Let’s talk childrens menus when eating out. This can be a topic of division in my mind and in general amongst parents. I doubt many people choose where they eat out based soley on the kids menu but when you are eating out with small ones it is hugely important.
Often childrens menus are high on beige foods and low on colours. I’m talking fishfingers, nuggets, burgers, chips, potato waffles with maybe beans or peas but not much else. I totally get why, as a restaurant you want children to enjoy their meal and hey, it’s only one meal. So does it really matter?
I think it does. Children are little adults, as an adult I want choice, flavour, foods that I don’t usually eat at home, foods that make me think and that my tastebuds explore. Beige food menus are devoid of a variety of tastes, textures, fibre and colours. All things we want kids to be eating.
Now for my kids eating out is a complete treat. We don’t do it that often. I also don’t tend to offer “beige meals” often at home, unless they are requested. Not that I am against those foods, they have a place. However, I prefer to go for plenty of veggies and variety, aiming for homemade foods when I can. So we may have fishfingers from the freezer but I’d serve them with a mixture of veggies, potato wedges, with the skin on and thus provide a range of nutrients, fibre and tastes. Nuggets and fishcakes can totally be offered as part of a balanced diet but do they need to make up the majority of children’s menus when eating out? I think not. Let’s get some balance on the menu please.
If we start to offer variety and treat children as little foodies maybe they will start eating in this way? Having had a boy who was anti-vegetables I’ve had first hand experience of how consistency, being non-judgemental and continual exposure works. So if we only offer beige foods they will only eat beige foods! This is part of the basis behind raising intuitive eaters, as parents we offer a range of foods and let them choose how much and what to have.
My crazy kids actually get a bit excited about a kids menu but at times I get “why is my food not as nice as yours”. Which has led to us ordering an adults meal for the kids to share or of course sharing our own meals. I do remember at a wedding the sausage and chips being shunned in favour of the delicious buffet. When travelling I encourage the children to try cultural foods and things they have not had before – with varying results but it’s all about continuing to promote these values and ideas.
Eating out is about pleasure and enjoying meals different to those at home. My 7 yr old especially loves eating “adult meals”. So I love places who make small versions of the adult menu. In my mind this is how it should be. Yesterday we ate out at a restaurant that did an amazing menu with kid friendly versions of their dishes – no chilli, smaller portions and some meals where all the foods were separate for those, like my boy, who would have wanted to pick bits out. They were also happy to make changes to the kids meals. My children were VERY happy.
It’s all about enjoyment, choice, variety and #empoweringkids to do this. I see it as part of intuitive eating, letting them choose what to have and how much to eat. My kids are very different in their eating and how they eat but all loved their lunch out today.
In a completely perfect world we would eat when hungry, stop when full and eat the foods our body tells us to eat. However few of us are that tuned into our bodies signals. We are bombarded with outside signals for example the media, advertising, other people, shops, restaurants – food is all around us.
You walk down the road and pass someone eating a burger, “hmmm I fancy one of those now”. Then you pass a billboard advertising ice-cream, “oh I could eat an ice-cream later”. Then someone in the office has a birthday so you have a slice of cake. Later on the radio is advertising a meal deal which makes you think of buying one for your lunch. In the shop you are standing waiting to pay and see a cereal bar so pick it up to nibble on. All those extra signals that are overriding your actual body signals. It’s all so easy to be overwhelmed by the external and takes a lot of quietening ourselves to hear the internal cues.
Many people I work with cannot actually initially pinpoint what hunger feels like. I ask how hungry they are and am met with a confused look. Hunger on the one hand is quite a simple idea, your body is hungry, it tells you, you eat. Other the other hand it is complex, so complex. There is head hunger, body hunger, stomach hunger, emotional hunger.
Here is my 7 year olds take on how she knows she is hungry. I think this is such an important conversation to have with children AND adults. So have a think this week, how do you feel hunger and how hungry are you before you eat?
In a time when there is a focus on reducing sugar, countering obesity and improving the long term health of the nation, it can be hard to know how to approach these topics with your family. On the one hand we want children to be aware of what is in food but we don’t want them to be obsessing over it or feeling they need to go on a diet.
Personally I think that teaching children about nutrition, food preparation, healthy behaviours and their bodies early on is really important and can be part of the solution that our society needs. So as a mum I do my best to educate my children on a daily basis. Simple messages that we use are “There are no good of bad foods but some foods we eat less of as too much of them are helpful for our bodies”. We also talk about what is in a food and why it is good for us – often using “Funky Facts” such as the fibre in bread or the vitamin C in a kiwi. Top facts like this are things I find they store up and remember.
