Entries by feedtosucceed

Our Big Problem With Fiber

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 12.40.48 PMWhen it comes to fiber, “The real problem is we don’t know we have a problem,” says Julie Miller Jones, Ph.D, LN, CNS, professor emeritus at St. Catherine University.

I couldn’t agree more.

On any given day, 30%-50% of my clients are constipated—which most often corresponds to fiber intake. Add to that the number of parents who realize during our visits that they too must be lacking fiber.

An article posted on Science Daily recaps Dr. Jones’s recent symposium at IFT15: Where Science Feeds Innovation hosted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago. Research shows that Americans have fallen significantly short of fiber requirements, 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Men typically get around 18 grams and women get around 15 grams. Yikes!

Naturally fibrous foods are crucial to digestion, as well as maintaining overall health. It’s abundant in many fruits and veggies, as well as beans and whole grains.

The good news is that the solution to low fiber (and thereby constipation) is simply to eat more fibrous foods and less processed foods. The bad news, as you know, is that change is hard.

Starchy (and therefore constipating) Foods

White flour
White rice
Cereal that’s not whole oat, bran or whole wheat
Pizza crust
White refined sandwich buns

Fibrous Alternatives

Old fashioned oats
Whole wheat
Brown rice
Fruits and veggies

Try these 3 ways to increase fiber intake:

  1. Eat more fruits and veggies: Dark colored vegetables, like carrots, beets and broccoli typically contain more fiber. Exotic fruits, apples (especially the peels) and oranges are full of fiber.
  2. Add beans: You can add beans to so many dishes: pastas, lasagna, stir fry and stews. Try white beans or cannellini beans to add the fiber without a lot of “bean” flavor.
  3. Eat soup: Okay, so it’s hot right now. But normally, soup is a great way to eat a lot of fibrous vegetables and beans.
  4. Stick to whole grain starches: If the starch ain’t brown, it’s gonna struggle getting down! This is especially important with breakfast. Cereals like Rice Krispies, Special K and of course sugary cereals are mostly made of simple starches that clog up the system. Try whole grain oats cereals like Cheerios, steel cut oats or granola.

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). (2015, July 13). Consumers should seek a variety of fiber sources to get the maximum health benefits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150713144126.htm

3 Ways to Shake a Salt Habit

ShakingBy Gia Diakakis, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC

Healthy eating habits are formed in childhood, which is why it is imperative to eat healthfully at an early age. Luckily, as parents, you are often in charge of what foods your child has available. That’s certainly true when it comes to salt.

Often referred to as a white poison, salt is present in almost every food we eat. It can be naturally occurring in foods such as vegetables, milk, eggs, seafood, among many others. Plus, it’s found in processed and shelf stable foods in large amounts, functioning as a preservative. It’s a misconception that sodium should only be monitored in cases of chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure. Once you grow up eating salty foods, it’s incredibly difficult to cut them out. The good news is you can train your taste buds to enjoy less salty foods by slowly reducing the consumption of salt. Better, though, to not introduce sodium from the get-go. Your kids will be ahead of the game since, according to a recent study, “High dietary sodium intake contributes to the development of high blood pressure, and thereby increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke.”

Following are some tips for reducing salt at home.

1. Reduce processed foods. In eliminating processed foods, sodium consumption is often automatically reduced. Easy, right?

2. Limit salt in home-cooked meals. To take things a step further, reducing sodium intake at home will really seal the deal. It is a common held misconception that eating home cooked food is automatically healthier. There are many components of home cooked meals that can be unhealthy, but lets focus on salt. Cooking with salt, or sprinkling table salt on your food can automatically push you and your family over the recommended limit of 2,300mg. To put this into perspective, one teaspoon of salt contains around 2,300mg of salt –100% of the recommended limit. So the first step is to stop cooking with salt or high sodium seasonings (get in a habit of reading nutrition facts and looking for “Sodium”).

3. Don’t allow saltshakers at the table. A recent study evaluated the acceptance of reduced sodium meals and overall sodium intake over a 3-week period. They found not only did the individuals enjoy the reduced sodium meals, they were not able to identify that they were lower in sodium than their other meals. The finding I was most excited about was that the individuals did not increase their sodium consumption at other meals to make up for the lower sodium content at their lunch meal! This means that even reducing the salt at one meal will have a positive impact on helping you and your family reduce their sodium intake throughout the day. It just takes starting with one meal!

It is important to keep in mind that you and your family likely reach the 1,500-2,300mg recommended limit of sodium just through the consumption of foods with naturally occurring sodium.

5 Summer Fast Food Recipes

Too busy playing this summer for elaborate dinners? We’ve got just the list of fast, easy and kid-friendly dinners for you. Bon appetit!

1lb. of fish (I use Tilapia)
1T butter or olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1t soy sauce
corn tortillas
mozzarella cheese
handful of spinach
Salsa (see salsa verde recipe below)

Saute the fish over medium heat in oil or butter until brown and slightly crispy on the edges. Add the minced garlic and soy sauce and sauté one more minute. Lay on tortillas and cover with spinach and cheese. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add salsa for those who like it.


