Friday, May 28, 2010

nutrition education overload and the power of peer pressure

My almost 5 yo daughter suddenly wants to be a vegetarian. I'm getting quizzed if her packed lunch has "meat" (see post on telling kids where meat comes from) or not. The swift onset of the power of peer pressure is awe inspiring. One of the "big girls" (6 year olds) is a vegetarian as is one of the teachers. I asked why she wanted to be a vegetarian and she said, "Because E is."
M loves meat, she loves turkey curry and a wide variety of foods. I assume (hope) that like Princesses and Care Bears this will be a passing interest.

I don't lie, but I don't really come out with all the details. "Is there meat?" To which I will answer, "You have noodles and ratatouille and steak and mushrooms," or, "Just shrimp today." That seems to satisfy her. When she casually said she wanted to be a vegetarian I simply said, "In this family, we eat meat." (Similarly how one can respond to the diet questions, "In this family, we don't diet, let's talk about this some more...")

I found out that at her school, they go around the table talking about what "protein" they have in their lunch. Makes me cringe. M has no idea what protein is. "Is melon protein?" She asked this morning after months of listing lunch-time proteins.

Kids don't need that much information. It's not her job to worry about whether she is eating protein or carbs. It is my job to balance her offerings, and her job to chose to eat them or not. (Division of Responsibility in feeding) Maybe later when she starts to think about planning meals and snacks we will talk about protein and food groups in the name of balance.

For children aged 3-6, a more appropriate questions might be, "What's your favorite thing in your lunch box today, or let's see how many colors we have in our lunch boxes today."

A big problem with nutrition education today is information overload, too much (often useless, even harmful info) too soon. One reader told of her 6 yo girl sitting at lunch counting calories after a nutrition class...

Are your children having "nutrition" lessons? What are they taking from them?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lovin' my new griddle, do you griddle?

OK, here's my griddle. Never grew up with one, but I love it!! I can make two McMommy sandwiches at once, or 3 grilled cheese and not have to have 3 pans going, or pancakes in two batches instead of five! My best recent kitchen addition...
Anything that I use and saves time is a big bonus when it comes to feeding a family for years to come!

Do you griddle?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

context and appetite: olives for breakfast? Not here, thanks!

Appetite (meaning in this context your desire, or interest in a certain food) is a funny thing. Recently I asked my readers from around the world what they ate for breakfast. It all sounded so wonderful, but didn't make me go out and buy Serano ham for breakfast, though I imagine if I was in Spain I would devour it with gusto! (We now have folks checking in from 48 countries and territories! Cool!)

Things I loved in very specific places or settings...

1) Lizano sauce-Costa Rican staple (bought bottle on our return, to use it only once or twice...)
2) Branson Pickle (Wales-loved it with crusty bread and Cotswald cheese. Brought home 2 jars that I never ate...)
3) Olives for breakfast-Turkey
4) little tart cornichon pickles, but only with salami and pita bread
5) lunch meats for breakfast in Germany, not so appealing here at home
(in particular a white sausage called Weisswurst that was a major treat when I visited Oma and Opa in Germany. I still seek it out there, but it kind of grosses me out here...)

It's why I look forward to popcorn at the movies, or love creme brulee at a certain restaurant where my husband and I ate when we were "courting." Or why I love a little chocolate or something sweet with my coffee, but otherwise go for salty foods, a specific cheese that I ate in France and couldn't get enough of, but now, eh... It's why telling people to eat certain foods is inherently tricky. Appetite, satisfaction, taste, context, emotions are so intertwined...

What are your "context" foods and why?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

update: produce bags verdict

from my readers, lots of "Yes, tell me about the produce bags too!"

1 works kind of
2 works really well
1 dire warning that produce has to be VERY DRY or its a mess.

I'm convinced! I'm going to give them a try!

the lure of the forbidden, be it poem or dessert

Product Details

It's a poem about a little girl who tells a story about being kidnapped. Let's just say I don't like imagining the graphic details about a little girl being chained in a basement. My mind fills in the gaps, and I don't need any help coming up with disastrous scenarios.

