Mom's Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

*This recipe was originally published on the Big City Moms’ Blog. To see the original please click here.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN, and Mom

Every week I whip up a batch of “homemade pancakes” for myself and my oldest son. Everyone loves these pancakes— including my clients who eat many meals with me. Make them Sunday morning and serve hot. Freeze or store the remainder in a Pyrex dish to serve each weekday morning. These pancakes taste so yummy that I can almost promise your kids will go to school having eaten a balanced breakfast. And while most moms don’t have to time to make everything from scratch, these pancakes are what I call “value added” or “nutrition added.” For time’s sake, I start with a basic wholesome pancake mix and then add in the nutrition.

 

See full recipe on the Big City Moms’ Blog.

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.

The Way We Gingerbread…

Can cookies, gingerbread homes and baking be a part of a healthy holiday season? Yes, they sure can. Do the cookies and candies need to be low fat or just a healthier version? No way!!! Read on to learn how to turn cookies and candy into just another food in the pantry.

One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is to make Gingerbread Houses! There are some places around NYC that supply endless amounts of candy and a pre-constructed, edible gingerbread houses for families to visit and decorate houses. This can produce a complete sugar meltdown or become the ideal opportunity to let children explore how food makes them feel.

When baking or making holiday yummies with the kids, it’s most important to make sure they are well fed and not hungry before they reach for the candy bags. So, first thing, I feed my boys lunch. I was actually quite surprised at how very little they picked on the candy while decorating their homes. When they did want to eat a piece, they looked to me…to get a nod of approval. And I nodded yes…each and every time. Of course they could eat the candy. It was part of the fun. In the back of my mind, however, I hoped that it wasn’t the only fun for them.

Amazingly, when we got home, they didn’t want to eat the homes they’d created. Rather, they were so proud of their “masterpieces” that they quickly put them on display. My oldest son Bobby’s home still sits on our console as a holiday decoration. Unfortunately, I must also admit that my youngest son Billy’s gingerbread home had to be displayed on a much higher level. Because he still has a hard time understanding that this food is low in nutrition. One day he’ll understand that if he eats just this, not only will he stay up way past his bedtime, but he also won’t be hungry enough to eat a food that his body really needs.

When Billy asks for his house, I ask myself: Did he eat something denser in nutrition yet? I ask him if he ate his meal yet? I more often than not take it down from the higher shelf for him. My hope is that he realizes he can have the candy…just not at every whim. He can have it some of the time, because it is a “sometimes food.”

Just today, Billy asked for his gingerbread house because his brother Bobby was having a candy or two from his house; two weeks later, Bobby’s house still displays most of the candy. I asked Billy if he’d eaten lunch yet and he said yes. But then he walked away and went off to the kitchen to eat a yogurt. He didn’t ask me for the candy house again; he just ate his yogurt and went to play with his Legos.

So I think he is getting the message about “sometimes foods.” He knows he can have them some of the time but is less able to manage this concept without parental guidance because he is so young. My oldest son has mastered this thought and impresses me every day with his ability to leave food on his plate. Bobby even leaves cookies in his lunch box to save for another day, or the afternoon, when he knows he will really enjoy them.

As parents, think about teaching your children internal self regulation. Rather than restricting your children and sending messages that junk food equals bad food, help educate them on the need for eating nutritious food the majority of the time and eating less nutritious food just some of the time.

 Tips for making some foods “sometimes foods”:

  1. Explain what nutritious food is. For instance, it may be high in vitamins, minerals and nutrients to help kids grow or help their hearts to be strong.
  2. Explain what “sometimes food” is. Educate your children that certain foods are not necessary for growth but still can help by providing some energy. Let your children know that certain foods are lower in vitamins and minerals and should only be eaten some of the time…and only if your children regularly eat enough of the foods that help them grow, feel energized and prevent them from getting sick. These foods taste yummy but will not be so yummy if eaten all of the time.
  3. Let your children have a “sometimes food” with lunch three days a week so the food becomes neutral; you’ll be teaching moderation.
  4. Don’t make a big deal about “sometimes foods.”
  5. Allow your children to eat all foods so they don’t hide or sneak food.
  6. Role model eating all foods in front of your children.
  7. Limit the amount of “sometimes foods” in your house to about three per week so your children aren’t forced to make too many decisions about these foods.

