How to Grow a Healthy Eater, Naturally

By Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD

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When my friend Esther told me that her kids prefer broccoli to pizza, I knew we had to talk

some more. Esther is a mom to three children under the age of five, and she is also one of the

most relaxed, serene individuals I know. I’ve chosen her as one of my “role model moms” (I

collect them) and the way she feeds her children is just one of the many things I admire about

her. I’ve asked Esther to share her techniques for raising healthy eaters. Here are her tips!

1.    Expose kids to a wide variety of foods. Kids each have their own preferences, so by

exposing them to many different foods, you enable them to find their healthy favorites. Esther

doesn’t get stuck in a rut of serving only things she knows they’ll eat. In her house, “Kids taste

everything. After that, they can have an opinion. If they don’t like something, it’s not a big a

deal. They’ll meet their needs at another meal.” Esther finds that involving kids in meal prep is a

great way to motivate them to try new foods. She suggests saying something along the lines of

“Libby helped make the salad today. Doesn’t it look delicious? Thank you, Libby!”

2.    Know that whatever Mommy eats is exciting. There is nothing more powerful than role

modeling. “Kids pick up on your vibes,” Esther says. “Let them see you eating and enjoying

healthy foods. I love fruits and vegetables. I really think they taste good, and so do my kids. I

stocked up on of fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week and cut them up into snack

bags for my kids to take to day camp. They were ecstatic. My four-year-old ran over to me with

her veggie bag and said, ‘Mommy, smell it! Smell it! It’s so yummy!’ ” Esther shares how she

recently bought fresh cherries and her daughter was so excited she tried to climb up to the top

shelf of the fridge to get them. Her younger son loves imitating his big sister as well as his mom,

and he eats plenty of fruits and veggies too. Cherry tomatoes are a family favorite. “They enjoy

putting one in each side of their cheeks and looking weird.” Mealtime is a wonderful time for

role modeling healthy behaviors. Esther makes a point of sticking around during mealtime. “Sit

at the table with them and they will have an easier time eating. The more people at the table,

the better. I’ve noticed that whenever we have guests, they’ll do better at meals. It’s always

best if you can eat with them. You can beg them to eat a bowl of cereal and they’ll refuse, but

sit down and have one yourself and they’ll come crowding around.”

3.    Help kids build healthy habits early on. Because her daughter refused water at a young

age, Esther began giving her juice, but she always dilutes the juice with water. “I dilute it so

much, it’s like flavored water. The other day I’d diluted the juice while it was still in the

container, and when I poured some for my daughter, she said, ‘Hey, you didn’t put in water!” I

try to give my kids whole grain products and while it doesn’t always go over successfully, it

often does. They aren’t fans of whole wheat bread, but they really like brown rice.  “Get away

with it when you can.”

4.    Provide all foods. Esther sets the stage for healthy choices but she knows when to step

back. “I do let go because I don’t want my kid to be the one eating candy under the table.”

Recently, her four-year-old has been asking for a freeze pop upon coming home from day camp

because she sees the neighborhood kids having them, and Esther has no problem allowing her

to have too. She’s ok with it because her daughter enjoys many healthy foods as well and she

does not want her to feel deprived. She knows her daughter is used to a healthy routine and

understands that all foods can be part of a balanced lifestyle.

5.    Understand that it will be challenging. Things don’t always go smoothly at Esther’s table.

“It’s hard when you put in a lot of work to prepare a meal you think they’ll really like but then

they don’t eat it.” However, Esther believes that this is because “Children are challenging! It’s

not food-specific. They don’t always do what you want, and you’ll have to readjust your

expectations. Don’t drop the whole thing, but know that you might have to rework the

scenario.”

