Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Managing Family Meals with a Picky Eater

Please note this post contains affiliate links that help support the information I share at Your Kid's Table.

I'm thrilled to have FunBites sponsoring this post. They have been a great supporter of Your Kid's Table and help me keep tips and info coming your way.  FunBites fits in perfect around here because the creators and owners of this company designed their "fun" cutters to help their own picky eater at meals.  FunBites isn't just for picky eaters though, they are also really helpful for toddlers that need their food cut up into small bite sized shapes. See our picture below of putting these FunBites into action. Of course, I have the kids helping me, and these cutters are safe for even the youngest hands! Save 20% off your entire purchase with this code for our readers: YourKidsTable

Today, I want to cover a daily problem many of you are dealing with... navigating family meal times with a picky eater.  Most parents with picky eaters want to give their kids what the rest of the family is eating, which is often something delicious and nutritionally sound. But, they know their "picky eater" won't even consider trying it. Frequently, parents find themselves preparing a separate meal for this child.  I know that parents feel stuck and while they don't want to be short order cooking, they also don't want their kids to go to bed hungry, a horrible thought especially for younger kids.  So, what's a parent to do? It is a question I get asked very often!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Baby Led Weaning Pros and Cons

There has been a lot of buzz about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) in the last few years, and I often get parents asking how I feel about the topic.  I can't give a clear yes or no because it depends on several factors, and I wanted to explain my thoughts as a pediatric feeding therapist and some important points to consider on both sides of the debate. 

Let me first say that as a natural childbirth, breastfeeding, baby-wearing mama, I love the idea behind BLW . If I wasn't a feeding therapist, I probably would have immediately jumped right onto this band wagon. I am drawn to the social aspect, ease, and natural-ness (is that a word - doesn't matter I'm using it) to baby led weaning, but I've unfortunately seen some of the pitfalls in my practice. So you can be sure I'm going to cover that, too!  I will mention that all of the specific feeding approaches I have been trained in over the years do not recommend it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Children's Books to Help with Picky Eating

Picky eating is often a complicated problem that could potentially have many layers to it. I don't expect a children's book to solve your child's issues around food, but having the "right" book gives you the opportunity to talk about food in a positive way that is meaningful to kids. Maybe this will give your kid the motivation they need to try something new?  I also like the idea of building off of some of the foods in the book. For example, if the book you are reading is talking a lot about blueberries, then I would get some blueberries and have your child help you prepare a recipe using them. Or, create a little snack that mimics the story in some way, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate. When it is time to sit down and eat, you can remind them of the book and the story line to help bring it all together for them.   

Please know that I have been very selective about the books in this list.  I had a few favorites that I've used in therapy, but then did research beyond that for this post.  I took a boat load of children's books out of the library about food or picky eating and my kids and I previewed them. Some of the books my kids liked, but I didn't because of the underlying message they were sending. I'm not going to name names, but most any book that started off with the message, "I hate ______", or other strongly negative language about food was left off this list, with an exception or two.  I did this because even though the end message has the character ultimately embracing the food, I don't like putting ideas in kid's heads.  In my house, we have mostly been able to avoid them using language like, "I don't like________," because I have been very conscientious about framing the way we talk about food in a different way. 

Without further ado, here are my favorite books to help develop healthy eating habits (Please note this post contains affiliate links for your convenience):

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Picky Eating Solutions: A Mother's Testimony

I am tremendously grateful to Marissa, awesome mom and elementary school teacher, for writing this post I am sharing with you today. Marissa is not a blogger, nor does she have any marketing connections that she is trying to promote. She wrote this post because she wanted to help other parents that were struggling with their kids eating. As you will read, her son Reed, had difficulty transitioning onto table foods. I started working with Reed and his family when he was a little over one year old. Marissa and her husband were completely receptive to all the strategies I recommended and worked hard to follow through on them - not an easy task, I know. The commitment they made to be consistent and patient with Reed over the next 9 months yielded amazing results. I'm thrilled that she was willing to share their story and it is my hope that it inspires you to take a deep breath, know that you are not alone, and persevere with the strategies you read about here at Your Kid's Table!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10 Ideas for Unique Sensory Play in the Kitchen

I am grateful to Ilana for guest posting today at Your Kid's Table while I'm on maternity leave with number 3. She works over at Fun and Function and is a physical therapist. She has some unique and fun sensory play ideas that you can do - easily - with your kids in the kitchen! Plus, you will find a coupon code and some product recommendations at the end of the post.

