Thursday, December 31, 2009

feeding the sick child

When kids are sick, all bets are off, especially with infants and preverbal kiddos– appetite, hunger signals– it's just hard. Are they crying because their ears or throat hurt or are they hungry?
A client called the other day, worried that his baby boy was eating less again. They had made major gains with some feeding problems, and this illness was just plain scary. Dad was resorting to some feeding practices that hadn't been helpful earlier on, but he worried about his son's intake.
Taking care of sick kids IS scary and confusing for everyone, but especially for parents who already worry about a child's intake or size.
In general, sick infants and children eat less. When you are cued in to your child's appetite it can be an early sign that something is going on. My own daughter seemed to lose her appetite a few days before the runny nose or diarrhea (yuck) would start.
It can take more than a week for appetite to return to normal, and if your child is on any medicines, particularly antibiotics, that can make it even worse. Antibiotics taste bad and can interfere with normal bacteria in the gut.
Support your child by offering foods and drink often when they are ill. Throw away the usual schedule when your toddler is sick and let them nibble and sip throughout the day. That infant who normally nurses for 20 minutes might only nurse for 5, or bottle intake might drop in terms of quantity too. Instead of waiting 3-4 hours between feeds, try offering the bottle more often and not pressuring when they refuse it.
Kids don't have to eat much when they are ill for a few days. Even a few bites might be all they take. Consider giving popsicles, jello or watered down juice to age appropriate kids when they are sick to boost fluid intake.
Have faith that their appetite will return when they feel better, and see your doctor if it doesn't. Know that the trust model of feeding is flexible and that you can get back to regular feeding and schedules when your child is better. (There might be a little whining for jello, but you'll know how to handle that too!)

If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to see your child's health care provider. If they are listless or acting off, don't hesitate to contact and ask them questions. (Kids can get dehydrated with diarrheal or vomiting illnesses, so be sure to check in with your doc.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

dinner patchwork

As much as I love to cook, it is simply not possible for me to be sane and balanced and make all from-scratch meals every night with several choices of foods. To make family meals work for me, and for many families, I recommend a combination of from-scratch, relying on left-overs, and prepared foods. (Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family, Ellyn Satter is a great resource.)

The other night, we had a DiGiorno frozen pizza (it was yummy, thin crust...) with leftover home-made butternut squash soup (from the freezer) and a plate of cut up veggies and dip. M ate the soup, veggies and pizza, a pretty well-rounded meal, and it was ready in under 25 minutes!
If you are new to cooking, don't set the bar too high. Start with eating what you eat now at meal times with your family. Maybe add a side of peas or applesauce. If you're going through a crisis with work or at home and you need to rely on take-out or frozen foods for a few weeks, don't feel guilty. Do the best you can, and don't beat yourself up! Get back to it when you feel ready and energized. If you make it too hard, or feel badly about cooking, you are more likely to give up. Good luck!

Squash soup. YUMMY!
1 butternut squash (or acorn)
1 large or 2 small leeks (can use an onion instead)
1 1/2 -2 boxes of chicken or veggie broth (less for thicker soup, more for thinner soup...)
hand immersion blender or regular blender
1-2 Tbspns butter
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger (optional, or garlic)
parsley optional

preheat oven to 400 degrees, cut squash in half lengthwise and place face down on foiled cookie sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until you can easily pierce squash with fork.
Take out and cool. Scoop out cooked squash into broth and leeks...

Meanwhile remove outer leaves from leek and cut off bottom roots and top darker green leaves. slice the leek in half (white and pale green parts) and get dirct out from between leaves under running water. Slice into 1/2 inch slices.

In large soup pan or dutch overn, melt butter and sautee squash about 10 minutes, don't let butter scorch. Add small amount broth if needed. When done, add the broth and stir. Cook about 10 minutes, add ginger, cook another 5-10 minutes or so. If you have an immersion blender, blend in the pot, if not, let it cool and pour into another pot. Scoop 1-2 cups at a time into blender and transfer back into pot. USE CAUTION if blending hot liquids. Best to wait, cover the top with a tea towel if still hot. May add 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream for richer, creamier soup, but we like it just as it is... It freezes great! Makes about 6-8 servings depending on how much you eat! This makes a great meal with bread with butter and cheese...
Salt and pepper to taste and add fresh snipped parsley if desired.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

calcium strategies and side dish recipe

M is still choosing water over milk most meals, so the easy way of getting plenty of calcium is not happening right now. I continue to not pressure- though it is tempting!
Here are a few ways I'm 0ffering dairy/milk in yummy ways.
•She is eating more cereal with breakfast.
•We enjoy whole wheat crackers like Wheatables or TLC with whipped cream cheese and fruit for snack.
•Oatmeal with milk and a splash of evaporated milk.
•Muffin-tin easy gratins (above right) now easier and more calcium!

More calcium Potato Gratin minis (adapted from Melissa d'Arabian)
prep time 10-15 (with a preschool helper) cooking time 40

* Vegetable spray
* 2 large potatoes or 4-5 smaller ones, roughly peeled and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup grated cheese (I've done Jarlsberg and cheddar- any mildish cheese should work...)
* 2 green onions, finely chopped (I use the softer parts of a small leek which I usually have in the fridge)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* evaporated milk (about half a can)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray 6 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and onions (leeks) into each muffin cup. (I do potato, leeks, cheese, potato, cheese on top...) Season with salt and pepper and pour enough evaporated milk to fill the muffin tin half way. Cover loosely with foil (I spray foil with veggie oil so the foil doesn't stick and pull off the cheese) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Scoop them onto plate and serve. We ALL love these!!!

And today we had a "tea party" with her tea set. (It was given to her at age 2, but she wasn't ready for it so I put it away and she got it again this Christmas...)
We all had tea. M LOVED the ritual of pouring herself a little tea, then a lot of milk and stirring in some sugar. Yes, there is a little caffeine in the tea, but I figure British kids have been doing this for hundreds of years... My brother as a 3-year-old used to have "Kafe" with my mom. A tiny bit of coffee, lots of milk and some sugar. M felt really grown up and enjoyed having tea with us. She drank several milky cups! (Then had fun washing the cups in the sink.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

intake analysis (diet diary)

One tool that is proving so helpful to my clients is the seven day intake analysis. I ask families that I work with to keep track of what their child is offered and what they eat for 7 days. Hydee, FFD's fabulous pediatric nutritionist then works her magic. She breaks down macro and micro-nutrients and then I go over the report with families to review schedules, intake and areas for improvement. My clients LOVE the information because it usually brings peace of mind. This is a case where more information helps them relax and do a better job with feeding.That mom who worries about protein?
Finding out her child is getting plenty allows her to relax and back off the pressure with feeding.
The dad who thinks his daughter is eating too many calories?
Finds out she is getting within the recommended amount. That reassurance allows him to focus on doing his job– providing regular and satisfying meals and snacks and gives him the courage to stop restricting her intake. He can let her do her job- deciding how much to eat.
The mom worried about fruits and veggies?
Finds out her three year old is low on fats and Vitamin E. Learns that she's pretty close on fruits and veggies. Adding fats helps those veggies taste better and improves texture and the child enjoys and eats more.

