Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Most babies start out loving fruits and vegetables as some of their first foods. But somewhere during the toddler years, their feelings girl eating fruitoften change. Or maybe fruits and vegetables fall off your kids’ radar later in childhood. What can you do?

Ways to Help Your Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables:

  1. Prepare them in kid-friendly formats. Think of some of your kid’s favorite foods, and then think about how you can make fruits and veggies like those foods. For example, most kids love potato chips. Try making baked kale chips or zucchini chips. Another example is ice cream. Try making homemade mango or strawberry ice cream by blending nonfat greek yogurt with frozen mangoes or strawberries.
  2. Make them appealing. This sounds like a no-brainer, but consider the difference between a pile of pale green canned green beans or peas compared to fresh, bright green ones arranged into a smiley face or Read more

Milk Options: Which is the right one?

There are several milk options available on store shelves today. Many of us grew up drinking regular cow’s milk, but now it seems as if people are choosing alternative milks. When choosing what milk is best for your children, it is important to know what nutritional purpose milk serves in a child’s diet. Not all milks are nutritionally identical, therefore, knowing the nutrition facts of the milk you are buying is key to making the right choice.

Traditionally, cow’s milk has been the most common type of milk that parents choose for their children after age one. The reason is because it is nutritionally comparable to breast milk. Whole cow’s milk has the same calorie content, protein and calcium as breast milk. Protein, calcium and calories are all critical nutritional components for growing kids, which is why milk has been a staple in kids’ diets for years.

Alternative To Cow Milk:

There are a variety of reasons why a parent may not choose cow’s milk for their kids. For example, the child could have a milk protein allergy, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism or other reason. Soy milk seems to be the second-most popular milk choice. It is important to note that soy milk is lower in calories than whole milk (it is more comparable to skim milk), but contains less protein. In addition, many people choose soy milk due to cow’s milk protein allergy. In my experience, it is often that babies and young children with dairy allergies can also develop an allergy to soy. Furthermore, soy contains phytonutrients, called isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds that can stimulate estrogen receptors in the body. Research shows various long-term effects of this. In general, it is recommended that soy is consumed in moderation.

For those that are avoiding cow’s milk and soy, the remaining options include almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk and rice milk. Rice milk is actually the least nutrient-dense of all of the choices available, and so it is the one I recommend least for growing kids. On the other hand, some of the lower calorie alternative milks may be good choices for people seeking weight loss. See the nutritional breakdown* of all of these milks in the box below for more information:

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*Nutrition data varies by brand.
**Nutrition content of breastmilk is variable

If you are interested in more advice on choosing the right milk for your kids or ways to ensure proper nutrition for your family, contact us to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. 877.486.4140.

Omega 3s: Do we need to supplement?

We have all received the message that Omega 3s are really important to one’s personal nutrition. We should eat more fish or include Omega 3fish oil supplements to our diets. Fish oil may be recommended by a doctor in order to help lower cholesterol or reduce inflammation in the body. Why are Omega 3’s lacking in our diet and why do we seem to need so much of it?

What is Omega 3?

To answer these questions, we must first understand what an Omega 3 is. Omega 3s are a type of long chain of fatty acid molecules. These fatty acids serve as important functions to the body. They are used for tissues in the brain, eyes and cell membranes. These fatty acids compose some of the most important parts of the human body. This is why pregnant woman are encouraged to take Omega 3s (or DHA supplements- a type of Omega 3). Similarly, breast milk is naturally high in Omega 3s and infant formulas are now being fortified with DHA and EPA (another type of Omega 3, both found naturally in breast milk).

When Omega 3 fatty acids are broken down in the body, they make Cytokines. Cytokines promote anti-inflammatory cell signals. In contrast, when Omega 6 or Omega 9 fatty acids are broken down, they produce pro-inflammatory cell signals. There are two key things to understand about this process. Firstly, there is an imbalance of the ratio of Omega 3s,Omega 6s and 9s in our modern day food supply. Omega 6s and Omega 9s are found in refined vegetable oils, such as soybean, safflower and corn oil. These oils are used in many processed foods. In addition, because animals are commonly fed corn, their fatty tissues are higher in these pro-inflammatory fats. Animals who are grass-fed and/or eat their natural diet have higher levels of Omega 3s as well as a better ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s and 9s. Another important thing to remember is that many chronic diseases and ailments are caused by or exacerbated by inflammation. These include cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, allergies, arthritis and more.

