Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dancing in the Kitchen: A Review and Giveaway

I recently received a complimentary copy of the children’s music CD, Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food, from its producer, Melanie Potock of My Munch Bug. My ten-year-old was in the room with me while I was listening to it for the first time, and she loved it. Since then, she’s sought it out purposefully, and put it on to dance. I don’t think 10-year-olds are the target audience for this CD, but my daughter loves music and dancing, and she found the songs on this CD to be fun.

I agree with my daughter that the songs on Dancing in the Kitchen are a lot of fun. New music on this CD are written and performed by Joan Huntsberry Langford. She has a pleasant voice and the songs are very catchy. The music does a great job of bringing to life the CD’s subtitle: celebrating the joy of food. The CD includes a range of musical styles from spirited songs that make you (or at least my daughter) get up and dance, slower lullaby-like songs, and even a silly operetta.

When my kids were younger, we used to listen to children’s music frequently – in the car, in the house, at toddler gym classes, etc. While personally, I’m happy to be beyond that stage in my life, I can definitely see that Dancing in the Kitchen would have made its way into our musical rotation if we had owned it back then. The songs will stay in your head and likely be requested over and over by your kids. My daughter’s favorite songs were “Happy Eating Food” and “Dancing in the Kitchen.” I was partial to “Picnic Under the Jewelberry Tree.”

I especially like the joyful and upbeat attitude that this music brings to food and eating. Just like watching a potty training DVD won’t result in your child becoming toilet trained, listening to this CD will not transform your picky eater or result in your kids loving all foods. It does, however, help create a positive environment about food and it provides a way to communicate with your kids about eating that is likely to be happier and friendlier in tone than typical parent-child food battles. The song lyrics also cover a variety of sensory experiences around food, including the sounds associated with cooking and eating, which can often be overlooked in conversations about kids’ eating.

I would highly recommend Dancing in the Kitchen to parents who want to add a little musical fun to their family life around food. At this time of year, I think it makes a perfect stocking stuffer. You can preview some samples of the songs here.

I am also thrilled to announce that the producer of Dancing in the Kitchen, Melanie Potock will be my guest on the next Kitchen Table Parents teleseminar. Melanie is a certified speech language pathologist who works with treating children with feeding difficulties and educating parents about creating more joyful mealtime experiences. Join me and Melanie on Tuesday December 6, 2011 at 12 noon Eastern for the call-in event, Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids for the Holidays and Beyond.

We will be discussing how to celebrate each step towards adventurous eating, how to handle the pressures of holiday mealtimes, how to understand the impact of sensory issues on feeding experiences, and much more. To learn more and to sign up for this free event, click here

If you can’t join us live, please leave your questions or comments below.

Melanie has graciously offered to give away one free copy of Dancing in the Kitchen.  To enter, simply leave a comment or question below. You must be 18 years or older and a U.S. resident to enter. One winner will be selected by random number from random.org from all entrants on December 6, 2011 at 10pm Eastern.

I received a free copy of this CD to review. No other compensation was offered or received and the views expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What To Keep Doing After You've Said "I Do!"

Why discuss marriage on a blog about raising healthy families? Well, in my opinion, the relationship between a child's parents, married or not, is a key component in raising happy, well-adjusted kids. Tomorrow at noon Eastern time I will be joined by Dr. Ann Park for the Kitchen Table Parents teleseminar, What To Keep Doing After You've Said "I Do!". We will be discussing how to grow a healthy marriage as well as some myths that can undermine marriage. This event is free for all Kitchen Table Parents members. For more information and to sign up, please click here. Can't join us live? Please leave any questions or comments below and we'll address them tomorrow. The call will be recorded.

As a preview of some of the information that Dr. Ann will share us tomorrow, she has offered these words of wisdom on conflict in relationships.

The Keys to Conflict

When we would go on vacation, early in our marriage, one of the things my husband and I could always look forward to was a brisk, invigorating round of conflict.  Our motto seemed to be: “A vacation is a great time to get into an argument!”

