Category Archives: Nutrition

Food Rules

Every family should have some rules around food and eating. From the time I was trained as a pediatrician until today, I have been taught that food should not be a battleground. As parents, we think we need to get kids to eat. But we DO NOT. They will eat what they need to grow on from the balance of food we present. Here are some rules every house should apply.

Do not pressure kids to eat.

Do not worry about how much your child eats at any age!

Make them eat from your choices , not theirs.

Their choice should be to eat or not eat.

Do not play around to “get them to eat”.

Do not pay attention to their behavior around food.

These rules should make your house more peaceful around meals and dinnertime. To learn more join our discussion of these rules on Thursday October 30th at 11:30 at our parent coffee. Good luck.

Dr. Orr

The Family Dinner

This is a plea to bring back this tradition in your family.

Starting with nutrition and health, the family dinner  provides a time to cook healthy foods for everyone. For one  meal of the day you can be assured that everyone eats something  good for them. This is getting easier as we have a movement  toward healthy organic foods. For many people, dinner is the  only time to get a vegetable and salad in their diet. Just  keeping this habit going can add years to your lives.

For the families’ mental well-being, dinner provides a time  for face-to-face conversation. Yes, this can mean conflict but  the dinner table provides a forum to work things out. If you  have to sit at the same table with people night after night  there is strong motivation to settle spats and not hold grudges.

A recent study showed that top scholars had one thing in  common – their families ate dinner together. By eating together  we converse with each other. We debate, argue, laugh and cry  together. Providing children with this forum prepares them for  school and the world. Children gain further achievement when  they come from households that value family dinners.

They won’t always be perfect. Yes, you will argue. There  will be good times and bad around the table. Some meals will be  gobbled up. Some won’t be touched. It doesn’t matter. The  important thing is the value of the family dinner over time.  The lessons learned at the table will be valued by your children  – especially as they go off to work, study and achieve in the  real world. Family dinners – don’t let them leave home without one.

“My Tummy Hurts”

“My tummy hurts”, “I have a headache”, “I’m not hungry”. I have heard these  complaints a thousand times a year. I have heard these complaints in Italy, Honduras,  and America. It is universal. Kids complain about body issues to their parents – and  to their doctors. But when is a complaint just a complaint and when is it a harbinger of  illness? “My tummy hurts” is a phrase all parents hear. Many times the child expresses  discomfort to their parents. Yet, the discomfort may mean many things to the child. It  could mean “I am full, or “hungry” or “I need to go to the bathroom”. Perhaps it means it  “hurts” in fleeting, temporary, crampy sort of way.

“I have a headache” surprises parents. People don’t believe kids should have  headaches. But they do and most are not troublesome. Most are easily treated with rest  or tylenol. Certainly time and attention helps too.

The complaint “I’m not hungry” often is followed by a series of questions. “Why, don’t  you feel well? Do you have a fever? Is your throat sore?” But perhaps the child just  doesn’t want to eat.

When children complain should parents and other caring adults be concerned? Is  something really wrong? Will they starve? Will they get sicker? Many children’s  complaints don’t need any action. Many only need patience and observation. Often a  little attention suffices to solve the problem. Sometimes that is the only thing the child  was after to begin with.

Of course, we as adults fear overlooking real illness. But we need not worry too much  with complaints alone. With real illness children demonstrate real evidence of illness.  A temperature may come. Cough, vomiting, diarrhea, ear pain or sore throats become  apparent. Rarely is a simple complaint evidence of illness without some corresponding  signs. It is when children are demonstrating a combination of factors (i.e. a complaint  of stomach ache and diarrhea and signs of dehydration) that medical advice should be  sought after. A complaint alone needs patience, love, time and keen observation.

Complaints that persist with regularity without physical signs may lead to other  questions. If complaints are during week days, is there a problem with school? Is  the child missing a lot of school? Are the complaints a manifestation of something  happening at school such as bullying? Could the complaints be part of stress at home?  Or could the complaints be evidence of anxiety or depression in the child?

We all hear complaints from children. It happens in all cultures and all countries.  What to do about complaints may not be as easy as a trip to the doctor’s office. When  children are truly physically ill, they’ll show us. It is the other complaints that take more  wisdom to discover the real cause. And there are many complaints that go away only  because of the love and care we show.

Meals Made Easier

Has your child turned family mealtime into a family  nightmare? Are dinners a perpetual struggle? Do you make  five meals before your child settles on the same old  reliable? Do you have back up plans in case dinner isn’t a  hit? You can make meals easier in your house by adopting a  few basic rules. But first parents need to understand some  background about children and their appetites.

