Are Your Words the Cause of Your Child’s Eating Disorder?

What Do Your Children Hear When You Say…?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra via Compfight cc

As I surf the net, I read so many blogs that also say all foods fit. Yet they go on to say certain foods are treats, certain foods are bad, and certain foods should only be allowed if the child doesn’t have a weight problem. So how do parents handle this delicate issue?

 

First we must address our own food issues. If we have them—and we probably do (as I don’t know too many people without food confusion)—we need not verbalize them as black and white statements to our children.

For example:

You can eat ice cream because you are young and thin, but Mommy needs to be good because Mommy’s belly is too big.

That is clearly a mother’s issue being verbalized to the child. Mom is implying ice cream is bad, but the child can have bad food because they are thin—and Mom cannot.

 

Next, we must be careful not to place a moral or value judgment on foods. This means avoiding good and bad food labeling. This backfires because a child typically feels bad when he/she eats something bad. This can even be true of using words such as “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” but perhaps that takes it to extremes. Some children’s programs use the colors of a stoplight to signify how much of something to eat. I’ve always found myself telling clients to listen to their bodies. However, I also know I would tell them to focus on the nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and that the remainder of the time it doesn’t matter. We began calling these foods “everyday foods” versus “some of the time” foods. This is a perfect solution, no? It really categorizes foods with higher nutrition versus lower nutrition.  This is the way I typically explain foods to my children. The sure thing we know is that the good and bad connotations lead to negative relationships with food. So steer clear of using words implying judgment and move towards words that are science-based, such as “high in vitamin C” and “low in vitamins.”

 

Another catch-22 is saying that our children need to lose weight and thus should only eat healthy food. This is quite far from the truth. If you, a child, or me needs to lose weight, we must explore the why. Moms and Dads, especially dietitian moms/dads or parents working in health and wellness, need to be so careful of this. Instead, explore behaviors and emotions surrounding the foods.

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Questions to ask are:

  1. Is the individual eating beyond his/her physical cues?
  2. Are you or your child stressed and eating to numb yourself?
  3. Is your child not in tune with his/her internal regulation because you have restricted him/her and forbade all processed foods?
  4. Is your child skipping meals at school or is unable to feel full off of the school lunch?
  5. Is this weight healthy for me even though the doctor says differently?

 

Again, this is not about eating nutrient-dense foods. That is merely just one piece in the food puzzle.

 

The “beware of’s” can go on and on, but the most important concept to truly be cautioned against is that of “perfect eating.” There is no perfect eating. If you eat too healthy, it can be significant of anorexia or orthorexia. If you eat chaotically with no boundaries whatsoever, this too can be very unhealthy. Instead promote balance, listening to your internal physical needs, eating for fuel and for pleasure and health too! Eat real food when you can, but don’t go crazy over avoiding processed foods. Enjoy apples just as much as your cookies.

 

Below is a handout from the book Healthy Habits, which you can download.

Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm Life for my Little Oak Tree

What happens when a dietitian mom leaves the city and starts a farm? Happy 2nd Anniversary Amanda and family. The world is truly a better place with the Mellowsprings!! Thanks for bringing the readers back to earth at this time of year. – Laura Cipullo

 

Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm life for my little Oak Tree
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N
Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
Mellowspring Family Farms, LLC

This month marks the beginning of our 2nd year as farmers. I say it this way because this is just the beginning! This lesson feels similar to being a parent – the end of the first year, is really the beginning of the “two’s”. That is when our journey to becoming farmers actually started – when our little acorn had his first birthday.  Within two weeks of his birthday, we were packed and headed for our farm in the mountains.  Nevermind we had never actually visited the land we were leaving everything for, we just knew that this was what we wanted for our family, namely our little acorn.  Amazing how the world shifts to make room for the potential in the smallest little things, like acorns.

Our decision to start a family farm was multi-fold. We wanted to spend more time together as a family, with shared focus and energy. We wanted to give our little acorn something to grow into. And we very much wanted him to appreciate nature. One of the reasons that I love the basic concepts of food and eating, is because it is so tightly intertwined with nature. The way that we engage with all of our foods can connect us or disconnect us from the world around us.  We knew that we wanted our little acorn to take pride in his process of becoming a mighty oak and that would require living into nature in a deeper way.

