Category Archives: Food & Wellness

Cookie Momster
Mousetrap in Cookie Jar

Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, she sneaks food. In this area, we fight and tempers flare creating a hostile environment at home. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snacks after school. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option.

A. My advice is to focus most on the facts that your daughter is smart, well-behaved, and competent. It’s all-too natural for our fears to get in the way of trusting who our children are. She is not yet thinking about what is good for her health and well-being and what she should be doing to enrich herself and her body. That’s not her job—yet.

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Dec ’19 Q&A – When Expectations are Off and Trust Gets Lost

Q. I am currently feeling like a failure as a parent. My 12 year old daughter is smart, well behaved, does well in school. However, there are 2 main areas where we fight and tempers flare resulting in a tense hostile environment at home. 

1) She sneaks food. She loves junk food like cookies and chips. We have a policy at home where the kids get to choose 2 junk items from the pantry as snack after school. And the deal is they don’t eat anything later. It works in most part, but she ends up taking 1-2 extra things on the side to her room. I am worried about the impact of constant junking on her teeth & overall health. She just cannot stop herself from eating. I cannot constantly monitor her and increasing the ‘allowed’ unhealthy stuff on a daily basis is not an option. 

2) The other is her watching You Tube, again without my knowledge. She has to use the laptop for homework, and I cannot baby sit while she is doing that as I have another kid and work to take care of. And mainly I want to give her the independence of making the right choices in the long term. Watching screen distracts her from homework, impacts the quality of her work so it takes till dinner time to complete! Plus, I don’t approve of what she watches. While age appropriate they are a waste of time and not shows that will enrich her, improve her skills and help her grow as an individual. 

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Feb. ’19 Q&A – Food Demands, Imagination and Fear, and Religious Doubt

Stop Catering to Food Demands

Q. My kids, 5 and 3, have had catered food of their choice their whole lives, and we can’t figure out how to switch without enduring weeks and months of misery at the table. When we tried a year ago, we gave up after about a week and a half of screaming and crying at every dinner. After a long hiatus, I tried again, thinking the kids would help plan the menu and cook. They agreed to try a homemade mac and cheese. They took a few bites, declared it disgusting, and started crying for their usual (pbj for my son, pizza for my daughter). We also had other items they like on offer—pineapple and bread—but they wouldn’t eat. After 30 minutes of crying, my husband and I agreed to give in but to get advice on how else we might do this more effectively, and less painfully.

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Involve Your Child in Choosing Activities

Choosing activities
With summer vacation here, how do you choose the right programs or activities for your kids?

Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it’s not. Lots of agendas are involved when schedules and locations are important in choosing activities year-round.

When choosing activities, consider:

  • This is for your child, not you. Of course it must work for you, but try not to project what you loved as a kid, or what you wish you had gotten to do.
  • Do not sign your child up for something you think she will like and then inform her what she will be doing.
  • Make suggestions but not directions. “What about…? If I were you, I would love that – but that’s me.”
  • Go over general categories—day or sleep away camp, sports programs, theater programs, horse camps, art or music programs, etc. Then include your child (if old enough) in some of the research. The more your child is involved, the more engaged he will be and the less you will be blamed if it doesn’t work out.
  • Job-aged kids need your help and support during the job search, but not your leg-work. Acknowledge the difficulty, share your experiences, be open to hear the griping, offer suggestions, but do not do the work.
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    Eat Your Peas or No Dessert! Establishing Healthy Eating Habits.

    Do you have a picky eater? Are you worried your child will never get any nutrition and will eat only white food for the rest of her life? Or is p, b, and j your son’s only staple?

    Keeping our children healthy and well fed tops the list of any parent’s job description. Every trick in the book seems fair game when a worried parent attempts to get food down a resistant child’s throat. The problem is that with sleeping, toileting, and eating, children have ultimate control and they know it. It’s rare that a parent doesn’t have a struggle in one of these areas. We have to learn to respect that control yet encourage healthy habits.

    First and foremost is the parent’s perception of the problem. When a child is not eating what we think they should, we tend to panic. But he’s got to get a vegetable in at least once in awhile. She’ll never grow if she eats like a bird. I’m not a short-order cook! Why do we have to go through this at every meal?

    The parent’s job is to trust. Trust that the child won’t starve herself. Trust that only a little of each food group is required and over a longer period of time than just one day. Trust that development plays a big part in both resistance and acceptance of certain foods. And trust that this stage will end.

    Baby foods can often be a culprit. When your baby is beginning solid food, mash up real food so he gets used to textured foods right away. Once solids are acceptable and your child shows interest in what you’re eating, let him pick from your plate, make a mess, drop food on the floor.

    Dinnertime is the hearth of the family. As often as possible, have a family meal. Coming together for dinner should be so much fun that there is never reason to force your child to come to the table. Happy family meals are a foundation that so many other experiences are based on. Children are far less likely to drift in the teen years.

    Keep the following principles in mind and you will have children who can’t wait for dinnertime:

  • Your job is deciding what food you buy and how you prepare it; your child’s job is to decide what goes down his throat. You can’t control that so don’t even try.
  • Don’t worry about table manners. Manners are learned through modeling. Allow your young child to eat with fingers, whatever encourages her to put the food in her mouth.
  • Never use discipline or consequences around eating. Never withhold dessert as a reward for eating.
  • Never talk about food at the table. Take your children food shopping, engage them in food preparation and use those times to teach about nutrition, ingredients and what builds healthy bodies. Do not tell them what they must eat at the table.
  • Don’t present a plate of expectations to a picky eater. Put prepared food in bowls and platters and a bare plate in front of each person. Allow your children to serve themselves. More is likely to go on the plate, but don’t expect it all to go in his mouth.
  • Prepare the meals you want to have. Always include something you know your picky eater will eat, even if it is just bread. Do not fix different meals for different people. You can focus on getting nutrition into smoothies, breakfast or lunch. Dinner should be fun. If your child says, I hate that, say simply, That’s fine, you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to.
  • As soon as your children are old enough, offer toothpicks or chopsticks to eat with. Making the eating process a challenge will make it more fun.
  • Once a month, have a meal with the rule, No hands allowed. Each person must keep their hands behind their back and eat however they can!
  • Make a ritual of lighting a candle for each member of the family. As soon as your child is old enough to light a match with your supervision, have each person light a candle for another member of the family. If dad or mom is away, a candle can be lit for them.
  • Establish rituals like a thankful prayer or a sharing of best and worst moments of the day.
  • Do not use this time for private conversation with your spouse expecting no interruptions. Conversation must be shared by all for the dinner table to be fun.
  • Tell jokes and play games like “I Spy” to keep interest and laughter at the table.
  • Allow young active children to come and go. Do not expect quiet, mannered behavior. ADHD kids often do better on a large bouncy ball than a chair. There will be plenty of time ahead for manners and asking to be excused.
  • If you are going to have dessert, make it healthy (yogurt with fruit, etc.) so you are not giving cake to a child who has eaten nothing else. Save sugary treats for special occasions, not for mealtime desserts. Reminder: Do not use dessert as a reward or punishment.
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