The Plan to Eat Podcast

#59: Dr. Kristin Saxena and Her Upcoming Book: The Happier Meal

June 21, 2023 Plan to Eat Season 1 Episode 59
The Plan to Eat Podcast
#59: Dr. Kristin Saxena and Her Upcoming Book: The Happier Meal
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Kristin Saxena is a pediatrician, mom, and host of a podcast called Feeding the Family with Dr. Kristin. Her book, “The Happier Meal: How to Enjoy Your Food and Your Kid" is coming out Summer 2023!
We got to chat with Kristin about the origins of her book, why family meals matter - she backs that up with some great data too - and some helpful tips for how to make meal time happier for you and your family. Kristin is focused on helping families eat more meals together and experience the lasting effects of connection and bonding over food. It's less about what is served and more about the time spent together!
We loved talking to Dr. Kristin and we hope you enjoy this episode!

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I'm Riley and I'm Roni. And this is the plan to eat podcast, where we have conversations about meal planning, food, and wellness. To help you answer the question what's for dinner.

Roni: Hello and welcome to the Plan to Eat podcast. Today we have an interview with Kristen Saxena. She is a pediatrician, a mom. She is the host of a podcast called Feeding the Family, and she has a new book coming out called The Happier Meal, how to Enjoy Your Food and Your Kid.

Riley: So we're, that's what we talked about. We talked about her book, why she wrote it, how she got to the place of like wanting. To put a book out there in the world. We talked a lot about getting the family together around the dinner table and having a family meal and the benefits of that. The benefits of eating together as a family are tremendous. I got a ton out of this podcast and I'm really excited for you guys to hear this and learn and hopefully implement some of these things into your life too.[00:01:00] 

Roni: Kristen, thanks for joining us on the podcast today. We appreciate you being here.

Kristin: I'm excited to be.

Roni: Yeah. So let's just talk a little bit about, why don't you give everybody your intro of who you are and what you do.

Kristin: Okay. Yeah, I, I always feel like that's one of the hardest questions I get anymore is I feel like I have kind of like a weird life, but, uh, I'll keep it as brief as I can. So I am, a, a mom of four. From Nebraska, um, as we talked about earlier, married to my high school sweetheart. I am a pediatrician by training and, have always been interested in, uh, nutrition and sort of feeding practices and, uh, worked as you can imagine, as a pediatrician, that came up a lot, uh, in my day-to-day work.

Um, but in more recent years, I. Really wanted to get more into the nitty [00:02:00] gritty of feeding kids and feeding people. But wondered if there was something that I could do that could kind of reach more. People than you kind of see in an everyday clinic. And so what I've wanted to do for years and years, um, so it's fun to see this kind of finally coming to fruition, is to write a book That was sort of everything that I had learned up to this point, um, with sort of my tips and tricks and advice and experience in feeding kids.

And finally getting, getting that out. So I've got that, um, the happier meal coming out. And then as part of that, I also started a podcast, um, mostly because I was already speaking to people sort of in this space and I felt like there was so much good information I was getting, uh, I wanted to be able to share all that information as well.

So I host a podcast called Feeding the Family with Dr. Kristen, and we talk a lot about that same subject.

Riley: we're really excited about your book. Um, Roni and I have both had a chance to review some [00:03:00] of it. And personally I love it. I have a two year old, and so a lot of it resonated with me just like, on a personal level, of course. And so, and I love the subtitle of your book, um, which is How to Enjoy Your Food and Your Kid, because I think that it can be such a pain point for people, um, that meals just become miserable, , uh, and so enjoying food and your kid, it's a very clever and, uh, real relatable subtitle,

Kristin: Well, thank you so much. Yeah. You know, it, it's kind of funny even coming to that. Like I said, I've been wanting to write this book, uh, I wanna say for over 10 years, but, uh, the book I have today that I've written is not the same book I would've written 10 years ago. So I'm really glad, and I think some of that came from.

just my experience as a parent myself, uh, is you start to realize like the key is, is really just that like making it enjoyable and that's where you start to see the success coming from the practice of [00:04:00] family meals and eating together and feeding your kids. Like it has to be enjoyable for everybody in order for it to really work.

Riley: Yeah. And just before anybody starts getting, uh, squirrely at their house because they think they have to start implementing crazy things into their life, your book gives so many tangible tips and it just makes it feel all. Just not overwhelming. I think that was one of the biggest things I got out of the book as I was reading it, is just, you keep it very realistic,

You're not saying, okay, you're doing this now, do a complete change and do everything different. It's really tools to start to like change your thinking around it. And then just really simple tips for implementing, um, food changes and mealtime changes and, um, just like even thinking about your children's age and where they're at.

