Monday, November 1, 2010

please check out my new blog and website

I will no longer be posting at blogspot, but I will keep up the archives until I can figure out how to transfer it all.

Please update any blog feeds and tell your friends!

Friday, October 29, 2010

pediasure, picky eating, low weight and desperate parents

A reader called me out on some lazy writing (excerpted with permission from a private email) on the Pediasure post... This is long, but if you are struggling with feeding, picky eaters or low weight concerns, read on...

"Hi, I just recently started following your blog. It was miraculous to me. My daughter (5) is an extremely limited eater. The amount of stress and despair this was causing in our household cannot be underestimated. Feeding your child is primal, it is a fundamental responsibility of parents to provide food, and when your child won't eat, it is devastating.
The "division of responsibility" and taking the pressure off was a godsend to us. I borrowed Ellyn's book from the library, and we are working at removing the pressure, tweaking our mealtimes etc. and we are seeing progress. (Little bits, her commenting on food smelling good, her moving to eating grilled cheese sandwiches that have a little bit of mozzerella mixed with the other cheese etc.)
We take full responsibility for how our daughter ended up such a poor eater. She was a tiny baby (not premature, just small), she didn't breastfeed well, and didn't move to solid food well. She was and probably always will be skeptical of new food. So we made the classic mistakes, we were so concerned about the amount she was eating, that we "coned" down her food to only serve foods she ate a lot of, which, of course, are now the only foods she eats. We were so freaked out about variety that we tried again and again to get her to try foods, laying on the pressure, lots of fighting. Exhausting and stressful for everybody.
The information that I could find or that was available in magazines, and books that I read (unfortunately, I didn't stumble upon Ellyn's book) was completely unhelpful. Hide veggies in her meatballs (she won't eat meatballs, and it is hard to hide veggies in plain noodles with butter on them.) Just "make them eat" --- that one just gets me every time ...
Parents today are really pressured. 'Make sure your child is getting enough of all the nutrients.' (One book I read said that children (aged 4-8) should eat 8 to 10 servings of vegetables a day, a serving size being 1/2 cup - my child doesn't eat that much food in a day, let alone of vegetables!)
So today, when I read your post, I have to say that I was hurt. I was hurt that you described parents who use Pediasure as lazy, as wanting to take "the easy way". I don't use Pediasure, I've considered it but they only sell it in big expensive packs, and I wasn't sure she would like it. Plus, I wasn't sure that I wanted to have her drinking some sweet concoction, I want her to eat, and be healthy and enjoy food.
But those parents who do ... they aren't lazy, they are desperate and they are worried, and they love their children as much as you love yours. They want their child to be healthy, and they feel the weight of the pressure. *
(I totally agree)
I'm sure some of them are making feeding mistakes, but I'm sure that lots of them do meal plan and have regular meals and snacks, and have children that are "underweight" or "problem eaters" and they talked to a doctor or nutritionist or a grandmother or a neighbor who suggested they try Pediasure. So all these people, myself included, love their children and are trying to do what "experts" tell them is "best" and end up more screwed up.

Couldn't Pediasure (or like products) be used by parents to help them take the pressure off? If they were feeling more confident that nutritional needs were being met somewhat, would that help them take the pressure off at mealtimes? My daughter enjoys vegetable muffins (healthy, low-fat, high-fiber, muffins. I make them with pumpkin or carrot or zucchini, she enjoys them and takes them in her lunch to school.) This helps me, and my husband, not panic when at dinner she decides not to have a carrot stick or only nibbles the flowerets off one piece of broccoli, I know she is getting some vegetable nutrients in her day.
Anyway, I just wanted to say my piece. Thank you for your blog, it is really helping us. Progess is slow, and of course we messed her up so much that it is probably going to be a really slow go to getting her on track. But I used to look ahead and know, in my bones know, that she was going to be anorexic some day, that the amount of power struggles around food was going to be our doom, and not know what to do. And now, I am starting to feel hope, hope that someday she will eat normally, have some likes and dislikes, eat too much one day, and too little another, and most off all not stress about it.

P.S. I was a picky child (though really just a mostly normal child who liked a fair amount of things, as long as they were plain). My husband was an extremely picky child (only ate grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup for about 10 years). Now we both eat a huge variety of foods, lots of different vegetables, grains, fruits and meat. My husband's favourite food is sushi! I don't care for it though ... I don't like the taste of seaweed, and I still don't care for fish even after all these years."

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your thoughtful email.
I am so sorry that you felt hurt by my comment. I am sorry for all the worry you have gone through around feeding. I am sorry that the system failed you and did not provide help (and likely heightened your anxieties) all along the way– when your daughter was born small, had trouble with breast-feeding, trouble with solids etc. I see so many times when you could have been helped perhaps...

Back to my post. I write my posts quickly and not often with the most thorough thinking! I am angry and upset precisely because desperate parents are tossed a bottle of Pediasure, with no help, no direction on how to really address or solve the underlying problem. As my friend said, "We felt like we were circling a black hole. Things were getting so bad and we just needed someone to pull us out of it." We shouldn't just be throwing bottles of Pediasure down that hole!

Another reader illustrated my concerns:
"Pediasure was recommended to me from a physician when I tried to discuss my child's picky eating issues. We used it at meal times. It filled him up. He didn't want or need to eat any other foods at dinner. Almost two years later, I have banned it from my house and am now struggling with an even older and pickier eater thanks to that ill advice. Wish I had learned about D of R long ago. We're almost 3 months in to D of R and he's yet to try something new, but my 5 year old has and that gives me hope..."

This is precisely what I am upset about. The family goes in for help. The untrained expert "helps" the best she knows how and problems continue and worsen...

I do what I do because I know parents are desperate, are trying hard, are consumed with worry, are scared beyond belief. I did not mean to call parents lazy who use Pediasure.

Parents are desperate and will do what they can to help their children.
I do think that the medical professionals are ignorant and pressed for time in that they recommend Pediasure without a thorough understanding of the situation. They have no knowledge about how to even ask about the feeding atmosphere. It's simply not on their radar (I generalize based on my own experiences, experiences with teaching those in the profession and my client and reader experiences...)

These parents are not lazy at all. In fact they are consumed with worry and expend huge amounts of energy, often in a counterproductive way to help kids with eating. It doesn't have to be so hard!

My anger, disappointment and accusations are almost 100% directed at the health professionals and the advertisers for Pediasure.

I hope that clarifies things...

I do think there can be a role for Pediasure but with extreme caution. If children will drink it without pressure, if it helps parents relax and back off pressure, if there is a real concern about nutrients (you would be amazed how many really picky eaters are actually meeting nutritional requirements when there is a full 7 day intake analysis) and if it is given within a framework of addressing feeding in the best way possible, meaning sit-down snacks and meals and no grazing, DOR etc. It's simply not fair for desperate parents to be given half-measures that may actually make matters worse.

Please let me know if I didn't get to your concerns, and thank you for writing. I am so glad that you are seeing progress with your daughter. Your words help me keep doing what I do.

I hope my laziness with my blog today won't put you off from reading my blog!

Hang in there, and great news that you and your husband have expanded your tastes! Your daughter is lucky to have two such loving and considerate parents.


readers, what do you think?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pediasure-the answer to all your feeding worries!

I'm a little more than dismayed at the ads recently for Pediasure. It plays on the worst fears of parents. "Be 110% sure!" (My goodness, Timmy didn't eat the food pyramid yesterday. That could effect his brain development! I need to do something! Or Becky is at the 3rd percentile, and the doctor is threatening me with a 'failure to thrive' diagnosis! Help!)

On TV, a pyramid of wholesome foods float in the air. Slowly, foods disappear from the pyramid as little Ashley refuses to eat more and more foods. Phew! Thank goodness there is Pediasure which magically floats in and fills the holes!

