Entries by feedtosucceed

New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthy Family Make this year the healthiest year yet

There is no better time than the New Year to consider adopting some healthy habits for the whole family.

Wait. Strike that. There is NO TIME when you’re a parent.

That’s why we’ve done the work for you and came up with a few suggestions for making 2017 your family’s healthiest year yet.

Families–especially those with young children–have to constantly take stock and reassess what’s working and what’s not. And while big changes in diet are always hard, small changes that are achievable can still have a big impact.

We asked our registered dietitians to offer a few tips for making 2017 a healthy year, and here’s your family’s personal healthy growth plan for this year.

  • Try to sit down to a family meal at least 3-4 times per week. When it comes to developing good eating habits, children model what they seeing going in their home and with their family members. If dinner is logistically challenging, breakfast or lunch can work as well! ~Amanda Gordon RD with Feed to Succeed
  • Incorporate kids in meal preparation. This can be grocery shopping, recipe searching or prepping food–like vegetable washing, cutting (if safe!) and measuring. They will more likely be interested in the meal if they have helped! ~Gia Diakakis, RD with Feed to Succeed
  • Focus on protein! All meals should have some source of protein. Have the kids identify each source or protein at meal times or ask they to come up with the protein for that meal. ~Gia Diakakis
  •  Find a family activity that everyone enjoys doing to get everyone up and moving! For example, family walks to the park, bike rides together, walk the dog together, swimming in the summer, or ice skating in the winter. ~Flori Brioni, RD with Feed to Succeed and La Rabida Children’s Hospital
  • Commentary and pressure placed on a child or adolescent about their body appearance is most likely to result in bigger problems. Family discussions about food should revolve around health and not appearance. ~Betsy Hjelmgren, RD and founder of Feed to Succeed
  • A snack is a good snack if it contributes to good health in some way, such as being a good source of protein, calcium or vitamins – like yogurt, fruit and veggies. Betsy Hjelmgren

Want to make sure your family is successful? Then, follow these simple suggestions:

1. Choose one suggestion to adopt for your family from our list or come up with your own.
2. Tell everybody your plan and post it somewhere that everyone can see it.
3. Set aside 10 minutes on your calendar for Feb. 1 to reassess if your plan is working.

How Your Child Sleeps Affects Diet By Gia Diakakis, RD

As dietitians, during our patient appointments, you can assume we will ask about the foods your child eats, foods they dislike, stooling patterns, and medications/supplements (amongst many other things!). One question that might catch you off guard is “How is your child sleeping?” After all, what does sleep have to do with nutrition?

Sleep habits have been shown to impact obesity among adolescents (and adults!). Specifically, inadequate sleep has been shown to correlate with high BMI, high body fat percentages and increased waist and hip circumferences. In the HELENA study, inadequate sleep for adolescents was defined as less than eight hours per night (as defined by the National Sleep Foundation).  In contrast, adolescents that slept longer were found to have significantly lower BMI’s.

So how does sleep exactly impact obesity in adolescents? There are hormonal changes with inadequate sleep habits that have been found in adult studies that likely also apply to adolescents. For example, hunger hormones increase and satiety or “full hormones” drop with inadequate sleep, thus making individuals hungrier without feeling satisfied when they eat.  Then there are lifestyle changes that take place with inadequate sleep. For example, more opportunities to eat, increased fatigue, less energy to exercise, and an increase in unhealthy food choices. All of these things combined end up making a vast difference in our daily nutrition–excess calories consumed and less physical activity!

Sleep, along with having set times for family meals, snacks, and limited screen time are so important to nutrition. Next time you enforce bedtime, know that you are also doing more than making sure your child isn’t cranky the next day.

Garaulet, Marta, et al. “Short sleep duration is associated with increased obesity markers in European adolescents: effect of physical activity and dietary habits. The HELENA study.” International journal of obesity 35.10 (2011): 1308-1317.


We Moved!

