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  1. Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash Not all kids like to cook at younger ages and that’s to be expected. It’s easy to get intimidated around hot pots and sharp knives. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some fun and safe ways to get your mini chefs involved in making dinner for the whole family! Meatless Monday We know it’s a cliché, but what better day to make a veggie-based pasta? Use a food processor to whip up an easy spinach “pesto” using fresh baby spinach, basil, nuts of your choice, and good parmesan or other aged cheese (optional). Have your kid(s) pour in the olive oil as the motor runs until the pesto is smooth. Cook pasta in a small pot according to package directions, drain (reserving about a tablespoon of the cooking water), and add pesto to the pot. Have your mini(s) stir to coat with a wooden spoon. They can also garnish the prepared bowls by sprinkling in some extra grated parmesan cheese and/or tear up more basil leaves to place on top. [Related: 5 tips for cooking with little kids] Taco Tuesday OK, OK, it’s another cliché, but do tacos on Tuesday ever fail? Switch things up a notch by making crispy taco bowls or cups with toppings of your choice. While you cook some ground beef (or chicken or turkey) seasoned with salt, cumin and chili powder, have your mini(s) push small flour or corn tortillas into the cups of a muffin tin lightly sprayed with olive or avocado oil. You can spoon in the cooked meat, and they can top with shredded Chihuahua, Mexican blend, or other cheese of your choice. Bake off the taco shells in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until crisp. Once cooled, serve the muffin cups with a variety of toppings: chopped tomatoes or mild salsa, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, chopped fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime — if they’re up for it. Meatball Wednesday Time to maka da meatballs! Add ground beef/pork or chicken/turkey in a large bowl. Have your kid(s) sprinkle in some seasoning (onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, oregano), and then have them squeeze in some ketchup for sweetness. Either you or they can crack an egg and add some panko, or have them tear up day-old bread for fresh breadcrumbs to add to the mix. Using clean hands, mix up the batch and everyone can take turns rolling the meat into golf ball-size balls. Pour a jar of marinara in a large, deep skillet and heat until a slow simmer forms. Gently place the mini meatballs in the mix, cover and cook until cooked through but still tender. Serve with pasta, in hoagie rolls, or by themselves with a veggie of choice. [Related: Ways to make learning playful and fun for kids] Stir-Fry Thursday Remember Mongolian BBQ? Bring back the '90s fave with make-your-own stir-fry bowls. Set up a station with bowls of raw, pre-chopped veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, diced red and yellow peppers, matchstick carrots, peas or edamame, etc.). Have them hand you their bowl while you add the protein (diced chicken or turkey breast or shrimp) and some pre-made stir-fry sauce (store-bought or a combo of soy sauce, hoisin or honey, and grated garlic and ginger). Heat up a little neutral or avocado oil in a wok or large skillet and cook until meat is cooked through and veggies are tender. They can finish off their bowls with any garnish of their choice (sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, chopped peanuts or almonds), or skip this part. You can even have then pick out the veggies you’ll be using at the grocery store to help them get more excited about the meal. Pizza Friday Make an easy Detroit-style pizza using a pan! This one’s easier to handle than stretching out and dealing with fresh dough. Line a buttered, 9"’ x 11" pan with prepared pizza dough and lightly brush it with olive oil. Have your kid(s) place alternating pepperoni slices and diced cheese across the dough (Detroit-style uses buttery brick cheese, or go for combination of brick and mozzarella), making sure to place enough cheese in the corners to create those signature, caramelized edges. Bake in a 500-degree oven on the lowest rack until bubbly, and edges are dark brown, almost black — about 30-40 minutes. Be sure to let the pizza rest 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.