Did you watch the ad? Please do, then answer these questions:

How do you feel about your kids eating? Anxious? Worried?
Do you want to "feed your child's potential?"
What if your child IS missing some nutrient. It can't hurt can it?
What emotion are they attacking? Guilt? Are they reassuring or fear-mongering?
What if my child's development is being effected!

OK, and why is it that in all the ads (I watched them) the kids don't eat any real food, but all LOVE the taste of Pediasure...

How could you NOT "feed your kids potential."

The quick fix. The prescription (literally) for picky or small kids. Many physicians who don't have the time or training to address feeding problems, will recommend Pediasure. WIC (supplemental food assistance for women, infants, children) participants need a prescription.

At a recent WIC workshop, a nutritionist mentioned that there are "great recipes" using Pediasure. When asked if she had ever tried any, she said, 'no.' I wouldn't either. The dietitians bemoaned that fact that the docs all rush to Pediasure and don't address feeding at all.

Yummo! Cooking with Pediasure! (Sarcasm in case you missed it.)

Here is an example of a recipe...
Banana-Chip Muffins (not endorsed by FFD...)


1 14-oz package Pillsbury® Banana Quick Bread & Muffin Mix

1 8-fl-oz bottle Vanilla or Banana PediaSure
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Are the recipes balanced, or a way to sell more products owned by the umbrella company...

I don't deny that there are some children who really do need nutritional support or even exclusive or supplemental tube feeds (those with certain rare medical or physical conditions,) but that is not who Pediasure is marketing to. They are marketing to the average parent who worries about nutrition, who struggles with feeding and likely a picky child. I would also guess there is an army of attractive sales reps making the rounds with free lunches to pediatricians offices too...

My friend, who's child fell of the growth curve after a GI illness was instructed to offer food all day long with Pediasure being the central food. She literally chased her toddler around with a sippy-cup full of Pediasure for weeks. It didn't help and intake continued to suffer. A feeding clinic work-up later, and they were basically sent home with a list of recommendations from Ellyn Satter's work: structure, no grazing, sit-down meals and snacks, no pressure, Division of Responsibility...

Because in fact it is less work- for the physician and for the parent (less effective I might add) to reach for the quick fix, the "pill" in bottle form to fix the problem rather than to delve into feeding. Less work to have a sippy-cup of Pediasure than it is to shop for, plan and prepare 3 sit-down meals and 2-3 sit-down snacks. It is less work to hand the child a bottle than to sit with them and eat.

What could my friend have done (she didn't ask, so I didn't offer...) First, grazing, or drinking supplements all day in small quantities doesn't work. Kids don't develop a proper appetite and studies show that they will eat less well and grow less well.

(Note, this is general info, and is not intended to replace an evaluation or work-up. In other words I don't want to recommend stopping Pediasure in case you, gentle Reader have a child who really needs it.)

So, if you are using Pediasure, start by bringing it into sit-down meals and snacks every 2-3 hours for smaller children and every 3-4 for older. Offer balanced foods with those meals and snacks. Sit and eat with your child as much as possible. Don't let them graze in between. Allow them the opportunity to get hungry. Not too hungry, but come to the table with some hunger. Stop pressuring or bribing. In other words, follow the Division of Responsibility in feeding.

OK, that's it. My mini-rant on Pediasure, a whirlwind bit of advice.

Folks, what have your experiences been with Pediasure?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

some decent books at Target

After raling about a book I saw at Target, I wanted to give them props for these gems. At $1 each, they are lovely looking, printed in the USA and well-written. My 5 yo loves hearing the stories of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Secret Garden etc. There are illustrations every other page or so which helps keep her interest as well since she tends to be a wanderer. I was a fidgety kid and I didn't get read to as much (it can be annoying to have a kid who is playing with the cat while you're reading, but she is taking it in...) Don't give up on reading to your kids, even if they are sitting there playing with Legos or the cat while you do it :)

I'm a little torn about recommending a Target product, with the controversy around the political stuff, but they're a home-town company that gives away 5% of its earnings to charity, sponsors tons of cultural stuff in the Twin Cities and is a big local employer. I can imagine there are lots of other companies doing as much or more egregious political donating so I'm going to stay out of it...

Warning, Oliver Twist, is NOT a kid's story... Murder, mayhem, multiple kidnappings, moms dying in childbirth...

Monday, October 25, 2010

new blog/website coming soon...

Hello all-
Sometime this week this blog site will disappear (I think!) I am consolidating to one site with website and blog all at one address,
I hope you are enjoying the blog and will follow to the new location. I'm not sure how your SRS readers etc will work. If you FAN Family Feeding Dynamics on Facebook, you will get updates automatically. Please let me know if you have any trouble, and I apologize for any inconvenience. The old content should be there though there may be some formatting issues, but the comments will be new and improved, and I hope will make things easier for readers and clients alike.
I am working with someone on this and we are on a deadline with the domain so it will be a little sloppy at first, but hey, I have to keep the family dinners going! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

physical activity for kids– but someone could get hurt!

Hi! I'm back. It feels good, but also lots to catch up on, and my email seems to be swallowing things, so if you're the mom from Colorado who emailed a while back, I think I have a contact for you :)

So, part of having a healthy relationship with our bodies is moving them. Kids often do this more spontaneously than adults. I marvel at the energy level, the sheer joy many children have as they run, or dance. Even my relatively sedentary child (compared to some of the little guys I know!) has such a clear joyful abandon when she's moving.

So, on a recent day off school, I took M and a friend to the Como zoo (a local zoo that is donation-entry) to burn off some steam. It was a beautiful fall day and the zoo was almost empty. I wanted to give them the opportunity to run and play. (Just as with food, there is a Division of Responsibility with activity. I provide the opportunity for M to move her body in joyous and unpressured ways and she takes it or leaves it...)

Anyway, so they are running from one thing to the next. As I said, there are very few people there. I asked them not to run if there were others around, but otherwise was thrilled that they were having fun and getting exercise.

Then an employee shouts at them to "walk! No running!" There was literally no one around. I said kindly, "May I ask what your concern is?" She looked at me like I was crazy. "Well, they can get hurt! We had a kid split his lip here before!"

Really!? I didn't quite know what to say. "OK, well thanks, yes, kids do get hurt I suppose!" I wandered off and let them run at will. A child can split a lip falling from a walk as well. It seemed odd. I could understand if they were running into people, or if it was crowded. I wanted to say, "I am willing to accept that risk," or, "Are you kidding me? Of course some kids will get hurt. That is unavoidable." (Will we soon be signing liability waivers at public places?)

What does this mean? Will we outlaw running, climbing etc because of liability concerns? Already, the playgrounds of our youth with merry-go-rounds are gone. The high-dive at the swim-club is long gone and climbing structures barely get off the ground. (In contrast, in France, where they have 10% of the lawyers we have here, the playgrounds I have seen look like something out of Fear Factor...)

I felt bad encouraging my child to ignore an adult authority figure- but come on.

What do you think? Do you think our caution, our fear of injury is making it harder for kids to find enjoyable ways to be active? Have you had similar experiences?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hummus, really!?

Note: I will be out of town from the 13th-23rd, so expect another posting towards the end of the month!

So, M has seen hummus with meals at least 100 times in the last 3 years. I love it (local Hollyland hummus is the bomb) and it is often there for lunch with other options. Out of the blue, she asked for hummus yesterday morning for breakfast. It was in the fridge right in front of her (I was making French toast from left-over bread.) I was curious so I said, "sure!" (Those of you paying close attention note that I was letting her do the job of deciding 'what' to eat, I hope you'll go with it for now....) :)

She pulled out the hummus, I peeled a carrot for her and she nibbled on that while we chatted and I tended to the French Toast.

"This is good hummus. It's just like Freddie's!"

Well, bowl me over and Thank You Freddie!