We are so excited to share the news that Feed to Succeed is moving into a beautiful new space this September; just a mile down the street and closer to the Glen. Those of you coming to meet with us, please bear with the dust during this big transition. We can’t wait to have better resources to serve our wonderful community!

One Trick to Make Healthy Lunches

If there’s any mom out there who enjoys making lunches, I’d like to meet her.

And then I won’t believe her.

Here’s how lunch making goes down in most houses:

  1. Bleary eyed after a long day of work or household chores, we parents head to the kitchen to spend 20 minutes preparing lunches before bed.
  2. We have the best intentions of packing healthy food that our kids might eat, only to come up with… nothing.
  3. The next day our kids take one look at the lunches we managed to pack and either trade them or trash them.
  4. We open the boxes again that night to find mashed fruit, barely nibbled sandwiches and empty chips packages scored from trading.

And here’s the one simple trick to make lunches this school year better:

1. Buy bento boxes. If you don’t know what these are, you must find out. You can make one yourself out of tupperware or buy a big fancy one. They are all over stores like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx or World Market for about $5.
2. Buy silicon baking cups to store goodies inside the bento boxes. Six for $2.49.
3. Pack REAL FOOD (read no more packaged, expensive junk), out of a bento box (aka a dish) so that your kids will eat lunch from plates and not mushy baggies.
4. If all goes well, your kids will actually eat the foods that they normally like at home from their lunch boxes.

Homemade Mac n’ Cheese

With so many gorgeous Chicago summer days, homemade macaroni and cheese is perfect for a quick, kid-friendly dinner. This recipe isn’t as easy as the one from the box, but it’s pretty close. And it tastes a whole lot better.

Now you see it, soon you won't.

Now you see it, soon you won’t.

1 package cooked whole wheat elbow noodles
2T butter
1.25 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2t salt
1/2t mustard powder
freshly ground pepper to taste

Once you prepare the noodles, melt butter over medium heat. Add milk, sour cream, spice, salt, pepper and cheese and stir until cheese melts. If your cheese clumps and doesn’t melt, try a different brand next time. Leave flame on while you mix the noodles into the cheese sauce. Serve immediately.


The Best Advice You Never Considered for Picky Eating 10 Tips for Picky Eaters

Before specializing in pediatrics, I could have never imagined how much stress picky eating could cause parents and caregivers.

At first parents may feel their child just likes certain foods more than others. Then maybe they don’t like fruits and vegetables. Then parents may begin to watch what other kids eat, how much they eat, how often they eat, how easy meal time may be for other parents, etc. They then begin “noticing” their kid may only eat processed foods, beige foods, warm foods, or food not prepared at home! The worrisome thoughts begin to creep in. Is my child’s diet negatively impacting their brain development?! What about their growth potential?! Is it making them groggy and unable to absorb what their learning in school? Will they begin to fall behind in school? What if there is something medically wrong with them now because their will not eat meat or vegetables! Are they dehydrating themselves?! I can continue to list the scary thoughts I have heard, but it’s beginning to make me anxious, and I definitely don’t want to make you anxious!

Well I have great news! This is not a situation where stressing about it and “being on top of it” will make it better. Actually, it will make it way worse.

My advice as a pediatric dietitian? Ignore it!

Draw as little attention to your child’s picky eating behaviors as possible. Serve them what you want them to eat and that is the end of it. Children pick up on our stressors. If meal time is a stressful time for you and you’re worried about what they will eat, they pick up on it and it has become a negative experience for them. Negative experiences are obviously unenjoyable and children can act out – hence picky eating.

As moms, these are our personal experiences, but more importantly these findings (and recommendations for handling picky eating) have been researched and studied. The Abbott Nutrition Health Institute recently conducted a study on “Picky Eating Behaviors in Children and Family Stress.”

