What To Do When a Good Eater Becomes a Refuser

By Danielle Viola, RD, CSP

Danielle Viola Pic Blog-1

We’ve all been there. Just when we think we have our children figured out or on a good schedule, they change it up on us! This applies to so many things in our kiddos lives, from sleep to behavior and beyond, but a big area this can impact is eating. Even the best eaters can go astray at times.

As a mom and dietitian, I’ve been fortunate that my first son has been a pretty good eater. Some of that is due to work I’ve put in with him, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was open to trying lots of new foods before he hit about 18 months. As long as he was accepting, we kept throwing new flavors and textures his way. For his second birthday he requested Salmon with a Puttanesca sauce (olives, capers and tomatoes for those who are unfamiliar), spinach and roasted potatoes.

You can imagine my dismay when my child who previously ate all things decided that he wanted more control over what he ate and all but gave up on trying new foods and even started to shun some foods that he had previously enjoyed, like sweet potatoes.

For anyone out there struggling with this or even just dealing with a child who is less willing to try new things, the good news is that this is normal and the solution is relatively simple. It just may take some time to actually work. It’s frustrating in the short term when all you want is for your child to be eating well-rounded meals, but it’s more important to look at the big picture and help your child to maintain a healthy relationship with food.


Here are my top 5 tips for dealing with a good eater gone astray:

  1. Model good eating behavior. If they see you eating it, it will just be normal. You can’t expect your child to eat peas if you won’t touch them, how fair is that? I find that the older my son gets, the more likely he is to try foods from my plate when the pressure is off and he is the one doing the asking. He wouldn’t get that opportunity if I weren’t striving to eat a variety of foods.
  2. Eat dinner as a family. Eating together is a key way to model eating behaviors and to talk about food. Family dinners end up becoming so much more than just a time to eat and with everyone eating together, some of the pressure is removed from a child who would otherwise be eating under the watchful eye of his or her parents. The more you chat together at the table, the more relaxed the atmosphere is. That inviting atmosphere helps kids to feel more comfortable to experiment with their eating. Plus, who wants to eat alone?
  3. Talk about food in a positive way. Studies show that children are more likely to try and eat new foods when caregivers talk about the benefits of foods instead of the negative consequences of “bad” foods. Think talking up the benefits of broccoli over the harm in eating cookies all day. Choose something that motivates your child. Our oldest was desperate to ride a roller coaster at a local amusement park. We talked about the types of foods that would help him to grow big and tall in order to do that and guess what he started asking for more of? It totally works!
  4. The food choices that children make will only be as good as the foods that are offered to them. Enough said.
  5. Don’t force your child to eat. Kids will eat when they are hungry. As a parent, it is your job to provide a variety of foods to your child. Your child should be deciding which of those foods he or she will eat and how much. Battles over finishing food at the table only result in frustration on both ends and can ultimately disrupt your child’s ability to sense when he or she is full. Trust that ultimately, your child’s body knows what it needs and in turn, your child will become more adventurous as he or she begins to trust that you won’t be forcing food at mealtimes.


Disclaimer: These suggestions are for children who are otherwise growing and developing at a rate deemed appropriate by your child’s physician. If you are struggling with eating habits in a child who is having growth failure, it is important to seek out individualized advice from a professional, such as pediatric dietitian.


The Power Struggle: Kickin' and Screamin' About Food

By Mommy Laura Cipullo RD, CDE, CEDRD

Now it is always a RD’s recommendation to never have a power struggle around food. But what happens when your kid is the one who is running the show? I have seen this with clients, where the kid becomes so picky with the food, the parent obliges. A few weeks ago, I was thinking to myself, was this happening in my home with my youngest son.

School was out. We moved homes on the last day of school and literally left one week later for South Carolina. Billy just seemed off. He had heat stroke one day and as a result hadn’t eaten much or well for a few days. Then when we went on a Pirate Ship tourist trap kind of cruise and the employee commented on his height. Now this is something I am sensitive about. I do wonder if his shorter stature is just him or is it because he is a picky pescatarian. He eats one fish and only some of the time. With all of the emotional change he was definitely being pickier. I got to worrying.

