11 Best Books About Kids’ Nutrition & Healthy Eating

11 Best Books About Kids’ Nutrition & Healthy Eating

You don’t need to be a pediatrician or a nutritionist to raise kids who eat healthy but like all things when it comes to parenting, getting more information, advice and support makes the job a little easier.

This list of kids’ nutrition books include information about healthy eating, picky eating advice, and how to navigate issues like food allergies, sensory problems and food industry marketing.

I selected these books because they have high ratings, are written by leading kids’ nutrition experts or because I’ve enjoyed reading some of them myself.

Happy reading!

1. Adventures in Veggieland: Help Your Kids Learn to Love Vegetables―with 100 Easy Activities and Recipes, by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP.

2. Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating, by Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH and Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP.

3. Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Selective Eating, Food Aversion, and Feeding Disorders, by Katja Rowell, MD, and Jenny McGlothlin, MS, CCC-SLP.

4. It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating, by Dina Rose, PhD.

5. The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers: Practical Answers To Your Questions on Nutrition, Starting Solids, Allergies, Picky Eating, and More (For Parents, By Parents), by Anthony Porto, MD, MPH and Dina DiMaggio, MD.

6. Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School, by Jill Castle, MS, RDN and Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD.

7. Try New Food: How to Help Picky Eaters Taste, Eat & Like New Foods by Jill Castle, RDN

8. Born to Eat: Whole, Healthy Foods From Baby’s First Bite by Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN and Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN

9. The Clean-Eating Kid: Grocery Store Food Swaps for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet by Jenny Carr.

10. Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World, by Bettina Elias Siegel. 

11. Cure Your Child With Food: The Hidden Connection Between Nutrition and Childhood Ailments, by Kelly Dorfman, MS, LDN

What books about kids’ nutrition and healthy eating have you found to be helpful? Let me know in the comments.

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids  The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids

The quintessential summer time fruit most kids love are super-healthy too.

There’s nothing better than the taste of fresh, sweet, succulent strawberries—the quintessential summer time fruit that most kids love.

In fact, 94 percent of U.S. households eat strawberries—nearly 5 pounds a year!

And 53 percent of young kids say strawberries are their favorite type of fruit.

The spring and summer months are prime time for picking strawberries, which is not only fun to do with your kids, but it can put an end to picky eating.

When it comes to choosing strawberries, organic is best since the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s ranks them #1 on their Dirty Dozen list of fruits and vegetables highest in pesticides.

If organic isn’t within your budget however, the benefits of eating conventionally grown strawberries still outweigh the risks.

Here are 5 reasons strawberries are healthy for kids.

 

1. Strawberries are loaded with nutrition

 

Strawberries are one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

One cup of strawberries have nearly 150 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.

Strawberries are high in fiber and manganese, and a good source of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Strawberries are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to ward off certain types of cancer.

Studies show eating strawberries may reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and hypertension.

 

 

2. Strawberries can prevent and treat constipation

Constipation is a common problems for kids. In fact, nearly 5 percent of pediatrician visits are because of constipation, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

With 3 grams of fiber in every cup and a high water content, eating strawberries can help prevent constipation and get things moving again.

3. Strawberries might prevent type-2 diabetes

Rates of type-2 diabetes are on the rise in kids— a result in part, due to childhood obesity and diets high in processed foods.

Between 2008 and 2009, more than 5,000 kids were diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Plus, and April 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the rate of newly diagnosed cases of type-2 diabetes in children between ages 10 and 19 increased by 4.8 percent.

Although kids should eat a wide variety of fruits to get the most nutrition, strawberries are healthy for kids because they have a low glycemic load—a measurement of a food’s impact on blood sugar.

In fact, a small study published in  February 2016 in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found eating strawberries may improve insulin resistance and prevent type-2 diabetes.

4. Strawberries support healthy eyes

Strawberries are one of the best foods to support kids’ eye health.

Vitamin C is necessary for proper eye function and their antioxidants may prevent cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

These are not concerns when kids are young of course, but teaching kids healthy eating habits now will set the stage for healthy eating in the future.

5. Strawberries encourage healthy eating

Kids love their sweets but before you dish out candy, cake or cookies, try serving strawberries.

Strawberries can satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a healthy, delicious swap for a high-sugar dessert, even if your kids refuse to eat dinner.

What’s more, if you can add strawberries to the list of foods your kid will eat, he may be more likely to try and love other new fruits too.

Do your kids love strawberries? What are your favorite ways to serve them? Let me know in the comments.

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

10 Tips for Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

You know those moms on Instagram who have perfectly blown out hair and flawless make-up and they look like the happiest moms around?

Or maybe you know a mom like that in your local community or from your kid’s school.

I sure do and I don’t like it.

Most of the time, I’m a hot mess: my hair is in a ponytail, I have no make-up on whatsoever, and I’m dressed in workout gear.

I often fall into the comparison camp, wondering, why can’t I pull it together like they do? 

What I’ve learned throughout the years as a mom, is moms don’t have it all together and if someone tells you they do, they’re in denial or lying.

Being a mom is the hardest, most exhausting job you’ll ever have and one that never has a day off.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can have it all, despite what society tells us. There will be some element of sacrifice, trade-off, or not feeling the same way you did before you had kids.

It’s uncomfortable and disheartening for sure, but I think it’s part of being a mom.

That’s not to say however, that you can’t be a happy, healthy mom. Here are 10 easy, realistic tips that can help you re-gain your former self.

1. Carve out me-time

A few years ago, my therapist told me that just like on a plane, “you need to put on your oxygen mask first.”

