Identifying Passions, Behaviors, Motivations and Interests

The holiday season is typically NOT a time where we allow ourselves the “space” to sit back and think. Why do we do the things we do?  What makes my child behave that way? What motivates my colleague? What interests me enough to pursue it as a hobby, college major, or job. NOPE. It’s the time where we push all  of these questions to the back burner of our minds and think, “I’ll deal with that when I have time.”  Newsflash: two weeks off from school, a couple days away from work, and a more flexible schedule (that is, when you’re not traveling!) is exactly the time to consider these things.  This year, I’m offering some office hours for feedback sessions during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s  to accommodate people who’d like to come in to receive their feedback while they’re away from work or school.

It may seem like a daunting task to approach questions like those above.  Five years ago, I was faced with some tough questions regarding myself: where to work, who to marry, and how to interact with my family.  Then the Birkman…

Oh, the Birkman (short for Birkman Method assessment).  It’s a  298 question (250 true-false, 48 multi-choice) that you take online whenever you’d like (home, office, vacation, etc) and should take about 30 minutes to complete. The results available immediately after completion and are then sent to me for report preparation. The questionnaire is translated into over 20 languages and, yes, we offer Skype sessions for feedback. There are dozens of report formats for individuals, pairs, and groups. These options make the Birkman a great tool for exploring a college major, switching careers, pre-marital or marital counseling, family counseling, and “figuring out” what makes your relationship with your teenager or spouse thrive or plumit.

What I once thought was just a couple of pieces of paper telling me more about my personality has turned out to be so much more.  I’ve utilized my own results to land a stable career at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants, marry a man who I can communicate and be vulnerable with, and connect with my sister in a way I never thought possible. If you’re willing to make the time to invest in this tool, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Call us today (713-365-9015) to receive a quote for your assessment and schedule a feedback session. Spots for the holiday weeks are limited.

Am I Addicted to Social Media?

When standing in the grocery store line turns into a opportunity to check your Facebook messages or waiting in the doctor’s office is the perfect chance to scroll through your Instagram posts…you might need to pause and consider the impact social media is making on your life.

First, let’s make sure we’re all operating on a similar definition of social media. For the purposes of this casual article, we’ll consider social media as interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

So what social media outlets are you engaged in?  Facebook, Twiiter, Instagram, Vine, SnapChat, MySpace, blogs, Linked In, etc? They are avenues to interaction with other people…or are they?  Many people will unashamedly admit that they spend more time on social media, email, and texts than they actually spend talking to another human being WITH THEIR VOICE (i.e., face to face conversations, phone calls, meetings, dates, etc.)  Now before you think this is turning into an article about how to teach the younger generation how to learn people skills, keep reading.

I’m not suggesting that social media is wrong, immature, or mentally numbing. There are great things that come from social media: job interviews, connections with friends who live in other cities, product marketing…BUT I am proposing that we have to be careful how much, when, and why we take part in social media.

A few months ago, I found myself intrigued with an article in the January 2014 edition of Real Simple magazine all about this topic. They surveyed women to discover how they report feeling when they use social media: 19% reported that they feel “connected”, 19% entertained, 19% informed, 8% bored, 7% inspired, 7% overwhelmed, 6% relaxed, 5% inadequate, 4% jealous and 3% isolate. Wow! The effects of social media are definitely mixed…but did you notice that half of these reported feelings are emotions that people usually don’t want  to feel (bored, overwhelmed, inadequate, jealous, isolated). So why do we do this to ourselves?  What’s the gain?

While it definitely helps us to feel a sense of connection with friends, family, or long-lost school-mates, some might argue this is a false sense of connection.  Why false? Glad you asked.  When you are “connecting” (e.g., tweeting, posting, pinning, and vining), do you ever put the hard stuff out there…you know: the picture of yourself when you roll of out bed, the kids screaming at each other during mid-afternoon meltdowns, an image of your computer screen during another mundane day at work, or the pile of laundry that needs to get done. If you answer “no” to this, then you’re amongst the majority. So here’s the catch: we spend hours looking at or reading about each other’s pleasurable moments: the summer vacation scenes, the posed family pics, the new baby sleeping, or someone’s new house… but we don’t know what’s really  happening in their lives. Maybe the family on vacation had a horrible fight over dinner. Perhaps the new baby sleeping is one born to parents after multiple miscarriages. What if the new house is full of dishes to still get washed or laundry to be done.  You get it yet? To really connect with someone requires us to see the whole picture.  Otherwise, we might be tempted to compare our not-so-pitcture-perfect lives with someone else’s and wonder how we get there.  I’m NOT suggesting that you get off of social media…unless that would be a healthy experiment for you. I AM proposing that we use it wisely: considering our motives, it’s effects, and the reality behind it.  Also, I’m recommending that we see it for what it is: an avenue towards real relationships but not a substitute for them.

