Eating Habits When Stressed

What do your eating habits look like when you are stressed? Do you tend to eat more of certain food items or do you avoid food all together? Our bodies have such an interesting response to stress. That fight or flight response and release of adrenaline can manifest itself in different ways. I know for myself, when I am stressed and have a lot to do, I don’t always feel hungry. I have so much on my mind that I sometimes just forget to eat or I only eat a little bit. Then the foods that I carve tend to be unhealthy. I could easily devour a whole sleeve of Oreos when trying to meet a deadline.

https://images.app.goo.gl/XPttEwdaK6c73WVv8

https://images.app.goo.gl/XPttEwdaK6c73WVv8

So what happens to our bodies when we find ourselves under stress? Our brain looks at the situation we are in and then determines if we need to be concerned or if we are fine. The area of the brain that interprets what we are seeing is the amygdala. The amygdala then signals a message to the hypothalamus if there is a perceived threat. The hypothalamus then notifies the rest of your body to fight or flee. This part of the brain controls the autonomic nervous system (involuntary bodily functions like breathing, heart rate, dilation of blood vessels). This autonomic nervous system has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic system.

  • Sympathetic nervous system = the gas pedal and initiates the fight or flight response. This is what controls your body to take action against a threat.

  • Parasympathetic nervous system = the brake pedal and helps you to calm down after a stressful event.

All of this happens so fast that you don’t even notice it. It is amazing how quickly your body makes these decisions and then you find yourself feeling stressed or calm/relaxed.

So now that you have idea of what is happening physiologically when you are stressed, let’s talk about one of the side affects of being stressed - a change in our eating habits. Whether you tend to avoid eating or over eat, either of these behaviors are not ideal. When you overeat you tend to crave fat and sugar containing foods. Those food have been found to help decrease your body’s stress response. So when you ingest fat/sugar rich food items your body’s reaction is to calm down. This also tends to be a stress behavior for more women compared with men. Lots of time men will turn to other things when stressed like alcohol or smoking to relieve that tension.

One stress hormone that our bodies release is cortisol. This hormone can been correlated to increasing in snacking behaviors. When you have higher levels of cortisol circulating in your body you have a tendency to overeat and snack more.

So what are some ways that you can work to decrease stress in your life instead of just avoiding food or overeating?

  • Getting physically active. Being active, getting up and moving can have a huge impact on lowering your stress levels. When you exercise your body releases endorphins and that helps you to feel happier and to relax. Physical activity helps your body work through those anxious feelings you are experiencing. Focusing on something else can be a key part of relaxing and getting to be a less stressed state of mind.

  • Making a “To Do” list. Another helpful tip is to take a moment and write down a list of all the things you need to do. That way you don’t have to worry about forgetting something important. That list can be on your phone, a hand written list, a note on your calendar or whatever works best for you. Half of the time when we are stressed, we are concerned with forgetting things we need to do so simply writing that information down helps to reassure yourself that you can handle it.

  • Asking for help. Often when you find ourselves in a stressful situation, we don’t ask for help. It can be hard to ask for assistance and that can be overwhelming. Even though it can be hard, asking for help leads to you feeling better in the end. Any time you are going through a challenging situation it is easier to handle when you have someone else. When someone helps you that reminds you that you are cared about and it will all be ok. Remember to ask for help if you need physical, mental or emotional support. You have loved ones who care about you and will be happy to come along side you and support you.

At the end of the day we all deal with stressed and often that leads to messed up eating habits. Finding ways to help manage that stress and then focus on better eating habits will help you feel better and more confident. So take note of your own stress response … what do you tend to do when under pressure? Are there ways you can better handle stress? Do you have someone you can turn to for help and support?


References:

  1. Understanding the stress response

  2. Why stress causes people to overeat

Say "NO!" to the Pouch

I’m sure you’ve seen fruit/vegetable pouches at the grocery store and have seen kids squeezing some type of puree into their mouths through a little spout. There are pouches with fruit, pouches with vegetables, pouches that contain organic produce and even pouches with beans and avocados in them. There are even re-usable pouches you can buy and make yourself at home. If you ask me, the baby food pouch market is a little ridiculous. Did you know that pouches now account for 25% of the baby food market?! Sure, the idea of getting your kids to eat a wide array of foods is great, but what grown adult eats these food items out of a pouch?!

Post-HappyBaby3-pouches.jpg

Now, if you have given your child a fruit/veggie pouch, don’t feel like you have messed up. It is not the end of the world. However, I am here to tell you that your child is in no way, shape or form NEEDS a pouch to eat their fruit and vegetables. This has been on my mind the last several weeks, because I have encountered several parents who were talking about their child eating vegetables and then they followed up by saying '“in a pouch.” That just made my heart hurt, because from a sensory perspective that child is missing out on SO much. Now, if you give your child a pouch of organic, blueberry and acai berry puree on occasion that is fine, but if your child is depending on pouches to “eat” vegetables, we might want to chat offline.

Let’s talk about the pouch phenomenon from a sensory perspective. Let me clarify - I am not an Occupational Therapist, but I have done some sensory food training (the SOS Feeding Method) and I have worked with several OTs over the past eight years. I know just enough to help explain the basics to you. When your child eats food, they are experiencing so much more than it may first appear. They are touching the food and getting to feel it. They are smelling the food and they are looking at the color and texture of the food. They are getting to taste the flavor of the food and they are getting to watch you eat the food as well. There is so much sensory input that is happening when a child eats. When you give that child a pouch of food, they are missing out on ALL of those sensory experiences. They don’t get to touch the food, they don’t get to smell it, they don’t get to see it and the only sense they get to use is their mouth. Can you imagine having to taste something that you can’t smell, see or feel first? That is a rather shocking experience. Add to that the fact that no one else around you is eating out of a pouch. Imagine how you would react.

My main point with this post isn’t to shame you if you give your child food pouches. I simply want to provide you with some reasoning behind why offering your child pouches on a regular basis might not the best idea. If you have a child that is really picky and is struggling with some sensory issues, and therefore, you rely on pouches, consider working with a feeding therapist. I would be happy to work with you and point you in the direction of a great feeding therapist if you need it.

Eating is such a wonderful sensory experience. When we deprive our children of the opportunity to use their senses while eating, we start to see them struggle with eating. So, while you may choose to use pouches on occasion, please don’t rely on them as a normal meal source. The best thing to do is to prepare soft foods for your child and offer them what you’re eating.

Next time you are in the baby aisle, walking by the baby food, keep going and just say “no” to the pouches!

Resources:

Loving Yourself

I have seen a couple of posts recently by women who were mentioning how they didn’t like certain parts of their bodies and how they felt uncomfortable with themselves. It broke my heart. I am a firm believer in helping people to understand that they need to love themselves. All of themselves, including the imperfections. I know LOTS of men and women would appreciate being able to change things about themselves. None of us are perfect and even the images we see of people (who appear perfect), aren’t. Rachel Hollis had a great quote at one of her Rise Conferences, pointing to herself she said “there is a whole team behind this!” That is true … for us normal people, there is no team to do our hair, put on make up, pick out our clothes or do our nails. That is not real or normal. So don’t waste your time comparing yourself to those people.