So it's, it's really. . Just a, I don't know, I don't know the right word, but it's just a helpful guidebook. Um, and so that was one thing that I just wanted to tell you that I'm really excited about, and that the listeners know if they wanna get your book, that it's not, you could change [00:05:00] everything about your life.

It is, it's really doable and really simple. You don't walk away feeling overwhelmed. You feel empowered. So that's a great thing.

Kristin: Thank you so much. That actually, um, really means a lot to me. My best friend actually, she is read my book as well and, and probably the best compliment I got from her was, , you know, you don't make people feel bad about themselves. And she's like, I, that's what I found was the most valuable about it. And that made me really happy.

And I think that's because again, like if you, if you read the book, you realize, you know, I, I'm a little bit of a type A person by nature. And I think, you know, as a pediatrician, and I knew, I thought I knew, you know exactly what we should be eating. I knew the science, all of these things. And then I had.

Real kids. And I was like, oh man, like this does not work. And so I think that that's just, it is, I went through the whole process of feeling bad, feeling like I'm failing. And I think it was only through going that, through that process that I was really [00:06:00] able to really look at exactly like you said, this isn't about making us feel bad for what we do.

You know, it's, it's about meeting ourselves where we, where we are having some goals. Achievable goals. Figuring out like what's actually the most important thing I can do that's of benefit to my children and my family and focus on those things and then, you know, you can build from there. But you know, the guilt and I think the shame and the stress that we feel a lot as parents around feeding our kids doesn't really do us any good in the long.

Roni: I love that you, you have this little phrase that you say, where you say family first and food second. and that, you know, I think a lot of times when people are thinking about, um, you know, sitting around at the dinner table or having a family meal, it's so focused on the food and having this like June cleaver kind of a dinner.

And in your book you talk about how it doesn't have to be that way. at all, you know, as long, the, the real important part [00:07:00] is getting people to have a dinner together and the connection and the benefits that that bring. So can you talk to us a little bit about some of those benefits about that, like family dinners have

Kristin: Absolutely. So that's, that's like my favorite topic in the world. So you don't wanna bring this up to me at like a dinner party? Cause then I'll never stop talking. But, uh, yeah, so I think that that. That was probably what I learned. , like I said, I came from, you know, this medical background, all about the science.

I was super interested in like, what's the very best diet, you know, serving size for people and children of each of each age. And you know, what I came to realize through, through life, through um, helping families and then just through my own research is that the biggest benefits really come from. , what we call it, like family meals.

So just this practice of eating together. And the way that I like to define a family meal is just, you know, you sitting with your family, however you define it, your child, [00:08:00] you know, your family can be your auntie, your friends people define who's their family. You sitting with them, facing each other, sharing the same food without distractions like phone and TVs, it has nothing to do.

you know, like you said, the, the fancy place setting, it doesn't even have to do with necessarily the food that you're eating. I like to include that, sharing the same food because, you know, as we get into, especially with feeding kids, people fall a lot into the practice of short order cooking. And so I like to get people into this one family, one meal.

Um, and certainly their strategy is to meet yourself where you are with that as well. But, because I think that. . If you look at the research, there's a ton of benefits that come just from this practice of having these family meals together. And the benefits really run the gamut. So, um, everything from kids doing better in school, kids engaging in, um, what we'd call like less risky behaviors.

Things like, [00:09:00] uh, drugs, alcohol, getting in trouble at school, early sexual activity, uh, tobacco use. And then we also, and you know, those are things that have nothing to do really with what you're eating, but you do also see that, we'll see, um, you know, less disordered eating, less obesity, actually better nutrition profiles.

So kids and adults that eat more family meals tend to have, um, you know, like healthier weights as well as to eat more fruits and vegetables, less fried foods. So you tend to eat. you're a child or adult, if you engage in family meals, also kids and adults, we tend to see less depression in people who eat, uh, more family meals.

Kids who eat more family meals tend to be less anxious, uh, more resilient. I mean it like, it just keeps going on and on and on. And you know, to me that was a big eye-opener because I think. [00:10:00] The family meals. I think something that most people think is good, like if you ask, it's like, oh, is it good to have family meals?

People will say, sure, of course. Um, but I don't think we realize how big it is because when I think about like the other things that make having family meals hard, and I think that that's a lot, you know, the overscheduling that we see. In life and families, and I mean, I have four kids and my husband and I are busy people, so I'm the first one to like, I mean, it's, it's juggling schedules.

And if I wasn't crazy about family meals, I think my kids would say a little bit, I'm crazy about it. It wouldn't happen as often as it does, but when I think about it, it's like, you know, Fourth grade basketball practice doesn't carry the same amount of benefits as I know that family meals do. Right. So I think when you start to put it in perspective, it helps you say like, this really is something I can't think of, honestly, anything else that we do that has that.

