Here we are for our third installment of the Nourish & Nurture blog series where we get a glimpse into the real lives of nutrition experts that are raising children just like you and me. Today we welcome Monica Bearden, RD.
Monica is a registered dietitian and award-winning author with a diverse professional background including clinical dietetics, nutrition science, public relations and nutrition and wellness marketing. Monica is co-author of Chocolate – A Healthy Passion (Prometheus, 2008) and The Baby Fat Diet (Penguin, 2008) and her brand new release Don’t Break Your Heart (Race Point, 2013). In addition to managing NutCom, she writes articles for consumer and professional publications, is an avid speaker for consumer and health professional groups, appears frequently in the local media where she resides in Houston, Texas - and also national media outlets. I know Monica from the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics where we both serve as state media representatives.
Monica, it’s great to have you with us! Your children are absolutely adorable.
What are their ages and genders for our readers?
My oldest is our son (boy), Kyle who is 12. Our middle child is our daughter (girl), Clare who is 9. And our youngest is our daughter (girl), Chloe who is 4 years old.
Tell us about any feeding challenges you have had with your child/children and how you overcame them.
Still working on it, every day is a new day with my kiddos. Foods they liked yesterday, may “taste differently” today. I continually include variety and have them at least taste all food.
Brown bag or school lunch? Why?
Brown Bag!!!!! We take our lunch to school – that way I can be assured that they are getting healthy foods in the middle of the day…it also helps that they are starving by the time the eat lunch, so they eat everything. We always include at least two fruits, whole grains, sometimes veggies, and of course, their treat, which is typically a whole grain bar or natural dehydrated fruit snacks.
In reference to feeding children, what are things that you learned as a mother that might not have been in the nutrition books?
I cannot shove food down their throats (why do the books not tell us that?)…they are their own person and have their own preferences. So, foods that I think they should love, and know are so good for them, they do not necessarily want to eat. It breaks my heart sometimes, because I know their growing bodies could really benefit from certain foods that they do not want to eat. They still have to take a couple bites.
I feel for you! The good news is that their little taste buds continue to develop and mature – and continuing to encourage a variety of foods in your home does pay off in the long-term.
What are your top 3 practical tips you can provide mothers in feeding children that you use in your home?
1. Involve the children in the shopping and cooking of vegetables. If you can, grow your own veggies and fruits.
2. Eat outside – I find that with my kiddos certain foods that they do not like seem more desirable when eaten outside.
3. Cook at home and continually introduce variety, (and the foods they do not like) – I keep telling myself that one day they may change their mind.
What are your favorite family nutrition resources?
1. The best (and favorite) tool I have for getting my kids to eat is exercise – my kids tend to eat really well when we have been swimming or running outside.
2. Our vegetable garden, we had a wonderful, accidental vegetable garden and the kids loved harvesting our own vegetables, fruits, and herbs for cooking. It really expanded their palates. Funny story, I was tossing scraps of produce and grass clippings over our fence into the area where we were going to plant a garden. We did this to get the soil ready. About a year into it, we had accidentally grown onions, cantaloupes, squash, and tomatoes. It is currently under construction – we want to go bigger!
3. Cookbooks. I love cookbooks with beautiful pictures. I let the kids flip through my favorite books and pick new recipes to try. I hope that one day they will want to use our family cookbooks in their own kitchens.
My favorite cookbooks in my kitchen are -- my very own cookbook - Don't Break Your Heart Cookbook (I know all the recipes are healthy and delicious!), Joy of Cooking (Irma Rombauer et al), Better Homes and Gardens (14th edition and Breast cancer edition) Good Housekeeping Light and Healthy, Southern Living cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa (by Ina Garten) , Mario Batali cookbooks , Mayo Clinic cookbooks and Cooking with Curtis (by Curtis Stone) . Several of the cookbooks are not necessarily healthy, but I figure out ways to adjust the recipes to make them healthier. It is part of the fun of cooking for me!
Oh! I love the garden tip for families. You can start them with a simple item, and add to it as you desire. It really teaches kids that most good food comes from the ground! They don’t see that when it’s in the produce section of the grocery store.
Tell us about any current nutrition initiatives you are working on that might assist parents and families in balanced nutrition and wellness.
I just wrote a cookbook. As I mentioned, I love beautiful cookbooks and have been helping moms and families for years create healthy and appetizing meals for their families. Over the years, I have gotten the same questions and concerns that keep families from trying new foods and even cooking in their own homes. I am blessed to have the opportunity to create a cookbook that contains all the information that over the years, I have shared with families to help them cook healthier for themselves and their families. For example, we include tables on how to choose lean cuts of meat and how to cook them, how to use herbs and spices to flavor meals. As well as how to cook fish…nature’s true fast food.
Monica, thank you for your time and all the great tips and resources. For everyone reading, please make sure you check out all the active links in this post.
Until next time, thanks for joining us for the Nourish & Nurture blog series!