Nutrition Q & A: Round 2

With Stacey Antine, M.S., R.D.

You had even more questions about your family’s eating habits, and Registered Dietitian Stacey Antine is back to answer them in this delicious sequel to last month’s enlightening piece. Keep reading to find out what kinds of soy foods are best and how to keep junk food at bay.

Is there a limit to the amount of soy foods, such as edamame and tofu, that my 1 year old should be eating?

Soy foods, such as edamame and tofu, are delicious, plant-based sources of protein that contain no cholesterol. They are loaded with healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins and minerals. For healthy kids and adults, moderation is the best approach. Eat one serving a day (1 cup) and stick with edamame or other natural forms of soy, not highly processed soy food products. Also, since soybeans are high on the list of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) crops, look for non-GMO labels on frozen and fresh soy products in your supermarket.

My 2¼-year-old daughter has always been a good eater for the most part. Recently, she is refusing to eat foods she’s always loved. It seems that it’s just a control issue with her. What do you think?

Many children begin to flex their independence through their food choices at age 2 or even younger. This is a great opportunity to empower your daughter to choose a variety of foods and help with the cooking process. She can help you mix, pour, and stir ingredients. In some cases and with supervision, she can use a plastic knife to help chop soft veggies, such as bell peppers, to develop gross motor skills, too! Lastly, make sure to eat with your daughter at the table so she can model your eating behavior.

What’s the most important nutrient for a growing 5 year old? Does it change as he gets older?

Growing children need nutrition from a variety of whole foods that provide energy, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The following are great options: a medley of fruits and vegetables, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, popcorn that’s not from a microwavable bag), lean proteins (fish, chicken), healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, and omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, flax, and hemp), low-fat dairy for protein, as well as calcium and vitamin D (yogurt, milk, cheese, or dairy alternatives like soy, rice, almond, and coconut). Singling out nutrients is not a good practice, especially for children. It’s the combination of nutrients in their natural state that provides the body’s best nourishment.

If most of my child’s diet is well rounded, does it matter that he has a rewarding dessert here and there? After all, he’s a kid!

I’m all about dessert, especially homemade sweets, but not with the word “reward” attached to it. Rewards for good behavior, school grades, etc., should not be linked to food, but rather to a new book or privilege at home (extra playtime). After dinner, a square of dark chocolate with fresh fruit or berries gets my stamp of approval!

While I make my 7 year old’s packed meal for school, how do I know she’s not eating other kids’ junk foods during lunch hour?

The best way to find out if food items are being traded is to ask your daughter. Having an honest dialogue with kids is a lot easier than you think. Also, don’t emphasis healthy or junk foods because then kids want the forbidden stuff that satisfies their salt cravings or sweet tooth. Rather, talk about natural foods that come from the farm (or garden) and the artificial foods that are made in factories. Read the ingredients on snack labels, determining if they contain beneficial ingredients. If your child likes the artificial stuff, spy for healthier alternatives.

Nutrition Q & A: Bonus

You had so many questions about your family’s eating habits, we couldn’t even print them all! Registered Dietitian Stacey Antine answers bonus questions here as part of her Nutrition Q & A series.

Although I try to stay away from processed foods, wrapped American cheese and shredded mozzarella offer great convenience. Should I refrain from giving them to my toddler on a regular basis?

Dairy is one of the five food groups featured on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate dietary chart. Kids love cheese, which provides protein and calcium for strong bones and teeth, as well as other vitamins and minerals. The challenge is that cheese tends to be high in fat, especially saturated fat that is not good for the heart. I use cheese in many recipes, but in amounts that stay within heart-healthy guidelines. One secret weapon is using Cabot Sharp Light Cheese, which tastes great, cooks well, and reduces saturated fat from 9 grams to 4.5 grams per serving. Shredded, low-fat mozzarella is a good choice for sprinkling on pizza or pasta or adding to recipes for the gooey factor. Shred lightly on the whole-milk mozzarella, thought, because it’s very high in saturated fat and sodium.

My daughter often eats the fruits and veggies I put on her plate. But when the decision is hers, she’ll reach for a cookie or another processed sweet. How can I get her to make a better decision on her own? She’s only 8, so I don’t want to be too controlling over her eating.

It’s all about empowering your daughter with knowledge and engaging her curiosity and taste buds! Eight year olds love to cook and bake, so start there! If she loves cookies or sweets, bake healthy ones with her, such as the Fudgy Brownie Bites or Soft Pretzels in my book, Appetite for Life. Let your child come up with her own smoothie concoction for breakfast and just supervise the use of the blender. Eating fruits and veggies is important, but the fun factor is key to keep kids reaching for them on their own!