Top 10 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters

Raising a healthy eater can be a tricky process.  It’s a balancing act of many aspects:  providing nutritious foods, encouraging new foods, allowing independence, teaching regulation of “junk” foods, allowing for a child’s individual food preferences, allowing for a child’s natural growth pattern and daily appetite changes, peer pressure, and teaching a child how to cook and prepare food.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?  I’d like to break down the complication into manageable steps.

  1. First and most importantly, remember that your child was born with the natural ability to monitor her intake. Just like a newborn baby knows when she is hungry and when she is satisfied, your child knows how to do the same.  However, if food is used as comfort, reward, or punishment, then it interferes with the child’s natural ability to regulate intake.  So, by encouraging her to clean her plate or eat “just one more bite”, you may be encouraging her to eat more than she needs.  Trust that she knows when she has had enough.  This leads into tip 2.
  1. Establish regular eating times throughout the day and stick to them. For example, offer breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner.  If your child is not hungry at lunch, then let him know that he doesn’t have to eat, but he will not be allowed to eat until snack time.  Letting a child feel hunger is good.  It’s good for him to feel hunger, satiety, and occasional fullness.  But, it’s not a good idea to let him graze all day.    Predictability is very important, especially for young children.
  1. Keep a variety of foods stocked in your kitchen and limit the junk foods. Some ideas are whole wheat/grain bread, crackers, pasta, rice, muffins, cereal, oatmeal, and tortillas; skim or 1% milk, lower-sugar yogurt, and cheese; canned tuna, peanut butter, leftover meats (chicken, pork, beef), low-fat deli meats, and beans (if she won’t eat beans from the can, try pureeing them with some spices and serve with crackers or vegetables as a dip); fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables and fruit; and 100% fruit juice and water.  Although it’s best to save the junk foods for special occasions, I do believe it’s important to keep a small selection at home to teach the child how to regulate her intake.
  1. Avoid trans fats, added sugars, processed foods, fast foods, and fried foods. You already know that these foods should be limited in your diet, so the same goes for your children.
  1. Don’t give up when your child doesn’t like new foods. It may take up to 20 exposures of a new food before the child tries it!  Pair an unfamiliar food with a familiar food when you are serving it and try not to pressure the child to eat it.
  1. To ensure variety in your child’s diet, offer 2 different foods groups at each snack and 3 different food groups at each meal. Don’t worry if some days your child eats no fruit and all dairy and grains because the next day he might want only fruit and meat.  The average intake over a week is the most important number to monitor.
  1. Allow your child to help choose, prepare, and clean up the meals as much as possible. Not only is it quality family time, research shows children who are involved in meal preparation tend to be healthier eaters.
  1. For a personalized recommendation for your child, visit, where you can enter the age, height, weight, and sex of the child and receive an estimation of how much of each food group she should aim for on a daily basis.
  1. If you have any specific concerns about your child’s diet, please contact your pediatrician or dietitian.
  1. Remember all children are different and these “tips” are just that; they are not hard and fast rules. Most importantly, offer a variety of foods at predictable times and allow your child to decide how much to eat.  Raising a healthy eater takes a lot of patience and practice!  If you would like more information on child nutrition, please check out Your Child’s Weight: Helping Without Harming by Ellyn Satter, Just Two More Bites! by Linda Piette, and Baby Bites by Bridget Swinney.  These are invaluable references.


Please share: What’s your biggest challenge with raising a healthy eater?


Gingerbread Muffins


I always have muffins in my freezer for a quick breakfast or snack.  I enjoy trying new muffin recipes and tweaking them to increase the nutrition.  The original recipe I got from a magazine a long time ago;  I made some changes to make it my own.


  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. molasses
  • 4 eggs or 1 cup egg-substitute
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 c. white-whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. plus 1 t. ground ginger
  • 1 t. allspice
  • ½ t. nutmeg



  1. Beat oil, applesauce, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Stir in molasses and eggs, beating well.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk.
  4. Combine flour and spices.
  5. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the sugar/oil mixture, beating well after each addition.
  6. Spoon into greased muffin tins or paper liners. Fill about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.


Yield: 36 muffins

Nutrition Facts per serving (1 muffin):

Calories: 137, Total fat: 4g, Saturated fat: 0.7g, Cholesterol 24mg, Sodium 88mg, Total carbohydrate: 24g, Dietary fiber: 1g, Sugars 11g, Protein 3g


RD’s Must-haves for the Refrigerator

If you were to take a peek into my refrigerator, these are some of the foods you would find.  I consider these foods not only staples of a nutritious diet, but also good for easy snacks and meals.  (Most of these foods are store-brand, unless otherwise specified.)


