Empowering Kids in the Kitchen

One of the great benefits of “mommyhood” is to watch your children discover things for the first time. It may be watching them see, taste, learn or experience something that really gets them excited. The foundations we lay in our children have long term impact. It is great to know that the precious time that we invest in their lives will prove to be profitable and equate to large dividends.
The same is true for exposing your children to no pressure food experiences. As parents, we wonder why our children are such picky eaters, or apprehensive to try new flavors – yet we don’t allow our children to “experience” food. Our family recently bought Adobe Premiere Elements, which is video editing software, so we could play around with making our own videos. Over the holiday break, my 6 year old, Hannah and I, spent some time playing around in the kitchen. Hannah loves to be in charge, so we decided to film her very first video of her showing people how to make a tropical fruit smoothie. Hannah’s grandmother got her Disney’s Magic Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas and we are planning to make every recipe.
Hannah was the leader – she decided which recipe she wanted to make and even which fruit she was going to choose to put in the smoothie. We had a discussion about what her viewers might want to know while she is making the recipe – handwashing, cleaning the fruit and safety in the kitchen. As you watch the video, take notice of Hannah’s glances over at me to see my approval. As we let our children take the lead, encourage and commend them on a job well done. Remember their age and their capabilities! Don’t expect perfection. I thought Hannah did wonderful for her very first video shoot! We originally planned it to be just Hannah by herself, but at the last minute, I was added as the “host” so I could assist with filling in any missing gaps. It’s a raw, homegrown video, but I cherish the video documentation of our experience together.
You don’t necessarily have to shoot videos with your children, but I do encourage playing in the kitchen with them.  Allow them to role play as the “chef teacher” so they can gain confidence and learn vital leadership skills in the kitchen and life in general. In our busy everyday lives, let’s all remember to take time out to invest in those ways to build our children up in the kitchen. Hannah and I had a lot of fun, spent some great time together and we look forward to doing some more.
My next post will be a book review of the cookbook. Stay tuned!

thanks to our director, Nicky Hales, and our producer, Jeff Lemond for pushing our small project to completion.

Children, Follow My (Eating) Cues

Feeding behaviors are solidified early in life. In general, children are wonderful examples of listening to their hunger and satiety cues. Both of my children are great examples. My son is a really big eater in the morning and into lunch time and then has a tendency to pick the rest of the day. While other days, he eats very little. My daughter, on the other hand, eats a small amount at breakfast and then slowly picks up throughout the day.  Some days, she seems to eat the amount a grown woman would eat!  But I trust she is accurately listening to her own body as remains active and her weight is following a healthy growth curve. Unfortunately, many parents confuse children when they tell them to eat because it is meal time. Parents think, “Surely they should be hungry because they haven’t eaten in several hours.” And not only do some parents make children eat, some make them clean their plates. I recently wrote a letter to a well-known, elite school here in Dallas when one of my pediatric patient’s mother (who happens to be a physician) told me they still practice the clean plate club at their school. Really?! I thought everyone has figured out by now that this is not a good thing to do. The clean plate club trains the body “untrust” its physiological signals to eat or not to eat. This approach may have started back in the Depression when food was scarce, but I see many adult patients that are still trying to unlearn what they were taught by their parents. “Do not get up from this table until your plate is clean.” Or, “If you want that dessert, you better eat everything on that plate.” Dietitians cringe at the thought, although I truly believe parents are very well-intentioned.
One of the best food behavior gifts we can give our children is the gift of trusting in their own hunger and fullness cues. I credit my own mother for allowing me and my siblings to make our own decisions to eat or not, and I firmly believe this has been one of the foundations to my healthy relationship with food. We ate as a family at the table without distractions (this is key), which helped us in listening to our individual cues. Because of mom, I can have my favorite food under my nose and if I am not hungry, I have no desire to eat it.

hunger-scale
Hunger Scale by Paula Ryan, MS, of
Healthiest Regards Blog.

Paula Ryan, MS, author of the Healthiest Regards Blog, posted a great hunger and satiety scale that I wanted to share with Mommy Dietitian readers. It’s one of the best I have seen because it also lists the consequences of waiting too long eat, or not stopping when the body says it has had enough. If you find yourself eating in the absence of hunger or waiting way too long to eat, consider printing this scale off and going back to the basics. Many people eat for reasons other than hungers like when they are stressed, mad or sad. Deal with those issues directly instead of turning to food. It may be easier said than done for some, but this can be a start to a healthier YOU in 2011. And a healthier you means a healthier family because the children are watching – and doing what you do.

