Journey to Restoration

The last two years have been spent deconstructing who I am, what I believe and where I want to go. I am not sure why it took a global pandemic to shake me the best way but it did. Nothing was spared… My past, my faith, my relationships, my career. There were months where I felt like a shell of my former self floating hollow on the waves of life. I tried in these darker times to put on what I formerly believed, did, and felt but all felt too snug, too small, and could no longer hold what I had discovered.

In this season, I found others who were hurting and not necessarily due to anything that had directly happened to them but had been carrying the burdens of the world. My feelings, my capacity, my energy were all burned. I did life on the little bit of oil left in my lamp. I began to look at the scraps from the shredding and began to discover that what remained was true. Slowly I began to make more sense why I felt the way I did. When I stopped denying and started looking for clues to unlock the door- it unlatched. What I discovered on the other side is not an answer, but a series of additional questions. 

Today, I find comfort in not knowing. This humble seat under life’s tree permits me to ask questions, and doesn’t hold me to having the right answer. It is here that growth will never cease. It is here that my well will not run dry. It is here that I feel connected. It is here that I feel restored.

My personal theme for the next season is restoration.

Restoration of self, relationships, offspring, home, faith, energy and purpose.

We were created on purpose, for a purpose and with a purpose. When we discover this, there is absolutely nothing that can stand in our way except for ourselves.

To those that stumble upon this entry, I wish you the courage, strength and energy to persevere in finding, attaining and living for your purpose!

Navigating Mindful Eating Amidst A Sea of Emotions


The social eating season has begun which poses a challenge for mindful eating! Autumn brings pumpkin-spiced everything out of hibernation and tailgating parties abound which transforms into weekly holiday parties which run until January first. Not to mention, we- in Wisconsin- have recently lost an hour of daylight which can make healthful choices that much more difficult for individuals who combat S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Many settle in to the fact that they will gain the 5-pound average this holiday season and celebrate that it is the season to eat emotionally.

The New Year provides an opportunity to reflect, plan, prepare and strive to do better the next year.  While this pattern is likely ingrained in our minds, families, and culture, does it have to be this way? Do we have to slide from one end of the eating spectrum to the other; gluttony to restraint?

Many in the healthcare community preach moderation; Consume sweets in moderation, enjoy alcohol in moderation, and even exercise in moderation. But, this word- moderation- is rarely defined and when open to interpretation, we will often seek a self-serving definition. It is unlikely that a vague nutrition ideology is going to break the chains of perpetual holiday indulgence. One needs to identify a simple, powerful and personal philosophy around food and nutrition. Eating well is not about restriction; it is about harnessing the power of nutrition to fuel our bodies to work, learn and play. It is about feeling good from inside out, having more energy and maintaining a healthier relationship with food.

What is your food philosophy? Does it support holistic health year-round? If not, you may want to consider rethinking the what, when, where, and mostly why and how you eat. This investigation may lead you to mindfulness. Mindful eating is a strategy for connecting the mind’s thoughts and attitudes about food with the body’s needs. Over the years, we often lose contact with our internal hunger cues and begin to eat for a variety of reasons and often those that are not the basic need for energy. We eat because we are sad, celebrating, lonely, bored, busy, or simply because everyone else is and “it” looks good.

Physical Hunger Psychological (“Head”) Hunger
  • Comes on gradually
  • Hunger can wait
  • A variety of food are appetizing
  • Able to stop when you’re satisfied
  • Eating doesn’t foster feelings of regret
  • Comes on suddenly
  • Feels like you must eat now
  • Craves specific comfort foods
  • Doesn’t stop with a full stomach
  • Triggers feelings of guilt, shame & powerlessness

If you feel ready to dip your toe in the freeing waters of mindful eating, try the following steps for a mindful meal. Consider practicing a mindful meal with friends and family at least one time each week this season. You may also find this placemat to be a helpful reminder!


