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calcium update and food presentation

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 in Blog Posts | 9 comments

I recently was at two events where kids were able to chose foods from a buffet. One was at a friend’s afternoon party, another was at a WIC tasting cafe. (Woman, Infants, Children supplemental food program food tasting event.) At my friend’s house, there was a bowl of berries, and also fruit kebabs with almost exactly the same fruit. The kids grabbed the kebabs and pretty much ignored the berries. I was helping M with her plate and she said, “No thank you” to a spoon full of berries, but ate about 4 berry kebabs. Similarly with the WIC cafe, the kids gravitated immediately to the fruit kebabs and helped themselves. Many, after checking for permission, came back for seconds and thirds. No one was cajoling or threatening the kids, they gravitated to the fruit and loved it. (I was a little nervous with toddlers walking around with pointy sticks, but all was well!)

On another “presentation” note, I have been sharing my odyssey of my daughter drinking far less milk, and recently also not choosing other calcium-rich foods. I decided to try some go-gurts (she liked them for awhile, then seemed to not eat them as much so I hadn’t bought them for some time…) to add to our snack repertoire and she seems to really enjoy them. She hasn’t been eating much of the yogurt in a cup, but maybe just the new presentation was a kick-start. Who knows! I presented it as part of snack, in a neutral and pleasant way.
She had two for snack yesterday with strawberries, and two with morning snack with a baggie of Kix-which she didn’t eat. I will continue to rotate it through her meals and snacks (dessert one night, or dessert with lunch maybe) as well as cheese, regular yogurt and offering milk. I’ll keep you posted…
I also had to remind myself as I was thinking of other foods to offer, that I was limiting her choices based on old exposures. I caught myself saying, “she doesn’t like rice pudding” when in reality she had only maybe seen it 4 or 5 times, and the last time was months ago. (One family I worked with, the mom said, “My boys don’t like shrimp” and the dad said, “we haven’t had shrimp in this house for 5 years,” and two of her children were under age 5…) So I bought some rice pudding (which I enjoy 🙂 and offered it. She tried it the other night for dessert and said, “no thanks, I don’t like it.” Fair enough!
The trap parents can get into is worrying about a certain nutrient or food group. I think I recently blogged about a mom who was worried about her toddler’s protein intake and knew he would reliably eat chicken nuggets, so she was serving them most nights. This is how you can start to cone down the foods your child will accept. Feeding from a place of active worry almost as a rule doesn’t help, but makes matters worse.
Same for me. I need to now resist the temptation to serve go-gurt three times a day and lose out on variety! Remember what Ellyn says, the child’s attitude about eating is more important than what they eat on any given day (or week sometimes!)
Think of a list of foods your child “doesn’t like” or “won’t eat” or “won’t accept.” Honestly think back to when the last time was that you offered that food, and try to honestly guess how many total, NEUTRAL exposures your child has had. Maybe it’s time to give some of those foods a second (or third, or thirtieth…) chance!
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  1. ila

    I'm not sure about the calcium content of tuna, but I know canned sardines in oil have 286 mg of calcium per serving (2 1/2 oz), almost as much as yogurt, mozzarella or 2% milk. The problem is, straight out of the can they may look a bit "yucky" to a kid – I know they do to me!

    What I do is take them out of the can, pat them with a paper towel if they are too oily, and open them along the middle in a "butterfly" kind of way. Take out the spine if it's too thick or if you can't handle it – it's usually safe to eat and very rich in calcium, but I know fish bones are a nightmare for small kids.

    Place them skinless side down in a hot frying pan with no oil (the sardines are already oily from the can).

    After half a minute, turn them over quickly and add a squirt of lemon juice, a pinch of garlic powder and a teaspoon of fresh or dried parsley. Leave them for another half minute, and they are ready to eat.

    Canned sardines are already cooked, so the purpose of this process is to heat them up, add some crunchiness and some extra flavours, and make them more attractive.

    Serve them with a sprinkle of olive oil. Very mediterranean!