What was happening?
We were stepping into a classic pattern of behavior that’s all too easy to start ... and keep going.
We were putting off our troubles until a little later.  Somehow, “a little later” ended up being during our vacations.  
Now I confess that this was partly my doing.  My difficulty was all the unstructured time that came along with our vacations. Free time meant free associations - I'm a psychiatrist, after all!  And suddenly, all (his) crimes and misdemeanors of the preceding few months would stand up and declare that they were ready for their pre-trial hearing.
Needless to say, this was not great for our vacation time.  I learned the hard way that I needed to find a better way.
Does this ever happen to you?  Have you ever found that the short-term gain of putting off problems leads to a long-term price that is harder to pay?
If so, you’re not alone.  Many of us find that it’s unpleasant (at best) or excruciating (at worst) to rock the boat.  But I think we need to be motivated by this fact:  there are no short cuts.  We either pay up now, or we pay later, for emotional accounts that are due.  Our hearts have a hard time suppressing our emotions.  Feelings don’t get stored up. They ooze out. Usually at the times we would prefer not to ooze. Like on vacation!
In my opinion, Freud said a lot of crazy things but he was also brilliant.  He observed that it was impossible for us to stay truly silent. Our eyes, our hands, and our actions give us away. Our true feelings emerge from every pore.
So what can we do to deal with our feelings, with conflict, in a healthy way within our marriages?
1.              Be prepared.  We can acknowledge ahead of time that it is natural for conflict to arise in marriage.  And it will arise repeatedly throughout the course of our marriages. This is the inevitable fact when two imperfect people come together. 
2.              Be proactive.  In a nutshell, don’t wait until vacation rolls around. And don’t wait until you’re ready to blow up like a can of coke that’s been given a good shake.  Think the situation through ahead of time. Identify what’s bothering you.  Write it out, if that helps.  Gather your thoughts so that when you speak to your spouse, it’s thoughtful .
3.              Be personable.  Do you want to speak to someone who is becoming unhinged before your very eyes?  Neither does your spouse!  Pick a time and a setting to have a discussion that increases the odds of a great outcome for both of you. Choose a relaxed time, with little outside interruption. Put it on your calendars, so you are both ready.  Agree on a defined time to wrap it up. End on a positive note that reinforces your couplehood: go for a walk or bike ride, get dinner together.  Repeat as needed.
And save your vacations for relaxing!
Take home:  Dealing with conflict is a necessary skill in marriage, and you can get great at it.
Optional journaling exercise:  Pick an area that you’d like to discuss with your spouse. Using the three points above, write down three steps you will take this week to begin a healthy discussion with your beloved other.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Sides

The other day I signed on to join Grace of eatdinner.org, Bri of Red, Round, or Green, Bettina of The Lunch Tray, and Jeanne of The Jolly Tomato to participate in a virtual Food Day Dinner Party. Bettina started things off on Monday with appetizers, and yesterday Bri supplied two entree recipes. Today Grace and I are bringing the sides. Welcome!

I thought that sweet potatoes would be a natural complement to Bri's lamb dish. These two recipes are regular parts of my repertoire, although the souffle is usually reserved for special occasions and holidays. The Souffled Sweet Potato recipe comes from mother-in-law, and is one of the best things she's added to my life ~ aside from my husband of course! The Sweet Potato Fries recipe was passed along to me from my mom. Try one or both and enjoy! 

Also, be sure to check out Grace's recipe for more side dish ideas at her site. Grace and I are offering a Blog for Family Dinner t-shirt and the "Eat Real" recipe booklet from Food Day as a prize. Enter by leaving a comment - or your favorite side dish recipe - here or at the EatDinner.org blog. One winner will be randomly selected from the commenters on this site and Grace's site.

Also be sure to check in with The Jolly Tomato tomorrow for dessert!

Souffled Sweet Potato

6 cups hot cooked sweet potatoes (I peel and boil them til fork tender)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
  • Place sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, vanilla and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl.
  • Beat with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Place in a 2 quart casserole dish.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into strips
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
  • Place potato strips on cookie sheet.
  • Bake about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Monday, October 17, 2011

7 Strategies for Fostering Positive Sibling Relationships

As part of the Kitchen Table Parents program, I will be offering the teleseminar, “How to Raise Happy Kids Who Care About Each Other” on Tuesday October 25, 2011 at 12pm Eastern. The philosophy behind the Kitchen Table Parents program is that raising a healthy family involves more than just food, and if you have more than one child, chances are that you want them getting along at the family table and everywhere else they may be. Below are some strategies for fostering positive sibling relationships that will last a lifetime. If you can’t join us live for the teleseminar, please feel free to leave any questions in the comments below.

1. Rivalry and conflict between siblings is normal. If you have siblings yourself, take a moment to reflect back on the history of your relationship. We often present our “worst selves” to our family and have the opportunity to work at social skills in the safety of family relationships. While I believe that parents need to develop a comfort level with a certain level of conflict between their children, I also believe that there is much that parents can do to promote a positive relationship between their children.

