The Game-Changing Question Parents Of Picky Eaters Need To Ask

I will not eat

Sitting down to dinner can seem like a daunting task if you have a fussy eater. As a Mom of little ones, even the task of making a healthy balanced meal can seem challenging enough, but when your child refuses to eat it, you might wonder “why do I even bother?!” I’ve been there, and I understand how frustrating it can be.

A few months ago, while sitting at the dinner table with my two young kids, waiting for my husband to come home from work, I became increasingly frustrated with my son. He was slouched over his plate, head resting beside it on the table and playing with his food–something that seemed to be happening quite often at dinnertime. Lately, he didn’t seem interested in the dinner meal and was either restless, playing with his food and asking to be “done”. I remembered a blog post that my friend Andrea Nair (who is also a well-respected parenting expert and Psychotherapist) wrote where she gave the tip to ask kids questions when trying to get them to do something (such as “what do you need to do to feel ready to get your shoes on to go to school” as an example), instead of telling them what to do. So instead of asking my son to “eat around the circle” or “have a bite to be polite” (which are both strategies that I use and would recommend ), I decided to get him talking by asking him: 

“What can we do to make this meal yummier for you?”

When I started asking my preschooler this question, it literally transformed our mealtimes for the better. And the answers were very interesting! One night, he asked for ketchup to dip his steamed broccoli into (after which, he gobbled it up), and another night when he said that he didn’t like his chili, I asked him if grated cheese would help, which ended up being a game-changer. Your child might need some ideas from you such as “Do you need dip for your veggies?” or “Would you like me to separate your meat from your rice?”, but nine times out of ten, you and your child might be able to come up with a fun way to make his meal more palatable.

For more mealtime game-changers, check out my blog post over on the Yummy Mummy Club: 6 Transformative Questions To Ask Your Picky Eater At Mealtimes . And here is Why You Should Not Use Food As A Parenting Tool. 

Feel free to follow me on Facebook for free nutrition tips, articles and recipes. 

What to do when you have a snack-obsessed child


Is “Mommy, can I have a snack?” something you hear several times a day, most days? If it is, you’re not alone. It’s easy to create a chronic snacker when you’re a parent to a little one–their appetites are all over the place, they often don’t finish their meals and can be selective with their food choices, and often “snack foods” are more appealing to them. It’s also a lot easier to say “sure, you can have a snack”, then “no, you cannot have a snack” which often results in a “hangry” meltdown. 

With some patience and perseverance, you can definitely tame your snack-loving child and create a more manageable feeding structure. 

Create more structure around eating times:

According to Ellyn Satter’s Division of responsibility of feeding, you as the parent are responsible for the what’s, when’s and where’s of feeding, whereas your child is responsible for the if’s and how much’s of eating. Therefore, it’s important that you establish some structure around meal and snack times and stay consistent with this, so that your child learns that eating isn’t a free-for-all, but something that happens at intervals of about two to four hours apart every day (babies and toddler might go two to three hours in between meals/snacks while preschoolers and school-aged kids might go three to four hours in between). Babies and toddlers are growing at a more rapid rate and have smaller stomachs, therefore require more frequent eating opportunities, whereas by preschool, growth slows down a bit and stomach size increases as well. 

At mealtimes, when Ben, my son, tells me he is “done”, I remind him that he won’t get another chance to eat until the clock says __ o’clock (three hours from then, let’s say), so it’s important that he eats enough to keep him satisfied until then. I also often say “the kitchen will be closed until tomorrow morning, so make sure that your tummy is full (not over-full).” During the day, I try to schedule eating times for every three hours, so if breakfast is at 7:30 am, there is usually a snack at 10:30 am and lunch at 1 pm (or so). If Ben, asks for a snack an hour after a meal, I tell him that it’s not snack time yet, but it will be after his sister’s nap, so that he knows that it’s coming and doesn’t feel like I’ve just said “no”. When it comes to bedtime snacks, as a rule of thumb, I will offer a snack if bedtime is more than two hours after dinner, otherwise, a snack is usually not offered.

Once your child knows that he will be given eating opportunities at regular intervals according to when you decide (not when he decides), he will be less inclined to ask all day long, and more inclined to fill his tummy a bit more at mealtimes (which is what I’ve noticed with my son). Creating structure around meal and snack times helps kids to learn self-regulation when it comes to their hunger and fullness. 

