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Coconut Oil: Facts and Uses

Coconut oil has become popular, especially for its uses in cooking. Coconut oil has some unique properties that coconut oil facts and usesdifferentiate it from other types of oil. Here are some interesting facts about coconut oil and ways to use this food.

Coconut Oil Facts and Uses:

  • It is one of the only plant sources of fat that is solid at room temperature.
  • Coconut oil is very high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are absorbed from the stomach straight into the bloodstream. Other long chain fats require a more involved digestive process and are absorbed and transported via the lymphatic system. This is helpful for people with problems digesting fat. It can also be a good source of calories in some people with inflammatory digestive issues.
  • Medium chain triglycerides are “oxidized,” or metabolized, rapidly in the liver which means they have a low tendency to be stored as adipose tissue (fat) on the body.
  • It can be used in place of butter or margarine in many recipes, especially when baking sweets, since it has a slight coconut flavor.
  • Coconut oil can be used to grease baking pans instead of other hydrogenated products.
  • It can be used in place of other cooking oils when stir frying or pan frying various foods.
  • Because it is plant-derived, coconut oil is vegan and can replace animal-based fats in recipes. Read more

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.

Problem Feeders: When Picky Eating is a More Serious Problem

Following my last post about picky eaters, parents should know that there is a more severe level of picky eating, which has been termed problem feeding. In the medical community, it is often diagnosed as “feeding difficulties”.

Problem feeders have the following behaviors:

  • Young infants who refuse bottle or breast, or drink a small Mother feeds a babyamount then refuse. This results in a decreased overall volume consumed, and eventually weight loss and dehydration.
  • Toddlers and children who eat less than 20 foods.
  • Kids who “lose” foods that they once ate, and do not resume eating them even after a few weeks break. Eventually they may be down to 5-10 foods.
  • Kids who refuse certain textures altogether.
  • Kids who scream, cry, and panic over touching, smelling, or tasting a new food.
  • Kids who are unwilling to try almost any new food even after 10+ exposures.

Why do some kids become problem feeders?

There is an underlying reason why they have a strong negative association with eating, to the point where they will starve themselves before consuming foods outside of their repertoire. There is often a medical diagnosis that contributes to the development of a problem feeder, such as:

In these cases, the child forms “oral aversion” associated with the pain and discomfort they feel/felt as a result of eating or swallowing. This association is made very strongly in the young developing brain, and in the case of problem feeders, overrides hunger. Oral aversion becomes a protective mechanism, which is why they panic over eating new foods. Problem feeders can be underweight or overweight as a result of their rigid food choices, depending on what type and how much food they eat.

The big difference between picky eaters and problem feeders:

Eventually, a picky eater will come around to eat some type of food they are presented with outside of their usual repertoire, if they are hungry enough. A problem feeder will not respond to hunger cues to meet their needs with the food options presented to them if it is outside of their “accepted” foods. Problem feeders will go on a food “strike”, even if it results in dehydration and malnutrition.

Problem feeders need assessment and feeding therapy, which can be effectively achieved with a multidisciplinary team, such as at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. NSPT has occupational therapists, speech therapists, and dietitians to work through sensory, oral-motor, and nutritional deficits as well as mealtime behaviors. We also have social workers for additional support and behavior guidance.  If you are concerned that your child is a problem feeder or a picky eater, contact our facility for an evaluation.

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Help! My child is a picky eater!

The picky eater phenomenon is not uncommon, and can be quite challenging and stressful for parents.

Picky eaters have the following characteristics/behaviors

  • Eat a limited number of foods (20-30).
  • Avoid classes of foods such as red meat or green vegetables.
  • May reject foods they previously accepted, but will re-accept these foods after a two-week break.
  • Will try some new foods after being exposed to the food several different times.
  • Will touch and play with new foods, although they may not eat it at first.
  • Picky eaters usually eat enough to support growth within normal ranges.  (1, 2)

How To Encourage Your Picky Eater, To Eat More:

To alleviate some stress, first examine if your expectations for your child’s eating is realistic. Kids are naturally wary of new things (think “stranger danger”), including new foods. Picky EaterTheir first reaction to something they have never seen, smelled, touched or tasted before is to not trust it. Do not be discouraged if your child doesn’t love hummus, spinach, and salmon right away. It takes an average of 8-15 exposures to a new food before the child will actually eat it (2). Also, toddlers and teens particularly want to exert their sense of control and opinion, including what they will (and won’t) eat. In other words, sometimes a strong-willed child will refuse to eat what you want them to just because it gives them control over that aspect of their environment.