Far [00:11:00] reaching of benefits. And before we get off this topic, I do love to share my very favorite study about family meals, is that they, they studied, um, preschoolers and how often that they ate with their families and they correlated this with their reading readiness when they got to kindergarten.

And they found that the kids who had more family meals, that having more family meals actually correlated better with reading readiness in kindergarten. Than even being read to by your parents, and of course, I, I want everyone to read to their children, of course, but I think it's the value of the words they hear and the conversations and the storytelling that happens around the table has so much value, even to a child's vocabulary and things of that nature that you don't even realize.

And so to think that that would make you even more ready for kindergarten than even, you know, we all try to diligently read to our child, but. If you had to pick one, really [00:12:00] it would be better to just sit down and include them at dinner

Riley: That's, that's an amazing study. What do you think it is about this experience? That adds so much value to our lives.

Kristin: Um, you know, again, I think a lot of it is just the conversations and some of it is just the storytelling. So I think this idea of, you know, kids being, learning, resilience, and learning from other people. You know, successes and failures, uh, you know, telling the stories. That's the other thing too, is I, I encourage people to have those meals, but then also, you know, try to have those conversations.

It's a great time to talk about a time that, you know, something went wrong. Sometime you failed. You know, I love, I think some of those can be some of the best stories you tell your kids because, They pick up on those things like, okay, you failed, you did something wrong, you fixed it, you're still okay and you're here today.

Right? I mean, I think it's those little lessons that they learned that's part of it. I think [00:13:00] that especially with older kids, it per it. , it provides a time for like a regular check-in. Um, I think especially with adolescents and teenagers, as they start to get more busy and I always say, you know, little people, little problems, big people, big problems.

So, uh, you know, it starts to give you that time. We're just that little check-in and I think that that's another big reason that we see like some of those problems not getting as out of hand. Cause when you're checking in regularly with them, you start to see a red flag. You know, something's off about you.

I'm gonna look into this. You know, I think it just allows those problems not to get so out of hand. So that's, that's just a few examples. I mean, you can also just see, you know, like a child seeing what a regular meal looks like. Developing manners at the table. I mean, there's so much that can come from just that experience, but I think it's just that focus, togetherness, um, that has such far-reaching benefit.

Roni: right. One [00:14:00] thing you mentioned, I think you actually mentioned it pretty briefly in your book, but you said that there was a certain point in time. A couple years ago where your grandmother and your kids' great-great-grandmother was eating family dinners with you, and I loved that. I love that for this idea of storytelling and for everybody in the family to get to like hear stories of the life that she lived, but then also, you know, potentially like the mental health benefits for somebody who's older, like spending time around young people and like experiencing like liveliness and a good conversation like that to me sounds so invaluable.

Kristin: Yeah. Um, yeah, that was a crazy experience. So my grandmother, she passed away now just about a year ago, and she was just shy of her hundredth birthday and for about six. I know. And so for about six months before that, she had moved in with us and, prior to that she had been living in a nursing home and she just was quickly kind of going downhill.

Um, it was during Covid, she had to be very [00:15:00] isolated. It was just not very good for her and that's why we made that decision to, um, move her in with us and. . honestly, when she first got to my house, she was in very rough shape and I was honestly quite overwhelmed thinking, you know, what did I get myself into?

We have four kids and then grandma who needs a lot of help. But I can't even tell you. I, I like to say, and I know again, like I'm very pro-family meals, but we did not do she. Improved so substantially, just her mental health, her even her physical health status in those six months that she was here, she was so much more functional, talkative, able to do more and more things independently.

And I like to say that that was a lot just because we had family meals together, because again, we didn't do anything special. She actually came here on hospice. She wasn't getting any. You know, magical medical treatments, [00:16:00] nothing like that. She just sat around the table and was part of a family and sort of enjoyed the social engagement that goes with all that.

And I have to say too, for my kids, you know, I, I also like to say when I first did that, first, she first moved in and I was very stressed out. And people kept saying, oh, you're making such wonderful memories for your kids. And I was like, please, I, one more person tells me this. I can't handle it, but true, you know.

But truly like the stories that she would tell. I mean, it just, I mean, blew my mind. But my kids, you know, she's, she literally took a horse and buggy to school, you know, they didn't have refrigerators when, where, when she was small. And so she would tell these stories in my kids, it was like they were talking to like a pioneer, you know, they were like, what are you talking about?

Like, where did you keep your food? And she's like, oh, down in the cellar. And she would talk all about this, and it was just such an incredible. Experience, honestly for, for them. And I think that, you know, those are [00:17:00] conversations that when are, when are my, you know, when's my seven year old gonna have opportunities to talk with someone who's a hundred years old about their life as a child?

