Color Me Red

Color Me Red

by Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD 

 

As we enter February, we’re seeing Red around every corner.  Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month highlight the color, and give us a burst as the sometimes-drab days of winter continue to swirl around us.   Not only can our moods become a little blah this time of year, our food choices may become more monotonous as well.  By creating a theme, however, we can add a fun, proactive twist to eating, and bring more variety to our plates. What a great way to jazz up your kids lunchboxes, snacks or meals at home by picking a color theme– and what better color this month than RED!

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Our role as parent or provider is not to make sure our kids love everything they eat, but rather to present them with opportunities to explore food, develop their preferences, expand their comfort level around a variety of choices, and therefore become confident, competent eaters.  A color theme is one way that children can participate in the process, as they identify colors in the grocery store, find them in your fridge, and add them to their plate palate.  It also provides an opportunity for them to learn about the function of many foods.   For example, as you will notice below, many red fruits and veggies help promote heart health, so children can begin to connect the ways that foods work for them and support their bodies and brains.   If you are introducing a new food, make it fun and don’t be discouraged if they don’t enjoy it the first time around (or the first many times!). 

So roll out the red carpet and enjoy acquainting your family with some of these bright beauties: 

Acai: This berry from Central and South America is shown to have excellent antioxidant value, which may assist in heart health, decreased inflammation and decreased risk of some cancers.  Mix frozen acai in your blender with a splash of milk and banana, then top with granola, fresh fruit and shredded coconut for a colorful and satiating breakfast or snack. 

Cherries:  These succulent rubies give us great fiber, immune-helping vitamin C, and heart-happy potassium.  Slice up fresh or frozen cherries for a fun ice cream topping or substitute berries in your favorite recipe with equal parts (pitted) cherries. 

Cranberries:  Not only are they super for our urinary tract system, they may also help keep our digestive system protected from unhealthy bacteria and ulcers.   Pour a glass of cranberry juice, add some canned cranberries into a smoothie or mix some dried cranberries into your kids’ trail mix.

Raspberries:  Rich in vitamins C and K, and many antioxidants such as alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline,  these berries can help protect our heart and prevent certain types of cancers.  Fold some fresh berries into your favorite muffin or pancake mix, or keep frozen raspberries on hand to toss into a smoothie or oatmeal

Strawberries:  They are a good source of heart-helping folate, which decreases the risk of certain birth defects, and are a powerhouse of the antioxidant vitamin C, giving a boost to our immune system.   Sprinkle some strawberries on cereal or blend up some frozen strawberries in a milk and yogurt smoothie.  Or dip into some melted chocolate for a super satisfying snack!

 

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Watermelon:  Despite popular belief that watermelon is made up of only water and sugar, it is actually considered a nutrient dense food, one that provides a high amount of vitamins, particularly A and C, mineralssuch as magnesium, potassium and zinc, and antioxidants, including high levels of lycopene.  Because it does contain 92% water, it’s also a wonderful way to help keep your kids hydrated.  Insert a popsicle stick into watermelon chunks for a fun snack, or freeze some watermelon balls to add to your kids’ water bottles. 

Beets:  With an earthy flavor that gets supersweet when cooked, beets are very nutrient-loaded, giving us 19 percent of the daily value for folate, necessary for the growth of healthy new cells.  Their rich color comes from the phytochemical betanin, which helps bolster immunity. Roast them, pickle them or shred them raw and dress them with citrus for a refreshing salad. 

Red peppers:  For the love of your eyes and your skin, include these vitamin A-packed foods.  Add a little crunch to your child’s favorite deli sandwich or have them taste test with peanut butter or hummus. 

Tomatoes:  These red beauties are heart protective and provide a great defense against prostate and potentially breast cancers.  Include a little more marinara sauce on your pasta or add some grape tomatoes into the lunchbox.  

The Harmful Happy Plate

The Harmful Happy Plate

by Julie Dillon, MS, RD, NCC, LDN, CEDRD

My everyday mealtime chaos includes my six-year-old daughter singing at the top of her lungs while my two-year-old son eats one bite then jets from the table. I think that it would be much easier if he still used his high chair, yet he rejected that contraption as soon as he could walk. This makes mealtime a bit messier and acrobatic in nature. In the blink of an eye, he goes from noshing on dinner to dancing in the living room. “We sit to eat” crosses my lips throughout the meal, and I lead him back to the table. Toddlers are distracted by nature, so we try to keep distractions to a minimum (no TV) and give him a high five when he sits safely at the table. We are clear about when meal time is over so he can get his fill, and he will sign “All done!” when his body communicates fullness. Sometimes this happens with a bite or three helpings.

