Archive for November, 2009

Don’t Feed Your Child

Don’t Feed Your Child

Mindful parents don’t feed infants and children, we let them eat. When I visualize a parent feeding a child I see a parent spooning food into a child’s mouth. This parent seems determined to get a certain amount of food and a certain type of food into the child. They may resort to distraction, rewards, or punishment to accomplish their goal—getting the child to eat.

A mindful parent offers food to an infant or child. This parent also chooses one or two foods to offer, but they have no agenda about the amount of food that needs to be consumed. It is not thel parent’s job to get the child to eat. This parent follows the child’s tempo, offering a new spoonful when the child has finished chewing (look at the jaw moving) and opens his or her mouth for more. If the child is self feeding, the parent sits back and observes, or eats their own meal.

A mindful parent lets the child explore the food with touch, taste and smell. The child is allowed to eat as little or as much as they wish. Observation of a child will tell us when an infant or child is finished. A rejected food can be offered again at another time, but it is not forced on the child, not even a small taste. In this way we allow our children to maintain their ability to react to their own nutritional needs. This is how we create healthy eaters.

School Potlucks

Fried Chicken, more fried chicken, pizza, fried chicken, fried chicken and more fried chicken. That’s what entrees were available at the potluck for my child’s class last week. I know people are busy and don’t have time or want to cook. I know that store bought or take out is more convenient and I have no problem with this. But I also know that there are plenty of store bought and take out opportunities that are a lot healthier than fried chicken.

If asked to donate books to the school, I doubt that these parents would choose poorly written stories or books portraying anti-social or illegal activities as desirable outcomes. They want the best for their children (this was a potluck at a private school)and will complain if they believe their child is not getting the best available. So why do they choose fried chicken?

I wonder what these parents are thinking when they purchased all of this chicken. I don’t know all of these parents well, but as a group they are educated and upper middle class or above. It never ceases to surprise me that when we try to provide the best for our children, nutrition is often over looked.

These parents want the school to provide positive role models for their children. They want the best teachers, the most current technology, plus theatre, sports, dance, art, foreign language, advanced placement classes, international studies and travel opportunities, and healthy food at the cafeteria. They want recycling, volunteering opportunities,and college ready young adults at graduation. I am all for this, but I also see that I have a role to play as well. It is my job to model appropriate food choices by providing nourishing food. I know potlucks are parties and are for fun–but let’s also remember that we are always influencing our kids, even through our food choices.

Halloween is Not an Entitlement

When I was a child we would spend hours running through the neighborhood trick or treating, though snow, rain, sleet, whatever. We would move in the dark, from house to house, trying to find the fastest approach. This was independence, survival and great fun. Unfortunately, too many of us now take our children trick or treating at an indoor mall, an office complex, or a covered strip mall. There are lights everywhere, no on gets wet, and those indoors don’t even have to figure out how to keep warm and have their costume show. Stores are so close together that your child gets a new piece of candy every 5 steps. Well, where is the adventure in that?

Many children today have been brought up to feel entitled to all sorts of foods, privileges and material goods. I don’t think children are entitled to Halloween candy without a little effort. I am all for letting our kids get out there in the elements: running, jumping in leaves, feeling the cold, smelling the candles burn in pumpkins. I want to see a costume, especially one home made. I want to hear kids yell “TRICK OR TREAT”. Kids need to earn all of those treats.

Maybe you won’t feel so bad letting your children eat a few pieces of candy if their Halloween night is an active one. If you are worried about their safety, walk with your children, or follow on a bike. Make sure that each child has a patch of glow-in the-dark on them, either a vest, sticker, glow stick bracelet or necklace, or a flashlight. Give your children neighborhood boundaries and times to check in or be home. But let kids have Halloween–they might even get some exercise!

Need some tips on healthy and not-so-unhealthy Halloween treats?

