April 2009

Spring Healthy Eating Tips For Tweens and Up

I was just asked to do this piece for Just Ask Marlene; the website that Wilhemina Models’ head of the Junior Division has for tweens. This is not focused on girls who are or want to be models, but rather focused on healthy eating for all tweens on up; feel free to share it with any kids in your lives.



Here we are the sun is out and we are finally getting to shed our layers! Yeah! Here are some tips to feel fabulous and enjoy the beautiful warmer weather while eating sensibly and feeling good in your body.

1 Balance what you eat; Feed your body all the things it needs. Fruits, veggies, protein, calcium, carbs. Yes, carbs! Make sure to get some protein in your body at breakfast or lunch, so that you aren’t starving by the end of school and more likely to eat junk food. If you hate breakfast, grab a cheese stick to eat on the way, or some peanut butter on a cracker. Eggs are great if you like them and they will ‘hold’ you all morning.

2.Try to eat oranges or grapefruit before you have to do your after school activities. This is what dancers do before class or a performance and will give you the energy your body needs, without leaving you feeling overly tired or starving.If you don’t like oranges, try some other fruits like strawberries, peaches and plums. Then you will get the spurt of energy you need for your high energy activities.

3. Don’t avoid foods you love. Don’t deprive yourself of the treats you enjoy. Overly restricting food will boomerang by overeating or slowing your metabolism. Simply ask yourself this question: “Do I want it now, or later?” Remind yourself that you can have it, but only have it if you really want it.

4.Sometimes you can get in the habit of eating certain things,or enjoying eating with friends while hanging out together, even if you aren’t that hungry, or even in the mood to eat that food. You can always eat it later, or enjoy your time with your friends laughing, talking and hanging out. Don’t feel pressured to eat if they are.

5. Eat till you are DONE AND COMFORTABLE, not necessarily full. EAT WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY AND STOP WHEN YOU ARE COMFORTABLE. You will feel lighter and it will help flip the ‘off swtich’ which is hard to do with some foods like chips, peanuts, cookies.

6. Play a ‘waiting game’ if you want to cut down on any portion sizes. Remind yourself that you can have more later if you are still hungry.

7. Your body is hungrier some days than others. Don’t sweat it if you have some days when you eat a lot more than usual. Try to eat more fruits, veggies and protein and you will naturally fill in the rest with less high calorie food that won’t help your body much.

Most importantly, enjoy your food and get outside and move your body! You will feel great inside and out, and be ready for summertime. Happy Springtime!

Much thanks to our friend Donna Fish for her great article on Spring Healthy Eating Tips. Donna is psychotherapist and author of a great book “Take the Fight out of Food”, she coaches people of all age on eating well for life. Visit her at: www.donnafish.com

“How Many More Bites Before Dessert?

Help! Is what most parents say in desperation when it comes to the sugar cry from their kids. “What should I do when my kids constantly ask for candy? I know it’s not good for them to eat too much sugar, but that’s all they want!”

Once your children are exposed to the world at large- through playgroups, at school, at friends’ homes and so on, you are no longer in total control of their food. Typically, this increased exposure happens after about three years old, when kids often enter preschool. Even if you were able to keep your first baby away from sugar, your second is usually exposed much earlier on because of her older sibling’s expanding world.

For many parents, trying to find a way to manage kids’ intake of treats can get complicated. While some kids self-regulate sweets fairly easily, take a few bites and are off and running, some can start demanding more and have difficulty stopping, and/or create a power struggle around their intake.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the issue and help take the focus off the fight:

1) Don’t get held hostage by your worry that you are going to be creating a problem if you say no. At the same time, be flexible and understand that while you may not want your kids to eat sugar or have it in the house, they are going to be eating it outside the home and you might want to be around to help them learn how to moderate it if they need your help.

2) Try to get away from the old ‘good food’, ‘ bad food’ description. Sugary foods can be described as ‘fun food, ‘food that makes your taste buds happy’ while you teach them nutritional lessons about what other food groups do for them: I.e. chicken nuggets, (protein) helps your muscles go strong to kick that soccer ball. The treat is fun to eat and important too, but they need to balance foods so that they make sure they are taking good care of this body that does stuff for them!

3) To get around the old: “How many more bites before dessert?” question, reply back: “What do you think? How well have you fed your body with other things to help it grow?” If they make the decision they are more likely to have one extra bite, vs. putting so much emphasis on the dessert.

4) Give them some choice of when they get the treat. Do they want it now, or do they want to have it after dinner when everyone else is having their treats.

5) Teach them how to wait by assuring their access to the treat. Let them put it on a shelf or in the fridge where they know where it is, and they get to pick when they have it. Don’t even worry if they eat it before their meal. It will rarely spoil their appetite.

