How to Combat Picky Eaters

I’ve often heard, “My child is so picky! He won’t eat anything!” This can be very frustrating for parents and can lead them down a road of constant struggles. It is important to remember that children’s food likes and dislikes change as they continue to grow and develop. As a parent or caregiver, it is your responsibility to lead your child to the table for meals, but you cannot make them eat. Children should learn to develop their own “hungry” and “full” signals. This means that we should allow their appetite to guide what foods they choose at meals and how much.

How to combat picky eaters

Ellyn Satter, dietitian, therapist, and author, is well-known to parents and professionals as an expert in pediatric nutrition. Satter separates mealtimes into 2 categories:

Parent’s feeding jobs:

  • Choose and prepare the food
  • Provide regular meals and snacks
  • Make eating times pleasant
  • Show children by example how to behave at mealtime
  • Be considerate of children’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes
  • Offer no food or beverages (except water) between meal and snack times
  • Let children grow to develop bodies that are right for them

Children’s eating jobs:

  • Children will eat
  • Children will eat the amount they need
  • They will learn to eat the food their parents eat
  • They will grow predictably
  • They will learn to behave well at mealtime

Satter states that when parents feed accordingly, children gradually accumulate attitudes and behaviors that characterize adult Eating Competence. With Eating Competence, children can feel good about eating and they have the drive to eat. They naturally eat the amount of food that they need and grow in a way that is appropriate for them.

Try these tips to make the most of Any Mealtime…

Develop a meal and snack routine. It is important that children take time to eat their meal or snack by sitting at the table without distractions. This allows them to enjoy their food and gives them sufficient time to explore tastes and textures.

When introducing new foods, it is important to remember that this is a skill that children learn gradually. It generally takes time and repeated exposure for a child to learn to eat new foods. To learn to eat a new food, children watch adults eat. They will generally look, touch, taste, and spit out new foods. New foods may have to be presented 15-20 times before a child learns to eat it. Patience is key!

Children can also be engaged in healthy food purchases at the store. While picking out foods, explain why that food is healthy for our bodies. The more involved children are with food, the more likely they will be to try and adopt these foods.

Lastly, children love new things. Consider special bowls or eating utensils that will make their dining experience special and exciting!

Alana Scopel

Interested in learning more?

Join us for Doctor Is In, a free lecture open to the public  on Wednesday, February 3rd featuring three Springfield Clinic dietitians.

  • Time: 6:30pm
  • Location: Springfield Clinic Main Campus EAST, 2nd Floor ASC waiting area
    1025 S 6th St, Springfield

Register today!


3 Reasons Why You’re Late Night Eating

You may have heard the old adage once or twice that you shouldn’t eat after 6:00pm. In fact, most people are familiar with the health tip that eating late at night can be associated with weight gain. However, other health professionals argue that it’s the dietary intake over the course of the whole day that influences weight gain, not when those calories are consumed. While the debate on late night eating and the association with weight gain remains strong, I am actually most interested in the reason why you are eating so late.


Reason #1: I’m hungry! I can’t seem to feel full in the evening.

When patients describe this scenario to me, I look at two things: Are they eating often enough in the daytime and are they eating enough protein? It is very common to observe excessive hunger in the evening when people skip meals, especially breakfast. I understand that many people are simply not hungry in the morning, but this is most often the result of training your body into a bad habit of not eating within your first few waking hours of the day. In fact, not feeling hungry after getting up may indicate you already have a faulty metabolism. If food does not sound good, it is perfectly healthy to consume a protein shake instead.

Skimping on protein intake can also alter hunger and satiety levels, particularly if protein-rich foods like eggs, meats, cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are being replaced by empty carb-rich foods such as cereals, white flours, crackers, chips, pretzels and granola bars throughout the day. Try to include a protein source with all your meals and preferably with your snack choices to achieve better feelings of fullness and more controlled blood sugars during the day and evening. High protein intake is a hot topic in research. Here is a great illustration depicting how protein can affect our late-night eating habits.

Solution: Don’t skip meals, and have a protein-rich breakfast every morning.

Protein ReducesSources: Authority Nutrition and NCBI


Reason #2: I’m bored.

Obviously, boredom is never a good reason to journey into the pantry. Many people eat out of boredom in the evenings from not having enough stimulation and others eat out of bad habit. Remember, we can condition our bodies into bad habits just as easily as we can form good health routines. If you feel a craving coming on, ask yourself, “Is my hunger above or below the neck?” Hunger above the neck merely means that eating something just sounds like a good idea. This may have been stimulated from seeing a food ad on TV or again, out of habit. If your hunger is below the neck and actually presents itself as tummy gurgles, then it is perfectly acceptable to have a late-night snack.

