Kids Who Watch Healthy Cooking Shows Are Twice As Likely to Eat Healthy: Study

Kids Who Watch Healthy Cooking Shows Are Twice As Likely to Eat Healthy: Study

We all know that spending too much time in front of the TV, a tablet or other electronic device can affect a child’s health—and their risk for childhood obesity. Yet new research shows that kids who watch healthy kids’ cooking shows are actually more likely to be healthy eaters.


Now that we can all breathe a sigh of relief and not feel so guilty about all forms of screen time, let’s take a deeper dive into the research.

The new study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that kids who watched a healthy cooking show which featured healthy foods and was geared for them, were 2.7 times more likely to choose healthy food than those who watched a different episode of the same show that featured unhealthy food.

For the study, which was conducted in the Netherlands, researchers asked 125 kids, between 10-and-12-years-old (with their parents’ permission) to watch 10 minutes of a public TV cooking show.

The kids were then offered a snack as a reward for participating—something the AAP—and most experts—say to avoid, but for the sake of research, I suppose it’s not relevant 🤫.

At the end of the study, researchers found that kids who watched the healthy cooking show were significantly more likely to choose one of the healthy snack options—an apple or cucumber slices—instead of the unhealthy options—chips or salted mini-pretzels.

According to the researchers, the findings seem to indicate that watching kids’ cooking shows and learning about healthy foods and their portion sizes in a visually appealing way affects the types of foods kids will crave and encourages them to act on those cravings.

Interestingly, the study was conducted at the children’s schools, which the authors say could have a positive influence on their “knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors,” and be a way to teach healthy eating habits.

The authors also note that exposure to healthier food options is influenced by children’s personality traits. So if your kid doesn’t like to try new foods to begin with, he’s probably not going to go for the healthy food choices after watching the show. 

Something that I found particularly interesting however, is that as kids get older, they feel responsible for their eating habits and can rely on information they learned when they were younger.

Therefore, even if your kids watch healthy cooking shows when they’re young but it doesn’t affect their food choices, when they’re older, it might.


While simply watching kids’ cooking shows can encourage your kids to eat healthier, you can take it one step further and cook together with your kids.

I’ve noticed this with my own kids who love to watch Pretty Healthy, and other types of cooking shows and then are excited to cook with me.

Research shows eating home-cooked meals is healthier than eating out.

What’s more, kids who eat with their families 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods and have disordered eating, and are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.

Cooking together also empowers kids to make healthy choices, teaches them a life skill, builds their confidence, creates memories and builds family bonds.

If you’re not the greatest home chef however, and you’re looking for help, I recommend the Kids Cook Real Food video course for families. The course teaches kids over 30 basic kitchen skills, builds their self-esteem and confidence and gives you easy recipes to make at home. Register for the course here.


8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

8 Tips for Getting Toddlers To Eat

When your baby started solids, chances are, he was a happy, adventurous eater—willing to taste anything you put on his plate. Getting toddlers to eat however is an entirely different ball game.

One week your toddler seems to be eating enough, while the next, he takes two bites and declares “I’m not hungry.”

Or maybe your toddler never seems to be hungry or refuses to eat altogether—meal after meal or even for several days at a time.

Take heed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most toddlers are picky eaters and it’s completely normal.

Still, if you’re worried that your toddler isn’t eating enough and getting the nutrition he needs, there are some possible reasons behind his picky eating behaviors, and some ways to encourage him to eat.


1. Look at what your toddler is eating

Your toddler might not eat what you serve for dinner, but chances are he’s eating something throughout the day so it’s important to look at what that is and how often he’s eating.

If your toddler is loading up on snacks like crackers, chips and cookies, he’s probably not going to be hungry at meals.

Filling up on processed, packaged snacks can also crowd out calories and opportunities to serve up healthy, whole foods like fruits and vegetables. The same goes for juice or too much milk.

Also, feeding toddlers processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium trains their taste buds to prefer those foods so when it comes time to eating real food, they refuse to.

Related: Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

2. Offer tiny amounts for a tiny toddler

When it comes to getting toddlers to eat, it’s also important to look at portion sizes.

Instead of overwhelming your toddler with an entire plate, or even a kid-sized portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.

It sounds silly, but serving small amounts is often a no-pressure ways for toddlers to eat.

But don’t expect success on the first try either. Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times before kids will even take a bite, so stay consistent and be patient.

3. Take advantage of snack time

If your toddler loves to snack, take advantage of those opportunities to serve up the same healthy, whole foods you want them to eat at meal time.

Snacks should fill the void between meals, but if these mini-meals are the only way your toddler will eat until his appetite eventually improves, so be it.

4. Let your toddler decide when he’s hungry

Bribing, pleading, negotiating and other pressure tactics don’t work long-term and only create power struggles at the dinner table. 

When we constantly beg toddlers, “just take one more bite,” or “you can’t leave until you eat,” they never have the opportunity to recognize when they’re hungry, when they’re satisfied, and when they’ve had too much.

Just think about how many adults overeat or are emotional eaters because they never learned this lesson.

Related: 6 Tips to Help Moms Stop Emotional Eating

Eating meals with your toddler should be a positive experience, so serve healthy foods at meals and snacks, in age-appropriate portion sizes (see the AAP’s helpful guide) and let your child decide what—and how much—he wants to eat.

“Kids usually eat as much as they need. Your child’s brain will make sure they eat enough calories,” Cynthia L.E. Gellner, a pediatrician at the University of Utah said in this interview.

5. Add a dip

Not only do toddlers love finger foods they can dip in a sauce or dressing, but offering a dip makes plain ‘ol fruits and vegetables more palatable and interesting.

Pair cut up vegetables with hummus, a bean dip or a guacamole. Or serve apple slices with yogurt or peanut butter.