Billy wasn’t even willing to try any foods. I made him a veggie burger with cheese on both sides while I served Bobby his chicken. This was the Bell and Evans Chicken Tenders. Meanwhile at the restaurants, Bobby and I share steak and other normal foods. I thought a veggie burger was a very nice compromise for Billy. Of course he did not agree.

The power struggle began. But I really didn’t want to give up. I hate that it had to come to this but I was legitimately worried about his health. I was not asking him to eat the veggie burger; rather I was asking him to try it. The fact that he would not try it, really got to me and I decided I was not giving in. I was ready to sit with him until he tried the veggie burger.

At first this was a game for him, until he realized I was serious and 45 minutes later still sitting with him. He would leave the table and I would bring him back. The night before he had refused his fish sticks so I was without options. Soon Billy was crying to me. I explained I was concerned and as a parent I would irresponsible to not feed him adequately. Plus I was really worried for his health emotional and physically without proper protein. And that is when he said it!

He said, “Mommy, I will eat chicken.” He whispered it. I said, “Really, you rather eat chicken than a veggie burger?” He was on board with eating Billy’s chicken. So I made him a chicken tender and he ate it. It was a small tender but he was cool with it. And guess what, her ordered chicken tenders the next night at the restaurant. And on Saturday night he ate chicken parmesan at a very fancy restaurant.

Just last week, I retuned from the South. My sister was watching my boys and gave all of the children chicken nuggets. Guess who ate them? Yeah, my Billy. My husband who had not been privy to the power struggle form the week prior told me Billy ate the nuggets without hesitation but later told my hubby that this chicken was not good like ours and was different in texture. He didn’t prefer these. But he did eat them.

Now call me crazy, but Billy grew. This could be coincidental or potentially the result of his new diet. I am grateful for both!!! The growth whatever the reason is timely, because Billy now thinks eating protein means growing tall. It is no longer mommy and daddy just saying it.

I have no idea if he will continue with the chicken. I have no idea if the chicken initiated the growth spurt. I just know that the power struggle was necessary in order to get my very strong willed child to eat something with all 8 essential amino acids. So while I hate that it had to happen, the end result seems to be okay.

I guess I won’t know until he is older and comes home to tell me that I ruined his relationship with food per his therapist. This is a joke of course, but at the same time, my worst nightmare ever. I hope my sharing of this situation can help you to set boundaries around feeding and eating with your own child. I hope you learn from my mistakes and benefit from our successes. Raising kids to have positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food is super hard but super necessary for our future generations.

Please let me know if you find this helpful and if you do, please share with your friends. I work with many clients who suffer from eating disorders and this is the last thing you would ever want for your child. Please spread Positive Nutrition and #AllFOODFITS!

Finally Free from Fruit Fears?

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

So you may recall my disclosure in a previous blog, sharing that my son is anything

but a fruit lover. He politely refuses whenever offered any – whether it’s the

sweetest, most amazing strawberry, or the crunchiest red apple. When he has tried

the occasional bite, his eyes water, he gags, and just can’t move beyond it. He’s

made it into his teens allowing only raisins, applesauce and an occasional juice into

his otherwise varied nutritional palate. While he enjoyed fruit as an infant and

toddler, something switched when he became a more independent preschooler, and

while I accepted that there must be a lesson of humor and irony for me as his

nutritionist-mom, I inwardly believed that he would just shift out of it as he became

older and around other kids who ate fruit freely.

While I’ve held onto that hope, I’ve become a little more concerned that the mood

may never just strike him out of the blue. I doubt he’ll wake one morning saying,

“Cool – today’s the day I’m super excited to try blueberries”, unless I give him a little

more assistance. And that help must somehow go beyond “just try a little bite”. A

wise friend and extremely gift occupational therapist, Wendy Chen-Sams, MS, OTR,

NDT, actually confirmed my suspicions. She said that the likelihood for young adults

to expand their palates greatly diminishes once these teens have left their childhood

home, particularly when there are strong aversions to flavor and/or texture, as is

my son’s case. Fortunately for him (and me!), he’s become more curious and

actually would like to explore and expand. He’s motivated to grow to his height

potential, and assist his overall health. Cool – the critical first step of motivation is


Wendy recommended that we not only move slowly, but also focus on only one

sensory area at a time. Since he seems to have some taste and texture aversions, she

suggested we begin first with introducing a new, mild flavor. Of particular interest

to me was the fact that colder fruits would be much less likely to trigger his gag

reflux, and will slightly numb the sensors so it’s less overwhelming — homemade

popsicles are going to be our new friends!

