Moms Know Best
…when it comes to health, wellbeing and nutrition!
from Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RDN (www.bazilians.com)
Being a mom isn’t always easy, but it IS rewarding! Especially when you finally see the lessons you teach and reinforce with your children start to pay off. In honor of all the magnificent moms and their many, many ‘right’ ways of navigating parenthood with smarts, poise and humor, here’s a round-up of Momisms about health and nutrition that make us agree: “Mom was right!”
Mom always said…
Eat your vegetables to grow up big and strong!
Fruits and vegetables have a wide variety of essential nutrients to fuel healthy development of the musculoskeletal system, digestive system, heart and the brain…from head-to-toe! And they are full of a wide array (10,000 or more!) phytonutrients that help protect the body, repair or neutralize damage, and boost the immune system and help virtually every body-function happen optimally.
For example, blueberries have vitamin C and anthocyanins and have been linked to brain health and promoting heart health. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have fiber and phytochemicals related to healthy digestion and overall health. Carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens have nutrients that promote healthy eye-sight, skin and the immune system. Leafy greens also have vitamin K and other nutrients important for strong bones and healthy blood clotting…and there are many, many more examples across all the fruits and vegetables.
Maybe you’ve even heard – or say yourself: “eat the rainbow”.
…and lots more!
Mom was right!
Drink your milk…it’s good for strong bones!
Calcium plays a very important role in healthy bodies – and is particularly critical for developing and maintaining healthy bones. And milk is one of the easiest to incorporate excellent sources of calcium, providing 1/3 of the daily recommendation in 8 ounces, along with many other critical nutrients including potassium, vitamin A and vitamin D. In morning cereals, pancakes, oatmeal, lattes, smoothies, baked items, hot cocoa, at tea-time, in comforting soups and on its own, milk is a familiar and easy-to-include source of quality nutrition in an enjoyable day. Other calcium sources include yogurt and cheese, broccoli, and almonds. And look also for calcium-enriched sources in foods if you are not consuming calcium from dairy.
Mom was right!
If you snack all day, you’ll spoil your dinner!
If you arrive at the table hungry, you’ll be more likely to eat what’s on the plate. But if you or the kids have snacked recently or a lot, you will likely go for the tasty, more ‘carb-y’ foods before the vegetables, or you may just stop eating before you get your best nutrition—which usually occurs at real meals. If you want kids to be more adventurous – or at least more willing – eaters, have them arrive to the dinner table hungry! Snacking is important, too, just not all day long! In fact, 1 in 4 calories today are eaten as snacks, so it’s important to make those nutritious and space them out during the day strategically so they really count and don’t end up spoiling your appetite.
Mom was right!
Drink ginger ale for an upset tummy!
While sugary soda is not advised for kids because of the added sugars, ginger itself has indeed been shown to help ease an upset stomach, and help with motion sickness and nausea. And a little sugar alongside the ginger can actually help ease stomach upset as well…just a little! The key is to look for options that use real ginger and real sugar. Look for natural ginger ales made with real ginger. Or you can make a ginger tea with a ginger tea bag, by using ground ginger from your spice cabinet or by grating and steeping some fresh ginger. Add a little honey for sweetness and serve cool or warm depending on your or your child’s preference. You can also try a ginger chew or piece of crystalized ginger either on its own or steeped in hot water.
Mom was right!
Don’t talk with your mouth full!
First of all, you could choke, which is scary and can be dangerous. Plus, if you’re trying to eat and talk at the same time, it’s likely that you aren’t chewing well or paying much attention to your food, which are keys to good digestion and also learning the cues to tell you when you’ve had ‘enough’ and are full. Finally, it’s bad manners! And this habit does have a way of carrying forward into later life if you don’t nip it in the bud early on. Thanks, Mom!
Mom was right!
Try a few bites to see if you like it, before making up your mind!
Research has shown that a child usually needs at least 15 unique exposures to a food before making up her or his mind whether they like it. Children’s tastes do change over time, and it may be simply the way a food is prepared, not the food itself that’s causing the rejection. Or it could be other factors like a child being tired, fussy or just establishing and exercising her own will and identity. It can be tiring to keep trying, but it can be worth it in the end. Instead of a raw tomato, try tomato soup. Or instead of steamed broccoli, try stir-fried and seasoned broccoli or call the florets ‘mini-trees’ and set them up in a dish of rice like a small forest, a trick I learned from a well-known chef. Sprinkle or stir in parmesan cheese with cauliflower and try serving toasted walnuts instead of raw ones. And provide seasoned dips to accompany with fresh vegetables. Research has shown that kids are more likely to eat, and less likely to reject, vegetables that are served with dips and seasoning.
