Monday, July 9, 2012

10 Ways Food Manufacturers Hijack Your Child's Brain

Food manufacturers know how to use psychology to get your child to like their products. Corporate researchers learn to use the psychology of taste preferences to make your child crave their empty calorie junk foods.

Food manufacturers count on the fact that if parents feed their kids processed food, even if they do so only occasionally, the kids will crave it and ask for it more and more. Eventually, some parents will give up and feed their children a steady diet of processed, manufactured food, ensuring a steady income for the food manufacturer giants.

Here are some of the techniques that Big Food uses:

1) Sugar - Food manufacturers put sugar in most of their foods, even those that aren't desserts like spaghetti sauce or frozen meals. Human beings have a natural desire for sugar -- it signals calories and vitamin c, which were scarce in prehistoric times. The amount of sugar in manufactured foods is much higher than any foods that our prehistoric ancestors ever ate -- and produces an addictive response that can be as strong as cocaine.

2) Fat - Food manufacturers put vegetable oil in most of their foods. It's cheap and, like sugar, addictive in large quantities.

3) Salt - Salt is also addictive and hides the unpleasant flavor that a lot of processed food has. Food manufacturers know that if your child is given a high salt diet, she will learn to crave the salty taste.

4) Mild Taste - Processed food has very little taste. Manufacturers rely on the salty, sugary, fatty tastes to get your child addicted to their food. Processed foods have little real flavors, compared to the strong taste of real foods like oranges, spinach, or cauliflower. This means that children can eat the food over and over again and not get tired of it. Your child can eat her sugary cereal or granola bar every day, but would get tired of broccoli if you fed it to her every day.

5) Predictable Taste - Processed food tastes the same each time you eat it. One box of Oreos tastes the same as the next box. Your child gets used to the uniformity and starts to find the variation in natural foods like peaches or apples disgusting. In prehistoric times, if a food tasted different from usual, it usually meant it had gone bad. Food manufacturers know that if they corrupt this instinct by getting children used to food that is absolutely the same, the children won't go back to eating their parents' home-cooked meals, with its natural variability in taste.

6) Predictable Texture - Like taste, children have an instinct to avoid foods that have an unusual texture, especially mushy or slimy foods. Food manufacturers know that if they get kids used to the uniform crunchy, chewy, or creamy textures that factories can create so well, they won't like the complex and variable textures of a real meal.

7) Appearance - No parent can create foods of multi-colors, shaped like animals or stars. Children are very drawn to appearances, and food manufacturers know this.

8) Ads with Excitement, Fun - Most of us can remember wanting a toy that we saw on TV, only because the commercial was exciting. The same is true of food. Parents don't advertise their home-cooked meals. Food manufacturers do advertise their food, with bright colors, music, smiling faces, and excited "cool" kids.

9) Ads with People Eating - In addition to exciting ads, food manufacturers show people eating the food and enjoying it. Food manufacturers know that children have an instinct to eat the same food other people are eating. This instinct was beneficial in the days when many plants were poisonous -- children had to learn to eat the same wild plants that the adults around them were eating.

10) Packages - Children love packages. Young kids will ignore a birthday present in order to play with the box it came in. Manufacturers make their packages as colorful and fun as possible. Children will whine for a cereal or candy, just because they like the box it comes in.

What can a parent do? Try your best to keep your child away from processed food and processed food ads. The more children are exposed to processed food, the more they like it. For tips on how to wean your child off of processed food, read Why Children Like Processed Food and What You Can Do about It.

Other interesting articles:
Children Like the Food They Grow Up With
Why Children Don't Like Vegetables - And What You Can Do About It

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Friday, April 13, 2012

The Easiest, Best, and Cheapest Changes to Your Child's Diet

If you're like most of us, you know that you want your child to eat healthier. But sometimes it's hard to know where to start.

Like any major life change, the best thing to do is to take that first step. Make a single change in your child's diet. Once your child has gotten used to one change in her diet, you can start working on another.

Remember, the food habits your child learns when she is young will stay with her for her entire life!

To make it easier to take that first step, here are the EASIEST, BEST, and CHEAPEST changes you can make to your child's diet.

The Easiest Change: Switch to Whole Grains

Switching from white, refined grains to whole grains takes no effort whatsoever!

It's no effort on your part.  You will be buying bread, rice, and flour anyway. Simply choose the 100% whole grain options!

You can use whole wheat flour in almost any recipe that calls for white bread. You can even branch out and try little known whole grain flours like brown rice, whole rye, or high-antioxidant buckwheat.

It's no effort on your child's part.  Amazingly, researchers have found that children often don't even notice when whole grains are served instead of refined grains!  And they usually rate the whole grain products as just as tasty as the refined grain products!

You can start this change today. When you go to the supermarket, reach for the 100% whole wheat bread.

For more information about switching to whole grains, check out this article and this article.

The Best Change: Cut Out All Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Children drink, on average, an amazing 250 to 350 calories of soda a day! Add sweetened fruit drinks, "sports" drinks, and other sweetened drinks, and you get almost 10% of calories from sugar-sweetened liquids alone!

The human brain developed in an era where the only drink was water. Human evolution has not caught up with the food manufacturers. When you drink liquids, your brain assumes that they are non-caloric! This means that the calories consumed do not have an effect on your fullness!

This is why sweetened beverages have been singled out as one of the greatest contributors to obesity. Your child may not have a problem with obesity -- yet! But many skinny kids grow up to be obese adults if they learn bad eating habits early on.

As well as contributing to obesity, sweetened drinks contain no nutrients other than sugar. If your child is getting 10% of her calories in sugar, that means that the remaining 90% of her calories have to be extra nutritious to make up for it! If not, then she will come up 10% short in her vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients.

If you want to make the biggest impact in your child's health, start giving her only milk, water, or unsweetened teas for liquids. If she's used to sugary liquids she may complain at first, but thirst is a powerful force, and she will very quickly learn to like these healthy drinks.

The Cheapest Change: Eat More Beans

Beans, such as black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans are some of the healthiest...and cheapest...foods.

Beans can lower cholesterol, lower blood glucose, lower blood pressure, and reduce risk of cancer. They are also incredibly high in antioxidants, with some being higher than blueberries in these valuable chemicals.

Meat, on the other hand, is associated with heart disease, cancer, and early death.

Switching one or two meals per week from meat-based to bean-based will teach your child to love the taste of these mild, starchy vegetables. Beans are an instant love -- nobody dislikes their flavor.

