This is a guest post by Allison Gamble, who has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing, and is still trying to teach herself not to clean her plate.

Human Snowman
Creative Commons License photo credit: left-hand

Food and nutrition are difficult subjects for adults, and even more so for kids. A child’s taste preferences are influenced by outside sources almost from birth, so it doesn’t take a psychology degree to realize that it’s necessary for parents to guide them in making healthy food choices.

Clearly, your kids don’t think about nutrition the way you do, so you need to look at things from their perspective in order to avoid common pitfalls in the emotional realm of food and eating.

Kids and Healthy Eating Habits

Kids begin to develop preferences for food at a very young age. If you want your kids to grow up eating a variety of foods, aim to give them a number of options as these preferences develop. As they get older, encourage them to choose different kinds of healthful, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Even if you make many wholesome foods available, chances are your kids will want something sweet from time to time. Instead of slapping a label of “bad” or “unhealthy” on desserts and treats that will turn these foods into guilty pleasures, allow your children to eat them in reasonable portions. If they ask why they can’t have more, use their questions as an opportunity to talk about how different foods affect the body. Your kids will probably notice that they feel better after eating fruits and vegetables than after candy or cake, and helping them to understand why goes a long way towards giving them the tools to make good food choices in the future.

Above all, be a positive role model for your kids. If you’re constantly hung up on calories, fat content, carbs or weight, your kids will be too. Remember that kids are extremely observant and will often do what they see you doing, regardless of what you say.

The Many Faces of Food

For kids and adults alike, food is more than just physical nourishment. Advertisers work hard to target kids by using specific situations, emotions, and ideas to convince youngsters that eating a certain food will yield a positive result. Unfortunately, parents can be just as much at fault when it comes to attaching emotion to food. Saying things like, “You can’t have cake until you finish your vegetables,” or “If you’re good today, we’ll go get ice cream,” sets kids up to think of food in terms of reward or punishment instead of health and nutrition.

Odds are, your kids know how to listen to their bodies much better than you do. Young children haven’t yet been exposed to societal pressures that make adults fixate on food choices. Kids naturally eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, an instinct that’s important to honor. Forcing kids to clean their plates when they’re not hungry or don’t feel well leads to the feeling that they must eat even if they don’t want to, undermining the natural cycle of hunger and fullness. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t eat very much one day or decides he’s not hungry. Instead, let the matter drop and go do something else he enjoys. When he’s ready to eat, he’ll let you know.

Teaching kids to make healthy food choices is as much a matter of showing as it is of telling. Giving kids a positive perspective through discussion and being a good role model leads to intelligent choices based on facts about nutrition rather than perceived ideas of good and bad. Kids know how to listen to their bodies, so as a parent, all you have to do is nurture that natural instinct.

In summary

  • Encourage your children towards healthful, whole foods.
  • Don’t turn desserts and treats into guilty pleasures or rewards.
  • Be a positive role model
  • Let your child eat intuitively. They’ll eat when they get hungry. Don’t force it.

What has worked for you? Share your tips!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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ocean's
Creative Commons License photo credit: Naomi Ibuki

When it comes to getting vitamin D from food, salmon is popularly known as one of the best sources. The Office of Dietary Supplements, a department of the National Institute of Health, lists a 3 oz serving of salmon (sockeye) as having over 100% of daily value of vitamin D. Salmon is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, one of the healthy fats your growing child needs for brain development.

I was, therefore, very surprised when I looked at the nutrition facts panel of a can of pink salmon at the grocery store this weekend. It did not list any vitamin D at all!

How can it be when the common knowledge is that salmon provides a high level of vitamin D?

Turns out that not all salmon is created equal when it comes to vitamin D, or even other healthful nutrients. The problem seems to be an abundance of farmed salmon in our food supply, both in the fresh seafood section as well as canned and prepared meals.

As I researched this issue further, I came upon a scientific paper by Dr. Holick and co-workers from Boston University, who actually measured the amount of vitamin D in both wild salmon and farmed salmon. They found that the farmed variety contained 10-25% of the amount of vitamin D available in salmon. Dr. Holick explains the difference in this video, simply in terms of what the two feed on:

While the wild salmon could have as high as 1000 IU of vitamin D, the farmed variety contains about 250. There is also considerable debate about PCB’s, dioxins, antibiotics and artificial colors in farmed salmon.

