Archive for September, 2009

Crackers, pop-tarts, chips, fruit roll-ups, cookies…how many of these items are in your pantry?

Processed.  Manufactured. Colored. Preserved. Artificially sweetened. Added to. 

Most foods, eaten in a moderate fashion, are OK.  The problem is, we aren’t moderate about processed foods.  Why?  Because we LOVE convenience and efficiency.  Let’s face it, boxes and bags are easier to handle than pots and pans.  Easier than peelers and knives.  Especially for the busy parent (and what parent isn’t busy?), it is easier to rip into a bag or open a box for the instant gratification associated with quieting the nagging child in the backseat…or getting to your next mommy task quickly.

Processed foods may appear several times a day in the diet of a child.  School events, day care, other family homes…the exposure to processed foods can be widespread and your child’s consumption of them can mount quickly.  Many parents will express how  increasingly difficult it is to keep these manufactured foods at bay.  Not only are we tempted by the convenience, but our children think they taste good!  Do food manufacturers sprinkle “magic yummy dust” all over their products to glean taste-bud loyalty from our young people? 

Food commercials target and entice our little ones.  If you have ever shopped with a child, you see firsthand, the impact of advertising.  Children remember ad tag lines, colorful box decorations, and chummy characters.   When they will find these products in the store aisles–oh, boy! –be ready for the onslaught of begging, negotiating, promising, and all-out tantrums if you don’t buy the desired product!

What’s a parent to do?  Take charge.  Set limits.  Dialogue.

Take charge:  Determine how much processed food you will allow in your house.  If you are liberal with processed foods in the pantry–your child will be liberal in eating them.  Replace bags ‘n boxes, colors and dyes, and unidentifiable ingredients with satisfying “real food” snacks such as whole wheat bagels with peanut butter, whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, or low fat yogurt with fresh fruit and granola.

Set Limits:  If bags ‘n boxes are a part of your regular diet, try adjusting your purchases and eating habits to skew to healthier foods.  Try to aim for 90% of your child’s daily intake to come from healthy, “growing” foods such as low fat dairy, lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Leave the remaining 10% for “fun foods”–think soda, cookies, chips, and candy.  Placing the emphasis on healthy foods and allowing occasional and small amounts of “fun foods” keeps the balance in favor of good nutrition.

Dialogue:  Create opportunities to talk with your child about healthy foods and not-so healthy foods.  Differentiate the two,  keeping a neutral attitude.  Emphasize foods that come from the earth and those in their natural state.  While the temptation to eliminate and label processed foods as “bad” may exist, it is better to acknowledge their presence, taste, and usage on an occasional basis, so that your child will be able to navigate the wide world of food as he gets older.


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Feeding is an art.   Doing it well is a challenge.  And it is something most of us, as parents, are not trained to do…just something we plunge into..with barely time to come up for air and ask, “Are we doing this right?”

We are feeders from the moment our child is born.  In deciding to breast-feed or bottle feed, we make our very first feeding decision.  We determine how much–on demand vs. on a schedule, 3 ounces vs. 4 ounces—the decisions are at every corner, looming.  These choices can consume our thoughts, make us race to the web to get the latest opinion, and confer with friends to discuss our options —because we know in our hearts that these ARE important choices—and we want to do the very best for our child.

Around every milestone, we are faced with another cornerstone decision.  Should I make my baby food?  Or use organic?  Should I avoid sweets?  For how long?  Is it OK to have dessert every night?  How much is too much?  How about fast food–we are just so busy–is it OK?  We hardly see each other during the week–how many times did you say we should eat together?  As the world turns, the decisions are made, day after day, sometimes with great consideration, and sometimes on a whim.

Feeding really matters.  It is an art to have your kitchen stocked with healthy food, an art to prepare a meal that satisfies all palates, an art to introduce varied and ethnic foods, and an art to raise healthy kids in a confusing, diet-obsessed world.  Every decision about feeding counts.

Feeding is an art.  Pay attention to those feeding decisions–they ARE important.  If you need more information–seek to be educated.  Just as an artist practices her craft, day in and day out, so must a feeder.  Creating, perfecting, re-vamping, eliminating–not perfectly perfect, but close enough.  If you practice and become a great feeder, you will create a wonderful masterpiece eater!

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Our body shape and size is predominantly determined by genetics.  Look at mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, great-grandma and great grandpa, and you will get an idea of what you are to look like, in part.  Your body frame, the way you carry your weight, be it in the hips, thighs, or the tummy, and your predisposition to illness, like cardiac disease, high blood pressure, or cancer, largely come from your genes.

Outside of genetics, our environment may play an even more impressive role in our body shape and size.  Our environment includes the food we eat, how we eat, when and how much we move our bodies, our behaviors around food and eating, and our priorities and methods of taking care of ourselves.

