Friday, September 26, 2008

Food-related resources for tough economic times

I got this in my email and I thought I'd share it here. Let me know what you think.

The descriptions are by Alice Henneman, MS, RD. Alice is an Extension Educator for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County. Also check out their website at:

1) Basic Bean Cookery
(All jokes aside about "the musical fruit," beans are a great food to sing the praises of in ALL economic times. Cheap, tasty, convenient and good-for-you too. Tips and recipes)

2) Basic Foods for Fridge, Freezer and Cupboard
(Ideas and recipes for basic foods that will combine and re-combine into a variety of meals. It's like a buying an all-purpose wardrobe for your kitchen.)

3) Easy Ground Beef Recipes from Your Freezer
(Think beyond ground beef patties with these ideas -- plus make them when you have time and eat them later.)

4) Supermarket Savings
(16 tips that DON'T have you making every food from scratch. They could save you a couple of thousand dollars a year!)

5) Freezing Sandwiches
(Great for making up a batch of sandwiches at one time for thrifty sack lunches!)

6) Ingredient Substitutions
(Avoid buying foods you'll seldom use or wasting gas for a trip to the store for a missing ingredient)

7) Making a Meal with What's on Hand
(Some ideas of alternates for such staples as bread for sandwiches.)

8) Food Safety Checklist for "Planned-Over Foods"
(Making extra food for later meals can save time and money as long as you don't let it make you sick. Think of the George Carlin quote: “Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!’”)

9) Cleaning the Kitchen Cupboard: Toss or Save?
(Learn how to save and manage your investment in kitchen staples such as flour, sugar, oil, etc.)

10) Reducing the Size of Recipes
(Avoid making more than you need by making less -- here are some tips for doing it.)

11) Food Storage Fact Sheet
(A food may still be safe, but no longer taste like something you want to eat if it's stored too long -- learn more about optimal storage times.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Six food mistakes parents make (NYT)

I read this article in The New York Times last week describing 6 mistakes parents make with regard to getting their children to eat well.

So here' the list of what the bad parents do (you know I'm kidding about the bad parent part, right?):

  1. Sending kids out of the kitchen. Certainly, when kids watch or participate in the meal preparation process, they will learn to try different foods and will learn to cook too. However, it's usually much more practical to keep them out of the kitchen. Usually by that time, I just want to be able to get dinner on the table with no interruptions or kids coming up to me right when I'm using a knife, or when I'm about to open a 500 degree oven. So, do you let your kids in the kitchen? What kinds of things do you let them do? Does anyone know of a resource with a list of age-appropriate activities for kids in the kitchen?
  2. Pressuring them to take a bite. I'm still on the fence about this. My 4 year old is very reluctant to try new things, and often says he doesn't like a food that I'm serving. If I encourage him to at least take a bite, then he may actually see he likes it. Nonetheless, I've heard stories of people gagging and making a terrible mess at the table because of this rule. So I think some discretion is advised. I guess there is a difference between pressuring and firmly encouraging? I definitely don't like the bribing approach, but that doesn't mean I haven't ever done it.
  3. Keeping ‘good stuff’ out of reach. I suppose when they say "good stuff" it's actually what's not very good for you. We like to have cookies and other snacks that we don't eat whenever we feel like it and keeping it out of reach is an effective way to keep us from eating something all at once. I don' t think it makes it more desireable because we put it out of reach. I think most people are drawn to those foods regardless. For the most part, I try not to even bring it home, or to get a smaller portion so that it will be all gone at once.
  4. Dieting in front of your children. Not being a dieter, this statement really was an eye opener: "Parents who are trying to lose weight should be aware of how their dieting habits can influence a child’s perceptions about food and healthful eating. In one study of 5-year-old girls, one child noted that dieting involved drinking chocolate milkshakes — her mother was using Slim-Fast drinks. Another child said dieting meant 'you fix food but you don’t eat it.'” Wow. Next time you think of "going on a diet," Think again. These so called diets don't really contribute to good health. A long term dietary habit contributes to good health. My hope is that my children will enjoy what they eat, but also learn to respond appropriately to their appetite cues. I also teach them that some foods are better for the body than others.
  5. Serving boring vegetables. It is really easy to prepare most vegetables, but it is also very easy to ruin them. I really like the Cook's Illustrated book, Perfect Vegetables (They recently released another one called The Best Vegetable Recipes, but they are the same). Another way to find good recipes is to go to a website that has reviews and go with those with the highest ratings. The ones I commonly go to are,, and
  6. Giving up too soon. I think that happens with many aspects of child-rearing. It can be hard to be consistent with many things we are trying to teach our kids. Yet, we should not give up. We want to teach them what is good and right. I think consistency is more of a determinant to success than the actual approach you take.

