Add some fun to your kid's afternoon snack.
Any snack on a stick can help kids become more interested in eating - think about how much fun it is to eat food in this way! Make our peanut butter yogurt dip (see below for allergen modifications) and pair it with pretzel stick, plus strawberries on a skewer. Safety tip: use kitchen scissors to cut the sharp end off the skewer, and don’t serve this to a young toddler who may poke themselves! Always supervise eating, especially with new tools.
Megan's DEVOURED this snack. It was the perfect sweet, salty and crunchy combo that was also full of fiber, protein and fat (the three key nutrients for keeping our bodies full and our blood sugar more regulated).
To make the yogurt dip, combine:
Allergy Families: use Kite Hill almond yogurt or coconut yogurt instead of dairy yogurt, sunflower seed butter or almond butter instead of peanut butter, and gluten-free pretzels instead of wheat pretzels. Strawberry allergy? Serve with blueberries and bananas instead
Great for the whole family!
You know those fast, easy, delicious dinners that you love but always forget to make? Yeah, this is one of them for me.
I play around with different tortillas, and this brown rice version from Trader Joe's was pretty good! We use their fat free beans, not because we avoid fat (we think dietary fat is waaaay important!), but because the other types at Trader Joe’s are kinda spicy and my girls haaaaate spicy still, despite numerous exposures! (We're working on it.)
Here's what you need:
Here’s how we made them:
Particular toddler at home? Let them build their own fajita and make sure to serve familiar foods with new ones so they’re not overwhelmed by unfamiliar options. We have more tips like this to help with your picky eater in our Toddler course.
Baby at home (6+ months)? Omit salt and serve deconstructed - shrimp, cooked peppers/onions, tortilla (soft), avocado strips, and refried beans plopped on the tray or presented on loaded NumNum GOOtensil. Looking to do baby-led weaning with your little one? Check out our Infant course.
Get your snack on, friends.
What snacks does a dietitian love?? I wanted to share my go-to options, especially for road trips - but these work well even when you're at home or sending snacks to school. Y’all know how important the snack game is with kids (because HANGRY = DISASTER when you factor in tons of excitement and not enough sleep), and while traveling we up our game so we have lots of options.
I always try to incorporate high protein snacks and fruit/veggies into the mix because protein/fiber balance blood sugar, which helps everyone feel better between meals. Remember, snacks are all about honoring our body’s hunger signals between meals and feeding ourselves the tasty, enjoyable fuel we need to feel our best. Plus, little humans have little tummies so they need to eat often.
Below are some of our favorite options you can rotate into your snack rotation:
My kids don’t have any allergies - and I regularly serve allergens to help prevent the development of allergies - but if your kid has an allergy, please modify. Always have water available as well.
A little salt is OK.
In our infant course on baby-led weaning, we recommend going easy on baby’s salt intake because babies' kidneys are immature and likely can’t handle large amounts of sodium. (Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, both minerals...so when discussing sodium we are indirectly referencing salt.)
It is believed that the adequate intake of sodium for babies is around 400 mg, which is about a pinch of salt per day. However, breast milk contains about 42 mg of sodium per 8 oz, so do we need to completely eliminate salt from baby’s solid foods? The quick answer - no.
A little salt is OK in helping baby’s body absorb water. As it turns out, sodium is considered an essential nutrient! Many foods naturally contain sodium anyway, so baby is already eating sodium when getting many foods in their whole form.
However...we don't have any data to prove that going over 400 mg is absolutely detrimental. It's more of a theoretical precaution.
To stay on the safe side we recommend not directly salting baby’s food when possible. When roasting veggies, avoid salting baby’s portion, or don’t put salt on the beef patty you’re grilling for baby to eat.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid sodium, like when you’re eating out or if you’re using packaged foods. As long as baby’s entire diet isn’t made up of salty or processed foods, this shouldn’t be a problem - no counting salt required.
Lastly, try to go easy on super salty foods like (quartered) olives, cured meats and pickles. These foods are fine here and there, we just wouldn’t serve them to baby daily due to their very high sodium content.
The adequate intake of sodium for toddlers is 1000 milligrams, so at that point we recommend salting your toddler’s food as you would your own to integrate them into the family meal. We love sea salt and Himalayan pink sea salt for its flavors and trace mineral content.
Hydration is key.
Sick kiddo at home? One of the hardest parts of parenting is managing illness. You may have noticed that eating and hydration can be greatly affected by illness, and sometimes it takes days - or weeks - for kids to get back on track. Here are some quick tips when you have a sick kiddo:
Different types of pasta offer different flavors, textures and nutrition.
So many kids love pasta - we call them "noo-noos" in our house. What's not to love? They're easy and fun to eat and are topped with delicious sauces.
I’m especially a fan of all the new alternative pastas like Banza is made from chickpeas and has a ton of filling protein and fiber. One 2-oz portion (which is a pretty decent size) has 14 grams of protein, just 4 grams short of their total daily need. We serve it so many ways - here's a few ideas:
Remember, kids learn to eat what is served to them, so mix it up! Offer different types of pastas with different presentations and different sauces. Sticking to the same dishes increases their likelihood of picky eating...try to get creative when you can!
Easy ideas to help make snacktime more positive.
Do you struggle with snack time? Here are a few tips:
We share many more tips in our online toddler course, loved by thousands of families worldwide!
Should you start earlier than one?