6. Let toddlers play with their food

Smelling food, pushing food around their plates or playing with their food are all considered poor table manners, but allowing it can encourage toddlers to eat.

In fact, kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Encourage your toddler to touch, smell, and play with his food. Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate.

If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat.

7. Don’t give up

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen parents make is labeling their toddlers picky eaters the second they refuse to eat.

Once they believe that to be true, they become desperate to get their kids to eat anything so they turn to easy, quick, processed foods and frozen kid-friendly meals.

I totally understand this is a real frustration for most parents.

Sometimes you’re so fed up with the picky eating behaviors or you’re tired from a long day that making something you know your kid will eat is your saving grace until bedtime.

Although this can be a quick fix, over time, it actually reinforces picky eating because kids don’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, whole foods.

Consistency is key, so do your best to offer healthy foods and the right portion sizes as much as possible. Let your toddler feed himself—whether he wants a small bite, the whole meal or nothing at all.

8. Talk to your toddler’s pediatrician

Just because most toddlers are picky eaters doesn’t mean your toddler’s picky eating is normal.

Some toddlers may have sensory issues or feeding problems that should be addressed by a doctor or specialist.

Put a call into your pediatrician to talk about your concerns and next steps.

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

[VIDEO] 5 Spring Activities That Will End Picky Eating

When you have kids who are picky eaters, it can take months—even years—

to get them to try a bite of new, healthy foods.

You do your best to offer fruits and vegetables, try new recipes, different cooking methods or add butter or cheese to make them more appealing but nothing seems to work.

Picky eating is really frustrating and if you’re ready to throw in the towel, you’re not the only one.

According to a 2018 survey out of the U.K., half of moms and dads have given up persuading their kids to eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.

Take heed—and stick with it.

With spring time in full swing, there is perhaps no better time of year to offer all the healthy superfoods the season has to offer and take advantage of fun activities that can get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors for good. Here are 5.

Short on time? Get 3 tips in this quick video.

1. Berry picking

Although my kids eat just about anything, they have fallen into picky eating patterns in the past.

Last year for example, the only types of fruits my older daughter would eat were bananas, mangos, watermelon and cantaloupe.

As a toddler, she used to eat berries by the handful but now it had become impossible.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal—she was eating fruit after all—but berries are high in fiber, a great source of antioxidants and low glycemic, so they don’t have as high of an impact on blood sugar as the types of fruits she was eating.

Kids have their own food preferences of course, so I didn’t push the issue. But my gut feeling was that it was a phase.

Everything changed when we visited my mother-in-law in Delaware and made an impromptu trip to a blueberry orchard.

Maybe it was the experience of berry picking (likely) or that her Italian grandmother, who can get her to eat just about anything, was there (even more likely).

But within seconds, my daughter was saying: “I love blueberries!” and “blueberries are delicious!”

As we continued to pick the blueberries, I shook my head. I couldn’t believe how one new experience could literally change her perspective in seconds flat.

One of my Instagram followers had a similar experience:

“… this is how I got my daughter [to] eat more fruit. We go pick fruit all the time! She loves it and most of the time more goes in her tummy than in the bucket.”

May is the season to pick strawberries, but keep up the fun throughout the summer by picking blueberries, peaches, nectarines and cherries as well.

2. Farmers’ market

Visiting your local farmers’ market is a spring activity that can put an end to picky eating.

Kids learn where food comes from and it’s a new way for them to be exposed to local fruits and vegetables.

Let your kids pick out something they’ve never tried before and prepare it together at home—it will make them feel empowered and more likely to eat it.    

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse

3. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm allows you to purchase local, seasonal food directly from local farmers.

You purchase a “share,” usually a box of vegetables, but some CSAs also include other farm products like eggs and cheese, that you receive each week.

It may be a benefit or a drawback depending on how you look at it, but you’ll receive varieties of vegetables that you never tried or heard of before.

Some CSAs may also allow you to personalize your share and choose some of the produce that’s included.

If you’re not ready to commit to a CSA, then take a visit to a local farm. Many local farms host tours, cooking classes and special events that can encourage your kids to try new foods.

4. Plant a garden

Last year, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.

A family garden is one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating. In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.

When kids learn how to grow their own food, they get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor and their perspectives can change overnight.

If you don’t have space for a garden, use small potted plants, grow herbs, sprouts or microgreens, or look for community gardens where you can plant your own food.

5. Have a picnic

Sometimes all it takes to get your kids out of their picky eating behaviors is a change of scenery.

Take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days and head out to the park, picnic grounds or even your own backyard for a picnic with your kids.

Pack foods you know they’ll eat in addition to some new, in-season foods, which they may be more likely to eat because eating outside is something different—and fun.

What are some of your favorite spring activities that have encouraged your kids to eat healthy? Let me know in the comments!

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Your Kid Won’t Eat At Meals

[VIDEO] 6 Reasons Your Kid Won’t Eat At Meals

Although there are some kids who will eat anything you put in front of them no matter how new or exotic, all kids at some point will snub a vegetable, turn their noses up at what’s being served or flat out refuse to eat dinner.

As a parent, it’s incredibly frustrating to spend time cooking dinner only to hear “ew!” “yuck!” or “I’m not eating that!”

Take heed, mama.

It’s normal for kids not to eat meals from time to time. Sometimes they’re legitimately not hungry or they really may not like what you’re serving—kids have their own food preferences just like we do.

If your kids consistently push food around their plates, take 2 bites and declare, I’m done, or it seems like they’re never hungry no matter how hard you try, there are some possible reasons for their behaviors. Here are 6.

Short on time? Learn the top 3 most common reasons in this quick video.

1. Too many snacks

If your kid won’t eat at meals, it’s possible that he’s filling up on too many snacks throughout the day.