Our first step will be to combine familiar flavors – banana (which he loves in

pancakes & bread) and orange juice – with a new one, pear. Because we aren’t

exploring texture yet, we will be blending them together until smooth, then pouring

into popsicle molds. Once they’re ready to go, he will explore the taste receptors on

his tongue, particularly on the tip and sides. The receptors at the back of the tongue

are more sensitive, so we’ll gradually make it to those.

Once he’s tolerating (hopefully enjoying, too!), we will introduce some ever-so-

slightly larger pieces of pear within the pops, and graduate to even more texture.

As his acceptance of taste and texture improve, we’ll gradually introduce the same

pear flavor at refrigerator temp. The ultimate goal is for him to eat a pear or new

fruit without any processing. As important as it is for kids to repeatedly try new

and different foods as they begin to acquire a taste and tolerance, it’s also crucial

that we don’t try the new food every single day. A few times a week is just fine, says


So this is part of our summer adventure, and you can be sure that I will keep you

posted as it unfolds!


Of course there are a plethora of different sensory food aversions, and I am aware

that my son’s are quite mild. If you have a child struggling in a manner that is

interfering with his development or quality of life, it is crucial that you seek some

additional assistance, first checking with your pediatrician who may then refer you

to an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and/or registered dietitian who

specialize in this arena.


Two suggested reads:

Meals Without Tears: How to get Your Child to Eat Healthily and Happily,

by Dr.Rana Conway

Just Two More Bites! Helping Picky Eaters Say Yes to Food,

by Linda Piette

What we Learned at “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox”

By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services

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Are you at a loss when it comes to creative kid friendly food? Well, Dishing with the Media gave Mom Dishes it Out some fabulous new recipe ideas! We attended the “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox” event in SoHo a few weeks ago, kid’s cooking expert and professional chef, Cricket, along with 15 year old Season One winner of MasterChef Jr., Chef Alexander Weiss, introduced us to some fabulous recipes and parenting strategies. They shared ways to incorporate nutritious foods into more common kid-friendly recipes, and some new recipes for them to try! Most importantly they shared helpful ways to get kids, as young as 2 years old, excited about helping in the kitchen!

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The event began with samples of a refreshing green smoothie, “Nutribullet University Blast #2”, a delicious and nutritious summer snack for you and your kids. Even if you are dealing with picky eaters, you can show them how great it tastes by drinking it yourself! Cricket reminded us that the best way to promote healthy habits is to model eating behaviors yourself.

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Another great way to include unfamiliar foods in your kid’s diet is to incorporate them in recipes they are familiar with. Cricket and Alexander introduced us to two creative recipes using foods kids know and love with others they might be less comfortable with. Cricket’s “Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese Cups” are the perfect way to sneak some veggies into a delicious bite of mac and cheese. They are fun to eat and easy to pack in a lunch box! You can even individually wrap them to freeze and use later on.

Tip from Cricket: Try cooking the broccoli in the same pot as the pasta (add it a few minutes after the pasta) to reduce dishes!

Chef Alexander uses a similar approach with his “Tofu Bao”, a recipe he created to mimic the Pork Sticky Buns many of us know and love. Instead of using pork belly however, he replaces it with tofu to create this tasty and easily packed lunch option.

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Chef Alexander explained how tofu is available in many varieties types of firmness, pre-baked, cubed, etc.  For those of you unfamiliar with tofu, it is a low calorie, high protein, soy-based product that can be used to replace protein and vegetables in many common dishes. Soft tofu can be blended and used to replace eggs in many recipes to make them healthier. (He advises not to use it in baking as it will make the desert too dense.) Because it is used to replace meat in this recipe, Chef Alexander recommends using a firm variety and to blot it to remove excess water before cooking. He also recommends a non-stick pan for searing tofu in his savory marinade. This sweet and salty dish was one definitely our favorite- delicious!

