Category Archives: Health tips

Taking fear out of food-allergy diagnoses

(iStock photo)

(iStock photo)

Dealing with a food allergy diagnosis can feel daunting, especially for the uninitiated, due to its serious nature. But it doesn’t have to be — no parent or child has to face the new reality alone. There are doctors who specialize in food allergies, and there are groups and programs to educate and assist with how to live with food allergies.

The Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota, founded in 2003, provides support to more than 650 members and is committed to guiding people through the confusion and fear that can come with a food-allergy diagnosis. Its mission is to empower families affected by food allergies by providing support, education and a community to build personal connections.

For the newly diagnosed, finding a board-certified allergist and learning what medications are commonly prescribed for food allergies are at the top of the list. Other actions include: knowing how to read food-ingredient labels, organize the kitchen and recipes, eat safely at restaurants, travel with food allergies, and partner with your child’s school.

All parents should know

It’s important for all parents and teachers to know about potential dangers and how to practice food safety, too. Kids with food allergies may encounter unsafe food or treats brought to school for lunch or holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Or a child’s friend visiting as a house guest may have a food allergy that requires consideration.

Preparing and taking precautions are not as difficult as you may think. Make sure you have the child’s emergency medications nearby and ask to review their Allergy Action Plan from their doctor. Here are some important steps to take if someone is showing symptoms of a food-allergy reaction:

  • Watch for symptoms, which may include hives, coughing or a tight throat.
  • Identify their symptoms on their Allergy Action Plan and determine if they are having a minor or severe reaction.
  • Give emergency medicine as directed, such as an epinephrine autoinjector (ex. EpiPen).
  • Call 911 for medical assistance and head to the hospital in an ambulance.
  • If possible, bring a smartphone or tablet to entertain your child during the wait.
  • Bring safe snacks.

Food or foe?

subscribe_blogEight foods account for more than 90 percent of food allergies in the U.S., according to the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota.

  • Milk (all dairy)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

The Big Quack

The Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota (FASGMN) is hosting the ninth annual Big Quack, a family-friendly, food-allergy-safe event at the Water Park of America, from 4-8 p.m. April 19. Attendees will enjoy shorter lines as the park will be closed to the general public during this event.

The Big Quack event is a fundraiser to help support families who manage food allergies by providing special support groups and programming. Admission is $15 per person (if purchased in advance), which is roughly half of the usual price at the water park. No food allergies? No problem. All are welcome! For complete details or to order tickets, please visit FoodAllergySupportMN.org.

Food Allergy Resource Fair

The Food Allergy Resource Fair, which takes place on Oct. 12 at the Eisenhower Community Center in Hopkins, is an event open to the public that features allergy-friendly products and services from the U.S. and Canada. There are products for adults to sample and a safe trick-or-treat experience for kids with food allergies (all candy is free of the top-eight food allergens).

Find the Food Allergy Support Group of Minnesota at foodallergysupportmn.org,  Facebook, or email [email protected].

The scoop on a good night’s sleep

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Erin Fritz, CNP

The significance of good sleep habits often is overlooked. It seems so simple; when the hour is late and it’s dark outside, it’s time to get some rest. Unfortunately for millions of kids and young adults, it’s not that simple. With busy school schedules, after-school and weekend activities, and maximizing time with family and friends, sleep often is one of the first things to become compromised. Not only does lack of sleep make for a tired person, but it has a critical impact on many aspects of health, daytime function and cognitive development.

Snoozing significance

The direct effect that sleep has on health has been well-studied over the years and is known to lower a person’s resistance to illnesses. Decreased amounts of sleep alter immune function, making it more likely for illness to occur. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares evidence for a higher risk of getting the common cold, pneumonia and influenza when sleep deprivation is a factor. Once illness occurs, sleep is necessary to boost the immune system and fight off illness. Sleep is the body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself.

Daytime function also is altered with sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released recommendations for later start times in middle and high schools after noting an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance related to decreased amounts of sleep. Poor test scores, increased behavioral problems and children falling asleep in class have been highlighted as inhibited daytime functions directly related to sleep deprivation.



