What kind of parent are you? . . . think about this while you read.
What kind of parent am I?
This has been on mind today since I participated in an education session by Jill Castle, MS, RD discussing her approach to childhood nutrition focusing on Fearless Feeding. I am definitely looking forward to her book on this topic coming out in 2013. I won’t dive too much into it because I think her book will best summarize the evidence and will help everyone (including myself) put her concepts into practice. This session was a good reminder as to the concepts of how we (parents) feed children, and why we feed children. Ever heard that you are a product of your environment and upbringing? Well it is true for feeding as well. And if you know where you came from and where you want to go (or how you want to raise your children), then you can figure out the “how” to get there and be the parent you want to be. Inspiring stuff I must say.
There are 4 feeding styles that Jill Castle, MS RD identified in her presentation: Authoritarian, Permissive, Neglectful, and Authoritative. These words have also been used to describe parenting styles. Pretty self explanatory, but identifying which style you practice can make the world of difference in how you approach your child’s nutrition. I grew up with more of an authoritarian approach to eating. I was supposed to clean my plate. I felt lots of pressure to eat my veggies – I even went to such lengths as to flush them down the toilet – let’s just say that back fired until we got a dog! Let’s just say I still dislike brussel sprouts to this day and gag even upon seeing them on my plate. “Sweets” were often over-regulated in my home. We had sweets when we were given money for “a treat”, cookies were homemade and available (doesn’t sound too bad right?), but as soon as “weight” was brought up in my home by my mom or my dad, I felt the need to hide in the pantry to have a piece of chocolate. Weight comments were never directed at me, but negative connotations about weight definitely left an impression on me when I was a teenager. And I was by no means overweight, a healthy BMI, no concerns or woes about my appearance. But somehow over the course of my adolescence I developed some disordered eating habits: hiding “treats” in the pantry, binging on them at 2am when I was “hungry”, sneaking an extra serving of dessert, and some others… I still have at times found myself hiding chocolate deep in the pantry so my husband won’t find it. Really, this is SOOOO ridiculous! My husband can’t even eat chocolate as it gives him migraines, so who am I hiding it from? Myself? Or my parents? And really, this is only my perception of what my parent’s approach to eating was. They probably think they were very authoritative, which is what I aim to be. How would your kids describe your feeding approach?
So how can we feed our children? I think Jill’s book will help guide you and your approach to your kids. For now here are some concepts that I teach to families and (try to) practice in my own home:
Provide structure by setting meal times and snack times. Kids rely on routine to trust that their parent will provide for them.
Serve family meals. I have encouraged this before!
Be a role model to your children. Try news foods TOGETHER.
Kids love to have a voice. Provide choice within the same food group. i.e. offer 2 difference vegetables at a meal and let your child choose one (or both!).
Avoid food rewards.
Division of Responsibility. Ellyn Satter is the guru of this concept. The parent decides what and when to offer food (i.e. the structured meal and snack times I mentioned). The child decides what to eat and how much to eat. Easier said than done, right?
Avoid controlling the division of responsibility. No “two bite” rules, no pressure to eat, no restricting foods.
Trust your kids. Trusting children to self regulate their food intake teaches them to listen to their hunger cues.
Allow kids to explore food. Sometimes this means letting them make a mess!
Promote a happy, relaxing mealtime environment. Nurture = nourish. They tend to go hand in hand.
I hope this has given you some practical food for thought that can help guide your feeding practices and help you to nourish your children. Happy eating!
Friends and clients of mine often express that they get in (what I call) a food-rut. It seems to happen most when we get busy and stop planning our meals. We pick up the kids after work, rush home, open the fridge and say to our spouse “What should I make for supper?”; they reply “I don’t care”. So then we look for a few common ingredients to make any recipe that you can think of off the top of your head: stir fry, chili, mac and cheese….sound familiar?
My first maternity leave I was so overwhelmed by having this new little person to care for that I was not very organized or adventurous with our family’s diet. We still ate healthy and I cooked from scratch, but it seemed to be the same batch of recipes over and over again. We definitely got in a food-rut. My second maternity leave, I vowed to not repeat this, and made an effort to surf the web and watch cooking shows while the boys napped. I didn’t try a new recipe every day, but a few times a week and this seemed to help keep food interesting. It also helped our oldest (Nolan) try new foods, or to try foods that he didn’t like, in a new form.
I try to recommend this to my friends and clients:
Try weekly menu planning – this helps keep variety in the diet to avoid the food-rut, keeps your meals well balanced, and can save you dollars at the grocery store.
Pick one day or night of the week that your family is less busy. Use this day to choose one new recipe, shop for the ingredients, and prepare it for the family. If the family enjoys the new recipe, add it to your collection of favorites.
If you’d rather not venture too far outside your comfort zone, or find it difficult to set aside enough time to prepare a new recipe start to finish then kick-it-up-a-notch! What I mean is choose a family favorite recipe and try a new or modified version of it. This is sure to help keep things fresh but also practical.
If you find the concept of a new recipe too much, maybe try tackling a new food preparation or cooking skill. Once you have a new skill mastered, recipes will not seem so much of a stretch.
This weekend, my husband and I decided to try a new recipe AND to kick our mac and cheese recipe up a notch or two! Our recipe of choice: Spicy Fish Tacos! We typically do not fry anything in our house, but love to watch Eat St. where food trucks often serve some delicious-looking version of a fish taco. Nolan has never really liked fish other than a tuna sandwich, so I wanted to offer fish to him again in a new way. He loved this fish taco but with mayo and a smaller amount of sauce.
