Neophobia. It’s the fear of trying something new, and I see it in the clients I work with all the time. I’ve known a friend of mine for 20 years, and for 20 years she’s let neophobia rule her food culture. She eats only white food: pasta, bread, chicken, yogurt, potatoes and rice. Eating anywhere with her is pretty much a miserable experience. She’s anxious about eating away from home in the first place and constantly worries, “Will there be something I can eat?” When she’s ordering from the waiter, she’s got a rush of nervous questions: “Is it spicy? Is there anything green in it? Is the dish all mixed together?” Sadly, her rotten relationship with food and penchant for making dining a painful experience (for everyone) can probably be traced in a direct line back to her childhood.
“Fine! Just have the CUPCAKE!” I yelled (in my head) as I practically threw the sugar-infested, oversize cupcake (that I was planning to bring to a party) at my 3-year-old son. The meltdown he was having in the pouring rain on Second Avenue was reaching gargantuan proportions. My continuous noes were clearly not working. Three-year-olds can be relentless. I raised my white flag, tore open the box and let him indulge.
If you’re a parent, you know this story all too well. If you’re a parent and have never been in a similar situation, well, then, please hand over your Cliff Notes on parenting, stat! When it comes to desserts and sweets, most of us struggle, whether we are 3 years old, 25 years old or 50 years old. It doesn’t help that treats pop up near daily at birthday parties, family events, school activities and holidays. Like all of you, I don’t like being the parent police and always saying “no.” But we are smart enough to know that we can’t let sugary indulgences be a free-for-all either.
Enlisting kids to help out in the kitchen can have numerous benefits beyond an extra pair of little hands assisting us:
- Cooking teaches children useful skills, including cooperation, coordination, math (fractions and more) and problem-solving.
- Cooking is a bonding experience for parents and kids.
- Cooking an array of things, including fruits and vegetables, helps children develop a healthy relationship with the foods they eat, which is associated with better health and eating habits as they become teens and adults.
It’s the time of year when kids head back to the classroom — and parents head back to the kitchen for another year of lunchbox anxiety. But there’s no need for packable meals to inspire stress. Here are simple lunches worth a spot in any brown bag, plus some time-saving packaged add-ins that parents can actually feel good about. Read more
A Harvard University study released last month found that kids gain weight more quickly over the summer than during the school year. With the warm weather and more opportunities to play outdoors, one might think the opposite is true. But it turns out there are several factors at play.
The study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease, compiled and analyzed the results of seven studies published since 1990. The studies were conducted among children ages 5 to 17. The researchers found that black, Hispanic and overweight children and adolescents were at highest risk of gaining weight quickly over the summer. The study determined that these adolescents gained weight because they spent more time in front of TV and computer screens and were more likely to eat unhealthy snacks. These children also may have slept less, as their summer days were less structured compared with those during the school year.
What Parents Can Do
There are several basic strategies that can help keep kids from gaining weight during summer vacation. Here are five.
How do we make mealtime appealing to little kids but acceptable to us? With summer winding down and the first day of school approaching, I’ve started thinking of ways to make lunchtime fun and healthy. Here are my product picks.
• Juice Box: Vita Coco Kids is 100% natural juice from coconuts blended with filtered water and natural fruit flavors. The Kids line comes in three new varieties: Apple Island, Paradise Punch and Very Cherry Beach. On average, the drinks contain 8 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving; compare that with traditional juice boxes, which can have up to 30 grams of sugar, even in the 100% juice varieties. The Vita Coco drinks have no artificial sweeteners, are a good source of vitamin C, and have 200 mg of potassium per serving.
Sometimes getting the family to try something new requires creativity. Maybe it’s not the ingredients; perhaps it’s the presentation. Take these lollipops for example. My son Luke “doesn’t eat pork.” This from a kid who devours all the bacon at every breakfast buffet we encounter. I’d rather he eat pork tenderloin – it’s crammed with protein and devoid of all that visible bacon fat. Enter pork tenderloin on a stick!
My youngest goes gaga for store-bought donuts–but I steer clear of my temptation to reward her with sweets. Food should never be used as a reward (or punishment). Children need to appreciate food as a means of nourishment and enjoyment.
If you think rewarding kids with food isn’t a big deal, think again. It can lead to all types of unhealthy actions and behaviors:
Encourage unhealthy eats: Using sweets or non-nutritious foods as rewards sends the message that these types of foods are more valuable than other foods.
Empty calories: Foods served to your kids should contribute to their growth and development. But oftentimes foods used to reward kids aren’t carrots, watermelon and broccoli but fat- and sugar-laden processed foods.
The benefits of exercise are numerous for the mind, body and spirit. One of the biggest barriers to getting more physical activity is figuring out what to do. Expensive gym memberships or pricey fitness classes are big turnoffs for some folks but the truth is, they aren’t necessary. There are plenty of ways to get moving that won’t cost you a cent, just ask the First Lady. In a recent interview, Mrs. Obama revealed one of the ways she encourages kids — her own and those she meets — to move.
Mrs. Obama: We talk about fun. I mean, something as simple as turning on the radio and dancing with your kids to Beyonce. Kids are watching these videos — let me tell you, if you make it a task in your household to learn the Single Ladies dance with Beyonce — they’re trying to do that anyway. They want to learn every move.
Team gatherings are a great way to build team morale and make sure everyone gets a good meal the night before a competition. There’s no need for parents to over-think the menu. Provide plenty of fluids (water, 100% fruit juice and milk), some fresh veggies and pasta.
Some parents feel the need to shy away from carbs but this is exactly what athletes need prior to exercise. Pasta dinners are also easy and cost-effective. Add some protein from meatballs, turkey meatballs, chicken breast or chicken sausage, plus a big salad with vinaigrette dressing and voila — all your nutritional bases are covered.
When the weather permits, cook up a team barbecue complete with turkey burgers, veggie burgers, plus pasta and potato salads. Remember to make accommodations for anyone on the team who’s vegetarian or has food allergies.
Don’t forget dessert! A large fruit salad or watermelon wedges and some small baked treats will please the whole crowd. Cookies, brownies or cupcakes decked out with team colors are always popular.
A team brunch might also be a good idea before the team hits the road for a trip. In this case opt for bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter, smoothies, yogurt, fresh fruit, frozen waffles and scrambled egg wraps. All will provide healthy fuel that is easy to grab and go. Don’t forget the fluid here either. Water, 100% fruit juice and if it’s a hot day, sports drinks to take on the bus ride.