Typically developing young children will eat according to their innate hunger and satiety cues. That is, they will eat what they need when they are hungry and not when they are satisfied. Imagine how you might feel if you were full from dinner, and someone comes at you with a spoonful of food telling you to take another bite. Imagine you are really full, and the thought of taking another bite makes you sick. Now this person starts yelling at you and threatening to punish you. How would you feel? It can be difficult to let go and trust your child’s appetite. Your job as the parent is to provide healthy meal choices, regular mealtimes and snacks, and a positive eating environment without toys or TV.

Finally, using bribes like “one more bite and you can have dessert”, and punishments such as “you can’t play outside if you don’t finish your plate” are not effective in the long run. Doing these things negates children’s natural ability to eat what they need. It also creates a negative, untrustworthy dynamic between the child and the caregiver at the table. Picky eaters will continue to thrive and meet their nutrition needs when provided an optimal mealtime environment. A dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy can counsel families to help picky eaters.

However, there is a difference between a picky eater and a problem feeder. Problem feeders have more rigid food preferences, a dwindling number of accepted foods, and will refuse food (and drinks) that are not part of their repertoire to the point of malnutrition. These children require more intensive evaluation and therapy, and benefit from multidisciplinary treatment available at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. I will further discuss problem feeders in my blog next week.




  • Carruth BR, Skinner J, Houck K, Moran III J, Coletta F, Ott D. The phenomenon of “picky eater”: a behavioral marker in eating patterns of toddlers. J Am Coll Nutr 17:180-186, 1998.
  • Carruth BR, Ziegler PJ, Gordon A, Barr SI. Prevalence of picky eaters among infants and toddlers and their caregivers’ decisions about offering a new food. J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Jan;104(1Suppl1):s57-64.

Farmer’s Markets in the North Shore

It’s farmer’s market season! If you have ever tried farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, you know that you can taste the difference between them and those that are frozen, canned, or even sitting on produce stands in the grocery store. Going to a farmer’s market is a fun family activity that provides kids with a different way to experience fresh food. Often, farmer’s markets will have live music, arts and crafts, and of course, lots of tasty food to sample.

Mother at a Farmers Market location

I am often surprised at how affordable produce is at farmer’s markets. Taking just $20 out of the weekly food budget will buy a sack full of fruits and vegetables. My toddler loves coming to the farmer’s market with me. She can’t believe all the colorful fruits and vegetables within her reach.  I always let her choose one piece of fruit to munch on as we stroll along. I think there is something fascinating to kids about seeing all of that food outside on display under the sun, with so many people and kids and pets everywhere at the same time. It is really a great opportunity to get kids interested in fresh fruits and vegetables. The other perks are supporting local farmers, enjoying the community, and spending time having a healthy family outing.

Kids can learn so much about food and where it really comes from at a farmer’s market. I will never forget speaking to elementary schools with a basket of vegetables and quizzing kids on each one. Believe it or not, the kids often could not correctly identify a tomato, cauliflower, eggplant, and most surprisingly, a whole carrot with its leafy top. I realized that in today’s world, kids identify carrots as the little 2-inch long oblong orange things in a baggie. And they see tomatoes as ketchup or pizza sauce. And some never see cauliflower or eggplant at all.

Kids will grow up eating the kinds of foods they are exposed to and offered regularly. It is your choice as a parent what foods your kids are exposed to while they are in your care. Make trips to the farmer’s market a part of your summer routine. Maybe by fall, your kid will be asking for you to pack those fruits and veggies in their school lunch!

Some Farmer’s Markets in the North Shore Area:

Deerfield Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7AM-12:30PM at Deerfield Road and Robert York Avenue.
Evanston Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7:30AM-1PM at University Place and Oak Avenue.
Glenview Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 8AM-12PM at Wagner Farm, 1510 Wagner Road (Opens June 23rd).
Northfield Farmer’s Market. Saturdays 7:30AM-12PM on Happ Road across from New Trier’s freshman campus.
Ravinia Farmer’s Market. Wednesdays 7AM-1PM on Dean Avenue between Roger Williams and St. James Avenue.
Wilmette French Market. Saturdays 8AM-1PM at the Village Center.

