Brenda Bradshaw is an elementary school teacher living in Vancouver. She is co-author of The Baby’s Table, an avid cook, and the mother of two small children.
Dr. Cheryl Mutch is a consultant pediatrician with a keen interest in children’s nutrition. She lives in Vancouver and is the mother of two young daughters.
There are still a few people around who are convinced that any food or recipe reputed to be “good for you” will, by definition, be categorized somewhere on a taste scale that runs from “bland” to “ugh.” For example, many years ago, The New Yorker featured a now classic cartoon, depicting a well-to-do mother sitting with her very young son at a large dining room table. “Eat it, dear, it’s broccoli,” she urges him. “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it,” the boy replies.
This book puts such myths about healthy eating permanently to rest. In fact, simply reading the recipes in this excellent book will induce a good deal of salivation, since most of them should appeal to anyone who has ever been a child. There is plenty of variety, and the authors have given as much attention to eye and taste appeal as they have to nutritional value.
But there is another subtle but compelling reason to explain why translating these recipes into meals could pay major family dividends. To understand this requires some historical perspective. There was a time–it now seems so very long ago–when the kitchen was the epicentre of family life. Typically, it occupied considerably more space than its modern counterpart. The room’s focal point in those early days was a large table, with enough chairs to accommodate the whole family. At that very same table, children regularly did their homework and played games. This was also where the entire family sat down to meals together, and where friends, neighbours and relatives would gather to drink coffee or tea, and to chat. There were no frozen foods, no microwaves, no pre-packaged “nuke and serve” meals.
Of course, many factors have combined to make that nostalgic picture a relic of the past. These include geographic dispersal of the extended family, both parents working outside the home (and on different schedules), single-parent families, and the pandemic of electronic distractions that serve as conversation stoppers (radio, TV, video games and cellphones, to name but a few). In far too many households, these factors, collectively, have conspired to reduce communication between family members to a dangerously low level. This despite the fact that it is well documented that warm, open and frequent communication is a key element in determining emotional health in families, particularly in children. The more often families eat together, the more emotionally healthy the children are likely to be.
The other evolutionary change that has altered the eating habits of folks of all ages is the extraordinary diversity of choices available in the supermarkets of so-called developed countries. Frozen foods, precooked meals and processed foods occupy an increasing amount of shelf space. Small wonder that so many confused consumers seek professional guidance from nutritionists and/or doctors who have a special interest in the nutrition of infants, children and adolescents. This explains why Brenda Bradshaw and Dr. Cheryl Mutch have performed such a valuable service by writing this highly reader- and eater-friendly book. Putting their recipes and recommendations into practice offers one way to make families simultaneously healthier and happier.
Richard B. Goldbloom O.C., M.D., F.R.C.P.(C.)
Professor of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University,
Halifax, N.S., Canada
Like most parents, you want to do what is best for your family. You try to balance your schedule with the kids’ after-school activities and homework, while trying to get a meal on the table. You know good nutrition is critical to the health and well-being of children, but your kids seem to be constantly exposed to high-calorie processed foods. New fast food restaurants seem to pop up on every corner, and your children always seem to have another birthday party to attend. At the end of the day, you are exhausted and packaged food is all too convenient.
Take heart–this is no time to throw in the towel. Feeding your family nutritious meals is easier than you may think. The Good Food Book for Families contains over 150 nutritious, simple-to-make recipes for the entire family–recipes that stress the importance of whole foods and fresh ingredients.
As working parents, we too face the many challenges of feeding our kids. Brenda, the co-author of The Baby’s Table, loves cooking and eating good food. Cheryl, a busy pediatrician, has become increasingly concerned about the nutrition-related illnesses facing our children. Most important, we bring to this book our own experience feeding finicky eaters, big eaters, constant grazers and fickle preschoolers.
The days of making separate meals for your picky eater are over. With some of the recipes, we suggest modifications to ensure they appeal to the entire family. Many of the recipes can be made in bulk and frozen to facilitate easy serving for evenings when you are just too busy or too tired to cook. All recipes are kid tested, pediatrician reviewed and parent approved!
The Good Food Book for Families covers the finicky toddler to the ravenous teen and all stages in between. Alongside the recipes, we have added sidebars addressing the myriad of feeding issues parents of children ages 2 to 18 may face. Topics covered include the best foods for brain development, vegetarian diets, coping with small appetites, omega-3 fatty acids, food additives, childhood obesity, food allergies and what to do when your teen wants to go on a diet.
This book is based on the guidelines from “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide,” published in 2007. The first Canadian Food Guide came out in 1942, and it has been revised many times since. Though the names, messages and format have changed, it has always stayed true to its original goal: promoting health by guiding the food choices of Canadians.
Based on the latest scientific evidence, the new Guide advocates a pattern of eating that will help your family get the nutrients needed to achieve overall health, while lessening the possibility of developing nutrition-related diseases. It does so by recommending amounts and types of food.1
The specific needs of children and adults are addressed more thoroughly in the new Guide. Children are categorized by age and sex, with specific recommendations for each group.
Though this may sound complicated, it’s not. The Good Food Book for Families contains everything you need to understand and use Canada’s new Food Guide to its fullest. The Food Guide (page 12), along with the meal planners (page 255), nutritional sidebars and easy-to-follow recipes, will help you ensure your children are getting what they need to thrive.