Ideally, you do not want to load up on carbs right before bedtime. A high-carb bedtime snack can cause a blood sugar and insulin spike during the middle of the night and actually disrupt your proper sleep cycle. Safer bedtime snacks include a good protein source along with a small carb source such as an apple with peanut butter or a handful of nuts mixed with some dry cereal or possibly some hard cheese slices with a handful of grapes.

Solution: Figure out if you are truly hungry or not first. If you do have some stomach pains, make sure you include a protein source with your evening snack.


Reason #3: My family has to eat late at night since we had a ball game out of town. What’s the best quick stop dinner?

Eating on the go is practically unavoidable in today’s society. Sometimes it’s unrealistic to avoid fast food altogether, but ordering from a window doesn’t mean your nutritious eating habits have to go out the other one! Remember to include a balance of proteins and healthy carbs with your evening order. Examples could be a burrito bowl from Chipotle, bowl of chili with a side salad from Wendy’s or a grilled chicken wrap or grinder. Try to limit fried menu items such as fried/breaded chicken, French fries, onion rings, hush puppies and added sugars from milkshakes, pies and cookies that are quickly available at most fast-food chains. Don’t forget that you can quickly stop at a grocery store and bring home rotisserie chicken, green beans and sweet potato salad for a quick sit-down dinner.

Solution: Choose lean proteins with veggies and try to limit consumption of excessive starches (breads, potatoes, noodles) and fried fats.

Amanda  Figge

4 Tips for a Healthy Game Day & 1 Superbowl Shrimp Salad Recipe

4 Tips for a Healthy Game Day

Who’s ready for some football?! Regardless if you love the sport or not, it’s always fun to partake in a great super bowl party. While you won’t be able to control the calls in the game or the final score, one thing you can control is your dietary intake. While I don’t expect anyone to eat perfectly during the Super Bowl (heck, even I know I’m going to indulge a little bit), we can take some steps to make sure our indulgences don’t spiral out of control too much on game day.

1) Don’t skip any meals! This is a point I bring up time and time again. Skipping a meal on a big food day may sound like a good idea, but this only sabotages your metabolism. A depressed metabolism can cause you to eat way more calories at the party than what you would normally consume had you followed your regular meal schedule.

2) Think veggies and protein. Preferably together! Veggies are typically forgotten about at social gatherings, especially the Super Bowl. Now there is always the classic veggie tray, but try to think outside the box. For New Year’s I made chorizo-stuffed mini peppers and turkey-stuffed mushrooms. Personally, I find veggies, proteins and healthy fats to be much more filling than starchy items like chips, crackers, pretzels, etc. In fact, it’s not uncommon for my husband and I to go through a bag of Sunchips in 24 hours (why are they so good yet so unfilling??!!)

3) Portion control. Your portion sizes can easily get out of hand when you’re distracted by the game and conversation—especially when you eat directly from the large party bowl rather than put your food items on a plate. It’s much easier to count platefuls of food than it is to count handfuls of chips. Try to eat off of smaller party plates to keep your overall portion sizes down.

3) Drink water. It’s perfectly fine to have a few social beverages but try to alternate your beverages with water. Drinking water not only hydrates you, it can also help control your appetite.

4) Have fun! Remember no one single occasion ruins your health overall. If you eat clean and wholesome foods 80-90% of the time, then you absolutely can splurge once in while on some party favorites.

Looking for a game-day side dish that includes protein, veggies and healthy fats? Here you go!

Avocado Shrimp Salad

For the Avocado Salad

  • 4 small avocado, diced
  • 2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 small handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8-¼ c olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Shrimp

  • 1 ¼ lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter (organic grass-fed preferred)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Worchester sauce
  • ¾ tsp lemon pepper seasoning (I used Mrs Dash)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  1. Pre heat oven to 425oF. Lay shrimp in a single layer on foiled baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour evenly over shrimp. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until shrimp is done.
  2. Meanwhile, gently mix all salad ingredients together in a bowl. Toss in shrimp when done and serve!

shrimp salad

Grocery Store Gimmicks

Green coffee extract pills, veggie straws, Slimfast shakes, protein bars … the list goes on. This time of year, you’ll find items like these lining entrance ways of grocery stores and displayed on every aisle endcap. To the untrained eye, all of these products look like the keys to successful weight loss. But sadly, most of these products are just promotions that will be wasting your time and money. Remember, your diet is not made healthier by the addition of one single superfood or supplement, rather health is derived from a synergy of nutrients from a variety of sources and food groups. This time of year, I strive to provide helpful reminders of what is actually healthy for you and what is just a big gimmick.

