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Monday, September 1st, 2014
In her recent article in the Washington Post, Casey Seidenberg described the back-to-school mindful eating reboot she had planned for her kids after a summer filled with too many sweets and too much TV. Her story is something so many of us—even health experts—can relate to.
While my kids spent much of their summer at overnight camp, I know that their usual eating and lifestyle routines were altered. (Full disclosure: so were mine.) On most days, my kids ate at different times of day than usual, ate and were exposed to different foods, and had a far different routine (especially when it came to sleep) than the one they typically have during the school year.
But while I know my kids got more than enough daily physical activity and ate enough—but not too much—to meet their calorie needs, like Seidenberg’s kids and so many others, they too could benefit from a food reboot. Getting in touch with the taste, texture, and flavors of food and being mindful of eating rather than doing it automatically as so many of us tend to do not only can help them enjoy their food more, but it can help them feel more satisfied on less food and protect them from unhealthy weight gain. It potentially can also help them incorporate more nutritious foods into their diets to meet their nutrient needs for growth and development.
In addition to the tips provided in the Washington Post article that include encouraging children to thoroughly chew food (chewing contributes to satiety, which can prevent overeating) and teaching children to put their fork down between bites to encourage slower eating, here are eight from mindful eating expert and author Susan Albers, PsyD:
1). Teach kids Dr. Albers’ S-S-S Model. Encourage them to SIT down while they eat, SLOW down, and SAVOR their food. Too often, kids run around while they eat. The S-S-S model teaches them to pay close attention to what they eat and to break out of autopilot in which they scoop food and eat it.
2). Research indicates that location, location, location matters when it comes to snacking. Both children and adults will eat foods that are easy to grab. That’s why it’s important to place healthy food in a highly visible location such as on the counter or on a shelf kids can reach. It’s okay to have treats as well—just keep them out of sight.
3. Make a table rule: have snacks, but only at a table. Too often kids eat in front of the TV, the number one trigger for mindless eating.
4. Proportion snacks into small bags. That enables kids to come home from school and grab portions that are truly snack sized. Put snacks in baggies or make up brown paper sacks that you keep in the fridge.
5. Consider bento boxes. In a bento box, food is artistically arranged to look like bugs, animals, and faces. These boxes are popular among kids in Japan and make food fun to eat. And making food fun is a great way to help kids enjoy eating and slow down. Google ‘bento box recipes’ to learn more.
6. Encourage kids to get involved in making their own lunch or reviewing their lunch menu each week before it begins. If they know Thursday is chicken nugget day and they don’t like that, you can brainstorm other appealing ideas.
7. Hydration is also a key to mindful eating. When we are thirsty, we often think it is hunger. Make a water bottle a staple item that kids carry around. Buy fun bottles (preferably BPA-free) and make it routine to fill them before you leave the house.
8. It’s a great teachable moment to help your kids compare two different cereal labels while food shopping. See if you can find the cereal with the least amount of ingredients, the least sugar, and the most fiber. It’s a fun game that even little kids can play. This sets them up for caring about what’s in the food they eat.
How do you help your kids practice mindful eating?
Image of mother and daughter shopping in supermarket via shutterstock.
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014
Do you send your kids to school with a brown bag lunch, thinking it’s a more nutritious option than what they’ll otherwise find at school? You might be surprised to find out that might not be the case.
A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAND) found that among 626 elementary schoolchildren, nearly half brought lunch from home to school on any given day. The most common lunch foods included sandwiches, snack foods, fruit, and desserts. Leftovers, dairy foods, and vegetables were also included, though to a lesser extent.
Of the lunches children brought from home to school, only about one in four met at least three of five National School Lunch Program standards. And that means most fell short of the standards created back in 2012.
Researchers also found that while 97%—or just about all the lunches brought from home to school—included a snack, only about 4% of snacks met at least two of four Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) requirements.