The point is not to steer your child away from trusting his hunger cues. You want him to be intuitive and mindful when it comes to eating and communicate when he’s hungry or full. But you also want to give him the opportunity to become truly hungry–to know what that feels like–and then respond to it by eating until he’s comfortably full. This is self-regulation. Grazing throughout the day won’t give him that opportunity. It also creates a power struggle between parent and child when it comes to feeding and can disrupt daily activities and schedules. 

Read: Why You Should Get Your Kids To “Eat In A Circle” 

Switch it up:

Typical snack foods tend to be sweet or neutral tasting and higher in carbohydrates, which appeal universally to young children. Think sweetened yogurt, crackers, fruit/veggie pouches, cereal, granola bars or fresh fruit. These are all foods that can healthfully make their ways into a snack rotation, but it’s important that kids are not eating less of their meals, “holding out” for their safe and yummy snack that they’ll be offered later. When kids know that yogurt and granola is their bedtime snack every night, they will most likely hold out for it when dinner is less-than-appealing. They know, after all, that they can fill their tummy with yogurt before bed, so dinner foods aren’t essential in their minds. 

Read: The #1 Mistake Parents Make When It Comes to Feeding

To break this habit, switch it up. Offer a snack at bedtime only if there is more than two hours between dinner and bed and warn your child that after dinner, the kitchen is closed until breakfast the next day. That way, she isn’t blindsided an hour later when she asks for a snack (there are exceptions of course, when your child is going through a growth spurt, for example, she may need more food than she otherwise would).  If there is a two hour gap, make sure to switch up what you offer so that you have five or six snacks that you rotate through. This way, your child’s favourites aren’t always offered, therefore, she won’t “hold out” as much. You can give your child structured choice by saying something like “would you like to have warm milk with a bit of honey OR cottage cheese with banana” but ultimately you are in charge of what’s being offered, and it’s not always the same thing. If your child refuses either option, calmly reply by saying something like “those are your two choices for snack tonight, you may choose one if you’d like but there’s no other options tonight”. The same goes for day time snacks. Try to include one food that you know appeals to your child, but pair it with a food that she hasn’t tried in a while or has previously rejected. I usually offer a protein-rich food paired with fruit (different types) for one snack and then a protein-rich food paired with veggies for another snack. 

Read more about offering structured choice with meals and snacks here: Five Phrases You Need To Know To End Mealtime Battles

Snack time should be fun and enjoyable, but it shouldn’t take over the day. In fact, if it happens too often, it could create or exacerbate picky eating tendencies. It’s important that snack foods are nutrient dense most of the time, including a source of protein, which will keep your child fuller and more satisfied until meal time rolls around again. Try not to rely heavily on “snack aisle” snacks such as granola bars, store-bought cookies and crackers, cereal bars and dried fruit snacks, as these foods tend to be calorie-dense, yet nutrient-poor.  However, as Jill Castle, MS, RD and paediatric nutrition expert mentions in her post  How To Raise A Smart Snacker, it’s ok to offer treats for snacks once in a while for fun.

It’s important to remember too that everyone is different when it comes to eating, including kids. One four-year-old might be quite satisfied with three meals and only one snack, whereas another might need a snack in between each meal. Establish a feeding structure that works for you and your child, with enough flexibility to accommodate changing appetites and growth spurts, but enough structure to teach your child what true hunger and fullness feels like, to encourage being more adventurous with new foods and to avoid snacking free-for-alls. 

If snacks aren’t your biggest concern, but instead it’s treat foods, read: What to do when your child is treat-obsessed 

Please visit me over on my Facebook Page, where I post daily nutrition tips, resources and blog posts for parents. 




My Top Five Slow Cooker Recipes



A slow-cooker can be a life-saver on busy days, allowing you to have a home-cooked hot meal ready when suppertime rolls around. I find that it saves me the stress of trying to figure out what to feed my family at the last minute, which is worth the bit of planning that it takes to prepare a slow-cooked meal.

Because it’s getting cooler outside, and we’re all craving warm comfort foods (and because school and work are both in full-swing), meals in the slow-cooker are ideal for us right now. If you haven’t invested in a slow-cooker, do it and do it now. You won’t regret it. They range from about $25-$100+ and come in different shapes and sizes. I picked mine up from Superstore and love it (it was on the cheaper side). Make sure you buy one that has a “warm” setting, so that when the cooking time is up, it automatically turns to “warm” instead of off. Some people feel a bit weird leaving food cooking all day without being home to monitor it. It only takes trying it once to ease your worry- it will be fine. The great thing about the slow-cooker is that you don’t have to worry–it takes care of itself!