If you happen to be a parent, how you view yourself is even more important. Your children are watching you. They are watching ever single thing you say, gesture your make and they are wanting to be just like you. If you are complaining about how you don’t like your thighs, refuse to wear a swimsuit because you feel fat, or are always on a diet to try to lose 5-10lbs, they will pick up on that. Another RDN that I follow on social media is always encouraging moms to demonstrate self-love and acceptance for their daughters. This is SO important. I had a mother who wasn’t perfect, but loved herself and that helped me to develop a positive self image of my own. Demonstrating to our children to how to love ourself matters. This RDN shared that her daughter went swim suit shopping with her and they were trying on suits in the Target changing room and her daughter smiled and told her “that swim suit made her look beautiful!” That little girl loves her mom so much that she wasn’t noticing extra skin, stretch marks or some cellulite. She saw our beautiful her mom was and she told her that. That made my heart smile! That is what we need more of, loving ourselves like our family loves us, despite the imperfections.

UD3eUxGNjGrl.jpg

If you aren’t a parent, this still pertains to you. Loving yourself and every part of you has an impact on your outlook on life. People who are happier live longer. Our lives are short and so let’s make those moments we have happy. I am not saying that we abandon on self control and gorge ourselves on donuts, but we embrace that we aren’t perfect, do the best we can and love ourselves through those struggles and short comings.

So please, avoid any negative self talk about yourself. Don’t call yourself fat. Don’t look in the mirror and put yourself down. If that is a struggle for you, keep your mirror in a place where you aren’t always passing it. Avoid that negative self talk and instead focus on giving yourself a compliment. Practice this on your family and friends - compliment others on how they look today, thank someone for their help, be kind to others and then practice that same positivity on yourself.

We all face enough challenges and things that stress us out in the world. We don’t need to be our own worst enemy and put extra negative pressure on ourselves. So find a way to love yourself this week and give yourself some positive, self talk, because you are amazing and wonderful, just the way you are!

Giving Yourself Grace

I realized as I was looking at posts that it had been a few weeks since I had gotten a post up on my blog. I have to admit, since the beginning of the year it has been tough to stay on top of blog posts and to come up with content to share. It has been a priority that has taken a back seat as life as gotten busier and more complicated. I really enjoy having this platform to share thoughts and nutrition information with the public. This blog was created to provide a creative outlet for me and I have loved having this spot to share my thoughts.

grace.jpg

With that being said, I have been giving myself grace when it comes to posting weekly. I have tried hard to make that happen, but it hasn’t happened consistently. I just wanted to use this opportunity to remind you to give yourself some grace. That is OK if I don’t get a post up weekly. I am doing lots of things and balancing all of that in a healthy way is important. I saw several Instagram posts recently about being OK with not having everything perfect. That spoke to me this last week. There are lots of things that I use to be able to do and stay on top of, but laundry, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, mopping the floors and even dog walking just aren’t all getting done right away like they use to. I get laundry done and then it sits in a basket for a week, finally get it folded and it takes 2 days to put away and then it’s time to wash more clothes. The cycle never ends. I use to be able to hit up multiple grocery stores in one day and knock all the food purchasing in one day, nope … not any more. I go to Aldi and then some times find time to squeeze in another trip to Kroger (if I am lucky). Don’t get me started on my floors, I maybe get them mopped once a month.

Do you see how this list can go on and on? Do you see how it can be so easy to be hard on yourself and get depressed that things just don’t get done like they use to? This is why I think we need to make sure that we give each other some grace. My caring husband, if not at all mad that the laundry sits in the basket for a week, he is thankful for clean clothes. My children don’t care that the floor isn’t mopped, they get baths everyday. My bank account is thankful I don’t have time for shopping any more. I am working on trying to embrace this new life that is crazy, busy and chaotic. I am trying prioritize the things that are really important and then also take moments to just be present with my children. Deciding to leave the dishes until after they go to bed. Taking 10 minutes to play outside before dinner and enjoying that nightly routine of dinner, baths, reading and snuggles before they go to sleep.

There are lots of nutrition related things that I am working on and excited to share with you in the upcoming 4 months. You will have to stay tuned and I will make sure to write blog posts about these happenings as well.

Exciting Things Coming Up

  • Continuing to offer outpatient counseling sessions/workshops with Mini Minds, LLC in Carmel, IN. If you know of anyone in need of nutrition counseling services, let me know!

  • Preparing FNCE presentation that is due at the end of September and then presenting in Philadelphia at the end of October.

  • Putting together a rough draft for 2 chapters on Pediatric Nutrition for the IAND Nutrition Care Manual that is due at the end of September and first draft due in December.

  • Giving a presentation on Sharing Nutrition Topics on Social Media that will be to RDNs in Lafayette in November.

  • Putting together presentation on Baby Led Weaning for NICU RDNs in the Indianapolis area that will be presented in December.

  • Continuing to serve as the Strategic Partnership Coordinator for IAND and we are hosting a booth with activities for Girl Scouts on October.

  • Working at the Social Media Chair for CIAND and helping to share upcoming events via social media.

As you can see there is always plenty of things going on and lots of things to continue to juggle as we approach the fall and holiday season. I am excited for the months that are ahead and excited to be able to share some amazing projects that I am working on. So stay tuned and i will continue to work hard to put together some blog posts to share these exciting happenings with you all!

Weight Watchers for Children?!

If you haven’t heard already Weight Watchers has launched an app for children. Yep, you read that right, an app targeting 8-13 year olds and focusing on green, yellow and red foods. When I started hearing about this, I was first really surprised. Then that surprise was followed by being slightly upset and then realizing that I shouldn’t be surprised. This “diet culture” that is very pervasive in our world is now reaching our children, who aren’t even in middle school yet.

I can definitely acknowledge that there is an obesity problem facing Americans. From adults to children, as a country we struggle with being healthy, but I strongly believe that an app targeting children and trying to help them “diet” is NOT the answer. This app is called Kurbo. There are lots of articles that are showing up online addressing this app. I am not opposed to the Green, Yellow and Red light method for nutrition education, but it isn’t my favorite. Why? Because children are so literal. If a food is termed as “bad” then they remember that and they don’t want to eat those food items. Children’s processing abilities are very black and white. That is why using the term “good” and “bad” is tough for them. I am in support of the all foods fit method. Focusing on eating more healthy foods, but not overdoing the special, treats.