How can Omega 3’s benefit us?

Based on this provided information, Omega 3’s can help prevent and/or alleviate many chronic health problems. One way to reap the nutritional benefits of Omega 3’s would be to eat a diet that is low in processed foods and higher in whole foods, including animal products from animals that are fed their natural diet (meat, eggs, dairy products).

These foods are also naturally high in Omega 3’s:

  • Cold water fish, such as salmon, halibut, and sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds and flax seeds
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Canola oil

To learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet or how your family’s diet may be impacting their health, schedule an appointment to see one of our registered dietitians. They can help you modify your pantry and kitchen to help prevent or alleviate inflammatory diseases.

Tummy Aches, Abdominal Pain, and Stools: What the signs and symptoms might be telling you about your diet

My professor in grad school spoke about how difficult nausea and abdominal pain is to manage. Think about the last time that your sick childstomach felt extremely upset. Have you ever experienced morning sickness during pregnancy? It is incredibly difficult to function on a daily basis when you are feeling that miserable. In addition, it is nearly impossible when you have to make frequent trips to the bathroom. What if this is how your child feels during the school day?

This is how many people feel almost every day, including children. They suffer from stomach aches, nausea, cramping and irregular bowel movements (diarrhea or constipation). Parents are unsure about what to do about this predicament when there doesn’t seem to be a medical reason for these symptoms.

If this is something that you or your child is experiencing, I would encourage you to speak with your doctor and schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian. A dietitian can perform a thorough analysis of you or your child’s diet as well as eating patterns throughout the day. Following the analysis, recommendations can be made, symptoms can be tracked and adjustments to the diet can be made.

Here are some dietary factors that may be contributing to digestive issues:

  • Excessive intake of quantities of food
  • Inadequate (and sometimes excessive) fiber
  • Excessive sugary beverages
  • Excessive intake of processed foods
  • Excessive intake of sugar alcohols (found in diet foods and beverages)
  • Eating when stressed
  • Eating too fast
  • High fat diet
  • A diet that is imbalanced
  • Food sensitivities- a negative reaction in the body that manifests in response to certain foods.
  • Food intolerances- result from inadequate enzymes (or enzymes that are overwhelmed with volume) in the gut to digest certain components of foods.
  • Food allergies- an immune response in the body to certain proteins in foods.
  • Imbalanced gut bacteria.

Digestive pain is not normal and it should not be acceptable to suffer with digestive pain or other digestive issues. With the proper guidance, you and your family can be feeling much better while improving the quality of nutrition in your lives life. To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at NSPT, click here.

What is a Feeding Team?

A feeding difficulty is a complex medical condition. Feeding issues can result in poor growth, nutrient deficiencies as well as developmental delays. Due to the fact that the process of feeding involves numerous systems throughout the body, addressing the issue is multi-faceted. Feeding difficulties can stem from various issues, such as dysphagia, reflux, history of intubation and/or feeding tubes (such as in a NICU stay), food allergies or anxiety.

Feeding difficulties are very challenging for a large majority of families. Parents may become frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed. At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we have a unique, multi-disciplinary approach to treating feeding difficulties that provides a more effective treatment result.

The feeding team is comprised of four members that represent the following disciplines:

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The following are common reasons for referral to a feeding team for evaluation (1):

  • Limited variety of accepted food/selectivity. See my previous blog on “Problem Feeders”.
  • Limited volume of accepted foods. The child takes very small bites of certain food and then pushes it away.
  • Food refusal, including from the bottle or breast during infancy.
  • Gagging, coughing and/or choking with meals.
  • Difficulty progressing with table food.
  • Aversion to certain food textures.
  • Vomiting with meals.
  • Poor feeding skills or inability to chew and swallow well.
  • Fear or anxiety when eating certain foods or new foods.

If you or your child’s doctor is concerned with feeding issues, please contact a Family Child Advocate at North Shore Pediatric Therapy to schedule a feeding team evaluation for your child. Based on the evaluation, the team will recommend a plan for treatment in which disciplines may need to be involved. Although not all cases will require all disciplines to be involved for treatment, a thorough assessment from a strong multi-disciplinary team will ensure that your child will experience the best possible outcome.

1. Cerezo CS, Lobato DJ, PInkos B, LeLeiko NS. Diagnosis and treatment of pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders: the team approach. Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition. 2011;3(8):321-323.