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Another one of our favorite recipes from this event is “Libby’s Veggie Confetti Dip.” It’s a great afterschool snack including a vegetable, protein, and dairy. Cricket showed us how Libby’s vegetable cups can be used to make a tasty dip using only a few simple ingredients: a microwavable Libby’s vegetable cup, yogurt, raisins, and herbs. During her demonstration, Cricket stressed the importance of getting kids involved in the kitchen and turning into a learning experience. Both Chefs agreed that “everyone can cook” so give your kids a task they can complete; an 8 year old can read the recipe out loud and measure ingredients, a 4 year old can use a plastic or butter knife, and even a two year old can help by tearing the herbs! Cricket believes that the more kids are involved in preparation, the more they will want to try the food. She also reminded us to give children “choice within your boundaries” by letting them choose the type of Libby’s vegetable cup!

Tip: This dip goes great with crackers, salmon, grilled chicken, burgers, and can also be blended in a Nutribullet to make a sauce.

We are so excited to get our very own Nutribullet and to recreate these recipes ourselves! All recipes from this event can be found here!

Something More Than Fish


Charlie tells his younger sister: “These are not fish sticks. These are ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea—mermaids eat them all of the time.”

—I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

As you know, I’m not perfect. Rather, I’m the real deal! I am the dietitian with the picky kids. My children definitely give me much practice about what I preach. And then, thank goodness, there are other times. I continue on this long journey of exposing my children to foods and trying my best to allow them to develop positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food. Mind you, this is no easy task. It’s a difficult balancing act. 

Our latest feat was fish sticks. Just remember that when we talk about fish sticks, we are really referring to something of a metaphor for life. Read on to learn more.

My youngest son Billy has been picky and often frustrating about food since the day he was born. At one point he loved Dr. Praeger’s Fish Sticks; he would eat four or five of them in one sitting. Billy’s enjoyment was of brief duration and he never seemed ready to reincorporate these ocean nibbles onto his personal “I really like this!” list despite our best efforts. Well, for some reason, this week was different. Once again, we offered fish sticks to Billy. To be exact, I made both boys fish sticks—a very child-friendly food—and put them on their dinner plates. However, I put only one fish stick on Billy’s plate. My husband and I were eating kale salad, herbed pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes. I know the boys won’t eat this dinner and I don’t make a big deal about it. This frustrates my husband, especially as the boys get older. However, when we push, like I did with the sweet potato puree (Read my recent blog, The Imperfect Food Mom), the boys push back.

In recent months, I’ve seen Billy eat a fish stick. I’ve actually seen him gobble it down! I can’t remember the specific circumstances around that particular meal. The one thing I realized was that he’s been playing us with the darn fish sticks. The way he scarfed down that fish stick made it clear that he really likes the taste or, at least, doesn’t mind the taste. Lately, I’ve been telling the boys how important it is to try new things whether they are sports activities or different foods. I have also been telling them: “You don’t need to eat your favorite foods every night. Mommy and Daddy sometimes make a meal that we don’t particularly enjoy, but we eat it anyway. Every meal doesn’t have to taste great. We just need to get nutrition from eating it. Eating our favorite meals happens just some of the time.”

So Billy looked down at his fish stick and immediately said: “I don’t like fish sticks.” I don’t recall my exact response at that moment, but by the end of our conversation, Billy was expressing his desire for Smart Puffs. (Note: I’m not a fan of Smart Puffs, but I do buy them on occasion because Billy is!) So I clearly told him: “You need to eat something with nutrition. You need to meet your body’s needs for growing. You can have Smart Puffs, but you haven’t eaten enough protein today.” As you might imagine, the little gamer asked: “Can I have some Smart Puffs if I eat my fish stick?” Well, of course! And he did. He happily ate his fish stick and then his Smart Puffs.

