Tag Archive | nutrition

“Picky eater” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy

Picky Eater

I frequently see articles and blog posts around the web espousing various tips and tricks to get your kids to eat healthy foods. Although I don’t have kids yet, I’ve certainly put some thought into how I plan to manage my eventual children’s diets. But I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll struggle to get my kids to eat their vegetables. What if I get the dreaded “picky eater”??

Perhaps the key is to do away with the concept of a “picky eater” altogether. I recently read this article on Huffington Post titled “6 Tips to Start Your Kids Off Eating Right”, which suggests a more relaxed approach to raising healthy kids. I’d recommend reading the whole post, but here’s the gist:

  • The term “picky eater” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you frequently label your child this way, he or she will make it part of his or her identity. “When a kid hears that they’re a picky eater, it validates for them that shunning certain foods is a part of who they are.”
  • “Hiding” healthy foods isn’t such a good idea.  (For example, concealing cauliflower in a macaroni & cheese dish.*) Your kids will catch on, and will become suspicious of food more generally. That’s definitely not a good thing!
  • Model healthy eating for your kids.  Even if they don’t like asparagus at first, if they see you eating it frequently, they might try it the 20th time. In fact, research shows that it can take 10-20 exposures for a child to begin liking a new food.
  • Your kids won’t starve.  Your job is to provide them lots of healthy options, but they get to choose whether and how much they eat. Never force your child to eat something – that will only create negative emotions around that particular food.

I’ll remember these tips when the time comes, and will be sure never to label my child a “picky eater”!

Do you have any strategies to encourage your kids to eat something other than goldfish crackers? If so, please share!

*Making cauliflower mac & cheese is a great idea – but no need to keep the ingredients a secret!

Cinnamon Overload!

Thanksgiving-to-Christmas is the season of cinnamon. Over the holidays, I found myself eating the delicious spice in copious amounts, both as an ingredient in my own cooking and as an addition to seemingly every holiday treat that I was offered. Cinnamon was sprinkled in or on my oatmeal, pancakes, smoothies, sweet potatoes, squash dishes, soups, chili, desserts, mulled wine, and coffee. So I asked myself, is it possible to go overboard with cinnamon consumption?

According to the European Union, the answer is YES. But, it depends on which type of cinnamon you’re talking about. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cinnamon, as we know it in the U.S., may be derived from the bark of one of four species of Cinnamomum (a genus of tree). One of those four – Cinnamomum verum – is “true cinnamon.” The other three are referred to as “cassia.” The visual difference is pretty obvious in stick form (see image below). This blog post contains a nice explanation of the differences.
  • In the United States, we primarily consume cassia. We prefer the stronger flavor. No rule requires it to be labeled separately, so the cinnamon you pick up in the grocery store is in all likelihood the cassia variety – even the fancy-looking Korintje cinnamon I just purchased from Whole Foods.
  • Cassia cinnamon has a high coumarin content, while true cinnamon does not. Coumarin is moderately toxic to the human liver. Most people are not at risk from the amount they consume, but a small number of highly sensitive individuals, and children who eat lots of cinnamon in kid-friendly products, may be at risk for liver damage.

  • The U.S. FDA prohibits coumarin from being added to foods, but does not regulate cassia cinnamon usage in the food industry.
  • The European Union however, has set a guideline for maximum coumarin content in baked goods of 50 mg/kg of dough in seasonal foods, and 15 mg/kg in everyday items.

Cinnamon was in the news recently because the Danish cinnamon roll – which usually contains copious amounts of cinnamon (exceeding EU’s allowed amount of coumarin) – was at risk of being banned near the holidays. The head of the Danish Baker’s Association dramatically lamented “the end of the cinnamon roll as we know it.” Here are a couple of articles on the matter:

What do I make of all this? I don’t think the average American needs to worry about coumarin poisoning from cinnamon, unless they are eating at Cinnabon daily. However, this information serves as another reminder to consume everything in moderation – as delicious as cinnamon is, it may not be wise to consume it in the amounts we do during the holidays. I am also wary of the use of high doses as a supplement. Cinnamon is linked with numerous health claims – anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties; ability to lower blood sugar and cholesterol; etc. – but solid research seems minimal. It would be prudent to ensure supplement capsules contain “true cinnamon” and to keep cassia consumption at moderate levels.

Personally, I’m going to keep my cinnamon consumption to less than a teaspoon a day – just a couple of shakes will do! How much cinnamon do you typically consume?