Our first year of farming is full of practical lessons & adjustments in things like fencing, gardening our new land (with a toddler – ie. kamikaze gardening!), chicken coops (free range chickens poop everywhere!), fencing, livestock guard dogs (bark all night!), fencing, pigs are some of the sweetest animals (once you get used to the smell, seriously the smell!), free range turkeys (bark like purse dogs!), Jacob sheep (you can literally tell their baa’s apart!), oh and did I mention fencing…fencing! I think farming vastly involves fencing, re-fencing, and moving fencing.  All of this to say, there have been so many lessons. Again this is just the beginning of two city kids, raising a farm boy to the best of our farming ability.

The rewards of this first year have been countless in our connection with nature, our community, the animals, and one another. But, the greatest reward that we continue to experience on a daily basis are the moments that my husband and I look at one another and our eyes smile together because in their reflection our little acorn is living his normal life, his farm life, and doesn’t know anything different. The view from his carseat rivals any good farm truck, with a hatchback full of chickens, pullets, turkeys, lambs, pigs, and dogs at various times.  All the while, he plays with his little toes and sings songs because this is his norm.  He has napped with a LGD pup on his lap en route to the vet’s office and the world paused for a moment in our eyes.  He helps big kids see that our dogs are sweet even though they tower over him and weigh over 100# now by kissing their faces and crawling around on their furry backs. Our dogs guard our little acorn with vigilance and compassion by standing over him and demanding that others keep a distance.

 He runs after the sheep for fun, helping mama and papa corral them in to new pastures, yelling “lambies” and laughing hysterically. He grabs the ram by the horns through the fence to kiss his nose because that’s how papa catches him (and because he isn’t allowed to play with the rams inside the fence during breeding season).

 

He sticks his hands through the slats on the pig paddock to pet the “piggies, snort, snort” as mama goes running to catch up, yelling not to reach into the piggy area!  He talks to the piggies and laughs when they escape into the yard and play chase with the dogs.

 

He collects eggs from the chicken coop and even pretends to lay eggs himself; he even recognizes the special “eggs” sound that the hens make when laying. He also gobbles up eggs for breakfast (& sometimes dinner) and tells the hens, “thank you for your eggs” when he gathers.

 

He knows that chicken and chickens are the same thing. He knows that piggies make bacon (yes, we eat bacon), and he knows that turkey is kind of like chicken.

 

He eats like a farmer, plays like a farmer, and knows how they work together. He leads hikes with the chickens and turkeys into the woods and calls for the dogs to keep a watch. He tastes leaves off the trees and shares these new flavors with friends who may be visiting.  He picks berries and grapes off the land and has them eaten up before we get back to the house. (No need for canning this year!)

 

As we start our second year as farmers, I am so glad that I can look to him to learn what living on the land, in union with our plants and animals truly means. His life is a reflection of the purest loves. His decision to live into this life has helped him to put down deep roots. His life is not a response to the world’s concerns about food sources, food ingredients, or factory farming. His life is about connection, love, and appreciation. It reminds me of one of my favorite thoughts – Notice how a tree sends its roots deep into the earth.  May we also learn to nourish ourselves in ways that are not just leaves & branches meant for others to see.

Laura Answers Questions About Feeding Her Boys

1. As a Mom, what is the hardest part of getting your kids to eat healthy?

Not being the nutrition gatekeeper of our children’s food is a challenge all moms face. Camp, school and the playground expose my boys to chewing gum, drinking sports drinks and eating low nutrition foods such as crackers and candy during snack time.

As any mom may know, feeding our children can be trying. I created Mom Dishes It Out, a blog for moms to learn from my personal experience in feeding my boys and a place where they can share their experiences and ask questions.

2. How do you explain eating healthy in a context that they understand?
There are everyday foods that we eat to grow, run and think. We need to eat these foods every day. Then there are “sometimes food”—food that we can eat some of the time.  Since the foods are low in nutrition and aren’t the best for growing, they are not considered everyday food.

