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.”

Our Perception of Taste: What’s Sound Got to Do with It?

By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

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

Photo Credit: Fey Ilyas via Compfight cc

My first love as a speech-language pathologist is pediatric feeding.  I spend lots of time talking to little kids about “carrot crunchies” and “pea-pops” and various silly names for the sounds that different foods make in our mouths as we explore all of the sensory components of food in weekly treatment sessions.

Is it possible that sound is a larger component of our eating experience than many of us realize? What’s sound got to do with eating, or more specifically, with taste? Discovering how the sound of a crunching potato chip affects flavor is more than just curiosity.  Prof. Charles Spence, who leads Oxford’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory, studied how the sound that food makes in our mouths influences our perception of freshness.  It’s an important point for potato chip manufacturers, who strive to create the “crunchiest crisp possible.”

Background sounds in the environment also influence our interpretation of taste.  Spence conducted an experiment where individuals were presented with 4 pieces of identical toffee.  Two pieces were eaten while the subjects listened to the lower pitch of brass instruments.  Two other pieces were eaten while listening to the higher pitch of a piano.  The pieces eaten during the higher pitched piano music were rated “sweet” by the subjects and the pieces eaten during the lower pitched music were rated “bitter.”

Photo Credit: Maarten Hornstra via Compfight cc

Chef Blumenthal, owner of The Fat Duck near London, has taken Spence’s research findings to the next level.  Order the “Sound of the Sea” and you’ll enjoy more than seafood delicacies  presented on “a sand of tapioca and fried panko, then topped with seafood foam.” The dish is accompanied by an iPod nestled in a seashell, “so that diners can listen to the sound of crashing waves as they eat.” Spence reports that diners experience stronger, saltier flavors with the sound of the ocean in the background.  Another London restaurant, the House of Wolf, serves a cake pop along with instructions to dial a phone number and then, before tasting,  press 1 for sweet and 2 for bitter.  Diners who listened to the first prompt heard a high pitched melody and those who pressed “two” heard a low brassy tones.

To continue reading, please click here to be redirected to ASHAsphere.

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

This One is for Moms

Is Restricting Really Normal?
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

 

“We don’t keep bread in the house.”  “One serving is enough – kids don’t need seconds.”  “We just have protein and veggies at dinner.”  “Why is my child sneaking food and snacking all the time?!”

 

Hmmm – at first glance, these may seem like separate, unrelated statements.  There is, however, a common thread and a chain reaction that is in play throughout the scenarios…and it all starts with restriction.   If you consider the unrelenting headlines that tell us obesity is an “epidemic”, that individual foods will either kill or save us, and the sneaking messages that lead us to think we’ll only be happy if we are a certain size, then it makes some sense that people are grabbing at the latest food rule (aka, restriction), to take control of their or their kids’ lives.   Yet the more we reach for restriction, the more out of control we become.

 

Let’s keep it straightforward.  There are some basic side effects of over-controlled under-eating:

  • It confuses body chemistry, triggering it to more readily lose muscle and regain weight as fat
  • It causes feelings of deprivation and depression that often rebound to overeating
  • It creates a lowered self-esteem, and disconnects individuals from their emotions and sense of well-being
  • It creates irritability, decreases concentration and memory, (especially if carbs are limited) and can cause tension in relationships
  • It can disrupt a female’s menstrual cycles
  • It makes exercise ineffective, because there isn’t enough fuel to run your body’s basic processes

 

So when you feel the need to snack on cookies and chips after the kids have gone to bed, notice if you’ve eaten enough during the day or pulled carbs out of the meal prior.  We can’t function effectively if we are depriving ourselves of enough fuel – and we are destined to swing the pendulum the other direction to try to create balance.

 

And the next time you feel the emotional tug to try the latest fad diet, label carbs as evil or tell your kids to stop eating, take a deep breath and remember:

Eating is Normal. Restricting is Counterproductive.   

 

 

Making fun of the RD’s Children’s Food

Making fun of the RD’s Children’s Food

Quite often during the summer months, my family and I share weekends with my best friend’s family at their beach home. What started as two families renting a cottage together each summer is now, almost seven years later, a once-a-month occurrence. My friend has one son and two step children; amazingly, the children all get along beautifully and enjoy all of their activities from playing to eating. If outsiders, however, were to observe our food choices, they’d surely get a good laugh at us…just like my best friend does!

Mind you, there are three separate sets of children—all with different biological parents. You have Alex who is my friend’s biological son. He eats everything from sushi with eel to salmon over field greens or artificially flavored frozen ice sticks. Then there are Bridget and Ben who eat most things and get very excited about food but have had to retire their “clean the plate” club memberships. And finally, there are my wacky eaters! Bobby will eat the salmon but not the field greens. He will eat apple slices in an effort to prove that he has met his nutritional needs because he wants a cupcake. And then Billy: he’s the hummus and pretzel kid. But on one particular weekend, we didn’t have hummus and pretzels.

So, we made green waffles for breakfast. All of the children ate homemade waffles enhanced with green food coloring topped with Nutella. My boys ate only half a waffle while the other three kids gobbled up their entire waffles. Next, we had pizza for lunch; they all devoured that. When we stopped at a farm for some fall fun, they all had apple cider and selected snacks. My son Bobby chose a chocolate chip muffin for his snack but ate only two bites; Billy choose an apple-shaped Rice Krispy treat and ate a third of it. The other three children ate candy apples. I’m not sure how much they ate because I wasn’t watching.

