Entries by feedtosucceed

Ask Amanda: Should I Buy Organic? Your Questions Answered By Expert RD

Hi Amanda, my kids are 1 and 3 years old.  I am wondering about buying organic versus non-organic. Is it really necessary to buy organic?

Thanks for asking this question!  This is a personal preference, however, there are ways to make informed decisions when you are shopping to ease the process.

In general, organic foods, like fruits and vegetables, have the same vitamins and minerals as conventional foods, but they are lower in pesticides. This can be significant for children. In addition, organic animal products are less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because U.S. organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.

If cost was no factor at all, buying organic would be a good option. However, for most of us, this is not the case. When possible, I buy milk and meats that are organic, then followed by dairy foods (like yogurt and kefir). For fruits and vegetables, there are many good resources available to help inform your shopping. I refer to research and expertise provided by the Environmental Working Group. Each year, they release a Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list of fruits and vegetables. When possible, I try to buy organic if the fruits and vegetables are on the Dirty Dozen list. The produce on the Clean 15 list, I am more likely to buy conventional (or non-organic).

There are other factors to consider as well. Organic produce from far away may have to travel for longer to get the store where you buy it. Local produce might sometimes be the fresher option, even if it is conventional. Plus, small farmers at farmers’ markets, for example, may practice sustainable farming techniques without becoming certified organic because it is cost prohibitive.

Most important is to offer children a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whether organic or conventional.  And, make sure to wash all fruits and vegetables well before consuming them!



Giving Back to the Community By Gia Diakakis RD

Muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic diseases that leads to the weakening and loss of muscle mass, is a condition that is close to my heart. It’s something I have worked closely with in my career and seen firsthand its impact it has on its families.

That’s why Feed to Succeed is proud to support the Burn Boot Camp in Glenview fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) by donating a nutrition evaluation session to their silent auction. The “Be Their Muscle” fundraiser starts at 8AM with a silent auction alongside the radio personalities from 102.3. At 9AM, there is a free bootcamp work out.

We use our muscles to chew, swallow, digest and move stools through our bodies. With the weakening of these muscles, eating and nourishing our bodies becomes progressively more difficult. Registered dietitians are a regular part of the muscular dystrophy healthcare team.

Patients with a muscular dystrophy diagnosis can often be underweight, overweight, malnourished (regardless of their weight), have difficulty swallowing, are unable to feed themselves and can also be constipated. Their often long medication list just further complicates the picture.

Working with muscular dystrophy patients, I often managed enteral feeding regimens (tube feeding) and oral feeding recommendations (in conjunction with a speech-language pathologist). My role was to assure the regimen supported optimal growth and development, was not contradicted with medications, and was something the patient was able to tolerate from a gastrointestinal perspective.

Along with a pediatric pulmonologist I worked alongside with, Dr. Girish Sharma, I wrote a chapter on nutrition in neuromuscular disease in a pediatric pulmonary disease book. The chapter further details how nutritional status can be impacted in muscular dystrophy.


Ask Amanda: How Much Milk Do Children Need? Your Questions Answered By Expert RD

Hi Amanda, my 3.5 year-old-son will drink milk, but it’s not his favorite. He drinks about 6-8 oz. per day, if I encourage him. He never asks for milk, and he would rather drink water. Is this enough calcium for him?

Great question. Calcium is very important for developing bones and teeth. It is one of the many nutrients that kids really need to grow. Milk and other dairy foods are a great way to get kids enough calcium. Sometimes a parent will ask me, if my child eats broccoli and other green vegetables, does that have as much calcium?

Broccoli and other green leafy vegetables do have calcium, but a child would need to eat more than 2 cups of cooked broccoli to equal one cup of milk, so it’s not quite equivalent!

A 3-year-old needs about 700 mg of calcium per day. This is 2-2.5 cups of milk per day (16-20 ounces). If your son isn’t drinking this much milk, but can/will eat other dairy foods, 1 cup of milk (skim, low fat or nonfat milk) is equivalent to 1 cup of yogurt, 1.5-2 oz of cheese or 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. In addition to milk and dairy, you can also try to offer foods that have moderate amounts of calcium including oranges, spinach, almonds, beans, tofu (made with calcium sulfate), and calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and oatmeal.

