Kids really will eat whole grains

Q: I want to upgrade my 6-year-old's eating habits, but he is stuck on mashed potatoes, grilled cheese and pasta with butter. I know all about pureeing veggies into sneaky places, but he often rejects that. Any other ideas? — Mayla, R., Bailey, Montana

A: Your son may be a hyper-sensitive taster; some experts suggest that around 25 percent of North Americans are. But there's a lot of food that's easy on the palate AND packed with the nutrition your son needs for his physical and intellectual development. Pureed butternut squash is loaded with potassium. Cauliflower is a much-overlooked source of anticancer polyphenols. Oatmeal delivers fiber and nutrients that can fuel a developing brain and body. And there are other mild-tasting whole grains that are the slightly nutty, sometimes sweetish, nutritional powerhouses of the carbohydrate world.

Skeptical? A recent study from the University of Florida shows that 50 percent of the time, kids chow down on whole grains if they're put in front of them ­– and that's just as often as they eat any other food. But don't make a big deal about it. In fact, don't mention it. The researchers found that the less fuss made about eating whole grains, the more they got eaten.

So try serving barley, which is great in soups and casseroles; whole bulgar (not all is whole) is tasty when served as a side dish, and faro, millet, brown rice and, of course, whole wheat and wheat berries can be served as they are with a touch of seasoning (whatever he likes) or added to soups and casseroles. Check out buckwheat (actually a relative of rhubarb), amaranth and quinoa — not true grains, but packed with the same nutrition and used in the same ways. Whole-grain burgers made with a combo of quinoa and brown rice are easy to make. Let your child do it, and he's sure to go with the grain!

Q: I just finished jury duty, and we heard two eyewitnesses give different versions of the crime (a robbery). Neither seemed to be intentionally lying. How can two people disagree about what they're positive they saw? — Bill W., Seven Hills, Ohio

A: That's an intriguing question and one that applies to everyday life as much as it does the courtroom. You're probably right in thinking both witnesses believed they were telling the truth.

The renowned psychologist Elizabeth Loftus first suggested in the 1970s that eyewitness accounts can be manipulated (Google her “Lost in The Mall” study). When DNA identification came along in 1985, it confirmed that eyewitness accounts can be completely mistaken. The Innocence Project has used DNA to prove around 300 people were sent to jail for crimes they didn't commit. Direct eyewitness testimony was involved in almost 75 percent of those wrongful convictions.

You see, the brain stores information in pieces. Loftus says calling up a memory is more like gathering pieces of a puzzle and putting them together than replaying a video. And each bit is susceptible to the influences from the environment (it was a freezing-cold night), stress (the robber had a gun), bias (people with tattoos are known to act like that), as well as suggestive questioning or newspaper reports. That's why two eyewitnesses can honestly disagree.

What does this tell you about your memory and how to make sure it stays as strong as possible? Well, first and foremost you want to protect your brain so you don't develop cognition problems. Keep your cardiovascular system and brain healthy by avoiding artery-clogging, inflammatory foods like trans and sat fats and added sugars and syrups, getting plenty of regular physical activity (10,000 steps a day) and making sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Adding in meditation to reduce your stress response is also memory-smart. And exercise your brain by learning new things through classes, reading and life experience.

Then you'll be able to croon, “Thanks for the (mostly accurate) Memories.”

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