In addition to their health benefits, however, beans are extremely inexpensive.

Ground beef, one of the cheapest kinds of meats, costs twice as much per calorie as beans!

Switching from meat to beans is a no-brainer. Beans are healthy, they taste good, and they are cheap.

Cook some black beans in a crockpot overnight, mash them up, and wrap them in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and salsa. No child will say no to these simple and healthy burritos!

You may also enjoy these articles:

Why Children Love Processed Food -- and What You Can Do About It

25 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables

See the Latest Article...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Making Healthy Food Look Good Makes Kids Like It

If you watch your pet dog discover a tasty morsel on the sidewalk, you'll notice a difference between him and yourself. Your dog probably found the morsel by sniffing. Most animals use their sense of smell to determine whether something is food or not.

Humans Use Vision To Determine What is Tasty

We humans (like most primates) use our sense of vision to determine whether a food is tasty.  After we see it, we then use our sense of taste and smell to verify that the food is indeed as tasty as it looks.

Why is this? First of all, primates use their hands to bring food to their mouths. They have to have an initial idea of what to pick up or else they would spend hours bringing every object in their view to their mouths to taste.

Second, we primates are smart, and we can form initial hypotheses about what might taste good. For example, humans and other fruit-eating primates see the color red very well because red is the color of ripe fruit. If a fruit looks red, it's worth trying a taste of it.
Processed Food Looks Interesting and Fun

Processed food manufacturers have an advantage over us parents -- they can make their food look especially interesting and fun. Peeps, candy canes, and cotton candy look more like toys than food. The fun look makes kids like them, even if they taste like nothing more than sugary chemicals.

Researchers have found that children like foods (fruit, for example) much better if they are presented in a way that is visually appealing. Children also like food with fun colors better.

Make Healthy Food Look Beautiful, Interesting, and Fun

There is an entire culinary movement called Nouvelle Cuisine which is devoted to making food look appealing. (Here are some pictures.) Become inspired to do the same for your child's food.

Bill and Claire Wurtzel have authored a creative book with dozens of pictures of egg faces, pancake people, and other funny dishes.

You can buy plates that look like coloring book pictures and fill the plates with colorful healthy foods.

Food art is an area where you can go crazy with the fruits and vegetables. Broccoli can be trees, grated carrots can be hair, and olives can be eyes. Take advantage of the varied shapes and colors of fruits and vegetables.

You can use toothpicks to create a plateful of different mini-sandwiches made of vegetables. Or you can serve skewers with fruit and cheese. Use your imagination.

Children can get involved in making food faces, animals, and people. You can provide dishes of different vegetables and get your children to decorate their next meals. This will help your children learn to cook, which will help them become lifelong healthy eaters.

Use Lots of Colors

A recent study found that children like lots of different colors of food on their dinner plate. Adults liked three different colors of food, but children liked six or seven.

Colors of food correspond to the number of foods, and children also liked more different types of food on their plates than adults. You can take advantage of this preference, because the more different healthy foods a child learns to like in her formative early years, the more healthy foods she'll like later on. Give your child lots of different foods for each meal

Don't Make Healthy Food Look Like Processed Food

You may be tempted to get out the food coloring and the sprinkles. But making healthy food look like processed food will actually teach your child to like processed food!

If your child avoids artificial-looking foods, over the years she will come to find these foods slightly repulsive. She will know what real food looks like, and the bright purples, blues, and yellows of processed foods will seem like what it is -- fake food.

Use the natural colors of real foods to create your food art: orange carrots, purple beets, blue blueberries.

Here are some more strategies to help your child love the taste of healthy foods

Why Children Like Processed Food and What You Can Do About It
25 Ways to Get Your Child to Eat Vegetables
Children Don't Like Mushy, Slimy Textured Foods -- Until They Get Used to Them

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Processed Food Makes Kids Take Larger Bites...And Eat More

A recent study found that people ate less food when the food had a strong aroma.

Strong Food Aroma Made People Take Smaller Bites

Researchers had people eat a custard, and then blew a strong smell into the participants' noses as they ate. This gave the impression that the food had a strong aroma.

They found two interesting things.

First, people took smaller bites when they thought the food had a strong aroma. If the food seemed flavorful, they seemed to need smaller bites to get the full taste experience.

The second interesting thing was that when they took smaller bites, they ate less food! The participants who ate the flavorful custard ate 5 to 10 percent less of it!

Processed Food -- Little Aroma, Lots of Sugar, Salt, and Fat

Processed food is often tasteless. It has little aroma.

It doesn't appear tasteless because it is so high in fat, sugar, and salt, that people get their taste experience from these tastes rather than from a delicious aroma.

Imagine eating some potato chips. You may think they're tasty, but the tastiness is due entirely to salt, grease, and texture. They have practically no smell. The same is true of most processed food.

Why Does Processed Food Have So Little Aroma?

Ingredients that make foods aromatic are expensive. Herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables are hundreds of times more expensive than the bland refined grains and sweeteners that characterize processed food.

Flavorful ingredients also lose their flavor quickly with time. Think of a loaf of freshly baked bread. It has a wonderful aroma. After a day, it's as bland as a store-bought loaf. Processed food takes weeks, even months, to get to your dinner table. By then, any flavor has long since dissipated.

Foods are more aromatic when they are hot. If you give your child a processed snack like a granola bar, the fact that it's room temperature will make it have little aroma, even if some of the ingredients, like fruits and nuts, would be flavorful if you heated them in the oven.

Processed Foods Make Your Child Learn to Overeat

If you give your child lots of processed foods, which have little aroma, you will be inadvertently teaching her to overeat. If she expects food to be relatively tasteless, she will stick to those foods which make her take large bites and therefore eat more.

Homemade Flavorful Foods Will Teach Your Child to Like Less Filling Foods

If you make homemade meals with lots of antioxidant-rich herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables, you will teach her to like the foods that will have sufficient flavor so that she does not need to take huge bites in order to get the taste experience that her brain desires. She will take small bites and eat less.

Related Articles

Why Children Like Processed Food...And What You Can Do About It

Cure Your Junk Food Kid in 6 Weeks

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Feed Your Child Brown or Black Rice, Not White, to Prevent Diabetes

A recent study found that white rice increases chances of diabetes.

As a parent, you want to teach your child to like foods that are healthy for him. You want to avoid foods that will cause chronic diseases, even if the chronic diseases usually affect adults. The food that your child eats now is the food that he will love as an adult.