In my house, my son is far from a milk-enthusiast. I have had luck with fresh mozzarella cheese (the “ciliegine style” which are small balls that come in a container and are perfect for snacking). I have also started making breakfast smoothies with Kefir, a drink made from fermented cow’s milk. It has as much calcium as a glass of milk and also loads of probiotics. It can be a bit sour-tasting, but works well in smoothies. I combine 1-1.5 cups of low-fat, plain Kefir with frozen fruit and one tablespoon of honey in a blender for an easy breakfast drink. And, I don’t have to nag my son to drink it like I do a glass of milk!




Ask Amanda: Why Do Kids Need Fruit and Veggies Your Questions Answered By Expert RD

Why do kids need to eat both fruits and vegetables? If my child prefers one over the other, is that okay? Find out in this week’s “Ask Amanda,” column. Ask Amanda is our weekly virtual Q and A forum brought to you by Feed to Succeed’s expert Northshore dietitian Amanda GordonSubmit your questions to

This week’s question comes from a fantastic kid (who also happens to be the son of one of our Feed to Succeed staff).

Why do kids need to eat both fruits and vegetables?

This is a great question! Both fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients, or substances in plants that have health and protective benefits for the body. Different colored fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients so eating a variety of types and colors of produce will give the body the mix of nutrients it needs for optimal health.

Starting early is important. Parents, if you can get your toddler to eat three different fruits and three different vegetables, pat yourself on the back.  That’s good progress!  With repeat exposure to new fruits and vegetables, this number will increase and provide a wider array of nutrients and more health benefits.  Toddlers can get plenty of vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients from fruit, but adding vegetables also helps teach children about new food acceptance and trying new foods.

Ask Amanda: How Much Formula for an Infant Your Nutrition Questions Answered By Expert RD

How much formula should a 4-month-old infant take in each day? Find out in this week’s “Ask Amanda,” column. Ask Amanda is our weekly virtual Q and A forum brought to you by Feed to Succeed’s expert Northshore dietitian Amanda GordonSubmit your questions to Amanda@feedtosucceed.com

Q: How much formula should a 4-month-old infant be taking in a day? In our childcare center, we have a 4-month-old that seems to be hungry all of the time and the teachers could use some guidance on what is appropriate for his age.

A: There is not a true recommended amount of formula for a 4-month-old. A lot of it depends on how much he is growing and also what is going on developmentally for him right now. A good general guideline for a 4-month-old baby taking infant formula is an average of 4-6 feedings in a 24-hour period of time, with the average amount per feeding around 4-6 ounces. However, it is important to remember that a baby won’t necessarily eat the same amount every day. He might be more hungry some days and less hungry others.

As a good practice, instead of focusing on the amount or volume of the feeds, have the teachers watch closely to learn his feeding cues. Crying is often a late sign of hunger. Early signs of hunger can include putting his fingers towards his mouth or rooting. During a bottle, if he is easily distracted and seems disinterested, he is likely finished.  However, if he drinks the bottle quickly and seems to want more, he might still be hungry.

Ask Amanda: Getting Kids to Eat Fruit Your Nutrition Questions Answered By Expert Dietitian

This week, in lieu of answering a question, I thought I would share our fruit tree.

In our practice, we meet many picky eaters and their parents. There are many reasons why children become picky eaters. Regardless the reason, sometimes as parents, we resort to the foods that we think toddlers will eat (enter chicken nuggets and french fries).  We find ourselves “giving up” after countless attempts of putting food on our toddler’s plate that we know will wind up thrown on the floor or put in the trash.

Sometimes exposure to new foods can come in other ways besides putting it on our toddler’s plates and requesting (or even coercing or bribing them to eat it). Even if they don’t eat it, exposure to new foods, like fruits and vegetables, is important.  Touching them, smelling them and seeing them are often the first steps to eating fruits and vegetables.