And then, it was time for dinner. I didn’t bring along my kids’ special food preferences; sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. If I do, it’s because my kids are super picky and I want them to have a more nutritionally dense breakfast and dinner rather than one with artificial colors and flavorings. But here’s the caveat! The parents had prepared grilled salmon and swordfish over salad with homemade mashed potatoes for dinner…for everyone. Alex, Bridget and Ben happily ate their dinners and their greens. Bobby moaned until he finally decided to eat his salmon, but no greens; at least he did try some summer squash. Billy just sprawled himself over the bench and declared that he was not eating…which was fine with me except for the fact that he was interrupting our dinner.

So this is why my friend laughs. Her children certainly eat highly processed foods but they also eat wholesome real foods. And my kids are just fussy. They didn’t eat much dinner that night, but perhaps just enough to qualify for Betty Crocker cupcakes frosted with artificially colored green icing. And then, my older son Bobby ate about half of his little cupcake and my younger son Billy just licked the icing off his cupcake. So while my kids had made a scene, they didn’t really eat the cupcakes either. The other kids devoured theirs and even had seconds!

So why is it that my friend’s kids eat lots of everything and my kids eat less of some things? We joke that it’s not role modeling. She eats Lean Cuisine for dinner even if her kids eat a meal. That particular night, for example, she ate salad while we all ate carbs, proteins and fats. Her nanny cooks for her kids during the week, but their dads used to cook wholesome meals for them. (Maybe they learned from their dads?) I make wholesome meals for my kids now but my nanny cooked for them when they were very little.

So, what does this all mean? My kids don’t necessarily devour the fake food using artificial green food coloring (Yes, we added it directly to the waffle batter. And yes, I made tie-dyed pancakes the next morning using an assortment of these same dyes!), nor do they love a wide range of wholesome foods. They do love their regular foods and they eat enough of them.

The other kids may eat a greater variety of foods, but they also eat lots of boxed, processed foods. At the end of the day, I wish I knew the answer as to why this is the case. But for now all I can say is that I love my kids as they are—with all their wacky eating habits; they probably eat a lot like their mother did when she was a child! And my friends and I can laugh at our kid’s eating habits and food preferences.

Do you think your kids eat a certain way because of their environment or genetics?

Do you have children that eat everything all of the time—or just their favorite foods? Are you a like-minded nutrition expert yet always challenged by your own children’s eating?

Looking for a great afterschool snack option to appeal to your picky eaters? Check out Cooking Light’s great snack ideas!

Guest Blog: Elyse Falk

Hi, I’m Elyse Falk and I am a registered dietitian in Westchester, NY and a mom of 3 wonderful, energetic boys, ages 11, 8, and 4. I initially decided to become an RD because I love good food—you know, the kind that makes your body healthy and strong—and immediately knew I wanted to raise a family that would grow up appreciating good, wholesome food as much as I do.

Through my education as well as my professional and personal experiences, I have learned that both parents and their children must play active roles in cultivating a healthy relationship with food.
As a parent, I am responsible for determining the types of food that are in the home and preparing these ingredients in a way that my family will actually eat and enjoy. In order to do this, I am always planning a day ahead and thinking about how to serve meals that include at least 3 to 4 food groups. Looking at my childrens’ diets as a whole, I ask myself: Did they get their fruits and vegetables for the day? What about lean proteins and low-fat dairy?

But it’s not just about what they eat; I am also in charge of structuring their meals and snacks throughout the day, deciphering how they eat too. My ultimate parental role is to educate my children so that they understand the difference between when to eat foods that “do good things” for the body versus when to eat “sometimes foods,” otherwise defined as those products or ingredients that don’t offer much nutrition for the body.   
Something I’ve discovered is that “sometimes foods,” like cookies (my boys love chocolate chip cookies), don’t necessarily need their own place and time. Instead, I find that they should be neutralized in order to eliminate the notion of treats. If they ask for cookies, for example, I allow my boys to eat them with their dinner, a decision which neutralizes dessert so that it is not necessarily the highlight of their evening intake. When I first started combining dinner and dessert, I was fascinated that my son actually went back and forth between eating his veggie burger and cookie at the same time, finishing both without an issue. This also proves how insignificant dessert really is to children; all they’re really hoping for is a “sometimes food” at some point during their meal.

All parents, myself included, need to serve as a role model for healthy eating. One way I accomplish this is by sitting down for meals with my children and showing them how I enjoy consuming delicious, wholesome food. As for the kids, at the end of the day, they are the ones who are in charge of how much food to eat and whether they want to eat certain kinds or not. While I encourage them to try new foods, I won’t ever push them to the point where it becomes an issue. (I do expect them to say, “no thank you” and “please,” though. Manners are important too.)

Photo Credit: ….Tim via Compfight cc

As my boys get older, they seem to be developing more adventurous tendencies. If one tries a new food, the others seem to want a taste too. (This is incredibly funny to watch as an outsider.) As they’ve grown, I’ve also learned a thing or two about their eating habits. For instance, I don’t celebrate if one of them tries a new food, because as soon as they see my contentment, they’ll stop eating it (it has to do with control). I’ve also discovered that some days they can eat me under the table whereas other days they’re just not as hungry.

Being an RD and working with clients with disordered eating habits has made me particularly sensitive to the way my boys experience food at home. As a mother of 3, I know that food can be both necessary and fun, and yet I’m also aware that it can cause stress and concern at times too.
Laura, my friend and colleague for 10 years, has asked me to join her efforts on Mom Dishes It Out and to contribute my experiences and expertise to give her readers yet another perspective on finding joy and balance in moderate parenting and feeding. I am happy to be a part of this project and hope all the feeders and eaters out there know that it is a constant balancing act, but it is one that is worth every minute.