I hope many of your were able to attend the Eat, Play, Love: Raise Healthy Eaters webinar today!  If not, here is the link–I think you’ll find it informative and enlightening.

This is the second piece to our Your Child’s Development series and today we are focusing on the infant.

The first year of life is an exciting time for all parents. Whether you are having your first child or your fourth, a new baby is a much anticipated and welcomed event for parents.

Infancy can also be riddled with uncertainty, questions, and sleepless nights. During a year of rapid growth and constant change, staying on top of what is going on with your baby can be challenging. Not only are the obvious physical changes of weight gain and overall growth occurring, but so are the subtle developmental changes that are just as important.

Achieve attachment through feeding.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development informs us that during infancy, the baby’s main task is to form an attachment with his caregiver. Basic trust is established and the infant understands that his parents are dependable and the world can be a safe place. The foundation of hope, confidence and trust–essential for future relationships– develops at this very young age.

Attachment should be one of our primary goals as parents and feeding your baby is an excellent way of setting this in motion. Whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed, you can successfully achieve a healthy connection. If you want to know more about attachment theory, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a comprehensive document.

Here are ways you can connect and enhance attachment with your baby through feeding:

  • Mimic your baby’s sounds and actions.
  • Hold, touch, tickle (gently), and look at your baby.
  • Focus on your baby when you feed him—fully engage in the moment and show your complete attention.
  • Respond to hunger–baby demonstrates this by crying, rooting, and/or sucking on hands and fingers. Remember: the younger the infant, the more frequently hunger will strike. A newborn can be hungry every 1.5-2 hours and an older infant every 3-4 hours.
  • Recognize fullness–a baby who pulls away from the breast or bottle, turns their head away when a spoon is offered, or shakes his head “no” are all potential signs of fullness.

You need to be good at reading both the hunger and fullness signs so that you can help your baby maintain his natural hunger-fullness cycle (which he was born with and which helps him eat just the right amounts of food). Let your baby take the lead on how much he eats–but be watchful and attentive to his signals. Overfeeding or underfeeding your baby can happen when you don’t understand or accurately read your baby’s signs.

What is the opposite of attachment? 

Detachment.  The reality of our modern world is that parents are very busy and they look for quick and convenient ways to achieve the mundane day-to-day tasks (me included). Sometimes parents streamline their chores by multi-tasking–and multi-tasking can invade the kitchen and feeding kids.

Our modern world also promotes early independence. ‘No-hands’ bottle feeders, cup holders in the car seat, packaged food products that young ones can eat while they multi-task (play) are maxing on convenience but potentially undermining the parent-child bond.

Don’t get me wrong–I am a busy mom too and am all for simplicity–but not at the expense of a strong trusting bond with my child. I wouldn’t be inclined to gamble or risk it.

Remember how many times we have to connect and form this strong bond with our child?  Over 28,000 times. Lots of opportunity to make it or break it. And when it comes to feeding your baby, creating a strong attachment is key to a healthy, happy and nourished child.

How do you bond with your baby?  And what gets in the way?


We are rounding out this series with Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitaminthat plays a starring role in blood clotting. Clotting is important—it helps bleeding stop. In fact, Vitamin K is responsible for producing 4 of the 13 proteins required for blood clotting.

Dark green, leafy vegetables are a good source of Vitamin K

Vitamin K also helps make other proteins in the body that are important for blood, bone and kidney health. Research indicates that low levels of Vitamin K in the blood are associated with low bone density in adults. Since childhood is the “bone building” period of life, it makes sense to pay attention to Vitamin K.

Additionally, like Vitamin D, our bodies can produce Vitamin K on its own. Vitamin K is made from certain bacteria in your intestines. Prolonged or frequent use of antibiotics may destroy the bacteria-producing Vitamin K in the gut, so we also rely on food sources to assure adequate intake of Vitamin K.

How much do kids need?

Why do babies get an injection of Vitamin K at birth? Vitamin K is poorly transported across the placenta, so babies are at increased risk for Vitamin K deficiency and excessive bleeding.

