Todays Guest Blog comes from Andrea Carpenter, a Registered Dietitian based in Toronto’s downtown east. Having food fights at home? Her company NutriKidz, provides assistance to families struggling with childhood nutritional issues. if your little one has a complex medical condition, has food allergies or needs support with weight changes, Andrea has the knowledge and experience to help your child reach their health potential through nutrition interventions. Want to see more from Nutrikidz? You can follow them on Instagram too. Welcome Andrea!
March is nutrition month! This year the focus is on ‘taking the fight out of food’. Food is meant to be enjoyed, not stressed and fought over. However, meals for many families have become a battleground. As a pediatric Registered Dietitian, I understand the importance of nutrition at every age, and the struggles parents have with feeding themselves and their children. Between work, extracurricular activities, kid’s daycare or school, and other commitments, the thought of coming home to create, prepare, eat, and cleanup is one of the most dreaded tasks of the day for parents.
I assure you, mealtime doesn’t always have to be a constant battle. Below are my top ten tips for setting your family up for nutrition success and taking the fight out of food. No more food fights!
Structure and daily schedules are important for children. Organizing your meals should be no different. The first step to success is to get into a pattern of eating 3 meals a day with snacks in between. This consistency encourages children to understand their own body’s hunger and satiety cues. It also helps to take some of the stress off parents when their child doesn’t eat well at a given meal or snack. With structured meals and snacks, parents can relax knowing there are multiple opportunities for a healthy meal throughout the day.
2. Rushed Meals, not Nutrition
The idea of a relaxed seated meal with the whole family isn’t always realistic. With competing commitments in our busy lives, family meals are often not made a priority. We can still eat well without ordering takeout or relying on frozen packaged meals, it just takes a little planning and organization. Keep nutritious grab and go items in your fridge or pantry for rushed meals and snacks, without sacrificing nutrition. Homemade trail mix, sliced veggies with legume dip, whole grain crackers, hard boiled eggs – these are all items that pack nutrition, and can be eaten on the go.
3.Specified Grocery List
Planning your meals and the recipes you want to make is key to a successful grocery store haul. If you are organized with a specific list, you’ll end up spending less money and you won’t be throwing out wasted food. In order to ensure you stick to your list, make sure you don’t go grocery shopping hungry.
4.Expert Label Reading
Packaged foods find their way into even the healthiest of homes. Navigating the Nutrition Facts table and product health claims can be tricky, even with a nutrition degree. A few simple strategies are to compare similar products using the nutrition facts table, using the percent daily value (% DV), and reading the ingredients. Products that contain >15% DV contains a lot of that nutrient, whereas <5% DV contains a little of that nutrient. When choosing packaged foods, look for products that have: < 15 % DV for sodium; a limited number of ingredients; ingredients you can pronounce; low sugar, especially added sugar (less than 8 grams of sugar per serving); and high fibre (4 grams or more per serving).
5. Prepping for Success
After a long and busy day at work, one of the last things you want to do before getting the kids off to bed, is spend it in the kitchen, peeling, cutting, slicing, and dicing to make the Pinterest perfect meal for your family. Instead, go grocery shopping for your meals for the week, then take the food back home to start batch cooking and meal prepping. Even something as simple as washing fruits and vegetables (and slicing them up) ensures that you are your family will snack on nutritious foods. Batch meal prep is the best way to ensure you are eating nutritious foods throughout a busy week, without spending hours in the kitchen every day.
6.Feeding the Picky Eater
At some point in our lives, many of us have dealt with a child known to be a picky eater. Nearly 30% of parents report having one at home. The foundation of feeding picky eater begins with establishing roles at the dinner table. Parents and children both have defined roles at meals – parents are the ones who decide what food is offered, while children decide how much, what, and if they will eat. Parents, do not become a short order cook! When the time allows for it, try to make foods fun and kid friendly, avoid repetition, and get the whole family involved with part of the meal for even just a few meals per week.
Water is the best beverage for our bodies and it should be available throughout the day.
Unsweetened milk or milk alternatives can provide protein, calcium, and vitamin D and they are the next best choice. Other beverages tend to have added sugar, or be sources of concentration sugars, such as natural fruit or vegetable juices. These choices should be limited to less than ½ cup per day as they can contribute to excess calories and unintentional weight gain.
Snacks are smaller portions which should provide a little pick-me- up to keep hunger at bay until your next meal. Snacks should leave you feeling satisfied, not stuffed. Highly processed items will contain extra sugar which can cause rapid changes in blood sugars. This will leave you feeling zapped of your energy, and feelings of going back for more. Instead, snack on whole foods like fresh fruits and veggies between your meals.
9.Progress, not Perfection
Let’s be realistic here. Not all meals need to be perfect. Try to make it a habit to eat healthy most of the time, and enjoy all foods in moderation.
You spend at least 20-30 minutes making a meal (and generally that much time to clean up!), so try not to rush through the meal. By slowing the pace of the meal down, you not only get to really enjoy the meal with your family, but your brain needs that time to register that you’ve just eaten. In fact, it takes our brains about 20 minutes to figure out were full! Make mealtime an opportunity to relax with your family, discuss the day’s activities, and any upcoming plans.
The next time you are faced with a fight around food, keep the above tips in mind. A little organization, meal planning and prepping, can go a long way to instilling lifelong healthy habits around food for the whole family.