Picky Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. For some kids, it’s their favorite meal that comes just once a year! For others, they may dread the sticky mashed potatoes that get plopped on their plate or the smell of Aunt blog-picky-eater-main-landscapeCathy’s green bean casserole. Preparing your picky eater for this time of year might help you avoid the epic battle you fear is coming!

Here are 5 tips to help this time of year be fun and festive, not frustrating and frightful for a picky eater:

  1. Exposure!- Don’t let the Thanksgiving meal be the first time your picky eater sees all the new foods. Thanksgiving foods are not commonly seen throughout the year and can be overwhelming (in an already overwhelming situation!). In the weeks leading up to the big meal, try incorporate one or two Thanksgiving-type foods a week into your family meals or a snack time. Even if they don’t want to eat it, they can touch it, smell it, play with it and talk about it!
  2. Encourage your child to be your sous chef Incorporating your picky eater into cooking and creating the meals gives them a varied sensory experience. Even if it’s a food they’ve never had (or have tried and disliked), they get to see and feel the ingredients, use spoons and mixers to combine it all, and smell the final product, and feel accomplished for helping!
  3. Let your child choose something to make- Allowing your child to choose a menu item guarantees they will have something they like! Macaroni and cheese, or mozzarella stick appetizers, chocolate chip cookies, or homemade rolls may be some favorites.
  4. Bring sauce!- Sauces and dressings can be the key to kids eating new or less-preferred foods. Even if you’re not hosting, bring it with you. If they love barbecue sauce, put a small bowl next to their plate and let them add it to whatever they want!
  5. When in doubt…bring foods they like– If you’re going to someone’s house where you have little to no control as to what is served, you can always bring a few healthy foods you know your child likes. You can re-heat it when the other food is served, and explain to the host that they don’t even eat your cooking (so the host isn’t offended!). Just prepare for all of the kids at the kids table to be jealous!

thanksgivingblogpage

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

New Call-to-action

a recipe for speech and language

A Holiday Cookie Recipe for Better Speech and Language

It is largely recognized that the holiday season is a lovely, yet chaotic time of year. During this busy time, being with family often takes precedent over the speech and language homework sent home by your child’s speech-language therapist. Why not combine a holiday tradition with speech-language homework?

Use this recipe for extra language and speech reinforcement while decorating cookies this holiday season:

  • 2 cups of basic concepts: While adding ingredients give directions emphasizing the understanding of a recipe for speech and languagequantitative concepts, such as all, some, one, both. For example, “Add both cups of flour” or “Put on some red sprinkles and some green sprinkles.” If this is too advanced, you can always get extra practice with counting. You can count the cups of ingredients or the number of cookies.
  • 1 teaspoon of adjectives: Adjectives or descriptive words can easily be targeted during baking. You can talk about ways to describe the cookies that you are making, e.g., “Look! You made a big cookie and your sister made a small cookie,” or you can give directions including adjectives, e.g., “Decorate the long tree cookie and I’ll decorate the short tree cookie.”
  • 2 tablespoons of vocabulary: Like with any activity throughout your day, it is good to try to introduce your children to new vocabulary or reinforce the vocabulary they are already using. Vocabulary categories that are easily targeted during cookie decorating are: colors, shapes and nouns. For example, “Do you want to make the tree, snowman or ornament?” or “What colors did you use on your cookie?”.
  • Mix in turn taking: Turn taking is a great social skill to practice at home with siblings or friends. Take turns putting in ingredients, mixing or putting on candies to decorate. Appropriate turn taking can be used by kids when playing games with peers and during conversations.
  • Stir in requesting: Have your child exercise his or her expressive language skills by requesting for items. Depending on their skill level a carrier phrase could be used, “I want ______” or the request could be in question form, “Can I have the _______, please?”. Once your child is successful at making simple requests, work towards expanding the utterance, making the request longer, (e.g, “I want the red frosting”).
  • Bake for following directions: Baking holiday cookies makes for the perfect set up for your child to practice following directions. First start with simple one step directions, “Put on white frosting”. To continue to improve your child’s receptive language you can advance to first/then directions, “First put on white frosting, then put on green sprinkles”.
  • Let it cool with articulation practice: Throughout the whole baking/decorating process, articulation (speech sounds) can also be targeted. As an adult model, you can provide the correct productions for your child emphasizing the target sound. (e.g., What cookie do you like?, Look at my cookie!”). If your child is at the stage in speech therapy where they can practice saying their target sounds, work on using them during the activity. For instance, if you were working on “s” or s-clusters you could practice using the sound to describe what you see “I see a reindeer” or when taking about the steps to baking “Stir in the flour”.

