Tips For Feeding Children With Special Needs

By Guest Blogger, Virginia Cunningham

The science of parenting has reached dizzying heights of understanding, but even in the 21st century we are still butting heads with children who refuse to eat their broccoli. Getting children acclimated to various foods and basic eating etiquette will probably always be one of the most demanding arenas of raising kids, but in the case of special needs children, there may be deeper issues at stake. Here are the major hurdles you may face when introducing your son or daughter to the dinner table, as well as some hints to ameliorate the situation.
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Food Attachment and Aversion
Parents of every stripe may be familiar with this stumbling block to ensuring your children consume the full range of nutrients needed for healthy development: stubbornly finicky taste. However, what might simply be old-fashioned childish obstinacy can take on an all but obsessive quality among special needs children.

Even adults can get stuck in a rut of eating comforting, familiar foods, but a special needs child may develop attachments to particular items based on their texture, color, or even temperature.

To expand your child’s monolithic diet, experiment with what behavioral psychologists call shaping and chaining. The method is simple enough. First, try to identify the particular quality of the food that has your child in its spell. A child might like a pasta dish for its bright orange color or for its squiggly shape. Identify what it is by the process of elimination, and then gradually mix in portions of another, potentially more desirable food. If a child only has eyes for cheddar cheese, for example, lead him or her toward similarly hued steamed squash.

“Purely Psychological” Factors
While food aversion is rooted in children’s relationship to the physicality of what they put into their mouths (or refuse to), children can also veto meals as a way of sending a message when they feel unable to communicate any other way. When a child is feeling particularly vulnerable, he or she may go on a mini hunger strike to vie for attention.

The worst thing to do in such a situation is the threat of punishment. Instead, use positive reinforcement in incremental steps (so as to avoid over indulging the child and enabling continued problem behavior). For instance, promise an additional few minutes of story time for every bite of spinach, peas, or whatever the target dish may be.

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Oral-Motor Skills

So far we’ve looked at eating problems that amount to a child’s not wanting to eat. Among children with various physical impediments, the issue may be that they are simply unable to. When a young person’s jaws, tongue, and labial muscles are weak, uncoordinated, or both, the act of eating is itself difficult. (The attendant emotional frustration threatens to make matters even worse, so be sure not to register your frustration.

Here, good intentions alone will not set things right, as your child most likely needs a consultation with a specialist and a regimen of exercises to bolster the muscle groups involved in biting, chewing, and swallowing.

Medical Conditions

On top of physical impediments linked to muscle control and coordination, children with some afflictions may have other innate problems with ingesting and even digesting foods. Certain birth defects can lead to chronic gastrointestinal woes, for example; children with visual impairment may not trust foods they can’t see.

The most widely reported medically-related eating problem is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Affecting a ring of muscle between the stomach and esophagus, this condition can manifest a variety of symptoms, but the most frequent is spasmodic vomiting. After the child grows to associate eating with unpleasantness, he or she may begin to be wary of food in general, sometimes making it difficult to discern whether the issue is behavioral. If parents have strong suspicions that the problem is a medical one, a specialist should be consulted immediately.

Given that “special needs” is hardly a unified category, not all of these difficulties will apply to all children included within it. Some concerns are consistent, however. Always take great care to discover whether the issue is a physical or psychological one, as the symptoms can often be similar. And whatever the corrective path, be sure to take a course that is positive, calming, and paced with your child’s comfort level.

 

About the Writer

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer. Her work with Northwest Pharmacy helps all individuals get the care that they need. As a mother of a special needs child, she has written extensively on nutrition, alternative therapy, and inclusion of special needs children.

MDIO's Easy Peas-y Tips for First Solid Foods

This blog is for all the new mommies and daddies out there. My good friend is about to transition her baby twins to solid foods and asked for my advice. So, here is the latest dish on feeding babies their first foods.

