A Difficult (But Necessary) Step for Losing Weight 40+

difficult-and-necessary-step-for-weight-loss-40+

This post is inspired from some recent experiences with clients and workshop participants. At first glance, these people looked very different. But they had one thing in common. While they had hired me/ came out to listen to me speak, they both completely refused to take in what I had to share. They hired me for my expertise, then subsequently refused to take it.

Did I take it personally? No. Human behaviour is fascinating. We’re always a little bit of two minds about change – there’s a part of us who wants to change. And, a part of us who doesn’t. In both of these cases, the part of them that didn’t want to change won.

Why am I sharing this with you? I mean, it doesn’t make much business sense to share my failures with you. I’m sharing it with you because there’s a lesson to be learned. A lesson that you can apply to any aspect of your health, but especially for those of us 40+ folks who are looking to have a healthy weight.

The first step to making any change in life is letting go of our past habits and beliefs.

Elsa from Frozen has it right – let it go! Even Oprah is talking about letting it go in her O Magazine this month.

Letting go of past habits, no matter how much evidence we have that they aren’t working for us, is difficult. This is especially true when you want to lose weight and you’ve been on diets in the past that haven’t worked. It’s amazing how often clients hire me because they’re at their heaviest ever, yet they’re still doing habits from past diets. Diets that obviously haven’t worked (at least long-term). Or, the diets worked when young, but they don’t work for us 40+ folks.

The most difficult step in losing weight in middle-age is letting go of past habits. Giving up things like:

  • Weighing yourself daily.
  • Counting calories.
  • Writing down every morsel that you eat.
  • Eating zero carbs.
  • Aiming for a magical number on the scale from your 20’s – pre-busy life, pre-kids, etc.
  • Denying yourself the pleasure of favourite foods.
  • Nutrition mis-information that you’ve accepted as fact.

You see, when people come to me they are hardly blank slates. What I’ve found is that once people let go of these past habits, weight loss follows. I’d call it magic if I wasn’t so science-based.

So I leave you with an important question: what do you need to let go of in order to achieve your happy weight?

Bust through nutrition mis-information with my e-newsletter (recipes too). Click here now.

Nutrition Game Changer: Fibre

fibre nutrition hack detox stop craving

Fibre. It’s not exactly the sexiest topic. But it actually is a NGC* if you want to love your body. Which really is sexy, isn’t it? It’s recommended that adults eat 25 – 38 grams of fibre each day. But most Canadians don’t get nearly enough (usually only half the recommendation). Here’s why you will want to get enough and what foods to find it in. And, a couple of words of warning when it comes to increasing your intake.

Why You Want Fibre:

There are two main reasons why it's is a NGC: 1) steady blood sugar; 2) large, regular bowel movements.

Fibre helps to lower blood cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels steady. Yes, these both help prevent and manage heart health and diabetes. But there’s also a more immediate reason why you want this. Steady blood sugar means consistent energy levels. No more roller coasters of highs, followed by crashing lows. This means no “hangry” feelings and less cravings for junk food. It means that fibre fills you up and helps you stay feeling full for longer.

Fibre also helps keep your bowels regular and may protect against colon cancer. It binds bile secreted by your liver. Large, easy to pass, bowl movements remove toxins and waste from your body. You don’t want tiny little pellets. In other words, yes, it's the original “detox”. We’re learning more about the role of having a healthy microflora in our digestive tracts. Fibre is considered a “pre-biotic” in that it creates an environment that supports the healthy bacteria.

Words of Warning:

I have two important words of warning when it comes to increasing the amount you eat:

  1. Drink lots of water! Lots of fibre without fluids will have the opposite effect of what you want (namely: constipation). I recommend that we women drink 2.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day. Men: drink 3.5 Litres of non-sugary fluids each day.
  2. Increase your intake slowly. Think of fibre like exercise for your digestive tract. If you’ve been eating highly processed foods with little fibre, your digestive tract has been a couch potato. Increase your fibre slowly and steadily. Think of it like an exercise training regimen. Going too fast too soon will result in constipation.

Foods to Eat:

A good general rule is that foods that need lots of chewing contain lots of fibre. The first step in digesting fibre is a thorough chewing (see warning #2 above). If you don’t have to do much chewing of a food, it’s a sign that the fibre has been removed by machines (i.e. processing). Of course there are exceptions to this, but it’s a good general rule when looking for fibre-rich foods.