 

For more information on “sometimes foods,” please refer to the Healthy Habits workbook at www.LauraCipulloLLC.com.

 

The Tricks about Treats

This post was originally published on The Feed Blog, to see the entire article please click here.

By Justine Roth, MS, RD, CDN

Photo Credit: Dave Malkoff via Compfight cc

Children require guidance in all areas of their lives— how to tie their shoes, when to speak in a quiet voice, and, of course, when, what and how to eat. As a parent, I know it is my job to think carefully about the messages I send to my child regarding food to start her on the path towards healthy self-regulation. But even as a dietitian who counsels others on developing a balanced relationship with food, I struggle to navigate this with my toddler.

My daughter loves food. Meal times are not stressful, and in fact are usually very enjoyable.  She usually finishes everything I give her (and that she often picks out) without an issue. If she doesn’t finish a meal, I just assume she wasn’t that hungry to start. But, it is a different story when we are around others. She often asks for food just because she sees friends or family eating it and, unlike most kids who do this but lose interest in the food once they get it, she will usually finish whatever she is given. Sometimes this results in her not feeling well. This is where it gets tricky. Do I give her food every time she asks, so as not to “restrict her,” or do I try to limit excess snacks and food outside of meal times to help her learn to identify her hunger and fullness cues?

Some parents may think I am too strict with my daughter.  The parent of a picky eater, for example, is likely to have different struggles than me – and to arrive at different solutions. Parenting is hard enough without us judging one another. Instead, perhaps we can learn from one another. Because although young, our children are certainly capable of starting to learn about their body and to establish healthy habits, and we must lead the way.

To continue reading, please click here.

A Mom & RD's View on Halloween Candy

How Much Halloween Candy Do You Let Your Children Eat?
By Elyse Falk, MS, RD, CDN

My kids, like all of yours, will be trick-or-treating soon.  The age-old questions always arise amongst my friends, “How much candy do you let your kids eat?”  “Do you throw it all out?”  “Do you donate it?” “Do you let them have a little bit of candy all week long?”  “Do you let them have the candy all at once?”

Photo Credit: EJP Photo via Compfight cc

I think my kids are like any other kids and love to eat their treats the night of Halloween.  Heck, I love to eat the candy we are giving out and the candy my kids collect too!   As a family, we know that too much candy in one night will make us feel sick (evidenced by real-life events).  So, I have the kids pick a few pieces to eat on Halloween night, put the rest in zip-lock bags labeled with their names for safe keeping, and place the bags in the pantry closet.  I find that if it’s not spread out on the kitchen counter all day, every day, it’s less likely that they will mindlessly snack on it.  I guess my sons would say that I let them enjoy their Halloween candy but put a limit on it only when the other food groups are being left out.  I may tell them to pair some pieces of candy with a nutrient-rich meal or snack.  Pairing some candy like this is always an option … it gives less value to the candy.

 

Interestingly enough, as the week progresses, their desire for the candy diminishes.  My truth is that the more I limit it, the more my kids want it.  It’s a great opportunity for them to learn moderation and to always know the candy is there when they want it and that I am not going to make a big deal about it.  If on any one Halloween night they do overeat the candy, it is certain that they will not feel good.  I chalk that up to a teachable moment.  If you treat the topic of the candy more neutrally, with less emotion or judgment, the Halloween candy won’t be a “thing” between you and your children.