3. Do you have any tricks to get your kids to eat healthy?
One sure way is to stock the house with only healthy food. I allow all foods but I don’t necessarily have them in the house on a regular basis.

4 Tricks To Getting Kids To Eat Healthy
1. Stock the house with healthy everyday foods
2. Limit boxed or in the pantry packaged food items to three or less
3. Allow all foods but focus on the need for everyday foods
4. Don’t make a big deal about healthy food – offer and expose but don’t overemphasize

 

4. What two kid-friendly recipes did you bring to share today?
Good-For-You Granola Bars – It can be quite challenging to find a granola bar that is nutrient dense, low in added sugar and will not melt in the heat.

My youngest son is a vegetarian so getting omega-3 fatty acids and even omega-6 fatty acids are a challenge. Adding chia seeds to any recipe is a sure way to get vegetarians eating omega-6’s. I give Liam an omega-3 fatty acid liquid supplement to get the beneficial fatty acids only found in fish.

5.  How often do you cook with your kids?
I try to cook with my kids as often as possible and in every little way. Perhaps they do something simple like adding wheat germ to their yogurt, cracking the eggs into their pancake mixture or adding berries into their smoothies.

6. What sorts of foods do your kids crave?
My oldest son loves pancakes with chocolate chips and macaroni and cheese (the chips are dark chocolate and the pancakes are whole wheat or kamut; the pasta is usually whole wheat), while my youngest son favors yogurt, hummus and pretzels (made from spelt or whole wheat).

7. What are your go-to snacks for your kids?
I always offer a carbohydrate with a fat or a carbohydrate with a protein. Then I’ll offer homemade smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits and chia seeds, fruit slices or fruit squeezers with Greek yogurt or cheese

8. Do you guys ever have a cheat day, or treats for special occasions?
I have told my boys time and time again, food is not a treat. A helicopter ride around the city is a treat or a day of bowling is a treat. Food is food. We enjoy ice cream with gummy bears, drink Gatorade and eat cookies some of the time, but not all of the time. Since it is critical that we meet all of our nutrition needs, it is important for parents not to put certain foods on a pedestal, because this will become the food your child will then want.

 

Formula Fed—Me and My Boys

Formula Fed—Me and My Boys
Not every mom must breast-feed.
By Laura Cipullo RD CED CEDRD CDN 

Photo Credit: nerissa’s ring via Compfight cc

I know as a registered dietitian I am supposed to encourage breast-feeding, but there are enough dietitians indoctrinating “breast-feed only.”  I am here to share the flip side. I don’t want moms to feel guilty for not breastfeeding because they cannot or simply because they choose not to. I have formula fed both of my sons, who are now ages five and seven. Neither have food allergies, and neither have been on antibiotics (recently, however, it was necessary for the eldest to take them). I, too, was formula fed and am a healthy individual. Opining for formula is based on my personal experience and not science.

 

But it can be heartbreaking to want to breast-feed your child and be unable to do so. Moms, please don’t feel guilty. Formula feeding is not to the detriment of your child. You can still bond, and you can still provide your child with nutrition. As a matter of fact, the first six months post birth are important, but our job as mothers is even more important as our babies get older. Providing pure nutrition goes beyond the breast and the bottle. How we feed the baby, what we feed them as their first foods, and the relationship between us and our food—and our child and his/her food—is a lifelong balancing act that is more crucial than breastfeeding.

 

There are also other times when it may be to the mom’s or the baby’s advantage to choose formula rather than breast-milk.

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Why it may not always be better to breast-feed:

  1. Mom may be malnourished and unlikely to give baby adequate nutrition.
  2. Mom may be decreasing her bone density, sacrificing her health in order to give baby enough calcium.
  3. Mom may not be eating fish, and therefore baby is not getting enough DHA, the essential fatty acid obtained through eating fish.
  4. Mom may be drinking diet soda and eating diet foods to lose the baby weight. (But do you want to bottle-feed artificial sugar to your baby? Is this different healthier than sugar in formula?)
  5. Pump and dump?? Let’s face it, many moms imbibe in drinks such as wine, while others even smoke tobacco and proceed to breast-feed!
  6. Baby may not be getting enough nutrition, and formula may be better choice.