Well, I remember the excitement as well as the apprehension I felt when starting my little boys on solid foods. I still have their food diaries, as thick as a novel sitting on my bookshelf. While I was old fashioned, meaning I only gave my boys bitter or less sweet veggies for the first few feedings (of course this was after rice cereal), no longer is it standard to feed veggies first. Research shows that there is no correlation between fruits or veggies, sweet or bitter, with picky palates or anything else we may be concerned about. So, follow MDIO’s Easy Peas-y Six First Foods Tips.

  1. First, I read Child Of Mine–well part of it–by Ellyn Satter. I also recommend this book to all my clients getting ready to give birth. Actually, I think it makes an amazing baby shower gift. So if you haven’t read it, download it or borrow it from your local library.
  2. Next, take a stroll through the baby food aisle at your local grocery store. You will note, that there are now organic jarred baby foods, frozen baby foods, purees in a handheld squeezable form and everything else under the sun, literally!! They all read nutritionist approved, earth friendly, and healthy. Write down some of the brand names, flavors and maybe even purchase one or two jars and frozen purees. Give them a quick taste test for a point of reference.  Start asking your friends what they like, what their kids liked and what was easiest. You may opt for homemade, jarred, and/or frozen depending on where you are feeding the baby (or babies if you have twins).
  3. Of course, you’ll want to make eating and feeding enjoyable for you and your little one early on. Mom Dishes It Out’s feeding expert and speech therapist, Robin Goldberg, shares the Top Ten Tips for Pre-Feeding Warm Ups. Before introducing food to your bundle of joy, read her wisdom. And then when the day finally comes, have fun! Get your rubber baby spoons and sit with baby in a calm place. Remember, like Robin says “The goal is to establish positive experiences with eating from an early age!” *Note: KidsHealth.org shares this quick guide on their website.
    Is My Baby Ready to Eat Solids?
    How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Here are a few hints:Is your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished?
    This reflex, which prevents infants from choking on foreign objects, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.

    Can your baby support his or her own head?
    To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up.

    Is your baby interested in food?
    A 6-month-old baby who stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for some variety in the food department.

  4. Then determine with your doctor, registered dietitian or perhaps your intuition whether to start feeding solids at 4 months, 5 months or 6 months.The latest of this ever-changing recommendation is to solely feed your baby breast milk for the first 6 months based on the World Health Organization. However, this recommendation is not universally accepted. In countries, like the USA where the infant’s energy expenditure/output is likely greater, many children are formula fed, and solid foods are more readily available than in a third world country, it remains to be determined if it is appropriate to wait until 6 months1.The American Academy of Pediatrics says “Generally, when infants double their birth weight (typically at about 4 months) and weigh about 13 pounds or more, they may be ready for solid foods2.” Yet the AAP goes on to recommend “breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for about 6 months.” Parents, talk with your doctor, your personal registered dietitian and assess your baby. I know my mom started me on solids at 4 months and I too started my boys between 4 and 5 months. Please know the current recommendation for 6 months has nothing to do with food allergies. It was established years ago that earlier age of introduction does not have a causal affect on food allergies in babies and children (see Is It OK to Eat Peanut and Soy Products While Pregnant)
  5. Refer to this quick Bottom-line of Feeding Baby:

    Birth to 6 Months
    : Babies get the nutrients they need from breast milk and formula during the first six months. You should NOT give your baby cow’s milk until after age 1.By 4 to 6 Months: While most babies are ready to eat solid foods now, they will continue to get most of their calories, protein, vitamins and minerals from breast milk or infant formula. Introduce iron-fortified infant or pureed meats to help replenish iron reserves, while continuing breastfeeding and or formula feeding.By 6 to 8 Months: This is an appropriate time to begin pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables. Introduce one new food at a time giving 3 day windows between each new type of food. Be cautious and observe for signs of allergic reactions. The three to five day window helps you to be sure which food your child may have an intolerance too. Look for rashes, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and or mood swings.By 7 to 10 Months: Think Finger foods. Babies are usually ready to start feeding themselves dry cereals like Cheerios or teething biscuits.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, “[Babies] can begin to use a cup for water.” If they are not ready for the cup, or perhaps you are not ready, start to introduce the sippy cups with straws.By 8 to 12 Months: At this stage, most babies are ready for soft or cooked table foods. Think about having baby eat at some of the same times as the rest of the family. Family member role modeling and making food times pleasurable will help to create an overall positive food experience, which is the ultimate goal.From 1 to 2 Years: Babies continue developing eating skills. They feed themselves and enjoy the same foods as the rest of the family. Choking on firm, round foods is a risk, so cut these foods into smaller, ¼-inch squares. Adapted from Eat Right.
  6. Adhere to Baby Beware: What not to give Baby.Cows milk until after age 1 – before this they need breast milk or formula. Yogurt, pasteurized cheese and cooked eggs are okay as long as breast milk and or formula are the main form of liquid nutrition.Avoid potential choking hazards like nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grapes, candy, gummy candy, anything with pits or have a round shape.. like cherry tomatoes or whole grapes.Avoid candy and sometimes foods. Babies need to focus on fuel for growth. Babies, need not have cupcakes. We just get enjoyment watching them get their first taste of pure sugar!

 

Let us know if this helps you or what has helped you at this precious and impressionable time. Remember it is of utmost importance to create a positive experience with eating and a neutral relationship with foods (Healthy Habits, 2013).

 

References

  1. Fewtrell MS, Morgan JB, Duggan C, et al. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: what is the evidence to support current recommendations? Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:Suppl:635S-638S
  2. Hansen-Petrik, Melissa. “Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 44.2 (2012): 194-e3.

Top Ten Tips for Pre-Feeding Warm Ups

By MDIO’s Feeding Expert and Speech Therapist, Robin Goldberg,  MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD


Tips to support your baby as he transitions to solid foods:

1. Make sure your child has adequate head, neck, and trunk control before transitioning to solids. He should be able to hold his head upright and steady for feeding, and should be able to sit up independently for 3-5 seconds. Providing supportive whole-body positioning, with the head and trunk upright and feet firmly grounded on a stable surface, allows for the stability needed to isolate and coordinate the smaller muscles of the mouth for feeding.

2. Use a soft, rubber spoon when feeding. Begin with a very small amount of food (1 tsp) on the tip of the spoon. Wait for your child to open his mouth independently. If he doesn’t do this, you can gently touch the spoon to his cheek to initiate a rooting reflex and help prepare him for feeding. Bring the spoon straight to the front of your baby’s mouth, stopping just inside the lips, with the spoon tip just approaching the tip of the tongue. When your child closes his lips around the spoon, draw the spoon straight out. Avoid scraping food up and off the spoon onto the roof of your child’s mouth. The goal is to teach your child to use his upper lip to clean food off of the spoon and his tongue to transport food to the back of his mouth for swallowing.

3. Your child should be able to move food from the front of his tongue to the back of his mouth for adequate swallowing. If he is pushing food forward and out of his mouth, his oral motor system may not be ready for solids. That is okay! Just wait a few weeks and try again. He will let you know when he is ready!

4. Only introduce one new food at a time. When your baby is first transitioning to solids, stick with one food per feeding (e.g., infant cereal OR pureed vegetables). It is important to give your child’s oral motor and oral sensory systems time to explore new flavors, textures, temperatures, and consistencies.

5. Begin feeding sessions when your child is alert. It is helpful to start with breast or bottle feeding so he is not too hungry. Learning to accept and manipulate solid foods (removing food from a spoon, transporting food from the front to back of the mouth, and tolerating new tastes and textures) takes time and effort (both for you and baby!). The goal is to keep this experience fun and positive. Allow him to explore the food on his lips, chin, cheek, and hands. When he begins to fuss or seems tired, stop feeding. The goal is to establish positive experiences with eating from an early age!


Tips to support your child with sensory processing challenges:

*Note: Every child with sensory processing challenges is unique. Children may be hypersensitive (overly reactive to sensory stimulation), hyposensitive (under-reactive), or demonstrate mixed sensitivities to different colors, textures, temperatures, smells, and sounds. If you are concerned about your child’s feeding skills, please consult a speech language pathologist or occupational therapist for an evaluation.