6.    Don’t have an agenda. Esther feels it’s important not to get too worked up about your

children’s eating. “When they feel you are anxious for them to eat something, they won’t want

it. It’s like when you’re anxious for them to go to sleep on time because you have a babysitter

coming; they’ll sense it and won’t go to sleep.” She believes it’s best not to be overly invested in

the outcome, or at least to “pretend you don’t care!” When I asked Esther to share some

rewarding moments, she replied, “I don’t view it that way because I don’t put in intense effort. I

don’t have an agenda. We keep trying things, and when something doesn’t work, it doesn’t

work. And something that didn’t work at first might work later on. So rather than individual

rewarding moments, I get slow, gradual gratification. I’m seeing that the seeds I’ve planted

have successfully grown.”

Trusting your child’s gut

Photo Credit: Marina K Caprara via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Marina K Caprara via Compfight cc

By Maria Sorbara Mora, MS, CEDRD, PRYT, RYT

My friend and colleague Joe Kelly recounted a story to me one day about his children. He told me that when his kids started school he noticed that both children complained about their stomachs hurting constantly. After ruling out illness and allergies he sat them down and asked them what they noticed when they would get stomach aches. His children told him that their stomach’s started to hurt before going to school and would feel better when they got home. He realized that his kids were not comfortable in the school system and were having a body reaction. His neighbors were home schooling their children and he decided to do the same. He was faced with others telling him it was a bad idea, that children whom are home schooled lack social skills and that the children would eventually adapt to their environment if he kept taking them to school. Joe did something really, really smart. He trusted his children’s guts and went ahead with home schooling. Both children’s excessive and consistent stomach problems disappeared never to be seen or heard of again. Several years later, Joe says both his children, adults now, are well adjusted, successful and happy.

I wondered to myself how often our children’s body’s communicate to us via their guts and how difficult it might be for a parent to trust them as accurate. But most of us have felt at least once in our lives, something in our guts to be true before our brain could process the situation. Because I’m a nutritionist and a yoga therapist, I am always considering the mind-body connection. I realized that the answer to why Joe’s children’s guts should be trusted lie in the relationship between the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) and the 3rd Chakra.

The Enteric Nervous System is located in the digestive track and is known as the gut’s brain or the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons! The ENS was first only thought to control digestion but now we understand that it plays an important role in our physical AND mental well-being. Just like our brain’s in our heads, this system sends and receives impulses, records experiences and responds to emotions. The first brain and the second brain interact and react with each other. However, the ENS can work independently from the brains in our head meaning that information that the gut sends to the brain doesn’t have to come from consciousness. The ENS helps you sense environmental threats and then influences your response. In addition, the gut’s brain is reported to play a role in good and bad feelings. Over 30 neurotransmitters are produced that are identical to those found in the first brain-one of which is serotonin. A whopping 90% of serotonin is located in the gut. Serotonin is the ‘fee-good’ hormone that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. So now we know why Joe’s kids had stomach aches! Their Enteric Nervous system was communicating, from a subconscious place, that something in their external environment was creating stress. Joe’s kids, 5 and 6 at the time didn’t have knowledge of why their tummies ached but their Enteric Nervous system did!

The 3rd Chakra gives us even more information about why Joe’s kids were having this reaction. The word Chakra means wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, this term refers to the wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main Chakras which align the spine starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. The 3rd Chakra or the Solar Plexus Chakra is located between the navel and the solar plexus. This Chakra governs among other things, the digestive system. The solar plexus chakra regulates how centered we feel during the day in relation to our cognitive emotions. This Chakra, also called Manipura Chakra is all about sensing your personal power, being confident, responsible and reliable. It is the center of self-esteem and governs our sense of self, the power that we have within and over our destinies. When there is injury to the 3rd Chakra, we feel powerless. Our bodies respond to this tension by developing digestive distress or disorders.

Manipur or Solar Plexus Chakra represents ages 6 years to adolescence. This is the time frame when a child begins school and interacts with others such as teachers and friends but their primary influence is still their home. During this time, children must find their own identity within the family. If they are able to develop a sense of self while living in a family system they are able to develop confidence. So now we know why Joe’s children’s stomachs ceased hurting when Joe began home schooling. When Joe’s kids first entered school they may have felt that something wasn’t quite right but remained powerless to change their destinies thus digestive distress ensued. When Joe acknowledged, trusted and acted on what their children’s guts was telling him, his children gained a sense of personal power even though they didn’t cognitively know what was needed. Furthermore, they had space to begin developing the all the confidence and reliability needed to move into their adulthood.

