We are thrilled to have our very own dietitian from the Lemond Nutrition family here with us today for the Nourish & Nuture series. This series has featured many dietitian parents navigating the real world of child feeding. As you may now, Maria-Paula joined Lemond Nutrition in August of this year and she has already assisted many families here in our practice.
Today, we are here to get to know Maria-Paula and how she practices what she preaches!
Thanks for being here with us, Maria-Paula.
1. For our readers, what are the names and ages of your children?
I have 2 precious little girls (who are growing way too fast!). Victoria is the oldest, she is 5 years old and started kindergarten this year. Sophia is the youngest (even though she doesn’t think so!) and she is 3 years old. She attends pre-school a couple of days a week.
2. Tell us about any feeding challenges you have had with your children and how you overcame them.
My first born would eat any fruit and vegetable placed in front of her. Well, then the second one came along…not the same story. She would eat a big bite of taco salad and chew and swallow the chicken, beans, cheese and cautiously pull out a tiny piece of lettuce out of her mouth and say, “I don’t like this." Some days the thought of just not putting it on her plate crossed my mind…it would have been easier for sure! I stuck to my rule - same food for everyone. She now loves salad and will actually eat it as a side dish!
Then, my first born who loved every fruit and vegetable started with her trends. “I don’t like purple grapes. I only like green grapes!” “Why do I have to eat squishy (cooked) broccoli? I like crunchy (raw) broccoli!!” I had to do the same thing… Once again, the thought of just avoiding giving her certain foods crossed my mind. I continue to offer a variety of foods and they know my rule is: “Try it; if you like it - eat it; if you don’t - you do not have to eat it this time."
Me: I know firsthand how difficult it can be to be consistent when you have been working hard all day and you are tired. But consistency is key!
3. Brown bag or school lunch? Why?
Well, for now it has been a brown bag for me! My oldest just started kindergarten this year and before then, her preschool (where my youngest is enrolled now) offered a hot lunch a few days a week. It was pricey so it became more of a treat on special occasions when I couldn’t pack her lunch.
In addition, I have fun packing their lunches! I always make sure to include a fun napkin to add excitement. The pressure is on though! Victoria has started to ask to have the school lunch since some of her friends do. Knowing that school lunches are well balanced and include whole grains as well as plenty of fresh fruits and veggies is definitely exciting! I see these fitting into our meal-planning routine.
Me: Yes. Victoria happens to be in the same school districts my kids and we are lucky to have a dietitian as the foodservice manager. Our school lunches are great.
4. In reference to feeding children, what are things that you learned as a mother that might not have been in the nutrition books?
Everything tastes better with ketchup. I mean… strawberries with ketchup – sure, why not!
If it has a cool name attached to it, they are most like it to try it. Do you want carrots or orange princess wands? Do you want brown rice or superhero power-food? I know what my choice would be!
“I don’t like that!” is not always a real statement. Remember my rule? Try it - if you like it you eat it; if you don’t - you can try it again next time. You can’t know if you like something unless you try it, right?
5. What are your top 3 practical tips you can provide mothers in feeding children that you use in your home?
Teach your kids about food! I love to hear my girls say that chicken gives you muscles and carrots are good for your eyes. They also say too many cookies will not help you grow-up healthy or that soda is not for little kids. How do they know this? I guess I have always make statements about the food that I give them. Use opportunities like grocery shopping or meal preparation for giving age-appropriate information about foods.
Be an example! If you want your children to eat a variety of foods – do the same. If you want them to choose healthier snacks – do the same. Remember, kids do what they see us do!
Have back-up foods! “Back up foods” is the name I use for shelf-stable foods or frozen foods that are always available and ready to make an impromptu meal, snack or sack lunch! Frozen vegetables, no sugar-added canned fruit, whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, frozen yogurt tubes, etc. These foods can allow you to be ready in a pinch when you don’t have the time.
Me: Great tips!!
6. What are your favorite family nutrition resources (websites, books, cookbooks, gadgets, tools, etc.)?
One of my favorite kid’s books is The Very Hungry Caterpillar… I think the message is right in front of you! It’s clear that you need some fresh fruits and veggies to feel better and too much of anything will give you a stomach ache. The one thing I would change about this book, is the fact that they call the caterpillar fat. I do not like to use that word so I always change it to the big big caterpillar. (Too bad they are learning how to read now!)
I also discovered this fun MyPlate plate just for toddlers!
I think it is a great teaching tool and a fun way to plan quick meals for little ones. It has nice divisions with fun colors that match the new My Plate – which I a big fan of . You can find more about it on the Munckin website.
Finally, who hasn’t heard about Pinterest! It not only offers a variety of recipes but it also has some great ideas on how to make food fun! I don’t get on it as often as I would like but a few things are stuck on my head and I try them randomly.
Me: Yes! My kids love to search Pinterest food ideas to do together. This summer, we actually posted some of things we tried (see here)! Our Lemond Nutrition Pinterest was started this year and it provides several boards on healthy eating.
7. Tell us about any current nutrition initiatives you are working on that might assist parents and families in balanced nutrition and wellness.
I am always looking for ways to enhance the teaching I give to families. I am actively creating new handouts/education materials that provide resources for children and families with food allergies. I am also brainstorming new resources for people with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivities.
In addition, I have a running list of topics to write an article or blog about. I like to keep my information practical. Let’s see what the next one is!
Me: I have since firsthand some of the handouts you have created (example: gluten-free snacks) and all the resources you have added to our library on food allergies.
Maria-Paula, thanks once again for joining us for another Nourish & Nuture blog interview. I know families out there will benefit from your great suggestions.