Rice is not the problem. The problem is that the antioxidant-rice bran and germ of the rice has been removed.

Replacing white rice with brown rice will reduce the risk of diabetes.  Black rice, which is higher in antioxidants than blueberries, is an even better choice.

If you let brown rice germinate, called sprouted brown rice, you will get even more of a anti-diabetes boost. Sprouted brown rice has chemicals which actually normalize blood sugar.

You don't need to avoid rice. You simply need to avoid refined grains. Whole wheat, whole barley, brown and black rice all reduce the risk of diabetes.

Teach your child to love the nutty, flavorful taste of whole grains and you will be giving him the gift of a lower risk of diabetes decades later.

For more tips on teaching your child to love whole grains, see these articles:

Use High Antioxidant Grains for Cooking and Baking

10 Ways to Get Your Child to Love Whole Grains

For the most recent article on teaching your child to love healthy foods, click here.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Learn to Love Cooking

A recent study found that an amazing 28% of adults don't know how to cook!

25% of people hate cooking because they have to clean up afterwards.

21% say that they don't have time to cook.

66% say that grocery shopping is the most time-consuming household task that they have.

The Bad News: You Need to Cook In Order For Your Children To Learn To Like Healthy Food

It will be very difficult for your children to learn to like healthy food without seeing their parents cooking healthy food.

Unless you're extremely wealthy, you won't be able to afford to buy from restaurants or gourmet delis that serve fresh, healthy food. The inexpensive alternative is fast food restaurants. Fast food restaurants use cheap ingredients with long shelf-lives. They don't use the fresh, healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fresh herbs, and whole grains which make your child healthy. To disguise their cheap, stale ingredients, fast food restaurants add large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt., which make their foods even more unhealthy.

Even if you manage to buy fresh salads and dishes from a healthy deli like Whole Foods, you still won't be teaching your children to cook. It's a sad young adult who ventures into the world without the least idea of how to cook even simple healthy dishes. Even if your child has learned to like healthy food in her childhood, she will have to resort to cheap fast food or processed packaged food as an adult if she doesn't learn how to cook. Watching parents cook is one of the best ways to learn how to cook.

The Good News: You Can Learn to Like Cooking!

Now for the good news. Many confirmed anti-cooks have learned to love cooking. Many people have gone from sickly fast food and ramen eaters to devout watchers of the Food Network.

Jaimie Oliver has converted many adults into cooking enthusiasts simply by persuading them to cook a few simple dishes.

The First Step: Figure Out Why You Don't Like Cooking

The first step to learning to like cooking is to figure out what you don't like about it. Take a moment to imagine yourself about to cook something. What emotions do you feel? Are you afraid? Of what? Are you bored? Are you lonely?

What part of cooking do you dislike the most? Chopping? Juggling a million tasks at once? Cleaning up? The ingratitude of your family? Dealing with leftovers? Shopping at the supermarket? Doing it every single day?

Next, think about what you DO like about cooking. People are complex creatures, and everything has good points and bad points. What parts of cooking do you like? Do you feel proud when you cook something tasty? Do you enjoy the creative process? Do you like eating what you've cooked? Do you enjoy taking a moment away from other responsibilities and cares? Do you like cooking with other people? Do you like baking? Stir-frying? Chopping?

Now that you've figured out what you don't like about cooking, you can find out what to do about it.

I Don't Like to Cook Because I Don't Know How

A hundred years ago, children (or at least girls) were taught to cook at their mother's knee. Not knowing how to cook was as unthinkable as not knowing how to dress yourself.

Sadly, the last few generations have been raised on fast food and processed food. Even those people whose parents fed them home-cooked meals never learned to cook. Parents didn't bother teaching them, assuming, perhaps, that a few home-ec classes would be sufficient.

Boys, unfortunately, are even less likely to learn how to cook than girls. Many intelligent grown men don't know how to boil an egg.

If you don't know how to do something, it isn't fun. And then a vicious circle develops. You don't want to learn because your few attempts were miserable failures. But if you don't practice, you'll never get better.

Here are some tips for learning how to cook:

Watch TV -- The next time you want to have the TV on in the background, choose the Food Network. As you idly look up at the television, you can catch a few techniques on how to chop, boil, or saute. You may even find a dish that looks so delicious that you really want to taste it. And the only way to taste it is…to cook it!

Just try it - Remind yourself that things become more fascinating the more you know about them. Once you learn how to cook, you can branch out into personal experimentation. If you love garlic, you can add clove after clove to your next spaghetti sauce. If you love the potato casserole that your late grandmother used to make, you can try to recreate it at home.

Enlist support - If you have a friend (or spouse!) who is an excellent cook, offer to be their sous chef. Offer to help them if they'll teach you a few tricks. Most people are happy and proud to teach their skills to someone else.

Start out simple -- If you've never cooked before, start with scrambling some eggs. Find a recipe (even for the simple things) and master some techniques. Figure out what happens if the heat is too low. Too high? What spatula works the best?

Use good ingredients -- A simple recipe can taste delicious if it uses good fresh ingredients. Some fresh green beans from the Farmer's Market will taste delicious, even if all you do is boil them and top them with butter.

Don't be afraid -- Some people who don't know how to cook are intimidated by it. Ask yourself "what is the worst that could happen?" You may ruin a dish. No problem -- there are plenty of other days in your life to cook masterpieces!

I Don't Like to Cook Because I'm Not Good At It

This is one of the most frequently mentioned reasons for not liking to cook. Nobody likes to do things they're not good at. If your past experiences with cooking have resulted in soggy stir-fries, burnt eggs, or cookies with the sugar forgotten, you're bound to feel bad about cooking.

Here are some tips for becoming a good cook:

Start with a good recipe - Here's a secret: A lot of cooking depends on starting with a good recipe. You'll feel very proud of yourself if you snag a 5-star rated easy recipe off of All Recipes, and your family and friends rave about it for days. 

Learn basic skills - Another big part of being a good cook is learning some basic skills. A few hours spent in front of the Food Network or a good cooking class can solve this problem.

Concentrate - The final part of being a good cook is to simply pay attention. If you're a bit scatterbrained (as I am) you may find yourself burning the home-fries while you're chopping the vegetables for the omelet. Remember that you're multi-tasking, and keep part of your mind focused on the dish that you aren't attending to right now. 

Practice - Nobody is good at something from the beginning. Keep practicing and you will become better and better.