 

Consider, are you doing this to benefit baby or yourself? If you do breast-feed, make sure you take a multivitamin with minerals, drink enough water, and eat enough real, wholesome food. If you choose formula, know your baby is getting calcium, DHA, and the necessary macronutrients. The sugar in formula is not ideal, but remember milk is a form of carbohydrate, which is sugar. The focus for you and all moms and dads can and should be on what you feed your child for the rest of his/her young adult life rather than on the first year alone.

 

More on breast-feeding: 

Mom Asks, MDIO Answers: Are your children hiding bites of food?

Are your children hiding bites of food?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom of Two

 

A real mom asks:

MDIO recently received a question about how to handle a young child who hides her food. The mom explained that her daughter regularly showed her empty dinner plates. Her regular response would be: “What a great job!” Later, she would find her child’s food hidden somewhere. When this mom asked her daughter why she was hiding her food rather than eating it, the child responded: “I don’t know.” I’m sure many parents can relate to this in one way or another.

 

A real mom/RD answers:

There always seem to be so many challenges when feeding our little ones! Here are some suggestions to explore…and hopefully help to resolve your “missing” food dilemmas.

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1. Eat meals with your children or at least sit down at the table during their meal times. Not only will this prevent your children from having easy opportunities to get up to hide their food but it may also foster valuable conversations and enjoyable family time together. Your children may be acting out…or silently asking for attention…or just trying to gain approval for dessert!

 

2. Stop giving praise for finishing all of their dinner! Yup, that’s right! Praise your children for trying foods, sitting at the table, and sharing their day’s activities with you…but definitely not for cleaning their plates! Keep in mind that your kids will typically overeat or hide their food to garner praise for eating 100% of their meal…or sometimes just to follow the table rules you mistakenly may have set!

 

3. Start talking with your children about listening to their bodies’ cues for hunger and fullness. Teach them to notice how they feel at the beginning of a meal, the middle of a meal, and at the end of a meal. Then check in with them to see how they feel an hour after. This will help your children learn to use “self talk” and check in with their own bodies as they get older—and hopefully cultivate a lifetime of  internally regulating their food intake by way of mind and body clues. And please let your children know they do not need to eat everything on their plate!

 

4. Give your children a choice of two different dinners. The act of choosing helps to give your children feelings of pride and independence. For example, you might ask: “Do you want roast chicken with sweet potatoes and green beans tonight or would you prefer rice and beans with ham and green beans?”

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5. Cook with your children to help identify which foods they like while also teaching them some of the fundamentals of living. Learning how to cook, set the table, clear the table, and even clean up the kitchen help children to understand the basics of nutrition, the time spent, and the constant effort required to feed a family. Your children will be more likely to respect meal times and less likely to hide their food…and then start “grazing” later.

 

6. Play detective! Observe if your children are grazing…or eating more snack foods or just some specific foods…before or after the meal. (And don’t forget to check out whether instances of food hiding have occurred.)

 

7. Finally, don’t forget that heart-to-heart talks are always helpful. Sit down with your children and let them know you will not be angry…or yelling…at them! (But you must remember to keep that promise!) Then try to explore their feelings about and behaviors during the meal and, perhaps even more revelatory, other things that may be affecting their food consumption behaviors.

 

Have a question for Laura? Ask her by clicking here

Food Antics

Food Antics
By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom of two

 

Is there ever a dull moment in your kitchen? Well, there sure isn’t one in mine! My husband and I have noticed that our older son continuously asks for food all evening long—from dinner on until his bedtime. And he’s not actually asking for food; rather, he’s telling us that he’s hungry. Since Bobby has always been my famously “intuitive eater,” one might readily think: that’s terrific. Just feed the growing boy!