Um, but honestly, I, I truly believe that it, the experience bought my grandma six healthy months of, of life.

Riley: I imagine that that value add to her life was far greater than you can even like you saw it, but I think it's probably far greater because she was getting to tell as much as it benefited your children to hear her stories. I feel like it probably benefited her to tell them to someone.

Kristin: Mm, I agree. Yeah, no, I think that that's exactly right and I think that that's the other thing is just that social element. I don't think we realize how important. that is just for all of our mental health is just that experience. You're right to be able to, to sort out your own stories and tell them, and as well as to just like hear about other people's lives.

Roni: Well, I think it's just, to me it's just a powerful [00:18:00] story that, you know, family meals go both ways. You know, it's not just beneficial for kids, but it's beneficial for people of all ages. And I think that that's like a really important thing for people to re for, you know, everybody to remember is that like, it's, it's beneficial for everybody no matter if you're seven years old or if you're 97 years old.

So that's really.

Riley: Yeah. You know, I, you shared a story, I think that your, your spouse, um, you guys went on this picnic and. A pizza and pop kind of picnic. And, you talked about how he was sharing like a, uh, like a negative or like a failure, uh, something that he did in his day that he wouldn't have deemed like, correct.

I'm not sure how to, how you described it, but I think that, you know, kids hearing that mom and dad aren't perfect and that they have to navigate hard things too, like build some comradery because. I mean, you said little people, little problems, big people, big problems. And as you grow up you realize, like you can talk to that person and say, here's my problem.

I can tell my mom or dad because they aren't perfect . [00:19:00] Um, I think there's a lot of value in that. And then children tend to have, uh, such a gentle, or, I don't know, joyful, I don't what the word is. Perspective on things, and they can offer more encouragement than you would even realize that you would get from a little person.

But they have just such a happy perspective about life. It's like, oh, dad, it'll, you, you're can do it. You know? It's like, oh yeah, I can do it. 

Kristin: Oh, that is so true. Uh, that, that I think is an excellent point. And maybe that's something that like I should highlight more is I think it's very true. I think you underestimate too how encouraging kids are and how they can totally put some of your own problems. Into perspective. I remember this is, this is a funny story.

It just made me think of, um, back from high school, but I remember that there was a, a girl in my high school, and she came from a pretty large family. So she was one of the older kids and she had a younger brother, like seven years old or something, and she was running for like, Student council president [00:20:00] and she's like, yeah, I remember I was sitting at dinner and I told my brother, I'm so nervous, you know, I'm running for president and I don't know if I'm gonna get elected.

I really want to, but I'm very nervous. And she said, and my brother last night said, your resident running for president of the United States. And he, and she said, no, just of my school. And he goes, oh, Jenny, you can do that. Like, he was like, that's no big deal. So she was like, and she made that part of her speech, and I'll never forget it, but I think it's again, like just this value that children have to put in perspective.

Like, oh, come on, it's just of your school. No big deal. But it could be really helpful because I think that's totally true. I can be stressed about stuff and your kids will just kind of remind you of what's important.

Riley: Well, and um, I think that this goes back to the story. This whole thing goes back to the story with your husband, but, Just like the way your children view you, it, it, I guess this is how family dinners go both ways. It's not about the little people and you know, the parents are just trying to invest in the little [00:21:00] people.

It's the little people investing in the parents or the grandparents or whoever your family is, whoever is around your table. And you start to see yourself through someone else's eyes. And I think that that's probably a benefit that, is maybe underestimated, like, but that little, you know, that little brother is saying like, you're, you're being for president of the United States.

Like, he probably thought she could do that too.

Um, cause his opinion of her is so great. Um, my daughter tends to think I can fix everything, , everything. Things that cannot be broken or cannot be fixed that I I, that I can fix them. And it's fun in some ways to just feel like a superhero to someone. And I think that, how does that not build confidence?

in every person around that table when that's the kind of conversation and kind of just perspective you're getting by looking somebody else in the eyes and just feeling the way they feel about you. from them.

Kristin: Totally. Totally. That reminds me too. I have a good friend, and this one always makes me a little bit emotional, but I think as a [00:22:00] parent with younger kids, she says, I always remind myself I'll never be. As loved as I am right now. And she's like, and that gets me through a lot of hard parents. She's like, you know, I have, my parents love me, I have a spouse and I have these kids and they're never gonna love me as much as they do right now.

Um, and so I think it's like, you know, it's a good reminder. So when, cause that be really hard and then you go, but you know what, this is probably, this is probably the biggest love time I'll ever have in my life, but I need to try to soak.