This picture below is from the Kurbo app and showing how it works. You log your food intake and then the app organizes it into green, yellow and red categories. The part that bothers me is when you consume “too many red foods” then the app will tell you that and “encourage” you to try other “green foods” instead. All of the foods that are listed as “green foods” are fruits and vegetables. That is a great goal, but one can not live on only fruit and vegetables. You need some other forms of protein and fat sources to help your muscles grow appropriately and then a child’s brain develop. Plus, this app is promoting before and after pictures of children who have lost weight. This was extremely upsetting because that is not at all how we want children to gain confidence. Their self worth should not be tied to a picture of themselves.

kurbo-meal-tracking-app-kids.jpg

My point of sharing this with you all is to bring the focus to this “Diet Culture” that is persistent in our environment. This is NOT the message that we should be sharing with our children … that they NEED to lose weight to “make their parents happy.” Children should never be put on a diet, because research shows that is not helpful for their development and leads to a negative relationship with food and often creates more eating issues as they grow. Having a goal to get children to be more active and choose more nutritionally dense foods in their diets are perfect things to focus on as a family. I think the other part of this that really bothers me is the fact that this is suppose to be used by the child and doesn’t include the family. Whenever I counsel a family with a child who is overweight … the goal is lifestyle modification for the family and it is a whole family affair. The child doesn’t go to the store and purchase food … that is the parent’s role so that education needs to include the parent to help provide more nutritionally dense choices and the child can choose how much of those food items to eat.

No child should ever be told that they are fat and they need some app to help them fix some weight problem about themselves. I am not a fan of weight loss apps and I don’t like how people get caught up in “good” and “bad” foods. The goal with weight loss counseling is working to make small life style changes that are sustainable. Using an app can’t really help with that. As a parent be aware that this app is out there. This is dangerous and not at all helpful to building children up and fostering a positive relationship with food/their own body image. Working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can be a helpful tool to make small changes for the entire family. If you have questions about your child’s weight or concerns about making food changes - reach out and let me know. This can be tough, but with the help of trained professionals there is a way to encourage and foster a healthy relationship with food and help children grow and develop in a positive manner.

Baby Led Weaning #2

I wanted to bring up the topic of Baby Led Weaning again, because we are once again in that phase of life. My youngest is now 6 months old and we have started with table foods. This is kind of a big deal and crazy to think that our little man is half way to his first birthday.

If you can remember, back 2 years ago, I started William with Baby Led Weaning. If you want to read about that experience - CLICK HERE. With this second time around, I feel more comfortable introducing my little one to table foods, but has been a different experience. William was already sitting up independently at 6 months. Samuel is not sitting unassisted yet, but doing great at pivoting on his belly and rolling from back to front and front to back. He has been sitting with me at the table when we eat dinner and loves to be at the table. I have now been placing him in his high chair and giving him soft foods that we are eating at dinner. He loves being there with the family and is always so excited. He is grabbing the food and working on getting it to his mouth. The large majority of food falls to the floor or into the chair, but he tries so hard. He is doing a great job and I am working hard to not compare him with his brother.

We have tried a large variety of foods already - Chinese noodles were a big hit, he loved veggie straws, cooked veggies like broccoli was fun to try as well. William loves to try to “help” him eat as well. We are trying to teach William to let Samuel learn on his own.

Key Points with Baby Led Weaning to Remember …

  1. Coughing is good. This is one of the biggest initial challenges with baby led weaning. Most parents worry and freak out when their baby coughs, but coughing is a good thing. The baby is working to protect their airway and learning how to properly do that. Remain calm at the table, we often praise the cough and say “good coughing” with a smile.

  2. Eating is for practice. As I mentioned above so much of the food that I give Samuel never makes it into his mouth. Instead it is all over the floor, in his chair or on his clothes, but that is fine. The goal is smelling, touching, tasting and some eating at meal time. It is a complete sensory experience and the goal is a positive interaction with food.

  3. Keep things positive. Some times the amount of time the baby is in the chair isn’t the entire meal time. There have been a couple of meals, where Samuel was not into eating, was tired and cranky. He sat and tried food for maybe 10 minutes and then when he was obviously done, I asked him “all done?” and then once he was calmer, I took him out of his chair. It isn’t about how long the baby sits in the chair, but instead cultivating a positive eating experience.

  4. Variety. The amazing benefit of baby led weaning is the ability to exposure your child to new foods. Work to eat a variety of foods and then give those to your child as well. We always aim for a vegetable, entree/protein and a fruit at dinner. We try to switch things up and then never order kid’s meals at restaurants. We purchase a regular meal and then share it with the child. Normally the kid’s meal is just chicken nuggets, applesauce, more bland foods with limited variety.

  5. Family meal time. Working to have that family time and sitting together at the table is important for teaching your little one how to eat and how that social event occurs. Children who have family meals do better in school, feel more supported by their family and tend to eat a wide array of foods. This is a win, win, win for all involved.

If you have any questions about baby led weaning, let me know. Check out some of these pictures of our meal time. If you want some additional resources check out - Fortified Family, Feeding Littles, The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook.

processed_IMG_20190810_082132.jpg

Finding The Calm

This post is not directly connected with nutrition, but I felt like I needed to write up something on this topic of anxiety. I think this topic of mental health is not talked about enough and I feel like taking the time to make sure that you are well cared for is important.

I am not sure if you have ever struggled with anxiety. The crazy thing about emotions is that they feel so different for each one of us. The same is true with anxiety. We can all feel anxious or worry about things in different ways. Those concerns can manifest in different ways. Even for the same person, those anxious tendencies can show up in different ways depending on the stressor. I think the key is becoming familiar with yourself and understanding how your body handles stress.

For me, when I feel anxious my entire body reacts to that stress. I get butterflies and my stomach starts to feel nervous. I become nauseated and then from there my body tenses up and my body starts to ache. I normally lose my appetite and can’t eat anything. I have a dry mouth and can’t really consume much besides water. If these feelings persist for an extended period of time then I normally end up getting sick. Thankfully these episodes don’t happen super frequently, but when they do they totally wipe me out for at least a day. The crazy thing is some times I have no idea what the trigger is. For example, I could wake up at that 4am with a queasy stomach and have no idea my I am feel nervous. My body is just obviously stressed and starting to get worked up.

00b54831-fc40-4057-92bc-47be46662433.jpeg

Over the years, I have learned how my own personal anxiety cycle works and that has been helpful in managing it. I can probably count on two hands over the last 20 years the number of times these episodes have happened, but they are never fun and definitely frustrating. Maybe you have similar tendencies when it comes to being anxious or maybe your feelings manifest in a totally different way. The key to managing this stress response is to be embrace it and not to be scare of it.

Managing Those Anxious Feelings

  • Deep, calming breathing. This has been the most helpful at night when I find myself worked up about something. Long, deep breathes in and out (just like in yoga) are helpful to help remind your body to calm down and snap out of that “fight or flight” response.

  • Don’t fear the symptoms. I hate throwing up and that is one of the symptoms with my anxiety that I experience if I get really worked up. I keep having to work to not fear that symptom and just embrace it and then move on.

  • Focus on other things. Often taking that focus away from myself and looking to care for others helps. Those anxious feelings are centered on you and your responses and so when you pull yourself away from that focus and turn that outwards it can help break that anxiety cycle.

  • Pray. This has been very helpful for me. I am religious and believe in God and praying for help, support and calming has been very helpful to be over the years. Believing in someone bigger than myself, looking after me, is very reassuring.

  • Understand and love yourself. Even if you dislike and are frustrated by how you handle your anxiety, you have to learn to love yourself. Even those parts of yourself that you wish were different. Embracing and loving yourself is key to helping to overcome your worries and concerns.