Great sources of fibre are:

  • Vegetable and fruit. Eat 7 servings a day. As often as possible, eat the peels of your veggies and fruit – there’s lots of fibre in those peels. Juice, including fresh press juice, doesn’t have the same fibre as eating the whole vegetable/ fruit.
  • Pulses: beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Nuts and seeds.
  • Intact whole grains. Examples include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, and pot barley. Look for breads that are heavy when you lift the loaf and need lots of chewing. Light, fluffy “whole wheat” bread really isn’t an intact whole grain. There are lots of bakeries and brands out there making bread from intact whole grains. One brand that’s widely available is Silver Hills.

The best way to get fibre is to eat foods closest to the way nature made them. Be wary of “high fibre” or “fibre added” foods that are highly processed (e.g. many “healthy” bars, some yogurt) because it hasn’t been scientifically proven that adding fibre to highly refined foods has the same results in our bodies as eating the fibre that was present when mother nature made the food.

*A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month.

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

Nutrition Game Changer: Cook The Night Before

cook-the-night-before

Last month I introduced the concept of nutrition game changers. Nutrition game changers are foods or simple habits that can make a big impact in your health. Some might use the term ‘nutrition hacks’. Today, I had planned to share with you a different habit. But I noticed that, with the nights cooling off again, I’ve been using this habit again. I do it a lot myself. And, it’s helped a number of clients too. I realized that this one simple habit can have a big impact on your health because it makes it easy to eat a lot of healthy foods that you might not otherwise eat. So, what’s this simple habit? Cook the night before.

Cook the Night Before

It’s a nutrition game changer for two huge reasons:

  1. It lessens the stress of getting dinner on the table.
  2. It makes it possible to eat healthy foods like whole grains, beans cooked from scratch, and longer-cooking veggies.

I’ve heard it called the witching hour. You know, that window of time between finishing work, commuting through traffic, picking the kids up from daycare, and making (and eating) dinner. For many people, it’s the most stressful time of the day. No one I know has an hour (or more) to cook dinner. Most people have somewhere from 20 – 30 minutes. Our modern lives have squished this time so much that it’s no wonder that take-out, drive-throughs, and pre-prepared food sales are through the roof. They’re survival techniques. You always ask me for help to get from survival to thriving. Cooking the night before can be a huge help.

No, I’m not talking about spending hours in the kitchen in the middle of the night! I’m talking about multi-tasking. You are likely home for several hours in the evening, after dinner but before you go to bed. Use this time to cook.

There are lots of healthy foods that take almost no work, but they take a long time to cook. Take a few minutes for prep, get the food cooking, set a timer, and then set off with your other evening activities. I personally do the prep while I’m already in the kitchen cooking my dinner for this evening. I don’t have kids so that works. If doing anything else besides preparing tonight’s dinner will take you over the edge, then do the prep later.

When the food is cooked, simply allow them to cool at room temperature and then store them in the fridge. They’ll store for several days in the fridge. On the day that you want to eat them for dinner, simply re-heat them in the microwave or steam them. (Place at least 1 inch of water in the bottom of a double boiler. Bring to a boil over high heat. Place your food in a bowl inside the double boiler. Steam until heated).

What Healthy Foods Can You Cook the Night Before?

  • Whole grains. E.g. pot barley, brown rice, wild rice, farro. They all take 45 – 60 minutes to cook. But the prep is easy. Just add them to a pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.
  • Winter squash. E.g. spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn squash. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. For all but spaghetti, cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds. Pour a splash of water in the seed cavity. Place in a baking dish. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 45min-1 hour (until the flesh is soft when you test it with a fork). For spaghetti squash: leave the squash whole, pierce all over with a fork. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 1 hour or longer (until the squash gives easily to your touch).
  • Root veggies. E.g. beets, yams. There are lots of ways to bake these veggies. Techniques vary by veggie. But unless you take a long time to prep them by cutting them into small pieces, they’re going to take 45min – 1 hour to bake. Here’s one minimal prep time technique each for beets and yams: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Wash but don’t peel the beets. Remove any stems or skinny roots. Rub with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and place in a baking dish. Roast until soft to the touch. The time will vary based on the size of your beets. Yams can be cooked at the same temperature. Wash but don’t peel the yams. Pierce all over with a fork. Wrap in tin foil. Bake for 45min- 1 hour.
  • Dried beans. Cooking beans from dry is not only cheaper, but it avoids the exposure to BPA in the liner of most cans. Beans take 2 simple prep steps – one the morning before and one the night before. In the morning, measure out your beans, place in a bowl, cover with water (at least 1 inch above the beans), and sit at room temperature all day. At night, drain the beans,  place them in a large pot, add fresh water to cover at least 1 inch above the beans, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, set your timer and you’re done.

