The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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President’s Weekend marked a milestone in my home. Typically, my youngest, Billy, only eats bananas from fruit vendors on the streets of NYC, but on Saturday he surprised me by eating one while sitting at the dining room table. The produce trend continued when the boys watched me peel butternut squash as I prepared dinner. Bobby recalled peeling carrots and cucumbers with me when he “was little” and also told Billy he needed to eat some form of protein with his pretzels. My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled.

I was eager to see how the boys would react to a little taste test I prepared for them that evening. Billy will only eat pasta in yogurt (it sounds disgusting but is actually quite tasty), so I thought it would be fun to let the boys try different kinds of pasta sauces.: pesto, yogurt and natural tomato sauce. Test One: Billy spit the pesto and pasta right out; Bobby did the same. Test Two: Bobby went on to try the pasta with red sauce. He described it as awful, yet ate it anyway, and when I offered more he took another bite. We even performed a Bonus Test–sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta– and amazingly, Bobby liked it better without it.

I was heartened by the boys’ willingness to try the little samples I had prepared. The changes were small, but as any mom knows, any sort of openness to new foods is a step in the right direction. It gave me hope.

In an attempt to continue this adventurous streak, on Monday night I prepared a meatloaf made by the butcher at Whole Foods. If you remember, Bobby loved Whole Foods’ turkey meatloaf but the store rarely has it and when I tried to make him a homemade version he refused to eat it. (My husband and friends loved the homemade meatloaf, by the way.) Bobby asked where this meatloaf came from, and  I told him it was from Whole Foods. I hesitantly handed him a plate of meatloaf served with whole-wheat pasta and apple slices, worried that he’d know it was beef and not turkey. Astonishingly,  Bobby never inquired. His only request was that I cut the hard edges off, which I obliged. “I love turkey meatloaf!” he proudly declared, as he proceeded to finish his portion. I didn’t want to ruin the moment by correcting him, so I just let it be and happily watched my son enjoy a new food. This was the first time Bobby ate beef since he was 12 months old.

I’m happy to share that the apple slices were a huge success too. While the boys played chess on the iPad with their dad, I had sliced an organic apple using an apple corer and set them on a nice plate. I left the plate near the boys on the table without saying anything. Suddenly, Bobby declared loudly, “I love apple slices!” and proceeded to gobble them up while Billy licked one slice. He even asked for more, which prompted me to cut up extra and serve it with his meatloaf dinner.  I don’t think I did anything particularly remarkable that afternoon when my boys were suddenly excited to eat fruit—it wasn’t magic. Rather, I think that the boys were under the influence of their cousins, Lily and Sophia, whom they saw eating apple and orange slices the day before. The girls ate the fruits with such zest that they made it look appealing to the boys, and they’ve been eating apples ever since.

Just this morning the boys tried blueberries again. Bobby ate buckwheat pancakes. And although Billy didn’t actually add anything to his small ingredient repertoire, the weekend was still a success simply because he was willing to try new foods. Bobby’s apprehension about trying new foods has definitely been decreasing as he matures— these President’s Weekend taste tests are evidence of that. All of the small changes this weekend lead me to conclude something pretty big: There is a light at the end of the picky-eating tunnel. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far and I’ll continue to encourage my boys to have fun and try new foods during the meals and snacks to come. My boys may become adventurous eaters and share a love of yummy food like their parents after all!

Guest Blog: Breastfeeding versus Bottle-feeding

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Moms may differ in their opinions and or choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I personally think it should be the woman’s right to choose. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding both have pros and cons. We hear the many pros of breastfeeding such as less illness, possible greater intelligence of the child and so on. Many organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) promote breast-feeding here in the USA and abroad. However, I question whether this is always appropriate especially if the mother is deficient in micronutrients, deficient in essentially fatty acids, malnourished, stressed, had multiple births in a short period of time or perhaps is not the right choice for the mother. I was breast fed for 3 months and choose to bottle feed my children.

Below, guest blogger Allison Brooks shares her point of view at an international level. Allison studies biomedicalization in Bolivia. Here she presents an example of biomedicalization on breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding in third world countries. Allison shared with me that she too was bottle-fed.  Feel free to comment and share your opinions as well. All are welcome.

Biomedicalization of BreastFeeding: What is healthy here, might not be healthy for all

Biomedicalization is a term used to describe the way in which natural life processes, human conditions and problems are defined and treated as medical conditions. Aging, childbirth and breastfeeding are good examples of normal life processes which have come under the authority of doctors. Biomedicalization may bring benefits, but there are also costs. Philosopher Ivan Illich was one of the first to use the term “medicalization,” which he argued actually caused an increase in social and medical problems as a result of medical intervention. One example is the drive by manufacturers of baby formulas to supplant breastfeeding with formula.