I knew she was right, but with all that I had to do in any given day, it seemed impossible—and most of the time, it still does.

I usually put everyone’s needs before my own and as a result, I feel depleted, anxious, stressed and overall, unhealthy.

I won’t suggest that it’s easy to find time for yourself, because it definitely isn’t.

I also don’t claim to do it well, but in the last year or so, I’ve done a better job at carving out time for myself.

Although it’s not trips to the spa or countless hours curled up with a good novel, it is more intentional: 20 to 30 minutes in the morning to read the Bible or a devotional and pray. Or 30 minutes at night to read.  Or blocking out my calendar to take my favorite classes at the gym.

It can be difficult to make time for yourself, but if you don’t do it, no one else will.

 

 

 

2. Eat healthy

When there’s so much to do and not a lot of time, or you have a new baby at home, getting healthy meals on the table can be challenging.

Avoiding fast food, and processed, packaged foods and a ton of sugar and focusing on fresh, healthy, whole-foods however, is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

When you model how to eat healthy for your kids, they’ll be more likely to want to eat healthy too. You also won’t have to deal with a ton of picky eating and power struggles at the table.

A misnomer about preparing healthy meals is that it’s time consuming but nothing could be further from the truth. By doing some prep work on the weekends, cooking in bulk and sticking to the basics, you can get dinner on the table in no time.

3. Eat breakfast

You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your kids, but it’s for you as well.

A healthy breakfast is important because it gives you energy, prevents low blood sugar—and that hangry feeling—and prevents overeating throughout the day.

While the jury is still out on whether eating breakfast prevents weight gain, there is evidence that skipping breakfast is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

In fact, an April 2019 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that people who skip breakfast have an 87 percent increased risk of cardiovascular-related death compared to those who eat breakfast every day.

Starting the day off with breakfast can also make it more likely that you’ll make healthy choices throughout the day. According to a March 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight adults who eat breakfast are more likely to be physically active in the morning.

4. Keep healthy snacks on hand

When late afternoon hunger strikes, your energy levels are dipping and you’re vying for a pick-me-up, a coffee run can help but you should also fuel up with healthy snacks.

Instead of relying on something in a bag, box or canister, have foods like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and nut butters, or Greek yogurt on hand.

Take the guesswork out of snacks by washing, prepping and cutting up your fruits and vegetables ahead of time and setting aside individual grab-and-go containers or re-sealable plastic food bags.

5. Get moving

A sweat session at the gym makes me feel like a rock star. Not only does exercise prevent me from gaining weight, it has made me physically stronger.

Since I also deal with anxiety and depression, it’s a must-have to boost my mood.

Of course, the benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. But if all you can do is 15 minutes, it’s better than nothing.

If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you can still get a great workout at home or in your community.

Walking, running, biking, swimming or using one of the many fitness apps at home can be a fun and realistic way to fit it in.

To ensure it nothing else gets in the way, make an appointment with yourself and block it out on your calendar.

I like to work out in the early morning because I tend to lose motivation as the day goes on. But maybe after-dinner or your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find a way that works for you.

6. Prioritize your sleep

Sleep is important for your physical and mental health: it affects your hormones, immune system, appetite and your overall function.

But getting enough sleep is pretty much a pipe dream for most moms, whether they have babies or big kids.

Also, when you finally settle in at night, doing something for yourself may feel more important than sleep. Although it’s not easy, on the nights when you can turn in 30 minutes or an hour earlier, do so.

7. Find ways to relax 

Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to relax and cope with stress and anxiety, but it’s also important to find something that’s realistic and works for you.

Perhaps it’s reading, watching an inspirational video, doing a visualization exercise or calling a friend to talk.

 

8. Practice gratitude

There will always be someone else who is smarter, has more money or seems to have been dealt a better deck, but practicing gratitude as much as possible—even every day—is a proven way to increase happiness.

In fact, a May 2016 study in the journal Psychotherapy Research found people who wrote letters to others about gratitude reported improved mental health compared to those who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling.

 

9. Have sex

Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, sex is one of the best things you can do to be a healthy, happy mom.

Sure, you’re probably exhausted at the end of the day but sex is pleasurable, builds intimacy with your partner, and is associated with marital bliss over time.

Sex has other physical and mental health benefits: a stronger immune system, reduced risk of heart disease and hypertension, less headaches, improved sleep, better brain health, less stress, better self-esteem and a longer life.

10. Recognize when you need help

Postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 10 women nationwide but it often goes unrecognized and is not always an easy, clear-cut diagnosis, especially because the signs can be subtle.

While there’s a big focus on postpartum depression, what you should know is that moms also suffer with depression and anxiety when they’re pregnant or years after they’ve given birth.

If you’ve been feeling anxious, depressed or just not like yourself, there’s nothing wrong with getting help, or at the very least, talking to a friend. To find resources in your area, reach out to Postpartum Support International.

What are some things that help you to be a healthy, happy mom? Let me know in the comments.

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet, the U.S. is home to millions of children who go hungry every day.

If you’re able to put food on the table every day and never have to worry about feeding your kids, it can be really hard to wrap your head around this issue, as it was for me.

I wondered, what does it really mean when kids “go hungry?”

Living in a food insecure household can mean a family doesn’t have food in their home and not enough money to purchase it.

Some families may have food, but not enough to feed their families each month. As a result, parents may skip meals or cut back on their kids’ portions.

The reasons for food insecurity are complicated, but there are some important facts about child hunger you should know. Here are 5.

 

1. Children go hungry regardless of where they live

According to a 2017 report by No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in the U.S.— an estimated 13 million—face hunger. 