Extra Tip: All of these foods make fantastic whole-meal salad ingredients. Cook extra the night before and enjoy them both (cold) as a whole meal salad for your lunch and warm as a part of dinner.

Looking for new recipe ideas? Find lots of great healthy recipes here.

ARFID & How To Get Your Kids to Eat Everything?

ARIFD & How To Get Your Kids to Eat Everything?

Usually my posts are inspired by questions that you ask me. But today I’m sharing my two cents’ worth on two picky eating media articles that seemed to blow up this past week. The first on Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder - ARFID. The second on getting your kids to eat anythingNot quite viral, they definitely got lots of attention. The reason that I’m responding to them is because as a part of popular culture, they feed into the norms and expectations that people can have regarding kids and food. And I want to make sure that they aren’t impacting you in an unhealthy way.

So please be patient with me as I get up on my soapbox.

The first article was the CBC picking up on a commentary from health professionals in Ontario regarding something called ARFID. Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a category of eating disorder added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) in 2013. The DSM-5 is a psychiatric classification and diagnostic tool used across North America. ARFID is a mental health condition where kids or adults are so limited in the foods that they will eat that it’s having a negative impact on their physical health and getting in the way of social situations. It’s beyond the normal developmental picky eating stage that kids go through.

My concerns with ARFID are the same concerns that come with any label. A label is intended to be used as a diagnostic tool get a child help. But frequently I see labels used as a crux. Because someone has placed the ARFID label on a child, it explains the child’s behaviour and means that nothing can be done. You accept the status quo and don’t work to find ways to support your child to expand their food repertoire. In other words, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. You accept that your child only eats a few foods and those are the foods that you serve him/her.

My other concern is that a child will self-identify with ARFID and use it to prevent trying new foods. One of the first steps that I take when working with families is to have them stop talking about food in front of their picky eater. We want to start distancing these kids from the identity of “picky eater”. Then they can start to build the confidence to challenge themselves and try new foods. It’s the same reason why we tell our children that they’re smart, kind etc. We want them to believe that they are these things. So, why would we want to tell kids that they’re a picky eater. They’ll believe you and live up to your expectations.

When parents contact me initially saying that their child has ARFID or is a selective eater or is a super taster, I immediately am concerned. Because I’m worried that they’ve decided that there’s no way to help their child. They’ve given up. Defenses up, parents tell me “My child has ARFID so I’ll feed him nothing but apple sauce and chicken fingers because I know that he’ll eat them.” Kids always have the potential to grow. Success might be slow, but I’ve seen positive improvements in the eating of children who would be diagnosed (by a health professional) with one of these labels.

Ironically, the second article that was super popular this week was on the other extreme. It was a piece by Huffington Post Canada called “Picky Eater Tips: 6 Tricks To Get Your Kids To Eat Anything”. Hey, I have to give it to the editors at Huffington Post, they are experts at grabbing people’s attention. I mean, what parent wouldn’t want to click on that title?! The problem is that it sets unrealistic expectations. I’ve never met anyone – adult or child – who eats anything. OK, maybe Anthony Bourdain (not that I’ve actually met him). But the fact that he’s so abnormal that he’s crafted celebrity for it is my case in point. Your goal as a parent absolutely is not to get your child to eat anything. Your job is to support your child to eat a wide enough variety of foods that they meet their nutrition needs, can attend social functions without stress, and can calmly face eating foods that aren’t their favourites when their favourites aren’t on the menu. But I suppose an article title like that isn’t sexy enough to get lots of clicks.

Some kids are better eaters. Some kids are pickier. Your role is to create an environment that supports your child to be the best little eater that they can be.

OK, I’m off my soapbox now.

