Thursday, January 20

Griselda Herrero: “For a child to accept trying a new food, it may be necessary to offer it between 15 and 21 times” | Experts | Mamas & Papas

Knowing what we eat and what should not be eaten seems easy, but it is not so easy. Factors such as food education, customs, the access we have to information or our emotional resources, among others, influence our habits. What we eat does not depend only on us. The marketing food, the huge supply of unhealthy products and the normalization of the consumption of certain products are responsible for laying stones on the road to a healthier life. Something that needs to be addressed this May 28, World Nutrition Day. A path that begins to be traveled in childhood and that will be more or less stony depending on our expertise avoiding obstacles and what we are putting in our backpacks. Griselda Herrero, dietitian-nutritionist and founder of North Health Nutrition, offers us a map with which to orient ourselves in Eat well as a family (ESPASA); a very practical book with simple information and endless games to learn how to eat healthy at home. Everyone must learn, of course, because if we want our sons and daughters to eat better, we must start with ourselves first. “What is the use of wanting our children to eat vegetables if they see us eat chips or sweets?” Asks the dietician-nutritionist. Of course, learning without pressure or stress, from flexibility and enjoyment.

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QUESTION. You demolish that saying that you do not play at the table and you consider the game as a very interesting tool to establish good eating habits. Why do you think it is interesting to learn to eat healthy through play?

ANSWER: The latest research on children’s learning reveals that play is one of the most important ways that children gain essential knowledge and skills. Play is fun, involves active child participation, generates motivation and interest, is dynamic, allows children to communicate ideas and understand, encourages social interaction and communication, and allows them to experiment. All these ingredients allow the concepts to be internalized better and in a much more pleasant way for them, so why not use the game to learn to eat better?

P: In fact, in the book you are offering games of all kinds that you have created with your partner.

R: We are both very creative and we are always trying to innovate and create different things. The idea arises like almost all ideas: from observation and wondering how to better and more effectively help the families I see in consultation, the classmates of Nora’s school or any father or mother who asks me through social networks what do so that your children eat better. It is much easier for an adult to understand the theory of how their children should eat, but it is not so easy to put it into practice later. And much less if we do it from directivity, from boredom or from misunderstanding. So, we said, how can we make it easier and more fun for fathers and mothers and their children? Well … Playing!

P: What does it depend on for a child to eat healthier?

R: It depends on many things. The most important, of the family education that has from birth. Family habits are crucial to acquire healthy habits in children because we do not forget that we educate more by example than by voice. What is the use of wanting our children to eat vegetables if they see us eat chips or sweets? For this it is clear that we must have healthy food at home, because otherwise the healthiest choice will be complicated. Once we have basic habits in the family, never use food as a bargaining chip (reward, punishment, reward, blackmail, prohibition, obligation) because, on the one hand, we are going to interfere with their own natural hunger regulation signals and satiety and, on the other hand, we can generate inappropriate eating behaviors now or in the future. And finally, I would add flexibility, which I think is key to having good eating habits. This does not imply choosing what you want at all times, but rather allowing you to modify food decisions, keeping in mind the health objective.

P: You say in the book that having knowledge of nutrition is essential to make appropriate healthy decisions when choosing food for our children, but that, according to science has found, in reality today we do not always have the information to make these decisions. How to get to that information?

R: The problem is that this information about food is surrounded by a lot of halos of pseudoscience and interests far from health. To know that what I am reading has more or less evidence, we can follow some basic advice: flee from everything that promises quick solutions, comes in a very ornate container or with many phrases that attract attention, a famous person sells it charging for it, recommend using X product to achieve goals, or that it is far from common sense. And in any case, when in doubt, go to a professional –which in this case is the dietitian-nutritionist– to help you solve them.

P: It also happens that access to that information requires a greater effort on our part and that often means that we end up abandoning or not reaching it. The question is, should we try harder to achieve it, or should it really be others who have to get that information to the right place?

R: This is everyone’s job. We live in community and, as I said in the introduction to the book, we are all responsible for whether our health is better or not, as a society.