A misconception is that food insecure families only live in low-income areas. In fact, 93 percent of Americans don’t believe they know children in their neighborhood who go to school hungry, a 2019 report found.

Yet kids in affluent communities are certainly affected. According to a 2019 report by Feeding America, every U.S. county and congressional district has people who face hunger, at a rate that ranges between 3 to 36 percent for the overall population.

 

2. Child hunger has devastating health effects

Kids who go hungry have an increased risk for a host of chronic health conditions and problems including anemia, asthma, anxiety, depression, tooth decay, fatigue, headaches, stomachaches and more frequent colds. Hungry kids are also more likely to be hospitalized.

3. Child hunger affects school performance and behavior

Eating a healthy breakfast is important for a child’s overall health and academic performance, but sadly, 59 percent of kids from low income families don’t eat before school because of food insecurity and three out of four teachers say they have students who regularly come to school hungry.

As a result, teachers say students who are hungry lose their ability to focus, have poor academic performance and behavioral and discipline problems.

Kids from food insecure households are also more likely to have developmental delays, be held back, repeat a grade in elementary school, and drop out of high school.

4. Children are more likely to face hunger than the general U.S. population

The rates of children who are food insecure are higher than those of the overall population in the U.S., a recent report found. Although child hunger is a nationwide problem, rural and southern communities are impacted the most.

5. More kids go hungry during the summer

Kids who rely on free and reduced school lunch and breakfast are often left without meals during the summer months.

According to No Kid Hungry, only 1 in 7 kids who are eligible for free summer meals through the national Summer Food Service Program, aren’t getting them, either because families don’t know about the program or they don’t know where to find it.

To help a family in need, search the USDA’s meal service site finder tool or text ‘FOOD’ or ‘COMIDA’ to 877-877.

6. Children may not eat healthy, even when they have access to food

Local food banks can help to fill the gap for food insecure families, but they may not always have the healthiest foods.

Most food is processed and packaged food that have a long shelf life and tend to be made with refined carbohydrates like white pasta and rice, and high in sodium, like canned goods.

In fact, less than 10 percent of the food offered through food banks nationally is fresh produce, according to The New York Times.

What’s more, an April 2017 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found diets of people who access food banks have low nutritional value, and inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, dairy and calcium.

Even when nutritional intake was sufficient, many did not meet the recommendations for vitamins A, C, D, and B vitamins, or iron, magnesium, and zinc.

The good news is that through initiatives like Feeding America’s National Produce Program, more food insecure families are getting the healthy food they need.

What you can do to help end child hunger

 

Childhood hunger is a widespread problem in the U.S., but there are several ways you can help.

Advocate

To help protect and expand federal programs like SNAP for food insecure families, contact your senators and representatives today.

Volunteer

Local food banks need volunteers to sort, stock shelves, pack and distribute food. Search Feeding America for a list of local food banks in your area.

If you’re looking to volunteer with your kids, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about—and serve—others in need, but many food banks do not allow kids under age 10.

Check with your local churches, shelters, and community organizations, or search VolunteerMatch.org for other opportunities that you can do with younger kids.

Curb food waste

Despite the overabundance of food in the U.S., we’re a nation of waste. Homes and  businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are wasting more than 80 percent of food.

If you own or operate a food business, contact Meal Connect, an organization that accepts excess food and donates it to local food banks, food pantries and meal programs.

For tips for your home, read, 10 Tips To Reduce Food Waste When Feeding Kids.

Fundraise or donate

No Kid Hungry and Feeding America have information available for people interested in fundraising opportunities, special events, and ways to donate.

 

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

15 Easy and Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

When I was breastfeeding my kids, I was hungry All. The. Time.

Hungry as in: I’d eat my lunch while my daughter nursed—yes, on a plate with a fork.

Breastfeeding torches some serious calories (more on that later) so having easy and healthy snacks at the ready was also important for helping to satisfy my near-constant hunger.

In addition to a healthy diet, keeping a stash of quick, easy and healthy snacks you can grab whether you’re at home, work or on the go will stave off hunger, fuel your milk supply and give you plenty of energy despite all those sleepless nights.

How many calories does breastfeeding burn?


According to KellyMom.com, the amount of calories exclusively breastfeeding moms need depend on their weight, nutritional status and activity level.

On average, women should aim for an extra 300 to 500 calories above what they were consuming to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. That would work out to 1 to 2 healthy snacks a day, but my advice is to eat for hunger and don’t worry too much about counting calories.

Learn more in this quick video.

Wondering what to eat? Here are 15 healthy snacks for breastfeeding to try.

1. Hard boiled eggs

Eggs are some of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding because they’re loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 30 grams. Protein satisfies hunger and gives you plenty of energy.

Hard boiled eggs are also quick and easy to make so you can boil a dozen and have enough for the week.

Pair an egg with some cut up raw veggies or whole grain crackers for a healthy and delicious snack.

 

2. Greek yogurt and fruit

High in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics, yogurt can be a healthy snack for breastfeeding.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract.

 

3. Kale chips

Green leafy vegetables are healthy because they’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Kale, in particular, is a superfood for breastfeeding moms. A good source of fiber protein, folate, iron, it’s also high in vitamins A, C, K, B6, calcium and potassium.

Toss a cup of washed kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the over for 10 to 15 minutes a 350 degrees.

 

4. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber to stave off hunger and keep your blood sugar steady.

Popcorn takes only a few minutes to make and you can stash it in your pantry anytime hunger strikes.

 

5. Apples and nut butter

Pair an apple with your favorite nut butter for the perfect combination of fiber and protein to satisfy your hunger—and your tastebuds—in between meals.