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Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Nuts: Why You Want More Than Just Almonds

Have you taken the healthy step of including nuts in your daily eating habits? Perhaps you’re eating nuts because of their healthy fats. Or, because you’re eating a more clean, plant-based diet. Or, because they make a great protein-rich snack that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Whatever your reason, nuts certainly are a healthy food to include regularly. When I work with clients, I look to have them eat nuts and seeds frequently. The good news is that word about how healthy nuts are seems to be getting out to people. Most clients I see are eating nuts several times a week. However for a large number of clients, eating nuts equals almonds. Only almonds. It may be whole almonds, almond butter and/or almond milk, but the only nut or seed that they’re eating is almonds. This is a problem.

If almonds are the only nuts that you eat, now’s the time to expand your repertoire to include different nuts and seeds. Here’s why:

Variety is Better Than Any 1 Food: We humans are omnivores. Your body is designed to eat a wide variety of foods. Yet, so many people eat the same few foods over and over again. Nuts and seeds are all different. Some have more healthy fats, some have more protein, and they vary in the amount of minerals and other nutrients. By sticking to only one or two nuts/seeds you are missing out on many of the benefits of different nuts/ seeds. And, when you eat a lot of only a few foods, you can get too much of some nutrients.

California Drought: Most of our almonds come from California. Did you know that California has been experiencing a drought for years? And, that their ground water is decreasing fast. Did you also know that almonds trees take a large amount of water? It’s not a good combination.

Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater (I hate that saying, do you know of a less violent one that expresses the same meaning?), please note that I’m not saying to never eat almonds again. What I’m saying is that considering that eating a variety of foods is a healthier choice, now’s a good time to take the pressure off of California water sources by expanding your nut and seed repertoire. Enjoy almonds amongst a wide variety of nuts and seeds.

There’s a whole world of nuts and seeds out there. Explore it. I do - half a shelf of my fridge is taken up with nuts and seeds. And yes, you want to store them in the fridge to keep them from going rancid.

Here’s some ideas of nut and seeds to check out. Alternatively a trip to your local bulk food section can inspire you.

  • Macadamias
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts
  • Hazelnuts (Get these while you can. There’s a blight wiping out all the trees in North America).
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Chestnuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sesame seeds/ tahini
  • Flax seeds
  • Hemp seeds/ hearts
  • Chia seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds/ pepitas

Curious about how I can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals? Schedule a (free) call to find out.

4th Annual Home-made Popsicles (a.k.a. Ice Pops, Paletas)

Home-made popsicles, healthy, no sugar

I love that the healthy home-made popsicles trend is continuing (also known as ice-pops or paletas). Have you jumped on board? It's a fantastic way to enjoy some fruits and veggies. All these recipes are delicious. You won't believe that they have no sugar. Kids often love to help make them too. Here are 4 new home-made ice pop recipes for you to enjoy this summer. In case you're wondering why there are 4 recipes but only 3 in the picture, I ate all the banana-strawberry-orange ones before taking the photo :)

Home-Made Popsicles Directions

All the steps are the same for all home-made popsicles. And they're very easy:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Pour into the ice-pop molds.
  4. Freeze.
  5. ENJOY!

Home-Made Popsicles Ingredients

Healthy Creamsicle

This simple 3 ingredient recipe is inspired by one of my childhood favourites – creamsicles. But unlike creamsicles, the only sugar in this recipe is that naturally found in orange juice.

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Banana-Strawberry-Orange

Use ripe bananas and in-season, local strawberries and these are naturally sweet – no added sugar is needed.

  • 1 medium banana
  • 10 strawberries
  • ½ cup orange juice

Watermelon-Cucumber-Spinach

Don’t let the deep green colour of this recipe discourage you. It’s my favourite of the 4 recipes here – super refreshing and subtly sweet.

  • 2 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 6 large spinach leaves, thick stems removed
  • 2 inches cucumber, peeled and seeds removed
  • ½ cup coconut water

Pink Grapefruit

This recipe doesn’t need to be blended. Simply juice the grapefruits and combine with the soda water in a pitcher. Pour into the molds and freeze. If you find pink grapefruits too sour, you can substitute freshly squeezed orange juice.

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruits (approx 3 grapefruits)
  • 1 cup soda water

See more healthy, delicious recipes for home-made ice pops.

