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How to Deal with Halloween Candies

Halloween is here! As parents most of us will have to face that large pillow-sack full of treats or candies that makes its way onto our kitchen table or living room floor, whether it is this year or in years to come. The question is, how will you deal with it as a parent? Do you let your kids have a candy free-for-all so that it disappears quicker, or do you allow only one or two treats per day so that it lasts until Christmas? Do you make it disappear in other ways like by getting your kids to trade it in for non-candy alternatives or donating it?

Last year, my son was young enough that he didn’t really know what’s going on. He hadn’t quite reached the stage where candy was the main attraction for Halloween. He was excited to get into his “Superman” costume and head out trick-or-treating.

Halloween 2016

How you choose to deal with Halloween candies as a parent is a personal thing and there isn’t one right way to go about it. Why should we be worried about our kids consuming a lot of candy? If sugar-rich foods like candy are consumed too often and in large amounts, it can contribute to poor dental health, displacement of other nutrient-dense foods, and unhealthy weight gain.

So, how do we teach our kids about “treats” in general? As a dietitian and mom, I take the approach that there are no bad foods, just bad diets. What you do between Halloween this year and next year is relevant, what happens on October 31 is irrelevant.  Fun-foods like candy and chocolate are delicious (come on, let’s be honest!) and shouldn’t be limited too much, or else you or your kids will desire them even more.

This year, my son kind of knows what Halloween is. As much as I feel the need to put my “dietitian hat” and play “treat police”, I try not too. I don’t want to take the joy out of Halloween from my son. Instead, take this opportunity to teach my son how to manage his treat intake on his own (now and in the future), and not feel the need to sneak, hide or gorge on treats. I want to take the advantage of this fun holiday to build my son’s healthy relationship with foods.

Halloween 2017
Halloween 2017

Here’s what I’ve done when my son is at the stage where candy takes priority over cute costumes.

Last Minute Buyer

Grocery stores are clever, they like to position those huge piles of Halloween candy conveniently when you first walk into the grocery store and your cart is empty AND where you can’t help but stare at them when you’re waiting at the check-out lane. Therefore, make sure to wait until the day before (or a week before) to buy Halloween candy, so that you and your kids don’t have to deal with the “See-Food syndrome“. Also, I always buy my least favourite treats to hand out – lollipop, gummy candies, smarties, etc. If I were to buy anything chocolate, that would be a different story.

If your favourite candies/treats are in the house, it’s more likely that you and your family will eat it ALL. Remember: Out of sight, out of mind; In your sight, in your mind. 

Fuel Up Before Trick-or-Treating

Start the day with a wholesome, filling breakfast; encourage a healthy lunch, and be sure to serve healthy and balanced dinner to fill their tummies before heading out trick-or-treating. This way, you can prevent your kids become “candy monster” by the time they come home.

Pour It Out and Sort It Out

Using small bucket/bag and limiting number of houses your kids visit so that their candy-collection is smaller to begin with. When you arrive home with your child’s little sack full of goodies, before you do anything, pour it out and sort it out. Get them to separate “the favourites” and “the least favourite”, and ask if they will share with you. This is a good opportunity to teach them to be “picky”. Observe how much they consume without making any comments or rules since you might be surprised how many kids can self-regulate and eat only a few pieces.

Switch Witch 

Kids can choose a few of their favourite candies and then leave the rest out for the “Switch Witch” who takes it away and replaces it with a desired toy or non-food gift ( movie tickets, books, crayons or cash for older kids). Also, some parents have their kids actually donate it to a local food bank or a dental office.

Let Them Enjoy

On Halloween night, I let my son pick two to three candies to try out. For older kids, you can also allow your kid to eat as much as he/she wants.

Forbidding them from having any candy may just increase their desire for it.

Trust me, your kid might surprise you by having a few and then deciding to save the rest or gorging on them and eating until they feel sick. Enjoying fun-foods like candy and chocolate once in a while (even if that means a little everyday) is normal and it’s important that they don’t label these foods as “bad” foods. It also decreases the chances of your kids sneaking candy or over-indulging when you’re not there.

And I promise you, one night of gorging on treats will not effect he/her long-term nutritional status or weight. Most of the time, the kids seem to grow bored with their candy after a few days if it’s not restricted and rationed like crazy.

Happy Halloween !!

