Monday, March 24, 2014

Oh, My Kid Won’t Eat That

“Susie doesn't like tomatoes. She tried one when she was 4 years old and spit it right out! So our family doesn't eat any tomatoes.”

Oftentimes parents are distressed with their child’s unwillingness to eat more fruits and vegetables and succumb to giving them the same repertoire of staples such as chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese and other kid-friendly favorites. Your child’s fickle appetite is not an acceptable barrier to preparing healthy meals for your family.

It is so important to engage your children in healthy eating habits from an early age not only for growth and development, but so that when they are older, they will seek out healthy foods during unsupervised times with their friends. Research has shown that children who have healthy eating habits from an early age are physically and mentally healthier later in life.

According to a 2007 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics, “the most important determinant of a child's liking for a particular food is the extent to which it is familiar. Put simply, children like what they know and they eat what they like. From the very earliest age, children's experiences with food influence both preferences and intake, and research suggests that the earlier and broader that experience, the healthier the child's diet. “

It may take 5, 10, up to 50 times for your child to accept a new food. So don’t give up; keep trying!

Be a role model. Chances are, if your child sees you enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables they will be more willing to eat them too.

Teach your child why it is important to eat healthy. Tell them that by eating their greens they will have strong muscles and bones so they can grow up to be a firefighter or a professional athlete.

Try preparing foods in a new or different way. Bake, boil, steam, roast, sauté; raw, cooked, wrapped, hidden, animal-shaped—there are endless possibilities of food preparation. Get creative!

Let your child help with grocery shopping and meal preparation. Getting them involved gives them ownership and responsibility and increases the likelihood that they want to eat them food they helped to make.

Dine out. Sometimes a new environment is enough to inspire your child to try something new.

Be patient and don’t force food. Pressuring your child to eat certain vegetables or fruit may cause them to feel negative about those foods and create unhealthy eating behaviors and patterns.

Serve family style rather than dishing up their plate. Let them choose from what is on the table, making sure that there is at least one dish the child is sure to enjoy.

Stick to a routine as much as possible. Your child will be prepared to eat and less likely to snack when they know a meal is coming.

The ultimate goal is for meal time to be a positive, relaxed experience for the whole family. It is an opportunity to grow together and learn more about each other while created healthful habits that will last a lifetime. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Okay, Dietitian, What do you Think About…

When some people find out that I am a dietitian, they are excited to share with me their latest diet, tell me how many pounds they have lost or ask me my thoughts on a particular supplement. I have been a dietitian for 2 years now and during this relatively short period of time I have grown, not only as a professional, but as a person. I have become a better listener, more empathetic. I am more patient (even though sometimes I am thinking, ‘Just shut up and eat it!’).

Today is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, a time to reflect on what being a dietitian means to me and thank all of the people in my life who have supported my career. I was always a straight-A student, but no lesson or textbook could prepare me for what the real world has offered. Sometimes I leave a client or group having more questions than them or feeling unsatisfied and obsessing over my answers. I have had days when I felt I have changed someone’s life for the better or made somebody’s day. I have had days when I have felt hopeless and defeated.

I have learned that being a ‘nutrition expert’ doesn’t mean that we have the right answers every time. Nutrition is an ever-evolving field and it is hard to keep up. What we dietitians are able to do is give you sound information and peace of mind that there is no one prescribed way to live and eat healthfully. Nutrition, diet and food are very personal. People have very strong thoughts, opinions and beliefs about what is right for their body, oftentimes based on the latest diet or study that the media is presently propagating. I am here to make sure that your eating patterns are positive, enabling you to live your life fully, and that you have a healthy relationship with food. Dietitians are a source of direction, motivation and support –key aspects that are often lacking when one sets out to lose weight or get fit.

Nutrition is a keystone in all of our lives and I am fortunate to be one of the many leaders bringing awareness to what it means to be healthy.  Thank you to everyone who reads my articles, my clients and my colleagues for your feedback, support and continuing education.

I love what I do.