  • Have your support system. Have those people around you who can love you, hug you and remind you that it is ok. You are not alone and these worries shall pass. Those people who you can be honest with and tell them that you are struggling and they can help support you when you need that love.

In the end, no matter what you are amazing and if you struggle with anxiety that is fine. Embrace that part of you, learn how those feelings manifest in your life and work to better control your responses to stress. So much of life you can’t control and the only person we have control over, is ourselves. We all have good days and bad days. In the end, the goal is that those good days far extend the number of bad days.

I wanted to share this to let you know that none of us are perfect. We all have our struggles and you aren’t alone. Whether you work to control your anxiety on your own, if you see a therapist, if you take medication, all these tools can help you be the best version of yourself. If you ever need to reach out and a person to talk to … let me know.

Breakfast .... Is It Really the Most Important Meal of the Day?

I recently had the opportunity to do a media interview with a reporter about breakfast. This topic is near and dear to my heart, because I love breakfast and I am eat something for breakfast every morning. But I have found that you normally fall into one of two camps regarding breakfast … you love it or you don’t eat it.

20190724_114635_0000.png

Breakfast Myths

  • Breakfast is essential for weight loss - What you eat or don’t eat for breakfast does matter. If you eat breakfast, make it a healthy option. If you skip breakfast and eat later, make sure you don’t over eat. Whatever sets you up for success in your day, follow that routine. One of the main reason to consume something for breakfast is to help keep your blood glucose levels stable by providing your body with fuel. Aim to consume some protein option with your breakfast meal and just not empty calories.

  • Skip the boxed breakfast cereal - Yes, there are definitely some sugary options out there when it comes to breakfast cereal and they are not all nutritionally dense. Aim to find a cereal that is whole grain (may have oat/barley added to it) and pair that cereal with a protein source (like an egg, yogurt or even a cheese stick).

  • Eating 3 meals a day will mean you eat less - That is not always the case, lots of time we snack because we are bored, stressed or trying to stay awake. We often snack for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger. So if you eat breakfast (choose options with 3 food groups) and watch out for late night snacks or other mind-less eating. Think about why you are eating and if you are really hungry.

  • I’m too busy for breakfast - There are lots of easy and fast things you can grab on the run for breakfast. You can grab a granola bar, bring a hard boiled egg, grab a cheese stick, eat some yogurt topped with fruit and cereal or even something savory like a sandwich with meat, cheese and veggies.

Why is a healthy breakfast helpful for your body? A healthy breakfast is important, because it is the act of breaking that fast your body has been in overnight. You want to fuel your body with healthy foods to provide it with all those essential vitamins and minerals to function to the best of its ability. When we consume a healthy breakfast we are providing our body with the fuel/energy to work and do whatever tasks we have to complete for that day. If we skip breakfast, your body might take longer to “wake up” or “kick into gear” and that might be why you feel sluggish in the morning. You might also notice if you eat some food items that are not nutritionally dense (like a donut and sugary coffee) then you might feel a “crash” a few hours later, because your body has quickly processed/metabolized that food and if needed more fuel.

How accurate is it to say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” I would have to say that isn’t super accurate. I would argue that one meal isn’t the MOST important, but instead all the meals matter that you choose to eat. Your body runs on whatever food you consume and each time you put something in your mouth that matters. This is a positive thing, because if you have had a rough day and made some not so healthy choices, that is ok, because that next meal you have a change to make a healthy choice. So what you choose to eat at each meal is important. If you choose to eat breakfast, great … if you choose to skip an early morning meal and you eat a little later, that is fine too as long as you are choosing healthy foods!

Budgeting and Meal Planning

I know over the last year or so I have written a couple of posts about budgeting and working to save some money. Well on that exciting front, I have some neat news to report. We have started to use an app called YNAB (You Need A Budget) and it has been life changing. In my last blog post about saving money I talked about emptying out your pantry and how using up your food is helpful in saving money. I need to plan this next week to work to do that again … purge the items that you have accumulated over the last few weeks and use up literally ALL the things in the refrigerator and pantry.

IMG_20190709_210009.jpg

What we have been focusing over the last month or two has been eating out less. I have worked to meal plan over the years, but I have been using a new list from The Happy Planner and I love it. My mother-in-law gave me this planner and I left it on my desk for awhile, but I picked it up again in the last couple of months and I am obsessed with it. It has been so helpful to have a grocery list on one side and then a meal planning list on the other side. I take the list with me to the store, purchase ONLY the items on the list and then use the meal planning side during the week at home. Then as we make each item I check off that meal and it helps me keep track of what else I have to prepare for the week. I don’t get caught up in what day I prepare what food items. With this new list, we have been better about eating at home and not eating out as much. The combination of using YNAB and then meal planning has really helped us saving money.

We have been budgeting groceries, household items and alcohol separately. This has been helpful as well to see where our money goes throughout the month. We have worked to give each of the dollars we earn a purpose. Then we have the freedom to use that money throughout the month in our budget. If we don’t use that money then we save it for the next month and if we overspend in a certain category then we have to take that money from another area (and give up something else).

I think the main lesson we have learned in the last several month is intentionality. We are trying to be intentional with the money we have and what we decide to spend it on. We stick with our weekly food schedule and I routinely go to the grocery on Sunday afternoons. I make out my list and menu for the week, purchase those items and then bring them home for the week. That is our schedule. My husband has been taking a packed lunch with him and then when he works late he has a microwave dinner he will take with him. That way we all eat out much less and when we do choose to eat out it is a fun thing that we all enjoy!

What ways are planning on working to save money this week? Do you use a budgeting app? What have you found to help you use your money more intentionally?

Infant Driven Feeding

I had the opportunity to listen to a CCC-SLP talk about infant driven feeding and working with infants to learn how to eat in a positive manner. I know for most of you this might seem like a simple concept, but for all babies it is an acquired skill.Please recognize that I am not a SLP, but I am a pediatric RD and I have been trained in infant feeding and the SOS feeding method. I am not here to try to diagnose swallow dysfunction, but instead to focus on watching feeding cues and helping to create a positive feeding environment.

A baby in utero starts to suck and swallow as early as 12 weeks gestation. Throughout their time in utero they are sucking in amniotic fluid and then swallowing it and peeing it out. The act of eating is a series of processes - sucking, swallowing and breathing and doing this in a coordinated manner. For those babies born early, they miss out on practicing this skill in utero. We will watch for oral feeding cues around the 32-34 week gestation mark and then often infants will be allowed to start orally feeding ~34 weeks gestation with proper feeding cues.

Well what are feeding cues? Feeding cues include behaviors that a baby is going to show that they are hungry. This could include, waking up, starting to move around/fuss, putting hands in our around their mouth, and rooting whenever anything gets near their mouth. Most of us are familiar with cues to show that a baby might be hungry.