An Object at Rest Stays at Rest

An Object at Rest Stays at Rest

Two recent experiences really brought home an important life lesson for me. There’s a physics law (I can’t remember which one) that recognizes that an object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion.

As applied to life, what this means is that when we stop doing an activity, the natural state is to continue to have it missing from our lives. It takes considerable effort to start up again. But once we do make that effort, it’s natural to keep doing the new activity.

Let me illustrate with these two recent lessons:

  1. A friend of mine was fairly active in his childhood and teens. Growing up, soccer, mountain biking, and skiing were regular parts of his life. Living in Kitsilano in his mid-20s, his summers involved beach volleyball and winter weekends were spent skiing at Whistler. But then he moved away to where physical activity wasn’t a part of the norm. He changed jobs to be a part of an ambitious tech start-up company (read: crazy work hours) and had his first child. Suddenly it’s been a decade since his active life. After two years of hearing him complain about his belly, he bought a mountain bike and found a group fellow out-of-shape 40 year old fathers to meet up with to go biking. I can tell that he not only is having fun being on a bike again but that he feels proud of himself for being active.
  2. I too recently got back on my bike. For me it was 2 years that it collected dust. As opposed to my friend, I’m not a mountain biker. I have a clunky old bike that I enjoy riding around the city in the summers. Each spring, for the last 15 years, I take my bike in for a tune up and then ride it as my primary mode of transport until the rains start up again in the fall. It’s one way to include non-exercise activity in my life. Except for last year. Last spring I was focused on growing my practice and travelling between Vancouver, Victoria and Portland. My bike was in my parents’ garage from my complicated move the previous fall. And having returned to Victoria after living in Vancouver for 14 years, I didn’t have a bike mechanic. As I type these reasons out I can see how flimsy they are as excuses to not make biking happen. But they did stop me. However, this year I was determined to not spend another summer without a bike. I made it happen and yesterday I enjoyed my first bike ride in 2 years. I enjoyed the Victoria Day parade and a short bike ride with a friend. I don’t want to admit how sore I am from that short ride. But I truly enjoyed myself and am proud of myself for getting biking back in my life again. I know that now that I’ve gotten in motion again, I’ll stay in motion.

What is it that you want to include in your life? Do you want to be more active (like my friend and I)? Do you want to eat healthier? Do you want to be more mindful? Starting a new behaviour is the most difficult step. Once you’ve started, it quickly becomes a habit. Some theories indicate that it takes 40 days for a new action to become a habit. What I know is that we’re no different than the rest of nature:

An object at rest stays at rest. An object in motion stays in motion.

Life passes by quickly. Don’t stay stuck in wishing you were living a different life. Make the effort (perhaps with help) to get in motion.

Join Me at the Healthy Family Expo

Integrated Campaign - Facebook Graphic

I’m having a booth at the upcoming Healthy Family Expo and I was asked to share a message with you about it. I’m happy to share this news because the 3 local women behind the Expo are fantastic – they’re super selective about who they let in to their show. And, they honestly want to help fellow parents eat well, live active, and be green. You should see the lengths they’ve gone to, to minimize the environmental impact of this show! What I’m excited about:

  • Food sampling! Are you surprised that I love food sampling? (note tone of sarcasm). Some of my favourites are going to be there such as Love Child Organics, Nature’s Path, and Tree Island Yogurt (If you’ve tried plain yogurt before and found it too sour, give there guys a try. One word: delicious!). And there’s going to be others whom I’m excited to try.
  • There’s activities and info for families with kids aged 0-12. In other words, it’s not going to be all baby stuff.
  • Fun kids activities including a climbing wall, bouncing, giant hamster ball track, Tumblebus, run bike area, and baby crawl zone.
  • Bobs & LoLo concerts at 11 am and 2 pm (Love Bobs and Lolo!)

I enjoy doing Shows and Expos because it’s an opportunity to see you in-person (as much as I love technology, there’s just nothing like the old-school face-to-face connections). Also, I love to browse the booths myself to find new treasures – delicious food, local businesses etc. I always pack an empty bag because I do some shopping myself :)

Here’s all the details for the Healthy Family Expo. Please stop by my booth – I’d love to see you!

Healthy Family Expo: Sunday March 29th, 10 am –5pm

At the Vancouver Convention Centre

As parents themselves, they’ve made buying tickets easy (i.e. no standing in line):

As an added bonus when you get your tickets in advance:

  • Advance tickets are entered to win a 2015/2016 family season's pass to Cypress Mountain, and
  • $1 from each ticket sale supports the Canucks Autism Network.

