Currently browsing posts about: Kids’ diets

Dec 9 2013

Book mini-review: It’s Not About the Broccoli

As we head into the holiday season, I’m going to catch up on books that might make welcome gifts for the people in your life who think that food is about more than just eating.  Here’s one for food-worried parents:

Dina Rose.  It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating.  Perigree, 2014

I blurbed this one:

I am constantly hearing from parents that they have no idea what their kids are supposed to eat or whether their kids are eating ‘right.’ [It's Not About the Broccoli] provides just what parents need to feed kids properly, stop worrying, and start enjoying mealtimes with kids. Dina Rose looks at feeding kids from a sociologist’s perspective. When the feeding behavior goes well, kids will get all the nutrients they need. This book ought to reassure parents that following a few simple principles will get their kids fed just fine.

Jul 15 2013

Food for kids: “The Best Lunch Box Ever”

Hot summer days are good times to try to get caught up with all the good books about food that are coming out.  Here’s one from someone I knew when she was a student in our department at NYU.

She was a great writer even then.  Now she has kids…

Katie Morford, The Best Lunchbox Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love, Chronicle Books, 2013.

 

I did a blurb for it, of course:

The Best Lunchbox Ever is a terrific gift to anyone who has to pack a lunch for a kid, and wants that lunch to be healthy—and eaten.  Katie Morford has dozens of interesting and sometimes surprising suggestions for easy, delicious, and nutritious lunch items that kids will enjoy—if parents don’t get to them first.  I wish I’d had this book when my kids were in school.

Enjoy and use!

Apr 9 2012

Three terrific books about feeding kids

Karen Le Billon, French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters, HarperCollins, 2012.

I blurbed this one: It takes a brave couple to move two picky-eater kids to a small French town and convert them to foodie omnivores.  North Americans have much to learn from European food traditions, and the contrast between French and North American school lunches is a striking example.  A must-read for teachers as well as parents.

Jeannie Marshall, Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products, Random House, 2012.

I blurbed this one too: Outside the box is about teaching kids how to appreciate real food but also about how globalization is changing the way the world eats.  In this beautifully writeen book about what needs to be done to preserve food culture in Italy and elsewhere, Marshall makes the political personal as she explains how she is teaching her son to enjoy the pleasures of eating food prepared, cooked, and lovingly shared by friends and family.

Bill and Claire Wurtzel, Funny Food: 365 Fun, Healthy, Silly, Creative Breakfasts, Welcome Books, 2012.

I wasn’t asked to blurb this one, but like it anyway:  Your kid doesn’t want to eat real food for breakfast?  No excuses.  This book illustrates 365 breakfasts made of eggs, toast, cereal, pancakes, fruit, cheese, yogurt, and other good things.  These are presented as faces, animals, and toys so easy to do that even a time-challenged parent can whip them up in a second.  I can’t imagine any kid resisting eating foods like these.    Silly, absolutely.  Worth it?  Give it a try.

 

Jan 13 2012

Another pet peeve: can’t kids just eat?

Yes, I know getting kids to eat their veggies can be challenging. 

Cornell researchers wondered this is because kids like different ways of presenting foods than adults.  They tested this idea in a study just published in Acta Pædiatrica.   

Contrary to the default assumption that parents and children share preferences for the ways in which food is presented on plates, we find that children have notably different preferences than adults. 

Most remarkably, we show that children tended to prefer seven different items and six different colours on their ideal plates, while adults tended to prefer three different colours and three different items….Given that adults often prepare plates of food for children to eat, these findings suggest new windows for encouraging diverse childhood nutrition.

I suppose this is the rationale behind the latest approach to getting kids to eat better diets: My Fruity Faces.  These are edible stickers that kids can stick on whatever fruits, vegetables and, presumably, any other food that happens to be handy.

 

The stickers are less interactive and creative than the old Mr. Potato Head toy, but kids can eat them.

And they ought to like eating them: Sugar is the first ingredient. 

Sugar is followed by Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose(Modified Cellulose), Water, Natural flavor, Modified corn starch, Glycerin, Polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, Citric acid, Red beet concentrate, Turmeric, Red cabbage extract, Caramel color, Sodium Bicarbonate.

Yum.

Will something like this reallyget kids to eat more fruits and vegetables?  Cornell researchers: get to work.

Feb 15 2011

Healthy kids’ meals: the default

Margo Wootan, the nutrition policy director at  Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), sent along CSPI’s new materials on its Default Project—making healthy kids’ meals the default.

This is a really good idea.  Plenty of evidence shows that customers typically take the default whenever it is offered.

The idea is that if parents order a “happy meal” for their kids, the meal is automatically a healthy one.  Parents can always order junk food for their kids if they want to, so the choice is theirs.

I’ve been telling restaurant chain owners to do this for years.  It’s great to have the rationale explained and substantiated.  Thanks Margo!

Oct 27 2010

Eating Liberally asks Marion: Is stealth the way to healthy eating for kids?

Every now and then, Kerry Trueman tosses a “Let’s Ask Marion” question at me, and these are invariably a challenge.  Today’s: “Is stealth the way to healthy eating for kids?”