Mindful eating begins with quieting the environment at meals and snacks and tuning into what is going on inside the body and mind. The following is a guide to pursuing a mindful meal.

Take a moment to relax. Breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Allow your belly to rise when you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Ask yourself where you feel hungry; Mind? Belly? Anywhere else? Rate your hunger using the following scale:

  1.  Starved with severe hunger pangs that are present on and off for greater than 30 minutes. You may also have a headache or feel fatigued or irritable.
  2. Very hungry with hunger pangs on and off for at least 15 minutes. You may also have constant thoughts about food with increased sense of taste and smell.
  3. Hungry and notice that the stomach is growling with an increased sense of taste and smell.
  4. Somewhat hungry and may first experience feelings of true hunger. Plan to eat in the next 30 minutes.
  5. Neutral and feel neither hungry nor full.
  6. Somewhat satisfied and starting to feel food in the stomach but do not feel ready to stop eating.
  7. Satisfied and could most likely go at least 2 hours without feeling hunger.
  8. Starting to feel full and could go 3-4 hours without feeling hunger.
  9. Very full with some discomfort and desire to sit and rest or nap.
  10. Stuffed with painful pressure inside the stomach is painful and feeling of sleepiness.

Imagine what type of food would satisfy the hunger.

  • Texture: crunchy, smooth, chewy
  • Temperature: cold, warm, cool
  • Density: heavy, light
  • Taste: sweet, salty, spicy, sour

Prepare and portion the food in a manner that your body needs versus wants.

Choose a peaceful place to eat. Try to eat most of the meals seated at a table where the food is prepared, such as the kitchen or the dining room. Limit distractions such as t.v., computer, phone, radio, books or magazines.

Eat slowly and savor every bite. Notice all that you can when eating, such as what the food tastes, smells and feels like. Chew the food slowly and take a moment to rest between bites. Try to make meals and snacks last at least 20 minutes.

Check-in early and often. Stop after you have eaten about 10 bites to assess your level of hunger or satisfaction using the scale above. Continue to eat and evaluate every few bites. Stop eating when you would rate yourself as a 7 or 8 on the scale above.

Pause after eating to enjoy the satisfaction. Again, connect and strengthen this internal feeling of satisfaction (satiety) and recognize how it differs from fullness. If we asked Goldilocks, she would say it is “just right.”

By becoming more aware of your body’s nutritional needs versus its desires, one can navigate the muddy waters of social and emotional eating with greater ease. One can grow in confidence and may be able to stand up to Aunt Lorraine’s insistence this holiday season to take just one more slice. Mindful eating is also contagious and may nudge a cascade of becoming more mindful in all areas of life.

Let’s Do Lunch!

img_20180903_192834One of the most common requests that I hear in clinic are ideas for healthy lunches and school snacks. Families are seeking health, variety and compliance with school rules for nut-free, egg-free, etc. snacks.

Likely due to my profession as a Registered Dietitian, we are a brown bag family. Thinking through fun, kid-friendly and nutritious options for school is a welcomed challenge. But, can become a hassle without the necessary forethought. I’m happy to provide an abundance of ideas and suggestions to assist in this piece of the parenting puzzle!

Here are a few of our family’s faves! Each healthy meal includes at least 3 food groups (Energy, Protein, Fruit and/or Vegetable) and snack includes 2 food groups (Energy and Protein). We typically try to avoid “Double dipping” in a food group, with the exception of vegetables, because this can lead to caloric excess. If calories are too few, consider tapping into the variety of healthful fats that can add flavor to your family’s mid-day meal.