Sleep suggestions

Recommendations per the CDC:

Age Recommended amount of sleep
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11-12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9-10 hours a day
Adults (and elderly) 7-8 hours a day

Sleep solutions

subscribe_blogWhile it’s easy to perpetuate the cycle of being sleepy, it’s possible to make a conscious effort to improve this problem. Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics.

It’s important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences. Incorporate healthy sleep habits to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sleep well!

Erin Fritz is a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Q&A with Team Superstars coach Antonio Vega

Coach Antonio Vega of Zoom Performance will guide Team Superstars with an online training plan, weekly training tips and two group runs and presentations. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Vega)

Coach Antonio Vega of Zoom Performance will guide Team Superstars with an online training plan, weekly training tips and two group runs and presentations. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Vega)

“Anybody can be a runner. We were meant to move. We were meant to run. It’s the easiest sport.” — Bill Rodgers, four-time Boston Marathon champion

In 2015, you have the opportunity to move for kids by running on behalf of Children’s Team Superstars in one of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend events and fundraising. Whether you’ve been considering your first race or have been logging miles for years, you can do it.

__________

RELATED: Add a Children’s event to your race calendar

__________

If you need further proof that you can do it, keep reading. Coach Antonio Vega of Zoom Performance will guide the team with an online training plan, weekly training tips and two group runs and presentations. He has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Minnesota. As a former member of Team USA Minnesota, he holds a 2-hour, 13-minute marathon personal record and a 61:54 half-marathon PR. We asked him a few questions about training, his philosophy on running and his own running career.

Q: Is it true? Can anyone run?

A: Absolutely, everyone can run. When I think about all of the great experiences and friends that I have made during my running career, I would not change that for the world. I think anyone who does not get out and run is missing out on such a great part of life.

subscribe_blogQ: I’m just getting started as a runner. Do you have a few tips?

A: The best thing any new runner can do is ease into his or her new running routine. It can take a good month for running to become enjoyable and something that you look forward to on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to take walking breaks when you are first starting out, and keep the pace nice and easy and enjoy the sights and sounds of being outdoors while exercising. The beauty of running is that you are competing against yourself, so there is no need to worry about how fast you are running.

Q: How do you conquer fear of signing up for a race, whether it’s your first 5K or marathon

A: Being prepared for any race that you are doing is one way of conquering your fear of signing up for a race. Following a training plan or working with a running group is a great way to feel prepared before any competition. Also having a friend or a family member that will cheer you on at the race or will run with you will also help to minimize any fear that you might have about signing up for a new race distance.

Q: What should I expect training with Team Superstars and Coach Vega?

A: The training plans that I have put together for Team Superstars are meant to challenge athletes of all ability levels. Whether your goal is to finish your first marathon or run a PR in the 10-mile, there will be a plan to help you accomplish your goals. You can rest assured that all of the guess work that comes with training for any race has been decided for you. Every plan is meant to get you to the starting line ready to run your best race.

Q: What’s your trick for staying motivated to “go the extra mile”?

A: For me, getting out the door is always the hardest part about any run. Once I have my shoes on and I am out the door, I never turn around. I find that mixing my training up helps to keep me motivated, whether that is running with a friend, changing my running route or taking my dog out on a run with me. All of these things help me to stay motivated to continue to train.

I always tell myself you never regret going for a run, but I always regret not running.

Q: What is your coaching style?

A: I tend to be a very hands-on type of coach. I know how much time and work my athletes put into training, so I always become personally invested in their racing and training goals. When I know one of my athletes has a tough workout coming up or a big race, I am constantly checking their training plan to make sure they are well-rested going into their workout or race, and then I find myself eagerly waiting for them to update me in how the workout or race went.

Q: When you reflect on your running career, what are you most proud of?

A: The highlight of my running career would be winning the 2010 US Half Marathon Championship in Houston. Before running the Houston Half Marathon, Minnesota had experienced one of the worst winters that I can remember. I was unable to train outside during my build up to Houston. I ended up logging 120 miles a week for 12 weeks straight all on a treadmill. The day before the race was the first time that I had run outside in three months. Winning the Houston Half Marathon proved to me that when you put in the hard work day in and day out you can accomplish just about anything.