  2. When our oldest son was just three years old, we found ourselves at the University of Chicago – our son groggy from anesthesia due to a necessary endoscopy and the doctor telling us, “The pathology and blood tests all confirm celiac disease.” I was relieved because we now had an answer as to why he wasn’t growing or developing. Once we removed the gluten from his diet, that all improved, but my head was also spinning because I had no idea how to deal with this diagnosis. No more birthday cakes, pizza, donut runs on Sunday mornings. Fast forward 10 years, and that all seems like a very distant memory. [Related: Help kids with food allergies enjoy the holidays] Celiac in the city with a teen Now that our oldest is 13, I no longer know where he is every moment and I’m not dictating his every meal. Luckily, we live in a city with a lot of gluten-free options. With celiac disease, one has to be very careful regarding cross-contamination. At home for example, I keep separate peanut butters, butters, and cream cheeses because we don’t all eat gluten free, and if you dip the knife in one of those and then gluten crumbs get into the product, he could get very ill. About 10 milligrams of gluten is what it takes to get sick, and that is about the size of a bread crumb. You’re probably wondering how we ever trust a restaurant or go out to eat. With age and experience has also come his level of risk tolerance for his body. For example, many restaurants don’t have a dedicated fryer for french fries, but he’s realized that this doesn’t seem to impact him, so he is OK to eat the fries, usually. This likely isn’t best practice per his doctors, but he also has to have some “food freedom” in life. Our favorite gluten-free friendly restaurants in Chicago As a family, we love to go out to eat. Below are some restaurants that my son loves – and that I trust: D’Agostino’s — He loves the pizza and the restaurant even went through a celiac certification process Jersey Mike’s – The company uses Udi’s sub rolls and will even clean off the deli slicers before making his sandwich Lettuce Entertain You – Takes celiac disease very seriously and have separate menus in most of their restaurants Wheat’s End – A dedicated gluten-free restaurant with amazing pancakes Zia’s Lakeview – Dedicated gluten-free menu and he loves their octopus appetizer Corridor on Southport – Amazing burgers that he orders without a bun and fantastic fries As my son gets older, it will be up to him to keep his body healthy. He fully understands how awful he feels if he ingests gluten, but I also know he will make mistakes either intentionally or not. Thankfully, there are many great options in Chicago, and he has a great group of friends and parents that all support him. To learn more about gluten threshold levels for teens and others, check out the National Celiac Association's helpful graphic here. Photo: gluten-free doughnut at Wheat's End Cafe
  3. Photo by Flora Westbrook Winter ain’t over just yet! With possible snow still on the horizon, we’ve got you covered with these warm and comforting, kid-friendly meals you can easily make in the slow cooker. Dressing them up with some fresh herbs, bright citrus and other toppers, though, will help keep your sight on Spring (and please the adults in the room). [Related: Make this easy London broil recipe for your family] Chicken Enchiladas Place 1 pound (or more) boneless chicken thighs in the slow cooker with a generous sprinkling of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder, plus a pinch of salt and a 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted, diced tomatoes (drained). Cook for 8 hours on low. Shred using two forks, stuff into tortillas, and bake them off with a bunch of cheese on top. Dress it up: Chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, and pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds) for crunch. Cheeseburger Soup Place 1 pound ground beef (brown first, if possible), celery-carrots-onion mirepoix mix, garlic powder, 3 cups chicken broth or stock, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 1/2 cups milk, 4 cups cubed potatoes, and 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Dress it up: Halved cherry tomatoes, baby spinach leaves, cooked chopped bacon or bacon bits for smokiness, and homemade croutons (toss day-old bread pieces with olive oil and dried herbs and bake in a 350ºF toaster oven for 15 minutes or so) for crunch. Mac n’ Cheese Place 1 pound uncooked, rinsed elbow pasta, 2 1/2 cups whole milk, 3 cups shredded cheddar or extra cheddar cheese, 4 ounces American (or other melty cheese) cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dry mustard powder in the slow cooker. Top with 1/2 a stick of cubed, unsalted butter and cook on low for 8 hours. Dress it up: Steamed broccoli, grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, torn basil leaves, balsamic glaze (made by microwaving balsamic vinegar on 30% power in the microwave for 2 minutes), and a touch of panko breadcrumbs for crunch. Build-Your-Own Ramen Place 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced yellow onion, a few garlic cloves, 4 cups chicken broth, 1/4 cup soy sauce, a touch of rice vinegar, a package of sliced mushrooms, and some minced ginger (or ground ginger) in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 3 hours. Remove chicken and add ramen noodles (from a few packages, discarding the chemical-laden seasoning) or Udon noodles. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes while you shred the chicken. Dress it up: Soft- or hard-boiled egg, baby spinach leaves, toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds, thinly sliced scallions, chopped fresh cilantro, Sriracha sauce or sliced jalapenos, peanuts (or almonds or cashews) for crunch.
