Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why You Should Pack Vegetables in Your Kid's Lunch

Don't forget the vegetables!
 Many parents tell me that they do not pack vegetables in their children's lunches. My mother never packed vegetables in my lunch. I can't say that I would have eaten them had she packed them, but I enjoyed snacking on vegetables at home as a kid. When you think about what is served for lunch in restaurants, typically vegetables are absent. It is common to see sandwiches and fries or chips with a small fruit or kale garnish. When I eat lunch with my daughter at school, I notice that children who bring their lunches often have sandwiches, juice pouches, pretzels or some sort of crunchy snack food, and maybe some fruit or a cookie. Vegetables are MIA. Perhaps we're not used to eating vegetables at lunch daily so we don't put them in our kid's lunches. Perhaps we're concerned that our kids won't eat them.

As parents, we teach our kids many things. One very important thing that we teach them is what they should eat to gain the energy and vitality to become contributing members of society. Kids push back against our recommendations. That is the nature of being a kid. Does that mean that we stop making recommendations?

When it comes to packing vegetables in our kid's lunches, why do we hesitate? Is it so bad if our kids throw away a snack bag of vegetables? The lesson that you teach by offering vegetables at lunch is that they should eat them. I think this lesson is more important than a little bit of food waste (believe me, kids throw away more than their vegetables). This is part of the learning process. What is the worst thing that could happen by not offering your children vegetables at lunch? They could grow up not eating vegetables regularly, choosing instead a diet filled with processed foods which can cause them to suffer from one or more of the many chronic diseases associated with diet.

Here's how you can encourage your kids to eat more vegetables by packing them in their lunches:

1. Discuss with your children the types of vegetables that they enjoy eating. Choose those vegetables to pack in their lunches.

2. Offer variety. Even a favorite vegetable can get old if eaten every day. Try cauliflower, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, baby-cut carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini, radishes or sugar snap peas. All of these vegetables are good raw. Many kids seem to prefer raw vegetables over cooked vegetables.

3. Offer a little bit of dip to make eating vegetables more enjoyable. Use a mini container and fill it with a small amount of ranch dressing, hummus, tzatziki, or other dip.

4. Start young. By the time your kids are ready to go to school, they are old enough to be eating vegetables daily at lunch.

5. Start small. Begin by offering a small snack bag of vegetables. Hopefully by the time your kids reach high school, they'll be eating a larger sandwich bag filled with vegetables.

6. Talk with your kids at home about what they ate for lunch. Ask them if they ate their vegetables. If they say no, gently encourage them to eat their vegetables (there are lots of good reasons for your kids to eat vegetables, an important reason is that you love them and want them to thrive).

7. Never give up. By offering vegetables to your children at lunch you are setting an example about what they are supposed to eat.

I have my own challenges in getting my children to eat their vegetables. My 13 year old daughter has been sick too much already this school year and I point out to her that she skimps on much of the healthy foods that I serve her. I'll keep trying because it is that important.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Enigma of Blood Sugar Control

My son has type 1 diabetes. I've blogged about our struggles with this disease before. My son would love for me avoid sharing our personal experiences with respect to him, but I'm on a mission to better understand how diabetes is controlled and to help other diabetics in the process.

To me, the expression "blood sugar control" seems like an oxymoron. It is elusive at times and often we are left scratching our heads as to why our son's blood sugar becomes high or low (even though I'm a dietitian and my husband is a physician). Diabetics, especially teenagers, can take these values personally and may feel like they have failed in managing their health. There are so many factors that affect blood sugar. Understanding why blood sugar becomes high or low is very complicated. Lately, I feel like we've been chasing our tails and I need to know more about diabetes to help my son understand more and manage his disease without excessive emotion.

As I educate myself, the nuiances of blood sugar control are becoming more apparent. I have decided to post a "pearl of wisdom" on my Facebook page daily to reinforce the concepts that I am learning and to share that knowledge with other diabetics or those responsible for caring for a person with diabetes. I invite your comments, experiences, and knowledge on this topic here on my blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter. I'm hoping to impact hundreds of people and create an online comminuty of diabetics sharing their experiences and wisdom. Please pass this on to your diabetic family, friends, and coworkers. To your Health!