I try to get everything ready the night before, put everything into the slow-cooker dish and stick it in the fridge (if there’s frozen meat in it, it will defrost overnight which is perfect). That way, I just have to transfer the slow-cooker dish into the cooking shell in the morning and turn it on.

Here are my top five slow-cooker recipes that you and your family will love: 

Apple Cinnamon Slow-Cooker Steel-Cut Oats:

Let this one cook overnight so that you wake up to the delicious aroma of comforting apples and cinnamon. Leftovers chill and freeze well!

Maija’s Slow-Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup:

This is one of my favourite soups to cook in the slow-cooker. If you load it full of veggies (I add more than what it calls for), it’s a meal-in-one. Your kids will love it too!

Slow-cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken:

This is one of our all-time favourite chicken dishes. It’s so easy and makes tonnes of leftovers. I usually use a combination of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts.

Julie Van Rosendaal’s Better Butter Chicken (in the crock-pot):

I often refer to Julie Van Rosendaal’s “Dinner With Julie” blog for recipes. They are all delicious, and most are nutritious and easy to make. We’ve made this butter chicken recipe a few times and all love it (including the kids!). We serve with coconut rice and steamed steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Moroccan Lentil Soup In The Slow-Cooker: 

This soup is so flavourful and comforting, and it makes great leftovers. Lentils are nutrition power-houses, loaded with protein, fibre and many vitamins and minerals. They are also really inexpensive! If you’ve wanted to experiment with lentils for a while, try making this soup–you’ll learn to love them!


Here are six healthy kid-friendly breakfast ideas as well as seven after-school snacks that your kids will love!

And please feel free to pop over to my Facebook Page where I post daily nutrition tips and resources for parents and kids. 



Sarah is going back to work!

Time to change concept

September has always been my favourite month of the year. Not only is the weather usually lovely here in Calgary (I’m knocking on wood right now), and the colours beautiful, but I also think of September as a new beginning or a “fresh start”.  Around this time of year, I make it a priority to set new goals, both personal and professional, and decide what’s working for me and what’s not.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend almost a year and a half at home with my two little ones, which has also given me a chance to focus on my blog over at the Yummy Mummy Club and some exciting freelance writing projects. Over the past few months, however, I’ve been feeling the desire to work with clients one on one again (you’re likely not surprised if you know me at all!). I started brainstorming about how I could possibly re-open the doors to my private practice, while still being at home part-time with my kids. Feeling defeated and out of feasible options, I received an e-mail from the Director at a Calgary-based medical clinic asking if I’d be interested in joining the team and providing personal nutrition counseling on a part-time basis. Somehow the timing, the scheduling, and our philosophies lined up–it was the perfect fit!

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be joining the exceptional team at the Calgary Weight Management Centre as one of their Registered Dietitians/Nutrition Counselors as of September 15th, 2014 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I will be counseling both adults and children in the areas of healthy weight loss, weight management, disordered eating patterns and Eating Disorders. As most of you know, I use a non-diet approach to counseling, focusing on teaching my clients to eat intuitively and mindfully, trusting their bodies first and foremost.

I will also have the opportunity to take on a few extra clients per week in the areas of prenatal/postnatal nutrition, infant/child nutrition, picky eating, fertility and PCOS, and gastrointestinal disorders. Please check out the details here!

As a bonus, my work schedule will allow me time to continue my blogging and writing- something that makes me very happy (and will hopefully make you happy too)!

A huge THANK YOU to all of you who read, like and share my work. I appreciate your support and following more than you know.



Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler Recipe


One of the many reasons that I love Summer is because of the fresh berries. Not only are they packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, but blueberries also taste delicious and are really convenient when you have small children (they are the best and most nutritious finger food!). Both my three-year-old son and my one-year-old daughter devour them by the handful on most days.

It’s easy to find both organic and conventionally grown berries at most stores right now, but I personally prefer to go to the farmers market and pick up a pint of BC grown blueberries- somehow they just taste better. Maybe it’s because I know that they haven’t travelled too far! We don’t have locally grown berries for very long here in Canada, so I tend to stock up and freeze them near the end of the season to use in smoothies and hot cereal during the winter months. My son also loves eating frozen berries as a snack with a spoon- he calls it “fruit candy” (I won’t complain!).

When I was given the assignment to test out this Blueberry Cobbler Recipe for Canadian Living, I was thrilled at the thought of having a new berry recipe to add to my collection. This recipe called for A LOT of blueberries, so I opted to use a large package of fresh organic blueberries from Costco. It was also a great excuse to use up a package of cornmeal that had been sitting in the pantry for a while.

