Is Your Tween Hiding Her Lunch?

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

Thanks,

 

Debbie A., a perplexed Grammy

 

REAL MOM LAURA ANSWERS:

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

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

A)   Eating a different type of food at school?

B)   Eating any lunch at school?

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

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

A)   Embarrassed to bring a home packed lunch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

100 Is the Loneliest Number

Several years ago, after I got married and settled into my current job, I started experiencing asthma-like attacks. I’d be walking home on a cold night and the next thing I knew I’d be trying to clear my throat and find that I wasn’t able to. I’d have a dry cough, a wheeze, and sweat pouring down my forehead. If I ran across the street because the walk signal was changing, I’d spend the next five minutes trying to catch my breath, sometimes finding that I couldn’t. I ended up in the emergency room two or three times. I started seeing a new doctor who put me on Advair. I worried that I would be asthmatic for the rest of my life—or at least every allergy season.

My doctor had another suggestion: he told me to lose 100 pounds. Well, what he actually said was, “you need to lose 50 to 100 pounds.” I was floored. Fifty to 100 pounds? Although his voice remained flat, it felt like an indictment. Like I was guilty of some horrible crime, and he was condemning me.

I confess that what followed was a long period of denial. I searched my reflection in the mirror, and didn’t see that I was overweight. Or at least not so heavy that I should have trouble breathing. I still looked like me, and I enjoyed dressing in cute clothes from Old Navy and the Gap. I needed to lose 100 pounds? Really? I thought about Richard Simmons, I thought about diet plans and exercise DVDs and gastric bypass surgery, and I wondered, am I going to have to do all of that?

Around the same time, my husband and I started trying to get pregnant. We gave it a few months and found it wasn’t happening easily. Consultations with specialists led to a similar recommendation: Lose weight—as much as you can. No constructive advice beyond that. There must be a sense among those in the medical community—and maybe even more widely—that overweight people know why we’re heavy and what we’re doing to cause it, and that we can just decide to stop that behavior. It’s as though they think we’re all hiding Oreos under our beds or having lunch at McDonald’s every day. I have never been a junk-food junkie, and I had absolutely no idea how to lose weight

I wanted to have a baby so badly that I did the best I could. I gave up pizza. I skipped meals. I ate mostly salads. And, I grumbled. I felt deprived and I’d get angry when family members arranged dinners at Italian restaurants where I stared at the food telling myself I wasn’t allowed to eat it. I lost about 15 pounds. And then I had a baby. And then I had another. And then I was out of the baby-making business and back where I started. The weight came back and I was back on Advair. When I looked in the mirror all I could see was someone who needed to lose 100 pounds.

I didn’t want to go back to withholding my favorite foods from myself—that had felt awful. I couldn’t let the denial derail me, either. So, this is what I told myself: Right now I am where I am. I can see myself as I am. And, I want to be the best version of myself I can be.

I found a dietician, bought an exercise bike and installed a calorie-counting app on my iPhone. In time I learned that losing weight wasn’t about withholding food from myself. I didn’t have to give up pizza. What I had to give up was the shame. Seriously. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. So true, I’ll say it again: Give up the shame. I saw that the only way I was going to change my weight was to change my thinking.

My biggest breakthrough came when I attended a support group with other women who had food and eating issues—including some who withheld food from themselves. I was so amazed to see what we had in common. The denial. The voices in our heads telling us not to eat the foods we craved. The feeling of being alone. I told everyone there that my doctor wanted me to lose 100 pounds. I said it out loud. I’m even saying it here, because I am no longer ashamed of it. That 100-pound benchmark no longer feels like a curse or a judgment. It’s just one doctor’s recommendation for optimizing my health.
After getting an exercise routine going and finding foods that made me feel satisfied and nourished, I saw a marked improvement in my overall health. Maybe I’ll lose 100 pounds over time. Maybe not. But, every day I am where I am. I am the best version of myself that I can be right now. And, I can breathe!

 

About Rebecca: 

Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey. She is a monthly contributor to Mom Dishes It Out.

