Parmesan Chicken Fingers

With the Super Bowl this Sunday, we’re sure you are busy preparing for your Super Bowl party.  We thought these Parmesan Chicken Fingers, from Laura’s, “The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook“, which are  diabetes-friendly, kid-friendly, and Super Bowl friendly would be the perfect addition .  Your guests are sure to feel satisfied with this delicious dish!

Parmesan Chicken Fingers

Makes 4 Servings

 Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup bran flakes cereal, finely crushed
  • 1/3  cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 ½ tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Season the chicken with pepper.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a shallow bowl.  Combine the crushed bran flakes, cheese, flaxseeds, basil, and garlic powder on a plate.
  4. Dip the chicken tenderloins into the egg, shaking off any excess, and toss in the bran flake mixture.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until no longer pink and the juice run clear.

Raising a Child to Love Their Body

Raising a Child to Love Their Body
By Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD

I was recently out with a group of “mom friends”, having one of those conversations talking about anything and everything related to our kids, all under 1 year old.  Our conversation turned into an honest discussion about raising our children to be anti-dieting, body image-loving, positive self-esteemed individuals.  My friends were worried about being a good example to their daughters, teaching self-esteem, and hoping that their girls will learn to love their bodies.  These moms were especially worried about raising girls, but this is a topic for every mom- mothers of sons included!  I claim to be an expert in this area but it’s honestly something I’m concerned about too.  I had just talked about losing the last few pounds of my post-pregnancy weight 10 minutes before this part of the conversation came up.  My point is that my advice for moms and dads is something I am going to be working on as well.  I think moms can all learn from one another and support each other to raise confident children.

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Here are my favorite tips:

  1. Eliminate fat talk:  Take a good look at yourself and your environment.  Do you criticize yourself in the mirror?  Do you complain about being “fat”?  Your kids will learn from you.  Eliminate this kind of dialogue in your life to other people and especially to yourself.
  2. Feel good about your body:  Replace the fat talk with positive talk.  Do something each day to make you feel good about your body.  One of my favorite tricks is something I heard from a therapist:  Take a tube of red lipstick and write on your mirror “I am beautiful because…” and everytime you look in your mirror, you have to answer the question.
  3. Model healthy behaviors with food:  Show your child a healthy relationship with food by eating balanced meals and snacks.  Don’t restrict and binge.  Have a wide variety of food in your diet, including food from all food groups, including nutritious and less nutritious foods.  Have desserts and fruits and vegetables in your life, and teach your child how to enjoy these foods in a healthy way.
  4. Make time to move with your family:  Exercise as a way to feel good, not just burn calories.  Pick an activity you love and make time for it.  Treat this as part of your self-care routine.
  5. Introduce the concepts of “hungry” and “full” as early as possible:  Children are born with the skill to stop eating when they are full but gradually lose this with environmental influence.  In order to prevent the dieting “restriction” mindset, it’s important to teach children it’s natural to eat when they are hungry.  Therefore, it will be natural to stop eating when full and satisfied.
  6. Do not label food (or yourself) as “good” and “bad”:  Every food is included in a healthy lifestyle, no matter what.  Restriction of “bad foods” can lead to bingeing.  Don’t say “oh I had a good/bad day” because nutrition is not all-or-nothing!
  7. Never force your child to clean his/her plate:  This will alter kid’s perception of how much they should eat.  If they don’t eat at this particular meal, there is always the next meal or snack to make up for missed food.
  8. Talk about how bodies come in all different shapes and sizes:  Respect other body types and talk about how people look different because everyone is unique and special.
  9. Spread the word:  I love movements like “Operation Beautiful”, which spread the message of positive self-esteem and self-worth.  Teach children to participate and have fun doing so!

