Food battles can often been a source of great stress for parents, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. It may seem like your child lives on just one or two food choices. You may worry that your child will never grow with such minimalistic eating habits. But before you stress too much, know that picky eating behaviors can be overcome. Even the pickiest child will eventually come around to sampling new tastes and textures with a little creativity and patience. Before long, you may find your picky eater actually looks forward to trying new foods- imagine that!
Research suggests that it can take as many as fifteen to twenty exposures to a food before a child is willing to accept it. And ‘acceptance’ can have a broad meaning. A food may be ‘accepted’ by a child if they allow it to be placed on their plate, if they touch it, or if they take a small bite. That means your child may need to be exposed to a carrot 15-20 times before they even allow a small portion to share space on their plate. Although this can sound tedious, an exposure can be as simple as your child seeing you enjoy the food.
Being a role model of varied eating is one of the best ways to help your child overcome picky habits. Allow your child to see you eating the foods you hope they will eat, have the food available during meals, and place a small portion on your child’s plate if they allow it. But remember not to stress over the food or even call attention to it. If your child eats it, that’s great. If they don’t touch it, that’s okay as well. It still counts as exposure. Fighting with your child to eat a new food or bribing them to eat it can be stressful for a child. If your child starts to associate stress with new foods, they may become more resistance to eating a variety of foods- which is exactly what you are trying to avoid!
Get them in on the action
Some studies suggest that when children are involved in the food preparation process, they are more willing to consume the food. Depending on the age of your child, you can involve them in food selection and preparation in a number of ways. Start by taking your child with you to the store and allow him to select a new food to try. Or you could even flip through a cookbook and let your children select a recipe they would like to sample. Older children can help in the kitchen a well. Let them try their hand at washing and chopping produce, assembling ingredients, and assisting in the actual meal preparation when appropriate. You can take it one step further and start a garden where your children can watch their fruit and vegetable selections grown right before their own eyes. However you chose to do it, the more involved your child can be in the food selection and preparation, the more likely she will be to actually eat it.
Keep it fun
Trying new foods and eating a well balanced diet shouldn’t be stressful. The more fun you make it, the more willing your child will be to try it. One easy way to make meal preparation fun is to give your child his own colorful compartmentalized lunchbox, such as a Yumbox lunchbox. There’s something magical about opening a brightly colored box and discovering what’s inside. This is how your child will feel every time he sits down to a meal with his own special lunchbox. Opening it up to discover a box filled with his favorite foods, and a small sampling of new foods scattered within, can be a simple way to get him excited to eat.
One of the easiest ways to get your child to accept a new food is to make sure it is combined with familiar favorites. Fill the majority of the compartments in your child’s Yumbox lunchbox with foods you know they will eat and enjoy. Then, offer just one new food in small compartment. And remember, when it comes to kids, presentation is everything. The more appealing, colorful, and fun a new food looks, the more apt they are to give it a try. Get creative with your child’s meals by using food stamps on sandwich bread, placing foods in fun-shaped silicon cups, or trying your had at simple food art creations. With the compartmentalized Yumbox lunchboxes, the lunch creation options are endless. You can even allow your child to help fill his own lunchbox for an even greater chance of acceptance and variety at mealtime.
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Yumbox. All opinions are my own.
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, its time to show our children just how important it is to love your own heart. February is American Heart Month, which makes it the perfect time to raise awareness of heart health for your entire family. With heart disease being the number one killer of both men and women in the US, and child obesity rates on the rise, every member of the household from toddler to elder can benefit from adding heart healthy nutrients into their meal plan.
Boosting the heart health benefits of meals doesn’t have to be boring or cause those much dreaded food battles. With a few easy tricks, you can have your children excited about their meals, willing to try new food, and most importantly eating a nutritious, heart healthy diet and enjoying it!
#1 Make Fruits & Vegetables Fun
The research is clear. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to be protective to the heart by helping to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels while promoting a healthy body weight. But as any parent with a picky eater is aware, just telling your child to eat their veggies does not always work. So how can you get your little ones to start gobbling up their greens without a fight? Make it fun!