Most of us spend quite a bit of time in the kitchen, yet we don’t often think of it as a place for improving sensory integration, the ability to process and integrate incoming sensory information. For children with sensory challenges, the kitchen, can in fact, be a wonderland for a sensory motor workout. The smells, sounds, and tactile substances can provide just the integration therapy that your child needs. Take a look at some     sensory-fun activities that your child can do right in your own kitchen:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Help for Picky Eaters: Using Dips

I have been remiss in not sharing with you this very valuable tool in helping picky eaters and problem feeders eat a larger variety of foods. Incorporating dips into your child's meal could make a huge difference, especially when used in combination with other strategies such as expanding on what they are already eating, playing with their food, and cooking together.  

I often hear one of two responses when I first recommend using dips to parents. They either say, "Oh my child loves ketchup, I never thought of trying anything else," or even more often, "They hate dips and would never try them."  Let me quickly address both points. First, if your child has a dip or two that they really enjoy, then chances are they will like more. In most cases, they stick with the same family of tastes. Meaning, if your child likes and responds well to salty dips like ketchup, then they may also enjoy a mild barbecue sauce.  Offering them a choice will also empower them at a meal and that is a good thing. I would also say, don't be afraid to have your child dip foods together that are unconventional.  It doesn't matter if he wants to put carrots in ketchup. Be careful to be positive about anything new they try even if it seems odd to you.

If you fall into the second camp and think your child will never try dips, don't be so sure. I have worked with a variety of families who have taken this stance and their child ends up eating lots of new foods with the help of a dip.  Of course, it will take some time to get there and some specific strategies will have to be employed to help teach your child to be open to using dips, which of course I'm going to share with you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Feeding Baby: {Book Review}

Disclosure: A copy of the book being reviewed was given to me at no cost. However, no agreement was made prior to this post about the opinion I would share. The opinion you read here is completely my own and is not influenced by any other party. This post also contains affiliate links for your convenience.  

"If the child is still refusing a food after 2-3 exposures, the parent gives up and accepts a picky eater. I hope this book will empower you to take a different approach." Excerpt from Feeding Baby
I try not to review too many books or toys here at Your Kid's Table and when I have in the past it has always been a product that I felt would truly benefit my audience.  The book I'm reviewing today is no exception and I would even say it is the most excited I've ever been to share a product or book with all of you! Feeding Baby: Simple Approaches to Raising a Healthy Baby and Creating a Lifetime of Nutritious Eating by Clancy Cash Harrison is a fantastic, parent-friendly resource that covers everything an expecting or new mom needs to know to set there child on a course for healthy eating.  It was a total treat for me to read this book and I agree with virtually everything she suggested in terms of avoiding picky eating and naturally creating healthy eating habits that will last a life time. I am utterly impressed with Clancy's clear and easy to follow tips.  You will be familiar with some of those tips if you spent anytime reading here, but Feeding Baby has so much more as well.  She has a chapter devoted to nutrition, which as an OT isn't the heart of my training so I'm very happy to have it as a personal resource. Plus, there are dozens of wonderful nutritious recipes that are perfect for baby - and the rest of the family too! Clancy has also been generous enough to share a chart from the book and she put together an awesome giveaway that includes a Vitamix and many other prizes! You can find the links for these at the end of the post!

As I'm expecting my third baby, this book has personally come at the perfect time.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so excited about the thought of feeding him and took careful consideration about my diet throughout pregnancy and nursing.  After all, I had been working with other people's babies for years, helping them learn to eat.  When the time came, I made homemade baby food and he did wonderfully transitioning to food. Although his eating hasn't always been perfect, now at nearly 5 years old, I'm so pleased with his healthy relationship with food and the wide variety of foods he has in his diet.