If you would like to explore having an intake analysis and consultation with our team, call 1-888-848-6802 or email

Friday, December 18, 2009





There are over 45 recipes at your fingertips. Click on "recipe" on the right of the blog lists.

mac n cheese night

Shells & White Cheddar  package photo We had swim class last night and then I had a school outing right after dinner, so it was mac n cheese night. This is one of M's favorite meals. Lots of kids eat mac n cheese for dinner. Families tell me the kids eat mac n cheese, mom and dad eat "real food."

Doing mac n cheese, or another quick, kid-friendly meal? Find something the whole family can eat. We had mac n cheese (shells with white cheddar, also comes in whole wheat) with peas. M helped stir the sauce, butter and evaporated milk together. We also had 2 bunches of asparagus with it (cooked about 8 minutes in boiling water) with pink sauce. M also helped whisk and taste the pink sauce.

Asparagus how to. Cut off bottom inch or so. Wash. Boil water in a large deep pan, add asparagus, cook 8 minutes or until desired. I don't like mine too cooked (pale green and mushy) but I also don't like them crunchy which is how most restaurants serve them these days. (I had "blanched" green beans at a fancy restaurant last month and basically had hot, raw green beans. Heck, I could do that at home!) If you've only had canned asparagus, give the fresh a try! On sale at Target right now for $1.99 a pound.

sounds gross but its yummy, a slightly sweet, home-made thousand island-ish

I always make this without a recipe. Some nights I like it a little more tangy (more vinegar...) I take whole cooked asparagus (cut off bottom inch or so) and dip in the sauce (we double dip at home, or give each person their own bowl to double dip...)

Miracle Whip (regular or light) about 1/3 cup
evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed) about 2-3 tablespoons (more for thinner sauce)
white vinegar (I have white balsamic on hand) about 1-2 Tablespoons
ketchup about 1 Tablespoon

let your kids squirt and whisk. Ask him to taste it and see what more might be needed. Start with smaller amounts and have fun!

We all sat down together and ate mac n cheese and asparagus. It was yummy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food Cop from an eating disorder perspective

I love this post by author and eating disorder activist, Laura Collins. Here is an excerpt:

"The grocery store is a guided map to "low" "no" "free" consumption that we then drive somewhere to "work" off in measured increments of self-loathing. We eat inside a moral sculpture in the shape of our bodies.

This is the hectoring unpleasantness we call healthy. This is the lifestyle we laud and the new Kool-Aid we give the kids. Do too much of it and you'll be the "Food Police" and do too little and you are part of the Childhood Obesity Crisis. The margin of normal? Vanishingly thin."

I like her passion and her observations. I also bemoan the fact that "normal" eating in our culture is completely abnormal. Having worked in a University Health Clinic, I saw a glimpse of the devastation that an eating disorder can bring on a patient and her/his family.

Thanks for your voice, Laura! Please check out her website FEAST for information for families and parents struggling with this illness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

mindful vs mindless eating

In the book, Mindless Eating, the author comes up with all kinds of ideas to help you lose weight: cut out the handfull of candy at the office, use smaller plates, use less cream in your coffee, switch to diet drinks... The thinking is, that by skipping the soda a day, or using one cream instead of two, you would save 100 calories a day and magically lose 10 pounds a year! This is just not how our bodies work. In fact, if they worked that way, I would have gained alot of weight these last few years.
You see, since having a child and having to learn to eat in a way that is mindful and trusting of my body, I have done lots of little things that in theory would add 100 calories a day. I now eat a small candy bar a few times a week with coffee (occasionally even two.) I eat tortilla chips with lunch a few times a week- full fat! Mostly I drink milk and water, but many weekday lunches, I enjoy mango smoothies or real soda, usually satisfied with a half a can or so. I have stopped eating fat-free yogurt (or fat-free anything for that matter.) I eat more eggs. And recently, I've been baking and eating lots of bread -fresh, crusty bread. Initially I would eat 2 or 3 pieces thinking , "This is so good, I probably shouldn't eat so much, but I'm trying to eat in a way that trusts my body, so I will eat what I have an appetite for." Versus be "good" and eat one piece, then craving and eating way more than I originally would if I just let myself eat enough in the first place! (An example of what I consider mindless eating.) I enjoyed my bread this way for a number of weeks. Nothing changed. My clothes fit the same, I otherwise ate the same way- satisfying meals and snacks. Soon thereafter my appetite for bread lessened. I could eat half a piece and still enjoy and savour it. My body figured it out.

What all the standard mindless eating thinking ignores is that it is more complicated than calories in/calories out. When we try to cognitively control what we eat- by points, plate size, strict portion control- we don't do a very good job at it.
You see, our bodies can compensate. Not maybe every day, but over days and weeks if we eat in a way that is truly tuned in to what our bodies need. Maybe I ate a candy bar's worth of calories less over the next few days? I have weighed within 15 pounds since I was 16. I stayed the same the summers I swam 2 hours a day, or the months when I did no exercise and ate Coke and Doritos at 2 in the morning during residency. (I probably also don't have a genetic predisposition to gain weight easily.)

How can we support eating well and trusting our bodies?
We need to give ourselves permission to eat what tastes good, and enough of it. We need to be disciplined enough to provide regular meals and snacks and to give some thought to nutrition when planning what to eat. We need to tune in to and enjoy food while we are eating it. There is room for the handful of candy at the office or the cream that makes your coffee heavenly. This can be harder for some than others. (See my website for information on the How to Eat series.)

How do we screw up eating well and our body's amazing self-regulation powers?
Diet, overexercise, deprivation, eating cognitively instead of intuitively. Losing weight or eating less calories than your body needs triggers a cascade of hormonal, neural and psychological factors that work really hard to get your body back to it's previous weight, often overshooting the mark and even resetting the weight your body will strive to maintain. Dieiting impairs your body's internal regulation system.

Practice mindful, not mindless eating.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Close your eyes, you might like it...

You'd think I was talking about broccoli, or some other challenging food, but I was talking to my 4 yo about a Snickers bar. Yes, I actually encouraged my kiddo to try a candy bar, and it was for breakfast... For those of you that I haven't totally freaked out, let me explain.
Recently I have been enjoying a fun-size Snickers with my afternoon coffee. I left one on the kitchen table and at breakfast M saw it and said with excietment, "Can I eat this for breakfast" Now usually I would say no and move on, but she's not had candy with breakfast except on one or two occasions and it wasn't one she usually asks for.
Me: "You can chose if you want it with breakfast or with dinner for dessert."
M:"I want it now. It doesn't have nuts in it, does it???" she whined with crinkled nose.
Me: "It does. Maybe if you close your eyes you might like it?"
Wait a minute, what was I doing? I remember my Dad saying that to me very sternly when I was little. "Close your eyes and eat it" if I complained that something looked gross. Was I pressuring?

These are the moments with feeding that I stop and check in with myself. (Something I ask parents to do when things aren't going well or they feel anger or frustration with a feeding situation.) What are my motives? What is my baggage around this issue? Am I pushing? Am I getting push-back? Are we emotionally in a good place? Are we getting upset or are things pretty pleasant and neutral still?