1. Many children with sensory processing challenges benefit from a pre-feeding sensory warm up. Exercises to help prepare your child’s sensory system for the intake of food can include massage or vibration around or inside the mouth. Always begin with massage or vibration (either with your fingers, a wash cloth, oral motor toy, or sensory bean bag) on the hands and arms, then from the outer cheeks towards and around the mouth. This input helps to alert or “wake up” the oral musculature (cheeks, jaw, lips) and sensory system for feeding.

2. Children with sensory processing disorders may demonstrate food aversion or present as “picky eaters.” Remember that food can be explored and experienced using all 5 senses, long before your child may be ready to actually chew and swallow something new. Consider incorporating multi-sensory experiences to increase your child’s tolerance and comfort around new foods. Activities can include visually observing and describing foods (e.g., sorting red vs. green foods onto different plates), touching foods (e.g., cutting, mixing, poking holes, food stamping, “finger painting” with pudding or peanut butter), or conducting smell tests.

3. Be aware that changing too many foods too quickly can be quite triggering for a child with sensory challenges. Take note of what foods he or she currently eats and look for patterns in color, texture, consistency, and temperature. Let your child’s natural food preferences and patterns inform your decisions about what foods to introduce next!

4. Creating a sensory-friendly feeding environment can make mealtime much more successful. If your child struggles to organize and process sensory information, he may become overwhelmed by auditory, visual, and olfactory information that you may easily be able to tune out. Strong cooking odors from the kitchen, a visually crowded table (many different serving dishes or containers), or even brightly colored or patterned dishes can be distracting for some children.

5. Be mindful of the length of mealtime. If your child has sensory processing challenges, sitting for long periods of time may be particularly difficult. Depending on your child’s age and developmental level, he may only be able to sit for 10-15 minutes per feeding session. If this is the case for your child, don’t be discouraged. As his oral sensory system develops and new foods are introduced gradually, you can expect meal times to lengthen.


About the Author:

Robin Goldberg, MA, CCC-SLP, TSSLD is a speech language pathologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, speech and language delays, and feeding challenges (food aversion and selective eaters). She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Speech and Language Department at The Parkside School, an independent elementary school for children with language-based learning challenges. Additionally, Robin treats children privately through her practice Leaps and Sounds NYC. Robin uses a fun and highly interactive child-centered approach to therapy, incorporating both structured and play-based techniques that support the whole child and ensure that new skills are carried over from therapy into the child’s daily life at home, school, playdates, and extracurricular activities. She has specific training to support her work with oral motor deficits and articulation disorders, sensory and behavioral feeding disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, including: PROMPT, Nancy Kaufman’s Speech to Language Protocol, The DIR-Floortime Method, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), The Social Thinking Curriculum by Michelle Garcia Winner, Food Chaining, and Lori Overland’s Motor-Sensory Approach to Feeding.

Healthy Habits Giveaway

The creator of MomDishesItOut — savvy city mom and registered dietitian Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD,  has developed The Mommy Manual’s Healthy Habits. This healthy-eating and physical activity workbook can be used by coaches, school teachers or even parents teaching nutrition.  Through this approach, you will understand the difference between an “everyday” food vs. a “sometimes” food. With a mission to help children develop a positive relationship with eating and a neutral relationship with food, the  Healthy Habits approach provides honest, credible, and fun health education. This week, one lucky winner will receive a free copy of  Healthy Habits!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:

One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Mommy Manual’s Healthy Habits!

Enter by one of the following ways. You can submit more than one entry by doing any of the following. Just be sure to leave an additional comment letting us know you did! Good luck!

  • Leave a comment here and  “Like us” on our Facebook page
  • Follow @MomDishesItOut and tweet @MomDishesItOut is having a #MDIO #Giveaway.
    We’d love to hear what your thoughts! Giveaway ends on Sunday, April 28th at 5:00 PM EST.

 

Did the Baked Ziti Bomb or Was It a Success?

