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We all know it. Kids need fruits and veggies to thrive and be healthy. It’s excellent advice and I’m sure most of us try to follow it. But, as anyone with kids knows, it’s one thing to tell kids to eat their veggies for good health, and quite another to get them to actually do it.
Dr. Orlena Kerek is a pediatrician, with four children of her own, who knows these struggles. She has a blog — Snotty Noses — and has just written a book, “Crunch: Put a Stop to Picky Eating and Help Your Kids Love Veggies.”
After reading “Crunch,” we’ve already made a few small tweaks that I think will add up to healthier eating around here. I’ve started putting a pitcher of water on the table for every meal, and all of us are now drinking more of it. And I’m being more mindful of offering fruit and vegetables as snacks between meals, rather than just grabbing for convenient crackers.
With the release of her book, I thought this would be a great time for us all to get acquainted with Dr. Orlena.
Me: Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do?
Orlena: I’m a paediatric doctor. I trained in the UK and now live in Spain with my four children (aged 7, 5 and twins of 2) and my husband. I work part time, in a clinic and writing for my blog. I always thought that healthy eating was easy, until I had children and realised that they didn’t automatically just eat what was put in front of them. I’ve spend the last couple of years researching and working on our family diet. I know it can be tough at times, but I do think it’s really important to teach children healthy eating habits.
Me: What is the main thing you’d like readers to take away from your book?
Orlena: The main thing I want people to take away is to not worry and to not pressure your children into eating. I don’t mean don’t think about it, I mean don’t worry about it. I believe that if you present your children with healthy food, they will learn to eat healthy food (not necessarily all of it). Of course they are allowed treats but the majority of food should be healthy. The point about not worrying is that if you keep at it and don’t pressure them, they will grow into older children who eat healthily.
My biggest concern with children’s diets are the long term health consequences. We already have high rates of obesity and diabetes but diet is also linked to cancer. These are things that we can avoid (or reduce our risk of) just by eating healthily.
Me: I have four kids (like you!). We’ve always had everyone eat the same food, but I’ve noticed that while one kid will eat veggies like a rabbit, another has maybe 3 fruits and veggies he will eat, and actually gags when he tries many of them. A lot of people advised us to just give him what we want him to eat, but he really seems miserable and close to being sick when he tries these foods. Are there kids who just have more sensitive tastes than the rest of us? Is there a way to work with them to eat more healthy food?
Orlena: Yes, some children are very much more sensitive to textures and different tastes than others. Firstly, I would say, don’t pressure him to eat. You can present him with food and tell him he doesn’t have to eat it. If he is traumatised by being presented with new foods then it is possible that he falls into the category of a ‘problem eater.’ I don’t address problem eating in my book — all the techniques in the book are valid, but some children do need extra help. The main point is to not pressure them. If they have a traumatic experience, it can make them more resistant to a food (for example, they might need to be exposed to a new food 30 times rather than 15 before they accept or reject it.) While I don’t address this in my book, I do offer a healthy eating for children course if anyone needs extra help in this area. I think the key is persistence and patience!
The book, and information on the Healthy Eating Courses, can be found here. The e-book is usually $15, but for the next month, you can get it for $10 (scroll all the way down on the page to find the e-book.)
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