Tag Archives: Health

Picky Eater Solutions: Kids and Vegetables

Iris picked a pretty Green Pepper in Grandma Mary's garden.

Yesterday our family met Elizabeth Pantley of the “No-Cry” Parenting Books. She’s working on a new book called, “The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution,” and needed families who were wiling to try her methods and be interviewed about them. So, we got an advance section of the book to try out for 4-6 weeks. She came with her talented daughter/ videographer, and filmed our kids being cute in the kitchen and then interviewed my husband, Casey, and myself.

They’ll only need a few seconds to create a short video for the book launch, so we’re not feeling like movie stars around here. We’re just glad we can help encourage parents to get their kids to eat vegetables!  While that’s not the whole purpose of the book, it’s certainly a struggle with Picky Eaters.

The interview really made me think about what has worked for us and where we still need to put in consistent effort. Her book outlines some really helpful tips and provides insight into the challenges parents face. For example, a child may need to try a vegetable up to 10 times before they can make up their minds about liking it. This is something I had read before in “Disease Proof your Child:Feeding Kids Right ” by Joel Fuhrman, MD. My friend, Karen, a speech pathologist also told me this in my post, The War on Vegetables.

Many of the concepts in Elizabeth’s Pick Eater book, we have learned the long, hard way over the last 10 months.  So, I found the material affirming and encouraging – like we’re on the right track. Many of you may have read my post, Children: Will You Eat Kale and Beets? back in March. Thanks to advice and persistence, our family eats vegetables at every meal. But, we still have those moments of resistance:

When our 5-year-old suddenly decides at one meal that he doesn’t like Carrots, we know it’s normal and not a sign of failure on our part.

What we have learned:

1) Vegetables are super important for overall health. Our daughter’s constipation problems have been “cured” in large part to eating vegetables at almost every meal in addition to  eliminating hard to digest foods, giving her some herbs and abdominal massage. The rest of the family has benefited through weight loss or weight gain (or skinny boy isn’t so thin anymore).

2) Getting kids to eat more vegetables takes time. Depending on the kid, it can take only a few meals, or several months. Our Picky Eater isn’t our daughter, it’s our son. He turned 5 last month, and spent almost 3 years of his life eating a normal “healthy” diet. He loved cheesy crackers, Bread, PB&J sandwiches, meat, yogurt, bananas, apples and any sweet treat he could get his hands on – notice what’s missing? Vegetables! I thought since I was buying “natural” and “organic” stuff he was a healthy kid. And he was healthy, but he was also quite thin. Since he’s been eating vegetables, his body has filled out more, and he’s gaining weight consistently. It took him a month to start eating Broccoli and Carrots. We’ve spent the last 8 months getting him to eat other vegetables. Our daughter took about 2 months to start asking, “More Kale, Mama?”

3) You need a team – seriously, if it’s just one parent trying to shove vegetables into a kid’s mouth while the other is eating Ice Cream and Bacon, you’re trying to swim against the current. You need your partner and the whole family to start eating better.  Other ways to get support: Ask friends and family to serve your kid’s favorite veggie at dinner or a party. Or, you can ask someone your child admires to eat a new veggie in their company.

4) Start Small – don’t try to change your diet drastically. You can ease into eating more vegetables as you have the time, resources and will power. Try just introducing vegetables at snack time and dinner. Then, as your Picky Eater starts to enjoy them, add them to more meals.

5) Make new vegetables cool – we had dinner at a Japanese restaurant where everything was new and exciting. Guess who ate their Broccoli, carrots, and edamame? Our Picky Eater Son! He had an Udon Noodle dish and didn’t complain about all the vegetables, or the fact they they were touching. The “new” veggies on his plate were perfectly acceptable to him. We think it’s because the food was new and the meal exciting.

6) Try, try again – if one idea or suggestion doesn’t work, try something else. Seriously, there is no magic solution or proper steps. Try things out until you find something that works for you. Read, talk to other parents and don’t be afraid to get creative.

Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Picky Eater Solution” book is due in October and will include recipes and tips from parents. Stay tuned for a book give-away!


Shared on Simple Lives Thursday #51

Constipation: Why we changed how we eat.

February 2010 - Enjoying a cupcake at a local coffee shop.