One important thing that was pointed out in the article's comments is that some children have sensory feeding problems and the above strategies are not for them. They need a totally different approach altogether.

So how bad are you?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Breastfeeding and the Registered Dietitian [updated Oct 2011]

[October, 2011 updated links. See also notes at the end of the post]

Welcome! This post is part of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog's September Carnival of Breastfeeding and this month's topic is "learning about breastfeeding." In this post, I'd like to address breastfeeding in the formal education of a registered dietitian (RD), as well as the potential role of the RD in breastfeeding promotion.

For those who are unfamiliar with the RD credential, in the United States, registered dietitians are food and nutrition professionals who have completed an approved university degree, fulfilled certain practice requirements (also from an approved program), and passed a national exam. Furthermore, an RD is required to have 75 contact hours in approved continuing education over a five year period. So as you see, there is much on the plate of a dietitian. Just as the association between food and health is actually quite complex, the field of dietetics is very broad. So breastfeeding easily becomes such a small part of a dietitian's education and work.

Breastmilk is the most basic of foods -- infinitely and amazingly rich in nutrients, totally customized for the rapid growth and development of the human infant, and produced within the mother's own body. As basic as breastmilk is, it is far from simple. There is much more to breastfeeding than the milk alone. Yet somehow, this idea has been buried under other important dietetic concepts.

The amazing and somewhat miraculous properties of breastmilk might suggest that few if any obstacles exist in the mother-child nursing relationship. Unfortunately, this is not so. While most people believe that the act of breastfeeding is easy, there are several physical factors that could interfere with a positive breastfeeding relationship. Dietitians are trained to consider the challenges to healthy eating practices. Yet, when it comes to breastfeeding, it is common for a dietitian to be first confronted with obstacles to breastfeeding through personal experience. Although I have found breastfeeding to be relatively hassle-free, Margie Hirsch, a dietitian in family and consumer science, is undergoing a completely different experience. Margie stated, "Being a dietitian, I was so excited to provide breast milk to my infant because of all the benefits we learned back in college! I had nothing but problems from day one." Margie has persevered to breastfeed her two month old, yet she has gained empathy for mothers who struggle to breastfeed.

In a position paper titled "Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding", the American Dietetic Association encourages "universities to review and update undergraduate and graduate training programs."* Yet I believe that much progress is still needed in this area. I'm not advocating new courses on breastfeeding, but simply more predominance within the general dietetics subjects (though new courses would not be a bad idea). I believe that future dietitians should understand that there is more to breastfeeding than the fact that it provides the best infant food. A greater emphasis is required to:

  1. understand the barriers to the availability and supply of breastmilk,
  2. grasp the impact breastfeeding can have on the health of a society, and
  3. realize the valuable role a dietitian can have in breastfeeding promotion.

Currently, dietitians are placed in intermediary roles in support of breastfeeding. Neonatal and public health dietitians work regularly alongside lactation consultants, often in a collaborative team of health professionals. Registered dietitians desiring a more direct role should be encouraged to become lactation consultants (such as IBCLC). Nonetheless, it is not always necessary for dietitians to become lactation consultants in order to positively impact breastfeeding rates and duration. While it is unlikely that all dietitians will come in contact with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through their employment, ninety-seven percent of dietitians are women. Many are or will be mothers and will be friends with other women who are or will be mothers. Therefore, any registered dietitian could be a unique and valuable resource to the breastfeeding community. One can loan their expertise by volunteering as a peer counselor, attending breastfeeding support meetings, and joining statewide or area-wide breastfeeding task forces. These are effective ways to extend the reach of a dietitian beyond the workplace. It adds value to the dietetic profession and strengthens the message of what a healthy lifestyle is all about.