2. Think before you intervene. If someone is getting hurt (physically or emotionally), I would recommend that a parent intervenes. Otherwise, I would recommend that parents pause to consider whether or not they think their intervention will likely help or escalate the problem or possibly lead to future conflicts behind the parent’s back. Also, think about whether their conflict is bothering you because of your own “stuff” (e.g., history with your own sibling, personality, etc.) or if your children are upset for their own reasons.

3. Coach rather than directly intervene when possible. Parents have a powerful role in helping their children learn how to work things out. One of my pet peeves is when adults tell toddlers to “work it out” between themselves because toddlers really don’t have the skills yet to be able to do this. Preschool age children might have some rudimentary skills to be able to work things out between themselves but might need some suggestions or guidance. Older children have had more opportunities and experiences in managing conflicts and negotiations, but may still need some suggestions and guidance. Often this type of guidance is best received when it is delivered in the form of a question rather than a direct command (e.g., “What do you think would happen if…”)

4. House rules vs. individual behavior.  Try to minimize any targeting of an individual child’s behavior. What I mean by that is to say something along the lines of, “We all get the chance to be first sometime in this family,” or “Everyone in this family can have a treat at snack time,” rather than saying something like, “Why do you always have to bully your sister?”

5. Family meetings. Even young children can benefit from family meetings. Family meals can serve as a setting for family discussions or times separate from meals when all family members are available to discuss plans or matters related to family functioning.

6. Fair is not equal. Parents’ interactions with their children should focus on meeting each child’s individual needs rather than on making sure each child is treated exactly the same. For example, your older daughter might have a stronger need for attention than your younger daughter. Try to find ways to meet this need of hers that do not undermine your younger’s daughter’s needs.

7. Notice the positive. Make sure you catch your kids “doing good” and getting along with each other. And make sure that they know that you’ve noticed.

More tips on promoting positive sibling relationships and behavior is available in my downloadable e-workbook, Empowered Parenting: A Workbook for Parents of Toddlers and Preschoolers, Helping You Become the Parent You Want to Be.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mindless or Mindful? Must One Choose?

While reading the article, "How to Eat Better - Mindlessly" and watching its accompanying video with Dr. Brian Wansink (click on red arrow at bottom right of article for video), I found myself thinking, "I guess I'm really not a dogma girl." Dr. Wansink, author of the book, "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think," has been involved with a large body of research that shows that how much we eat and how we evaluate what we eat is heavily influenced by factors in our environment such as setting, word choice for descriptions of food, plate size, and placement and presentation of food. I find his research fascinating, and have experienced with my own family how simple environmental changes influence eating patterns. For example, if I put whole pieces of fruit in a bowl that is easily accessible to my family, it largely goes uneaten. If, however, I cut up pieces of fruit and put it on the table, it almost always gets eaten entirely.

Dr. Wansink states that the solution to mindless eating is not mindful eating for the vast majority of people because our stomachs are "a terrible gauge of how full (we) are." He is referring to a number of similar, yet distinct, approaches to eating which involve tuning into your body awareness about your sense of hunger and fullness. I value these approaches, including Ellyn Satter's model of eating competenceMichelle May's Am I Hungry program, and Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch's intuitive eating approach, because they all acknowledge the failure of traditional diets in maintaining a healthy weight and body image over time, and they all acknowledge that there is an emotional component to food and eating that needs to be addressed for longterm healthy eating patterns.

Must one really choose between an approach to food and eating that is mindful/intuitive/competent versus one that acknowledges the importance of environmental cues on our eating behaviors? As I said above, I guess I'm not really one to hold tightly to one particular model. In parenting my own children and in my work helping other parents, I value both the use of behavioral plans and of insightful understanding of psychodynamics and attachment relationships: two camps in psychology with a long history of division. I think each has its place and and utility. In my approach to raising children who are successful eaters, I believe it is important for parents to get out of the way and not interfere with most children's natural ability to eat according to their own internal cues of hunger and fullness. I also believe, however, that parents can positively influence their children's eating behaviors by using some anti-mindless environmental cues such as descriptive word choice, setting, and presentation with regard to food and meals.

What do you think? Am I the only one who finds the division between these two models to be unnecessary?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Celebrate Family Dinner with #B4FD!

I wanted to personally invite all Dinner Together blog readers to join me at the Blog for Family Dinner project.