We may talk about dental health or how out tummy feels if you eat too much of certain foods. Both my older children (age 4 and 7 yrs) can associate with a time they have eaten sweet foods and felt unwell from it! I love talking to them about how their tummy feels and what do they feel it needs as well as what does it want!
I prefer to focus on these messages rather than focusing on weight/size/shape. Being a dietitian who works in the eating disorder field I am well aware of the issues that can occur when there is too much of a focus on weight, shape, size and how your body looks. Instead I like to focus on the enjoyment of food and on healthy behaviours such as being active, getting fresh sunlight, being outside and taking care of our teeth, hair, nails.
Here is a little video of my 7 year old explaining her thoughts on food:
I’d love to hear your thoughts!
It seems a lot of you out there are interested in teaching your children about intuitive eating. Which is absolutely amazing! I’m over the moon. Absolutely loving the little experiments people are doing at home too.
After a few comments and questions about the last blog post I thought I’d do a post on how we talk about nutrition at home. Again this is not a perfect method and I don’t know it all but I am seeing the benefits in my children.
For example this week at lunch my boy aged 4
“Mummy why are we having grapes for lunch”
Me: “Because Miss E wanted them” (she is a grape-a-holic, though she hasn’t tried wine yet!).
J-boy: “We had grapes yesterday and the day before”
Me: “I know, is there a problem with that?”
J-boy: “Well we shouldn’t just eat the same foods we should have different colours and types”.
Me: in a flabbergasted tone “Ummmm yes exactly”
Is it just me who is amazed when their children actually listen and take on board what you say?
So here we go, how we chat about nutrition at home:
Take the relaxed road. Several people asked me how can I be sure the kids won’t over eat the food like sweets and biscuits? I guess I can’t ever be sure, but I also cannot be in control of their food intake for ever. I want them to listen to their inner signals and to have a good grasp of nutrition. The more I trust them and let go, the more they surprise me. So we talk about how sugary foods are absolutely delicious and all foods are great to eat but too many lollipops, cakes, biscuits, dried fruit can lead to tooth decay and tummy ache. On those occasions when the children do over-eat sweeter foods it is a great chance to talk about how that feels.
A recent example being Eton Mess, my girl had a serving, then came back to ask me if she could have more. I suggested she think about her tummy and decide herself. After another serving she felt a bit sickly and later on reflected on this being due to the sweet, creamy dessert.
Now if I had told her not to have another serving she would have just felt a bit disgruntled, whereas now she understands more about listening to her body.
Fullness and Hunger Cues. We talk about how it feels to be full and hungry. In the words of my children:
Fullness = my tummy has had enough, it feels uncomfortable, my mouth has eaten enough, I’m not empty. Hungry = rumbles and my tummy aches. Sometimes when I’m hungry I don’t have my energy.
Miss K has always been good at stopping when she is full. the J-boy is another kettle of fish. He will happily keep munching on foods such as biscuits unless you remind him to tune into his tummy. Distraction for him is a biggie. Yesterday in the car he had been given a pack of biscuits, he asked how many to have and I asked him to ask his tummy and see after 1 if he should have another or keep it for later. He happily munched his way through 2 and stopped. Now I’m pretty sure it would have been 3 or 4 biscuits if he had been watching TV whilst snacking or distracted.
Nutrition Facts. Now I’m not organised enough to sit down with them and give planned nutrition lessons, I find relaxed or undercover stealth like approach works best. So don’t feel you need to become a teacher to teach nutrition. When we eat a meal we tend to have a few facts about the food we are eating and talk about the meal. It could be where the meat comes from, how something is grown, the colours on the plate or why something is good for your body. My kids love a handy fact and they will then repeat things back at a later meal. This can prove amusing when someone else is eating a food that they know about.
Your language matters. How you talk about food is so important. Labelling foods as good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, treats or special foods put those foods up on a pedestal. If there are foods that you disapprove of your children will soon pick up on it. I feel like it is a daily occurance that I am having to challenge my own thinking on this and change my words/tone. It seems I am not alone, phew.
Eat using the Senses. Talk about how food tastes, smells and the texture. This can help them to zone in on what they are eating and to not eat it without noticing. One way we have done this recently is to talk about taste buds, where they are in the mouth and what you are tasting when you eat certain foods. My boy enjoys the noises that foods make and how they feel when he eats them with his fingers. Yes it may be not be good table manners but it is a way to get him to connect with his food and think about what he is eating. Later in life people spend lots of time getting back to mindful eating… our children can teach us alot about enjoying our food.
I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you talk about food at home?
Social media for me is essential. It brings me work, it brings me a virtual team and it enables me to stay up to date. I love it for personal and business reasons. It has connected me to a community of other nutrition professionals who I would probably never had met otherwise. I have daily chats with people about the current research, I can ask questions and support others, I can share resources and collaborate with them.