The next night we found ourselves with the same situation. This time, however, I put two fish sticks on Billy’s plate. He asked for his Smart Puffs and he got them after eating one and then the other fish stick. Please understand that this was not a food reward. I was not rewarding Billy for eating his fish stick. Rather, I was letting him know it’s okay to have all foods some of the time. You can eat foods lower in nutrition but not at the sacrifice/cost of a more nutritious food when growing…or just on a regular basis. 

After two consecutive nights of fish sticks, Billy asked if he could have fish sticks every other night rather than every night. Sure he can. I wasn’t planning to put fish sticks on his plate every night or even every other night. But since he thought I was—and he now thinks he made the decision about when to have them—I went with it!

I realize fish sticks are not the most nutritious nor desirable food one would want their children to eat. But when you have a picky eater, you must start somewhere. Knowing whether your child is playing you, knowing when to push, and knowing when a child is truly revolted by a food is a hard task to tackle. I choose to walk this line very carefully…and without any rush factor. I choose to do so because I clearly see the negative effects of creating power struggles around food between parents and children in my office. I successfully used this approach with my oldest son Bobby. He has become the best intuitive eater—slowly but surely reincorporating familiar foods and trying new foods almost daily now that he has turned six.

I do believe in the process of food exposure and sometimes even giving a little push. I remember my personal pickiness when I was a child. I actually think my vegetarianism and then veganism in high school and college were in part to send a direct message to my family. My message said: “You made me eat meat…and I didn’t like it!” It also said I am different from you because I eat different foods than you. The same things happen with my clients. I have teenagers either refusing to eat anything at all, or eating only certain foods. And they’re doing this partly to control their parents or get their attention. 

I don’t want to have power struggles about food with my children, so perhaps I am a bit more relaxed with food than others would think. As a parent, this is your decision too. Just recognize that feeding and eating isn’t simply a straight forward matter. Ultimately, it’s how individuals identify, label and communicate their inner selves to the world. This is the metaphor: What happens with food typically represents what’s happening with life at that time!




What Type of Parent are You at the Dinner Table?

What Kind of Parent are You at the Dinner Table?

By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

*This post was originally published on www.DrGreene.com, the original post can be read here.

One of the fascinating aspects of being a feeding therapist that works with children in their homes is that I get to see first-hand the variations in parenting styles.

One particular family was memorable because both parents were security guards and they seemed to bring an element of their jobs to the family dinner table. They contacted me because their 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, wasn’t gaining weight and was a “very picky eater.” When I arrived at their home, both Mom and Dad were completely engaged with their little girl, all three laughing and playing together on the living room floor.

Interestingly, the atmosphere shifted the moment everyone sat down at the table. There was practically no conversation except to announce what was for dinner and how much the little girl was expected to eat “Remember to eat all your corn, Elizabeth,” her father stated. The parents watched over her vigilantly and occasionally reminded her to “keep eating.” When the couple had finished their meal, and Elizabeth was staring at her not-so-empty plate, her father reprimanded her for “not eating her corn…again.” Noteworthy to me was the fact that both parents felt the need to set stringent eating rules, enforce them and remind Elizabeth if she did not follow dinner time guidelines. Clearly, their concern for her growth and nutrition were in the forefront of their minds, but why did they feel this directive style of parenting was going to be helpful? What happened to those engaged, interactive parents I had just witnessed playing so beautifully with their little girl in the living room?

To read more of this article, please click here to be redirected.

To read more about Melanie click here or go to www.MyMunchBug.com.


3 Reasons Why Kids Get Hooked on “Kids’ Meals"

3 Reasons Why Kids Get Hooked on “Kids’ Meals”… and How to Change That
By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

*This post was originally published on ASHA’s online blog. The original can be found here.

