Say No To Snack Bags!

Think about the snacks you keep in your bag for your children…do they really need it?

Here’s the deal-when I carried a diaper bag for the first few years of my children’s lives, it made sense to have snacks. Their rapidly growing bodies and short attention spans necessitated the food items, mostly for my benefit. It was for me-not for my own consumption, but because if they snacked while I was busy doing an errand, etc. the task was more likely to be completed.  
The truth is that we all like to eat. Eating releases some of the feel good hormones, it keeps our mouthes busy, and if we are really hungry, helps reduce “Hanger.” Infants, toddlers, and maybe preschoolers need snacks while you are out and about living life, but then those kids grow up. And caregivers do not need to have an endless supply of snacks available.  
At the pool this summer I heard “Mom do you have any snacks?” This was approximately 5 minutes after we arrived and 30 minutes after we ate lunch. So my response, OF COURSE, was “None at the moment. Go play.” The reality is that I typically do not pack a lot of food options if I know we are going to be gone for a few hours. And this is when the kids will be swimming, burning calories, and getting tired. Can you believe it?  
This mean Mom recognizes that children should not have access to food at all hours of the day. The children of today, who are used to instant gratification, should learn their body’s hunger sensations and recognize that good eating habits are crucial for overall health.  They should be taught (yes, one more job for busy parents) to develop good eating habits at an early age.
The average child requires 3 meals and 2 snacks to get through the day. But the same children may be better eaters if they snack less. Especially because if you look at most of the snacks we pack for our children have less than ideal nutritional value. Goldfish crackers are not a good snack in case you were not aware, but they are easy to pack, so we bring them. Let them wait for dinner when the veggies will be more easily consumed because they are hungry. They will be more likely to eat well because they did not fill up on other stuff.
Do I win the award for most nutritious foods offered to my family every day of the week? NO! But do I strive to teach my children about healthy eating habits? Absolutely! And this starts with saying “No” to the endless snacks that my kids will ask for.
So I challenge you to say “No” to the snacks that are in your bag. You are not a walking vending machine!!! Do you agree?

A Dialogue On Healthy Weight

I recently sat with a group of impressive people to discuss new strategies
for obesity prevention.  Professionals from Nutrition, Obstetrics,
Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Public Health gathered together.  The
goal is to design a program to help families be healthy.
Did you know how important it is to be healthy before your baby is
conceived?  Did you know that maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight can
have long term effects on your child?  Did you know that the extra weight
carried around your middle causes extra strain on your internal organs?
I think in this fast paced world we forget to think about long term
outcomes.  Research shows that many women gain weight during their pregnancies and are not able to lose it before getting pregnant again.  And it is often difficult to find healthy ways to exercise and lose weight when children are very young.
But the question that needs answering is-how can the medical community work with people to get to a healthy weight in a positive way?  How can we be supportive without negative feelings?  After all, the conversations about BMI and weight can be challenging.
As we continue to do research and create programs that support families struggling with extra weight, we need to remember to keep the dialogue going.  As a patient, know that we care.  We want to help you be your best you!

Healthy Eating For The Whole Family

I am often called upon to talk about how to get children to eat healthier foods.  Our children have been raised to expect pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta, and hot dogs as part of their regular diet.  This makes me sad and afraid for the health of our children on a much larger scale.
While I do recognize that children can become picky eaters as they develop autonomy and make their own choices, I don’t believe this is the reason kids don’t eat well.  Children express themselves in many ways.  They have control over what goes into their bodies.  They can determine what, how much, and when they eat.  But parents and caregivers always have control over the other variables.
Parents buy the food.  If your child eats way too many goldfish crackers, don’t buy them!  If they are not readily available to consume, they won’t over indulge.  Isn’t this the same concept that we should all consider for ourselves?  Don’t buy juice-it has empty calories.  Take a break from waffles.  Skip the fruity snacks.
Adults prepare the food.  Make one meal that is healthy for everyone in the family.  We all could use some gentle reminders to eat the good stuff.
It’s simple if you realize that kids will eat what is put in front of them if they are hungry.  As a parent, I know that this does not apply to ALL foods.  (My kids will not eat some of the vegetables that I cook-asparagus, potatoes, butternut squash.)  But if they see others eating them and are required to have a little taste, they have a greater likelihood to try them.
I like the overall concepts in this article-  “5 healthy eating strategies that will outlast any trends”.
They can be applied to kids so that they will grow up craving healthy foods.  Let’s get rid of the kid’s menu and give them nutritious foods instead.
If you have any tricks and pointers to share, I would love to hear them!  And if you are interested in a workshop about dealing with the picky eaters in your life, send me a message!