So maybe you’re like me and you notice that you have a tendency towards social media addiction. What do we do about it? Digging deeper into the practical implications of the Real Simple January 2014 magazine article, I followed a link to one author’s recommendations. She had several recommendations for people who are looking for ways to reduce the allure of social media in their lives.  A full list of her ideas can be found here  Amongst my favorite, practical ideas were these:

 Sign Off for a Weekend. A two-day respite isn’t enough to cure you of your habit. You’ll still be anxious when you return to the onslaught of electronic messages, says Larry Rosen, Ph.D., the author of iDisorder ($16, amazon.com). But a little time away from the screen reminds you how nice life is sans status updates.

Check With Purpose. Most of us wander onto social media aimlessly—usually when we’re bored. To cut back, set a higher bar for logging on. Ask yourself, Do I have a specific, positive reason for this? If you can’t come up with one (say, wanting to see a relative’s wedding photos), resist the urge and do something that will boost your mood, like calling a friend or diving into an engaging book.

Be a Tough Editor. Before you post a status update or a photo, question your motive: Are you just trying to prove that you’re having a good time? Is this the fourteenth picture of your baby that you’ve posted this week? If the answer is yes, try chatting with a friend or texting the picture to your mom. You could also jot down your thoughts in a notebook, or if you’re somewhere lovely, sketch the spot….Posting a photo has the opposite effect: You stop thinking about your experience and start contemplating other people’s responses to it.

I’ll add one to the list that has been useful for me.

 Choose a time and set a timer. Decide when you’d like to take some time to engage in social media and then set an alarm clock on your phone or computer to limit the endless online wandering.  I’ve found that I’m more intentional about what I am looking at and which social media avenue I’m on when I know that my “time” will be up in five or ten minutes. This way, I still get the pleasure of “catching up” on people’s lives but I’m not wasting hours perusing photos of people I haven’t talked to in years. It also frees us up to be present in real-life social situations. Just last month I found myself actually having a conversation with a woman in the waiting room because I wasn’t staring at my phone. I found it refreshing to sit and talk!

Using Nutrition to Manage ADHD

My child was diagnosed with ADHD and I was told he needs to start conventional medication. I have seen a lot of information about alternative therapies, including different diets, but are they safe? Do they work? How do I know which one(s) to try?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, manifests as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity, or some combination of these. While the exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, we do know several factors can lead to its development. As a result, treatment is highly individualized and often involves a combination of several approaches designed to alleviate associated symptoms. Treatment approaches include medication, behavioral counseling, education and training.

In addition to these treatment options, many recommendations have emerged as an alternative or supplemental therapy to help manage symptoms of ADHD. These dietary modifications can be confusing to both the caretaker and the individual. They are often complicated and difficult to apply. In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, here is a brief overview on some of the most popular recommendations and what research has to say about them.

*Before reading, please note that this information is not intended to replace medical recommendations and its application should be considered under the guidance of a registered dietitian.