Throughout your cooking baking experience keep in mind that the activity should remain fun, keeping the speech-language practice with in your child’s abilities in order to keep frustration low. Enjoy this recipe for ideas of ways to target speech and language! Happy Holidays!




cooking with kids-spooky halloween treats

Cooking With Kids: Spooky Treats

Back in elementary school, the music teacher, Mr. House, had us sing songs during the various holidays. Every year around the end of October, we would sing a song that spelled out Halloween…and quickly it became one of my favorite holidays due to this “catchy” song!

Another fun part to Halloween are the parties that I went to as a child where the host served Halloween-themed snacks/desserts…what child does not enjoy eating something fun?

Here are some spooky Halloween recipes for you and your family to create:

Boo-nana Chocolate Pudding Cups

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Peter Pan® Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 pkg (13 oz each) Snack Pack® Chocolate Pudding cooking with kids-spooky halloween treats
  • 2 small bananas, peeled, cut in half
  • 12 milk chocolate morsels

Directions

  1. Stir 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter into each pudding cup
  2. Decorate each banana half with 3 chocolate morsels for ‘ghost’ eyes and mouth
  3. Insert a decorated banana half in each pudding cup.
  4. Serve immediately

Witchy Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 (18 oz.) roll refrigerated sugar-cookie dough
  • Green food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tube brown icing 20 mini green M&M’s

Directions

  1. Divide dough in half.
  2. One half–Color one half with green food coloring, knead until desired shade
  3. Place in plastic wrap and roll into a 2-inch cylinder
  4. Freeze until cold, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Knead other half with cocoa, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly
  6. Unwrap green dough and slice into 1/8 -inch-thick rounds.
  7. Space well apart on 2 cookie sheets
  8. Roll chocolate dough between plastic wrap to 1/8 -inch thickness
  9. Using a knife, cut triangles for hats (freeze for a few minutes if dough is too soft)
  10. Take chocolate scraps and cut thin lines to make hair; place strands on sides of each green face
  11. Put a triangle on top for hat
  12. Freeze until very chilled, 15 minutes.
  13. Baking: Preheat oven to 350°F.
  14. Bake cookies right out of freezer, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until done, about 10 minutes
  15. Cool on sheets
  16. Pipe on brown icing eyes. Dab on an icing dot and stick M & M to it for a nose

Creepy Eyeball Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 box cupcake mix (can be any flavor
  • 1 container “white” frosting
  • Cupcake baking cups
  • Red decorating gel
  • Brown M & Ms
  • toothpicks

Directions

  1. Bake the cupcakes according to directions and allow to cool completely.
  2. Frost the cupcakes and top each one with 1 M&M.
  3. Draw red lines out from around the candy piece. Use a toothpick to pull the red gel out around the sides to make smaller veins.