The levels for optimal Vitamin K intake are set as Adequate Intakes (AI). No adverse effects have been reported for intakes above the AI, and there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) established, however, avoiding excessive intake of Vitamin K (ie, from supplements) is advised.

Adequate Intakes for Children:

0-6 months: 2.0 micrograms/day

7-12 months: 2.5 micrograms/day

1-3 years: 30 micrograms/day

4-8 years: 55 micrograms/day

Boys & Girls, 9-13 years: 60 micrograms/day

Boys & Girls, 14-18 years: 75 micrograms/day

Adapted from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes

Where can we find Vitamin K in food?

Collards, spinach and dark salad greens are the highest sources, with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and bib lettuce containing moderate amounts of Vitamin K. Plant oils (soybean, canola, olive, corn) and margarine are good sources as well. Wow, can you imagine sautéing collard greens or spinach in canola oil—a Vitamin K power-punch!

What if you don’t get enough?

Vitamin K deficiency is extremely rare in the generally healthy population; those who are deficient tend to have problems with gastro-intestinal function or have taken medications known to interfere with Vitamin K metabolism.

The Take-Away Message:

  • It is unlikely that healthy children will experience a deficiency of Vitamin K.
  • A varied diet including green leafy vegetables and plant oils are your best bet for maintaining normal clotting, bone health and Vitamin K status in your child.
  • Do you need extra Vitamin K from a supplement? Probably not.
  • If used, will a multivitamin supplement be excessive in Vitamin K? Probably not.

Thanks for reading our Alphabet Soup series!

Feeding is Love

I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

One of the ways you demonstrate love for your child is through feeding and the relationship that develops at the meal table. This feeding relationship grows over time, and is directly influenced by the ups and downs between you and your child at the meal table (or wherever you feed your child).

Feeding children is often layered with multi-tasking. These distractions can interfere with connecting at the meal table.  Yet, connecting, and the feeding relationship, is a necessary piece of good parenting and raising healthy kids.

What many parents don’t know is that feeding your child is full of opportunity for connection! It is estimated that there are over 28,000 opportunities to connect with your child through feeding.

Let me state that again.

There are over 28,000 opportunities to create a positive relationship around food and eating with your child.

With so many opportunities, the potential for successful feeding and eating is a no-brainer. But the reality is that family meals aren’t always touchy-feely and nurturing. They can be laden with ineffective feeding styles that promote negative eating habits and negative feelings. Or, they can be loaded with parenting practices like rewarding, pressuring or restricting that backfire, resulting in exactly what you don’t want–more pickiness, over- or under-eating, strained interactions and maybe even weight problems.

Where it all begins…

Eye contact is an important way of connecting with your child.

The feeding relationship begins the moment you first feed your baby. Whether you choose to breast or bottle feed, connection is underway. It is important that you hold and look at your baby. This is how the attachment between parent and child begins (more on attachment in our Development Series).

While you don’t hold your toddler, school-age child or teen when you feed them, your eye contact, conversation, presence, and attention all support the attachment that was started in infancy.

It’s important to keep this connection going, especially as your child gets older and you compete against the world of outside influences.

Let me count the ways…to strengthen the feeding relationship

Be engaged: Sit down with your child and pay attention to them. For tips on mealtime conversation starters, click here. Don’t make the mistake of multi-tasking while feeding your child. As tempting as it is, it distracts you from connecting with your child. Remember, meals are only 20-30 minutes of your time–your child is worth it!

Reciprocate: Feeding is a reciprocal relationship–you react to what your child is doing (whether it is good or bad behavior) and your child reacts to your behavior. Remember, you are the leader and your child will follow you. Keep mealtime positive and you are likely to get a pleasant response in return.

Trust intuition:  It’s important to listen to your child’s hunger and fullness cues, and respond in ways that honor those cues. Kids don’t always get the hunger/fullness thing right–sometimes they are right, and sometimes they mis-fire. They are figuring it out and need your help doing so.