Nut-Free Lunch Ideas:

  • Sunbutter and banana pin wheels with carrots and yogurt
  • Ham and cheese pinwheels with broccoli and orange
  • Hummus, pita, cucumbers and cheese stick
  • Pasta with cheese, tomatoes, olives and fruit
  • Greek yogurt, granola and berries with carrots
  • Black beans, salsa, chips and bell peppers with mango
  • Boiled egg, whole wheat crackers, carrots and fruit
  • Celery, sunbutter, raisins, whole wheat crackers, yogurt
  • Cottage cheese, crackers, orange, carrots
  • Avocado, salsa and chicken wrap with peppers and pear
  • Whole grain waffle with apple slices, jicama and yogurt
  • Whole grain pancake with sun butter, banana and yogurt
  • Raisin toast with cheese stick and carrots
  • Baked potato, chicken and peas with melon
  • Sweet potato, apple, yogurt and peas
  • Pretzels, cheese stick, cucumbers and melon
  • English muffin with tomato sauce, cheese, fresh tomatoes and raisins
  • Quesadilla, bell peppers and tomatoes, and mango
  • Whole grain cereal, cheese stick, raisins and carrots
  • Tuna pinwheels with pickles, avocado and cucumbers and apple
  • Pizza with tomatoes and melon
  • Tortilla Chips with bean dip, peppers and melon
  • Frittata cup with toast, broccoli and melon
  • Whole grain cracker sandwiches with turkey and cheese, cucumbers and apple
  • Whole grain sunbutter sandwiches with banana and celery
  • Shrimp, rice and frozen peas with pear
  • Overnight oats with raisins and yogurt, carrots
  • Homemade Soup (Chicken Noodle, Vegetable Beef, etc.) with Whole Grain Crackers, Carrots, Celery and Cheese stick

*For schools and workplaces that permit nuts, consider using peanut, almond or cashew butter in place of sunbutter.

Nut-Free Snack Ideas:

  • Banana or apple slices with Sunbutter
  • Ham and cheese roll-ups
  • Raw vegetables with Hummus
  • Mozzarella, Cheese and Tomato skewers
  • Plain Greek yogurt with berries (blend it for a smoothie)
  • 1/4 c Black beans and salsa with 1 serving of Tortilla chips and bell peppers 
  • Boiled egg with 4-8 whole wheat crackers
  • Celery, with sunbutter and raisins (Ants on a Log)
  • Cottage cheese with Fresh or Canned (in water) fruit 
  • Avocado Boats with Salsa and 1 serving of Tortilla chips (
  • 1 Whole grain waffle with Sunbutter
  • 1 slice of Raisin toast with Sunbutter
  • Cheese stick and Carrot sticks
  • Pretzels with Yogurt
  • Cucumbers with Cottage Cheese
  • 1 Corn or Whole Wheat high fiber tortilla with melted cheese and salsa (Quesadilla)
  • 2 Tbsp. Sunflower seeds or Pepitas with 2 Tbsp. Raisins
  • 2 Whole grain cracker sandwiches (4 crackers) with cheese and cucumber

*For schools and workplaces that permit nuts, consider using peanut, almond or cashew butter in place of sunbutter.

Stay Well, Get Well

what-is-immunityStarting school is truly a milestone and stimulates a child’s body, mind, heart and, well, immune system. The chill of Fall and Winter air in the Midwest, reins in not only the holiday season but the flu season. This year, we felt the cold, dry air earlier and thus were tossed into the trenches earlier. Experts have noted that this flu season (2017) has been worse than in years passed and will peak at Christmas. This is a relief for a Mom of five- knowing that reprieve awaits.

I swear we have all had the sniffles since that first week of school, but the last 6 weeks have been especially bad. From croup to the latest 24-hour stomach bug, the V5’s immune systems have been challenged. This warranted a post for other parents who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. While the young ones appear to be somewhat energy-immune to runny noses, fevers, seal-barking coughs, malaise and nausea; it is a good sign to me that they still want to run, jump and play. One knows it is bad, when all their child wants to do is snuggle.

What can we do?