You know the line about kids needing to "try" foods 10 times before they decide they like it? Well, they may need dozens and dozens, and sometimes 100 exposures before they decided to even try it! I think they had hummus for snack at school, and Freddie occasionally had it at lunch time.

So, don't despair, don't pressure. I know how tempting it is to ask kids to try it, or to eat something they are reluctant to eat. I firmly believe that almost all kids, when exposed over time to a food in a neutral and pleasant setting will learn to like it.

Like my client who called after six months saying her son tried cauliflower and sushi all in one week, or the child who declared he might try a chicken nugget next time... It takes time, lots of it for some kids. Having a positive attitude about eating and food is critical.

Your 5 year old doesn't have to eat or love everything (nor does your two or eleven year old.) I wasn't even exposed to most 'exotic' cuisine until college and beyond. Trust that if you love eating a variety of foods and you provide your children with that opportunity, with time, they will learn to like those foods.

What if I had MADE her try it, or pressured her? Might she have taken a few bites to please me? Might she have refused and had the 45 minute stand-off? Would she have been as positive about it so soon?

What was it like to be pressured to try new foods for you as a kid... I know I didn't even TRY my mom's red cabbage until I was in my mid-twenties. They always wanted me to try it, but it was my line in the sand....

Are there foods you were encouraged or forced to eat that took you a long time to be open to? ( I still haven't even tried my dad's home-made green tomato chutney...)

Oh, and this was the 3rd time we had French Toast, and M at 2 smallish slices, while she only nibbled the first few times...

Monday, October 11, 2010

crying over rice, and the tools to deal with the meal-time meltdowns

M loves rice, white rice mind you. (I know, it's a current favorite punching bag nutritionally-speaking.) I like both white and brown, prefer white with stir-fry and brown with a bolder, more tomato or squash-based meal.

Anyway, I forgot to push 'start' on the rice-cooker the other night and 15 minute count-down to dinner was on, with no rice. I got some hot, salted water to boil to serve pasta with the dish I threw together (left-over roasted chicken with the drippings, a can of diced tomatoes, sauteed leek, oldish peppers from the fridge, the last, tiny zucchini from the garden, Italian herbs...)

M lost it. She cried and whined that we were having noodles when she thought we were having rice. (She was TIRED after a long day at school/daycare and then swimming lessons...)
I took a big swig of my red-wine, and tried hard to stay neutral. (I was thinking, "darn-it," OK, I was thinking, "Damnit, I just cut up and cooked all this food, we had rice last night, you like pasta, stop whining and eat it!"

Instead, I put on my best Mommy-smile and said, "M, I know you're dissapointed. I am too. I wish I hadn't forgotten to push the start button, but I'm making pasta. It's not OK to whine or cry over what's for dinner. I know you will find something you can eat. Dinner will be a little later, would you like some cherry-tomatoes or carrots for an appetizer? Would you like some dip with it?"

She settled for some cherry tomatoes and our current favorite Netflix show Shaun the Sheep (from the Wallace and Gromit folks.) Within a few minutes it seemed all was forgotten.
D came home, we had dinner about ten minutes later than usual and we all enjoyed the pasta and stew.

The point? Kids are still kids. They whine, they throw fits, but you still get to decide what's for dinner and you still get to ask that they behave as is age appropriate. Don't cave in to whining, or crying that they don't like something. They will survive, even if they don't eat what you make for that meal and even the next. The point is also that even being really vigilant about following the Division of responsibility as we have done, doesn't mean we don't have the whining and fits, it just means we have the tools to deal with it with confidence, if not infinite patience...

Have you seen the division of responsibility help you manage meal-time melt-downs?

Friday, October 8, 2010

words from a mom, and FFD client

Thanks for sharing! I'm in awe of this family. Three kids under three and they have found a way to make it work. I am thrilled to see that, as was my experience, watching their children learn to eat is helping the adults too! T. , you are an inspiration!

"My husband and I have an obsession with food and restrict “forbidden” foods (were both raised to clean our plates, so we over-eat), and we want to give our girls the gift of moderation and calmness with food and prevent an eating disorder, and this feeding model supports that goal. With a little bit of preparation, we can serve a meal for us and our three toddlers (one one-year-old and two two-year-olds) in about 20 minutes and all sit down at the table and enjoy breakfast and dinner together. We serve a well-rounded meal that usually includes a dessert (cookie, fruit, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate chips…) and sit together and talk about anything other than what anyone is eating. We might talk about the specific foods and what they are called and what color they are briefly, but mostly talk about the day and what we’re all enjoying at that moment. There are no comments about being a “good eater”, “please try this”, “you have to eat your veggie before you can have dessert”, etc. If someone doesn’t want to eat more than a couple of bites, that is just fine. We’ll eat again shortly as we do three meals and two snacks in a twelve-hour period. The girls are in regular chairs pulled up to the table in boosters, eating right off the table, with the twins using plates. They might sit for 5-10 minutes and that is just fine. Some days they eat “well”, and some days they don’t. Some meals they eat dessert first, sometimes they don’t touch it. They are learning to stop eating when they’re full and to be adventurous in trying new foods. My husband and I are learning moderation from them in the process, which is wonderful. This method does require me to plan meals and snacks and have structure with timing and being at the table, but we also eat out and have snacks outside our home once or twice a week, but know we’ll be right back in our eating routine so we don’t stress about it, so those occasions end up being even more enjoyable."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

OK, marketing geniuses out there, help me get the word out...

I always struggle to come up with the wording for workshops, particularly for parents.

Case in point, I met with some great parents and ECFE folks in Grand Marais. Some of the feedback I heard was how parents were happily surprised that I wasn't just another "food nazi" who would make them feel bad about not having everything organic, and not getting enough fruits and veggies into kids...

Don't get me wrong, I don't give up on, or poo-poo nutrition, but most parents know pretty well what they "should" be feeding their kids, and they are trying really hard, but things are getting worse.

All the pressure to do it "right" to get enough protein, the worries about nutrition and size make the jobs of feeding harder, not easier.

I think my message, and that of Feeding Dynamics is so different from the standard "childhood nutrition talk" that many parents don't know what to expect, and are put off in advance, anticipating more rules, more guilt and nothing useful.

So, I ask those of you who have seen me talk, or who know Satter's materials, or who follow this blog, or who feed with the Division of Responsibility in your own homes...

1) how would you explain to someone (as succinctly as possible) what feeding this way means...
2) how would you write a one paragraph note to tell other parents how this will be different from what you have heard before
3) how would you tell other parents that this looks like, feels like and works in your own home...
4) what title for an evening talk would grab you to give up a night at home to see what this is all about?

Because, I want to get the word out, I want parents to know it doesn't have to be so hard, I want parents to let go of the guilt and start where they are, I want parents to actually enjoy meals with their kids...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

extremes in food choices

Well, I'm up in gorgeous Grand Marais doing 3 workshops over two days. A lovely drive with the fall colors, waterfalls...

I'm enjoying a quick breakfast, and the cereal choices are fruit loops or All-Bran... Couldn't there be something in between? Seemed kind of emblematic of our food atmosphere, one of extremes. One where most folks don't cook, but Iron Chef gets hundreds of thousands (millions?) of viewers, one where nutrition classes pit KFC against Quinoa...

Monday, October 4, 2010

foods I craved as a kid that taste gross to me now...

On a recent car trip, I was hankering for a snack, and found these. The cheddar club sandwich cracker. Now, it wasn't the crackers with the little bucket of cheese with the plastic red stick, but it was close.

There are a few foods that stick out in my memory as extra-special, that I really craved, mostly because I couldn't have it. Foods I loved, ate as much as I could when I got the chance (begging the little red stick off a friend at school, or from the neighbor down the street.)

It was gross. I opened it up, took two bites and left the rest. M tried it and agreed it was gross. (I didn't use the word "gross" but said it wasn't my favorite and asked if she wanted to try it. She did, and was similarly unimpressed.) I was disappointed. This has happened more often than not over the past year or so. Eating some former "forbidden" food, and realizing- it wasn't "all that."

