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6 Ways to Support your Child through a Dining-Out Experience

I worked in the restaurant industry for many years as a hostess as well as a waitress. I recently observed a family out at dinner on a Saturday night. After seeing some of the behaviors of their son and hearing some feedback from their waiter, it became obvious to me that this family had a child with special needs.  Shortly after ordering food, the family had to request that their food be boxed up to take home instead of eating at the restaurant. I found this to be very unfortunate, as there were many actions the restaurant could have taken to accommodate this family’s needs.

Mother and daughter restaurant

Eating out at a restaurant is like participating in a dance. Everyone needs to know the right steps to make the dance smooth and make sure no one’s toes are stepped on. What diners don’t understand is that they are very much a part of this dance. Typically, waiters are able to read their tables and determine their needs. As a server, I am able to determine the timing and tempo desired by diners and make sure their food is delivered appropriately. Knowing what accommodations you can ask for is important.

The following tips will better prepare you to make the requests you need. A restaurant staff should be able to accommodate these needs no matter what time of day:

Know the menu

Before going out to a restaurant, look at possible food items you would like to order. You do not need to pre-order your food as cravings change when you get to the restaurant, but becoming familiar with the available foods will help make an order quicker. This can also assist in talking to your children about the restaurant. They could choose what they want to eat and become excited about going! It will also make an unfamiliar environment feel more familiar.

Request a quiet table

Request a table in a quiet area that has some space for movement. Try to avoid tables in the middle of dining areas or ones that are far from the exit or bathroom.

Call ahead and ask about existing reservations

Parties of 15 or more tend to be very loud and take up a lot of the dining space. Avoid going to restaurants during the time of the party. Once my restaurant had a reservation for 70 people! It took up the entire dining space. Also, the time it takes for the kitchen to prepare the food was extended for other diners in the restaurant at that time.  From the time the waiters placed the food order, it took the kitchen one full hour to make it!

Order everything all at once

Order your drinks and food all at the same time. Waiters control the pace of your meal and how soon your food arrives.  Let your waiter know what your dining experience looks like.  Do you want your food all at once?  Do you want your child’s food first?  If you need your meal fast, just inform them and they can make it happen. Restaurants are able to deliver food within 10-12 minutes of ordering, maybe sooner.

Tell your waiter about your child’s needs

Be an advocate for your child. Create a “menu” of your child’s needs before going to the restaurant. For example, you can say, “my name is _____. I like to have my food delivered quickly. When this does not happen, I can become upset. When I am upset, it may look like this­­­_______.”  By doing this, your waiter will understand your child’s needs and can work to have them met. This also helps further prepare your child for going out to eat.

Be prepared

Bring tabletop activities for your child to enjoy while waiting for the food to be delivered. Perhaps ask for a table with extra space so that there is plenty of room on the table for cups, plates, and activities.  Also, talk with your child ahead of time about the restaurant experience. Create a visual schedule to follow and label the dining expectations.  First, we sit down, then the server takes our order,  then we receive our drinks, then we color/read/watch a show for a certain amount of time ( you can ask your server how long the food will take),  then we receive our food,  and finally we eat.

Knowing what accommodations you can ask for is important.  By knowing these tips, you will be better prepared to make the requests you need to make your “dance” smooth.

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Food Choices for a 1 Year Old | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric registered dietitian provides food suggestions for a 1 year old.

In this video you will learn:

  • What model is used to determine food choices for a 1 year old
  • What food is best for a 1 year old to consume at different periods of the day
  • How many meals and snacks should a 1 year old consume in a day

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. I’m standing here today with a Pediatric Registered Dietician,
Stephanie Wells. Stephanie, can you tell our viewers what are some food
choices that are preferable for a one-year-old?

Stephanie: Sure. When you’re making meals for a one-year-old, you want the
plate to reflect what’s called the Healthy Plate Model. So the plate should
be divided in half, where half of the plate has grains and protein, and the
other half has fruits and vegetables.

In terms of the grains, about half of the grains should be whole grains.
And in terms of the protein, it could be from a variety of sources, such as
meat, beans, eggs, tofu, and even cottage cheese and yogurt are good
sources of protein. The fruits and vegetables could be a variety of fresh,
frozen, dried, or cooked. One-year-olds should eat three meals and about
two snacks per day. They should drink whole milk with their meals and water
in between, and limit juice to zero to four ounces per day.

In terms of an example of a one day meal plan for a one-year-old, you could
offer at breakfast scrambled eggs, oatmeal or cereal and blueberries. A mid-
morning snack could be something just simple like crackers or pretzels. At
lunch you could offer grilled cheese, green beans, and cut up peaches. For
the mid-afternoon snack, you could do something like a rice cake or if they
like edamame, they could try that. Just watch out because it could be a
choking hazard. At dinner time you could offer something like spaghetti and
meatballs, and cooked carrots and apple sauce.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for even providing that menu as
well. Thank you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

What is Failure to Thrive and What Can Be Done About It? | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a Registered Dietitian discusses Failure to Thrive and how you can help.

In this video you will learn:

  • The causes of Failure to Thrive
  • Steps and measures to take when your child shows signs of Failure to Thrive
  • How a dietitian and a doctor can help when your child has Failure to Thrive

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. I’m standing here today with a registered dietician, Stephanie
Wells. Stephanie, can you tell us what failure to thrive is and what can be
done about it?