3 Reasons Why Kids Get Hooked on “Kids’ Meals"

3 Reasons Why Kids Get Hooked on “Kids’ Meals”… and How to Change That
By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

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

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Let me say this up front: I’m not condemning the American Kids’ Meal that is so common in fast food chains and family restaurants, but clearly I’m not keen on eating that type of food when there are other choices.   My own kids have certainly had their fair share of chicken nuggets, mac n’cheese and French fries, just to name a few of the comfort kid foods that predictably reappear on kids’ menus day after day.   This is not a blog about good vs. healthy nutrition, because most parents (including me) know that the traditional fast food fare is not healthy…and that’s exactly why parents want to change the statistics that 15 percent of preschoolers ask to go to McDonald’s  “at least once a day.”    The millions of dollars spent on advertising and toys to market kids meals certainly makes many of us frustrated when much less is spent on marketing a culture of wellness.  By hooked, I don’t mean addicted, although there is research that suggests that food addiction may be a serious component for a subset of the pediatric population Plus, the added sugars in processed foods have been found to be addictive in lab experiments.  But, for the purposes of this short article, let’s keep kids’ meals in this very small box:  Most kids love them.

Why am I writing about this for ASHA? As a pediatric SLP who focuses on feeding, one of the frequent comments I hear from parents is “As long we’ve got chicken nuggets,  then my kid will eat.”   Besides the obvious “just say no” solution, what parents truly are asking is,  “How do I expand my kid’s diet to include more than what’s on a kids’ menu?”  Whether we are considering our pediatric clients in feeding therapy or simply the garden-variety picky eater, that is an excellent question with not a very simple answer.

In feeding therapy, therapists take into account the child’s physiology (which includes the sensory system), the child’s gross motor, fine motor and oral motor skills  and also behaviors that affect feeding practices.  Therapists then create a treatment plan designed to help that specific child progress through the developmental process of eating.  While the nuances of learning to bite, chew and swallow a variety of foods are too complex to cover in a short blog post, here are just three of the reasons why kids get hooked on kids’ meals and some strategies to avoid being locked into the standard kids’ menu and begin to expand a child’s variety of preferred foods:

  1. Kids barely have to chew.  The common fast food chicken nugget is a chopped mixture of …well, if you want to know, click here.  Warning: it will ruin your appetite for chicken nuggets, so if your kids can read,  clicking might be the first solution.  However, in terms of oral motor skills, bites of chicken nuggets are a first food that even an almost toothless toddler can consume with relative ease.  Simply gum, squish and swallow.  Macaroni and cheese?  Oily French fries?  Ditto.  There’s  not a lot of chomping going on!
    • In feeding therapy, SLPs assess a child’s oral motor skills and may begin to address strengthening a child’s ability to use a rotary chew, manage the food easily and swallow safely.  Many of the families we work with eat fast food on a regular basis and we might start with those foods, but slowly over time, more variety is introduced.
    • For general picky eaters or those progressing in feeding therapy, the key is to offer small samplings of foods that DO require chewing, as long as a parent feels confident that their child is safe to do so.  Starting early with a variety of manageable solids, as described in this article for ASHA, is often the first step.   For older kids, the texture (and comfort) of “squish and swallow” foods can contribute to food jags.  Here are ten tips for preventing food jags, including how to build your child’s familiarity around something other than the drive-thru.

 

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Help! My Child is a Picky Eater!

Dr. Heather Maguire is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and the author of the parent training manual, Get Ready… Get Set… Go! It’s Time to Create Behavior Change! As the mother of two young children, she applies her knowledge of behavioral science to everyday parenting. Visit her website www.drheathermaguire.com for more information.

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Help! My Child is a Picky Eater!
By Dr. Heather Maguire

Kids, food, and behavior… Where should I even start? A story from my own childhood comes to mind. When I was a toddler, I decided that the only food I wanted to eat was saltine crackers. Being a stubborn individual even at such a young age, I gave my mother a run for her money. She offered me peanut butter and jelly, but I said, “No!” She put cereal in front of me, but I refused to touch it. At dinnertime I refused to even look at the spaghetti she had made. In situations like this, what’s a parent to do?! Now that I’m a mother myself, I have come to realize that food can be one of the most challenging parts of parenting. As parents, we are charged with caring for the health and wellbeing of our kids, but it is not possible to force children to eat what they do not want to eat. No parent wants his or her children to “starve,” so we are tempted to cave in to our their requests. Recently I overheard a mother explain that her pediatrician recommended letting her toddler snack on whatever he wanted during the day, as long as she supplemented his nutrition with a popular meal replacement beverage. I’m not saying there aren’t cases where extreme measures are warranted, but to me this sounded like a horrible long-term solution to picky eating! Looking through the lens of applied behavior analysis, here are six strategies that have helped me tame the beast of the picky eater in my own home. I hope they will help you, too!