How does it get better? There’s not only a ton of prizes at the Expo, but they’re doing a pre-show prize draw. To enter the pre-show prize draw go here starting Monday (March 2nd) :  a Rafflecopter giveaway

To find out more about the show, connect with them:

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bark

chocolate bark_medmed

I'm frequently asked for healthy treat recipes. With Valentine's Day around the corner, I figured that today was the perfect time to share an idea for a healthy (and delicious) chocolate fruit and nut bark.

Like many of the food ideas that I share, this is more of a technique than a recipe. Pick and choose the dried fruit and nuts that you want to use. Add more or less chocolate. Once you get the hang of this you'll wonder why you've been eating cheap chocolate bars!

The healthiest options are raw (non-roasted, unsalted) nuts, unsweetened, unsulfured dried fruit, and dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.

Note: Chocolate does best when allowed to cool slowly. Make this the night before you want to eat it!

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bark Ingredients

1.5 cups nuts (e.g. hazelnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, pistachios)

1.5 cups dried fruit (e.g. raisins, goji berries, mango, apricots)

400g chocolate (NOT semisweet baking chocolate)

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bark Directions

  1. Chop larger fruit and nuts into bite-size pieces.
  2. Spread evenly over a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Chop the chocolate.
  4. In a medium-size pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat.
  5. Place the chopped chocolate in a large, heatproof (i.e. not plastic) bowl. Place the bowl over the boiling water. Using a spatula, stir the chocolate until it melts.
  6. Pour the chocolate over the fruit & nut mixture.
  7. Allow the bark to cool to room temperature. Then, refrigerate overnight.
  8. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

In this photo I'm testing out different fruit and nut combinations. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!

Matches made in heaven: hazelnuts and dried mango, cashews and goji berries, salted peanuts and raisins, almonds and golden raisins, pistachios and apricots.

Get more healthy recipes here.

Healthy Valentine's Day treat: Chocolate, fruit and nut bark.

Is Picky Eating on the Rise?

Is Picky Eating on the Rise

First let me preface this by saying that I base my practice on scientific evidence. But the scientific evidence only goes so far. There’s also experience. Over the last 6 years I’ve helped hundreds of families. In doing so I’ve learned a thing or two that you can’t find in the scientific literature. Consider this an opinion piece. Observations that I’ve made in the 6 years that I’ve made helping families with picky eaters my life. Is picky eating on the rise?

Yes. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Let me explain.

First, I do think that picky eating is on the rise. I don’t think it’s because kids have changed. I think it’s because our parenting around food has changed.

I’ve noticed a theme running through the families whom I’ve worked with. In most cases at least one of the parents tells me about strong, negative memories of when they were a child and they were forced to eat foods that they hated. Perhaps sitting at the table for hours because they weren’t allowed to leave the table until they had “cleaned their plate”. These situations were so awful for these folks that they vowed never to make their kids have to do this.

Thankfully they’ve stuck to their vow and not forced their kids to eat foods they hate or “clean their plates”. Unfortunately they’ve swung the parenting style too far to the other extreme and they have no boundaries for their kids with food.

The result is that when kids hit the natural developmental stage where they become suspicious of foods and want to eat only the same 5 things, these parents only serve their kids those 5 things. And, when their toddler looks at what you’ve made them for dinner, rejects it and demands something else, they jump up and make it. Only for it to be rejected too.

What I’ve seen is that “protecting” kids from ever seeing a new food (i.e only serving them their favourite foods) only causes kids to regress further, so that they’re eating fewer and fewer foods. In other words, this parenting reaction actually fuels picky eating.

Instead of choosing one extreme or the other, I recommend choosing a middle road. One where you provide the structure and boundaries and kids get to express themselves and have control too. This is the method that I teach in these weekly posts, my workshops, online seminars and e-book. And you know what? There’s scientific evidence behind the strategies that I use (and 6 years of experience too).

So, while yes, I believe that picky eating is on the rise, there is something that you can do to minimize it. Get picky eating tips directly to your inbox. Sign-up for my e-newsletter.

