Feeding Children

One of my recent assignments was to come up with a 1-page client handout on issues that come up with children and eating. Let me begin by saying that there is absolutely NO WAY to fit all of the potential issues onto one page only! Feeding issues with kids can start the moment you introduce solid foods, and can last their entire lives if not handled carefully. There will always be the normal problems like picky eating, refusing to try something new, or only wanting sugar. But these things can be managed if the parents are educated on how to approach the issues. The goal should be to raise a child that has healthy eating habits – not only in regards to what they choose to eat, but also why they eat and how food fits into their life.

So, I did the best I could to make a 1-page handout that at least presents the idea of healthy feeding habits for parents and kids. I’ll provide the highlights here. Each family will do things slightly differently, and that is great! And when issues arise, each child may need a slightly different approach to dealing with that issue. A nutritionist or feeding specialist can help you figure out the best way to create a healthy meal environment in your home.

  • At all costs, avoid power struggles during mealtime or snacktime. A child who associates eating with stress will have a difficult time ever having a healthy relationship with food.

  • Parents are in charge ALWAYS! They decide WHAT, WHEN, and WHERE their kids will eat. The kids can then decide IF they will eat, and if so, HOW MUCH they will eat.

  • It’s okay to serve desserts on some nights. Don’t be afraid to serve it with the rest of the meal, and let your child choose what he eats off of his plate. If dessert is always saved for last and withheld until the child eats the other foods on their plate, they will begin to associate sugar with “yummy” and vegetables and meats with “yucky”. Bottom line: kids always want what they can’t have!

The following symptoms could indicate a nutritional deficiency, allergy or intolerance in your child:

  • Dry or rough skin, hair, or nails

  • White spots on fingernails

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Constant cravings for sweets

  • Hyperactivity

  • Irritability

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Diaper rash

  • Eczema or other skin rashes

  • Chronic ear infections

  • Stomachaches

  • Recurrent respiratory tract infections

Some common nutrient deficiencies in children include essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, B-vitamins, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, and fiber. A nutritionist can help you determine if your child has a deficiency.

Here are some tips for making mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Place toddlers in a high chair that allows them to sit right up at the table with the rest of the family. This helps them feel included in the meal time, and also allows them to view how mom and dad and older siblings are modeling good eating habits.

  • Mom and Dad absolutely MUST lead by example. Choose a variety of healthy foods and don’t be a picky eater! Most of the time, kids grow up with similar eating habits as their parents.

  • Refrain from commenting on how much or how little your child is eating. Do not reward them for cleaning their plate, and do not scold them for eating nothing.

  • Include your kids in discussions at the meal table.

  • Involve kids in meal planning and preparation to keep them interested and excited. Grow a garden and let them help harvest, or let them choose their favorite vegetables at the grocery store.

Many of these things are pretty basic, but it’s always a good reminder for parents. Another helpful tip I heard was to evaluate your child’s eating based on one week’s worth of meals. One day they may eat only raspberries, and another day they may hate raspberries and eat 3 well-rounded meals. That’s okay! Just as long as they are getting the nutrients they need over the course of a week.



The more I read, the more I learn the different effects certain medications can have on someone’s nutritional status. Whether they be prescription meds or something over-the-counter, anything that is taken regularly can definitely interfere with normal absorption and utilization of nutrients.

For example, a girl who takes birth control pills regularly may not be aware that the pills can severely deplete most of the B-vitamins, especially B6 and folic acid. In addition, birth control pills deplete zinc levels, and also can lower levels of vitamins C, E and K. These nutrient deficiencies can contribute to some of the common side effects of taking oral contraceptives, such as headaches, mood swings and weight gain. In addition, if she decides to go off the pills and becomes pregnant right away, she is now severely nutrient deficient at a time when she needs the nutrients the most – especially nutrients like folic acid and zinc (these are both crucial in the first month of pregnancy to help prevent birth defects). The baby will get the nutrients it needs by taking whatever the mom has left, so it’s typically the mom who will suffer, through things like morning sickness, nausea, fatigue and constipation.

Another example is someone who regularly takes antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, or even prescription antacids. They may not be aware that antacids bind to important minerals such as calcium, zinc or magnesium, leeching them from the body. In addition, they can stimulate the kidneys to clear more potassium. The antacids can also lower hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which in turn reduces the number of enzymes available during digestion, leading to difficulty processing and absorbing certain nutrients. This can lead to things like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive issues that someone may not even realize is linked to their dependency on antacids.

I just chose two common medications as examples, but absolutely every prescription or over-the-counter medication has the potential to alter one’s nutritional status.

