Feed the Boys More Fat! Why Boys Need More Fat than Girls

Fat is delicious, nutritious and an outrageously important part of our diets. It’s true, I promise! Don’t close me now! While children and adults of all ages must include essential fatty acids in their diets or risk becoming deficient and sick, here’s the low-down on why boys needs more fat in their diet than girls. It’s time to feed the boys more fat!

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are made up of two families: Omega 3’s & Omega 6’s. The latter are common enough in contemporary diets (safflower and sunflower oil, mayonnaise etc.) – but many people walking the streets today are doing so with inadequate amounts of Omega 3’s to keep them company. These fats are called essential because our bodies cannot synthesize them independently – we must get them from our diet. So many, however, lack these good fats because we are told to eat margarine instead of butter, skim instead of whole milk and egg beaters instead of full eggs.

Why boys need more fat than girls - feed the boys more fat

Why Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are Important

  • EFAs are an important component of every cell membrane in the body
  • The brain is made of 60% fat
  • Connections in the brain (synapses) require long-chain fatty acids to be efficient
  • EFAs are required for optimal fetal and infant brain development
  • The corpus collosum (a sheet-like bundle of nerves that connects the right and left brain hemispheres) is made of fat
  • The myelin sheath which covers nerves and speeds up signal transmissions is also made of fat
  • Most interestingly to me: The forebrain (the part of the brain used for sustained attention) – has the highest concentration (30% of the total brain fat) of DHA (an Omega 3). Hi-five from every mom of a boy!

Research on Boys Vs. Girls

Boys and girls are different – they play differently, have different ways of thinking (and different attention spans), and different biological makings. As a result, research is finding that they also have different nutritional requirements. Studies done with rhesus monkeys showed that mothers produced milk with 35% more fat and protein for male babies, and milk made for female babies was less fatty but higher in calcium.

Researchers based at Michigan State University studied 72 Kenyan mothers and found that women with sons generally made richer milk (2.8% fat compared with 0.6% for daughters). Another study of (well-nourished) Massachusetts’ moms discovered that they too produced milk that had 25% more energy content for boys than for girls.

Our bodies are total miracles! They know what they need 🙂 And in the case of boys – we need to get the message out. Little boys need 3 times the amount of essential fatty acids than little girls. This may be because estrogen is a fatty carrier and testosterone isn’t (and it explains how frustratingly difficult it can be for us women to lose weight, while men workout once and drop 5lbs).

Studies old and new have found that many hyperactive children were deficient in essential fatty acids. Ever notice how learning and behavioral difficulties are much more prevalent in the tiny dudes? Feed the boys more fat! Recent research out of Purdue University found that boys with lower Omega 3 blood levels were significantly more likely to exhibit hyperactivity, impulsivity, tantrums, sleep problems and anxiety.

How to Feed the Boys More Fat

  • Add some flaxseed or chia seeds to their oatmeal or mashed up banana (or sprinkle it into hummus, soup, or stew)
  • Add a tablespoon of high quality cod liver oil into their daily routine
  • Serve some walnuts with a meal or as a snack
  • Increase their intake of eggs (read about the other benefits of egg consumption here)
  • Allow for the liberal use of grass-fed butter and whole milk
  • Occasional seafood
  • Steam some brussel sprouts or kale with a meal

There is so much documented and anecdotal evidence of these foods helping to tame unreasonably rambunctious boys – and I’ve certainly seen a difference at times when we forget to include some of those sources for a few days. So share this message with a friend – and tell a mom at the end of her rope… there is hope 🙂 (look at that, a rhyme!) Down with Ritalin and in with the fat!

How to Help Your Child Enjoy Heathy Food

Don’t we all dream of a world in which our kids come running to the kitchen for kale and quinoa, and politely say “no thank you” to strangers when offered cookies and ice cream (because those things would never be found in our kitchens….right? at least not in the cupboards the kids can reach…)? Today we’re talking about how to help your child enjoy healthy food – not just tolerate it – but ask for it with a smile 🙂 (<– putting one on your face as well).

As a certified sugar addict I’ve been very committed to raising kids who have better trained buds than I… and that starts young. I’m talking in utero young. Flipping and floundering and sucking back smoothies through their umbilical cords…

How to Help Your Child Enjoy Heathy Food

Studies like this one have shown that moms train their babies’ palates at large by what they eat while pregnant, nursing and in the early years of solids. The taste of breast milk is fluid (chuckle chuckle) and determined by the mom’s diet. Eat lots of sugar and you’ll be treating your tiny one to human soda, spicy food will give it some kick. Of course these effects are not all-powerful, but the flavor subtleties influence their preferences when it comes time to introduce solids.

How to Help Your Child Enjoy Heathy Food

How to Help Your Child Enjoy Healthy Food

Posts on optimal first foods will be up in the coming weeks, but for now, some ideas of how to help your little one enjoy things are good for them include:

  • Eat whole, nourishing foods while pregnant (not enough for 2! caloric requirements only increase minimally and closer to term)
  • Eat whole, nourishing foods, plenty of good fat and increase overall quantity while nursing
  • Offer variety upon introduction of solids (new things tend to be more interesting, I generally feed him 4 different things at each meal and only bring out 1 or 2 at a time)
  • If baby refuses things like liver sneak it in with some organic, unsweetened applesauce
  • Limit or remove sugar from their diet altogether (and watch how they beg for fruit!)
  • Set a good example in food choices
  • Don’t give up! It takes about 12 separate instances of eating something unpleasant for the palate to begin to enjoy it
  • Don’t give in. Once baby becomes a toddler, they can go a few hours without eating, no problemo. If they are refusing the delicious healthy meal you have lovingly prepared, gently remind them that they will have nothing else until it is finished. In our case, it goes back into the fridge and comes out the next time they are hungry. You’ve heard it before, but babies will not starve themselves. Give it some time and they’ll be begging for pureed liver and kale.