Puree vs Baby Led Weaning (BLW): Can't We All Just Get Along?

baby led weaning{Guest post for Modern Mama} In a previous post I shared the pros and cons of the pureed and Baby Led Weaning (BLW) methods for introducing your baby to solid foods. I had a number of people call and email me with questions from that post. So I wanted to clarify and add to the points I shared in it.

In a nutshell, I believe that you shouldn’t feel the need to choose either puree or Bab Led Weaning (BLW). Combine the best from both methods and follow your baby’s lead.

Let me explain.

Having taught parents how to introduce solid foods to their babies since 2008, I welcome a number of the contributions that BLW is providing to the baby feeding conversation. However, I’m also seeing some negative effects too.

Positive Contributions of Baby Led Weaning

Feed Your Baby Family Foods

Children from about four to twelve months are fascinated by what the people around them are eating. In Baby Led Weaning you don’t make separate foods for your baby. Instead you provide your baby with the foods that you’re feeding the rest of your family. This is a great strategy! A favorite quote of mine from Child-Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter is:

The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table…not for you to join him at the high chair.

  • Uses his curiosity about what everyone’s eating to your advantage. Many babies will reject pureed foods and reach out to grab what’s on other people’s plates.
  • Teaches him that by sharing the same foods, he belongs as a member of your family. Sharing food is powerful for human beings. Every culture marks significant occasions by gathering to share food.
  • Is less work than making your baby one meal and the rest of your family something completely different. Teaching your baby that she gets something completely different than other family members can lead to picky eating because you’ve set the precedent that she gets something different. Kids who have always eaten the same meal as the rest of the family don’t know that having something different is an option.
  • Can be a wake-up call to how healthy (or not) your eating habits are. If you’re eating foods that you’re not willing to feed your baby, should you really be eating them?

Move Along to Finger Foods

Sometimes I see parents who love the idea (and control) of feeding their baby purees so much that they get stuck, keeping their baby in this phase too long. Babies are ready to try finger foods anywhere between six and nine months. Yes, it’s messy. And it can be painful to watch a child clumsily work for 10 minutes to get a single piece of food in his mouth. But, this is an important learning opportunity. Eating is a skill that must be learned through practice. It’s great that you’re an expert at using a spoon to get food into your baby’s mouth. But he needs to have the opportunity to learn how to do it himself. And finger foods are the first step. Because when we’re feeding our babies, we’re actually doing two things: 1) meeting their nutrition needs and 2) teaching eating skills. I’ve seen prolonged spoon-feeding of purees result in babies who are:

  • Undernourished because they’re reject being “babied” and reject the spoon.
  • Picky eaters because they didn’t get to experience the huge variety of tastes and textures that food comes in while they are still in the food-curious stage. A stage where kids are suspicious of new foods often starts somewhere between 12 to 24 months (although I’ve seen it start at nine months in a number of children). Some people call this stage “food neophobia”. I call it “food-wariness”.

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Baby Led Weaning places a lot of emphasis on following your baby’s lead regarding how much food to eat.  Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. It’s normal for them to sometimes eat a lot and other times to eat very little. When babies are allowed to control how much food they eat, they have a normal growth pattern. When spoon-feeding your baby it’s very easy to force them to take extra bites by playing games (e.g. “here comes the airplane”), or sneaking in spoonful’s when your baby is distracted. Resisting this urge is important to allow your baby to grow normally and not be overfed (which may lead to obesity).

Negative Impacts

You Need to Choose

The negative impacts that I’m seeing when speaking with parents and reading Mom blogs and chat boards is the idea that you need to choose a method. You’re either on the puree team or you’re on the Baby Led Weaning team. We already have enough “mommy wars”, judgment, second-guessing ourselves, and guilt regarding breastfeeding and formula feeding. The last thing that we need is this baggage continuing into introducing solid foods.

Puree Traps

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pureed foods. In fact, today I’ve eaten oatmeal, yogurt, and butternut squash soup – all of which are purees! Purees are a texture that adults eat too. The warnings that many in the Baby Led Weaning camp attribute to purees actually has nothing to do with purees themselves. They’re just easier traps to fall into when spoon-feeding. But they’re also easily avoidable. For example, you can offer your baby pureed versions of family foods and follow their lead when spoon-feeding.