This week, I am sharing our fruit tree. I have found this to be an easy way to encourage fruits and vegetables in my house without force feeding them to my kids.

We printed our tree from the internet (or you can draw the outline of a tree), and then we filled it in with stickers from all the fruits and vegetables we ate. My kids like the challenge of taking the stickers off the fruits and vegetables, and it hangs on our refrigerator, so everyone gets to look at it and monitor our progress.

What works well in your house? We would love to hear from you! Email me and let me know or submit an “Ask Amanda” question for a future column.

Snack Pouches for Toddlers Your Nutrition Questions Answered By Expert RD

Are food pouches okay for toddlers? Find out in this week’s “Ask Amanda,” column. Ask Amanda is our weekly virtual Q and A forum brought to you by Feed to Succeed’s expert Northshore dietitian Amanda Gordon.

Q:  Hi Amanda – what are your thoughts on food pouches for toddlers?  A lot of the products in stores now seem to have lots of healthy ingredients. Are they a good option for my toddler?

A:  If your toddler is like most I know, getting enough fruits and vegetables can be a challenge. Food pouches can be enticing. Kale, spinach, quinoa – all sound like ingredients we would love our toddlers to eat!

Pouches can be a good “go to” when we don’t have time to prepare whole foods or whole food purees. Most are made from fruits and vegetables, and some have added grains. Pouches can be a good alternative to crackers, cookies, or other snacks. However, because they are processed, they are missing much of the fiber and other vitamins and minerals that toddlers get when they eat whole or mashed fruits and vegetables that haven’t been processed.

There are also other feeding concerns related to pouches, beyond just nutrition considerations. According to Ellie Trefz, a Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Therapist, “While pouches are an easy food for on-the-go, they can easily become a crutch. It’s important to let your toddler learn to use a spoon, both for self-feeding skills, as well as for oral motor development.”

Ellie suggests emptying pouches into a bowl or using the spoon attachment so that your child develops spoon skills. If you do use pouches, allow your child to suck the pouch independently to learn beginning straw skills instead of squeezing the pouch into your toddler’s mouth.





This “Ask Amanda” was co-authored by Ellie Trefz, M.S. CCC-SLP/CLS.  She can be reached at: ellietrefzslp@gmail.com.






Nutrition Tips for Birth to Age 3

Amanda Gordon, registered dietitian, lactation consultant, and pediatric nutrition expert, shares her experience and insight with the youngest of Feed to Succeed’s clientele – birth to age 3. Listen in as Betsy interviews Amanda to learn more about why Amanda loves Early Intervention, and how she became interested in working with medically complex infants and toddlers.

How to Get Infants to Try Vegetables Your Nutrition Questions Answered By Expert RD

How much vegetable do infants need? Find out in this week’s “Ask Amanda,” column. Ask Amanda is our weekly virtual Q and A forum brought to you by Feed to Succeed’s expert Northshore dietitian Amanda Gordon.

Q: My 10-month-old likes to eat. We offer him table foods 3-4 times per day, and he still breastfeeds as well. He won’t eat vegetables though. I don’t know if it’s the color, the taste or texture, but he usually refuses. Any ideas?

A: Consider small victories with vegetables as big successes.

I recommend offering vegetables to your 10-month-old son at least 1-2 times per day. Manage your expectations and don’t expect “greatness.” If he eats 2-4 tablespoons (mashed, soft or in bite-size pieces) once or twice a day, consider that a big success!

Early exposure is key. In fact, many pediatricians and dietitians now recommend starting vegetables before fruits as first foods for babies. This is a good approach. However, the evidence is not conclusive that giving vegetables first will necessarily decrease a child’s preference for fruit and sweeter tasting foods. Babies are born with a tendency toward sweeter tasting foods. This is all the more reason that early and frequent exposure to vegetables becomes important.

I recommend that you continue to offer vegetables with 1-2 meals per day, but do not force, coerce or bribe.  I am also not a fan of “hiding” vegetables. Toddlers and children are smart! When we hide vegetables that they don’t want to eat in their foods, we run the risk of losing their trust in what we are offering them, and they might start refusing foods they would normally eat.