Keebler cracker sandwich, Twinkies, microwave popcorn, microwave bean burrito, chocolate pudding from a plastic cup... (Note, we did not have a microwave until the 21st century...)

Are there former faves or forbidden foods you realize now are not so yummy?
The best flavor-enhancer is a little bit of "I shouldn't," a dash of "this is so bad," or a pinch of "whoa..."

Friday, October 1, 2010

small kids don't know what they want to eat until it's in their mouth

This is a scenario I see or hear about over and over. A mom standing in the kitchen with a 1-2 year old child asking over an over, "What do you want for breakfast?" (or lunch, or snack...)

"Do you want noodles?" pause....
"Do you want eggs?" pause....
"Do you want a cereal bar?" pause...
"How about a Go-gurt?" pause...
And it goes on until there is a positive, or at least not a negative response.

So, let's say Susie asks for noodles with butter. Mom makes it. Susie looks at it and says "Yuck." (Maybe she's been munching on crackers while she's waiting for the noodles because she's crying that she can't wait, and she's so cute and she's small and hungry!)

So, she has rejected what she 'ordered.'
Do you get mad? Try to reason? "Well, this is what you asked for! You liked it the other day, don't be so picky..."

Susie throws it on the floor and asks for a granola bar. Now you're late for music class, you grab a juice box and a granola bar that she nibbles on in the car, and she whines off and on for all of music class that she's "HUNGRY!" and she nibbles on some more granola bar and maybe some raisins on the way home, and then it's almost dinner time.

"What do you want for dinner?"...

Small children shouldn't meal plan. They can't. Heck, I can't some days! Remember, as the parent of the young child- and I include young school-aged kids in this group- it is YOUR job to meal-plan. It is your job to think of balanced options that you can offer, and your job to enforce the structure that will help her learn to like new foods and tune-in and eat the right amounts.

So, how does this feel...
"Jimmy, it's time for breakfast in five minutes, please get ready to put your blocks away."

Meanwhile you think about what you like to eat, what might have some fat, protein and carbohydrate.

"Jimmy, come to the table now please. You see we have toast and you can choose butter, jam or peanut butter. I also made a plate of scrambled eggs and there's some melon. Would you like milk or water? Oh, you chose toast and jam. Can I help you spread it? Here is a spreader so you can try..."

Meanwhile if you can, sit down yourself and enjoy some eggs or toast with your tea or coffee.

Jimmy doesn't have to worry or chose. It's not his job. He just gets to show up and eat from what you made. He gets to tune-in and eat until he is full (which might be two bites, or a cup of melon and two pieces of toast.) Then he gets to wait 2-3 hours until snack time.

My table? I enjoy eggs and think they're a great and easy food to balance nutrition and give kids energy, but M isn't a fan. If I ask if she wants an egg, she says, "no." But, if I cook an extra (medium-boiled and she doesn't eat the yolk mind you) she always asks for it when it hits the table and usually asks for another, but I don't boil 2 extra because it's just too wasteful and I don't want to eat 3 eggs! I also often make a scrambled egg and put it in the middle of the table so I can eat some, and she occasionally helps herself to some with little or no yolk. A pan-scrambled egg takes less time than microwaved oatmeal...

Kids often ask for foods and then don't want them, or say they don't want or like something, and eat it a few minutes later (if we can keep out of the fight!) M did this all the time too. "I don't like steak!"
Me: "OK, you don't have to eat it, there are other choices."
Most often the food she was just complaining about was then eaten happily without comment a few moments later.

Does this sound like meal-time at your house? Do your kiddos ask for and reject foods, or eat what they say they don't want?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

moms speak out, "two-bite rule" and listening to your gut

Thank you to those who filled out the survey. I can only assume from those who chose not to that I am doing everything perfectly! (Just kidding, but why not go with the self-affirming assumption?)

Many wanted to hear from other moms who are in the "trenches."

Here is a great comment from a reader about the two-bite rule (or the on-bite-rule or the 'no thank-you bite'...)

"I am personally sooo sick of hearing about "just try it" and "two bite" rules. Especially the accompanying insistance that their application will turn my son from a neophobic eater into an adventuresome eater. I can only assume that this technique works for some kids because it sure is popular.

We only had to try it a few times to realize that it didn't work for our son. The instant that he is told he has to try something he immediately assigns it to the "I don't like it" category. And foods are seldom removed from this category once they are placed in them... Also, to actually get him to try something he doesn't want to requires an EXTREME amount of pressure, so extreme that I know it has to be wrong."

The pressure moms feel to get their kids to eat "right" is also extreme. Many, knowing that it feels wrong, slog through joyless meals, miserably doing as they are told to get the pyramid into their kids every day. My favorite quote? "Dinner feels like 45 minutes of hostage negotiations." The reader is right, it does 'work' for some kids, the easy-going, adventurous kind perhaps. It even works for one sibling, but not the other. Trust when you feel that something isn't working. If you dread feeding and meals, something is wrong.

Or the mom with the son who is rapidly gaining weight who was scolded by the doctor, "You're the parent here! Step up and don't bring that crap into the house!" Well, now her son is being shunned by friends because he cleans out their pantries of all the forbidden foods when he hangs out at their homes. She KNOWS it feels wrong, and it's not working, but the doctor told her to do it, and hey, she's a bad mom if she doesn't, right?

What feels wrong to you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

New survey: America still isn't eating "enough" vegetables. But why?

This article in the NYT originally, and then in our local paper answers 'why' Americans aren't eating more veggies– but doesn't realize it. It's not for lack of trying, for lack of public health campaigns or effort or money spent on getting out the word. It's not that there aren't enough posters in our schools showing cool kids eating veggies, or exhorting kids to eat more veggies, or smiley faces 'eating the rainbow...'

About 1 in 4 Americans gets veggies three or more times a day. About 1 in 10 teens get the recommended amount. As someone working with families (and according to nationwide surveys) I know that it is not for lack of knowledge. Parents want their kids to eat well and have good nutrition, but they don't know HOW to support it (and many struggle financially to do so. But I will put the issue of food insecurity aside for a moment.) What American doesn't know what they "should" be eating? What parent doesn't lament the battles over broccoli?

One expert realizes, "There is nothing you can say to get Americans to eat more veggies." -duh
(I would add, there is very little we can say to get our children to eat more veggies...)

The author and experts assert Americans would eat more veggies if they were cheaper and tasted better. A nurse admits she won't eat veggies because they make her "gag." (I'd love to know if she was forced to try veggies or clean her plate as a child...) They don't explicitly get to it, but the following quotes hint at part of the solution. Read these and guess what is missing...

"The moment you have something fresh, you have to schedule your life around it."

"An apple you can just grab, but what am I going to do, put a piece of kale in my purse?"

What jumps out? What is missing?

Sitting down to meals and structure...

As I have gone through my training (my reading, now being lucky enough to be a part Ellyn Satter's clinical faculty with access to their incredible breadth and years of experience, seeing my own meals and family's eating, working with clients...) I have come to believe that without structure, without the habit of saying, "I am going to sit down now and make myself/may family something to eat" (or sit down to take-out or a frozen meal) that improving variety and successfully adding things like veggies is almost impossible.

The parents I meet and talk to want their children to be healthy and to eat well. They try really hard to get them to eat veggies. They bribe, they hide, they sneak, they beg, they threaten, they reward with stickers or treats-and for the most part, it's making their kids like veggies less, not more. Remember that how to feed is the key to the what. That notion of the Division of Responsibility, which is the basis for the feeding relationship all but requires meals and structure.

The structure has to come first. The meals have to come first. They don't have to be fancy, or "fresh" (canned and frozen are just fine) but you can't have a meal in your purse or strapped into a car-seat. (You can eat that way, but it's not a meal where you can tune-in to hungry and full, tune in to appetite, explore new foods, flavors and eventually improve variety.)