Recently I received a text from a dear friend. She is raising her children to be intuitive eaters and modeling healthy ways of relating to food. With intention, this family neutrally represents food and teaches kids to eat when their tummies have the amount they need.

Luckily, our children are born intuitive eaters—yet our world is not. My friend and I often lament about how hard we need to work in order to shield our children from learning body distrust and body hate.

So imagine her surprise when my friend’s daughter finished dinner and announced that it was now a “happy plate.” I felt sadness when she texted the details. After getting clarification, my friend learned the Happy Plate practice exists at her daughter’s childcare center.

What is the Happy Plate? Often at daycare and family dinner tables, “Make it a happy plate!” can be heard when a child wants to leave the meal with food remaining. I have been told that it is done to encourage children to eat enough and be sure they won’t ask for more food shortly thereafter.

As a pediatric dietitian and eating disorder specialist, I strongly discourage this Happy Plate nonsense. My top three reasons include:

  1. The Happy Plate mantra encourages children to discount hunger and fullness cues. When we plate a child’s food or pack his/her lunch, we are not in his/her body nor are we able to predict with 100 percent accuracy the exact amount of energy he/she will need at that meal. If a child is full, do we really need to encourage him/her to eat more? What’s more, teaching a child to ignore hunger and fullness cues lays a foundation of negative body image and body distrust.
  2. “Make It a Happy Plate” cajoling teaches a child to eat to please rather than fueling his/her body. Eating to make another person happy normalizes disordered eating while omitting innate hunger and fullness wisdom.
  3. Happiness feels good and easy, so of course we prefer it. On the other hand, the human experience includes sadness, frustration, boredom, loneliness, anger, and a myriad of other emotions. Some feel comfortable while others do not. Discounting the fullness experience in favor of a Happy Plate transforms the eating relationship—and not in a good way. It spells out that eating past fullness can make us feel happy. It also makes our loved ones happy. Do we want to teach children to eat in order to make happiness?

What’s the alternative to the ease of the Happy Plate? Here are things to consider:

  1. Be sure to structure consistent meal and snack times. This helps a child respect hunger and fullness while tolerating hunger if he/she is hungry a bit before an eating time. When a child says he/she is all done, kindly remind her when the next eating time will occur. Do not provide between-meal handouts besides planned snacks.
  2. Children make mistakes when plating their own food. In order for a child to become a competent eater, you will have food waste. Save the starving children comments and acknowledge when a child listens to his/her body. An example: “You served yourself, and you decided you didn’t need all of it.” Keep it neutral because food decisions are not good or bad.
  3. If a child eats little at a meal and requests food outside of mealtime, kindly remind him/her of the next meal or snack time. If the child says he/she is hungry, teach him/her what to do. Say “Your tummy is hungry, so remind it that food will be available soon. It is just not time to eat.” NOTE: Need to consider child’s age and time until next meal. 
  4. Hold back the praise when a child eats everything on her plate. A child who ate all of her food and another child who ate half of the food served did an equally good job at that meal. This may feel unnatural, but it is the way to promote healthy ways of relating to food and positive body image.

Peanut Butter-Banana Spirals

We love these peanut butter-banana spirals as a mid morning or afternoon snack.  It’s the perfect recipe to get your little chefs involved in the kitchen!  

 

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup of vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 4 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons of honey-crunch wheat germ
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation

1.  Combine peanut butter and yogurt, stirring until smooth.

2. Drizzle orange juice over banans, toss gently to coat.

3. Spread about 3 teaspoons of peanut butter mixture over each tortilla, leaving 1/2 border.

4. Arrange 1/3 cup of banana slices in single layer over peanut butter mixture.

5. Combine wheat germ and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over banana slices.

6. Roll up tortillas and slice each roll into six pieces.

The recipe and photo used in this post were courtesy of Cooking Light. To see the originally posted recipe please click here.

Eating New Foods

Well, moms and dads, I finally did it. My husband and I had been talking about the boys’ limited intake a.k.a. lack of variety. Last weekend I spent $150.00 on taste-test Sunday, and my boys groaned while carrying on for every food.

 

I worry that my younger son’s smaller stature is due to lack of adequate protein. We continue to expose the kids to more protein, but the pantry always seems to win. On Thanksgiving my dad commented on my sons’ diet and height too.

But I think those words, along with the blog of Dr. Heather McGuire, finally propelled me forward! Because after making the boys cheese and bean quesadillas and watching them pick out every freaking bean, I just did it—I grabbed a bag and filled it with our pantry stock, including the gummy vitamins. The kids liken them to candy.

 

I announced our family mission to eat more foods. “I am not talking about clean food or veggies. I am just talking about eating foods that are not your favorites, eating foods that you may not be in the mood for. I am talking beans and chicken and pasta for Billy.”