Food-Related Activities for Kids

The way in which a child learns about food, health, and what foods they enjoy is influenced by what they are exposed to in their daily vegie rainbowenvironment. Younger children learn so much through playing freely with toys and with other children. All children learn from what they witness their parents do and say. Children at a preschool age through adolescence are influenced by their peers as well as a variety of media (television, movies, magazines, and Internet).

The important thing to recognize is that healthy eating is not necessarily intuitive, especially in today’s society. Consider all the ways in which your child is influenced about food. They see commercials on TV, observe eating experiences in the home and see what foods their friends eat. As a parent, these are things you can control in the feeding dynamic:

• What foods you buy, prepare and offer to your kids
• What foods you eat with them
• When, where and how you set up mealtimes

Being a good role model for your children when it comes to nutrition and mealtimes is a critical way in which their learning is shaped. If you wish to take it one step further, there are food-related activities you can do with your kids that “speak their language”. These activities help them learn the importance of eating healthy, and that it is acceptable to try new foods. Here is a list of things to try with your kids:

Food Activities For Toddler/Preschool Children:

  • Read simple books about food and eating.
  • Let your children watch you make meals. Talk to them about what you are doing. Allow them to do simple things like stirring and pouring.
  • Color pictures of healthy foods.
  • Have play food and even a play kitchen. Play with them and make sure to pretend eating the healthy foods you want them to eat.
  • Have them name foods that are the different colors of the rainbow. Make a “rainbow” meal.

Food Activities For Elementary Children:

  • Talk about the food groups as well as the basics of why each is important.
  • Take your children to the grocery store or farmers’ market and have them pick out fruits and vegetables.
  • Have them read you the recipe steps when you are cooking meals.
  • Plant simple vegetables with them in a garden. Harvest them together and use them in a meal.
  • Have “theme meals” (fiesta, rainbow, dippers, shapes, etc).

Food Activities For Middle School Children:

  • Ask them to help you with cooking.
  • Have them to develop meal ideas that you can then prepare.
  • Ask them to explain how foods affect health, then have a discussion about why nutrition is important.
  • Take them to the grocery store or farmers’ market and have them pick out fruits and vegetables.
  • Ask them to write a menu for the family dinners for a week.

Food Activities For High School Children:

  • Have them prepare simple recipes.
  • Let them experiment in the kitchen.
  • Offer to let them invite friends over for dinner.
  • Have positive conversations about what is occurring in their lives during breakfast or dinner.
  • Have a cooking competition in the family in which each family member creates a dish and everyone votes on the best one. In addition, you can ask your teens to participate in “taste-testing” new recipes and they can rate them on scorecards.

If your child has nutrition-related health issues or has a poor diet, schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. 877-486-4140. Our registered dietitians can utilize these activities along with other therapies and educational tools to help improve your child’s health.


Finger Foods for Little Fingers

When infants are transitioning to solid foods, it is important to remember that this transition process is a learning experience for the baby with finger foodchild. Feeding involves many systems in the body, including the brain, sensory processing system, muscles of the mouth, tongue and throat. Feeding also involves the entire digestive system. The transition to solid foods follows a continuum of developmental stages that coordinate with the infant’s ability to handle new types of foods, textures and methods of feeding.

When children reach the age of around 8-10 months, most of them develop a fine motor skill known as the “pincer grasp”. This is when the child is able to pick up small objects using the pointer finger and thumb. In addition, according to speech-language pathologists, when children reach the age of around 9 months, infants develop the oral reflex to bite down on more advanced textures of foods in the mouth. In other words, if they are given a food other than a smooth pureed texture, they will instinctively bite down and mash it with their gums at this age.

Given the above developmental skills, it is appropriate to introduce finger foods to your infant once they are around 8 or 9 months of age. They will be able to practice their pincer grasp as well as their chewing reflexes. It also teaches them to self-feed.

Here are some ideas for finger foods for little fingers:

  • Ripe banana slices, cut into quarters
  • Soft cut-up fruits (no skin or seeds), such as ripe pears, ripe peaches, kiwi, soft melon, blueberries (may even cut in half), plums, etc.
  • Soft cooked vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower, cooked carrots, squash, peas and beets.
  • Avocado pieces
  • Toast bits
  • Crackers that can easily dissolve in the mouth with minimal chewing
  • Cheerios or puffed rice cereal
  • Cooked pasta bits
  • Cooked and mashed beans
  • Very soft cooked meat. Cook the meat in a Crockpot or slow cooker for 8+ hours with plenty of liquid until the meat is falling apart. Give very small pieces of meat to your child, one at a time, and make sure they are swallowing the pieces by offering water sips.