In fact, according to a March 2010 study in Health Affairs, kids eat snacks 3 times a day and consume up to 600 calories from foods like chips, crackers and candy.

Although there’s no hard and fast rule about how often kids should snack, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day—healthy snacks that give them the nutrition they need.

If you cut back on the amount of snacks but you still find that your kid isn’t eating meals, consider making snacks smaller, adjusting the time between meals and snacks, or eliminating snack all together.

Also, instead of allowing kids to graze all day, have structured snack times and try to avoid snacks in the stroller or in the car when kids are more likely to eat mindlessly and overeat.

2. Pressure tactics

We all want our kids to eat enough and we worry when they won’t eat, but putting pressure on kids can create power struggles and make your kids less likely to eat their meals.

Instead of begging, pleading and negotiating, take a step back and be patient.

Let your kids decide if they want to eat, what they want to eat (among the choices you provide) and how much.

In order for kids to feel empowered to make their own choices, they need plenty of opportunities to touch, smell and taste their food and develop their own food preferences instead of being forced to eat something you think they should have.

3. Food ruts

Serving the same foods over and over can keep your family on track with healthy eating and help you get meals on the table in a pinch, but when the habit turns into a food rut, kids will be less likely to eat at meals.

I’ll admit: I’m totally guilty of this.

To make my life easier and encourage my kids to eat healthy, my husband and I pack lentils almost every day for lunch, serve salmon most Mondays and make eggs almost everyday for breakfast.

Lately, I’ve realized that although my kids actually like eating the foods we serve, they’re probably bored—and I was right.

To my surprise however, they didn’t want pizza or chicken nuggets—mixing up lunch a bit with a sandwich with salmon salad was just fine.

When you can carve out some time, try a new recipe, a different cooking method or cook with a new spice to change things up a bit. Or, transform old standby meals, so instead of roasted chicken, make chicken roll ups, chicken soup or chicken enchiladas, for example.

4. Changes in appetite

Just because it’s meal time, doesn’t mean your kid will be hungry.

Toddlers in particular can be really fussy eaters and more interested in playing than eating too.

After the first birthday, a child’s growth isn’t as rapid as it was during the first year of life. Although they continue to grow at a slow, steady rate and they’re moving a lot more, their appetites may slow down making them not as hungry at meals as they once were.

As long as your child’s growth trends are progressing at a healthy rate, you shouldn’t worry.

However, if your child’s lack of appetite seems extreme, it’s always a good idea to talk to the pediatrician to rule out a medical condition or another issue.

5. Portions are too large

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned when it comes to feeding my kids is that kids aren’t adults and they don’t need as much food as we do.

Kids shouldn’t be expected to clean their plates—like adults, they should eat until they’re no longer hungry, instead of eating until they’re full.

You may also be surprised what a healthy portion is. For toddlers, the AAP says one serving of vegetables is equal to one tablespoon for each year of age, for example.

For more specific recommendations, check out Super Healthy Kids’ My Plate Guide to Portion Sizes.

6. Too much milk, juice and sugary drinks

If your kid won’t eat at meals, it’s important to take a look at what he’s drinking.

Although milk is a good source of calcium and protein, filling up on too much can prevent him from being hungry for real food at meal time.

The AAP recommends 2 cups of milk for kids between 1 and 8-years-old and 3 cups for kids between 9 and 18-years-old.

Sipping on juice can also displace calories in your child’s diet.

According to the new AAP guidelines for fruit juice in kids’ diets, kids under age 1 shouldn’t drink juice.

For toddlers between 1 and 3, juice should be limited to 4 ounces a day; children ages 4-6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces; and children ages 7-18 should limit juice to 8 ounces—if you’re going to serve it.

All kids should avoid soda, sugar-sweetened drinks and energy drinks.

Although the AAP says sports drinks can be helpful for young kids who are engaged in prolonged, vigorous sports, they’re usually unnecessary and plain H2O is just fine.

Do you have a kid who won’t eat at meals? What have you found that helps? Let me know in the comments section! 

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

How I Got My Kids To Eat Everything

When I tell people that my kids devour salads, love lentils, and ask for anchovies, they’re shocked.

During the holidays, at family parties and get-togethers with friends, when other parents are worrying what their kids will eat—and if they’ll eat—my husband and I never give it a second thought.

Our kids not only eat just like we do, but they’re little foodies who crave healthy food.

What may surprise you is that we don’t bribe them with dessert, negotiate meals or force them to eat.

They’re not easygoing kids who go with the flow either—it’s actually quite the contrary.

While it’s true that most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters, and they have their own food preferences and food aversions, it’s totally possible to raise kids who like to eat healthy.

Here’s how we did it and you can too.

Make homemade baby food

It’s rare that we ask my daughters if they want to try new foods. Rather, they have a natural curiosity and interest in doing so.

One of the reasons I think that’s the case is because I made homemade baby food for them.

Although store-bought baby food is easy and convenient especially when you’re on the go, we can’t expect our kids to prefer real food if we start out by feeding them food that looks and  smells anything but.

When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients and can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures which helps kids develop their own preference for healthy foods. 

Stick with it

Parents often tell me how they’ve tried cooking with their kids, serving new vegetables, or making green smoothies, but nothing they did changed their kids’ picky eating habits.

Although there were definitely occasions where we’d offer a new food and my kids were willing to try it immediately, getting them to eat everything took a concerted effort at every meal, every day.

As parents, we always want a quick, easy fix, but a one-time effort isn’t going to transform your kids into foodies overnight.

Whether it’s potty training, getting your kids to sleep through the night or changing an annoying behavior, everything takes time, effort and consistency.