 

But of course, nothing is as simple as it seems when it comes to food. Bobby is most definitely growing and can easily consume an entire box of mac and cheese with spinach, an apple and a chicken cutlet—and still be hungry! This is completely fine with me if it isn’t every night just before bedtime arrives. What we have noticed, however, is that Bobby is responding to all statements concerning getting ready for bed, or even going to sleep, with “But I’m still hungry.”

 

Attempting to find out what Bobby is really “hungry” for, I ask him: Do you want more dinner? Would you like a yogurt stick? How about some ice cream? An apple? A yogurt? Maybe a smoothie?

We tried giving him larger dinner portions, serving dessert with dinner and even calling “last round” for kitchen requests. But it never fails to happen just like this…

 

Last night Bobby was in bed. The family had read books together and we even shared some “silly” time. Just as I was saying goodnight and leaving his room, he said: “But I’m still hungry.” By this point in time, I don’t want to care if my kid is hungry. Either he needs to learn to be more mindful and check in with his belly and brain before bedtime…or he’s really needing and wanting something else!

 

Now, as I sit here writing…an important concept leaps into my brain: I’m not sure if I ever asked Bobby if he wanted something else. Like a little more time with mom. Or to talk about a bad dream he may have had. Or perhaps he’s just trying to defy the boundaries his dad and I have set. There are so many possibilities in this scenario.

 

When I consider this difficult situation from an RD’s perspective, I know just what I would suggest to any of my mom clients dealing with this type of issue: “Have a real heart-to-heart talk with your son. Ask him during the day time—at a non-meal moment —what he’s truly feeling and wanting at night.”

 

There are a variety of life changes that may be affecting Bobby that he, along with his peers as well as adults, is not aware of feeling. Or perhaps he may just be hungry! The lesson for me and my readers is this: Consider creating an open dialogue at a non-food time to find out if the problematic situation is indeed about food—or about feelings. What you learn will surely help you to resolve the issue. Sometimes the answer may be serving more protein and fat with dinner…and sometimes the answer may be spending a special day alone together…just mommy and me.

I’m so glad I was able to give myself a free nutrition session!

 

And by the way, my younger son Billy told me he eats his fish sticks with his dad because daddy makes him. But he won’t eat them with me! Yep, that’s a whole other can of “gummy” worms! Maybe the subject of my next blog. Of course, don’t forget you can always ask us your questions by submitting them right here:

What eating right means to this mom and RD…

What eating right means to this mom and RD…
By Laura Cipullo, RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently asked RDs to explain what eating right means to them. So I asked my assistant, my interns and my student volunteers to describe what it means to each of them. They shared their definitions with me—and therefore with you—at www.EatingAndLivingModerately.com.

I really think my blogs—and even simply many of the titles of my blogs—paint a very accurate picture of what eating right means to me. But just in case you may have missed my continuing message, here’s a short synopsis:

One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve learned that diets basically don’t work! And I learned this fact more than twenty years ago! Since then, via earning my RD credentials, attempting to balance my own state of wellness, and working with clients, I’ve definitively learned and absolutely believe that ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL! Every individual carries a different set of genes, brings a different mindset and lives in a different environment. So although I believe all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle, how I educate my clients (and my children) depends a great deal upon their personal situations. The concept of eating right is truly unique to each person’s unique needs. We need to go back to defining diet as habitual nourishment, rather than a quick fix.

Mixed Meals with Internal Regulation

For me, eating right became much easier when I let go of perfecting my diet and made the decision to eat all foods. Yes…carbs, proteins and even fats! I began using internal regulation methods rather than external regulation methods such as calorie counting or using a scale to “weigh my health.” Eating “imperfectly” became my perfect! For example, this means that if I eat a cupcake with my boys or share a meal with a client even though I’m already full, I don’t think twice about it. Rather, I enjoy the taste while I’m eating and remain mindful of my overall lifestyle. Learning to eat meals mixed with all three macronutrients and snacks with two of the three was essential—and still remains my ideal means for structuring food intake throughout each day. Actually, many of the techniques I use to feed myself and my family as well as what I teach all of my clients are based on the knowledge I’ve gained as a diabetes educator. Eating in harmony with the endocrine system (insulin, blood sugar, mixed meals, rate of absorption and fullness, etc.) and empowering intelligent decision-making are integral to wellness.