The more creative you can be with your little one’s food, the more likely they will be to try it. Try cutting fruit and vegetables into fun shapes, calling them fun names such as broccoli ‘trees’ or carrot stick ‘swords,’ and allowing your child to take a stab at creating food art will have them begging to eat produce. A simple activity of arranging fruits and vegetables into funny faces can increase your child’s exposure to new foods, which over time has been shown to increase acceptance and intake. And you don’t have to be an artist to make food art fun. Just be creative, silly, and have fun with it. Your kids, and your whole family, will love it. Who wouldn’t want to eat food that looks this fun?
#2 Say No to Fat Free
If you were under the impression that all dietary fats are damaging to the heart, think again! Plant based fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been found to provide multiple health benefits such as improving cholesterol levels, decreasing inflammation, and even promoting a healthy body weight. Incorporating a good source of these nutritious fats daily may aid in nutrient absorption while promoting heart health. Great sources include nuts, seeds, avocado, hummus, and plant-based oils such as olive oil.
To help your children incorporate more healthy fats into their meal plan, aim to add a healthy fat source to every meal and snack. Try topping cereal or yogurt with chopped walnuts, snacking on a handful of almonds, or using hummus or guacamole as a dip. Cooking in plant-based oils such as olive or avocado oil can be another great way to add these healthy fats into your family’s diet.
#3 Hello Whole Grains
Grains are a staple in many meals and snacks and include foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and pretzels. Although most of us eat plenty of grains, we aren’t always choosing whole grains. On average, most people consume just one serving of whole grains per day. That means that the majority of grains we are ingesting are the refined, rapidly digested forms, which can have a negative impact on overall health. Whole grains on the other hand can promote a healthy heart. These nutrient-dense foods are packed full of soluble fiber, a form of fiber that has been found to decrease unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.
If you worry that your child will never become a whole wheat bread covert, there’s no need to be concerned. Whole grains don’t just have to be just whole wheat. One hundred percent whole grains include options such as rye bread, brown rice, quinoa, and even popcorn (and what kid doesn’t love popcorn?!). Try introducing your child to a variety of whole grain options to find out what they love. You can even use whole grain flours, such as oat flour, to create family favorites such as pancakes and muffins.
#4 Embracing Balance
Teaching your child the important of balancing a variety of food groups at each meal is a fantastic way to get them started on the path to good health. Research has shown that visual cues are one of the best ways to educate portion size and meal planning. Using a compartmentalized lunchbox such as Yumbox, you can help illustrate what a balanced meal looks like to your child. The individualized compartments with graphics and text help to make meal planning fun and educational. Younger children can use the visual images to help them identify food groups, while older children can begin to understand the basics of meal planning and portion control. Providing a balanced meal rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy, and healthy fats at each meal is the perfect combination for a healthy heart. Using a tool like Yumbox can help to take the stress out of meal planning and transform heart healthy eating into a fun activity the entire family can join in on together.
Disclosure: This blog post has been sponsored by Yumbox Lunchboxes. All opinions are my own.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… sangria… one that contains few calories …. Lalala….
Are you drinking of relaxing over this holiday with a delicious cocktail that won’t pack in the calories and sugar? Me too! That’s why I decided to combine my two favorite adult beverages (wine & rum) into a healthy slimmed down sangria that pairs perfectly with this week’s festivities. On top of it being Christmas Eve, it’s also Joey’s 2nd birthday, so I figured I deserved some celebration time myself- you know to mark my 2 year anniversary of never sleeping thanks to one very fun, but very hyper toddler 😉 So yes, I need a drink!
You do have to prep a little to make this drink (it doesn’t take long, I swear) because you want to allow time for the fruit to defuse into the alcohol for a sweet taste. You can still make the drink with the fruit without allowing it time to defuse, but it won’t taste quite as sweet. So if you can, make this overnight tonight and it will be ready for you to enjoy all day tomorrow – of course if you start enjoying it too early it may lead to a very early bedtime for you. Hey, maybe that’s the solution to Joey’s sleep problems- just kidding!
I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and of course a happy & healthy New Year! Enjoy!