  • Sugar-restricted Diet: The theory behind this diet is that eating excessive amounts of refined sugar worsens symptoms of ADHD. Many individuals and caretakers report this to be true for themselves and/or their children. Surprisingly, some studies do not show a connection between excess sugar consumption and ADHD symptoms. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that leads people to still give it a try! Take Home Message: This diet is safe to try with your child, but do not expect drastic changes in behavior simply from removing added sugars. Regardless of whether sugar does or does not affect ADHD symptoms significantly, it is beneficial to limit the amount of added sugars in our diets for general wellness.
  • Additive/Preservative-free (The Feingold Diet): This modification requires avoiding certain foods thought to cause adverse reactions in children with ADHD. The foods in question are those containing dyes and preservatives, particularly red, orange, and yellow synthetic dyes. For example, you can recognize dyes such as red #40 or yellow #5 from food labels on the ingredients lists. You might also look to avoid preservatives, such as BHA, BHT and TBHQ. These types of additives are often found in processed foods and are listed on the nutrition facts label. Research provides inconsistent evidence about the effectiveness of this diet; however, some children do benefit from the elimination of these items. Take Home Message: Remember, making these adjustments may or may not alleviate your child’s ADHD symptoms. However, this diet is safe to try, and by eliminating or limiting the amount of packaged and processed foods in the home, you are making positive, healthy changes for your entire family.
  • Oligoantigenic (Elimination Diet): This diet eliminates well known food antigens, which cause an immune response in the body, and allergens, which cause an allergic reaction, in hopes of identifying foods that might trigger ADHD symptoms. Symptoms are alleviated when the “problem-foods” (the antigens or allergens) are removed from the diet. Several foods are eliminated all at once in hopes that the symptoms subside. Then, foods are reintroduced one at a time to determine which one(s) are the culprit for influencing symptoms and therefore should be permanently eliminated. As with the previous two diets, research is mixed about the effectiveness of this approach in treating individuals with ADHD. Take Home Message: Eliminating certain foods from the diet may improve some symptoms associated with ADHD. However, if you are going to attempt this type of diet, it is imperative you work with healthcare professionals, including a dietitian, to ensure your child continues to meet their nutritional needs. If you have an interest in this, please ask our registered dietitians about the Lymphocytic Response Assay Testing (LRA) and read more about it here.
  • Ketogenic Diet: This is a diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrate and is sometimes used for the treatment of epilepsy. Not much is known about how the diet works, but it can have an anti-epileptic effect. What does this have to do with ADHD? Children with epilepsy often have ADHD symptoms and children with ADHD sometimes have epileptiform discharges in an electroencephalography (EEG). Please note, this is very rare and would be best diagnosed by a medical doctor. It is thought that if a child with ADHD experiences these epileptiform discharges, the ketogenic diet may be beneficial. There are few, if any, scientific studies testing this diet and its effects on a child with ADHD. Take Home Message: It is NOT recommended to use the ketogenic diet to alleviate symptoms associated with ADHD alone, but may be an effective approach if ADHD exists with epileptiform discharges in an EEG.
  • Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acid Supplementation: It is thought that children with ADHD may have lower levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) compared to children without ADHD. As a result, several studies have looked at whether supplementing these fatty acids in children with ADHD would alleviate symptoms associated with the disorder. Surprise, surprise: results of the studies are inconclusive! Fatty acid supplementation is beneficial for some kids and was shown to be ineffective in others. This treatment approach is not always effective, but in most cases is not harmful to try and can have other health benefits for a child. Take Home Message: Essential fatty acids alone are not an effective tool for ADHD management. However, it might be beneficial to ensure adequate intake of these nutrients in children who are deficient. Consider talking with a registered dietitian about the amount and type of supplementation your child might need. You might consider adding foods that are high in these nutrients, including ground flax seed (make sure you store in a freezer or refrigerator!), walnuts, and high fat cold water fish (e.g., salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, chunk light tuna canned in water).
  • Megavitamin Supplementation: This type of supplementation might refer to taking mega-doses of multivitamins, individual vitamins, and/or minerals to create an “optimal molecular environment” for the functioning of the mind. Research shows this type of therapy is not effective for management of ADHD and related symptoms. As a matter of fact, excessive intake of some vitamins can be toxic to our bodies and cause adverse reactions. Take Home Message: DO NOT use megavitamin supplementation as a means to manage ADHD. It is only recommended to consume vitamins and minerals in levels that exceed the RDA (recommended daily allowance) under the specific recommendations of a health care professional due to their potential toxicity.

You might be thinking, “Wow. This is a lot of information and I still feel confused. So, should I change my child’s diet to manage their ADHD or not?” Well, research shows that diet alone may not be an effective management tool for children with ADHD. Since the cause of the disorder is multifactorial, medical experts recommend using a combination of medication, supplementation, and/or behavioral therapies to treat the disorder. Since diet is a modifiable aspect that might affect the disorder, it could be worth adding it to that list to try as a supplemental therapy.

Initially, focus on regular meal times (i.e., encouraging your child to eat every 3-4 hours) to promote stable blood sugar levels. Aim for a well-rounded healthy diet since it is beneficial for any developing child. This would include focusing on lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. In doing so, less emphasis is placed on added sugars and processed foods, thereby eliminating some of the potentially problematic foods. You never know: making these changes might lead to less reliance on conventional medications.

If you are serious about trying one of the aforementioned diets to manage ADHD symptoms, it is important to recognize that these types of diets can be complex, time-consuming, and disruptive to the rest of the family. They require a lot of patience and perseverance. It is vitally important to work with a registered dietitian who can help you with meal planning, stocking your pantry with safe items, and recommend supplements as needed. Find a team of healthcare professionals who support your decision and are able to provide their expertise along the way.

If you are interested in learning more about how ADHD might be related to diet or to schedule a nutrition consultation with a dietitian, please contact us at 713-365-9015 or email heritage@heritagebehavioral.com.

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Special thanks to Ms. Mara Mcguin for her assistance in creating the above article. Mara was a previous dietetic intern at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants and is now a newly credentialed Registered Dietitian in the Colorado area.

