In honor of National Nutrition Month, we sat down with “America’s Childhood Nutrition Expert”, Jill Castle. We asked her to share some of her expertise with us, particularly when it comes to picky eating, common mistakes that parents make in the kitchen and more! Check out what she had to say below and make sure to pick up a copy of her new book, Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete out July 2015.
1. It’s National Nutrition Month! We know that it’s important to instill nutritious eating habits at a young age. Do you have any advice for parents on how to start introducing healthy eating habits in their child?
The best advice I can give is to “walk the talk.” Parents are a role model for their children so what they eat, what they do for activity, and how they rest all resonate with their children. If parents serve and eat a healthy meal with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy, their children will eat those foods too. Healthy food will become what they know to be the “norm.”
2. On the topic of nutrition, what are some common mistakes that you’ve seen parents make when it comes to their kids’ eating habits?
Going too healthy and eradicating junk and sweets from the home (this encourages kids to seek these foods out because they are “forbidden”) or not having a stance on nutrition and meals, which allows too much leeway for kids to eat unhealthy options. The middle ground is the place to be, where healthy foods are the norm but indulgent foods are included and savored once in a while.
3. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist, childhood nutrition expert and mother of 4, could you tell us what a typical dinner at your house would look like? Dinner occurs around our family table at about 7 pm (I have teens and a husband who commutes from the city to home). I usually serve a protein, starch, one to two veggies, sometimes a fruit and set the gallon of milk on the table. Recently we had shrimp and linguine with a salad and milk, prepared by my 15 year old daughter. I serve our meals “family-style,” placing the food items in the center of the table. In this case, I placed the whole pan of shrimp and linguine in the middle of the table with tongs. We pass everything around, or serve ourselves from the center of the table. We don’t really talk about who is eating what, or how much. We talk about our day, upcoming events, and often reminisce about the past (for some reason my teens like to talk about when they were little!)
4. We know that veggies and fruits are an important part of a healthy diet, but it is sometimes hard to get kids to eat them! Do you have any tricks for parents with picky eaters?
I have always felt that including fruit and veggies at every (or most) meal is really important. I have watched my own kids occasionally shun veggies but always take the fruit—this has reinforced my belief that offering both at meals as often as possible will do two things: expose them to a variety of fruits and veggies, and up the probability that they will choose at least one of them. Other strategies to try: Use dips for dipping veggies; roast veggies to bring out the natural sweetness and lower the bitter taste; offer veggies as an appetizer before dinner; incorporate fruit and veggies in other foods such as muffins, sweet breads, and smoothies; let kids help in the preparation (tearing lettuce, cleaning fruit, etc). I think it’s important for parents to remember that kids don’t become little “foodies” overnight—it takes some kids multiple exposures (and sometimes many more) to warm up to vegetables, especially. Remember, veggies are naturally bitter, and a flavor that kids typically reject—it can take them some time to be interested and want to eat them. Pushing kids too hard to try them, or rewarding kids if they do eat veggies doesn’t do much to increase their liking of them and may even discourage it. It’s best to keep including veggies at meals and relax about whether kids eat them or not. Most likely, kids will eventually eat or try them, but the harder parents try to make that happen, the longer it seems to take!
5. One of the reasons why we love pasta is because it’s a great delivery system for other healthy foods like veggies and protein. What are some of the most nutritious foods that you like to pair with pasta?
I love these combos: tomatoes and white beans; artichokes and chicken; broccoli and chicken with Alfredo sauce; shrimp and mixed stir fry veggies.
6. We saw you have a new book coming out in July. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete is a sports nutrition book for kids and teens aged 8-18 years. I wrote this book to be resource for parent and coaches on the topic of nutrition for young athletes. As more and more kids become involved in sports, parents and coaches are more vested in their success. Good nutrition is part of that success. Fortunately, we have more and more research rolling out for the young athlete. In this book, I’ve covered what young athletes need, from calories to protein and carbs (and more), and summarized the latest evidence about when and what to eat for maximal athletic performance, as well as the latest on supplements and special diets for young athletes.
7. Finally, can you share a favorite pasta recipe of yours?
On my blog: Pasta Primavera, Dinner-Bar style
Jill Castle is a registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert. As a former private practice owner, she currently shares her expertise as a writer, speaker and consultant. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School and author of the upcoming book Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete (2015).
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