When my first-born started eating solids three years, I threw up my arms and sent this message out into the universe… “I apologize to every parent to whom I have uttered these words ‘Just keep introducing those veggies to your baby [or toddler or preschooler, etc.]. It sometimes take up to 17 tries for children to like new foods’ or ‘You can always find time to exercise’.” Boy, did the universe have some parenting nutrition lessons in store for me.
Thing I Didn’t Know #1
Serving my child a plate of healthy colorful food does not necessarily mean my child will eat a plate of healthy colorful food.
Nearly 3½ years and more than 100 attempts later, my son still will not touch most vegetables and is simply not that interested in food (unless it’s fruit, yogurt or sweets). And, my 1-year-old daughter—who is very interested in food—will not touch most fruits or vegetables. Clearly, my training as a registered dietitian and my desire to fill their bellies with a well-rounded, mostly whole foods diet was lost on them. I thought serving them a variety of fresh and delicious healthy food meant they would eat a variety of fresh and delicious healthy food. It doesn’t. My son handles vegetables as if they are kryptonite and my daughter reaches past the veggies and fruit for protein, cheese and anything starch.
Thing I Didn’t Know #2
Throwing my young children in the stroller to go for a walk is not always as easy as throwing my children in a stroller.
I remember clients telling me that they just did not have time to exercise or that exercising meant sacrificing time with their children. My first response was… “Put them in the stroller and go for a family evening walk. It’s good for everyone.” Yes, it is. But as I have learned, putting my young children in a stroller to go for a walk is sometimes an exercise in patience—a last-minute diaper change, a last-minute potty run, a cup of water for each kiddo, a toy to play with, yadda-yadda—and 15 minutes later means we now have half the time left for our “we-have-30-minutes-before-bedtime!” walk.
Thing I Didn’t Know #3
Waking up earlier than my kids to sneak in an exercise session is just not always (or really ever) possible.
Waking up early is easy for me, and I have always been one of those annoying morning people. One friend used to joke that I got more done on a Saturday morning before 9 AM than most people get done all weekend. But, when your child wakes up at 2 AM and then 4 AM and then 5 AM… well, let’s just say that it’s not so easy to sneak in a 5 AM run or yoga video, mostly because 5 hours of interrupted sleep does not bode well for peeling yourself out of bed early.
Thing I Didn’t Know #4
Making food more playful or shaping it into funny faces or using colorful plates definitely makes food more fun, but it doesn’t mean my child will eat it.
We have tried elephant-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches and butterfly-shaped French toast. We have created “pancake people” with coconut hair and chocolate chip eyes. We have tried Pac-Man waffles eating blueberries. We have tried dried fruit and cereal in colorful muffin cups. The kids love them. They play with their food (which I’m okay with) and laugh about it. And, sometimes they even try a bite. Or two. And, that’s if we’re lucky.
That’s not to say I’m not going to keep doing these things. Because I will. And, I do believe that one day they will eat a vegetable, a fruit, a protein and a whole grain at one meal. And, I will find that balance so that I am getting more physical activity, when they sleep more and are not so reliant on me. And, you know what? I’m okay with that.
TELL US: What are “real life, real food” topics you’d like to see covered here? How do you get a healthy meal on the table or find time to exercise? I’d love to hear from you.
You may have caught Dr. David Katz’ blog post “Opinion Stew” last Friday in the Huffington Post’s Healthy Living section. For those who read it, you’re probably not surprised that the story was a hot item this week in the RD community. And if you didn’t read it, here’s my interpretation…
Everyone is looking for the magic weight loss pill. So much so that people are willing to spend hard-earned dough on books written by people—with no nutrition education—who have successfully lost weight, buy “miracle” supplements with no—or even contrary—evidence that they work or listen to the “nutritionist” who took a one-day class on holistic nutrition. For some bizarre reason, we are so willing to jump on an outlandish weight loss wagon but usually unwilling to make even the simplest changes in our lifestyles.
As Dr. Katz writes in his blog post:
“Everyone who has ever gotten fat and then lost weight is embraced as an expert, fully authorized by our culture to dispense advice and sell books advising others on how to succeed. For the most part, every one of these makes a case different from every other — and yet every one is convinced they have found the universal formula. And over and over again, the faithful, or hopeful, line up and reach for their credit cards.”
Then he gives some entertaining analogies… that driving again after a bad car crash automatically makes someone a motor vehicle safety expert or that someone who once hiked in Alaska without being eaten by a bear is automatically qualified to provide guidance on how to manage them. He writes that most of us would disregard these claims by non-qualified individuals as simply nonsense. So, why is the field of nutrition—particularly with regard to weight loss—treated differently?