Q: What is your favorite distance and why?

A: Hands down my favorite race distance is the marathon; I love the amount of work and preparation that goes into training for 26.2 miles. Whatever your goal is, just finishing a marathon is always such a great accomplishment.

Top 10 apps for pain management

Mobile apps can be used to help distract children dealing with pain. (iStock photo)

Mobile apps can be used to help distract children dealing with pain. (iStock photo)

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

State-of-the-art pain management in the 21st century demands that pharmacological management must be combined with supportive and integrative (nonpharmacological) therapies to manage a child’s pain. At Children’s, we are using physical methods (e.g. cuddle/hug, massage, comfort positioning, heat, cold, TENS), cognitive behavioral techniques (e.g. guided imagery, hypnosis, abdominal breathing, distraction, biofeedback), as well as acupressure and aromatherapy.

For “needle pokes” (vaccinations, blood draws, etc.), for instance, we expect that kids are sitting upright (use sucrose in the age group birth to 12 months), so we numb their skin with topical anesthesia (e.g. EMLA-patch, LMX 4 percent lidocaine patch, or J-tip) and use distraction such as bubble blowing or blowing a pin wheel. Alternatives can be applications on your smartphone or tablet.

My personal favorite technique remains teaching children in self-hypnosis. However, in addition, I’m increasingly using apps on my iPhone or iPad with patients. Here are my top apps for pain and symptom management in kids:

10. Real ChalkBoard: Drawing on a realistic chalkboard with different-color chalk — much more fun than it sounds. ($1.99)

9. Talking Tom CatThis is a cat that repeats everything you say in a funny voice. You then can record and share videos and send them by email, YouTube and Facebook. Kids really enjoy that they can make Tom the cat say funny stuff. (free)

8. Simply Being – Guided Meditation for Relaxation and PresenceProvides relaxation, stress relief and benefits of meditation without prior experience. It allows the child/teenager to choose from four meditation times and gives them the option to listen to the guided meditation with or without music or nature sounds. Kids also can listen to the music or nature sounds alone; more for older children and teenagers. (99 cents)

7. Drums! – A studio-quality drum kit in your pocket As the name implies, this is a drum kit. Great for kids with too much (or too little) energy. Rock on! (99 cents)

subscribe_blog6. Tesla Toy: “Tesla Toy” is a fun, interactive “particle toy.” When the fingers touch the screen, they generate what looks like a powerful electrical field that makes the thousands of particles react beautifully. 
Kids (and adults) often are mesmerized by this app for a long time. ($ 1.99)

5. Fruit NinjaA “juicy” action game with squishy, splatty and satisfying fruit carnage! (99 cents) 

4. Koi PondOne is gazing into a pond of crystal-clear water with fish, turtles and more. Kids run their fingers across the cool surface of the pond and water ripples away from their touch.
The koi fish, disturbed, dart away… only to quickly forget and swim close once more. (99 cents)

3. Easy-Bake Treats!This is a highly recommended app; it let’s children make, bake, decorate, eat and share virtual cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and pizza. They pick their mix, fill the pan with batter and water, mix it all together and slide the pan into the virtual oven to cook. Then they can add candles to their cakes and cupcakes, too! Candles can be lit and re-lit for even more fun! 
Once they’ve baked and decorated their treats, kids can show off and share their delicious virtual creations with family and friends via email or Facebook. Highly addictive – kids can spend a long time on this app. (free)

2. The Healing Buddies Comfort Kit“The Healing Buddies Comfort Kit” offers an interactive, virtual way for kids and teens at home, in a doctor’s office or in the hospital to learn and immediately benefit from self-care techniques to manage common symptoms like pain, worries, nausea, fatigue and trouble sleeping. 
The app contains several integrative medicine techniques adapted for use by children and teens that are quick and effective for symptom control so kids can get back to doing what they like to do – and need to do each day. The techniques included in this app are designed by leaders in the field of pediatric integrative medicine (physicians, nurses, psychologists and child life specialists) and have been tested for years in several leading children’s hospitals and clinics. (99 cents)

Disclaimer:

The creation of the mobile app has been a collaborative effort of my department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with Ridgeview Medical Center and DesignWise Medical.