With the rise in childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and eating disorders in children of all ages, this information has never been more timely. The Good Food Book for Families provides the recipes and information you need to raise children to be lifelong healthy eaters. Congratulations–your family is on the road to a healthier, happier future!
For the rest of this book, “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide: A Resource for Educators and Communicators” will be referred to as Canada’s Food Guide.
raising a healthy eater
Most children come into the world interested in and willing to try new foods. For their lucky parents, it is as simple as understanding the basics of good nutrition, offering healthy choices and being good role models. But if that doesn’t sound like your child, don’t worry. There are many ways to positively influence your child’s eating habits. Healthy eaters are often created, not born. It takes perseverance and dedication. But the rewards will offer lifelong advantages for your child’s health.
Ellyn Satter, a well-known dietitian and author, advocates what she calls “the division of responsibility in feeding.” She says: “Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented. Children are responsible for how much and even whether they eat.”1
This “division of responsibility in feeding,” may seem like a novel and scary concept to many parents. However, it can relieve mealtime anxiety. Parents will no longer feel the need to get their children to finish everything on their plates and children will come to the table happily, knowing their choices will be respected.
This concept however, assumes that parents have an understanding of nutrition and can offer appropriate, healthy options in an environment where the children feel supported in their food choices. Those who feel supported are more likely to try different foods.
As adults, we tend to avoid foods we do not like and children will naturally do the same. Kids control very little in their lives; what they put in their mouths is one of the few exceptions. Children who feel pressured to eat tend to eat less. If forced, they will likely remember the experience and be reluctant to try new foods again. Children who are allowed to decide what to eat will be more willing to try new foods in the future. It is best to avoid getting into battles over food; force feeding almost always backfires.
Young children tend to be fickle when it comes to food. Don’t conclude your child dislikes a food because it has been rejected, even a few times. Many parents say their children do not like fish, but it is a dietary staple in some cultures. Most Inuit children eat fish because they are repeatedly served it from an early age. If you want your child to like a certain food, keep offering it in a relaxed environment. As many as 10 to 20 exposures may be required before a new food is accepted. Be reassured that with each exposure, the chance of acceptance will increase.
Be careful not to impose your food preferences or expectations on your child. Just because you do not like tomatoes does not mean your child will dislike them. In North America, we often assume children will not like spicy foods; however, in India and Thailand children eat spicy foods from an early age. Expose your child to a wide variety of healthy foods and flavours, then step aside to see what choices they make. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Though it is important for children to learn what healthy eating is, it is equally vital for them to learn to regulate their food consumption. A healthy baby comes into the world instinctively knowing when to turn his head away, indicating he has had enough. As children grow, many will ignore the sensation of feeling full and, as a result, they overeat. Allowing your child the freedom to choose how much he eats will help him learn to stop eating when full.
Alternatively, children whose food intake is restricted tend to become preoccupied with food and are more likely to overeat when given the chance. Therefore, we don’t advocate dieting for children unless under the care of a pediatric specialist. Instead of limiting the quantity of the food your child eats, improve the quality. Stress the importance of whole foods and fresh ingredients, and limit “junky” processed foods, which are high in salt, sugar and fats, as well as undesirable additives.
We live in a world of convenient abundance, and where childhood obesity is on the rise. As a result, teaching children how to listen to their bodies and eat what is needed for energy, growth and maintenance of a healthy weight has never been more crucial. Many of the messages we inadvertently give children are counterproductive. Is it better to eat everything on your plate or to learn to stop eating when you feel full? Having the opportunity to “pig out” can also be a valuable experience. Feeling uncomfortably stuffed after overeating may be a more powerful lesson than having someone constantly monitor what goes into your mouth. Avoid using food for comfort or as a reward. These are not patterns you want to establish, as they can lay the foundation for problems such as eating disorders in the future.
Equally important is to lead by example. Children learn from what we do, not what we say. Now is the time to evaluate your own relationship with food. Eat regular meals together as a family, and make healthy choices yourself. Those who have healthy eating habits are more likely to inspire them in their children.
Understanding the “division of responsibility in feeding” is one thing, but implementing it is quite another. Most parents of healthy eaters will probably find they are already applying this approach. When preparing a meal, this means creating a number of nutritious dishes and allowing the children to help themselves. Obviously, it is important that there are some choices you know your children will like. For example, a meal might consist of a portion of meat, three vegetables and a glass of milk. If you are concerned that there won’t be enough for your child to eat, serve the meal with whole grain bread–it’s filling, and most children like it. If your child is still hungry, offer fruit and/or yogurt for dessert. Since children tend to like fruit, always have a variety of fresh fruits on hand.
Implementing the “division of responsibility in feeding” does not mean becoming a short-order cook. Try not to offer substitutes, such as a grilled cheese sandwich instead of grilled chicken. This can be a slippery slope that leaves you making several different meals each night. Children need to understand that mealtimes are for eating. If they choose not to eat, the next meal or scheduled snack will not be too far away. Raising a healthy eater takes perseverance and dedication, but the dividends will last a lifetime.
what is healthy eating?
Healthy eating is essential for the proper development of growing children, providing the fuel they need to reach their intellectual and physical potential. Healthy eating is the sum of all food choices made over time. It will provide your child with the energy needed to fight infections and will lessen the possibility of developing nutrition-related problems throughout their lifespan. Such problems include obesity, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, anemia, osteoporosis, dental disease and type 2 diabetes. Instilling a lifelong commitment to healthy eating will help your child maintain an appropriate weight and an overall sense of well-being.