If you're grabbing Goldfish on the go (and who hasn't for the kiddos or even ourselves) it's easy to wander around contented for the moment with Goldfish. But, sit down, pay attention to the food, and the question, "What might taste good to me with these goldfish, or to little Timmy?" might come up. The answer might be, a cut up apple, or some microwaved frozen squash with butter, salt and brown sugar, or a sliced tomato...

What do you think?

Friday, September 24, 2010

family meals are priority one: what I'm letting slide to get it done...

With school and work ramping up these days (a nice problem to have, but I have to admit to being a little overwhelmed as most parents may be these days...) I've had to let a few things slide to keep up the really important stuff-like family meals...

• combing my daughter's hair (there, I said it... occasioanally we do a surface-comb, but ponytails hide many sins...)
• vacuuming
• mowing the lawn (since the kid who was doing it went back to school we are living in a jungle...)
• bi-weekly grocery runs (we're down to one for fresh and one for non-perishables. I dislike having to shop at two places, but do...)
• daily blogging
• unpacking (why bother, I'll just need to pack in a few weeks again)
• ambition with cooking- remember that doing family meals is a marathon, not a sprint. When things get crazy, I rely on easy, quick standards, quick pan-cooked meats with glazes, mac-n-cheese, couscous, more cut-up raw veggies, I buy pre-washed salads, we might eat out more, eat more left-overs, do the giant crock-pot meal and eat it for 3 days. I tend not to try new recipes...
• tidying up- inside and out-my yard looks like a plastic obstacle course. Orange cones, hula-hoop, bike, helmet... tumble-weeds of cat-hair.
• laundry. the mega-loads that take 30 minutes to fold...
• exercise (I need to get the walking routine going again. Will walk tomorrow after a meeting.)

What do you prioritize and let slide?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

learning to like new foods: the sitter said it best!

Usually when we have a sitter, I make mac-n-cheese. Last night we also had grapes and carrots and dip. I sat with and ate it too. I love that white Annie's mac-n-cheese...

From the beginning I always mixed peas in our mac-n-cheese. M prefers it this way. So, the pasta was boiled, the peas were nuked. I asked our sitter, Loulou * if she minded if I mixed them together. Here is what she said...

"Sure. I like it that way. At first when I started coming here I thought it was odd, but then I got used to it and now I like it."

I couldn't have said it better myself. She basically described the process of learning to like new foods (food acceptance.) With repeated, pleasant, neutral, non-pressuring exposures, even new foods become familiar. Now, mind you, kids will never say this, or appear this rational. The process looks much more chaotic, with more fits and start. They look at it, they smell it, they watch you eat it, they might lick it or even chew it and spit it out, they might swallow it, they like it and eat lots one day, refuse it the next... Believe it or not, that's all part of the process of what Ellyn Satter calls "sneaking" up on new foods.

Just hang in there! If you serve the foods you want to eat at family meals and sit-down snacks, your kids will grow up to like the foods that you eat as a family.

What weird things do you put into or on classic foods? (I ate corn on the cob with ketchup for the longest time!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

threat level orange!!! parents are in a constant state of anxiety around feeding

Back from Denver after a great conference. I met some very dedicated folks working to help kids with eating and weight.

On the way to the airport, I passed the same sign that has been up for the last 9 years.
Several more reminders in the airports that the 'powers that be' have determined our threat level is orange. In case you forgot. In case you go more than an hour without being reminded of 9/11 in an airport, or in case you relax a little. Would any of us do anything differently if the threat level was green? I suppose I would pay attention to a red, since I don't think there has been one for years...
Since 9/11 we have constant reminders that we're not safe, with warnings of enemies real and imagined. I remember how often I had to turn off the radio for months after the terrible attacks as the pundits spun out elaborate scenarios of planes full of anthrax dusting our coasts and how easy it would be to destroy us all. I know how much that spoiled my days. How we are reminded for weeks that some terrorist is going to be arraigned next week, he's going to be arraigned tomorrow, today, last week. Hourly reminders....

It reminds me of that state we have gotten to with kids and food. How many people can just enjoy being with their kids and feeding them-one of the purest, most elemental expressions of loving and caring? Instead, with the relentless drumbeat today of hype-the continuous "threat level orange" around feeding, the experience is spoiled for most parents and for most children, and it is interfering with our natural capabilities with eating.

Some recent emails, conversations and news stories illustrate a few fears.

Parents worry about:
getting all the fruits and vegetables in
calcium for bones
pesticides and ADHD
mercury in fish
not enough protein
too much protein
too much fat
too much sugar
food dyes
hormones in milk
raw milk
salmonella in eggs
salmonella in chicken
e.coli in meat
e.coli in spinach
high fructose corn syrup
when to start your child on a diet
how to avoid encouraging disordered eating
how to instill positive body image
how to get kids "60 minutes of uninterrupted physical activity" every day
when to find time to cook
how to afford organics
how to afford enough food. period.
BPA in cans and water bottles

Does this list sound familiar? What are your worries? What would it be like not to hear or read about obesity or protein or BPA in the news every day?

My first 'tag-line' was "take anxiety and conflict off the menu..." Sure, occasionally there is cause for concern, but most often our worries only spoil our experiences, color how we feed, invite pressure and fear into the feeding relationship and no one benefits.

I'd love to declare a "level green" month for feeding, with a moratorium on the stories designed to generate fear and anxiety. I know before I found the feeding dynamics model, that I was scared by the news stories and it changed how I fed. How about you?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

part III, a little about intuitive eating, routine and trust

Weightless blog interview...

And, time to finish packing for Denver. I'll check in again next week. I'll be able to review and publish comments and tap out brief replies perhaps!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Part II of my interview

tackling picky eating and the "war on obesity"

"But I'm too full for dessert!": and dealing with pressure from family/friends

When we were with family last month, we did things a little different. I try to follow the general flow of others when we are staying with family or friends. I don't ask for dessert with the meal for example. (I do, however stick up for my child if she is being pressured to eat something or limited-and I will give a few examples at the end of the post.)

Well, we had wonderful foods, and occasionally we would have dessert. It often wasn't decided until the meal was almost over what and if dessert would be...

Poor M... A couple times she would finish eating and then our hostess would bring out these delicious little yogurts. I remember her crying, "But my tummy is too full for dessert! I want dessert, why didn't you tell me there was dessert!"

I didn't want to impose serving a child-sized portion of dessert with the meal as we often do at home (in fact, M has gotten pretty good with food regulation-knowing how much to eat-that we often give her the choice of when to have her dessert at this point.)

So, I talked with the cook/main meal-planner before the meal to determine what she wanted to do for dessert. I then told M before the meal if there was dessert so she could "save some room." This seemed to work out fine. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I remained curious, stayed true to the Division of Responsibility, and it worked out pretty well. (I often was happy for her to have "dessert" yogurt since she is still not a big milk drinker and we try to offer other sources of calcium-rich foods.)

It showed me again though, that she is listening to her body. She did not stuff it in just to enjoy the dessert. We also remained flexible and curious to see how things would go. We don't always get things right the first time :)

A few examples of pressure you might encounter and what you might say:

grampa: "If you take that piece of toast, you have to finish it all."
you say: "Actually Dad, that's not how we do it. Please follow my lead. Billy, why don't we start with half a piece, and if you're still hungry you can have more."

waitress: "You can't have dessert sweetie, until you finish your broccoli!" (really!)
you: "You are getting no tip." (just kidding)
try: "We're doing just fine here. Please bring her dessert now. Thank you."

gramma: "Let's hide his bottle. He's distracted. He eats too much and haven't you heard that obese babies will be fat adults and die before you and get diabetes and, and, and ..."
you: "Gramma, we like to let little Timmy decide when he's done eating. He'll let us know. May I have his bottle back, please?"