  • Skim milk: It’s my favorite beverage at breakfast and I also use it throughout the week in cooking.
  • 2% milk sharp cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, lite feta cheese, and parmesan cheese. I use it in some of our favorite meals: homemade pizza, pasta salad, tacos, and grilled cheese sandwiches for a super-quick meal.
  • No-sugar-added, fat-free yogurt: An excellent source of calcium, carbs, and protein, which makes for a great snack. Yogurt is also good for smoothies (blend yogurt and frozen fruit together until smooth).
  • Eggs: Eggs are good for any meal! I like scrambled eggs for breakfast with whole wheat toast and fruit or for dinner when I need a quick meal.  Don’t forget about hard-boiled eggs which make great snacks.
  • Plain, low-fat yogurt: My children love plain yogurt and with the healthy probiotics it contains, it makes an A+ choice for snacks. As a plus, it is less-expensive than the other yogurts that are marketed to kids.  If you don’t like plain yogurt, try adding honey, jelly, or a little sugar.  Plain yogurt can be substituted for sour cream in recipes.
  • Greek cream cheese: This cheese is a naturally lower-fat version of cream cheese. I use it in recipes in place of regular cream cheese.
  • Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, spicy mustard, light Ranch, low-fat mayonnaise, low-sodium soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pickles, balsamic vinaigrette (my favorite marinade for chicken), barbecue sauce, A1 sauce, jam, lemon juice, and lime juice. Most of these are store-brands to save money.  The exception is the light Ranch.
  • Hershey’s lite chocolate syrup for mixing with skim milk for a sweet snack.
  • Maple Grove Farms sugar-free maple syrup as a low-calorie topping for pancakes and waffles.
  • 100% fruit juice: If you are taking a multivitamin or iron supplement, consider taking it with juice—the vitamin C will help maximize the absorption of iron.
  • Hormel natural choice deli meat: This lunch meat is nitrate/nitrite free and is a good choice for sandwiches or wraps. I like it wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with mustard and a slice of cheese.
  • No-sugar-added applesauce: Always a quick side for lunch or use as a substitute for oil/butter in baking.
  • Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables: It varies by the season, but during the winter, I always have clementines.
  • Lite butter (stick): For baking and cooking.
  • Butter (stick): There are times when pure butter is the only way to go!


What’s your “must-have” in your refrigerator?

Please enjoy this guest blog post by dietetic intern, Elizabeth Thomas

Exercise Recommendations for Kids

 Exercise is important to our health.  It benefits us in many different ways.  It is more beneficial to start this healthy habit in kids at a young age.  This will increase the chance of them being active adults and live healthier lives.  This post will discuss the importance of exercise/physical activity and kids with recommendations, different activities, and tips!



The recommendation is for children to get at least 60 minutes of activity per day.  This does not all have to be done at once.  Those 60 minutes can be broken up throughout their day.  Physical activity should not be scary or dreaded.  It should be fun!


What does exercise help/prevent?

Physical activity can help prevent a host of things.  It can help with weight control, reduce blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, reduce risk of diabetes, improve self-esteem, help with confidence, reduce stress, make bones strong, and improve sleep.

Reading some of these you may be thinking children are too young to be susceptible to them.  The scary fact is that health professionals are seeing these health issues in children.  Also if they are inactive as children they are more likely to become inactive adults.  This will increase their risk of developing these diseases as adults.



These are some tips that can help you with keeping your kids active!

  • Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day.
  • Purchase toys and games for outside use!
  • Break up workouts.
  • Keep it exciting.
  • Stretch before and after activity!
  • Don’t forget to warm up!
  • Stay hydrated!
  • Plan physical activity for the week.
  • Be their role model.
  • Don’t’ overdo exercise.
  • Find friends for the kids to do activities/sports with.
  • Do activities as a family.


What can you do as a family?

Physical activity can be fun to do as a family and it is helpful for everyone!

  • Game night
  • Walking the pets
  • Exploring parks/hiking
  • Turn up the music and dance
  • Play at the park
  • Household chores
  • Biking around the neighborhood
  • Walking around the neighborhood/lake
  • Play horse on the basketball hoop
  • Group classes at the local gym
  • Fitness DVD’s on cold or rainy days


Team sports

Team sports are not only great for being active, but they can help with social skills.

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Track and field
  • Football
  • Volleyball
  • Lacrosse
  • Hockey


Fitness Outside of Team Sports

Maybe your child does not want to be in tam sports that’s okay! They’re other options.

  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Dance classes
  • Cycling
  • Cheerleading
  • Hiking
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Martial arts
  • Yoga
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Cheerleading
  • Ice/Inline Skating
  • Frisbee
  • Skateboarding


What about Chores?

Chores can also be a good way to increase physical activity.  They also can help teach responsibility!  Here are some suggestions.

  • Raking leaves
  • Washing windows
  • Mopping floors
  • Vacuuming
  • Yard work
  • Walking pets
  • Cleaning rooms

Snacks for Kids

Snack time is not just for filling little stomachs until the next meal.  Think of it as a perfect time to fill in some nutritional gaps.  Try to offer a fruit or vegetable and a good source of protein and carbohydrate at each snack.   Choosing the right snacks will fuel your child’s mind and body for optimal growth and performance in school and activities.  Here are some examples:

  • Sliced or diced fresh fruit
  • Sliced vegetables with low-fat dressing, salsa, or bean dip
  • Nuts/seeds (over 3 years old)
  • Trail mixkid snacks
  • Edamame (soy beans)
  • Bean dip (rinse and drain your favorite canned beans, puree in blender with seasonings and a little water)
  • Light popcorn
  • Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter
  • Sugar-free pudding cup
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • 100% juice
  • Sugar-free punch, Crystal Light, Capri Sun Roaring Waters, water, and V8 V-Fusion
  • Yogurt
  • Whole grain crackers (Triscuits, All-Bran, Wheat Thins) and low-fat cheese
  • Whole grain pretzels (hard or soft)
  • Whole wheat mini bagels with peanut butter or light cream cheese
  • Multi grain chips or baked chips with salsa
  • Low-fat chocolate milk or soy chocolate milk
  • String cheese or cheese cubes
  • Whole grain dry cereal
  • Granola bars (Nature Valley, Kashi, Fiber One)
  • Dried fruit such as raisins, Craisins, banana chips, and apples
  • Fig newtons (whole grain)
  • Homemade “Chex mix”
  • Smoothie: yogurt and frozen fruit pureed in blender
  • Mini homemade muffins
  • Frozen juice pops
  • Homemade granola or energy bars
  • Hard boiled egg

What is your favorite after-school snack?