The cobbler was super easy to throw together and made for a great post-barbecue summer dessert that everyone enjoyed. It wasn’t too sweet at all, which is why the addition of vanilla ice cream was, without a doubt, justified.

I baked the cobbler beforehand, and heated it up right before serving. Everyone loved it!




I got two thumbs up from all of the kids (between the ages of one to four) and most of the adults went back for seconds too. We will definitely be making this delicious summer dessert again soon.

If you’d like to try it out, hop on over to Canadian Living’s website to view the full recipe here: Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler 

And here’s a look at what the other Canadian Living Voices Bloggers had to say about this recipe: Canadian Living Bloggers Blueberry Cornmeal Cobbler Slideshow

Happy Summer!!



Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Canadian Living and I receive compensation for it. All opinions are my own.


Eight Summertime Snacks For Moms And Kids On The Go

Now that my little guy is all done preschool for the year, I’m finding that we are filling up our mornings with play dates, playground visits and running errands. With two little ones in tow, I’m finding that I always need to have lots of snacks and drinks packed to get us through the mornings. Instead of scrambling right before we leave, I’ve gotten into the habit of preparing and packing up snacks the night before so that we can grab them and go. Even if you’re not heading out, having snacks ready in the fridge is always nice. Here are a few of our go-to’s right now:

Fruit and/or veggie kiddie “sushi”:

Spread natural nut butter and a bit of honey OR cream cheese onto a whole grain tortilla and layer cut-up fruit of your choice on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you’d like too! Roll it up and cut width-wise for “sushi-looking” roll-ups

veggie-rollup fruit-rollup fruit-pb-roll-up

Water melon wedges:

Simple but wonderful. Watermelon is great for a snack during the summer months because it gives kids a boost of energy and nutrition while hydrating at the same time! Kids love the sweetness of watermelon and Moms love the fact that it’s nutritious and portable!


Fruit and yogurt smoothies:

I will often make fruit and yogurt smoothies in the morning and then pour them into portable cups for the kids with a few ice cubes to keep them cold. Adding yogurt and milk to fruit smoothies instead of juice will give them a protein boost which will help to keep them full and satisfied when you’re out and about.

Homemade trail mix:

Homemade trail mix is great because it offers a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat which will help to energize your kids as well as keep them satisfied. It’s fun to eat and non-perishable too, which means you don’t have to worry about an icepack or cooler!

Homemade muffins:

I always have a good supply of homemade muffins in the freezer to take with us on play dates and playground runs. I pack them in a snack bag when they’re frozen, which keep any fruits or veggies, cheese or yogurt cool as well! By the time we dig in, they’re usually thawed. These flourless peanut butter and banana muffins are my kids’ new favourite. They are jam-packed full of nutrition and yummy too!


Muffin-tin Frittata’s:

These are one of our favourite weeknight meals and I often save the leftovers for lunches or snacks. Wrap in plastic wrap and pack in a small cooler with fresh fruit for a healthy on the go snack. Here’s the recipe!


Homemade fruit and nut crackers:

These homemade crackers are chock-full of nutrition and so simple to make. Pair them with cheese or nut butter for a nutritious snack! If you don’t feel like making crackers, you can enjoy it as a loaf of bread instead. Both are delicious!



Homemade oatmeal raisin cookies:

These healthy (ish) oatmeal raisin cookies are high in fibre and are perfect for packing in your snack bag. Pair with yogurt, a fruit smoothie or have on their own!




Happy summer snacking!!

Refreshing Summer Dessert: Grilled Peach Melba Sundae




I had never grilled peaches until I received this assignment by Canadian Living to test our their July feature recipe “Grilled Peach Melba Sundae“. Not only was I excited about grilling peaches for the first time, but I was also excited by the fact that I got to test out a new tasty dessert (and so was the rest of my family).

Prepping the recipe was slightly more labour-intensive than I anticipated. Although the extra time that it took was totally worth it, I do wish that there was an easier way to peel and pit fresh peaches besides using a paring knife or carrot peeler (if anyone knows of one, please let me know!).



strained raspberries

Once the peeling and pitting was complete, as well as the pureeing, straining and heating of the raspberry sauce, it was smooth sailing. Grilling peaches turns out to be a piece of cake to do (make sure to continuously brush butter/sugar sauce on while grilling to maximize flavour and caramelization), and they were even tastier than they looked.