So, the first time I read it during night-time routine, I tried casually to say, "Let's read another one" and flipped the page. As Ellyn Satter says, a child can "smell an agenda a mile away."

M protested, but didn't make a fuss. The next time I did the bedtime routine, before we even sat down, she asked for the "jail one." I explained that I didn't want to read that poem, but there were hundreds of others. She replied, "I'll pick out a poem from the index." Harmless I thought (since M can't read or really tell numbers that way) but she went straight to it! (Dad has no problems reading the poem to her apparently.) Every time I read to her, she turns to it, asks for it. Last night there was even a bookmark on that page.

Is her fascination in the rhyme, the picture of a little girl chained up, the imagery, or the fact that I don't want to read it?

I'm guessing the allure is that I have singled it out. It just reminds me of how clever, how tuned-in children are to our agendas.

Are you struggling with foods you may have singled out? Do you talk about "junk foods" or "bad foods" or "red light foods?" Has it lessened or heightened your child's interest? What about your own interest in foods?
When talking with clients, I frequently find that the children who are "obsessed with treats" are the ones where it is often talked about, avoided, controlled, a big deal, forbidden, used for bribery, a production. Even the mildest restriction, like "these are red light foods, so we don't eat them often for our health," can pique a child's interest.

Here's an old post on sweets and treats with some more internal links for dealing with "forbidden foods."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Readers let me know, what are your useless kitchen gadgets? Are "produce bags" one of them?

I'm as much of a sucker as the next gal. I watch the Slap n Chop infomercials and think, "I could make salsa, lots of it! I use onions all the time, this will make it so much easier!" Ditto the Vidalia chop thingy above. I watch the Food Network occasionally and saw Sandra Lee during Money Saving Meals use it all the time. I forget that the thing is always on the counter, and someone else is there to clean it up. By the time I have gotten up on a chair to get *Gadget down, put it together, wash it, put it back away, it is definitely NOT a time-saver. Maybe if I had a massive kitchen with unlimited storage...
A few batches of salsa later, and a few onions down and the thing is just collecting dust now. My Target Santoku knife does the job pretty well.

Gadgets/extras I have that I don't use:
Slap n' Chop
Vidalia Onion Chopper
lemon juicer (handle thingy)
food processor
bread machine
compost bin (I've taken to just using a big bowl that is easier to wash...)

Gadgets I love:
rice cooker
rotating cheese grater thing (like at Olive Garden)
chip clips
salad spinner
waffle iron
griddle (not a gadget, but a special pan...)
fondu pot (annual cheese blowout, broth and veggies, chocolate dessert)
cheese slicer (handle with a wire)
water bubbler
mortar and pestle (herbs and Chai tea time...)
immersion blender (with little container to "process" food)

Gimmicky thing I really want to buy, but want to hear from you all. Do any of you use those Produce Bags (As Seen on TV!) that are supposed to make your lettuce etc last 5 times longer? Do they work? Are they a gimmick?

Friday, May 21, 2010

whole wheat pasta, or foods I "should" like but don't and why it matters

Whole grains are "hot" these days. When I menu plan, I try to aim for about half of the grains we eat to be whole grains. Recently I wrote that I truly resent and refuse (as much as possible) to eat foods simply because I "should" (for nutritional or other purposes.)

After a recent success with the whole wheat cookies that are awesome (holding up well in my tupperware on the counter BTW and chosen over a Newman's Oreo by M) I am inspired to try more. But, whole wheat pasta will never gain entry to my pantry again!

Some whole grains I love:
  • breads (store-bought) the seedier the better
  • cookies (see above)
  • oatmeal
  • barley in soups
  • brown rice (with stews, soups, chilis)
  • soba-type noodles made with buckwheat
  • whole wheat couscous