6) Every family has their own value system and comfort level with sugar. Figure out your comfort level and consider whether you need to be a bit more flexible, or perhaps more limit setting. Don’t be held hostage by any worry that you will create a problem if you say no, but begin a dialogue also with your kids so they take some responsibility for the amount of treats they eat and how well they are feeding their body.

7) Don’t fret about the days when they go from one birthday party to the next. Even if they consumed massive amounts of treats, by dinnertime or the next day, you can usually offer up a more healthy option. Remember that flexibility and having ‘off’ days, are part of healthy eating. Their bodies can accommodate this.

As you may have noticed already, some kids are more demanding than others when it comes to sugar. Separate out their demands from usual “I want what I want when I want it” behavior and don’t’ worry about saying no. Some kids do need more stucture from you to help them to regulate their eating, but giving them some control within the rules you set, will help them wait out that time to finally get the signal from their belly to their brain, that they don’t need/want that treat anymore.

Facing the reality that there is only so much control that you will have over their lives is a lesson often first learned around food. You can pretend that sugar only exists outside the home, but giving them the tools and understanding what tools they need from you, will help them learn how to moderate sugar.

Yes you can give them the foundation to avoid fights with food between you and them, but most importantly, you can prevent them from that fight within themselves later on.

“Your DNA; Your Picky Eater”

“My kid only eats three things!” Many parents say. A while back an article in the New York Times spoke of a company that now can analyze your DNA and find out such specific information as to why in fact, you might have never wanted to drink milk when you were a kid. (Lactose intolerance tells your body to stay away!)

Parents can pull their hair out, worrying about their kids who refuse to try any new foods. Even formerly adventurous babies, can turn into toddlers and preschoolers who get so picky with their eating, that parents go bananas.
Aside from the beige food eaters, picky eaters are the most typical of early childhood. This is important to understand, because like with any parenting issue, the less personally you take it, and the less you need to truly worry about it becoming a problem, the more relaxed you can be which is always best for your kids!

Some things to consider: Every kid’s palate develops on their own timetable, just like their motor, speech and cognitive development. Think about it; eating involves the three senses of taste, smell and touch. Similarly to how one child reads earlier because the muscles of the eye steady the letter on the page sooner, your child’s senses are developing on their own timeline. Don’t worry if you and your husband enjoy more subtle flavours; your child might need more time to develop that part their palate.
Many allergists believe that children who are picky eaters are instinctively tuned into their bodies’ signals that are telling them to stay away from a particular food until their bodies have developed enough immunity to said food.
Children are often just less interested in variety, and love the same things. Think of how many times they have to wear the same Superman outfit to preschool, or the same T- shirt? Their world is expanding and they are also asserting their own individuality and taste. Taste, remember! Again, try not to take it personally.

Here are some tips to help you live through the years (and criticizing you may get from so-called well wishers)!:

1) If you are worried that they aren’t getting their nutritional needs met, look at your kids’ food over the course of one to two weeks, not just each day. (What nutritionists advocate.) There is more room for those days your kid barely eats anything, or it seems like they really do only exist on mac and cheese.

2) Teach them about the major food groups and what they do for their body. Get them to go grocery shopping with you and pick out the ways they want to eat their protein. Let them pick the fruit, if they won’t eat veggies, If they won’t even do that, challenge them to find another way to get their vitamins. Make it into a game. They are the expert on their body, but they do have the job of taking the best care of it that they possibly can, you say to them. Empower them to take more responsibility. Get them to do some of the work.

3) Let them pick one or two back up meals if they never eat what you prepare for dinner. If they are too young to prepare it themselves, try to keep it simple and something they can reach in the fridge themselves. Don’t worry if it is something like a yogurt, or cereal. Let them portion out their own food.

4) Leverage the siblings if you have more than one child! As they won’t eat the carrots on their plate, ask them if you or if their sister or brother can eat them? Model a “Good, more for me!” attitude, and your own enthusiasm about eating.

5) You can use the ‘try each thing once’ rule, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work or they start to fight you on it. I find that the more pressure you put on them, the less likely they are to find it and appreciate it for themselves when they are ready. It can also set up a power struggle as they begin to individuate themselves.

6) You can try to hide veggies in their food, (Deceptively Delicious advocates might swear by this), but it often doesn’t last long. If you do this, don’t expect it to last and be prepared to deal with the issue square on.

Most of all, remember that there is alot of evidence to help you as a parent, not take this issue personally. Think of your own and your husband’s background. Were you a picky eater? Are there any food allergies in your family? After all, it could just be in their DNA, not that you are doing a bad job. Or, your child simply needs time to ‘grow into’ their palate. Who knows, they may even become the next ‘Top Chef’!