No. It didn't feel like pressure. I casually offered her the option of closing her eyes and mentioned that she might like it. She closed her eyes for the first bite and enjoyed the Snickers bar, somewhat surprised. She drank milk, had half a banana and a clementine and half a piece of buttered whole wheat bread with it. Not too shabby nutritionally, and it was a pleasant breakfast that felt special to her. Will I make a habit of it? No, but part of feeding is to be able to be flexible at times. If she had refused or not wanted to try it, I would have said, "Fine, you can have toast and fruit, and I could also make oatmeal."
Sometimes a gentle suggestion, given with the intention of honoring variety and being open to new tastes, versus pressure or trying to get your kid to eat something can help. When M doesn't want to try something, sometimes just saying, "OK, your napkin is right here in case you want to try it and spit it out." I then move on with my meal, usually eating the food that she refuses to try and most of the time in a minute or two she will be happily eating the offending food. See what works for you. Be careful not to push-you usually just get pushed right back.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes...

I tried a bread machine for awhile and gave up. I love crusty loaves, but didn't love paying 3-5$ at the grocery store or bakery.
This seems to be one instance where the product lives up to the hype. It IS revolutionizing home baking– at least at our house. A neighbor gave me a business card of a local doc-turned bread cookbook author and I ordered a book. It's called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I tried it and fell in love. (Picture is of European peasant loaf with rye and whole wheat flour.)

pluses: quick and easy
•M helps me measure and mix the ingredients (takes about 5 minutes)
•no kneading
•tastes awesome!
•relatively little investment for book and materials
•kid loves it
•home-made bread on a weeknight
•the container takes up space in the fridge
•can't do a really high fiber or whole wheat content with this method
•did need an oven thermometer (our over in off by 60 degrees)
•bought a pizza stone
•now that it's colder, I am routinely letting the bread rise twice the recommended time (My FIL left a loaf out overnight and baked it and said it was delicious...)

If you like bread, the book, or a fresh loaf is a great idea for a Holiday gift. Yummy! (We've baked about 3 loaves a week for the last 2 months.) M likes it for breakfast. It's also an easy part oaf a snack. (I put butter on and wrap it up and bring some fruit and water and it's a good snack on the go.) I also recommend visiting their website and watching their video on the technique. It's really helpful.

Next post will be a musing on internal regulation and mindful eating. Long and short is when I first started baking the bread I ate lots of it and enjoyed it. Stay tuned.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dr. Oz big fat questionable diagnosis

As I was wrapping 24 little advent gifts for our traditional German advent wall-hanging, I was forced to settle for Dr. Oz's medical show. (Again, why a cardiac surgeon is giving general medical advice is beyond me. See an old rant...) A gentleman stood up and asked if his hot flashes and night sweats were normal. With no further questioning, Dr. Oz basically told the man that he had a hormonal imbalance, akin to menopause and he could reduce his circulating estrogen by losing his belly fat. This gentleman was "average" to below average build, don't know if he was fit or had other health factors, but the first thing that jumped to my mind was not that he needed to lose a fairly insignificant amount of belly fat.
Since I've been learning about eating and wellness, I have become much more sensitive to instances of weight bias, which can manifest as a willingness to assign weight as the cause of a condition without any kind of indication it is a factor, and with potential danger in ignoring other possible factors– such as night sweats being a symptom of lymphoma and other serious illness.
Chances are he does not have lymphoma, but was any purpose served by blowing this off as an unlikely hormone imbalance? Will some guy at home who is a little heavy ignore night sweats now as simply another by-product of being big?
FYI, here is an excerpt of possible things that can cause night sweats...
Night sweats are a common outpatient complaint, yet literature on the subject is scarce. Tuberculosis and lymphoma are diseases in which night sweats are a dominant symptom, but these are infrequently found to be the cause of night sweats in modern practice. While these diseases remain important diagnostic considerations in patients with night sweats, other diagnoses to consider include human immunodeficiency virus, gastroesophageal reflux disease, obstructive sleep apnea, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, and several less common diseases. Antihypertensives, antipyretics, other medications, and drugs of abuse such as alcohol and heroin may cause night sweats. Serious causes of night sweats can be excluded with a thorough history, physical examination, and directed laboratory and radiographic studies. If a history and physical do not reveal a possible diagnosis, physicians should consider a purified protein derivative, complete blood count, human immunodeficiency virus test, thyroid-stimulating hormone test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate evaluation, chest radiograph, and possibly chest and abdominal computed tomographic scans and bone marrow biopsy. (Am Fam Physician 2003;67:1019-24. Copyright© 2003 American Academy of Family Physicians.)

Just thought it was interesting. Another example of weight bias: a woman sprains her ankle, her BMI is 26 ("overweight" range.) Though she is an athlete with high muscle mass and her BMI is not indicative of any increased health risks, her physician says she probably sprained her ankle because she is "overweight." (Playing ultimate frisbee on wet grass had nothing to do with it...)
What are your thoughts and experiences?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

India House buffet

I must again wax poetic about the benefits of a buffet when eating with children. (Read an old post for lots of restaurant ideas and tips for buffets with kids.)

No waiting for food (how many little toys can you cram into your purse or diaper bag to keep them happy for those interminable 20 minutes while you wait for your food– if you're lucky it's only 20 minutes.)
Tying new things without a big financial commitment, or too much waste
Not too pricey

We have long loved Indian food, and particularly the buffets. We found a new restaurant to us on Grand Ave in St. Paul. It's called India House and we enjoyed ourselves and the food.
Another bonus when eating with small kids is that they have booths. I am a huge fan. I have a kid who has shunned boosters since getting out of her high chair. She prefers to kneel (even though her feet fall asleep sometimes which is not fun...) and booths are a safe way to sit.
They have options for even the pickiest kids and adults. White rice, Nan bread, cucumbers with ranch, and our favorites are the chiken Tikka with a mild sauce, chick peas and Alu Gobi (curried cauliflower and potatoes.) There are spicy dishes too, but a nice variety.
First time there or eating Indian food? Get a few small plates of the dishes and bring them to the table so the kids can serve themselves family-style. Go in with a positive and curious attitude, don't force anyone to try something they don't want to and enjoy it! Even if they only smell, or lick something new, it's progress and you've had fun. Remember anyone can spit out a food they don't want to swallow, they just have to do it politely.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

talking to kids about food

Wedge Community Co-opHere's a link to my article on talking to kids about food. Do you think we talk about food and nutrition entirely too much, or not enough? Are we as a culture sending the wrong messages? I think so, read it and tell me what you think!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Division of Responsibility for physical activity

I want to raise a daughter that is happy and healthy, who enjoys moving her body and has a good level of fitness. There are ample studies that confirm that fitness is a better marker of health than BMI (which the American Heart Association has outright said is not a good clinical marker for health.) So, how do we get our kids to be more active without turning into a drill sargaent who will turn our kids off of physical activity? (See recent post about parents pressuring kids to be more active.)
Basically, follow the
Division of Responsibility. Regular readers know that with feeding this means your job as a parent is to provide what, when and where the child eats, the child then decides if and how much.
The same should be true for activity. The parent's job is to provide the opportunity for physical activity, the structure and support and then leave it up to the child. The more you push, the more they will resist.
It's been fascinating for me to watch my own case study, now almost 4. Her innate level of activity has jumped recently. She seems to go through cycles– very active as a crawler and toddler, a little less so around 2-3, now more active again. We went to the sculpture garden recently and she ran the whole time (photo top.) She had endless interest in hide-and-seek, ran across the bridge to Loring Park to the playground. A few months ago she would have been riding in the stroller. She runs around the house in angel wings, starts spontaneous games of bowling with cups and materials scavenged from the recycling bin, jumps on our second-hand
jogging trampoline, launches herself into piles of beanbags etc... I sometime wish she could sit still for all of Finding Nemo, but I can't force her to watch TV either, no matter how much I could use the break!

