August 16, 2017

Are others offering unhealthy foods to your children? By Kristen Yarker, R.D.

What to Do When Your Friends/Family Offer Unhealthy Foods to Your Children

As a child-feeding expert, the parents who choose to interact with me are parents who value nutrition and want their kids to reap the health benefits of healthy food. So it’s no surprise that it irks them when others give their kids unhealthy foods. And, they ask me how to make it stop.

My advice usually surprises them. I recommend not stopping it. Here’s the two reasons why.  

#1: Yes, it’s tempting to want to control what others feed our kids. But for many people, the way that they express their love to children is by giving them sweets. My experience has been that asking people to stop feeding kids treats doesn’t go well because (even very rational) people feel that you’re asking them to stop loving your kids. It seems silly when I write it so plainly, but the feelings run deep; the symbolism is real.

#2: I understand that as a parent, it’s natural to want to control every single thing in your child’s life. But that’s the trick of parenting isn’t it – giving your kids the skills to handle situations on their own.

Because the reality of the world in which we live (at least here in North America) is that we’re surrounded by unhealthy food. There’s fast food restaurants on almost every block. It’s in the checkout of grocery stores, book stores, hardware stores, clothing stores, etc.

So we need to teach kids how to make healthy choices within this world of unhealthy food. And if we make something taboo, it only drives kids towards it.

What do I recommend? Be a role model. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Make it a daily habit in your home to serve healthy foods. And, occasionally enjoy unhealthy ones too.

If you know that a holiday is coming up that’s associated with unhealthy food (Halloween anyone?) or that your child will be visiting a friend/ family member who serves them unhealthy food, then create the balance by serving healthy foods at home.

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com

Getting Picky Eaters to Try New Foods by Kristen Yarker, R.D.

Child-Feeding Expert Child Feeding Expert’s Secret Tip for Using Packed Lunches to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

It’s back to school. Which is the perfect time for me to share this secret tip that’s been super successful with my picky eater clients.

In the 6 years that I’ve worked with Moms and Dads of picky eaters, I’ve noticed that almost every family makes the same mistake. The only time that they offer their picky child a challenging food is at dinner. (Note that a “challenging food” is either a new food or one that their child has seen many times but refuses to eat). This backfires because even toddlers and preschoolers will notice this pattern. And so they will refuse to eat, act out, or come up with any other excuse not to come to the table and eat dinner. For many kids, picky eating stems from being afraid of the food. It’s a developmental stage that I call “food-wariness”. Instead of facing their fears, kids will do everything that they can to avoid the dreaded challenging food.

The first step to getting these kids to try new foods on their own is to have them become accustomed to seeing a new food in front of them. It’s the first baby step in overcoming their fear. By frequently presenting a new food, they become accustomed to the food’s presence. Thus they become more confident. Eventually that confidence, along with their desire to grow up, is what motivates them to try new foods.

So what’s this secret, successful tip that I promised to share?
Include challenging foods in packed lunches.

Now take note that I’m not saying to pack a lunch that only includes challenging foods. What I’m saying is to frequently (not necessarily every day) pack one challenging food along with your child’s favorites. The “bento-box” style lunch kits make it easy to include a challenging food because the challenging food won’t touch your child’s favorites. And, we all know how much young kids don’t like their foods to touch.
Even if your fussy eater doesn’t eat the challenging food, you’re building their food-confidence because you’re helping them become accustomed to seeing a challenging food in front of them. And, what’s even better is that you don’t have to watch your child not eat it (which I know drives so many parents nuts)!

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com

Healthy Eating for Kids (Even Picky Eaters) by Kristen Yarker R.D.

Summer Inspires Healthy Eating for Kids (Even Picky Eaters)

I LOVE summer! Not because of it’s lazy, hazy days, but because it’s the easiest time of year to get kids (even picky eaters) excited about trying fruits and vegetables. Summer is the time for vegetable gardens and Farmers’ Markets! Both of which are fantastic ways to get kids interested in trying new foods. Why are these such powerful tools for getting kids to eat vegetables?

 

It’s All Mine: Toddlers and Preschoolers are in what I call the “me do it” stage. Independence, skill mastery, and learning how the world works are all highly important. Growing vegetables uses this developmental stage to your advantage. Many children will eat vegetables that they’ve grown themselves that they otherwise wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole.

Variety is Inspiring: When you grow your own and visit the Farmers’ Market you get to experience a huge variety of vegetables and fruit that you won’t find in a grocery store. Engage your child’s innate curiosity to compare and contrast.

Veggies, Veggies, Everywhere: We’re creatures of our environment. What’s even better than role modeling eating veggies? Spending time growing veggies and at locations where everyone eats veggies – a.k.a. the Farmers’ Market! The underlying message that you’re teaching your child is that it’s normal to eat vegetables. This is a great way to counteract all the advertising that kids are exposed to for highly processed junk foods.

It’s Obvious Where It Comes From: Picky eaters are often little conspiracy theorists, highly suspicious of the food that suddenly appears on the plate in front of them. In contrast, when you grow a food yourself, you know exactly where it comes from. At a Farmers’ Market, all the food is out in the open. You’re encouraged to touch, smell, and meet the person who grew the veggies and fruit.