  1. Say goodbye to packaged snacks

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “If they’re hungry, they’ll eat.” This is very simple, but very true! One way to encourage children to eat is to make sure they’re actually hungry when mealtime comes around. This may mean eating less during the periods in between meals. Now I am not suggesting that you cut out snacking all together, but you can control what snacks you offer your children. Personally, I have made the decision to only offer fruits and veggies as snack options in between meals. As opposed to snacks like chips, cookies, and crackers, fresh produce is less likely to curb one’s appetite for more than a short while. I am not saying you have to cut out packaged foods completely, but it may be better to serve these items right after meals or just occasionally as a special treat rather than as snacks.

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  1. Timing is everything

As parents, we often have to be strategic in interactions with our children. If Sofia is feeling under the weather, didn’t sleep well the night before, and had a rough day at school, it is probably not be the right day to offer her a new food or try to get her to eat a food she has previously rejected. Sounds obvious, right? Well, let me share where parents often go wrong. Rather than using this strategy proactively, they use it reactively. Once they place food in front of Sofia and she refuses to try it, then they give her a preferred food. Unfortunately this often results in a pattern of food refusal that can hang around long after the bad day has been forgotten. Therefore, try to prevent food refusal by offering preferred foods on the hard days, but do your best not to cave in once undesired behavior has been displayed.

  1. Dangle the carrot

This is a simple, yet scientifically verified truth that can be applied to several areas of life. In food terms it equates to, “After you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert.” Now, this does not mean that you need to offer dessert or other junk food to your children on a daily basis. Rather, choose foods that you feel comfortable offering to your child on a consistent basis (e.g., juice, crackers, popcorn, etc.). In order for this to work, there are two key things to keep in mind. First, the food has to be something your child really likes. Second, this strategy will work best if you keep your “carrot” valuable by not offering it to your child in other circumstances.

  1. Sometimes easier is better

This strategy is specifically geared towards younger toddlers who are still developing fine motor skills. As a human species, we are more likely to do things when they are easier, and it takes more motivation to do things that are difficult. Therefore, even if your son or daughter can independently eat, you may want to help them… at least with their first few bites. You may find that after the first few bites your child eats independently. Why is that so, you ask? Without getting too technical, food is naturally rewarding when we are hungry and so our bodies encourage us to keep eating until we are full.

 

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Snacking Sense

Snacking Sense
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

 

If you’ve ever tried to have a clear and concise conversation with your child after school, you might find it a daunting and nearly impossible task.  Typically, you will find their attention, energy and desire to recount the day stretched thin, and much of that is simply because their bodies have run out of fuel. If it’s been at least 3 hours since their last meal or snack, or their previous amount of food was small, rest assured it is time for them to eat. They need a snack.

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As Ellyn Satter so beautifully explains in her Division of Responsibility, one of the parental roles in the feeding relationship is to “provide regular meals and snacks”.  This provides stability and the reassurance that food will always be available, thereby allowing children to develop a regular rhythm of hunger and fullness signals which will serve them well throughout their life.  As they trust that we will provide food in a regular and timely manner, they can best develop a sense of trusting themselves and their internal signals.

Snacks, however, have many stigmas and much confusion abounds as we try to determine the “best way” to provide them to our kids.  Here are some suggestions that may answer a few of your questions:

