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.

Avocado Toast

Who doesn’t like toast for breakfast?  There’s toast with butter, toast with peanut butter but how about avocado toast?  We found this delicious recipe from Siggi’s Dairy.  Try this spin on toast – it’s a great way to start your day!

Siggi’s Avocado Toast

Makes one open face sandwich.

Courtesy of Siggi’s

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread, toasted
  • ½ avocado
  • 3 tablespoons of Siggi’s plain-style yogurt (skyr)
  • 2 oz cherry tomatoes, halved salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes, optional

 

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mash the avocado and yogurt together with a fork.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired, season with red chili flakes.
  3. Spread the mixture on toasted bread and top with tomatoes.  Finish with a touch of salt.

Not a fan of avocados?  Try some other Siggi’s recipes for something new!

Parmesan Chicken Fingers

With the Super Bowl this Sunday, we’re sure you are busy preparing for your Super Bowl party.  We thought these Parmesan Chicken Fingers, from Laura’s, “The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook“, which are  diabetes-friendly, kid-friendly, and Super Bowl friendly would be the perfect addition .  Your guests are sure to feel satisfied with this delicious dish!

Parmesan Chicken Fingers

Makes 4 Servings

 Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup bran flakes cereal, finely crushed
  • 1/3  cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 ½ tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

 

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Season the chicken with pepper.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a shallow bowl.  Combine the crushed bran flakes, cheese, flaxseeds, basil, and garlic powder on a plate.
  4. Dip the chicken tenderloins into the egg, shaking off any excess, and toss in the bran flake mixture.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until no longer pink and the juice run clear.

Hearty Bean and Barley Soup

Are you getting chilly from the cold weather?  Try this delicious soup recipe from Cooking Light.  We’re sure that you won’t mind the cold weather after you’re warmed up with this yummy meal!

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

 

Ingredients

  • 7 cups fat free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 (4-inch) rosemary sprigs
  • 1 (19-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot 
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley
  • 10 cup torn spinach leaves (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

 

Preparation

1. Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a Dutch oven; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes. Drain through a sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

2. Measure 1 cup beans, and mash with a fork in a small bowl. Reserve the remaining whole beans.

3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat.

4. Add onions, carrot, and celery; cook 4 minutes.

5.  Add broth mixture, mashed beans, whole beans, tomatoes, and barley; bring to a boil.

6. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes.

7. Stir in spinach and black pepper; cook 5 minutes or until barley is tender.

8. Sprinkle each serving with cheese.

*To ensure rich flavor, add garlic and herbs to canned broth for a homemade taste. Mashing a portion of the beans gives the soup extra body.

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

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.