Infant Feeding Series: Starting Solids

After the first several months of life, your baby is approaching that age when either of one of two scenarios occurs:

1. Baby is practically grabbing the spoon out of your hand when you’re eating and seems so eager to eat some of that!

2. Friends, family members, and even the pediatrician keep asking when you plan to start solids.

What is the right age, what is the right first food, and how exactly do you go from there? This blog covers a plan that is based on research, professional, and personal experience. The important thing is to follow your baby’s lead. It is up to your baby to learn to eat at his or her own pace, not up to you to make them eat.

What is the right age to start solids?

According to the current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the age to consider starting solids is 6 months old. This is later than previous recommendations and probably later than our parents started feeding us foods. There are several reasons why this age is recommended, which include developmental milestones and readiness, digestive system maturity, and long-term studies looking at outcomes of risk for developing issues like food allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, diabetes, etc. In addition to watching the calendar for that 6-month birthday, watch your baby closely for signs of readiness as well.

Here are some things to watch for to make sure your baby is ready to transition to solids (and is more likely to be successful doing so):

  • Baby can sit with minimal support, and has very stable head control. Read more

Make Your Holiday Recipes Healthy for Hanukkah and Christmas

Potato latkes are a popular food prepared during Hanukkah. This dish combines two typically unhealthy foods- a white starch (potatoes) and oil for frying. To put a healthy spin on your latkes this year, try this recipe, which includes the healthiest oil options and extra vitamins and minerals.

Potato Latkes

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 cups of boiled and grated potatoes (4-6 large potatoes). Choose organic potatoes and do not peel the skin.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, walnut oil, or canola oil, with additional 1-2 tablespoons added as needed when the pan dries out.
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs Read more

Holiday Cooking for Speech and Language Development

Ready or not, the holidays are right around the corner! This means family, fun, vacations, and a lot of free time. And let’s face it; you’ll most likely have a lot of cooking to do. So, why not have your kids help you, while you help them by making cooking into a fun speech and language activity!

Recipes are a great way to target a variety of speech and language goals in a fun, unstructured way. There is a lot of planning and processing needed to execute a perfect recipe and let’s face it, even the adults don’t always get it right – I know I’ve made a mistake or two! (Why is that cup of flour still sitting on the counter when my cookies are already in the oven?)

Here’s a list of speech and language activities you can tackle with some fun, kid-friendly Thanksgiving desserts from food.com:

  • Sequencing: Read through the recipe and have your child identify what step is first or last. You can incorporate concepts such as before, after, and next. For example, “What comes after the eggs?” You can also have your child repeat the directions in order – if it’s not too complicated! Feel free to use a visual with this task, draw a simple pictures (i.e. a mixing bowl, spoon, cookie sheet) to support each step. Read more

How to Talk to Your Kids about Weight and Healthy Eating

We all want our kids to be the healthiest they can be. In recent years, we are seeing serious health problems presenting in young kids and adolescents. An unhealthy diet and lifestyle affects kids’ quality of life, and this is often what hurts them most. Kids with weight issues may get teased at school or start to withdraw from activities that were once a big part of their life, such as sports. This can make the weight issues even worse for them.

If you find yourself in a position of having to talk to your child about his or her weight, consider some of the points below. These tips apply to both overweight and underweight issues.

Explain BMI and the importance of being in a healthy range.

BMI stands for body mass index. Your child’s pediatrician should be measuring your child at well checkups and plotting their BMI on a growth chart. You can explain BMI to kids by saying, “BMI is a measurement of how much weight is on your body for how tall you are.” Read more

Halloween Candy: Gluten Free, Peanut Free, and What to Do with All of It

Halloween is just a few days away. If you have a child with diet restrictions, or if you need to send candy to school, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out which candies are ok to have. To be safe, it is a good idea to send peanut free candies to school since chances are, there is a child who has a peanut allergy in the classroom. For kids with Celiac disease, or for those who require a gluten free diet, see the list below for candy they can have. The starred candies are those that are both gluten free and peanut free.

Peanut Free Candy:

  • Twizzlers
  • Smarties*
  • Tootsie Pops*
  • Dum Dum Pops
  • Junior Mints*
  • Dots*
  • Whoppers
  • Skittles
  • Mike and Ike Originals*
  • Starburst

Gluten Free Candy:

  • York Peppermint Patties
  • Heath Bars
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Tootsie Pops*
  • Dots*
  • Junior Mints*
  • Charleston Chew
  • Caramel Apple Pops
  • Charms Blow Pops
  • Mike and Ike Originals*(along with several other Mike and Ike flavors- see website below)
  • Neccos Read more

Pumpkin: A Nutrition Powerhouse

It’s that time of year! Pumpkin season is here and we are all heading to the patch to find the best ones. Although pumpkins are most popular for carving and decorating, they should also get attention for being very nutritious. Both the seeds and the flesh are packed with nutrition.