Pumpkin Rice Krispy Treats

Ingredients

  • Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 Bag of Marshmallows
  • Butter
  • Red & yellow food coloring
  • 18-20 tootsie rolls (unwrapped)
  • Frosting for leaves is: powdered sugar, green food coloring, and a little water
  • (Optional) Chocolate cookies crushed for bed of “dirt”

Directions

  • Follow the recipe on the back of the cereal box
  • When marshmallows are mostly melted, add red and yellow food coloring to create the orange color
  • Once you have the mixture, rub some butter on the palms of your hands and roll the mixture quickly into balls
  • Place a tootsie roll in the center of each pumpkin and draw a leaf with the homemade frosting

Click here for 5 fun Halloween themed language activities!

amazing after school snacks

Amazing After School Snacks

 

 

 

After a long day at school, children will certainly be hungry for a snack! Here are some recipes to try. They are simple and do not require a lot of time; your children can even help!

Red, White, and Blue Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 large whole wheat pita
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 6 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

Preparation:

  1. Cut the pita in half or into quarters
  2. Spread a layer of cream cheese
  3. Add strawberries and blueberries
  4. Enjoy!

Chocolate Granola Apple Wedges (perfect since we are in “apple picking season”!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup low-fat granola without raisins
  • 1-2 medium apples (some favorite kinds are: Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, & Braeburn)
  • Shallow dish or bowl
  • Microwave safe bowl

Preparation:

  1. Cut apple into wedges
  2. Place chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl—microwave for 15 seconds, stir chocolate…repeat until chips are melted
  3. Pour granola into shallow dish/bowl
  4. Dip the apple wedge in chocolate, let excess drip back into bowl
  5. Dip the chocolate wedge in the granola
  6. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes and enjoy!

Homemade Fruity Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 oz.) pkg. INSTANT Jello—choose your favorite flavor!
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (or 12 large marshmallows)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 8” or 9” square pan
  • Whisk
  • Large microwave safe bowl
  • Dental floss

Preparation:

  1. Boil water in microwave (about 1 minute)
  2. Add gelatin and stir well
  3. Place back in microwave for 1 minute and stir again
  4. Add marshmallows and microwave for about 45 seconds (marshmallows should be puffed and slightly melted)
  5. Whisk together the melted marshmallows and gelatin (a creamy layer will float on the top)
  6. Lightly spray the square pan with cooking spray—make sure it is spread well!
  7. Pour mixture into pan and refrigerate for about 45 min until set and firm
  8. Loosen edges with a knife
  9. Start with one end and roll entire square up tightly
  10. Use dental floss to cut into slices (seam side down)
  11. Enjoy!

Tortilla Pizzas

Ingredients:

  • Small corn or wheat tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese (cheddar and mozzarella are favorites!)
  • Foil

Preparation:

  1. Place foil on tray
  2. Cover tortilla with salsa
  3. Sprinkle cheese on top
  4. Cook in either a toaster oven or conventional oven until cheese melts
  5. You can try other variations by adding refried beans, chicken, beef, veggies.

Cheesy Cracker Sticks

Ingredients:

  1. 1 ½ cups (about 4 oz.) grated cheddar cheese
  2. 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
  3. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  5. Dash of pepper
  6. 1 Tbsp milk
  7. Cutting board
  8. Rolling pin (optional)
  9. Pizza cutter
  10. Mini cookie cutters (optional)
  11. Large cookie sheet
  12. Foil

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine cheese, butter, flour, salt, and pepper—use your hands to mix so the mixture looks like dime-size crumbs
  3. Add milk and again use your hands to form the dough into a ball
  4. Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness
  5. Use the pizza cutter to cut the dough into “sticks” use cookie cutters to form shapes. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet
  6. Bake the sticks/shapes for 10-12 minutes (or until edges are turning brown)
  7. Remove from oven and let cool
  8. Enjoy warm or at room temperature!
Patriotic cake

Cooking With Kids: 4th of July Desserts

 

 

 

Fireworks, barbeques, getting together with friends and family…a perfect 4th of July holiday!  The only thing that makes it better is to have the kids help make the dessert!  Here are some fun and easy recipes to celebrate the holiday:

1)    Patriotic Poke Cake

            Ingredients:

  • 18.25 oz. white, yellow or vanilla cake mix, plus ingredients to make the cake
  • 14.5 oz. can coconut milk
  • red and blue food coloring
  • frosting (can use vanilla, cream cheese, or buttercream)
  • raspberries and blueberries for garnish

            Preparation:

  1. Prepare cake according to package directions. Let cake cool in the baking dish for 10 minutes, while you prepare the filling.
  2. Divide the coconut milk in half. Tint half with red food coloring and half with blue food coloring.
  3. With cake still in the baking dish, use a fork to poke holes in the warm cake at 1/2-inch intervals on one third of the cake. Carefully spoon some of the blue coconut milk over the holes, pausing to let the colored milk seep in. Don’t douse the cake. You just want enough milk to add color. You should have at least half of the blue coconut milk left.
  4. Now poke holes with a fork in the middle third of the cake, and spoon the red coconut milk into those holes. Again, pause to let the colored milk seep in. Again, you should have some red milk left over. Finally, poke holes in the last third of the cake and spoon some of the remaining blue milk into those holes. Discard remaining coconut milk.
  5. Let cake sit at room temperature 10-15 minutes, then refrigerate at least 2 hours.
    Loosen the edges of the poke cake with a spatula. Be careful – the cake may be sticky from the coconut milk. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.
  6. Frost cake with your favorite frosting. Garnish with raspberries and blueberries.

Patriotic cake2)    American Flag Cheesecake Bars

(requires overnight refrigeration)

 

         Supplies:

  • Mixer or hand mixer
  • 9 x 13 baking dish
  • Foil
  • Large foil roasting pan
  • Cutting board
  • Ziplock bag (sandwich size)

            Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

            Filling

  • 3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 80 fresh ripe blueberries (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup seedless raspberry jelly

 

            Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. Make crust: Using a mixer (or hand mixer), combine flour, brown sugar and salt, and process until well combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture begins to come together; it should not form a ball.

3. Press mixture evenly over bottom of baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until set. Let cool.

4. Make filling: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in lemon juice, vanilla and salt.

5. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust. Tap pan on countertop 3 or 4 times to burst air bubbles in filling. Place pan in a large roasting pan and put in oven. Pour hot tap water into roasting pan until it comes up about an inch around baking pan.

6. Bake for 40 minutes, or until filling is just set. Cool completely on a wire rack, then cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

7. Use foil overhang to lift cheesecake out of pan and onto cutting board. Heat a large sharp knife under hot water; dry knife. Trim off edges of cheesecake. Carefully cut into 16 bars, rinsing knife under hot water and drying thoroughly between each cut.

8. Transfer bars to a serving platter. Decorate each bar with 5 blueberries in upper left corner to resemble stars on the American flag. Place jelly in a ziplock bag, seal bag and snip off about 1/6 inch at one bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines on each bar to resemble stripes on flag.

3)    4th of July Rice Krispie Treats

Supplies:

  • 6 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • 1 package marshmallows
  • 3 TBSP margarine or butter
  • Food coloring–red and blue
  • 3 medium to large bowls
  • 9 x 13 baking dish (well greased)
  • Wax paper

Preparation

  1. Gather your supplies and divide the Rice Krispies and marshmallows into three groups for the three layers (2 cups Rice Krispies and about 2 cups marshmallows for each group).
  1. Melt margarine/butter and marshmallows.  You can use either the stovetop or microwave (make sure you use microwave safe bowls).  For each group, use about 1 TBSP butter and 1/3 of marshmallow package.
  1. Once melted, stir well and add the food coloring.  (You can add as much as you would like to get the desired shade of blue and red.)
  1. Add the 2 cups of Rice Krispies to each group and stir well.
  1. By color, press into well-greased 9×13 baking dish.  Start with blue, then white (which is just regular and requires no food coloring) and then red. Pat down all layers really well using wax paper.
  1. Let set for a bit, then cut, serve and enjoy!