Stephanie: Sure. Failure to thrive is diagnosed in children that are less
than two years old when their weight for length is less than the fifth
percentile on the growth chart and for kids that are over two years old, if
their BMI is less than the fifth percentile on the growth chart.

So in terms of what can be done, first a doctor and a registered dietician
can assess if there are any medical factors that are causing the failure to
thrive and then address those medical issues if that’s necessary. Second,
then a dietician can meet with the parent and the child and put together a
high calorie, high protein diet that includes three meals and two to three
snacks per day. Third, often these children need to be on some sort of a
high calorie, high protein formula or oral supplement beverage which the
dietician can recommend and get a prescription for, if needed. And then
from there, the dietician and doctor will closely monitor the child’s
weight and growth to make sure that they’re moving in the right direction
and meeting the goals that the dietician has made for the child.

Robyn: All right. Thank you, Stephanie, for that explanation and thank you
to our viewers. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

School Lunchbox Meal Ideas

It’s here- the new school year! Bringing lunch from home is great if it is feasible for your family. It can be tricky coming up with school lunchbox ideas that include variety, foods your kids will eat, and foods that will stay good until lunchtime. I recommend getting a lunchbox that can Child with lunchboxaccommodate a refrigerated pack to keep certain foods cold.

Here are 5 ideas, one for each day of the week, that are dietitian approved:

Sandwich Lunchbox

You can’t go wrong with the tried and true staple.

  • Whole grain or 100% whole w­­­heat bread, nitrate- and nitrite-free lunchmeat, real cheese (steer clear of the heavily processed ones that come individually plastic-wrapped), lettuce, tomato, mustard.
  • 2 mini oranges
  • Whole wheat pretzels

Vegetarian Tortilla Wrap Lunchbox

Although it’s vegetarian, it’s not lacking in protein.

  • Use your kid’s favorite tortilla wrap (spinach, whole wheat, etc), and fill it with hummus or pureed black beans or lentils, sliced red and green peppers, and shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
  • To make a bean puree:  Saute ½ of a white or yellow onion in olive oil in a small skillet. Add pre-cooked lentils, beans, or canned beans and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Cool after cooking, and stir in chopped cilantro and a little of your favorite salsa. Puree or fork mash the mixture.
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grapes

Lettuce Wrap Lunchbox

Kids like assembling their own foods, and although this might seem outside of the norm in terms of “kid food”, they are delicious.

  • 3 pieces of whole romaine lettuce leaves (approx 6” long ), 3 strips of baked, grilled, or otherwise cooked chicken or steak, thinly sliced carrots, and a mini Tupperware container of Asian salad dressing (be aware that many Asian dressings contain peanuts. If your school is 100% peanut-free, try French or Catalina dressing instead).
  • Clif Z bar or Larabar
  • Dried cranberries
  • Milk

Bagel, Nut Butter, and Jelly Lunchbox

 Again, you can’t go wrong with this kid favorite.

  • Use a whole grain bagel or a whole wheat English muffin. If your school is peanut-free, instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter, almond butter or cashew butter. Add your kid’s favorite jelly (I recommend organic preserves that have less sugar- check at the farmers market too), and even a little drizzle of honey.
  • Carrot sticks
  • Whole grain Goldfish crackers
  • Milk

Cracker and Cheese Assortment

With the right sides, this does make a good meal.

  • Whole grain woven wheat crackers (i.e. Triscuits)
  • Brown rice cake or rice crackers
  • Whole grain round crackers
  • Two types of cheeses, sliced into 2”x2” squares, such as cheddar, swiss, muenster, or whatever you have in the house.
  • Shelled edamame
  • Banana

Each of the above meals includes (at minimum) a source of protein, a whole grain, a fruit, a vegetable, and a dairy serving. Give your child’s lunch experience a special touch by including a little note from you or dad, or put a sticker on one of the baggies or containers. And remember, fueling your child’s body and brain with healthy foods before and during school promotes better learning and school performance.

*Tip to encourage your child to eat the above lunchbox meals:  Share these meal ideas with your child’s friends’ parents. Kids tend to eat better in social settings where they see other kids eating and trying different things.

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Tips to Get a Child to Try a New Food | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a registered dietitian provides strategies to help your child to try new foods.

In this video you will learn:

  • When is it recommended to offer a child a new food
  • How many exposures to a new food before we expect a child to eat it
  • How to make a child feel comfortable with trying new foods

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Stephanie Wells, a Pediatric
Registered Dietician. Stephanie, can you give us three tips on how to get a
child to try a new food?

Stephanie: Sure. The first tip would be that you want to offer the new
foods in a low pressure situation. Offer them foods at the table or on
their high chair, and consistently offer them a new food, maybe once per
week. Don’t pressure them to try the new food, but just offer it to them
and encourage them to try it, and let them sort of come around to it. Just
remember that research shows that it takes a child 8 to 15 exposures to a
new food before they might actually eat it.

The second tip would be to have them help pick out a new food that they
might want to try. And they can do that at the grocery store or the farmers
market. And also get them involved in actually preparing the food.

The third tip would be to be a good role model for your children, in terms
of eating the types of foods that you would like them to eat. It can also
be really effective if they eat in a setting with their peers. So if they
have cousins or a play group where they can eat together, and if they see
other kids eating those types of foods, then they will be more likely to
want to eat it themselves.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for the tips. And thank you to
our viewers for watching. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.