Wanted: Favorite New Recipes for Picky Eaters

Looking for some favorite new recipes for picky eaters in your house? Each of my kids can be picky eaters at one time or another. But even when they are picky, I can usually rely on three solid and healthy meals or snacks that each one will devour without question.

I like to make food fun but also encourage my kids to try new things without making it too elaborate. I don’t like to hide healthy foods in less healthy foods, because that undermines their trust in me.

Monster salad, picky eatersMonster salad –  this one’s easy. Grab your favorite collection of salad ingredients. Add in some new ones that have an interesting appearance and set them out on the counter or table. For a picky eater bonus, take your child shopping and let them pick out a fruit or vegetable that neither of you know and try something new together! Invite your child to make a monster face using their ingredients! Then find some fun monster eating weapons like tiny forks or toothpicks. If you can handle a little mess, allow the picky eater to use their hands so they can get familiar with the texture of the food first.
picky eatersPizza on a stick – this is a classic kids’ favorite deconstructed and represented in a new way. Help kids understand that familiar foods are made up of basic ingredients. For this recipe you can even grow the tomato and basil and get your picky eater involved in cooking and cutting and chopping. Start with some thin crust bread that resembles pizza dough. Slide it on a stick (eating things without a plate can make old foods more interesting) and then slide on tomatoes, cheese and a basil leaf. What other pizza toppings can you and your child add? Let your picky eater get creative and choose fun things for you both to try.

Dylan glasses eating, picky eatersPineapple with cinnamon – this sweet treat was introduced to us by Argentinian friends. I love how it encourages kids to combine two known flavors and try them out together. This dish is also a great way for picky eaters to try foods at different temperatures and think about how it changes the flavor. To serve it warm, grill the pineapple then sprinkle with cinnamon. Serving the pineapple cold or even room temperature will appeal to different taste buds. What other spices might taste good sprinkled on pineapple?

Don’t forget to keep track of your favorite new recipes for picky eaters in a copy of My Food Notebook and make mealtimes more fun with Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids.

New Secret Tip for Picky Eaters

I’ve collected lots of tips for helping parents work with their picky eaters and get more fruits and vegetables into their diet. But new research shows that one of kids’ favorite things – recess – could be a huge help!

Schools in a Utah school district switched their schedules so that recess happened before lunch and guess what happened? Kids are more fruits and veggies. Lots more!

In the schools that switched recess to before lunch, children ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than they did before the switch, the researchers found. Moreover, there was a 45 percent increase in the number of kids who ate at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. But in schools that kept recess after lunch, children actually ate fewer fruits and vegetables as the year went on.

54 percent! That’s a lot of broccoli! Active kids are hungry and hungry kids are less likely to be picky eaters. And it’s exciting that there was an increase in children actually eating fruits and vegetables. This shows it wasn’t just kids who already ate these foods, it was new children eating these foods. I’m all for increasing physical activity in schools. I’ve learned a lot from Action for Healthy Kids about the value of recess when it comes to academic learning and positive behavior. But now we can add eating healthier foods as another benefit of recess! I encourage every one, kids and adults to be more active. Being active is invaluable to me as a writer. It’s a win-win decision.

But the great news doesn’t stop there. The study also showed a decrease in wasted healthy food, too. I can’t stop smiling at this good news! Why aren’t we hearing more about this? What do we need to do to convince schools to switch their lunch and recess schedules? I am betting that the decrease in food waste could be the stronger argument if it can be connected with saving money.

This article also argues that parents and children who sit and eat together also eat better. How often does your family sit and eat? We try to sit and eat dinner together every night if we can, but we also find time for breakfasts and lunches together over the weekend. It’s one of the happiest times of our day, now that we’ve developed new ways of working with our picky eaters. No more food fights!

secret tip for picky eaters

Give those new foods a try!

You have to read the entire article and let me know what you think. The full study is out in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. Why aren’t we hearing more about this good news? Do people just not care about kids eating healthy? Would your school flip lunch and recess? Why or why not?

Take a look at more tips for picky eaters in these posts and if you want to help your picky eater have some fun trying new foods, grab a copy of My Food Notebook.

New Food at Pittsburgh’s Farm to Table

Open wide! New food

Open wide!

It’s almost time for the ninth annual Farm to Table Conference here in Pittsburgh! This is one of my favorite events in the city because I get to meet new people and try new food! I’m really thrilled to participate this year for several reasons. As usual, I’ll be hosting a table and selling copies of My Food Notebook, but I’m also going to unveil a new game for kids called “TASTE or TEST.” When kids visit my table they can choose to TASTE a Mystery Food or take a TEST and answer a really tough (wink, wink) question about Pennsylvania farms and agriculture. If kids are really brave, they can tackle both challenges! When a child does a TASTE or TEST, they will earn an entry into a raffle drawing for a basket of fun, healthy prizes.