The more you know, the more you like -- Have you ever talked to someone who had a hobby that you knew nothing about? You may have a friend who scrapbooks. You have no interest in scrapbooking...that is, until your friend starts talking about it. You realize that it is art, science, information, and love all tucked together in a book. Talking with an expert makes you realize that there are entire interesting worlds that you know nothing about. And you start to realize what makes the activity so enthralling. This will be true for cooking as well. As you learn more and more, you'll realize all the nuances that you never noticed when you were a cooking novice. You can create your own delicious recipes. The possibilities are endless.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Hate Cleaning Up

Cleaning is an inevitable part of cooking, but here are some tips to reducing your cleaning time:

Reuse dishes -- If food isn't greasy, it often cleans up with a bit of water. You can reuse a plate or bowl for the same person for the rest of the day, as long as there isn't any meat or other bacteria-prone food in it.

Teach kids to load the dishwasher -- Children can learn to rinse their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. Teenagers can take on the task of dishwashing once a week or so. More enterprising teenagers may be willing to take on the task for a small fee.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Hate Shopping

If you hate shopping, there are options available:

Use a delivery service -- Online delivery services, like PeaPod can deliver your groceries.

Share shopping with a spouse -- Your spouse may enjoy shopping. Consider trading chores with him or her. You can do something he or she doesn't like in exchange for a relief from grocery shopping. 

I Don't Like To Cook Because It Takes Too Long

Most of us have busy lives. Taking a half hour or more every day to cook dinner can seem impossible. But do you really save that much time eating fast food or processed food?

Here are some tips for cooking FAST meals:

Learn cooking techniques -- Look at a professional chef on the Food Network. They are fast! A good chef can chop an onion in a matter off seconds. You too can learn these quick techniques. Watch cooking shows or take a class and you can greatly speed up chopping, slicing, frying, and other cooking techniques.

Buy some good knives -- A set of good knives is expensive, but definitely worth the investment. Chopping not only becomes much faster, but also much more fun. Trying to chop a carrot with a dull knife is hard work and makes you feel like you're not quite doing it right.

Enlist help from the family - Teaching children to cook is time-consuming, but once they've learned some skills, you have free labor! Most kids love to cook and they'll feel proud helping you in the kitchen. Spouses can also help. If you don't get enough time with the husband (or wife), try cooking meals together. You can talk about the events of the day as you saute.

Buy a crock pot -- A crock pot, or slow cooker, is a plug-in pot that cooks at a slow temperature for hours, even all day. All you have to do is to add the ingredients. It cooks itself!

Don't cook!  -- You can make healthy home-cooked meals without ever heating anything up. Small children, especially, will be happy with a lunch of veggies and dip, fruit, kalamata olives, and square of cheese. It takes no time to put together, and it's way healthier than a McDonald's Happy Meal.

I Don't Like To Cook Because It's Boring

You may find the process of cooking boring. A lot of housework is mundane -- cleaning, vacuuming, doing laundry. Some people see cooking as just one more menial task. This is a pity because cooking can be one of the most enjoyable household chores.

Here are some tips for making cooking more interesting:

Be more creative - If you are stuck in a cooking routine of the same old recipes, you might benefit from trying some new ones. Look online for new ones, or try making changes to the old familiar ones. Maybe some added basil will make your boring casserole into a delicious Italian-tasting original.

Be less creative - Some people deal with routine by spicing things up (literally, in this case) and making them more fun. Others deal with routine by thinking about something else. Stick with a few favorite recipes until you can make them in your sleep. Then crank up the music and enjoy daydreaming as you go through your kitchen routine.

I Don't Like To Cook Because I Get Lonely

If you close your eyes and think about why you don't like cooking, you may come up with a surprising reason -- you get lonely when you're cooking! Some people may enjoy the solitude that cooking brings, but others may not like spending a half an hour doing something on their own, especially when the entire task is their own responsibility. Did you like baking cookies with friends when you were a teenager, but hate to venture into the kitchen now? If so, you probably find that cooking is lonely.

Our tribal ancestors prepared food together. While they chopped and cooked, they talked, laughed, sang, and helped each other. It turned cooking from a chore into a party.

Here are some tips for making cooking more social:

Get the kids involved
-- Teach your kids to cook. They will love it, and you won't be so lonely or bored.

Get the spouse involved -- Cook meals together with your spouse. You can work on the same dish, or each of you can make something different.

Get a friend involved
-- If you have a neighborhood friend, you can cook meals together.

I Like Cooking OK, But Not EVERY SINGLE DAY!

You may like cooking, but simply be tired of doing it every day. Some people enjoy the routine of an everyday task, but others feel burdened.

Here are some tips:

Trade cooking with your spouse
- All able-bodied adults in a household should cook! Make sure you and your spouse are both pulling your cooking weight. If your spouse is a kitchen slacker, find out why. Maybe he or she doesn't know how to cook. Perhaps a cooking class would be a good Christmas present. Maybe your spouse assumes that you like cooking. Many married couples naturally gravitate towards separate tasks, not realizing that the other person liked the task at first, but has gotten tired of it over the years.

Use a friend
-- If you have a friend or relative in the neighborhood, try helping each other cook. It's almost as easy to make a meal for eight people as it is to make a meal for four people. Take turns cooking dinner for each other's families.

Eat leftovers - If your family doesn't mind repetition, cook twice as much food and then serve it again in a day or two. You can make a minor change by adding a new herb or other flavorful ingredient.

Use the freezer - Make twice as much…or four times as much…and freeze the leftovers. If you have a delicious recipe for vegetarian chili, make a huge pot of it and put the rest in containers in the freezer.

What To Love About Cooking

Many people love cooking. Here are some things you may find yourself learning to love about cooking.

Nobody can make it like I can
-- Everyone has different tastes. If you love hazelnuts, you can sprinkle hazelnuts on dishes that nobody else would ever dream of.

You can eat anything you want -- Think back to something delicious you ate years ago. Maybe you thought you would never have a salad nicoise like one you had in the Cayman Island back in the 90s. With a quick search of the internet, you can relive that experience…and have the delicious salad very day if you want it!

It's creative - Once you get a feel for ingredients you can start making your own recipes. It's very rewarding to make a brand new dish that tastes delicious.

Related Articles

Family Meals Help Children Like healthy Food Part 1

Family Meals Help Children Like Healthy Food Part 2

Why Children Like Processed Food and What You Can Do About It

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Force Your Child to Eat

As a parent, you know it's your job to feed your child. If you set a plate of food in front of your child and he doesn't eat, or only eats a few bites, it can make you frightened. Is he getting enough food? What if he starves? 