Woman with Shopping Basket

Veggie Straws, Vegetable Thins, Vegetable Crisps. These crunchy substitutions may sound healthier because of the word “vegetable” in their title; but, in reality, they are simply glorified chips and crackers. They are still processed, still contain a bunch of added chemicals and still do not count as a serving of vegetables.

Fat-Free or Sugar-Free Anything. I know it’s incredibly tempting to think that something without fat or added sugar would be a shoe-in health product. The problem is that removing the fat and sugar from a recipe often requires the addition of several fillers, starch modifiers and other chemical substitutes. Basically, you are now consuming a more processed, less-natural food product.

Recently there has been a large movement in health that regards the quality of our food more so than the actual amount of fat, calories or sugar in a product. In fact, America’s obesity trends show that obesity rates began to sky rocket when the low-fat guidelines were implemented back in the 1970s. This stimulates the theory that low-fat or fat-free products are not as healthy as we once thought they were.


Obese Graph

CLICK HERE for graph source

100-calorie packs. While these items are great for their convenience factor and controlling portions, the downfall is that you really are only consuming 100 calories worth of simple carbs and sugars. The lack of protein, healthy fats and other filling nutrients in these items will leave you hungry and dissatisfied. Another point to consider is that these 100-calorie snack packs are the more expensive form of you purchasing the regular-sized version of the food product and separating the package into individual servings yourself.

Pre-Made Super Juices. While I agree that juicing at home is a great way to incorporate extra servings of fruit and veggies into your day, you want to stay away from the commercial, pre-made kinds. Naked Juice and Bolthouse juices seem to be the more popular varieties sold in stores these days. The phrases “100% juice” or “all natural” is quite enticing to most people, but really these sayings do not hold much value. Naked Juice, which is owned by PepsiCo, was sued last year for having “all natural” on their label when in fact, they contained synthetic ingredients. All you are really paying for in these juices is liquid sugar with a squirt of vitamins, not to mention a nice blood sugar spike in persons with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Weight Loss Supplements. The bottom line is that they are not safe. Every year, dozens are pulled from store shelves due to lawsuits and fraudulent claims; I know this because I worked at Walgreens and would have to do this from time to time. Even though they have a label that looks similar to the nutrition facts label on food products, these items are not regulated by the FDA. This means that the actual amount of the ingredients in each pill could be drastically different than what’s listed on the label. Weight loss pills are often the most dangerous in their side effects, especially when combined with other prescription drugs such as those for blood pressure or heart disease. These supplements may temporarily alter your body’s chemical balance and metabolism which may result in weight loss; however, the results will be short-lived and your body will most likely regain all the weight back once normal eating habits are resumed. Remember, the best recipe for weight loss is the good, old-fashioned habits of eating healthy and exercise.

Weight Loss Wardrobe. Do you remember the Sketchers Shape Ups? I thought that this would be a quick fad, but they keep producing them because people keep buying them! It’s not the shape-ups that help you lose weight; walking and exercise help you get a fitter physique. The same goes for any tight-fitting clothing that gives the promises of burning extra calories during your workout. You may sweat more because your body basically cannot breathe through the material, but keep in mind that sweat loss is not the same as weight loss.

Cleansing Diets. I’ve seen fruit juice cleanses, vegan cleanses and of course the all-star of the group, the lemon water + cayenne pepper and maple syrup cleanse. There is no need to put yourself through the torture of a 10-day “detox cleanse.” Your kidneys and liver do this every day for you. The primary reason you may feel better after participating in one of these cleanses is the fact that you cut the junk out of your diet for the past 10 days. I’ll admit that I have not been eating as clean the past month as I normally do. My skin looks awful, I’m not sleeping well and my energy level is much lower. Do I need a cleanse? No. All I need is more water, less sugar and less processed foods and I’ll be “cleansed” and back to my old self in no time!

Lunch on the Go!

Packing your lunch and snacks from home is one of the easiest ways to avoid unhealthy temptations at work, but how do you stick to a healthy diet when you have to eat on the go? There are plenty of healthy options that can be chosen from fast food restaurants such as salads, wraps and grilled chicken but many of us struggle with the temptations of fries, deep fried foods and readily available sweets, and would rather avoid going through a drive-thru. Luckily, a drive-thru is not the only way we can get a quick bite to eat. Check out some of these alternatives the next time you’re eating on the go.

Vending Machine

Grocery Store:

More and more grocery stores are now equipped with healthy salad bars and grab-n-go meals. The other day I saw that our local HyVee had a turkey wrap, apple and Greek yogurt as a to-go lunch meal. You can also quickly grab a piece of fruit and a protein pack (cheese, nuts and meat like the ones shown here) or an individual container of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt. Watch out for the deli bar, where tempting potato salads, fried chicken and desserts can be found.