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Healthy Supermarket Shopping for Your Family

The first step to having a healthy diet for your family happens when you make a trip to the grocery store. Choosing what foods you put in the cart actually determines your child’s health, in a lot of ways.

Here are some tips to make grocery trips a healthy success

Make a habit and priority of going to the grocery store at least once a week.
This sounds basic, but what happens when you are low on food in the house? Often this means picking up fast food, random snacks, or making a meal out of chips. Also, cooking food at home is key to a healthy lifestyle. Research supports this, and also shows that families who eat together eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s also wonderful family bonding time and a place for kids to learn healthy eating habits from their parents

Here is a basic list of foods to get weekly for the family

  • Meats, beans, tofu, or seafood for main dishes
  • A variety of fresh fruit for side dishes and snacks, frozen fruit for smoothies, and/or dried fruit for snack.Mother shops for food with child at the supermarket
  • Vegetables to eat raw, like salad greens, carrots, tomatoes, celery. Vegetables to eat cooked like potatoes, onions, garlic, brussell sprouts, zucchini, squash, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower.
  • Eggs (if your family eats them), for breakfast or to cook with.
  • Milk or milk alternative.
  • Cereal and/or oatmeal.
  • A jar of nut butter.
  • “Flavoring and cooking” items like sauces, dressings, olives, seasonings, cheese, olive oil, etc.
  • Whole grain bread.
  • Whole grain side dishes like pasta, quinoa, or brown rice.
  • The rest of your list can be the specialty items needed for new recipes or specific meals.
Make a list based on healthy recipes.

Keep a pen and paper handy for an ongoing list for the next grocery trip. That way if you come across a good recipe in a magazine or online, you can write down the ingredients needed. Some people find it helpful to create a “menu” plan for the week for dinners, and use new recipes throughout the week. A list keeps you focused and organized while you are in the store.

Be sure to gather plenty from the perimeter of the grocery store.

Picture a typical grocery store in your mind and how it is set up. The middle aisles draw you in, but what do you find there? What do you find when you walk the perimeter of the store? It is not random that most grocery stores are set up this way. The middle aisles draw you in, but mostly are filled with processed foods. The outer part of the store is where many whole foods are:  fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. Don’t skip the produce section.

Organic or on sale? Reduced fat or regular? Local or best buy? 

There are many side by side options of every food product out there, making a grocery trip feel like a “Where’s Waldo” experience. My choice is to buy organic and local as much as possible. Reduced fat or regular depends on what you and your family needs as part of a healthy diet. I choose regular, as many reduced fat foods are loaded with sugar or other chemicals in place of the reduced fat.

Let the kids pick!

If you’re brave enough to bring the kids along to the grocery store (or maybe you don’t have a choice), let them pick from healthy options you have preselected. For example, give them a few breakfast cereal options and let them pick which one they want. Or bring them to the produce section and let them pick one fruit and vegetable each. This gets kids engaged in healthy eating, and if they picked it, they are more likely to be excited about eating it.

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5 Things to Avoid on Food Labels

As a dietitian and a mom, I believe in whole foods nutrition. This means eating foods that are found growing in nature, and have undergone as little processing as possible. This doesn’t mean I never eat processed foods. It is pretty difficult not to in today’s world.

There are a few things I recommend avoiding:

  1. High Fructose Corn Syrup– This controversial sweetener makes the list for a few reasons. It is found in highly processed foods and beverages that are often high in calories and sugar. Also, fructose requires a “carrier” in the gut for digestion. These carriers get overwhelmed with large amounts of fructose coming through the gut at once (i.e. beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup), which results in gut bacteria breaking down fructose with side effects such as gas, bloating, pain, nausea, diarrhea and/or constipation. Furthermore, it is a highly processed food which is created using chemical processes.Mother examining a food label
  2. Partially hydrogenated– These words mean the same thing as “trans fat”. Trans fat is bad for us because of its chemical structure and the way it gets stored in our body (lining blood vessels). It is highly susceptible to oxidation, which is a chemical reaction that breaks the hydrogen bonds of the trans fatty acid chain, releasing free radicals. Free radicals can then break more hydrogen bonds, including in lining of cells, which causes cell damage and releases more free radicals, and the cycle continues.
  3. Artificial sweeteners– These make this list because they are chemicals, and often found in highly processed foods and beverages. Sucralose (aka Splenda) has a similar chemical structure as a sugar molecule, except chlorine atoms replace some carbon groups. Chlorine is not something we typically think of as a good thing to put in our body, in any quantity. In addition, they trick us into thinking we are going to eat something sweet, which arguably makes us crave the real thing.
  4. Artificial Food Coloring– European countries have imposed a voluntary ban onmany artificial food colorings because research indicates they may have harmful effects. There is controversy over whether artificial food coloring exacerbates aggression and/or ADHD symptoms. But the bottom line is, if a food is artificially colored, it is probably not a healthy food.
  5. Any label with a laundry list of unrecognizable, un-pronounce-able ingredients– This should raise a red flag. So many packaged, processed foods have a long list of ingredients that our grandparents and ancestors would never have considered “food”. And the obesity epidemic and cancer rates we have now didn’t exist in their day either.