Building the individual sundaes was the funnest part, attempting to make each bowl look prettier than the previous by delicately piling the perfect number of grilled peach wedges and raspberries on top of vanilla ice-cream, drizzle just the right amount of raspberry sauce on top and finish it off with perfectly toasted almonds (I used slivered rather than sliced, because that’s what I had). It truly was the most beautiful (and one of the most refreshing and delicious!) desserts I’ve ever made.


Of course, the Dietitian in me loved the fact that this dessert included seasonal and fresh fruits. Peaches are a great source of Vitamin C, which helps to keep your immune system healthy, heal cuts and keep your gums, bones, muscles, tissues and blood vessels strong. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, which can help reduce your risk of cancer as well. Peaches are also high in potassium and dietary fibre.

Raspberries are also chock-full of nutrition. They stand out from other berries because they are high in ellagic acid, an antioxidant that’s has several anti-cancer properties. They are also a great source of anthocyanins, natural compounds that have anti-bacterial qualities as well as potential anti-cancer properties.

Although ice-cream isn’t the healthiest part of this dessert, it is the most decadent part. And let’s be honest–what is summer without ice-cream? Make sure to use a high quality ice cream (read: one with REAL ingredients like cream and sugar!) instead of a cheaper, chemical-filled one. And please…go for a full fat ice-cream and just manage your portion mindfully.

For the full recipe, see Canadian Living’s Grilled Peach Melba Sundae.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Canadian Living and I receive compensation for it. All opinions are my own.

What To Do When Your Child Is Constipated

when your child is constipated

It is not uncommon for young kids to become constipated. After all, toileting is one of the three major things that kids CAN control in the lives (along with eating and sleeping). Having a child who experiences constipation can be very stressful for parents, and it is hard to know what to do. When a child is constipated, he or she will often experience stomach pain, bloating, gas, loss of appetite and irritability–similar symptoms to what we adults might experience.

I had a reader question come through my inbox and I thought I’d write a post to answer her question:

I was wondering if you have any suggestions on anything I could add to my sons diet that might help him have regular bowel movements? He is almost 6 years old and due to the fact that he doesn’t like to go at school, he hold it in and ends up very constipated. I know I have to find ways to help him get over the fear of going at school but I was thinking maybe I could add something to his food that would help to keep him more regular. He eats lots of fruits and veggies and we serve healthy meals at home, but I thought you might have other suggestions too. I have heard that there are benefits to adding things like flax or chai seeds to food but I’m not sure if those are the best options for aiding in constipation or if there’s something else. Any help you can give would be appreciated.


Good question! It is not uncommon at all for kids to “hold it in” until they are in the comfort of their own home. Many adults prefer to wait until they are at home to “go” so it makes sense that kids are the same. To be able to have a bowel movement, you need to be relaxed, so it makes perfect sense that a young boy would not be able to go at school, when other kids are coming in and out of the bathroom all of the time.

Increase fibre-rich foods:

It sounds like you’re doing a great job at making sure that your son has a balanced diet at home. I would continue to offer lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with skins at meals (with the exception of bananas, because they can exacerbate constipation), whole grain foods (oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread etc.) and other fibre-rich foods such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Adding a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flax to oatmeal or smoothies is a great idea to boost his fibre intake a bit too.

Go easy on “binding foods”:

Besides adding a bit more fibre , I would be careful that he’s not eating too many “binding foods” such as white starchy foods (white bread, many breakfast cereals, white rice, white pasta etc.) as well as bananas and cheese. These foods will bind the stool so that it is harder to pass and this can often create fear around going to the bathroom because of the pain when passing. Also, make sure that he is drinking plenty of fluids during the day and with meals, so that his stools aren’t hydrated and hard.

If your son is still experiencing constipation (specifically hard-to-pass stools) after trying these dietary changes, you can try adding bran cereal (the original All Bran Cereal–the sticks, not the “buds”) to his regular cereal or to yogurt or a smoothie. Start with a tablespoon or so a day and increase to no more than 1/4 cup (they are very high in insoluble fibre and will soften his stool and increase motility in the digestion tract). You could also make some high fibre homemade banana muffins such as these.

Create a morning bathroom routine:

Another important tip that I often give adults who experience constipation (and works great for kids too) is to establish a morning routine where your son has at least 10-15 minutes (he shouldn’t feel rushed) when he can sit on the toilet, relax and try to go before going to school or going out for the day. Make sure that siblings/parents aren’t coming in and out of the bathroom when it is “his time” so that he can relax, and make sure that he sticks to his morning bathroom routine consistently every morning. It may take a few days or even weeks for him to start going consistently, but once he starts going, he will be much more comfortable when at school and you won’t have to worry about it “holding it”.