I would say that most adults are less familiar with stress cues. What are stress cues? These are signs that a baby is showing that they don’t want to eat. This would be if they are arching/pulling away from the bottle or breast, if their brow is furrowed, if they are excessively blinking their eyes, crying, trying to not latch onto the bottle or breast, not opening their mouth, putting their tongue to the roof of their mouth or simply not sucking on the bottle or breast. These are all signs that the baby isn’t ready or wanting to orally feed.

For most term infants who are healthy, after the first few days of life they are getting the eating routine down and they learn those skills and take off. With preterm infants, this is a lot harder and they don’t tend to have such positive experiences all the time. Eating is extremely hard work, it is exhausting and if they are sick, have low stores and can easily burn more calories than they are consuming if feedings go longer than 30 minutes. Plus if you are pushing a baby to orally feed, who isn’t ready you can create a feeding problem. That baby can silently choking or aspirate that breast milk or formula and that can lead to an infection, like pneumonia. Unlike older children or adults, babies don’t really cough when they choke. They can still choke on a feeding and you wouldn’t know (we call that silent aspiration).

Why I am going through and sharing this information with you all? Because this has been a topic of discussion in our NICU, because one of the basic things a baby needs to do to go home is eat. So much focus is placed on volume intakes and growth and parents get caught up in volumes and trying to meet numerical goals. Volumes do matter, but honestly for the long term development of a child, volumes don’t matter as much as the quality of the feeding. Is the child calm, able to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing and are they able to take an appropriate volume in an appropriate amount of time while keeping their composure. Having well trained RNs who can watch for stress cues and are able to help teach the baby who is eat in a calm way is key to the long term feeding success for that child. Most parents who have term infants, don’t have to stress and worry about feedings in the same way as a parent of a preterm infant. The key is help teach parents how to properly feed their preterm baby so that the baby and the parents are not stressed. Whether you are feeding your preterm or term baby, make sure you watch for any stress cues with PO feedings and then stop a feeding if the baby isn’t able to maintain a calm state. It is not worth force feeding a baby. If you have questions or concern about your child and feeding, reach out to your pediatrician to talk about your concerns and they can help get you in touch with SLP to discuss any oral motor feeding concerns.

NICU PO feeding.jpg


Toddlers and Family Meal Times

It has been a little bit of time since I had written about working with your child and eating. You all know that I am firm believer in Baby Lead Weaning and that is what we did with William starting at 6 months. I plan to do a similar thing with Samuel here starting at the end of August. Over the last 2 years we have worked hard to expose William to wide variety of foods and have him eat whatever we are eating. Baby Lead Weaning worked great for us and we really loved the variety and flexibility with feeding William whatever we were eating that day.

No that 6 month old baby has grown into a 2 year old toddler with opinions on food. As my child has gotten older, I am still a firm believer in baby lead weaning and now things are looking a little different with toddler meal times. For example, this morning for breakfast, I made yogurt, topped with chopped strawberries and toast with butter and jam. I had this out on the table for breakfast. When my toddler got to the table he was all upset that I had given that yogurt and he wanted other yogurt. Then he didn’t want toast, he wanted cereal. So we had tears and I informed him that his breakfast was made and he was welcome to eat it and if not then he would be hungry, but this is the meal that mommy made for him.

If you have a toddler, you understand that they want to exert their independence and then they don’t like change. It is a perfect storm if something deviates from a plan and their “freedom” gets “taken away.” This is a learning opportunity though. I could easily could have given my child what he asked for at breakfast, another yogurt and cereal and I would have avoided tears, but then that power shifted from me to my toddler. Then you know the next morning, we could have the same meltdown again. It wouldn’t have been a long term solution.

Please remember, that you are the parent and you should feel empowered at meal time that you provide the food and your toddler decides how much they want to eat. Meal time for toddlers is a balancing act between independence and then following directions. You are welcome to give your child choices, but then once they decide something you have to stick with that decision. The other thing that toddlers are is indecisive. For example I bring snacks for the drive home. We eat an apple and I have been bringing a cheese stick. This afternoon, I offered my toddler his cheese stick and he said “no!” I was like “ok,” got in the front seat and we drove off. He then had a melt down because he wanted a cheese stick. I had to remind him that I had offered it to him and he has refused it. I waited until he calmed down, asked him if he wanted it again, when he said “yes” I reminded him to say “please” and then I gave it to him. Again, in that scenario, I kept reminding him that he had said “no” and refused what I offered. Remember, you as the parent get to decide what the child eats and when they eat it, but the child gets to decide how much or if they refuse.

Toddlerhood can be challenging, but I think the key components from Baby Lead Weaning (offering healthy foods, giving 2 choices, deciding when the child gets the food) hold true. Working and teaching the toddler how to communicate what they want and then letting them decide how much they are eating of the offered food item. So if you have toddlers, don’t get discouraged. Stick with your word, don’t back pedal and reassure yourself and your toddler that is the best thing for everyone. Meal time is suppose to be a positive time when everyone is together at the dinner table. Some nights are more positive than others, but even on those rough nights, taking the time to eat together is important.

Read More

The Evolution of the Packed Lunch

As I was packing my lunch, I was thinking about all the times I have packed my lunch and how many years I have been doing this task. Well, that answer is since 2010. I started packing a lunch during my dietetic internship, because it was cheaper than purchasing a lunch at the hospital where I worked and since then I have done it everyday that I have worked (well almost every day). For 9 years, I have spent time putting together my lunch and carrying it into work. This might seem like such a boring and totally uneventful thing to write a blog post about, but I started to think about this more in depth and I thought it was so interesting.

Bare with me. Don’t stop reading, stay with me and follow this chain of thought. Some things have changed over the years, like when I packed my lunch (the night before vs the morning of) or even what all I put in my lunch, but the components have stayed the same. I have always brought with me my lunch and snacks. Those snacks have included yogurt, crackers, and an apple. And then with my lunch it always included a protein, a grain, veggies and fruit. For 9 years the parts of lunch have been the same, but what those exact items were has changed. I have to admit that lots of fad diets don’t even last 9 years.

Packing Your Lunch.png

Over the past nine years some things have changed or adapted during that time, but one thing has persisted … I always bring my lunch

Changes in Packing a Lunch

  • My first year of working during my dietetic internship, I was living on my own and just making a lunch for myself and taking into work with me. I would make up something for dinner the night before and then take the left overs to work with me. Since it was just me in Kokomo, IN during the week I would make 1-2 meals a week and then eat those throughout the entire week for dinner/lunch. I would often box up the leftovers in smaller containers after I made the meal.

  • After finishing my internship, I got my first job and moved back to Lafayette, IN. I was working in a hospital and living in an apartment on my own and still packing my lunch. I would often make meals during the week for myself or Chas and I and then I would take the left overs to work. I would often put together my lunch bag in the morning before I headed to work. This was a cheaper option compared to buying my meals at work.

  • I continued to pack my lunch after I got married and Chas moved in with me. Chas started working in Indianapolis for the Boy Scouts and it wasn’t super feasible at that time for him to pack a lunch so I just continued packing my lunch in the morning before work.

