My interview with Dina Rose

American sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert, Dina Rose PhD is the author of the fantastic ‘It’s Not About the Broccoli’.

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I reviewed her book back in January and loved her approach. Like me, Dina helps parents understand that when it comes to feeding your kids, it’s more important to help them develop a positive relationship with food than to simply focus on getting as much healthy food down them as possible. Here’s how Dina answered my questions:

1.Can you tell my readers a bit about your journey into the world of picky eating? What made you decide to get involved in this field?

My mother died of obesity-related illnesses when I was pregnant with my daughter, over 13 years ago. She was only 65 years old. When my daughter was born, I was consumed with answering the question, “How do you teach kids to eat right?” Continue reading

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My Interview with Simone Emery, founder of Play With Food (Australia)

simone emerySimone Emery is mother of 2, wife and owner of Play with Food in Sydney, Australia. Simone has a masters degree in food studies, certificate in childrens nutrition and attended SOS Feeding Therapy training. Play with Food  run healthy eating experiences for children. Play with Food offer set programs and can also tailor workshops or programs to groups.

1)You run ‘fruit and vegetable classes’ for children – can you tell me a bit about what this entails?

I run fun group classes for children that use fruits and vegetables. I run the classes for 3 age brackets; 18mth – 3yrs, 3yrs-5yrs and 5yrs-7yrs. Each age bracket has their own developmental considerations causing different eating behaviours. We sing, play, explore and laugh our way through weekly 45 minute classes. The children are encouraged to play with the food to a level they are comfortable with. For example, while we are playing with carrot some kids may be happy to roll it on their fingers and others may kiss it and others will eat it. Parents learn routines, nutritional information and food preparation ideas that they can take home with them.

2) How did you become interested in helping children eat well?

I spent my pre-baby days working in the food manufacturing environment. I held roles in food technology, quality assurance, health and safety. I wanted a career change that maximised my food knowledge, love of cooking and my passion for learning and development. I had a keen interest in children’s feeding from a mother’s perspective. I studied children’s nutrition whilst on maternity leave & started looking for my career change opportunity. I fall more in love with helping children develop healthy eating skills each day. It is so rewarding.

3) What’s your take on picky eating?

I feel that it’s important for every parent to walk in their child’s shoes and recognise their individuality. I think there is a level of picky eating that will arise during fussy times for all children. There are also sensory, oral motor, dietary sensitivity and pain associations during feeding for some children. These feeding issues can be mistaken as picky eating. I use the term “picky eater” (or fussy eater in Australia) for parents as it is a commonplace term they can relate too, however, using labels can be detrimental to the child and will also form a barrier for parents too.

4) If you were asked to give a new parent one piece of advice about how to help children form a positive relationship with food, what would that be? Continue reading

SLP Jennifer Hatfield shares her wealth of experience in this month’s ‘picky eating expert’ interview

Jennifer is a speech language pathologist from the USA, whose goal is to guide parents, professionals and kids to strategies that help them celebrate their uniqueness while improving their lives & situations in the areas of: communication, picky eating and executive function. She is a parent to two teens who allow her to hone her skills on them.J Hatfield headshot

Here’s her answers to my questions – I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

 

 

 

1) You’re a speech and language therapist. ­ Can you explain for my readers why SLPs are so often the professional of choice who parents turn to when they are concerned about their child’s eating, especially in the USA. 

~As speech language pathologists {our true title}, we are extensively trained in the oral mechanism {both for speech / language and feeding / swallowing}, neurology of the head / neck and respiration. These are each an integral part of the eating process. As clinicians, we traditionally have dealt with adults who have difficulty swallowing {Dysphagia} due to a myriad of reasons: stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury {TBI}, neurological diseases etc…as a result, over time, we have also then became adept with children’s issues.

2) What made you especially interested in helping families deal with picky eating?

~While I was an early intervention speech language pathologist, I was beginning my family and I had not one, but two children, who had mild feeding issues. It became my passion to learn more not just for myself  but also for my clients who were also struggling. There wasn’t anyone in my area that had the knowledge so I saw the need and ran with it.

3) If you had to generalise, what do you think is at the heart of the majority of childhood feeding problems?

~Oh wow. I would say, very generally, that it boils down to lack of education on what is typical, what is not and the basics on HOW children learn to eat vs the reasons that there may be issues. A continuing frustration for me as a clinician is that our healthcare professionals {pediatrician} are on the front line helping parents with feeding but they don’t have the knowledge on how to adequately do this. Many families are given very inappropriate advice from their healthcare team because they simply haven’t been educated. Sadly, this poor advice can and does make the issue worse.