 

6. Avocado toast

Avocado is a superfood, especially for breastfeeding moms.

With 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamins B5, B6, C, E, K, folate and potassium, avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—the healthy fats that can help reduce bad cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease later on in life.

A half cup has more than 2 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Spread some avocado on whole grain toast for a healthy, delicious and satisfying snack.

 

7. Edamame

Edamame (soybeans) are quick and easy and one of the best healthy snacks for breastfeeding.

An excellent source of protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, edamame are also high in calcium.

You can purchase edamame fresh or frozen, but look for those that are already shelled to save time. 

 

8. Cheese, crackers and fruit

Pair cheddar or ricotta on whole grain crackers and top with sliced strawberries for a sweet and savory snack.

 

9. Chia seed pudding

An excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an energy-boosting superfood for breastfeeding.

Chia seed pudding takes only a few minutes to whip up in your blender and you can store a batch in your refrigerator or in individual mason jars for grab and go snacks. Top with fruit for even more fiber and a hint of sweetness.

 

10. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re a good source of magnesium, the “calming mineral,” and zinc known for immune boosting and wound healing properties.

They also contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and mood—a good thing if you’re at risk for postpartum depression.

Three tablespoons of pumpkin seeds also offer a good combination of protein (9 grams) and fiber (2 grams).

Add pumpkin seeds to yogurt, on top of salad or eat them solo.

11. Green smoothie

One of the best ways to get several vegetables in at one time, especially when you’re short on time is to blend up a green smoothie.

To keep the sugar content low, stick with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. You can then add in chia seeds, protein powder or a nut butter, for example.

12. Homemade trail mix

Store-bought trail mix can be a quick and easy option, but read labels carefully since most are packed with salty nuts, a lot of high-sugar dried fruit, “yogurt” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Making your own trail mix only takes a few minutes and you get to control the ingredients. Combine almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins for a healthy and delicious breastfeeding snack.

13. Hummus and carrots

Another favorite snack combination of mine is raw baby carrots with hummus.

Carrots are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber: 1/2 cup has nearly 3 grams

Pair carrots with hummus, which has nearly 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup, and you have a great snack.

14. No-bake energy bites

No-bake energy bites may take a few minutes to make, but they’re well worth it and you can make a large batch and freeze them.

Combine ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, dates, nut butter, raisins and seeds. Need a recipe? Here are 7.

15. Celery and tuna

Celery is a good source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, K, folate and potassium. It’s also high in fiber: a 1/2 cup has nearly 2 grams.

Add some tuna (or canned salmon) and you have a fiber and protein-packed snack.

Tomatoes and mozzarella

Tomatoes are a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, choline and fiber: one cup has more than 2 grams. Add some protein with sliced mozzarella cheese and you’ve got an easy and healthy snack.

6 Tips for Stress-Free Family Dinners

6 Tips for Stress-Free Family Dinners

There are three times every day when my life gets really stressful:

  • The morning when I’m rushing to get the kids out the door and on the bus
  • The homework-bath time-bedtime routine (need I say more?)
  • And of course, dinner time.

When you work and have after-school activities, appointments and errands, getting dinner on the table almost every night is no easy feat.

In fact, according to a 2013 joint poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, nearly 50 percent of families find it difficult to find the time to eat dinner together.

Still, about 85 percent of families manage it four or more times each week, a 2016 survey found.

Although getting everyone around the table is half the battle, there’s still the time needed to prep and cook said dinner and clean up afterwards. 

Add to that picky eaters and sibling splats and dinner can turn into one meal you dread.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 tips for stress-free dinners—no wine required!

1. Batch cook ahead of time

Rushing home to get a healthy dinner on the table is time consuming and stressful, no matter how much you may love to cook or how many simple meal prep hacks you have.

If you can find pockets of time throughout the week to cook large batches of vegetables and grains for example, all you have to do when you come home is add a protein, which you can also pre-cook or add something ready made like a can of salmon.

If you’re so inclined and have extra chunks of time throughout the week, make a meal or two ahead of time that can be reheated.

2. Serve up an appetizer

When my kids walk in the door at 5pm, their first complaint question is, can I have a snack?

Eating together as a family is a great way to teach kids about healthy eating if you’re serving the same meal for everyone (I hope you are!).

If your kids are vying for something to eat while you’re cooking dinner or waiting for other family members to come home, serve an appetizer.

An appetizer is so much more exciting and sounds fancier than a snack, and it can also be healthier. Try vegetable crudités, veggies with hummus or guacamole, or fresh fruit.

3. Play it cool

Picky eating is by far one of the biggest sources of stress at the dinner table.

In fact, a survey by Abbott Nutrition Health Institute found parents of kids with picky eaters report feeling stressed about meal times and are more likely to have meals end in an argument.

Parents of picky eaters often try to control the situation and beg (take one more bite), negotiate (eat your vegetables and you can have dessert), or use pressure tactics like waving a forkful of food in their faces or telling them they can’t leave the table until they finish their dinner.

Put yourself in your kid’s shoes: would you want to eat if someone was forcing you to do the same?

Kids don’t learn manners, respect and good behavior overnight and the same goes for raising healthy eaters. It takes teaching, plenty of patience and modeling the desired behaviors.

Kids also need time to develop their food preferences and opportunities to touch, smell and taste their food.

Stay consistent, but don’t stress.

4. Get rid of the distractions

Taking phone calls, checking emails, or watching the game are not only distractions at the dinner table that take away from meaningful conversation and  quality time together as a family, but they also make for stressful meals.

Make a commitment as a family: no phones, devices or TV allowed.