Keep meals interesting

I’ve found that eating the same foods every day has been key for me to lose the baby weight and maintain it.

Although this also makes meal planning easier for my family, I often fell into the same pattern with my kids and I realized there were so many more foods they could try.

So I decided to switch it up a bit.

When I’d bring my kids to the grocery store and they’d spot dragon fruit, star fruit or something they had never tried before, I’d buy it for us all to enjoy at home.

My husband, who also sensed our food rut, would cook new types of fish and vegetables and add new types of spices to our meals.

Although we never forced our kids to eat, we always encouraged them to have a taste of what was being served so they’d have opportunities to figure out which foods they liked and which ones they didn’t.

Cook meals together

Cooking with my kids has proven to be one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy.

Kids want to be just like their parents and my daughters were always excited to learn how to peel and chop produce, mix ingredients, stir on the stovetop and use the oven.

When kids help to prepare meals, they feel empowered and proud and are more likely to eat what’s being served.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse. Check out her video: 

Forget the kids’ table

When we had dinner with our extended family, were invited to a friend’s house, or attended a party or celebration, my kids always ate with the adults, unless of course, the host had a kids’ table set up for them.

I never brought a separate meal for them and we didn’t ask the host to prepare something different. They could eat what was served—or not—but that was the only option.

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

Most kids’ menus at restaurants are all the same: hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers and fries.

It’s rare that you’ll find salads, green leafy vegetables or roasted salmon, for example.

When we went out to eat, we’d usually order an entree my daughters could split, modify an item such as adding broccoli to pizza, or order appetizers and salads we all could share.

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of the most frustrating parts about being a parent—right up there with potty training, sleepless nights and meltdowns.

Chances are, you’re already doing your best to offer plenty of healthy foods.

But try as you might, you can’t seem to put an end to the picky eating.

When you’re at your wit’s end and you’re ready to pull out your hair, it’s definitely easier to open up a box of mac and cheese and call it a day.

Yet raising healthy kids who will try, accept and even crave healthy foods isn’t something that happens overnight.

With some simple strategies however, it can be done. Let’s get started.


1. Recognize picky eating for what it is 

Many parents label their kids as picky eaters, but just because the behaviors are frustrating, that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever or that they have to define your child.

Picky eating is only a small, short-term obstacle to healthy eating.

Look at the bigger picture and realize that kids who eat healthy now are more likely to be healthy eaters throughout their lives, so it’s well-worth the effort.


2. Bring kids in the kitchen

When my kids are having meltdowns and it seems that no matter what I do, doesn’t work to get them to calm down, its extremely frustrating.

But when I’m empathic, hear them out and offer a hug, things usually get better.

Sometimes kids just need their cups refilled with quality time so rather than battling it out at the dinner table, try coming together in the kitchen.

Cooking with your kids is one of the best ways to teach them about healthy eating and it might be the way to end picky eating for good.

Empower your kids with choices: let them find a new recipe, then shop and cook the meal together.

At the very least, cooking can diffuse some of the frustration at the dinner table, create a positive environment around food, and slowly encourage your kids to be more adventurous eaters.


3. Have a play date

Children are more likely to do what other children do, and that includes eating.

According to a May 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, preschoolers who saw a video of their peers eating a bell pepper ate more peppers themselves a week later and said they were more likely to eat the vegetable again.

If one of your child’s friends is a healthy eater, arrange for them to have a play date. Your kid might be interested in what his friend is eating and more likely to take a bite too.

This strategy can also work well with other family members, especially grandparents, who are skilled at getting kids to try just about anything they offer.


4. Serve bites, not portions

Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times, before kids will even take a bite.

Instead of overwhelming your child with an entire plate, or even a portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.


5. Let kids play with their food

Kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Rather than pressuring your child to take a bite or bribe them with dessert if he eats his vegetables, encourage him to touch, smell, and even play with his food.

Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate. If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat it.

6. Change the scenery

 Sometimes moving your meals to a different environment can make mealtimes more interesting and less stressful.

Try packing a picnic lunch and head to the park, eat on the patio instead of the dinner table or take lunch to a friend’s house.

7. Let kids choose what they want to eat

When kids feel they have a say in what’s being served, they’ll be more likely to try it.

At dinner, serve a salad and a cooked vegetable or put out a buffet of leftovers and let your kids decide what they want on their plates.

Or take a trip to the farmers’ market and let you child choose a new vegetable to try.

8. Take stock of your kid’s diet

If kids are loading up on snacks throughout the day, they probably won’t be hungry for meals.

Snacks like crackers, chips and cookies—even those that are gluten-free, organic and have healthy ingredients like fruit and nuts—can crowd out the calories they should get from healthy foods.

Also, feeding kids processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium train their taste buds to prefer those foods over healthy, whole foods, so it’s best to limit them as much as possible.

9. Talk to an expert

When you feel like you’ve done all you can to get your kid out of his picky eating habits, consider getting help from an expert.

A pediatric registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) will work with you to understand your child and your family and address all the factors at play. They can also help you set realistic goals and offer strategies and meal ideas to help your child try and eventually accept new foods.

To find an RDN, ask your pediatrician to make a referral or search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ site,

10. Stick with it

It might seem that your kids will be picky eaters forever, especially if you have toddlers who are inherently picky, but most kids can become healthy, adventurous eaters. 

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and teach healthy eating habits every day. This simple shift in mindset can help you muster up the energy and dedication to stay the course and raise healthy-eating kids.

Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

Feeding Toddlers: What, When and How Much To Feed 1- to 3-year-olds

Your toddler is walking, running, climbing—and growing by leaps and bounds every day.

As you continue to introduce table foods and he gets to explore new, exciting textures, flavors and tastes, you probably have a lot of questions about feeding toddlers such as what your toddler should eat, how often and how much.

