Posts Tagged 'Nutrition'

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.

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.

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.

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.