Dr. Katz’ quote from his post sums this notion up perfection:
“Everyone who has ever eaten seems to be granted an equally authoritative opinion about nutrition. This is not just nonsense. It’s dangerous nonsense.”
The Bottom Line
Nutrition is arguably the single most important mechanism we have to control our health—from how long our ticker ticks and mind stays sharp to how much energy we have for that afternoon meeting and for chasing our kids. No, a perfect diet does not guarantee a life free of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. But frankly, it is the best tool within our control.
And, let’s not forget that nutrition is a science. Dietary recommendations—or “best practices,” in corporate speak—changes because science evolves as our understanding and research capabilities evolve.
As Dr. Katz poses, let’s leave nutrition and weight loss to the nutrition experts.
Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist
So, who is qualified to dispense nutrition advice? Those who have a degree or training in nutrition. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“Academy”), the “RD” or “RDN” credential (Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, respectively) is “a legally protected title” that can only be used by individuals who have demonstrated the following:
- Earned a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science (and according to the “Academy,” about half of all RDs hold advanced degrees)
- Completed a supervised practice program
- Passed a registration examination
- Maintain continuing education requirements for continued certification
Some RDs may refer to themselves as a “nutritionist,” but only nutritionists with the RD/RDN credential can call themselves registered dietitians.
TELL US: What are your thoughts on experts in the nutrition field? We’d love to hear from you.
Last week, I attended a sodium summit (“Getting to 2,300″) in Washington, DC. A follow-up to the initial summit five years ago, this year’s summit was hosted by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) and National Restaurant Association (NRA). The goal of the day-long meeting was to continue the honest discussion on sodium—why we eat so much of it, why there’s so much of it in our foods and how we can reduce the amount we eat, particularly in processed and restaurant foods.
As you can imagine, there were some big players in the room. And, most everyone was focused on how to reduce sodium consumption in this country. Nothing I heard was earth-shattering, but it was a good reminder that sodium–in a world that so often focuses on calories, fat and carbs–sometimes sneaks under the “trying to eat healthfully” radar.
The biggest sodium culprits
As Ursula Bauer, PhD, MPH, Director of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) (the arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that focuses on preventing chronic disease, like heart disease) discussed at the summit, the average sodium intake for Americans 2 years of age and older is >3,400 mg/day. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010 DGA) recommends to keep sodium intake below 2,300 mg/day for most adults and closer to 1,500 mg/day for the specific populations at greatest risk for hypertension, or high blood pressure. About 1 in 3 adults has hypertension and only about half of these adults have blood pressure under control. And, the science is solid… the relationship between sodium intake and blood pressure is direct and clear.
So, what does 2,300 mg/day look like? About one teaspoon of salt. That’s our goal for the entire day. That’s not a lot. Especially when you consider most of the sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods. And, surely we don’t eat that much processed food, right?
Think again. According to American Public Media’s Marketplace, processed foods make up 70% of the American diet. Yup, 70%. And, the CDC reported that about 11% of the American diet comes from fast food. No matter how you shake it, that’s a lot of sodium without even adding salt at the table.
I hesitate to list the biggest culprits, because I don’t believe any foods are off-limits in a healthy, well-rounded diet. But, some of the biggest culprits repeatedly surprise my clients. And, it’s difficult to make informed food choices if you’re not informed. So, here are the biggest sodium culprits…
- Bread, rolls
- Cold cuts, cured meats
- Pasta dishes
- Meat dishes
Again, it’s not about eliminating these foods completely. Eating healthfully means choosing low-sodium foods MOST of the time and indulging in other foods some of the time.
Why food products need sodium
Unfortunately, lowering the sodium content of food products is just not as easy as removing sodium.
Sodium serves many purposes in food products. There are the obvious reasons why sodium is added to foods. It helps foods taste good and even helps bring out the natural flavor of foods. Sodium helps food products, like breads and cheeses, maintain a uniform texture and consistency. And, perhaps even more importantly, sodium helps prevent food spoilage and inhibits the growth of bacteria and molds that could cause serious food-borne illnesses. Understandably, food companies are not willing to sacrifice food safety. One speaker summed it up this way: “We will not compromise on food safety and our consumers will not compromise on taste.”
Fitting in favorite foods
As I mentioned above, I don’t believe there are “good foods” and “bad foods.” Eating–for most people–is just not that simplistic. We are surrounded by processed foods. We are crammed for time. The best way for us to make peace with these high-sodium convenience foods and attempt to prevent heart disease is to make wise food choices most of the time.
1) Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins (without sauces or breading), nuts/seeds and nut/olive oils. Foods that are as close to their natural state as possible will naturally contain less sodium.
