“Don’t Yuck My Yum” Is Like An Onion

Since I have written “Don’t Yuck My Yum!”,  I have gotten many comments from parents who tell me their kids love to say the phrase. I have also heard kids say it myself (over and over and over).  For some reason they grab on to the slogan.  My guess is because it is very relevant to them.  I think they hear “yucks” often – or they know they are guilty of doing some “yucking” at one time or another.  As with many statements however, this one can have different meanings – it can be used in different situations in reference to different things. I have a few little friends (not my own of course) who have decided to turn it around and say “don’t yum my yuck” (smart aren’t they?).  And of course I have heard “don’t yuck my yum” in reference to unhealthy foods – which of course is not how I intended its use (but again, very clever). I like to think of the meaning as having many layers (like an onion). Using the slogan to teach kids how to stick up for the healthy foods they like or to teach the “yucker” about manners is a great start. However, if used as a rule in the background along with other nutrition messages, the many layers of “don’t yuck my yum” can lead to positive change or progress towards healthy eating and can be a fun experience for the whole family.

 Teaching “Don’t Yuck My Yum” AND its layers

The first layer of teaching kids to use “don’t yuck my yum” is to emphasize that everyone has their own likes and dislikes and when someone declares their negative opinion it can, and very likely will, effect the other impressionable kids in the room (and possibly hurt feelings – speaking as the cook in our house). Older siblings can relate to this. Whenever I discuss this topic with kids, those older siblings talk about or at least agree that their younger sister or brother follows what they do.  Once kids know the statement you can gradually add in the other layers – the important nutrition messages that will help them understand healthy eating and nutritious foods better.  Here are a few of the other layers of my meaning for “don’t yuck my yum” that will help form healthy habits:

  • Let kids know they can and will have their own opinions about food but they should also learn that trying a food many times is the best way to decide if they really like a food or not.
  • Instead of having kids make a definitive decision about not liking a healthy food, encourage them to stay open to trying it again by adding YET onto the end.  I use “No yum yet” but you could suggest they say “I don’t like it yet” or “maybe next time” or you could say something like “maybe next time we could try grilling it”.
  • Teach kids about healthy foods using the MyPlate (www.chosemyplate.gov). The plate is a visual that is easy to explain and easy for kids to understand. They can start with learning the basics of putting foods into groups.
  • Introduce healthy eating by encouraging a variety of foods from each food group, as well as those that come in all colors of the rainbow.  Kids are very open to hearing about foods that will help them grow up to be healthy, happy and strong (emphasizing strong).
Kids will like to hear that they get to be the boss!

Kids will like to hear that they get to be the boss!

More layers and books to come!  Happy “don’t yuck my yum”ming!

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Start Eating Healthy – Now is the Time

Please let me know how I can help you make healthy diet changes.

Please let me know how I can help you make healthy diet changes.

August (now come and gone I know) was the first ever “Kids Eat Right Month” hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As a member of the Academy and a member of the Kids Eat Right Campaign, my blog today is in honor of this theme – Shop Smart, Cook Healthy and Eat Right – which just happens to fit perfectly with my vision for Don’t Yuck My Yum.

As I think of Kids Eat Right month and the best way to convey the importance of introducing healthy eating to kids, I think of my part-time practice as a dietitian in a hospital and clinic. There, I mainly work with folks upon their diagnosis or even after that – so most are already sick or have a long-term disease. My goal is to help them make a few dietary changes that will effect their health in a positive way. We all know that change can be difficult.  I can’t get my family to sit on the other side of the church on Sundays. So how in the world am I, as a dietitian, going to get people to make changes to their diet – especially adults and older adults that have had these eating or lifestyle habits for years?

In order to make a change, people need some sort of motivation. Many people are motivated because they have been told by their doctors that if they don’t change, they will continue down the path of decreasing health, costing them many dollars and a future full of clinic visits and hospital stays. But finding motivation can often be hard – especially for young adults (the invincible). I have worked for a long time on helping people make changes to their diet and that is why I truly believe forming healthy habits young is an absolute key to a happy, healthy life. Changing to a healthier diet during the invincible 20’s or 30’s is difficult because the motivators aren’t generally there.  Making changes to your diet in adulthood and older adult hood is often motivated by a health event or a diagnosis, but still hard because of the lifelong habits that have developed. Healthy diet changes are difficult; possible yes, but difficult, especially to maintain. So why not catch all of this on the the front side?