Some whole grains that I could do without
  • by far the most reviled is whole wheat pasta (blech, I know I "should" but I don't like it)
  • brown rice with stir-fries (I just like the sticky white stuff here)
  • brown rice with sushi (ditto)
  • Fiber One cereal, or anything like it
  • breads I have baked at home with mostly whole wheat have disappointed so far, machine and in the oven.
  • went through a Quinoa phase, and now am not so keen on it. Maybe if I made it in a more inspired way I'd love it. Just seems to fall more in the "I should eat it because it's healthy" category...
  • Muffins made with high fiber cereals or flours and apple sauce or other fat-reducing strategies. Dry, dry, dry
The list-making is fun, but the issue is relevant. Much of today's nutritional advice is pushing whole grains and other "should" foods, which is problematic on many levels and especially if you lack the cooking skills to know what to do with them. Cooking for a family is hard enough to sustain without bringing dread, guilt, and most of all unappealing foods into the mix. When we denigrate the foods people enjoy and are eating, put them on a "forbidden" list and give them alternatives that they don't like, aren't ready for or don't know they like, we offer little. The "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" mess people up.

Make a list of the foods you enjoy, can you find a few with whole grains? Are there any of the so-called "should" foods that surprise you? Are you maybe avoiding "should" foods you might like because you resent that "should?" Can you expand that list by trying new foods, eating out or from a friend? (For example, I only tried baking purely whole wheat cookies because I got to enjoy them at the Mill City Museum test kitchen.) Focus on growing your "love it" list in a fun, low-pressure way when you are ready, not on growing your "can't have it" list. (Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family by Satter has a great rundown on how to expand the picky adult palate.)

What am I missing? Do you have some whole grains you love and think I should try? I have not yet experimented with groats, and the more exotic grains. Convince me...
Or commiserate with your most-hated "I know I should but can't" foods...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Kids labeled as overweight are LESS likely to be physically active: implications for Let's Move

Here's a post from Kataphatic that is a great example of a point I make in my workshops all the time: Children who are labeled as overweight (regardless of BMI) are less likely to be physically active.

"I didn’t hate gym class until I was in fourth grade, when the gym teacher singled me and several other fat kids out for extra gym classes and an “exercise worksheet” that I had to do at home (sit ups, push ups, stuff like that). Oh the shame of having to hang that thing on the fridge, not only as a visible reminder to the whole family that I was a fatty fat fatty, but also to remind me every time that I wanted to eat anything out of the fridge that I was a fatty fat fatty (hello eating disorder!)."

This is but one example of how we are harming more than helping with our efforts to combat the "childhood obesity epidemic." It is one of many that I have heard. It's not a stretch to think that schools will be doing more of this.

One of the Obama's Let's Move summary recommendations states: Developers of local school wellness policies should be encouraged to include strong physical activity components on par with nutrition components. (Oh, and pediatricians and dentists should measure BMI and be sure to do obesity prevention at every opportunity... More labels anyone?)

Take this next quote into account as well from Jon Robison PhD in an article, "The Childhood obesity epidemic," what is the real problem and what can we do about it? about the very people who will likely be developing those "wellness" policies...

“In a recent study, teachers who were most likely to be involved in a childhood obesity prevention program demonstrated a low level of knowledge related to nutrition and weight control and a very high level of body dissatisfaction and self-reported eating disorders.“ He goes on that eighty-five percent of the teachers recommended very low calorie diets (one of the most discredited diet strategies of all with a greatest potential to harm) to adolescents- many of whom were also in their adolescent growth spurt.

Just saying. Kataphatic brings it home. Generalizing and funding a wide-scale repetition of her experience makes me want to scream (and home school.)

On another note, I still remember as part of the Presidential Fitness program (which Let's Move is trying to expand, expand, expand) I had my skin-fold measured which we were told measured body fat. Though I was crazy fit and swam and ran competitively, I had the highest measure. I still remember Mr. B announcing it and feeling embarrassed and confused. I can only imagine if I was bigger or was teased how that would have compounded things. The point is, it was a big deal. It is etched on my memory. (My friend and track rival had the lowest level, which was also a boasting point for her...) How pointless it all was, with such potential for harm.

What were your experiences in school around weight and physical activity? Did well-meaning interventions hurt you?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sneaky chef or using leftovers?

