Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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.

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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.

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.

Food Choices Are Not Erratic

Today in class I noticed that a child whose mother thought no longer ate cheese was eating cheese.  I asked mom about this and she responded that since the child was offered cheese in class several weeks ago she is eating it again at home, but not orange cheese.  I explained that although this seemed erratic, it is typical and normal.  Our children eat not just what they know they enjoy due to taste, smell, appearance or texture, but what they are nutritionally drawn toward.

 So how do we, as mindful a parents, know what our children need nutritionally each meal or day?  We don’t, so our job is to offer a variety of healthy food over the course of the day.   Don’t fall into the trap of offering what you think your child will eat or not offering foods that they have previously refused.  This back fires in two ways.  One, even though a child ate a food once, or even if that food has been the favorite food for a few days, that doesn’t necessarily indicate the child will eat it at this time.  Two, if you only offer foods you believe your child will accept, you will slowly narrow food choices and eventually decide that you have a picky eater.

 When it is time for a snack or meal, think: what would I like my child to eat, what do I have, what is manageable at this time (do you want to cook or not, do you have a short or long time for eating, etc?).  Once you have made this choice put the food in front of your child.  They can eat or not.  Of course you can always choose to offer the current favorite food once or twice a day, as part of any meal or snack. But keep rotating in a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy products, beans, nuts, seeds, oils, and fish as every food has it’s own unique nutritional profile.  You have done your job.

An Unscientific Study

As mindful as we try to be, there are times when our child’s behavior seems to make no sense to us.  This is no rational pattern or reason nor is there any developmental theory to support what we observe.  However you are looking at only one child.  I have had the pleasure of observing children eat and talking to parents for the past 20 years, in a child care settings and in classes with parents present.  I have made a few unscientific, non-research based observations.

Some babies will prefer to drink their meals.  No matter how mindfully you set the stage for a meal your baby or child drinks but not eats or very little.  I have heard this more often from parents of boys than of girls.  Babies between the ages of 6 months and 12 months should be fed on demand.  If your baby is able to take solids, offer solid food before the breast, bottle or cup.  If you have a drinker over 12 months of age and able to take solids, you can and should limit milk to 16 ounces (2 cups) a day.  Your child will probably not like this and may put up quite a fuss.  But as a mindful parent you will tell your child that to be healthy he needs to try more than milk.  You don’t need to force solids, but by limiting milk your child will soon increase their desire for solids.

The other common observation reported to me by parents is that a baby who once took semi soft solids is now refusing them.  When I suggest that the parent try crunchy and more textured foods the baby usually responds by eating once again.  It seems that for some babies, once they have experienced soft solids they are ready to move on.  This sometimes happens at the same time the baby is determined to feed themselves.  So go with it.  Your baby will come back to semi-solids eventually, but now they want to explore what is new.  Embrace this and let them try some Cheerios or especially made infant puffs.  Put a few in front of your baby and see what happens.

Saving Time, Money and your Sanity

 

How long does it take you to get yourself and your children ready for leaving the house, in the car, drive to the grocery store, get the kids out of the car and into the store, back to the car, strap everyone in, and drive home? Half an hour, maybe forty-five minutes?  If you are as busy as most parents, why would you do this more often than necessary.  Yet many of us go to the grocery store several times a week.

 

Most of us with toddlers need more time.  A simple way to create more time is to grocery shop one time per week. Impossible?  Not with a little planning.   Before going to the store decide what you are going to eat for dinner for the next 6 days.  Make a list of the items you need; then add staples plus breakfast, lunch and snack foods. Go to the store and shop from your list.  If you need milk more often, have it delivered or ask your partner to pick some up once a week.  If you buy fresh fish or meat, eat that earlier in the week.  Eat more delicate fruits and vegetables earlier in the week.

 

Weekly shopping saves time

  • Gives you more free time during the week to do fun things besides shopping
  • You will not be in a long check out line at 5:00 with everyone else who shops everyday

Weekly shopping saves money

  • Less opportunity to buy impulse items
  • Less opportunity for children to beg for items
  • Less gas and car usage

Weekly shopping is healthy for you

  • Less need to buy restaurant or fast foods

The more meals eaten at home or brought from home, the healthier the meal

Weekly shopping reduces stress

  • You know you have the food for each day in the house
  • You don’t have to decide each day what to make for dinner

 

To make this work—

  • Pick one day a week to shop, usually the same day each week.  Make it a priority.
  • Shop from a list derived from actual meal planning.