 

S'mores4)    Mini S’mores

Supplies

  • 4 graham cracker squares
  • 16 tiny marshmallows
  • 1 ½ ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon red, white and blue nonpareils or sprinkles

Preparation

  1. Preheat broiler. Using a serrated knife, cut each graham cracker square into 4 and 1¼ -inch squares.
  1. Place half of the squares on a baking sheet and top each with 2 tiny marshmallows.
  1. Broil 3 inches from the heat for just a few seconds until the marshmallows start to brown. Remove and quickly top with remaining graham cracker squares.
  1. Melt chocolate:  place chopped chocolate in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.
  1. Dip in melted chocolate, place on a plate or waxed paper, and sprinkle with red, white, and blue nonpareils.
  1. Let stand until chocolate sets.  Eat and enjoy!

 

 

baby finger foods

Finger Foods for Babies

How many times have you tried to give your baby a bite of his food and he reaches for the spoon, ready to do it himself? Probably just about every time you feed him. When your baby is about 9 months old, he has begun to develop the fine motor skills needed to start feeding himself. This is often a favorite (and very messy) activity for little ones.  It’s important to remember that finger foods for babies don’t have to be bought in the baby food aisle. Many of the things we eat can be adapted for baby! This will reduce your worry about always having something for him to eat as well as expose your baby to a new foods and textures.

Allowing your baby to feed himself as much as possible will help to encourage independent, healthy eating habits. This gives your child some control over what, and how much, they eat. There will be days that he will clean his plate, and there will be days where everything ends up on the floor…but that’s okay! He is learning the process of self-regulation and learning to recognize when his tummy is full.

 Rule number 1: Always try the food first.

Here is your finger foods checklist:

  • Is it soft?
  • Is it cooked enough so that it’s mushy? Overcook those veggies!
  • Does it melt in your mouth? (Think puffs or Ritz crackers)
  • Can you gum it? (i.e. eat it without teeth)
  • Is it cut into small pieces?

Rule number 2: Give your baby a variety of foods.

It can take up to 10 times for a baby to accept a new food into their repertoire. Don’t give up if the avocado ends up on the floor the first 4 (or 7) times.

Rule number 3: let him get messy!

Food play is an important learning experience. You have similar nerve receptors on your tongue and fingers so playing with food will help your baby experience different textures and temperatures.

With those three rules in mind here is a list of great finger foods to try with your little one!

  • Bananas-To make bananas easier to pick up, try dusting them in crushed Cheerios first.
  • Mandarin orange/peach/pear cups.
  • Grapes without the skin
  • Blueberries-If they aren’t small enough, cut them in two.
  • Watermelon (seedless, of course)
  • Cooked veggies: zucchini, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, etc.
  • Avocados or guacamole
  • Extra soft pasta
  • Small pieces of slow cooked or ground meats like meatballs, etc.
  • Fish
  • O-shaped cereals
  • Egg yolks-Once your baby is one year, they can have egg whites too.  Try chopping up hard boiled eggs!
  • Rice cakes
  • Cheese-Start with something bland like mozzarella or cheddar.
  • Quesadillas
  • Waffles and pancakes

Remember, now that your baby is eating these foods, the biggest issue to avoid is choking. Make sure your baby is strapped into his high chair and your eyes are on him at all times when starting these finger foods. Don’t give him any foods that could get stuck in his throat: popcorn, raisins, raw veggies, fruit with hard skin, hot dogs, etc.

Have fun with it! Get creative! And, don’t think you can only give him “baby” food!  If you have questions about your baby’s feeding, contact our Speech-Language Pathologists for answers.

IBS Versus IBD: What Is The Difference And How Can Diet Help?