Instead, focus on what you’re eating, how much you’re eating and the people around you.

The one caveat? Music in the background, which can help ease stress and make mealtimes happy.

5. Get kids to pitch in

Cooking, cleaning up and setting the table shouldn’t be all on your shoulders.

Getting your kids involved in age-appropriate activities empowers them to take responsibility, teaches them how to work together as a family, and can ease some of the mealtime burden.

Kids as young as 3 can put out napkins, while older kids can handle place settings, help plate the food, load the dishwasher and wash dishes.

6. Be positive

When you’re already pressed to spend time with your spouse and kids, it’s tempting to talk about everything that’s on your mind.

I’ll admit, this is one area when I fall short.

I’m constantly telling my kids “please don’t interrupt,” and “close your mouth while you chew.” I’m also guilty of tackling hot button issues with my husband or discussing the week’s schedule—both of which can wait until after dinner.

Trying your best to create a meaningful experience will make for stress-free family dinners.

If your kids tend to fight at the dinner table, try having them sit apart.

Or challenge each person to talk about the best or most surprising part of their day, something they love about another family member or what they’re grateful for that day.

Dinner time won’t always be perfect, but it can be a positive experience. 

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

[VIDEO] 9 Amazing Benefits of Exercise During Pregnancy

Have you ever seen those women on social media who are 9 months pregnant running marathons, lifting huge, heavy barbells at CrossFit or managing impossible Yoga poses without breaking a sweat?

I have but no, I wasn’t one of them.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching Spinning classes and had completed my first endurance race—a 1/2 marathon—about 3 months earlier.

Since my first pregnancy ended in miscarriage however, my doctor suggested I cut back on exercise until the 3 month mark.

Once I was in the clear, I returned to the gym but not to a bike. 

Instead, I exercised several days of the week and did low-impact workouts like walking, strength training, stretching and prenatal Yoga.

More power to those women who can keep up with their intense workouts during pregnancy but let’s get real: particularly during those early months of pregnancy when you’re dealing with morning sickness, mood swings and exhaustion, the couch is much more appealing than the treadmill.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Why? Because there are so many amazing benefits during pregnancy and way beyond those 40 weeks. Here are 9.

1. Lower risk of pregnancy complications

Exercise during pregnancy strengthens the heart and blood vessels and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent, a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found. 

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have a caesarean section.

2. Cures pregnancy constipation

Between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with constipation during pregnancy.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary—another great reason to get moving.

Looking for more ways to prevent and cure constipation? Watch my video.

3. Eases aches and pains

Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are common during pregnancy.

4. May prevent postpartum depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent postpartum depression.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

5. Fights fatigue

Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

6. Improves sleep

When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with stress that might be keeping you awake. One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

7. Faster recovery from childbirth

Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

8. Supports postpartum health

Staying active during pregnancy can help establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

Exercise in the weeks after delivery may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots. It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn needs.

9. Helps you lose the baby weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs. Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, a separation of the rectus abdominis muscles.

If you had a healthy pregnancy and a normal vaginal delivery you can likely start to exercise a few days after you’ve given birth or when you feel ready, according to ACOG. If you had a c-section or complications or you’re simply unsure, you should always check with your doctor first.

Did you exercise during pregnancy? In what ways did it help you? Let me know in the comments!

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

7 Best Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

When one of my friends was pregnant with her first child, like all new moms, she tried to do everything she could to have a healthy pregnancy, including eating right.

She talked to her doctor about her diet and read a book about a pregnancy nutrition.

But with all of the recommendations about getting plenty of protein, iron and calcium for example, she started to worry about getting enough of every nutrient and she ended up gaining 60 pounds!

Although your diet is really important for both you and your baby, all of the pregnancy nutrition advice can seem overwhelming and make you crazy.

Instead of worrying about following a set of rules, eating the “right” foods, and getting a certain amount of nutrients in your diet, stick to the basics.

Here are my best pregnancy nutrition tips and general recommendations that can go a long way in having a healthy pregnancy.

1. Get folic acid

Folic acid, the synthetic version of folate, is a must-have nutrient for a healthy pregnancy because it prevents neural tube defects (NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Although many women think they should start taking folic acid when they first see the plus sign on a pregnancy test, it’s important to take it before you even plan to become pregnant and especially during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy.

Since nearly 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, experts recommend all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of a folic acid supplement daily.

Although folate isn’t absorbed as well as folic acid, it’s still a good idea to get it from foods like beef, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and legumes and fortified foods like some cereals.

2. Don’t eat for two

The advice that you need to eat for two when you’re pregnant is outdated and incorrect.

In fact, following this advice may be why 47 percent of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and sleep apnea, preterm birth, birth defects, problems during labor and delivery, and is linked to a higher risk for c-sections.

Research also suggests babies born to obese moms are more likely to be overweight themselves and may be at risk for poor developmental outcomes.

Excess weight gain can also make it harder to lose the weight after you give birth.

In the first trimester, you actually don’t need to consume extra calories.

If you have a normal body mass index (BMI), an extra 340 calories a day during the second trimester and an extra 450 calories a day in the third trimester is appropriate, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

If you’re carrying twins or multiples, or you’re underweight, overweight or obese when you become pregnant, you should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure you’re getting the right amount of calories for a healthy weight gain.

3. Limit fake food

A whole foods diet can help ensure you get the right amount of nutrition to support your health and your baby’s growth and development.

Instead of fast food, processed foods and foods with refined carbohydrates, focus on getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, clean sources of protein, whole grains and healthy fats.

Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy and you may feel more tired than usual, eating real food will give you the energy you need.