I’m also going to bring this fun TASTE or TEST game into the first grades at my local elementary schools to coincide with the Farm to Table unit in the curriculum. As I work on different projects and books for children, I find that taking a look at the standards really helps. I use the PA Standards Aligned System site to see what teachers need to cover in the classroom. Then I try to make sure that the information in my games, activities and books matches the needs of the teacher.

Just because information is required doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! I know kids love learning about healthy foods because I worked with the folks from Farm to Table to create the Super Fun! Local Food Challenge assembly and have performed it in front of screaming crowds of school agers.

I think the TASTE or TEST game is going to be a hit for parents and kids, because trying a new food is a tough challenge for many people.

Trying New Foods

When’s the last time you ate a new food? And I don’t mean trying a new flavor of Triskets. I mean a new fruit or vegetable, maybe a new kind of cheese, or even a new kind of grain.

We get into habits (or ruts) where we eat the same things every day. I know personally it’s easier for me to cook familiar foods. I know how to cook them and (usually) don’t ruin or burn them. But it’s important for parents to model trying a new food if they want their kids to try a new food.

Here’s a challenge. Try to eat one new food every day. Could you do that two days in a row? Could you do it for a week? I’m thinking the next time I go to the grocery store, I could grab five new kinds of fruits and vegetables and give them a try once a day. Sounds intimidating but also a little exciting!

Parents want their kids to try new foods. I asked friends on Facebook what new foods they wished their kids would try and got a great variety of responses. Here are some of the foods:

  • Kiwi
  • Spinach
  • Peppers (red, yellow, orange, green)
  • Tomatoes (twice)
  • Rambutan (I don’t even know what this is!)
  • Mushrooms (twice)
  • Eggplants (twice)
  • Mangoes (I’m allergic)
  • Lima beans
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Grapes

That’s a pretty good list of new foods to try! Some of those are delicious. But what the heck is a rambutan? Sounds like a new food I need to try.

Be honest now: Which of those foods have you eaten yourself? Which have your kids eaten? If you’re going to tackle this list of new foods with your family, let me know which ones they taste!

Do you think the TASTE or TEST game would be a hit at your child’s school?

 

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Help for Moms of Picky Eaters: Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa

I am so thrilled to share the link to a truly fun conversation I had with Denisa LaRosa, host of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa. Denise and I are both Pittsburgh moms, but she is raising girls and I have all boys. We share a common goal in helping our kids develop a healthy relationship with food. Denise is a former elementary school teacher and I admire anyone who can tackle a classroom full of kids.

Denise is the founder and CEO of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa, LLC, a multimedia platform designed to motivate, inspire and inform mothers. Denise’s website focuses on “providing mothers with encouragement, support and resources as they travel the journey of motherhood.”

Denise and I had a inspiring talk about what inspired my books and how I encourage my kids to try new foods. But her website has many more resources for moms.

Moms learning from Moms

Moms learning from Moms

Denise and I are both supporting the Burgh Baby Diaper Drive and collecting diapers for the smallest members of our community.

Make a change in a little one's life!

 

It can be hard to be patient when kids refuse to eat. Moms know that many times dinners and meals with picky eaters end up in food fights and battlesI Denise and I shared great ideas on how we take our children to the grocery store, get them involved in cooking and encourage them to try new foods. I invite you to listen to this podcast and check out more from Denise!

 

 

More tips for picky eaters!

Boy eating whole wheat bread

Boy cannot live on bread alone.

Looking for more tips for picky eaters? If you have a picky eater in your family, you are probably familiar with the feeling that you’re in the middle of a food fight. You’ve prepared food but your picky eater won’t try a bite. Let the battle of wills begin! But I found that getting into a food fight with my picky eater left us both feeling defeated and angry. I want my children to have a healthy, curious attitude about food. And I don’t like arguing at every meal. So I looked into ways to work with my picky eater.

One important change was the creation of My Food Notebook. Not only did it help my child remember what foods he had tried and liked, it helped me remember if he liked foods prepared a certain way or with a certain condiment, which we call a “Flavor Buddy.” I also did a lot of research on techniques to that make it easier for kids to try new foods. Some of those tips are available here. But if you need additional ideas, here are five more tips to help create a win-win situation at your dinner table, too.

 

More Tips for Picky Eaters

1. Family Style – Instead of giving each person the same size serving and preparing plates in the kitchen, bring your food to the dinner table in family style bowls or platters and let your dining companions, young and old, choose the size of their serving. You may be surprised how many vegetables your children consume when they are allowed to serve themselves. And for those picky eaters, starting with a smaller portion is a lot less intimidating that facing a huge mound of spinach.