The Daily Struggles of Having A Picky Eater

Yesterday I met with some colleagues to discuss new approaches to combating childhood obesity.  The concept is to work with mothers who are pregnant and help them during the first two years of a child’s life with healthy eating.  While we are not sure what this intervention is going to look like, the concept, in my opinion, is brilliant.  Not to mention, very necessary.

Feeding children is hard work.  They are little people with big opinions about everything.  And they can control what goes into their bodies.  For some kids, the struggle that mealtimes brings is somewhat of a sport.  Crazy, right.

The thrill of telling Mom and Dad- I don’t like it, it looks gross, and it smells disgusting-is fun.  Kids get a reaction from the adults who give them so much attention.  They want to see if they have the power to change what is on their plate.  And in many cases, this strategy actually works!

While I like the ideas that this author presents, I challenge you to rethink the actual mealtime struggle.  My famous line is “It’s my job to feed you healthy food to fuel your body.  Sometimes you won’t like everything, but you need to eat good food.”

Do you have any good tips for parents struggling to feed their children healthy foods?

For more insights, here is the article I mentioned.

The Problem that is Childhood Obesity

Obesity in children is a real problem.  The increased rates of Type II Diabetes is an issue for young people.  And as a nation, we need to pay attention to these facts to reverse the cycle of unhealthy eating and excess weight gain.  This is happening in every community.  It is not someone else’s mess.

“Even children who aren’t obese may be establishing patterns and habits that push them toward obesity — and all of its challenges — in the future.”

We need to work on our menus at home and at school.  Teaching children to crave healthy foods and learn to eat well is our job as parents.  If you start early or late, you can made changes if you stand behind them.

Children are resilient.  They learn to adapt and change on a daily basis.  Adults have a harder time.  My advice, read this article and decide what you can do to make some adjustments to your family’s lifestyle.  Then put a plan in action.  Just do it!

Read this article for more tips.

Healthy Snacking-Getting It Right for our Kids

Feeding our children is a very difficult job for todays parents, especially with a lot of food choices and not enough time.  I am a bit of a spy when it comes to snacks and school lunches. I have been fascinated by what nourishes a child’s body.  With the epidemic of childhood obesity combined with watching how different foods effect my own children, I am always looking for new options.
As a child, I grew up with a lot of junk food at my disposal.  I remember fondly having Lucky Charms for breakfast, Ding Dongs in my lunch, and chips as part of my after school snack.  Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of healthy foods too and my mother made sure to cook healthy dinners every night (she still does.)  But the junk food was the food that I craved as a child.  Having lots of snacks in the cabinets made me want it even more.
Today’s supermarkets have aisle after aisle of  bad food choices.  And if you are lucky, you have the financial resources (please remember that food insecurity is a huge problem in our country) you can purchase all of the items your family desires.  But if you are able to resist the pleas of the children who ask for Cocoa Puffs, like mine, and offer them whole grains, fresh fruits, and low fat proteins they will thank you for it.  They will have more energy, they will not have the sugar highs followed by the crash, they will ultimately perform better in school, and they will develop a palate for healthy foods.
Did you know that some supermarkets put certain food items at a child’s eye level so they will see and want them?  Did you know that the items placed at the end of the aisle are usually high profit, poor nutrition items arranged so you can grab it and go?  Did you know that supermarkets hope you will shop for produce first and reward yourself with junk food afterwards?  Scary isn’t it.  I imagine that you have not given this much thought as you traipsed through the market.
Consider these tips:
-Kids need 3 meals and one or two healthy snacks to fuel their bodies.
-Limit processed foods.
-Look at food labels to see how many grams of sugar and sodium each food contains.
-Offer 3-4 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
-It is worth the effort to “make your kid” eat healthy foods.  This does not mean force feeding children, rather if healthy food is the only thing in the house, they will eat it!
-Children ask for snacks when they are bored, especially in the winter in New England when outside time is limited.
Start today and rethink the food that goes into your children’s bodies.  Make a commitment to add more fruits and vegetable to your diet and theirs.  Try to be creative and think of new ways to shop to avoid the supermarket pitfalls.  Rethink the snack options.  As a parent, you are in control of your families food choices and you can make a difference!
I am including a recent article about kids snacking and an adorable picture of a baby who is getting a great start!