But at the same time social media can be a tough place to be. The nutrition world has become a crazy place. There are people with no training in nutrition publishing books and becoming the got-to for advice. There are highly qualified and respected experts getting caught up in social media wars. I can completely understand why some people stay away from it altogether.
Here are some things I am thankful for on social media:
Dietitian’s and registered nutritionists are trained to read the research and interpret it. That may sound simple but there can be many ways to interpret one piece of research. I’m thankful for people who share research, those who give an unbiased view, those who answer questions and help when others need a clearer answer or more research to back up a view.
A virtual community who are supportive, forward thinking and inspire me. Working as a freelancer I don’t actually see other dietitian’s that often. To all those who are on the cutting edge with popdcasts, videos, infographics – thankyou.
People who get in contact to just say nice things. Those who notice and say hi, those who comment on a blog post or a recipe. It is appreciated.
Things that I wish I could change on social media:
The sniping and fighting that goes on. There is not one perfect answer, or one perfect diet. So maybe sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Promoting of books and money making schemes over the science. It can be all too easy to think that just because someone has a book contract it makes them an expert. There are too many arguments about who is the expert. Personally I would say look at someone’s qualifications. If they are talking about nutrition have they actually studied nutrition?
Black and white thinking. Social media only provides you with a small number of characters or a snapshot moment to present your point. This can mean that things become black or white, you end up having to take a side. Nutrition is a fairly new science and we are learning so much all of the time, with new research coming out tat is adding to our evidence. Therefore we do not have absolutes, what we do have is a base of science that we build upon.
If you are a nutrition professional I do think you need to be on social media, sharing accurate messages, supporting your profession and keeping up with the world on there. How we group together and fight these battles that go on is not something I can answer but I do know it needs to be co-ordinated and professional.
Lasagne is one of those meals that is loved the whole family. Let’s face it, if you don’t love lasagne then you are very usual! Often seen as hard to make, time consuming and more comfort food than “healthy” I want to share my top tips for making it a standard weeknight family meal.
Working in eating disorders as a dietitian is the very hardest part of my job. As a freelancer I cover a huge variety of roles. In my other world as a Pilates teacher and studio owner I have an altogether more energetic and flowing role. Yet it is working with eating disorder clients that uses the most of me, pushes me hardest, and pulls on my mind, spirit and emotions.
Some of my hardest work is with the “stuck” clients. Those who really want to change, really want to break free, really want help…. and yet they just can’t do it. It is so very hard for them as you can see they do want to get better. Imagine this – knowing how you are living is ultimately going to shorten your life, make your life difficult and lead to you not being able to do a lot of things and yet not being able to change it. Life with an eating disorder is a very hard life.
Often there is a specific weight that they cannot push past.
Sometimes there are behaviours such as exercising or purging that they cannot give up.
Change can be made, but only to a point.
So what causes this “stuckness”?
It is not uncommon for me to being working with someone who 100% agrees that they need to get their weight to xx kg. We put a plan in place, they are working towards it really well, everything seems to be on target and then the “stuckness” hits just before our weight goal. Why? It could be that when they were last at this weight they didn’t like their bodies/themselves, someone said something negative about them or that something traumatic happened at this weight. It could be they have never been that weight before, it is the highest weight they will have reached.
I like to work this through with people.
“What will it be like being this weight”
“How will it change your relationships and how you see yourself”
“What will be better and what will be worse?”
I also remind them that you really cannot predict how it will feel and be until you get there. Using the analogy of a night in a hotel. You can guess how it will be, you can imagine how you may spend the time with your partner, you can predict the layout of the room, the hotel and the menu. However you cannot really be sure what it will be like until you get there. Even if you have stayed there before, things change, things feel different at different stages of life.
Having an eating disorder can for some be a way of escaping. Escaping growing up, escaping emotions, escaping reality. So getting better means that you have to deal with all those tricky issues. You cannot run away any longer. You have to put on those big pants and be a grown up. It isn’t necessarily going to be fun, but in the long term it will be worth it.
I find using some motivational work can be beneficial here. Looking at the pros/cons of change. Planning out a vision board of where they want to be in 1 year, 5 years time. Talking through the real reasons they need to get better. For most people there is something driving the desire to make change. Examples are wanting to have a certain career that you can’t do at a low weight (nursing, law), wanting to have children, wanting to be able to go travelling.