What an amazing example of why it is so important to trust your child’s gut. Next time your child has a stomach ache, suffers from gastric distress or digestive issues, consider that their body is trying to communicate something important that they may not be aware of.

For Coffee Drinking Moms: Say Goodbye to Starbucks

Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee
Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee

Sipping a cup of coffee on the way out the door while making sure everyone’s shoes are on the right feet is how many busy moms may be starting their morning. Or maybe you grab a cup on your way to work, or even prefer to meet up with a friend for coffee and catching up! Regardless of how you take your coffee, you’re not alone in getting your caffeine fix—nearly 90% of the adult US population consumes caffeine, and 98% of that caffeine comes from coffee![1] While we may (almost) all be drinking coffee daily, there are still a few controversies even the most devoted coffee drinkers might not have the answers to, including a list of some of the best coffee shops to try in NYC!

Does the Brew Method Affect Caffeine Content?

Yes and no. An 8oz cup of drip coffee will have marginally more caffeine than instant coffee and about 2-3 times as much caffeine as a 1oz shot of espresso.[2] But your barista has the final say in deciding how much caffeine you’ll have in your order. While the variation from day-to-day likely depends on the training regimen and reputation and goals of the coffee shop, it can be significant. A study in Maryland followed coffee shops over a six-day period to find they served up the same drink order but it was measured to have a wide range of caffeine presence, from 58-259mg. (For reference, moderate intake of caffeine is considered three cups a day and averaged to be 300mg.[2])

Might Coffee Irritate Me If I’m Gluten Intolerant/Have Celiac Disease?

It could! Instant coffee is often contaminated with traces of gluten that could irritate someone with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.[4] However, drinking pure coffee should not cause problems for someone with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.[4]

My child wants to try coffee…

Children are grouped into a sensitive subpopulation, along with pregnant women in terms of a having a cap on caffeine consumption, under 300mg/day to reduce risk of adverse affects.[2] More specific recommendations for children, based on age and weight, suggest that no more than 45mg/day for a 1-5year old and no more than 125mg/day for a 10-14 year old.[2] Considering other sources of caffeine that may be in your child’s diet (chocolate, teas, soft drinks) just a half cup to a cup of coffee could exceed the child’s daily recommendation.

Where to get the best cup?

Here are our favorites coffee shops around Manhattan and some we’re excited to try!

Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee
Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Serving specialty coffee and their signature cold brew for the summer months, Stumptown offers a laidback and inviting environment to enjoy any weekend morning. Optional (but limited) outdoor seating and prime West Village location makes it easy to bring along the stroller or kids on your way to Washington Square Park!

Location:

30 W 8th Street, New York, NY 10011

Ace Hotel, 18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

Breakfast at Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe by Brenna O'Malley
Breakfast at Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe by Brenna O’Malley

Bluestone Lane

With locations across Manhattan, it’s hard to find an excuse to not pop into this charming coffee shop for a drink or their West Village location for some “brekkie”. They are known for their avocado toasts and uniquely named coffees, like the “magic”. Also offers indoor and outdoor seating and is a popular weekend brunch spot!

Location:         55 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014 (Collective Café)

805 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10022

1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036

30 Broad St. New York, NY 10004

770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

La Colombe

The perfect spot after Soul Cycle in Noho, or a break from shopping in Soho. These airy cafés are welcoming and filled with light, if you don’t get a seat, we promise, their iced coffee is just as good, to-go.

Location:

319 Church Street, New York, NY 10013

270 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012

400 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003

75 Vandam Street, New York, NY 10013

Flat White at Little Collins by Brenna O'Malley
Flat White at Little Collins by Brenna O’Malley

Little Collins

With one Midtown location, this is a great spot to grab a quality coffee between meetings or on your way to the office. With very similar vibes to Bluestone Lane’s Collective Café in West Village, Little Collins slows down the busy pace of a midtown weekday with their own Australian brews.