 

When I was a child, one of my favorite foods was pasta. For almost two years straight, I ate pasta with butter and/or mac-and-cheese for two…and sometimes even three meals a day! My mother was so fearful about my rejection of all other foods that she took me to the doctor who told her that I was just going through a phase. Well, he was certainly right…because now I eat all foods. It only took me about 22 years to get to this place!

Well, I guess my little apples didn’t fall far from the tree. My boys are just as picky as I was; however, they prefer different foods than I did. So thinking I would be creative and perhaps just a wee bit reminiscent, I thought why not make baked ziti for my boys! After all, it was one of my childhood favorites. I even bought white pasta rather than whole wheat hoping they would really like this dish. Although this is not a particularly healthy meal (though not unhealthy either), I chose to make it in my continuing quest to get them to eat a greater variety of foods. So last Monday while the boys were at school, I made the baked ziti with part skim ricotta, semolina ziti, and Monte Bene sauce. I wanted it ready when they got home from their after-school activities; they would be hungry and thus hopefully more willing to try the dish.

Well, it almost failed…particularly if you consider eating baked ziti for dinner to be the goal! Though I would love that to be the goal, I know it is not realistic. Rather it is simply food exposure 101. The baked ziti tasted delicious. My husband and I ate it. Bobby took one bite and refused more while Billy literally ran to a different room and never even tasted it. Did it almost fail on all levels? No. The boys were exposed to another new food, texture and taste. Billy returned to the dinner table saying he would try a different food but not the ziti. He did willingly try dried pineapple and decided he liked it. He had tried it previously and not liked it, so this was a step forward in our food journey. My conclusion: although we all ate separate dinners once again, we made some progress trying new foods on the baked ziti night. Stay tuned for my next food exposure adventure!

Share your food exposure or feeding editorials with us by guest blogging or posting on our Facebook page, Mom Dishes It Out. If you have questions you want answered, be sure to submit them to us at ASK MDIO on our home page or at http://www.momdishesitout.com/ask/.

 

Q: Can I teach my child with attention difficulties to be a mindful eater?

A Westchester Mom asks the question:

I have children with attention difficulties and because of this, I feel that their ability to detect hunger and fullness cues are dulled. Can this be taught?

Moms, Laura and Elyse respond:

All children, whether they have attention difficulties or not, can benefit from a quiet, calm and soothing environment that’s free of distractions, but it’s just as important to time all meals and snacks too. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can help teach your child how to recognize internal satiation cues over time.

Set the mood. Give your child a 5-minute warning that their meal will be served. Take this time to turn off any screens that may be on, and maybe turn on a little light, relaxing music in the background. The atmosphere can be a critical element as you begin to create a calming environment.

Take control. Because a hyperactive child may be impulsive, I recommend keeping the food on the counter or stovetop to prevent impulsive behaviors during the meal. Once your child is ready to eat, you can then go ahead and plate their food. It’s okay if your child requests seconds, but it’s a good idea to ask what their stomach feels like before going ahead and serving more. In other words, ask what their hunger or fullness level is before dishing out a second portion.

Hungry vs. Full. One good way to determine whether your child truly wants a second portion is to have them create a unique scale that allows them to express their hunger or fullness. Keep in mind that even adults may have difficulty determining the difference between hungry and full based on biological factors. A deficiency or resistance to the hormone leptin, for example, can impede on the ability to determine fullness. More research is needed to identify whether this holds true for children too, and if so, what the exact trigger is [1].

Create your scale. Try designing a child-friendly chart that ranges from 0 to 10—0 meaning starving and 10 being extremely full.

Let your child think up their own descriptions for the numbers 0, 3, 5, 7, and 10, but begin by asking them to describe what 0 and 10, or starving and stuffed—the most extreme sensations—feel like first, as these are most obvious. What does “extreme hunger,” or a 0, feel like? Is it dizzy? Is it crying? Is it sleepy? Is it a meltdown? Does your belly hurt? Are you nauseous or queasy? Then ask them to identify the opposite extreme. This would be overfull or stuffed and equal to a 10 on the scale. Does this mean belly pain? Belly sticking out? Nauseous? Want mommy to rub belly? Pants may be uncomfortable around their tummy? Not interested in eating more food? Can’t sit at table any longer? Can’t eat your favorite food if offered?

