The Endless Eater

Although many parents are concerned about their children eating healthy foods, there are also some who need help with a child who seems to eat endlessly.  These parents have observed that if there is food available, their child will continue to eat.  So if the advice is to let your child decide when they have had enough to eat, what do we do with these children, let them eat endlessly?

That might not be a bad first step.  What would happen if you let the child eat until they decided that they had enough?  How long would they actually continue to eat, especially if you are choosing what foods to offer?  By demonstrating to your child that you are willing to let them make the decision to stop you are proving that you respect their ability to make this decision.  Sometimes allowing them to eat as long as they would like to, assures your child that they are truly in control of their food intake and that there will be enough food if they need it.  This may offer the child enough security to start to eat only what they need at the time.

There are other reasons why a child may seem to eat too much at a snack or meal.  Consider the timing of meals.  If meals are too far apart, then when a child is offered food they may eat as much as they can for as long as they are allowed.  They are protecting themselves from becoming over-hungry and/or because they don’t trust that the next offering of food will happen within a comfortable time for them.  Most children need to be offered a snack or meal every 2.5-3.5 hours.  If this is regularly not happening a child may eat for as long as possible when given the opportunity.

Some children have very high pleasure responses to foods.  These children are eating because it tastes good, eating gives them pleasure.  These children need to be reminded that we stop eating when our bodies feel full, or sated.  After a reasonable amount of food has been eaten ask this child, “Are you felling full, does your belly feel like you have had enough?” Keep helping your child to become sensitive to the feeling that food gives their body, not just their tongue/brain connection.  Guide them to feel a connection between food and reaching a comfortable fullness.  If a child appears to have eaten too much you might ask, “I know that food taste good, but how does your stomach feel?  Is it too full?” Remind them that they need to feel their bellies during eating to know when to stop.

Some children start a meal with gusto.  They can’t seem to get the food in fast enough.  Then you may notice that their pace starts to slow, they are becoming easily distracted, and they are engaging in more conversation or starting to play with others or their food.  As soon as that starts, ask this child if they have had enough food.  Let them know that they can have more later, but maybe now is a time to take a break.  Let them leave the table and find something else to do if the food will be too much of a distraction.

Keep in mind that children offered healthy foods at regular intervals over the course of their week will take in the nutrients and energy that they need.  Once you have done this your job is to only offer suggestions or observations when you feel that eating is becoming inappropriate. Connecting the inappropriate eating with an undesirable effect allows the child to realize that they need to make a change.

http://wizpert.com/beverly

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Save Money, Keep Food Cost Down

We all know that food is costing more and more.  But with a little planning and a few simple recipes your food dollars can go farther.  Many foods that we buy are made from a combination of oil, sugar and flour.  Sugar and flour are relatively inexpensive.  Although they are not nutritious foods, unless your flour is whole wheat, they do serve a purpose by providing delicious sources of energy.  Other grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, corn and quinoa are also inexpensive when purchased in their raw, unprocessed form and supply many valuable nutrients.Learning to cook these grains is easy.  Most require only a pan, water and heat.  For exact measurements of water and grain read package labels or check your favorite cooking web site.  These grains can make great main courses, side dishes or breakfasts.

Many of us eat grain products in the morning.  Why pay $4.00 for a box of breakfast cereal when for the same $4.00 you can buy more than 5 pounds (15 cups) of flour, which will easily make 7 batches of cookies or muffins or 10 loaves of bread?  Top bread, preferably whole wheat, with any nut butter and fruit such as banana, strawberry or thin apple slices.  And bread making is easier than you might think.  The easiest method is with a bread machine.  If you want to get more involved, go to your local library and take out the book “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day”.  It really works.

Many, if not most, breakfast cereals are processed white flour and sugar so devoid of nutrients that vitamins and minerals need to be added in, thus the term “enriched”.  Boxed dry cereal is certainly convenient, but for a change of pace and a boost in nutrition you could try mixing oatmeal, and maybe some nuts and raisins, in the evening with yogurt, refrigerate and then eat it the next morning.  If you want a hot breakfast warm it up, adding milk 2:1 of the oatmeal mixture, simmering until most of the milk has absorbed into the oatmeal.

As for snacks, most are puffed (air) and fried grain products.  They have generally no redeemable nutritional qualities.  Instead try popping some popcorn, at only 6 cents per 1 ounce serving, that’s the most economical snack available.  Popcorn can be prepared on the stove in any lidded pot or in an electric popper (with oil or air popped).  If you are popping in oil, no butter or oil needs to be added.  If you are using an air popper, add just enough oil or butter taste.  Try adding flax seed oil after popping for added omega 3 oils.  To add even more nutrition and flavor use nutritional yeast instead of salt.  Nutritional yeast has great B-vitamins and zinc.

http://wizpert.com/beverly

Cleaning for the House Cleaner

As a Registered Dietitian, I see diet diaries (a list of foods and amounts consumed over the past 3 days) from clients, both children and adults.  They reason they are referred to me or decide to see me is usually because they believe that their diet is not supporting proper health, or they are facing some medical issues that are diet related.  So when I receive a diet diary I expect to see some unhealthy foods and unhealthy quantities listed.  But this not usually what I receive.  I receive diets full of fruits, vegetables, salmon, whole wheat pasta, and non fat yogurt.