Tips for supporting activity:
1) Don't push it, allow them to find their natural rhythm.
2) NO TVs in the bedroom, limit TV watching to what feels right for you, but no more than 2 hours (for some folks it might be none, or 20 minutes...)
2) Make a point of being active in a fun way, ride bikes to the park, set up indoor obstacle courses (we actually had no furniture in half our living room when she was little so she could run and jump on couch cushions) indoor bowling, velcro darts...
3) Find something they like to do and sign up for a class. Rec centers are great for this. Be careful not to over-program your kids to the point that you miss out on Family Dinners regularly.
4) Go for Winter lights walks. Bundle up after dark, bring a flashlight or glowstick ($1 for a bunch at Michaels) Even if you have to bring them in the stroller or wagon for awhile, get in the habit of moving your bodies in a fun way together.
5) Make a list of scavenger items for a walk, Snelling State Park is full of deer and wild turkey. We almost always see them! (Ask them to collect pine-cones, a tiny rock, a feather...)
6) Make your own fitness about having fun and feeling good, if weight loss is your goal, you are less likely to enjoy yourself and continue with the activity.
7) Play music with a great beat, and dance with them
8) Be positive, telling a child they are fat or need to lose weight is the best way to get them to be LESS active. Don't talk about weight at all.
Have fun!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

kids in the kitchen

Studies show that kids who are involved in food prep are more likely to enjoy and try a variety of foods. I found this stalk of brussels sprouts at the local market. It was fun for M to see how they grow and taste the difference between the bigger ones at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. As usual, when she helps me make dinner, she nibbles on the veggies, a sort of appetizer/pick-me-up while we still have 30-45 minutes to wait.
I had some Thousand Island Dressing which she had never had, so she poured some into a little bowl and ate about 4 sprouts raw. (See my post about eating raw sprouts and how to prep and cook them.)
She pulled them off the stalk with a satisfying "snap" and then I cut off part of the stalk and outer leaves. I cut them in half and she dipped and nibbled. She again chose not to eat any of the cooked sprouts.
  • Don't get into battles. I did not ask or force her to try any cooked sprouts. Her attitude about eating is more important than what she eats any given day.
  • Involve kids in food prep when you can.
  • Include dips as a way to introduce new foods. Small children need fat for brain development and proper nutrition, don't be too stingy with fats. (Infants and toddlers need 30-40% of their calories from fat...)

Friday, November 20, 2009

BMI as false clinical marker

I read a nice post by a medical student that is a great illustration of how BMI is being misused as a clinical marker. The sad thing is this is a lecture going on today. Lots of misinformation abounds and our future docs are being trained this way. (Please see the photo of the man with the "obese" BMI of 32...)
It reminds me of my friend who mentioned that every time she took her healthy, athletic son to the doctor, from birth to 6 years, she was told he is "obese." He is healthy, active, normal, eats well and is in no way at increased risk of illness. In fact, labeling him, or trying to change what they are doing is likely to cause more harm than good.
I wish I had known more about the Health at Every Size paradigm when I was in practice. I always felt something was off in how we dealt with weight concerns and wellness. Focusing on BMI and not behaviors means we misdiagnose some healthy people (with higher BMIs) as having problems, and we miss folks with "normal" BMIs who may be at greater risk for illness. It is a false marker in the vast majority of cases. Food for thought...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

trust is not always easy

It happened again today. Another one of those moments when I said aloud, "Thank God for Ellyn Satter."
Let me explain. I found Ellyn Satter and the Division or Responsibility in feeding first as a concerned mother and second as a professional. I have made it my job to spread the word about the beauty and importance of a healthy feeding relationship– and I still get tested at home.
Milk. Calcium. It's that important. M always drank enough milk to cover her calcium needs until about 8 weeks ago. Abruptly and matter of factly she refused milk and always opted for water at meals and snacks. Without milk, she was not getting the recommended amount of calcium. She ate small amounts of yogurt, ice-cream and cream cheese, but not "enough." I did better about drinking milk at meals to provide an example, but I stuck to my job, and let her do hers. That is, I offered milk and if she refused, I did not lecture, pressure, bribe, praise or cajole her to try to get her to drink milk. I trusted that it would work out.
What would I tell my clients? "Trust that if you drink milk as a family, that she too will return to it." I gave myself the same pep talks and advice that I share with clients. "It will take time, be patient. Her attitude about eating and meals is more important than what she eats on any given day." (As Ellyn puts it.) Then weeks went by and no milk. I offered home-made hot chocolate which she drank happily for awhile, made oatmeal with milk, cooked with condensed milk, bought rice pudding again, which she refuses to try so far. (See addendum on Calcium in Child of Mine for more great ideas...) I supported her calcium intake with my cooking while I waited for her to come back to milk.
But why was it taking so long! My resolve was wearing away. This morning I woke up and thought about milk. Do I start only offering milk? I know she likes it... No. I will trust that this will work out and stop worrying about it.
Then, at breakfast, she had a banana and dry cereal and an apple (bread and butter was on offer, but she didn't want it.) I was drinking milk with my toast and she asked for some milk in her cereal (first time in months.) Then she proceeded to have several small servings of cereal and milk (she likes her Kix crunchy...) She certainly got an adequate serving this morning.
It was such a powerful reminder and example of how kids will do well with feeding if we support them and don't bring pressure into the equation. What would our lives be like if I had pressured and pushed milk a few weeks ago? Would we be in battles every day over milk? Would it turn her off milk for years, possibly forever (like my relative who literally gagged down a glass of warm milk every morning and now won't drink it...)
It reminds me of the anxiety and worry my clients have over fruits, vegetables, quantities, calcium, protein etc. These experiences with my daughter are amazing first-hand affirmations of the model of feeding I teach. I face challenges with feeding, but I have the tools and skills to handle them and I want to pass those skills along.
"Hang in there," I told myself, and I tell my clients. If you can stick with it, truly and honestly, and get the pressure out of feeding, chances are very good that your child will eat better and your family will be a lot happier.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I recently read some books about "locavores," people who only eat what can be produced locally, and I came away feeling a mix of inspiration and guilt for not doing more. As you know, my mantra is "taking anxiety and conflict off the menu," so in an effort to reduce my anxiety I decided to look into it a little further.

Living in Minnesota, eating only local seems like an impossible task. Also, with a small child still developing her tastes, I want to expose her to a wide variety of produce, and buying local or seasonal-only is hard to do. (In my fantasy world, I would buy all local and organic and can them for use in the winter, but that's not happening!)

Since I choose to eat "out of season" foods, I face a further dilemma:

Do I buy organic from Mexico or California, or a local conventionally grown product?