Nutrition For The Sick

It’s that time of year again where all the nasty viruses and infections bring us and our loved ones down for a bit. Proper nutrition can be a major key to recovery. Even still, there are some among us dealing with more serious illnesses where optimal nutrition is even more crucial to the healing process. Our family is still trying to cope with the immense loss of a loved one last month, that despite all nutrition interventions I tried with her, our loved one did not survive her aggressive, brief bout with cancer (see dedication at the end). So yes, I have seen personally that there are times when nutrition is not enough.  While in other instances, medical nutrition therapy is a vital component of a patient’s care, prevention of complications and ultimate recovery. Although this is a subject that could be discussed for days, this post very briefly covers the role of food and nutrition for those who are sick with minor, major and terminal illness.
Minor Illnesses
Most of us will only deal with minor illnesses that pass in a matter of days. My 3 year old son recently came down with strep throat and it was no fun watching him be so uncomfortable in his own body. He ran a high fever for 3 days and during that time, he did not eat one calorie. Ack!  Don’t you know, I hated it.  Even when we gave him a fever reducer medicine, he would not eat. Luckily, we were able to get an electrolyte replacement fluid in him throughout the days. If you are your child is sick and unable to eat, make sure fluids are still being taken in. For high fevers or those that are vomiting or have chronic diarrhea, an electrolyte beverage such as Pedialyte, Gatorade or CeraLyte are important to drink over water. When dehydrated, water can actually further the dehydration process since dehydration is not just about fluid loss, but loss of electrolytes as well. Do not worry too much when there is little to no food intake during these brief illnesses because any weight loss can be re-gained after getting better. My son little body lost 2 ½ pounds during strep throat, but luckily he has completed his 10-day regimen of antibiotics and is eating well again. I expect him to re-gain any lost weight.  During any minor illness, consider eating small, bland meals that are easy to digest until you are feeling better.
Major Illnesses
Major illness are what I would consider any illness lasting greater than 2 weeks or are chronic in nature. I work with many children and adults that are chronically ill and adequate calorie intake is my most important goal for them. For children, long term weight loss or failure to gain will result in loss of length/height growth. We have a window of opportunity to grow these children optimally so we must do all means necessary to get adequate total calories in them. With adults, a loss of 10% or greater over 3 months or less can cause the immune system to be compromised. Even if they were overweight to begin with, drastic rapid weight loss is not a good thing during major illnesses. Quality nutrition – high produce and antioxidant foods – would be great in a major illness, but many times sick people are very tired and eating is a challenging chore. Adequate calories is the ultimate goal with quality nutrition coming in as a close second.  On my website, I have a free resource page that includes an educational sheet that assists with healthy weight gain/weight stabilization and I also have a sheet on a high calorie liquid diet including smoothies and supplement ideas to maximize calories. In major illnesses, I highly recommend a visit with your local Registered Dietitian to do a full and complete nutrition assessment that will come with a customized medical nutrition therapy plan.  You can find one in your area by going to ADA’s Find a Registered Dietitan page.
End of Life Nutrition
End of life and hospice nutrition really is a different issue altogether. All medical efforts have been exhausted and the person is still dying. I have had the honor of working with some of these patients in their homes and what their loved ones need to know is that under nutrition can actually act as an anesthetic. It can dull the senses which can assist with some pain control. In some cases, feeding can actually cause pain if their intestines or complementary organs are not working correctly.  The biggest goal in hospice/end of life nutrition is to comfort the patient. After all, a patient that is dying does not have many decisions they can make so deciding to eat or not to eat should be theirs and theirs only (if conscious). As a dietitian that works in hospice care, we educate on the risks associated with eating certain foods so the patient and their family can make an informed decision. Many of these people are at risk for aspirating food into their lungs, which could put them at risk for pneumonia. If this patient still had a shot at getting better, we would not allow them to eat certain textures. But in hospice care, we allow the patient and/or their families make that decision.
Whatever the illness may be in your or your loved one’s life, know the important use of food and nutrition. It has the power to recover and stabilize in many instances. But in others, allow food and nutrition be an individual’s choice.  In both instances, food can provide nourishment to the soul and that is a good thing.
Stay Healthy/Preventing Illness Resources:
Eat For Immunity using American Dietetic Association’s Public Resources
CDC’s Family Health Page
Kid’s Health From Nemours: Keeping Your Children Healthy
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End of Life Nutrition:
Hospice Foundation of America on Nutrition & Hydration
This blog post is dedicated to what I believe was the best mother-in-law in the world. Oh, I so miss our conversations and special times we had together. You were such a beautiful woman inside and out. It was truly inspiring how you loved your family and how you empowered those around you to be better people. Thank you for being a Mommy Dietitian blog follower and one of my biggest cheerleaders for my nutrition consulting practice.  I am a better wife, mother, woman and entrepreneur from learning by your incredible example.  I will be forever grateful for how you raised your son, my husband, to be one of the greatest men I have ever known.  Your grandchildren miss their Nanny, and are sad you left this world so soon and so suddenly. But we find comfort in knowing that we will see you again someday. We love you, Beverly.