They concluded: “…parents of children who do not consume enough of specific food groups feel stress over mealtime occasions, as demonstrated by statements in the study family stress tool, such as “I feel myself getting more anxious as meal time approaches” or “Meals always end in a quarrel”. Because of possible deleterious effects of picky eating behaviors over time, it is important to modify or improve these behaviors, especially for the health of the family and their relationship with their child(ren). Additionally, negative eating behaviors appear to be cyclical if parents react adversely with controlling, threatening, angry, or permissive actions. Picky eating behaviors do tend to decrease with age; however, some children continue to retain undesirable eating behaviors later in life with possible effects on physical, mental, and psychosocial facets of a child’s life.12, 13 Picky eating behaviors should be considered worthy of discernment, and a strategy should be developed for modifications and improvement.

How do parents begin to combat picky eating behaviors? Here is Feed To Succeed’s list! I can promise you, as parents, we implement these tips at home also.

  1. Cook and serve only what you want your child to eat.
    Don’t be a “short-order” cook. You are the parent, so you know what is best for your child. Make meals family events, and serve everyone the same foods. It’s okay to have one “safe” item out for the picky child (such as plain bread or rice).
  2. Eat together as a family.
    Eat meals together as often as possible. Serve the same meal to everyone. Model good eating behaviors by eating a variety of nutritious foods in front of your children.
  3. Never force a child to eat.
  4. Introduce new foods frequently.
    Offer a new food item daily and expect it to take up to 15 attempts with a particularly picky eater before he/she will accept the food. Consider it progress for extremely picky kids if they simply allow the food to sit on their plate.
  5. Have a schedule.
    Offer 3 meals and 2 snacks at approximately the same time every day. Allow a minimum of 2 hours between meals/snacks. Offer nothing to eat or drink between meals/snacks except water.
  6. Always eat at the table.
    Serve all meals and snacks at the table with screens turned off. Eat together as a family as often as possible.
  7. Offer milk with every meal.
    Soda, juice, Kool-Aid, and sweet tea do not add anything nutritious to your child’s diet, so they are not necessary.
  8. Offer foods from each food group at most meals.
  9. Limit meal time to 20-30 minutes.
    If your child tantrums, asks for something else, refuses to eat, or gets up from the table, wait 15 minutes and try again. If the problem continues, end the meal or snack and wait until the next scheduled meal/snack time to offer anything (except water). Do not make a big deal out of this or give it attention. Do not make it like a punishment. Just be matter of fact.
  10. Keep your emotions in check, and stay in control of the situation.
    Give a neutral/unemotional reaction when your child eats poorly. Don’t over react. Don’t discuss eating or food at mealtime, except for two things:

    • “Do you want more?”
    • “Are you done?” When your child does eat well, give a mild positive reaction such as: “Oh, you must be hungry today. Good eating.”

Fourth of July Festive Treats

Happy Fourth of July weekend to all our Feed to Succeed families! Make sure to celebrate with family time and of course, lots of good eats!

Try adding fresh mint leaves to your fruit salad. It tastes like summer!

Try adding fresh mint leaves to your fruit salad. It tastes like summer!


Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 8.27.27 AM

Put your kids to work on these skewers, and they’re guaranteed to eat it!

There are loads of ideas for fun 4th of July activities and crafts for families online. Most of the desserts, though, contain lots of sugar and food coloring. This one is full of fruit, whole grains and uses less refined sugar. Happy 4th! Enjoy!

Healthier American Pie (aka fruit pizza!)

Healthier American Pie (aka fruit pizza!)

For the crust:
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla and milk and mix well.

If dough is too soft, refrigerate for 20 minutes or more. Roll the dough into a large ball and flatten out on a greased baking sheet until it’s about 1/2-inch thick and in the shape of a rectangle or oval. Bake for 15-17 minutes and then let cool on a wire rack.

For the ‘sauce’ and toppings:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 Tbs. maple syrup
1 pint blueberries
1 sliced banana
1 pint sliced strawberries

Combine cream cheese and maple syrup well and spread over cooled crust. Add the blueberries in the top left corner and then fill the rest of the cookie with banana and strawberry slices.