When a mother dies in childbirth or cannot breastfeed for some reason, infant formula may be the only choice. However, in the underdeveloped nations of the world, breastfeeding serves a number of critical purposes. Breastfeeding protects babies from infection, provides them with near-perfect nutrition and acts as a natural birth control for the breastfeeding mother. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diarrhea, bacterial meningitis, ear infections and respiratory infections than infants who are fed formula. Breastfeeding also triggers beneficial hormone secretion in the mother, and the milk changes in amount and constituents to meet the needs of the individual infant.

The Nestle baby formula promotion of the 1970s urged mothers in less-developed countries to forgo breastfeeding in favor of formula, stressing convenience and nutrition. Nestle used strategies such as sending a new mother home with free samples; once the samples ran out, the child was habituated to formula and the mother’s milk had dried up, so the family had to buy formula.

Problems with this sort of infant nutrition quickly became apparent. Formula must be mixed with water and water in poor countries is often contaminated. Mothers could not read the instructions on water sterilization, or did not have the means to boil the water. Formula-fed babies were much more likely to die of diarrhea or pneumonia as a result of infections. Poor mothers would often mix inadequate amounts of formula for each feeding to make the expensive formula last longer, resulting in malnourished babies.

Nestlé’s marketing activities were considered so unethical that a boycott was launched by a group called the Infant Formula Action Coalition. In 1981 the World health assembly adopted Resolution WHA34.22, which bans the promotions of breast milk substitutes. Although Nestle agreed to accept the code, in 1988, formula companies were accused of repeating the unethical tactics and the boycott, which was still in force as of 2011, was launched. Other companies such as Borden, Similac and Wyeth have come under similar criticism for marketing methods that imply formula and breast milk are nutritionally equal. Most physicians and international organizations such as WHO and UNICEF recommend now breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

But the effects of biomedicalization do go way beyond the idea of breastfeeding. Pharmaceutical companies push new rules on societies regardless of their cultures, everyday. This is easy to see in America, because we are the only country that allows pharmaceutical companies to run ads and develop an image for people to follow. Without regards to the culture, the environment and so on, sometimes these “better” medications/therapies can actually be harmful for the people. With new drugs entering the system to promote beauty or health, or a better life-expectancy for cancer, traditional practices are be dropped by the wayside, and people and cultures are being negatively affected.

 

About Guest Blogger Allison Brooks:

Allison says “I was bottle-fed too, that’s why I say what is healthy to you might not be healthy to others (cultural relativism). Thats why I don’t push my beliefs onto people, I state what I know and allow you to do what you please, with no judgment.”

Allie went to the University of Mississippi. She earned her degree in biomedical anthropology and  is now studying in the field to finish an ethnography on the effects of biomedicalization on Bolivian cultures, but as it relates on other societies as well. She loves to guest blog on her time off to past time and spread the word. When she is not at her computer, Allie enjoys riding her  horse, Lilly and playing with her ducks, Alvin and Shirley.

 

 


Potty Training without M&M's

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Many of you probably know that food shouldn’t be used as a reward. If you didn’t already know this, then, from the prospective of an RD, I am telling you now.

As a mom, however, I also know that this is easier said than done. Food to a child can, after all, seem somewhat rewarding. Yet through my own experiences, I’ve slowly picked up on a few tricks on how to prevent food from becoming equated with success—and I think I can make it relatively easy for you moms out there too.

It all started with Billy, who will be three in a few weeks and just finished potty training. And guess what. We did not use food as a reward during this process.

Since Billy is my second child, I felt a lot less pressured to potty train him than I did with Bobby. Right before the school year began, Billy asked if he could go potty on the big boy toilet, and so I immediately pulled out the kid potty and we started training.

Billy sat on the potty a few times and then on the toilet. He went potty with the kids at school, but he refused to wear underwear or use the potty any other time. I figured I’d just let him be. As my Australian friend Maureen advised, they’ll learn at some point. (As it turned out, Maureen’s advice from down under was great. I just let Billy do as he pleased, and while he was still wearing diapers, at least he was content. And so I was happy too.)

As the holidays approached, the boys and I decided that sport and ski camps could be a fun way to stay busy during their time off from school. But Billy could only participate under one condition: he would need to be potty trained in order to be eligible for the program. I explained this to my three-year-old and offered him a small token to forgo his diapers and, voila—he was willing to concede.

