Goodbye Help ...
Today is the first day of a new year for both boys. Max is the youngest in his new school and Joe the oldest.
This means I lose my home-help :(
It's been soooo lovely having them home (mostly). And having someone else do dinners for 6 weeks has been amazing.
But all good things come to an end and now it's back to Mum on duty. And lunchboxes ....
If you have children going back to school this week how does it feel?
So the routines of school and after-school activities are set to return for most people this week.
The dreaded lunchboxes become a permanent morning feature and for many parents so does the dread of opening it in the afternoon to discover most of the contents have made it home safely :(
If you do have a selective eater then it's common to find that your lunchboxes are not touched unless stuffed with favourites. And often those favourites lead you down a slippery path of less and less variety and more and more packaged food.
My advice is to worry less about the lunchbox and more about the other meals. Yes, lunch is very important and is probably about one third of what children consume during the day. And yes not eating well during the day can affect concentration, energy levels and mood.
However, for selective eaters just eating away from home is often challenging. Throw in all those distractions like play and the negative aspects of negotiating food in front of others and it often becomes overwhelming. So what to do?
I'm not sure how many people are spider phobic, or to what degree so I tried to find an image that was a little less awful than most!
If spiders or other creepy crawlies make you feel scared, repulsed or uncomfortable it gives you a good understanding of what certain foods appear like for children with food fears.
For those of you who've been following the page for a while you may remember Bella's * story. She is 10 and has some pretty strong fears around foods - lettuce among them.
Before Christmas she'd taken what were for her some great steps forward. Since then she's mostly been just enjoying her holidays. Hey, if the weather is good in NZ we have to make the most of it!
However, there have been 3 very notable steps for her:
I speak to a lot of parents with selective eaters whose children crave fizzy drinks.
It makes logical sense from the body's point of view as it's a very quick way to redress blood sugar lows and give a burst of energy.
We all know that fizzies are not a great health choice because of the quantity of sugar and a dental nightmare to boot.
However, the caffeine content is not usually discussed and cola and energy drinks can have as much caffeine as in a regularly brewed cup of coffee!
Prepping & Preparing
I spent a year as a manic, stressed out, semi-single working parent when the boys were little and Roy was working away during the week (all week, every week ...).
One of my best coping mechanisms was prepping food when I had time rather than when it was necessary. This meant that I could slide in the door late, with 2 kids in tow, grab something pretty much ready from the fridge and whack it in the oven.
Boys in the bath whilst everything heated and then a relaxed ( ish) dinner at a reasonable time.
This strategy has turned out to be a life-saver for me over the years as I generally have a LOT less stress coming into meals. This in turn translates into more relaxed and fun family dinners. Now it doesn't always work of course but mostly it does.
I've a got a great tip for you!
Sorry, it's hard not to feel upbeat when it's warm and the sun is shining. There is something about a glorious summer day that just naturally lifts the spirits.
I wonder how much of that is biologically hard-wired so we do want to go outside, because doing so is so positive for our health.
We all know how essential Vit D is for our bones and how it's synthesized by our body when our skin is exposed to sunlight.
But did you know that Vit D also protects the neurons in the hippocampus (responsible for memory). Or that it's important for serotonin regulation (one of our feel good hormones) and positively influences our cognitive skills.
I volunteered to make something for the Yr 6 leaver's party at the end of last term. It was supposed to be fruit skewers but I looked at what was seasonally available and it's really slim pickings for something that will a) go on a skewer and b) not go brown.
So decided to do a fruit platter instead. I was still limited to fruit that wouldn't brown but doesn't it look colourful!!
It's so important that we do think about presentation - especially if we have a selective eater. I know, I know, it's twice as demoralising when you've created something that not only tastes amazing but looks a million dollars too, only to have it rejected.
However, if something looks fabulous it is far more likely to be considered than something that doesn't.
No, the initiative implemented by the Obama Administration was not perfect and there were places I'd have loved to wade in and make changes. However, the overall movement was in the right direction.
I have been working in the community for years advocating for better choices for children and the food environment makes a HUGE difference. Massive!
Reading the article makes me even sadder. Let me pull out the bits that got me the most!
1. A childhood diet high in processed foods has been associated with a higher likelihood of depression and anxiety later in life. A poor diet in the first years of a child’s life can also increase their risk for behavioural and emotional problems.
But some research suggests making healthy diet changes can effectively prevent some depressive episodes, and that eating lots of fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains can reduce a person’s risk for depression overall.
- From everything that I've studied this is true. And this is probably the most important reason for ensuring all children are given excellent choices. Especially as such a high percentage of the overall diet is consumed at school.
2. Kids are now eating more vegetables and taking in less saturated fat at school (though the healthier lunches did take some getting used to).
- It's so exciting to see kids eating more veggies. Who wouldn't want this?!?! And how awesome for the parents. Would it convince every selective eater - no. But that constant exposure is still a really positive thing.
3. Whole grains (which are now going to be cut back) are important for helping young, growing minds “feel full longer so they stay alert to concentrate at school.”
In contrast, refined grains, which have been stripped of their nutrient-rich outer shells, get processed more quickly in the body and turned into sugar, which can cause people to overeat and promote weight gain.
Long-term studies have shown that more refined carbohydrate consumption can also lead to diabetes and heart disease. Eating whole grains, on the other hand, can prevent these problems.
- Children do adjust to eating whole grains rather than refined grains and it's often a small step but an important one.
4. In August, reporting by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organisation covering inequality in education, suggested that kids from low-income families living along the Mississippi Delta are genuinely excited about the food they’re fed in free breakfast and lunch programs at school, such as apples and carrots.
According to the report, Mississippi resident Betty Newson said her grandson “might get more the food he really needs” at school, but not at home.
- If schools are offering reasonable options that can be critically important for children who don't have access to nutritious alternatives elsewhere.
5. Researchers say the eating patterns that kids establish early in life typically follow them into adulthood.
As a group of Canadian researchers put it in 2007, “if children are to learn to prefer and select healthy foods, they need early, positive, repeated experiences with those foods.”
One study showed that simply making lunch line offerings more nutritious (by serving more salads, fruits, and sandwiches instead of tacos and hamburgers) led students to consume 28% fewer grams of unhealthy food.
Considering that 20% of kids eat breakfast at school, and more than 90% get lunch there, the grains and sugar preferences they develop in the cafeteria likely shape the nutrition choices they will make for life.
- The food environment, the food environment, the food environment.
The photo in this article threw me for a loop to start with as the poor girl on the left looks as though she's got black teeth!
Aside from that I'm loving the advice. I know for my kids I dropped snacks as soon as they stopped nursing. I figured it was better to have balanced meals and focus on other things in between.
Not that I advocate for no-snacks as I feel it is horses for courses and it depends on the child and our schedules.
A lot of parents I speak to are really concerned that their children don't eat meat.
Not eating meat is really common among younger children as the texture can be challenging. It's also a lot of effort for little return - all that chewing!
Eating meat is a great way to get protein but is by no means the only way and it's rare in the Western world to not get enough protein.