If you get scared enough, you may find yourself pressuring your child to eat with any of these techniques:
  • Feeding him when he's old enough to feed himself
  • Following him around with plates of food
  • Demanding that he eat all the food on his plate
  • Bribing him to eat
  • Getting angry, or threatening him if he doesn't eat
  • Pestering him by repeatedly telling him to eat
  • Forcing food into his mouth

Children Naturally Don't Eat Very Much

Children can eat less than half the calories that an adult eats. This may seem alarming to a parent, who wonders how a human being, even a small one, can survive on so little food.

Unless your child is one of the very rare children who have a feeding disorder, he will eat enough to be healthy. Interestingly, researchers have found that eating less food, as long as it is healthy, can actually make animals live longer! This is, of course, not a reason to restrict your child's food supply. But you can rest assured that if your child naturally has a light appetite, this may help him live a longer and healthier life, as long as the food he is getting is healthy.

Pressuring Destroys Your Child's Natural Appetite

Children are more in touch with their natural appetite than adults are. Eating when they aren't hungry can feel disgusting or painful. Respect their natural sense of hunger. If your child can maintain this natural sense of eating when he's hungry and stopping when he's not, he will have a powerful weapon against the culture of recreational eating that he will encounter when he's an adult.

Pressuring Children Into Eating May Make Them Eat Less

Researchers conducted an experiment where they told one group of children to "finish their food" and let another group of children eat as much they wanted. The children who were told to finish their food actually ate less than the ones who were left alone! They also made more nasty comments about the food.

Pressuring Children Into Eating More May Make Them Hate Food

Adults with food aversions (hating a food) often track their aversion to a time when an adult forced them to eat a food they didn't like. Researchers found that 72% of adults who were forced to eat a food when they were children said that they permanently refused to eat that food for the rest of their lives!

If you don't let your child get up from the table until he tries his green beans, you may inadvertently create a green bean-hater for life!

Some children may rebel against the pressure to eat by refusing to eat anything, or only eating certain foods. It gives them a measure of control against the scary prospect of being forced to eat a food that they are on unfriendly terms with, or of eating more food than their stomachs feel comfortable with.

For Some Children, Pressuring May Work Too Well!

Overweight adults often attribute their weight problem to their childhood, when their well-meaning parents made them clean their plate, or repeatedly asked them if they wanted more food. These experiences taught them to tolerate an overly full stomach.

Not all obese adults start out obese. Your skinny kid could become an obese adult if he learns to eat even when he's not hungry.

Short Children Won't Grow Taller If They're Pressured Into Eating More

Some parents of short children think that if their child eats more, they will catch up to their taller friends.

As long as your child is getting enough protein and vitamins/minerals, eating more won't make him grow taller. It will just make him fatter.

Make sure your child is eating some foods that are high in protein, and getting enough zinc, iron, and other minerals and vitamins. Then stop worrying. Your child's height is mostly determined by his genes.

Notice What Triggers You Into Pressuring Your Child to Eat

As a parent, you naturally feel anxious if your child is doing something that you think is unhealthy, like not eating "enough." Reassure yourself that in all but the rarest of cases, children will eat enough food to survive and be healthy.

Notice the times when you feel tempted to pressure your child to eat. Relax, take a deep breath, smile, and say to yourself "Oh well. His brain knows how much he needs to eat." Then go do something else to distract yourself.

The following behaviors are perfectly normal! Don't get scared into pressuring your child to eat when he does them.
  • refusing to eat a meal
  • eating a lot of food for a few weeks, then eating practically nothing for the next few weeks
  • refusing to eat certain foods
  • eating less than a sibling, neighbor kid, or cousin
  • being so excited by toys and people that he doesn't finish his meal
 What To Do Instead of Pressuring

To get your child to eat at mealtimes, try these techniques:
  • Sit down and eat the same food as your child.
  • Children often need to try a food many times before they like it.  Feed your child healthy foods for each meal, and be patient in the knowledge that they will probably eventually like them.
  • If your child is easily distracted, you can gently call his attention back to his food. Do this only occasionally, so that he does not feel pestered, and only do it when he's first starting his meal, so that he does not eat when he is no longer hungry.
  • Don't worry.
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Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Reward Kids for Eating Their Vegetables

Human beings, small and large, have a paradoxical attitude towards rewards. If you reward your child every time she draws a picture, she will like drawing less than if she gets no reward.

It's as if your child is thinking "If I have to be rewarded for drawing, it must not be very fun."

If you're paid to work, you may work hard because you want the money. But you won't go to work on Saturdays, even if your work is actually very fun.

Because of this quirk of human nature, researchers have often concluded that if you reward your child for eating vegetables, it will make her like them less.

However, a recent study has found that rewards may actually work after all.

Using Small Prizes as Rewards May Work

Researchers divided a group of parents with preschoolers into 3 conditions:
  • The first set of parents gave their children a small sticker whenever they ate a tiny bite of a disliked vegetable
  • The second set of parents praised their children whenever they ate a tiny bite of a disliked vegetable
  • The third set of parents simply offered their children the vegetable
The researchers found that rewarding children with a little sticker made them like the vegetable better. They rated the vegetable as tastier than the children in the other two conditions.

Praising children for eating their vegetables didn't do any good at all.

How to Reward Your Child for Eating Vegetables

If you want to reward your child for taking a bite of her vegetables (or any other food she doesn't like), use a small reward like a toy or sticker. Don't praise her.

Don't give your child junk food, like sweets or chips, as a reward for eating vegetables. The "eat your vegetables and then I'll give you some dessert" tactic only makes your child like desserts more. She will think "If I'm getting dessert as a reward, dessert must really be wonderful."

There Are More Effective Techniques Than Rewards For Getting Your Child to Like Vegetables

Rewards may help your child like vegetables, but there are much more powerful techniques.

Simply serving the vegetable to your child, over and over, is a much more effective technique than rewards. Before your resort to rewards, make sure you are giving your child healthy food like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains for every meal.

Eating the same food yourself is also an extremely powerful technique. Eat meals with your child and make sure you are eating the same healthy food that you want your child to eat. She will copy you, and learn to like the food you are eating.

For more techniques to help your child like vegetables, see this post and this post.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Use High Antioxidant Grains for Cooking and Baking

Antioxidants can reduce your child's risk of childhood diseases, including asthma, allergies, and cancer.

You can dramatically increase the antioxidant level of your child's diet by making one tiny change -- using high antioxidant grains!