Bon Appetit!

Activities for Toddlers – Strategies for Busy Parents

When it comes to activities for toddlers, one of my new “feel-good-about-today” strategies is what I’m calling:

The 3-15 chunks. (Love me a good sexy title!)

Most days, I find myself at home and car-less, which sounds like a recipe for quality kid time n’est-ce pas? Then I check my email. And all of a sudden it’s open season on my time as publications, job hunting, laundry and writing suck up the space in my planner.

Too often at the end of the day I used to feel like I could hardly account for my waking hours. Nothing of consequence had been accomplished. I was no better for it, and neither was my Little. There had to be a better way, and I think, for now, I’ve found one that is working really well for us. It requires an investment of about 45 minutes a day.

I spend most of the day in the same room as my son, eating the pretend “pasta” he “makes” with sand toys, laughing at his antics, correcting his behavior, hugging his sweet body and answering his questions, but not entirely present and not particularly engaged (usually working away on my computer). This is where I see the dichotomy between quality of time and quantity of time.

I technically spend all day with the doll, but it used to be the case that I didn’t actually spend it with him. I just had time with him.

This is what I came up with.

I now try to do a minimum of three 15-minute chunks a day with my Little (these can certainly be smaller chunks of time, and sometimes it turns into such a party it lasts for hours). Most weekdays this pans out, some it doesn’t…we just keep rolling.

Growing Great Toddlers - Strategies for Busy Parents

Activities for Toddlers

15 minutes for some kind of physical activity

  • Dance party anyone?
  • Kicking around a ball
  • Walks
  • Hitting the park
  • Swimming
  • Running around blowing and catching bubbles outside
  • Making and flying paper airplanes or kites

15 minutes for some kind of intellectual activity

  • Practicing numbers
  • Recognizing letters
  • Country capitals (Kabul is literally the cutest word he knows how to say)
  • Reading together
  • Practicing colors while we draw
  • Learning body parts

15 minutes for some kind of spiritual activity

  • Explaining something about who God is
  • A particular Bible story
  • Memorizing short verses
  • Praying together

If at the end of the day I have accomplished those things – at this age – I think that it was well used.

Activities for toddlers - Strategies for Busy Parents

Perhaps those of you with multiple kids at different ages and stages at home can weigh in a bit on this and suggest ways to make activities with toddlers work in those situations… but I reckon we’ll either move into teaching the same general thing at different levels simultaneously, or focus on only one or two of those a day with each child independently.

We’ve been doing this for about a month now, and it has made stay-at-home mothering so much more meaningful and fun for us! And seriously, my little sponge-of-a-son blows me away every day with his capacity to understand and remember. If you see him around, ask him the capital of the UAE. *melt*

5 Reasons Your Sweetie Needs Sleep

Today we are going to talk about why your baby needs sleep – not how to get them there. You’ve read the advice…

Swaddle, but not for too long or baby will become dependent.

Sleep train, oh wait, but that’s cruel.

Don’t let them sleep in a car seat or swing, but if they can’t fall asleep, it might be helpful.

To each his or her own. I’m taking my hat out of that arena for now.

Today I want to help you understand WHY your child needs to sleep (getting them there can be your own special concoction of tricks).

5 Reasons Your Sweetie Needs Sleep
The rarest of sightings… didn’t make it to his crib on this double nap day

After doing some serious research, here are the top 5 reasons that I am even more committed to the cause:

Reason #1:   Brainpower

A number of studies including this one and this one have shown that babies who sleep better (particularly at night) have higher cognitive scores. This is particularly related to the formation and consolidation of memories.

  • When infants are awake they quickly forget names they have just learned (try teaching them something to prove this)
  • During sleep, the brain retrieves and re-lives recent experiences and integrates them into the existing memory. This is done by strengthening neural pathways, re-linking and sometimes undoing ones that are no longer relevant. The sleeping brain essentially transforms experience into knowledge

I saw this so clearly when my son was 14 months old his talking really started to take off. Every time I put him down to sleep, as his eyes closed his sweet lips would start recounting out loud the new words he had learned that day “birdie…ball…auntie….apple…bir…” ZONK. it was all so involuntary and precious.

Reason #2:   Better Temperament

Babies who sleep more and better at night have been found here to have “easier” temperaments – they are more approachable (read: more shareable, less always-in-your-arms), less distractible (greater focus) and more adaptable (as in, better chance of sleeping soundly through the night at Great-Aunt-Gertrude’s, too). Enough said.

Reason #3:   Physical Growth

A child grows more rapidly during his first 12 months of life than any other period – tripling his birth weight and growing between 8 and 10 inches. Research shows that almost 80% of human growth factor is released as their itty-bitty-bodies sleep. Sleep baby, sleep.

Reason #4: Motor Skill Development

Not only cognitive skills are up for grabs during baby’s apparent power outage – but a lack of sleep at night can also affect motor skills and their ability to focus making accidents and behavioural problems more likely during the day.

Reason #5:   Immune Function

Firstly, our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived (these are the ones that attack, kill and quarantine the bad bugs in our body). Secondly, inflammatory cytokines increase when the body lacks sleep (this makes us more prone to illness).   Thirdly, while the body sleeps, physical energy demands drop off, and the body is much more efficient at fighting illness.

The moral of this story is:

Let sleeping babies lie. And help lying babies sleep.

The rug-rat is regenerating itself.

A final point that is by no means an afterthought….

Your little Twinkie’s trip to twinkle town is an important part of maintaining your sanity.

Because without enough sleep, we all become towering two-year-olds.