So we packed up all packaged snack-like foods. I served the boys chicken parm and eggplant parm for dinner. And you know what, they ate it. Was dinner drawn out? Yes. Was it a wasted meal? No. Five days later, Billy has only skipped one meal. And I have loosened up, being that it is the school week. I still give them their same lunches every day. But breakfast has been different daily, and on Mondays both boys ate a chicken quesadilla, mind you only a quarter of it, plus half of a cheese quesadilla. But I am just happy to see a willingness in them—without all the drama. I don’t want food fights or feelings of deprivation for my kids. I just want a willingness to try foods and eat certain favorite foods just some of the time. So I encourage you, read our stories here, especially Heather’s!

 

May you have happier eating and being days ahead!!

Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN
Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition
www.LauraCipulloLLC.com
www.MomDishesItOut.com

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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Pumpkin-Applesauce Muffins

Even though Halloween has passed, we are still enjoying pumpkin! Take a peek at this delicious recipe from our contributor Christie Caggiani!

Pumpkin-Applesauce Muffins
From the kitchen of Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12

 

Serve with a glass of milk or Greek yogurt, and banana or other fruit for a quick breakfast or snack!  These are even better the next day, and they’re a super way to jazz up your kids’ palate when you mix-in some fruits and veggies.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • ¼ cup chopped raisins (optional)
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease 12 muffin cups, or line the cups with paper muffin liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.  Combine the brown sugar, oil, applesauce, pumpkin, buttermilk, and beaten eggs and mix until well blended.  Pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Fold in the raisins and nuts, if desired.
  3. Divide the batter evenly in the prepared muffin pans.  Bake in the preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the muffin pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan.

 

Other mix-in options: dried cranberries, granola, apple pieces, chocolate chips, pumpkin or sesame seeds, shredded carrots or zucchini, peanut butter….or get creative and try something new!

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.

 

11 Tips for Happy and Healthy Eating

Photo Credit: orangeacid via Compfight cc

By Guest Blogger: Stefanie Dove, Human Nutrition and Dietetics Student

Ask any parent what their biggest battle is with their children and they will likely say getting them to eat their fruits and veggies.  With school back in session, it can sometimes be hard to monitor how much of the packed lunch your kids actually ate.

Here are a few tips and ideas to get them to eat all of the fruits and veggies you pack for them:

1. Bright colored containers not only catch the eye but depending on how small or large they are, it can also help our little ones stay engaged in their lunch as they keep opening up “surprises” in each container.

2. Kids not only love shapes but it also helps them become a little more curious about their fruits and vegetables which helps make it less of a struggle to get them to try some.  You can do things such as cutting whole wheat pita bread with their favorite cookie cutters and making a sandwich or even creating a hummus veggie pizza.

3. Grab your melon baller and scoop some of their favorite fruits to help make a great fruit salad.  The non-traditional shapes of the fruits will be more appealing.

4. Slice veggies such as cucumbers, zucchini, squash, and carrots with a crinkle cheese cutter to give them a new shape and texture.

5. Kids love being able to make their own food, so you can sauté fajita style veggies and pack in the lunch with additional healthy toppings such as a little Greek yogurt, spinach, tomatoes, etc. so that way they have a variety of veggies to choose from and get excited about being involved in making their own meals.

6. If your kids like guacamole, you can make this amazing version that also adds peas in it to give them that extra serving of veggies!  Just replace one of the avocados with a small bag of frozen peas to your favorite guacamole recipe.

7. Serving veggies with hummus is a great way to introduce veggies to even the pickiest eaters.  Most children love to dip their food in things and with the variety of flavors hummus comes in, if there is one they love, just try giving them bite size veggies to start.

8. For the younger children, you can try turning their plate full of fruits and veggies into a work of art.  A great way to do this is to create a rainbow scene on their plate or in the lunchbox by incorporating fruits and veggies of all colors.  Another way to do this is to make colorful fruit and veggie kabobs.  You can add cubes of their favorite cheese to make them more appealing.

9. A longtime staple in most homes has always been Mac & Cheese.  I love making these Mac & Cheese muffins for lunches, which are easy to pack. Adding butternut squash in them not only adds to the creaminess, but also gives that extra serving of veggies!  I also love using quinoa pasta in place of whole wheat so that I can get that extra protein punch as well!

10. Butterfly bags are a great way to send berries, grapes, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes to school.  Decorate a wooden clothespin with your child’s favorite colors and fill each half of the sandwich bag with a different item and clip the pin in the center to make a butterfly.

11. Make mini cucumber sandwiches using slices of cucumbers with hummus, tuna salad, etc. between 2 slices of cumbers.

While it might continue to be a challenge incorporating some fun ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into the lunch box will help them become more comfortable with the idea of eating them on a daily basis.