(With a click of her mouse, Eating Liberally’s Kerry Trueman, aka kat, corners Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of Feed Your Pet Right, Pet Food Politics, What to Eat, Food Politics, and Safe Food):

KT: NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story today about “stealth” strategies that some schools and researchers are employing to get kids to eat healthier foods–for example, by sneaking pureed vegetables into a line of cafeteria foods being marketed under the name “Hidden Healthies.”

But doesn’t this approach reinforce the perception kids have that vegetables taste lousy? David Just, co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition, pointed out that “Taste is a suggestion more than anything else. If you think something is going to taste really good — if you’ve been told by others that it tastes good — you build that into your head when you eat it.”

A researcher who’s experimenting with enhanced cafeteria lighting to make healthy foods appear more appealing to kids told NPR, “We got to figure out some things so that the last thing in the world they know is that we’re trying to get them to eat well.”

We know that kids (and plenty of grown-ups!) turn up their noses at foods that are presented to them as healthy. Kids have also come to expect that their preferences should be catered to, which is why carrot and apple growers have begun packaging their products to resemble snack foods like potato chips.

In short, veggies have a serious pr problem. Do these strategies strike you as a good solution?

Dr. Nestle: Oh no! Not stealth again. I thought we were done with that in 2007 when we had to live through the plagiarism fight between Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious, and Missy Lapine’s Sneaky Chef, both of them pushing stealth strategies.

I remember being given hamburgers as a kid and how betrayed and condescended to I felt when they turned out to contain ground spinach—a vegetable I detested at the time but now think is terrific, especially when young and tender. Kids’ tastes do change, and should be encouraged in an honest way.

That is why I am so intrigued by the approach shown in the New York Times “Lunch Line Redesign” op-ed last week. Check out the way that Brian Wansink and his colleagues suggest redesigning lunch lines. These do nothing draconian or deceitful. Instead, they gently nudge kids to made healthier choices on their own.

How? By doing such things as putting salads near the cash register, using bowls instead of trays, and describing the foods more attractively. My favorite of these strategies is simply to ask the kids whether they would like a salad. All of these increase kids’ selection of healthier food choices.

But will the kids eat the foods? Of course they will. From my observations of school meals, the single most important indicator of whether the kids are eating healthfully is if the school food service people know their names and talk to them about what they are choosing. It helps a lot if the food tastes good, but kids respond to adults who care about what they eat.

When I hear parents say that the kids won’t eat anything healthy, I suspect that I’m talking to someone who isn’t willing to take adult responsibility for what kids eat and finds it easier to be stealthy than direct. Kids need to trust the adults in their lives and food should be used to instill trust, not destroy it.

This exchange appeared on the Huffington Post website on October 25 and elicited a response from Missy Chase Lapine, the original Sneaky Chef herself (reproduced with permission):

Dear Dr. Nestle,

I understand you had a bad experience with sneaky spinach as a child, but I respectfully disagree with your position that sneaking healthy food in kids’ meals is a bad idea. As the author of the Sneaky Chef cookbooks, I receive thousands of testimonials from parents to the contrary. They are thrilled that their kids are finally eating veggies–and most of the kids are in on the secret and love it.

The reason sneaking is needed is highlighted in the recent CDC report showing that all of the efforts and billions of dollars spent on nutrition education has failed. Everyone now knows that they SHOULD eat their veggies. The problem is HOW to get them to do it. Teaching alone is conclusively insufficient–we need to sneak and teach. They work hand in hand.

Sneaking veggies gives people an easy way to experience the benefits of eating veggies, yet lets them enjoy their favorite foods, like spaghetti and meatballs–-only now they’re loaded with spinach, broccoli, peas, wheat germ and cauliflower. This direct experience opens the door to learning.

Parents from around the world write me letters like this:

“Every time I use one of your healthy (and sneaky) tips or wonderful recipes, I just want to scream with joy because they eat it.” –Mindi B., TX

The bottom line is: combining “sneaking and teaching” works for everyone.

Respectfully,
Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef

Not exactly everyone, if I may respectfully submit.  But I’m glad she wrote.  OK, readers: opinions, please!

Jan 25 2009

Oops: San Francisco Chronicle columns

I seem to have missed posting a couple of columns from the San Francisco Chronicle:

January 6, 2009:  This one, “ Fussy eaters–they learn by example,” was in response to a question about getting kids to eat real food.

December 17, 2008:  I had so many responses to the November 17 column on salt intake I answered a bunch of follow-up questions in the next one, “The nitty-gritty on sodium intake.”

Jan 7 2009

School interventions work! (Sometimes)

It’s always nice to have some evidence for what you think makes sense.  David Katz and his Yale colleagues analyzed a bunch of studies attempting to improve both school nutrition and physical fitness.  Taken one by one, these studies generally showed negligible improvements in body weight, if any.  But these investigators analyzed a selected group of 19 (of 64) studies that met their inclusion criteria.  Taken collectively, these studies showed that the interventions improved body weight.  The overall effects on weight were small, but in the hoped-for direction.  Katz et al’s conclusion: combined nutrition and physical activity interventions are worth doing, especially when they include parental involvement along with cutting down on TV.

If the link to the paper doesn’t work for you, try the abstract on PubMed.

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