Imagine Jason, a well-meaning parent who gives his daughter Ava a cheese sandwich made with white bread. Now imagine Greg, another parent who makes one small change: he gives his son Dylan the same cheese sandwich using whole wheat and buckwheat bread.

Believe it or not, Dylan ate a lunch that was seven times higher in antioxidants than Ava! Dylan is getting as many antioxidants in that one meal as Ava is getting in two days of refined, processed foods!

Whole Grains Are Higher in Antioxidants

Whole grains are always higher in antioxidants than their refined cousins. Whole wheat flour is three times as high as white flour. Brown rice is five times as high as white rice. Giving your child whole grains can make a huge difference in the antioxidant level of her diet.

Switching to Whole Grains is Easy

Making the switch to whole grains is very easy. Amazingly, researchers have found that children often don't even notice when whole grains are served instead of refined grains!  And they often rate the whole grain products as just as tasty as the refined grain products!

One of the easiest things you can do to increase the antioxidant level of your child's diet is to switch to whole grains.

Some Whole Grains Are Higher In Antioxidants Than Others

In addition to switching to whole grains, you can make a big difference in the antioxidant level of your child's diet by using high-antioxidant whole grains. Some grains are naturally much higher in antioxidants than others.

Here are some antioxidant levels in whole grains:

Buckwheat 1.99 
Barley:       1.09
Millet:         .82
Oats:           .59
Rye:            .47
Rice:           .36
Wheat:        .33

As you can see, buckwheat is a super source of antioxidants. Try to fit some buckwheat into your child's diet, in the form of pancakes, muffins, or noodles. You can buy buckwheat flour at a health food store and buckwheat noodles at an Asian grocery store.

Quinoa and amaranth are also very high in antioxidants.

Some Strains of Grains Are Higher In Antioxidants Than Others

Grains can have different strains. A strain is a different type of grain, like breeds of dogs are different types of dogs.

There can be a huge difference in the antioxidant levels of different strains of grains.

In general, you can remember this rule: The darker the color, the higher the antioxidants.

Black rice is higher in antioxidants than brown rice.

Red wheat is higher in antioxidants than white wheat.

Some dark-colored grains, like black rice or black and red sorghum are as high in antioxidants as blueberries!

One Small Change for Mom, One Huge Difference For the Kids!

Switching to high-antioxidant whole grains is an easy change to make. You probably already make many dishes with grains -- muffins, pancakes, rice. Simply grab a box of black rice instead of white rice, or a bag of buckwheat flour instead of white flour.

If you give your child high-antioxidant whole grains early in her life, she will probably like them for the rest of her life. The food your child eats when she is young will be the food that she likes when she is an adult.

You are helping your child's health now by feeding her high-antioxidant grains. But you are also helping her health thirty years from now when she is an adult, on her own.

Recipe Tips

If you want to use buckwheat flour, you can add up to 1/3 of it as a substitute for whole wheat flour and still get good results in most dishes. Remember that buckwheat has no gluten, so it won't rise as high in yeasted breads. It works better in pancakes and muffins, which are made with baking powder.

Whole grain rice takes twice as long to cook as white rice. However, if you soak the whole grain rice for a few hours (or overnight), the cooking time will be the same as refined white rice.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeding Your Baby Salt Can Make Her Crave It For the Rest of Her Life

 A recent study found something remarkable about babies' taste preferences. Six month old babies who ate salty food like crackers loved the taste of salt years later! These babies grew to be preschool children who would eat, not just salty food, but plain salt! They happily ate plain salt sprinkled on a plate!

The remarkable thing about this study was that the 6 month old babies weren't given especially salty food. They were given food that many parents think is healthy for their children - crackers, bread, and other starchy snacks. Imagine a well-meaning parent giving her baby whole wheat goldfish crackers and thinking that it is a healthy food, not knowing that she is setting her baby up for a lifetime of salt cravings! Even bread, which people don't think of as a high-salt food, is actually fairly high in salt compared to the natural foods that people ate for hundreds of thousands of years.

Starchy Food Is a Bad First Food

Starchy foods are bad first foods for several reasons.
  1. Starchy foods have very little flavor, so they don't teach babies the flavors of real foods. 
  2. Starchy foods in our culture are associated with processed foods. The first flavors your child learns will stick with him the longest. He will be more likely to love these flavors later. If his first foods are starchy, flavorless ones, he'll learn to like the refined flour processed foods that food manufacturers create in their factories.
Now there is another reason not to feed your baby starchy foods. The added salt creates a long term salt craving.

Best First Foods: Meat and Vegetables

Some researchers are recommending meat as a good first food.  Meat is high in iron and zinc. Breast milk is low in both of these nutrients, so meat fills the gaps.

Vegetables are also a good first food. Teaching your baby the taste of many different vegetables at this early age can make her like them for a lifetime. Vegetables are also extremely nutritious. Your baby will get a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Fruit is also a good first food, but there is still a controversy over whether feeding your baby fruit this early will program her to like sweet tastes.

How to Make a Healthy Cracker

Parents like crackers because they're convenient. It's easy to grab a handful of crackers for baby to munch on a car trip to the grocery store.

There is nothing wrong with an occasional cracker or piece of bread. But try to make sure it is flavorful (like herb or tomato flavored) and unsalted.

If you want a healthy cracker, you can make it yourself. Follow these rules:
  1. Don't add any salt.
  2. Don't add any sweetener.
  3. Add other flavors by adding herbs and spices (preferably fresh).
  4. Don't taste it yourself! I'm kidding here, but if you do taste it, recognize that your adult palate, warped by years of salty, sugary food, may find the crackers boring. Don't worry - your baby will love them!
Recipe for Healthy Whole Wheat Herb Crackers

These crackers have no salt or sugar. They contain herbs, which teach your baby to like the taste of real food. Herbs are also extremely high in antioxidants.

1 cup whole wheat flour (or other whole grain flours)

1/2 cup oatmeal, blended until fine in a blender or food processor

3 tablespoons wheat germ (stored in freezer so it doesn't get rancid)

2 tablespoons sesame or poppy seeds

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, dill, oregano, thyme, cilantro, etc.)

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup olive or other oil

  1.  Mix together the flour, oatmeal, wheat germ, seeds, and herbs.
  2. Add the water and the oil. Mix together or process in a food processor. The dough should come together in a ball. Add more oil and water if it seems too dry.
  3. Roll out until as thin as possible on a floured surface. Cut into shapes using a knife or cookie cutter. 
  4. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Teaching Your Child to Love Healthy Food is NOT Intuitive!