4) What is your top picky eating tip for my readers?

~Educate yourself on what is typical for children of different ages and know the signs to look for that signal it isn’t “typical” picky eating.

5) You often refer to Ellyn Satter and her Division of Responsibility model. Could you tell me what appeals to you about Satter’s work?

~Her straight forward approach and the premise that we allow children to learn how to intrinsically monitor their food. Often what we do as parents/clinicians is to take away all of the child’s say/control with food. Ellyn’s strategies allow the child to be a partner and they help families get back to the joy of a meal instead of a constant fight.

6) Alongside picky eating, you also help children and young people with executive function. Can you tell us a bit about what this means?

~Executive functions are those cognitive skills that allow us to: organize, plan, make decisions, pay attention and regulate behavior. They are basically the skill set that allows us to succeed in school and life outside of our intellectual ability. Many believe that these skills actually determine our success more than our intellectual ability. I found that many typically developing teens are struggling more and more with these tasks causing them to underachieve. Often it’s simply a matter of “tweaking” a few things and/or providing them with systems they can replicate to manage throughout their lives.

7) Is your work on EF completely stand­-alone or are there cross ­overs into your picky eating work?

~There are cross ­overs. Many of my picky eaters also have EF difficulties. It boils down to the cognitive processes simply not being mature and/or needing to provide them with strategies because they do not innately pick up on them.

6) What does the future hold for you? Do you have anything exciting planned professionally?

~I always have projects waiting in the wings. Currently, I’ll be designing more products for my Brainycrafts line {crafts that help build executive functioning skills} as well as creating more online learning opportunities with regard to executive functioning and picky eating.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer and her work, you can visit her website and follow her on Twitter (@TherapyLearnSvc)

Mindful Eating – my interview with Megrette Fletcher, RD.

Author, speaker and registered dietitian, Megrette Fletcher is a co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. She lives and works in New Hampshire, USA

megrette1) I’d love to know a bit more about your background Megrette – what made you decide to become a registered dietitian ?

Long story short. I wanted to be a physiological psychology and I was one of eight students in this PhD track during my undergraduate university.  Then junior year came and I was #7 out of 8.  My major professor said, “We will take the top 2 students – you won’t make the cut. Do you have another option?” I mentioned how interested I was in nutrition and he said, “Great! switch majors.” So…I did. The funny thing is, mindfulness and awareness of our direct experience is all about the brain, which has always been my first love.  A big part of what I do as a nutritionist is talking about what we like, dislike, and our reaction to food.  This is all about behavior and perception which again is about the brain.

Mindfulness and mindful eating begins by observe your direct experiences with food and eating.  For example,  with mindful eating, you might be asked to observe (no action or judgement) if you like something, neutral or dislike. To see this information as information and if you are able, become a bit curious.  Why and I reacting to food? What is going on?

2) Many of my readers may not have heard of mindful eating – can you give us a brief explanation of what mindful eating is and what it has to offer?

Mindful eating is mindfulness applied to food and eating.  The Center for Mindful Eating developed the Principles of mindful eating which are very helpful.Mindfulness is about becoming aware.  Awareness of your direct experience.   This might include noticing things, situations, feelings, thoughts, like and dislikes.  Awareness or mindfulness is a teachable skill.  I heard a lecture that offered this sobering statement about attention. One hundred years ago, our attention span was 22 minutes.  Today it is 8 seconds! (By the way this is the same attention span of a gold fish!).  It is clear to me that awareness is a ‘muscle’ that you can exercise.  If you don’t exercise this ability, you lose it over time. There is so much data and research coming out that our inability to focus, become engaged in our direct experience leads directly to how a person perceives quality of life.  In short, distraction makes us unhappy and we don’t feel like life has much quality!    Continue reading

My interview with Nutritional Therapist, Kathryn Barker

It’s baby-led weaning week on the EAF blog and to start us off, I am excited to be posting an interview with  Nutritional Therapist Kathryn  Barker. baby bites logoKathryn runs ‘BabyBites’ baby-led weaning and infant nutrition classes in the East Midlands, UK. Kathryn trained as a Nutritional Therapist when her eldest child was a baby. She is passionate about baby-led weaning and started teaching other parents about it when she realised that there was a huge demand for more information on the subject. Continue reading

Interview with Canadian dietitian, Kristen Yarker

New for 2014, I am planning a series of six interviews over six months, with various people who have something to say about children’s relationship with food. To kick us off for January, I am thrilled to be posting my interview with Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD. Kristen is known as The Dietitian Who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids. She lives and works in British Columbia (Canada) and I love her evidence-based, practical approach to picky eating. Kristen has been a registered dietitian for ten years and for the last five has been working with families to support them in providing good food for their kids today…and, instilling a life-long LOVE of eating. With Kristen’s help, parents take back control of mealtimes and get their kids to try new foods on their own (without negotiations, deception or being sneaky). I hope you enjoy reading Kristen’s responses as much as I did.