Each of these descriptions will differ slightly from one child to the next, but ultimately, it will help to jump-start this identification process, allowing them to both feel and recognize internal satiation cues. If it’s difficult for your child to verbalize their feelings, try using faces (happy, sad, etc.), stickers or pictures of children who appear happy, sad, angry, etc. to allow them to relate to the emotion.

Once extreme feelings are identified, then narrow it down by establishing what it means to be neutral, or not hungry and not full. This would be a 5 on their scale.

If your child is at a 5, but claims to still be hungry, then it’s appropriate to serve enough food to get them to a 7 on the scale. At that point, you probably wouldn’t need to serve an entire portion. (Of course, the amount will differ for each child, and individual parents can estimate and then let their child determine the rest.)

If your child responds that they are at a 7, explain to them that their body received all of the nutrition it needs for now, and they can have something to eat at the next meal or snack when their body is hungry again. (Remember, this all depends on your child’s personal scale. This may be a 3 for them.)

If your child asks for food in between meals or snacks, explain that food is only necessary when they are truly hungry, which may be when they feel like a 3 or higher (again, this may vary). The point is to teach them the difference between hunger and fullness, and while they should trust that you’ll serve them more when they are truly hungry, the scale will also allow them to identify whether they need more or not on their own.

Example of a H/F scale

10 = Belly Pain

7 = Comfortable fullness

5 = Neutral, can eat a little more

3 = Stomach growling, stomach empty, need to eat

0 = Starving

Institute a reward system. You can also consider offering a reward for positive behavior, for example, when your child sits nicely at the dinner table. The reward should be age specific, and consistency is key. This reward should not be food. The reward is not for eating but for sitting at the table. Never reward for eating or use food as a reward.

Photo Credit: bogenfreund via Compfight cc

One way to facilitate a reward system is to utilize tangible measurements of time, such as an hourglass. This can be placed before your child so they can monitor their behavior too. Start small, and work up to greater accomplishments. For the first week, if your child sits at the kitchen table for more than 10 minutes, regardless of what they did or did not eat, they would get a reward. At week 2, if the child sits at the table for 12 minutes, regardless of what they eat or how much, they would get a reward. Helpful Hint: The sand timer from Lakeshore Learning Center offers different time ranges from one minute to ten minutes.

Of course, all children—not just those with ADD or ADHD—have limited attention spans when it comes to sitting at the table. These strategic tactics are simply inspired by behavioral techniques utilized for children with special needs, though the goal is a common one: to ensure that your children get the nutrition they need.

  1. Aronne, LJ, Bowman A. The Skinny: On Losing Weight Without Being Hungry-The Ultimate Guide to Weight Loss Success. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group; 2009.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Photo Credit: Luca Nebuloni via Compfight cc

President’s Weekend marked a milestone in my home. Typically, my youngest, Billy, only eats bananas from fruit vendors on the streets of NYC, but on Saturday he surprised me by eating one while sitting at the dining room table. The produce trend continued when the boys watched me peel butternut squash as I prepared dinner. Bobby recalled peeling carrots and cucumbers with me when he “was little” and also told Billy he needed to eat some form of protein with his pretzels. My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled.

I was eager to see how the boys would react to a little taste test I prepared for them that evening. Billy will only eat pasta in yogurt (it sounds disgusting but is actually quite tasty), so I thought it would be fun to let the boys try different kinds of pasta sauces.: pesto, yogurt and natural tomato sauce. Test One: Billy spit the pesto and pasta right out; Bobby did the same. Test Two: Bobby went on to try the pasta with red sauce. He described it as awful, yet ate it anyway, and when I offered more he took another bite. We even performed a Bonus Test–sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top of the pasta– and amazingly, Bobby liked it better without it.