I love carrots and peas, but not the leftovers so much. I had not meal planned and was scrounging around for dinner. The last two times we ate out were such a pain in the butt that I am on a break for awhile– long waits, mixed up orders, too much money for the value (Bucca di Beppos.)
Anyway, so I found a pound of grass-fed ground beef (was $4 a pound, so is a cheaper way to do grass fed...) in the freezer, an onion and tomato sauce.
I thawed the beef, chopped and sauteed the onion, added the tomato sauce, a teaspoon of Italian herbs, a little salt, sugar and pepper and simmered away stirring occasionally.
What to serve for side? The leftover carrots were staring at me in the fridge and making me feel guilty. I dislike throwing out food, but I really dislike eating unappealing food just because "I should"- for any reason (nutritional or otherwise.)
So, I tried mashing up the carrots and peas and stirred them into the sauce. (I have a crappy food processor and it's hard to get out of the cupboard, so I just hand mashed it.)

The sauce was awesome! M ate it, even D ate it and he's not a fan of ground beef. M noticed some chunks of carrots in there. She asked, "Why are there carrots in here?"
I said, "That's how I made them tonight. Tell Daddy about your playdate!" She went right on eating.

Feeding tip:
I get the question about "sneaking" foods into mac n cheese or brownies a lot. In general, I don't think it's a great idea. If you are "sneaking" or "tricking" then there isn't the expectation of mastery. Woe is the mom whose kid finds out about the spinach in the brownies! It can REALLY backfire and slow down the process of learning to like new foods. (Plus, what a hassle! Moms describe having to grind up foods at night, or secretly, and be sure to hide any evidence of the offending agent.)

My concession would be if you are dealing with serious sensory integration or texture acceptance or medical/oral motor issues, or if your child is nutritionally not cutting it, then supporting good feeding practices with purees or smoothies is an option during the transition.

For most typically developing kids going through a picky stage or reacting negatively to feeding pressure, sneaking hurts more than it helps. I would also be very careful not to lie, remember the feeding model I work and live in isn't called the Trust Model for nothing!

Purees can boost the nutritional value and flavor, so feel free to use them, but remember to check in with your motives and if you are sneaking to add flavor and variety and boost nutrition, or to get around working on feeding issues or taking the easy road (for now.)

If you sneak, be sure to keep offering the real thing over and over, without pressure in a pleasant and structured setting (preferably family meals) so your kids can learn to like new foods.

Do you have sneaky confessions? Do you "sneak" and will you keep doing it? Did it help in a transition period?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Whoa! Whole wheat? spice cookies!

I'm not much of an adventurous baker, but this weekend, after a gorgeous walk on the Stone Bridge in Minneapolis with the family, and a great time at the Mill City Museum exhibit (GREAT for kids), we stopped off in their Betty Crocker bakery where the aroma was simply too enticing. They often have samples, and these were a surprising treat. Crunchy but chewy and everyone loved them. So after lunch, since I couldn't get work done due to neighbor's Heavy Metal loving work-crew, I thought I would bake these.

These are the first thing I have baked with 100% whole wheat flour that I have really liked. Whole wheat is very popular these days, what with the nutritional benefits and all, and the good news is you and your kids will actually like these.

A darling little girl was copying the recipe very carefully and slowly, so I leaned over her shoulder and snapped a few pictures of the recipe. All I know is it's vintage Betty Crocker. I didn't get the name of the cookie or the book...

I'll call them,

Whoa! Whole wheat? Spice Cookies!

1 1/2 sticks butter (unsalted)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon (note teaspoons, not Tablespoons...)
3/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger (powder)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheets.
Beat butter, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices in bowl until smooth. Then beat in molasses, egg, then flour. Refrigerate for 30 minutes up to 24 hours (cover.) (I did mine for about 15 and it was fine...) Scoop out cookies with Tablespoon measure (a little less) and put on sheet. Bake for 11-12 minutes. (I did mine for 11 each time on the nose. They are a little puffy, but almost instantly will deflate and get the nice cracks on top.) SOOO good!!!

These will be M's after school snack with some milk and banana.

Do you have whole wheat recipe favorites?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Is Gramma's baking ruining your hard work with feeding? Guest article on consistency and feeding.

