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6 Reasons To Stop Feeding Your Kids “Kid Food”

Dr. Fernando shares some interesting thoughts on food for children.

According to the National Institutes of Health, on any given day one-third of children and 41 percent of teens eat from a fast-food restaurant. They also report that the restaurant meals often served to kids contain too many calories. The typical “kid food” being offered tends to usually include chicken nuggets, fries, macaroni and cheese, burgers, and pizza. The problem is that these meals often provide empty calories and don’t provide enough nutrition. They also keep the kids wanting the same types of foods at home, with parents often providing them. One expert, Doctor Yum, says it’s time to ditch the “kid food” and start giving kids better options.

“Most food is kid-friendly. Kids just need to learn how to eat it,” says Dr. Nimali Fernando, a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based pediatrician who founded The Doctor Yum Project. “Kids who are taught healthy eating habits, which include eating a variety of healthy foods, will be far better off now and in the long run. They will be learning healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”

Here are 6 reasons to ditch the pizza and pouches and get your kids back to real food:

  • Kids can learn to eat real food. Most of us parents overestimate the amount of food children need. Therefore when a toddler takes two bites of their entree, parents may feel defeated instead of realizing they may have eaten enough. Parents then may be more likely to reach for those kid-friendly, addictive snacks (like crackers and gummy snacks) to fill their child’s belly.  It should be no surprise that grazing-style eating, where hunger does not fully develop, leads to a poor appetite at mealtime. Parents should continue to provide opportunities to practice eating healthy foods, and have realistic expectations for what their child should eat. With enough practice kids will get used to a healthy array of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Check with your pediatrician to see if your child is meeting expectations for growth to ensure his food intake is on track.
  • Restaurant kids meals are a waste of money. When eating out, say no to kid’s meals, which are usually variations on the same “kid-friendly” foods like pizza, chicken nuggets, and sweet drinks. Most of these menus have little to no vegetables or fruit. They may be belly fillers and provide calories but little added nutritional value for your dollar. Instead, order a healthy similarly priced appetizer and/or share your entree with your little one (restaurant meals are so oversized that chances are good that the serving is too big for you anyway). Alternatively, order a few entrees “family style” and ask the server to bring extra plates for whole family to sample. This encourages kids to be adventurous and get used to trying new foods.
  • Kid-friendly foods are misleading.  Recent studies of toddler foods show that many actually have more sugar and salt than what is recommended by experts. Food companies know that parents worry about nutrition, and know the buzzwords to attract those worried parents. It’s easy to make food choices based on the promise of “more protein” or “high in calcium.”  But reading the nutrition label (on the back of the box, not the front) will give you the big picture on whether a food is right for your child. Is there an abundance of additives and preservatives? Are the ingredients recognizable and safe? How much sugar is added? Think about the whole foods that might be used to get the same benefit (like a handful of nuts for protein instead of a protein bar).
  • Kids need real food to develop and thrive. While pizza and macaroni and cheese may fill a child’s belly, kids need fruits, vegetables and whole grains to provide the necessary, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) for optimal growth and development.  Furthermore, an important part of a child’s development is their oral motor skills, those functions of the mouth (lips, tongue, teeth and palate) that allow for speech, safe feeding and swallowing. Many kid-friendly foods are soft and easy to eat and don’t encourage development of those skills. Relying too heavily on these foods (like soft chicken nuggets and pouches with soft purées) can allow kids to lag behind in oral motor development and may lead to picky eating.
  • You don’t have time to be a short order cook. Making two or three meals to satisfy everyone’s preferences is exhausting and can lead to cooking burnout. Teach kids to eat what you are eating to save time and money and to encourage the spirit of adventurous eating. This can be done from the earliest bites of solid food. Instead of relying on store-bought baby food exclusively, find ways to make your meals into healthy baby food. Check out the Doctor Yum Project’s kid-tested, pediatrician approved recipes on doctoryum.org. Many of them have a “baby food shortcut” which shows families how to adapt a family meal and make a meal for a baby along the way. Eating in this way from a young age can avoid that picky eater trap and lead to a path to adventurous eating for a lifetime.
  • Nutrition shouldn’t be hidden, so stop hiding the veggies.  Kids that are very hesitant eaters may be benefit from a few hidden vegetables as they gain confidence in food, but in general parents should try to help kids learn to love healthy foods without hiding them. While hidden veggies may help nutritionally, the kids may not gain an understanding that vegetables can be delicious, so they may still try to avoid them when they are visible. Get kids loving their veggies by leading by example, preparing them together, growing a garden, and visiting a farmers market where they can pick out a couple of things to try. The more variety they are exposed to and realize that they enjoy, the better the eating habits will be.

