Friday, May 29, 2009

"good" eater vs "bad" eater

M and I were at a restaurant for lunch over the weekend. It amazes me since I have been working in childhood feeding how much I notice comments about food and eating directed at children. 

We ordered mac-n-cheese (I think St. Clair Broiler uses Kraft so its not the gloopy mess like in most restaurants which M won't eat,) broccoli and ice-cream- and yes, we ordered ice cream with the meal. (See past posts for explanation of dessert strategies...)
After repeating twice to the waitress, that indeed I wanted the ice-cream with the meal, we settled in for some coloring and chatting.
We were eating nicely, starting with mac-n-cheese, some broccoli, some ice-cream, some mac-n-cheese... The manager came over and asked M if she was eating all her broccoli, and praised her eating. 
The mom at the table behind us made several loud comments to her young toddler about how M was such a "good" eater, and "why can't you be a good eater, like that girl?" 

I can't imagine if we commented as much about what we as adults ate...

Imagine how you would feel if the manager asked if you ate all your broccoli... Or your wife pushed you to eat "two more bites" even if you just told her you were full or didn't want to eat... Or if she told you you had had enough when you wanted more mashed potatoes or salad or pork chop...Or if a waitress tried to coax you into ordering something more healthy, or asked three times if you really needed that glass of milk, or soda, or baked potato... Or passing on a meal altogether because you'd enjoyed coffee and cake with a friend after work and being told you were a "bad" eater... 

(And then, somewhere between preschool and middle-school the definitions of "good" and "bad" eater flip, and the "good" eater is the one who eats less and the "bad" eater is the hearty eater. But that's a topic for another day.) 

Pay attention to how you talk to and about kids and food. How many comments do others make about your kids' eating or size, how often are kids prodded to eat more or eat less? How many words of judgement like "good" or "bad" or "picky" are you hearing or using to label your child? (As in "Lilly is my good eater, Bobby is my picky one.") 

Do your job of putting food on the table, and let children do theirs (deciding how much and if to eat.) When you talk about food, maybe ask, "What was your favorite part of dinner?" or "Wasn't that pie yummy, and the beans too?" Then talk about something else. Before you say something to your child, or another child, ask if you would feel comfortable saying  it to an adult. If not, it might not need to be said.

FYI, for the dessert-with-meal skeptics,  M ate all the mac-n-cheese, half the broccoli and half the ice-cream.  Later she went on to enjoy a small amount of yogurt and fruit for snack (she said her tummy wasn't very hungry) and asparagus, steak, salad and rice for dinner.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Meme Roth: Rock Bottom

Hopefully you haven't heard of  Meredith aka "Meme" Roth yet.  She's the FOX TV regular, an "expert" in nutrition and founder of an anti-obesity group.  She honed her skills working in public relations for Fortune 500 companies...
She is known for telling the "truth," but seems more like an Ann Coulter PR machine looking for press and notoriety by saying outrageous and harmful things. She calls people fat, berates and shames in the name of health. 

The Guardian did an article on her which exposes her own issues with food. She skips breakfast, has a strict rule that she doesn't eat until "after a workout" which might not happen until 4 pm, or not at all. Food is the enemy, and she wants to make it yours too.

Beware of advice from "experts." Meredith is a PR machine with a vengeance, and the Valerie Bertinelli clones survive on 1200 calories a day (the same amount acceptable and described as enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo...) Roth has at a minimum disordered eating, even if it "works for her." 

More important than her own eating is her message. Shame and fear are not good motivators for positive change. In fact, shame and fear are well documented to make people exercise less and eat in ways that are less healthy and nurturing. I can only hope that Meme Roth and others like her are the harbingers of "rock bottom" with America's relationship to food- and it can only get better from there. 