Now that the farm-fresh tomatoes are over, what to do!? Bushel Boy brands- a Minnesota company- sells tomatoes and lettuce at co-ops, Whole Foods and Target. Cherry tomatoes are a favorite for my daughter, and we just had delicious large tomato slices on BLT's. Their "live" lettuce mix which comes with the roots and dirt are great and stay fresh a long time which helps with meal planning.

I wrote to Bushel Boy to ask more about what they do. Aside from supporting a Minnesota company, they seem to be really dedicated to making a tasty, safe, local product, which employs Minnesotans, and importantly reduces shipping. Trucking a tomato from California is a heavy carbon load. In addition to reusing water at the facility, here is an excerpt of other practices at Bushel Boy:

"We really do not want to use chemicals on our plants. We pollinate with live bees and if we spray we risk killing off all our hives which is very expensive. Also, chemicals weaken our plants and make them less resistant to stress. We have 3 full-time people that we call "scouts." They monitor our plants constantly for insects and signs of stress and disease. If they find an insect problem, we monitor it. If necessary we will bring in "predator" insects to take care of the problems ones. Once the problem is taken care of, the predator insects die out. There have been times when we've had to spray. All chemicals we use are FDA approved for use on tomato plants. We have, and follow, strict guidelines for the use of ANYTHING that goes on our plants for the protection of our employees, our plants, and of course, our customers!"

In addition, Zoie, a local food producer from Lucille's Kitchen Garden had the following to say on the topic:

" I generally prioritize local over organic with a preference for local sustainable. I do this for a couple of reasons. First of all I believe there is a huge flavor difference. I have my daughter pick out our produce by smell which gets her really excited about preparing our food. I have found that when I simply ask her which smells better, it is always the freshest. Secondly, food miles are currently my number one "green concern." Since we don't have a ton of large vegetable farmers with the exception of Bushel Boy, most of our local produce is grown in a sustainable manner. I should say that I am very thankful for Bushel Boy for offering us tomatoes that taste like tomatoes earlier in the season! Controls in other countries vary as far as organic goes and one must factor in general pollution as well. Thirdly, I like to keep money in our area. I think it is important to keep a good variety of industry in MN, so I try to keep as much money in the local economy to encourage that. "

Kristin Hamaker, personal chef and owner of Farm to Fork agrees, "I worked as a farm hand for an entire year for a farm that operated under the strictest organic practices. I mean we did so much the old-fashioned way, without any sprays or toxins. And yet our farmer, Charlie, could still not call his farm organic because he could not afford the certification. But he did talk to people about his methods and that satisfied them. Organic is important for our health, but local is too, particularly for the health of the community. Local foods, especially organic ones, just usually taste better and are more nutritious, because they haven't been sitting on a truck across country for any number of days. Fresh is flavor and nutritionally better."

Hope that helps and doesn't just add to the confusion!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

non-food birthday rituals

My daughter celebrated her fourth birthday at school recently. It's a Montessori school with kids from ages 3-6 in one classroom. The school has a "low sugar" policy, and I'm not exactly sure what that means, but part of that is there are no sweets and treats for birthdays or special occasions. I also don't have to deal with bags of candy for each holiday from her little classmates. (M certainly gets "sugar" in the lunches I pack, with a home-made cookie or rice-krispie treat or jello about half the days along with her cherry tomatoes or cucumber salad and left-overs...)
The parents are invited to celebrate the birthday with the child, and I don't think anyone missed sweets at all. In fact, it was a lovely celebration of M's life. The children all sit on the floor while the birthday child walks around a candle once for each year of her life. The parents are invited to share a special story about that year and the children sing a lovely song. It was all very special and more of a celebration than a tray of quickly consumed cupcakes might have been. M had cupcakes at her party and cake for the family celebration in case any of you worry that she is being deprived! :)
We incorporate sweets and treats in our menu planning, and I guess I am thankful that the school doesn't have a constant parade at all hours of sweet treats. I know that their snacks offer protein, fat and carb and I get to pack her lunch. (We offer sweets during certain snack or meal times with a protein if possible like a glass of milk so it lasts longer and doesn't spoil her appetite.)
You might find out what your school or childcare does. I would worry if the policy on food is too strict. If the school tries to limit portions of foods (in the name of health or "obesity prevention") or serves snacks with only carbs (graham crackers and juice or water) with no fat or protein, I would be concerned. Also ask that the adults feeding your children don't enforce "growing food" before dessert rules, or make kids feel bad about the foods they eat. The adult's job should be to provide a pleasant atmosphere, limit distractions, help the children set out the food, and if possible model enjoying a variety of foods. They also need to adhere to the division of responsibility and not push your child to eat more or less than he wants to. (See and scroll down to resources under child care policy where you can download a PDF and bring it to your school or daycare if you have concerns...)

per request, another post about rituals with kids...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

training with Ellyn Satter

I will be off to Madison to train with my mentor, Ellyn Satter this week. I'm super excited to go down again this year and see the person who has been so influential in my personal and professional life. I'll be training in her Eating Competence Model (ecSatter) and learning more about working with adults.
Lots of the moms I meet tell me that they themselves struggle with eating or a history of an eating disorder. A great resource is "Secrets to Feeding a Healthy Family." As we try to teach our children to be competent eaters, sometime we moms need to learn it for ourselves.
I'll be back on the blogs after the 9th, or sooner if I can catch some downtime in Madison!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Multi-vitamins and DHA

The three inches of snow last week reminded me that it's time to start a multivitamin again. This year it seemed like everything has DHA in it. Ever wary of the latest "trends," I did my own research, and then conferred with our fabulous pediatric nutritionist, Hydee. (Multivitamin is recommended in Northern climes from October through March mainly for Vitamin D since we don't see the sun much!)

Here's what she has to say...

"I do think that including omega 3 fatty acids in your child's diet or supplements is important. They are essential fatty acids after all. They are important for brain function, normal growth and development. The best way to get them would be from food and that would be to eat fish twice a week, as the American Heart Association suggests. But that just doesn't seem to happen for most Midwestern families. Omega 3 fatty acids are also present in nuts, seeds, oil, and soy beans. It is also in fortified eggs, bread, and margarine. The amount recommended for adults is 1 gram a day, about the amount in one tuna fish sandwich.

The precise safe and effective doses of all types of omega 3 fatty acids in children has not been established. And there is some concern about mercury contamination of supplements made with fish oil because the FDA doesn't regulate supplements. Some companies that use fish oil go through the process of third party testing. One company that comes to mind is Nordic Naturals. Yes, this is one that is difficult to find unless you go to the food co-op or other natural health food store. I don't think you have to purchase supplements there, but I would certainly want to know more about the supplement that contains fish oil before giving it to my child or taking it myself. One way to get around the issue of contamination is to purchase a supplement that contains a vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids. The one I give to my child and take myself is LilCritters Omega-3 Gummy Fish (it is non-allergenic and also doesn't have artificial colors or flavors). "

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

friends don't let friends eat with fat people

Don't let your kid eat with fat kids or she'll get fat, right? Isn't that what that latest study says? Read the link above for a thoughtful analysis on only one of the many flawed and incomplete studies out there.