You've read about feeding strategies in my blog. You know my family thrives on routine and the Division of Responsibility. But, you also have read about how we had ice-cream for breakfast over vacation. Next week, when M stays with Gramma and Grampa for the first time for a whole weekend, my only feeding instructions are, "don't limit her or try to cut her off if she says she's still hungry." I know they've seen our routine, and will stick with the rough timing of meals and snacks (because M behaves better that way) but I honestly am OK with it if they eat ice-cream and mac and cheese every day. It gets to the idea of consistency, joy, living a real-world life. Now, if M were there every weekend, I would think differently... What are your feeding challenges with daycare, care-givers or family who feed your child differently than you might like? Read on for some thoughts on consistency and feeding by my colleague Kathleen Cuneo P.h.D.

We’ve all heard it: good parenting requires consistency. Does that mean that you have the same consequences and deliver them exactly the same way each and every time? Does it mean that you must be rigid with your children?

In my work over the years with children and families, what I have found most important with regard to consistency is that parents have a framework that is clearly communicated to their children about what behaviors are expected and what is unacceptable. When decisions about discipline are based on variables like the parents’ mood, the setting, or other changing factors, consistency is harder to maintain.

That said, 100 percent consistency is nearly impossible and parents tend to feel guilty when they’re not 100 percent consistent. This type of guilt is usually wasted energy. Almost all children can handle a little inconsistency and still learn what is expected of them. The degree of inconsistency that can be tolerated, however, varies from child to child. In general, children learn from authentic, attuned engagement with their parents, and that’s just not 100 percent the same every time.

The most destructive patterns with inconsistency generally occur when there is inconsistency between the adults involved in caring for the child. When parents and daycare providers, mothers and fathers, or parents and heavily involved grandparents differ significantly in their approach to discipline or routines with children, it can lead to confusion, anxiety, and/or disruptive behavior.

Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding provides a framework for adults to approach the feeding relationship between caregivers and children. The division of responsibility model requires caregivers to develop and maintain some structure in the timing of meals and snacks . It also requires a consistent dedication to making varied food offerings available and a commitment to family meals and not pressuring the child to eat more or less than she is hungry for.

But what happens if Alexa goes to a family gathering and ends up filling up on snacks all day? What happens if David spends the weekend with his grandparents who caters to his every food desire or Julia drinks soda and eats lots of sweets at a birthday party? Most children can handle these time-limited inconsistencies and still develop healthy eating habits. Most children respond positively when the usual routines are resumed. Further, since these short-term disruptions in routine and challenges will be present throughout our lives, it’s important to begin to learn how to handle them from an early age.

What is more potentially damaging to developing healthy eaters are ongoing, significant differences among those caring for and feeding children. It’s vital that the adults deeply involved in raising the child be largely on the same page with regard to feeding for lifelong healthy eating patterns. Clearly, this type of interpersonal consistency isn’t always easy to achieve given the realities and limitations of our lives, but I would argue that it’s definitely worth trying for the sake of our kids.

Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D. is a psychologist, parent coach, and mom. Her mission is to empower parents to find their own parenting voice and develop strong connections with their children. Her parenting e-newsletter and free report, “30 Things You Can Do To Raise Self-Confident, Compassionate Children,” are available at Dr. Cuneo is also the director of Dinner Together, LLC which offers consultation to families seeking to have more frequent, successful family meals and deal with the challenges of picky eaters. Sign up for her free e-newsletter at

Friday, May 14, 2010

things I used to peel but don't anymore and things I can't believe people don't peel

Things I used to peel but don't anymore:
  • carrots- Thanks to chef and cook-book author-extraordinaire, Brenda Langton of Spoonriver who looked at me funny when I mentioned , "I taught a cooking class for my diabetic patients, and most had never chopped an onion or peeled a carrot."
"You don't have to peel carrots, especially if they are organic," she said. Liberated!
I was googling a picture of "carrots" to go with this post, and "Carrot-top" (for my overseas friends, a not very funny comedian from the 1980's) popped up. Enjoy the flashback!
  • mushrooms: don't ask me why, my mom did it when I was growing up, so I thought that's what you did...
  • asparagus: again, thanks mom...
Things I can't believe people don't peel (OK, I could only come up with one, it's Friday, folks!)
  • kiwis

What do you peel or don't peel?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

poor Oprah, the "non-diet" weight loss show

Ugh. I have to say it is fun to watch Oprah and call it work, but my goodness. What a mess. Oprah's guest, Geneen Roth has written Women, Food and God. I haven't read it yet, but just finished When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up A Chair by Roth. Sounds like a lot of a similar message. A couple things stood out to me.