Some Food From Boxes

But I also know that eating right must also be realistic! Being a mom of two and having a full-time career which requires my working out-of-my-home two nights each week means learning how to create— and quickly prepare—healthy meals with just a few basic ingredients. It means sometimes eating a Kale Caesar Salad with salmon, or pasta with fresh asparagus or just pizza. It means actually making my children’s meals—even if not totally from scratch. At the very least, what I prepare is much less processed than fast food or take-out. And it also means my family and I can choose to eat vegan chili for lunch with chocolate chip cookies for snack!

The 75/25 Approach

My personal eating behaviors reflect what I teach in my book HEALTHY HABITS: The Program plus Food Guide Index & Easy Recipes. Although I created this book to help parents and educators teach children how to feed and eat in healthy ways, my husband, my children and I all practice these lessons in our daily lives. As explained in HEALTHY HABITS, I employ the concept of consuming what I call “everyday” foods (nutrient dense and sustainable) the majority of the time  (in general about 75%) and “sometimes” foods (low nutrient dense and less likely to be earth friendly) the remainder of the time (about 25%). And I use a “hunger/fullness scale” to help determine my portion sizes.

 Eating a Variety of Real Food

As evidenced by massive, ongoing research, nutritional science is neither black nor white. We always hear what the latest study has found or is associated with; it may, in fact, be in extensive conflict with a study completed just a year previous. So I personally try to stay in the middle—what I like to refer to as the grey zone. If I’m not eating excessively of one food or nutrient, I genuinely feel this will help minimize my risk of developing disease—such as diabetes, heart disease or even cancer. Being in the grey zone also helps to keep me at ease mentally. The mind-body connection is an important part of eating and being healthy. The yin yang symbol of balance bearing the apple and the cupcake on the cover of HEALTHY HABITS truly summarizes my definition of health and healthy eating and therefore, eating right.

Focus on Behaviors

And one more thing, eating right does not get measured on a scale located in your bathroom or in your doctor’s office. Here’s what is truly measurable and absolutely remarkable: The behaviors we engage in on a daily basis and how these actions and interactions affect us as complete, unique individuals. For me, that means being a mom, a wife, a friend, and an RD who eats, moves, rests and, of course, laughs!

Have Some Fun

So while you’re trying to live a life with what you deem as eating right, be sure that flexibility, spontaneity and “ a light hearted” attitude accompany your food choices. Again, this is the grey zone rather than the extreme zone.

 

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.

How This Mom Does It: Guest Blog Post By Suzanne Quint

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This week guest blogger Suzanne Quint discusses parenting books, and incorporating your culture into teaching children healthy eating habits.

I am a mom of 5 year old twins whom I am proud to count as good (but of course not always great) eaters. Being of Greek descent (read: food is everything), it was really important to me that my kids be good eaters.  I couldn’t imagine going through life with them with a rotation of chicken fingers and hot dogs.  So, upon the recommendation of my friend Kate, I followed Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine book pretty religiously.  It was in fact, the only child development book, on any subject, I read.  I cannot recommend this book enough as a foundation and constant reinforcer for those formative early years.  Satter’s premise, in a nutshell, is that as parents we are in charge of what the kids eat and when – and that the kids are in charge of how much they eat.  She also incorporates the idea of having (some!) choice for your kids – so broccoli and cauliflower at the table, for example, and empower them to pick which they want.   As with most things in parenting, the key was consistency and perseverance, which at times was doubly hard with twins.   I’ll say that while we thought early on that my son was a picky eater and my daughter had the Greek-eating gene, he has really turned it around.  In hindsight, he was more stubborn (and still likes to make a big fuss here and there) but our perseverance on always presenting him with real food choices has paid off.  They don’t like everything but we don’t cater to them at mealtime either.  Some things they enjoy– spanakopita (or “spinach triangles” as we call them)– Trader Joe’s sells delicious and affordable one’s and FreshDirect has them too.  And if we order pizza, I balance this meal with telling them it has to have broccoli or spinach on it (their choice).

Going Nuts.

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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.