I love Ellyn's newsletters and urge everyone to go on over and sign up and peruse the archives. She does a lovely job explaining the much-hyped study about big kids eating more with other big kids. I won't bother going into why studies like this make me crazy, because Ellyn says it all so well. Check it out and think about it. Next time you hear some study about kids and food, or obesity or soda etc. ask yourself if the study even considered how the child is being fed, or restricted.

Monday, October 26, 2009

new yogurt love

I LOVE this product. It's a little pricey, but I usually take two sittings to eat one. (I like to eat half at breakfast with toast and/or an egg and fruit, and the rest with a snack later in the day.) Its FAGE, but pronounced Fa-ye. It's the Greek yogurt which means it has lots of protein which is important for long-lasting, even energy (10 grams per package.) Don't forget every meal and snack needs to offer fat, protein and carb. This would be great for a kid who might not be into eggs or peanut butter for breakfast.
I love the creamy texture and flavor. It feels very rich and it fills me up, unlike most yogurt. I can also add as much of the fruit flavor as I want, so I use a little less than the full amount so it's not too sweet.
It's a little gimmicky, but the fruit ones have a little cup of fruit that you mix in. My 4 year old thought that was neat, and since she is choosing milk over water these days, this is a nice source of calcium too. I buy the 2% so that there is some fat in there as well.
You can get them at Target, Whole Foods, Lunds and more. They are pretty pricey, so I stock up when they go on sale.
Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

apple orchard recipe/easy apple cake

This is my mom's recipe for an apple cake I grew up with. I love the simple yellow cake and the way the apples get a little but soft, but still maintain their shape and flavor.
Kids can help out with the measuring and mixing, apple cutting if old enough, pushing the apples into the cake and of course sprinkling the powdered sugar! (M was a bit heavy-handed with the sugar, but it was still delicious!)
Sorry this is by weight, this is the German way of cooking, and officially the "best" way to bake as flour etc can settle and weight is more accurate. I have a little kitchen scale that I use.

Apple Cake
1 stick butter (room temp and sliced)
3-5 apples depending on size, peeled, cored and cut into thirds or quarters. I like a mix of tart and sweet but any will do really. Use enough to push into the dough, but not overcrowd-see photo
150 grams sugar (2/3 cup)
2 large or 3 small eggs
200 grams sifted flour (roughly 1 3/4 cup flour I think...)
2 1/2 tspns baking powder
2-4 Tbspns milk

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and slowly add sugar. Add eggs one at a time and cream. Add sifted flour and baking powder and blend. Fold in cut walnuts if you want. Peel and cut apples into quarters. Score the tops of the apple slices about 2 mm deep- makes them look really pretty and cooks better. Add 2-4 Tbspns milk and mix until dough is thick but can pour into the cake form (thicker than pancake batter, but not a cookie dough.) Grease and flour a spring-form cake pan. Pour batter in, and spread it around. (It will seem like a very thin layer.) Push the apples into the dough in a pattern, about 1/2 way submerged. Put in oven for 40-50 minutes until cake is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on wire wrack and dust with powdered sugar (shake it through a sieve.) YUMMY!

Monday, October 19, 2009

broccoli romanesque experiment update

So here it is, the romanesque broccoli. I couldn't find a quick/easy recipe online so I cooked it the way I usually eat cauliflower since we all like that, and I know how to do it.
I made my white sauce (classic bechamel) and steamed the romanesque.
I think I overcooked it a little (it got kind of a drab green...) I thought it was OK, but I prefer cauliflower. DH said he liked it and thinks he would prefer it to cauliflower, M loved it, and ate it. I don't think she noticed it was any different from cauliflower.

They say the cook is the "gatekeeper" for the family and what they eat. So true!

D: "This is really good. "
Me: "It's OK, I prefer cauliflower."
D: "So, I'm never going to see this again, am I?"
Me: "Probably not."

Guilty as charged! My mentor, Ellyn Satter says that if you expect to cook for yourself or your family on an ongoing basis, you have to enjoy what you eat, enjoy the process and have some pleasant anticipation. SO TRUE! I can't put my finger on why I didn't go for this veggie, but I have lots of others I really do enjoy, so this one will probably just be a curiosity.

Does anyone know a great way to cook these Romanesques?
Anyone else had an experience trying a new food recently?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

trying a new food

I can't even think of the last time I tried a truly novel food. OK, I had golden beets last year, but I was told they are just like red beets, but a different color.
So these were at my local coop, grown in Eagan Minnesota. It's called a romanesque broccoli and it looks CRAZY. Its gorgeous and weird looking. I've never cooked it and felt some actual mild anxiety at the store. "What if I buy this and I don't like it? What if M doesn't like it? Will I waste the money if we don't eat it?"

It was interesting to put myself in my daughter's place. She is expected to try new foods all the time, and for the most part she does. It reinforced how much she has to trust me as the provider to try new foods. I think about many of the parents I see at workshops who say they are "picky eaters" too. They share their stories of being forced to eat everything on their plates as children and other experiences that turned them off to trying new foods.

buying and preparing new or novel foods for the picky eater (parents too!)

1) Don't be afraid, make it fun
2) ask the produce guy or gal: What does this taste like? Is there a good way to cook this?
3) look up recipes online. Add sauces, fat and flavor. Maybe make it with a sauce you really like.
4) don't pressure yourself to try it. Prepare it, smell it, look at it, maybe taste a little (yes, you are allowed to spit it out) Remember, pressuring kids to eat backfires, don't pressure yourself either.
5) try to buy a small amount at first if money/waste is a concern
6) prepare another familiar food with the new food so you can have something to eat. Maybe peas or a salad with it, or a favorite pasta dish so you have something to look forward to.
7) try it again a different way

Good luck!
I'll let you know how it goes. I can't wait to show M this cook new veggie.

I challenge my readers to try a new food and let me know how you felt about it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

brussels sprout whiplash

It's brussels sprout time again. I try to look for relatively small ones, and next week we hope to get some on the stalk at the farmers market. M wanted some while I was prepping them (take off the outer leaves, cut off the remains of the stalk and then score the bottom and put in cold water to rinse.)
I almost said, "no, they taste better cooked" but realized that is my opinion and cleaned one for her. She ate about 3 and said they were delicious. She declined any dip or sauce.
Then I cooked them. (recipe below) and she at first refused to put them on her plate. "OK" I said while she served herself mashed potatoes and cut her first piece of roast by herself! A few minutes later she took a sprout, declared she loved it, ate a few other things, then another sprout. This one was maybe a little more bitter because she made a face and spat it out, saying it was yucky.
Remember, small children are exploring, learning new tastes and are not "rational." It does no good to get sucked into the power struggles. Who knows what will happen the next time I serve them, but chances are better that she will try them again because I didn't push or make a big deal out of eating them.
My favorite way to eat sprouts is with chestnuts (Joy of Cooking) I believe, but that's a ton of work. Here is an easier way that mellows out some of the bitterness and is yummy.

sprouts, 1-2 Tbspns butter, 1/2 onion finely chopped, 1 cup broth or so, salt to taste
prep sprouts as above
melt butter (can use larger amount if more sprouts) and cook onions until glassy (about 8 minutes...) on med low heat.
Put sprouts in pan and add broth. Cover and simmer about 25 minutes, or until done.
I like mine a little tender, close to falling apart.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

eat, talk, connect

A recent article in the New York Times stirred an issue for me that I've been mulling over. It's on fitting "family dinners" into our modern lives called the "Guilt-trip casserole." (Dinner Together has some nice insights on the same article on a recent post.)
Life is hectic these days for many families. The NYT article interviews families in different circumstances about how they can't find time for "family dinner" and how guilty they feel. The article seems to assuage that guilt by saying, don't worry, spending some quality time with your kids in the car eating Sonic is just as good. Another mom finds meals to be another "chore" that takes a toll so her daughters microwave something and eat it in their bedrooms in front of the TV. I'm not saying don't do that, or believe that the kids will be anything but wonderful people, but there is intrinsic value in sitting around a table enjoying a meal. Nutrition improves, some studies suggest less weight gain and disordered eating... I think the article is too black and white, missing the nuance. With my work with families, I try to help parents let go of the guilt and anxiety, and problem solve so they can enjoy eating with their kids and connecting. Dakota County has a nice program right now called Eat, Talk, Connect, that is trying to help families come together.