References:

–  Center for Science in the Public Interest. Diet, ADHD & Behavior: A Quarter-Century Review (2009 Update).

–  Millichap JG, Yee MM. The Diet Factor in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pediatrics. 2012;129:330-337.

–  Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Natural Medicines in the Clinical Management of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Document accessed 1/7/2013.

–  Stevens LJ, Kuczek T, Burgess JR, Hurt E, Arnold LE. Dietary Sensitivities and ADHD Symptoms: Thirty-five Years of Research. Clinical Pediatrics. 2011;50(4):279-293.

–  USDHHS, NIH, Nat’l Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at a Glance. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/adhd/ataglance; Updated 6/19/2013. Accessed 7/10/2013.

Fall Into Flavor NOT Fads

Butternut Squash Soup

Pictured above: a Thanksgiving meal including the (top right) Roasted Butternut Squash soup and (top middle) Wild Rice and Chestnut stuffing. See recipes below. 

I’m a sucker for the fall season. All it takes is one unusual Houston cold-front in early October and I’m smitten. I pull out my boots from the back of the closet, start making hot-teas throughout the day, open all the windows in our house and at the office, and then start scouring my cookbooks for recipes that offer a soup or squash in their content! My next endeavor this fall is to use this website http://www.pickyourown.org/TXhouston.htm to find some local farms within a day-trip driving distance to go and pick my own produce which may just inspire some new recipes. Beyond new recipes, cool weather, and looking forward to some time reading a good book… something else happens about this time of year…

Just this week, I had a conversation with a colleague regarding fall weather and how it seems to elicit thoughts, memories, and cravings for delicious holiday foods and treats. When I hear people talk about this, it seems like there’s a sense of dread. Almost a statement of, “Here it comes: the ruin of any goals I had for healthy eating because _______ just tastes so good!” This makes me wonder how we have come so far in thinking that fall, winter, and holiday eating MUST be unhealthy to be enjoyable. Folks think that you have to stick to some fad diet for the entire holiday season to prevent weight gain. Wrong! The key is to focus on maintaining flavor in your food while eliminating the traditionally processed ingredients commonly found in our favorite recipes for stuffings, appetizers, desserts, soups, and stews this time of year. Don’t believe me? Try a few of the following recipes and see if their flavors are as enticing as some of those fad-diets can be.

SMOKY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

My brother-in-law made this for our Thanksgiving meal appetizer last year and it is now a family favorite. We also made this for a cooking demonstration at Heritage last holiday season and the class participants were surprised at the complex flavors of the simple ingredients.

Ingredients for 4 large (1 cup) or 8 small (1/2 cup) servings:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

One 3-pound butternut squash, peeled and diced (8 cups)

1 small canned chipotle in adobo, chopped

7 cups chicken or turkey stock or low-sodium broth

2 tablespoons honey

Salt

1 cup crème fraîche (or 0% plain/unflavored Greek yogurt for a lower fat version)

1/4 cup finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish

Directions:

In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened. Stir in the squash and chipotle and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and honey and bring to a boil. Simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup until smooth; season with salt.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir the crème fraîche or Greek yogurt with the 1/4 cup of chives. Microwave until just melted, 30 seconds. Serve the soup with a swirl of chive cream/yogurt and a sprinkling of chives.

SEASONED KALE CHIPS

I’m shocked at how much it costs to purchase pre-packaged kale chips at the store when they are SO easy and inexpensive to make yourself. We usually make a batch of these before dinner parties for people to snack on while the main course is being prepared. Men and women alike say they are shocked at how kale can taste so good. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch organic kale, any variety
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Yield 8 cups

Directions:

Remove the center ribs and stems from 1 bunch kale.  Tear the leaves into 3-to-4-inch pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread on 2 baking sheets coated with olive or canola oil cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees F until browned around the edges and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes.

WILD RICE AND CHESTNUT STUFFING

Here is a beautiful holiday stove-top stuffing dotted with ruby-red cranberries (or cherries, depending on your preference). Good-quality wild rice triples in volume as it absorbs a rich wild mushroom broth, offering an elegant contrast to the puffy nuggets of chestnut.

To reduce prep time, you can use bottled or vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts, but truth be told, they don’t taste as good as freshly roasted.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 ounce (about 1 cup loosely packed) dried porcini or other dried mushrooms

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

30 fresh chestnuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 ½ cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts)

1 cup finely diced celery

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, plus more for garnish (or use ½ to ¾ teaspoon dried rubbed sage)

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

¼ cup unsweetened dried cranberries or unsweetened dried cherries

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the mushrooms in 3 ½ cups of hot water until they are soft, 15 minutes or longer. Strain and reserve the mushroom liquid. Coarsely chop any large pieces of mushrooms. Set aside.