Does your child suffer from gastrointestinal pain, bloating, diarrhea, or even vomiting episodes? Have you researched the symptoms or spoken with your pediatrician? You may have come across the terms IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and IBD (Irritable Bowel Disorder). These two gastrointestinal disorders can present with similar symptoms, so it may be confusing to decipher what’s really going on at first. However, there are distinct causes and ways of diagnosing them that determine whether a patient has IBS or IBD.

Irritable Bowel Disorder (IBD)

IBD is a term used for two specific gastrointestinal diseases.  One form of IBD is Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms– Painful “flare-up” episodes. The pain can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. The flare-ups cause diarrhea and sometimes vomiting, either of which may contain blood. These episodes may be accompanied by fever and/or fatigue. Weight loss can also occur.

Causes– A variety of factors that trigger an autoimmune, inflammatory response.

How it is diagnosed– A gastrointestinal doctor will perform a “scope” (endoscopy and colonoscopy) of the suspected areas affected in the gastrointestinal tract. This involves being sedated, having a tiny camera inserted into the gastrointestinal tract, and biopsies taken. The doctor can diagnose Crohn’s based on what he or she observes from these tests. If the inflammatory sites are located in patches or varying locations along the gastrointestinal tract anywhere from esophagus to anus, it is indicative of Crohn’s.

Treatment– During flare-ups, doctors will evaluate and may prescribe steroids, antibiotics, pain killers, and a modified diet that is low in fiber and other foods that may trigger inflammation such as lactose. In severe flare-ups, patients may be hospitalized and required to be on bowel rest, which means consuming nothing by mouth. When not having a flare-up, patients with Crohn’s are encouraged to eat a healthy diet with good sources of fiber. “Trigger foods” should also be avoided in general, which may include high fat or fried foods, excessive amounts of dairy, caffeine, and others.

The other form of IBD is Ulcerative Colitis.

Symptoms– Pain and cramping focused in the lower intestines. Diarrhea, sometimes with blood. Weight loss and fever can occur as a result of severe inflammation and diarrhea.

Causes– Inflammation that can be caused by a variety of factors and becomes chronic. Inflammation is in the colon and may progress continuously up the lower intestine.

How it is diagnosed– A gastrointestinal doctor will perform a colonoscopy with biopsies.

Treatment– Similar to treatment of Crohn’s.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a bit more of an ambiguous condition than IBD, and can be difficult to identify and treat.

Symptoms– Abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, general maldigestion and discomfort which may or may not be associated with eating any particular foods.

Causes– Definite causes of IBS are still unknown, but are currently being researched.

How it is diagnosed– IBS is diagnosed by closely tracking symptoms and ruling out all other diagnoses.

Treatment– Individualized modifications in diet and lifestyle which differ from person to person and may change over time. Some IBS sufferers trial “elimination diets” where common problematic foods are eliminated (such as wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, soy, etc.) to see if symptoms improve. Another recent diet therapy for IBS is the FODMAP diet, which eliminates high fructose corn syrup, some legumes, wheat, and various fruits and vegetables, among other things.

If your child suffers from IBS or IBD and you would like more guidance on diet therapies, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at NSPT. 877-486-4140.

Picky Eater vs. Problem Feeder

Eating. What’s not to love? Whether it’s a gooey, cheesy slice of pizza or a warm cookie fresh out of the oven (yum!), let’s face it -humans love to eat.  Little humans, ehh not so much. Little ones can be incredibly stubborn when it comes to eating, especially when they’re toddlers. What three year old didn’t go through a phase of just eating her go-to; whether it was mac-and-cheese, hot dogs, or PB&J. Many parents have said the words “picky eater” in reference to their child’s eating habits, but it’s important to know the differences between your run-of-the-mill picky eater versus your problem feeder.

Problem feeding is not a normal part of child development. Feeding problems are estimated to occur in up to 25% of normally developing children and in up to 35% of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. A common definition for feeding problems is “the refusal or inability to eat certain foods.” Feeding problems can lead to serious medical issues such as malnutrition, dehydration, and impaired intellectual, emotional and academic development. Because of these potential impacts on the child’s development, early recognition and management are critical.

