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!