According to the researchers, previous studies suggest that children who bring lunch from home consume less produce, consume more calories and less fiber, and are more likely to consume sugar sweetened beverages and snacks high in added sugars and fats while at school compared with children who rely on the NSLP for lunch. Studies also suggest that those who eat school lunch are also more likely to consume milk, fruit, and vegetables during lunch than those who brown bag it.
My children go to a school that requires them to eat lunches that are provided by their school. But when they were younger, I used to love to send them lunch—not in a brown bag, but in an insulated lunch bag with ice to keep it at a safe temperature until lunchtime rolled around. If you are able and choose to send your child to school with their lunch in hand, below you’ll find some great ideas from top registered dietitian nutritionists. These lunches provide a balance of nutrients to meet their needs for growth, development, and sustained energy—and a side of deliciousness—so that they’re less likely to make a trade!
From Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RDN, CDE
Mango-Orange Smoothie made with 1.5 cups frozen mango, 1/2 cup coconut milk, and 1/2 cup orange juice; string cheese; and a 100% whole wheat cracker-wafer.
My third grader doesn’t have much time to eat at school. Drinking her fruit ensures that she has time to fuel up and helps boost her fiber intake, which is so important for kids. I include string cheese to give her some protein, and a whole wheat cracker-wafer that is 100% whole grain made with healthy fats for sustained energy and no added sugars.
Whole wheat flat bread with pesto and shredded melted mozzarella plus a smoothie.
My daughter eats the flat bread with pesto and mozzarella cold. Sometimes we even add a few olives or artichokes to our homemade pesto. I vary the smoothies by color, sometimes adding frozen blueberries, fresh kiwi, pineapple and a little parsley, baby spinach leaves or kale. This is a good, balanced lunch that packs in plenty of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
From Holley Grainger, MS, RD:
One small whole wheat flour tortilla spread with seed or nut butter, topped with sliced banana, rolled up and cut into spirals; plain Greek yogurt with mashed blueberries stirred in; carrot and red bell pepper sticks with hummus; and a glass of nonfat milk or water.
My three-year-old daughter’s lunches vary day-to-day but always follow the same simple formula to keep her meals interesting while exposing her to a broad range of foods for a balance of nutrients and flavors. The breakdown is simple, and includes at least one food from each of the five food groups listed below with examples for each:
lean protein: grilled chicken, low-sodium turkey, sliced pork tenderloin
vegetables: green beans, red bell pepper strips, or carrots
fruit: pineapple, apple slices, banana, mandarin orange segments, or berries
dairy: milk, yogurt or cheese
whole grains: popcorn, whole wheat pretzels, whole wheat flour tortilla
From Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN, author of Fearless Feeding:
A sandwich with hummus or turkey, leftover mixed salad (or shredded carrots, purple cabbage and lettuce) on a whole grain wrap/tortilla or bread; a large serving of fruit; a small packet of nuts and dark chocolate (trader Joe’s); and a large water bottle.
The sandwich wrap is easy to make, utilizes my dinner leftovers and highlights a good protein source, whole grain and vegetables. In one meal, I am able to hit most of the food groups: protein, grain, fruit, vegetables and healthy fat. Since my girls (ages 12-17) are athletes, they usually eat the nut/dark chocolate mix before practice and I send in a separate chocolate milk box (dairy) for after practice.
From Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen:
Brown rice vegetable rolls, an apple, and low fat milk.
I like to buy vegetable rolls for my daughters, ages nine and seven, to bring to school about twice a month. This helps break the boredom of everyday sandwiches. The brown rice provides fiber, the apple has vitamin C and the antioxidant beta-carotene. The low fat milk provides nine essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein.
What’s your favorite lunch to send with your kids to school?
Image of school lunch via shutterstock.
