Friday, April 13, 2012
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
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Monday, April 9, 2012
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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