How do you make sure Halloween isn’t a nightmare for you or your kids? Think of it as a great opportunity to teach your kids about moderation, balance, and healthful indulging. Did you know that we offer personalized nutrition counselling for kids and families? If this is something you’d like to learn more about, please Contact Me.

My Child Refuses to Eat

Many parents are worried about their child is not eating enough; or their child is small compared to other children and isn’t growing properly; or their child has very few foods that he will eat.

When it comes to mealtimes, toddlers or young children can be hard to predict. Some days they may not eat much. Other days it seems like they are eating all day long. They many want one food every day for weeks, and then suddenly not like it anymore. And how much your child eats may be very different from how much another child eats.

Picky eating is typical toddler behaviour. Most toddlers are picky eaters. This is one area of their life where they can exert some control. By refusing to eat, your child is practicing his or her independence. It’s your job as a parent to provide healthy food choices and teach good eating habits.

Here are the most common reasons why your child is refusing to eat at meals, and what to do about it.

  • Too Much Pressured

If your child feels any amount of pressure to eat or senses that you as the parent are anxious at mealtimes, he will likely back off and choose not to eat. Toddlers and young children sense pressure, even if it’s not as direct as “Eat your broccoli NOW !” If you focus too much on what and how much he is eating during a meal, instead of allowing he to simply be another eater at the table while everybody is eating, he will back right off.

Most common indirect pressure:

  1. You bring the food right in front of him
  2. You watch him every move
  3. You hover over him
  4. You continually take uneaten food off of his plate and replace it with new food
  5. You talk about his eating habit
  6. You pick up food and bring to his mouth without his cueing to do so

The more you push your child to eat, the more likely that your child will not enjoy eating. 

What to Do

Let your child self-feed and eat at his own pace at meals, provide lots of food variety at meals in manageable amounts, and let him be in charge of whether and how much he eats. try your best not to hover over your child. I know it is extremely difficult, especially when he is hardly touching his food. Sit back and engage in conversations with the whole family, including your child. If you can think about mealtime more so as “family bonding time” than “I need to get my child to eat time”, your child won’t feel as pressured and will be more open to try new or previously rejected foods.

  • Boredom

Are you serving the same dish/recipe over and over again. Most parents get stuck in “food ruts” as their kids are only eating certain foods. You prepare it as you know he will eat it. However, this is not a long term solution, it is your job to help your child grow up with a healthy relationship with food, not to get them to eat their meal right now.

What to Do

We get bored of certain foods and so do our kids. Be creative, discuss with your child and come up with a few new and different snack or meal option for him, you can try to rotate so that he doesn’t get bored again.

  • Not Enough Say

The research has shown that kids eat better when they involve with shopping, preparing, cooking and serving their meal. That’s why it is important to include kids in meal prep, even letting them to mix together ingredients or set the table. From the previous blogpost, you have learned, parents should be in charge of the “what’s” of feeding, kids might feels that they have no control over what they’re fed if parents don’t include them in choosing food once in a while. They may not like the way that their foods are placed on their plate, perhaps they grow bored of what you serve them.

What to Do

It is important to set healthy boundaries and meet your responsibility of “what”, “when” and “where”, but it’s okay to let your kids be a part of the process. Get them involved in shopping, meal planning, preparing, cooking, serving and cleaning up. This process can be messy and longer, maybe a bit more frustrating. However, the benefits are huge and it’s worth it. You just have to be patient.

  • Simply Not Hungry

We know that kids’ appetite can be unpredictable and erratic at the best of times. After the age of two, growth slows and stabilizes which meals that toddlers aren’t as hungry as they used to be. Your kids can have “hungry days” (your kid out-eats everyone at the table) or “full days” (your kid doesn’t eat much at all). As long as you are maintaining your feeding roles and staying consistent with mealtime boundaries, your child should be in charge of whether and how much he eats. It is possible that your child is simply not physically hungry when a meal is served (for whatever reason) and that’s ok.

What to Do

  1. Accept “I’m not hungry” as an acceptable answer for now, and reminding your kids that the “Kitchen will be closed after dinner, are you sure you’re done !!”.
  2. You may also want to consider having dinner a little bit later.
  • Too Many Distractions

Allowing your kids to watch TV, IPAD or play with toys at the table is a recipe for distraction. Screen distractions can work in two different ways (negative). When a child is watching a show or playing a video game while eating, he is focusing ALL of his attention on the show he’s watching or game he’s playing. There is no attention left for eating his meal, not to mention listening to his hunger/fullness cues.