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Diet, Health, Meals, Must Read, Nutrition
Thursday, August 7th, 2014
This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor
For the last few days, my daughter’s plain graham crackers have been coming back in the lunchbox she takes to camp. When I asked her why she didn’t eat them, her reason was clear: “I’m tired of the same stuff!” OK, I get it. I have fallen into a rut at the supermarket buying the same snacks that I know are at least somewhat healthy rather than stopping to read all the ingredients on the packages of new products.
Good thing is, last week I invited a bunch of kids to an event for a story in a future issue of Parents (no spoilers, sorry) and since I had to feed them something while they were there, I asked them to try a bunch of new snacks. Here’s what they thought was super yummy and what will be showing up in my daughter’s lunchbox next week.
* Horizon Snacks
Kids recognized this brand from their organic milk and tried the company’s new cracker line without hesitation. They liked all the flavors, including the cheddar snack crackers, organic cheese sandwich crackers, and chocolate grahams in the shape of cows and globes. Confession: I couldn’t stop munching on the chocolate grahams either.
* Tree Top Applesauce Pouches
The kids particularly enjoyed the flavor of the apple and mango puree. Each 50-calorie pouch has 2 grams of fiber and all the vitamin C that kids need for the day.
* Pirate’s Fruity Booty
It’s so colorful (pinkish-purple) yet it doesn’t contain any food dyes! It’s made with corn, rice, soy, and dried raspberry powder. Bonus: Pirate’s Fruity Booty is made in a facility that’s free of peanuts and tree nuts.
* Plum Organic Go Bars
This is a granola-type bar that’s made with five kinds of produce including carrot, kale, date, and apple. It also contains whole grains, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Kids gobbled up the chocolate chip flavor.
* Late July Tortilla Chips
My daughter has been a fan of the company’s Dude Ranch chips so I wasn’t surprised that the new restaurant style tortilla chips tasted amazing. The kids (and parents) liked the sea salt flavor, which is certified gluten- and nut-free. Just add salsa or guac.
* Tasty Brand Chocolate Layer Cake Cookies
Of course, you’re not going to give your kids cookies for snack time every day. But I do pack my daughter cookies in her lunch (for camp and school) once or twice a week. My philosophy: It’s better to learn how to have sweets in moderation than avoid them altogether. The kids thought this brand, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market, tasted amazing and I like that I can recognize the ingredients listed on the label.
* Honest Kids
These pouches—about 30 percent fruit juice and 70 percent water—are perfect for kids who won’t drink plain water. They’re 40 calories each, and our tasters liked the Super Fruit Punch and Berry Berry Lemonade flavors the best.
What snacks are your kids enjoying this summer?
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Nutrition, Snacking, The Scoop on Food
Friday, July 18th, 2014
This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor.
Fish, whole grains, veggies—these probably aren’t your kids’ favorite foods (okay, they might not even like them at all), but it’s worth your time to work on it. Here’s why: A new study of 9,000 children ages 2 to 9 in eight European countries found that those who most closely follow a Mediterranean diet are 15 percent less likely to be overweight. I admit that it doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but considering nearly 1 in 5 American kids ages 6 to 11 is overweight, it makes a significant dent. Plus, since obesity rates increase as kids get older, it’s worth getting on the right track before the tween and teen years.
What’s so special about the Mediterranean approach? The researchers think that the high fiber content and healthy fats found in foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and produce may help prevent kids from overeating. “This is the first study I’ve seen that makes the connection between the Mediterranean and obesity in kids,” says Lauri Wright, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and mom of three. “We already know that this type of eating plan is healthy in many other ways—like helping to prevent heart disease—so it’s wonderful that it may have extra benefits for children too.”
Of course, you’re not going to be able to switch your child’s eating habits overnight, but take these steps to make your family’s meals and snacks more Mediterranean:
* Do over dip. Swap the creamy salad dressings your kid drenches his baby carrots in for healthy hummus.
* Make pizza at home. Use thin whole-grain crust. Make it yourself (find a recipe here) or buy pick up a package of whole-wheat Naan bread (my daughter prefers it for her pizza!). Top it with whatever veggie your kid likes—even if it’s corn.