We hear the term “food before 1 is just for fun” thrown out in our Facebook group (search Feeding Littles Group to join) and in various Baby-led Weaning communities. The spirit of this phrase is great - don’t stress about the quantity of food your baby eats, and don’t worry if they just play - but the idea that EXPOSURE to food is unimportant before 1 could not be further from the truth for a variety of reasons. (This phrase is literally keeping some parents from offering any food before one.)
Since babies need exogenous iron (and zinc) starting around six months due to depletion of iron stores from birth, food does have a nutritional role, and that’s why we recommend high iron foods like softly cooked meats, lentils and beans starting at 6 months. (Mix beans/lentils with other foods like guacamole so baby can pick them up without the pincer grasp.)
We now know that in most babies, the delay of allergenic foods (peanuts, shellfish, eggs, etc.) actually INCREASES a baby’s risk of allergy to that food, so not introducing these foods close to 6 months can actually be more harmful in the long run.
Research suggests that babies who don’t get to practice with foods of various textures by 9 months are statistically more likely to have feeding issues in elementary school. Furthermore, not exposing a baby to food until they are 1 ignores their biological drive to eat and interest in food.
For sensory, developmental, motor, social, nutritional, allergenic, and oral coordination reasons, please start introducing foods to your baby when they’re around 6 months and start showing readiness signs like sitting unassisted, bringing foods to their mouth, no extrusion reflex, and good head/neck control unless told otherwise by your pediatrician.
Side note: having a pincer grasp is not a sign of readiness for food, and gagging when they start is normal and protective! Babies need practice to learn how to eat! Check our blog post for more feeding myths! Need help feeding your baby? Join the thousands of families who have used our online Infant Course to feel confident in feeding baby!
Let kids be kids.
Dear WW (formerly Weight Watchers): a weight loss app for kids ages 8-17 does not “change health trajectories” for the better. It fuels eating disorders.
Please read this entire post to understand my experience with this app.
Megan here. I have been sick to my stomach this entire week since learning about the newest Kurbo by WW app. Many of you have asked us to address it.
The purpose of this app is for children (yes, CHILDREN) to enter their food and activity patterns and receive ratings on a stoplight system. Green are “go” foods that should be eaten freely; yellow foods are OK if consumed in moderate portions; red foods are “stop and think” foods. I downloaded the app and signed up for the coaching program to see what it was like. (My heart was pounding with anger and anxiety throughout the entire process, believe you me.)
I entered in my 6.5-year-old’s food intake for yesterday - view the images below to see how it rated and what my “coach” said in response. I did change her birth date to make her appear 8.
As a dietitian who believes that fat is important for a child’s brain, I was pretty appalled that butter and HUMMUS were considered red foods. You’re only “allowed” 3 red foods a day. The only “green” foods I could find were veggies and fruits (and skim milk, which my kids don’t happen to drink). Almost anything with fat or calories were at least yellow if not red. Yes, most breads or carbohydrate foods were red.
Let’s reiterate some statistics shared from Evelyn Tribole - co-author of Intuitive Eating - a few days ago:
Before you suggest that this is just “teaching kids to eat healthy”...I encourage you to think about the broad implications of this type of thinking. This doesn’t teach “healthy eating.” It teaches restricted eating. It teaches kids that some foods are good (but most are bad), as kids are very literal in their thinking. It sets kids up for a battle between their brain and growing bodies. It perpetuates disordered eating, thinking and behavior that may have lifelong implications in vulnerable populations.
Did you now that adolescent girls gain on average 40-50 lb during puberty, and boys gain 50-60 lb? Even the AAP encourages parents and providers to not discuss a child’s weight in front of them.
This is not the solution.
I have a personal issue with WW, as I grew up in a WW home. I went to meetings with my mom - I was never on the program, but I witnessed it. I saw her get weighed in and felt her disappointment when she was no longer at “goal.” I ate all the “light” foods with her. (She was trying her best in a fat-phobic, diet-obsessed world and didn’t realize the impact it had on me - we’ve now talked about this a lot).
By the time I was 14 I had very restricted eating patterns; I had a full-fledged (undiagnosed) eating disorder in college and grad school. I am devastated to think about how this app could cause similar harm in so many kids who have easier access to the “ww philosophies.”
So what can you do?
Here are some things you can do to help promote body positivity and a healthy food relationship in your child WITHOUT using a weight loss app:
Notice these last 2 images - the feedback on my daughter’s diet and one screenshot of the app asking what her goal is. “Weight loss” is obviously hard to see, but “make parents happy” is even worse.
Food is NOT points or red, yellow, or green lights.
Music adds ambience and fun to dinnertime.
In our Toddler Course we talk about the importance of minimizing distractions, including TV and devices, during mealtime. Some of us like the TV on while we eat for some background noise, but you may have noticed that young eaters become easily distracted when the television is on.
Music can provide low level sound and some wonderful ambiance while not being distracting. Turning on music at the beginning of a meal can be a fun pre-meal ritual that directs your child’s focus from play to eating. Plus, listening to music in childhood helps your child develop language skills and learn about rhythm and sound. Make sure that the music isn’t too loud or jarring while you eat or it will feel distracting. For many people, high-energy, fast songs don’t work well for family meals, but do what works for your family.
Sharing your favorite music with your child can be a powerful way to connect. You can sing and dance together now when they’re little and go to concerts together when they get older...and one day they’ll think fondly of you and those memories whenever they hear that special song.
We decided to share some of our favorite mealtime songs with you below. As music lovers and big concert-goers, our selection here is a little bit eclectic. This list could go on forever. What matters is picking music YOU enjoy to create a positive environment for your family. Check out the Spotify playlist we created with these songs.