Mom was right!
Chicken soup helps you get over your cold!
For starters, most chicken soups contain ingredients that provide a solid source of vitamins and minerals overall that are important for a healthy immune system and healing. Chicken stock contains zinc, a mineral essential to the development and activation of the immune system’s T-cells, important in fighting infection, which may help fight seasonal bugs and chicken contains protein that’s essential for healing and the immune system overall. Chicken itself provides protein that helps the immune system and healing. Carrots, common in a chicken soup, provide your body with beta carotene which converts to vitamin A, an important nutrient for optimizing the immune response. The warm temperature can help loosen congestion and just feels soothing when you feel ill. And when the full-blown flu has robbed you of your appetite, chicken soup can deliver a nutrient-dense meal that’s easy on the stomach and can keep you hydrated thanks to its nutritious, electrolyte-packed fluids.
Mom was right!
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! (OK, well this is Mary Poppins, but isn’t she like the ultimate mom-figure nanny!?)
Medicines often have a ‘yucky’ – unpalatable – flavor to kids who have developing taste buds. Plus, if you’re giving medicine, it’s usually because a child isn’t feeling well. While eating sugary foods for the sake of it won’t help with sickness, a little sugar with the medicine, or taking it with naturally sweet foods like mashed banana or applesauce can make it easier. And a teaspoon of honey might help with a sore throat and cough—plus honey is antibacterial and may help keep the cold and cough at bay as you heal.
Mom (and Mary Poppins) was right!
Mom has her reasons…
Eat your spinach and you’ll have muscles like Popeye!
We’ve heard this many times, and though it’s actually not completely true, we’re going to let it slide. While there’s no question spinach is a nutritious food—and we’d like our kids to eat more of it—spinach (especially from a can!) will not instantly give you muscles or forearms like Popeye. However, the more varied and nutritious foods you can include every day, you do create the building blocks for a strong and healthy body (and mind!) And frankly, canned spinach like Popeye eats is probably not the best way to win over your child toward loving spinach right away. While canned and jarred vegetables can be perfectly nutritious if you choose low sodium varieties, fresh or frozen spinach are easy and generally more appealing.
Spinach is high in nutrients including potassium, vitamin K, carotenoids, folate and others. It’s very low in calories (5 calories/cup) and very affordable (a win-win-win). So there’s really no surprise that Mom wants us to eat more of it in general. If she wants to ride on the wave of Popeye’s appeal to help convince them to eat this important green leafy vegetable, that’s OK.
Mom was (almost) right! (We’re cutting her some slack on knowing the actual benefits on this one.)
Finally, don’t eat watermelon seeds or you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach!
OK, this one’s not true, but there’s always a reason… Mom still knows best: she doesn’t want her little people choking on those seeds. We’ve all heard it—and some have believed it—that if you eat a watermelon seed, you’ll grow a watermelon in your stomach. Of course, watermelon is a very nutritious, sweet and well-liked fruit, but traditional varieties have all those seeds! This saying is just a clever way to teach kids to eat around and leave the seeds. It’s not that hard actually to imagine that a watermelon could grow in your stomach since watermelons do grow quite easily. Many people have stories of spitting out watermelon seeds outdoors at home only to find a watermelon plant sprouting up next season in the middle of the yard.
Watermelon seeds do pose a bit of a choking hazard, so discouraging kids to eat them may be one way to tackle this risk. But this saying also plays a bit on a child’s fear—or in some cases their curiosity whereby some kids may do the opposite and eat them on purpose! So maybe we should be careful and clear that this isn’t actually true.
Of course, you find seedless varieties everywhere today as an alternative. And it may be a relief to know that eating the seeds won’t actually hurt you. Mostly they’re just not very tasty when they are fresh and raw. However, you can sprout or roast the seeds as you would pumpkin seeds—that is if you pick them out by hand and not by mouth, please!
Mom was right …with her real intent, though not the literal message. The goal, naturally, is to discourage her children from eating the watermelon seeds.
Of course, there are a lot more sayings we’ve heard her say again and again where Mom was right, too. Surely you have your favorites. And it’s nice to know Mom really knows best when it comes to her children’s wellbeing and nutrition!
Kelly Ripa’s Pancakes
½ cup almond butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of sea salt
Cooking spray or butter
Combine all ingredients except cooking spray or butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat cooking spray or butter on a skillet over medium heat. Pour ¼ cup of pancake mix on skillet and cook until lightly browned, flip over and cook until other side is lightly browned.