Read on to find out why pumpkins are so nutritious, and enjoy these recipes using pumpkin that your family will love:

Pumpkin Seeds:  In a nutshell (no pun intended), they are a great source of omega 3s. These are the super healthy fats that reduce inflammation and are highly concentrated in brain tissues. Omega 3s are essential fatty acids, which means our body does not make this type of fat, so we have to get it from our diet. Eat up those pumpkin seeds, and reduce your risk for chronic disease while boosting your brain!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe:  Save the pumpkin seeds from carving for a healthy snack. Rinse them in a colander to remove all of the flesh, then boil them in salted water for about 10 minutes. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees on a cookie sheet with olive oil for 5-15 minutes or until golden brown. Read more

Easy Ideas for Packing a Healthy Lunch for Your Child

I wrote a similar post to this last year around this time on school lunchbox meal ideas, but as a mom and dietitian, I know I am always looking for fresh ideas for my family’s meals. When putting together lunch for school, it is helpful to think of the Healthy Plate Model to make sure all bases are covered:  whole grains, protein, fruits, and veggies.

Here are some ideas in each food category to try to branch out beyond the sandwich-in-a-baggie lunch:

  • Whole grains:  Whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, brown rice cakes, whole grain tortillas, granola, multigrain chips
  • Protein:  Sunflower seed butter, nuts (if allowed at school), hummus, yogurt, tuna or chicken salad, cheese cubes or string cheese, nitrate and nitrite-free lunchmeat, edamame
  • Fruits:  Any fresh and seasonal fruits, dried fruits or fruit leathers, applesauce
  • Vegetables:  Sliced bell peppers in a variety of colors, carrot or celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, snap peas, broccoli or cauliflower pieces

Some parents might be thinking, if I pack XYZ, it’s just going to come home untouched every day, so what’s the point? Just like your kids are constantly growing and maturing, their palate and attitudes toward food are developing over time too. You never know when your child is going to give those cherry tomatoes a try, but he can’t try them unless you offer them consistently. Kids work up quite an appetite during the school day, and they are positively influenced by seeing their peers eat a variety of foods. So give your kids the chance to eat healthy, and you might be surprised!

Click here for more healthy twists on your children’s favorite foods!  For more information on our childhood nutrition programs, click here.

Help! My Infant is Refusing Solid Foods

When it comes to feeding infants solids, it is often not a straight and narrow path to success. Sometimes you and baby will hit some bumps along the way, which may leave you feeling confused, anxious, and not sure how to make things better.  Below are several strategies to navigate this stressful time.

Tips to help navigate feeding your infant solids:

Be sure your infant is ready. As you may have heard, it is not as important to watch the calendar as it is to watch your baby. Signs of readiness include the following:

  • Baby is able to sit independently or with very minimal support.
  • Baby does not stick his tongue out as a reflex to putting the spoon in his mouth.
  • Baby seems eager to eat food, opening his mouth when you bring the spoon to him. Read more

3 Clues Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder

As a parent, there are countless matters in your child’s life that bring joy, happiness, and excitement. There are eating disordersalso a myriad of matters in your child’s life that can raise concern and cause alarm. In our youth and appearance based culture, one of these alarming matters is eating disorders.  Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia, along with more general disordered eating, are commonly thought of as a problem that affects teen girls.  Teen girls are historically most affected by these disorders, but boys and younger/older children can also develop these issues.  Read on for 3 clues that may indicate your child is on a path toward an eating disorder.

3 Clues Your Child May Have an Eating Disorder:

  1. Your child is constantly looking in the mirror. Do you notice that your child seems obsessed with the mirror? Does your child appear to be scrutinizing her face and body? Children with body image concerns will often spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, which may take away from homework, family time and other necessary or enjoyed activities.
  2. Your child is overly focused on glamorous images from the media. If your child appears to be fixated on certain celebrity icons, and more specifically, the appearance of these icons, she may also be struggling with her own body image.  Some children pull out magazine photos of a current celebrity obsession and create a shrine of the image. While celebrity crazes are common among children and adults alike, if your child seems to idolize the physical appearance rather than the talents of celebrities, it may be a sign that your child is unhappy with her own image. Read more

Red Flags for Feeding & Swallowing Disorders in Children

Most of us taking eating and swallowing for granted.  These actions come naturally and allow us to eat our mealsfeeding and swallowing disorders peacefully.  However, for some children, feeding and swallowing disorders make these natural reflexes and muscle actions difficult.  Read on to understand more about feeding and swallowing disorders and for red flags that your child may have a problem in this area.

What are feeding & swallowing disorders?

Feeding Disorders include difficulties gathering food to suck, chew, or swallow. According to ASHA:“…a child who cannot pick up food and get it to her mouth or cannot completely close her lips to keep food from falling out of her mouth may have a feeding disorder.”

Swallowing Disorders, also known as Dysphagia, include difficulty in one of the following stages of swallowing: Read more