  • Practice Hand Hygiene. Teaching children to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water at transitions in routine at an early age is very important. Pausing when coming home or inside from playing and always washing before meals and snacks can be a great protective strategy. Viruses enter the body through the nose, eyes and mouth so keeping hands clean coupled with keeping hands clear of these body parts can keep the cold and flu viruses out.
  • Don’t Share Germs. Kids are notoriously not good at sharing, except when it comes to germs. Teaching children to not share their straw, cup, silverware, napkin, toothbrush, etc. can be helpful. Also, teaching them to cough and sneeze into their elbow [Vampire Sneeze] can protect others around them. Washing bed sheets, blankets and those favorite stuffed animals and toys weekly can also help to keep their beds from becoming a breeding ground for bad bugs.
  • Stay Active inside and out. Most don’t have to tell kiddos to move but it can be hard to maintain summer activity levels in the winter chill. However, research supports that moderate physical activity can cut cold and flu occurrences by 25 to 50% by boosting the immune system and increasing the circulation of the body’s natural cellular defense. We have found that the Just Dance, Indoor Recess, and Go Noodle are a great way to get our kids’ blood pumping. Also, indoor obstacle courses, hide-and-go-seek and of course bundling up to get outside are all great ways to stay active year-round.
  • Catch those Zzz’s. Inadequate sleep can increase a person’s risk of getting a cold or flu by 200%. Most infants and toddlers need 11-15 hours of sleep each day and preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours. This is collective between evening and naps. While sleep needs do decrease with time, most adults still need 7 to 9 hours each night.
  • Eat your Vitamins. There are an abundance of over-the-counter immune-boosting supplements but nothing beats getting your vitamins and minerals from solid food sources. Many know that Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to keep the body healthy. Amping up vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, leafy greens and broccoli. Many may not know that zinc has been shown to decrease the length of colds and help to prevent illness. Adequate zinc is also important from lean meat, chicken and seafood, as well as, beans and nuts.
  • Make a Flu Shot a Family Affair. This may be a controversial suggestion because many believe their vaccinations do not help or actually make them sick. This is unproven. Some feel ill after getting the shot because the body is bolstering its immune response. It also takes 2 weeks for the vaccination to provide protection so, if an individual encounters the flu virus or a cold within those 2 weeks, the shot is not to blame. We feel that the shot is much better than 2 weeks of the flu.

So, those are just a few suggestions to help stay well during the cold and flu season. If and when we get sick, getting well is the priority to keep the duration of the illness as short as possible. During these days, rest and rehydration are tried and true. Well wishes to all!

Tata Tonsils

Removal of adenoids and tonsils have become quite common and somewhat routine due to the association between large adenoids and tonsils and sleep apnea.  Tonsillectomies are also completed if an individual has chronic tonsillitis or throat infections. This procedure is best completed in childhood before children start school because the recovery timeline is much shorter and often easier than in adulthood. It is also more ideal to identify and treat sleep apnea before individuals start school because of the detriment it can have upon learning.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder where an individual stops breathing repeatedly during sleep which prevents the brain from getting the adequate oxygen it needs. There are two types of sleep apnea; tonsillitis is associated with obstructive sleep apnea where the tonsils are obstructing the airway when an individual is lying down at rest. If untreated, sleep apnea can result in chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, and stroke, as well as, poor performance, impaired learning and worsening of ADHD.

What is a T&A?

The tonsils represent four groups of lymphatic tissue including 2 palatine tonsils, the lingual tonsils, and the pharyngeal tonsils. The two palatine tonsils are those that we commonly think of and are located at the back of the throat on the right and left. The pharyngeal tonsils are also known as the adenoids and sit at the back of the nose where the nose and throat meet.


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A tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy, or T&A, is the removal of the tonsils and adenoids. This procedure is completed under general anesthesia which requires a fast from solid foods and all liquids. An uncomplicated procedure takes 20-30 minutes and is performed by an otolaryngologist.