  4. As parents, we hope to instill in our children the importance of traditions. Many of our family traditions revolve around food. For example, our Sunday evening tradition has become a London broil dinner. All my kids love this meal—which is quite a miracle—and I hope it might become a tradition in your home, too. London broil 1 ½-2 lb. London broil ¾ cup Italian dressing ¼ cup soy sauce ¼ cup honey Mix Italian dressing, honey and soy sauce in a large Ziploc bag. Add London broil to bag and, if possible, let it marinate for several hours in the refrigerator. Grill on low heat 12 minutes each side (4 minutes longer per side if you like it well done, but who likes it well done?!). Can you believe that’s all it takes? Enjoy! Tips: This is a great recipe to quickly throw together in the morning and let marinate in the refrigerator during the day. Just put the meat in the oven or grill it when you get home. If you are living a cold climate and aren’t brave enough to grill in the winter (we Chicagoans grill in the snow), then preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake the London broil on the lowest rack uncovered in a disposable pan for 1 hour. As always with red meat, let it sit after cooking for 5-10 minutes before cutting to seal in the juice. This London broil is great served with grilled asparagus and brown rice (my favorite is Trader Joe’s frozen brown rice) Related articles: Bring these easy-pack snacks and gear on your next family picnic 5 simple ways to help your picky eater Your kid will hate some foods, and that's ok
  5. As parents, we are sometimes just as excited as our kids when school is out for summer. For us, that means no helping with homework, no rushing around in the morning, and no packing of lunches. But as the summer nears the end, we realize the tasks ahead of us as the school year begins. Packing lunches does not need to be one of those dreaded tasks. Here are some helpful tips for putting together a delicious lunch in advance: No “surprise” lunches Try out new recipes on your kids at home first, rather than surprising them with a new lunch. As a food blogger, I do this all the time. Use Sunday to prep When I find something they like, I’ll make that dish on a Sunday night. I make enough so I can pack individual lunches for a few days during the week. My kids’ lunch favorites are Banana Muffins, Hidden Zucchini Muffins, Bourbon Chicken and Crispy Corn Flake Chicken (see below for recipe). Also on Sundays, my boys and I will bake S’mores Brownies. Then we’ll wrap them individually so they’re ready for the lunch box for dessert throughout the week. Eat in season My go-to fruit is the small individual bag of organic apple slices from Costco or Trader Joe’s. Of course, a fabulous autumn activity is apple picking. If you have picked them fresh, make sure to cut them up in the morning so they don’t turn brown before lunch. If stored properly, freshly picked apples will last up to two months in the refrigerator. Keep it cold Freeze a box of yogurt squeezers (my favorite is Stoneyfield Organic Strawberry), and include one in the lunch box. By the time lunch rolls around, the yogurt will be defrosted but still cold. And it will keep the other lunch items cold, too. You can find dozens of quick and easy kid-friendly recipes on my blog at www.mommachef.com. All use no more than six ingredients and are under six minutes of prep time. Momma Chef’s Cornflake Coated Chicken (makes 6 servings) 6 boneless chicken breasts 4 cups cornflakes 2 large eggs 2 tbsp. water 1 tbsp. salt 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. In a large bowl, mix together eggs and water. Set aside. 3. In a large Ziploc bag, add the cornflakes and salt. Then crush the cornflakes. 4. Dip each chicken breast in the egg/water mixture and put them in the Ziploc bag. Shake to coat all sides of the chicken. 5. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.