  • Snacks are typically best thought of as little meals, not a single stand-alone item. Our culture has branded certain categories as “snack foods”, however anything you would serve at a meal could feasibly be a snack and will undoubtedly be more satisfying than a single-serve package of baked crackers!  How about a slice of leftover veggie pizza and some grapes?
  • Include two or three foods from amongst:  whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and fats.  Make certain to also offer some ‘fun foods’, and pair them with foods that have a little staying power, such as chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.  Having foods with a higher fat content will hold them longer, and create greater satisfaction.
  • Since all foods can be part of a balanced eating relationship, I tend to recommend buying full-sized bags of products (chips, crackers, cookies), rather than 100-calorie individual versions.  Not only does this save you some money, it most importantly avoids all of the subtle messages that we give our kids by placing “calories” as part of a food decision.  Have you ever had a 100-calorie bag of anything?  Were you completely and utterly satisfied after finishing it?  If you wanted another one, did you feel like you “shouldn’t”?  In my experience, they leave us hanging, wishing we had more. There is nothing magical about that number “100”, except that it’s an effective marketing strategy.  By focusing on the number, we have a much harder time listening to our tummies and the signals that tell us if we are still hungry or comfortably satisfied.  Instead, present these foods on a plate or in a serving bowl, allowing kids to fill their own plate and gauge the food amounts to their hunger levels.  For snacks you need to pack, keep some reusable snack containers on hand and make certain to include enough so that they can eat sufficiently.
  • A snack is not a treat, not a reward, not withheld in a punishing manner, not conditional.  It’s simply a consistent part of a normal day between meals.  It is just food.
  • Have your kids sit at a table for snacks (without TV, Instagram, or homework!), allowing them to better listen to their bodies and know when they’re satisfied, (not to mention the fact that running around the house is dangerous and messy if done while eating!).  If your child needs to go straight from school to a practice, event or appointment, make certain to have packed a few snack options, and give him time to fully taste and enjoy before running out of the car.
  • Sit down and keep your child company, listening to your own body’s signals of hunger or thirst.  Snack time is designed to relax and regroup.  Take a quick minute to breathe, stretch and transition from the busy day.  Don’t create a stressful conversation about the hours of homework they have yet to face!  Our children are watching us always, and modeling consistent snack and re-charge time is helpful for their development, as we as for our energy and patience.
  • Try to give at least two hours and not longer than 3½ -4 hours between a snack and the next meal.  For example, if dinner is at 6:00, aim to have snack time completed by 4:00, in time for your child to get hungry again by the meal.  In the meantime, make certain your little one has caught up on their water intake, adding in some fresh fruit, ice cubes or cucumbers for a little flavor and fun.
  • If your child is truly not hungry, they won’t eat.  They can then eat at the upcoming meal –  no grazing later on as the meal approaches.
  • When your kids are older, they can begin to make some choices about snacks, within the guidelines that you’ve demonstrated.  Remember to keep them planning and eating at a generally consistent time.

If you maintain the reliable consistency of meals and snacks, including a variety of foods, your child will regulate and be able to trust their body’s signals of hunger and fullness.  Happy snacking!

Sources:
Ellyn Satter, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (n.p.: Bull, 2000), http://www.amazon.com/Child-Mine-Feeding-Revised-Updated/dp/0923521518/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y/185-4852629-9299211.
“Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” Ellyn Satter Institute, 2014, http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php.

 

Restaurant Style vs. Family Style: The way you serve food to your kids matters.

Restaurant Style vs. Family Style: The Way You Serve Food to Your Kids Matters
By Adina Pearson, RDN

I love to eat out.  I love good restaurant menus and having someone else prepare yummy food for me and clean up afterwards.  I love trying new things or new spins on old things.  So this blog is not in any way intended to put down eating out or restaurants.  But I want to compare and contrast the restaurant style meal with that of the meal served ‘family style.’  Because it is in this comparison that the beauty and benefits of serving family style really stand out–you’ll see why family style service is so conducive to helping children grow in their acceptance of new foods.

So let’s look at how things flow when you eat in a restaurant.  When you order food in a restaurant you have basically one shot.  This one shot really makes ordering the ‘right’ entree critical.  More so if you like things just so. I know that sometimes both my husband and I can take an awfully long time to decide what to order.  So many choices!   Some people are more adventurous and easy going with food, but with a myriad of options, it’s easy to feel indecisive and pressured.  Then the waitstaff makes its way around again and you have to pick something.  Even though you have no chance to see what the dish looks like (usually) or smells like in advance.

Once you place your order, you get what you get. It might be just what you’d hoped for or something completely different.  But, practically speaking, you don’t get another chance.  Once your food arrives, you’re stuck with it.