Whole foods are also more satiating, so you’ll be less likely to overeat and gain too much weight.

4. Get your omega-3s

Fish is an important source of DHA and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for your baby’s brain development.

In fact, a 2016 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found eating more servings of seafood each week was associated with higher cognitive scores and a decrease in symptoms of Autism.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it’s safe to eat two, 8-12 ounce servings of fish per week. Fish with low levels of mercury include shrimp, salmon, catfish and pollock.

Avoid those with high levels of mercury which include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. If you eat white albacore tuna, limit it to 6 ounces a week.

If you can’t stomach fish, try adding other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts, DHA-fortified milk or peanut butter, or talk to your doctor about taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

5. Eat enough

Although many women gain too much weight during pregnancy, there are also those that may go in another dangerous direction.

In fact, a 2012 survey by SELF magazine and CafeMom.com found nearly 50 percent of pregnant women admitted to cutting calories, eliminating entire food groups and eating a lot of low-calorie and low-fat foods. A few women said they even turned to fasting, cleansing, purging and using diet pills and laxatives.

You might be worried about gaining too much pregnancy weight or losing the baby weight after you give birth but pregnancy isn’t the time to diet.

Be sure to check out the pregnancy weight gain recommendations which take into account your pre-pregnancy weight and if you’re having one baby or multiples.

If you’re unsure of what to eat—and how much—consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in pregnancy nutrition.

6. Eat iron-rich foods

In order for your body to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby, you need about double the amount of iron during pregnancy than you did before you became pregnant.

ACOG recommends 27 milligrams of iron a day which you can likely get from your prenatal vitamin, but it’s also a good idea to eat iron-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, beans and peas and iron-fortified cereals.

Eating iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C can also help your body absorb iron more efficiently.

7. Don’t stress

The thing about pregnancy nutrition is that no matter how well-intentioned you are to eat healthy, your pregnancy may not go as you had planned.

Whether you’re dealing with morning sickness or something more serious like gestational diabetes, you may have to tweak your diet.

My advice: eat whole, healthy foods and follow your nutritionist’s advice, but don’t stress.

Being a calm mama is so much more important than adhering to a strict list of pregnancy rules.

5 Healthy Foods I Buy Every Week

5 Healthy Foods I Buy Every Week

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

While I enjoying going to the mall to shop for new clothes just like the next mom, perusing the aisles of the grocery store and specialty food market to check out new products is my guilty pleasure.

If my kids are with me however, I’m hyper-focused on getting in and out of the store as soon as possible.

It seems that they inevitably ask for something that isn’t on the list, but if they spot a vegetable they’ve never tried, I’m happy to buy it. Allowing them to make choices and explore new foods is a great way to teach kids about healthy eating.

Since life is so hectic, I also have to make sure I keep meals simple. I usually spend some time on the weekends to roast vegetables, make a large vat of lentils for school lunches and bake gluten-free bread.

Sticking with many of the same foods and meals each week takes the guesswork out of meal planning and makes my life less stressful.

While we often purchase a new type of fish, try new spices or test out new recipes, there are 5 healthy foods I buy every week that make healthy eating a breeze.

1. Salad


When salad starts to run low in the refrigerator, I start to feel a bit uneasy. I know,

it sounds completely ridiculous, but our family eats a lot of salad and I rely on it to make meals fast.

Salad is of course healthy, but it’s also one of the quickest meals you can make for lunch and dinner.

With my wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna set, it’s super-easy to chop and mix everything right in the bowl without having to pull out a chopping board. I add lettuce, raw vegetables and avocado, pair it with a protein and I have a meal ready in no time.

 


2. Avocado


High in fiber and healthy fats, and packed with nutrition, avocado is a superfood for kids and a must-have in my kitchen.

I add avocado to salads, serve it with eggs, or make guacamole in my Vitamix.

You can also make avocado toast, add it to smoothies, use it to make homemade salad dressing, or swap it for mayonnaise or butter in baking recipes.


3. Beans


We eat a lot of plant-based foods so beans are something I buy every week.

Beans are high in both protein and fiber and an excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. They’re also rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.

I usually serve beans with green leafy vegetables, add them to salads, or make bean burgers or beans and rice.

 

 

4. Eggs


Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids which is why my family eats them every day.

They’re an excellent source of protein and high in lutein, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs lend themselves to so many easy and delicious recipes too.

In addition to scrambled eggs and omelets, I’ll make a vegetable frittata or quiche, egg “fried” rice or egg salad. A large batch of hard-boiled eggs stocked in the refrigerator are also great to have on hand for grab-and-go snacks.

 

 

5. Bananas

 

Bananas are a great source of potassium and vitamin B6, and also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

When my older daughter walks into the kitchen in the morning, she immediately reaches for a banana to eat with her breakfast.

I also use bananas for my morning smoothies, add them to overnight oats or incorporate them into baked goods so I usually buy two bunches every week. If some start to over-ripen, I pop them in the freezer to use later or to whip up a dairy-free treat.

 

What are some healthy foods you buy every week? Let me know in the comments!

 

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained more than 40 pounds—something I attribute to eating whatever and whenever I wanted.

A bagel and cream cheese was my go-to breakfast and chocolate was an everyday indulgence.

I mistakenly thought—as many women do—that I should be eating for two.

When there was a family gathering or party, I wouldn’t think twice about taking an extra treat because, I figured I was pregnant and I deserved it.

As my belly grew, the number on the scale got higher and I moved into the final weeks of pregnancy however, people would ask me, are you sure you’re not having twins?

Not exactly what a pregnant mom wants to hear.