  • We moved in Lebanon, IN and Chas was closer to his job. He would drive south and I would drive north and I continued to pack my left overs for lunches and then snacks for my drive to/from Lafayette each day. I would get my coffee ready in the morning for both of us and then hit the road for my 45 minute commute. My snacks would always include yogurt, an apple, string cheese, crackers. I would eat the yogurt at the end of the work day and then the other snacks while driving, because commuting is boring.

  • I ended up taking a new job in Indianapolis at St Vincent, we continued to live in Lebanon and I still packed my lunch. It was cheaper and easier to just continue packing my lunch. Chas took a new job within Boy Scouts and I started packing his lunch as well. He would eat in the break room and had access to a microwave. So I would pack left overs for both of us to take to work and include veggies, fruit, protein and a grain.

  • We ended up moving again to Noblesville, IN and I continued to drive to St Vincent and Chas started going to Anderson, IN. I tried to pack lunches for him, but his schedule was all over the place and some times it worked well and other times he didn’t need a lunch. I still look my snacks and ate them while driving the 30 minutes to/from work.

  • Chas ended up going to graduate school in Muncie, IN and we were still living in Noblesville. It made the most sense for him to take a lunch to school and then purchase dinner if he needed it. That ended up being the cheapest option for us. I had to pack items that would stay in a cooler bag and didn’t have to be microwaved, because he didn’t have easy access to a microwave. I would pack soup in a thermos and then lots of sandwiches with fresh veggies and fruit. I continued to take my left overs to work.

  • At the end of graduate school, we moved into Indianapolis and Chas started working downtown. He rides the bus and then I pack his lunch that he takes at eats for lunch each day. I pack left overs for both of us. I also packed William’s lunch to go to his nanny’s house and it often was left overs as well. We all had our lunch bags and every night after dinner I pack lunches. Now it looks different, because I have three lunch bags and one bottle bag for Samuel. I measure out milk for his 3 bottles and then pack meals for the other three of us.

As you can see over the last nine years, we have moved changed jobs, added family members and those family members have been growing up. One thing as stayed consistent … I always pack my lunch and pack meals for the other family members. Taking our lunch has saved us lots of money over the years and honestly is healthier for us. When Chas was eating out during his time at the Boy Scouts and even during graduate school, it wasn’t always healthy options. Being in control of what goes into those lunch bags is key to making healthy choices and leading a healthy life.

So if you pack your lunch, great job! If you don’t pack your lunch and you want to … go for it! It is worth the time and effort!

Self Goals

What goals do you have for yourself? When was the last time that you took a moment and ask yourself that question? These goals can be personal goals, career goals, fitness goals, etc. I am a firm believer in always learning and moving towards a goal. We are on this earth for a short amount of time and I really believe strongly in leaving things better than before we found them. So that is what prompts me to ask you … what goals do you have for yourself.

Goals for 2019.jpg

For the last two years I have done a Year End Review here on my blog and you can see the 2018 Year End Review and then the 2017 Summary. I tried to put together a year end review looking at what I had done over the last 12 months. I think that is great and the start to another year is the perfect time to think ahead and reflect on the year past. But here at the end of May, start of June and the beginning of the summer … why not take a moment and look at yourself and see what goals you want to accomplish and what things have you maybe already done! I have decided to go through and make some sections and then list out things that I have been working on and things that I have accomplished already in 2019. Take the time to think through what categories you have and what goals you want to accomplish for yourself.

Personal Goals

  • Read a book. I know this sounds super simple, but I have such limited free time that I haven’t read many books for fun. I did take the time during my maternity to read the Rachel Hollis book, Girl Wash Your Face and it was fantastic. I really enjoy reading and loved take the time to read that book.

  • I would like to read another book for fun in 2019 … if you have any good suggestions, send them my way.

Career Goals

  • Present at FNCE in Philadelphia. This is happening and I have to admit this was such a crazy journey to make this presentation pitch and I am still over the moon that our proposal was chosen and I can’t wait to speak at FNCE!

  • Complete the Certified Lactation Counselor course. This training is happening in November and I am planning on attending that conference and taking that lactation exam so I can work more with mothers who are breast feeding and/or pumping.

  • Grow Mini Minds Nutrition Counseling. i have been working hard to try to grow some clients for Mini Minds and provide more outpatient nutrition counseling. I have worked with three families now and taught two classes. I would love to continue to do more so if you know anyone who would benefit from nutrition counseling, send them my way!

Fitness Goals

  • Run in at least one race in 2019. My sister is planning to come into town in August and we are going to run a race together! It is a 10K and so not super long, but that is fine, because training takes time and I seem to have limited hours in the day. I would love to commit to a half marathon, but I am not sure that realistic for 2019. I will see how getting back into running is going and maybe by spring of 2020 I will be ready to race 13.1 miles again.

  • See a Women’s Health PT. I need to schedule to see a women’s health PT and work on abs after having Samuel and then my pelvic floor strength again. I did this after William and it was worth all the time and money.

This isn’t a crazy long list of goals, but just somethings I have been thinking about and taking them time to write out these goals helps to increase your odds of accomplishing them. So take a moment and think about what you would like to accomplish for yourself, write down those goals and then set out to accomplish them!

Healthier Summer Cookout

This weekend is Memorial Day and that means the official kick off to summer is here! That means lots of time outside, cooking out, playing in the pool and enjoying a bonfire in the evening. I love summer time and there is so many fun activities to do. I wish that I was a teacher and able to take off for the summer, but sadly that is not the case so instead I cram all the summer time activities into the weeknights and weekends.

I was on WTHR-13 this past week talking about healthier cook outs and some tips to help make sure you have a safe and healthy cook out/picnic this weekend and then throughout the summer. I thought it would be great to share some of these tips and recommendation with you all.

cookout400_265.jpg

Creating a Safe and Healthy Cook Out

  1. Drink Wisely - During the summer, we enjoy nice cold beverages. It is important to be aware of what is in your favorite cool drink. If you drink alcohol there are calories in that beer (154 calories/can) or wine (125 calories/5oz) and if you prefer a mixed, sugary drink there are quite a few calories hidden in there as well (455 calories/8oz for a margarita). Work to minimize the number of calories you are getting from your drinks. Make sure that you are getting enough water. Your body is made up of 60% of water and staying hydrated during the summer time is extremely important. Carry a water bottle with you or have a container of water with you at your desk throughout the day.

  2. Pick Fresh Foods - The summer time is when most fruits/vegetables are in season. That means that you can purchase fresh produce at a much cheaper price compared with in the winter time. Stock up on these nutritiously dense fruits and vegetables throughout the summer. These produce items are also low in calories and high in vitamins/minerals which helps keep your body functioning well. You can get these fresh items from your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market. You can even grow them in your backyard. That is a great way to incorporate exercise, saving money and learning where your food comes from! Plus, grilling fruits and vegetables is a fun way to enjoy more of these items at your next cookout.