The problem is, doctors simply do not have enough time in their day to sit down and explain to you exactly what this medication is doing, how it alters your body, and what you need to do to counteract these changes.

I see it as the responsibility of each individual to do their own research to find out what the side effects will be of whatever it is they are putting into their body on a regular basis. This way, they can take some proactive steps to stay balanced and healthy. Increasing certain nutritional supplements while on regular medications, as well as altering the diet to increase nutrient-dense foods and avoid foods that will further deplete nutrients, are two things that can easily be accomplished with a little bit of self-education. And if you’re not comfortable doing this research on your own, a nutritionist can help you figure it all out. Avoiding nutrient deficiencies will help prevent long-term health issues, including anything from acne or skin rashes to cancer or diabetes.

My point here was not to tell you that medications are bad or should not be taken. Rather, I just want people to understand that they do have consequences for our health, and we need to be aware of these and work to prevent further damage or health issues in other parts of our body. Despite what people would like to believe, no medication is simply a “quick fix” that can just be taken and forgotten about. They all require research, education, and alternative steps to make sure we can maintain a balanced body while treating a specific health issue.



Last week we got this tiny little pie pumpkin in our CSA box, and it’s been sitting on our windowsill ever since (please excuse the bad photo – I used my phone).

I actually love cooking with pumpkins, but this one seems so tiny that I’m not sure what to do with just one. Anyway, I thought today would be a good day to remind everyone of the nutritional benefits of pumpkin, and provide some ideas for ways to use it in recipes.

First of all, choose your pumpkins wisely. The big ones are great for carving or decorating, but the smaller ones pack more flavor and are much better for baking or cooking. Fresh pumpkins, just like any other food, are always the most nutritious and will give you the best taste in any recipe, but canned pumpkin is easy and available at any grocery store. Just beware of what you are buying: there is pure canned pumpkin, but there is also canned pumpkin pie filling, which includes spices and other ingredients. I recommend buying plain pumpkin and adding your own spices and flavors.

Nutritionally, pumpkins are great! This is good news, because they are so versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. The beta-carotene is what gives pumpkins its bright orange color, and this is a form of vitamin A that acts as a strong antioxidant. They also contain fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B3, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and calcium. In addition, pumpkins have a high water content. Many people consider pumpkin a superfood because of its high amounts of antioxidants. There are also 14 phytonutrients found in pumpkins. Phytonutrients are plant nutrients, and in the past 20 years many studies have linked consumption of phytonutrients to things such as protecting people from development of cancer and heart disease.

When cutting into a pumpkin, don’t forget to save the seeds! I’ve talked about pumpkin seeds before, but just to remind you, they are very highly concentrated in zinc. Many of us are likely zinc-deficient, due to the large number of things that contribute to zinc deficiency, including antibiotic use, birth control pills, blood pressure medication, antacids, alcohol, sugar consumption, stress, too much exercise, and more. Therefore, pumpkin seeds can be an important and necessary part of the diet. Pumpkin seeds have traditionally been used in the treatment of male prostate problems, mostly due to their high zinc content. They also contain protein, essential fats, iron, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin E, and some B vitamins. Read my easy method of roasting pumpkin seeds here.

Some other recipe ideas for pumpkin include:

  • Bake pumpkin bread or muffins, using whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, walnuts, and instead of sugar use apples, banana, or something similar.

  • Cut pumpkin into small cubes and coat with olive oil and other herbs or spices, such as cinnamon or sage, then roast.

  • Roast or steam pumpkin to soften it, then puree it and add cream and spices to make a delicious pumpkin soup.

  • Add chunks of roasted pumpkin to chili or stew.

  • Steam the pumpkin and mash it into your family’s pancakes on Sunday morning. Add some cinnamon and walnuts and they will love it!

  • My mom, always the healthy chef, started substituting pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving for a much healthier pumpkin custard. It is delicious and to be honest, after a huge meal, it’s the perfect dessert. I’m not sure what her secret recipe includes, but I imagine that she adds things like vanilla, spices and nuts. You can always find great recipes online – I may try this one!

I hope this helps inspire some of you to make some delicious fall pumpkin recipes. Your family will enjoy something new, and you’ll be doing them a favor by providing them with so many beneficial nutrients!


Nutritional Protocols for Constipation

It may not be the most pleasant topic, but let’s face it: most of us have experienced constipation at one time or another, and it’s not fun.

We are tackling the bowels in my Digestion & Detoxification class, and while I will spare you most of the details of these lectures, I do think constipation is something that enough people deal with to make it a relevant blog topic. Why is this subject so important? Because bowel health is often symbolic of overall health. Diarrhea or constipation can indicate an underlying digestive issue, and as we all know, when digestion is not functioning properly, we are unable to obtain all of the necessary nutrients from our foods. This, in turn, can lead to sickness and long-term health issues, from the flu to arthritis to cancer.