Children fool us in the first year of life that they  will always be good eaters. During that first year kids  grow rapidly and have an appetite that matches their rapid  growth. We, as parents, get lulled into the idea that  their good appetite in the first year is our success. This  sets us up for frustration as nature slows down our  children’s growth in the second year, and their appetites  drop accordingly. They simply do not need to eat as much  after their first year in order to continue normal growth.

Unfortunately, many parents live with the cultural  myth that says being a good parent means your child eats.  Operating under this myth we help our kids play games  around food and eating. They can hold out for their 4 or 5  favorite foods because they know you are worried about how  much they eat and know that you will eventually come around  to a food they like. In other words, they select their  diet by refusing the diet you offer.

Parents need to operate under a new paradigm. Being a  good parent means that you offer only a balanced diet no  matter whether they eat or not. Children should not choose  their diets. Children will choose to eat good foods over  starving themselves. In fact children do not starve  themselves even as we worry that they will. They just look  like they will while they hold out for what they want.

If parents learn to present meals to their children  under a new set of rules, family meal stress will decrease  dramatically.

Don’t allow children to push your buttons over meals.  Believe in the fact that they do not starve themselves.

You are in charge of choosing their diet.

They are in charge of eating from the presented food  or not. Eventually they will choose to eat from the good  diet you are presenting. Check out the new food pyramid,  and keep the good diet coming.

Get junky foods out of the house and keep them out.

Don’t make your child eat.

Don’t make them sit in front of their meal incessantly.

Don’t give them cereal before bedtime.

Don’t punish over food.

Don’t let food and feeding be so important to you.  Presenting a good diet is the only important responsibility  in managing your child’s diet.

You can close your kitchen anytime you want. A good  time for this is when dinner has been cleared.

When parents start to recognize what they have control  over, (the diet selection) and what they don’t have control  over (how much is eaten) then dinner time can become the  peaceful time it should be.

Managing Our Children’s Diets

By now most people in the U.S. recognize that there is an epidemic of obesity in our children. Statistically, the  percentage of overweight children has more than doubled  since the 1960’s. Along with that, we have seen an  increase in the number of kids with high blood pressure and  Type 2 diabetes. But what action have parents taken to  stem the tide of childhood obesity? What can they do?

Before I answer those questions I want to explain a  phenomenon that I have noticed in the majority of  overweight children that I see. The phenomenon I see has  to do with children’s growth curves. In kids who get  overweight, they are not overweight in the first few years  of life. Their growth curve changes direction and they  become overweight only when they take over control of their  own diet. When I ask about their diet I usually get the  same answers – they eat pizza, spaghetti, burgers, fries,  and few fruits and vegetables. So this is the answer to the question about what parents can do. Parents need to stay in  control of children’s diets even into late grade school.  Here’s how.

  1. Don’t pay attention to kids’ likes and dislikes. Children can choose to eat or not to eat. If  they don’t eat, they can wait until the next meal,  even if it is breakfast. Children won’t starve themselves. We don’t need to push them to eat  everything.
  2. Be a good example. This is an essential rule. Parents should choose the healthy meals.  If your kids don’t like it and won’t eat – that’s  ok. They need to learn to choose from the healthy  choices that you present. They need to earn the  right to have a choice in meals by eating good  foods first. Bring good foods into your home. You have the  power of the purse. Don’t buy the junk. If it’s  in your home they will eat it. Stay away from  packaged foods, fries and soda. Buy more fruits  and vegetables and make them accessible for taking.  Teach your children that you respect your body by what you put into it and they will learn to respect  their body too.
  3. Make some firm house rules. Once food is on the table, they cannot ask for something else.  Parents who are short order cooks end up feeding their kids what they want and not what they should have!
  4. Cut down on kid’s TV time. TV is clearly linked to kids diets. All kids want what they see on TV.
  5. Get out together for family fun. Bike rides, walks, hikes, or going to a park  are good for all families.
  6. As school starts, be aware of school lunches.  They are typically not too healthy. Make your kids lunches and add healthy snacks. At least you have control of what they bring to school. At first, much of it will come back home again.

The obesity problem in children is caused by lifestyle  choices made by families. It is rarely caused by thyroid  or other hormone issues. If we teach our children a  healthy lifestyle, that will be a lesson that can add years  onto their lives and take away years of suffering with  obesity related illnesses. Take control of their diet  when they are young. Hold onto that control during grade school. Show them other means of staying healthy through exercise and activity. You will all add years to your enjoyment of each other.