  • The focus seemed to be still on weight loss (surprise!)

Oprah Winfrey Picture Gallery

  • The only two people they showed had conspicuous "before and after" pictures. I'd love to know what the percentage of folks who go to her workshops or read her books or "do the work" in the books actually experience weight loss. Have you failed if you don't lose weight? Are you "doing it wrong?" The implied promise seems to be long-lasting and serious weight loss.
  • They kept talking about women who eat when they are not hungry. I bet many of these women ARE hungry when they eat or binge. Women tell me they skip breakfast, or eat a small lunch and are ravenous by the time they get home and eat in an out-of-control way. I wish they had at least brought up that restriction(dieting)+ stress = loss of control. It is the stress, hunger, emotions that makes the effort of restriction almost impossible in adults (and children) who have dieted. A vicious cycle. But, many women are indeed, very, very hungry.
  • I am curious about Geneen Roth. In Pull Up a Chair, she talks about her strict vegetarian diet that she ended only a handful of years ago and her panic at gaining five pounds. I wonder again at the focus on weight. It's just something that stuck out while I was reading. This panic was at a time when she was already the Guru in the non-diet approach? When she already talked about self-love and worth and beauty etc, but still had that reaction? Is that OK? Am I overreacting? Does that take away from the potential power of her message? Is this her eating disorder and her experience in recovery?
  • Oprah asked about eating if you can't diet, "then how do you do it?" A point that I think is valid with Geneen's work. Perhaps not enough concrete advice on how to learn to eat when you are hungry, or even learn to recognize sensations other than famished or stuffed. A great companion book would be Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family (Ellyn Satter) which, though it says "family," spends a great deal of time explaining how to feed yourself first.
  • Oprah talked about her binge on a pound of lettuce with lemon juice after an upsetting phone call. Oh, Oprah. That just made me sad. I'd be hungry, deprived and cravingly obsessed with real food if I ate lettuce with lemon juice, regardless of whether I had been beaten by my grandmother as a child or not.
This issue of eating to numb-out or deal with emotions and stress is not new. (Some studies suggest that "overweight" individuals do not partake in that particular coping mechanism more than their "normal" weight counterparts BTW.) While it's a piece of the puzzle for many, again the show (the book?) ignored physiology, hunger, hormones, feeding and dieting history and the complex interplay...

Did you watch it or read the book? What did you think?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

why we don't let preschoolers meal plan

Dinner last night:
  • roasted potatoes (good, but a little mushy and M didn't like that I left the peel on)
  • Roasted chicken parm (she liked it last week, but not tonight)
  • blanched plus a little sugar snap peas
I also put a small bowl of raw peas on the table, a trick I often do. Put some of the veggie you are cooking out raw- more choices for the kiddos and you never know what will float their little boats. (M prefers raw to cooked brussel sprouts-at least she used to-who knows now!)

After dinner, M lamented, "I just want something like a decent meal, like macaroni and cheese..." With a big sigh. D and I chuckled, but I know not to take it personally.

Moms (usually) tell me how upsetting it is when they work hard to make a nice meal and their children complain. Alas, you just have to get over this one. You did your job with feeding when you put the meal on the table. Whether the kids eat it or not is up to them.

You see, young children are tiny, irrational beings. They like something one day, hate it the next, especially if it gets a satisfying reaction from you. Cooking to please your child's tastes is a futile exercise, because it changes from moment to moment. Cook what you want to eat (make adjustments-I peeled her potatoes which she ate with ketchup) don't short order cook or worry if they eat little at some meals and lots others.