In the book Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care, constipation is defined as “difficult defecation; infrequent defecation, with passage of unduly hard and dry fecal material; sluggish action of the bowels.” Some of the causes of constipation can include neglecting the urge to defecate, eating a very low-fiber diet, overuse of laxatives or stool softeners, dehydration, lack of muscle tone due to sedentary lifestyle, stress and anxiety, underactive thyroid, and fatigue. Most of the time, constipation occurs as a result of a combination of two or more of these causes. However, there are some things that can be done to help get things moving again.

Nutritionally, I recommend the usual: a whole-foods based diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (emphasis on the vegetables) to ensure you are obtaining enough fiber and a balance of nutrients necessary for healthy digestion. Other great sources of fiber include beans, lentils, flax, oats and brown rice. Processed foods such as fast food, soda and candy, will only upset the balance of bacteria in your intestinal tract, making it more difficult to have a regular bowel movement. Drinking 1-2 glasses of room temperature or warmer water each day upon awakening will also help stimulate the bowel and get things moving for the day. This is something that is easy to do, especially once you make it a habit.

If you do begin to eliminate processed foods from your diet and increase your intake of fresh vegetables and other healthy, whole foods, you may notice not only an improvement in your bowels but also in other problem areas, such as your skin, hair, nails, headaches, energy levels, and more. Bowel movements are a means of detoxification, and when we are not eliminating regularly, those toxins build up inside of us and can cause an array of health issues.

Regular exercise is also important for regular, healthy bowels. As weird as it sounds, the muscles that help you pass a bowel need toning just like any other muscle in the body, and the only way to do this is by staying active.

For people with digestive issues, things like hydrochloric acid supplements, probiotics, or digestive enzymes can also help ease constipation. However, these are only necessary for certain people and a nutritionist can help you figure out if you’d benefit from taking them. Epsom salt baths and magnesium supplements are also known to help relieve constipation, if you’re in a pinch.

If you are someone who relies on laxatives regularly or even occasionally to ease constipation, try to make some of the dietary and other changes above, and then slowly ease yourself off of the laxatives. Getting dependent on laxatives is something you want to avoid. They disturb our mechanism of elimination, and it can sometimes take weeks or even months to get it back on track. Overuse of laxatives tends to tire the bowels, which can eventually lead to weakness and a destroyed ability to eliminate properly.

If anyone is interested, the book we read is very informative and a great resource for bowel care. It is called Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care, by Dr. Bernard Jensen.

Note: For obvious reasons, I chose to omit photos from this blog post.


Denver Ladies: Pregnant, or Hoping to Become Pregnant Sometime Soon?

One of the requirements as a second-year student at the Nutrition Therapy Institute is to complete 50 hours of internship work. Since I love to work with anything related to fertility, pregnancy, and kids, I decided to reach out to Belly Bliss to see if they needed an intern. Belly Bliss is a resource for moms and moms-to-be in the Denver area, providing education and services for fertility, pregnancy, and beyond. They hold workshops and classes on important subjects that many women don’t know enough about, such as cloth diapering vs. disposable, vaccines for your kids, childbirth methods, and breastfeeding. Anyway, it’s a really great resource and even though they’ve only been around for a couple of years, they are doing really well.

The nutritionist at Belly Bliss happened to go to NTI as well, so she and I share similar views on how nutrition should be approached. Her name is Sara Peternell, and you can read more about her here.

Sara is holding a workshop one week from today, on Monday, October 25th at Belly Bliss in Cherry Creek (300 Josephine Street, Denver, 80206), from 7:00 – 8:00 pm. The workshop is called Pregnancy Nutrition: A Trimester-by-Trimester Roadmap to Healthy Baby and Mom. She will talk about the importance of good nutrition for conception and then throughout pregnancy, for both baby and mom. She will also address the changing nutritional needs during each trimester of pregnancy. The class is only $15 and I promise you will learn some very valuable information, whether you are currently pregnant or would like to be pregnant sometime soon. I think many women do not realize that good nutrition is just as important for conceiving a baby as it is for carrying a baby, so starting early is the best route to take.

If you are interested in signing up for Sara’s class, go here to register. Scroll down to where it says "Newly Added Workshops..." and then "Click Here to Read More". Click and find the nutrition class (they are organized by date). Pre-registration is required, and it can all be done very easily online. Also, please forward this to anyone else who may be interested! Thanks, and see you there!