Eating Styles

“Your DNA; Your Picky Eater”

“My kid only eats three things!”  Many parents say.  Today’s article in the New York Times speaks 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.  These kids will fight you on it, and short of World War three erupting at every meal time, parents capitulate and feel guilty or inferior with other families, or relatives whose kids are more adventurous.  (Or of course with grandparents whose attitude is critical of your parenting if you are not more dogmatic about it!)   Also, you have the “try it once, twice, three times, and then you can say you don’t like it rule’, but your kid still eats only three things, or fights you each time.  

 For you parents who don’t want to fight it, don’t worry.  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.  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, that they are interested in, to get the vitamins they need.  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.     Most of all, remember that there is alot of evidence to help you as a mother, not take it 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.  Happy mealtime! 

“Does hiding veggies in their food help your kids to eat healthy?”

A new book came out this week on teaching kids to eat healthy. Delicious recipes that are guaranteed to help your child eat the foods you wnt them to eat. I can imagine the hordes of moms who are breathing a sigh of relief, rushing to get this cookbook so that they can rest assured that their kids are getting the nutrients that they need.
While this is certainly not a bad thing, I am always interested in what we do when our kids get older, and have more control over what they feed themselves. I want to arm kids with the decision making tools so that they can feed themselves well for their lives. For themselves. Eating habits are not just about nutrition. Eating habits are HOW eat, how quickly; can you wait, do you eat out of boredom, anxiety, control? Control is a big deal for kids and they will use food to control their world if we let them. Eating is the last thing you want to fight about, but it is important to teach them how to take good care of themselves and our job as parents to make sure they are safe and we are doing our part to make them healthy. Maybe for little ones, if we can hide nutritious food, they will eat it and make us feel good about the job we are doing. But it gets more complicated as they grow. Here are some tips to arm yourselves:
1) Teach them about the food groups in ways they can connect and relate to: i.e. the protein, (chicken nugget or whatever they like) helps them concentrate at their games longer, or kick the soccer ball and run faster
2) Help them to know their body and how full and hungry they are; help them to take charge of that; they can feel it on the inside; help them become a BODY EXPERT
3) Help them to know the difference between: “I am hungry”, from ‘I am bored”, (Or tired, anxious, sad)
4) Give them tools to make decisions: “If I eat this treat now, how will I feel when everyone else is having dessert and I have already had my treat?” (If your rule is one treat a day, if it is two, then let them pick the time and stick by the rule if that is what you have set)
Giving our kids healthy eating habits is hard. Eating nutritious food is just one part.

“Flipping the Off Switch”

Of course as a ‘foodie’ myself, I have known for years, that there are certain foods that are hard to stop eating. At some point it may be my favorite barbecue soy chips, when I was nursing my three daughters it was a particular Ginger snap that I must say I was completely unable to eat any less than the whole container. My own little trick doesn’t work for everyone, and you may not want to do this with your kids; it is not for the faint of heart. Basically, I let myself eat the food till I am done. Till the allure leaves. But that doesn’t work for everyone. (Although this cure worked for someone I consulted with who was sure she was ‘addicted’ to chocolate and was completely cured of her addiction within two weeks.
With our kids, we can be nervous about this “All Access” method though, and it is important to teach them about idea of WAITING. Yes, that simple but yet very hard to actually do, concept and exercise, is all that it takes. Because in fact, for some kids, it really does take more time for them to register ‘fullness’, or even ‘I am done’ and ‘want to stop.’ Between the time their stomach sends that signal to their brain, they’ve consumed three bowls of cereal, or three portions of whatever, and by then, full, turns into STUFFED. Do this long enough, and your signal to stop is usually set at stuffed, and lo and behold, you set a pattern for eating more than your body may need to burn.
SO, with the young ones, distract them, promise more later if they are still hungry, let them know the food is still there, and help them wait by getting them to help you clear the table, move onto homework, whatever. Basically, distraction, or ‘shifting gears’, is what it is all about. That way, if they truly are still hungry later, it is coming from their stomachs, and not their heads, or the stimulation of their tastebuds and mouths. Good luck!

The Food Inhaler

Is one of your kids a Picky Eater and the other a Foodie, or at times what I call: The Food Inhaler? There are thousands of books out there for the Picky Eaters and some say to offer a food a thousand times and one the thousandth and second time, they will likely try it; to never try that at all. I obviously don’t subscribe to the offer the food over and over camp; I think that can create struggles and in my experience, the more a kid smells your agenda; the likelihood that they will be contrary as they are moving into separation issues toward the twos and threes, the more likely they are to say no just to spite you, or be different. Even worse, not great to eat for mommy, for the kids who won’t go against you and want to just focus on what you want, as oppose to what their tummy is telling them they want/need. Now of course, this is not a black and white thing, but my feelings and how I practice and coach people to do so falls along those lines.
(More specific tips on that of course to come!) But what I love hearing about, are the ‘Food Inhalers’. Those kids who love love love their food, are the last ones eating the cake at the birthday parties, and can at times, seem obsessed! (I have countless parents coming in to see me for this!) Tips:
1) Congratulate your kid on their wonderful ‘palate’ and how wonderful it is that they love the tastes, smells, textures of their food so much
2) Teach them how to wait between portions by either distracting them if they are younger, or teaching them about waiting if they are older; for kids like this, they do need to wait to feel the message from the tummy to the brain that they can stop; I call it ‘flipping the off switch’. Some foods, (like potato chips for instance), stimulate the taste buds so that our mouths tell our heads we want more and it can be hard to stop. Simply pulling your kid away, while reassuring them that of course there is more if they still want it say in 20 minutes, is often all it takes, to flip the ‘off’ switch. Gives them tools to prevent a life time of overreating.

What Style is your Eater?

More to come on this. (The topic is endless!) In my 20 years of experience dealing with eating issues and with children, I have come to understand that each kid goes through and has their own style of eating. We have our Picky Eaters, Beige Food Eaters, (That is what I call the kid who only wants beige, or white food, no veggies of course!) The list goes on. I will definitely write alot about this, because it can make you want to pull your hair out as a parent, but if you understand it better, you will be able to use different strategies to take the stress out of mealtimes! I have written alot about this, so as we go along, you will also be able to access this through some of the articles I have published, and my book of course, but I will definitely be putting little tips and strategies to help you cope as we go through one more day of: “Mom, there is nothing to eat!”, or, “No, I won’t eat that!”