Roni: Okay. So I hope that everybody's convinced that they want to have more family dinners, right? So, yeah. So can you give us some of your tips for implementing this? If you're a family who's like, Low on the family dinner scale. You know,

Kristin: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. So I, I always say, you know, one is better than. and more is always better. So it's all about, uh, just meeting yourself where you are [00:23:00] right now. So if you are a family that does not do any family meals, first of all, people think, I think that's just not us. And I like say it can be anyone.

So family meals are all about. Being who you are. This is us right now and all of it's okay. Um, so again, like I said, you know, if it seems like this is n don't try to say like, this is what we do now to a family that hasn't been doing that. You know, they're gonna rebel and you're gonna have a hard time.

So maybe just start with one. Even if it's a special occasion, say, okay, fine, we're gonna have family dinner. for so-and-so's birthday. That's a great starting point. Some sort of special occasion. Um, you know, if that's great. Then maybe you start with once a week, say, all right, we have crazy busy schedules.

This is really hard. But Sunday evening, most of the time we're home. Perfect. You know, like I said, one is better than none and then you just build. From [00:24:00] there. I think the key again is, is to make sure that you're focusing on the family versus the food. So I also say, if you're just starting this, just eat what you eat now.

Just eat it together. If you get takeout every night, that's fine. Just sit down and eat the takeout together. You know, no phones sit and, and just start there. Then, you know, if down the line your goals, I'd say, I'd like to eat less takeout. Well, I'm fine now. And then you say, oh no, on Monday, Whatever I make sandwiches.

Just keep it simple. Don't make it achievable. And then I think that's the other thing is it's like those little wins. Once you have those little wins, you're like, oh, I can do this. And then, you know, with our takeout, I can also make a salad or whatever. So it's all just about meeting yourself where you're at and making one tiny little incremental improvement from.

Roni: That's great. Do you think that there's a difference in your experience was, is there a difference between different age groups of like implementing that? [00:25:00] Or is it, or is this like the foundational stepping stone to start with? Is to just start where you're at and start small?

Kristin: You mean in terms of how old like your kids

Roni: Yeah, like a, like toddlers versus teenagers. Like is there a difference in getting everybody together?

Kristin: Well, I mean, obviously you have a little bit more control over toddlers, I feel like, than teenagers. However, I a hundred percent believe that the benefits. Span the whole lifespan. And so like to say, you know, my kid is 16, 17 years old, it's too late. No. And these are so important for teenagers, and even though they may fight you on it, I tr you know, I think that kids like that structure.

They like that togetherness, they like that sense of attachment, even if it doesn't always seem like it. so of course I say the earlier the better, but I also totally believe, like with my grandma 99, it is never too late to see those benefits. And so, I think that it doesn't matter the age, [00:26:00] uh, you know, again, it's just sort of starting with older kids tend to be busier, so I think that as kids get more and more activities, it does get a little bit more challenging, but.

you know, I think that the benefits are, are, it's worth it literally at any age.

Riley: I expect that. For anybody who starts to implement these things, as soon as they start to see benefits are always motivating or like actual results are motivating to people. So as they start seeing, These positive changes happen from these little steps they're taking, I think it'll become easier.

I another, a couple of things that you said in, um, your book, you talked about like not stressing about the food, and you just talked about that with takeout, but I loved that like you, even, one of your example was that you guys got pizza and pop and went to the park and you're like, , it is what it is.

Like this is what we did. And you probably, they everybody loved it. And , and maybe for your teenagers, it was a more motivating, get together because it was things that they really [00:27:00] wanted or whatever. But another thing you said is that it doesn't have to just be dinner. It could be like a breakfast here or a lunch there.

Um, and again, these are just such tangible and easy things to try to implement. And then once those benefits start to happen in people's families, I think that. . Even for teenagers, they're gonna be like, oh, that was kind of fun,

Kristin: Totally.

Riley: they liked it, but they'll come back.

Kristin: Well, and I think that that's the key too, is that in order to really see a lot of those benefits and to make it something that you'll sustain, it has to be enjoyable, at least pleasant. And I think that's where I see too, is to make it about the family and not the food. Cuz I think especially as a parent, there's a part of you and I always say it's like your caveman brain that's.

Really worried about what your kid is eating. Like are they eating enough? Are they eating too much? Are they eating the right things? And I know that comes from a good place, but I think it makes us as parents engage in behaviors that [00:28:00] tend to make the mealtime unpleasant for us and for the kids. And that's where I see this, you know, enjoying your food and your kids, is that you have to just stop stressing out about.

How much your kid is eating, of what you know. We see this like crying at the dinner table till you eat two more bites of broccoli, and that's not where you're gonna see people wanting to come to dinner.