2) Add a salad, vegetables or fruit to your restaurant or convenience meal. Not only are most fruits and vegetables naturally low in sodium, they are rich in potassium, which helps to counter the sodium in that convenience or restaurant meal. By simply adding a veggie- or fruit-rich salad or side, you’re automatically lowering the sodium content of that restaurant or packaged meal.Pretty cool how that works, huh?
3) Vote with your dollar by buying the low-sodium or no-sodium-added products or meals. Many food companies and restaurants now offer lower sodium products and dishes. Show these companies–who are trying to offer a healthier solution–that you want these low-sodium offerings. The bottom line is… food companies and restaurants will NOT continue to offer low sodium options if no one buys them.
TELL US: Do you try to eat a low-sodium diet? If so, please share your tips and favorite low-sodium products and dishes. We’d love to hear from you.
As posted at BlogAboutSeafood.com on January 17, 2013
This is my favorite salad. It is, in my opinion, salad perfected.
My husband is not a “salad person.” He likes veggies, but his initial reaction to my “Salad for dinner tonight?” question is “No.” However, he loves this salad. He even requests it sometimes.
We went to Paris a few years ago. We’d been traveling all day and there was futbol (the sport we Americans call “soccer”) to be watched. We hunkered down in what appeared to be a hidden Parisian pub and, after days of ingesting heavy British food, were delighted to spot salads on the menu. But, these were no ordinary sports-pub-iceberg-lettuce salads. These were large, beautiful
bowls brimming with fresh butter lettuce, juicy tomatoes, avocado, green beans, roasted potato slices, cubes of cheese, hard-boiled eggs and grilled fish. And, that salad was delicious.
So delicious, in fact, that we craved those salads when we returned home.
Make Your Own
While our version always contains a green-leaf lettuce (like butter or romaine), cherry tomatoes, shaved carrots and cucumber, I always add in other veggies and proteins that I have on hand. In this particular salad, I threw in hard-boiled egg whites, diced avocado and yellow bell pepper, grilled asparagus
spears, capers, white Cannellini beans and grilled salmon. I tossed the salad with a quick homemade dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed with a little honey, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.
Yes, this salad is great during the summer, especially with a glass of white wine. But, it was warm enough to grill outside in the mid-Atlantic last week. (This week is a different story… a snow storm is about to blow through as I write this.) Served alongside a crusty loaf of whole wheat bread, it was a perfect dinner.
TELL US: Do you have a favorite restaurant- or region-inspired salad? What nutrition superstars are in your favorite salads? We’d love to hear from you.
Recently, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study about the health benefits of hiding veggies. The verdict? Adding pureed veggies to dishes helped reduce calories consumed and increase nutrient intake. For those (adults and children) who don’t like veggies, this seems like a win-win, right?
While there are dietitians who say they disagree with hiding veggies, I am not one of them. Don’t get me wrong… I encourage adults to venture outside of their comfort vegetable zone and try exotic (or even just new) veggies and fruits. And, parents can (and very well should) introduce their children to new veggies as is, meaning without pureeing or grating into recipes. But if you (or your children) refuse to eat a delicious side of sauteed kale with roasted garlic and walnuts, why not add some pureed kale to your pasta sauce or soup?
When I was pregnant, I pictured feeding my son exotic purees and, later, bite-sized pieces of delicious and nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit. Ha… I was way off the mark! Sure, I offered him colorful fruit and veggie purees, but my son wanted nothing to do with them. Now a toddler, my son continues to launch broccoli, green beans and sweet potatoes off his tray and instead reach for cheese, bread or [sigh] anything processed.
In light of reading this article, I decided to “sneak” some veggies into an Israeli couscous dish. (Oh, and I should add that he liked Israeli couscous last time I made it.) I lovingly diced (and I’m talking TINY dice!) organic zucchini, squash, broccoli and mushrooms (along with some white beans), sauteed them in olive oil and a little peach juice, mixed it all in with the couscous and topped with diced peaches.
The bottom line…. Most of the time we know what we should be eating (or feeding our kids), we just have trouble doing it. So if sneaking some carrots, zucchini, mushrooms or broccoli into your casserole helps whittle your waist and up your nutrient intake, I say do it… while, of course, continuing to eat and/or offer delicious veggies in their non-pureed form.
Oh, and how did my “sneaky veggie” couscous go over with the toddler? Well, not so great… he ate a few bites, discovered the chopped white beans and quickly chucked the rest of his couscous onto the floor. My husband, however, declared it “Delicious!” and asked for seconds.
We’d love to hear from you. Do you “sneak” veggies or fruits into dishes, baked goods, etc.? What are some of your favorite ways to disguise them? Please share with us!