From September 26, 2011 through October 24, 2011, we will be featuring daily blog posts that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner. (Learn more about why we chose those dates here.) We've gotten some fantastic written and video posts already, including some personal stories about the challenges involved in making family dinners happen, recipes, and helpful tips and tools, and we can't wait to start publishing! We still have a few slots open and would welcome your submission. You can also help us spread the word to let others know about this project. We even have some sample Facebook and Twitter posts already written for you to just copy and paste for use on your own accounts.

My cofounders in this project, Grace Freedman of eatdinner.org and Billy Mawhiney of Time at the Table will be will offering a teleseminar, "Celebrate Family Dinner with #B4FD!" with me on Tuesday September 20, 2011 at 12pm Eastern. We will be discussing why family meals matter, some tips for overcoming obstacles to family meals, recommendations for enhancing family connections at the family table, and more. We will also be discussing the Blog for Family Dinner project and offering you a preview of upcoming posts we have lined up. This event is free for all Kitchen Table Parents members, and Basic Membership is also free. To learn more about this event, click here.  If you can't join us live, but have a question or comment, please leave it in the comments below this post. The teleseminar will be recorded.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

3 Easy Recipes with Zucchini and Summer Squash

As I mentioned earlier this summer, my family joined a CSA for the first time this year. During the month of August, we received an abundance of zucchini and summer squash. I was actually a little disappointed when there was none at yesterday's pick up (now we've got an abundance of peppers and tomatoes) because I've been having fun experimenting with some new zucchini recipes. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites below.

Baked Ziti with Zucchini and Summer Squash

1 lb ziti
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups (8 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and return to pot.
  • Mix together ricotta cheese and egg.
  • Add ricotta mixture and 1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese to the cooked pasta and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Saute zucchini, yellow squash, and onion for about 5 minutes.
  • Add tomato and garlic and cook for about 3 more minutes.
  • Stir cooked vegetable mixture into pasta mixture.
  • Add basil and oregano.
  • Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Transfer pasta mixture to baking dish.
  • Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
  • Bake for 15 minutes.
Serves 10.

Note: This dish freezes very well. Increase the cooking time if baking from frozen.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille
Adapted from The New Creative Crock Pot Cookbook by R.T. Swatt, 2001.

2 medium eggplants, cut into ½-inch thick round slices
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch slices
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium yellow squash, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup chicken broth (or white wine if you have it)
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese (optional)
  • Place the eggplant slices in a large colander and sprinkle with salt to remove excesss water. (I peeled my eggplant first, but that is optional. I know there are lots of nutrients in the skin, but I don’t care for it.)
  • After 30 minutes, rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry.
  • Cut the eggplant into 2-inch pieces.
  • In a large skillet, sauté the eggplant, onion, garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, and red pepper for a few minutes.
  • Transfer to a slow cooker and add the tomatoes, olive oil, chicken broth, and vinegar.
  • Cover and cook on Low 4 to 6 hours.
  • Serve with cheese if desired.

Serves 8.

Note: This recipe can also be frozen, but it tastes better fresh; it became a little more watery through the freezing/reheating process.

Summer Squash Ribbons with Lemon and Parmesan
Adapted from RealSimple.com

1 large zucchini
1 large yellow squash
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
  • Cut the squash and zucchini into long, thin ribbon strips using a vegetable peeler. Stop peeling when you get to the seeded core.
  • Place squash in a large bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, cheese, and salt and pepper.
  • Pour dressing over squash ribbons and toss gently to combine.

Serves 6.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Get Back-to-School Organized

As I sit at my parents' kitchen table watching two of my kids play with my dad in the pool, the last thing I want to think about is getting ready for back to school. Yet I know that it will be here soon for me and my family and has already begun for some families in other parts of the country.

Part of me loves back-to-school time. It holds the promise of new beginnings and can be very exciting. Part of me, however, dreads the more intense and busy schedule and the overwhelm in sorting through all the paperwork and establishing new systems.

I am excited to offer the Get Back-to-School Organized! teleseminar with the Kitchen Table Parents program on Tuesday August 23, 2011 at 12noon Eastern/9am Pacific. My guest will be Laura Rolands, Attention & ADHD Coach.

We will be discussing:

  • the best way to coordinate back to school shopping
  • how to handle all that back to school paperwork
  • the best ways to help your students get organized
  • ...and much more
This event is free to all registered members of Kitchen Table Parents - and basic membership is also free.  To learn more and to sign up, visit here.