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake

Just like the series of books by Laura Numeroff , if you give a kid a cupcake, there’s more meaning in that one cupcake than just the fact of being a cupcake! In our “Something More Than Fish” blog post, we discussed a similar concept. Today, however, we’re using “cupcakes” to help parents determine when and where certain kinds of foods should be eaten. Think back for a moment. Did you label a cupcake as “good” or “bad” or perhaps just a “treat” the last time you served one? Was it a “reward” for finishing dinner or simply a nighttime “snack”? Moral judgments—good or bad, food rewards, and dieting/restricting specific foods—are not recommended for children or even for adults. All of these judgments lead to adopting the moral label of the food eaten, eating for external reasons (not hunger/fullness), binge eating, and food sneaking. But don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed by these concepts. What I find works best with my kids and my clients—whether 10- or 40-years old—is to encourage that all foods be eaten some of the time. It’s a powerful tool for everyone! When your children are at a birthday party or grandma’s house—or adults are out with friends—they can self-regulate portions and eat to feel energized rather than deal with food, eating or weight issues. Not only will this free your children, but it will also free you from worrying about what happens when they go to their best friends’ houses and are served chips and even perhaps sodas! 

I’m not saying all foods are equal; there are foods higher in nutrition and others lower in nutrition. Please keep in mind, however, even “foods” like sugar candy or table sugar or soda (though I hate to admit it!) still provide nutrition in the form of energy—otherwise known as calories. To keep things simple in our home, we have identified foods as “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods. Everyday foods are those that are nutrient dense, essential for growth and help to promote health and prevent disease. Whole-grain pumpkin pancakes with dark chocolate chips, peanut butter, chicken, whole-wheat pasta, 2% and non-fat Greek yogurt, dried mango, hummus, spinach and apples fall under the “everyday” foods category. I mention these foods since my boys eat them almost daily.

The “sometimes” foods are lower in nutrition; they include cookies, puffs, booty, chips, candy, jello, cheese slices (processed cheese products—not 100% cheese), fake butter and such. You get the idea. These foods lack vitamins and minerals, are highly processed so you can’t actually call them “foods,” or are highly saturated in fat and promote heart disease.

 

Mind you, my kids and even I myself will eat “sometimes” foods…well, sometimes every day! The menu may look like sweet potato, kamut pancakes with dark chocolate chips and milk for breakfast; Annie’s whole-wheat mac & cheese mixed with spinach and two sides including apple slices and two cookies in their lunch box—followed by cupcakes with water or milk after school while on their way to sports class; and then real fish sticks, fruit, cheese, whole grain or white pasta (or spelt pretzels for my little one) for dinner; and a Greek yogurt for nighttime snack. And by the way, many times the cookies or muffins (pumpkin or corn) I send come back home with them. One may be eaten and the rest saved for later. This is one of the ways I know that food is neutral in my boys’ minds. They know “Hey, I don’t need to scarf it down!” because they can have it later. My daily intake would include the same pancakes for breakfast, lunch with my clients or a whole-grain wrap with cheese, avocado and tuna followed by a KIND bar and an apple. Dinner may be salmon, a whole grain and veggies made with olive oil plus a nighttime snack of a cupcake.

Every day is different for me as it is with my kids as well. The goal I keep in mind is wholesome, nutrient dense, and less processed foods 75% of the time, and the rest, well, I just enjoy! But I do make sure to use portion control via internal regulation—mindful or intuitive eating. I stock my house with “everyday” foods such as fruits, veggies, eggs, whole grains, olive oil, cheese, fish, and hummus. We do keep “sometimes” foods in the house…but just enough to last one week. I let the kids pick out their snacks at Whole Foods—perhaps puffs, cookies, or mini cupcakes. Too many choices mean too many decisions for little kids. Try to keep snack options and/or packaged foods to less than five in your cupboard. 

The concept here is to provide wholesome nutrition the majority of the time…and don’t worry the rest of the time. As a parent, it’s your job to keep the kitchen stocked with nutrient dense choices and give your children the tools and the options to eat “sometimes” foods. You’ll be helping your children create positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with the foods they eat. So go ahead. Stock your home with wholesome foods and produce. Serve balanced meals…and be worry free when feeding your children cupcakes and or apples for snacks this week!

A Cup of Self-Love

Love is in the air—or is it? For some, Valentine’s Day may feel like the whole world is staring you down. Marked by chocolates, flowers and couples holding hands, for some, remember that Valentine’s Day is still just like any other day. And like any other day, we have the ability to control our thoughts and how we feel about ourselves. It is a day that emphasizes love. So, whether you’re celebrating the day with a significant other, your friends, your children, or by yourself… celebrate the love you offer, and most of all—self-love! 