* Start working in more seafood. Let your child give it a try in a no-pressure situation, like when it’s on a buffet or when she’s having a bite of yours. When my daughter was a toddler, she used to swipe clams and mussels from my plate, at first mainly because she was intrigued by the shells. But then she began requesting a bowl of her own! Eventually, work your way up to homemade fish nuggets—Wright coats pieces of mild fish with applesauce and then rolls them in cornmeal before baking. When you’re ready to move onto grilled fish, top it with a salsa made from your child’s favorite fruits. That’s how I got my daughter to taste salmon and sea bass, which are now her faves.
* Build on veggie success. Chances are, your child likes a lot of different kinds of fruits and a few veggies. Combine a favorite with something that’s unfamiliar or not as well liked (such as corn with red onions or cucumbers with radishes or watermelon with baby spinach) to increase the chance that he’ll eat it. Salad can be a tough sell so start with mild butter lettuce and add a lot of fun familiar ingredients (like dried fruit, sunflower seeds, or orange wedges). Kids may also enjoy salads more if they’re chopped. Even though it takes longer to prepare, you’ll have a happy, healthier eater as a reward.
Image of Mediterranean food via Shutterstock.
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Health, Meals, Nutrition, Obesity, Snacking, The Scoop on Food
Friday, May 9th, 2014
We moms know that at least some of our own eating and other habits get passed on—intentionally or not—to our children. For example, our older son inherited his parents’ sweet tooth (though I think in our family, his reigns supreme). And our younger son is very portion conscious, especially when it comes to vanilla ice cream, his treat of choice. Of course as a registered dietitian nutritionist and mom I do my best to set a “good” example about eating a nutrient-rich diet and living an active lifestyle. While I’m far from perfect and make mistakes along the way, I try to pass on the idea that eating well and nurturing our bodies helps us look and feel our best. It also can help us enjoy other perks—for our family, that includes better performance in the classroom or at work, on the basketball or squash court or while walking a half marathon.
Even if your kids are at healthy body weights, they (like us) can always make improvements to eat less and better—to not only have more energy to perform optimally, but to keep their hearts and other vital organs healthy.
In honor of Mother’s Day, below you’ll find some great tips several registered dietitian moms have used with own families to encourage nutritious and healthful food-related habits.
Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD coauthor of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, has always structured meals and snacks at the table (and not watching TV or snacking all day) to help her kids manage their hunger and get the right amount of food for their bodies.
Jacobsen also says, “Because kids can’t eat what they aren’t exposed to, I’ve always make it a point to expose my kids to a variety of nutritious foods throughout the day. Even if they only look at the food, they are getting familiar with it and eventually will try or eat it.” When serving new foods, Jacobsen always has an expectant attitude even if she doesn’t think her kids will eat them. “Kids will rise and fall to your expectations in the eating department,” she adds.
Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE, creator of Super Kids Nutrition, teaches her daughter about proper portions, balancing foods and about each food’s unique health benefits that work for your mind and body. She says, “When my daughter was 4 years old, she came running up to me at a birthday party and asked for a second piece of cake. I replied, “One piece is just right.” A parent next to me said, “She’s a kid, let her have a second piece of cake now while calories don’t count.” She replied by saying that with all the party food the kids already enjoyed, her daughter was learning habits now that will work for her for life.”
Now in 3rd grade, Halas-Liang’s daughter loves organic lean beef jerky. According to Halas-Liang, “My daughter has learned to balance out the higher sodium content by choosing a high potassium fruit or vegetable. Sometimes she’ll say, “We need to make a smoothie—I’m packing beef jerky today”—and that makes me so proud.” Halas-Liang says they use the same principle of balance for burning up energy when her family bikes to the ice-cream store. She says, “In pre-k and kindergarten, we focused on choosing foods that helped her think her best, jump her highest and fight off colds.” Halas-Liang says her daughter now frames food choices by saying things like, “I’m going to go pick some blue-berries so I can out smart you!”