If your toddler is a picky eater (most are and it’s completely normal) you’re probably concerned about whether he’s eating enough and if he’s getting the nutrition he needs.

On the other hand, if your toddler is eating too much, that might also be a concern especially because nearly 1 in 4 children start kindergarten overweight or obese, a January 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Here, learn everything you need to know about feeding toddlers, including the foods to focus on, the right portion sizes, and when to offer healthy meals and snacks.

How much should my toddler eat?

After their first birthday, toddlers’ growth isn’t as rapid as it was during the first year of life. Still, they continue to grow at a slow, steady rate.

Despite their increased activity, their appetites may also slow down. Since they’ll be busy with more exciting activities, they may also not be interested in eating.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says toddlers should eat approximately 40 calories per inch of height. Depending on your child’s age, size and activity level, that can vary between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day.

How often should toddlers eat?

Toddlers should be offered three healthy meals and two healthy snacks a day but it’s OK if your child isn’t interested in eating or refuses to eat.

A toddler’s appetite can change day to day and persuading or pushing your child to eat is a bad habit to teach. If he eats when he’s not hungry, he won’t learn when he’s actually hungry or full.

Without the ability to recognize his hunger and satiety cues, he may grow into an older child and adult who overeats.

Pushing your toddler to eat when he’s not hungry can also make mealtimes a negative, unhappy experience for you and him, so it’s best to let him decide if he wants to eat and how much.

When should toddlers eat?

Be sure to have a schedule of regular meal and snack times with some flexibility built in. Toddlers should eat approximately every 3 hours but again, if your tot isn’t hungry, it’s OK.

Not only is routine good for toddlers, but eating regularly prevents their blood sugar from crashing and ensures they’re never overly hungry.

Teaching your child to eat regularly is also a healthy eating habit you’ll want your toddler to have throughout life.

What are toddler portion sizes?

It can be tricky to figure out healthy portion sizes for toddlers and easy to overestimate how much food to serve.

When my kids were toddlers, I never really knew how much they should be eating. Although I never pushed them to eat, looking back, I realize their portion sizes were way too large.

Portion sizes for toddlers are much smaller than you may think. For example, the AAP says one serving of vegetables is equal to one tablespoon for each year of age.

A good rule of thumb is to serve your toddler a quarter of what a healthy portion is for an adult.

What foods should toddlers eat?

The AAP has general guidelines for the types of foods and portion sizes toddlers should consume each day.

Just as their appetites can change however, so can their food preferences so don’t stress if you don’t meet all of these requirements all of the time.

Vegetables and fruits

2 to 3 servings of each a day.


6 servings a day, at least half of which should be whole grains.


2 to 3 servings a day

Protein (meat, fish, poultry and tofu)

2 servings a day

Legumes (peas, lentils and beans)

2 servings a day

What foods should toddlers avoid?

The toddler years are an important time to expose children to a wide variety of new, healthy foods.

Although a baby’s food preferences actually start to form during pregnancy, the foods they like and dislike continue to develop throughout the toddler years.

Unfortunately, for many toddlers those opportunities are too often being replaced by foods that lack nutrition and are high in sodium and sugar.

In fact, a June 2018 study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found toddlers between 19 and 23 months consumed an average of 7 teaspoons of added sugar on any given—that’s more sugar than a Snicker’s® bar!

Stick with whole foods, instead of fast food, processed, packaged and prepared foods and limit sodium, saturated fats and sugar.

Tips for Feeding Toddlers

When it comes to food, the toddler years can be tough. Your child may have willingly accepted a variety of fruits and vegetables when he was a baby, but getting him to take a bite of broccoli now is proving more difficult.

My advice: stick with it.

So many parents say their kids are picky eaters and turn to quick, easy, processed foods and frozen kid-friendly meals just so their child will eat.

But this habit actually reinforces picky eating because kids don’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, whole foods.

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and the right portion sizes and let your child feed himself, whether he wants a small bite, the whole meal or nothing at all.

Teaching toddlers what to eat, when to eat and how to have healthy eating habits will help to ensure they’ll grow into healthy, lifelong eaters.

Is Your Kid An Extreme Picky Eater?  Some kids who are extreme picky eaters may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Is Your Kid An Extreme Picky Eater?

Some kids who are extreme picky eaters may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

If you have a kid who is an extreme picky eater or selective eater, you know how frustrating it can be.

You do your best to serve a variety of healthy foods.

You beg, plead and negotiate.

You try hiding vegetables in meals but your kid is onto your sneaky tactics.

Although most kids’ extreme picky eating behaviors are considered normal, for some it’s not and they may have an eating disorder known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).

Here, learn what ARFID is, the signs to look for and what you can do about it. 

What is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Previously referred to as selective eating disorder, ARFID is an eating disorder in which there’s a limit in the amount or types of foods kids consume.

“Their food repertoire is so limited that they can’t maintain their body weight, [and], they have health issues,” Dr. Jocelyn Lebow, a child psychologist at the Mayo Clinic stated in this article.

Unlike kids who are only picky eaters, a child with ARFID doesn’t consume enough calories to grow and develop properly, which can result in weight loss, weight gain that’s stopped or slowed and stunted growth.

Kids with the disorder have a lack of interest in eating or food and can flat out refuse to eat a lot of the time.

These kids often have challenges at school or in other environments where food is involved like a kid’s birthday party, family gathering or social event. Unlike anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, kids with ARFID don’t have the same problems with body shape or weight and don’t try to lose weight.

They may also need to rely on nutritional supplements or a feeding tube to get the nutrition they need.

How common is Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder?

Kids (and adults) of any age can be diagnosed with the disorder and although there’s not a ton of research, experts say ARFID is relatively rare.