Another tip that I often give parents is to go with him to school to scout out a more private bathroom. Sometimes, there are private bathrooms in elementary schools where kids don’t have to worry about other kids coming in and out. Perhaps one day when you drop him off at school, you could go 5-10 minutes early to go on a bathroom hunt (or ask his teacher if she knows of one).

You may also be interested to read about what the #1 Mistake That Parents Make When It Comes To Feeding Kids as well as the Top 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Their School Lunch 

I’m often posting family nutrition tips and resources on my Facebook page, so feel free to stop by!


What To Do When Your Child Is Treat-Obsessed

 Young blonde boy peeks out from a colorful lollipop

When your child reaches a certain age, around two or three years old, treat foods seem to become a bigger deal. The odd dessert that your toddler would either take or leave, suddenly becomes GOLD in your child’s eyes. It is normal for kids to want sweet delicious dessert foods often–after all, children have a biologically-driven affinity to sweeter foods, which may be a protective function (sweetness signals “energy-rich”). Kids also have more taste buds than adults do, which could possibly explain why they–usually around the age of two or three–start to turn their noses up to bitter vegetables (think green veggies). Also, bitter compounds, in historical times, signalled “toxic” or “unsafe,” so this could also explain why kids often reject them (but learn to accept them in their own time as they get older). Now that you know that your child is completely normal, read on for tips on how to tame the sugar monster in your home: 

Say “yes” instead of “no”: 

Instead of saying “no” to your preschooler when he demands a treat at a random time—let’s say before a meal—which would most likely escalate into a tantrum, take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and say “Sure! You can have a treat, but you get to choose when you have it. You get one treat today, so would you like to have it now, before dinner, or would you like to save it for after dinner instead? If you choose to have it now, you won’t have any leftover for after dinner.” Or something along those lines. 

When kids feel as though they CAN’T have something, they become frantic about having it NOW and ultimately, a breakdown ensues. But when you give them structured choice—”you can have this, but it will be under ___ and ___ conditions. You choose,” the treat becomes a little less desired and because they know that ultimately they CAN have it (or a portion of it), the urgency seems to subside. Allowing your child to choose when he gets to have his treat also nurtures his strong desire for a sense of control and independence in his life, while still setting boundaries.

Don’t make them a big deal: 

Try to stay neutral when it comes to treat foods. If your child brings home a something sweet from a party or school and you immediately take it away and say “these foods aren’t allowed” or “you can only have one a day” then your child will likely lash out and want the treat food ten times more than when he walked through the door. Instead of making a big deal out of it, try to stay calm, matter-of-fact and neutral. Say something like “that’s kind of fun that you got those from school today. You can enjoy a few after dinner tonight if you want, but let’s put them away now so that you don’t spoil your meal.” Or something along those lines. Or you could include them in a meal or snack and say “let’s all enjoy a few when we have our afternoon snack” and then pair them with fruit and yogurt as an example. This way, it puts the treat food on a more level playing field with other healthier foods (which I’ll talk more about in a little bit). Similarly, if someone gives your child a treat, try not to say “Wow, you’re such a lucky boy to get a treat like that!” because this tells your child that treats are a BIG deal and that if they are a “prize”, rather than just another food. 

Eat the way you want your kids to eat: 

As mentioned in a great post by Maryann Jacobsen over at Raise Healthy Eaters, “Children learn to see food the same way their parents do, which may not always be healthy.  Research shows that parents who eat for emotional reasons, feel out of control with eating (called disinhibition) and worry about weight (their own and their child’s), not only are more likely to utilize controlling feeding practices, but tend to have children with similar issues.” Kids who are treat-obsessed may be observing their parents who have unhealthy or out-of-control treat-eating habits (sneaking food, obsessing over food, binge eating, emotional eating, etc.) and modelling after that. It’s important to address your own eating issues as a parent so that you can model not only healthy eating, but also a healthy food relationship. Read about how to nurture your personal relationship with food here and here

Reassurance that there will be treats in the future = more relaxed kids

If your child asks for a treat food, but for whatever reason you do not want them to have one, try responding like this: “I understand that you really want a treat right now, but it’s not treat time. You have had your treat already today, so there aren’t any more, but you will get another chance to have one tomorrow. What do you think you’ll want to have?” instead of saying “no, you are not having a treat now”. It’s important to set limits on treat foods, so that there is some structure, however it’s also important that kids learn that treats aren’t forbidden or highly restricted. As soon as a child feels that something is forbidden (like treats), that thing automatically becomes more desirable. This is when kids may start to sneak food and overindulge when they get the chance, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain, not to mention an unhealthy relationship with food long-term.