Which might be fine.  Your chosen entree will probably be delicious and you’ll probably be pleased and satisfied.  But unless your dining companions like to share, you won’t get to experience one of the myriad of other dishes possible.

This is not a problem in and of itself.  But, let’s look at this from the perspective of a child.

Even adults don’t like to be pushed into making a quick decision about what to eat from a menu. But a young child?  Children are notorious for wanting to stick to what’s safe.  They also don’t usually know what they want to eat…they only know if they want to eat what’s right in front of them.

There’s a saying “the confused mind always says “no”.”  So when confronted with lots of foreign options, and a brief time to decide, most kids won’t want any of it.

Once again, not a big deal in the short term.  Eating out at a restaurant isn’t going to hurt your child or ruin them in any way.  If you order something foreign for them and they don’t like it, no big deal.  If you order something safe that they do like, also no big deal.

But, the restaurant style of serving meals is very similar to how some parents feed at home.  They make up a plate of already-accepted edibles and place it in front of their child.  Or, knowing her child doesn’t already like the entree she’s serving the rest of the family, Mom cooks up something special just for the picky one.  All of these ways of serving a meal have one major thing in common.  Feeding in this way gives your child only one choice: the food currently on his plate.  If you’re struggling with your child’s food acceptance, you may have more success doing things in a new way.

*To read the rest of this blog please click here to be redirected to www.HealthyLittleEaters.com

Finicky with Fruit?

Finicky with Fruit?
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LD/N, CEDRD

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When I was expecting our first child, I had visions of the utopian eating relationship he would have.  After all, I’m a nutritionist and I know the values of a balanced diet, the do’s and don’ts of introducing kids to new and exciting food, and the importance of family meals.  All I needed to do was be patient and continue exposing my little one to different items and he will eventually grow to like them.  I would make sure he fell in love with all things colorful and have a wide array of nutrients in his life.  End dream sequence.

 

While I was blessed with a fairly easy eater, the normal development of his personality led him to have…opinions.  Preferences.  Dislikes.  And his primary dislike around food was – horror of horrors – fruit! Really?  How could my child who loved berries and melon decide at about three years old that he was done with the sweet stuff?  And so we worked with it, and can now fast forward to the healthful existence of my 15 year old.

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How do you ensure that your child still includes a wide array of foods and is able to be a curious eater, if he tends to shun categories of food, such as fruit?  First, be careful to avoid labeling your child a “picky-eater”.  They are simply eaters making choices, and it’s our job as parents to keep presenting foods in ways that they can explore and gradually develop their own conclusions.  I have also found that approaching food from an adventurous angle, rather than a mission, not only engages kids, but also empowers them.

 

By noting your child’s preferences, you can begin to expand some of their choices.  While these ideas zero in on fruits, you may use the concepts to explore other food groups as well:

  • If your child has consistency or texture preferences, work with them.  It might be that a crunchy apple goes over much better than a soft banana.  A smoothie or 100% juice works beautifully if your little one doesn’t have “time” or a desire to chew their fruit.  Dried or dehydrated fruits are great for kids who may not enjoy the juiciness of the fresh version.
  • While we know that sweet is our first developed taste, some people may still have other taste preferences, finding certain flavors too strong.  Consider a juice that has veggie value, since they tend to be less intensely sweet.  A slightly green banana is a whole different experience from a fully ripened one.  You may also introduce ‘combo flavors’, such as some chocolate with those raisins, flavor-infused cranberries or Trader Joe’s chile dried mango for a kick.
  • Sometimes the temperature of our food makes all the difference.   While I love a good melon in any form, it’s particularly amazing when it’s cold.  Maybe your child likes grapes better at room temperature or completely frozen.  Keep some apples on the counter and some in the fridge, giving your child the opportunity to choose.
  • Toning down the intensity of the food exposure takes the pressure off. Don’t make it all about the fruit.  Try a handful of chopped apricot added to your couscous or my favorite: bananas &/or berries in the pancake batter.  Mixed in your blender, the kids will notice the sweet, but not be distracted by the pieces of fruit.