In this sense, of course we can strive to find better information at the individual level, but it is also a political and social responsibility that such information is provided to us, that strategies are generated that prevent, for example, the marketing food that confuses the population (such as nutritional claims or nutriscore), that works from all areas for a healthier and more transparent society, not allowing companies to profit at the cost of the health of the population, promoting health policies that promote healthy habits and not the opposite (from dietitians-nutritionists in public health or in schools, to prohibiting vending in hospitals and educational centers, for example). Therefore, it is not only the parents’ fault that they do not have access to adequate information. We try to do our best, but they don’t make it easy for us.

P: I asked you the above because I believe that many times we are required to reach an unattainable amount of things – knowledge of nutrition, children’s sleep, positive parenting, learning and development milestones – and that creates a certain burden on families …

R: Exactly. Burden, guilt and frustration. That is why it is necessary to start opening your mind a little and becoming more aware of the cracks we have in the social structure to be able to demand changes in this regard. If small changes begin to be made from the health, educational and social strata, we will all begin to “denormalize” certain things and see the other side of the coin, where it will be easier for us to access more accurate information.

P: You speak of socially “denormalizing” unhealthy food choices; something that happens especially in certain contexts. Is it really possible to teach our sons and daughters to eat healthy in an obesogenic environment like the current one?

R: Possible is, simple not so much. It is true that the environment that surrounds us complicates our work a bit, but it is also true that we have the responsibility to educate our children in healthy habits. And, be careful, this does not mean having to make it perfect or looking for a 100% healthy diet because that is not possible or healthy and the only thing that can generate us is frustration.

P: What can we do?

Griselda Herrero, dietician-nutritionist and founder of Norte Salud Nutrición, offers us a map with which to guide us in 'Eating well as a family' (ESPASA).
Griselda Herrero, dietician-nutritionist and founder of Norte Salud Nutrición, offers us a map with which to guide us in ‘Eating well as a family’ (ESPASA).

R: I think the most interesting thing is to educate our children in healthy values: from promoting the consumption of fruit and vegetables, to going to recycle plastics or maintaining proper sleep hygiene. In general, usual, not 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. If one day we don’t cook and go to Burguer, cool! If one day we go to bed later because we have gone out to see the stars, great! If one day we are all day on the couch watching movies and we have not exercised, great! The most important thing is to ask ourselves what normality we want our children to learn, knowing that outside our family bubble they will encounter other factors and will have to learn to cope with them. If we never give our child an ice cream to eat healthy, he will never know how to cope consistently with this type of food because he will not have learned to manage his consumption. And it is that knowing how to eat ice cream is also eating healthy.

P: And it’s not just enough to eat healthy …

R: For me, health is much more than eating healthy. Learning to eat healthily also implies relating well to food, being able to eat consciously and not while looking at the cell phone –which can also include us a lot in the food choices we make–. It is a tandem with physical exercise and rest because they are directly related to each other.

P: You mention eating by looking at your cell phone. How are our table habits in general? Do we know how to eat as a family?

R: Well, unfortunately I think not. Regardless of whether we eat more or less healthy, we do not give the importance of eating as a family. From families that cannot eat together in any of the meals of the day, to others for which eating together only implies being seated at the same table – while each one is at his own business. In many cases it is that we have not even considered that there may be another way to do it; It is what we have learned or what we have known how to do in the circumstances that surround us. Perhaps it is time to stop and think if there is something we can change to turn that moment into a space of well-being, fun and family enrichment.

P: You have heard many times that “my son does not eat anything.” What do we do when our sons or daughters don’t eat a wide variety of foods? When should we really care?

R: The first thing, do not overwhelm us. Studies tell us that for a child to agree to try a new food, it may be necessary to offer it 15 to 21 times. We must also think if it really is a wide variety or not. Many times I find myself in consultation with parents very worried because their children “do not eat any vegetables” and when you investigate a little it turns out that they eat four or five types.

The second thing is to ask ourselves if we offer those foods that are not eaten at home, if others eat them or are they on the table within reach. You also have to find out what prevents them from eating them, because this information will give us clues about how we can offer them in another way. And if we also involve the boy or the girl in its elaboration, we will have more options for them to at least try it.

And finally I think it is important to analyze what you eat the rest of the day. Is it possible that you are rejecting food because you have been eating other products such as sweets, bread or snacks? Maybe it’s more a matter of hunger or that your palate has gotten used to the sweet taste, making it even easier for you to reject vegetables.

All this from the tranquility and normality, without dramas, much less forcing you to try it. If we are still concerned, we should consult with your pediatrician and a dietitian-nutritionist.

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