  6. I don't cook, and I am totally envious when I see mom friends post incredible dishes they make for their kids on social media. As a result, I make impulsive purchases to acquire cooking tools that gather dust in my cabinets. Like some mamas, I am just not interested in cooking. I enjoy it when it is an activity, an experiment, but not a task. Most of the people in my generation growing up in Asia have a live-in nanny or take-out is merely a block away. Also eating out is a social thing with friends and families. And traditionally, Asian parents didn't encourage their children to learn how to cook, because in their mind it is "wasting time,"—kids should focus on studying and school. Especially for boys, messing around in the kitchen was definitely a no when I was growing up. (Clearly that's an old notion—nowadays, cooking is the enhanced value proposition for men because sexier men cook.) Now I am a mother of a picky toddler and an infant migrating to solid food. Even though I don't cook, my kids still need to eat! This is how I do it: Watch and collect ideas from cooking YouTube channel Tasty: I enjoy watching and collecting these nicely done cooking videos for future inspiration. The video editing technique they use makes everything looks so easy! I have a "cooking idea folder" where I collect video clips from Tasty Japan and Emmy Made in Japan. What makes them different is that besides being exotic and yummy, it's all about presentation—they make food too adorable to eat. And I can't resist buying all those cooking gears and molds—once a while, my kids get to eat one, or two, or three Panda rice balls. Order mobile food: I order from a wide array of restaurants with a single tap on my phone. I actually prefer "new delivery" (e.g., Foodora) vs. the traditional "aggregators" (e.g., GrubHub) just because the delivery service and timing is much more predictable when you have hungry kids at home. The essential difference is "new delivery" has its own logistics for delivery from gourmet restaurants and "aggregators" pass the order to the restaurant to fulfill. Make sushi: We are not talking about rainbow rolls or caterpillar rolls here. Avocado and salmon rolls are easy, healthy and achievable at home. Simply buy a sushi making kit, get some fresh avocado and sushi-grade salmon and follow a YouTube video. Buy great kids' party food: Call me bold, but even thought I don't cook, I am brave enough to throw in a kids' birthday party with 60+ guests. I've tried out a variety of things from different places, and the winners are the ones that are easy to bake, steam, heat up or put together. Just to name a few from my shopping list that are super popular among little kiddos: H Mart: Crab or shrimp shumai, chicken teriyaki bao, mini seafood dumplings, Ramule (kids soft drink with a crystal ball inside of the funky bottle). And it looks like H Mart is going to add a West Loop location this summer, making my party-shopping route more streamlined. Costco: Beef bibimbap (Korean beef rice), party-size quinoa, crispy vegetable spring rolls Trader Joe's: Corn dog, veggie pizza bites, shrimp toast, macaroons (in the box)
  7. It never ceases to amaze me how my two kids—born from the same womb—can be so different. I don't know why it still surprises me so much, but it always does. In areas where one excels, the other struggles. At times when one is calm, the other is fired up. The differences in their personalities show up everywhere, including at the dinner table. One loves chocolate, the other loves vanilla. One is adventurous and willing to try new foods, the other is ... not. Over the holiday break, we visited my mom and dad in Florida. One night, we went to a local restaurant called Deep Lagoon Seafood. Jack, my adventurous one, saw a poster on the wall promoting a local "delicacy" on the menu. The poster said: "Gator Bites. Bite them before they bite you." Um, ick. But, right away, Jack was practically bursting with excitement. (Kinda weird, right?) I mean, the kid was ALL IN. Meanwhile, Caitlin (my not-so-adventurous one) broke out in a cold sweat. She was ready to do a mad dash from the restaurant. Can't say I blame her. My stomach did a few somersaults, too. For me, it was a great reminder of the fear kids can feel when faced with an unfamiliar food. I'm a full-grown, 40-something adult and I was feeling the fear loud and clear. If someone tried to force me to eat 'gator, I would not be happy. Not one little bit. As parents, it's human nature to want to encourage our kids to try new foods. After all, we know that foods like peas and broccoli are harmless and (sorta) tasty. But from a 2-year-old's perspective, those green veggies can set off the panic button, much like the 'gator bites did to me. So, as a parent, how