    Here's the link to the recipe, which is in Spanish, but just so you can see the photo of the result:

  2. familyfeedingdynamics

    I have offered other calcium rich foods. She does OK with green-leefies, but not on the nuts. i haven't tried canned tuna, but we eat frozen a couple times a month… Maybe I will try the canned. How do you make yours? Like tuna?
    I am not a huge fan of fortified foods. All the "fiber" yogurts etc, but I suppose it's better than nothing in terms of calcium. I believe that absorption tends to be lower than the whole foods…

  3. familyfeedingdynamics

    on the untuitive eating question, meaning, we as humans sense we need calcium so intuitively we will seek out sources…
    I'm not sure. I think there is evidence that when the body lacks a nutrient that causes acute illness (think scurvy or rickets…) that it will seek out the nutrient (even if it tastes bad) however, with calcium, I don't think in a healthy person that there are acute, or even symptoms one would be aware of. it's part of why intake is critical to bone growth bc the body will use calcium stored in the bones to keep the blood levels where they need to be. (It's been a LONG time since physiology class, so any dietitians out there with more info, let me know…)
    So, I can't count on her intuitively seeking out those sources (especially in our processed food culture I just don't know.) So, I do try to provide lots of different food sources.I also can't find your comment about asking kids why they don't like certain foods. I think again, checking in with intent and tone. If we ask, "Why don't you like it? You used to like it?" vs maybe, "Can you tell what you don't like about it?" I think a 5 year old may be less helpful than say, an eleven year old in answering that! I think you also have to take the feeding history into mind. Has the child been pressured alot, and will they take that inquiry as pressure. Now, if you are fostering or adopting older kids, I think it can be a respectful thing to ask, and very informative. Maybe even focus more on, "What do you like about that?" Did that answer your question?

  4. ila

    Following on Kate's questions… I have noticed that when you talk about M's calcium intake you seem to focus on dairy products… Have you tried offering other calcium-rich foods like green-leaf vegetables, beans, almonds, or the good old canned sardines? I know milk, cheese and yogurt are the absolute stars as regards calcium content, but it may give you some peace of mind to think "Ok, she didn't drink milk today but she ate a good portion of spinach". Also, how do you feel about "fortified" foods like orange juice with added calcium and vitamins? I'm personally not a fan but I'm curious about your perspective.

  5. themommyarchives

    The trap parents put themselves in when worrying about nutrient intake is so true. It is far harder to change our habits as parents and adults than it is to get a child to eat something he currently is boycotting. I constantly struggle with offering new foods versus offering what I know he will eat. thanks for your articles! Jennifer

  6. Emily Noble, MS

    Thank you for posting this! I was thinking about doing fruit kebobs with the kids at the farmer's market in a few weeks. This post just convinced me to go for it! Thanks!

  7. Kate

    I concur that talking about how healthy milk is could backfire badly. I don't think I asked the question well. My husband has started having a glass of milk almost every morning, something he hasn't done in the 14 years we've been married. Since we can talk about food without inducing guilt, I was able to ask him why he has started drinking milk (he didn't know, he just wanted to) without any attaching any emotional meaning to the question. At some point, are you ever able to do that with kids, like when they are teenagers, or something.

  8. familyfeedingdynamics

    I can handle some of these, but not all right now! (I'm mulling over the intuitive eating questions…)
    I think we worry too much about the day to day (old habits die hard for me too…) but calcium is important. I think bc I had been able to support her calcium with other foods, but not recently (and because I keep blogging about it and need to keep people posted that I felt more concerned.) I think genetics play a huge role with bone strength, and weight bearing exercise, and yes, larger women are generally protected from osteoporosis…
    Anyway, I just stepped up my creativity with offering more, and she is eating more yogurt. I would not start talking about how milk is good for you or good for your bones, that can introduce guilt and backfire. I just need to remind myself to trust her if I keep doing my job. When I got worked up about it was when we had the battle… Some great suggestions from readers on the last few posts!

  9. Kate

    I guess presentation IS everything. I suppose once you cut up the fruit, sticking it on a stick is probably not that much more work. I remember at a family get together (okay, it was a funeral) all the kids were just drawn into the edible arrangements fruit display and just ate it empty but passed up cookies. Granted, based on looks alone, the fruit looked more appealing, but I can't imagine doing that as a kid. Of course, my mom would have found me taking a cookie and asked if I really thought I needed that cookie, but I digress.

    I have been following your milk updates and I'm wondering how long your daughter has been avoiding milk and other calcium-rich foods. Does it really matter if your daughter gets X amount of calcium? Also, doesn't trying to fit some form of calcium go against the whole intuitive eating thing? Or are some vitamins/minerals too important to wait for your daughter's taste to change? Also, at what general age is it appropriate to ask your daughter why her tastes have changed? Could the issue be something as base as peer pressure or changing brands of milk?

    That's a lot of questions, all of which highlight the fact that I know nothing, I'm trying to learn while I prepare to have a child, probably older than your daughter join our household.