If you cannot join us live, please leave your questions in the comments below. What are your biggest challenges with back-to-school organization? Do you have any tips you'd like to share?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Top 5 Nutrition Pitfalls in Feeding Children and What Parents Can Do Instead

Last month I was fortunate to have a graduate student intern, Natalia Stasenko. Natalia is a MS and RD candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. Her professional interests include pediatric nutrition, including food allergies and feeding problems such as picky eating. In her work she combines her knowledge of the science of behavioral nutrition with her experience as a mother to help parents improve their children’s eating habits. She wrote the following article as part of her internship experience.

The Top 5 Nutrition Pitfalls in Feeding Children and What Parents Can Do Instead

By Natalia Stasenko

1. Juice, juice everywhere…..
Made from fresh fruit, fortified with important vitamins and minerals – what can be bad about it?  The amount! Children like it because it tastes good and parents are happy to keep pouring because they think it is healthy. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only 4-6 oz a day of 100% juice for children 1 to 6 years old and up to 12 oz for children 7-18 years old.[i]

What happens when children drink more? Too much juice leads to poor diet quantity, dental caries, diarrhea and BOTH overweight or underweight in children.  Children prefer sweet foods to pretty much everything else, and juice can replace other important sources of nutrients in their diet such as milk, whole grains, vegetables and, of course, fruit.  Fruits juice is neither superior not equal to real fruit – it lacks fiber and other nutrients found in the fruit skin. 

Solution: Avoid juice drinks and offer only 100% juice in recommended amounts. If you choose to water the juice down, do not exceed the limits appropriate for your child’s age and try to the “weaning” technique by adding less and less juice to their water every time.

2. Milk – the more, the better?
“Milk is good for you” – this is what we are used to hearing from our parents and grandparents. And research shows that is definitely is – milk is a major source of important nutrients such as calcium, protein, magnesium, and phosphorus in our diets. However, it is important to keep in mind that children between 2 and 8 need only 2 servings of dairy a day to meet their needs while the rest of us need 3 servings. A serving of dairy is 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 oz of cheese or 1 ½ cup ice cream. According to the report published in American Family Physician, toddlers drinking more than 24 oz of milk a day are at a higher risk of developing anemia. [ii]  There are a few reasons for it. First, cow’s milk is low in iron. Further, calcium found in milk impedes absorption of iron from other foods. Finally, too much milk fills up small tummies and replaces other nutritious foods in the diet.

Solution: Offer 2-3 servings of milk and other dairy products a day, depending on your child’s age.  If your child is used to “snacking” with milk throughout the day, switch to fruits, vegetables, wholegrain crackers or popcorn accompanied with a glass of water and serve them at regular times between main meals. If your doctor determined that your child is at risk for anemia, do not serve dairy and iron-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and dark leafy greens, at the same meals. A good idea would be to wait for 1-2 hours after iron-rich meal before offering a glass of milk. To increase iron absorption from foods, serve them alongside fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamin C.

3. To add fat or not to add fat?
Cheerios for breakfast, pretzels and fruit for snack, turkey sandwich with vegetables for lunch, pasta, peas and chicken for dinner.… What is missing in this seemingly healthy diet?  Fat! Parents are often hesitant to include fat in their child’s diet, often out of fear of obesity and overweight. However, fats should cover 30 to 40% of caloric needs for children aged 1 to 3 years old and up to 35% for older children and adolescents. This means that parents can be more liberal with fats, especially when planning meals for younger children.

Solution: Don’t fear including different types of fats into your child’s diet.  Starting the day with some nut butter is a good idea as it is full of beneficial polyunsaturated fats.  A slice of avocado alongside a few pretzels will boost fiber and provide more energy for an active morning. Some butter melted over vegetables will win over the taste buds of even the pickiest eaters and, of course, fatty fish like salmon and tuna offer the critical Omega-3 fatty acids to fuel the brainpower of the whole family.

4. Fortified vs Whole Foods Meets 500% of vitamin C needs! High in protein! An excellent source of (fill in the gap)! All these nutritional claims are typically found on boxes of processed products, such as some breakfast cereals, granola bars, fruit snacks, chips and crackers. They may make us believe that processed foods fortified with vitamins and minerals or having additional whey protein incorporated into their recipes are somehow superior to natural unprocessed foods such as meat, fish, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables. The truth is, our children are not very likely to get deficient in the nutrients typically added to processed foods. What their diets typically score low in is a group of nutrients found in whole unprocessed foods: vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. [iii] It is also important to remember that very often processed foods are made of ingredients with low nutritional value, such as processed grains or fruit juice and alongside with some vitamins and minerals, may be “fortified” with plenty of sugar and salt.