2. Choices – Whenever possible, I offer two or more vegetable choices at our family style dinners. I remind my children that a healthy meal includes some protein, some carbohydrates and a large serving of produce, then I let them choose. I highlight the nutritional benefits of each vegetable in language my kids can understand. We talk about Vitamin A in carrots and how it helps your eyes and Vitamin C in sweet potatoes and how it helps you fight off germs. But giving them a choice usually means they will eat more of their chosen food than if I have forced them to eat a certain vegetable.

3. Sticks – Putting food on sticks is like waving a magic wand for many picky eaters. Foods on sticks, whether it’s a kebob stick, a toothpick, or a really cute bento box mini-fork seems to make trying that food so much more fun.

4. Faces and fun – Since kids eat with their eyes and many children prefer to touch their food before putting it in their mouths, I often let them create faces and have a little fun with certain foods. Especially if we’re building a salad, creating a little monster face or cartoon character out of the salad ingredients can take the pressure off of trying new foods.

5. Be consistent –  There will be times when your picky eater is completely resistant to all tactics. Maybe they just aren’t hungry or aren’t in the mood to have fun. That happens here, too. But we don’t let our kids off the hook, they are required to have one bite of a vegetable – any vegetable they choose – at dinner. We call it our hop-down bite. You can’t hop-down from the table until you’ve taken the bite. And we never waver on this rule. Stick to it and the arguments and testing will fade. Do not give in. Not even once.

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

Once you’ve started using these tips to work with your picky eater, don’t forget to keep track of the foods they’ve tried in your very own copy of My Food Notebook. And let us know what foods become favorites – or not.

Check out MORE tips for picky eaters here!

Why Farm to Table is Great for Kids and Families

 

Farm to table Pittsburgh

March 21-22, 2014

This weekend is the 8th annual Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh! I am really excited to be involved in this year’s event again. The theme for this year is Food Sources and the conference again offers lots of excellent activities for children. The conference has always been family friendly, but a new feature of this year’s conference is the special Kids’ Track of programs! Both Friday and Saturday there will be programs and speakers just for kids and families. The Kids’ Track is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of eating healthy, local food. And if you’re not already convinced to bring your kids downtown, remember that kids under 12 are free!

We are so lucky to have this event in Pittsburgh. I recently spoke at the Parenting Expo here in Pittsburgh and discussed how helping children experience food with all of their senses increases their comfort level with foods and can help them learn to try new foods. Growing foods, shopping at farmer’s markets, attending events like Farm to Table and seeing gorgeous photos of fresh foods being grown, even meeting our local farmers, are all positive ways to help children develop a willingness to try new foods.

I’m so excited to be a part of the Kids’ Track on both days. On Friday, I’ll be hosting a special Tasting Party for kids, and on Saturday I’ll be hosting the Super Fun Local Food Challenge School Assembly! Both of these programs are available as school classroom workshops or assemblies and work with the Social Studies standards for Pennsylvania schools.

Of course in addition to these programs there’s the Local Food Tasting on Friday night and the Saturday Networking Breakfast. Both events are hugely popular. By the time I got to the Saturday breakfast last year all of the food was gone – it was so good no one left a crumb!

I’ll have an exhibitor table again and I’ll offer an encore to last year’s very popular Pizza on a Stick Tasting Party. My boys love coming to Farm to Table and roaming the tables, trying everything from local honey to local cheese, pickled vegetables, fresh milk, apples and more. This year I have decided to get one of those mushroom logs. I love mushrooms and Pennsylvania is the nation’s leading producer of these tasty fungi!

Looking forward to seeing you at the 2014 Farm to Table Conference. Bring the kids, stop by and say hello!

 

March Madness and the Healthy Food Challenge

It’s the perfect time of year for a healthy food challenge! March is National Nutrition Month and it’s also March Madness. So on a run, a time when I often get my best ideas, I decided it would be really cool to combine these two great activities into a Healthy Food Challenge!

healthy food

Healthy Food Challenge Bracket

Luckily our elementary school has a principal who supports healthy eating, I have a great working relationship with our PTO and the new Kids of STEEL club is a hit, and our new Food Services Director is setting a tone of cooperation with parents. So many factors came together just right for this activity.

Healthy Food Challenge:

I worked with food services to determine which eight fruits and vegetables would be available every day in the cafeteria. Then I created the match-ups, randomly setting up eight fruit opponents on one side and eight veggie opponents on the other.

vegetables for kids

The Veggie Conference

fruit for kids

The Fruit Conference

We sent the brackets home in advance so kids could fill them out and turn them in. I entered all the picks into a spreadsheet to track the winners. This took a lot of time! Over 200 kids turned in brackets, that’s about 1/3 of our school population.