One thing that I personally notice with my son (who definitely has a sweet tooth), is that if he asks for a treat and my husband or I say “no”, he automatically freaks out. He is three, so this tantrum-like response to “no” is fairly normal, however, if I calmly come down to his level, and first let him know that I hear and understand what he’s saying (“you are telling me that you really want a treat”), set my limit (“I understand, but we’ve already enjoyed our treats, so we are done for the day”) and then let him know that there is another opportunity to enjoy them tomorrow (“But guess what?! We’ll have another chance to have one tomorrow!”), 9 times out of 10 he says “ok Mom”. 

Separate treats from parenting:

Try not to bribe your child with treats (“If you’re good in the grocery store, you can have a cookie”) or use treats as a reward (“you were such a good boy at the doctor, would you like a cookie?”). If you reward your kids with sweets, this increases their desirability and appeal. Much the same, rewarding your kids with dessert foods because they ate their veggies at dinner is clearly communicating that veggies are to be avoided and desserts are to be desired. This may work VERY well short term (and trust me, I know how tempting it is to use this strategy), but long term, you’re not doing your child any favours. The more frequently parents use food as a reward or punishment, the more likely it is that their children grow to eat for reasons other than physical hunger, such as stress, boredom, anxiety, or happiness. 

Try to keep treats (or food in general) separate from your parenting techniques. 

Serve a treat WITH a meal instead of after: 

From time to time, offer your kids a treat with the rest of their meal instead of afterwards. Last Fall, I gave my son a few smarties with his lunch (he asked me if he could have some after lunch- they were leftover from Halloween). He was a bit confused when I offered them with his sandwich and veggies, but didn’t say much about it. Sometimes kids either rush through their meal to get to their dessert quicker or “save up” for their dessert, eating less of their meal than they usually would. Putting the treat on a level playing field with the rest of the meal decreases the urgency to finish and takes the treat’s “appeal” down a notch or two. My son continued to eat his meal and every few minutes popped a smartie into his mouth. Since then, I’ve offered a treat alongside meals randomly, and my son (now three and a half) thinks it’s fun, but still eats the rest of his meal like he normally would. 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read about the #1 Mistake That Parents Make When Feeding Their Kids  and The 5 Phrases That Will End Mealtime Battles Forever 


Top 5 Tips For Successful Baby-Led Weaning


My daughter is almost 10 months old and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve spoon-fed her food. She started eating solid food when she was a week shy of her 6 month birthday, when she grabbed a banana out of my hand and stuck it in her mouth, swished it around a few times and then swallowed it. Since then, she’s happily fed herself with no problems. I had been toying with the idea of trying “baby-led weaning” with my daughter, a self-feeding method of introducing solids to a baby, but hadn’t decided 100% whether we were going to go that route or not. When she took her first bite of that banana, and I witnessed first hand that she didn’t choke or throw up, I knew then and there that she would do just fine.

Now, before you give your special baby-food blender away and toss your ice-cube trays, realize that baby-led weaning isn’t for everybody (my son was happily spoon-fed for the first few months). It is not a “better” way to introduce solids–it’s a different way. Both methods (baby-led weaning and spoon -feeding) can work really well–it just depends on both the baby and the parents as to which method (or perhaps a combo) will work better. I also truly believe that both methods can be “baby-led”, especially if you pay really close attention to your baby’s cues and do not coax or force your baby to eat. Baby-led eating allows your baby to be in charge of whether and how much they eat. It gives them the opportunity to eat until comfortably full, which allows them to trust their inner cues when it comes to hunger and fullness. Experiment with both methods, being careful to follow your baby’s cues either way. Your baby will tell you fairly quickly whether or not he wants to accept food from a spoon or if he’d rather gum large chunks of solid food without any help. 