In a heavy 2-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, bring the mushroom liquid and wild rice to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and cook at a gentle boil, stirring occasionally, until some of the grains have “butterflied” open and curled up, and the rice tastes tender, 45 to 65 minutes (depending upon storage conditions and age).

If you’re not using canned or bottled roasted chestnuts, while the rice is cooking, roast the chestnuts: Set a rack in the center and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With the tip of a paring knife, cut an X on the flat side of each chestnut. Set, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the chestnuts until the X puffs open, 20 to 25 minutes. Wrap the chestnuts in a kitchen towel for a few minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the shells and use the towel to rub off the thin brown skins. Discard any chestnuts that are moldy.

Heat the oil and butter in a large, deep skillet or saucepan. Add the leeks, celery, and dried sage (if using) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the sherry, balsamic vinegar, and cranberries, and cook uncovered for a few minutes. Stir in the chestnuts and soak mushrooms. Cover and set aside until the rice is done.

Stir the rice (including any unabsorbed cooking liquid) and fresh sage (if using) to taste into the leek mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the celery and leeks are tender and the flavors have mingled, about 5 minutes. Add a little water during this time if the mixture becomes dry. Garnish with additional sage, if using fresh. 

Beyond the Usual Brown Bag Lunch

It seems like every time the TV transitions to a commercial, we are stuck watching the latest ad for where to find the best back to school deals on school supplies, trendy clothes, or sports physicals.  If we manage to escape the ads about these deals, there is no doubt we will be bombarded with the newest kid-friendly snack boasting its “kid-tasted, mother approved” status or newly added flavors.  So, as we prepare to head back to school in just a few short weeks… or maybe days for some of you… how do we prioritize and navigate this complicated question: What should I feed my children for lunch this year?

For some kids, a lunch provided by the school is not an option or is not acceptable.  So, many parents and caregivers worry about what to make or pack children for lunch. To prevent last minute panic or a return to the “same old thing,” I recommend having a repertoire of eight to ten lunches that work for your child. This can prevent boredom, promote variety, make shopping easier, and reduce the stress sometimes associated with packing a healthful lunch.

These tips can help make filling your child’s lunch box less stressful:

  • On a Saturday or Sunday when you have some minutes to spare, make several containers or baggies of items to include in your child’s lunches for the week (for example: baby cut carrots, grapes, dry cereal, dried fruit).
  • Organize your storage container drawer and have a staging area set up with everything you need in one place, including: at least two lunch boxes or brown bags per child, plastic baggies, storage containers in all sizes, spoons and forks, napkins, straws, thermos or water bottle, and a marker.
  • Buy 8-fl-oz bottles of water or fill several water bottles, and keep the refrigerator stocked for the week. In the summer months, you may choose to freeze these so the ice is melted into cold water by lunchtime.
  • Know what to pack
    • It’s OK if your child likes to have a conventional lunch that includes a sandwich, fruit, vegetables, snack item, and a drink.
    • If your kid prefers to “pick” and does better with yogurt or cheese, for example, make sure you balance the meal so that it contains protein, fruit and/or vegetables, some carbohydrate, and fat.
  • Involve your child in packing the lunch, as much as possible. Older children can often prepare and pack their own lunch with adult supervision.
  • If you are planning to pack dinner leftovers for lunch, pack the storage container as you are cleaning up for dinner. This saves time!

Here are a few fun menu ideas:

  • Unconventional sandwiches: hummus and whole-wheat pita bread; falafel; low fat cheese wedges and whole grain crackers; sunflower butter or almond butter on gluten-free toast; whole grain wrap filled with vegetables and cheese or nitrate-free deli meats.
  • Conventional alternatives to sandwiches: dinner leftovers (meat/chicken/fish/pork with sweet potatoes or a healthy side such as quinoa or tabouleh, vegetables); leftover pizza on whole grain crust with spinach and other bite-size veggies; soup or stew.
  • Unconventional alternatives to sandwiches: whole grain and low sugar cereal from home in storage container (just add milk); scrambled eggs or hardboiled eggs; Greek yogurt with low-sugar granola; homemade quiche; bean based chili with chicken; ¼ to ½ cup of nuts (if allowed at your child’s school); homemade protein smoothies (frozen the night before to defrost by lunch time); bean salad.
  • Fruits: apple, pear, banana, grapes, berries, oranges, grapefruit sections, cherries, pineapple chunks, melon, pomegranate, guava, papaya, tangerines, clementine, fruit salad.
  • Vegetables to eat raw, steamed, or with dip such as hummus or guacamole: cucumber slices, celery, carrots, green beans, snow peas, blanched broccoli, asparagus or cauliflower, grape tomatoes, beets, corn, salad.
  • Snacks: 100% all fruit leather, ¼ cup sunflower seeds, baked sweet potato chips, multigrain crackers, homemade granola bar, whole grain graham crackers, unsweetened applesauce, multigrain chips or tortilla, unsweetened dried fruit, nuts (if allowed at your child’s school), plain Greek yogurt with 1 tsp local honey, banana chips, dried peas.