I was heartened by the boys’ willingness to try the little samples I had prepared. The changes were small, but as any mom knows, any sort of openness to new foods is a step in the right direction. It gave me hope.

In an attempt to continue this adventurous streak, on Monday night I prepared a meatloaf made by the butcher at Whole Foods. If you remember, Bobby loved Whole Foods’ turkey meatloaf but the store rarely has it and when I tried to make him a homemade version he refused to eat it. (My husband and friends loved the homemade meatloaf, by the way.) Bobby asked where this meatloaf came from, and  I told him it was from Whole Foods. I hesitantly handed him a plate of meatloaf served with whole-wheat pasta and apple slices, worried that he’d know it was beef and not turkey. Astonishingly,  Bobby never inquired. His only request was that I cut the hard edges off, which I obliged. “I love turkey meatloaf!” he proudly declared, as he proceeded to finish his portion. I didn’t want to ruin the moment by correcting him, so I just let it be and happily watched my son enjoy a new food. This was the first time Bobby ate beef since he was 12 months old.

I’m happy to share that the apple slices were a huge success too. While the boys played chess on the iPad with their dad, I had sliced an organic apple using an apple corer and set them on a nice plate. I left the plate near the boys on the table without saying anything. Suddenly, Bobby declared loudly, “I love apple slices!” and proceeded to gobble them up while Billy licked one slice. He even asked for more, which prompted me to cut up extra and serve it with his meatloaf dinner.  I don’t think I did anything particularly remarkable that afternoon when my boys were suddenly excited to eat fruit—it wasn’t magic. Rather, I think that the boys were under the influence of their cousins, Lily and Sophia, whom they saw eating apple and orange slices the day before. The girls ate the fruits with such zest that they made it look appealing to the boys, and they’ve been eating apples ever since.

Just this morning the boys tried blueberries again. Bobby ate buckwheat pancakes. And although Billy didn’t actually add anything to his small ingredient repertoire, the weekend was still a success simply because he was willing to try new foods. Bobby’s apprehension about trying new foods has definitely been decreasing as he matures— these President’s Weekend taste tests are evidence of that. All of the small changes this weekend lead me to conclude something pretty big: There is a light at the end of the picky-eating tunnel. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made so far and I’ll continue to encourage my boys to have fun and try new foods during the meals and snacks to come. My boys may become adventurous eaters and share a love of yummy food like their parents after all!

Quick Tips For Moms on Helping Cultivate Healthy Habits

Whether it’s Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, my friend’s talk in Westchester to the PTA or the development of a new Food and Nutrition Committee at my son’s school, Moms and Dads are advocating for positive change for health promotion. We walk a fine line while doing this as we don’t want to create more problems in regards to the already challenging job of feeding our children. Here are five simple tips to include in your “lunch box” of tools.

 

Teaching Not Preaching to Your Kids, Healthy Habits

Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services (www.LauraCipulloLLC.com)

www.MomDishesitOut.com

 

 

 

 

 

 1. Don’t preach instead lead by example:

  • Let your children know you are off to spin class or pilates
  • Plan active vacations whether it be skiing or hiking in Colorado

 

2. Practice exposure therapy

  • Try new foods with your children especially on vacation or during the holidays. St Patrick’s Day and Mardi Gras offer different cuisines to tantalize your taste buds.
  • Leave the veggies on the table even if you know the kids won’t eat them.

 

3. Take your child food shopping

  • Shop at the farmer’s market or a food store that emphasizes sustainable, local agriculture and wholesome foods such as Whole Foods.
  • Limit shopping at grocery stores that offer more colorful, child focused boxed and processed foods.  There marketing sucks your kids in.

 

4. Encourage Trying, Not Winning

  • Tell your child you are proud of them for trying a new food or a new activity. It’s not whether they like the veggie or if they played the game correctly.
  • Focus on the great effort and fun your child had at trying a new sport like roller-skating not how they didn’t fall.

 

5. Practice self regulation

  • Let your child choose how much of the dinner to eat. No clean the plate the club!
  • Ask your child “Are you hungry, thirsty, bored or tired?”