A few studies found that of kids who were admitted into a pediatric inpatient eating disorder program, between 5 and 14 percent were diagnosed with ARFID, while of those in an eating disorder day treatment program, up to 22 percent were found to have the disorder.

According to an August 2014 study in the Journal of Eating Disorders, the average age of kids with the disorder is 11-years-old. Females are also much more likely than males to have the disorder (79 percent versus 20 percent).

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: Signs and Symptoms


Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder was only recently recognized in 2013 when the DSM-5, the handbook by which healthcare professionals diagnose mental disorders, included the eating disorder.

Aside from the extreme picky eating behaviors, two of the most obvious signs that a child may have ARFID are significant weight loss and a downward trend of their normal growth curves.

Not only do kids with the disorder refuse to eat, they may even gag or choke at meal times.

Other symptoms like constipation, abdominal pain, lack of energy and concentration, dizziness and sleep problems may also be a sign of ARFID.

Without treatment, the disorder can cause severe nutritional deficiencies that can lead to serious, even deadly health consequences and impact a child’s social functioning with family and friends.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
: Risk Factors

Experts aren’t sure what makes one child over another at risk for the eating disorder, but some risk factors have been identified. These include:

1. Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

(ADHD) or intellectual disabilities have a higher risk.

2. Kids who don’t outgrow the normal picky eating behaviors that most kids experience, especially during the toddler years.

3. Kids with other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, cognitive impairments, pervasive development disorder (PDD) and learning disorders are likely to also have ARFID, according to the same study in The Journal Of Eating Disorders.

Is ARFID the same as picky eating?

ARFID and picky eating are not the same. Kids with ARFID have dramatic weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.

Picky eating usually involves only a few foods, and a child’s appetite, how much they eat, and their growth and development are normal.

Kids with ARFID are not interested in food and eating and typically avoid food because of a color, texture, smell, taste or temperature.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
: What You Need To Know

If your child’s extreme picky eating behaviors don’t seem to improve, he has any of these symptoms or you’re concerned about his health, a good first step is to make an appointment with his doctor to look at how his growth is charting.

If there are concerns about his weight and nutrition and your doctor suspects ARFID, a child psychologist who specializes in eating disorders can help.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically the treatment of choice to help kids eat in a more normal, healthy way and overcome their fears and anxieties about foods.

Treatment will also likely include a specific diet plan with calorie goals, multiple food exposures and regular monitoring.

For more information and to find help, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.

[VIDEO] 10 Non-Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat Vegetables  Stop hiding vegetables or making them into a work of art. These non-sneaky ways will get your kids to eat vegetables in no time.

[VIDEO] 10 Non-Sneaky Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat Vegetables

Stop hiding vegetables or making them into a work of art. These non-sneaky ways will get your kids to eat vegetables in no time.

Every time I read an article telling parents about all the amazing, sneaky ways to serve vegetables, I cringe.

Sneaky strategies like pureeing vegetables, creating animal shapes with vegetables or hiding vegetables in kid-friendly foods may help in the short-term but if you really want to raise kids who eat healthy, they need to eat—and learn to love—food in its whole form, not kids who grow up consuming vegetables only in a sauce or a smoothie.

But how can you get your kids to eat vegetables without being sneaky?

Here are 10 strategies to try.

Short on time? Check out 3 of my top strategies in this video. 

1. Eat healthy yourself

You can’t expect your kids to eat their vegetables if they don’t see you eating them.

I’m convinced that my kids love to eat salads because it’s what I eat for lunch every day.

Eating family dinners together and snacking on vegetables can also go a long way in getting your kids to eat them.

2. Offer a variety of vegetables

When kids feel like they’re in control and are empowered to make their own decisions, food battles get easier.

Try putting out a buffet of vegetables at mealtimes and let your kids choose what they want to eat.

At dinner, serve a cooked vegetable and a salad or make one vegetable you know your kids will eat and one new vegetable they can try.

In the beginning, the goal isn’t necessarily to get them to eat, but to give them choices.

The more consistent you are, the more apt they’ll be to try vegetables and eventually love eating them.

3. Add grass-fed butter.

Butter is delicious and a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat vegetables.

If you’re unsure about the fat and cholesterol however, a small amount of butter on vegetables isn’t going to make your kids fat or sick.

Although saturated fat was previously thought to increase the risk for heart disease, recent studies show that’s simply not the case.

A March 2010 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no link between saturated fat in the diet and coronary heart disease and stroke.

Another meta-analysis in March 2014 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine also found there’s not enough evidence to advise limiting saturated fat to prevent heart disease.

The fat in butter also helps the body better absorb and utilize vitamins.

Opt for grass fed butter, which is a better source of vitamins A, E and K than butter from grain-fed cows.

4. Roast vegetables

When you roast vegetables, they turn out sweet, savory, and delicious—even those your kids are least likely to eat like.

Roasting vegetables couldn’t be easier or quicker and you can make large batches to use in several meals throughout the week.

You can roast almost any kind of vegetable but use an olive oil mister to prevent dousing them with unnecessary calories.

5. Put vegetables out in plain sight

One of the best non-sneaky ways to get your kids to eat vegetables is to put them front and center—and then stand back.

Every time I cook vegetables and leave them out to cool, whether it’s a type I make every week or something new, I find that my kids always ask to try them.

Another way to make vegetables visible is to wash and cut them and store them in clear glass containers in the refrigerator.

6. Get your kids in the kitchen

Shopping and cooking vegetables with your kids helps them to feel empowered to make healthy choices.

When they’ve had a hand in making a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

In fact, according to an August 2014 study in the journal Appetite, kids who cooked with their parents ate 76 percent more salad than those whose parents prepared the meal alone.

When you go to the grocery store or the famers’ market, let your kid pick out a vegetable they love or a new type they want to try.