Here is what M would eat if she could meal plan:
Stir fry (She wondered if you could make it with marshmallows last week)
mac n cheese
turkey curry
ice cream
white rice (she complains when I make brown-but I still make it)

What might a week at your house look like if your toddler meal-planned???

Monday, May 10, 2010

vomiting- another reason to love Division of Responsibility

So this last weekend, we noticed that M's appetite had fallen off pretty dramatically. It's not unusual for kids to go through periods of more or less appetite. She otherwise was well, no fever or other symptoms and played at the park and slept her usual.

With the Division of Responsibility in feeding, I trusted her when she said she wasn't hungry, when she stopped eating after one or two bites. I would not think of pushing her to eat more as I have seen her eat more and less at times.

(Division of Responsibility: Parent decides: what, when, where kids eat. Kid decides how much and if...)

So, when the call came today from school that M had thrown up after lunch, the fall-off of appetite made sense. She was chipper when I got to school and explained the surprising "splat" and has now recovered to watch Peter Pan (Broadway version free from Netflix) and is eating popcorn...

Trusting her internal cues of hungry and full meant a pretty easy weekend of small meals and snacks. I can't imagine if I had tried to push her to eat more when perhaps she was starting to fight off a stomach bug. Glad I don't have to second guess that part of parenting! I let her do her job of deciding how much to eat.

How do you feed your children after they've been sick? I tend to relax the rules greatly and let her nibble and sip throughout the day on foods that she has an appetite for. I might regret letting her choose popcorn (I've never thrown up after eating popcorn-have you?) As a kid I loved jello with bananas, but M doesn't go for it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

does this look formal?

One commenter recently said her husband didn't grow up eating family meals and was reluctant because it felt very "formal" to him. Here are a couple shots of a dinner table, a breakfast, and an impromptu post-dinner puppet theater. M sat on my lap, I grabbed a pen and we laughed our heads off for fifteen minutes.

I remember growing up, hanging around after meals, even my brooding teen-aged brother would recline on our padded bench (it was a late 60's era awesome kitchen set) and hang out and chat.

How do you have fun around the table?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

how to make family meals happen and a note to the nutritionists at grand rounds!

Had a great time presenting to the pediatricians at Grand Rounds today on feeding dynamics and the current approach to childhood "obesity." Great group, great questions. (I didn't see anyone texting or sleeping, and since many were sleep-deprived residents, I'm pretty happy!)

I do want to mention that I shared some "horror stories" of bad advice clients have gotten from physicians and nutritionists, but I want to stress that there are many, many nutritionists and physicians who do wonderful work, who work within the feeding dynamics model. I was happy when a Children's dietitian spoke up at the end to let her colleagues and physicians know they work in the model, and don't just recommend organic mac-n-cheese as the solution to all your feeding concerns! I would say to the teams that take care of kids, know what models your team members work with. Get to know your nutritionists, read their evaluations. Send families to experts who support your message, not sabotage it.

A common theme that came up was the families they work with say they "can't" or are too busy for family meals. Too many sports, activities, eating fast food in the car...

I just keep coming back to being firm about how important structure and family meals are, encouraging families to make it a priority. Family meals mean kids eat better, have stable weight, less disordered eating, less picky, eat more fruits and veggies, overall success in life, less drugs/alcohol/tobacco...

One of the awesome tech support guys told a fun story after the talk. His son's girlfriend used to complain that the son's family dinners cramped the young couple's style, that she didn't like making plans around family dinners. Now though, she seeks them out, joins in and enjoys them. Starting with family meals may be hard, kids might complain at first. Stick with it. It is that important. As the genteleman said, "Our family meals are where we have the best times, the best memories." I would say it's more important than being in a third activity. Help your kids prioritize.