Hopefully these tips will help you prepare for the upcoming days of your students’ eating needs. If you would like more individual coaching on this topic or your child has specific needs such as food allergies or food sensitivities, please call us at 713-365-9015 to set up an individual nutrition consultation with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Professional Counselor, Danielle Mitchell.

*Some ideas from this article are adapted from material included at http://www.nutrition411.com. For other helpful nutrition resources, visit the Toddler and Kid Center tab on their website.

Freedom from Food Fights

It is mid-summer and maybe you are thinking that any nutrition goals you had for yourself or your kids will “just have to wait” until all of the vacations, summer grill-outs, and sleep-overs for the kids are behind you.  Let’s face it: most families admit that summer is a difficult time to change kids’ eating routines and food choices.  In fact, it is very likely that the last time you tried to suggest something green or unpackaged for a snack or meal, your kids threw a fit or rolled their eyes.  So, to avoid the energy drain and drama, you gave in to your kids’ pleas for “another snack”, “more dessert”, or their favorite fast-food drive thru pick-up.

Is there a way of out the family food fights without waiting for the school year to begin?  I believe so.  But don’t take it from me…  Here are a few of the tips that have worked best for the parents of my elementary and teenage clients who PREVIOUSLY claimed they had a picky eater at their table:

  •  There are no “good” or “bad” foods.  Experience tells us that as soon as we hear that a food is “bad for us” we want it and if it’s “good for us” we think it’s tasteless or boring.  Plus, many kids begin to associate their value as being “good” or “bad” with how mom or dad says they’re eating.  Instead, it is more helpful to refer to foods as “smart, in between, or empty” when it comes to nutritional value.
  • Nobody has to eat anything they don’t want.  I know, I know: this sounds crazy and does NOT jive with the “clean your plate” mentality that many of us had growing up.  However, research has shown that it takes  kids up to 10 exposures to a food (i.e., seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, spitting out, etc.) before they’ll eat and swallow the food comfortably.  So, the mere presence of that food on a kids’ plate counts as an exposure. They don’t necessarily need to eat it or try it before getting up from the table.  It may sound crazy, but it works!
  • Role model loving healthy food.  If you want your kids to eat broccoli, eat broccoli… without trying to convince them of how good it tastes or manipulate them into eating it, too.  Your kids are watching you and, eventually, will want to try the foods you are eating to feel grown up.  If you don’t believe me, you should ask the mom who was frustrated that her kids were only eating pop-tarts for breakfast.  They saw her eating a healthier version of eggs benedict with asparagus every morning and BEGGED her for some of their own.

These are just a few of many tips I teach for changing the food environment NOT just modifying the foods we eat.  Until we alter the language and “rules” we use in relation to food, we keep ourselves stuck in the food battles at the dinner table and feel trapped in the fights about food types.  If you are interested in more material like this, join us for our next Feeding the Kids Workshop: Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants. Click here for more details and to register.  There really is freedom  from this age-old battle with food for you and your children!

Life According to the Birkman Method®

“What should I do with my life?” Most of us have asked this question at some point in our journey. If you are a teenager trying to decide which college to attend, a college student aiming to find the best major for your interests, an adult who wants to make a career change or a spouse who wants to improve your relationships… The Birkman Method® Assessment may be a useful tool for you.

So, what exactly is the Birkman Method? * The Birkman Method® consists of a 298-question online personality assessment and a series of related report sets that enhance career counseling and interpersonal conflict resolution, and executive coaching leadership development. The Birkman Method® combines motivational, behavioral and interest evaluation into one single assessment, which provides a multi-dimensional and comprehensive analysis, thus reducing the need for multiple assessments. The questionnaire is delivered on-line and should take about 45 minutes to complete. It has been translated into 11 languages in addition to English.

In brief, The Birkman Method® includes the five following major perspectives:
1. Usual Behavior – an individual’s effective behavioral style of dealing with relationships and tasks.
2. Underlying Needs – an individual’s expectations of how relationships and social situations should be governed in context of the relationship or situation.
3. Stress Behaviors – an individual’s ineffective style of dealing with relationships or tasks; behavior observed when underlying needs are not met.
4. Interests – an individual’s expressed preference for job titles based on the assumption of equal economic rewards.
5. Organizational Focus – the perspective in which an individual views problems and solutions relating to organizational goals.

