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.

15 Best and Worst Summer Foods For Kids

15 Best and Worst Summer Foods For Kids

School is almost out and with summer right around the corner, there will be plenty of time to enjoy backyard barbecues, lazy days at the pool, trips to the amusement park and family getaways.  

Of course, of all the places you’ll go, there will also be plenty of healthy, delicious superfoods and some foods that are high in sugar, unhealthy saturated fats and artificial ingredients. 

Here are 15 summer foods that can be served up regularly along with those that are better in moderation, or avoided altogether. 

Best Summer Foods 

1. Watermelon

With its juicy, refreshing and subtle sweetness, watermelon is a kid favorite and one of the best summer foods. 

As its name implies, 90 percent of watermelon is water, which is a great food to keep kids hydrated on hot, summer days and prevent constipation.

It’s also a good source of vitamin C, iron, calcium and lycopene, a carotenoid or antioxidant. Studies show lycopene may reduce exercise-induced asthma and lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. 

2. Zucchini and Squash

Zucchini and yellow squash are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins and magnesium, the “calming mineral.”

Squash is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

3. Cherries


Cherries are a nutritional powerhouse and one of the best summer for kids.

Cherries are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate fluid levels in the body and counteracts the effects of sodium—a good thing if your kids are filling up on salty fare this summer.

They also contain quercetin, a plant pigment and an antioxidant that helps balance blood pressure. 

Since cherries are also a natural source of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” they can help kids have an easier time falling asleep, which can be challenging during the summer months when the sun sets later and kids are often wound up from the busy days.

Read: 6 Reasons Cherries Are Healthy for Kids + Recipes

4. Swiss Chard


All green leafy vegetables are superfoods for kids, but Swiss chard, which is in season during the summer, has a mild taste, making it more likely that your child will eat it.

Swiss chard is high in vitamins A,C, E, and K, B6 and folate, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. 

5. Kiwi fruit


Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of fiber—a 1/2 cup has 3 grams—and a good source of vitamins C, E, and K, and potassium. Sweet and delicious, it also makes for a great first food for baby.

Read: How To Make Baby Food—Fast


6. Shrimp


Shrimp is one of best summer foods for kids.

It’s an excellent source of protein— a 3-ounce serving of shrimp contains a whopping 18 grams. It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron,  vitamin B12 and selenium.

Serve shrimp cocktail as an appetizer or grill it for dinner, shrimp is a quick, easy and versatile.

7. Corn on the cob

It’s not summer without corn on the cob, and fortunately, it’s a kid-favorite and can be healthy without tons of butter and salt.

One ear of corn has nearly 2 grams of fiber and protein and is a good source of folate, vitamins A, B6 and C, magnesium, thiamin, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Boil or grill corn on the cob and if you’re going to add butter, stick with grass-fed butter because it contains gut-friendly probiotics.

 

8. Strawberries


Strawberries are high in fiber, rich in antioxidants and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Strawberries can also satisfy a sweet tooth and make for a healthy, delicious swap for a high-sugar dessert.

Read: 5 Reasons Strawberries Are Healthy For Kids

Worst Summer Foods


1. Fried dough


Whether it’s an amusement park, a carnival or fair, chances are, you’ll be able to get fried dough, zeppole (my favorite), or funnel cake.

Flour, sugar and deep fried: what’s not to love?

But fried foods contain trans fat, which raises both LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers  HDL (good) cholesterol and is linked to an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes, a condition that’s on the rise in kids.

Sure, a plate full of funnel cake might not sound like a big deal, but let your kid eat the whole thing and it can net more than 700 calories.

Also, take into account other foods that may have trans fat your kids might be eating throughout the summer: doughnuts, French fries, bakery goods, pizza, chips, cookies and crackers.

2. Hot dogs

 

Hot dogs at a picnic or summer party are synonymous with childhood, but hot dogs are hands down one of the worst summer foods for kids.

Hot dogs are processed, contain nitrates and are high in saturated fat.

Take a look at how hot dogs are really made, and you’ll probably swear them off forever.

Even worse? A corn dog, which is high in saturated fat and sodium.