Have any of you made a successful transition to family meals? How did you make it happen?

pesto parm chicken

I had looked at Ellyn Satter's "Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family" as more of an academic text for my work with clients and as a speaker. I recommend it all the time to parents who are struggling with cooking or feeding, who struggle with feeding themselves well, or "hate" or feel intimidated by cooking. Family meals really matter that much, and this is the best resource I have yet seen to help make that happen.
Though I am am a regular and competent cook, I realized I had fallen into having a handful of meals or variants over and over. That's been fine (see my list of 60 recipes) but I needed to remind myself there are other ways to have potatoes than mashed!
I've started experimenting with Ellyn's recipes. From meatloaf (yummy) to roasted veggies and potatoes (also yummy!) Here was the standout. Clio's parm chicken. SOOOOO good! It was easy, smelled amazing and tasted even better. I served with boiled broccoli, noodles and a pseudo ratatouille (sliced onion, zucchini and tomato sauce with Italian herbs and garlic.) 4 year old M loved it too, and didn't even ask for ketchup (high praise!!)

Pesto Parm Chicken (Satter)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves, about 1 1/2 pounds (I used 3 halves for our family and still had leftovers...)
1 1/2 cups grated parm or Romano or Asiago (about 6 ounces)
6 Tbspns pesto (look for basil as the first ingredient)
(I had extra pesto since I used less chicken)

preheat oven to 425
Mix 2 Tbspns grated cheese with 6 Tbspns pesto. Rub or pat mixture onto chicken until light even coating. Sprinkle remaining cheese into a plate. Press both sides of the chicken into the cheese to form a coating. You might need to refresh your plate of cheese, careful not to contaminate the cheese after handling the raw chicken...
Place chicken into a baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or until internal temp is 165 degrees F

Let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Me and Meme Roth on the same page!?

Meme and I present two very different approaches to dealing with the pediatric "obesity epidemic."

Current paradigm of control, restriction, avoidance, external cues for eating...


Trust Model of eating with balance, following internal cues, feeding with structure and permission...

What do you think? Have you tried one or the other? What have the results been?

Children should gain weight to prevent head and face injuries!

I'm trying an experiment... This post didn't get much feedback so I am reposting with an attention-getting title. Sorry for those of you who already read this. Another post coming soon...

I recently picked up a medical journal. (April 2010, Journal of Pediatrics) Found this article:

Injury Patterns in Obese Versus Nonobese Children Presenting to a Pediatric Emergency Department.

Results section:
"Overall, obese and non-obese children had the same percentage of upper extremity injuries. However obese children were significantly more likely to have lower extremity injuries compared with upper extremity injuries than were non-obese children. In addition, obese children had significantly fewer head and face injuries than nonobese children.

"Obese children are significantly more likely to sustain lower extremity injuries than upper extremity injuries and less likely to sustain head and face injuries than nonobese children. Strategies for preventing lower extremity injuries among obese youth should be sought."

Read those two paragraphs again. When you hear about weight bias this is one example.

Here is the lay-media reporting on this article:
"Obese Kids Suffer More Leg, Foot, Ankle Injuries: Study " on
same headline on the NIH's website (National Instituet of Health) called Medline plus "Trusted Health Information for You." reports "Obese kids suffer more leg, foot injuries, study shows" same for Of the dozen or so articles on my quick search, two did mentioned the finding that obese children suffer from less head and face injuries...

Where to begin?
First off, the researchers themselves come to a biased and incomplete conclusion. I wonder, as head injuries are generally more severe than lower extremity injuries, were there also more deaths or permanent morbidity in the nonobese group? Then of course the lay media, without serious science journalists usually just picks up a press release without bothering to even read the actual study or even the synopsis and it gets picked up on hundreds of websites where the average reader gets one more dose of weight-based hysteria.

Imagine these headlines in an alternate universe– based on the same study results...

Nonobese children more likely to suffer serious head and face injuries!

Obesity in childhood protective of serious head and face injuries!

Children should gain weight to prevent head and face injuries!

Get a helmet for your child? Gaining weight might keep them safer!

Why your skinny child may be more at risk of dying-story at 11!

Just wanted to show one small example of how the data can be interpreted, picked up and reported by lay media. Why does the conclusion not also say, "Strategies for preventing head and face injuries in the nonobese population should be sought..." My guess is that childhood obesity is a hot topic right now. Lots of attention, lots of press, and maybe lots more funding for studies that focus on this issue...

What do you think? Does this make sense? Does it surprise, annoy you?