Uncle Bob: "You'll hurt Betty's feelings if you don't eat any of her sauce."
you: "Oh, Bob, that's silly! We love Aunt Betty, and thank her for making dinner, but we don't eat anything we don't want to. I'd like some sauce, please."

School: "You have to eat at least half your main food before you can have dessert."
see post... on teaching kids to overeat

how do you deal with it when family/friends/teachers pressure your child with his eating?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

interview on PsychCentral: feeding kids and our cultural "ab-norm" with food

Please check out an interview I did with Psych Central coming out in three parts this week.
Today's topics:

Where did we go wrong
more about the feeding model I work with and how I found it
what are the keys to raising kids who are competent eaters

We have our water back, but it's brownish and supposedly full of lead. I'm starting to pack and do final preps for a conference in Colorado Thursday and Friday, so again I am grateful for the lazy post! Moms who work outside-the-home (or home business,) how do you juggle it all! How long do you ever feel you have the 'balance' between work and family down? (I sure don't right now!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

the fantasy vs reality of the "two-bite club"

I saw the book Ellyn is referring to recently. It is a gorgeous book, lovely drawings, a well-intended sentiment, but ultimately not helpful, and crosses into pressure. Read on for Ellyn's astute retelling of this story. (Reprinted with permission, and a little gratitude that I don't need to write a full post on a day when our water AND gas are being shut-off for construction. I am at the coffee shop hoping they don't blow up my house before a 9:30 appointment.)

September 2010 • Family Meals Focus #49 Review, The Two Bite Club

It is gratifying when nutrition professionals take the big step to writing educational materials from the point of view of feeding dynamics. However, there is such a big contradiction between the feeding dynamics model and the conventional approach, it isn’t surprising when errors creep in. Even seasoned professionals trip themselves up with messages that cross the lines of the division of responsibility in feeding. With that in mind, let’s take a friendly but realistic look at a recent and free (and therefore widely distributed) publication of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service: The Two Bite Club.

Older brother Will is the protagonist of the piece. “My teacher said that if we eat two bites from each food group we can be members of the Two Bite Club!” Will’s teacher is to be forgiven for this - most teachers don’t know about the division of responsibility in feeding. Teachers interested in nutrition can sometimes be a bit zealous - and controlling - about it.

Little sister Anna can smell pressure a mile away. “OK, but I might not like it,” she replies cautiously. Mother says, “Anna, I know you can be a big girl and try two little bites of each food, then you will be in the Two Bite Club!” Sure enough, Anna’s caution is well-founded. There are not just one but two cleverly disguised pieces of pressure in one sentence: 1) If you force yourself to eat you will be a big girl and 2) It is only two little bites. Anna is only a preschooler, and she isn’t able to deconstruct that sentence. However, like most children, she knows what she knows - she is being railroaded! So far, the Two Bite Club is faithful to the reality of feeding children.

First, they play a little game. They find a food that fits in the grain group of MyPyramid for Preschoolers. Well, all right, that’s kind of like a treasure hunt. Anna likes treasure hunts. Will finds some whole-wheat crackers. “Let’s try these!” he says. “Oh, no,” says Anna, “I don’t think I’ll like them.” Anna can smell pressure, even when it is coming from Will! Anna might be one of those slow-to-warm-up types, but more likely she is just a typically canny preschooler. Here is where our book takes leave of reality. “But she [Anna] tried two little bites. ‘I like them!’” she exclaimed.

Oh, come on. How realistic is that? Every child I have seen coerced this way makes a sour face and says “Eew! I don’t like it!” The research says the same. When you coerce children to eat, they like foods less well, not better. Even when you don’t coerce them, it takes a lot of exposures - 5 or 10 or 47 - for a child to learn to like a new food. The slow-to-warm-up types take longer. Anna might be a slow-to-warm-up type, or she might just be made to appear that way by the hard sell for this strange club.

So on they go. Like the bread group, the perfectly acceptable treasure hunt for vegetables contains a zinger: Anna has to take two bites of broccoli. So what if they are only little tiny microscopic bites? What if Anna only has to lick it? Do you know how gross it is to be strong-armed into making close contact with something - strange? Here is a more likely scenario: Anna took a bite of broccoli. “Eew! I don’t like it!” she gagged, spitting it on the floor. (We could have her spitting on her plate or in her napkin but Anna, Will, and Mother are all standing up for the Club meeting.)

Then they hunt for fruit. By now, you would expect Anna to slope off to watch Dora the Explorer rather than play this game, but our story has her coming back for more. This time, Anna gets to choose, and she finds a yellow apple in the fruit bowl. The optimistic folks who hope that letting Anna pick the food will get her to eat it are heartened. Ever vigilant, Anna recognizes the pressure. “I don’t think I like yellow apples; I only like red apples,” she says.

So let’s give Anna a break and write a new ending to our story. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to,” says mother, learning from her mistakes. “Yes,” says Will. “Let’s forget about the bites. I don’t have to belong to any dumb club in order to enjoy my food.”

So Mother got Will and Anna’s lunch ready. She put on the whole grain crackers and broccoli and stirred some Ranch Dressing mix into the yogurt to make dip. She put on some cheese and some milk and they all agreed those foods were from the milk group. She peeled the apple and cut it up. Anna could see that on the inside a yellow apple was just the same as a red one. Mother let Anna and Will pick and choose what to eat from what was on the table. Anna ate a whole apple and some cheese and drank some milk and dipped a cracker in the dip and ate a little corner of it. She ignored the broccoli - she’d had enough of that for one day.

And they all ate happily ever after.

Copyright © 2010 by Ellyn Satter. Published at

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hillbilly Housewife-cooking on a budget

Cooking on a budget ideas...

new blog/website coming soon, what would you like to see?

Please take a few minutes to take the poll on the right. Also comment here on what would make this a more useful/informative site.
Want to see more on adults and eating? Let me know! I'll be combining the log and website onto one page, adding the "smart" comments feature so we can have more of a dialogue, but otherwise keeping the content roughly the same.
Would it matter to you if I did three posts a week? Is every day too much? Not enough (hee hee.)

I truly treasure all your comments and feedback. It's a way I can feel like I'm spreading the word, and maybe helping some families in the process.

And thank you all. You have all given me much to think about with your thought-provoking and often moving stories!
Stay tuned!

Friday, September 10, 2010

lingering effects of sugar

M this morning, "Can I have that sweet cereal again? I want sugar for breakfast! Sugar! I want something sweet!"

We talked about how we would have ice-cream tonight for dessert, but that breakfast was cereal, oatmeal, toast or a sandwich with melon. She's been eating ham sandwiches for breakfast recently with pickles. In Germany, lunch meat is a common breakfast thing, so we go for it. Breakfast seems to be a meal where we all sort of get what we want within reason. She is given choices, but we don't all eat from the same things like we do at dinner. I'm OK with this. M doesn't chose toast, or cereal much, and we have a pleasant time.