 

3. Macaroni salad

 

A staple at summer barbecues, macaroni salad is creamy and delicious thanks to ingredients like mayonnaise, sugar and cheese.

Yet with 300 calories per serving, along with 19 grams of fat, 8 grams of sugar and nearly 800 milligrams of sodium, it’s one summer side dish that’s best to avoid.


4. Popsicles

 

Fruit popsicles are a summertime kid-favorite but many store-bought brands are made with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial food dyes and are high in sugar.

Take the Popsicle brand fruit pops which are made with real fruit: 34 grams of sugar, 31 of which are added sugars!

When buying popsicles, read labels carefully. Even better? Make your own. Here are some great recipes from Super Healthy Kids.


5. Cole slaw


Sure, cabbage is a healthy, green leafy vegetable but smother it in mayonnaise and you’ve got a calorie-dense, fat-laden side dish.

A half cup of cole slaw has 230 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 6 grams of sugar. 

If you still want to serve it, cut back on the amount of mayo, nix the sugar or swap in Greek yogurt. Or serve up grilled vegetables or a green salad instead.


6. Snow cones

A favorite along the boardwalk and at carnivals, snow cones are not only made with high-fructose corn syrup and are high in sugar (25 grams per serving), but they contain artificial food dyes, sweeteners and preservatives, and ingredients like propylene glycol, the same toxic chemical used in anti-freeze.

7. Cotton candy

The quintessential carnival fare, cotton candy is melt-in-your-mouth goodness but it is perhaps one of the worst summer foods you can feed your kids.

Loaded with sugar— 56 grams of sugar per serving—and artificial flavors and food dyes, it’s one food to avoid, or at the very least share among the family.

6 Reasons Cherries Are Healthy For Kids + Recipes!

6 Reasons Cherries Are Healthy For Kids + Recipes!

Cherries are one of the most healthy and delicious fruits during the spring and summer months and a favorite in U.S. households: people consume more than 2 pounds of cherries each year.

Whether you add them to a lunch box, serve them as a snack or dish them up as an after-dinner treat, chances are, they’ll be a hit with your kids.

Not only do kids love to eat bite-sized foods, but they also get to be in control and feel empowered to choose how much they want to eat, which may encourage them to make healthy choices at other times of the day too.

It goes without saying however, that if you have little ones, be sure to pit the cherries to prevent choking. Since they have a tough texture, it may also be a good idea to puree them if you’re serving them to an infant.

Read on to discover 5 reasons why cherries are healthy for kids, plus some healthy and delicious recipes.

1. Rich in antioxidants

Cherries are high in polyphenols and vitamin C, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Vitamin C in particular, is important for skin, bones and connective tissue, promotes healing, helps the body to absorb iron and helps in the formation of neurotransmitters, or the body’s chemical messengers.

2. Supports brain health

Cherries are also rich in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that provides their rich red pigment.

Anthocyanin is also known to support cognitive and motor function and improve visual and neurological health.

Studies in mice suggest consuming cherries also supports brain health, improves memory, and prevents Alzheimer’s disease.

3. High in fiber

Since most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, they’re falling short on fiber which is necessary to satiate hunger, keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent constipation.

Studies also show eating plenty of fiber lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

In fact, a January 2019 review in The Lancet found compared to people who ate less fiber, those who ate more fiber had a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, colon cancer and a risk of dying early from any cause, by 15 to 30 percent.

With more than 3 grams of fiber in one cup, cherries will help kids get the fiber they need.

4. May prevent type-2 diabetes

Cherries have a low glycemic load so they don’t spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which may prevent type-2 diabetes, a condition that’s on the rise among kids

5. Heart-healthy

Although the research is still unclear, some studies suggest drinking tart cherry juice or consuming cherries may lower levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

In fact, a small June 2019 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found consuming the juice of Montmorency cherries reduced insulin levels and blood pressure.

Although heart disease isn’t something to be concerned about when your child is young, what they eat today can set the stage for their diet—and their health—well into the future. 

6. May make bedtime easier

If you have little ones, bedtime is one of the most dreaded times of the day to begin with.