The first round happened today. I walked around the cafeteria for each of our three lunch periods and asked kids what fruit or veggie they wanted to vote for. They could only vote for fruits or veggies they had tasted that day at lunch.

I must admit, I was surprised how many kids claimed they had not eaten any fruits or veggies for lunch that day. Some tried to claim fruit snacks were a fruit. Not a chance. One kid tried to tell me pistachios were a fruit. As much as I love pistachios and prefer them to fruit snacks, I still had to tell her no. But I told her to keep eating pistachios.

That’s why the title Healthy Food Challenge is perfect. We are challenging the kids to get more healthy foods into their daily diets.

Winners will be chosen from the most accurate brackets. We’re also pulling a few brackets from all the entries to give away some small random prizes.

My motivation to try some fun, healthy activities at school came from listening to a webinar hosted for parents by Action for Healthy Kids. I was really excited to learn tips and techniques for working with schools to increase nutritious foods and more physical activity in the school day, especially after some unfortunately negative experiences with a “wellness committee” that didn’t do much in our district when my oldest son was in kindergarten and first grade.

We have a great district and a great school. I think there’s a lot of potential here. And our principal really supports our Kids of STEEL running program. Unfortunately I’ve also received an automated call from him asking families to support a school fundraiser where teachers work behind the counter at a local McDonald’s. That activity drives me nuts.

I still have a lot to learn about increasing wellness at our school. Luckily there are more webinars from Action for Healthy Kids coming up. I have a dream of the school having a community garden before my youngest, who isn’t even in kindergarten yet, graduates sixth grade. I’m excited to learn more about why taking away recess time as punishment is bad for academic achievement.

 

 

Fun Family Dinners at Skinny Pete’s in Pittsburgh

Join us for the first of many fun family dinners at Skinny Pete’s (click on Events) in Pittsburgh on Monday evening, September 16, 2013 starting at 5:30pm. Parents get to enjoy a peaceful meal while their children are happily engaged in creating a  a self-portrait flatbread from healthy, fresh, local ingredients!

We know the more that children encounter fresh foods, the more they are involved with cooking and selecting the ingredients of their meal, the more likely they are to try something good that’s good for them!

All kids also get a copy of My Food Notebook to record what foods they tried.

Fun family dinners aren’t just a dream – they are happening right here in Pittsburgh! Join us!

Fun Family Dinners this September!

fun family dinners Pittsburgh

Enjoy a great meal with the family!

Fun Food for Your Picky Preschooler

I know it’s tough to to the parent of a picky preschooler. They are not at the age when you can reason with them and their tastes change so quickly, it can feel so frustrating. But there’s another way to approach the challenge: make it fun.

I was so lucky to visit a Bright Horizons class this summer and bring one of my Tasting Party workshops. There was more than one picky preschooler in attendance. I was bringing some new foods to them to try so we decided to make it fun. Making pizza on a stick all by themselves was a delightful adventure. Take a look at these brave little faces!

picky preschooler

Do it yourself – it tastes better!

 

 

 

Fun for these kids means hands-on and the opportunity to examine the food options as much as possible before tasting it.They looked closely at the food, smelled it, touched it and then finally nibbled and tried! More than one child tried tomatoes for the first time. Not everybody liked them but they were giggling and chatting and no one whined! Can you imagine that kind of dinner?

picky preschooler

No one can resist food on a stick

Recipe for Success: Best Brain Food for College Success

Understanding the importance of brain food is not rocket science. Enough research has proven the value of breakfast and a balanced diet not just for kids but for adults, too. I do believe what we eat can impact our total well-being. If you want your kids to do well in school and if you want to get through work or a workout without feeling like a total zombie, then you must pay attention to what you put in your mouth.

So when Nicole from The Best Colleges contacted me about this infographic and asked me to review it, I happily agreed. And I felt that her advice was useful not just for college students but for anyone looking to do their best.

I was dismayed to read about the amount of fast food college students eat but relieved that coffee and dark chocolate (in moderation) can boost memory and reduce stress.

Since my own children are still in elementary and preschool, I control most of what they eat and include a lot of brain food. But parents of college students have to trust their children will adopt or continue good habits. I remember reasonably healthy options offered in my college dining hall, but when I moved off-campus and had to cook for myself an unhealthy amount of pepperoni Hot Pockets entered the picture. And what about campuses in big cities that might be in food deserts?

Did your nutrition get worse when you were in college? Does anyone know of colleges including farmer’s markets or increasing fresh produce options in campus eateries?

 

freshman 15, brain food

Boost Your Brain!