But these diet records don’t coincide with what I see in the grocery stores.  Stores would only sell what people are buying.  They will provide large quantities and choices of popular foods and smaller quantities and choices of less popular foods.  I live on an island in WA state.  The community here, about 20,000, is very educated and affluent.  Most people here have the ability to understand nutritional principals and the money to support optimal nutrition.  The parents here are all, at least on paper, supportive of proper nutrition for their children.  

No one that doesn’t live on this island comes here to grocery shop as the grocery stores are part of a national chain, so the same store is available everywhere.  Therefore I was really struck by what I see in the grocery store here.  As I walk in I see a bombardment of white flour/butter/sugar laden dessert foods, decorated in unnatural colors for Halloween.  Cakes, cookies and cupcakes, in non-recycleable plastic containers, and many with “decorative”  plastic Halloween doodahs (probably made in China) on these items. Adjacent, and similarly packaged are the “every day” selection of cookies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, brownies, and cupcakes. In addition to this there is the permanent bakery counter, and the inter-store rows of breakfast cereals, cakes, cookies, energy bars, snack or breakfast bars, crackers, chips, breads, and cake mixes, plus the frozen and refrigerator sections of more cakes, cookies, brownies, ice cream, ice cream novelties, and other frozen foods based on white flour.   The fresh fruit and vegetable section of the store takes up about one fifth of the total space.  So someone must be buying unhealthy foods, but WHO???

Is it possible that when I receive a diet diary the recorder has “cleaned up their act” for me, or perhaps given me what they know they should eat, not what they eat?  If so, perhaps they should just follow this diet diary.  Why see a dietitian when you know what to eat?  How can I help when you have, on paper, made the changes you know you should make?  It would be far better to be upfront so that I can help you to make changes that you know you can sustain over the long term, not for a three day diet diary.

Preschool Lunches- No Big Deal

Many parents tell me that their child doesn’t eat their packed lunch.  This doesn’t surprise me when I see the portions that are typically packed. When parents see what comes home from a packed lunch where the portions were too large, it looks as if the child ate very little, which is exactly how much they should be eating. 

Do you know what a serving of vegetables or pasta looks like for a toddler or preschooler?  You might be surprised.  I have been observing the lunches sent in by parents at a local preschool.  This preschool does a beautiful job at lunch, putting each child’s packed lunch on a plate and giving them a cup of water and utensils to eat with.  All of the children eat together at a table, assisted by the staff. 

However, the serving sizes of foods are usually way too big.  As just one part of a lunch consisting of 4 or more different foods, I have observed a 1 cup portion of fried rice, a 1 cup container of yogurt, a whole sandwich, ½ cup of crackers, a large apple (sliced) and ¾ cups of pasta salad.  Children ages 2-5 don’t eat or need that much at one meal and these serving sizes are sending the wrong message.  When adults constantly see over sized portions at restaurants, they start to believe that this serving is the appropriate amount that they should eat, but it’s not.   So sending a child too much food, even if it is nutritious food, sends the message “this is how much you should eat.”  No wonder so many of our children are overweight or obese.   

Young children have small stomachs so they need smaller meals and a few snacks throughout the day.  Lunch can consist of 4 choices, at the very most.  Children can become overwhelmed with too many choices.  Examples of serving sizes for preschoolers are:

1/2 -3/4 cups milk or 1 ounce of cheese (one slice) or 4 ounces of yogurt

½ -1 slice of bread or ¼ cup crackers

1 tablespoon of fruit or vegetable per year of age.  (A three year old would receive 3 tablespoons berries)

1 tablespoon of meat, or beans per year of age

1 egg

An exmple of an appropriate lunch for a 4 year old is:

½- 1/3 cup fried rice

4 tablespoons diced chicken

4 slices of apple

4 small carrot sticks

Milk can be served with lunch, but keep in mind that preschoolers only need 2 cups of milk a day, so serving water is fine.  Keep lunch child sized for your child.   You will be surprised how much they eat.

Preschool Lunches- No Big Deal

Many parents tell me that their child doesn’t eat their packed lunch.  This doesn’t surprise me when I see the portions that are typically packed. When parents see what comes home from a packed lunch where the portions were too large, it looks as if the child ate very little, which is exactly how much they should be eating. 

Do you know what a serving of vegetables or pasta looks like for a toddler or preschooler?  You might be surprised.  I have been observing the lunches sent in by parents at a local preschool.  This preschool does a beautiful job at lunch, putting each child’s packed lunch on a plate and giving them a cup of water and utensils to eat with.  All of the children eat together at a table, assisted by the staff. 