But older children may get less sleep than they need because of electronics use, evening activities, homework, and a lack of sleep rules such as a sticking with a consistent bedtime, for example. 

Instead of turning to a melatonin supplement, which experts say is a concern for kids, eating a handful of cherries may help.

In fact, a December 2012 study in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests consuming tart cherry juice can improve the duration and quality of sleep.

That’s because cherries are the only natural source of melatonin, Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and best-selling author said in this article.

Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, regulates the body’s sleep-wake cycles.

Healthy Cherry Recipes

Here are some of my favorite healthy cherry recipes to try.

Brown Butter Cherry Bars by Tutti Dolci

Fresh Cherry Sauce by The Brewer & The Baker

Cherry Almond Smoothie by Hungry Girl For Vida

Super Detox Salad by Well Plated

Cherry Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins by Hip Foodie Mom

Cherry Pomegranate Limeade Popsicles by Chef Savvy

Do your kids eat cherries? How do you serve them? Let me know in the comments.

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

7 Healthy Memorial Day BBQ Ideas

The Memorial Day BBQ is the unofficial start to the summer and whether you’ll be hosting or visiting family and friends, there will be plenty of food.

Yet between hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, coleslaw, chips and dip and your favorite red-white-and-blue dessert, Memorial Day is also one of the most caloric, high-sugar, fat-laden holidays of the year.

While I encourage my kids to try new foods and indulge on any holiday, I also worry that they’ll overeat, which in the past, have caused them to become physically ill.

Not only that, but I want to teach them healthy eating habits and how to enjoy food without going overboard.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice taste, forego your favorite summertime dishes or have “food rules” to strike a balance. Here are 7 healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas that will allow your family to enjoy without getting too far off track.

Stay hydrated

Chances are Memorial Day will be a warm, sunny day and your kids will be running around so it’s important to encourage them to drink plenty of water.

Encourage your kid to stick with water throughout the day, instead of juice which is high in empty calories and sugar, spikes blood sugar, and may encourage cravings for other sugary fare.

If plain water is hard for your kids to swallow however, add sliced cucumbers or strawberries for some flavor. See also: How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

Since thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, drinking water before you arrive to your cookout can prevent overeating.

2. Offer veggies


The great thing about the vegetables served at Memorial Day BBQs is that they’re often kid-friendly.

Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, brightly-colored sliced bell peppers, cucumber slices, broccoli florets and jicama “fries,” are often kid favorites and if they’re served with a dip, even better.

You can also set up a station with a variety of vegetables and have your kids make their own grilled veggie kabobs.

Although your kids may still not want to eat vegetables since other, tastier options will be available, do your best to get some on their plates since they’ll help to satisfy their hunger, fill them up, and prevent constipation.

3. Arrive hungry

Most nutrition experts advise people to have a small snack before they arrive at a party to prevent overeating, but arriving hungry may actually be a good thing for your kids.

By taking advantage of their hunger, you might have an easier time of encouraging them to make at least a few healthy choices.

Instead of filling up their plates with chips, which they’re probably going to eat anyway, you may be able to get them to eat fruits and vegetables first and have a more balanced meal.

4. Upgrade your protein

Most kids love hamburgers and hot dogs, but think about other protein options for you and them.

Instead of regular ‘ol hamburgers, make your own using grass fed beef. Or serve organic grilled chicken, shrimp or pull together a bean salad or lentil chili.

5. Include healthy dessert options

Kids should enjoy s’mores, ice cream or a festive Memorial Day dessert, but why not have other options available too to show kids that healthy food can be delicious.

Consider making a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries, homemade fruit popsicles, or an almond butter fruit dip.

6. Pay attention to portions


When buffets, family style dining, and bowls of snacks are out for the day, it’s easy for kids to grab and lose sight of how much they’re eating.

Although I let my kids decide what they want to eat, I also help them make up their plate and keep portion sizes at bay.

7. Set up games and activities


There’s no doubt kids will be busy running and playing at their Memorial Day BBQ, but you can also set up games and activities that encourage them to move more. 

Think: ring toss, jump rope, hide and seek, tag, telephone or freeze dance.

What are some of your healthy Memorial Day BBQ ideas? 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.