Not doing family meals takes a toll too
I remember as a physician seeing so many moms who were so sad. (My nurse used to ask me what I "did to them" as they often left my office in tears.) They struggled to do what they thought was best for their kids and their families. Many asked for or ended up on anti-depressants and in counseling, and struggled with weight gain and yo-yo dieting. The typical day would go like this: get up at 5, do laundry, pack lunches, get ready for work. Get kids up and ready for bus at 7, go to work. Eat candy bars at desk, office cake and Lean Cuisine for lunch. (No time for breakfast.) Leave work at 4:30, pick up three kids. Eat taco bell in car at 5, Carly off to ballet, Jake to hockey, Brian to football (enter any sport or instrument here.) Get home at 7:30, eat snacks/ice-cream/cereal/cookies in front of TV, kids do homework, in bed by 10. This was typical of many of the moms I saw, and it made me sad.

As a mother of a four year old, I don't know the pressures of after school activities, but somehow I was lucky to have family dinner at least 6 nights a week while doing piano, musicals, soccer... Of course, my mom could let us play outside unsupervised (remember those days?) and didn't "play" with us or do crafts etc. the same way many of today's moms do.
Perhaps we all need to slow down a little. My friend J. says each of her girls gets to pick one activity a season. She left her full-time job for some free-lancing work and cuts major corners to make it financially.
I try to only schedule one evening client or workshop a week. I cook double batches and have the leftovers for lunch or dinner. I usually pack up M's lunches while we are finishing dinner (scoop the stir-fry into a measuring cup to nuke in the morning and throw in a Thermos...)

here are a few other thoughts:
1) limit each child to one activity per semester
2) ANY meal counts, breakfast, dinner, even an after-school sit-down snack where you sit with a cup of tea with your child and visit (I remember these chats well with my mother, starting in middle school)
3) take-out or frozen pizza can be part of a nutritious meal, just sit together and eat it. (maybe with milk and peas or applesauce or fruit)
4) try to turn off the TV. Tune in to each other, and your tummy. Are you full, or still hungry?
5) one loving family member eating with a child is a family meal
6) can you make time for breakfast together?
7) play with dinner timing, Maybe an extra snack after school means you can eat together at 7
8) tuna sandwiches or breakfast for dinner is a quick and easy way to get a meal on the table
9) have Dad be responsible for dinner twice a week, or the older kids. Grilled cheese counts.
(Or whatever works for the sharing of work in your partnership)
10) don't forget how much parents matter to kids. Probably more than violin practice that they don't like anyway...

This is long and rambling, but this issue is a tough one, especially for working women who still do 80% of the cooking. It's about more than meals. It's the changing roles in families, it's a loss of family support systems, it's longer commutes, overly-scheduled kids, loss of cooking skills...
How do you get meals on the table and balance it all!? Do you feel guilty? Inspired to try any of the tips above?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oct 13th at Linden Hills co-op

I'm teaching a workshop on feeding October 13th 7-8:30 pm at the Linden Hills Coop in Mpls. Please pre-register to save a spot.
My classes are not the run-of-the-mill advice for picky eaters. We go beyond making smiley faces out of fruit and learn real strategies to get the power struggle out of feeding and help improve nutrition while decreasing conflict. We use video, role-play, review studies and share tips you can start to use right away. Plenty of time for your questions. Hope to see you there!

One Mom wrote, "Thanks for your talk the other night. I don't feel like I'm losing my mind at dinner anymore!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

it's portion control! Ho! Ho! Ho!

In my never-ending effort to find more resources for parents, I recently finished two more dissapointments. These have kept me thinking though.

The first was a cook book by a Chef who cooks great food for school lunches. It looked wonderful, lots of yummy recipes– and then I read the classic admonitions that seem to be everywhere about childhood obesity. How parents need to control how much of the fattening food the kids eat, while bribing with "better" foods. He tells parents to demand the child eat three brussel sprouts as the price for another serving of meat or potatoes. He extols the virtues of portion control for weight control.

The second book was a general book about eating and weight for children by a Harvard trained physician. Again the same advice on control, portion size, restriction etc.

What did both authors have in common? They looked like Santa Claus- big bellies and all. They might both have excellent levels of fitness, blood pressure etc, I don't know. What gets me mad, and confused is that here are two men, whom the CDC would no doubt call "obese" if not "morbidly obese" giving out advice on restraint and control when it comes to feeding our kids. I feel like asking, "How's that working for you?"
Our society has it all wrong when it comes to helping kids achieve the healthy weight that was meant for them. We know that restraint and control (feeding or withholding to try to get a kid to lose weight) doesn't work.
So I will continue to search for resources and in the meantime will continue to recommend anything by Ellyn Satter. Do you have any resources you like?

more meatloaf ideas, low prep dinner

We had meatloaf last night. I had dethawed it in the fridge and it was probably still a little frozen in the middle because after almost an hour in the oven, it was still not fully cooked. We were all really hungry, so I sliced it up and fried it in a pan with a touch of oil. The result? Delicious, fully-cooked, slightly crunchy meatloaf slices. Sometimes the mistakes lead to new discoveries! My husband wants it like this all the time now.

I served it with acorn squash which I cut in half, removed the seeds and put in the oven to cook with the meatloaf. I used one pan lined with foil because the meatloaf tends to drip sometimes, and then there is less clean-up. So, while the meat was sizzling away, Hubby scooped out the squash into a serving bowl with a little butter, brown sugar and salt. Yummy! M, now almost 4 years old, ate tons of squash and enjoyed the meatloaf as well.

Here is my post from last spring on meatloaf and second-go recipe for spaghetti sauce, which we'll be having tonight...

Whole Foods does these great little meatloafs for 6.99 a pound. (Usually ends up being about $9.) I baked it a few nights ago and we had Italian meatloaf with beans and mashed potatoes. (Initial bake takes 50-55 minutes, so not a last-minute meal.)
We eat less than half the first time around, so last night when we got home at 6, I put on a pot to boil for pasta and crumbled the left-over meatloaf, added some tomato sauce and served it with spaghetti and parmesan. I had enough leftover today for 2 lunches. 8 portions of protein from a $9 meatloaf, not bad!