1. Balloonimals Absolutely groovy; kids love it! This is my favorite app to distract a child in pain or discomfort. Beautifully rendered balloon animals spring to life when you blow into the microphone on your iPhone/iPad or swipe with your iPod Touch. Watch the balloon inflate and then give your phone a shake to start constructing your balloon animal. With each shake, your animal takes greater shape until… voila! Your balloon animal appears and is ready to play. Pet your “balloonimal” to see what tricks it can do. ($1.99)

Apps, which didn’t make the list but I still like a lot: “Art of Glow,” “Sand Garden,” “Build a Zoo,” “Naturespace,” “SkyView” and “Disney’s Small World”

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD, is medical director of the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic at Children’s – Minneapolis. This post originally appeared at NoNeedlessPain.org. Download the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota app.

Ensuring kids get enough exercise in every season

Games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising. (iStock photo)

Games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising. (iStock photo)

Samara Postuma

We all know that kids need exercise, but how much exercise should kids be getting? And how do we ensure they’re getting enough when those too-cold- (or too hot) to-play-outside days come around? Julie Boman, MD, a Children’s pediatrician, has some tips and ideas to share on making sure kids are getting the full 60 minutes a day of the exercise they need.

It’s important to note that while all kids need 60 minutes of exercise, the way that looks for your preschooler and the way that looks for your middle-schooler might be different.

“Younger kids need frequent bursts of activity versus an hour of activity straight, where an older child can get their exercise by being active for an hour,” said Dr. Boman.

So what about those days — those miserably cold days — where it’s deemed unsafe for kids to play outside? Or, as we dream of warmer days, those hot summer days where the heat index is so high it’s dangerously hot for kids to be outside?

subscribe_blogWell, according to Dr. Boman, it’s time to get creative.

Some of the more obvious options to get your kids active would be indoor parks, community centers, YMCAs and parks and recreation centers, most of which will offer special extended hours on the days that outside play might be limited.

“Younger kids just need a space to run,” Dr. Boman said, noting that this is when an unfinished basement can come in handy.

You don’t have to get too crazy to get kids active, though — games like hide and seek, building forts and even cleaning the house can get kids active and exercising.

The only time you’ll hear Dr. Boman suggest video games is when it comes to moving your body versus your thumbs, and there are plenty of games out there that do just that.

“Dancing games on the (Nintendo) Wii (or Wii U) are a good workout, even for adults,” she said.

Another more creative way to get kids active is by looking for active apps or videos such as the IronKids App, which was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is available for iPhone or iPad for $3.99. The app has several different workouts for cardio and core, and kids can follow the app for five-minute bursts of circuit training and weightlifting using household items.

Don’t have a smartphone or tablet? No problem. A simple YouTube search will bring you thousands of workout videos for kids and adults.

“It’s all about exploring ways to keep kids interested,” Dr. Boman said.

What are your tried-and-true ways to keep kids active and exercising all year round?

For more information about Children’s childhood obesity efforts, contact Anna Youngerman at [email protected].

Read Samara Postuma’s blog Simplicity in the Suburbs, and follow her on Twitter.

Flu vaccination more important than ever

fluheader1121

The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

Q4_mighty_buttonBy Patsy Stinchfield, PNP

Parents — heads up!

If you haven’t received your or your children’s influenza vaccine, now is the time. The flu has begun to circulate in Minnesota and is a strain (A-H3N2) that is known to cause more-severe illness in all ages, but especially in the very young and the very old. One child in Minnesota already has died this year from this usual, seasonal strain of influenza.

It takes about two weeks to make protective antibodies, so get in now for your shot or nasal mist before gathering with sick friends and relatives.

The flu vaccine contains A-H3N2, but the virus circulating now has changed a bit, making the vaccine not a perfect match. However, it still is critical to get a flu vaccine because there is cross-protection that will help prevent kids from ending up in the hospital or worse yet, the intensive care unit.