Photo Credit: Echromatique via Compfight cc

Let me say this up front: I’m not condemning the American Kids’ Meal that is so common in fast food chains and family restaurants, but clearly I’m not keen on eating that type of food when there are other choices.   My own kids have certainly had their fair share of chicken nuggets, mac n’cheese and French fries, just to name a few of the comfort kid foods that predictably reappear on kids’ menus day after day.   This is not a blog about good vs. healthy nutrition, because most parents (including me) know that the traditional fast food fare is not healthy…and that’s exactly why parents want to change the statistics that 15 percent of preschoolers ask to go to McDonald’s  “at least once a day.”    The millions of dollars spent on advertising and toys to market kids meals certainly makes many of us frustrated when much less is spent on marketing a culture of wellness.  By hooked, I don’t mean addicted, although there is research that suggests that food addiction may be a serious component for a subset of the pediatric population Plus, the added sugars in processed foods have been found to be addictive in lab experiments.  But, for the purposes of this short article, let’s keep kids’ meals in this very small box:  Most kids love them.

Why am I writing about this for ASHA? As a pediatric SLP who focuses on feeding, one of the frequent comments I hear from parents is “As long we’ve got chicken nuggets,  then my kid will eat.”   Besides the obvious “just say no” solution, what parents truly are asking is,  “How do I expand my kid’s diet to include more than what’s on a kids’ menu?”  Whether we are considering our pediatric clients in feeding therapy or simply the garden-variety picky eater, that is an excellent question with not a very simple answer.

In feeding therapy, therapists take into account the child’s physiology (which includes the sensory system), the child’s gross motor, fine motor and oral motor skills  and also behaviors that affect feeding practices.  Therapists then create a treatment plan designed to help that specific child progress through the developmental process of eating.  While the nuances of learning to bite, chew and swallow a variety of foods are too complex to cover in a short blog post, here are just three of the reasons why kids get hooked on kids’ meals and some strategies to avoid being locked into the standard kids’ menu and begin to expand a child’s variety of preferred foods:

  1. Kids barely have to chew.  The common fast food chicken nugget is a chopped mixture of …well, if you want to know, click here.  Warning: it will ruin your appetite for chicken nuggets, so if your kids can read,  clicking might be the first solution.  However, in terms of oral motor skills, bites of chicken nuggets are a first food that even an almost toothless toddler can consume with relative ease.  Simply gum, squish and swallow.  Macaroni and cheese?  Oily French fries?  Ditto.  There’s  not a lot of chomping going on!
    • In feeding therapy, SLPs assess a child’s oral motor skills and may begin to address strengthening a child’s ability to use a rotary chew, manage the food easily and swallow safely.  Many of the families we work with eat fast food on a regular basis and we might start with those foods, but slowly over time, more variety is introduced.
    • For general picky eaters or those progressing in feeding therapy, the key is to offer small samplings of foods that DO require chewing, as long as a parent feels confident that their child is safe to do so.  Starting early with a variety of manageable solids, as described in this article for ASHA, is often the first step.   For older kids, the texture (and comfort) of “squish and swallow” foods can contribute to food jags.  Here are ten tips for preventing food jags, including how to build your child’s familiarity around something other than the drive-thru.


To continue reading, please click here to be redirected to ASHAsphere.

Eating New Foods

Well, moms and dads, I finally did it. My husband and I had been talking about the boys’ limited intake a.k.a. lack of variety. Last weekend I spent $150.00 on taste-test Sunday, and my boys groaned while carrying on for every food.


I worry that my younger son’s smaller stature is due to lack of adequate protein. We continue to expose the kids to more protein, but the pantry always seems to win. On Thanksgiving my dad commented on my sons’ diet and height too.

But I think those words, along with the blog of Dr. Heather McGuire, finally propelled me forward! Because after making the boys cheese and bean quesadillas and watching them pick out every freaking bean, I just did it—I grabbed a bag and filled it with our pantry stock, including the gummy vitamins. The kids liken them to candy.


I announced our family mission to eat more foods. “I am not talking about clean food or veggies. I am just talking about eating foods that are not your favorites, eating foods that you may not be in the mood for. I am talking beans and chicken and pasta for Billy.”

So we packed up all packaged snack-like foods. I served the boys chicken parm and eggplant parm for dinner. And you know what, they ate it. Was dinner drawn out? Yes. Was it a wasted meal? No. Five days later, Billy has only skipped one meal. And I have loosened up, being that it is the school week. I still give them their same lunches every day. But breakfast has been different daily, and on Mondays both boys ate a chicken quesadilla, mind you only a quarter of it, plus half of a cheese quesadilla. But I am just happy to see a willingness in them—without all the drama. I don’t want food fights or feelings of deprivation for my kids. I just want a willingness to try foods and eat certain favorite foods just some of the time. So I encourage you, read our stories here, especially Heather’s!