When you come home, try a new way to cook the vegetables or a new recipe and make them together.

7. Pick vegetables from the garden

This past spring, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.

Whether you plant your own vegetable garden or volunteer at a Community Supported Agriculture farm, kids get really excited to see the fruits—and vegetables—of their labor.

8. Make sure your kids are hungry

Taking advantage of your kids’ hunger is a non-sneaky way to get them to eat vegetables.

When your kids are likely to be really hungry, whether it’s when they wake up in the morning or right before dinner, is the time when they’ll also be most likely to eat vegetables.

Try incorporating (not hiding) vegetables into omelets or serve them as an appetizer before meals.

9. Add a dip

Kids love to dip their food so serving vegetables with a dip can encourage them to eat.

In fact, according to an August 2013 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adding herbs and spices to a reduced fat dip increased preschoolers’ willingness to taste, like and eat raw vegetables.

10. Have a play date or a date with grandma

If your kids have friends who are healthy eaters, arrange a play date or a dinner date.

It may take a few tries and your kids may not eat an entire plate of vegetables, but they may be more willing to at least take a bite when they see another child doing the same.

This can also work with grandparents if they eat healthy. I’ve found this to be true with my own kids who have eaten cucumbers and Swiss chard all because it was served at their grandparent’s house.

[VIDEO] 5 Reasons To Stop Feeding Kids “Kid-Friendly” Foods

[VIDEO] 5 Reasons To Stop Feeding Kids “Kid-Friendly” Foods

In the U.S., there’s a belief that if your kids are going to eat anything, it has to consist of “kid-friendly” foods.

Foods like chicken fingers, pizza and macaroni and cheese.

Kids foods are heavily marketed to parents of picky eaters who are desperate to get their kids to eat dinner—at the tune of $1.79 billion a year, a 2012 report by the Federal Trade Commission found.

Brands use favorite cartoon characters, celebrities, toy giveaways, and make pouches, snack packs, cereal boxes, juice boxes and frozen meals that attract kids and make parents’ lives easier.

The truth is that kids can eat what the rest of the family does—they don’t need kid-friendly foods. Here are 5 reasons to consider.


1. Kid-Friendly Foods Promote Picky Eating

If your kid has only a small stable of foods that he eats over and over again, he won’t have the opportunity to eat real, healthy, nutritious food or form his own food preferences.

Maybe he actually likes cucumbers, but if you tell yourself the only thing he’ll eat is PB&J, you’ll never know—and nor will he.

When kids eat kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief that there’s something special or unique about the way they eat. But picky eating isn’t Celiac disease or a nut allergy. For most kids, it’s a behavior and a choice.

If you continue to serve kid-friendly foods because you think that’s the only thing your kid will eat, that’s exactly what will happen.

2. Kid-Friendly Foods Lack Nutrition

You might think feeding kids food is the only way to ensure your kid will eat something, but what’s the point if what he’s eating is highly processed and lacks the nutrition he needs to grow, develop and reach his milestones?

Most kids’ foods lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients and preservatives.

That organic macaroni and cheese says it’s “made with real cheese” but cheese in a powder form is anything but real.

3. You Shouldn’t Be a Short-Order Cook

According to a 2017 survey by Uber Eats, to appease their kids, 36 percent of parents order food delivery from multiple restaurants and 54 percent sometimes cook multiple meals.

With all that you have to do in a given day, it’s hard enough to get a healthy dinner on the table. So to expect yourself to make an entirely different meal for your picky eater is not only unrealistic and time consuming, but from a parenting perspective, it’s not a good habit to get into.

Don’t get me wrong: when my daughter was a baby, there were times when I gave her a different food if she snubbed what was on her plate. I knew however, that I had better get out of that habit or it would create a bigger problem as she got older.

Giving in teaches kids that you’ll bend when they don’t like what you made for dinner and that behavior breeds a brat.

4. Kid-Friendly Foods Create Anxiety

My husband and I never have to think twice about what our kids will eat when we’re at someone else’s house because our kids eat anything.

It’s a different story however, when we’re the ones who have family and friends over. My husband will always make a meal with several, healthy and delicious options, but he also buys a box of pasta in case the kids refuse to eat what’s being served.

If your kid only eats kid-friendly foods, then you have three choices:

1. Bring something for your child to eat (see #2)

2. Rely on the host to make something else (see #2)

3. Cross your fingers and hope your kid takes a bite of something

When you take kid-friendly foods off the menu and serve kids what you eat, it becomes a lot easier to feed them when you’re at someone else’s home.

5. Kids Miss Opportunities To Eat Real Food

When you frequently serve kid-friendly foods, it fosters a belief and a habit that food comes out of a box, a bag or a pouch. Kids miss out on opportunities to enjoy food in its’ whole form and experience all the different flavors and textures only real food provides.

If you want your kids to eat healthy, they need to learn how to cook and how a meal comes together.

Take them to the farmers’ market and the grocery store and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Let them help you in the kitchen, which can encourage them to taste and try new foods.

Serving up real food will help you raise little foodies who know what a real meal should look—and taste—like.

5 Ways To Survive the Holidays With Picky Eaters

5 Ways To Survive the Holidays With Picky Eaters

If you have kids who are picky eaters, you already know which foods you can get them to eat at home—and which ones they’ll refuse to eat. Sure, it’s frustrating to have picky eaters but at least you know what to expect.

During Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s however, all bets are off.

The holidays are already stressful but the holidays with picky eaters is an entirely different ball game.

Having kids who snub vegetables and refuse to eat anything other than pasta with butter can kick your stress into high gear especially when other family members are watching you and your parenting skills.

Thoughts start rushing through your mind:


  • What will they eat?
  • Will they eat something other than dessert?
  • Should I bring a separate meal for them?