 

 1) I’m really interested in what made you decide to train as a dietitian. Can you tell me a bit about what led you down that career path?

I’m really lucky in that I knew what I wanted to do from a young age. I was interested in health and food. At 16 I found out that there was something called a ‘dietitian’ and I knew that this was the profession for me!

 2) You are clearly really passionate about helping children who are picky eaters and their families. Why did you choose to focus on these families?

In addition to my love of both food and health, I also find child development fascinating. Working with kids brings together all my passions.

What brings me to working specifically with picky eaters is that I was a picky eater myself as a child. I remember wanting to be a ‘good girl’ and eat the food that my Mum wanted me to eat, but also being scared that I wouldn’t like the taste or feeling of the food in my mouth.  At the same time, some of my favourite childhood memories involve food, for example sitting in my Grannie’s kitchen while she made me applesauce – warm and pink.

When I learned about the work of Ellyn Satter (the Division of Responsibility) I was hooked. I knew that my life’s work would be to end the bad feelings about mealtimes and share how parents can make kids feel confident with food.

When my marriage unraveled one year into the adoption process, I decided to change my parenting contribution from being the adoptive mom to two kids to helping parents around the world enjoy their families, and good food!

  3) If you had to sum up your philosophy in relation to working with picky eaters in one sentence, what would it be?

You can take back control of mealtimes to have good nutrition and enjoyable family time!

4) In your experience, what is the most common trap parents struggling with a child who only eats a limited range of foods can fall into?

The trap that I see most often that parents feel that they only have two choices when dealing with a picky eater. Both choices are losers resulting in increased guilt, worry, and stress. And you catch yourself being the parent you promised you wouldn’t be.

Choice #1: Give in. Give your child only 5 foods because at least you know that they’ll eat. Maybe you sneak some pureed vegetables. You’re left worrying that your child isn’t getting good nutrition. And, you’re either making different meals for each person in your family. Or, you’re sick and tired of eating noodles every night.

Choice #2: Force. This can either play out as endless negotiations about how many bites must be eaten. Or, it’s repeating the awful memories from your own childhood – being left sitting at the table alone for hours on end staring at the plate of dreaded food that MUST be eaten.

 5) What do you consider to be your proudest moment professionally?

I don’t know that “proud” is the right word. I feel a rush of gratitude every time I receive an email from a parent who is jumping for joy that their little one just chose to eat a new food on their own.

I’m grateful for every parent who decides that they aren’t willing to do things the same way as everyone else and look for a better solution to their child’s picky eating.

I’m grateful for each parent who finds time in their busy lives to attend a workshop, read my guide e-book, or hire me to work with their family.

I’m grateful for each parent who trusts my experience and makes changes (even though the changes can seem scary for worried parents to make).

And, I’m grateful for each family that is now seeing results.

I’m grateful because I know that now parents are supporting their kids to not only get good nutrition today. But, they’re also instilling in their kids the tools to have life-long healthy eating habits.

 6) What advice would you give to parents who are concerned about a picky eater?

That you don’t have to choose between giving in or forcing! There is a better way to support your child through this phase so that they build their confidence around food and choose to try new foods on their own.

 7) Here in the UK, restaurants usually have kids menus, almost always featuring bland food without much variety. I feel that this gives children the message that these foods are what they are ‘supposed’ to eat – I’d love to see restaurants offering the same food to children as adults, just in smaller portions. I’m curious about Canadian culture – is it like that in Canada too? 

For the most part – yes.

However, we’re starting to see a fantastic movement here in Canada, where restaurants are beginning to add much more inspired (and usually much healthier) foods on the children’s menu. They’re essentially smaller portions of what’s on the adult menu. I’m hearing parents buzzing about these leaders. And, I’m hoping to see the trend continue!

 8) What are your plans for the future? Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I’m really excited about how technology can help me to reach parents beyond my local communities.

My Small Bite VIP service lets me reach parents around the world. It’s a free service where I share evidence-based advice on feeding little ones and recipe and snack ideas. Get my 101 Healthy Snack Ideas now and you’ll automatically become a Small Bite VIP.

Small Bite VIPs also get exclusive discounts on my guide e-book and online workshops.

You can find out more about Kristen and her work on her website, including her new e-book:  Provide, Trust, Love  (then introduce new foods)

You can also follow Kristen on Twitter – @VitKnutrition