  3. Check Temperatures - Make sure that you have a thermometer for checking your meat that you are grilling. Under cooking meat and then keeping it in the temperature danger zone is one of the easiest ways to create a great environment for food borne illnesses. The temperature danger zone is between 40-140 degrees F. This is the ideal zone for bacteria to grow and multiple. That is why it is important to get your chicken up to 165 degrees F, ground beef up to 160 degrees F and pork up to 145 degrees F. After grilling meat, make sure that it is eaten quickly or only stays at room temperature for 2 hours. If you know you are going to be out at a campsite or a park, bring a cooler with ice to help cool food down and keep it cold (<40 degrees F) to prevent bacteria growth. Keep cold items out for 2 hours and or only 1 hour if it is >90 degrees F outside. Keeping food safe will help to make your cookout more enjoy and prevent anyone from getting sick.

  4. Enjoy Snack Foods in Moderation - It is easy to fill your plate with those delicious snack foods that we bring to cookouts – the chips, dip, cookies and mayo heavy side salads. These can be great traditional cook out foods, but just make sure that you are enjoying them in moderation, keeping them at safe temperatures and then fill up on plenty nutritious fruits and vegetables. We also tend to enjoy grilling processed meats at cookouts (hot dogs, brats or even frozen hamburgers). These can contain lots of added salt and preservatives. If you are trying to follow a heart healthy diet, make sure that you are aware of what is in these food items and limit your consumption of them. Pick 1 hot dog instead of two and then a small handful of chips and choose seconds of the fruits/vegetables.

Hopefully you all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend and enjoy the extra time with family and friends. If you are in Indianapolis and going to the race, have fun and hopefully it isn’t too wet for everyone.

 

Community Supporting Moms Pumping/Breast Feeding

I had the opportunity to meet the creator of the Pumpspotting App this last weekend - Amy Vanharen. This app is such a neat program that works to create a space for pumping/breast feeding mothers to come together. I was able to meet up with the Pumpspotting bus that is touring around the United States. It had come to Carmel, IN at Urban Chalkboard and it was so neat to get see what this company was working towards. Their mission is to make breast feeding and postpartum less isolating and more supportive at every stage of the journey.

Pumpspotting Tour Schedule - CLICK HERE

I honestly wasn’t super familiar with the Pumpspotting App, but I love the idea of having a space for women to support each other and help one another find good places to pump/breast feed their child(ren). If you haven’t seen the app before, definitely check it out.

This also made me think about the whole idea of “mom guilt” that can surround feeding your baby. So many mothers feel like there is a certain standard for the best way to feed your baby and have such emotional feelings about this topic. If you think about it, feeding your baby is one of the most basic and motherly instincts that you experience. Feeding your baby is challenging and whether you are formula feeding or using breast milk it is challenging to feed your baby around the clock. As a Registered Dietitian, I appreciate seeing the evidence and knowing what is scientifically proven when it comes to making nutrition choices a child. Using breast milk for babies is the most natural and the most ideal option for a term, healthy newborn. Formula is an amazing tool that has helped to provide well-rounded nutrition to those infants who need an alternative to breast milk. Working in a NICU, we use formula and additives all the time to help these small, preterm infants grow appropriately because they have increased energy needs. When it comes to feeding your baby, there are so many factors at play and each mom/baby are different and each pregnancy is different. Making that choice that is best for you and your baby is important.

Having a community to help support you as a mother is key. Whether is an app like Pumpspotting, a group like the CityMoms or close friends you trust. Parenting is hard and as a mother feeding your baby is tough. If you choose to breast feed, that can be extra challenging at times as well. I am so happy to see that there are moms out there working to build one another up and support each other! Here’s to you mama and all that hard work you put into caring for your child(ren).

Read More

The Hardest Part of Running Your Own Nutrition Business

This blog post idea came to me while I was reading a Facebook post written by a mother asking about infant feeding advice. She was asking about a trendy formula item and asking for feedback about what she should do. Her child is an ex-premie with issues with reflux and has been exclusively breast fed. I had to replay and say something, because I couldn’t not offer a nugget of knowledge on this topic. But that leads me into one of the hardest things I have learned about owning my own nutrition business. She then appreciated my feedback and responded with more questions. That was great engagement, but the advice she was asking for “free nutrition advice” is how I make money for my business. That is my wheel house and I feel like I would do a disservice to myself and my profession. Plus, giving out nutrition advice online is dangerous in terms of a liability perspective.

RDN.jpg

I don’t sell a physical item. I provide people with knowledge on a complicated topic, nutrition. The interesting thing is that this complex topic involves food and the act of eating, which we all do multiple times a day. Everyone thinks they already know about food and they don’t need an expert on that topic. Unlike a physical therapist who is working with clients to help them move in a certain way to get stronger, my skills are providing information/knowledge with clients to help them overcome certain food-related issues.

It is incredibly hard to convenience people that is worth paying for nutrition advice. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I sold some product. Anyone will purchase a physical item from someone and then they to keep that item, but when you pay for nutrition counseling services you aren’t always getting a physical item. I’m empowering you with knowledge about a certain topic that you get to take with you and use from here on out. The thing I have found challenging is not just handing out nutrition advice for free. That information is my “income” for my business. If you want those recommendations, then you need to pay for that advice. Embracing that idea has been tough. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to help ALL the people and spread all my nutrition knowledge for free to everyone, but that isn’t helpful for me or my profession. You don’t see doctor’s prescriptions for people for free. That knowledge that they possess is their lively hood. The same holds true for Registered Dietitians. Our knowledge lies in knowing how food impacts your life and your well-being.

I don’t want this to come off in a negative way, but instead to help encourage and empower other Registered Dietitians to stand up for what they know and feel confident in asking people to pay for the information they request of you. You don’t have to feel pressured to just give away that knowledge for free.

Emptying Out Your Pantry

It has been a little while since I have posted about budgeting and saving money. I think the last post I did on that topic was back in July of 2018 - to see that post CLICK HERE. Since then we have been able to work towards growing our “rainy day” fund and trying not to dip into savings for any regular expenses. We did have some car repairs in the last half of 2018 for my 2008 Subaru Outback, which was stressful, but that was the major unexpected bill in 2018. We also were anticipating the arrival of baby #2 and trying to make sure we had money saved for those hospital bills. Having a baby is definitely expensive, but thankfully we changed to Chas’ insurance and that helped to decrease the total amount of the bill that we are responsible for after the delivery. We wanted to make sure we were prepared for those anticipated bills.

We started using an budgeting app on our phones - YNAB which stands for You Need A Budget, which is the truth. We needed a better way for us to own the purchases we were making and then work towards some financial goals that we have for ourselves. This app has been fantastic for us! It does cost money for the year, but I know we have saved that money we spent on the app in this first month of using it alone. Both Chas and myself are stubborn and determined so when it comes to seeing those budgeted numbers and trying to stick to them has kind of become a sort of game/challenge.