“If kids can get involved in the food process, from shopping to preparing it, and they can learn about why eating healthy is so important to them, they are more likely to do so,” adds Heidi DiEugenio, a director at the Doctor Yum Project. “This will help them avoid the obesity problems, chronic health issues, and they will have a better opportunity to live a healthier life throughout their adulthood.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy eating habits can help children maintain a healthy weight, as well as reduce their risks of such conditions as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, iron deficiency, dental cavities, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. An unhealthy diet, on the other hand, can lead to being overweight or obese, increase risks for certain types of cancer, and negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and a child’s school performance.

Dr. Fernando and Heidi DiEugenio are two of the original founders of  The Doctor Yum Project, an organization with the mission of transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. The project offers free online tools to help families make healthier meals, healthy cooking classes, child nutrition classes, cooking camps for kids, hands-on cooking instruction for families, first foods classes, and a teaching garden, They also offer a preschool nutrition curriculum, with 40 classrooms and almost 600 participating preschoolers. They are the go-to resource for families looking for answers on how make healthy, achievable dietary changes for a lifetime of good health.

Dr. Fernando, otherwise known as Dr. Yum, is a board-certified pediatrician. She is also the co-author of the book “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook” (The Experiment, October 2015). To learn more, visit the site at: www.doctoryum.org.

About The Doctor Yum Project
The Doctor Yum Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to transforming the lives of families and communities by providing an understanding of the connection between food and overall health, as well as empowering them with the tools to live a healthy life. They offer a variety of community programs to help with those efforts. They are located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and feature a free interactive website with family taste-tested healthy recipes and innovative tools to make cooking at home easier, an instructional kitchen and teaching garden for holding classes. To learn more, visit the site at: www.doctoryum.org.

Book Review – Rumorang

Thankfully, both BB and LTD don’t seem to engage in gossip as much as they do enjoying “telling” on each other. In an effort to nip any gossip gateway conversations we recently read, Janice Brown’s Rumorang (with pictures by Lane Raichert). As the title suggests the tale focuses on the dangers of spreading lies about our friends. In a page out of the game Telephone the book’s characters share a secret about Petunia that spreads like wildfire. Of course the rumor circles back to Petunia and we all learn how actions have consequences even if those actions only involve mere words. The message of the tale is encased in the silly way the rumor grows as to not hit the children over the head or enter dark territory. I have not gone into detail about the origins of the word Rumorang, but I will let you google it at your leisure. The singular focus of the story allows the message to come across and the tale allows for questions after reading.

 

 

Book Review – Life on Earth Series

BB long in his brother’s shadow is always wanting to read what LTD is reading. Since he can’t read Harry Potter yet (especially since he calls it Heater Potter) we like to get him cool books more his speed. Heather Alexander has a new series featuring flaps and questions. Dinosaurs, Farm, Human Body and Jungle feature bright spread pages with questions answered in flap form. The art by Andres Lozano is simple with a pop quality the kids seem to like. For instance, how many teeth are in my mouth? on a drawing of a child’s face. The answer by the way is 32 when an adult and can be found under the mouth flap. Of course BB loves the intestine page with the flap on waste. Thankfully, the there are not a crazy amount of flaps to make things cluttered and the pages are sturdy but we shall see if BB can still destroy. The books are helpful as of late since BB has really run with the “why” ball and I can’t keep up with all the different questions. Example: yesterday, he asked me what spider blood looked like which resulted in me having nightmares from a google image search.

Book Review – Hug It Out!