Recovery from a T&A can vary but is often easier in the younger patient. Pain management is critical so the individual can maintain nutrition and hydration status. A soft food diet which consists of pureed foods for the first day or two, followed by all soft foods including pasta, oatmeal, ground meats, etc. is suggested. Meal and snacks ideas are provided below:


  • Scrambled or boiled eggs with oatmeal and banana
  • Ground Turkey or Chicken with rice, pureed butternut squash and applesauce
  • Ground beef with mashed potatoes and peas
  • Cheesy mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower
  • Chicken noodle soup, pureed if necessary
  • Vegetable soup with kidney beans, pureed if necessary


  • Cottage cheese with applesauce
  • Yogurt and Greek Yogurt
  • Banana with peanut butter
  • Soggy cereal (soak dry cereal in milk for 5-10 minutes)
  • Canned fruit in water

It is also vital to keep the throat and membranes moist by staying hydrated. All in all, the healing process is individualized and momentary with better health at the other end.

Digital Detox: Can you do it?

Could you go screen-free for a week? Could your family unplug for seven days?

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In today’s society this may not be a realistic feat, nor a beneficial one, but it is certainly something to consider. In 1994, the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (CSTA) initiated a National Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. More than 20 years ago researchers were keen on the dangers of excessive screen time. Today, “screens” have been embedded into our society so much so that it may be detrimental to say good bye to screens for a whole week. The “screen” environment makes our lives more efficient, interactive and can improve communication. Nevertheless, the research remains that when we turn off screens, we “turn on life.” Therefore, the choice is yours; are you all-in to pursue a digital detox for seven days? Or, are screens (smart phones, tablets, computers, TV, etc.) so critical to livelihood that perhaps only turning off recreational screens for a week is suitable? Either way, the challenge is on.

In the month of May, groups nationwide will encourage millions to turn off their televisions, tablets and gaming systems and go Screen-Free for 1 Week. This impetus will foster a digital respite and encourage entertainment found in reading, playing, daydreaming, exploring the outdoors and spending quality time with family and friends. On average, preschool children spend four-plus hours each day consuming media from screens and this only escalates as we age. Older children spend seven or more hours daily and adults consume an average of 10 hours of screen time daily, albeit it is not all recreational usage. There’s no doubt that there is a place for screens in our lives but too much of a good thing can certainly be a bad thing.

Excessive screen time is linked to a number of learning and health problems for children and adults, including obesity, difficulties with attention and focus, sleep disturbances, behavior problems and poor performance at school.  The health risks have become so great that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement in 2016 with screen time rules, by age:

  • Less than 18 months of age: No screen time
  • Children 2 to 5 years: Less than one hour daily
  • Children 6 years to adulthood: Less than two hours daily

Ideal forms of media for children include those that are educational and limit commercials. Commercials have found to over-stimulate young children, and they often lack the cognitive skills to truly understand the messaging.

So, what can you, and your family, do with the extra 14-50 hours each week? The possibilities are endless!

  • Go on a family walk, hike or bike ride.
  • Put a puzzle together.
  • Play a board game or charades.
  • Turn on music and have a dance party.
  • Read a book or look at a family photo album.
  • Go to a local park.
  • Go to the library.
  • Explore free community events.
  • Work through homework together.
  • Write a story as a family.
  • Tackle that to-do list.

After screen-free week has come and gone, keep the habit going! Honor the time with friends and family as well as your health, and consume media just like those sweet treats – in moderation.

Let’s Deskercise!

Today’s workforce finds themselves either standing for the majority of the day as a result of their occupation (wait staff, cashier, cook/chef, hairdresser, etc) or seated for the majority of the day. Many have found themselves either seeking opportunities to stand and move throughout their day or grab a chair to rest. It appears that there are health consequences for prolonged sitting and standing; Are we darned if we sit and darned if we stand?