The Birkman can be used in a wide range of applications because it is a non-clinical instrument for measuring human behavior and occupational strengths. Many have found it helpful for pre-employment, individual development, career guidance, career management, career transition, counseling, martial counseling, coaching, executive coaching, leadership development, team building, team development, conflict management, stress management, culture management, workplace diversity, crisis management, retirement planning, and succession planning.

The Birkman Method Assessment’s insightful reports are designed to be used by Birkman Certified Consultants and those that have received training in The Birkman Method®. If you’re interested in completing the Birkman assessment, please contact us at 713-365-9015 or heritage@heritagebehavioral.com to find out more about cost and availability. After this, I will send you a link to complete since The Birkman Method® is delivered on-line. Then, we’ll meet in person for feedback that will be given using a report-set that best fits your needs.

*Used with permission and adapted from  www.birkman.com. Accessed on April 8, 2013 online at http://www.birkman.com/birkmanMethod/whatIsTheBirkmanMethod.php

Do I have Food Sensitivities?

You are feeling sick…again!  It is the second time this week that you’ve developed a migraine and you can’t get rid of that intestinal discomfort. Maybe you haven’t been able to fight off that runny nose or cough for the last month.  Perhaps you’ve battled the aches and pains of arthritis for years now or you can’t seem to determine why your 8-year-old has another patch of psoriasis on his skin.  You’re exhausted and tired of going to doctor after doctor to discover why all of this is happening.  You’ve done skin prick allergy testing, tried medications, used all of the new lotions, and eliminated gluten or dairy to see if it would fix it…but nothing is helping!

Does this feel familiar?  If this is similar to your story, perhaps there is more to it than food allergies or medications.  Why is it that the routine allergy tests did not provide any positive allergy results, yet you notice that you or your child are still “reacting” to certain foods such as wheat or dairy?

There is a difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. Food allergies show an IgE reaction which cause acute (usually severe, short-term) reactions that typically result in swelling, choking, or other terrifying symptoms. Food allergies do not always show the source of the problem. The most common food allergies include tree-nuts, eggs, soy, dairy, and wheat. However, traditional food allergy tests do NOT identify what we call delayed or hidden (Type II, III, or IV) hypersensitivities.  This means that someone can test negative to many foods as allergies. However, he/she might have a food or chemical sensitivity: the body’s immune system has an inappropriate response that might cause a delayed reaction.

In the case of a sensitivity, the body recognizes the food or chemical substance as a foreign intruder and will attempt to fight it off. This fight can damage white blood cells which then produce potentially damaging and reactive materials in the bloodstream. If enough of this damage occurs over time, the body’s weaker organs or systems produce symptoms that are rooted in these delayed hypersensitivities.   The following are some examples of potential delayed hypersensitivities:  migraines, multiple sclerosis, ringing in the ears or earaches due to autoimmune meniere’s syndrome, rhinitis, recurrent cold and flu symptoms, asthma due to hypersensitivity (not primary diagnosis), irritable or inflammatory bowel symptoms, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.

There are many approaches to discovering hypersensitivities. As the Registered Dietitian at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants, I utilize the LRA (Lymphocyte Response Assay) by ELISA/ACT®. The LRA is a procedure that identifies signs of immunologic overload and delayed reactions.  The LRA is a simple blood draw (provided off-site) and the procedure is relatively simple.  It entails a 12-hour fast followed by a one ounce blood draw.  Depending on which panel is chosen, the laboratory measures reactions to as many as 400 items from the following: foods, additives/preservatives, environment chemicals, toxic minerals, molds, danders, hairs, and feathers, medications, therapeutic herbs, and food colorings.

After an initial consultation with a dietitian and a subsequent off-site blood draw, the client meets with the dietitian again to plan how to accurately avoid the substances using an elimination and rotation diet. The strong reactions are avoided for 6 months while the moderate reactions are avoided for 3 months.  After 6 months, a monitored reintroduction of the previously reactive foods can be planned. This type of nutrition planning can be complex and limit social interactions, so it’s not for everyone. However, it is a great tool for people who are weary of looking for an answer to their health conditions  and are ready to make some more complex changes.

For more information on how to pursue LRA testing or to schedule an initial nutrition consultation with a dietitian, please contact us at 713-365-9015 or email heritage@heritagebehavioral.com.

Eating Disorders Unveiled: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

“To eat or not to eat?”… Is that really the question?