I want to end with a cautionary note. The effectiveness of these summer hobbies to inspire your picky eater to try new foods is related to the attitude that you bring. Yes, you! Make sure that you’re open to and excited about trying new veggies and fruit. Be a vegetable growing, buying, and eating role model!

Child-feeding expert Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: kristenyarker.com

Nettle Frittata by Kristen Yarker, R.D.

Nettle Frittata

Nettles grow in the wild in many parts of North America and Europe. As one of the earliest edible greens to appear in the Spring, they’ve long been associated with health and Springtime cleanses.

Nettles taste similar to spinach. But they have one big difference, which you can likely guess when I call them by their full name: stinging nettles. Yes, they will sting your skin (and mouth) when raw. So be sure to cook them well before eating! And, don’t touch them with your bare hands when picking or washing.

You can forage for nettles but I usually buy them at my local farmers’ market or grocery store that has a great local produce section.

Ingredients:
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 leek, finely diced
3 cups nettles
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 generous tsp powdered mustard
1/2 tsp salt
½ cup shredded cheese of your choice, such as mozzarella, cheddar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Lightly grease a 9 inch glass pie plate. Set aside.

3. Fill your sink with cold water. Add the nettle leaves. Using tongs, swish the nettles in the water to wash well. Using tongs, remove from the water. Remove the excess water by spinning in a salad spinner. Using the tongs and a knife, carefully remove the nettle leaves from the stalks.

4. Combine eggs, milk, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

5. In a frypan, heat the oil. Sauté the leek until softened. Add the nettles in batches as they wilt.
Cook until the nettles are well-wilted (remember you need to cook them until you’ve taken out the sting.)

6. Transfer veggies to the pie plate. Pour in the egg mixture. Top with the cheese (if using).

7. Bake in the oven about 20 to 25 minutes, until the centre is golden brown. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky). From introducing solids through the picky eating years, she helps Moms and Dads be confident that they’re giving their kids good nutrition today… and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: vitaminkconsulting.com

Making Meals Happen by Kristen Yarker

Two Foundational Steps for Making Meals Happen

Do you dream of having the family come together at the table every day? Are you at a loss about how to make it happen? If so, then you’re not alone.

Here are my two foundational steps for making meals happen:

1. Think Beyond Dinner. Don’t get fixated on dinner being the meal that your family eats together. In many families, it’s breakfast where people come together to eat and connect. It’s a fantastic way to start the day. Another great strategy is a bedtime snack/second dinner concept. This works well in families where one parent works later or gets home from their commute too late to eat dinner with (especially younger) kids. In this scenario, the parent who is home earlier makes dinner and eats it with the kids. When the later-arriving parent gets home, the kids join him/her at the table. The later-arriving parent eats warmed-up dinner and the kids eat their bedtime snack. This way everyone is eating together at the table and connecting.

2. Plan Your Schedule with Eating Together in Mind. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. There’s another saying that’s true too: “you can’t have it all”. This next piece of advice may sound harsh, however I’m sharing it in the attempt to be of service – to give some tough love. Many parents have told me that they can’t eat dinner together because the kids’ activities extend over dinnertime. Having this schedule means that you are choosing ballet and soccer as priorities over eating dinner together. Determining your family’s priorities is your choice. If you choose ballet and soccer that’s OK, own your choices! Determine your values, set priorities and then make your schedule to align with it. The problem comes if your schedule isn’t a match with your priorities. If it’s out of alignment, then make changes. If it is in alignment, then let go of the guilt of not being able to have it all.

Kristen Yarker is known as The Dietitian Who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food Confident Kids. From introducing solids through the picky eating years, she helps Moms and Dads be confident that they’re giving their kids good nutrition today… and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: vitaminkconsulting.com

Kids and Vegetables: A New Strategy by Kristen Yarker

Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables: One Simple (and Often Overlooked) Strategy

Do you want to know one simple, effective strategy that many busy parents miss when trying to get their kids to eat more vegetables?

Many kids, especially picky eaters, don’t like to eat vegetables. But we know that kids need the nutrients from vegetables for their healthy growth and development. As a result, parents exhaust themselves negotiating how many bites must be eaten. Or, they stay up late pureeing vegetables to hide in other foods. While these strategies may get a few more bites of vegetables into kids, it turns meals into battles and covert ops. And, it doesn’t teach kids to choose to eat veggies. However, there is a non-sneaky way to get kids to try more and eat more vegetables.

The often-overlooked resource that many parents miss is…snacks.

You’re likely already providing at least two snacks for your child each day. But often, snacks are times when favorite foods (i.e. foods other than vegetables) are provided.

Traditionally, vegetables are served at meals (particularly dinner.) Instead, treat all meals and snacks as equals. Include vegetables at as many snacks as possible. The more times that you present a food, the more likely your child will eat it. Studies show that you need to present a food more than 10 times before a child will eat it, but it varies from food-to-food and child-to-child. By increasing the number of times a day that your child sees vegetables, he/she will become more accustomed to seeing them, and will eat more.

Kristen Yarker is known as The Dietitian Who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food Confident Kids. From introducing solids through the picky eating years, she helps Moms and Dads be confident that they’re giving their kids good nutrition today… and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: vitaminkconsulting.com