It’s a busy time for everyone, but right now there is nothing more important than protecting yourself (especially if you have a baby younger than 6 months who is too young to be immunized), and your children. The flu vaccine is available at most clinics and retail stores, but please call and make arrangements.

Have a happy and healthy holiday!

Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, is the director of infectious disease and prevention at the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Facts on frostbite

Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Erin Fritz, CNP

Minnesota winters offer many outdoor activities. While we can appreciate the fun of sledding, the thrill of skiing or the labor-intensive task of shoveling, these activities aren’t without risk. Specifically, prolonged exposure to the cold puts our skin at risk for frostbite, or — a lesser version — frostnip.

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is the damage to a body part caused by cold. While many instances are mild, frostbite can be quite severe. Typically the cold exposure occurs over minutes or hours, but frostbite can be instantaneous if exposed to cold metal. Frostbite is most common on the ears, nose, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes.

What should I watch for?

It’s important to recognize the signs of frostbite as quickly as possible. Skin will feel cold, and may even be numb or tingling; it may have a gray or white appearance. Due to the numbness, the affected body part may feel clumsy or be difficult to move. Slightly worse symptoms may include blisters. Severe frostbite will have areas of black skin.

Q4_mighty_buttonWhat to do if I am concerned?

Once symptoms of frostbite or frostnip are identified, the affected area needs to be rapidly re-warmed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the water used to re-warm the skin should be warm, but not hot. Avoid rubbing the area as this could make the pain and tissue damage worse. Pain is commonly a factor with frostbite, and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications or by health care professionals.

How can frostbite be prevented?

Most importantly, frostbite easily can be prevented. Limit the amount of time spent outdoors during cold temperatures. Dress in layers, and cover all areas of uncovered skin with a hat, mittens, face mask and goggles. Warm boots are important. And finally, stay dry. If clothing does get wet, seek shelter and remove wet clothes immediately.

Springtime will bring warmer temperatures. But until then, dress warmly, stay dry and prevent frostbite.

Beat the flu, get vaccinated

fluheader1121

The flu vaccination is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

The flu vaccine is the best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age.

By Patsy Stinchfield, PNP

Influenza is a complex, tricky virus that is nearly impossible to predict. From 2013-2014, more than 1,300 Minnesotans were hospitalized with influenza.

And we know that of the 174 kids who died from influenza during the 2012-13 season, 90 percent of them had not been vaccinated. We know that pregnant women are more prone to influenza complications and are a high priority for getting vaccinated, but only half of pregnant women are actually protected.

Q4_mighty_buttonThe flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but it’s still our best defense against what can be a serious infection at any age. It reduces your chance of getting sick. But if you do become sick, it helps reduce the severity.

If not for yourself, vaccinate on behalf of babies who are too young to receive the vaccine (under 6 months of age), women and those with immunity problems or who are undergoing cancer treatment. When you get vaccinated, you protect yourselves and others.

A colleague told me that when her mom was undergoing cancer treatment, she got influenza and died from the infection. My colleague and her entire family were vaccinated that year before flu season and will never miss a chance to protect themselves against the disease that took their loved one.

Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, is the director of infectious disease and prevention at the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Managing your child’s sleep when the clocks ‘fall’ back in November

Bright light in the morning helps a child’s internal brain clock to maintain a good rhythm, which helps the body transition easier from wake to sleep that night. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Bright light in the morning helps a child’s internal brain clock to maintain a good rhythm, which helps the body transition easier from wake to sleep that night. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Karen K. Johnson, RN, CNP

On Nov. 2, clocks are turned back by an hour, marking the end of Daylight Saving Time. Any disruption to the sleep patterns caused by the time change will be temporary. But if you want to be proactive to minimize the disruption to your child’s sleep pattern, here are a few things to consider.

For babies

Two weeks before the time change, start to put your children to bed 10 minutes later than usual, increasing by 10 minutes every other night until they are going to sleep about an hour later than their normal bed time. It often takes a few days for a new sleep pattern to establish itself.