One of the areas of our budget is grocery items. This excludes any type of household items (cleaning supplies, paper towels, dish soap, etc) and then excludes alcohol as well. We use YNAB for the whole month of April and sure enough we ended up running close to out of budgeted money for food. It was our goal over that last week to eat the food that we had in our pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I am not sure if you have tried to eat ALL the food items that you have tucked away, but it can be a challenge. I managed to find the ramen noodles that were hidden in the way back of the pantry. We ate all the bread, even the heels and then to finish off the week we had waffles for dinner and finished the frozen breakfast sausage that was in the freezer. We cleaned out the refrigerator produce items and had some fruit left, but ate all the veggies but one head of iceberg lettuce. I found a container of maple syrup from a family member that was tucked away as well and we used that instead of purchasing more maple syrup. If you haven’t cleared out your pantry, refrigerator or freezer in awhile I encourage you to give it a try. Work to pull out items that have gotten shoved to the back, check expiration dates, throw out things that have gone bad and eat up some of those food items that you have forgotten you even had.

I found some statistics from The Swag and I just had to share them: Did you know American’s throw out $165 billion of food per year? 40% of food in America is wasted each year. Each year, every American throws out $2,200 worth of food and that is about 300 lbs of food.

Screen-Shot-2019-02-27-at-8.34.08-pm.png

Using up the food that your currently have in your pantry is a great way to to economically stick with a budget and to ultimately be a food steward of the things you have. We have so much food waste in America that is it important we all work to decrease how much food we throw out and never eat. So when it comes to saving money and decreasing food waste … clear out your pantry and use up food you have forgotten about and try to eat those items before purchasing more food.


Help, My Child is Vegetarian!

It can take you by surprise if you child comes to you and informs you that he/she have decided to become vegetarian. This can be shocking to a parent and very overwhelming. For families who eat a lot of meat this can be very challenging as well. Learning how to work through this dietary choice as a family is important. I have experienced this first hand in my own family and then also worked to counsel families who are going through this experience.

My younger sister decided to become vegetarian when she was in college. She made the choice to stop eating meat and if I remember correctly this happened in the summer immediately prior to a family vacation. It was challenging for my family, because my sister was also restricting her overall caloric intake and then struggling with disordered eating. My sister has continued to be vegetarian for several years, but has thankfully overcome disordered eating and still practices vegetarianism in a healthier way now. This was obviously challenging for family to navigate my sister’s dietary preferences with the rest of the family.

It is important to help remind the parents that their child is making a choice about their diet isn’t a personal reflection of them, but instead an expression of their child’s independence. Talking through why their child is choosing to avoid meat, where is the desire coming from and what prompted that change? How does it make the child feel? How can the parent work to support their child’s independence in a healthy way? If you child is choosing to be vegetarian that is great, but they need to be choosing healthy foods. Being vegetarian doesn’t mean they should be eating crackers all day with PB&J sandwiches for every meal. Being a healthy vegetarian means that they are consuming more fruits and vegetables and finding ways to increase their consumption of plant based proteins (beans, soy, hemp, etc). Also making their that the child’s choice to be vegetarian isn’t an excuse to calorie restrict. Sometimes disordered eating is masked by a dietary preference like avoiding meat, or cutting out a particular food group. That is unhealthy and not safe for a growing child. Working with a Registered Dietitian to help facilitate these discussions can be helpful. It is tough sometimes for a parent and child to have an open and productive discussion without a 3rd party to help mediate. It is easy for emotions to get in the way and then creative a stressful/hostile environment.

vegetarian.jpg
  1. Discuss this dietary change and what all surrounded this shift in eating. Having this open communication is key to embracing and working through this new behavior in a positive way. This can be where having another person, like a Registered Dietitian, can be helpful to lead this discussion and help both parties (child and the parent) share their feelings in a non-judgmental environment.

  2. Talk about what this means in terms of the family dynamics at meal time and in regards to food preparation. This is one of the biggest challenges. For most families, if one child is choosing a different diet/eating habits from the rest of the family that makes meals complicated and can add stress. Talking about how everyone in this family matters and there will need to be some compromise to make this work. There can’t be two separate meals each night for dinner and the vegetarian child can’t be eating “special” foods all the time that will make other siblings jealous. Coming up with recipes and meal ideas where the family can “build” their own dinner plate with meat and non-meat options can be one of the best ways to accommodate special requests. For example, if you are having hamburgers, then have meat burgers and veggie burgers available for the main entree. If you are having a grilled meat item, then make sure there is an acceptable non-meat option (grilled mushroom, tempeh or vegetables kabobs).

  3. Brain storm ways for the child to help take ownership over his/her meals (list making, shopping, cooking and cleaning up). Including your child in the meal planning and preparation process is a way to help them assuming responsibility for their meals. If your child is choosing to eat vegetarian then they can help come up with food items they would like include for meals/snacks that are healthy and don’t contain meat. They can also help prepare those items since they are part of the family. I believe that all children need to be involved with the food preparation and these skills help them grow up into independent people.

Talking with your child about healthy eating habits is important. Working to accommodate their dietary preferences/choices is important as well. If you child has chosen to be vegetarian, there has to be some reason behind that change. Maybe is stems from a discussion they had with their peers and it leaves them really be grossed out or concerns about processed meat items. Maybe they are trying to restrict calories and that is presentation of vegetarianism is just a symptom of a deeper issue. As the parent, talking with your child is key to better understand what they are thinking and working with them to make healthy decisions. If you have questions about working with your child and dealing with food choices/dietary changes, let me know and I would love to be able to work with you and your child.

ADHD and Nutrition Intake

I recently had the opportunity to work with a family whose son was diagnosed with ADHD and I started doing some more in depth research on nutritional intake. Just like with anyone, what you eat can have an impact on how you feel and how your body works. As the years have gone by there has gotten to be more research on the topic of nutritional intake and ADHD.

ADHD-384x288.jpg

Sometimes children with ADHD are not always interested in eating enough food and sometimes medications they are put on cause a decrease in appetite. Making sure that children with ADHD are eating three meals a day with two snacks is important. So working to optimize the nutritional intake of the meals and snacks will help give you the biggest nutrition bang for your buck. Noting the timing of the medication and then when your child is the least hungry compared with being the most hungry. Trying to time nutrient dense meals/snacks around those optimal eating times can be helpful as well.

There are some key nutrients that have been shown to be low in children with ADHD. It is true that for all of us our food intake plays a big role on our behavior. Often children with ADHD had sub-optimal eating habits and parents tend to feed these children whatever foods they will accept and eat, because meal times are stressful. Learning more about what nutrients can be focused on and then working to offer these children well balanced meals and snacks can have a big impact on how that child feels, how they grow and how well their brain functions. The following is a list of nutrients that have been researched and shown to have some positive impact and correlations with improved ADHD symptoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder and the thought is if we provide a fat supplement this will help with brain neurotransmission and help treat any behavioural dysfunction disorders. Your brain uses fat as fuel and making sure that you are choosing anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats and consuming enough of those has been shown to have a positive impact on behavior outcomes.

  • Food sources that contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids include: flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, cold water fish (salmon, mackerel and trout). Limit consumption of fish in young children to 2-3 servings per week.

  • What about a supplement? There is a product that has been researched and has a blend of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) and Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and children in this study took this supplement over 12 months and didn’t need to increase their medicine dose and reduced their ADHD symptoms. Equazen is available in pill or gummy form through Amazon.

Iron

Zinc

Magnesium