 

So while my son is still not a lover-of-fruit, I am convinced that the regular, non-pushy exposure to it will give him the willingness to eventually enjoy a little more of it some day.   As we enter fall, here are a couple of my favorite ways to add some fruit into our lives:

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Easy Applesauce

  • 4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (I like to leave some of the peel on for more texture and nutrient value)
  • ¾ c water or 100% apple juice
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.  If you prefer a smoother consistency, use blender or food processor.

Photo Credit: [RAWRZ!] via Compfight ccApple Spice Mini Muffins

  • 2 cups peeled, cored and finely diced sweet-tart apples, such as Cortland
  • ½ c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup toasted, chopped unsalted pistachios nuts

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Coat two 12-cup mini-muffin pans with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, toss apples and sugar.  In a small bowl, whisk egg, oil and vanilla.  In another medium bowl, whisk flours, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and salt.  Add egg mixture to apple mixture; stir to coat.  Mix in flour mixture, then fold in pistachios.  Divide batter among muffin cups, filling ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean, 10-13 minutes.  Let cool on wire rack.  Run a knife around edges to release.  Makes 24.

Recipes by Liza Schoenfein, EveryDay with Rachael Ray, October 2014

Children as Intuitive Eaters: How Parents Unintentionally Sabotage This Innate Cueing System

Children as Intuitive Eaters: How Parents Unintentionally Sabotage This Innate Cueing System
By: Maria Sorbara Mora, MS, CEDRD, PRYT, RYT

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As a nutritionist who specializes in the care and treatment of individuals with eating disorders, the concept of intuitive eating comes up often. Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more internally attuned to the body’s signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight and relationship to food, rather than using external cues to control how much one eats.

I often remind my clients that intuitive eating is the most organic process we have…and the earliest one that we develop. And although I pride myself on an Ivy League education and over fifteen years of experience in the field, my two children have served as better teachers of intuitive eating than both.

We are born intuitive eaters. Newborns instinctively crawl up to their mother’s breast and latch on moments after birth. Children innately self-regulate their food intake, knowing what they want, when they are hungry, and when they have had enough.

Leann L. Birch, a professor of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, found that children instinctively self-regulate their food when:

a) Given a variety of foods to choose from

b) Given access to foods when they first become hungry  

c) Allowed to eat to satisfaction 

Although these three tenets may seem basic, many parents unintentionally sabotage intuitive eating cues in their children by asserting or inserting assumptions about feeding.  Let’s consider how this happens:

 

Offering Children a Variety of Foods vs. Only “Healthy Foods

I once had a mom proudly announce to me that she had never given her child juice…“only water.” I almost fell off my chair at the thought of a child going several years without being offered a cup of juice. I shared, “I give my children what they want.” She looked like she was going to fall off her chair.

 

The message is as parents, we may unintentionally restrict our children’s intake.  In 2000, Carper, Fischer and Birch found that when five-year-old girls were pressured to eat “healthy” foods, they began to restrict certain foods, eat emotionally, and eat with abandon. This is certainly not what a parent is intending to do when he/she innocently says that fruit is more healthy than chips. However, children get the message that their cues and choices are wrong if they want chips.

 

Within this premise is the practice of seeing all foods as equal.  I often remind my clients that foods are inherently neutral.  As parents we reflect our own judgments about food onto our children, which ultimately misinforms their intuitive nature.  In other words, it’s great to feel proud of our kids when they choose fruit, but is it possible for us to stay neutral when the choice is chips?

 

Access To Foods When Hungry vs Rigid Meal Times:

I remember feeling inadequate as a new mother when I got into discussions with other moms who put their newborns on rigid feeding schedules. I fed my children on demand and wondered why it was so hard for me to conform to a schedule.  I realize now however that it was difficult for me to put them on a feeding schedule because I practice and counsel intuitive eating. I trusted that my children knew better than I when their bodies need nourishment…then and now.

 

How many parents have at least once hollered at your kids for snacking too close to meal time? I’d be lying to say I haven’t done it myself! It’s an easy pattern to fall into. In our minds, we believe we know when our children need to eat. But, I’m here to tell you that this is a faulty premise to live by!

 

About a year ago I observed that when my children asked for food it was way earlier than my own meal or snack times. Many nights when I was cooking dinner they were already looking for something to eat. So I began doing something novel…I responded to what I observed. Instead of deciding that their meal times had to coincide with my meal times, I honored what their bodies were telling me about what they needed.