Tomatillos are a tart version of a tomato, making them perfect for salsa

Tomatillos are a tart version of a tomato, making them perfect for salsa

4 large or 6 small tomatillos
3 scallions
1 clove of garlic
1/2 a seeded jalapeno pepper
1/2 salt
juice of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro
1T olive oil

Peel the tomatillos and rinse the sticky exterior. Combine all the ingredients in the food processor.



Shredded lettuce
1 chopped tomato
corn from 2 cobs or 1 can
1 diced cucumber
3 roughly chopped scallions
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup prepared beans of choice (black, kidney or pinto)

Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Mexican “Meat”
1/2 package of Tempeh (available at Whole Foods or Trader Joes, near the tofu)
1T chili powder
1t olive oil
1/2t salt
Tabasco sauce to taste

Crumble Tempeh into small bits and saute in oil on medium heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Add spices and salt and saute for 1 more minute.



The pine nuts are the best part, unless you devour them before you serve the dish.

1 package of your choice pasta
1/4 cup pine nuts (dry roasted pine nuts don’t need kosher supervision, according to the CRC)
1 chopped onion
3 cloves chopped garlic
4 handfuls chopped kale or spinach (do not use frozen)
2T butter
2T dry white wine
3T freshly chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
2 chopped tomatoes
1/2 block feta cheese

Prepare pasta according to package. Roast the pine nuts over a dry pan on medium heat for 2 minutes. Shake pan and roast 2 minutes more. The smell is divine, so restrain yourself and do not to eat them all.

Saute onion and garlic over butter on medium heat until soft. Add kale or spinach and saute until soft (1 minute for spinach and about 5 for kale).

Add wine and spices. Pour vegetables over pasta and add fresh tomatoes and feta. Top with pine nuts.


1 cup cooked brown rice
1 can or 1 cup dried black beans
Tortillas (I like Trader Joes because they aren’t filled with unnecessary ingredients)
1 tomato
Spinach (optional, but must be fresh)
Chedder cheese

Optional toppings: Sour cream, salsa (see my post on the food processor for a homemade recipe), cilantro, green onions, avocado

All that’s required to prepare for this meal is the rice (and beans if you use dried). I cook the rice, then add the beans (and spinach if you’re using it) to the same pot, and then spoon it on top of a tortilla for each person. Add the cheese and pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds.  Add the toppings to each person’s liking.

For Cuban flair, add plantains to the top: slice ripened plantains and saute over vegetable oil (not olive!) on both sides until brown. Add salt and juice of one lime.


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The meatiest veggie burgers around


1 cup raw lentils
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup mushrooms
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Old Fashioned oats
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2t salt

Prepare the lentils by rinsing them and placing them in a pot with water to cover. Add 1 clove garlic and some salt. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until soft (about 30 minutes). Drain lentils.

Add lentils and remaining ingredients to the food processor and puree until it forms a thick mixture. Place mixture in the fridge for at least 10 minutes or overnight.

Heat a frying pan with olive oil on medium heat. Scoop spoonfuls  of burger mixture into pan and let brown for a few minutes and flip to brown other side. Serve warm on bun with hamburger toppings of your choice or try the special sauce below.

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1t red wine vinegar
1T ketchup
1 clove chopped garlic
2T freshly chopped basil
1/4t salt

Announcing Our First Cookbook

We are very excited to be “cooking up” our first Feed to Succeed cookbook this summer, developing a gluten free cookbook for kids that will be published online in late summer or early fall.

Sweet potato fries

Sweet potato fries

Thanks to our intern, Lynette Becker, our meal plans are becoming an actual cookbook, making healthy eating with Feed to Succeed easier than ever. Lynette has been pouring over the meal plan recipes, making them all in order to taste them, tweak them and finally photograph them. We’ve been enjoying our share of taste testing in the office as well!

Gluten free chicken fingers

Gluten free chicken fingers

The cookbook is a natural offshoot of our meal plans. We currently offer meal plans for Kids’ and Toddlers’ Nutrition, High Fiber, Dairy Free, Adolescent Sports Meals, Six Food Allergen Free and Vegetarian.

These meal plans were a natural offshoot of seeing years of clients overwhelmed by new diagnoses. By the time we see a new client, children have often gone through a battery of tests, and the family has recently received a new diagnosis that will affect every meal for the rest of their child’s life. With these clients, we go through a long list of dos and don’ts, and then families are left wondering exactly what they should be making for dinner. The relief that families feel when we then offer a meal plan is apparent every time. We hope that a cookbook will make an even greater impact.

Stay tuned!

Fourth of July Ice Cream

Growing up, Fourth of July with my family always meant a trip to my uncle’s lake house in Oklahoma. We spent the days blackberry picking, stuffing our faces with watermelon, playing in the lake and spending time with family. Most of all I remember my aunt’s homemade ice cream. I was too young to realize how long she must have spent making it, but I do remember how incredible it tasted.