The table below can help you determine if your child’s eating skills are following a normal trajectory or further evaluation is needed:

Picky Eater

Problem Feeder

Eats a decreased variety of foods, usually around 30 foods Eats a restricted variety of food, usually 20 or fewer foods
Foods lost due to “burn out” (i.e. one too many hot dogs = refusal) are typically incorporated back into the child’s diet after about 2 weeks Will eat food over and over again like a picky eater but once they burn out, they will not incorporate that food back into their diet
Can tolerate new foods on their plate, will touch or taste a new food even if they aren’t really excited about it Crying/screaming/melt-down mode if a new food is on their plate and will not tolerate touching or tasting
Eats at least one food from most food group textures (e.g. crunchy, soft, puree, etc.) Refuses entire categories of food textures
Will eat a food after being exposed to it at least 10 times Will not try a new food after 10 or more exposures
Sometimes reported as a “picky eater” at pediatric wellness visits Persistently reported as a “picky eater” at pediatric wellness visits

What to do if you suspect your child is a picky eater:

  • Always eat with your child. Eating is a social experience! If your child is expected to eat alone he may feel left out or neglected. (“Why do I have to eat if no one else is?”)
  • Stick to a routine. Give your child three meals and two snacks at the same time each day (or about the same time each day, let’s be realistic here).  Offer juice or milk with his meals, not in between, to avoid filling up his tummy and decreasing his appetite. Offer water in between meals to quench his thirst.
  • At meal times, always offer him one to two preferred foods (i.e. hot dog, chicken nugget) and one new food. When he sees his preferred food, he will feel more comfortable with his plate. Try to make the new food something you’re eating as well.
  • Always talk positively about food! Even if you don’t like something, do your very best not to talk negatively about it. For example, “Mmm, these sweet potatoes are so yummy!” NOT “Ugh, these potatoes are mushy and gross!”
  • Make it fun! Get some different dips out for his chicken nuggets – ranch, BBQ sauce, ketchup, mustard! Cut sandwiches out with a cookie cutter. Use food coloring. Serve breakfast, for dinner!
  • Have your child help! Let him pick things out at the grocery store. Have him wash the vegetables or fruit. Let him mix up the batter.

What to do if you suspect your child is a problem feeder:

Works Cited:

  1. Sisson LA, Van Hasselt VB. Feeding disorders. In: Luiselli JK, editor. Behavioral Medicine and Developmental Disabilities. New York: Springer-Verlag; 1989. pp. 45–73.
  2. Palmer S, Horn S. Feeding problems in children. In: Palmer S, Ekvall S, editors. Pediatric Nutrition in Developmental Disorders. Vol. 13. Springfield: Charles C Thomas; 1978. p. 107–129.
  3. Feeding problems in infancy and early childhood: Identification and management
  4. Debby Arts-Rodas, Diane Benoit
  5. Paediatr Child Health. 1998 Jan-Feb; 3(1): 21–27.
  6. Toomey, Kay. Copyright 2000/2010. Picky Eaters versus Problem Feeders.

Recipe of the Month: Nutrition Powerhouse Smoothies for Parents and Kids

Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrition into something that tastes like a treat. They can be part of a meal or a post-workout snack. These recipes include four of the five components of The Healthy Plate Model:  protein (yogurt), calcium (yogurt), fruits, and vegetables. All of these smoothies promote healthy digestion since they contain fiber (fruits and spinach) and probiotics (yogurt). Kids love drinking something that is colorful and comes with a straw. Plus these are so tasty, they won’t believe how healthy they are! Smoothies are also a healthy option to eat while on the go. Hope you enjoy these!

Berry Blast

1 cup frozen mixed berries
½ banana
¾ cup plain, organic, whole milk yogurt
1 cup loose baby spinach leaves

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, allow berries to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes for easier blending.