Remember to always watch your infant carefully when they are eating, especially as they try more advanced textures. They are at high risk for choking when they are just learning to handle these new foods, so it is important to keep these things in mind:

  • Offer very small bites of food, such as the size of a Cheerio or a quarter of a banana slice.
  • Offer very small quantities of food. At this young age, children are not always aware of how to regulate the amount of food in their mouth. They might enjoy something so much that they stuff in more than they can handle, which is a choking hazard. Give them a little at a time on their tray.
  • Offer soft or textures that can easily dissolve. Avoid sticky or very hard textures.
  • Offer sips of water to help with the swallowing process.

For more information on feeding infants or children, make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians at NSPT.


Should I Give My Child Dessert?

The word “dessert” can conjure up groans from many parents and cheers from kids. Parents may, at times, cheer about dessert too. On child with dessertthe other hand, dessert may cause more issues than benefits in several families. This is due to the fact that desserts tend to be high in sugar that are devoid of quality nutrients.

Here are some tips on how to handle desserts in your family:

  • Avoid making dessert a daily habit in the family. This also means that you should avoid buying dessert foods at the market as well as avoid keeping dessert foods in the house. Keep in mind that you are responsible as to what foods you provide to your family. If you do not have dessert available daily, then they will not likely eat it on a daily basis. Examine your own mealtime habits. Make sure that you are setting the example for how you want them to eat.
  • Avoid using dessert as a reward or not serving dessert as a punishment. It is common to use dessert in these ways in many families. “No dessert unless you eat your vegetables.” “If you take three bites of chicken, you can have dessert.” “If you behave, I will buy you ice cream after dinner.” It is important to avoid using unhealthy foods as bribes for children. It develops a bargaining tool for the child. They will then start seeking this reward more and may act out until they can get this reward again and again. It also sends a message to children that healthy foods you would like them to eat are not enjoyable or are part of a normal meal. Instead, they are a hurdle to get over so that they can have something unhealthy.
  • Help your child enjoy and appreciate all types of foods. As I discussed above, dessert is not the ultimate prize for finishing a meal. Encourage your child to eat a variety of foods by modeling good eating habits yourself. Offer 3-4 healthy foods at meals, including one or two foods that you know your kids enjoy.
  • Dessert foods DO have their place. Of course, these foods are enjoyable and can be a fun part of special occasions as well as family traditions. Allowing your kids to have dessert foods once in awhile is a normal part of life. This teaches them that these foods are perfectly fine to eat in moderation and they are intended to be consumed in that manner.

Remember, your child is capable of demonstrating good behavior as well as eating a meal without having to eat something sweet after doing so. When you do have dessert, try a healthy treat such as fruit puree popsicles, cinnamon almonds or homemade fruit and yogurt smoothies. For additional information on how to make mealtimes successful for your family, contact a registered dietitian at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.


Fiber for Kids: How Much and What Foods?

We have all received the message that fiber is important. Kids often snicker when I explain to them what fiber does in digestion (“It Fiber for Kidshelps you poop!”). This is the truth. Insoluble fiber helps move things along more quickly and it is the non-digestible “roughage” found in many fresh vegetables and whole grains. Soluble fiber helps bulk up stool, which also stimulates the digestive tract to push things along. This type of fiber is found in foods, such as oatmeal, applesauce, bananas, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and legumes.

How Does Fiber Help?

Both types of fiber help reduce serum lipid levels (cholesterol and triglycerides). Soluble fiber helps promote satiety, which can prevent unnecessary over-eating. It also helps keep you feeling full until the next meal or snack. Furthermore, soluble fiber binds bile acids during digestion, which is formed by cholesterol. Soluble fiber indirectly lowers cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation.  Food is moved through the gut more quickly  in which reduces some absorption. In addition, foods that contain insoluble fiber are low in calories and fat.