Everyone tells you to bribe your kids with M&M’s. Instead, I opted to present Billy with handmade wooden animal ornaments for our Christmas tree—presents that actually benefited the entire family, though Billy was all too excited to receive them as gifts.

When I ran out of ornaments, Billy picked out a presidential brigade box of cars, limos, security cars, planes and other trinkets. The box cost about $30, but it was filled with 15 to 20 potential presents inside. Each time Billy used the potty, I allowed him to pick out a new vehicle from the box.

I am very happy to report that this ploy worked like a charm. Now, Billy has been using the potty without gifts for the past week and a half. We still have toys left in the box, too.

So, instead of making food seem special and putting what we nourish ourselves with on a pedestal, opt for non-edible rewards like Matchbox cars, temporary tattoos, stickers, cool underwear, or Polly Pocket pieces. If you use food as a reward, you may end up sending the wrong message: that you have to earn food or that food is a treat for good behavior.

Remember to teach your children that food is food—nothing more, nothing less. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand this concept if we want to prevent disordered and/or secretive eating in their future.

Do you offer your children rewards for certain behaviors or accomplishments? If so, what do you typically reward them with that could be useful for other moms out there?

The Pursuit of Happiness and Health

This time of year is crazy for me, as I’m sure it is for many parents. There’s the holidays, both boys’ birthdays, volunteer work, Mom dinner nights (where all the classroom moms go to dinner), and of course, the never ending effort to feed our kids healthfully yet moderately through the holiday season.

Herein, a glance at some of the recent accomplishments and challenges on the home front.

Thanksgiving (without turkey)

So I decided not to bring any food for my boys to my sister’s house on Thanksgiving. This year, they would eat a Thanksgiving dinner or nothing at all. As expected, when it came time for the turkey, Bobby asked for mac and cheese. I held strong and said no, I will not make mac and cheese.

After careful consideration, he instead asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Damn, he is clever! I stood my ground though and told him to ask his father. So much for that plan; my husband then asked me.

Not wanting to create a scene on Thanksgiving, my husband eventually caved and made both boys a good old PB n’ J for Thanksgiving dinner. To be clear, while the rest of the family (and country, for that matter) scarfed down turkey and stuffing, my boys ate PB n’ J.

As a dietitian, this is an obvious dilemma. As a mom, though, I know that I have to pick my battles—a tactic that, this time, definitely worked. Bobby showed his effort to participate in the family meal by eating a small piece of cucumber. (Thank goodness for my one lick rule!) And Billy, without being prompted, asked to try a bite of pumpkin pie. See? Miracles do happen. J (By the way, Billy didn’t like the fresh whipped cream and wouldn’t eat the crust, but he did enjoy two forkfuls of pumpkin pie filling.)

Clementines

Clementines are back in season, and I absolutely love them. I added a few segments to the boys’ plates, and this is what happened. Bobby licked his clementine and approved of its taste. Still, he didn’t end up eating it because he hated the texture. Billy, on the other hand, licked his clementine and immediately gave up. For now, he’ll stick to dried mango.

Strawberries

Two years after first tasting (and enjoying) one, Bobby informed me that he likes strawberry smoothies. He specifically recalls liking the one he made in nursery school two years ago!

Naturally, I immediately went out and bought frozen strawberries to make smoothies. Voila! It seems that both boys love eating strawberries—so long as they’re pulverized into a thick, icy drink. Turns out my kids have issues with the textures of certain foods. C’est la vie.

So as you see, while the boys may not have munched on turkey slices this November or fully swallowed a slice of Clementine, they, along with their picky palates, are beginning to expand. For now, flavors of foods are more easily accepted then certain textures (see above: Clementine), but it remains a work in progress.

I wonder what we’ll discover at their big birthday party this weekend! Stay tuned!

Guest Blog: Guidelines for Feeding Kids

Dear Readers,

I asked foodie, mother and blogger, Alissa Stoltz to share her food wisdom. Alissa has a great understanding of nutrition. She left the NYC corporate world few years ago to raise her two beautiful daughters in a simply wholesome  and nutritious way. In addition to being a fabulous mother, Alissa has also been blogging recipes she uses to feed her family. 