Make sure you give your child feedback when they are right and when they miss the boat: “Boy, you sure know how listen to your body!” AND “Don’t worry, we’ll get this right next time…maybe if you eat a little bit more at lunch, this won’t happen again. What do you think?” In the long run, these are important lessons to be learned, for both you and your child.

Be reliable: Get those meals and snacks on the table–regularly. The more reliable you are with meals, the calmer and more secure your child may be with food and eating, at every age.

What’s Your Message?  Remember that you send messages to your child at the meal table: You are important to me. I care about you. I care about your health. AND Your hunger can wait. Something else (the dishes, the phone…) is more important.

Feeding your child is just one way to develop a strong, trusting bond and connection. You’ve got thousands of opportunities! Messing up a few of these interactions isn’t going to do irreversible damage–just make sure you tip the balance towards positive interactions and intentional connections at the meal table. Both you and your child will reap the benefits for a lifetime!

Join us for a free webinar: Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on May 18!

Don’t stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don’t get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.

The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point – My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love – A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My Top Ten Tips for Raising Lifelong Healthy Eaters, EA Stewart, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along?, Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give Up, Diane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD

Guest blogger and registered dietitian, Katherine Fowler, shares her wisdom about whole grains for us this week.

Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

Can you identify whole grains?  More importantly, are you getting enough of them?  The world of whole grains is not easy to navigate.  Claims on packaging can be confusing and misleading.  No need to worry!   The answers to your questions can be found here.

What exactly is a whole grain?

All grains actually start out as whole grains.  The original grain consists of three parts: 

  • Bran:  Outer shell containing phytochemicals, B vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber
  • Endosperm:  Inner portion containing proteins, carbohydrates and B vitamins
  • Germ:  Inner core containing B vitamins, vitamin E, unsaturated fat, phytochemicals, and antioxidants

According to the Whole Grains Council, whole grains contain all three parts along with their nutrients after processing. It is believed that the fiber, vitamins, minerals and other substances contained in whole grains work together to provide maximum health benefits.

The making of white bread (many kids’ favorite!) involves processing the whole grain, removing (or “stripping”) the bran, germ and key nutrients, including much of the fiber.

Why go for whole grains?

Research shows that eating whole grains everyday can help reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes, and may normalize blood glucose levels, lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure, and decrease risk for some cancers.   Whole grains add texture and flavor to foods and may help you feel fuller between meals, promoting a healthy weight.

How much whole grain is enough?

In a study published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers reported young people ages 15 to 23 are consuming less than 1 serving of whole grains per day!

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that most Americans make half of their grains whole, or have at least three servings of whole grains daily.  Sixteen or more grams of whole grain ingredients equals a full serving.

Note:  Recommendations for whole grains are different than recommendations for grams of dietary fiber.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 0.5 grams of fiber for every kilogram (2.2#) of body weight for children ages 2 and older.  Adding 5 grams to a child’s age is an easy and accurate way to determine minimum daily fiber needs. 

The Dietary Guidelines define a serving of whole grain as:

  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, whole grain pasta or other whole grain
  • 1/2 cup cooked whole grain cereal

    The Whole Grain Stamp

  • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
  • 1 small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
  • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal

For more on the age-specific, minimum serving requirements for whole grains, click here.

How do you know if it’s whole?

Many products contain whole grain and refined flour, so recognizing good sources is not clear-cut.  These tips will help you evaluate products:

1. Look for the Whole Grain Stamp, a symbol now on hundreds of packages.  The 100% Whole Grain Stamp identifies products that are 100% whole grain while the basic Whole Grain Stamp appears on products containing at least half a serving of whole grain.

2. Check the package label.  Many whole grain products do not bear a stamp. Some list grams of whole grain on the package, or label a product as “100% whole grain.”  Be skeptical if you see phrases like “made with whole grain” or if the word “whole” is not used.

3. Focus on the ingredient list.  If a whole grain is listed in the first few ingredients, the product is a good source of whole grain.  If enriched wheat flour, or white flour appears at the beginning of the list, it is not a good source.