Roni: You know, we all want to feel important and valued. And to me it seems like, particularly as a teenager, I can just think back to being a teen teenager and like rolling my eyes at so many things that like my mom wanted to do or my family wanted to do. And so to me it seems like even if that's the attitude of your teenager, there's an element that if.

you're focusing your mealtimes on, like, everybody at this table feels valued and everybody feels important. Even if they roll their eyes every time at the dinner table, like you're giving them something internally that they'll be able to, you know, take for the rest of their life and help them feel good about themselves and stuff.

So, I, I [00:29:00] personally think that's really important. If you're feeling like, I don't know, my 16 year old's just gonna roll their eyes every time they come to the table.

Kristin: and that may be true. Um, and I think that that's just exactly it. So it just becomes about hanging out really. You know what I mean? So what can you do? What do they like to talk about? You know, I think as a parent that's what it is. It might not be the most engaging conversation you ever had. And sometimes with teenagers, you're exactly right.

We all were teenagers, and you look back and you're like, I was probably kind of difficult to talk to sometimes. But you know, like that's where I think it's just figuring out, well, what are the things that they're interested in, you know, what happened? And some, and that's the other thing too. And I don't know, especially sometimes with boys, it can be difficult, you know, how was your day?

Uh, fine, good. You know, how are your friends Good. So, you know, it's about just figuring out, well, what's a topic that maybe they'll really get going on. And I think that's fun,

Riley: I, feel like the same is true for someone who's [00:30:00] 99, uh, the, like, what is a 17 year old and a 99 year old gonna talk about where they find common ground? It's like, but I, I mean, I'm, there are things, I know there are things I'm coming up with them in my mind right now, but the 17 year old might not know the answer to that

Um, and so, For both parties, like kind of everyone coming to the table with that mentality, um, I think is really important. And I think that's something that grows as people get older and change. Cuz you know, two year old's not gonna have the cognitive space to be like, I need to talk to my mom about what she wants to talk about so I can connect with her.

But, you know, you know, for everybody who's coming to the table, I think it's important to, um, kind of have that mindset of like, how could, what can, where's our common ground here? Um, and for your grandmother to tell stories about her c. , I think that is so special and so unique for your kids. I'm, I'm gonna, I'm going back to that a little bit, but, but that kind of like, that's common ground.

They didn't know that and she would love to tell it. And so that was kind of how they got to that point of like having these awesome conversations, I'm sure.

Kristin: [00:31:00] Absolutely. Well, and you know, they laughed that, or we all really laugh, you know, she, she went from, like I said, riding, you know, a horse to school to, you know, she had a Facebook page and that's all in one lifetime. Like it's just, You know, I think that for all, even for me, like, I'm like, I guess I knew that, but you're blowing my mind right now.

Like what's going on?

Riley: Yeah. That's awesome. Well, we have certainly, uh, Talked about them sitting together as a family and eating family dinners together. Um, but I would love to give you an opportunity to kind of give people an overview of the rest of the book, um, and what they might, like maybe where like someone's pain points might be and where they could find help in your book.

I think that might be really valuable for people listening.

Kristin: Yeah, so of course, you know, I focus a lot on the family meals, but then also a lot of it is just about the strategies that come with making them actually happen and then again, making them pleasant experiences. And so I know, you know, one of the big things we talk about is, uh, knowing. [00:32:00] What's developmentally normal for your child?

Because I think that, again, uh, I myself experienced it and certainly as a pediatrician, people always had questions and concerns, and I like to remind people that, you know, that ca that's coming from a good, very caring. Place, but you have to think about how you're reacting. And also it's important to know like some of these things that even though they're a little bit challenging to experience as a parent are very developmentally normal for your child.

So a good example of that is where we see kids kind of getting into the toddler years and they'll come. Parents will often be like, oh, you know, . He used to eat everything. He used to, you know, I had puree all these freshed vegetables or I, you know, he'd eat everything. And now he's very, very picky and he doesn't wanna eat anything.

It's actually quite developmentally normal for a child to go through what we would call a picky phase. But what I like to remind people is you have to think about, again, you have to [00:33:00] think about like humans. Way back when. And so you had a baby that couldn't get around on its own. Uh, it's safer for it to eat every single thing you give it, right?

But then you start to get little cave baby running around and he can get away on its own. It isn't safe for him to eat every single thing that he finds, so it's very normal. that the brain would be wired in such a way to say, right now I'm gonna be very suspicious of things that look and smell and taste funny to me.

Right? That's new. I'm not sure if it's safe to eat. It's frustrating cuz you're like, what are you talking about? This is, you know, I'm telling you it's safe, eat it. But when you think about, okay, this is actually just a human brain doing things that are, are healthy and safe for it, um, it helps. I think, and then, then, then it's much easier to think, okay, this is normal.