I blogged about prevention back in January but would like to share this statistic again: Of our outrageously high health-care costs – 88% is spent on medical service and only 4% is spent on teaching healthy behaviors. The prevention focus is not near as prominent as it should be and when I figured this out, is when I found my motivation to write a series of children’s books about nutrition (book number two to come). A few other statistics for you:

• About half of all Americans are taking some form of prescription drug.
• We spend $2.2 trillion on health care, over five times the amount we spend on the defense budget.
• Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are all diet-related health issues that cost this country more than 120 billion dollars per year.

Prevention. Prevention by teaching infants, kids, pre-schoolers, grade schoolers and teen-agers about healthy eating, what that looks like, and how important  it is to feed our body with food that has nutrition (“the good stuff” as I tell my kids). Prevention by exposing them to all different kinds of foods, including lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins of course. Prevention by teaching kids about whole foods and why they are a better choice then their processed counter-parts.  A heathy diet from the beginning is much easier, will lead to healthier adults,  and is arguably more powerful than any medication or treatment.


“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  

– Hippocrates.

Don’t Yuck My Yum Food Rating Scale

If you have read my past blogs you know that I strive to help kids and families learn healthy eating habits and make nutritious food choices. Getting kids to try new and healthy foods is often a difficult task. I have developed a very simple rating scale that can be used by the most picky eaters and their families. If used correctly with adult discussion, it can teach kids that it may take many times of trying a new food before it becomes a “Big Yum!” The scale encourages parents to continue to offer nutritious options in a positive way; and it may remind them that kids have their own thoughts and opinions about foods – and that is okay. If a child does not like a food they have tried, instead saying “I don’t like it” (which is a bit negative) your child’s option is to circle “No Yum Yet.” This is more positive and encourages the child to try that food again later.

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This was given to me by a friend who is using the rating scale with her little boys.  I am very impressed that that this little guy gave beets a “Big Yum!”  Hopefully he will try salmon burgers again….

Don’t Yuck My Yum in Action

Just a few from the stack of Thank You cards I received from 3rd graders. Please check out my Pinterest page to see the awesome things these kids learned from just one school visit!

Just a few from the stack of Thank You cards I received from 3rd graders. Please check out my Pinterest page to see the awesome things these kids learned from just one school visit!  http://www.pinterest.com/apleimling/dymy-reader-feedback/

I read my book “Don’t Yuck My Yum” to 800 students on their last week of school. It was my first time reading it to this many kids so I chose to read it to one grade level at a time at two of our local elementary schools (grades K through 5). It took a longer time to do it this way, but reading it to each grade opened up the opportunity to have conversations with these young people about the book. The third grade at Lakeview Elementary school  surprised me with thank you cards. Throughout this whole book process I have been positive but this experience was by far the one that made me most proud and motivated to continue. Check out a few of their replies!

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This little girl was inspired to try new things and boy did she ever nail the DYMY logo!

This child even passed the healthy eating messages on to his family!

This child even passed the healthy eating messages on to his family!

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Just a little time and these kids were impacted in a positive way. I find that elementary kids are very receptive to learning about nutrition and that is something to be taking advantage of for sure.

Little Shoppers; Big Benefits

Taking your kids grocery shopping can be very trying. I can speak from experience on this one; not only because I am a mother of three, but also because I worked at a grocery store for years and observed many a situation between parent and child.  As a parent, if you have the opportunity to shop alone, you should probably take it! However, if you grocery shop with kids in tow, you might as well have them learn about healthy choices at the same time. Just as kids who help grow their own fruits or vegetables are more willing to try them, those kids who have helped pick healthy foods at the store will be more willing to eat those foods at home.