Please visit my resources page for books on healthy eating for you and your children, as well as resources if you are struggling with, or think you might have an eating disorder. Eating can and should be a joyful part of your life, it should not control or consume you. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Peanut and Gluten-free Asian Noodles

Having this business has allowed me to meet so many wonderful and creative people dedicated to helping children eat in a nurturing, loving way. Lori, creator of Sweetcheeks babyfood (all local and organic frozen baby food) has been a professional nanny and family-friendly recipe tester for years. She is particularly skilled at cooking for families with dietary restrictions. Here is the first recipe that she is sharing with Family Feeding Dynamics for families with  allergies who still want that rich, creamy texture we think of with Asian peanut noodle recipes. (Note, photo is not of this recipe.)
Peanut-free Asian inspired Pasta 
1 cup Sunbutter ( Natural Sunflower Seed Sunbutter, gluten free... nut free)
3 T brown rice vinegar (Spectrum, organic, unseasoned)
1 T soy sauce (San J organic wheat free Tamari)
1 tsp or to taste hot chili oil.
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
Here's what I do: Saute 1 package of fresh, free range, organic chicken in a large stockpot in 1 T olive oil at a med hi heat for 5 - 6 minutes. Remove to plate. In same pan, saute 1/2 diced onion and a clove of garlic on med - med low until soft. Add 1 cup or so of broccoli (or peapods) and 1 diced red pepper. Saute another 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups (or more) of fresh spinach, 1/2 cup veg broth and return the chicken to the pan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer for ten minutes or so. My goal is to keep the veggies crisp-tender and to cook the chicken through. 
While it's cooking, cook the pasta and drain. 
When the chicken is done, add the pasta to the pan with chicken and veggies and combine. Add the peanut sauce and combine! I sprinkle with sesame seeds too (FFD note-good source of calcium!) It can be served hot, warm, room temp or cold. The last time I made it I used edamame and cukes with the red pepper and spinach. The edamame were shelled, and I added them with the spinach and chicken and then stirred in cukes at the end. Great for a picnic!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Betty Crocker interview on feeding...

Hop over to Betty Crocker to read an interview I did earlier.  I get asked about "treats" at school, withholding dessert as a reward for eating dinner, and more!
Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wii Fit–I love it, I hate it

So we got a Wii fit this winter– part of trying to keep moving in the long and cold months of Minnesota hibernation. Mostly I'm the only one using it. 

Wii-fit is the 5th best-selling video game EVER,  selling over 18 million copies as of March 2009.

What I like: 

Hoola-hooping, stepping, boxing, some of the strength exercises, seeing my husband and daughter's Miis while I hoola or jog. Its here, its easy, I can jog on my little trampoline (that I found for M at a park with a "free" sign) and watch TV at the same time. 30 minutes go by pretty fast.  There are new games to learn, I can challenge myself to beat my scores on balance games, or slalom etc.

What I hate:

The obsession with BMI (see photo.) You can only track your progress based on weight and BMI, and if you are even an occasional reader of this blog, you'll know how I feel about the inaccurate and incomplete picture BMI can give.

It shames people in the name of motivation, which studies show actually makes people less likely to engage in healthy behaviors and eating. One online author scoffed at a Mom complaining  that the Wii called her teenage daughter "fat." The author replied, "Well someone has to!" Actually, no they don't. 

I'd like to track my progress by how often I exercise, or my stamina. For example, I'd like to set a goal that I exercise for 30 minutes 4 times a week, but it won't let me.  It just keeps asking me for a "body test" and rates my success based on my weight. I always skip the "body test" as I don't believe focusing on weight as an indicator of health or benefits of exercise is advisable. 

It gives pseudo-medical advice. Center of balance, posture, goals suggested for BMI etc. Its less than useful in most instances. 

It interrupts the flow of exercise to give you "tips" and ranking. Its annoying. I probably just need to figure it out, but I'd like to do a series of one or two minute games without having to stop in between to play with the menu or skip over "health tips."

Bottom line, I enjoy it, but I am armed with enough medical knowledge and familiarity with the data that I can let all the weight-talk bounce right off me. Would I ever let my daughter use it? No way. I would never recommend any young person, or person who is not completely and totally comfortable with their bodies and wellness anywhere near this thing. It tries to do the right thing, and parts of it work (I'll keep using it) but overall it suffers from the flaws that the rest of our weight-loss and diet-obsessed culture suffer from.

What do you think about your Wii-fit? Considering getting one? Has this post influenced your decision in any way?