"A child's decision to eat or try a new food depends on her sensory perception of the food. If a child does not like the way it smells, feels, or looks, she will probably not taste it until the food becomes more familiar to her." Excerpt from Feeding Baby

My experience with my second child was completely different, as many of you regular followers know. I had a very difficult pregnancy with lots of stomach issues that drastically reduced my diet to peanut butter, watermelon, carbs, and (I hate to admit it) lots of sweets.  Well, guess what, my newly turned 3 year old child loves...  yup you guessed it, peanut butter, watermelon, carbs, and sweets.  Clancy talks a lot about how what we eat while pregnant affects our children's palate, which she backs up with research. Isaac's issues are a little more complicated, as he has some sensory processing difficulties that he inherited from his father, but my diet undeniably played a role. 

I should also mention that although this book is packed with awesome, sound strategies to avoid picky eating, that I wholeheartedly agree with, it isn't guaranteed. You could follow all of this exactly, but if your child has an underlying medical, oral-motor, or sensory processing issue, eating a wide variety of foods may still be challenging. However, all of these tips will completely support your child for the best eating possible no matter what the situation is, but additional interventions from trained professionals will likely be needed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trying NEW Foods with Kids and Picky Eaters


I felt inspired to type this post up today after my picky eater easily and readily ate spinach on his grilled cheese. I was surprised by how well it went myself, and really wanted to share it with all of you since so many of you find your way here looking for ways to get new foods into your kid's diet. Spinach is something that both my boys struggle with, even my 4.5 year old who eats a large variety of foods.  But, the point really isn't the spinach, although I'm going to share the idea/recipe that worked here today. What I am really hoping you will be able to get out of this post is how to apply these strategies to a variety of foods through the specific example I'm sharing.  So, here is the plan: First, I am going to go over exactly what happened today to make spinach successful for my kids, and second, I will outline the strategies that can be applied to a variety of situations for trying new foods.  Lastly, I have a surprise giveaway at the end!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eating/Feeding Milestones for Babies and Toddlers

I probably should have written this post years ago, as a resource for parents, but I have to admit I've been a bit hesitant.  Each child develops so uniquely and just because they may be late hitting a milestone, it doesn't necessarily mean there is cause for alarm.  For various reasons, it isn't unusual for a child to be a little late with mastering a new skill.  I would encourage you not to use this as a checklist, but as a guide for what types of things you should be looking for your child to be doing next.  I will be going over all areas of feeding, from when your bambino should be feeding themselves, to how and when they should be chewing foods.  These milestones are based on my education and professional opinion as a pediatric occupational therapist. Please remember that if your child was born prematurely or has a diagnosis, these milestones are likely to be later.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mealtime Rules: Yea, Nay, or Maybe?

I often have people ask me about the mealtime "rules" they have heard about or their 
friends use. What should they follow and what should they not? It can be difficult to navigate with so much different advice flying around.  As a pediatric OT that specializes in feeding, I want to throw my two cents into the pot and share with you the yea's, nay's, and maybe's.

My hope is that parents or caregivers can have feedback on these popular rules if they aren't sure what direction to go in or if what they are doing isn't working.  Moreover, if your child is a problem feeder or a picky eater than some of these rules may actually do more harm than good. Unfortunately, parents of these kiddos are often desperately looking for advice (understandably so) and lots of friends and family dispense what works for their kids, which adds a lot of pressure to stressed parents.  I really want to eliminate that! With that being said, I'm not going to address all of the manner type rules (i.e. put your napkin in your lap, chew with your mouth closed, etc.), unless I think they could negatively impact eating. I will also not be sharing all of MY basic mealtime rules. If you are interested in that you can click here or under Eating Basics in the menu bar.

Let's get started! For each "rule", I'll be giving a rating of Yea, Nay, or Maybe and of course a full explanation of why I feel that way from a feeding therapist and mom perspective. One quick disclaimer, I know some of you may have already implemented one or more of the "rules" that I may be "naying". Please know that I respect your parenting choices and I realize that it may work for your family. In that case, I support what you are doing, but please understand that it may not work for someone else. I encourage productive and constructive comments about the rules your family uses.