A product containing some whole grain is better than one made solely from refined flour.  Some whole grains are better than none!

Cooking Light has done the homework for you and determined whether popular products are whole grain or not.  Click here to see if your favorites pass the test.

What about white wheat?

For those that prefer the taste and texture of white bread, select white whole wheat bread. White whole wheat bread is made with white wheat, a variety of wheat that is lighter in color and texture.  It offers the same benefits of traditional red wheat.  Remember, if the label doesn’t say “whole” white wheat, it isn’t a whole grain product.

A word on fiber

A high fiber food does not imply a food is whole grain.  Different grains naturally contain various amounts of fiber.  Food companies have started to add isolated fibers such as inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose to their products that increase fiber content, however, they do not provide the same health benefits of whole grains.

In a society that places a high focus on food (both healthy and unhealthy), it’s easy to get mired in the black and white thinking of “good foods, bad foods”. Parents easily fall into this trap while they are in the midst of  “getting food right” for their kids. And boy, does the job of “getting food right” get confusing for everyone!

What if we changed the language we use?  What if we try to label foods in a positive manner, so that kids can grasp what we are trying to teach them without fear and negativity?

Fun Foods taste good but need limits.

Enter the concept of FUN FOOD.

FUN FOODS are foods that are yummy (and sometimes irresistible), usually due to their sweet, fatty and/or salty taste.

Examples are birthday cake, cupcakes, cookies, soda, candy, chips and fried foods. FUN FOODS tend to be generous in calories, low in nutrition and naturally alluring (think about those pleasure-seeking taste buds–sweet, salt, and fat).

Parents tell me that FUN FOODS are everywhere, and they fear that FUN FOODS are becoming a mainstay in their kids’ diets. No longer just a treat at birthday parties, FUN FOODS are making regular appearances at school, church, and sporting events. While I am all for fun, too many FUN FOODS can get some kiddos into trouble.

Do you ever feel that FUN FOODS are invading your child’s daily plate?

If you answered ‘yes’, then you (and your kids) need a rule to live by! One that can keep the fun in food without ruining anyone’s health.

Enter the 90:10 RULE, a concept that many families find useful in tapering the influence of FUN FOODS.

It goes like this:

90% of what kids eat during the day is good-for-you, growing food (a balance and variety of foods from the MyPyramid guide: lean protein sources, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains)— and the other 10% is FUN FOOD.

For most healthy kids, a good rule of thumb is to eat no more than 1-2 FUN FOODS each day. Kids can understand this concept—and the best part– allowing kids to choose which FUN FOOD they will eat. Take a look:

     Sally knows that she will have the opportunity to have donuts after church on Sunday, as well as cake and ice cream at the afternoon birthday party she is attending.  Following the 90:10 Rule, she opts for cake and ice cream at the party and skips the donuts at church.  Good choice, Sally!

     Brent is playing baseball this afternoon and as tradition has it, he grabs a slushy drink.  He passes on the bowl of ice cream later that night, remembering he chose his FUN FOOD earlier that day. Home run, Brent!

The 90:10 RULE encourages kids to make choices and set limits on the amount of less-than-healthy foods they eat. It helps them pause and think through what they will eat during the day, and gives them an opportunity to think ahead and practice decision-making skills with eating.

As parents, we know there are endless options for FUN FOODS throughout the day. Eliminating FUN FOODS all together is a recipe for mutiny. Balancing FUN FOODs with GROWING FOODs is really the key to successful, healthy eating.

And kids need to be able to navigate the world of food.  Among the vast variety of FUN FOODS, the 90:10 RULE is a rule to live by for kids. It allows them to be in charge of choosing the FUN FOOD which is most important to them. And it helps them to set their own limits while learning to balance their eating.

For parents who want to know more about the role they can play in managing their kid’s sweets, check out the advice over at Raise Healthy Eaters.

What guidelines do you use to put a positive twist on managing FUN FOODS?

Kids speak…and people listen.