can we respect our kid's food preferences and aversions, while still encouraging them to eat healthy, new foods? First, we can try to be good role models and eat the foods we want our kids to eat. In the 'gator example, I maybe wasn't the best at modeling adventurous food choices, but I also can't exactly say that 'gator is a food I want my kids to like. On the other hand, give me a fresh, simple salad and I'll role model my way to Timbuktu. Second, as the wise Ellyn Satter recommends in her "division of responsibility" approach, it's the parent's job to offer kids healthy options; it's the kid’s job to choose whether or not to eat them. In other words, we should routinely prepare healthy foods for our kids, then leave it at that. Our work is done. Amen and hallelujah. As I often tell my kids when they get all hot and bothered about the choices I've given them, "Food is food. You can eat it or not. It's your choice. But food isn't something to get worked up about." Then we move on. Sounds like a ridiculously simple way to deal with a tantrum at the table, doesn't it? But once you get the hang of it—and your kid realizes that you aren't going to force a food—so many stresses at the dinner table melt away. So what was Jack's verdict about the 'gator? "Tastes like chicken, but chewier." P.S. I don’t know if eating ‘gator is humane, sustainable or acceptable. I should probably look into that. Keep in mind this was a one-time experience, not an overall lifestyle choice, so please be kind.
  8. The holidays are upon us, and with the holidays come family gatherings, tidings of good cheer and food—lots and lots of food. Everywhere one turns there are cocoa and cookies and fruitcake—oh, my! For some, this time of year, and the many delicacies that come with it, is welcomed. But if you have a child with a food allergy it is a total nightmare. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want others to suffer just because my child can’t eat something, but sometimes I wish we celebrated with movies or cards or activities rather than food. It’s something everyone can enjoy rather than be excluded from. As my child has gotten older it’s definitely gotten easier to navigate the holidays in regards to sweats and treats, but it’s certainly not without bumps in the road. Here are seven simple steps to help you navigate this month (and heck, you’ve already made it through Thanksgiving so pat yourself on the back). Now, full disclosure, my oldest has celiac disease so should he ingest a food he shouldn’t eat he will not go into anaphylactic shock. I 100% realize that a food allergy is obviously a lot more stressful, to say the least. Still, he reacts with vomiting for 12 hours and no parent I know likes to deal with vomit, and no eight-year-old I know likes to vomit, so we are vigilant in avoiding gluten. On to the steps: 1. Help. As in, ask for help. You can’t do this alone, so make sure you reach out to the other parents in the class and understand who’s doing what for each holiday get together – this way you can more easily move on to step 2. 2. Outsource. You don’t have to do all of this baking yourself. There are dedicated nut-free bakeries, gluten-free bakeries, and all sorts of amazing bakeries in the city. Use them! They even deliver. 3. Listen to your child. Sometimes he might want to skip an event (if it doesn’t mean skipping school I’m okay with this) or go a little late to miss the cookie-decorating part. If it means avoiding a severe allergic reaction and keeping your kid happy then it’s ok to change up tradition or make your own new ones. 4. Involve your child in creating those new traditions, be it an outing, a food she wants to attempt to make herself that works for her diet, or a new restaurant she wants to try that you know would be safe. Help your child lead the way. 5. Dedicate. Meaning, dedicate a single day to knock out of all your allergy- and diet-friendly baking (so that you can spend the rest of the holiday season prepared and enjoying the season, rather than scrambling). Also dedicate a day to just your child. As in tip No. 4, give your child a day where food is not a thing or an issue that comes up on his radar—just fun and coziness and holiday joy. 6. Alternatives. As in alternatives to food. Our society revolves around food, whether we like it or not, but little by little classrooms and other social gatherings are changing to focus on group get-togethers and crafts rather than just food. Pinterest has a ton of great ideas for things to do at classroom holiday parties that are not food-related, such as tree-decorating contests, snowflake decorating, snowman poofs and even indoor ice skating. 7. Yay! You made it. Now pour yourself a glass of Champagne (or gluten-free, vegan eggnog) and toast 2018!