Do Not Fear The Pomegranate

If you have been to the grocery store in the last month, you’ve probably seen the pomegranate displays.  Did you just walk by? It’s that time of year when pomegranates are at their peak season, but the majority of people don’t know what to do with them so they don’t even try them. Or, they are stumped on how to cut the seedy, red-staining fruit up without causing a big mess. I recently received some pomegranate in my produce co-op share and I was looking for new ways to eat this seasonal treat. So, let’s explore pomegranates together.
The word pomegranate is French derived from pomme garnete, which literally means “seeded apple.” Favored by the gods in ancient mythology, considered as a symbol for fertility in many cultures, prosperity among Jews and hope among Christians, this unique fruit has only positive origins and references. Nutritionally, it is a rich source of fiber, postassium, Vitamins C, K, B6 and Pantothenic Acid. Pomegranate contains antioxidants like polyphenols, tannins and anthocyannins which effects in removal of free radicals from our body cells. It also helps in repair of cells and boosts the immune system. Pomegranate juice is known to be among the super healthy drinks of today. It is helpful in osteoarthritis and keeping the skin and heart healthy.
Interested yet?  If I have now piqued your interest about pomegranates, you may consider eating one if you gained confidence in cutting one up. The California Pomegranate Council says that there is an easy 3-step process in cutting and de-seeding pomegranates:

reciep
1. Cut off the crown, and cut the pomegranate into sections.

pomegranate

2. Place the sections in a bowl of water and then roll out the arils (juice sacs) with your fingers. Discard everything else.
pomegranate
3. Strain out the water, then eat the arils whole, seeds and all.
You can blendarize the arils and seeds to make juice, or use the nutritious seeds as a topping to oatmeal, yogurt or salads. For recipe reference, one medium pomegranate yields about a ¾ cup of seeds and ½ cup juice.
If you want to start slow, try this wonderful nutritient-rich recipe that mildly uses the sweetness of just one pomegranate, but mixes it with bolder flavors of lime, jalapeno and salmon.  As a proud Texan, this is my kinda flavor!
Roasted Salmon with Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa
pomegranate
Roasted Salmon with Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa
2 teaspoons ground coriande
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt, as needed
1 pomegranate, seeded (see above for process)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper or to taste
1 large clove garlic, chopped finely
2 avocados, preferably Hass, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 head hearts of Romaine, about 7 ounces
4 center-cut Salmon fillets the same thickness, 6 to 7 ounces each
1 lime, cut in eighths for garnish
Mix coriander, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt; reserve. Up to 4 hours before serving, mix pomegranate seeds, onion, lime juice, jalapeno, and garlic; gently fold in avocado. If holding more than 30 minutes, put plastic wrap against the surface of the salsa, then tightly cover; store in the refrigerator. Remove about 30 minutes before serving. Separate the romaine leaves; wash, then dry thoroughly. Reserve 4 of the most attractive leaves for garnish. Slice the remaining leaves crosswise in thin shreds; reserve.
To prepare the salmon, rub a generous teaspoon of the reserved seasoning mixture over each piece. Arrange the salmon on a baking sheet, skin-side down. Roast at 500˚ F about 11 minutes for medium rare (salmon should be spongy when pressed with a finger at its thickest part.) and 13 minutes for medium-well (salmon should be just firm when pressed with a finger at its thickest part.).
Do you have a favorite recipe that uses pomegranates?  If so, I would love to hear from you!
Some information provided in this post came from the California Pomegranate Council website.
Operation Halloween Candy: Party’s Over!
candy
If the leftover Halloween candy is causing a struggle in your home, consider teaching a valuable community service lesson to your children by donating it.

Our family has way too much candy leftover from Halloween.  We didn’t get as many trick or treaters this year so we have bags of chocolate bars.  Plus, my kids received tons of candy that has been taunting them daily.  Is it the same scenario at your house?  Although I encourage each of us to continue teaching our children about the proper behaviors around candy, we also must consider environmental triggers.  I think candy donations to our military troops can be a great way to teach our children about community service and giving to others while also eliminating candy overconsumption in the household.  At our house, we are putting together a care package that includes our candy along with handmade cards from our children thanking the troops for how they protect our country.  Of course, we will be sure to include a message that encourages the troops to enjoy their candy in moderation so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle!  My brother served two tours in Iraq and he said that it was wonderful to get candy in the mail because it was not available where he was stationed.  Apparently, this is the case in many places soldiers are stationed in different parts of the world.  Although I am not a fan of candy (I’m a salt vs. sweet kinda gal), I understand that others like it and would appreciate having some sent over for an occasional treat.
If you want to donate your candy, here are a couple places:
Operation Gratitude
Operation Shebox
Halloween is fun because it comes once a year and then it’s over.  So don’t let Halloween candy eating continue on and on to where the treats do a “trick” on your healthy lifestyle.  Donate your candy this year!  If you have any other great ideas on what to do with Halloween candy other than eating it all until it’s gone, I would love to hear about them.