This may seem like a strange one. If you have had an eating disorder for a long time it can be hard to imagine not have one. It becomes part of who you are. It becomes part of the way that other people see you, relate to you and care for you. If you no longer have an eating disorder there is an uncertainty, how will others see you, will they still care for you, will they still take time over you? If you no longer have an eating disorder who will you be? A huge part of this is all around knowing your identity. Spending time journalling can help with this. Thinking about who you used to be, who you would like to be. What are the things that make you come alive inside? Spend time doing those. What are your dreams and aspirations? What things are you good at? Asking someone close to you the question “What are my giftings or what are I good at?” can be very revealing and helpful. Once you have an idea of who you could be outside of your eating disorder you can push yourself to move past it.
Working on your relationship can also be helpful. If these are strong then you know that people will care for you always, with an eating disorder or not. Being in a sick role means you are seen in a very different way. Being recovered and healthy can expand and move your friendships and relationships to new levels.
Being stuck in your eating disorder recovery can be a very natural part of the recovery process. If you are in this place do seek some help. Do spend time journalling, talking, being creative and finding who YOU are. To look for a good therapist and dietitian near you in the UK the B-eat website is a good starting place. Or drop me an email as I work with people around the UK by video call.
So today we woke up to the news that 10 portions of fruit and vegetables is the new 5 a day.
95 studies on fruit and vegetables have been analysed by researcher at the Imperial College of London. They found that the most benefit came from eating 800g per day, as 80g is a portion this equates to a whopping 10 portions a day.
Consuming 10 portions a day was associated with a 24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% lower risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of cancer, and a 31% reduction in the risk of premature death. This may be due to the levels of antioxidants they contain as well as their fibre content. Eating 10 portions will also potentially mean that less processed foods are being consumed, so implies an overal healthier diet and lifestyle.
This isn’t to say that eating less is not worth doing however as there are still significant health benefits from eating any amounts of fruit and veggies. For example helping to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Specifically apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, lettuce), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) may help protect against heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and early death. Eating green vegetables, yellow vegetables and cruciferous vegetables could help protect against cancer risks.
Is it Achievable?
The problem is that in the UK many people are not even meeting the 5 a day target. Suddenly asking them to eat 10 portions a day is unrealistic and laughable for some. I myself currently eat 7-8 portions a day, having increased this from 5 a day. I could increase this further but I have a gut issue and personally I think I am on my limit.
For some people this level of fibre intake is not going to be a good plan. Those with digestive disorders such as diverticulitis, some people with IBS or Crohns disease or an inflamed gut.
So it is all about small increases and working towards eating more.
I’ve already heard the words “too much sugar” mentioned. Do not panic people. Put your sugar finger pointing fingers down. The sugar in fruit is not a “free sugar”. It is contained within a fibrous matrix and so it is not released into your blood stream as quickly as eating pure sugar or honey.
Having said this, I would still recommend you focus on eating more vegetables and not too much fruit. Remember dried fruit is a more concentrated form of sugar so watch your portion sizes of this. Juices and smoothies should be limited to maximum one a day. So really we are looking at upping the whole fruit and veg.
10 portions a day:
So what could it look like?
Breakfast: Cereal with 80g berries and 1 tbsp raisins. 2 portions
Snack: Banana and nuts. 1 portion
Lunch: 1/2 avocado on toast topped with tuna served with a side salad. 2 portions
Snack: 1 chopped carrot with 1 tbsp hummus. 1 portion
Dinner: Chicken casserole and rice with 2 portions of vegetables. 1 glass of fruit juice. 3 portions
Snack: Chopped apple and yoghurt 1 portion
My take home message:
JUST EAT MORE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
Focus on increasing it gradually. As with anything this is a habit that needs to be formed and it doesn’t happen overnight. Set yourself small goals like adding fruit to your breakfast or having a vegetable based snack each day and build on it.
I’d love to hear how many portions of fruit and veg you currently eat and how you plan to increase it.
It’s been a week of pretty awful sleep. That saying about “They saved the best till last” is not true when it comes to sleeping babies. The third baby is the worse sleeper! However she also gives the best cuddles and is super cute with it, so I can’t be cross with her.
When I don’t sleep well I tend to :
So on a cold, fuzzy headed Sunday afternoon I was flicking through my recipe notebook and stumbled upon rockcakes. Rockcakes seem to be one of those recipes that people make in school or when they are learning to bake. I think they need a come-back. Super easy to make, which means the children can help, there is little that you can go wrong with and you are left with a mountain of tasty snacks for your week.
I’ve adapted the usual rock cake recipe by adding in fruit and upon tasty the mix I decided it was sweet enough for our palates. Try a bit of it before you add in the eggs and see what you think as you can always add in a little sugar to taste. Doing it this way will hopefully mean you don’t go OTT on the sugar content.
My kids were happy bunnies and rewarded me by playing nicely with minimal arguments all afternoon. I love the subtle pear hint in these. Perfect for tbe after school munchies, which happens to co-incide with my cuppa and snack time 🙂