You might not have experienced constipation yourself, but chances are you understand it is very unpleasant. There are dozens of over the counter remedies available at drugstores all over America. Did you ever notice that there are special pediatric remedies too? I never did until my daughter, Iris, suffered from constipation starting at 9 months old.  I had always thought it was something only older adults or those with a medical problem suffered.  I never imagined that my breastfed, full term, healthy, happy baby would suffer from it.

Lucky for you, dear reader, I have a happy ending to share. But it started out with a simple problem, and demanded that we change our eating. As one of my favorite inspiring authors, Chris Guillibeau, pointed out in his book, “The Art of Non-Conformity,” people won’t change unless they miserable enough to take action. Though his book has nothing to do with diet or nutrition, that nugget of truth helped me persevere to find a solution. This is how we discovered it and changed our diet.

August 2010 - Enjoying french fries always seems yummy.

As a family, I used to think we ate healthy.  I purchased some organic foods, or made things myself from scratch. When we ate out, it was usually a real restaurant, not a fast food chain, unless of course we were on a road trip. We enjoyed all the typical treats too: cupcakes and ice cream being favorites.

As my daughter reached 6 months old, I began to feed her the normal suggested diet: rice cereal (Organic, Brown Rice), pureed fruits and vegetables, whole milk yogurt, and let her try anything safe for her to munch on or simply explore with her own two hands. She wasn’t really eating solids on a measurable level until she was 8 months old. By her 9 month check up, I noticed changes drastic enough to ask our Pediatrician about how to deal with constipation. She suggested giving our daughter about an ounce or less of real Apple Juice with water, and some Cod Liver Oil. I tried the Apple Juice and some Prune Juice. But, neither helped. My baby girl started having harder, difficult poops that took longer and longer to pass. It was painful, and she became visibly upset every time she had to go. She’d cry and seemed to try to avoid pooping. At that point, she was pooping twice a week.

April 2010 - Home made Birthday Cake for the Big 2!

I decided to try to experiment and reduce the amount of “snacks” she consumed that were dry and not really providing nutrition.  My older son was almost three by the time Iris turned 1. Snacks were my live saver, and always with us in the diaper bag. After a week I didn’t see a difference (I didn’t know that for allergies you have to wait 2 weeks or more to see results). So, we went back to our old eating habits. By the one year check up, I was very certain something was wrong. Our Pediatrician did a physical exam and didn’t find anything anatomically wrong, but did refer us to a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. It took 3 months to get the nearest possible appointment to see her. The constipation increased, and at the worst point, she was pooping only once every 10-14 days.

To make a long story short, here is what I learned navigating through a series of specialists and alternative health care practitioners:

– When you don’t like the protocol a doctor prescribes, you are free to get a second or alternative opinion. The Pediatric Gastroenterologist gave me a prescription for Iris to take until she was 10 years old. As a brief afterthought suggested she go on dairy free diet. We couldn’t see her for another 4 months (she was that booked). After 2.5 months of little results from both, I decided to seek alternative advice. This was taking too long. Iris was over 1.5 years old.

Naturopaths are like doctors: they prescribe things, conduct tests, and go to school for a long time. The difference is that they actually listen to you for more than 15 minutes and prescribe natural remedies not prescription drugs. The ones we consulted were very nice, but kept adding supplements and waiting for 4 weeks to see any results. At one point they suggested giving her an enema every day for 2 weeks to reprogram her nervous system. Yeah, like that isn’t going to scar a person for life. I did it for 2 days, and realized that I needed to trust my Mama instincts and pay attention to the fact that it was traumatic.

November 2010: Dancing with her brother is a favorite daily exercise!

Homeopathic practitioners pay attention to everything about a person from their moods, energy levels, relationships, etc. They believe that by giving someone a minute dose of something they can allow the body to build itself back up. Sounds good in theory, but for us, after 3 months, I suspected that they were stumped and just guessing.

– We found a solution for Iris through a Traditional Chinese Herbalist.  Iris was 2.5 when we decided to see a Herbalist. At first, the ideas seem almost obvious – good health comes from diet, exercise and balance. But, I thought we were already doing great in those areas.  And, for those of us used to being given a pill, have tests done, etc. the methods seemed like folk tales.  After a month of giving her a low dose of herbs for digestion, daily abdominal massage, regular exercise and diet changes, we saw a dramatic difference. Pooping was no longer painful.  Eat 70% of your diet from vegetables? Don’t consume much if any sugar? Those were the questions I had to tackle. After learning how to embrace them for the past 7 months, Iris now poops every 5-6 days a week.