Toddlers and older

  • Put them to bed a little later than usual the night of the time change. There are behavioral tools available to help with these schedule changes (Good Night clock).
  • If they wake up at their usual time (an hour earlier), you should encourage them to remain in bed until a set time. This may be a digital alarm clock or the visual cue of the night light.
  • When they remain in their bed until the “sun” appears on the clocks or when you inform them it is time to get up, they should be happily praised.
  • The following day, provide a generous amount of physical activity to tire them out and then put them to bed at the new earlier bed time.
  • The next morning, set the clock for the new morning wake time.

On the whole, it is easier for children to fall asleep in the winter months because it is darker and the environment is likely cooler at bedtime. The difference in light levels between day and night encourage the production of the sleep hormone melatonin in the evening when the light is dim, as there is a rise in melatonin and sleep is invited. Bright light in the morning helps a child’s internal brain clock to maintain a good rhythm, which helps the body transition easier from wake to sleep that night. Adjusting the sleep-wake cycle in November is easier to manage than when advancing the clocks forward in springtime.

In the spring, Mighty will have tips to manage your child’s sleep schedule when we “spring” the clocks forward March 8, 2015.

Karen Johnson is a certified nurse practitioner in the Children’s Sleep Center.

Serving up strategy at meal time

Kids are born wanting to eat. And they know when they’re hungry. It’s our job as parents to provide structure, support and opportunities.

Kids are born wanting to eat. And they know when they’re hungry. It’s our job as parents to provide structure, support and opportunities.

By Maggie Sonnek

We’ve tried peas. We’ve tried broccoli. We’ve even tried Brussels sprouts. Alas, our 2-year-old continues to ignore that pile of “green stuff” on his plate and reach for the carbs instead (just like his mother).

After chatting with Janie Cooperman, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Pediatric Clinical Dietitian at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, I now can come to the table feeling a little more prepared to take on a toddler at dinnertime. (Sounds like a thrilling TV show, doesn’t it?). I feel so enthused with what I’ve learned that I just had to share. 

Keep offering

Cooperman suggests offering specific foods 12-15 times before retiring them from the household menu. That’s a lot of peas! She also touts variety when planning the weekly carte du jour. For example, instead of plain bread, try whole wheat tortillas or pita pockets.

Division of responsibility

Kids are born wanting to eat. And they know when they’re hungry. It’s our job as parents to provide structure, support and opportunities.

Cooperman sites Ellyn Satter, an expert on the topic of the division of responsibility in feeding. Basically, this means we the parents are responsible for what, when and where our kids eat. They’re responsible for how much and whether they eat.

Yep. I said “whether.”

Cooperman suggests offering three scheduled meals a day with two or three snacks in between. “Eventually the child begins to understand the schedule and expectations,” she said. “Since he is not receiving food other than at the scheduled meals and snacks, he will soon get hungry enough and realize that he has no other option but to eat what’s being offered.”

Subscribe to MightyMake it a non-issue

You know the old standby, “You can’t leave the table till your plate’s clean”? Well, turns out, forcing a clean plate prevents kids from learning to pick up on their own hungry and satiety cues. Apparently most of us unlearn the natural inclinations of when we’re full and hungry sometime between the ages of 3 and 5.

Cooperman suggests making the amount of food your child eats a non-issue. She dissuades from offering rewards for eating. “If they refuse to eat, let it go,” she said. “But keep offering it at future meals. Try not to let kids get power and control.” (Writer’s note: I’m totally guilty of bribing my son with a chocolate chip cookie for taking a bite of broccoli. Oops.) 

Eat mindfully 

Eating dinner together as a family has a lot of benefits. The Family Dinner Project, a grassroots movement driven by insights and experiences of families, says recent studies find regular family dinners can help lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression. Studies show that dinner conversation can help improve vocabulary more than reading.

But let’s focus on the obvious: eating together. Parents modeling healthy habits, like munching on fruits and veggies, provide a good example for kids. Cooperman touts the importance of eating mindfully.

“Slow down, connect and enjoy what you’re eating,” she said. “Appreciate the food and your time together; it’s a more-balanced way of eating and living.” 

Maggie Sonnek is a writer, blogger, lover-of-outdoors and momma to two young kiddos. When she’s not kissing boo-boos or cutting up someone’s food, she likes to beat her husband at Scrabble.