I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Liz Westinghouse

Nutrition doesn't have to cost a thing

Liz Westinghouse and her 6-year-old daughter, Lily. "She's so picky," she says. "It's been a real struggle."

A former caterer, Saugerties mom Liz Westinghouse knows her way around a kitchen and believes that family cooking and family meals are an essential part of any parent’s nutritional plan. And for those of you with finicky little eaters at home who shun vegetables, Westinghouse feels your pain.

“The irony of life is that the registered dietitian would have a child who’s the pickiest eater,” she says with a laugh, referring to her 6-year-old daughter Lily.  “But I do. She’s so picky. It’s been a real struggle. But because of that I’ve become much more aware of how what we say to kids affects what kinds of things they eat.”

Read more: Picky no more!

Westinghouse knows all too well how frustrating it can be to come home exhausted at the end of a work day, put in the effort to prepare a healthy and well balanced meal, and be met with an upturned nose. She sees other parents get frustrated and try to force their kids to eat the offending items, a power struggle ensues, and before long everyone learns to dread what should be the best part of the day: The family meal.

“I know how much of a power struggle it can be, and I’ve had to develop a lot of techniques.”

Westinghouse will put one tiny bite of whatever she thinks her daughter won’t eat on her plate.

“I tell her that she doesn’t have to like it,” she says. “She can even tell me it’s yucky. But she has to try that one tiny bite on her plate if she wants her fruit dessert later. And then I don’t bring it up again.”

Read more: Liz answers common questions about picky eaters

With the pressure removed, Westinghouse finds that more often than not kids will eat that one tiny bite — and sometimes even ask for more.

Westinghouse recommends a similar technique for snack times. On days when her daughter is playing alone quietly, Westinghouse will prepare a plate of healthy snacks like veggies and cheese, put the plate down where he daughter is playing, and leave.

“Nine times out of 10 she finishes it,” she said. “Because she explores it on her own terms. I was standing over her she would never go for it. Give kids a little bit of power and make them feel like it’s on their own terms.”

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Free consultations

Westinghouse is full of practical nutrition advice for families who want to eat healthier, but her most sound piece of advice is probably this: Don’t listen to the media.

“People hear these blanket statements and then decide that it’s the right thing for them, without talking to a doctor or a dietitian,” she said. “Look at gluten-free diets. Some people assume they should be on one because they read somewhere that it’s a good idea, but they don’t even know what it is.”

In other words, talk to your doctor instead of Dr. Oz. Then meet with a registered dietitian to come up with a blueprint based on your goals, your lifestyle, your likes and your dislikes. And it just so happens that Westinghouse knows a registered dietitian you can meet with — for free.

Westinghouse spearheaded the new Thyme Retreat program at Poughkeepsie’s NAPA Medical Group. The free initial session consists of a 30-minute consultation with Westinghouse to create a personal nutrition plan, a 20-minute one-on-one session with a yoga teacher that covers basic stretches and relaxation techniques, and a 40-minute head, neck, and shoulder massage. Optional follow-up visits are low cost; meeting with Westinghouse will only cost whatever your insurance co-pay is for a doctor’s visit.

“Usually it can cost around $75-150 an hour to see a dietitian,” she explains, “so this is exceptional pricing.”

Once a plan is developed, Westinghouse helps patients figure out how to implement that plan in the real world.

Read more: Being healthy. Buying local.

Read more: Hudson Valley farmers help us eat healthier food

Check your neck

Somehow with all of this going on, Westinghouse also finds time to work with thyroid cancer patients, as she’s a thyroid cancer survivor herself.

“I tell people to check their necks,” she said. “Many doctors don't check the necks of patients enough to detect thyroid abnormalities.”

And she continues to be an invaluable source of free, practical, simple pieces of nutritional advice. For example: water.

“Most people are completely dehydrated,” she says.” You can’t curb inflammation or lose weight when you’re dehydrated. A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight in half, and that’s how many ounces of water you should be drinking a day. But if for every dehydrating liquid you drink like coffee or alcohol, you should brink and additional 8 to 12 ounces.”

So for those of us who drink, say, six cups of coffee a day?

“Oh my goodness,” she says. “You are probably very, very dehydrated right now!”

See? Practical advice that can be implemented right away.

Do you know a Hudson Valley parent who inspires you? We want to profile local parents who impact their community through business, politics, volunteer work, grassroots advocacy, you name it. Email our editor your “I am a Hudson Valley Parent” nomination.

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