Ways to Enjoy a Cup of Self-Love:

  • Dedicate some time to volunteer for a cause you are passionate about
  • Explore your inner chef… cook dinner for the friends you love!
  • Relax with a yoga class 
  • Take something off your bucket list – Has there been a pottery-making or dance class you’ve been meaning to try?
  • Enjoy a “Me Day” – A visit to the Spa/Beauty salon
  • Foster positive self-esteem and positive body-image – List atleast 5 things that you love about yourself and focus on these positive qualities.
  • Try a new recipe and share the sweets – We like Red Velvet Cake Bites with Fresh Raspberries!

Snack: It's Not A Five-Letter Word

“Know that there are no ‘good’ snacks or ‘bad’ snacks. To develop a healthy and neutral relationship with food, incorporate all foods in moderation.” – Laura Cipullo, RD

By Guest Blogger: Rebecca Weiss

When I was growing up every woman I knew was on a diet. My mother, my grandmother, my aunt, my next-door neighbor, my babysitters… And while each of them had their own approach—the grapefruit diet, the no white food diet, the fruit and rice diet—they all shunned one common evil: Snacking. Yes, all of your weight problems could be traced back to between-meal snacks. Snacks were bad. Snacks were a sign of your lack of willpower. Snacks were making you fat.

My mother made sure we never had cookies or junk food in the house, lest my brother and I snack on them when we came home from school in the afternoons. Instead there were whole-wheat crackers, peanut butter, and fruit. But I avoided them as much as I could, thinking that I was required to go without food until dinnertime, which was around 7 or 7:30 every night. Given that lunch was around noon, I would become very hungry after my walk home and then sit on the couch watching Charlie’s Angels re-runs trying not to think about the crackers in the kitchen.

More times than not, I broke down and had something to eat. And, in my hunger and feeling of “If I’m going to eat when I shouldn’t, I’m going to enjoy it,” I would grab the box of crackers and eat the whole thing. Or eat half a jar of peanut butter with a spoon. Then I felt guilty about my lack of willpower. 

Over the decades attitudes toward snacks and snacking changed. Suddenly snacks were allowed, even encouraged, because they helped keep blood sugar consistent during the day and kept you from feeling so hungry you’d be inclined to overeat. This was great news in a way, but I still didn’t know how to snack. Was a candy bar a snack? The ads on TV seemed to suggest that. What about Snackwells? Snack packs? Is anything with the word “snack” on it actually a good snack?

I remember when the first 100-calorie versions of popular cookies and crackers showed up. The problem with these was that somehow eating 100 calories worth of Oreos or 100 calories worth of Wheat Thins just made me feel more hungry. It would launch an entire afternoon of craving more sweet or more salty.

Working with a dietician helped me come up with healthy snacking strategies. First of all get rid of the guilt. Snacking isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s part of nourishing yourself. People who snack aren’t lacking willpower, they’re listening to their bodies and responding with something to alleviate real hunger.

Turns out, it wasn’t what I was eating that was undermining my good snacking habits, it’s what I wasn’t eating—protein. You don’t find much of that in a candy bar, or Oreos or Wheat Thins. And, that’s why those foods were just making me more hungry. Over time I came up with a list of go-to snack foods that always satisfy. These include Greek yogurt, low-fat string cheese (which is great with grapes or other fruit), microwaved edamame, and protein bars. While peanut butter is a good source of protein, I find I can’t stop eating it once I start, so I generally avoid it. Most of these snacks have between 140 and 200 calories a serving, which is better than 100 empty calories any day. And, none of them have the word “snack” on them.

 

About Rebecca: 

Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey.

Keep Your Family Moving…Yoga and More

As you know if you read this Mom Dishes It Out blog on a regular basis, I have two sons who are picky eaters. But what you may not know is that my two picky eaters are not only exposed to various foods but various forms of movement as well. As a young child, I remember my mom doing her leg lifts to Jane Fonda on the TV. I also remember a magnet on the refrigerator that read something like: “Don’t break your DIET! Don’t open the frig!”

I always viewed my parents as being overweight. Now I look back at old pictures and think: “Wow, they were so much smaller in the 70s and 80s than now in 2013!” Back then, we were a pretty active family. We always went camping during the summer, hiking on weekends, and skiing in the winter. Mind you, my parents did not ski. But they definitely helped us children to be active. Eventually—and unfortunately—they became inactive. They stopped camping, hiking and even doing little Jane Fonda-like exercises. They became the parents that hung their clothes on the exercise bike. They’d pay for gym memberships for an entire year, but never go!