Here’s a follow-up to my post from the 11 year old who had an opinion on junk food.  I was reminded by John, from the American Institutes for Research an assistant to  NHLBI in their health outreach efforts, that it isn’t just about food…there is more at play (literally) when talking about childhood obesity (and, I couldn’t agree more, John…).

Turn Off the TV!

John pointed out an important piece to the puzzle, and here’s what he has to say:

“It’s pretty amazing to see how perceptive an 11 year-old can be about the obesity problem in America.  But junk food is only part of the problem.  Every day, children and teens spend more than four hours watching TV and more than seven hours using entertainment media instead of engaging in physical activity. These children are more likely to be overweight than children who walk, run, and play more often.”

John reminded me that this week is Turn Off the Screen Week (April 18-24), a week of replacing TV (and other screens such as the computer) with more physical activity for kids.

Happily, spring is sprouting and the heat is usually enough enticement to get kids outside.  If you need tips for getting your kids to be more active, check out this list from WeCan! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition),a science-based national education program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And if that’s not enough, they have also come up with a tip sheet for reducing screen time.

Will you be turning off the TV this week?  C’mon….

Did you know that child development influences how well your child eats? Picky eating, copying friends, independence, and risky behaviors are all normal behaviors during the course of childhood. Yes, NORMAL behaviors. Children move through these predictable and often frustrating phases as they grow into adulthood.

Yet, many parents find themselves embattled and struggling with their child, particularly with feeding and eating.

Messy eating is a normal part of child development

Why the Struggle and Strife?

Parents are missing out on information about typical childhood development. Not only are they missing this information, child development hasn’t been tied to eating behaviors or highlighted as a driving force behind eating. But child development is an important piece to the puzzle of feeding kids and kids’ eating.

Parents Need to Know What is on the Road Ahead.

And that’s what this series is all about: helping you get a handle on what to expect during each of your child’s developmental phases and most importantly, how it effects your child’s eating, the way you feed him, and his overall well-being.

In this series I will present each stage of child development, starting with infancy, moving through toddlerhood and school-age, and ending with adolescence.  I will move sequentially through the stages, helping you understand how each developmental stage builds upon the next. And I will show you the ties that bind development and eating so that you can figure out the mysteries behind food preferences, desires and behaviors.

School-age children are ready to learn skills in the kitchen

Why Am I Convinced this is Need-to-Know Information for Parents?

Knowledge provides insight. Knowing what to expect and what is normal during each development stage will help you respond to your child in a positive and healthy manner. For example, when you know a tornado is coming, you prepare your home, take cover and weather the storm in a relatively relaxed manner. This knowledge allows you to respond appropriately– this bodes true for feeding your child through the expected storms of childhood development, as well.

Knowledge provides opportunity. Knowing what to expect lets you grasp opportunities to teach and promote your child’s skills. Knowing where your child sits along the spectrum of development will help you decide when it is best to begin and advance cooking skils, how and what to teach about nutrition and allow for independent food choices. And it will also help you be realistic–if you expect your preschooler to bake a cake, you may be frustrated and disappointed. Likewise, if you hold back the school-age child who wants to bake, he may be frustrated with you!

Knowledge minimizes negative interactions. Sometimes, parents and children do struggle. In this series, I will also give you some pearls of wisdom for how to interact with your child in a developmentally-sensitive manner. All in the hopes of equipping you with foresight and knowledge so that you can remain level-headed and calm, and frustration can be minimized for all.

We all know what happens when you’re not prepared or don’t have a sense of what is normal…you may panic!  And panic can lead to rash decisions, knee-jerk reactions and negative interactions with your child. We want to keep things positive, especially around food and eating.

Navigate Nutrition Successfully.

This requires knowing your child’s development and how it is affecting their eating. While some of these normal developmental stages will still feel frustrating at times, it’s how you respond and handle them which is your barometer for success.

I hope you will feel equipped with your new knowledge: able to recognize that some behaviors are simply normal, handle the difficult ones with positivity… and be ready for the next barrage of behaviors.

Stay tuned for the first part of the series: Your Child’s Development: Infancy!

%d bloggers like this: