Posts Tagged 'healthy food'

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





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.

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.

Corn Sugar And Other Sweet Secrets

Corn Sugar And Other Sweet Secrets


High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is tired of being the evil demon of food.  So the corn industry, which produces HFCS from corn, is changing the name to corn sugar.  Sounds down-right healthy doesn’t it.  What could possible by the problem with an extract of corn?  But keep in mind any type of sugar added to any food is not healthy.  Furthermore, a study at Princeton University in March 2010 found that when rats were fed the same amount of calories of either HFCS or sugar, those that ate the HFCS gained weight and had symptoms related to heart disease and obesity.  The researchers theorized that HFCS, with a higher percentage of fructose than sucrose, is stored as fat, where extra calories of sugar are stored as energy.   

The sugar industry also pulls one over on us in two other ways.  The first is by having sugar on the nutrition label of food packaging listed in grams.  Do you know how much sugar is 31 grams, the amount of sugar found in 6 ounces of many fruit flavored yogurts?  If the amount of sugar was listed in teaspoons or tablespoon, people would have some idea of how much sugar is in a serving of the product.  If the sugar listed on the nutrition label of yogurt was 8.5 teaspoons or 2.75 tablespoons would you have an image of this amount?  Would you still consider this product healthy?  What about a can of soda with 42 grams of sugar in 12 ounces (10.5 teaspoons or 3.5 tablespoons) or juice with 24 grams(6 teaspoons, or 2 tablespoons) in 6 ounces?

 Secondly, manufacturers are not required to list how much sugar is added sugar versus naturally occurring sugar. A portion of the sugar in yogurt is naturally occurring as milk has a naturally occurring sugar called lactose.  Six ounces of plain yogurt has 12-16 grams of sugar, all naturally occurring.  So if a flavored yogurt has 31 grams, the difference (15 grams) is added sugar.  Added sugar is in many processed foods, not just dessert foods. You will find them in other foods such as tomato sauce, salad dressing, frozen meals, bread and canned soups, to name just a few. 

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

Packed Lunch for your Preschooler

Your child is ready to go to pre-school or kindergarten!  You have done all you can to prepare him or her for this experience.  Oh, but you will also need to pack a lunch.  If you find yourself dead in your tracks here are some ideas and suggestions.

First, keep in mind the rules you have established about meals: Don’t ask them what they want in their lunch.  Just pack what you would like them to eat.

Don’t expect the teacher to monitor your child’s eating.  It’s not fair to ask a teacher to make sure your child eats some of the sandwich before they eat their cookies.  If you don’t want your child to eat just cookies for lunch, don’t put them in the lunch.  Put in as many cookies, or chips, etc.  that would be ok for your child to eat.  Accept the fact that some days they will only eat certain foods.  But if they are hungry, they will eat more than just the fun food.

Only send foods that your child can eat independently without choking. 

One way to kill a child’s appetite is to give them juice or a caloric sports drink.  They will most likely drink this and then feel full.  Send water or milk if the milk can be kept cold.

Don’t get too hung up on sandwiches.  Some kids love them, some don’t.  Finger foods work well too.  Instead of a sandwich you can send some cheese slices or cubes, crackers, fruit and a cookie.  If your school allows it, send some nuts, raisins and cereal mix, add carrot sticks and chips.

Don’t forget about yogurt, send them with vanilla or plain and give them something to add, such as fruit, a teaspoon of sugar sprinkles, or honey.  Yogurt can be kept cold by freezing it before you put it in the lunch.  Food in squeezable packaging are also fun for kids.  Unfortunately the yogurts in tubes have a lot of sugar in them so consider them a dessert.  You may be able to find applesauce in a tube.   Kids also like to dip.  Think about sending pretzels or carrot sticks with a bean dip such as hummus or refried beans.  A cold cooked chicken drumstick can be dipped in ketchup or bar-b-que sauce.

Plain beans also make good finger foods.  Cold defrosted vegetables are also good finger foods.  Pack a small amount of frozen corn, peas, or edamame.  They will be defrosted and cool by lunch time.  Small previously baked potatoes are also good for dipping in ketchup.  Sliced apples tend to turn brown and then the kids don’t eat them.  You can sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning or use other fruits.  Grapes, strawberries and blueberries are great choices.  Cut up other fruits, such as melon, peaches, nectarines or plums.  You can make a fruit salad or a fruit kebob.  Half a banana, still in the peel is also a good option as well as orange wedges.

 Kids always like noodles.  Many will eat a simple pasta salad consisting of cooked pasta, sliced olives and some shredded mozzarella cheese.  Anything on a toothpick is also fun.  You can put some cooked tortellini on a toothpick with cherry tomatoes or pieces of avocado.  Roll up some slices of turkey or chunks of cold cooked chicken and put them on a toothpick, with pieces of soft fruit such as peaches or nectarines.  Hard boiled eggs are fun for some kids.  Give them some dressing to dip it in.  Only send foods such as tuna, egg, salmon, or chicken salad with mayonnaise if the lunch will be refrigerated.

Overall, be creative.  Don’t worry about what is eaten or not.  Try to send at least one item that you know your child will eat.  It’s also OK is they have the same lunch every day; you can add variety at home meals and snacks.

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.

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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