Also, I found that some parents like to feed their kids (especially young infant) in random time (not at regular mealtime), so having random family members/strangers walk in and out to the kitchen, can be very distracted. Younger kids have a hard time focusing on their meal with minimal distractions, older kids can easily under or over-eat because they’re just not paying attention.

Playing with siblings at the table while eating can be very distracted too.

What to Do

  1. Set healthy boundaries by not allowing any electronic devices or toys at the table while eating.
  2. Seat kids strategically so that they can’t touch each other.
  3. Eat together as often as possible. This helps to teach your child healthy eating habits, table manners and how to use utensils. It also provides a time to role model healthy eating.
  • Large Portions

Some kids turn their plate away simply because the portion that they’ve been served is too large and overwhelming. Some parents thinks that their kids’ appetite should be same as other children of the same age.

What to Do

Every child is different, even appetite. Continue serve a balanced meal with small portion, let him ask for more.

  • Too Many Snacks

Are you having a snacker/grazer at home? Kids who graze between meals often come to the table feeling too full to eat. Research has shown grazers can eat up to 50% less than those with more regular meal and snack times. This is why it is so important to establish a mealtime structure.

What to Do

Set regular meal and snack times. Offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks at regular times each day. You need to give your kids a chance to build an appetite for meals, otherwise, they won’t eat much and it can become harder for them to learn self-regulation.

  • Too Tired

After a long day of playing, daycare, preschool, kindergarten, some kids just don’t have the energy to bring foods to mouth by the end of the day. During dinner time, if you’re finding that your child is fussy, easy to cry, rubbing the eyes or yawning, that’s probably what’s happening.

What to Do

Try to encourage him to fill his tummies before bed as best as he can, and remind them that there is no more food until next morning. You can also consider having earlier dinner.

  • Not Feeling Well or Sick

If your child is sick, it is likely that he will not eat well at a meal. In this case, make sure to keep your child hydrated, and offer “easy to digest” foods such as porridge, banana, bread, crackers, smoothie popsicle, soup and apple sauce until his appetite returns.

What to Do

Offer foods more often when you child is sick, but don’t push or force them. Fluids are most important.

  • Too Much Milk or Juice

Too much milk or juice can spoil the appetite. Milk contains fat and protein (two nutrients that make kids feel full). Juice contains excess calories and sugar.

What to Do

  1. 1-2 years old, offer 3 cups (24 oz/750 mL) of milk per day
  2. After 2 years old, 2 cups (16 oz/500 mL) of milk per day
  3. Offer only water in between meals and snacks for hydration
  4. Avoid or limit fruit juice to no more than 1/2 cup per day. You can water it down.

Do you have any questions about your picky eater? Contact Me about starting a nutritional counselling program.

The Secret Behind Feeding Relationship

Picky eaters, feeding relationship

In my nutrition counselling practice, I often meet with frustrated and worried parents of picky eaters. Most scenarios, kids are in charge of what, when and where food is served, and parents are trying to bribe or force their kids to eat at least two bites of some nutritious foods.This feeding relationship are completely reversed and parents have no idea.

The Feeding Relationship

The “Feeding Relationship” (Division of Responsibilities in Feeding) is a concept developed by Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and social worker. There are separate roles in feeding for the parent and for the child.

If these roles are respected, the child will be less likely to be picky and will grow up having a healthy relationship with food. 

Parent’s Feeding Responsibilities 

When

There should be structured meal and snack time every day, so that your child knows when to expect another chance to eat. Children should be offered 3 regular meals and 2 or 3 snacks in between. Avoid grazing or snacking throughout the day. This timing structure will help your child build up a healthy appetite for the next meal.

Where

The child should be eating at the table with the family, with no distractions like TV or IPad. When your children eat in front of a screen, they aren’t focusing on their foods, or their inner hunger, or fullness signals; they’re instead focusing on what they’re watching.

What

As a parent, you get to decide what your child eats. Ideally, you should offer foods from each food group (with different colours, flavours and textures) at every meal if you can – a fruit or vegetable, a grain product and a meat or alternative and dairy.