When I see a surprising study like this one, which finds that a seemingly healthy food like whole wheat crackers can have huge impacts on children's eating preferences years later, I realize that using a parent's intuition is not enough. Many parents feed their children food that seems healthy, but years later their children are junk food junkies.

The only way to really teach your child to love healthy food is to follow the research on how children learn their food preferences.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Snacking is Good for Kids -- Grazing is Not

Recent research has found that a big cause of overeating in adults is eating too often.

But what is behind adults eating too often?  It's a relaxed attitude towards regular mealtimes.  It's not necessarily bad to schedule a snack or two between meals.  What's dangerous is to eat when you feel like it. It's dangerous when adults learn to eat whenever they're bored, lonely, frustrated, happy, or when they see a plate of doughnuts at work.

There is a certain freedom in knowing that there is a time for food and a time to stop thinking about food.  When it's time for a meal or snack, you can focus on the food.  When it's time to do other activities, thoughts of food don't interfere with these activities.

What is Grazing?

Although people have defined grazing in many ways, I'm going to use the word "grazing" to mean eating whenever you feel like it.

Grazing Starts in Childhood

Grazing habits start in childhood.  The French, who have much lower levels of obesity, have strict times for eating, which they take very seriously.  They don't eat "when they feel like it."  They eat at mealtimes.  And they really enjoy their food, partly because they are hungry for it.  Children in France grow up knowing that food is served at certain times of the day.

How to Prevent Grazing

Here are some ways to help prevent your child from becoming an adult who has to continually struggle with the desire to eat.

1) Don't Give Your Child Food If He Complains That He's Hungry.  Every child (and adult) should be hungry at times during the day.  Let hunger build up before meals.  Hunger is natural, and teaching a child to be afraid of the hunger sensation by scrambling to give him food will teach him to be an overeater.  If you don't feed your child when he asks, he'll soon become distracted with toys or friends and forget his hunger until dinnertime.

2) Have Regular Meals and Snacks at Regular Times.  Decide what times work for your family and stick with them.  If your child expects breakfast around 7:00, a snack at 10:00, lunch at 12:30, a snack at 3:00, and dinner at 5:00, that's when his stomach will send him hunger signals. 

3) Don't Let Your Child Forage for Food in the Kitchen.  You should be the one to give your child food.  It is easy for a parents to simply let their children graze in the kitchen.  But this will lead to overeating, and to eating unnutritious food.  Forbidding your child to get food for himself isn't as strict as it seems.  After all, if your spouse grabbed a bowlful of ice cream a half hour before dinner, just because he or she happened to be hungry, you would be justifiably angry that he was ruining his appetite for the delicious spaghetti that you were cooking.  

4) Be a Good Role Model.  If you forbid your child from grazing, but then you graze yourself, you will only make him more determined to eat whenever he wants.  Be a good role model and avoid grazing yourself.  You may even find that you shed a few pounds.

5) Feed Your Child Snacks, But Not Snack Food.  Food manufacturers would have you believe that junky snack foods like granola bars, crackers, cookies, or candy are the only foods you can feed your child between meals.  Don't fall for it.  You can feed your child fruit, vegetables and dip, 100% whole wheat bread and cheese, or other healthy foods for snacks.

Here are some related articles:

Snacks -- A Good Thing
Hunger Makes Food Tasty
Vegetables and Dip: Tasty and Fun for Kids 

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Super-Sizing Healthy Food Makes Kids Eat More of It

Children tend to eat more of a food if they see more of it on their plates.  This "super-sizing" has been seen as a bad thing.  Fast food restaurants have been blamed for providing huge portions, which cause people to eat more unhealthy food.

But what if we could turn "super-sizing" on its head?  What if we could help our children eat more of a healthy food by super-sizing it?

A recent study found that serving children double portions of fruits and vegetables made them eat 37% more vegetables and a whopping 70% more fruit!

Give Your Child Super-Sizes of Healthy Foods

If you are serving vegetables, fruit, or other healthy foods for dinner, try giving your child a big, adult-sized portion.  You may be surprised that she focuses on eating this big portion, rather than the other less healthy items on her plate.

This Technique Only Works If Your Child Already Likes the Food

If your child hates spinach, and sees a huge glob of it on her plate, she will not eat more.  If anything, she may be repelled by the large pile that takes up half her plate.

Start by teaching your child to like the food by using these techniques.  Once your child likes the food (or at least thinks it's ok), then give her larger portions of it.

Give Your Child Less of the Main Dish and More Fruits and Vegetables

Another study has found that giving children less of a main dish, like macaroni and cheese, made children eat more of the healthy fruits and vegetables that accompanied it.  Give your child a healthy main dish, but make sure it's a child-sized portion.  You don't want your child filling up on the main dish and leaving the extra healthy fruits and vegetables untouched.

Doesn't Serving Big Portions of Fruits and Vegetables Waste Food?

Frugal or environmentally conscious parents might object that giving your child big portions may waste food.  Although your child will eat more of the food if the portions are big, she may also leave more on her plate than she would if she were served a child-sized portion.

You can finish off your child's extra food yourself.  Your child will see you eating it and will be even more convinced that the food is tasty because Dad or Mom is eating it with gusto.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just Say No to the Kid's Menu

It happens every time.  You sit down with your family at a restaurant and the server gives your child a children's menu -- full of games, puzzles, and...yes...junk food!

As unhealthy as many restaurants are, the least healthy food is reserved for the children.  Hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, soda, and loads of sweets.  Our growing children, who need a greater percentage of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to thrive, are served a lower concentration of these valuable chemicals than we, the parents, are!

Food on Children's Menus is High in Fat

The food on children's menus averages almost 50% fat.  Ironically, fast food children's menus have a slightly lower percentage of fat than sit down restaurants.  But both are loaded with fat.

Some fats are fine, and even healthy for children.  Olive oil, nuts, and seeds are healthy fats.  The fat in children's menus, however, comes mostly from saturated fats (meats, butterfat) or oil from deep frying (which can cause cancer by producing dangerous acrylamides and other oxidation products).

Food on Children's Menus is Repetitive

No matter how exotic and exciting a restaurant is, the children's menu has the same tired set of options.  Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, and macaroni & cheese.