 

Now, I keep the snack drawer within reach of my 3 and 5 year old so that they can explore what they want WHEN they want. Sometimes my daughter says to me, ‘Mommy, I want a snack’. Other times, I’ll offer and they will check in with themselves. My son has a one liner he always says when he’s not hungry, ‘no thank you, I’m OK’. And you know what? He is!

 

The other thing I’ve learned from my children is the most fundamental rule of parenting…NOTHING STAYS THE SAME! My daughter was the most enthusiastic early morning eater. Just recently, she has decided that breakfast is not her thing. No matter what I put in front of her she doesn’t feel hungry first in the morning. By late morning however she’s ready to eat.

 

For those parents who believe in a more strict meal time schedule for your children, I ask you to consider this important fact… Children and teens have higher rates of metabolism than adults due to the massive growth they are undergoing. Bottom line is that our children will get hungry more often than we do and may need less or more in amounts than we think.   How can we adjust our understanding of meal and snack times as our children’s bodies grow without letting them feel as though they’ve done something wrong?

Photo Credit: orangeacid via Compfight cc

 

Eating until Satisfaction vs. Portions or Full Plate

Finally, the most impressive characteristic of children as it pertains to their eating habits is their keen sense of self-regulation. We notice our newborns pulling away from the breast or bottle when they’re full. Infants wolf down all their sweet potatoes one day while on other days seal their mouths shut after just a few spoonfuls. Later on in childhood we notice our children losing interest in foods as they near satiation.  This skill does NOT go away over time…unless we train our children to do something else.

 

The typical culprits of this is when parents either 1) impose an allotted amount of a food (pre-portion meals and snacks), 2) unilaterally determine when they’ve had enough (“You can’t be hungry for another yogurt, you just had one”), or 3) demand that they eat all of what was put in front of them (“Eat everything on your plate”). When we impose these rules on our children, we teach them to distrust their hunger and satiety and rely on external cues instead. We know that when individuals use external cues to assess hunger and satiety levels they are at higher risk for eating disorders.

Children come equipped with all the skills necessary to eat intuitively. As parents we can support this innate gift by observing our children’s natural eating habits rather than imposing our own agendas about what is healthy or enough. If we let go of our assumptions, we may just realize how much our kids DO know about how to feed themselves. They may also teach us a thing or two about what unadulterated listening to one’s body really looks like: eating what you want, when you want and eating the amount that your body needs.

 

Sources:

1)   Carper, J. L., J. Orlet Fischer, and L. L. Birch, “Young Girls’ Emerging Dietary Restraint and Disinhibition Are Related to Parental Control in Child Feeding.” Appetite 2, no. 35 (October 2000): 121–29.

2)   Birch, Leann L., et al., “Clean Up Your Plate: The Effects of Child Feeding Practices on the Conditioning f Meal Sizes.” Learning & Motivation no. 18 (1987): 301–7.

Laura Answers Questions About Feeding Her Boys

1. As a Mom, what is the hardest part of getting your kids to eat healthy?

Not being the nutrition gatekeeper of our children’s food is a challenge all moms face. Camp, school and the playground expose my boys to chewing gum, drinking sports drinks and eating low nutrition foods such as crackers and candy during snack time.

As any mom may know, feeding our children can be trying. I created Mom Dishes It Out, a blog for moms to learn from my personal experience in feeding my boys and a place where they can share their experiences and ask questions.

2. How do you explain eating healthy in a context that they understand?
There are everyday foods that we eat to grow, run and think. We need to eat these foods every day. Then there are “sometimes food”—food that we can eat some of the time.  Since the foods are low in nutrition and aren’t the best for growing, they are not considered everyday food.

3. Do you have any tricks to get your kids to eat healthy?
One sure way is to stock the house with only healthy food. I allow all foods but I don’t necessarily have them in the house on a regular basis.

4 Tricks To Getting Kids To Eat Healthy
1. Stock the house with healthy everyday foods
2. Limit boxed or in the pantry packaged food items to three or less
3. Allow all foods but focus on the need for everyday foods
4. Don’t make a big deal about healthy food – offer and expose but don’t overemphasize

 

4. What two kid-friendly recipes did you bring to share today?
Good-For-You Granola Bars – It can be quite challenging to find a granola bar that is nutrient dense, low in added sugar and will not melt in the heat.