Example: blueberries (cut in half) with slices of bread, cooked egg yolk and yogurt.

At family meals, your child should be served the same foods that the rest of the family is eating.

Baby/Toddler’s Feeding Responsibilities 

How Much and Whether 

It is completely up to your child to take the lead role in eating. The child is responsible for how much or whether to eat the foods that you’ve served. Many parents are concerned their child is not eating enough, however children are good at regulating their appetites and will not starve themselves. They may eat a lot one day and almost nothing the next and that is ok. If they don’t eat much at one meal or snack, they’ll make up for it in the future meals or snacks, or even by the end of the week. Read 20 Strategies to Raise a Mindful Eater. This way you do not set up power struggles with eating.

Remember, it might take up to 15 tries before the baby or child will actually eat the food.

Dietitian’s Thoughts

We need to take a step back and let our kids decide if they are going to eat their food and how much they are going to eat. No pressure, no forcing and no bribing. We, as a parent, have to respect their hunger and fullness cues. If we’re respecting this feeding relationship, the power struggles and stress around your family table will dramatically decrease.

Do you have a picky eater at home? You need more meal ideas? You need some strategies to deal with your little picky eater at home. Contact Me about starting a nutritional counselling program.

Introducing Solids to Your Baby: Baby-Led Weaning Vs. Spoon Feeding

When I was a nutrition student, I was taught at school that there is ONLY one way to introduce solids to baby – the traditional “puree, spoon-fed” way.

After being a first-time mom, I was first introduced to the concept of “Baby-Led Weaning” by a friend of mine when my son was around 6 months of age. I had never heard of this before and didn’t know what to think, the questions keep pooping in my head “what about the importance of iron-rich foods when first starting solids?” and “what about choking?”. I was so curious and I decided to do some research to learn more about it.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

The name itself is a bit misleading (I was fooled by it for a while) as we usually think of weaning as the process of stop breastfeeding. Baby-led weaning is DIFFERENT. It is the term used to describe a way of introducing solid foods where babies feed themselves starting about six months of age. Breastfeeding (or formula feeding) continues during this process. For their first solid foods, babies are given larger pieces of soft foods that they can grasp and eat instead of the more Traditional Method of feeding where parents spoon-feed mashed or minced foods to babies. The idea behind baby-led weaning is that the baby can share the same (or similar) foods that the rest of the family is eating and that they sit and participate in the family meal while everyone eats.

Two approaches to Introducing solids to Your Baby

Baby-led weaning and the Traditional Method of introducing solids have similarities. They both recommend you:

  • Start introducing solids at about 6 months of age (when baby shows they are ready)
  • Let your baby choose how much to eat (Ellyn Satter)
  • Introduce safe finger foods starting at 6 months
  • Encourage eating with the family
  • Move toward offering the same foods as the rest of the family
  • Never leave the baby unattended while eating
Baby Led Weaning Traditional Method
Baby feeds her/himself


Adult feeds the baby to start, often by spoon


Begins with soft, easy to grasp chunks of food (often in "stick" shape) Begins with iron rich foods in soft, minced or mashed form and progresses to more texture as baby is able to manage
Finger foods are introduced in small soft pieces
Semi-liquid foods like yogurt can be offered to baby to eat with her fingers or as a dip for other foods Semi-liquid foods are fed to baby on a spoon with baby starting to guide the spoon to her/his mount when she/he is able
Examples of Food Offered Example of Food Offered
Strips of tender cooked meat large enough so baby can grasp in fist (with some sticking out at the top)Minced tender cooked meat on a spoon
Well-cooked scrambled eggs Mashed well-cooked eggs
Cooked broccoli trees Mashed/minced soft cooked broccoli on spoon or very tender cooked diced broccoli pieces
Banana partly peeled so baby can grip the peep at the bottom Mashed banana on a spoon or diced pieces of banana
Avocado slices Mashed avocado on a spoon or diced pieces of avocado
Stick of cheese or grated cheese Grated cheese
Fingers of toast (long thin slices) or pancakes (make from iron-fortified infant cereal) Iron-fortified infant cereal on a spoon

 

What You Need to Know Before Choosing an Approach?

Age: Start at 6 months

For both approaches, it is recommended to start at 6 months when your baby can sit up and control her/his head movements. Most babies can grasp larger pieces of food and will try to put them in their mouth at this stage.

Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues

With whatever method you choose, practice responsive feeding. This means watching for the cues and clues your baby gives you. Follow your baby’s lead and make sure that she/he decides whether or not she/he eats, what she/he eats (of what you offer), how much she/he eats and how fast or slow she/he eats.

Type of Foods: Offer Iron-Rich Foods as First Foods

Babies need a lot of iron (11 mg/day at 7-12 months of age) and that is why it is recommended that the first foods offered to babies be iron-rich. Please read:Best Started Foods for Baby-Led Weaning

With baby-led weaning it may be more difficult to ensure your baby is getting the iron she/he needs. Some parents will start with vegetables and fruit as first foods because they are easy finger foods. However, these foods don’t have enough iron to meet baby’s needs. Offering iron-rich food at least twice a day will help give your baby the iron she/he needs.

Safety: Avoid Foods that are Choking Hazards

The risk of choking is a concern with infants no matter what method of feeding you use. To minimize the risk, always ensure that your baby is sitting up and facing you when eating, learn about how to avoid/decrease the risk of choking and brush up on your infant first aid/CPR to help keep your baby safe.

Dietitian’s Thoughts

Self-feeding usually takes longer than spoon-feeding, so allow time for your baby to eat. Some babies will be better than others at getting food into their mouths and eating it. If you’re trying BLW and find that baby continues to have a hard time, try a mixed approach (TW+FF). Offering some food on a spoon in addition to finger foods may help them meet their energy, iron, and general nutrition needs. It may also help them avoid feeling frustrated if they want to eat but don’t quite have the movements down. I certainly don’t think that you should be made to feel guilty about the way you choose to introduce solids.

If your baby was born early, is not growing well, is developmentally delayed or has a condition that makes chewing or swallowing difficult, then BLW may not be appropriate for them.

Whether you choose to try BLW, traditional approach or a combination of the two, the main goals are: 1) to provide your baby with the nutrients and energy she/he needs; 2) to expose her/him to new flavours and texture; 3) to help her/him safely learn eating skills in a relaxed environment with no parental pressure or distractions.

In the end, the best approach is the one that makes you both feel comfortable and confident. Feeling good about how things are going helps to make the eating experience pleasurable for the whole family.

Do you have any questions about feeding your baby? Worry about choking? Contact Me about starting a nutritional counselling program.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

We want to do what’s best for our growing baby inside of us. Once we get that positive pregnancy result, we clean up every bit of our lives to be sure our babies have the healthiest start possible. And so many of us wonder: is it safe to drink coffee while pregnant?

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’ve seen the love, devotion, and urgency many mamas have around their morning Joe. We can give up a lot when we’re pregnant, but please don’t touch our caffeine!

Caffeine is a drug and it will cross the placenta. It can limit blood flow to the placenta, as well as increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also puts additional strain on the liver, which is already busy processing the increased hormonal demands related to pregnancy.

Caffeine should be limited since some studies have linked high intake of caffeine may be associated with growth restriction, reduced birth weight, preterm birth or stillbirth.

WHO advises all women of reproductive age to consume no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day.

One small (6 ounce) cup of coffee has 75 to 145 milligrams; the same serving size of weakly brewed tea has 18 to 25 milligrams. (Strongly brewed tea has 78 to 108 milligrams of caffeine per 6 ounces (link to chart).

Other sources of caffeine include cola drinks, dark chocolate and energy drinks.

Be careful if you’re planning to switch from coffee to herbal tea. Not all herbal teas are safe during pregnancy.

Avoid chamomile teas and teas with Aloe, Coltsfoot, Juniper Berries, Pennyroyal, Buckthorn Bark, Comfrey, Labrador Tea, Sassafras, Duck Roots, Lobelia, Senna Leaves, Hibiscus and Chicory Root.

In general, tea with Ginger, Orange Peel, Red Raspberry Leaf, Peppermint Leaf and Rose Hip are considered safe during pregnancy, if taken in moderation (no more than 2 to 3 cups per day).

Pregnant women should ask their physician before consuming any natural/complementary health product or herbal therapy.

Are you pregnant? Not sure what to eat? You want to learn more about healthy eating during pregnancy? Contact Me about starting a nutritional counselling program.