles through swim lessons (my husband initially taught him to swim since he hated the classes), has started skateboarding (and is doing well) and has even attended a 2-week sports camp with a classmate over winter break.

Apart from giving him enough time to acclimate to new athletic endeavors, I think that Bobby’s peers have positively influenced him as well. As a colleague of mine, a pediatric development specialist, taught me, when kids try new activities, they don’t have to do them well. It’s more important to offer encouragement and praise for trying. So this is what I have been doing and I think it is effective in building self- esteem and acceptance.  After his first swim lesson, Bobby said to me, “I know why you are proud of me. Because I was scared, but I tried it and I had fun.”

As parents, we need to focus on building our children’s self-worth as they learn to cope with their environment. Give your child time to be who they are, not who you want them to be. I caught myself being a momzilla and changed my ways. It’s a delicate issue, but as parents we have a responsibility to handle it with care.

Have you ever found yourself facing your inner momzilla?

 

Potty Training without M&M's

Photo Credit: kingary via Compfight cc

Many of you probably know that food shouldn’t be used as a reward. If you didn’t already know this, then, from the prospective of an RD, I am telling you now.

As a mom, however, I also know that this is easier said than done. Food to a child can, after all, seem somewhat rewarding. Yet through my own experiences, I’ve slowly picked up on a few tricks on how to prevent food from becoming equated with success—and I think I can make it relatively easy for you moms out there too.

It all started with Billy, who will be three in a few weeks and just finished potty training. And guess what. We did not use food as a reward during this process.

Since Billy is my second child, I felt a lot less pressured to potty train him than I did with Bobby. Right before the school year began, Billy asked if he could go potty on the big boy toilet, and so I immediately pulled out the kid potty and we started training.

Billy sat on the potty a few times and then on the toilet. He went potty with the kids at school, but he refused to wear underwear or use the potty any other time. I figured I’d just let him be. As my Australian friend Maureen advised, they’ll learn at some point. (As it turned out, Maureen’s advice from down under was great. I just let Billy do as he pleased, and while he was still wearing diapers, at least he was content. And so I was happy too.)

As the holidays approached, the boys and I decided that sport and ski camps could be a fun way to stay busy during their time off from school. But Billy could only participate under one condition: he would need to be potty trained in order to be eligible for the program. I explained this to my three-year-old and offered him a small token to forgo his diapers and, voila—he was willing to concede.

Everyone tells you to bribe your kids with M&M’s. Instead, I opted to present Billy with handmade wooden animal ornaments for our Christmas tree—presents that actually benefited the entire family, though Billy was all too excited to receive them as gifts.

When I ran out of ornaments, Billy picked out a presidential brigade box of cars, limos, security cars, planes and other trinkets. The box cost about $30, but it was filled with 15 to 20 potential presents inside. Each time Billy used the potty, I allowed him to pick out a new vehicle from the box.

I am very happy to report that this ploy worked like a charm. Now, Billy has been using the potty without gifts for the past week and a half. We still have toys left in the box, too.

So, instead of making food seem special and putting what we nourish ourselves with on a pedestal, opt for non-edible rewards like Matchbox cars, temporary tattoos, stickers, cool underwear, or Polly Pocket pieces. If you use food as a reward, you may end up sending the wrong message: that you have to earn food or that food is a treat for good behavior.

Remember to teach your children that food is food—nothing more, nothing less. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand this concept if we want to prevent disordered and/or secretive eating in their future.

Do you offer your children rewards for certain behaviors or accomplishments? If so, what do you typically reward them with that could be useful for other moms out there?

The Hamburger Bun (minus the hamburger)

They boys absolutely love to go food shopping with me. So when it’s time to restock the kitchen, Billy and Bobby hop into the double stroller, and the three of us take a nice long walk to the Whole Foods in Tribeca (my favorite of their Manhattan locations).

It’s not just the boys who benefit from our little shopping excursions either; I love sharing this experience too, since it gives them the opportunity to pick out all their favorite foods while getting a taste for all the beautiful fruits and veggies on display. Quirky fun fact: They also love checking out ostrich and emu eggs.

While perusing the supermarket aisles, the boys usually grab household staples off the shelves like Kashi Heart to Heart, Laughing Cow cheese and hummus. But on our last trip, Bobby decided to pull one out of left field and toss hamburgers buns into the cart. Hamburger buns?

Of course, my gut reaction was, “Ugh, why can’t my kids try a fruit or vegetable instead of another form of bread?” It wasn’t long before I came to my senses though, and thought, “Well, why not?”

I asked Bobby what he would use the rolls for (considering he doesn’t eat hamburgers), to which he innocently replied, “peanut butter.” Case closed. We bought them.

That night, I decided to take advantage of the rolls to whip up a “grilled chicken sandwich”—a hearty and wholesome meal I knew Bobby would enjoy. (I also knew getting him to try it would be a challenge. More on that to come.)

To create my masterful meal, I simply placed Bell & Evans breaded chicken tenders between the whole-wheat buns and slathered on some ketchup. As predicted, Bobby protested, screaming that he didn’t like it even though he hadn’t taken a bite yet.

Standing in the dining room, Bobby glared at the sandwich as if it were crawling with bugs. “You like all of these foods individually,” I told him. “Just try it.” It’s true; Bobby likes chicken and ketchup and bread. The idea that he could be so repulsed by the combination of all three ingredients was not beyond comprehension.

It wasn’t easy, but after a bit of gentle encouragement, I saw Bobby out of the corner of my eye as he walked over to the once disgusting sandwich and took a bite. And you know what? He did like it! In fact, Bobby liked the sandwich so much that he grabbed the remains and brought it with him into the living room, chomping away while watching TV.

Like I’ve said before, I’m by no means perfect. But on that fateful evening, Bobby and I actually accomplished something: he tried—and approved of—a new combination of food. It was a triumph in my mind.

Would I have preferred if he ate his chicken sandwich in the kitchen, at a table, near a napkin and while my husband and I, instead of staring at the TV? Yes. But sometimes, especially when dealing with a fussy eater, you have to pick your battles.

Do your kids claim to hate foods before trying them? How did you coax them into taking a bite?