Solution: Unless advised otherwise by your doctor, stop “buying” the nutritional claims on the boxes of processed foods and focus on the food our grand parents would recognize without any problem: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, meat  etc. When buying cereals and other packaged foods, read the nutrition labels carefully and choose products with less than 10g of sugar and/or 140mg of sodium per serving.

5. Vegetables – a part of a bigger picture.  With the abundance of information on benefits of vegetables for our health it is hardly surprising that we try hard as we can to make sure our children eat enough of them. However, it is also easy to lose the big picture when we worry too much about just one food group.  Vegetables are poor competitors to chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, juice and cookies, from the standpoint of the taste buds of an average American toddler. Not surprisingly, research shows that children who eat a lot of sweet, salty and crunchy foods – standard “kids friendly” fare - are less likely to like fruits and vegetables.[iv]

Solution: Look at the diet as a whole and try to reduce amount of highly processed foods by replacing them with whole grains, dairy products and fresh fruits. This will greatly increase the chances that your child will munch on raw carrots, snack with baby tomato and pile up broccoli on his plate at dinner.  The change is not likely to happen overnight and patience works better than pressure. Most importantly, enjoy a variety of healthy foods yourself in order to be a good role model for your child and get creative serving harder-to-like vegetables in a variety of ways: raw, stir-fried, steamed, roasted, accompanied by favorite dips or sprinkled with cheese.

[i] Committee on Nutrition, The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics (2001) Pediatrics 107: 1210-1213
[ii] Kazal L. Prevention of Iron Deficiency in Infants and Toddlers. Am. Fam. Physician.  2002 Oct 1;66(7):1217-1225.
[iii] Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition guidance for healthy children aged 2 to 11 years. (2008)  J Am Diet Assoc. 6:1039-1047
[iv] Cornwell, T. B. and A. R. McAlister. 2011. “Alternative Thinking About Starting Points in Obesity. Development of Child Taste Preferences.” Appetite 56: 428-39.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trying to Befriend Tofu

Let me say straight up that I am not a tofu lover. I've tried making it for dinner a few times, mostly in stir-fries. It's okay, but I don't love it. I feel that my life is complete without tofu, and I don't believe that healthy eating requires tofu. I don't, however, want to give up on it completely because I know lots of other folks who do enjoy it. Also, since we try to eat meatless meals a couple of times per week, I think adding in enjoyable recipes with tofu to my repertoire would expand our possibilities.

Last month I was fortunate to have an intern from a graduate school nutrition program working with me. During a consultation that I supervised her on, she recommended, among other things, to a mother who was concerned about her child's protein intake that she try making smoothies with tofu. Since I had never tried that myself, I asked her to send me a recipe to try. She did, and she also sent a recipe for chocolate mousse with tofu.

I've now made both recipes, and here's my take. I thought the smoothie was okay, but I prefer my smoothies with plain yogurt. My husband tried it too. He is usually extremely open to a variety of foods, but in his words, the smoothie was "disgusting." The chocolate mousse, however, was a hit. Even my picky teenage daughter and her friend liked it. I guess chocolate just makes everything taste better! I think when I make this again I will leave out the lemon and ginger; I don't think they particularly added anything to make it better. I also substituted strawberries for the raspberries because that's what I had on hand.
So give these a try and let me know what you think. And if you have any other tasty tofu recipes for me to try, please let me know! I'm still looking...

Silken Tofu Smoothie
 by Natalia Stasenko

This smoothie tastes very refreshing in the morning and can even be served as a light dessert after dinner.  It is very high in protein and calcium, minerals that are very important for growing bodies.

½ cup silken tofu
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup crushed ice
2 tablespoons water

Blend everything in a blender.

Serves 1

Nutritional information:
Calories:  104(5%)
Protein: 8 g (16%)
Carbohydrates: 16g  (5%)
Fat: 1 g (1%)
Saturated fat: 0g (0%)
Cholesterol: 0mg (0%)
Fiber: 4g (16%)
Calcium: 397mg (40%)
Sodium: 82 mg (3%)

Comments:  Calculations are based on 4 servings per recipe. Percent Daily Values are based on 2000 kcal diet for healthy adults.

Silken tofu chocolate mousse
 by Natalia Stasenko

8oz silken tofu
¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup maple syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp. of grated fresh ginger or ¼ tsp. of dried ginger
1 cup fresh raspberries

Place the first 7 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
Spoon the mousse into ramekins and decorate with raspberries. Chill before serving.