Guest Blog by Alissa Stoltz, The Simply Wholesome Kitchen

Being a food blogger can be a bit of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, it has provided such a great platform for me to share my views and hopefully inspire some others to get in the kitchen and make simple, real food.  But on the other hand, people often ask me for advice, expecting that I know the secret to feeding gourmet, perfectly balanced meals to enthusiastic toddlers every night!  Unfortunately, the reality is that even someone as committed to wholesome cooking as me experiences PLENTY of challenges.  Like the fact that my toddler won’t eat a single vegetable other than spinach (I know, I’m lucky about the spinach, but not even a carrot??).  Or the nights that I get home to an empty kitchen at 5:15 and have 15 minutes to plan and get some dinner on the table.  Fortunately, since my older daughter was born almost 3 years ago, I’ve been absorbing the advice of dieticians, foodies, sociologists, and, of course, my fellow bloggers to come up with a few guiding principles for feeding my kids in a way that I feel mostly good about most of the time.

1. Hungry children will eat when offered food.  This is really important, because I hear all of the time that “my kid won’t eat anything other than [insert processed, high fat, high sugar, high sodium food here].”  But in reality, most normal, healthy kids (without sensory issues, allergies, etc.) will not starve themselves because they do not like what you served for dinner.  If your child will only eat 1 or 2 things, you have to ask yourself how they learned it was an option to only eat those things?  So my approach is to serve a meal, and my toddler has the choice to eat or not eat.  Sounds great, but I cannot tell you how many times she has gotten to the table and burst into tears as if I was trying to force her to eat something out of a horror movie, even when presenting a meal that she previously loved.  This is unbelievably frustrating, but in the end, it’s is also why I don’t make anything that my husband and I won’t eat as well – it’s bad enough to have your child refuse to eat your food, but it’s even worse if you went to special effort just for them and then are rejected.  But before you think I’m totally mean, if I am serving a food that might be new or challenging for my daughter, I always make sure I am serving something that she generally likes as part of the meal (e.g., bread, pasta, or fruit).  This way I know I’m not torturing her by making her feel like she has to choose between starving and eating something she really doesn’t want, but I am also not giving her an “out” and adding to my own frustration by becoming a short-order cook.  I also try to eat with my kids as much as possible – I have found a dramatic improvement in my toddler’s willingness to at least try new foods when I’m at the table eating the same things.  And in the end, if she takes two bites (or no bites!) of a meal and tells me she’s done, I have to respect that and trust that if she was really hungry, she’d find something on her plate to fill up on.  And if she’s really not hungry or willing to eat what’s on the table, there’s always the next meal or snack!

2. NOT offering UNHEALTHY foods is as important as offering healthy foods.  Of course we all want our kids to eat lots of fruits and veggies and other healthy foods.  And some of us will be lucky enough to have truly adventurous eaters.  But the rest of us will have to deal with kids who avoid entire food groups, change their minds about what they like on a daily basis, refuse to eat something if it looks slightly different than what they’re used to, or are generally finicky about eating.  Food manufacturers know how to engineer foods that are easy to like, and that makes these foods easy to feed our kids, since they will very rarely complain about chips, pretzels, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, etc.  But going back to guideline #1, if you fall into the trap of giving your kids these foods on a regular basis, they could quickly become the “only” food they’ll eat without a fuss, and even worse they may learn to hold out and refuse to eat their meals because an easier option is just a few minutes away.  So it’s not enough to just offer good foods at meal times and let kids fill up on junky snacks in between, or to offer a side of broccoli with the mac & cheese that will go untouched.   It’s just as important to make sure processed foods with minimal nutritional benefit are only an occasional option – that way you know that whenever they DO get hungry and decide to eat, they’ll have no choice but to eat something you feel good about!

3. Find a way to feed your kids healthy foods that is sustainable for YOU.  If cooking is not your thing, don’t try to be Martha Stewart!  I think the reason some people avoid cooking is because they think they need to put together elaborate, gourmet feasts every time, and that is way too much pressure.  Everything doesn’t have to be the best meal you’ve ever tasted, or the most beautiful – there’s really a lot of room for error in cooking, and you are doing your family such a huge favor by choosing to try rather than depending on processed, prepared foods.  Start by making a list of easy meals that you can easily stock the ingredients for and require no planning – my favorites are eggs (mix in some frozen chopped spinach or other veggie, or serve with a fruit or veggie on the side and some whole grain toast) or whole wheat pasta (take a bag of frozen broccoli or mixed veggies and add to the pasta water 2-3 minutes before it’s done cooking).   Every once in a while, try a simple new recipe (meals like tacos and baked ziti are generally big hits with kids!), maybe on the weekends when you have some time.  As you get better, build a repertoire of easy meals that you can rotate through – with some practice it becomes much easier to have the right ingredients on hand to throw together a dish your family will enjoy with minimal time and effort.