Monday, May 18, 2009

bread crust and lessons in trust

When M was about 18 months old, she spontaneously started rejecting bread crust. (Remember this is a time when kids become naturally more suspicious of foods, so formerly accepted foods are often rejected.) She was clumsy with it and ended up leaving 1/3 of the bread. We decided to minimize waste and started to cut off the crust– a practice we have kept up for about 2 years now. Our meals are pretty relaxed, and we don't get into food struggles. The other day she asked for a bite of my toast (it also had jam which she hasn't been too interested in yet.) I held it up for her and she took a big bite, with crust. She chewed, swallowed, and practically yelled, "Mommy, I like crust!!!" She then asked for a piece of toast, with "just butter and crust, no jam." (Our reaction, was a calm, "OK.")
This morning, however, she informed us that she was back to not liking crust. Our reaction, though a little more difficult this time, was a calm, "OK."

Its enough to drive you crazy. They are not rational. My husband has to hold himself back when she baits him into battles. I can read his mind,  "you liked it yesterday, you will eat it!" Or that he knows she'd like jam if she gave it a chance. Its not worth it. 

Kids pressured to eat more, eat less, and its a lot less fun being at a table where there are constant food battles and negotiations. It doesn't have to be so hard. 

So, follow the trust model, don't get sucked into the battles, reply with a calm, "OK" when they insist that they hate a food they loved yesterday. Keep serving your family food. 

I trust, that one day again soon, she will eat crust again, and until then we will enjoy our time at the table where she eats most of everything else we give her. (Some after one or two exposures, some after literally dozens...) Hang in there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

stress and childhood obesity

Several studies have come out recently linking stress and childhood obesity. What this implies is that stress, independent of what the kids were eating, was a risk factor for increased weight. This makes perfect sense.

There are many ways that stress might contribute to unhealthy weight gain

A stressful home tends to be more chaotic. Less structure for meals and snacks to be provided by the parents in a nurturing, dependable way.

Stress and arguing at the table makes family meals unpleasant. No one wants to be at a table with miserable people. (Kids who enjoy family meals have better nutrition, and some studies suggest less weight gain.)

Money worries are a major source of stress. Food insecurity (not having enough food for part or all of the month) is a known risk factor for increased weight. (Studies show that kids who get meals at school, and participate in the WIC program have lower rates of obesity.)

Stress releases hormones (the big one being cortisol) that push the body to store energy and increase weight, and likely contribute to cravings for high fat and sugar content foods.

Stress and anxiety interfere with a child's ability to tune-in to hunger and satiety cues. He may over or under eat.

Many children see parents model overeating in response to stress, or they have been fed in a way that increases their odds of eating more in response to stress. (Kids who are overly controlled or restricted in their eating tend to eat more under stress.) 

Stressful homes, often those with money concerns may not have the resources to sign up for after-school sports, or may not live in a neighborhood with safe parks and play areas.

and there are certainly more...

Just another reminder that childhood weight and wellness is complex.  Getting soda out of schools, or taxing "junk food" will not solve this problem.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

evenings at the park and meal planning

These lovely days make getting dinner on the table even harder. I pick M up from daycare/preschool at 4, and its so nice outside we often head to the park to play. 
Problem is trying to get home in time so I can work on dinner. Sometimes its 5:45 and we're still having a blast at the park. 
Last night it happened, but I had an easy dinner planned.

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!

Kids say the darndest things (bonus joke!)
Swinging M at the park yesterday, I breathed in the heady aroma of Spring and exclaimed, "Doesn't it smell great! Smell the blossoms!"
The kid next to M, maybe age 4 deadpans:
"No, that was me, I just farted."

Thanks for indulging the potty humor!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

what "overweight" looks like according to BMI

Follow the link to this article about childhood obesity and some background on the statistics, and how the medical and drug industry benefits from the epidemic language and inflating the numbers.  Be sure to check out the photo of Bianca, the adorable little girl on the cover who is labeled as overweight. The article is a great intro to some tough topics. Yes, there is a problem, but many normal, healthy kids are being mislabeled – with potentially damaging consequences. Kids labeled as "overweight" or "obese" feel flawed in every way, are LESS likely to exercise, and more likely to diet which leads to weight GAIN. (I summarized about 3 different studies in that sentence...) Labeling healthy children as obese or overweight is malpractice as far as I'm concerned. First do no harm! 
 The photo above is-according to BMI alone- an "overweight" 3 year old, who if she gained 1 pound would be categorized as "obese." Just think about these images of this little girl, and Bianca when you hear the next hysterical diatribe about "obesity."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cub foods 4:15

This image is from the Cub foods website. I was impressed by their 4:15 products. If meal planning is new to you, or you're on your way home from work or back from a soccer game and have a hungry family in the car, 4:15 meals are a great option. The meals are balanced and serve 4 for under $15. This is significant savings over chain restaurants, and even most fast food. Add applesauce or fruit for dessert and milk for an extra nutritional kick.
Check out the website for 4:15 . There are sample menus, and the choices change regularly. Another great tool for getting family meals on the table. Happy eating!