Slimmed Down White Christmas Sangria
- 1 bottle Pinot Grigio (750 mL bottle)
- 1/2 cup fruit infused white rum (I used Bacardi Razz)
- 1 cup 100% white grape juice
- 2 cups seltzer water
- 1 cup sliced red apple
- 1 cup sliced green apple
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
In a large bowl, place sliced fruit, rum, and wine and chill for 2 hours. In a large pitcher, mix together the fruit & alcohol mixture along with the grape juice and seltzer. Add 1 cup of ice to chill. Serve by scooping some fruit into a wine glass and pouring liquid mixture on top. Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
95 calories, 8gm carbs
*Remember if you have #diabetes, alcohol can increase the chances of hypoglycemia- drink responsibly, test blood sugar often, and never drink on an empty stomach
On average, Americans consume about 20 teaspoons of added caloric sweeteners daily.1 This is two to three times the recommendation from the American Heart Association, which suggests that most women consume no more than 100 calories of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) per day, and most men consume no more than 150 calories of added sugar (about 9 teaspoons) per day.2 Increased intake of added sugars can have a negative impact on health, including decreasing HDL-cholesterol levels and elevating triglyceride levels.3
Helping patients reduce their intake of added sugars can be a struggle, especially during the holidays if they experience frequent food cravings. However, food cravings themselves may be brought on by the meal choices your patient makes. One study compared brain activity following consumption of a high glycemic index meal, such as a meal rich in added sugars and refined grains, to consumption of a low glycemic index meal. Eating a high glycemic index meal resulted in lower blood glucose and increased hunger, and stimulated the regions of the brain associated with reward and cravings in the late postprandial period, which could impact food choices at the next meal.4This finding points to the possible value of helping our patients reduce the glycemic load of meals in an effort to help increase satiety and reduce overall cravings. The good news is, working to lower the glycemic index through simple substitutions, such as swapping brown rice for white rice, may be a tool to help manage the spikes and dips in blood sugar that may occur from more refined, starchy carbs.
Researchers are also exploring the role of added sugars in leptin resistance.5Leptin, a hormone released by fat cells, helps signal the brain to decrease food consumption and increase energy expenditure. Leptin resistance has been referred to as the hallmark of obesity.6 A recent study found a significant correlation between plasma leptin levels and carbohydrate cravings.7 This may be especially valuable information for those with diabetes or prediabetes, as insulin resistance has been associated with leptin resistance.8
To help curb cravings this holiday season, one strategy may be to work with your patients to help them reduce the overall glycemic load of their meal choices, while simultaneously working with them to reduce intake of added sugars. This combination may help fight cravings, as well as manage hunger. As mentioned earlier, certain meal swaps may help reduce the glycemic load and limit added sugars without sacrificing flavor. For instance, work with your clients to find whole grain alternatives to common refined grain choices such as whole grain pasta over white pasta or steal cut oats over instant oatmeal. Added sugars can also be reduced by making simple swaps, such as seltzer for soda, 100% juice for fruit juice, and unsweetened teas for sweetened varieties.
Making a few easy swaps to meals and snacks may help boost satiety, rather than stimulate cravings. When our patients’ cravings are diminished, the goals of improved blood glucose management and reduced body weight may become easier to work towards, and our overall health may be enhanced.
1. American Heart Association. 19 May 2014. Frequently Asked Questions About Sugar. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Sugar_UCM_306725_Article.jsp#.Vk4AKBNViko
2. Johnson R, et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. 2009. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/120/11/1011.full.pdf. Accessed November 10, 2015.
3. Welsh JA, et al. Caloric sweetener consumption and dyslipidemia among US adults. JAMA. 2010 Apr 21;303(15):1490-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.449. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3045262/
4. Lennerz BS, et al. Effects of dietary glycemic index on brain regions related to reward and craving in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;98(3):641-7. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.064113. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743729/
5. Shapiro A, et al. Prevention and reversal of diet-induced leptin resistance with a sugar-free diet despite high fat content. Br J Nutr. 2011 Aug;106(3):390-7. doi: 10.1017/S000711451100033X. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21418711. Full text accessible at http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FBJN%2FBJN106_03%2FS000711451100033Xa.pdf&code=b39b75fcef66d9e30244640216120c97
6. Lustig RH, et al. Obesity, leptin resistance, and the effects of insulin reduction. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Oct;28(10):1344-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15314628
7. Licinio J, Negrao AB, Wong ML. Plasma leptin concentrations are highly correlated to emotional states throughout the day. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Oct 28;4:e475. doi: 10.1038/tp.2014.115. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350520/
8. Fischer S, et al. Insulin-resistant patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus have higher serum leptin levels independently of body fat mass. Acta Diabetol. 2002 Sep;39(3):105-10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12357293