Raising Healthy Eaters - An Interview with Dr. Michael Fleischer

On Sunday, July 8, I was interviewed for a Facebook Live conversation with Dr. Michael Fleischer of New Path Nutrition for his wellness lifestyle group, Let Food Be Thy Medicine. In this 20 minute video, I talked about how I have raised healthy eaters, and delved into some action steps to help you end your fight with your kids in the kitchen. I've posted the video below, as well as a loose transcript. Check it out! 

When I had children of my own, I knew that I wanted them to be healthy eaters. I was not raised that way. My mom was a single mother just trying to put food on the table, so I was never really all that interested in the value of food. Consequently, I battled my weight for years. So after I had my twin daughters, I started doing some research and as soon as I could introduce foods to my children, I did. I followed my pediatrician's guidelines for introducing new foods, found a great book by Anabel Karmel with healthy recipes for baby foods, and I began my journey into raising healthy eaters.

Q: It seems like making your own baby food can take a lot of time and energy. How can moms who are really busy and have limited time still raise healthy eaters?

A: Making HEALTH a priority in your home is essential. There are ways to batch cook on the weekends, you can purchase baby food containers that you can pop in the freezer, and then your kids will have plenty of healthy foods to choose from. The problem with giving your kids food from the grocery store shelves is that most of those foods are engineered to make the kids want more. Food companies spend a LOT of money on marketing and taste, and children's taste buds are much more sensitive than adults'. So when they start out eating salts, sugars, and fats, many of which are hidden under ingredient names that we don't even know or understand, then their taste buds become accustomed to these frankenflavors that the companies make up and then it's hard to ever get them back.

Q: That makes sense. But how to you get them to make the right choices once they get a little bit older and become exposed to this world of frankenflavors?

A: That's tricky. Once your kids get out into the world, they will have friends in school who bring foods that you wouldn't necessarily feed your kids. It's important to have conversations with your kids about food consistently. Let them in the kitchen with you. Let them touch and taste things. Give them a shelf with healthy snacks and let them pick their own snacks. Talk about when is an appropriate time to have certain things. And try not to be so rigid around food. Last week, my daughter asked for grilled cheese for breakfast. I'm cool with that because I know that I'm going to use whole grain bread and full fat cheese. And when she asked for candy an hour later, we had a conversation about what she would have to eat first in order to get that candy later. This way this conversation can become an internal one as she gets older.

Q: So, is it important to buy organic for your kids?

A: Good question. The Environmental Working Group (or EWG) puts out lists every year of dirty foods and clean foods. These list are called the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. It's important to buy organic fruits and vegetables only if they are on the dirty dozen list. What that means is that they are exposed to agrichemicals, pesticides, and incesticides in their growing process. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it has tough skin, the chemicals can't get in. The EWG also puts out a free app that you can download.

Q: Last question: How do we avoid fighting with fussy eaters over food?

A: My motto is: FED IS BEST. Pick your battles. And shut it down. I walk away from my kids if they are going to fight me. I don't give in if they say they don't want to eat something. It's important that they feel empowered around food, but it's also important that you not kill yourself being a short order cook. Make the meal, and if they refuse to eat it, that is their choice. But then they don't get dessert or a snack. They won't starve to death if they skip one meal, and they will eat when they are hungry. There have been days that my kids' breakfast has sat out until lunchtime, and they always come back around to pick at it when they get hungry. You are teaching them boundaries and the importance of not wasting food. Just make sure to always have healthy options on hand. We keep organic chicken fingers and pizzas, frozen veggies, and organic hot dogs in the freezer at all times, for those nights that we just want to eat dinner in peace without fighting them. As long as you always have healthy options on hand, and teach and empower your children around choice, you will raise healthy eaters, too.