OK. Everybody knows somebody who has struggled with an eating disorder. Or maybe you are that someone who battles the daily decision to eat, not eat, under-eat, or over-eat. It is time that we stop pretending that anorexia and bulimia nervosa are “just a control thing”. Eating disorders are complicated and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and recovery.  If you suspect you or someone you know has an eating disorder, there are a couple of thoughts you might like to keep in mind.

Did you know that:

    • Eating disorders can cause abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which may mean that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower. An ED (eating disorder) may also cause one/some of the following: reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones; muscle loss and weakness; severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure, fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness; dry hair and skin; hair loss, or growth of a downy layer of hair—called lanugo—all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
    • Focusing on body appreciation instead of body criticism is a novel idea. Constantly looking at, touching, or pinching a certain area of the body can lead to self-loathing or guilt. Instead, aim to find some sort of value in that area of the body. For example, I might challenge a woman or teenage-girl who “hates” the part of her belly that makes a “pudge” to appreciate its potential value: it has been or might be the precise place that has/will allow(ed) her to bear a child.
    • Providing a good example is more feasible than you think. People, particularly your children and teens, pay attention and learn from the way you talk about yourself and your body. So, refer to yourself with respect and appreciation. Discuss your goals, accomplishments, talents, and character when you are around your family and friends instead of  allowing your body weight and shape to determine the course of your day and attitude.
    • Talking less, not more, about food and body weight might help to direct the focus away from eating disorder tendencies. Take my week challenge: for 7 days, try not to comment to anyone on what they are wearing, what they are eating, or their weight. Can you do it?  Can you see someone and refrain from complimenting their style or beauty?  Instead, ask a question about their day or weekend. The goal is to stay neutral about body weight, food choices, and body image. A person’s body weight or muscularity says nothing about their character, personality, or value as a person.

If you think that you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, consider gently expressing concern and support the idea of meeting with an experienced professional counselor and/or dietitian. For this type of support, you can contact us at 713-365-9015 or http://www.heritagebehavioral.com.

For more information or for eating disorder awareness tools/skills, consider visiting  the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/general-information.

How You Eat

How do you want to eat this year?

Notice that the question is not what do you want to eat but, rather, how do you want to eat?  Year after year, people approach this season of resolutions with a desire to lose weight, eat healthier, and get into an exercise routine.  This year, I’d like to challenge you to think less about what you are going to eat and more about how you are going to eat it!

Consider the difference:  If you are just changing what you eat, you may switch over to eating lots of leafy greens and heart-healthy fish.  However, if you rush through your meals, multi-task while eating in front of your computer, and choose to eat “FFCFFF” (my abbreviation for fat free, calorie free, flavor free) foods…You will NOT enjoy this new way of eating or achieve your goals.  In fact, I might argue that you’ll dread it and end up with the same frustrating end to next year.  So what can you do to change how you eat?  Start with the following practical tips:

•    Don’t multi-task while eating!  I know, I know…You are busy at work, there is laundry waiting, and the kids need help with their homework.  Pay attention to your food at a table (that’s the round thing in your dining room with all of the papers on it) and use a fork and knife (those are the silver tools that kids say look like a sword and pitchfork).  Set a timer for 10-15 minutes for your meal-time and see if you can eat….just eat…without cell-phones or distractions.  You might be surprised with the flavor and fullness that surrounds the eating experience.

•    Use your senses.  Remember those?  Sight, smell, touch, sound, and then taste.  The next time you pick up a sweet treat or salty snack, take 5 minutes to analyze the food according to your senses.  Pick up that piece of chocolate and describe what you see, smell, feel, and hear as you hold the tiny wrapper and open it.  Then, take a bite, close your eyes and let it melt in your mouth.  Maybe you won’t actually need another one once you’ve eaten this one mindfully.

•    Chew your food.  No, I’m not talking to you as if you’re five years old.  Research suggests that people who take a bite of food, put their fork down, and chew their food eat slower and, thus, take in less calories.  The extra time allows your brain time to signal to your stomach that you are full.  For the average person, this “full” signal typically takes 15 minutes.  By that time, most of us have overeaten and are on our way back to our to-do list while feeling like we ate too much.  So, if you’ll slow down and chew your food you may eat less and enjoy it more!

•    Recruit a fellow-eater.  Sure, these tips feel strange and are initially inconvenient.  They will take some practice before you feel like you are really eating differently.  Find a friend, co-worker, spouse or child who will commit to changing how they eat, too.  Then, talk about your eating experiences together.  Meet up for coffee or lunch with the goal of having a good conversation AND enjoying the eating process together…mindfully.

Mindful eating is a new start…but an old tradition!  If you find these tips intriguing but would like to learn more, contact us for a nutrition consultation where you can find out more about what AND how to eat differently this year.