Just thought I'd share the morning conversation. I have to chuckle when I think of what I do for a living, at how fastidious we've been about optimal feeding, but she's still a kid!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

wasting food, hunger, and finding that "stopping place"

Here we are at Cracker Barrel, which was across from our hotel on our recent drive (2 days in the car!) to see family. I skipped the Kids Menu, and M ordered rice, chicken, corn and milk. I had roasted chicken, beans, stuffing and corn. We ate maybe 25% of what was on the table. I ordered her a main meal because all the kids stuff was the typical fried, limited fare that M doesn't love anyway. She had biscuits for the first time. She liked the corn bread too. We had a pleasant meal, but here is what we left. (I suppose we could have shared entrees had I realized how much food there would be...)
It got me thinking again about poverty, food insecurity (or restrained or unreliable feeding) and how it effects what we eat and how much we eat.
  • I waste food because I can afford to. (The photo above is at the end of our meal.)
  • I can stop eating because I know I will have enough, good-tasting variety of foods before I get truly hungry again. (Reliable meals and snacks.)
  • I can try new foods and introduce my daughter to new foods because I know I will have other things to eat, and because I have enough resources to try something that might not get eaten.
  • I can stop because I can eat any of those foods when I want to. (I don't need to eat 2 biscuits because if I want to order them again sometime, I can-without guilt.)
  • I leave food because I have never been truly hungry (childhood food insecurity and hunger often has long-lasting effects, with adults who experienced it more likely to feel anxious or panicky with food, and more likely to binge when foods are available-a smart survival strategy at the time...)
  • I leave food because I have learned to eat in a way that is tuned-in to my internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety.
  • I am lucky...
If I weren't so lucky, I would have ordered food for M that I KNEW she would eat. If I didn't know when the next meal was coming, I would order reliably filling foods with lots of calories for the least amount of money. If I hadn't eaten all day because I was "saving points" for dinner, or didn't have any cash, or felt guilty about how I blew my diet yesterday... (you see where this is going.)

(BTW, M doesn't really have to "think" about any of this, or know it on any rational level. In spite of my inclinations as a chatty extrovert, I don't explain or rationalize any of this to her. I do my jobs with providing reliable, good-tasting foods every 3-4 hours. She just shows up and listens to her body... She stops eating when her body tells her to.)

Poverty, how much we eat, what kinds of foods we eat, are more complex than most (especially in the public health world) would have us believe. Food is at it's heart survival, and making it simply into a moral issue without a deeper understanding of the complexities–the physiology and psychology of hunger (monetary or self-inflicted)– is dangerous and short-sighted.

How do your childhood experiences of hunger (in any form) effect your eating today?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

first day of school lunch?

My daughter had sugar-snap beans, a pickle, a little container of ketchup and 3 Swedish Fish...

I felt so bad for her, she forgot that I packed her a thermos with warm left-over mashed potatoes and steak! (At summer camp, they didn't refrigerate her lunch bag so I put the hot on one half and the cold in another. I reminded her yesterday morning that her thermos was in her backpack, she even watched me cut up the steak, but she forgot.)

Poor thing realized what had happened on the way home and LOST IT. She wanted to eat it when we got home, but I already sort of cross my fingers about temperature and food saftety having the food in a thermos until noon so I said 'no.'
I thought it was interesting that none of the adults noticed that she was eating cold beans with ketchup. They must see some interesting lunches. Maybe they have finally taken my advice and decided to leave her alone with her food :)

Today, she gets her favorite, turkey curry and rice. I'll pack some beet salad and maybe some grapes. Hope she finds it all this time!

What did your child eat on the first day of school? International readers, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

sugary cereal first-hand

So we generally try to stay with cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Sweet foods are easy to like, and tend to replace other foods and worsen variety, and thereby nutritional quality. Meaning, kids will often eat only sweet things if given the chance. (It's why desserts and sweets are treated differently with the Division of Responsibility.)

I watched this first-hand with our first box of Frosted Flakes. I took M with me shopping, something I try not to do, and she asked for frosted flakes. I had already said "no" to ding-dongs and a few other things (I much prefer Ghirardelli brownies anyway, which M also likes...) and I wanted to see what happened, so we bought a box.

We had the cereal on offer the next few mornings, and literally ALL M ate was dry frosted flakes. Nothing else. Not enough variety, not enough fat or protein to sustain her and our mornings were more difficult. I didn't explain that she needed to eat other things, but after 3 mornings of this, we said, she "could have toast, eggs or Kix or Oat Squares today." She chose the toast and some Oat Squares and milk and was fine. I expected a big battle for the FF's but didn't have it.

It was an interesting experiment. We might offer it on occasion, when she's home and I know I can offer a balanced snack or lunch, but it definitely confirmed the sweets-kill-variety if not managed appropriately.

What have you noticed with sugary foods?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ice-cream for being upset?

We were on the road, and tired of McDonald's and Subway. (Road-trips were the only time I was allowed to eat fast food and I relished it as a kid. I am a little more lenient, but we don't often do fast food at home, so looking forward to a Happy Meal is a nice way to help with hours and hours in the car...)

Anyway, there was a Whole Foods near our hotel, and we decided to eat dinner there. M has recently really gotten into seaweed salad so we chose that, and checked out their hot and cold bar. M chose mashed potatoes, zucchini, roasted peppers and onions (they were in with the brats which she didn't want) and rice. I had a cold salad with the works, chicken, corn, eggs, lettuce, beets etc...

We were going to share. I asked M to hold her bowl with two hands. I reminded her a few times, and that it was easy to drop. I also had a few non-perishables so I had a basket, my bowl and couldn't figure out where to check out. It was really annoying. One guy said one line, we waited, I stood there and next I hear is wailing. I turn around and M was trying a zucchini and dropped her food on the floor. I am ashamed to admit I was not immediately super-cool Mommy and spat out, "I told you to hold it with two hands!" This of course did not help, and the cashier thought I was a monster, and kept saying, "It's OK Mommy, you can get more food." I was more irritated with the system, with having been stuck in a car all day, with juggling a basket, food, a pre-schooler, waiting in lines...

Anyhoo, I calmed down, reassured M that it was not a big deal ("I want Dad-deee!!!") got her a new bowl of food and went to another line. We came back for my bowl of salad that I had abandoned and the cashier handed M a bowl of ice-cream! Vanilla with chocolate sauce. "Here Sweetie, It's OK!"

I know she meant well, and I didn't really care (though we had had ice-cream at lunch) and I joked that I was going to drop food more often if I got free ice-cream.

It just fascinated me that the impulse was to soothe her with ice-cream, that she didn't ask me first. That the ice-cream would make it all OK.

It didn't hurt, and we went on to enjoy a nice meal. (Though I was also miffed that I bought bottled water only to see that they had free cold water in the dining area.) Oh well!

What do you think? Were you soothed with food as a child? Was/is that a hard habit to break? Do you ever use food to feel better now? (I know food can lift my mood sometimes.) Have you learned to "use" food or other means to soothe in healthy ways?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

worry about weight, two reader perspectives...

Here are two reader comments I couldn't resist sharing. Related to my last post about worrying about weight in very small children. They are well-worth the read. My readers, your inspire me! What is being done to families, mothers, fathers and children in the name of weight is wrong and harmful and unnecessary. Read on...

"I really appreciate these suggestions to lessen the focus on weight, especially for the very young.
I have twins and my daughter was tiny from birth. She has never been on the charts and at 6 months weighed only 12 pounds, which triggered a number of GI specialist appointments, the coordination of a dietician, etc. I was nursing her but had to begin supplementing with high-calorie formula in an attempt to increase weight gain. No physical issues were ever found, and she continued to grow steadily, just...slowly. The GI doctor at one point warned me that if she didn't gain more weight, her cognitive functioning could be harmed.

