Posts Tagged 'eating'

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

 

 

 

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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.

Sugar, Salt and Fat, Oh My

Is it bad for my child to have chocolate chip waffles? What about salt in their vegetables?  I get questions similar to these all the time and my answer is always the same no matter what high fat, high salt or high sugar food I am asked about.  Allowing your baby or child an occasional food with a high amount of fat, sugar or salt will not harm them today.  Just be careful that these foods are used mindfully; that you are fully aware that you are serving a fun food, not a nutritious one.

We don’t want to feed high (saturated) fat, sugar and salt foods to our babies on a regular basis of several reasons, all health related.  We know that too much fat and sugar lead to a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Obesity can lead to the previous diseases and can also cause back pain, sleep apnea, and some cancers.  Too much salt can cause high blood pressure which can lead to vascular and kidney disease.  All of these medical conditions occur after a life-long pattern of too much salt, sugar and/or fat. 

The best defense is to not allow our babies and children to become accustomed to these tastes, flavors, and textures.  We don’t want them to have an excess of salt, fat and sugar in their diet because then they will expect it, it becomes normal.  Most processed foods and restaurant foods are too salty, sugary or fatty.  Beware of canned goods, frozen foods, boxed meals, even breakfast cereals.  A child fed mostly processed and restaurant foods will develop an expectation for too much salt, sugar and fat.  So a whole wheat waffle without chocolate chips butter and syrup, a baked potato without butter and salt, or strawberries not dipped in sugar become unacceptable.  To avoid taste dependence on salt, fat and sugar, serve mostly whole foods: grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, eggs, fish, and some dairy such as unflavored yogurt or milk.  Babies enjoy the tastes, textures and smells of real, fresh, unprocessed and wholesome foods.  Don’t take that gift away.

Kids Are On Automatic

My son has never been an adventurous eater.  In the past I have referred to him as the camel, waiting for fun food and loading up and by-passing most of the healthy stuff.  But an amazing transition has occurred.  My son was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract.  Many children with Crohn’s are small in height for their age, as is my son.  Before his treatment for Crohn’s he had not grown at all in 3 years, he is currently 9 years old and wears size 6 pants. 

Now that he is being treated for this condition an amazing transformation has taken place.  He is eating, a lot.  And he is chosing healthy nutritious foods.  He is also asking to taste foods that I have been serving for years but he has previously rejected.  A typical day for my son is:  2 multigrain waffles with syrup, a few nuts and raisins, pretzels, yogurt, an apple or pear, 1/2 cup to 1 cup refried beans with melted cheese, enriched chocolate soy milk, another apple or pear, 2 large pieces of vegetarian lasagna, carrot and cucumber sticks, 1 cup of low-fat ice cream, maybe another waffle or pretzel.  I offered to buy my son a snack at an asian grocery store, anything he wanted including cookies or snack foods.  He chose crab sushi, gobbling down 5 of the 6 rolls as I wandered the aisles. 

But what is so gratifying to me is that  his body is forcing him to eat both more quantity and greater quality as it is now ready to grow.  Since October when he started treatment he has grown 1/2 inch and gain 1 pound, not bad for a kid that hasn’t grown in three years.  This validates what I have been teaching parents for year: offer healthy foods to your child and they will be drawn to what they need.

No Dessert Unless You Eat Your Dinner

“No dessert unless you eat your dinner.”  Does that remind you of yourself when you come home from work?  Is that how you want your kids to remember you? As the parent that is gone all day, comes home, yells at the kids and denies them dessert?  Probably not.  You are likely a very loving, concerned, hard working parent.  So don’t let meal time make you in to the bad guy or girl.

 When the family sits down to eat, don’t comment on what your kids are eating or not.  Whoever provided the meal has already done the adult job, offering appropriate food at appropriate intervals.  At this point you have three jobs.  First is to model table manners, and correct inappropriate table manners.  Second is to model food acceptance by eating and enjoying the food.  Third is to have conversation with your children.  Don’t talk about anything that would make your child uncomfortable at the table, find other times to discuss problems.  Family meals are not the time to reprimand for past poor judgment, errors, or moments of downright meanness, or to warn against similar errors in the future.  Think of the dinner table as a place where everyone comes with a clean slate.

 If your child refuses to eat a certain food, or eat nothing at all, be nonjudgmental.  Feel free to remind them that if they are hungry now is the time to eat and that there will be no food offered after dinner.  Don’t let them have anything that is not on the table.  Don’t let them make a snack after dinner.  You don’t have to punish them for not eating; hunger will be a natural consequence if they choose not to eat. 

 Some children have eaten enough calories (energy) and met their nutritional needs in the 4-5 eating opportunities they had previous to dinner time.  Therefore by dinner time they can afford to be picky.  If a child hasn’t fulfilled their energy and nutritional needs and chooses not to eat, their body will provide appropriate feedback.  You don’t have to.  You can continue to enjoy your meal and your family.

What about dessert?  Let your child eat it whether they have eaten or not.  Don’t get into a power struggle.  An appropriate portion of dessert is not a big deal.  Arguing, bribing, or negotiating with your child every night is the problem, not the dessert  If your child has already consumed the necessary nutrients and calories they need for the day, they are eating the dessert solely because it taste good, which is why everyone eats dessert.  If your child did not get enough calories and nutrients during the day, eating the dessert will not satisfy their body.  They will be hungry in short order; their body is providing the feedback, not you.  If they ask for snack, remind them that they chose not to eat dinner and that now they need to wait for snack.  Some children do very well when the dessert is offered during the dinner.  The child will eat their portion of dessert first so the tension is gone.  Now they can enjoy the meal. They will eat if they are still hungry.  You are smiling, relaxed, calm, and happy to be home with your family.