May you have happier eating and being days ahead!!

Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN
Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition

Planning for Holiday Meals with a Picky Eater

By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

*This post was originally published on ASHA’s online blog. The original can be found here.

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
As an SLP  focused on the treatment of pediatric feeding disorders,  there is one common denominator among all the families on my caseload:  The stress in their homes at mealtimes is palpable.   Now that Thanksgiving and other food-centered holidays are approaching,  the anticipation of an entire day focused on food has many parents agonizing over the possible outcomes when well-meaning relatives comment on their child’s selective eating or special diet secondary to food allergies/intolerances.This time of year, I try to find practical ways to reduce the stress for these families.   One of the first steps in feeding therapy is for parents to lower their own stress level so that their child doesn’t feed into it (pardon the pun).   I often address parent’s worries with a “What IF” scenario.  I ask, “What’s your biggest fear about Thanksgiving?”   The top 3 concerns are as follows:


What IF Junior won’t take a bite of Aunt Betty’s famous green bean casserole?

It’s not about the bite, it’s about wanting Aunt Betty’s approval.   Focus on what Junior CAN do.  If he can sprinkle the crispy onion straws on top of Betty’s casserole, call Betty ahead of time and ask if he can have that honor.  Explain how you would love for him to learn to eventually enjoy the tradition of the green bean casserole and his feeding therapist is planning on addressing that skill in time.  But, for now, she wants him to feel great about participating in the process of creating the green bean masterpiece.  If Junior can’t bear to touch the food because he is tactile defensive, what can he do?  Pick out the serving dish perhaps and escort Aunt Betty carrying the dish to the table?  Taking the time to make Aunt Betty feel special by showing interest in her famous dish is all Betty and Junior need to feel connected.


What IF Grandpa Bob reprimands Junior for “wasting food” or not eating?

Keep portions presented on the plate quite small – a tablespoon is fine.  Many families use ‘family-style” serving platters or buffet style, where everyone dishes up their own plate.  Practice this at home.  It’s not wasting food if Junior is practicing tolerating new foods on his plate.  That food went to good use!  If Grandpa Bob grew up during the Great Depression, this might be tough for him to understand.  If he reprimands Junior, change the subject and tell Junior your proud of him for dishing up one whole brussel sprout! That requires some expert balancing and stupendous spoon skills!

To continue reading, please click here to be redirected to ASHAsphere.

The Tricks about Treats

This post was originally published on The Feed Blog, to see the entire article please click here.

By Justine Roth, MS, RD, CDN

Photo Credit: Dave Malkoff via Compfight cc

Children require guidance in all areas of their lives— how to tie their shoes, when to speak in a quiet voice, and, of course, when, what and how to eat. As a parent, I know it is my job to think carefully about the messages I send to my child regarding food to start her on the path towards healthy self-regulation. But even as a dietitian who counsels others on developing a balanced relationship with food, I struggle to navigate this with my toddler.

My daughter loves food. Meal times are not stressful, and in fact are usually very enjoyable.  She usually finishes everything I give her (and that she often picks out) without an issue. If she doesn’t finish a meal, I just assume she wasn’t that hungry to start. But, it is a different story when we are around others. She often asks for food just because she sees friends or family eating it and, unlike most kids who do this but lose interest in the food once they get it, she will usually finish whatever she is given. Sometimes this results in her not feeling well. This is where it gets tricky. Do I give her food every time she asks, so as not to “restrict her,” or do I try to limit excess snacks and food outside of meal times to help her learn to identify her hunger and fullness cues?

Some parents may think I am too strict with my daughter.  The parent of a picky eater, for example, is likely to have different struggles than me – and to arrive at different solutions. Parenting is hard enough without us judging one another. Instead, perhaps we can learn from one another. Because although young, our children are certainly capable of starting to learn about their body and to establish healthy habits, and we must lead the way.

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