Looking at it from the lower nutritional value and health/environmental risks, I am not sure if low price of farmed salmon is a good reason to make the choice. Not saying you need to give up on farmed salmon, but you certainly need to factor these issues in your purchase decision.

Another thing to keep in mind, vitamin D in wild salmon can vary in a broad range depending on the source and type. Ask questions and read the nutrition facts label before buying.

Here is a nice summary of the amount of vitamin D from various fish sources (Source: Holick paper)

Type of Fish Vitamin D (IU)
Blue fish 280 ± 68
 Cod 104 ± 24
 Grey Sole  56 ± 36
 Salmon, Farmed  240 ± 108
 Salmon, Wild 988 ± 524
 Trout, Farmed 388 ± 212
 Tuna Ahi-YT 404 ± 440

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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All milk in the United States is fortified with vitamin D (1 cup = 25% daily value). So it is natural to think that yogurt and yogurt products should also have vitamin D. After all, they are all made from milk.

Not really.

Although, there is a trend now to add vitamin D to yogurt, there are still a lot of products out there with no vitamin D.  I decided to do a little research this weekend at the local Walmart. Here is a summary of what I found:

 

Yoplait original is the top of the pack with 50% DV of both calcium and vitamin D. The new packaging shows this fact prominently on the front of the box. Stonyfield is another good option but their Oikos brand organic greek yogurt does not have any vitamin D. Dannon, our long time favorite has a lot of catching up to do!

When I asked my Twitter followers about this, @peekababy informed me that the Yobaby and Yokids brands from Stonyfield also has added vitamin D. Sure enough, a quick check on their website showed that they have 25% daily value of vitamin D added to each serving.

With so much news on vitamin D deficiency, especially in kids, you would think that all yogurt brands would start fortifying their products with vitamin D.

What is in your yogurt? Take a peek inside your refrigerator and check if your yogurt contains vitamin D or not. Then leave a note below with the brand name and amount of vitamin D in each serving.

Disclaimer – I have not received any sponsorship or free samples of product for writing this review. For complete nutritional information check out the websites of these products.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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Now that our herbs and veggie garden is beginning to produce, we decided to prepare one of our favorite recipes with fresh green peppers. It is very simple, yet quite wholesome. We make it quite often, but using fresh peppers from the garden really gave a nice flavor.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 dozen medium sized green bell peppers
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped or crushed in a food processor
  • 1 tomato , sliced
  • 1 tomato, crushed in a food processor
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Method

Saute onion in olive oil. Add crushed tomato, salt an pepper and cook until onions are soft. Add ground beef and cook until beef turns light brown, stirring occasionally. Add rice and mix well. Cook for a little while more. Rice does not need to cook completely.

Wash green peppers. Slice off the cap but keep it aside for covering the peppers later. Remove seeds to create a cavity. Wash well.

Fill the pepper cavity with cooked beef and rice mixture. Don’t overpack but fill to the top. Cover with the cap and arrange in a deep pot. Arrange sliced tomatoes in a layer on top. Add warm water, tomato paste and remaining juice, if available, from the beef mixture around the peppers. Water level should be high enough to cover the peppers a little over half way.  Cook covered on low to medium heat until peppers and tomatoes are cooked to the desired softness.

 

Peppers are  a good source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium.

Biber Dolma is the Turkish name for this recipe!

Enjoy!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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The Allergic March

by Naveen Agarwal

in Food Allergy

Source: The LEAP study

Did you know that nearly 30% of children in the United States have some form of allergy and that the rate of allergic disease in children is on the rise?

I found this fact quite interesting – and troubling – as I read this article about childhood allergies. What is even more interesting is that the progression of allergic disease in children appears to follow a predictable pattern called the Allergic March.

It goes like this – first it starts with dermatitis (eczema), then to chronic gastrointestinal (GI) issues, then to chronic serous otitis media (ear infections), then to chronic rhinitis (stuffy nose) and finally to asthma.

The problem is that allergic disease doesn’t have a cure, and that is why, prevention is the only smart choice. It helps to know that the pattern of allergic disease is predictable, which is why, early signs of allergic symptoms like eczema and food allergy or sensitivity should be considered seriously.

Most babies in their first 1-2 years of life show sings of food sensitivity to certain foods such as egg, dairy, soy, rice and wheat. This is because their young immune systems are yet to mature and sometimes they get confused by different proteins in these foods. Good news is that, most children do grow out of these early issues by the time they reach age 5.