Iris is almost 3 years old. While I’m frustrated that it took us this long to find her the help she needed, I can recognize that I had the privilege of trying all the available resources and did find a solution.

How we eat differently:

We consume more vegetables, about equal to all other carbs (bread, grains, fruit). We eat less meat, and when we do we eat fish, poultry, grass-fed or antibiotic free beef. We don’t eat store-bought snacks anymore, and make our own crackers, tortillas, bread, cookies and even chips. Artificial flavors, coloring or anything I cannot pronounce do not appear on any ingredient label is not welcomed.

February 2011: Iris is ready to fly!

Thankfully, I already love to cook, bake and create recipes. Hopefully sharing what we’ve learned will inspire you to never stop looking for answers. There are many types of alternative health practitioners, and I believe they each have the potential to help. It’s a matter of finding something that works for you.

p.s. We still love our Family Physician and still see her for annual check-ups.

Unexpected Benefit to Eating Better: Losing Weight

Mark (at left) having a Beer at a family BBQ.

My cousin, Mark, is like the other brother I never had. We don’t talk for like 3 months or more sometimes, but when we do it never feels odd to catch up where ever we left off.  We talked a week ago about his upcoming wedding. Among the logistics and excitement he had to share, there was something I didn’t expect to hear: He lost weight – 25lbs. in about a month and a half. I haven’t seen him in like a year and a half. He didn’t look like he needed to lose any weight, but like me, he has a slender frame. I guess he carries his extra weight well. So, how and why did he drop the pounds? No, it was not because he wants to look pretty for his beach side wedding.

Why: His mother recently had heart surgery, and it dawned on him that at almost 33 years old he needed to start taking care of his health.

How:  He and his Fiance stopped eating Fast Food, drinking Soda Pop, and drink Alcohol much less. They drink lots more water, snack on veggies and fruit and try to make more food at home. The biggest dietary change for my cousin is drinking only 2-3 Beers a month. He was no budding alcoholic, but did enjoy a beer with dinner regularly. They also joined a Gym, but are not training for any Triathlons. He’s pleasantly surprised by his weight loss, and even more so to see his Psoriasis disappear.

I am truly happy for him. Our call ended, and then I realized that I forgot to share that my husband and I have lost some weight too. It’s something that has really just crept up on us without consciously trying. We changed our eating habits the most last September/October after deciding to try a different approach to cure our daughter’s constipation. I didn’t notice the change right away.

My Mom and Step-Dad visited us earlier this month. We hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving. One of the first things my Step-Dad said was, “Looks like everyone’s lost weight.” I hadn’t noticed that about everyone before. I knew that I had gone down a pant size, and was a little bit irked. I vented about that already.

Me and my husband in September.

I was happy with my weight in September. It wasn’t my pre-baby making weight, but with my slender-boyish build, I liked the extra curves. So, how much weight have I lost? 15lbs. I am back to my old weight, but not my old build – making babies did give me boobs.

My husband has lost weight too. We don’t know how much, because we don’t really use a scale. But, he’s lost his Computer Geek Belly Pooch. He needs new pants, at least a size down. No, he’s not a boxer showing, plumber’s crack guy. But, he needs a belt.

Our kids have grown taller, but that was expected. Our son now outweighs his little sister. He looks thicker, more solid. Our daughter lost her “Trucker Belly” as several folks pointed out in a “oh, isn’t that cute” sort of way. She hasn’t lost weight, but has gained less than her brother.

How did we change our eating habits? Honestly, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the way we ate before. But, it seems our daughter doesn’t handle dairy or most animal protein well. So, we had a reason a very good reason to make some changes.

What changed: We stopped buying snacks (even Organic, “healthy” ones), going to Starbucks (except when on a Road Trip, because they are so much nicer, cleaner and more comfortable than a Rest Stop), reduced our grain intake (less bread, pasta, etc), reduced our dairy and meat (removed all processed meats even naturally made sausage), and the biggest change for us is to eat a LOT more vegetables which helps to make up the difference in our diet. It hasn’t been easy as you may have already read here.

We’ve reached the goal of this dietary change: Our daughter now poops almost daily. Losing weight was just a bonus.

No, I don’t think everyone needs to eat just like we do. My cousin is an example of someone who’s just eating better and taking care of himself. I didn’t ask him if he’s buying Organic food or making everything from scratch. If he asks me about that, then I’ll be more than happy to explain why I do.