Monday, May 11, 2009

family meal planning and money saver tool

When we moved into our house 3 years ago, the owner left an old chest freezer in the basement that he didn't want to move. 
This is my first chest freezer– now I don't know how I would do without it.

Keeping track of contents
I tried to find a big dry-erase board for the top, but couldn't, so I just took the wipe-off markers and started writing the contents on the top. Its a battered freezer in a dingy basement, so functional is what its about. I list bread, muffins, pork chops, pizza, leftover sauces, stews etc with a little blank line to fill in how many I have. before I go shopping I pop down and check out what I need to restock.

Saving Money
With the extra space, I can buy items on sale and store them. Bread, muffins, meat, etc. My friend, who's daughter has dairy allergies, also buys soy milk on sale and stores it in her second freezer which saves her lots of money. If I save $1 per loaf of bread, and at least 50 cents on English muffins, I reckon we save at least $125 a year on those 2 items alone. You can take advantage of buy one-get one free sales on meats etc since you have the space. 

Last minute meal planning
If I haven't gotten my act together with meal planning, I can usually find something in the freezer to base a meal around– some leftover pulled pork, frozen pizza, stew, rolls to go along with jarred spaghetti-sauce and noodles... 
It also leaves more room in my regular freezer so that I can actually see what is in the back corner, unlike in my previous house.

Friday, May 8, 2009

fried rice (day #3 of ginger recipes)

Fried Rice: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens 

uses leftover pork from apricot glazed pork...
also used leftover thawed rice...

prep time: 15 minutes, cook time, 10-15

1-2 cups mushrooms (can use pre-sliced, I would chop them a little smaller still)
2 Tbspn oil (peanut or canola)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 scallions
1/2 cup chopped red peppers (or minced carrot from grocery salad bar)
1 tspn peeled fresh minced ginger (I used that tube of ginger paste)
3 Tbspn soy sauce
1 tspn sesame oil
4 cups cooked rice (or thawed pre-cooked)
1 cup cooked, chopped meat (leftover pork used, but chicken, beef, shrimp OK)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

Clean and cut up the mushrooms. Clean and prep other veggies...
Heat large skillet and coat with cooking spray or 1 Tbspn canola oil. Pour in the eggs and swirl the pan to make an even layer. Flip after about 2 minutes. (Can fall apart.) Then put egg on a plate and cut into 1 inch pieces.
Add 1-2 Tbspn oil and add scallions, mushrooms, peppers. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook another 2 minutes or so. Add soy sauce, sesame oil and rice and mix thoroughly, cook about 2 minutes. Add meat, peas, eggs and stir/cook until heated through- about 2-3 minutes. 

This was pretty successful. I liked the ginger paste. M ate some, but asked for some bread and butter (this is the notion of always having a back-up, and pairing familiar with unfamiliar foods.) It was a new recipe for her, and she's starting to eat foods that are mixed together more (unlike 6-12 months ago when her foods had to be separated.) At 3 1/2, she seems to be coming out of that more picky eating phase that is normal for toddlers. (Toddlers begin to refuse foods they enjoyed as older infants and are naturally more suspicious of foods. It is a challenging, but workable phase.) 

