Two Key Strategies for Raising a Healthy Eater

As moms, we all know raising a healthy eater requires effort. But, it’s not the effort that’s the issue. It’s the consistency piece that gets us into trouble. Being consistent means no matter where we are or what else is going on, we MUST be consistent about how we enforce our feeding and eating strategies. Dinnertime is definitely one of the most common times for mishaps with consistency. Our kids are tired. We’re tired. Plus, everyone is hungry. It’s a recipe for disaster without a consistent strategy! On this particular night, my son was a mess and consistency almost went out the window…little boy cryingIt was 5 o’clock and time to make dinner. I was making Decadent Dairy-free Mac-N-Cheese so I only needed about 20 minutes prep time. Regardless, prep time requires a little focus so I usually drag my son’s blocks into the kitchen, put on a Sesame Street episode or let him help on a stool. Much to my dismay, nothing was working today. Evren was hanging on my legs, crying, and declining any of my fun offers. Sound like a rerun of dinner prep at your house too?

After nearly knocking me to the ground with the leg clinging, he began begging for snacks. Screaming at the top of his tiny, loud-ass lungs “Daaaattttessss. Daaaattttessss.” The kid is only 22 months so when he’s actually specifying food items, it’s clear he’s hungry. Since Evren rarely gets this upset about hunger I became ridiculously frantic about getting food into him. For a few minutes, I forgot about my training and client experience in the Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. I plopped a scoop of the dairy-free mac-n-cheese sauce atop of leftover quinoa and delivered it to the monster. Phew, I was saved, right? Wrong. Evren wailed “nooooooo” at the top of those loud-ass lungs again and tossed his spoon. On a normal day, this kid could gobble down green mac-n-cheese before it even reached the table. His refusal stopped me in my tracks to assess, what had I done wrong?

Always include something healthy that he never refuses in the meal too.

In my rapid-fire response, I neglected to provide other options he LOVES on the plate. When his tantrums started, I was still chopping his familiar dinner ingredients, grape tomatoes and leftover hard-boiled eggs, so they didn’t make it in my first attempt at dinner. If you’re trying to raise a healthy eater, always “strategically” include 1-2 foods in the meal that your kiddo will eat. Dairy-free mac-n-cheese wasn’t new for Evren, but it had been awhile since we ate it so having other familiar foods on the plate was especially important.

Eat meals as a family.

My hungry little monster got the best of me and I sat him down to eat without me. Family meals are more important than we realize. Our young children not only see that the food we are serving is safe, but they also pick up on the modeling we do as healthy, competent eaters. Evren may have eaten the dairy-free mac-n-cheese at the get go if I had been eating with him, but I wasn’t modeling what I wanted to be done.

Thankfully, I snapped into action and recovered from my mistakes quickly by providing a complete meal with all options and sitting down to eat with Evren. No sooner was he gobbling down the green mac-n-cheese that mommy was also eating. Crisis diverted.

Evren gobbling down dinnerRaising a competent eater takes consistency and diligence, but it’s worth it for both the health of my growing son and our family life (aka my sanity). If you haven’t been regularly practicing the Division of Responsibility Feeding and Eating Model, please know there are other important guidelines that make it successful. Plus, it’s going to take time to see results. That’s why I’m here, to support families like you in this process!

If you have a picky eater or just want to learn and practice evidence-informed strategies for raising a child who prefers healthy food, has a positive relationship with food and is comfortable trying new foods, then please contact me. I make raising healthy eaters a fun, simple and supportive experience for all.

Magnesium: Because a kid has got to poop

Baby boy on toiletDoesn’t it just break your heart when your little one can’t poop? Of course, it does! That’s why we do whatever it takes to remove the short term pain so our kids can have bowel movements. You’re probably familiar with Mirilax, Milk of magnesia, castor oil or colace. These are the most common stool softeners and laxatives that our children are drinking daily to help them poop. Using these tools in the short-term puts a band-aid on the problem, but doesn’t address the real issue that’s causing the chronic constipation.

Constipation is all too common of an issue these days for children and adults alike. Actually, constipation is so chronic in our society that many of us think it’s normal to poop every 1-3 days! (I’d have a chronic pot belly if that was me!) While pooping infrequently may seem “ok” because your doctor says it’s fine or your mom has similar bowel movement habits, I can assure you this practice is not good for your family’s health and should be addressed.

Think about a breastfed infant’s bowel movements. They eat the food most perfect for their body. They poop. They eat it again and poop again. It’s like clock work. Eat. Poop. Eat. Poop. Sounds like the life, right? Unfortunately, our busy go-go-go lifestyle doesn’t allow us to grace the throne every time we gobble down a snack, but according to the patterns of an unadulterated infant, we ought to be visiting it pretty regularly.

Why should we be pooping 1-3 times per day?

Bowel movements remove toxins and excess chemicals from the body. Our liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood and sending them to the colon to be eliminated through feces. For example, excess cholesterol is extracted from the body this way if you’re pooping enough.

Our bodies are capable of breaking down most food as it passes through the digestive tract, but some components are not digestible by humans – like cellulose in all veggies. So, if you aren’t pooping daily, these undigested food particles are just sitting in your colon, rotting. Eeeeewwww. Gross!

What goes in, must come out.