If you are going the baby-led weaning route, I’ve learned (as a BLW newbie myself) a few tricks along the way: 

1. Do not freak out when your baby gags: Your baby will likely gag. A lot. Babies have a great natural gag-reflex that will help them move food that has travelled too far to the back of their mouths, back to the front again so that they don’t choke. They may make a funny face and make a gagging sound, but if you wait for a few seconds, you’ll see that your baby is an expert at this and will not choke. Baby’s are developmentally ready to handle solid finger foods at 6 months of age (assuming baby wasn’t born premature), therefore it is very unlikely that your baby will actually choke on food. But it is still imperative that you take an infant CPR/First Aid course just in case (and for peace of mind).  If you freak out when your baby gags, your baby will freak out because they will be scared. Try to stay calm (or at least look calm) and let baby do her thing. 

2. Plan your family meals to be baby-friendly: The food that I typically make is quite flavourful, sometimes spicy and sometimes contains seasonings such as salt and pepper–things that 6 month old babies do not need. A baby’s kidneys are not mature enough to handle a lot of salt (sodium) or sugar, so it’s important to keep this is mind when you’re preparing and cooking food. I purchased the baby-led weaning cookbook, but decided not to use it because, after all, one of the reasons we went this route is so I didn’t have to create a whole different meal for my baby. So what I did instead was toned down the spice and the seasoning a lot. For example, I wouldn’t add salt and a pepper to our vegetable frittata (we could add it on afterwards if we wanted) or I would use fresh chicken and homemade pizza sauce on our pizza’s (instead of ham or store-bought pizza sauce). I would take out a scoop of stir-fried meat and veggies for my daughter prior to adding stir-fry sauce and I when I made homemade hamburgers, I would leave the seasonings out of hers. Remember that the same guidelines apply to baby-led weaning as with spoon feeding in regards to what to feed your baby. It’s important that you focus on iron-rich foods first (meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, iron-fortified grains) and progress onto vegetables and fruit and then whole grains and dairy after that (9 months for yogurt and cheese and 12 months for homogenized milk).  Here’s some information on introducing allergenic foods to baby and on when and how to transition baby to cow’s milk. 

3. Buy an easy-to-clean high chair and plastic bibs: Baby-led weaning is definitely messier than spoon feeding. We invested in a new highchair for our daughter, as I found that hand-me-down that we used for my son was hard to clean. You don’t have time to clean a highchair for 15 minutes after each meal or snack, so make sure that the high chair is easy-t0-clean (I find plastic is best, and we remove the cushy cloth lining too). Buy a few plastic bibs that you can rinse quickly and that have a pocket that catches food (our daughter will just scoop fallen food out of the pocket). You even might want to think about putting a small tarp down underneath your baby’s highchair so that you don’t have to clean your floors several times a day. Friends of ours do this, and clean it off at the end of the day. Genius. 

4. Think BIG: You may be tempted to cut your baby’s food into teeny tiny pieces so that they don’t choke. Unfortunately, baby’s don’t have the fine motor skills to pick up tiny pieces of food and bring them to their mouths until they are around 8-9 months old (or older). This is why it’s so important that you make baby’s food pieces large enough that they can grab onto them. A homemade potato wedge or half of a skinless, boneless chicken thigh cut length-wise, or a slice of pear (peeled) are examples of appropriate sized pieces of food. A piece of whole grain toast with some butter on it cut into thick strips would be appropriate too. Your baby should be able to pick up their food, bring it to their mouth, and gnaw on it. It is normal for baby to “miss” their mouth or drop their food, but as long as they can bring it to their mouths, it is likely appropriate in size. It is still very important to avoid foods that pose a risk of choking for the first year of life, such as hard fruits and vegetables (ie. raw carrots), stringy foods (ie. celery), nuts and seeds, whole grapes, a gob of peanut butter (I thinly spread on toast strips), and wieners and popcorn. 

5. Go with the flow: Your baby may absolutely LOVE self-feeding right from day one, and she may go through periods where she’d rather be spoon-fed. My daughter for the most part has thrived with baby-led weaning, but she went through a period when she was teething, where she wanted to be fed pureed food with a spoon (presumably because it was softer and didn’t hurt). When and if you do feed pureed food, either make it yourself (best choice) or choose organic options from the grocery store. Know that it’s completely normal for your baby to reject a food, spit it out or throw it. It may take up to 20 exposures for a baby to accept a food so keep re-introducing the food pressure-free. Include baby in family meals (this is the beauty of baby-led weaning) and give him/her the food that the rest of the family is having (assuming it isn’t a choking hazard). Know that most of the food may end up on the highchair, on the walls or on the floor, and this is ok. Your baby is getting most of his/her nutrition from breastmilk and/or formula until one year of age. Have fun with it! 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like this post that I wrote on baby-led weaning vs. spoon feeding and how to create a healthy eating environment for your baby.