Thankfully LTD and BB don’t really fight all that much. I don’t want to jinx it but they mostly play well together. However, when issues arise it is nice to have a few options on hand. Louis Thomas’ new book, Hug It Out! offers a novel approach to discipline. The tale revolves around siblings Woody and Annie and their no stop bickering. As the story progresses their mother reaches the end of her rope and lays down a new punishment. She issues an edict stipulating that whenever they fight they must hug. What could be worse for a brother and sister? In reading this book I could not help but think of my boys as BB will try to hug his older brother, an act met with derision. The story is tight and focused allowing for the point to get across and hopefully sink in. However, every time we read it BB wants to hug LTD afterward and the ensuing fight negates the lesson of the tale.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

If you haven’t already tried this, what are you waiting for. LTD and BB of course only want to watch the Star Wars Yoga episodes but they are all fun. Click here.

Product Review – SnapPower Guidelights

We have long had a difficult time finding appropriate night lights. The kiddie ones don’t seem to last and the regular ones felt to grown up for our style. Now that the boys are older the night light isn’t super important but I like to have one so I don’t step on a sharp toy during the occasional middle of the night sleep interruption. SnapPower Guidelights replace your regular outlet cover and hide in plain sight. No wires or batteries these stealth covers light the path and don’t stick out like regular night lights. The LED light is not too bright but brighter than traditional night lights and makes for a clear night time excursions to the bathroom.  The sensor shuts them off during the day as long as they are near a window or other light source. I also enjoy the movie theater vibe that the light gives my hallway.

Contest Alert

Here at zulily, we love when our fans share photos of their adorable #zulilycuties on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. This coming Monday, we’re hosting a contest to find our next #zulilycutie to be the face of an upcoming zulily campaign! Contest link here.

Book Review – Microsaurs: Follow that Tiny-Dactyl

Now that LTD is burning through books, he doesn’t even get sick reading in the car, we are always striving to have interesting books on hand. Dustin Hansen’s new tome Microsaurs features as the title suggests little dinosaurs. Central characters Danny and Lin discover these tiny creatures during a go pro skateboard session. The story also features art by Hansen. The kids travel to a secret lab where they find a whole lot of little dinosaurs and more. As usual, I don’t want to spoil the ending but let me just write that it involves shrinking. and of course the story features a not so mad scientist because you can’t have tiny dinosaurs without a professor type. LTD has even taken to reading some of story out loud to BB but this type of activity is fraught with interruptions and distractions. Additionally, BB was more interested in the skateboarding than the fact that little dinosaurs were running around. 

 

 

 

Product Review – Kaboom

Thankfully, LTD has really gotten into playing board games, however the challenge is that BB also wants to play but their age difference makes this problematic (and sometimes destructive). This is a long way of saying that any game that is easy to place and easy to destroy is a welcome addition to our fun supply. Kaboom is a fast paced building game involving wooden blocks and shapes versus catapults. LTD likes that when it is your turn you get to be called Master Builder. BB likes to smash stuff. You have to build a tower as quickly as possible from the designs on the game board at the same time your opponent  acts as saboteur firing a small catapult from a foot away. A word of caution as if you don’t keep a tight lid on things feels can get hurt as well as my body parts. Luckily, game play is quick enough that my boys thirst for revenge is easily granted. And if you play on the kitchen table the pieces will clatter to the ground so my suggestion would be the coffee table.

Product Review – Watchitude

watchLTD goes back and forth from wanting to learn how to tell time and then forgetting about it. He occasionally will ask for a watch but again does’t press the issue. However, we felt it was time (no pun intended) to properly learn how to read a clock. Watchitude’s Slap Watch was the simplest solution. He can put it on himself as there is no little metal thing to feed through a hole. There are literally hundreds of designs to choose from but he has been digging the planets. The numbers are big and easy to read so he has slowly been learning to read a watch face. I was never the best at telling time and so The Mommy is mostly helping him while deal with BB wanting one but they don’t fit his wrist yet. Another cool feature is that you can submit any design you want, name it and people can vote on their favorite. The winners go into production. I felt old when I looked for directions on how to set the time and of course they directed me to their youtube video. Speaking of time, LTD has spent a lot of it voting for different watches.