Location:

667 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022

Happy coffee-shopping!

 

[1]Fulgoni, V., Keast, D., & Lieberman, H. (2015). Trends in intake and sources of caffeine in the diets of US adults: 2001-2010. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1091-1087.

[2]Hogan, E., Hornick, B., & Bouchoux, A (n.d.). Communicating the Message: Clarifying the Controversies About Caffeine. Nutrition Today, 28-35.

[3]Mccusker, R., Goldberger, B., & Cone, E. (n.d.). Caffeine Content of Specialty Coffees. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 520-522.

[4]Vojdani, A., & Tarash, I. (n.d.). Cross-Reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens. Food and Nutrition Sciences FNS, 20-32.

 

 

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Common Myths Debunked

The Truth About Eating Disorders: Common Myths Debunked

by Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS

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Because most eating disorders (approximately 95 percent) surface between the ages of 12 and 25, parents are often a first line of defense against the development of these illnesses in their children.* Despite increased prevalence of eating disorders in the United States, widespread misconceptions about eating disorders remain that challenge identification, diagnosis and early intervention. To truly protect and advocate for their children, it is important that parents understand the truth behind common eating disorder myths.

Myth: Eating disorders aren’t serious illnesses.

Truth: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are very real and very serious mental illnesses. Each disorder has clear diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the go-to diagnostic reference for mental healthcare professionals. Another reason to take eating disorders seriously is that they can be deadly. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. In fact, women ages 15 to 24 years of age who suffer from anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than any other cause of death.**

Myth: Eating disorders are just about food.

Truth: While eating disorders generally involve obsession with calories, weight or shape, these illnesses are rooted in biological, psychological and sociocultural aspects. Restriction, bingeing, purging or over-exercise behaviors usually signify an attempt to control something of substance in the individual’s life. Because friends and family mistakenly believe that eating disorders are just about food, they will often encourage their loved ones to “just eat more,” “just eat less,” or “just eat healthier” to be “cured” of this illness. In reality, eating disorders often require some combination of medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and dietary intervention to achieve full recovery.

Myth: Eating disorders are a women’s illness.

Truth: While research shows that eating disorders affect significantly more women than men, these illnesses occur in men and boys as well. While males used to represent about 10 percent of individuals with eating disorders, a recent Harvard study found that closer to 25 percent of individuals presenting for eating disorder treatment are male. The widespread belief that eating disorders only affect women and girls can prevent accurate diagnosis of an eating disorder in a man or boy, even among healthcare experts.

Myth: Eating disorders don’t develop until the teenage years.

Truth: Consider this—research found that up to 60 percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, and that this concern endures through life.*** Not surprisingly, the incidence of eating disorders in children is on the rise. Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children 12 and younger rose 119 percent, according to a 2010 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Myth: Only very thin people have an eating disorder.

Truth: While anorexia is characterized by extreme low weight, many individuals struggling with bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS are normal-weighted. The misconception that an eating disorder can only occur if someone is very thin contributes to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in many cases, even among those patients seeking support from medical and mental healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many healthcare experts lack eating disorder exposure and training, which highlights the important role of eating disorder specialists to ensure effective diagnosis and early intervention.

Photo Credit: churl via Compfight cc

 

In addition to educating themselves about basic eating disorder information and understanding myth from fact, parents should also trust their instincts when it comes to eating disorders in their children. Eating disorders can thrive in secrecy, but parents often intuitively know if something is wrong with their children. While parents may feel terrified of saying the wrong thing, but also not want to stay silent, they are an important champion for diagnosis and effective treatment. If concern arises, consult with an eating disorder specialist sooner rather than later—early intervention is critical to lasting eating disorder recovery.

 

*Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

**American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.

***T.F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention. New York: Guilford Press. 2011.