  9. Article
    We all know that cooking with kids is recommended. Research shows that it encourages kids to have a more adventurous palate and promotes family bonding, among a host of other benefits. But the truth is, cooking with LITTLE kids can be a real circus act. Take, for example, the time when my mini sous chef decided to use the kitchen faucet as a fire hose. Or when and my little pastry queen turned our kitchen floor into a sugary beach. Of course, these things always seem to happen while something is burning on the stove and someone needs a massive diaper change. UGH. So much for family bonding, right? The reality is, on most nights, it's hard enough to get a meal on the table without our kids' "help." So how can we reap the benefits of cooking with kids without the headache? As someone who's made a lot of rookie mistakes, but stubbornly keeps trying, here are five things I've learned. 1. Don't attempt to cook with your kids right before dinner. If you actually need to get a real meal on the table in 30 minutes or less, don't even attempt to involve your kids. It will be a disaster. Instead, give your kids a snack sampler and find a time to involve them when the clock isn't ticking. 2. Give kids age-appropriate mini tasks. Cooking should be fun, so it's important to keep your child's fine motor skills and attention span in mind. Beyond measuring, mixing and pouring, a few good tasks for preschoolers include shucking corn, pulling the leaves off Brussels sprouts, sorting dried beans and washing lettuce leaves. (Hint: This leafy greens washing machine game gets my kids to eat their greens every time). 3. Make veggies a priority. Sure, baking is fun and kids can learn a lot from measuring and mixing. But kids usually don't need encouragement to eat sweets. So, as often as I can, I involve my kids in recipes that allow them to get their hands on vegetables, even if it's just serving themselves a deconstructed chopped salad. 4. Do food science. Okay, so this isn't exactly cooking, but the idea is the same and can be just as much (if not more) fun. Fruits, vegetables and other ingredients are great tools for science experiments. 5. Make it a scheduled activity. When I lack the creativity or energy to come up with a fun cooking activity, I turn to the pros. We LOVE the cooking classes at The Kids Table, where my kids have learned to like (or at least try) everything from lentils to tofu. Next on my list is to try a kid-focused recipe kit from Raddish or Kidstir. These could even make for great holiday presents.