Serves 4

Nutritional information:
Calories:  92(5%)
Protein: 4g (8%)
Carbohydrates: 18g (6%)
Fat: 1g (1%)
Cholesterol: 0mg (0%)
Saturated fat: 0g (0%)
Fiber: 3g (12%)
Calcium: 211mg (21%)
Sodium: 4mg (2%)

Comments:  Calculations are based on 4 servings per recipe. Percent Daily Values are based on 2000 kcal diet for healthy adults.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Do It Myself Kids' Cookbook: A Review

The other day I received a free copy of The Do It Myself Kids' Cookbook* in the mail from its publisher to review. As I have a bunch of things to do this week, I put it aside and figured I'd get to it sometime next month. My 9 year old daughter, however, saw the book on the counter, started reading it, and was riveted. Since she was so excited to test it out, I felt compelled to review the book sooner than I planned. And I also took the opportunity to enlist my daughter's help in the process. As I've written before, I often look for opportunities for my children to practice their writing skills. My daughter's review is below.

Here is my take on the book. The step-by-step illustrations are excellent and the photographs provide a terrific guide for how the finished products should appear. Some of the recipes require some advance prep work by an adult, but the recipes are written so that once all the ingredients are in place, a child can independently assemble a sandwich, snack, salad, or dessert. As you can see from my daughter's review below, she absolutely loved the feeling of independence and being able to "do it herself." Often when she helps me cook, I give her tasks that are only part of a recipe. She often wants to do the whole thing by herself, but I don't always let her, mostly due to safety issues or time constraints.

This book is designed to encourage kids' autonomy in the kitchen. I remained in the kitchen preparing dinner while my daughter was set up on her own with counter space devoted to dessert-making. The process was interesting and revealed some of the things that you might not think about when teaching someone to follow a recipe. Some of the skills she learned along the way included choosing the appropriate measuring cups to use for liquids and dry goods and deciding when you really need to measure and when you don't (e.g., when spreading a tablespoon of peanut butter on a cracker, I think you can just estimate rather than measuring first).

If you can't tell from the photo above, my daughter was beaming when she presented her creations to the family. She chose to make desserts. The cookbook does include a lot of dessert-like recipes, but there are also several recipes that could be served for lunch or a light supper. I think this cookbook is an excellent choice for an elementary school aged child or an advanced preschooler who wants the challenge of cooking by him- or herself.

My daughter's review:

I really enjoyed using this cookbook. I always like to be independent, and I always love to cook.  So when there was a cookbook that let me cook without a parent, I was eager to get my hands on it. I made dessert for my family, and the peanut butter covered fruit and indoor s’mores were a big hit. The pictures were very helpful, and it was very easy to read. I understood what was supposed to happen. I’m very excited to use this cookbook in the future. I love to do it myself!!!!!! :D

The reviewer hard at work.
*The Do It Myself Kids Cookbook by Laurie Goldrich Wolf. Downtown Bookworks, 2010.
Disclosure:  I received a free cookbook from Downtown Bookworks for review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are mine and my daughter's.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lessons in "Cultivating"

My family recently joined our new local CSA (i.e., Community Supported Agriculture, aka "farm"). Volunteer hours at the farm are part of membership. When my husband and I went to volunteer some time, several people were involved in a project putting large, telephone pole-like stakes into the ground for fencing. It soon became clear that my strengths (or lack thereof) would not be best put to use with this project. So instead I was offered the alternate task of "cultivating."

Not having much farm or gardening experience, I didn't really know what I would be doing when I was sent off to "cultivate," and I was a little curious why a younger, more farm-experienced woman there seemed to be pretty strongly opposed to joining me on this task. Well, it turns out that "cultivating" is just a fancy way to say "weeding." The task has very little glory and a great deal of tedium. It is, however, a very necessary task for growing a healthy garden.

It got me thinking about parenting in a couple of ways. First, much of the day-to-day tasks involved in raising children can have that same sense of tedium and lack of grandeur. In the moment, it may not always feel so important to be packing lunches, helping with homework, and preparing dinner. Yet it is the consistency and repetition of these tedious acts - and more - that compose an environment of stability and security for our children. Stable and secure environments are pretty good insurance for keeping some of the unwanted "weeds" out of our family gardens.

The other parenting lesson I learned from this experience relates to the words we choose. I was much more excited at the prospect of "cultivating" than I would have been if I had just been told to go "weed." It sounded a little exotic and mysterious. The word also had an implied sense of importance to me. I was going to be doing something special to prepare land for growing.