Last night’s delicious find: Spicy Fish Tacos adapted from Allrecipes.com
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup beer (we used Bud light lime)
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup light mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (seeds and ribs removed)
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried dill weed
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – We found 1 tsp too hot for the kids
1-2 cups of canola oil for frying (so there is 1 cm of oil in your pan)
1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions
1 package of small whole wheat tortillas – I couldn’t find corn tortillas at our grocery store
1/2 medium head cabbage, finely shredded
2 hothouse tomatoes chopped
*Chopped cucumber would also pair nicely with this recipe for a fresh feel
To make the beer batter: In a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the egg and beer, then quickly stir into the flour mixture (don’t worry about a few lumps).
To make the spicy sauce: In a medium bowl mix together yogurt and mayonnaise. Gradually stir in fresh lime juice until consistency is slightly runny. Season with jalapeno, oregano, cumin, dill, and cayenne.
Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or cast iron frying pan. The oil is ready when you stick the handle of a wooden spoon in it and little bubbles form.
Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. This takes only a few minutes. Drain on paper towels.
To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and dollops of the spicy sauce.
There is nothing like tax season to make one re-evaluate one’s finances. I am always amazed at how money comes in but never seems to be around for very long. Before my husband and I had kids, we spent a lot of money on groceries. We rarely shopped the sales, ate whatever we felt like (still healthy of course), and shopped hungry. We developed some pretty hard habits to break! Since we’ve had kids, we are much more budget conscious, flyer savvy, and try very hard to have a snack or meal before we shop. I will admit that we still struggle to keep the grocery bill down, but it is a work in progress. There are so many variables to consider that make it challenging to create a concrete shopping list, and actually stick to it!
As we approach the month of May, I am challenging myself this coming month to menu plan more (meaning actually write it down – I often “plan” in my head, but that seems to get lost when I’ve been distracted and 5:30pm rolls around and we are starving!). I also want to refine my pantry needs, make better grocery lists, and try to stick to my new grocery budget as we try to save a little more money for a trip next year. The next few posts will discuss menu planning, grocery shopping and food budgeting. I would love to hear your tips and tricks on any of these topics as we can always learn new things, and give ourselves a pat on the back for what we already do well!
My top 10 tips for MENU PLANNING
Take inventory of your cupboards so you know what you have to work with to start menu planning. This will help create your grocery list later and help reduce food waste by using what you already have paid for!
Check for weekly sales. Our grocery flyers tend to come on Friday, so I often use my weekend to plan and shop based on what is in the flyers.
Plan your menu incorporating vegetables and fruit that are in season. In season vegetables and fruit are usually cheaper, more available, more local, and the quality tends to be better. If you really like those blueberries in the months when they are not in season, you will pay a pretty penny unless you buy frozen when they are on sale!
Consider your family commitments for the week. You are not likely to make that meatball dinner when both kids have soccer that evening. You just won’t, so don’t kid yourself! Instead, plan a lighter meal for the nights you have less time, or utilize your slow cooker! I probably use mine once per week on my busiest night. As mornings are busy, I don’t usually pre-plan what we have for breakfast. I always keep cereal, bread, peanut butter, eggs, and a variety of fruit on hand and let my boys choose what they would like to have.
Consider the likes and dislikes of your family. I have a whole room of picky eaters here, so it is rare that you will find mushrooms or honeydew on our menus, but that being said I have still offered them to my kids in hopes that they will like them even though my husband and I don’t.
Think about texture, taste, and colour. A white fish served with potatoes and steamed cauliflower is nutritious, but it lacks varying texture, colour and plate appeal. Kick things up with colour!
Variety. Need I say more? There is nothing worse than a menu that has chicken every day. We love chicken in our family (so there is a lot of it), but even we can get sick of it if it is every day. Variety is especially important to make sure that the menu provides a variety of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, protein, fibre, and all the micronutrients too!
Try new recipes. Even when we menu plan, we can easily get stuck in a rut if we use the same menus over and over and over. Pick a day of the week when you can try a new recipe to keep things fresh! I usually try new recipes on Saturday or Sundays as I am more organized, more relaxed, and have more time to get the kids involved.
Once you have a rough draft of a menu (even if it is only supper meals you plan for), there are a few things you should try to check. The key to developing a healthy family menu is to think about BALANCE. My rule is always to have 3 or 4 of the food groups per meal, and 1 to 2 per snack. Even if I don’t formally menu plan, I always think of balance for every meal I offer my family. With 3 well balanced meals and a few healthy snacks daily, this can help ensure your family members get the nutrition they need for the day.
The last check: consider the needs of your family members in comparison to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating. With Create My Food Guide, you can customize your guide to your likes/dislikes i.e. My needs: 8 Vegetables/Fruit, 7 Grain products, 2 Milk products, 2 Meat/Alternatives.
1 Milk products
½ cup cantaloupe
1 or 2 slices whole wheat toast
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp. peanut butter on my toast
1 homemade muffin
½ cup strawberries
1 Milk product
½ cup grapes
Sliced chicken breast on 2 slices whole wheat bread, with tomato, lettuce and cucumber
1 cup soy milk
1 small orange
4-5 crackers (*amount depends on the brand/type)
1-2 Grains or other starch
0-1 milk products
1 cup spinach salad
½ cup steamed asparagus
½ cup strawberries (dessert!)
1 small lean pork chop
1 medium baked potato
1 small whole wheat dinner bun
¾ cup yogurt (with my fruit!)
Whatever I didn’t get that I need, but only if I am hungry.
A great resource put out by Dietitians of Canada is Eating Well Together Meal Planner. The first pages discuss menu planning with toddlers in mind, but there is a sample menu and a blank menu planning sheet included. Print it off and give menu planning a try this week!
Stay tuned next week where we will put your menu plan into practice by discussing grocery shopping tips and making your menu jive with your budget.