DYMY Little Shopper's Shopping List

Have your kids find healthy choices throughout the grocery store with my Little Shopper’s Shopping List. http://www.dontyuckmyumbook.com

This list can help kids define and find healthy foods in the store. It works much better if your child has been introduced to the My Plate (www.choosemyplate.gov) – see my blog entitled “Don’t Yuck My Yum – Use the My Plate with Kids”. Kids will need a portable hard surface for writing and a pen or a pencil. They can walk through the store with you finding foods that fit into the appropriate categories. Because the list uses the My Plate, kids should gravitate towards nutritious options (they may need a little nudge). The list can be used as a teaching tool or used with you to find items for purchase.  List or no list, here are some examples of questions you might ask your child while at the store:

  • “What veggies should we have for dinner this week?” (or for younger kids, “Should we have peas or asparagus for dinner?”
  • “Should we have steak or chicken on the grill this weekend?”
  • ” What kind of frozen fruit would you like if we made a fruit smoothie for dessert”
  • “Should we buy cottage cheese or yogurt for our snacks this week?”

Although having the kids in the store with you can be challenging, with a little planning and effort (and I can’t leave out patience), I believe that getting them involved in shopping and making healthy choices can have a big impact on creating well-rounded healthy eaters later!

Don’t Yuck My Yum Tips – You can’t make kids like a food

In continuing my blog series on “getting kids to eat healthy foods”, today’s focus is on the challenging task of accepting the fact that your child may simply not like the food your are presenting. This does not mean you should quit presenting this food to your child. You can and should offer new healthy foods over and over; you should talk great about that food and “yum it up”. However, you really can’t force your child to like something.  Many adults have memories of being stuck at the table until they finished their peas (in my case). Forcing a child to eat a healthy food will only bring negative thoughts and feelings about that food and it may even have a long term effect on their view of that food or food group for that matter. It could also influence their willingness to try new foods later in life. If you have exposed your child to a food, encouraged them to try it (many times), talked positively about it and acted as a good role model, then you are doing the right things. This does take a fair amount of patience. But if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. Ask them to be polite and not to “yuck someone’s yum”. Encourage them to stay open to trying the food they didn’t like again because as they grow their tastes will change.  By rating foods on this DYMY scale kids will feel empowered because liking a food or not is their decision.

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“No yum yet” keeps the doors open to trying the food another time. As a parent, watching your child pick out the peppers in the dish you made can be extremely frustrating. Your child may never like peppers. But, patience, positivity, role modeling and persistence will definitely lead your child to becoming a well rounded healthy eater!

Don’t Yuck My Yum – Use the My Plate With Kids

Most people have seen the My Plate by now. This is the new model for healthy eating and it works great when teaching kids about healthy choices. I love it because it is simple and easy to explain to children of all ages. It has helped me explain healthy eating to my own kids and they use it when meal planning or snack planning all the time. Before you can use it in meal planning though, kids need to know where foods fit into the 5 different groups represented (fruits, veggies, dairy, protein, grains). Some of this is easy and kids already know – like apples are a fruit.  And some of it takes a bit more explaining – like beans, nuts or eggs are a protein. Once they get that part down, kids can plan (or help plan) healthy meals very quickly by using the model of 5 different food groups (each group represented by a color) at each meal. This is the ultimate goal, but maybe not practical to aim for at every meal.  Just as we are not perfect, neither are our meals (and sometimes kids don’t need that much food at once). I like to tell kids and adults to aim for 3-5 different food groups for a healthy meal. This gives flexibility and makes things a bit easier and more realistic, especially when on-the-go. Examples of the 3-5 My Plate rule to healthy meals:

  • peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with mandarin oranges and milk (4 different food groups).
  • Triscuits with cheese, rolled deli meat and grapes (4 different food groups)
  • hard-boiled egg on lettuce salad with cottage cheese (3 different groups). (add a dinner roll and peaches and you’ve got your 5!)

You get the idea. Kids and adults can use this and it makes the confusing world of meal planning a bit easier. Plus, it empowers kids and gives them autonomy while still eating healthy. You will find many foods not on the plate (chips, desserts, fruit snacks, etc.) and I usually tell my kids that this means these are “every now the then” foods; certainly opposite of foods on the plate, which are “every day” foods or even “many times a day” foods. Try my 3-5  MyPlate rule and I bet it helps both your kids in eating better and you in knowing they are getting good nutrition. Let me know what you think!