Many people want to change the way they look–especially adolescents.  Research indicates that by age 13, about 85% of girls have attempted dieting.  Furthermore, the age of dieting onset is getting younger– 15% of girls by age eleven.  Five and six year olds are aware of dieting. Additionally, research indicates that dieting among teens of ALL weights (underweight, normal weight, and overweight) corresponds with unhealthy behaviors around eating and food and may be associated with a depressed mood.  Risk of disordered eating, eating disorders, and weight gain have been associated with teen dieting.

What can we do?  We need to help our teens re-align their beliefs and attitudes about their bodies.  As parents, we need to play up the positive, including health, physical activity, natural beauty, intelligence, and internal individuality.  We need to filter out the negative messages and the unrealistic images.

How much power do we have to change our body?  Sure, we can build muscle and reduce fat stores with exercise and what we choose to eat.  But, can we really change our genetic shape and size?  Can we really change our fat storage tendencies?  Our muscle building capabilites?  Yes, to the extent our genetic make-up will allow.

So, when your daughter or son starts on a rampage to alter his/her diet, and/or exercise more, because they don’t like their body shape or body size, remind them of their genes.  Remind them that genes are predetermined and “set in stone”.  Remind them that they will be tall, or short, or stocky, or slim, or narrow-hipped or blessed with “birthing hips”, because they come from your family….and that’s how your family looks.

Empower your child to make the most of their genetic potential.  We all have the genetic potential and the power to be healthy– and that comes from eating well and being active.  Getting comfy in your genes is about accepting your body for its natural shape and size, optimizing your genetic health potential through active living and healthy eating …NOT about dieting to fit into those jeans.

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Feeding children is one of the greatest responsibilities a parent has…and the most repetetive, challenging, and sometimes mundane chore.  As our society’s obsession to be fit and trim is increasingly imposed upon our children, we, as parents, are faced with confusing and conflicting messages about proper feeding, healthful foods, and optimal levels of nutrition.  How do parents respond to this evolving and unattainable standard of perfect nutrition?   Often times, with restrictive feeding.  With good intention, of course–to give our kids just the right foods, in the right amounts, so that they get every nutrient they could possibly need, in the right amounts, so that they are just the right size and shape.  Sound familiar? 

What is restrictive feeding?  In a nutshell, controlling every little bite that goes into your much-loved child.  Controlling portions (think pre-portioned plates), purchasing diet, low-calorie, or fat-free manufactured foods, and limiting second helpings at the dinner table–these are all signs of restrictive feeding.   This practice, on a regular basis, can lead to a backlash of overeating, often away from the watchful eye of mom and dad.  Why?  Because kids may feel deprived when they don’t have the freedom to control what and how much they eat–and they may be hungrier than you think. 

Research indicates that restrictive feeding is NOT working for our children and may be promoting an environment of overeating.  Most interestingly, not only do these studies link restrictive feeding practices to weight gain, they also link parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight to restrictive feeding behaviors, not unlike those mentioned above.  In other words, if you think your child is “big” or gaining too much weight, you are more likely to control every little bite they eat.  And like adults, kids want what they can’t or don’t have–it’s human nature–but unlike adults, kids have less control over their biological drive to eat.  This situation can be a set-up for “overeating on the sly”, ultimately derailing a child’s sense of honesty with themselves and their parents,  eroding their self-esteem, and potentially promoting a culture of disordered eating.

Choosing WHAT we feed our children will always be important to their ultimate health.  WHAT we feed really matters. 

But, perhaps we need to begin paying more attention to HOW we feed our young’uns.  Remember, providing an abundant table of healthy food is both satisfying to the eye and to the tummy.  Feeling hungry and being able to satisfy that hunger is more than a full belly–it’s emotional fullness too.  And maybe feeling emotionally and physically full is what it takes to stop a backlash of overeating in our children.

Which leads to my next post…WHAT you feed matters!

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A Blog is Born

After many months of consideration, false starts and re-considerations, here I am world!  Sort of like deciding whether or not to make the commitment to have a child, or start a business, or buy a house, beginning this blog has been an idea in my head that has grown from a tiny seed into a full rutabaga.

WHY am I doing this?  It’s not like I am not busy enough… kids, dogs, a husband, household, and a business that is growing like a child in a growth spurt.  I am doing this  because families need nutrition information…because many of our nation’s children are overweight, allergic, not eating, hate their bodies, sit in front of the TV, and/or are constipated and cranky…and because my knowledge, opinions, and creative ideas cannot sit in my head any longer.

This blog is yet another vehicle for information dissemination–for awareness, education, motivation, and action.   Especially for children and their families.

A baby blog is born…I hope to nourish it, encourage it, support it, and help it blossom into a full grown, healthy, strapping BLOG.

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