The news is not so good if there is a family history of allergy, which is why getting to know the allergic march is quite important. If either mom or dad – or both – have a history of allergy, the chances of their child developing an allergy can be as high as 50 -80%. If not diagnosed and prevented early, the allergic march is likely inevitable.

We have been interested in food allergy here on Littlestomaks, because it affects so many babies and toddlers. Although there is no reason to hit the panic button over a few episodes of vomiting and reflux, it is prudent to take them seriously when allergy runs in the family. Same goes for ear infections, which again are quite common in children. A link between milk allergy and ear infections, for example, is being reported in many cases. Talk to your doctor about the history of allergy in your family on a routine visit to treat an ear infection. For all you know, it might be the first step on the allergic march, which you can avoid with early intervention.

Here are a few nice links for more information:

The LEAP study
The Allergy March
Food Allergies on About.com
Pediatric food allergies on Today’s Dietitian

Do you have a child with food allergies? Share your story, we would love to hear from you!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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Mom, I Cherish You

by Naveen Agarwal

in Miscellaneous

What would the world look like without Moms?

A profound question, one which most of us will have a hard time answering. Check this out:

I am so glad my daughter decided to write this note to her mom on the card I helped her prepare last night:

I think CHERISH is the right word for Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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Happy Easter

by Naveen Agarwal

in Having Fun,Miscellaneous

We enjoyed a beautiful sunny day to celebrate Easter Sunday!

After an early morning egg hunt with other toddlers in the neighborhood, the twins played hard in the backyard. As the morning turned into noon, it was time for lunch, which they insisted on having outside as a “picnic”!

Here they are,  munching on a turkey-cheese sandwich and cheesy cauliflower. A strawberry-banana fruit/veggie punch from V8 (12 g sugar per serving) went along as the drink.

Hope your family had a wonderful Easter today!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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Spring is here, which means it is time to start planting again. This year, we have decided to plant new tomatoes, beans and sweet peppers in our raised bed vegetable garden. And a few of our favorite herbs separately in pots.

Here are few pictures of herbs – parsley, cilantro, Thai basil and mint.

It is great to see green around us in the backyard once again. What are you planting this year?

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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As we drove back home from daycare today, my daughter made an interesting remark.

“Dad, this fruit juice is very healthy”, as she sipped the last of her fruitablesTM juice.

“What makes you think it is healthy for you?”, I asked, expecting her to read the nutrition facts label on the box.

Yes, ever since we had our small breakthrough when she discovered the word “sugar” at the back of the box of instant oatmeal, she has been reading labels and other information on food packages.

“Fruitables..a juice beverage that is packed with fruits and veggies but has less sugar than other juices and juice drinks”….she read out loud the marketing pitch on the back panel.

“Really?”, I exclaimed hiding my surprise.

“This is one refreshing way”, she continued, “to get healthy nutrition you need every day!

“Very interesting”, I thought. She was reading the whole thing…

“And daddy, long time ago, someone said fruits and vegetables weren’t delicious!”

I found that very funny and laughed out loud because I had not seen the whole message myself. Surely, she made it up I thought.

I decided to take a closer look at the juice box when we reached home. The marketing message was clever, and she did indeed read pretty much the whole thing verbatim. Except the part at the end, which she tweaked a little based on her interpretation.

Clearly, fruit juice is not equal to real fruit in terms of overall nutrition value. The marketing message is clever, no doubt, as it attempts to separate this product from other juices which have added sugar.

One box of Fruitables (200 mL) has 9 g sugar only 66% juice. Quite close to “empty calories”, but not a bad alternative to other beverages when used in moderation.

Clever food marketing messages and package design can attract a child’s attention and curiosity. I think it is good to let them absorb these messages, but very important to help them interpret correctly so they don’t fall for them.

What do you think?

Disclaimer – I have not received any sponsorship or free samples of product from Apple & Eve, LLC  for writing this review. For complete nutritional information and other products, visit Fruitables website.

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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We continue to try various soups from a recent New York Times magazine! Recently, we made this hearty tomato soup.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped or crushed finely in a blender
  • 1-2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • salt, pepper to taste

Method

Saute onion in olive oil; add carrots, garlic and tomato paste. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and water. Mix well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with chopped basil.

Serve hot with pita bread or naan.

Enjoy!

©2011 Littlestomaks.com

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