And don’t forget about the snacks!  Start by keeping your home stocked with healthy snacks like fresh, dried, and frozen fruit (my toddler loves to eat frozen blueberries!), veggies with hummus, ranch dressing or dip, nuts, seeds, whole grain crackers (read ingredient lists here to avoid too much filler and pretend whole grains!), cheese, plain yogurt and some whole grain pretzels.  If you’re interested, you could try some baking – I make mini-muffins, granola and nut bars, and whole grain pancakes and waffles to keep in my freezer.  A batch of muffins can be done in under 30 minutes and makes two dozen toddlers-sized snacks for whenever I need them!

4. Patience, patience, patience!  It takes time to learn how plan meals, it takes a million tries for some kids to even lick a new food, and it takes an infinite amount of patience to feed finicky kids who seem genetically programmed to declare UNHEALTHY new foods delicious, and HEALTHY new foods yucky.  Maybe by the time my kids go to college I’ll have this whole feeding thing figured out, but in the mean time, having some basic guidelines that make me feel like I’m doing a decent job trying to feed them most of the time is going to have to be enough!

Finding Time for Family Meals

It’s important to have family meals as often as possible. There’s little doubt that children benefit from quality mealtime, home cooked meals, balanced menus, role modeling and exposure to new flavors. But let’s face it: Parents who lead busy urban lives can’t always make this happen.

Have I ever skipped a family meal? Guilty as charged. Despite the fact that it’s my professional duty to discourage others from doing so on a regular basis, many times, family meals just aren’t realistic. Both my husband and I, for example, work late several nights a week (I’ve recently cut back from three to two nights a week in the office), and between social events (whether professional, academic or with friends) and our own date nights, Sunday and Monday are the only days left where we can consistently sit down for family meals.

I try to practice this reasoning as a professional RD and am realistic regarding other New Yorker’s lifestyles as well as my own. Overall, I believe in looking at the whole picture when it comes to how we choose to raise our kids, and in my own household, the time we spend together is about quality, not quantity.

Does this make my husband and I—and other fellow socially and professionally active parents—irresponsible? No. But when I started Mom Dishes It Out, I promised to give you honest accounts of my family’s experiences in the kitchen. So I’m telling it to you straight; whether I applaud this type of behavior or not, this is my reality.

Rise and Shine: Breakfast

My boys, Billy and Bobby, have fallen into the pattern of eating breakfast on the couch while ogling their favorite TV shows. I know: I should probably lie here. Food in the living room? As an RD, I’m like my own worst nightmare.

Hubby is already working when we wake up on school days, so most mornings, I’ll try to sit with the boys during breakfast on the couch. Sometimes we move to the dining room table. Sometimes we don’t.

On weekends, we eat breakfast as a family—a habit we try to maintain. We’ll make organic whole grain pancakes and eat them together at the table—well, most of the time. On Sunday, my husband takes over as chef and cooks up a healthy omelet, or the kids and I stick to cereal and yogurt. Either way, we try to use this time to expose the boys to a balanced menu of delicious and wholesome morning foods like eggs, veggies, lox, cheeses, breads and hot sauce—even if they only lick them.

Midday Meal: Lunch

The boys obviously eat lunch at school. Unlike most cafeterias that are filled with chips, candy and donuts, both Billy and Bobby’s schools do not provide lunch. Thank goodness.

I’m the gatekeeper of their lunches, and I take this opportunity to pack their bags with nutritious meals and snacks based on my own judgments. Better yet, their schools encourage parents to supply healthful foods, so my kids are less likely to be exposed to cookies and chips as snacks. If yours are, it’s not the end of the world.

Nighttime Noshing: Dinner

Dinner with the dietitian can be limited since, as I said, my evening schedule is pretty packed. Twice weekly, I’m in the office until 9:30 meeting clients who can’t see me during the workday. The nights I’m not able to eat at home are somewhat nondescript. Billy and Bobby chomp down their dinner on the couch while watching television or sitting with their caregiver at the dining room table. It’s nothing spectacular, and I’m really just concerned with making sure they eat a semi-nutritious meal.

We try to reserve Sunday and Monday to eat dinner together as a family. During a typical family dinner, the kids eat their preferred foods while my hubby and I stick to ours. (I’ve yet to convince the boys that salmon with wheat berries and grilled asparagus is more enticing than grilled chicken.)

Since Billy and Bobby typically get hungry before us, they usually eat dinner earlier in the evening and then continue to nosh on a light snack (if they’re still hungry) with their dad and I at the dinner table. And trust me, we make the most of our time together.

How often do you sit down with your kids for a family dinner? Are there some meals that are easier than others to eat together? Do your kids eat the same dinner as you do, or do you cook (or serve) separate meals?