When you look at the research, it turns out that my weight gain, albeit unhealthy, was on par with other women. According to a June 2017 meta-analysis in JAMA, 47 percent of women gain more than the Institute of Medicine guidelines.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is linked to a host of pregnancy complications, problems during labor and delivery and postpartum health conditions.

Unfortunately, studies also show that after pregnancy, the pounds linger.

According to a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they did before they became pregnant. In fact, 47 percent were 10 pounds overweight while 24 percent were 20 pounds overweight.

Of course, losing the weight reduces your risk for obesity, chronic health conditions, and things like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes during subsequent pregnancies.

By the time I became pregnant with my second child, I knew a lot more about pregnancy nutrition and by making healthy choices and not overeating, my weight gain was within normal range.

Although the weight was slower to come off the second time around, by eating healthy, exercising and a few other tricks, I lost the baby weight with both pregnancies. Here’s how I did it.

Breastfeed

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the nurse told me, if you breastfeed, the weight will come off in no time.

I had already made the decision to breastfeed because of all the amazing benefits, so I figured if that was the case, even better.

It turns out, that nurse was right.

I found that when I was breastfeeding I was ravenous all the time and I definitely ate when I was but by 6 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

It’s definitely not a hard and fast rule, but exclusive breastfeeding can torch some serious calories—up to 500 calories a day or the equivalent of running 6 miles!

According to a December 2014 study in the journal Preventative Medicine, women who exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months, lost 3 pounds (by the year mark) compared to women who didn’t breastfeed or breastfeed exclusively.

Yet other studies have shown that breastfeeding may not lead to weight loss, since the hormone prolactin increases appetite and may lead women to consume too many calories.

Obviously, the decision to breastfeed shouldn’t be because of weight loss, but it could be an awesome extra benefit.

 

Eat whole foods

When you have a new baby at home, having time to cook, much less eat a meal can seem impossible.

A granola bar or a bag of crackers can help when you’re on the go, but if you’re relying on processed snacks all day, you’re not giving your body the nutrition it needs to lose the baby weight in a healthy way.

To lose the baby weight, I focused on eating whole foods which are not only packed with nutrition but also stave off hunger. Eating a salad every day for lunch proved a great way for me to stay on track.

I also made it a point to get plenty of protein, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts and seeds.

Exercise

After you have a baby, going to the gym is one healthy habit that can easily be put on the back burner.

Between back-to-back feedings, diaper changes, laundry and fighting through fatigue, working out is the last thing on your mind.

And if you have postpartum depression like I did, getting out of the house can be a struggle.

Yet after you get the green light from your provider to start exercising again, usually around 6 weeks postpartum, it’s one of the best things you can do not only to lose the baby weight but also for your health and your mood.

In the first few weeks of bringing my daughter home, I’d put her in the stroller and take walks in the neighborhood. When I was cleared to work out again, I started walking on the treadmill, then running and lifting weights.

If the gym isn’t your thing, there are so many ways to get in a workout.

Try the free or subscription-based workout apps or head to the park with your baby. At the very least, getting out prevents isolation and can help you meet other like-minded moms.

Don’t diet

To shed the baby weight, I never thought that what I was doing was a diet.

I didn’t count calories or put restrictions on what I was eating, although I did follow the WW (previously Weight Watchers) plan—more for the accountability than anything.

I knew that diets don’t work—it has to be a lifestyle—so I focused on giving my body what it needed—whole, nutritious foods. I ate when I was hungry, kept my portion sizes in check and always left room for treats.

Eat snacks

When you’re trying to lose weight, many experts say to stick to 3 square meals a day—no snacking allowed.

Since I was breastfeeding however, snacks helped to satisfy my hunger, especially between lunch and dinner and prevented overeating at meals. Also, since I have anxiety, low blood sugar is never a good thing, especially when caring for a baby and running around.

Experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding moms need an extra 300-500 calories, which can be built into your diet with snacks.

Drink water

Any time you’re trying to lose weight, experts will advise you to drink plenty of water. According to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters, while lactating women should get more—

3.1 liters a day.

Thirst can often look like hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it promotes fullness and can stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

One trick that helped me to drink enough was to re-fill a re-usable water bottle and carry it with me everywhere I went.

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

[VIDEO] How To Cope With Pregnancy Constipation

When your hormones are all over the place, you’re exhausted and you’re already dealing with morning sickness, constipation—along with the gas, bloating and that uncomfortable heavy feeling—is one more pregnancy symptom you’d rather not have to deal with.

Constipation is a surprising common complaint during pregnancy—studies show between 11 and 38 percent of women are affected.

Blame it on the hormone progesterone, which is in full effect during pregnancy and can cause the muscles in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to slow down and prevent waste from moving through.

Pregnancy constipation can also be a result of the increase in water absorption from the intestines which causes stool to dry out and the growing uterus, which may disrupt the normal functioning of the GI tract.

A decrease in activity and lack of exercise as well as the iron and calcium in prenatal vitamins can also back things up.

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer for 9 months feeling miserable.

Here are some strategies that can help prevent—and cure—pregnancy constipation.

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

 

1. Eat more fiber


Fiber-rich foods are the perfect antidote to pregnancy constipation but they can be hard to get in your diet especially during the first trimester, when all you can tolerate are saltine crackers, for example, and other foods with simple, refined carbohydrates.

As morning sickness subsides however, usually (but not always) around the second trimester, you’ll be able to start introducing healthy, high-fiber foods again to get you back on track.

Stick to vegetables, especially the dark, green leafy types that are packed with nutrition and fiber, as well as fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and chia seeds and flaxseeds.