Photo Credit: MattL via Compfight cc

Lastly, I believe that eating some candy with your kids is a must!  They need to know that eating a few pieces of candy on Halloween is okay and normal.  This is especially true when you have a child who may have heard sugar and candy is a “bad” food from a friend.  Remember, we as parents are role models.  I hope that we can teach them that there is no “bad” or “forbidden” food and that sometimes, on occasions such as Halloween, it is okay to enjoy some candy.  Happy Halloween!

Disclaimer:

We only call it treats due to Halloween but they are really candy, food, or food with lower nutrition.

Food Lessons

What Moms Learn From Their Kid’s Food

Scenario one:

Just recently, my two sons and I walked into Starbucks for a morning snack. I told the boys they could get one “sometimes” food but not two. Bobby, my oldest, chose banana chocolate chip cake; Billy, my youngest, ordered vanilla milk. And he had already eaten a lolly—and a granola bar. It was only 9:30 am! So, we went outside to sit on a bench while eating our morning snacks and waiting for an appointment I had scheduled. In short order, Billy proceeded to beg and plead for a piece of chocolate chip cake—and I had to deny his request. But please keep in mind that I’m trying to get him to understand his body’s needs for him to eat more nutrient dense foods and his need to understand the difference between “everyday” foods and “sometimes” foods.

Yes, of course, Billy can surely have “sometimes” foods, but I knew he’d have many more “sometimes” foods during this particular day since we were headed to NJ to visit with family. So after I said NO, I offered to get him a bagel with peanut butter. He stood firm—and again said NO; he wanted only the cake. Not even considering whether this was true hunger (which it wasn’t), I just knew we needed to put some focus on more nutrient dense foods since returning from our beach getaway trip. Well, after five minutes, he changed his tune and started saying he wanted me to pick him up. Soon after that, we ended up at home where I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on sprouted grain bread for both boys. By this point, Billy had totally forgotten about the food, the cake and the desire to eat—for whatever reason. He actually didn’t ask for food until about two hours later when I gave him his sandwich, a pumpkin cranberry Squeezer and water. He was happy and content. Then later, my oldest son Bobby asked for cookies for his snack; of course, we gave both boys cookies. I didn’t limit how many they took. They probably ate four or five cookies each during an hour period in-between playing.

 

Lesson One:

One child can learn from another as I noted (with a giant smile, I might add!) when listening to my oldest son explain to my youngest: “You can’t always have both. You can have either the cake or the flavored milk but not both all of the time.”

I think Bobby clearly gets it. But it seems he has from a very young age while little Billy just isn’t there yet. All of our kids, yours and mine, each have their own personalities; what works for one child may not work quite as easily or well for the other. We need to remember that each child is an individual especially in regard to food and eating as well as psychological points of view.

 

Lesson Two:

Sometimes, when our kids are asking us for food, they are really asking for something else entirely. Maybe a hug, maybe more “Mom” time, maybe…you fill in the blank! Flexible boundaries around food can actually help your child. Avoid extremes but stay within a structure that is both flexible and reasonable.

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!

Yummy for the Tummy and Allergy Free

Living with food allergies can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be boring. The boys and I took a walk to the lower east side to test taste the Famous Baby Cakes’ sweet somethings! Baby Cakes NYC is certified Kosher, parave and vegan. They are happy to overnight you their yummies. They have bakeries in NYC, LA and at the Walt Disney World Resort. Bobby, Billy and I loved the chocolate chop cookies and banana bread. Second place was the donut and third place was the cupcake. Baby Cakes also has a cookbook available if you want to try the recipes at home!! If not you can always check out the magazine Living Without for other delicious allergen free recipes.

Baby Cakes donut

 

You can have your cake and eat it too!

I am so excited to get to share the reality of raising kids here in NYC while trying to instill a philosophy of moderation and ensuring my boys, Billy and Bobby have a positive relationship with food. Last week I met with a coach named Jim. When describing my approach to food and nutrition,  Jim phrased it perfectly: “You can have your cake and eat it too.” As caregivers, parents, teachers and or someone hoping to raise kids one day, lets join together and learn when, where, why, and how often our kids can eat “cake.”