If you wanted to teach your child the times tables, you wouldn't have her study the "two times" equations after she had already learned them.  If you want to teach your child to like a wide variety of healthy foods, you shouldn't keep teaching her the "hamburger" lesson over and over again.  She isn't learning a thing about the taste of new foods.  And giving your child the same foods over and over again can make her into a picky eater.

Food on Children's Menus is Overly Sweet

Children's menus usually come with soda or dessert.  What calories aren't taken up by fat are taken up by sugar!

Food on Children's Menus Have Very Little Fruits, Vegetables, or Other Healthy Foods

Your child can easily eat half her daily calories in one kid's meal without eating a single fruit, vegetable, or other healthy food.   Restaurant owners know that most children haven't learned to like fruits and vegetables, so they omit them from the kid's menu.

Alternatives to the Children's Menu

1. Tell your child that kid's menus are for babies.  Every child wants to be a big kid.  When the server hands your child a kid's menu, tell her that these menus are for babies and toddlers who haven't learned how to eat grown-up food yet.  She can enjoy the puzzles and the crayons, but can happily choose her food from the adult menu.

2. Split a meal with your child.  If the meals are too big, you and your child can decide on a meal that you both like and then split it.  Ask the server for a plate for your child.

3. Eat family style.  Order a few dishes and then allow everyone to take what they want from the dishes.  Your server can bring plates for all of you. 

4. Take food home.  Let your child order a meal off the grown-up menu, and then take the remainder home.  She can enjoy another serving a few days later, which will help her become even more familiar with the dish.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 Little-Known Ways to Help Your Overweight Child Lose Weight

Obesity in children has been increasing by leaps and bounds in the past few decades.  1/3 of American children are now overweight or obese. 1/4 of British children are overweight or obese. 

Policymakers tell parents to feed their children less and get them to exercise more.  This advice is accurate, but leaves many parents shaking their heads and saying "But how exactly do I get my child to eat less and exercise more?"

Some well-meaning parents put their overweight children on a diet.  But forcing an overweight child to go hungry will backfire.  Overweight children often have strong instincts protecting them from famine.  Triggering a "famine" by forcing them to diet can make them crave food -- especially high calorie food -- even more.  Their brains are now on alert because they have experienced the threat of starvation, and try to protect the children by making them put on more fat stores by eating lots of high calorie food.

The only permanent solution to obesity is to teach your overweight child to like foods that don't cause obesity.

Here are 5 little-known tips to help your child make the transition to liking healthy foods.

Tip 1: Stop All Junk Food Right Away

Children (and lab animals!) who are given junk food will inevitably choose the junk food over healthy food.  Overweight children are especially susceptible to this.  If junk food is removed, children (and animals) will actually go hungry for days before eating the healthy food.

Your child has little or no chance of learning to like healthy food if he is also eating junk food.  The healthy food simply won't taste good.

Stop buying sweets, chips, fast food, and processed food.  Your child will complain for a while, but in a month or two he will adjust to his new diet and like it just as well as he liked the junk food.

Tip 2: Give Your Child 5 Servings of Vegetables Per Day

Vegetables are the lowest in calorie density of all foods.  Make sure your child gets 5 servings of vegetables a day.  Give him vegetables for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  And make sure they taste good.  You can search for highly-rated recipes online.

Tip 3: Only Give Your Child Milk, Water, and Herb Teas to Drink

Your child's brain does something astounding when your child drinks.  It assumes that all liquid is water!  This means that your child's brain does not register calories in liquids

If your child drinks 200 calories per day in soda, it will not decrease his appetite.  He will eat as much as if he didn't drink the soda.

This means that he will be taking in 200 extra calories a day!!

Scientists have found that soda is one of the biggest predictors of childhood obesity.

Only give your child milk, water, or unsweetened no-calorie drinks like tea.  Your child's brain does recognize the calories in milk, perhaps because it is a substance that humans have always drunk.  Sugar-sweetened beverages are simply too new in our evolutionary history.

Tip 4: Don't Give Your Young Child Choices Around Food

Even a normal weight child will make poor food choices.  Overweight children, however, are victims of their brains, which are compelling them to eat large amounts of high calorie food. 

Don't let your child browse in the kitchen.  Feed him the same food that you feed the other members of the family. 

You may experience a month or so of rebellion because your child is used to demanding food at the grocery store or browsing through the refrigerator when he’s at home.  If you allow no exceptions, however, your child will accept the new rules within a month or two. 

Once your child is a teenager, you’ll need to teach him to make wise decisions around food.  At this point, give him the responsibility of making food decisions for himself and the family.  Allow him to choose the menu for the family dinner, as long as the foods are healthy.  Teach him to cook quick, healthy meals full of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Tip 5: Feed your child a variety of foods over the long term, but limit variety each day.

Human beings eat more food if there are a variety of dishes spread before them.  You probably notice that you eat a lot of food at a buffet, where you can sample many tasty items.

You'll want to teach your child to like many different varieties of healthy foods, so you'll want to give him many different dishes in the long term.  But limit the number of foods he eats for meals to two or three.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Is My Child Too Thin? He May Just Look Thin Compared to Today's Kids

Children Are Getting Fatter
A recent study found that kindergarteners today are much heavier than they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are more obese children and fewer thin children.  The average-weight children are fatter than they used to be.

What Seems Normal Is Really Too Fat

One consequence of this is that parents who have a healthy weight child may think that their child is too thin.  We all have a natural tendency to think that what we see as average is good.  Since the average weight has gone up, a child who was average 10, 20, or 50 years ago may be seen as too thin today.   Adults around him may try to fatten him up by pressuring him to eat more.

Look at Children in Old Movies and TV Shows

A fun way to notice your own bias is to look at movies and TV shows from the 1940s or 1050s, when people were of a healthier weight.

Really look at the children in these shows.  These children look very thin!  But they aren't.  This is the healthy weight of a normal child.

Your Child is Probably Not Too Thin

With rare exceptions, if you have a thin child, he is probably not unhealthy.  If your child eats healthy food, he is probably getting enough nutrients.

If your child is extremely thin, has lost weight recently, or you think he may have a feeding or eating disorder, check with your doctor.

Don't Feed Thin Children Junk Food to Fatten Them Up

Thin children who eat junk food have a double whammy -- they aren't getting as many calories AND those calories don't contain enough vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other healthy chemicals.  Stick to a healthy diet, filled with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.

Ignore Weight Charts for Your Thin Child

Weight charts are based on current statistics.  That means that as children get fatter, what is considered "underweight" will get higher and higher.  If your child is in the 10th percentile for today, he may have been average if he had been born 50 years ago.

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