The words we choose to use with our children also have potential to be more or less motivating. In particular, the words we choose to label food can have power with both children and adults. In his classic book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink reports several studies that demonstrate when descriptive adjectives are used that evoke emotional, nostalgic, or sensory experiences, the food is rated more favorably in comparison to the exact same food without those descriptions. 

So my challenges to you ~ 
  • try to find a way to reframe and reword some of the everyday, seemingly little things you do as a parent 
  • and play around with some of your word choices in your interactions with your children
  • and share your thoughts in the comments below

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do You Have a Self-Care Squad? And Teleseminar Info

This article is a guest post from Jeannie Spiro, Lifestyle Expert and Coach. I wanted to give you a "taste" of Jeannie because she will be my guest on the upcoming Kitchen Table Parents teleseminar, "7 Essential Steps to Achieve a Stress-Less and Slim Fabulous Lifestyle" on July 12, 2011 at 8pm Eastern. To learn more about this event, click here. If you can't join us live, feel free to leave your questions in the comments below this post.
While my own work does not directly address women's weight loss issues, I clearly see the links among stress, overwhelm, and health. I also see many parents who neglect their own self-care while caught up in the busyness of raising their families. I look forward to sharing ideas with Jeannie on this important topic during our teleseminar. Hope you can join us!

Do You Have a Self-Care Squad?

By Jeannie Spiro

Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike? You probably didn’t just hop on and start riding it right? It took practice and dedication but once you found your rhythm it just got easier didn’t it? It’s the same thing with self-care. If you haven’t been doing it very well for a while you build on the basics until you’re peddling at a pace that’s right and works for you.
As I see it there are a few reasons why self-care doesn’t happen. You find excuses not to make time for it, you don’t want to change your patterns/habits and or you just can’t put yourself first. But let’s pretend that your only job was to take care of yourself and that nothing else mattered. Could you do it? Would you do it? Could you put everything else aside and clear your path so that you could start improving how you look and feel? Could you dig deep within and find the motivation to get out of the space you’re currently in and envision a place you’d like to be instead? Did you know that you’ll have greater success when you surround yourself with individuals who want to see you succeed? It’s like your own Cheerleading Squad. These individuals will pump you up when you need support and encourage you on your journey. When you don’t know if you can fully commit to making the changes you know you need to make go out and find a team that can support you.
I can’t help to think of a close friend of mine who lost half her body weight in just over a year. She went from 350 pounds to 175 pounds. Our daughters played on the same soccer team and I’ll never forget the first time she exercised during her first week of her new journey. My friend asked me to walk with her during the girl’s practice. It was clear that every step was a struggle for her. But I couldn’t help to feel pride for two reasons, to be asked to be part of her journey and to see someone pull strength from within to want to turn her life around. I knew that she needed encouragement and support and I knew that she was willing herself to get through that workout. I was filled with pride to be there from day one. Of course it wasn’t easy for her but day by day she built upon a foundation of her inner strength, and every day that she worked at taking better care of herself she became more confident that she could keep going and more confident in her looks and body. It was incredible to be part of her transformation and to support her as she turned over a whole new leaf. Do you know what she says motivated her to keep going every day? The support system she created around herself that would allow her to propel forward even when she didn’t feel like she could. She openly shared her doubts and fears with people she knew would support and encourage her. She allowed these individuals to become the voices of motivation within her head, and when she became strong and confident enough she replaced their voices with her own. She learned who to listen to, who to emulate and who to recruit as teammates of her Self-Care Squad. Do you have a team of people in your life that support you? Can you see the value in creating one?
This week’s assignment:
Look at the individuals in your life and look closely at them. Are they building you up or bringing you down? Are they encouraging you to become a healthier, more fit and confident person? Are they people you can call upon to help you with improving your self-care? You don’t have to replace those who aren’t you just need to listen more to those who are helping you on your journey to greater self-care. This week make a list of 5 people who you know are there for you and support you. Write down their names, telephone numbers and emails. Now contact the one who lives closest to you and make a date to exercise together. Put it on the calendar and rain or shine you go. If for some reason your friend can’t make it then you go anyway. Just start building on this. Little by little it will get easier and you’ll gain more confidence in yourself.
Have you got a Self-Care Squad in place? Has it helped when you’ve surrounded yourself with people who support what you're trying to do?

Jeannie Spiro teaches self-employed women and professionals how to overcome overwhelm and stress and achieve the figure they desire so they can be equally as proud and confident in how they look as the work they do. You can get her 3 part Live Smarter Lifestyle Kit at www.jeanniespiro.com.