  10. I know that Halloween is a favorite holiday for so many people. And I totally get the appeal—carving pumpkins, dressing up in cool costumes and getting free candy is pretty sweet. As a parent, I still love the holiday, but I’ve learned that I need to "tweak" my approach to the holiday to keep my kids from turning into little monsters. For starters, the crowds in Chicago can be out of control, especially during the trick-or-treating hours hosted by neighborhood stores. It’s a far cry from the small-town experience I had a kid and, truth be told, it can a bit much for my youngest who tends to be crowd adverse. Our solution: Go early and make a quick exit. Sure, that means less candy for the kiddos, but isn’t that also a parenting win?! I’ve also learned that not all kids like dressing up. Last year, we tried to get my four-year-old to wear three different costumes. She HATED them all. They were either too bulky or too “polky.” So, this year, we’re meeting her where she’s at: a simple cotton T-shirt with her favorite character on it and a matching cape. We’re definitely not going to win any costume awards, but she’s comfortable and that’s what matters. And finally...let’s talk candy. As a dietitian, I’m very mindful of the fact that most kids (including my own) eat too much sugar on a regular basis. But on Halloween, I want my kids to be able to enjoy a reasonable amount of candy without feeling any guilt. So, here are five simple strategies we use to relish in the gluttony of the holiday without straying too far from our wellness goals. Surround yourself with healthy foods. Before trick-or-treating, feed your family a healthy meal and be sure you’re stocked up on fruits, veggies and whole grains the rest of the week. Eating high-fiber foods helps us to feel full, which makes candy less appealing. Enjoy, then limit. After you get home from trick-or-treating, let your kids eat a few of their favorite treats, guilt-free. Then restore your normal rules about candy (i.e. limit it to one fun size snack per day). Keep active. After your kids eat their Halloween candy, plan a movement activity (like riding scooters or going to the park) to help prevent the dreaded sugar high. Out of sight out of mind! Keep the leftover Halloween candy in a cabinet where it can’t be seen every time anyone walks by. Hand out healthier treats. Limit the amount of candy in your home by handing out individual bags of pretzels, stickers, pencils or fun erasers, instead.
  11. When my eldest, Jack, was a toddler, I thought I had it all figured out. He was (and is) curious, easy going and eager to please. Naturally, these temperamental qualities translate to him being a good and adventurous eater. As a dietitian, I gave myself a big ol’ pat on the back. Surely, his good eating skills were because of me, right? Well—go figure—kid No. 2 had different ideas in mind. My girl, Caitlin, is sweet, observant and smart, but she’s stubborn as all get-out. Plus, she struggles with sensory processing, which can make eating a challenge. As an infant, she refused all purees. As a toddler, she’d have a huge meltdown at the sight of yogurt (which, coincidentally, was her big brother’s favorite breakfast food). And, now, as a kindergartner, she’ll be the first to say "no" when a new food comes her way. The good news: We’ve made lots of progress. While Caitlin still has her food challenges (I mean, who freaks out at the sight of chocolate?!), I’m happy to say that she now has a wide repertoire of healthy foods that she loves. But it definitely didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken a lot of focused work and dedication to get to this point. And while there are some nights when I want to throw in the towel and order delivery, the hard work has been more than worth it. As a dietitian, I have a leg up on closely following what all the scientific literature has to say about picky eating, as well as strategies that work. While these proven strategies are a few of our favorites, as a mom, I know that every kid is different. If you’d like more tools in your toolbox, my free ebook, 21 Picky Eating Hacks, has lots of helpful advice. Here are five simple strategies that have worked with my kids. 1. Reframe your thinking. Labeling our kids doesn’t do them (or us) any good. Instead of defining your child as a "picky eater," reframe your thinking by telling yourself that your child is "still learning to like new foods." This simple shift in thinking brings more positivity and patience to mealtimes, which often results in better eating. 2. Talk less. Encouraging a child to “take one more bite” or “clean your plate” can add pressure to mealtime, as well as position healthy food as a punishment. When kids aren’t pressured to eat, studies show that kids actually eat more food and make less negative comments about their food. 3. Put a sticker on it. Kids, like adults, are suckers for good marketing. In one study, when an Elmo sticker was placed on an apple, the kids nearly doubled their choice of the apple. When I first tried this with my kids, they ended up literally duking it out over the apple. Oops, maybe this strategy works a little too well! 4. Create hands-on opportunities (away from the table). New foods can be super-intimidating to kids. So, give them lots of opportunities to become familiar with a food, before it ever makes an appearance at the table. Using fruits and vegetables in art projects and science experiments, as well as reading from food-themed books can all help. 5. Move, dance or play before a meal. Work up an appetite and get the wiggles out by engaging your child in physical activity before a meal. Research has shown that when schools have recess before lunch, the kids make healthier food choices. Bonus tip: Have a snack sampler ready, so your kiddo can nosh on fruits and veggies as an appetizer.

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