5/5 stars. Will make again. Easy and yummy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Yuck: how to handle food rejection

The other day I picked up M from preschool/daycare. Because we eat dinner late (6:30-6:45) so that we can eat with Dad, I always bring a snack. Some days its hard to try to get the protein, fat and carb together and eggs are a wonderful, handy, complete option to include. I often hard-boil half a dozen and use them for snacks, or in potato salad etc. 
Last week, after happily eating eggs (only the white actually) I brought one to school and peeled it and offered it. M grimaced and said "Ew, its stinks, I don't want it!" I held back form what I wanted to say which was, "Give me a break, you love eggs, you ate one happily two days ago, I packed it, you're going to eat it!" 
She drank some milk and nibbled on a few crackers.
This week again I went to grab an egg and almost didn't. "She doesn't like it, why waste it again?" I thought. Then I remembered what I tell clients and parents, "Continue to rotate "rejected" foods regularly through meals and snacks."
I brought the egg, she ate it without complaint, along with an orange and water. Just goes to show, kids are funny, finicky, irrational. Keep rotating foods through, and try to remain neutral when they say and do wacky things with food. Do you have any stories about foods your kids loved then hated? Did you keep offering it?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

reader Ginger marinade recipe...

This came up on the comment section and sounded really good. Thought I'd pass it on. Thanks Harpy!

One of our favourite marinades using the tubes (fresh herb tubes) is about 1/2 cup tamari (like soy sauce but no wheat); teaspoon each of ginger, coriander (also known as cilantro) and garlic; 1/2 tsp chili (or to taste), and a teaspon of honey. This one works particularly well on pork, chicken, or tofu.

apricot ginger glazed pork (day #2 ginger)

Apricot Ginger Glazed Pork 
adapted from Cooking Light magazine
time 20 minutes

4 boneless pork, center cut or chops (can do chicken or beef)
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tspn minced (tube) ginger (or garlic)
2 Tbspn soy sauce
splash of chicken or beef broth (see post about broth uses)

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over med-high heat.  Add cooking spray or a Tbspn of olive or canola oil. Add pork to pan, cook about 6 min on each side (longer if really thick, or shorter if thin to save time.) Remove from pan and cover. (Can cut one open to be sure its cooked. It should not be pink in the middle.) If this is all new to you, you might have to put the pork back in the pan, or it might be over-cooked on occasion. Learning to cook takes practice, don't give up!

Add pre-chopped onion to pan, saute 4 min or until lightly browned and soft. Using a wooden or other non-scratch spoon, stir in jam, soy sauce, ginger (add broth if you want a little more sauce.) Add pork back to the pan and heat through. Serve and enjoy.

This was SO good. We all enjoyed this with rice and broccoli. M liked the sauce over her rice and veggies. So far 2 for 2 on the ginger paste recipes...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

GINGER SESAME SALAD DRESSING: Day 1 of ginger week (or how to justify spending $4.99 on a convenience product...)

I try to find convenience items that save time and taste good but I've had a hard time. For example,  I haven't been a huge fan of bottled garlic. I just don't think it tastes like what I want. It only takes about 3 minutes to peel a clove and grate it into a recipe, so I take the time.
This Gourmet Garden ginger paste is another try. It was expensive at $4.99 and did have some ingredients other than ginger, but I justified it by convincing myself its for "work." So, I'm going to try to use up the whole tube in the next 2 weeks so I don't waste it. Here is recipe #1. 

Ginger-sesame dressing (adapted from Vegetarian Planet)
prep time 5-10 minutes

1 1/2 Tbspn fresh ginger, minced or from the tube...
1 small garlic clove, crushed or grated (yes, they mean SMALL clove!)
1 Tbspn smooth dijon mustard
3 Tbspn apple cider vinegar
1/4 tspn ground pepper (or to taste... I do a little less)
1/2 tspn salt (I did a little less)
2 Tbspn sugar
1 1/2  Tbspn sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil (or vegetable oil)

I started this in a bowl, but changed to just dump all the ingredients in a jar with a top and then put the top on and shook it well. Then I stored the dressing in the fridge to use again.

This was a huge hit. M enjoyed dipping raw veggies into this one. Its always good to have different dips for kids with veggies. The right dip can be the bridge to expanding accepted veggies for picky eaters. 
I thought the dressing would be a little zingy for M, but she loved it. I also made a salad and will have another one tomorrow (already have the lettuce washed.) One tip if you're having salad and you need to make it more filling/add protein is to add boiled eggs. Tomorrow we're having vegetarian pizza and I'll make a salad with some boiled eggs. The ginger paste was a hit for this recipe. Tasted fresh, right consistency and a time-saver.

Do you have any favorite convenience foods that taste great?