My youngest son is a vegetarian so getting omega-3 fatty acids and even omega-6 fatty acids are a challenge. Adding chia seeds to any recipe is a sure way to get vegetarians eating omega-6’s. I give Liam an omega-3 fatty acid liquid supplement to get the beneficial fatty acids only found in fish.

5.  How often do you cook with your kids?
I try to cook with my kids as often as possible and in every little way. Perhaps they do something simple like adding wheat germ to their yogurt, cracking the eggs into their pancake mixture or adding berries into their smoothies.

6. What sorts of foods do your kids crave?
My oldest son loves pancakes with chocolate chips and macaroni and cheese (the chips are dark chocolate and the pancakes are whole wheat or kamut; the pasta is usually whole wheat), while my youngest son favors yogurt, hummus and pretzels (made from spelt or whole wheat).

7. What are your go-to snacks for your kids?
I always offer a carbohydrate with a fat or a carbohydrate with a protein. Then I’ll offer homemade smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits and chia seeds, fruit slices or fruit squeezers with Greek yogurt or cheese

8. Do you guys ever have a cheat day, or treats for special occasions?
I have told my boys time and time again, food is not a treat. A helicopter ride around the city is a treat or a day of bowling is a treat. Food is food. We enjoy ice cream with gummy bears, drink Gatorade and eat cookies some of the time, but not all of the time. Since it is critical that we meet all of our nutrition needs, it is important for parents not to put certain foods on a pedestal, because this will become the food your child will then want.

 

Helping Your Kids Create a Healthy Relationship with Food

*This post was originally published on the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog. To see the original please click here.

Nutrition Comes in All Forms AND the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Agrees!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc

Sugar has definitely received a bad rap this past year. Its poor reputation is very similar to the negative press that fat received in years past. Research is constant and correlations are often made—while causation is rarely determined. As mothers and fathers, how does this affect they way you feed your child? Do you go with the latest diet trend? Do you impose your food beliefs on your children? If so, how are you talking with your children about these beliefs? Remember, when all is said and done, these are just beliefs—not necessarily black and white facts.

With this is mind, remember all food provides nutrition—even Skittles and saturated fats (i.e. coconut oil). However, I am not implying you should feed your kids a diet of sugar and saturated fats. Rather, I am suggesting that as parents, we must watch our wording and behaviors associated with various foods. Our children are smart and pick up on our food issues. Yet most children—like many adults—are not (yet) capable of separating food and feelings or such strong statements into rational thoughts.

Photo Credit: Special via Compfight cc

Many RDs and parents want to scream, “Corn syrup is bad!” but telling your child this may be more harmful than helpful. I am trying to write this as delicately as possible, but think about it: Does a pack of candy or a bread made with corn syrup versus rice syrup really matter? No. Yet many moms label these as “bad.” As a mother of two boys, I do not completely negate these foods and constantly prefer that my boys eat more wholesome foods. As parents we must walk a very fine line in how we convey healthy habits to children. We may use different educational tools to discuss nutrient density, food processing, and overall diet quality, but it is also our job to prevent children from fearing their food, fearing weight gain, and fearing feeding themselves.

Instilling fear of food and feeding in a child can even be one of the contributors to the feeding disorder known as “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder” (ARFID,) especially if a child is already prone to anxiety or is a picky eater.

You can be the mom that hands your children M&M’s some of the time. Know that sugar candy is converted to exactly that, sugar in the body. The brain only uses sugar; our muscles store sugar for easy access during long bouts of exercise (playing a long soccer game, playing outside all day long, or swimming in the pool for many hours as kids are wont to do).  While not an ideal food for growth, sugar still provides energy. Take into consideration that when we don’t make a big deal about these sugary foods, kids will be less likely to ask for them in the first place.

– See more at the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog

 

References:

Stein, K. Severely restricted diets in the absence of medical necessity: the unintended consequences. J Am Diet Assoc. 2014;114(7):986-994.