The common culprit of chronic constipation is our food choices or lack there of! The most binding foods include cheese, milk and white flour (pasta, bread, crackers). These foods lack the fiber and enzymes that little bodies needs to digest and eliminate comfortably and regularly. Beyond missing fiber, one key mineral most of these foods are missing is magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to chronic constipation, behavior issues, muscular tension, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, weakness and chronic thirst. Our body uses magnesium for a host of critical functions, but one very important one is to allow muscles like our large intestine to constrict and relax for bowel movements.

How to Boost Magnesium Intake?

The most simple way to get magnesium is from our diet. Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Black beans
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Almonds
  • Blackstrap molasses

But, for magnesium to be absorbed by the body, we also shouldn’t be overdoing it with other minerals like calcium. Eating an abundance of high calcium foods like milk, cheese and yogurt can reduce your little one’s ability to absorb magnesium because these two minerals compete for absorption in the gut.

If your family has an issue with picky eating (contact me for eliminating this issue!) and introducing new foods is going to take too much time, you can opt for a naturally sourced supplement to start like Natural Kids Calm Multi. Don’t go swapping out the Mirilax without your doctor’s input, but making changes to food and supplement regimens is also a good starting place.

Kids Calm Multi with Magnesium

Natural Kids Calm Multi

Food-based vitamin drink for children. The nutrition is extracted from a fruit and veggie blend plus quinoa. Sweetened with glycerin and stevia leaf.

P.S. I am not affiliated with Natural Vitality at all.  

Has your family had any issues with constipation? What did you do about it? Know of any other naturally sourced supplements you’d recommend? Tell us in the comments.

It’s A (Booby) Trap!: The Unexpected Benefits of Nursing a Toddler

Is he off the boob yet?
“Noooo, Dad. He’s still nursing.”

This conversation has officially become the norm for my dad and me these days. I love my dad – he’s a wiseass and a teddy bear. While he’s half joking when he asks this question, I know he’s also judging. Actually, he’s more like the American Airlines flight attendant who offered the nursing mom a “blanket to cover up.” My dad’s more concerned with “accidentally” seeing his daughter’s breast than he is with his grandson’s milk preference.

My dad’s jokes aside, nursing a toddler can be a real pain in the tush. Unlike the newborn days, covering up is virtually impossible. I’m not that modest, but every time we’re out with my husband, he too brings the dreadful blanket out and it turns into a National Lampoon’s episode. My husband’s trying to cover me with the blanket up, down and around as he tries to avoid my son’s flailing hands and feet. Finally—snatch! My son grabs the blanket from our grips and tosses it. My husband frantically resorts to using his own body as a shield to cover me. Bham! My son whacks him in the junk and it’s game over. Evren 1. Daddy 0. Mommy’s just sore since Evren’s STILL LATCHED!

Like I said, it’s not easy nursing a toddler. Here’s why:

  1. Incessant whining for milk before I’ve even had breakfast
  2. Random boob grabs and hands in my shirt in public
  3. I’m often greeted with “Miiiilllk” instead of “Mama”
  4. Toddler “snuggling” can be rough with feet in my face, hands in my mouth or nose and constant whacking of my breasts (because he believes this will magically produce more milk)
  5. My breasts are still off limits for my hubby (sorry, TMI!)
Evren 21 months

Still loves mama’s milk.

I never thought I’d be nursing a 21-month-old toddler. In fact, I used to think it was weird to nurse a child who could walk. When I started nursing, I committed to 12 months. Then he started teething and I couldn’t take away the perfect remedy to his pain. Then I blinked and when he turned 16 months we dealt with a few illnesses, so I couldn’t remove his source of hydration. Now he’s approaching two-years-old and I honestly can’t see myself forcefully weaning him.

I’ve read the research linking breastfeeding to higher cognitive developmentimproved immune function and lower risk for diseases like asthma or cancer. I’ve also read the opinions of moms for and against breastfeeding toddlers. Through all this, I’ve learned that there’s more good and virtually no harm in continuing to nurse a two-year-old. So instead I like to focus on the positive benefits of nursing my older child.

Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Happy to Be Nursing My Toddler:

  1. Breastmilk is the perfect rehydration solution – Thanks to nursing, we avoided the hospital two times this winter when Evren went on a food/drink strike during a case of pneumonia and Croup.
  2. His immune system rocksLike the studies show, aside from the sicknesses above and a couple of one-day viruses, he’s been pretty dang healthy.
  3. I’ve got a built-in boo boo healer We typically nurse 1-3x/day, but if I see blood from a fall, mom’s milk can ease those tears.
  4. Our special bond supports his social development – He’s become quite the independent little boy and I like to think our special relationship supports his growth
  5. I actually get snuggle time – Ever try snuggling with a rambunctious 2-year-old boy? Usually doesn’t last more than a minute. Nursing provides at least 10 minutes of snuggle time!

I’m confident that my independent little guy will stop nursing when he’s ready, but until then I’m okay with the questions, the jokes and the blanket wrestling matches. My feathers don’t get ruffled very easily so I can deal with the criticism. American society makes it downright difficult for mothers to continue nursing after returning to work, so breastfeeding after 12 months can be a challenge for most families. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to prolong the typical nursing period, but I also understand that for most mamas this isn’t always the reality. At the end of the day, we do what we can to be the best mommies to our little ones.

Did you nurse your children longer than the proverbial 12 months? Tell us in the comments about your funniest or most stressful moments when nursing an older child.