Sep 162014
 

freakonomics

I was listening to the podcast Freakonomics Radio (it’s really fascinating and worth a listen!) that was discussing the epidemic of childhood obesity. The topic was “Why You Should Bribe Your Kids“. They did experiments with kids and trying to get them to eat healthier. What was the most effective method?

The conclusion was that kids responded best to being “talked at” (i.e. instructed how to eat healthy and make healthy choices) but only if there were incentives attached. In one experiment they bribed kids with toys if they chose the healthier dessert over the sugary-fattening one. The toys weren’t anything special, it was like rubber bracelets and a ball or something. But the researchers found that the incentive worked and something like 80% of the kids chose the healthier dessert option if it meant they got the toy afterward.

This got me thinking about my own upbringing and struggle with weight. I didn’t really struggle with childhood obesity. I didn’t gain my weight until I was 17. Sure I was a little on the chubby side in my teen years, but I wasn’t heavy. I don’t know that I was making great choices as a kid and teen, but apparently I was doing okay.

Things are different now. The podcast said 1 in 5 kids is struggling with obesity now. That made me really sad and I could empathize with the kids and parents dealing with this. It’s so hard not to make food the enemy and a BAD thing. But that doesn’t really teach the kids to make better choices…it leads to binge eating and sneaking food, or restrictive habits that lead to anorexia and bulimia. (If you missed it, read my review of The Heavy– a book about a mother trying to help her young daughter lose weight.)

“They tried several methods to see what would make kids choose fruit over a cookie. The conversation then broadens, addressing the fact that so many people — kids and adults — have a hard time making good short-term decisions that will have a long-term benefit. As List puts it:

LIST: The general point here about all of this is that you have many problems where what you do now affects what happens later, and usually we choose the easier decision or the easier action now. You think about savings for retirement, you think about getting doctor check-ups, you think about going to school, you think about engaging in risky behaviors, you think about adopting green technologies for our houses. In all of these cases we usually choose the bad action. And that action is to do what’s best for us now to the detriment of the future, to the detriment of our future self. And nutritional choices right now are just one of these elements that we face in society where we need kids to recognize the choice that you make now will critically affect your outcome in the future.”

When it comes to food it’s easy to think IN THE MOMENT and not the future. If I eat this piece of cake, I will have instant gratification. I don’t think about how that piece of cake is 500 calories and about the same calories as my lunch should be. So do I skip lunch and just eat cake for those 500 calories? Of course not, we eat both. That leads to weight gain. For me, I try and think about my meals in advance and plan for them so that I am not AS tempted by other things throughout the day. Am I successful? Most of the time. There are definitely days where I am not as successful as I should be!

I do try to use some kind of incentive for myself, even if I’m not naming it. It might be something small, like: “I will skip this candy at work because I’m going out to dinner tonight and want to be able to splurge a little.” That’s an incentive, whether I recognize it or not. You can also use an incentive like: “I want to reach my weight loss goal for this month so I will do my best to resist the temptations to binge.” Thinking of a long term AND a short term goal work much better for me. What about you?

So what kind of incentives work with kids? I’ve written before about how you can’t reward YOURSELF, Rewarding Yourself,  for weight loss with food. It sabotages your efforts. So rewarding yourself with a bunch of cookies after you reach your weekly goal at Weight Watchers just isn’t smart. I think the same thing goes for kids. Rewarding kids for eating healthy foods with treats later, kind of defeats the whole purpose.

I think incentives that would work with kids and still keep with the positive message, is to use ACTIVITIES as rewards and incentives. Perhaps an outing or going to a park, or getting to go to a toy store and pick something. This probably works for really young kids. I imagine it would be harder with teenagers. I found this article, which was really interesting and had a few good tips: 10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthier. Some other articles I found on the topic encouraged parents to have their kids help them cook the meals. I LOVE this idea. I think it would be beneficial in so many ways. Not only does it get kids involved in making choices, they can take pride in what they created and perhaps they would be more apt to eat it?

Since I don’t have kids, I am just musing here. I would love to hear from other parents who have struggled with this issue, or are using other methods of encouraging their kids to eat healthy. Please share! And check out this post for ideas on how to get kids more active: Should You Lose Weight With Your Kids? And this post about sugar in kid’s foods: 2 Pounds of Sugar?

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Jul 022014
 

We got our first wedding gift!

