Tips for Summer Cookouts

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, signaling that warm weather is here and summer is right around the corner. With warm weather often comes social gathering, although this year may have looked quite different while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing efforts. While you may choose to get together with family or friends from a distance, there may be something else that is causing stress: the food.

Imagine this scenario: you are at your family’s house and someone yells “Alright, its time to eat!”. A family member tells you to “grab a plate and go for it”. You look over at the tables of food: burgers, hot dogs, every kind of pasta and macaroni salad and desserts galore. If you are someone in the throes of an eating disorder or struggling with food and body image concerns, this scenario might send you into panic mode, and you can feel your anxiety setting in.

But the cookout doesn’t have to play out as your worst case scenario. Here are three tips you can put into practice next time you find yourself in a social gathering involving food:

Bring a dish

Anxiety can build when you don’t know what will be served and what food will or won’t be available. So bring one with you! Not only will the host appreciate you bringing food to share, knowing that there is at least one food that you are familiar with can be comforting. Its also important to challenge yourself with eating other foods or trying new things – make it a point to at least try one food that isn’t totally in your comfort zone. Perhaps share it with a friend Go ahead and eat the brownie –you can do hard things!

Take a tour of the table

Just because its “your turn” or the food has been brought out, doesn’t mean that you need to commit to making a decision right this moment. Take some time to stroll around and see what is being offered first. That way you can feel more prepared to take a moment and check in with yourself, and decide what to put on your plate. Using your meal plan or the plate method (meeting all of your food groups: carbohydrates, protein, fruits/veggies, fats, and ofcourse a fun food) can make deciding what to eat a lot easier.

Eat with an ally

Find someone who can make the eating experience more enjoyable, like a friend or family member. If your uncle who has made uncomfortable food comments in the past is around, you absolutely don’t have to sit with him! Participating in meaningful conversation, or just finding a quiet spot with a scenic view away from the crowds can help bring your attention away from the negative talk that might be happening in your thoughts.

For more tips from our Registered Dietitian Nutritionists on navigating food & nutrition, visit our website to schedule your free 15 minute Meet & Greet or initial appointment!

How to address Halloween candy with your kids

Author: Abigail Billingsley, RDN, LDN

As a dietitian, I receive a lot of questions around this time of year regarding the responsibilities of parents and children and Halloween candy. Should I set a limit on how much candy my child eats? Should we avoid a certain type of candy? Should I allow them to have as much as they want whenever they want?

My advice to parents is to enjoy Halloween and cherish those moments when your kids are excited about dressing up in their best costume. Notice the joy in their eyes as they are collecting their favorite candy. Foster freedom around food but encourage them to listen to their tummies. Don’t worry about the amount of candy they are eating or what type of candy it is, today is a fun day for trick or treating and enjoying the moment.

Tomorrow you can implement some ideas to ensure not all the candy is consumed in one sitting whether it’s what the kids collected or what was left over from your own trick-or-treater bowl.  Provided are ideas to guide your children in determining how much candy to eat and when:

  • Remembering that as a parent it is your responsibility to determine “what”, “when” and “where” your child eats but it is your child who determines “if” and “how much” they will eat. For example, it is the job of the parent to determine what candy or treat is offered, when it is available and where he or she can eat that treat. Then you can allow them to decide if they eat it and how much they eat.
  • No forbidden foods – it is important to keep all foods neutral including Halloween candy. Research shows us that kids who grown up in an environment where there is bribing, pressure or restricting of foods, they more often then not crave those “forbidden” foods. Allowing your kids to determine or self-regulate their food with the above guideline may be more beneficial then strict limitations on foods.
  • Be clear and consistent with your decisions about the allotted amount of candy per day. It takes the pressure off you as the parent to decide daily when to allow it. It could be a time limit (such as a week, month or until the candy is gone) or until they forget about it. Odds are after a few days most kids who have been allowed to have their Halloween candy may forget about it all together.
  • Incorporate candy as a snack paired with a glass of milk or with a side of fruit or vegetable so that your kids are getting more nutrition out of their snack, like protein and fiber to keep them feeling fuller and more satisfied – and less likely to go back to the candy bowl.

For more information about helping your child to become competent and conflict-free eaters, we recommend these resources from Ellyn Satter, a dietitian who specializes in helping families feed their children.

For the safety of our providers and clients, our in-person offices are closed for the time-being. However, we are still offering virtual services via video or phone. Fortunately, insurance companies are still covering these services.