What I need to do is focus on what we call exposures. Saying, you know, this is, I see it several times. I see people eating it and not dying. You know, the, the brain learns those things over time and it becomes much more likely that they'll try them [00:34:00] and eat them and enjoy them. Um, now everybody's a little bit different, so some kids that might.

Two exposure. Some kids that might be 200. Um, and again, just also you start to see, you know, your toddler and your baby. Just ate and ate and ate and ate. Then you get into these sort of school years and I, and I've had people say, you know, I feel like my kid exists on air. He doesn't eat anything.

And so a lot of it just has to do with, you know, that growth trajectory really starts to slow down. You think about the growth in the first couple of. Super fast, and then we see this really slowing down until you start to get to those adolescent years. Um, and there again, you know, you can see, I mean, maybe you guys remember too, but teenagers and adolescents, they can.

Put away a lot of food sometimes. And again, that might be something, you know, depending on parents' concerns, that can be very alarming. And so it's knowing what's normal, making sure that you're checking in with your child's doctor too, to make sure are they growing and [00:35:00] developing normally? You know, is there an actual medical problem might need to worry about?

Um, and then thinking a lot about like, but what is my. Doing in the long run, and a lot of times the best response is like very little. If any, intervention at all. Uh, but that's hard to know. Uh, and it's really like, you know, you want to get your kid to eat the way you want them to eat, but the strategies that we use are often very shortsighted.

And so it's easy to think, well, what does this translate to in the long run? an example might be you'd say, you know, I feel like my kid doesn't eat enough. If I get 'em, you know, if I set up the iPad and they watch the movie, I can usually shovel a few more bites into their mouth cause they're distracted.

And then you at the same time might be saying like, oh my gosh, I sat here and I ate this whole pint of ice cream. Not even realizing it while I watched this Netflix special. Well, You know, we kind of are setting ourselves up, you know, you can kind of [00:36:00] see how those were the same thing. And so it's like, well, I don't really want that for my child, so I need to think about the long term, you know, what am I teaching them to do?

And if it's to ignore their own internal cues, um, it's probably not the best strategy for them in the long run.

Roni: I liked one of the quotes that you provided from Ellen Satter, which is Parents Provide, kids Decide, and I think we've talked, we talked about that a little bit on the podcast last year with a woman named Katie Kimball. But just basically being, giving your kids all of the options and like they're gonna decide the things that they think, you know, taste the best or feel the best or, you know, whatever it is for their current situation.

And, um, you're still giving them the exposure by having it on their plate, even if they don't eat it the first 10 times.

Kristin: Mm-hmm. . Exactly. Yeah. I love Ellen Satter. So she is like, Child feeding guru, she's a genius. And yes, so this idea of, [00:37:00] what she calls the division of responsibility. And so that has to do with sort of, parents have jobs in feeding and kids have jobs in feeding, and you kind of have to stay in your own lanes.

And so the parent's job is, I get to decide, you know, what's, what's for the meal. When we're going to eat and where we're going to eat, and the kid gets to decide how much they're going to eat, of what is offer. Or if, if they're gonna eat any of it. And so that's, again, though, it, it sounds simple and then in real life it actually gets complicated cuz it kind of contradicts sometimes what you feel like saying or doing.

But really if you can stay in your lanes, you eliminate those mealtime battles because the battles are generally, you know, the. Either the kid wins and you make them whatever they want to eat, whenever they want to eat it, or the parent wins and they, you know, force the kid to eat more or something they don't want to eat.

But again, we've talked about in the long run, you didn't really probably accomplish what you [00:38:00] would hope to accomplish.

Riley: I feel like I've heard. Analogy with sleep. Like I can provide a place for them to sleep, but I cannot force them to go to sleep. And I think that that's a little bit easier to like, uh, come to terms with as a parent because sleep, like you literally can't force your child to go to sleep. Like no one can force me to go to sleep

And so I think using that same thought process with. Eating is really, uh, helpful because I do think that the sleep thing is a little bit more well known or widely spread. Like I can provide for them all of these things, but I can't make 'em actually fall asleep. And so kind of applying that same mentality to food I think is really helpful. 

Kristin: I like that.

I like That because I was never, well, I always said too, I wasn't like the pediatrician for everyone, cuz I was never like a sleep trainer type person, cuz I kind of felt the same way. You know, like, They're gonna sleep. When they're gonna sleep. And you know, I can set a bedtime and a rule that you need to be in your bed at x time.

But like you said, I can't [00:39:00] control that doesn't mean you're getting 89 hours of sleep just cuz you're there.