Hospital Cafeteria:

It’s quick and more likely to offer healthier selections than what you would find at McDonalds or Taco Bell. Repulsive hospital food is a thing of the past. Today, hospitals pride themselves in their food service departments and often offer cuisine similar to those of sit-down restaurants. You can easily pair together a healthy soup and salad combination or take advantage of the healthy menu item of the day which may include chicken or fish with roasted or steamed veggies.

Gas Station:

I hold true to my advice that you shouldn’t buy your food where you get your gas, but sometimes you are left with no other resort, especially if you have to travel often for work. Rather than picking the bagel sandwich or slice of pizza, opt for a protein bar or protein shake. When selecting a protein bar, go for the one with the less added sugar. Many gas stations also offer fresh cut fruit or raw veggies with ranch as healthier side options.

Vending Machine:

If you’re stuck in a situation where the vending machine is your only option, go for the selection that offers the most protein. These items would typically be nuts, trail mix or beef jerky. Foods that include protein are more likely to keep your fuller longer and less likely to cause a blood sugar/insulin spike like chips, pretzels or chocolate would. When it comes to beverage selections, water is always your best option and if you prefer a sweetened beverage, try to choose the options that are sweetened with stevia/truvia such as Sobe Lifewater Zero or use a packet of Crystal Light Pure to sweeten up your bottle of water.

5 Foods to Stop Eating After the Age of 10

While driving to work the other morning, I heard the radio DJ announce that there was a certain restaurant that doesn’t serve ketchup to individuals over the age of 10. Of course it was a steak restaurant and we all know the unspoken rule that you should never have to order ketchup when having a good steak. As comical as this was, it got me thinking… “Shouldn’t there be a list of other foods we should stop eating after the age of 10?” Here is where my thoughts took me.

Child at Breakfast

  • Lucky Charms and other “kid-friendly” cereals: This sugar-sweetened, low-fiber cereal may taste great, but it may require three bowls to fill you up. Plus, consuming this amount of simple carbs in one sitting will not only spike your insulin levels in the morning, it will often lead your body to crave more carbs later on in the day.
  • Spaghetti Os: This canned spaghetti meal became famous in the 1960s and it hasn’t lost any popularity points since. While the low-fat nature of the pasta may seem appealing, don’t be fooled by the fact that you are really just eating a can of processed carbs. Besides, who really wants to eat pasta that was canned 5 years ago?
  • Chicken Nuggets: This is a powerhouse in the diets of most American children, yet still quite appealing to most adults. One of the biggest downfalls when it comes to chicken nuggets is the fat content. Good, healthy sources of fat can be a part of anyone’s diet, but this is referring to the fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, oils…not the ones from these little chicken bites. The other negative side of chicken nuggets is the fact they are very processed when compared to a natural piece of chicken.
  • Mac n Cheese and Hotdogs: I can recall one summer where I had this meal almost every day for lunch. When you put two processed foods like this together, you get high carbs, high fat (not the good kind), and high sodium. While this meal is simple to make, it is quite low in nutrients and often displaces opportunities to consume fruits and veggies.
  • Lunchables: The always-classic Lunchable is of course the meat, cheese and cracker combo. However, this has also been expanded to include nachos, tacos, and make-your-own pizza kits. The ones targeting older-aged children generally include a sub sandwich, chips and Capri Sun. Again, the main problem is that all of these food items are highly processed. Sugar-sweetened beverages and high-sodium sides are replacing nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

While many of these foods may bring back some fond memories of your childhood eating habits, the bottom line is that they are very poor sources of nutrients, regardless if you are an adult or child. Just because we don’t consume most of these items as adults doesn’t necessarily make them appropriate for our kids, especially since childhood obesity rates are at an all-time high.

Water A few simple tips for helping your children form better eating habits and becoming healthy adults:

  • Pack water bottles instead of Capri Suns or juice boxes for beverages in lunch boxes.
  • Include at least one fruit and one vegetable in all lunches. Try to keep your starches to just one item per meal (bread, crackers, potatoes, pretzels, cereal, granola bar, pasta).
  • Choose snacks that include a protein component: cheese, cottage cheese, nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt. Even better, pair the protein with a fruit or veggie serving: cottage cheese + pineapple, peanut butter + celery, cheese stick + grapes.
  • Limit consumption of meals that come from a box and practice making more meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients.
  • If you do purchase packaged food items, try to choose those with 5 ingredients or less. At least be able to pronounce and understand all ingredients listed.
  • Don’t purchase food from the same place you get your gas.


Assorted fruit