Whole Foods Meatloaf sauce
time 15 minutes

Heat 12 inch skillet over med-high heat. Dice 1 medium onion and fry in 1 Tbsn olive oil until limp and soft. Add crumbled left-over meatloaf, 1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce and 1 can of diced tomatoes. Stir and simmer (turn down heat) until pasta is done. No need to season as the meat has plenty of herbs etc. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired!
Yummy and fast for those nights you can't drag them away from the park!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

quick glaze recipe

My new favorite easy way to bring in a lot of flavor is to make a glaze for meat or fish. You can use chicken or pork. I made it last night over pork. Sometimes I make the glaze a little thicker, or thin it down for some sauce for noodles. (photo is of nicely browned chicken with some broth in the pan...)

Quick glaze for meat or fish
olive or canola oil
chicken broth (as needed)
about 1/3 to 1/2 cup real maple syrup
about 1 Tbspn dijon mustard (or can use soy sauce if you don't have mustard)

Add oil (1-2 Tbspn) to pan and heat over medium-high. Meat should sizzle when added to pan. Brown meat (3-4 minutes for thin cuts, 7-8 minutes for thicker cuts) and flip. If thick piece, may want to add a splash of broth and cover to cook. Stir maple syrup and dijon together in a bowl and add to meat when it as almost done. The sauce can scorch fast so keep an eye on it. Add small amount of broth if desired for sauce. Remove from heat and serve. Play with this, add more or less dijon, let it get thicker one night. You can also remove the meat after it is done, then add the sauce to the pan, scraping up the brown bits and reduce it until its really syrupy. Then pour over the meat. (Add any juices that came from the meat into the sauce for more flavor.)

Cooking is trial and error– finding what you like. This is so fast and easy though I find I make it about once every 10 days. (My pork was a little overdone last night, but it was still yummy.) I used the glaze with soy sauce over quick broiled salmon last week and M and Hubby loved that one too! (After M refused to initially try it...)

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Nectarines are gross!!!!"

So it's a little awkward when you are the "feeding expert" and your kid is having a major meltdown at preschool pickup over what you brought for snack. My child, like her mother and her mother's mother likes food. Perhaps out of guilt or joy at seeing her happy after school I had relied too much recently on the home-made oatmeal cookies for the after school snack. I also generally want something I know she will likely eat since we go play at the park after school and dinner isn't often until 6:45. So today I decide snack is graham crackers (not a favorite) a cut up nectarine (which she normally loves) and a milk box. She asks what I brought right away. I tell her and she loses her stuff in the middle of the lobby. "I hate nectarines! They're gross! Is that all you brought! AHHHSee full size imageHH!!!!" I smile politely, nodding the mommy nod to the other mommies, "You know how it goes, eh?" The screaming continues to the parking lot where I get a couple inquiring looks, and in the car where we usually have a nice chat while she eats a quiet snack before the park. I actually stand outside the car while she thrashes around crying inside.
It's just a sandwich-or is it?

All she wants is a sandwich. Reasonable it seems, but it feels so wrong. I can't give in, even if it's only a sandwich. Why does this push my buttons? Because if I had gone home to make her a sandwich I would have violated one of the rules of the Division of Responsibility. I decide what she gets to chose from, she decides if she eats it. It wasn't about nectarines. It was seeing if she could win, if she could decide what she got to eat– if she could pitch a big enough fit so that I always brought cookies and treats.A few minutes later we were parked outside our favorite park, sharing a milk box and graham crackers. She admitted the nectarine was really good and ripe and was mad that I had to eat a piece to get the top on the tupperware to fit. Kids will pitch fits, will manipulate– it's their job. It's our job to feed them well, to step back when we're annoyed and ask why is this such a struggle right now? What is going on? Stick to your guns. Remember, your job is to decide what, when and where kids eat, it's the kids job to decide if and how much.

Twin Cities clip

Watch the Twin Cities Live spot on family dinner and feeding strategies.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"That's lazy exercise!"

I was at the park with M the other day. As usual, we started on the swings when a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 bounded over and jumped up next to us. She was a "wirey" little girl, as my dad would say. Her father yelled over "Sally, get off that swing now! That's lazy exercise! We didn't come here for that! Get off and go run around!" Sally looked dejected but did as she was told.

I can just imagine Dad reading some CDC guidelines, or a handout from the pediatrician saying, "Your child should get 60 minutes of vigorous, supervised exercise daily..." Though probably well-intentioned, Dad is likely not instilling a love of activity, or a love of her body in Sally.

Have you ever watched a child on a swing? Do you remember how free, how powerful, how utterly in the moment and in your body you were? (See the photo of the boy top right.)

What Sally is learning is that exercise is not fun, it shouldn't feel good. Maybe she's learning that you exercise only so you don't get fat. What if she gets a little pudgy before puberty? How will that effect her self-worth? How will Dad react?

What we know is that pressuring kids to be active, just like pressure with food often backfires. Your job is to provide the opportunity for activity in a pleasant, fun setting. One of the most effective ways to get kids active is to limit screen time. They will come up with other things to do. Go for a walk after dinner together, have a scavenger hunt to look for leaves or listen to the cicadas. Ride a bike, head to the park, enjoy open gym time at the local rec center, and yes even swing on a swing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

easy quiche, or "cheesey bacon pie"

I made our easy quiche the other day. We always have evaporated milk on hand so I use this instead of cream. It's part of a great quick dinner. The picture doesn't do it justice.

We served it the first night with a big salad and cherry tomatoes from the garden. M said, "This is good!"and ate about 4 bites. Next morning we had it cold for breakfast and she ate some of that too. The next day we had it for lunch with veggies, and she spat it out and said it was "disgusting." Go figure. Remember, kids are not "rational" with food. Don't get sucked into food battles or try to rationalize, "But you liked it last night!" We didn't make a fuss. I figure she may or may not like it the next time, but we love it. Each time we offered it, we did it the same way- neutral. Don't like it?
"OK, would you like some more veggies or bread?" She spat it out politely in her napkin.

I use frozen pie crust– whole wheat if they have it. Be sure it's not a sweetened one intended for sweet pies. I made one once with a sugary crust and it truly WAS "disgusting."

Quick Quiche (adapted from Nestle Carnation recipe)
prep time 15 minutes, cook time 50 ish...
Poke frozen pie crust with a fork several times. Put pie shell in a 450 degree oven for about 8 minutes under foil, remove foil, cook another 4 minutes or so. Depending on brand you may need to prick a bubble or cover with foil if edges get too brown. I added this step after eating some soggy crusts that weren't pre-cooked. Turn oven down to 350 degrees...

1 pie shell (pre-cooked partially as above)
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup all -purpose flour
1 cup shredded Swiss Cheese (divided) I used some sliced Jarlsburg I had on hand. You can improvise with the cheese.
1/2 cup cooked bacon or cubed ham
1/4 cup sliced green onions (I use leeks-one small leek which I sautee for about 5 minutes in a small amount of bacon fat left in the pan)
1/2 tspn dried thyme
1/4 tspn salty

Whisk together milk, eggs, flour in large bowl. Stir in 1/2 the cheese, all the ham and leeks, thyme, salt, pepper. Pour into pre-cooked pie shell, sprinkle with remaining cheese

bake for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 5-7 minutes before serving. Ad lib with whatever veggies you have on hand. Asparagus? Peppers?