Recipe makes 1 serving. Provides approx 245 calories, 8 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 277 mg calcium.

Green Monster

1 cup frozen mangoes
½ banana
¾ cup plain, organic, whole milk yogurt
1 cup loose baby spinach leaves

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, allow mangoes to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes for easier blending. This smoothie will be green, and giving it a fun name like “Green Monster Smoothie” makes kids more likely to want to try it (it worked with my kid!).

Recipe makes 1 serving. Provides approx 285 calories, 8 grams protein, 4.7 grams fiber, 277 mg calcium.

Immune Booster Digestive Aid

1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 clementine orange, broken into individual pieces
¾ cup plain, organic, whole milk yogurt
1 cup loose baby spinach leaves

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, allow pineapple chunks to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes for easier blending. Pineapples and oranges both provide vitamin C. Pineapple also contains a natural enzyme called bromelain that aids in digestion.

Recipe makes 1 serving. Provides approx 242 calories, 9 grams protein, 4.7 grams fiber, 274 mg calcium, 116 mg vitamin C.

Click here for healthy twists on your child’s favorite foods.

Are Eggs Good for You?

Eggs seem to conjure quite a nutrition debate-the white, the yolk, the cholesterol, the omega-3s, the protein, cage-free, brown, white…  This simple, whole food has been put on the “bad” list as much as it’s on others’ “good” list. Whole eggs have been dissected and rearranged into liquid and powdered egg products. Brown eggs have been bleached white. And some eggs have been fortified. Which are healthiest?

As with many nutrition-related questions, I advocate for food in its whole, most natural form. When it comes to eggs, here are my nutrition bites:

Whole eggs are part of a healthy diet, in moderation.

Eggs are comprised of two things: protein and fat. Eggs are a great source of protein, containing approximately 7 grams per egg. All of the protein is in the egg white. All of the fat is in the egg yolk. If we learned anything from the fat-free craze of the 90s, it’s that not all fat is bad for you. In fact, some fat is essential for health (i.e. omega-3 fatty acids), and eliminating all fat does not result in sustainable health changes.

Regarding egg yolks…

The yolk of the egg contains many vital nutrients that would be used to nourish a new life (a baby chick, that is). In this way, it is one of nature’s perfect foods. Yes, there is cholesterol in the egg yolk, so eating more than two eggs every single day may inch up your blood cholesterol level (although exercise and fiber will inch it down, too).

Eggs are actually low in calories and very filling.

One large egg has only about 70 calories, including the yolk that gets such a bad rap. The reason why eggs are filling is because both protein and fat take longer to digest, and help moderate sugar absorption and blood sugar levels. In other words, having an egg with a typical carbohydrate breakfast food will hold you over longer than if you were to eat just cereal, toast, or pancakes alone.

How the egg is produced and where it comes from matters.

When it comes to animal products, quality matters. A hen’s diet will dictate the nutrition quality of the eggs she produces. The better and healthier her diet and lifestyle are, the better and healthier her eggs will be. Chickens’ natural diet and environment includes roaming around pecking grass, seeds and bugs. Chickens who live and eat this way are often termed “free range” or “cage free”. Modern agriculture practices have tweaked chickens’ natural diet and environment to maximize production and revenue. These chickens live in very close quarters in cages and eat a diet of grain and corn. As you might expect, the yolks of free range-produced eggs have healthier fatty acid content, and these yolks naturally contain omega 3 fatty acids. Furthermore, organic eggs come from chickens that have not been given hormones, antibiotics, and who have been fed an organic diet. In my professional opinion, free-range, organic eggs are the best quality.

Brown vs white

Brown eggs come from brown hens and white eggs come from white hens. Given that all other production factors are equal (see above), brown and white eggs are no different in taste or quality.

I hope this was helpful in deciphering all the ideas out there about eggs. What are your opinions of eggs? What diet myths do you want to investigate further?