Can you identify this common food by its ingredient list?

WATER, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (COCONUT AND PALM KERNEL OILS), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, SKIM MILK, LIGHT CREAM, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SODIUM CASEINATE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, XANTHAN AND GUAR GUMS, POLYSORBATE 60, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, BETA CAROTENE (COLOR).

It is “whipped topping”. I will leave the brand name anonymous- but it’s the one we’ve all had on top of birthday cakes, pies, and ice cream.
Some of the healthiest foods in the world do not have food labels with ingredient lists to read at all. Do you have foods in your cupboards or fridge that don’t have food labels? If not, take a serious look at your diet and your overall health. A good rule of thumb is, the shorter the ingredient list, the better; and the more ingredients you recognize, the better. Better yet, get single “ingredient” foods without labels like fruits, vegetables, and farm fresh animal products. For more tips for better nutrition and better health, see a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

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6 Tips To Convincing Your Child To Try New Foods Through Meal Prep

Many children are set on eating the same few foods, such as chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs. Most parents with children who eat the same few foods over and over again want their children to increase the variety of foods in their diet. The big question is how to introduce new foods into your child’s diet without them refusing to eat. An important component of helping your child eat more foods is allowing them to participate in all aspects of the mealtime process.

6 tips to help increase food variety through meal preparation:

  1. Involve your child in the grocery shopping: Bring your child to the grocery store and allow him to explore some of the food options. Allow your child to pick out a few new foods with the intention of letting him help you prepare and try the foods for dinner. Sometimes children don’t know where their food comes from, but if you give them the opportunity to go with you and pick out something to eat, they may be more willing to try it.
  2. Involve your child in the food-making process: This includes having your child open containers, throw them away, pour the ingredients into a pot or bowl, and stir the contents. It is especially important that you have your child help make the food that she picked out from the LIttle girl eating nutritional foodgrocery store.  This will make the process more fun and help your child understand how her food comes packaged. This will also help your child learn how food feels and smells when it is uncooked too.
  3. Have your child help set the table: This is one more step of the eating process that should be explored. The purpose of this is to have your child go through each step in the mealtime routine so they know everything that goes into preparing a meal.
  4. Allow your child to play with his food at the dinner table: You may have been taught that playing with your food is a “no-no,” but allowing your child to play with his food will let him explore before trying it. Research shows that a child must develop an idea in their mind about how a food will taste and what it will do in his mouth before accepting it. Therefore, your child needs to know what the food smells, feels, and looks like before putting it in their mouth. This helps your child “warm-up” to the food and understand all of its properties before finally eating it. If you force your child to try something new by shoving it in their mouth, they may instantly reject it if it is different than they expect. Then, they will likely not accept that food into their diet. They may also be less trusting of you when you make a new food, for fear that it will be forced upon them.
  5. Eat family style at the table: By having everyone pass around and eat the same food, you will be providing an opportunity to model good eating habits for your child.
  6. Involve your child in the cleanup process: Have your child help take the dishes to the sink, put leftovers in containers, and throw away any scraps to conclude the mealtime process.

By engaging your child in each step of the mealtime routine, they will understand where food comes from and how it is prepared. This will eventually lead to your child’s acceptance of new foods and feeling of accomplishment from helping make dinner. Your child may not initially try all the new foods that are presented, but with repetition they may become more open to trying new foods.

It is important to note, however, that some children have more severe sensitivities or oral-motor issues that may be impacting their eating habits. If they are extremely limited in the number and variety of foods they will eat, a consultation with a feeding specialist (occupational therapist or speech therapist) may be indicated. Signs that your child may need further intervention include gagging at the sight of food or while eating or exclusion of an entire food group or certain textures.

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