Of course I was terrified and this sparked a terrible pattern for us, in which I constantly tried to cajole/encourage/trick/force my daughter into eating more, and she, naturally, pushed back from day 1. It saddens me to look back on this and think that we were going through this power struggle even when she was a baby. It continued on and on, because at each appointment, she was still "not on the charts". Our doctor suggested some helpful, healthy things to increase the caloric density of her foods, but also some unhealthy things (such as feeding her Carnation Instant Breakfast, which she would never touch anyway). I had to monitor the number of calories my daughter consumed every day. On a good calorie day, I was thrilled, on a low calorie day, I was frightened, miserable, and often cried.
My daughter was 16 lbs at a year and 21.5 lbs at 2 years. This intense emphasis on her weight set up a terrible relationship to food and feeding. Shortly after she turned 2, my mother located all of my baby records from birth up to 2 years. And it turns out that at every single appointment, I had actually weighed slightly less than my daughter at the same age! My husband and I are both small, slim, people. The difference is that back then, in the 70s, my doctor didn't consider it a problem, and wrote notes such as "she's doing well" or "she's fine" to my mother.
At that point I realized my daughter is playing out her genetics and her well-meaning pediatrician's focus on her smallness had helped us set up a bad dynamic in which our mealtimes were disasters and my daughter wouldn't eat out of a need for control. Shortly after she turned 2 I swallowed hard, began following the Child of Mine advice, and backed way, way off. I no longer try to convince/bargain/trick her into eating. I provide healthy meals at specific times, and I allow her to eat what she wants. I don't comment on it, and I don't bribe with dessert. At first it was REALLY hard because of our historical weight issues, but I soon found that she actually eats much, much better now! She tries many more things, and her weight hasn't suffered. Now mealtime is no longer a terrible battle, and instead we can enjoy ourselves. Given how small she is it's still hard for me to grit my teeth and say nothing if she decides not to eat much at a given meal, but I try to take a whole day, or whole week approach and realize that she actually does eat a good variety of foods."


"I am a mother of an 11 month old boy that lives in the Peninsula area of the San Francisco Bay Area. Oh, man have I been getting the messages.
I'm fat. Not heavy, not 'overweight' - I'm fat. I weigh 275 pounds at 5'4". My husband is also fat. He's 280 at 5'10".
The weight talk started at my son's six week appointment. I keep hearing moms talk about their doctors worried that their kid is not gaining enough. Ours discussed with us if we had concerns about him gaining _too much._ I said "No, not really. I mean, his gain is normal, right?" and the doctor replied "Low end of normal, actually, but I see that both you and the baby's father are... uh... " "Fat? Yes, we are fat. Are you suggesting a preemptive diet for my six week old?" "No, I just thought you might be concerned." Oy. I mean, really. I let the doctor know that I was not interested in feeding schedules, limiting baby's intake so early or "supplementing" with water. (And let me say, calling my husband "the baby's father" repeatedly instead of my husband, while he sits there is kind of insulting. I've heard this doctor tell other women "Your husband... " but somehow, mine is "the baby's father." Maybe he can't believe a fat woman is married?)
The doctor suggested switching him to whole cow's milk at 9 months - I said that WHO didn't recommend that and I wasn't interested. He again brought up that my husband and I are fat. I asked if he would recommend that a thin mom and dad switch their higher-weight baby to whole milk at 9 months. He said no, breast was best until 2/formula until 1. I said again, that I wasn't interested in going against WHO recommendations and general practice just because we're fat. He then asked if I would be willing to limit intake. I asked if he would suggest that for a higher-weight baby of thin parents. He said no. I said, again, no.
What's sad is that I have interviewed several pediatricians, all of whom want to put him on feeding schedules, limited intake, switch to cow's milk, switch to water for all but two bottles a day - I've gotten some crazy suggestions. When I ask about higher-weight babies with thin parents, they tell me that they wouldn't recommend any of this to them because "the babies will just thin out someday." My common refrain in the doctor's office these days is "What would you recommend to thin parents?"
For what it's worth, my son is 97th percentile for height, 95th percentile for head size and 90th percentile for weight.
Part of my hesitation (okay, more like deep unwillingness) to do feeding schedules and limited intake is that my parents did it with me. My father tells everyone he encounters with a baby about how I cried and cried. They followed the schedule the pediatrician gave them - so many ounces every so many hours. My mother pumped so they could measure the milk and later switched to formula. They took me to countless doctors, some diagnosed me with various conditions. I was "diagnosed" with a pyloric valve issue and they wanted to do surgery. There was a grandmother in the doctor's office that my parents were at to discuss this and she told my father "There's nothing wrong with that baby except HUNGER. You need to feed that baby." My father says he explained to her the feeding schedules, the pumping and measuring, the formula. She told him to "Knock that nonsense off, keep making bottles until the baby isn't hungry anymore." My father - fed up, tired and at the end of his rope went home and did exactly that. He said that it was the first night I slept at all for more than 30 minutes - he kept checking to see if I was alive. After that? No feeding schedules. I am the oldest of three children and the only overweight adult. The other two have no issues with food, exercise (as in, I require a lot of it to maintain and even more to lose) or weight. Ancedata, perhaps, but enough for me to say no to feeding schedules and metered intake.

Sounds familiar? What do you think?

Put slim-fast in that bottle!

Center for Eating Disorders did a nice little piece on why our current obsession with weight, extending now to the VERY young is problematic.
BTW, the study they quoted in the article is a pretty poor design and is counter to many, many studies which show that the majority of larger babies will slim down over time (United States Preventive Services Task Force, Serdula, Huh...)

One of my favorite studies was a long-term (birth to adolescence) study in California showing that the two factors most associated with unhealthy weight gain in adolescence were 1) parents who were worried about their young child becoming fat (and presumable fed to try to avoid fatness) and 2) problems in the early (toddler/preschool) feeding relationship (conflict, power struggles...) Being breast fed, feeding low fat milk, waiting to start solids were not protective against adolescent weight gain. (The study did not address eating disorders.)

We can do more to prevent childhood obesity (and disordered eating) by supporting best feeding practices from birth...

Here is an excerpt from the article:
Consider moving away from a hyper-focus on weight, body type, BMI or any other calculator of weight. Like most efforts involved in parenting, it’s not an easy task to accomplish particularly when it seems like every newspaper article, concerned relative, or public service campaign is telling you to do the opposite. Do your best to focus instead on your child’s overall health (remembering that weight does not = health). Honor and accept your child’s natural body size and shape. Create positive goals around eating that involve paying attention to your baby’s or child’s internal hunger and fullness cues instead of relying on external messages about how much is “too much”.

*The photo is me around 1 year. "Obese" by today's standards and bottle-fed!!! E-gads!

Are you a mom of an infant? Are you worried already about your child's weight? What messages are you getting from your doctors, the media?

Monday, August 30, 2010

purple beans: kids are naturally excited about foods

M's summer camp had a lovely little garden. I was bemused when a note came home one day with, "she even tried green beans!" (They are a favorite.)

We don't need to make smiley faces out of foods, or over-sell foods with crazy names or try to get kids to try new foods with bribes, reward stickers or praise.

Case in point? Purple beans.
After camp one day, M and I harvested in the garden. I got to try two new foods (for me too) with my daughter. That was pretty cool! We picked the above deep purple beans and snacked on them right off the vine, and brought about a dozen home. We also tried "golden raspberries" which I insisted were simply unripe, but M assured me was how they were supposed to be and were actually glorious, champagne-colored raspberries...

So we brought some beans and berries home to share with Dad but ran into the gaggle of neighborhood kids across the street. M skipped over to show them the veggies she picked and then doled out beans to share. Of the 7 kids there, all but one (who has food allergies which can contribute to an understandable caution about food) eagerly tried and ate the beans. No bribing, no rewarding, no faces, no lectures about vegetables. "Cool! A purple bean!"
"That's awesome!" We ran out before D got a chance to taste them.

It just reminded me again that the HOW of food and introducing it is so important. It was positive, no pressure, fun and a reminder that kids are naturally curious about new foods and we largely screw it up as parents and caregivers when we try to control the process.
Also, research shows that kids are more likely to try foods that they grow or have a hand in, but it is not a guarantee :)

Have you tried new foods with your kids?

Addendum: THANK YOU for the comments. I knew all of these children VERY well, one mom was there, I know the specific allergies of the child in question. I was with my child and asked permission from the mom (the neighbors all tend to be pretty free with sharing foods with my M as well) But, you are RIGHT. Always check with a parent before offering food to any child (preferably ever) but especially if you don't know the child's allergy history. M often wants to share things with kids I don't know at school/parks etc, and I always either ask, or tell the kids kindly that I can't share food unless the parents OKs it. Kids are pretty savy and used to this these days, I find.