A Back-to-School Nutrition Guide

I tell all my young clients (and my own kids!) that I think it’s crucial for everyone from the age of 12–20 to sit down and chat with a nutritionist at some point. Now I know I may be just a tad bit biased, but I truly believe that having a down-to-earth convo about what’s real and realistic when it comes to food, eating, and being healthful can really help sort through the daily confusion that we hear on this topic.   Since this is also an age where even the most well-intended and brilliant parent is considered less than wise by their own children, having a neutral party discuss food can often save much frustration and reduce power struggles.  Here are some suggestions written directly to your kids; this may open up some questions and conversations after they read it, but know that even if it doesn’t, you’ve helped create just a little more info for them to become their own responsible self and a more connected eater.

Photo Credit: Sidereal via Compfight cc 

Next Stop:  School!
Nutrition Tips for Middle- and High-School Success
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

 

Voluminous —your vocab word of the day!  It also describes the amount of confusing and contradicting nutrition info that comes at you on a daily basis.  There’s just so much, how do you know what to believe?  Students are not only bombarded with social media messages about food and bodies, they are influenced by friends, parents, teachers, and coaches who each have their own individual belief and bias about nutrition and health.

Photo Credit: shinealight via Compfight cc

As you head back into the fast-paced routine of school, studying, and extra-curricular activities, it’s important to remember a few simple things to keep you, your body, and your brain in top-notch shape:

 

  • Avoid “diets” at all costs—not only does restricting make it harder for us to access and use our intelligence, it also leads us think more about food, taking away brainpower from other important things.
  • Include complex carbs/grains at all meals—your body is using up food at rapid pace, and it needs to eat about every 3–4 hours most days.  Grains give us immediate fuel and go straight to our brain to help us think.  In fact, carbs are the only macronutrient that feeds our brain.  Protein and fats help keep us satisfied and are also important at each meal, but they won’t give you the immediate mental or physical energy that carbs do.
  • Keep some food with you—pack some trail mix, fruit, and/or a whole grain granola bar for the times when your meal doesn’t come soon enough.  Ask your teachers if they allow food in their class, something particularly important if you’re going longer than 4-ish hours without fuel.
  • Breakfast—yes, it really does set the pace for your day!  Without it, you are more likely to feel and function unbalanced, and you may even eat more later in the day.  A pbj sandwich, yogurt parfait, or leftovers from dinner can all work for a fast, little-effort meal.   And yes, when you eat breakfast, you’ll feel a little more clearly hungry at lunch.  That is a GREAT thing, because it signals that your body is functioning just as it’s supposed to!
  • Try a new food—your taste buds are becoming more diverse at this age, and things you didn’t like earlier (green beans maybe?!) may not be so bad now.  Add your creativity to it—throw some salsa on veggies or melt a little cheese on a new-to-you protein.  And try the new food at the beginning of your meal.
  • Don’t skip meals—if you can’t stand school lunch, pack your own.  Make sure you take a few minutes to sit down for dinner.  Skipping meals will confuse your body and make you over-hungry later.  If you eat regularly, you can better know when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re just right.
  • Include some color—add some fruit and/or veggies at each meal.  Not only do they help you feel satisfied, but they also give you nutrients you can’t get from other foods.  Your whole body system is working at a crazy pace at this age and needs a greater mix of different energy, vitamins, and minerals just to keep up with you.

 

Looking for Lunch Ideas?

Back-to-School Loveable Lunch Ideas
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

When meal prepping, be sure to include a carbohydrate, a protein, and a fat at lunch time (or any meal time) to help ensure that your child is adequately fed, evenly energized throughout the day, and without a blood sugar roller coaster. Combining macronutrients is KEY especially if you have a child who is easily distracted, acts out in class, or comes home wiped out.

Photo Credit: Wendy Copley via Compfight cc

Here are some suggestions to get the first week of school off on the right foot.


Monday Lunch

Pasta/bean salad with cubed chicken sausage

Side: mandarin oranges; milk

Tuesday Lunch

Whole wheat quesadilla with pineapple salsa and red peppers

Side: Mango and yogurt

Wednesday Lunch

Lentil soup with corn muffin

Side: Carrots and pretzels with hummus; milk

 

Thursday Lunch

Teriyaki chicken satay with edamame and sticky rice (or rice crackers)

Side: Bitsy’s Brainfood Cookies (zucchini gingerbread carrot flavor is my favorite!)

 

Friday Lunch

Apple and cheese sandwich (can get fancier with different types of cheese like brie or goat cheese)

Side: Olives (one for each finger) and yogurt squeezer

 

– See more at: http://bitsysbrainfood.com/blog/#sthash.9QU75bpn.dpuf