One Size Fits All

I’ve seen many different babies with different temperaments (personalities). Some love being spoon-fed and take more slowly to finger foods. Others never take anything off a spoon, and rely solely on finger foods. I believe that following your baby’s lead and providing a wide variety of tastes and textures is the way to go – including both purees and finger foods.

In summary, why pressure parents into feeling that they need to choose? All the positive contributions that BLW have provided can be realized with the inclusion of both puree and finger foods. Let’s celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent!

What to do About Halloween Candy

What-to-do-About-Halloween-CandyHallowe’en is a fun and exciting holiday for kids. And, while as a parent you may not love the idea of all that Halloween candy, the last thing that you want to add to an already hectic day is a battle over food. Here’s some ideas about how to handle all that Halloween candy.

Before I go into the ideas, first let me tell you that I’ve never come across any research studies where they specifically looked at family rules for Halloween candy and how it impacted kids’ life-long eating habits. But there have been studies about how sweets/ junk food in general are handled in the home and it’s impact on life-long eating habits, so that’s on which I’m basing my advice.

Toddlers, Preschoolers and Halloween Candy

Take advantage of toddlers’ and preschoolers’ naiveté and short attention spans. Limit the number of homes at which you trick or treat to only 2 or 3. This way they get to be involved in the fun of the holiday, but there isn’t too much candy received.

 

School-Age Kids and Halloween Candy

For school-age kids, I turn to the excellent advice of expert Ellyn Satter.  I can’t say it any better than her, and because of copyright reasons I can’t cut and paste her advice, so use this link to read her short article here.

 

Candy Fairy / Switch Witch

I also like the idea of the growing tradition of the ‘Candy Fairy’ or ‘Switch Witch’. Inspired by the Tooth Fairy, kids can choose to leave out their candy for the ‘Candy Fairy’ who takes the candy away and leaves behind money. I’ve heard that some dentists and others are even getting in the act so that parents don’t have to pay out of pocket. An important point regarding this idea is that kids need to be able to have the choice of keeping their candy or leaving it for the ‘Switch Witch’. Remember, as Ellyn Satter shares, it’s important for kids to be given the opportunity to learn how to self-regulate with candy. The reality is that unhealthy food is all around us. It’s an important life skill to be able to make healthy choices.

And, if you’re still feeling anxious about your child and all that Halloween candy, I recommend taking a listen to exceptional story-teller Stuart MacLean tell about the antics of his fictional family. Here's the link to the podcast. I listened to it on the weekend and was laughing out loud. Not only was I laughing at the story that Stuart was telling, I was transported back to my own childhood and how my brother and I had such different Hallowe’en candy strategies. A child’s Halloween candy strategy is such an indication of their personality. Me: I ate it quickly. My brother’s pile, on the other hand, seemed to last forever, beckoning to me as I walked past his open bedroom door. I’m sure that he ate it so slowly, and put it on display, just to torture me. What do you remember about how you, and any siblings, managed your hauls?

Happy Halloween!

Check out my picky eating book for more successful tips for getting kids to eat well.

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What Do You Want? (I Need Your Help)

Question mark boyYou may know that while I’ve supported parents like you through my business since 2008, this past summer I took the (scary) leap to follow my passion for supporting you full-time.  

I quit my “day job”, moved to Victoria, and am experiencing all the highs and lows of experiencing life without a safety net.

 

It’s exciting to be able to give my full attention to providing you with all the support that you’re looking for.

 

So, I want to know:

 

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I really value your insights!

 

http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/kristen-4/feedback-survey/

 

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And, don’t worry about being “nice”. “Nice” is highly over-rated! There’s no such thing as negative feedback – telling me what isn’t working for you is a huge gift!! Because if something that I’m doing isn’t working for you, it’s likely not working for someone else too. And, it’s getting in the way of me sharing my service to the best of my abilities. P.S. Your responses are anonymous.

 

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http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/kristen-4/feedback-survey/

 

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In appreciation, I’ll donate $5 to Breakfast for Learning for each person who shares your thoughts in this survey.

 

Please note that your responses will be anonymous. And, Fluid Survey, which is similar to Survey Monkey, is a Canadian company so all data is stored on Canadian servers.

 

http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/kristen-4/feedback-survey/

 

Please complete the survey by midnight Monday (Oct 28)

 

Taking time out of your super busy life to tell me your honest thoughts is a huge gift!!

 

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

 

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