At first I didn’t realize what it was. It was a box delivered from Amazon and we have Amazon Prime (and use it way too much to order things) so I thought it was just another package. Then I saw it was addressed to me and ran through the list in my head of things I’d ordered…Wait, I didn’t order anything this big…Then I saw it said “gift” on the box. Michael and I debated for awhile on whether to open it or wait. The wedding is a few months away but why would we just have a box sitting in our living room for a few months? We decided to open it.

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It was wrapped in a cute velvety bag and it was huge! It was so exciting! Bella and Fat Kitty were super excited and wanted to be in the middle of it all. I unwrapped it to find one of the things off our registry:

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Woohoo!! A nice, fancy new crockpot! I have an old crockpot that works fine, but I’ve always wished it was one that had a timer. I cannot wait to use this baby! Bella was investigating everything, sniffing and nudging it.

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Fat Kitty was more excited about the box it came in. He immediately jumped inside and started playing with the box. I love these goofy fur babies.

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The gift was from our friends Tiffany and Chris (she’s from the former blog “Carbzilla”–and I’m so glad we became friends in real life!) So we had received our first gift for the wedding. It felt really exciting. I know we’re adults and all, but it was kinda like Christmas morning. :)

I decided to test it out. I found this recipe awhile ago and wanted to try it but the weather changed and it was really warm and sunny out and the idea of soup didn’t appeal to me. Which was weird because I typically eat soup year round! Unfortunately the recipe wasn’t great and definitely wasn’t photogenic. So trying a different one! I LOVE the new crockpot. It’s so shiny and pretty. :) I like that it’s oval shaped; that makes it easier to store in the kitchen cabinet. The timer part worked great. I set the timer for 7.5 hours. After that time is up, it goes into “Warming Mode” for up to 4 hours. I love this feature!

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

Prep Time: 14 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Calories per serving: 385

From: http://www.foodiecrush.com/2013/10/slow-cooker-thai-chicken-soup/

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 12 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • cilantro for garnish
  • cooked white rice

Instructions

  1. Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and peanut butter in a 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl.
  2. Place the chicken breast, red bell pepper, onion and ginger in the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
  3. Add in the peas and cook for 1/2 hour longer. Stir in lime juice and serve with cilantro and white rice.
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If you use light coconut milk you save about 200 calories. If you use the regular the calories for this dish is closer to 600 per serving. I added some chopped carrots and also some mushrooms (for Michael). I like how versatile these types of dishes are. You can add pretty much any vegetable you want and you can easily make this vegetarian.

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I’m also glad I read through the comments on the blog post. Lots of readers had tested the recipe and had some alterations.The big one was not adding the coconut milk at the beginning. Lots of readers had curdled soup. Gross! So I followed their instructions and added the coconut milk about 30 minutes before it was going to be done. Also, I’ve never cooked chicken on high before and most crockpot chicken recipes cook around 4-6 hours tops on low so I put my crockpot on low and kept checking on it to make sure it was ok.

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I skipped the frozen peas and didn’t have cilantro but that’s ok. I don’t think cilantro makes or breaks a recipe (except maybe salsa). I added the coconut milk around 30 minutes before it was going to be ready. It didn’t curdle or separate like some of the readers complained about. I debated about adding the second can because the first added a lot of liquid and it seemed “soupy” enough but it had some kick to it so I figured the second can couldn’t hurt.

While the soup was finishing up, I soaked some Pad Thai noodles in warm water per the instructions. I know this recipe said to serve with rice but I didn’t really feel like rice. I wanted more of a soup and the pad thai noodles are rice noodles and gluten free so that worked perfectly!  Once the noodles were properly soaked and softened, I added them to the crockpot, added the lime juice, stirred it up and dinner was served!

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The flavors were so rich! I liked spice that it had. Because I added that second can of coconut milk, the original heat was diluted so I was going to add just a bit of sriracha sauce but I didn’t need to. It was still pretty spicy–but in a pleasant way, not super spicy. I let Michael have all my mushrooms. :) He said the mushrooms were fantastic in the dish. I’ll take his word for it.

One thing I didn’t like–the red peppers were annihilated. I added them around the 2 hour mark thinking that would be okay (the recipe called for them to be added at the beginning). They were too soft and squishy. Next time I would make this and add the red peppers when I add the coconut milk so they stay a little more firm. Also, the chicken was great so cooking it on low for 4 hours was the right move! I got 7 servings out of this recipe and I had plenty for lunches.

All in all I loved this recipe and would definitely make it again. I think it’s a delicious recipe, it’s low in calories, and I can see it being a hit at a dinner party. This will definitely become a regular in this house!

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