On the other hand, I kept active through school sports and then later via gym memberships. In college, I was blessed with opportunities to rock climb, mountain bike, backpack, and snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains along with other great physical activities. My dad was ecstatic that I loved the outdoors like he had when he was young…and gladly footed the bills for all of my expensive equipment. And I was happy to experience the thrills as well as the sense of accomplishment these activities brought me. 

Well, now I’m a parent too. But I don’t have the luxury of a home in the suburbs with a big backyard. This is my choice! For a variety of important reasons, my family and I choose to live in New York City. What I do maintain is a true love of movement. I also know how critical it is for parents to role model healthy behaviors such as active movement on a daily basis. This does not necessarily mean pumping weights at the gym or sweating it out on the stepper in LuLu Lemon!

My father never hiked, biked or camped with weight loss or even heart health in mind. He did so for enjoyment only. Unfortunately for my dad—and my mom too—they stopped enjoying the activities. And they stopped engaging in them! Of course, they should have continued for health reasons.

Well, I persisted and still continue to be active today. I must admit, however, that I did at one point get lost and confused. I was exercising—especially running—for a calorie burn rather than enjoyment and overall health. Thankfully, I didn’t get lost for too long. Believe it or not, an injury forced my introduction to new types of movement and a renewed adoration for moving to increase my energy, to decrease my stress levels, to balance my body, and to straighten my posture. And to just have fun while keeping my heart healthy and my body efficient.

I want to pass this love of movement on to my kids. I think I have passed it on to my husband, who didn’t exercise at all when I met him…in part because he hated running. He now spins and practices yoga because he tried these activities with me and loved them. Together we have taken the kids hiking, skiing and on active family vacations through the mountains of Colorado. Just the other day I heard my son Bobby tell my mother that I had just retuned from spinning and then he corrected himself and said: “Oh no, I mean Pilates.” Not only does this create dialogue around physical activity, but our boys, just like any other children, observe that their mommy and daddy enjoy different physical activities for different reasons and with different people. 

For example, while pregnant with each of my boys, I practiced yoga and Pilates. Unable to find a prenatal yoga class six years ago, I found a yoga instructor willing to barter with me instead. I would provide nutrition education and she would provide yoga in my home. Well, it has become the best deal ever because for years now, my sons have watched my husband and me practice yoga together. Sometimes they even join the session, but for just a few minutes. However, this past week was different. Our yoga instructor, Jen G, came to the apartment for a session. My husband joined in and so did my children. It was the cutest thing ever. All four of us were doing yoga together. And the boys lasted for 30 minutes! It was definitely not the most de-stressing yoga session, but it was absolutely the most fun. When thinking about our family yoga session, I also realized that not only has movement positively affected our lives as a family, but yoga specifically has also helped me to teach the boys to take a deep breath and “Om” when they’re frustrated or just need to let off some steam.

As parents we are endlessly prompted to role model healthy behaviors and to exercise for our own health. Just remember that all of our behaviors—whether healthy or not—are indeed observed and then reenacted. Please don’t ever connect exercise with weight loss because your children will come to think about it as negative, dreadful and fruitless. Rather, explain how exercise helps to guarantee their health.

We have the ability to help our children to love their bodies and love to move…and ultimately move for the right reasons. As a mother and a dietitian, I encourage parents to teach their children to be physically active for strength, heart health, strong bones, stress relief, and most importantly, fun. Remember, the best exercises are those that we enjoy and want to do again and again. So don’t wait! Get up right now. Grab your kids and go to the ice-skating rink…or wherever your family can share some healthy and fun-filled physical activities.

What this Mom Achieved in 2012: Rediscovering Food As Fuel, Not Comfort

Guest Blogger Rebecca W. shares her experience of having Gestational Diabetes twice, as well as the healthier lifestyle changes she’s made along her journey.

I had Gestational Diabetes—twice. That’s two times in my life that I have lived as a diabetic for weeks at a time. I counted carbs. I tested my blood sugar four times a day. I injected insulin before bedtime every night up until my scheduled c-sections.

During those times I enjoyed commiserating with other GD moms on chat boards and online forums. Much of the posts were venting along the lines of, “How do you have a baby shower and not eat a piece of cake?” There were long threads about what we would eat once our babies were born and the hormones causing our under-active pancreases leveled out. McDonald’s was high on the list for most, doughnuts, too. I just wanted a Carvel ice cream cake. And, once I was back home from the hospital, that’s exactly what I ate. Five nights in a row. For dinner.