Your biggest fear is that your kids will embarrass you, spit out the food in their mouths and say, “ew, gross!” right as they taste your mother-in-law’s famous casserole.

Although there’s not much you can do to control your kids’ unpredictable behaviors, or your mother-in-law’s eye rolls, there are some ways to handle your picky eaters this holiday season.


1. Talk about table manners


When my kids eat something they don’t like such as onions in a salad, they’ll put it on my plate even though I constantly urge them to leave it on their own. Despite your best intentions, your kids’ table manners probably aren’t perfect so during the holidays you’ll definitely want to help them brush up.

In addition to reminding them to say “please,” and “thank you,” and chew with their mouths closed, make sure they also know never to spit out food or express their dislike for a food out loud. If they take a small bite and they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat more.

2. Have a snack

To ensure your picky eaters eat something and don’t arrive to your celebration cranky, consider serving them a small, healthy snack made up of protein and fiber. If they refuse to eat, or only want a piece of bread when you get there, it’s not a big deal.

3. Bring a dish

I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to prepare a separate meal for a child unless of course they’re gluten-free or have food allergies.

Having a separate meal on hand teaches your kids that you’ll accommodate them and cater to their preferences. But what happens when your picky eaters become adults and won’t eat anything that’s served? It’s not cute anymore.

If you’re already bringing something to dinner however, you can make a dish that everyone including your kids will eat. Although it’s not going to be French fries, perhaps it can be bruschetta for an appetizer, soup or a vegetable side your kids like, for example.

4. Cook together

When my kids cook with me, they always want to taste what we’re making. Whether you’re preparing the entire holiday dinner or bringing a dish, let your kids help you cook. When kids feel like they’ve had a hand in what you’ve made, they feel empowered and excited to show off—and enjoy the dish. 

5. Let it go

If you’re stressed out your kids will definitely sense it. Do your best to relax and loosen up about what they choose to and refuse to eat during the holidays.

I’m not suggesting you let them load up on sugar and neglect to eat anything else but it’s a losing battle to expect them to eat the vegetables or try the new foods you put on their plates.

Your kids may actually surprise you however, and be willing to try new foods that grandma offers or they see the other kids eating.

Either way, go with the flow and pick up your normal healthy eating menu the next day.

I want to hear from you!


Was this post helpful for you? How do you handle picky eaters during the holidays and on special occassions? Leave me a comment below.

Do you have friends with picky eaters? I bet you do. Please share this post with them–share buttons are at the end of the post!

5 Worst Pieces of Picky Eating Advice Ever

5 Worst Pieces of Picky Eating Advice Ever

If your kids are picky eaters, you know how challenging it is to get them to eat their vegetables, try new foods or even sit down to eat a meal. Maybe you’ve read a book about picky eating or asked your kids’ pediatrician or a nutritionist for advice, which is always a good start.

Yet asking other moms who also have picky eaters isn’t always the best idea. Sure, many of them have tips and tricks for dealing with picky eating in the short term but a lot of their strategies either miss the mark or are downright bad.

Here are some of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard other moms give that in my opinion are all wrong.

1. “Sneak vegetables.”

Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into sauces, baked goods, and smoothies can definitely give your kids the nutrition they need and otherwise wouldn’t get or give them an extra boost of nutrition. Yet replacing all their vegetable servings as a sneaky puree is a big mistake.

Not only do kids miss out on the fiber vegetables provide, but if you want your kids to love them they need to have plenty of opportunities to smell, touch and taste various types. They need to grow into adults who love vegetables in their whole form.

Sure, they may not love everything you serve, but they must have plenty of chances to learn what they like and dislike. I don’t see anything wrong with green smoothies or adding a vegetable puree into a meal for extra nutrition, but the vegetables that make up a bulk of their diets should be whole.

2. “Make your own____”

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find so many ways to make homemade versions of shelf-stable snacks like fruit roll-ups, gummy fruit snacks and Swedish fish. I think it can be a fun treat for kids, but it’s not a good approach if you’re making these homemade versions because you want to make sure your kids eat fruit. You want to raise kids who know what strawberries look and taste like, not kids who will only eat fruit if it’s in the shape of a gummy bear.

3. “Be creative.”

There are so many food bloggers who have come up with ways to make food fun and “kid-friendly” by transforming fruits and vegetables into animals, funny faces and shapes.

I think it’s cute if you have the time of course and it might be a good way to get toddlers to try new foods. Yet making food into art shouldn’t be a long-term tactic because your kids may come to always expect it that way and may not eat fruits and vegetables any other way.

4. “Bribe them.”

When you’re frustrated with your picky eaters, you can beg, plead and negotiate, “please, can you just take a bite?!” Maybe you’ve bribed them with dessert, which I admit I’ve done, but it’s not a good idea.

For starters, if your kids are hungry, they’ll eat and no amount of negotiation will change that. And bribing them with dessert but only after they eat their vegetables teaches them that dessert is more desirable than vegetables. It’s also something they start to believe which is how many of us were raised and continue to believe today.

Rather than negotiation tactics, bribery or outright begging, give your kids plenty of healthy choices and let them pick what they want on their plates. The less pressure you put on them, the more they’ll feel empowered to choose.

5. “Put them in front of the TV.”

Turning on the TV and allowing your kids to sip a smoothie or snack on fruits and vegetables might get them to eat, but what you’re really doing is teaching your kids how to eat mindlessly.

If you want your kids to love what they’re eating and also grow up to have a healthy relationship with food, then model healthy eating at the table, together as a family. Show them how to eat slow, chew their food thoroughly and enjoy every last bite. Teach them that eating is nourishment but that mealtime is also something to be enjoyed together as a family.