Here is a list of  recommended dietary fiber needs for kids*:

Age: 1-3 years Fiber/day: 19 grams
Age: 4-6 years Fiber/day: 25 grams
Age: Girls 9-13 years Fiber/day: 26 grams
Age: Boys 9-13 years Fiber/day: 31 grams
Age: Girls 14-18 years Fiber/day: 29 grams
Age: Boys 14-18 years Fiber/day: 38 grams

Here are some ideas to incorporate fiber into your family’s meals and snacks:


  • Oatmeal with fresh or frozen berries on top
  • Whole grain cereal (more than 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving is ideal) with a banana.
  • Yogurt-granola-fruit parfait
  • Smoothie made with yogurt, berries, banana and spinach


  • Sandwich using whole grain bread with spinach and tomatoes
  • Lentil soup
  • Salad with greens, variety of veggies, lean meat, tuna or hard boiled egg
  • Bean burrito with whole grain wrap and brown rice.


  • Baked garbanzo beans seasoned with garlic powder and salt (Use canned garbanzo beans- drained, rinsed, spread out on cookie sheet, seasoned and baked at 400 degrees for approx imately30 minutes or until light brown and crunchy)
  • Ants on a log (celery with crunchy nut butter and raisins lined upon it)
  • Sliced veggie sticks and hummus
  • Apple slices and crunchy nut butter


  • Stir fry with a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables
  • Baked potato topped with steamed broccoli (served as a side)
  • Fresh side salad
  • Brown rice, quinoa or whole grain pasta served as a side or accompaniment
  • Chili made with diced tomatoes, green and/or red peppers, corn, onions, garlic, spices, kidney beans and black beans

Do an experiment at home and read labels to determine how many grams of fiber are in the foods your kids consume throughout the day. If the food does not include a label (such as with fruits and vegetables), you may find the information on www.calorieking.com by typing the food into the search bar. Add up the amount of fiber that your child is eating to see how it compares to the recommendations that are shown in the table above.

For additional information about nutrition, meal planning, or addressing issues such as constipation or weight management, schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitians today.
*Texas Children’s Hospital Pediatric Nutrition Reference Guide, 8th Ed. 
American Heart Association. References 4/11/07. 
2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


Eating Healthy on a Budget

There is a stigma that eating healthy foods results in spending a lot of money. This does not always have to be the case. Instead, we food and moneyhave to be wiser grocery shoppers, have open minds to cooking and trying new things and we must be willing to change our mindset toward spending money on food.

Rather than think of food as an expense that puts a dent in the family budget every month, think of food as an investment in you and your child’s future. The type and quality of food that you feed your family has a large impact on their overall health. Ultimately, poor health can result in costing a lot of money. The small choices you make every week at the grocery store as well as meal planning can result in having a large effect over time. Altering our perspective justifies the money that we spend on quality food, while also making food a priority in the family budget.

Here are some ideas for eating healthy on a budget:

  1. Buy local produce that is in season. Seasonal produce is less expensive because there is more produce available in the current growing season (more supply = lower prices).
  2. Shop around. Find what grocery stores in your area carry the best prices for the best quality foods. When it comes to food and your health, quality does matter.
  3. Reconsider buying in large bulk. Although it seems like you are getting a good deal when you save a little by purchasing a lot, consider the fact if your family really needs an excessive quantity of any given food around the house. Often, if it is there, it will be consumed. With this in mind, the family will likely eat more, which results in purchasing more than necessary.
  4. Incorporate new foods that are nutritious and inexpensive. Some of the most nutrient-rich and least expensive foods out there are legumes. These include beans, lentils and dried peas. Many adults and children are not huge fans of legumes. Search for appealing recipes that use legumes as the main ingredient. You will receive a lot of nutrition for your money! For example, a bag of dried green or yellow split peas costs less than $1.00 and can make a large pot of soup to feed a family of four.
  5. Consider decreasing the amount of meat you and your family eat. It is common for many Americans to over-consume calories and more specifically, protein. Meat can be a major expense. The recommended serving size for a piece of meat is 4 ounces. This amount is comparable to a deck of cards. Consider how much meat your family is consuming on a regular basis and determine if there is room to trim back. Replace excess meat portions with less expensive whole grains, legumes or seasonal produce.
  6. Eat out less; eat in more. Paying for food prepared and served by someone else is more costly compared to purchasing and preparing that food for yourself at home. In addition, when you prepare meals, you can choose healthy ingredients. Using the split pea example: A bag of dried yellow or green split peas that can feed a family of four costs less than $1.00, and a cup of plain coffee from a coffee shop costs almost $2.00.

For those who are financially able, I hope that healthy food is a priority in the family budget. It will pay off in the long run in terms of health outcomes and the quality of life. For more information on healthy meal planning on a budget, contact one of our registered dietitians to schedule an appointment.