Going Nuts.

Photo Credit: s58y via Compfight cc

Most parents are aware of the benefits of nuts, particularly almonds, peanuts and pecans, for our health and our kids’ health. These powerful pieces of nutrition provide essential fatty acids, proteins, fiber, and Vitamin E and help raise good cholesterol, known as HDL. However, the one drawback to this nutritious diet staple is that nuts can also cause a potentially fatal allergic reaction, known as an anaphylactic reaction.

Due to the potential seriousness of allergies, many schools have started to enforce restrictions on the kinds of foods students are allowed to bring to school. This raises some complicated questions for parents hoping to send their children off to school with healthy, nutritious food. What do we do as parents when our child’s school has banned nuts? For some kids, going without nuts means missing their vegetarian protein source. Should we pack our kids dairy every day and risk raising their LDL cholesterol? Should we send tofu and soy butter, which are more processed than natural nut butters? Should we send sunflower butter, which is also highly allergenic and can also cause anaphylaxis? Should we focus on peanut-free and not tree nut-free?

In addition to the immediate challenges these kinds of bans place on nutrition, they also have the potential to affect the ways our kids interact with one another.  Do we advocate for a nut-free table in the cafeteria, which would set kids with allergies apart? While a “nut-free” table would be organized with students’ safety in mind, in enforcing this rule we risk ostracizing them from their classmates. I have heard some moms in Connecticut are fighting with their children’s schools to allow their child with a nut allergy eat with the other kids. Do we go along with the nut -free school zone? Do we recommend establishing this nut-free zone on a class-by-class basis, pending if someone has an allergy?

Where do we draw the line? I understand this is a sensitive subject, and should be — the risks are very high. I do think a nut free elementary school is advantageous. However, when my son’s school proposed a ban on all food products made in a factory that may be in contact with peanuts (at a school where the children eat lunch in their classroom and there may be no allergy in many classrooms) I felt at a loss. I am a mom, RD, CDE and I am now going to have to take on the responsibility of feeding my kids as if they had an allergy, possibly decreasing their immunity to such foods. Busy parents are challenged enough as it is to feed their kids healthy, let alone nut- free food, and our choices are narrowed even further when we are expected to avoid products from facilities where peanuts may have been processed. I would gladly comply if a child in the class had a documented allergy, but to go through hoops and hurdles when it may not be necessary seems overboard.

This excessive caution seems all the more extreme when we consider how allergens and contamination are regulated (or aren’t).  Avoiding food processed in the same facility as nut products is not always effective. According to a recent article by a panel of experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases:

The FALCPA does not currently regulate voluntary disclaimers such as “this product does not contain peanuts, but was prepared in a facility that makes products containing peanuts” or “this product may contain trace amounts of peanut.” Such disclaimers can leave consumers without adequate knowledge to make objective decisions.

The EP identified 10 studies that examined whether standards for precautionary food labeling are effective in preventing food-induced allergic reactions. No study explicitly attempted to infer a cause-and-effect relationship between changes in frequency of severe symptoms from unintentional exposure (for example, to peanut) as a consequence of implementing food labeling. The identified studies mostly assessed knowledge and preferences for food labeling.1

If this labeling is voluntary, unregulated, and therefore possibly inaccurate, does it make sense for schools to use the kinds of labels to inform their policies regarding allergies? Many of my clients with peanut allergies still have tree nuts, and even peanut butter, in their homes and simply know how to prevent cross-contamination. Many of my clients with these allergies still eat foods processed in a facility that may share equipment with nuts, wheat and other common allergens.   So are our schools being too authoritarian? Are they smart for playing it safe, or is there such a thing as too much caution? Should sweets be forbidden from schools for fear of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, conditions that are just as threatening for someone with Type 1 Diabetes? Should grapes be forbidden since they are a choking hazard?

Instead, I recommend schools practice peanut/nut free or safe policies.  Focus on education, emergency plans for allergic reactions and having the epi pen to administer if there is an allergic reaction. Avoiding nuts or rather nut free facilities is not the best answer. Yes, precaution is necessary but we also need an action plan for as we know with voluntary labeling, kids still may be exposed and have an allergic reaction.

What do parents think? Do you believe in nut-free schools?  Do you believe in nut free schools banning food products made in a facility made that may have processed nuts?

 

1. “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States” Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Panel.”  The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 126.6, Supplement (2010): Pages S1-S58.

3 Strikes and You Are Out!!

 

Photo Credit: athene.noctua via Compfight cc

Don’t let food be your child’s voice
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Mom

While in session this week, my client expressed frustration, disappointment, and anger toward her parents, in particular her mother, when recalling the holidays. My client, a vegetarian, is recovering from an eating disorder. Upon returning home for the holidays, her mother tells her, “I bought you food. It’s in the other refrigerator.” Excited, my client feels respected and goes to make lunch. But when she opens the refrigerator, she only finds one red pepper—and there’s mold growing on it.

Strike 1.

Next, her parents tell her to choose a restaurant by a famous chef they all adore, that way everyone will be satisfied.  She makes a decision and tells her mother. Mom’s response: “Oh, no one will like it there. We are going to a different restaurant.”

Strike 2.

At the restaurant, mom orders for the family even though the kids want something different. My client ends up with a dish that contains cheese. She is lactose intolerant. Now she needs to order a new meal, wait for it and eat while everyone else waits for her to finish.

Strike 3.

You’re out, mom! Thankfully, my client practiced patience and used her coping skills, and before long, she returned home to her own apartment where she reigns over the refrigerator.

In this instance, it’s clear that my client lost her voice among those of the rest of her family and developed an eating disorder to express her lack of recognition and pain. This is a perfect example of how sometimes we may not truly be listening to our children. Sure, we may hear their voices, but there are moments when we simply miss the boat.

As mothers, parents and caregivers, we are all busy and consumed. It’s not just my client’s parent; it could be any one of us. But, whether a child is 3 or 30, we all need to recognize that they have their own needs and personalities. They need to be heard, respected and acknowledged in order to build their self-esteem and prevent them from using food to numb, to cope, to ask for help, or to ask for more love.

What do you do to let your children know that you hear them? How do you acknowledge them and prevent food from becoming their voice?

 

 

A note to my readers:

Photo Credit: J. Paxon Reyes via Compfight cc

A note to my readers

 

As I continue to share my stories, experiences and other “food for thought,” I am realizing that at times my entries extend beyond the experiences of my personal family. Each lesson is, however, always relevant to my family, since I am constantly applying what I learn toward raising my children.

 

I see my blog as an opportunity for all moms, dads, and caregivers to unite, bond, and learn to become moderate in our parenting and the feeding of our children. The goal is to raise happy, healthy, moderate children who eat all food in moderation, respect their bodies no matter what shape they may be, and enjoy life. Health promotion and disease prevention are of course at the core of what I do too.

 

So, instead of limiting our children’s perspectives on food and life to that of a black and white way of thinking (i.e. good and bad, skinny and fat, right and wrong), we should be pioneering this mindset of moderate parenting and feeding.

 

Thank you for your support over the past few months. I look forward to sharing more entries, and I hope you too will contribute your experiences, lessons, and “food for thought” on the trials and tribulations of raising “moderate” children. I would love to have at least one guest blogger a month. Please email me if you are interested: cipulloRD@gmail.com.

 

Potty Training without M&M's

Photo Credit: kingary via Compfight cc

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?