2. Drink up


During pregnancy, it’s crucial that you drink plenty of water but it’s even more important if you’re constipated because it will help move things along.

Aim for 10 cups (2.4 liters) of water each day, which the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend during pregnancy.

In addition to drinking plenty of water, a cup of coffee, black tea or a bit of prune juice especially in the morning may also do the trick.

3. Try magnesium


Magnesium relaxes the bowels and certain types are known to have a laxative effect.

According to an August 2017 study in the Advanced Biomedical Research,

magnesium may even prevent pregnancy complications.

Before starting any supplement however, always check with your provider about the type, dosage and safety.

4. Avoid refined carbohydrates


White, refined carbohydrates found in foods like rice, pasta, crackers, snack foods, and processed foods are binding so it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.

5. Get moving


Getting plenty of exercise not only ensures a healthy pregnancy, it can also prevent constipation.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend women with uncomplicated pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most or all days of the week. Walking, swimming and prenatal yoga are all good choices.

6. Talk to your doctor


If constipation persists after changing your diet, upping your water intake and exercising, talk to your doctor about changing your prenatal vitamin which may be backing you up.

Your doctor may also prescribe a fiber supplement, a stool softener, or a laxative. Although they’re generally considered safe, it’s always a good idea to check in with her first since every woman and every pregnancy is unique.

What are some remedies for pregnancy constipation that have helped you? Leave me a comment.

Should You Force Kids To Eat?

Should You Force Kids To Eat?

When I was a child, the expectation when my family sat down to dinner was that I should eat everything on my plate.

Whether that was really the expectation or what I perceived, it was the message I got.

Growing up in an Italian-American family, eating is what we did.

Sunday dinners with meatballs, pasta and coffee cake were such a big part of our traditions that it wouldn’t be a Sunday without it. 

When we visited family, the expectation was that we at least tried what the host took time to prepare.

Eating, and eating as much as you wanted, was always a good thing and praised. If you didn’t eat, everyone wondered if something was wrong and it was almost seen as an insult.

While I do remember being told to eat your vegetables, and take a bite, you might like it, I was never forced by my parents to eat although many parents of that generation did.

Surprisingly, it seems that the “clean plate” mentality when kids were told they had to eat before being excused from the table, is still at play today.

Recently, I’ve noticed some of my friends falling into this camp.

While having dinner, one waved a fork of food in his kid’s face and told him to take a bite, while another told his kid that she couldn’t be excused from the table or have dessert until she ate.

Research shows not only is this way of thinking still very real today, but it’s happening in households not with toddlers, but also teens.

In fact, a May 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics showed up to two-thirds of parents encourage their adolescents to finish everything on their plates.

We all have the best intentions and want our kids to eat healthy and eat enough, but when we force kids to eat, it can backfire.

Forcing kids to eat doesn’t help—and it may even hurt

When we encourage kids to eat—or do something we want them to do but they don’t want to do—, it doesn’t usually work.

According to an April 2018 study in the journal Appetite, researchers suggest that forcing kids to eat can create tension during meal times and even damage the parent-child relationship.

What’s more, forcing kids to eat foods they don’t like has no impact on their weight nor does it do anything to change their picky eating, the same study found.

Kids need to recognize their hunger

Kids will eat when they’re hungry so forcing them to eat when they’re not puts a sour taste in their mouths, so to speak.

Put yourself in your kid’s shoes: if someone put a plate of broccoli in front of you and told you to finish it when you weren’t hungry, would you eat it? What if the food was something you despised—how likely would you be to just try it?

The same goes for kids.

As toddlers grow and are exposed to new foods, they’re learning what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

Forcing them to eat doesn’t give them the chance to learn how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues and know when they’re hungry and when they’re not.

Studies show forcing kids to eat can even alter their internal hunger signals which in turn can lead to childhood obesity.

It creates a negative experience

Food is fuel but meals are meant to be enjoyed—both the food and the shared experience with family.

When each meal becomes a power struggle or rife with tension however, kids don’t have the freedom to make choices about what they eat and the whole meal time experience becomes an unpleasant one.

It may lead to bigger eating problems

When there’s a consistent message that kids should clean their plates, I’m concerned that it can become what a child starts to believe and continues to believe throughout adulthood.

Just look at the 93 million people in the U.S. who are overweight.

At the very least, eating everything on their plates can become a poor habit that started because they were taught to do so.

A better way to get kids to eat

Using pressure tactics to encourage your kids to eat makes you feel in control but it’s not a healthy, long-term strategy. Here are a few easy, effective tips to try.

Enjoy meals

Mealtimes should be an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy eating and portion control and an opportunity to explore new foods and have a taste—but only if they want to.

Meals should also be a way for your family to communicate, connect and enjoy each other. Instead of bribes, negotiation and pressure tactics, focus on the conversation and the food—not on how many bites your kid takes.

Model healthy behaviors

Teach kids that it’s OK not to love everything on their plates and the goal isn’t to leave the table with a clean plate.

Lead by example and teach your kids how to eat slowly and mindfully, taste the food, put your fork down every so often and savor every bite.


Offer choices

While something simple like scrambled eggs and toast is all you’ll be able to pull together for dinner some nights, try to offer a cooked vegetable and a salad and let your kid decide which he wants to try.

When kids feel that eating is in their control, they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices—as long as those choices are offered.


Stick with it

Kids who are picky eaters aren’t going to change their ways overnight—and we can’t expect them to. It can take between 15 and 20 times of offering a new food before they’re willing to try it.

Teaching kids about healthy foods and healthy eating habits takes consistency—and plenty of patience—at every meal.