In every profession, regardless of the level of one's expertise, there is always much to be learned. Dietitians need to learn more about breastfeeding because of its far-reaching health implications throughout the life cycle. More advanced training opportunities are needed for dietitians who desire more direct involvement in lactation support. My hope above all else is that all dietitians will fulfill their unique and valuable role in breastfeeding promotion, big or small.

I believe every little bit counts.

Special thanks to my husband Stan, Kimberly Mack, MS, RD, LDN (a neonatal dietitian), Michelle Scott, MA RD, IBCLC (in private practice), and Margie Hirsch MFCS, RD, LD for their time corresponding with me as I was pulling these thoughts together. Although they have contributed to my thought, this post does not necessarily represent their opinions.

Related reading:
Other carnival participants:
* the link is to the position paper updated in 2009, but the quote is from the position paper at the time this blog post was written. However, the 2009 position paper states something similar: "Conduct critical internal review of undergraduate  and  graduate  dietetic  training  programs  to  ensure that  lactation  physiology,  breast-feeding management, and cultural competence  are  incorporated  into curriculums." (p.13) The paper also encourages RDs to obtain a lactation-related certification as well as collaborating with other lactation professionals. (also on page 13).

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar, revised

    As I mentioned in a previous post about my garden, I have had one major casualty. I was looking at the bell peppers in my garden when I noticed one of the plants looked really strange. When I looked closer, I found this:

    To say I was disappointed was an understatement. I love sweet peppers (especially the yellow-red colors) but they can blow my budget in just one trip. So my hope was to grow some myself. Out of the three plants, this one was the most promising, as it sported two peppers. Still, I quickly thought about how cool it would be to put this caterpillar in a bug keeper and watch it make a cocoon. I even was excited about sharing my beet greens with it.

    However, unlike Eric Carle's caterpillar, this one was quite particular about what it ate. It totally ignored those beet greens. In fact, I decided to look into it and it's called a hornworm. These creatures are very specific to pepper and tomato plants (as well as some other related plants). Then I also found out that this one doesn't make a cocoon, rather it digs itself into the ground and then submerges as a moth. Oh well, so much for that. So I set it on the sidewalk to fend for itself.

    Well, I'm just glad there was just one. It caused enough damage as it was. I would be really devastated if they were all over the place.

    On the bright side, I found out there was new growth on my hanging cherry tomato plant (the one I thought had died). A nice surprise!

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    School at home

    My oldest child officially started kindergarten two weeks ago. At home.

    For years, I have wondered if I could really do this. It sounded like a great idea, but would it work?

    I'm pleased to say that it is working out very well. Even better than I had imagined. I have been teaching him to read and write for a while now. Primarily because he showed an interest at an early age. But now we add science, language arts, math, etc. His favorite subject is science. He is always asking how and why about a variety of things. Now he is able to learn and discover more. I also like that I can work according to his abilities, and I can speed things up or supplement if he seems to be catching on quickly.

    One of my biggest concerns was that by being my son's teacher, I wouldn't be available to others. Because I knew many homeschooling moms when I lived in North Carolina, I was quite aware of how busy they were, and I often was concerned that I may have been interrupting them. But now here in Ohio, the few moms I know are not homeschooling, and they also are very busy. So it was a misperception I was attributing to homeschooling moms when, in fact, it applies to all moms. Also, when I realized that a regular school year is about 36 weeks, and that there are 52 weeks in a year, I figured I could get the work done. To avoid getting overwhelmed, I spread the first week of school over two weeks. I even did an activity with him last Saturday, then this past Sunday he was bored and said, "Mommy, you haven't done any school with me today!"

    And then there are the funny things he comes up with. My oldest is one who would fit the "think outside the box" personality. Here is a prime example for when I was teaching him about simile:

    Me: "Pat is flat like a......."
    J: "Cake"
    Me: (thinking he was trying to say pancake) "Well, most cakes aren't flat, but what kind of cake is flat?"

    (scroll down for his answer...)

    J: A ginger cake that has been hit by a baseball bat.

    I am so proud of him :-)

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Saving money on food

    In a previous poll, I asked what spending category your food budget fell in. 82 percent of responses were from the thrifty and low cost category. Some of you left comments on how you keep it lower. What about the rest of you (as well as anyone new to the blog)?

    How do you save money on food?