Of course, food feels like a comfort at times like that. A newborn in the house, and the loss of personal freedom and spontaneity is a shock to the system. Add to that the nesting instinct, the fact that celebrations are usually accompanied by sweets, and the need to eat more calories so you have enough energy to breastfeed, and, basically, all of the lessons I learned while living with GD I unlearned quickly. Twice. The doctor’s cautions about how I now had a 50-50 chance of developing Type-2 diabetes? I put them out of my mind.

Life with small children can be a bit of a blur. My husband and I put most of our time and energy into feeding, bathing, shuttling, teaching and soothing our kids. We missed showers of our own, trips with friends, after-work drinks and time together as adults. Something we never skipped? Meals. In fact, going out to eat was one of the easiest activities for us. The kids loved to order food—even if they didn’t usually eat most of it—and they loved the attention of the waitstaff at most places, the crayons and the placemats with puzzles, the free sliced bananas they bring at Cheesecake Factory, and most of all, getting to watch videos on mommy or daddy’s phone while the adults have 10 minutes to talk without interruption. We stretched those meals out as much as we could, because once they were over it was back home to the messy living room, foiled naptimes and laundry.

I had a mental list of all the things I wanted to do in the hours after my kids went to bed: Take a yoga class, ride my exercise bike, keep a journal, have naked time with my husband, catch up with old friends over the phone, get a babysitter and see a movie. But I did none of these. Instead, every night for the better part of four years I put my kids to bed, sat down in front of the TV or the computer and ate bananas and peanut butter. The ritual of stirring the all-natural peanut butter and then drizzling it over the banana (or sometimes my fingers) was so pleasing I had no idea how much I was eating. And, because we buy almost everything at Costco, there was always at least one more jar in the cabinet.

There were mornings—at least once or twice a month—when I woke with what felt like a terrible hangover. I was headachy and nauseated. I couldn’t tolerate loud noises, needed to stay horizontal, went to the bathroom every 20 minutes. Were these migraines? Menstrual cycle-related episodes? I can’t say for sure, but once the 8 to 10 PM peanut butter binges stopped, so did the headaches.

In order to stop eating the peanut butter, I went through a multi-step process. First I had to acknowledge how much I was eating. I had to ask myself if I was eating because I was hungry, which led to admitting that although I was not indeed hungry, I was eating anyway. And then, the really hard part, I had to figure out the reasons I was eating the peanut butter: I was bored and felt deprived. I wanted something for myself. A treat. Something that was just for me.

I knew I had to find other ways of satisfying myself. And then I realized that I already had a list of them. I now ride my exercise bike five or six nights a week, regularly write in my journal, see my husband naked, and go to the movies almost every Thursday night. And when I talk to my old friends on the phone, I tell them about all of this because I know a lot of them are struggling too.

I’d like to say that I did all of this to counter those chances of acquiring Type-2 diabetes, but that wasn’t it. I did it because I wanted to feel better. I don’t have headaches anymore. I’m not bored or feeling deprived. I have things that are just for me, and they do make me feel better. If I was on one of those chat boards now, I don’t think I’d be obsessing over ice cream cake anymore. I could list a dozen things I’d like for myself, and not one of them is food.

Parenting 101: Eating Disorders in Kids and Teens

Moms and dads, how can we as parents, help our children develop a healthy relationship with food? Given the prevalence of both obesity and anorexia, what is an eating disorder and how can we instill healthy and positive values into our children? Despite the challenges we face with how the media portrays body size and image, it is important to guide our children to eat well, be healthy and to accept their bodies.

Earlier this month, I joined Mary Waldon in a discussion on eating disorders and steps we can take to help our children foster a healthy relationship with food. If you missed it, tune in right here:

Eating Disorders in the Land of Disordered Eating Part I
The Mary Waldon Show, November 21, 2012

The Reality of My Food: What this Mom Eats

Someone recently asked me, “Do you only eat organic foods?” People have also asked me, “Are you really healthy?” Others, who do not know me well have commented, “I should probably order healthy since I am sitting at the table with a dietitian.” Let me cure your curiosity!! I eat all foods and so do my kids. So what does this mean?

To start off the day, I typically eat what my boys are eating since I can’t resist! Lately I make them homemade multigrain pumpkin pancakes with dark chocolate chips, using eggs and 1% milk.