The Ying and Yang of Halloween

Trick or Treat time. Once again many of us are plagued by the ying yang of what to do. Give out candy, which perpetuates poor health and health habits, or give out something healthy that kids will likely throw away. I have two suggestions. One is to give out non-food items. There are many inexpensive and small items kids like to have. Try temporary tattoos, shiny rocks, shells, pencils, erasers, small rubber balls, glow sticks, stickers or even coins. If you are feeling creative, make something yourself. Give each child one or two pieces of origami paper and directions to make an animal. Buy a book of Mad Libs or crossword puzzles. Give each child a page of the book, rolled up with a ribbon. You can even make your own mad lib or crossword puzzle. Find the directions to a unique paper airplane and attach them to the appropriate size piece of paper.

If you want to give out candy type items I recommend sticking with real food. By real food I mean nuts, seeds, dried fruit (with no sugar added), honey based treat (as opposed to high fructose corn syrup) and popcorn. Buy small individual serving size bags of sunflower seeds, nuts or pumpkin seeds; or bag them yourself. There are several different brands of sesame honey candy available. Even peanut brittle is real food; nuts and sugar. Dried fruit such as raisins, mango and berries are widely available, but also may require you bagging them in small sizes.

Popcorn is great for kids. If you like you can pop it yourself and give it out warm in small bags. The children can eat it as they walk from house to house. You can also give out small bags of unpopped popcorn kernels with directions on how to pop it on the stove top with oil. Many children think popcorn needs to be micro waved and are amazed that it can be popped in a pot. Please do not give out microwave popcorn, the bag liners have carcinogenic ingredients that escape into the popcorn when heated. Also, flavored popcorn usually has high levels of food coloring, artificial flavors and salt. Another corn based real food is dried corn kernels. These also come in small snack bags.

Although honey is just pure sugar, it is a natural real food. Purchase honey in small plastic tubes. Also, the amount of honey in the tubes is very small, but kids love to suck it out. You might consider serving real apple cider on Halloween night, let the kids and adults drink it at your home. Warm the cider if it is cold on Halloween night. Hot chocolate, made with real milk, may also be appreciated in some areas of the country. So enjoy, and have a great, guilt free evening.

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New Foods for New Babies

Food introduction for new parents can be daunting. There are many books, charts and experts to tell you what to do and how to do it. My book “Simple and Savvy Strategies for Creating Healthy Eaters” condenses this information and makes eating with your new eater stress free and fun. To get started, here are several simple rules to remember:

• Make sure your child is ready for solids. You will know when this happens as your child will, all of a sudden, intently focus on you when you eat.

• Offer any food that is the proper consistency. (Think applesauce, or a little thinner.) You don’t have to start with rice cereal, or offer vegetables before fruits. Meats or fish, if they are moist and the consistency of applesauce are as good as pureed carrots or blended bananas.

• The only food NOT to offer is honey, either room temperature or cooked into a food. Honey may contain a heat resistant botulism that can be fatal to infants.

• Don’t entertain, just offer a small amount of food on a small food—if your child opens his or her mouth, put the food in. If your child pushed is out with their tongue or gags after 2 tries, stop. Decrease the thickness of the food.

• A grimace is not an indication that children do not want the food again. Stop feeding when your child does not open his or her mouth when the spoon approaches, pushes the food away, or keeps looking away.

• Offer only one new food every 3rd day. After each new food look for signs of allergy, including but not limited to vomiting, rash, swelling of lips or tongue, or diarrhea. If there is any breathing difficulty, call 911 immediately.

• Let your child be involved in the process. Don’t let them be distracted with TV, videos, games, toys, books or loud music. Let them set the pace of the feeding. Let them decide when they have had enough to eat, whether they ate nothing or more than they have ever eaten before.

• Remember that children’s eating patterns are inconsistent. Eating a certain amount one day does not mean that the child will usually eat this amount. Eating or rejecting a food does one day does not mean they will eat or reject the same food any other day. Food acceptance and quantity will change day to day and meal to meal.