This morning’s newspaper contained a brief article by Barbara Quinn (Knight Ridder News Service) outlining nine of the American Heart Association’s general tips for feeding kids right. In our paper, at least, it was set under the headline “New data for feeding kids”. New? As far as I can tell, it’s the same old same old thing, some of which I can get on board with, some of which is downright hogwash. And the same old same old hogwash at that. To wit:
Save fat free milk for youngsters 2 years and older.
As far as I’m concerned, you can save fat free milk for some purpose other than human consumption. Or, if humans must drink it, perhaps save it for mixing with heavy cream. I recall my mother years ago when the low fat nonsense first began gaining traction trying to foist skim milk off on my dad, who called it “blue john” and wouldn’t touch it.
I do applaud the AHA for at least recognizing that developing infants and toddlers need the fat and that it’s not good for them to go fat free. Course, it’s not really good for any of us to go fat free. Admittedly, however, my love of dairy fat isn’t without a cautionary note, and that is this: Remember that any toxins, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and heavy metals will be stored in the fat of the animal and this includes the fat in the milk. Organic dairy is a good place to spend a little extra in your food budget.
Delete extra juice from your child’s diet.
I agree with this directive, but what’s extra? Most fruit juice really is nothing more than soda in disguise with a few vitamins and mineral thrown in. Our daughters-in-law dilute fruit juice about 1 part to 4 or 5 parts water for the grandangels, both to limit their intake of it and to stealthily encourage water consumption. And why not just offer the fruit?
Add several bites of fruit and vegetable to each meal.
I’m on board with that one. Kids need to be exposed again and again to a variety of these foods at a young age to allow their palates to develop, if not for the sake of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain, then at least to make it easier for them when they are thrust into social situations–say dinner at a friend’s house–where such exotics as carrots and green beans might appear on the plate.
The grandangels have their favorites: Peas for #2; blueberries and raspberries for #3; and when #1 was a year old, he reached over his birthday cake slice to get to his ham and green beans and would corral handfuls of grapes and blueberries from his dinner tray like a croupier gathering in the chips.
Download some healthy fats into your child’s diet, …
Okay, I’m with this. Kid’s brains need good fat, their immune systems need good fat, their cells need good fat, their endocrine systems need good fat. (Just like adults, only more so.) Our fats of choice are the fats found in good quality natural meats, poultry, and small cold water fish, purified sources of DHA/EPA, organic dairy, olive oil, nuts/nut butters, organic lard, and coconut oil. But then the AHA recs spoil this momentary meeting of the minds with…
…such sources as monounsaturated [okay] and polyunsaturated [uh-oh] fats found in fish [okay, as long as it’s not full of mercury], nuts [okay], and vegetable oils. [Eeeeeek!]
See, I told you, same old same old stuff.
The last few items relate to what the author calls upgrading your feeding skills, and most of it is good advice, as long as you don’t follow the dietary advice that precedes it.
Parents, you decide what foods are appropriate, when it’s time for a snack and where dinner is eaten. Kids decide whether they will eat and how much they eat.
Can’t argue with this. Too often, especially with toddlers, parents stress mightily over whether a child eats “enough” to suit them. It’s a fruitless and counterproductive to force a child to eat a particular food or a certain amount of a food. All it can do is draw the battle lines. What parents can and should do, however, is to gently say such something along the lines of “Little boys/girls who choose not to eat their supper may not have a sweet treat afterwards. It’s up to you.” This lets the child have some control, which–let’s be frank here–even an infant already has when it comes to putting food into the mouth, chewing, and swallowing.
Back up your words with actions
This is the grandaddy of all advice related to getting your children to do (fill in the blank). Children learn by example. The old “do as I say, not as I do” excuse won’t fly and nowhere is this more evident than in eating habits. If you expect your kids to eat a health diet, rich in good quality protein, healthy fats, fresh low-starch veggies and low sugar fruits, you’d be well advised to be eating that diet yourself.
Offer your kids good food at home, recognizing that they may stray from the fold when they’re out on their own with their peers. Still, lessons learned at home, especially those learned early, will finally resurface as they mature. Recognize, too, that although kids like kid friendly foods, as a parent you can appeal both to their tastes and make it healthy fare with a little ingenuity. Toward that end, we included a chapter of recipes, called Kid Stuff, in our latest cookbook, the companion to our PBS tv series, Low Carb CookwoRx and featured kid friendly recipes on the show itself. If you’ve got a finicky kid palate in the house, are at wit’s end with trying to get your child to eat well, and need a little inspiration, give some of these recipes a try and you may be pleasantly surprised that peace and good nutrition really can coexist at the table.