On average, I eat two big pancakes and my son eats about one. If I am hungrier, I will eat more; this is especially true on Sundays when I spin. I eat prior to spinning and after. Some days I use syrup and some days I don’t. On mornings when I’m not enjoying pancakes with my sons, I have Kashi’s Good Friends cereal with almond milk (as I am lactose intolerant), with a pack of almonds and a banana. Breakfast may vary but one thing remains constant: It’s always followed by a double-tall soy latte!

Lunch during the weekday varies depending if I am home or lunching with clients, colleagues or friends.  Previous meals have included corn bread with a cup of chicken soup from Whole Foods, and from time to time, a chicken gyro. When dining out for lunch, once I am full I take what is leftover and bring it back to the office. Last week was different since I was able to bring Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch. Since I am not a huge fan of turkey, the chicken sausage stuffing was my protein source (and although not low-fat, was balanced by the other sides.) However, if I am home lunch may be a simple peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread with a Greek Yogurt. I am also a huge fan of homemade wraps with melted cheese and avocado.

Dinners always vary. There is no standard since I eat out quite often. Tonight we are having whole-wheat pasta with meatballs (beef – 93% lean and made by me last night). I try my best to cook three meals a week for the family. Ideally, I like to make a grain, protein and serve two veggies but this is not always the case. For example, last night’s dinner was simple: a two egg and cheese omelet with pasta. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing and wasn’t ideal, I couldn’t bare to make anything more complex.  Monday’s dinner was salmon with leftover quinoa and salad topped with cranberries and goat cheese. Sunday was Tandoori Chicken, dried fruit and quinoa. I had red wine with dinner Sunday and Tuesday. When dining out, my  favorite restaurants are Lupa, North End Grill, Commerce and Hudson Clearwater. Recently I have eaten at Acme, Harry’s Italian Pizzeria (with the family which is easy and always a favorite!), and The Lamb.  Meal choices vary depending what is on the menu. It may be pasta at Harry’s, veal meatballs with polenta at Commerce or fish at North End Grill.

Last but not least, I am a chocolate and sweets “mom”ster, so many evenings involve cookies (I love cookie dough too), chocolate bunnies, ice cream or at the very least chocolate chips. The kids enjoy a night snack with me, too. Sometimes we eat yogurt, fruit or perhaps fruit only smoothies.

The reality of my food? I think I eat healthy the majority of the time but don’t stress about it the rest of the time. That means, I eat white baguettes and white pasta from time to time and when the kids have Starbuck’s chocolate chip banana bread, it happily becomes mine when they are full. Fortunately, nutrition is second nature to me, so there is no crazy thought process or anxiety around food decisions. Please know, I never look at another’s dish to critique it when I am out. Going out to dinner is my time off from work, a time to socialize and enjoy with my family, friends and kids. The only plate I am looking at is my plate and when it’s almost empty!

Building More Than Just Healthy Habits: Self-Empowerment and Confidence

Moms and Dads, what does “building healthy habits” mean to you? Is it about changing the foods we eat or incorporating more physical activities into our families’ daily lives? While these are certainly important factors, building healthy habits is about more than just food and exercise.

Please take a second to read the personal account of a young lady’s journey, whose self-driven nature drove her to make healthier lifestyle modifications.

“Growing up in the South, cooking was always a huge part of my life, unfortunately it was not always the healthiest cooking.  Three years ago, I decided to make a positive change in my life. I threw out the processed foods and swapped the takeout for healthy meals I made at home. My love for healthy eating and lifestyles also impacted my professional career.  I worked in fashion for over 7 years and decided to follow my true passion and am now pursing a degree in Pediatric Nutrition.  I am a believer that if you expose children to healthy foods from a young age they are more prone to develop and maintain healthy eating habits in their adult life. I believe that cooking and nutrition should be fun.  It does not have to be a challenge to eat healthy, nutritious meals, instead you can turn it into quality family time and get everyone involved!

 Stefanie

As Stefanie’s story shows, building healthy habits includes building self-confidence, motivation and empowermentkey components that we, and our children needto lead a happy and healthy lifestyle. Her inspiring story tells us that as parents and caregivers, we have the ability to influence our children’s relationship with foods and to start them on the track towards leading a healthier lifestyle. In addition to setting a foundation and equipping our children with the tools they’ll need to maintain healthy eating habits, we can help them build self-confidence, motivation and empowerment along the way.

Helping our children build healthier habits can be challenging, but not impossible. For guidance and additional tools, I have developed a Healthy Habits Program to help children and their educators educate children of all shapes and sizes on how to make appropriate nutrition choices for the rest of their lives. For more information, details about the Healthy Habits Program can be accessed here.