For the glaze (optional but yummy):
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. corn starch

Combine the OJ and maple syrup in a bowl and then slowly add the corn starch while whisking. Drizzle the mixture over the flag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.


Understanding Food Allergies By Gia Diakakis, RD

Believe it or not, FPIES, Food protein-induced enterocolitis, was beginning of my love story with Feed to Succeed. I first met Betsy, the owner of Feed To Succeed, at a dinner lecture on FPIES. We quickly realized we had lots in common in the pediatric nutrition world, which eventually led to me becoming a pediatric dietitian with Feed to Succeed.

So what exactly is food protein-induced enterocolits (FPIES)? Well food allergies can be divided into IgE-mediated and non-IgE mediated reactions. FPIES is a non-IgE mediated food allergy. This means IgE antibodies do not cause this reaction to food. Since IgE antibodies are not involved, this allergic reaction to food is delayed (anywhere from several hours to several days) and causes symptoms over a long period of time (as opposed to anaphylaxis or throat closing reaction). FPIES presents with gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. The most common culprits are cows milk (CM), soy, and grain. However, any food may cause FPIES.

If your child is presenting with these gastrointestinal symptoms, it is important to discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric gastroenterologist. If a diagnosis of FPIES is made, working with a pediatric dietitian is important in order to make diet modification to help manage their nutrition. Nutritional management will consist of eliminating the food or foods that your child or infant is allergic to, while making sure they continue to receive all the necessary nutrients. For example, if your child or infant is allergic to cows’ milk, they will need diet modification to assure they are receiving adequate protein, calcium and phosphorus (among other nutrients).

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology recently published guidelines on the management of FPIES. In those guidelines, they have a couple of tables with really useful nutrition information. One of them nicely outlines what foods can be incorporated into you child or infant’s diet to assure appropriate nutrition in eliminating some of the most common FPIES triggers.


These guidelines also provide a table for introducing foods (or weaning from formula if CM is the trigger) to your infant diagnosed with FPIES.

fpies 2

Please keep in mind, with a diagnosis of FPIES, it is imperative to work closely with a pediatric gastroenterologist and pediatric dietitian for the correct medical management and nutritional management of your child. While these guidelines are helpful and informative, they do not substitute working with medical professionals.

Nowak-Węgrzyn, Anna, et al. “International consensus guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food protein–induced enterocolitis syndrome: Executive summary—Workgroup Report of the Adverse Reactions to Foods Committee, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 139.4 (2017): 1111-1126.




Early Intervention for Healthy Kids

Key to Early Intervention services (EI) for many children is nutrition therapy. In a typical month, four registered dietitians from Feed to Succeed see over 50 children through EI. Assisting these children under the age of 3 meet nutrition requirements to grow and thrive is crucial to setting them up to reach age appropriate milestones.

Children we serve can have any number of reasons for requiring nutrition therapy ranging from medically complex developmental delays to food allergies and aversions. We meet with each child individually in their homes to assess their needs and develop a plan that is realistic for their family.

For a child with complex medical issues, who cannot swallow liquids, for example, we work with the family to find ways to keep the child hydrated and gaining weight with thick, nutritionally balanced liquids. And for a child with behavior-related picky eating, we work with the family to develop strategies for creating healthy eating norms. Our suggestions are based on Ellyn Satter’s research on picky eating and adapted for each child, according to his or her needs.

While nutrition wasn’t always a part of the Early Intervention program, there are countless reasons why it must be. Children with developmental delays or those who battle childhood illnesses must first address nutrition before conquering other therapies. A child who needs occupational therapy to learn to sit up or walk needs strength from a nutritional diet. And if this child has an aversion to food or has trouble swallowing—which is so often the case for these kids—nutrition therapy must be in place as well.

The state’s Early Intervention program provided services to more than 20,000 children last year diagnosed with at least a 30 percent delay in at least one area, or who are at risk for delay, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.

The hope is that by working with these children at a young age, they will be better prepared for school.

Click here to inquire about our EI services.

Click here to read about some of our EI clients.