Standing for 30% or more of the workday, or 2 ½ hours in a row without a movement break, can have health complications comparable to those of sedentary lifestyles. Prolonged standing- in the same position- can lead to issues within the circulatory, musco-skeletal and endocrine systems. More specifically:

  • Pain and swelling in the legs and feet from reduced circulation
  • Varicose veins leading to backflow of blood
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Heel problems, Plantar fascitis
  • Lower back pain from compression of the lumbar spine
  • Heart and circulatory problems due to the body attempting to push blood against gravity (venous insufficiency)

However, don’t let this scare you into sitting. Research has unveiled that long periods of sedentary time can result in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a disease state where an individual has three or more of the following: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or excess body fat around the waist (visceral fat). Excess sitting can also increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, how much is too much?

The aforementioned risks of prolonged standing appear to arise with daily standing exceeding 4 hours. The research on sitting is mixed but appears to be about the same. Sitting for more than 4 hours without movement breaks each day can lead to additional health risks. Additionally, a daily trip to the gym does not appear to reduce the risk of excessive sitting. So, change is still warranted even if you work out and then head to your desk or easy chair for the remainder of the day.

The solution is a mix and balance of sitting, standing, moving and stretching. If you are seeking ways to get moving, consider taking 3; Sit for 60 minutes and then move for 3 minutes. During the 3-minute movement break one could:

  • Walk to grab a drink of water.
  • Walk to a co-worker versus sending an email.
  • Stand and stretch.
  • Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.
  • Step outside- or stay inside to walk around the building.

This break will provide the heart-pumping activity your body is looking for.

If you are a stander, needing to work in opportunities to sit, consider standing for an hour and then sitting for 30-60 minutes. After the 1 to 2 hours, take 3 and engage in any of the above movement break activities mentioned above.

Whether you are a sitter or a stander, everyone benefits from deskercising! The following are some suggested exercises to enjoy at your desk.


Give your heart rate a boost by:

  • Perform 20 jumping jacks.
  • Jog or march in place for 1 minute.
  • Wander the cubicles for a few minutes.
  • Celebrate a success with a few squat jumps.

Lower body

Wake up your booty and legs by:

  • Removing your chair and performing wall sits for 30-60 seconds.
  • Perform a few sets of calf-raises while waiting for that 100-page document to print.
  • Tone up your seat by squeezing your buttocks for 10 seconds then release. Repeat this 3-5 times.
  • Lunge or Squat up and down every time you use the phone.

Upper body

Loosen up your neck and shoulders and practice proper posture by:

  • Swimming laps; pretend to be swimming while performing arm circles.
  • Release steam or rock out with a few fist pumps over 60 seconds, then switch. Whether your boxing or clubbing, your arms will appreciate it.
  • Practice 15 tricep dips by placing the heels of your hands on your desk and lowering your body up and down.
  • Shoulder shrug with a pencil pinch can correct your posture. Shrug shoulders up and then roll them back while attempting to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades. Hold the pinch for 10 seconds and repeat.
  • Wall push-ups can give you an aerobic lift while loosening your chest after a prolonged sit.
  • Look around to stretch your neck. Intentionally look up as far as you can, down as far as you can, to the left and then to the right and repeat this circuit as many times as you wish.

Don’t hesitate in incorporating these tips but, consider starting small and slow. Your effort will not be in vain. The impact of the rest and intentional physical activity that you will provide your body throughout the day will be profound!

You Are What Your Mom Ate


The study of fetal origins is relatively young but is a robust field of research involving epigenetics, developmental biology, nutrition and public health. The fetal origin research is composed of two hypotheses focused on the: 1) Developmental origins of health and disease and 2) fetal origins. The first is different because it focuses on the fetal environment and the environment within the first days of life. The fetal origins hypothesis focuses solely on gestation and its impacts on health at birth on into adulthood. This research is fascinating because it demonstrates the impact of maternal stress, health nutrition on the unborn child or children.