However, the serving sizes of foods are usually way too big.  As just one part of a lunch consisting of 4 or more different foods, I have observed a 1 cup portion of fried rice, a 1 cup container of yogurt, a whole sandwich, ½ cup of crackers, a large apple (sliced) and ¾ cups of pasta salad.  Children ages 2-5 don’t eat or need that much at one meal and these serving sizes are sending the wrong message.  When adults constantly see over sized portions at restaurants, they start to believe that this serving is the appropriate amount that they should eat, but it’s not.   So sending a child too much food, even if it is nutritious food, sends the message “this is how much you should eat.”  No wonder so many of our children are overweight or obese.   

Young children have small stomachs so they need smaller meals and a few snacks throughout the day.  Lunch can consist of 4 choices, at the very most.  Children can become overwhelmed with too many choices.  Examples of serving sizes for preschoolers are:

1/2 -3/4 cups milk or 1 ounce of cheese (one slice) or 4 ounces of yogurt

½ -1 slice of bread or ¼ cup crackers

1 tablespoon of fruit or vegetable per year of age.  (A three year old would receive 3 tablespoons berries)

1 tablespoon of meat, or beans per year of age

1 egg

An exmple of an appropriate lunch for a 4 year old is:

½- 1/3 cup fried rice

4 tablespoons diced chicken

4 slices of apple

4 small carrot sticks

Milk can be served with lunch, but keep in mind that preschoolers only need 2 cups of milk a day, so serving water is fine.  Keep lunch child sized for your child.   You will be surprised how much they eat.

10 Days or 10 Years

 

I have been advising parents and child care workers that a young child (ages 1-5) may need to see a new food 8-10 times before they may choose to eat it.  This
recommendation is based on peer reviewed studies from the best nutrition based
journals.  I guess none of these studies had enough time or money to study children over ten years.  Well I did. Granted my study population consists only of 1 child, my son.  However I have seen remarkable new food preferences and habits develop over the years, with a crescendo this year when he voluntarily started asking for and eating broccoli, eggs, and mixed green salad that includes raw spinach, carrots, jicama, red peppers and other vegetables.

My son’s case is even more poignant, as for 3 years he had not grown in height and he preferred fun foods to most healthy foods.  Last fall he was diagnosed with
Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease that strikes at the digestive tract.  Many children with Crohn’s have stunted growth.  Then my son started receiving treatment for Crohn’s.  He started to grow (3 inches in 9 months), and started to eat a wider variety of foods.  I believe that now that his body can absorb the nutrients it needed to support growth; it demands that he consume them.

So, keep eating what you want your child to eat.  Offer a variety of foods.  Give no food more or less distinction beyond being a healthy food or a food just for fun.
Then sit back and watch the show.  I have seen my daughter gravitate to dairy foods, which she had previously shunned, as she reached her pre-teen years.  This is a time when the body needs more calcium and without knowing this she asked for cheese, pizza, and yogurt.  My son has gone in and out of wanting raisinsin his lunch.  When he didn’t want them he told me that he hates raisins.  But then some months later he would ask for them.

Keep doing what you know you should do.  It may take 10 days or even 10 years for the message to sink in.  But once a child chooses to eat a food, they will eat it for a lifetime.  This cannot be said for foods a child is forced to eat.

 

Beverly Pressey is a Registered
Dietician with Master’s degrees in Education and Nutrition and
specializes in working with care givers of babies and children.  Beverly
has worked with individuals, presented at conferences, consulted with child
care centers, taught continuing education and college classes, and presented at
numerous parent groups.  As an experienced counselor, cook, teacher,
speaker and a mother of 2, she has a realistic understanding of infant/child
eating patterns plus the perspective of a busy parent.  Beverly lives in
Seattle, Washington, find out more about her and her book at www.creatinghealthyeaters.com

 

 

 

Berry Season

Yes, it is finally spring.  Even if your weather is not as spring-like as you may like, there are other signs.  Spring foods are showing up in the markets.  Asparagus is one indicator.  But think strawberries if you are feeding children.  Even some of our youngest eaters, perhaps at age 9-10 months, can eat bits of fresh strawberries.  After strawberry season look for raspberries in June, blueberries in July, and blackberries in August.

Serve the berries as soon as possible after purchasing, fresh is best.  Even better, pick your own berries.  Look for “U-Pick” farms in your area.  The native wild strawberries (small and irregular in shape) are the sweetest.  You can easily find blueberries and blackberries growing wild.  Blueberries are easy for young children to pick as many are low to the ground.  Blackberries may be difficult as the plants are covered with prickers.  One way to allow small children to pick these with more ease is to take a shears and cut off a large branch from the blackberry bush.  Lay the branch on the ground and let the kids pick, or eat, blackberries from this branch.  Let your child really taste the natural sweetness of the fruit.  Why alter a berry by covering it in sauce, cream, or baking with loads of sugar?  If you find you have picked too many berries to eat within the next several days, they freeze well.  Lay the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  When they are frozen solid, transfer them to a freezer bag. 

There are also some great children’s books about berries.  My two favorite are “Jam Berry” and “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear”.   Both books have beautiful pictures of ripe berries.  “Jam Berry” will be enjoyed by even the youngest baby as it has a wonderfully entrancing rhythm and rhyme. “ The Big Hungry Bear” has a delightful, yet suspenseful story that can be enjoyed by the reader as well as young children.