Jill Castle, MS, RDN, coauthor of Fearless Feeding, always serves fruit and/or veggies with every meal and snack. She says, “While this is easy to do when kids are in highchairs, parents often forget to keep going as they get older.” Castle adds, “When kids consistently see fruits and veggies throughout theday, every day, they become a normal part of the meal and lose their drama.”
For meals, Castle uses family-style feeding (parent decides the menu for the meal, sets all items in/on table or island/counter, and kids serve themselves): She has found the strategy works in her home and with countless families with whom she has worked. “It works because kids have a choice. Kids almost always eater better (healthy choices and the right amounts for their appetite) when they can have a say in what they eat (from the parents menu plan, of course) and how much,” says Castle. She notes, however, there’s a glitch in the approach. She says, “If children have been too controlled with eating (for example, portions or types of foods are restricted), they may go hog-wild at first when given free reign in this manner. This is usually a temporary phase while they learn to trust that they can meet their appetite and food needs at the table without restriction.”
Castles also closes the kitchen between meal and snack times. She says, “This “rule” keeps little (and big) kids from grazing, and sets a tone that says when we eat a meal or snack we sit and enjoy; and when we’re not eating, we are doing other things (especially, not eating).”
Suzanne Farrell MS, RDN has always been a fan of establishing regular eating times. According to Farrell, “Serving a regularly scheduled balanced breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and dinner within certain times prevents crazy, grazy behavior and helps them to show up to mealtime with a healthy appetite!” She also makes meal-time a nag and whine-free time that’s peaceful and positive. Farrell also practices the division of responsibility approach created by registered dietitian Ellyn Satter where parents determine the what, when and where and kids are in charge of how much they eat and whether or not they eat it.
When it comes to portions, Farrell says less is more. “Because the portion sizes that we see have more than doubled in the past two decades, parents may have a tendency to serve more than little stomachs can handle. I always start small and allow my kids to ask for more.” She also loves getting her kids involved in family meals. According to Farrell, “Home is the University of Eating where kids first learn about food, so involving them when you can, such as creating the grocery list together, food shopping and age appropriate food prep and cooking is invaluable.”
Because her kids always seemed to be starving at the end of the day, especially when they were little, Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, coauthor of The Baby & Toddler Cookbook got into the habit of starting her kids on their dinner time veggies or a salad before they actually sat down to dinner. She says, “That would guarantee that they ate their veggies without a fuss since they were starving and it also gave us some additional quality time in the kitchen.”
When Ansel’s kids started grade school they became reluctant milk drinkers. Rather than argue with them about drinking their milk, she put a squirt of chocolate syrup into it. She says, “That simple strategy seemed to renew their interest in milk and it was a much lower sugar alternative than ready made chocolate milk.” (Interestingly, Ansel says that by the time her kids were in middle school, they stopped drinking chocolate milk in favor of plain milk.)
When short on time at lunchtime, Ansel puts together a fruit, cheese and nut plate. She says, “This meal has always been a huge hit and I love it because it’s plant-based, works in a serving of fruit and dairy and takes only minutes to throw together.
Mitzi Dulan, RD, Author of The Pinterest Diet, introduced her kids to a wide variety of foods at a very young age. “I don’t classify foods as “kid” or “adult” food. My kids were eating sushi by age 2 and I never acted like they weren’t supposed to eat foods like vegetables,” Dulan says. She has also encouraged her kids to help her cook and to take a taste of new or less familiar foods from the time they were little. She adds, “Now that they are 10 and 12, they always try new dishes I make as well as new foods when we eat out at restaurants.”
How do you help your kids eat less and better?
Image of young mother and her toddler washing vegetables via shutterstock.
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Diet, Health, Meals, Must Read, Nutrition