The Thrifty Gene

How we respond to our food environment may start very early. The “Thrifty phenotype” hypothesis suggests that poor fetal nutrition followed by abundance may lead to an increased risk of chronic disease later in life due to the metabolic adaptations made in utero. For example, lack of nutrients in the wombs may make permanent changes in the body’s insulin and glucose metabolism, which could make a person more susceptible to insulin-related disease states in adulthood, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or metabolic syndrome. This hypothesis is the product of research on populations where mother’s experienced nutritional abundance, followed by famine, and then abundance again. Today, it is applicable to those with food insecurity where maternal malnutrition is prevalent. Thus, the infant will be biologically programmed to handle scarcity and then born into an environment with a plethora of caloric options. This equation sets an individual up for combatting chronic disease for the remainder of their lives.

Interestingly, this hypothesis may not be applicable to twins and high order multiples. Some assume that since twins share an energy source and are typically small for gestational age (SGA) that they have an even greater risk due to the metabolic modifications in utero. However, this may not be the case because twins have a different pattern of fetal growth from their singleton counterparts. There is evidence that twins down-regulate their growth early in gestation (first trimester) to protect against growth retardation caused by the lack of nutrition and cramped quarters in later trimesters. This action protects the baby from the associated metabolic disease states and risks later in life, including hyperinsulinemia and diabetes. This is refreshing news to this mother of high-order multiples.

Taste Buds

An infant’s taste buds are developed as early as the 14th week of gestation and completely by the 7th month of gestation. This means they are learning to love and understand food before they experience life outside of the womb. Therefore, a mother’s dietary choices have potential to teach a child which foods are safe. For example, if a mother enjoys a plethora of bitter vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, etc) and potent flavors (onion, garlic) their child will learn that these flavors are safe to consume despite being programmed to “know” that bitter equals poison. This foundational palate can lead to an adventurous eater versus battle-after-battle with a picky eater later in life.


Don’t fret if your in-utero diet was far from healthful. There are strategies for saving those taste buds from becoming boring.

  • Don’t be a short-order cook. Prepare one healthful meal and inform the family that this is what is for dinner. They can choose to enjoy it with the family or forego the meal. Be courageous and know that children will not suffer if they refused a meal or two.
  • Celebrate salt-free flavors. Children have a very delicate palate and are ready to explore a variety of flavors outside of sweet and salty. Champion aromatic vegetables, fresh herbs and spices. Find out your family’s favorite flavors to spice up the day-to-day meals. If this sounds like too much. Consider a little garlic powder, which to a child will be a whole new experience.
  • Make meal time, family time. Create a sacred space at meals to not only enjoy food but emotions and conversation. Families that eat together, stay well together.
  • Take the emotion out of trying new foods. Trying new foods can be quite scary, especially since we are programmed to avoid bitter foods. Individuals with sensory processing issues can truly experience scary internal feelings when they encounter a taste or texture they don’t like. Therefore, get to the bottom of the picky eating. When trying new foods, try to take it at their pace, in a safe space and without emotion.

We know that a baby’s palate is shaped before birth. What our mothers chose to eat and drink has forever imprinted our brain with food memories which may influence our faves and dislikes. Therefore, we need to slow down, think twice and put our best fork forward.

Parents Beware of the Kids Menu

unhappy_meal_sqA recent article hit our news feeds this last week highlighting the need to pay closer
attention to our children’s plates when dining out. The research team called restaurateurs to action and encouraged a revamp of children’s menus at favored chains to provide entrees, sides, desserts and beverages that fall in-line with a child’s energy needs versus their desires. These modifications would allow youth the opportunity to select any item from the children’s menu and award parents the satisfaction that their child would not be exceeding their needs. But, as it stands children’s menus are not so kid-friendly when it comes to providing age-appropriate portions.

This issue would be trivial if dining out were a special occasion, but that is not so. Today, over one-third of our daily calories are spent away from home along with over 50% of our food dollars. Since the prevalence of eating outside of the home is more frequent, dining out behaviors have the potential to influence a family’s overall health and contribute overweight, obesity and chronic disease in our youngsters. Until restaurants respond to this public health call to action, families have to be on-guard and mindful of their choices when dining out.