Riley: One other thing that I wanted to bring up before we, I don't wanna take up too much of your time, so before we close up, but, um, you talked a lot about your story, uh, in the book, and I think that, it's made me think I, since reading that, it's made me think a lot about my journey with food and not trying to force like things that I believe or things that I think or, or struggles that I have onto my, to my daughter's eating.

Uh, my example is that since I read your book, I. , my daughter said she wanted a cookie, and, and she was, it was, oh, like a treat for her that day, that she got for doing something. And, We don't always reward with treats, but this day it was that and um, and so I was like, okay. And so she goes to the cabinet and she pulls out a bag of dates and I was thinking like, that's not a cookie.

Um, and I almost was like, you're not gonna like that. I almost said that to her. And instead, I stopped and I said, sure. , if that's what you want as your cookie, you can have that. And she pulled one [00:40:00] out and she ate half of it. And then she never asked for another cookie. I mean, she didn't even eat the whole thing.

IEM mean dates are incredibly sweet. But she didn't eat, you know, she didn't even eat all of it, but she never asked me for her real cookie , you know, ever. And, but it gave me pause to think You're probably not gonna like that. And like, put that on her. And then, then she believes that, oh, well I don't really like those, I gave her the opportunity to decide for herself if she liked it or not.

And that's totally a win because I read your book because that was in my brain of like, I'm not gonna put that on her. I'm not gonna tell her that this food is not good or that she won't like it, um, because she can kind of decide that for herself. And that the same could be applied to like beets or broccoli or whatever people are eating that a toddler may or may not enjoy.

and kind of holding myself back from, like, holding her back, I guess, . Um, so I really, and I've benefited a lot from that.

Kristin: I'm so glad. That makes me so happy. No, I think that that's true too, and it's one of the more exhausting things I think, because, you know, the truth [00:41:00] is the lab, the things we do, and a lot of the, you know, again, come in love, but like sort of. Mis misdirected things that we do as parents, a lot of it comes from, it stems from our own anxieties, our own experiences, and maybe our own issues with.

Food, eating, body image and all of those things. And so I find that always exhausting as a parent. Cause you're like, Ugh, I just wanna do good for my kid. I don't wanna fix myself. But the truth is, that, in the long run, honestly, I think that the experience. is the more I learned and the more you realize like, I need to be good to myself in order to be good to my kids, you know, it, it makes you more conscious of your own, um, inherent biases and sort of your own anxieties.

And I really feel like, you know, through this experience, I myself developed better relationship with food and my body and eating all of those [00:42:00] things. Not only cuz you learn it and you realize you want that for your. and you think, well, I kind of want that for myself and as a bonus, the better I get at it myself, the better I'll do for them.

So I think that's kind of where it does come full circle where everyone sort of benefits from these practices. Even though I, I'm the first one to say it at the beginning, it's like, oh my gosh, can I just do good for my kid? And then like, whatever, you know, like, can I just like eat a cheeseburger in the back?

I don't wanna do this

Roni: Okay. Well, Kristen, why don't you tell everybody where they can connect with you online. Remind us, the title of your book and we will close out our podcast.

Kristin: You bet. So, uh, you can connect with me online at, also to check out our podcast, which is, uh, Feeding the family with Dr. Kristen. That's available pretty much anywhere that you would get your, uh, podcast. And then the book is titled The Happier Meal, how to Enjoy Your Food and Your [00:43:00] Kid. And you can get that when it's out this spring, on Amazon.

It's probably the easiest to look for that. Mm-hmm.

Roni: Well, we like to end our podcast talking about a recipe. So if you have, um, a recipe or a meal that you've eaten recently, whether you made it or you got takeout or whatever, that you en really loved and enjoyed, we would love to hear about that.

Kristin: Well, I, I would say that probably my favorite thing that I've been eating recently has been, Uh, chili because it's like one of my favorite things to eat. That's one of the recipes. I've sort of modified it over time, but it is something like, it's pretty close to the same like chili that my mom made when I was growing up.

So it has a little bit of that like nostalgic, uh, quality to it. And then I think now with the temperatures getting a little bit colder and football on, it's just, to me it's like the, the most comforting, perfect food that you can eat.

Riley: It's so funny, I, uh, I've said this before on the podcast. [00:44:00] Tastes better than nostalgia. like nothing tastes better than stuff does in your mind.

Kristin: Mm-hmm.

Riley: Yep. Uh, well thank you so much. We super enjoyed this conversation and cannot wait for people to get your book in their hands.

Kristin: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed being here.

Roni: Thanks for joining us for today's interview. Dr. Kristen's book will be out in summer of 2023. And when we have a link to her book, we'll add it to the show notes and share it on social media so that you can connect with Kristin and buy her book. And thanks again for listening to the plan to eat podcast.