Families can make dining out a healthful experience by:

Encourage children to order from their menu

Most restaurants try to provide more age-appropriate portions on the children’s menu so that menu is the best place to start. If healthful options are hard to find on the kids menu, know that you will need to reduce the adult portions by one-half or more.

Practice the plate method

Ask your child to select a meal that has at least three of the five food groups, ideally protein, whole grain or potato and vegetables. Redistribute the meal when it arrives to reflect the MyPlate diagram. If there’s extra, tuck it away in a take-home container.

Forego sweet drinks

Skip the sugar-sweetened beverages and enjoy still or sparkling water or unflavored milk. Sweetened drinks can pack in 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar which is 2 to 3 times their daily allowance.

Make dessert a family occasion

If your family likes to indulge in a sweet treat when dining out, consider ordering one dessert and splitting it.

Portion sizes

Portion sizes inside and outside of the home remain a major catalyst of the perpetual childhood obesity epidemic and a parent’s desire and willingness to monitor their children’s food choices when dining out remains a significant challenge in America. However, modifications that would make portions age-appropriate and guidance from parents when dining out could both make a major impact. This responsibility cannot fall on the child because most children under the age of 12 years do not have the cognitive or developmental capacity to limit their portions when over served. Additionally, satiety cues- often not recognized or easily over-ridden- are not strong enough to guide a child to healthful choices when dining out.

So, gear up before dining out and approach this effort as a team

Trick, Treat, or Teaching Opportunity?

Halloween can be a scary time for more reasons than the goblins and spooky ghosts. Halloween seems to kick-off the season of treats beginning with the tempting sweets that line the grocery store aisles. Many parents dread Halloween due to the amount of candy that their child drags home after a long night of trick-or-treating.  However, I am looking forward to this teaching opportunity.



Many of you know that food, nutrition and overall wellness are near and dear to my heart. I love equipping and empowering people in their health pursuits… especially my children. Trick-or-treating is a great time to teach moderation. There is a growing body of research that encourages families to mark no food as forbidden. Ellyn Satter encourages parents to help their children to, “Learn to manage sweets and to keep sweets in proportion to the other food [they] eat.” Moderation can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is a lesson worth learning. According to research, treat-deprived children often end up weighing more later in life due to hoarding forbidden foods. I appreciate these findings but also recognize that these lessons need to be age-appropriate.

At three years young, my kiddos still are led by their frontal lobes (aka Impulsivity) therefore, we have tailored the moderation conversation to one of “wants” versus “needs” and “wants” have a time and a place. Since candy and sweets are unnecessary “wants,” my children have never had any. We don’t have any in the home so, if they encountered a candy bar on the street they wouldn’t know what it is. This is intentional because I know the power of sugar and I also know the consequences. Sugar is a sweet and silent killer that is a great contributor of morbidity and mortality around the world. Because of this I often associate excess sugar with excess alcohol or even smoking. As parents, we are guides and guardians for our children. We are blessed with the opportunity to guard their hearts, minds, bodies and souls until they are able to “digest” the media and message and then tasked with helping to guide them through this muddy world.

This does not mean my children will never have the pleasure of candy; recall those that are deprived often become the secret hoarders. Instead, we will continue to be intentional about when, where, why and how we introduce these types of foods and experiences. I also feel led to set others up for success that is why we will continue to be the weirdo house on the street that does not handout candy, but rather an allergen free snack. There are also a host of other food and non-food alternatives including…

Non-Food Alternatives:

  • Stickers
  • Glow sticks
  • Play dough
  • Rings
  • Toothpaste/Floss/Toothbrush
  • Pencil/Erasers
  • Seasonal Post-it’s
  • Bubbles

Food Alternatives:

  • Gum
  • Granola Bars
  • Pretzels/Crackers
  • Popcorn or Puffed Corn

So, with moderation in mind may the force be with you as we forge into the season of sweets and continue to guard and guide our children in the days to come!


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