With my own kids these days, we’re creating similar memories by traveling to my dad’s place on a lake in Wisconsin. We spend our time similarly to when I was a kid, enjoying the lake and family. Of course, we make sure to make our own homemade ice cream too—except I bring the ice cream machine and spare myself the churning.

Homemade ice cream for Fourth of July

Homemade ice cream for Fourth of July


2 cups heavy creme
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together until sugar dissolves. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then transfer to an airtight container. Cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.

Happy memory making on this Fourth of July to all of you and your families!


Raising Healthy Eaters

I cannot count how many times I have heard, “My kids do not like to eat fruits and vegetables! They are so picky! How can I fix this?!” So, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a newly published study that looked at fruit and vegetable intake and neophobia (fear of new foods). The researchers found two conclusions that may help answer the question: “How can I fix this?!”

First they found “…lower child food neophobia was significantly related to enjoyment of tactile play…”. In translation, allowing kids to get messy and explore foods with their hands and face can lead to an increase in the likelihood they will try new foods. Many parents feel anxious over the mess this will cause, but it is important to allow kids the opportunity to familiarize themselves with new foods. In addition, it can take up to 15-20 attempts (!) with a particularly picky eater before they will accept the food. Persistence and “messiness” seem to be key!

The second finding was “…child F/V* consumption was associated with parental F/V consumption…” . Translation? If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables you and your spouse need to eat fruits and vegetables! Kids learn by example and love to copy their favorite role models (you!). The more fruits and vegetables you incorporate into your diet and eat in front of them, the more likely they are to increase their intakes. Exactly how many fruits and vegetables should kids eat every day? The recommendation ranges from 1-2 cups of fruits/day and 1-3 cups of vegetables/day (depending on age).

The bottom line is that if you want your kids to eat new foods, you need to be persistent and ready for a mess! If you want your kids to eat fruits and vegetables or increase their consumption, you need to be willing to do the same!

*= F/V = fruits and vegetables

  Age Vegetables Fruits
Children 2-3 years old 1 cup 1 cup
  4-8 years old 1 ½ cup 1 to 1 ½ cups
Girls 9-13 years old 2 cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
Boys 9-13 years old 2 ½ cups 1 ½ cups
  14-18 years old 3 cups 2 cups


Healthy Eats From A-Z

By Betsy Hjelmgren MS, RDN, CSP, LDN

Like most women, I think about food all day. Except I get paid to do it. Today I’m thinking about healthy eating habits in alphabetical order. Because that’s the sort of thing you do when you are paid to think about food all day.

Apple a day. The old adage is true. Apples fill you up, give you energy, appease your sweet tooth and clean your teeth.

Beans. Try using beans like a vegetable by adding them to dishes like pasta, stir fry and salad. They’re healthy, fill you up and provide lots of protein.

Cook. Better for your wallet, better for your family and better for your belly. Cooking your own meals is always the healthiest option. So many healthy family meals can be prepared under a half hour.

Dessert. Dessert is great when it’s healthy–like a fruit. Leave the treats for life’s special moments and don’t make a habit of ending every meal with one. The funny thing about a sweet tooth is that it only grows. If you can manage to get your kids (or yourself) to detox for a few days, the sugar craze will start to subside. Then, dessert will become what they’re meant to be—a once-in-a-while very special treat!

Ethnic Food. Most cultures have rich traditions in eating, unlike our American culture of eating everything, all the time, everywhere. Embrace your cultural norms to guide you in healthy eating. Don’t have any? Try French.

Family and friends. Food tastes better when enjoyed with people you love. You’ll eat less if you’re busy chatting, you’ll model healthy eating for your kids and you’ll stay connected to one another.

Granola. Make your own and change your life (or at least your breakfast!). Granola in the morning will keep you full until lunch.

Hungry. With many kids and adults snacking all day long, it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s good to get a little hungry. It likely means you’re ready to eat a meal and will actually eat healthier because of it.

Ingredients. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients or don’t recognize them, think twice before eating the product.

Juice. Avoid it. (See my tip for “W”.) Even 100% fruit juice is full of sugar and none of the natural fibers that help us actually digest it. And as for energy drinks? With the exception of some high intensity sports, most of us can stay hydrated with water.

Kale. It’s not just a trend. When you consider that mankind once foraged for food, you’ll realize we were raised on greens. You just can’t get enough of it. This is one food trend I hope sticks around.

Labels. Watch out for health claims on food labels. If it’s actually healthy, it doesn’t need a label at all.

Meat. Consider using meat as a flavor and not as a main course. It will help your food budget and your belly. Prepare loads of veggies and bite size portions of meat in a stir fry, and no one will miss the steak.

Normal. Try to think about what’s a normal way to eat and stick to it. So often we make impulsive eating decisions because we’re in a hurry. For example, it’s just not normal to eat junk food in the mornings. So don’t! And snacks before bed? Why?!

Out. As in eating out. Try to find restaurants that support your food rules (see my tip for “R”). And “out,” by the way, doesn’t mean out in your car.

Small Plates. We tend to put more food on a larger plate and then we inevitably eat what’s in front of us. Work on portion control simply by changing the size of your plate.

KumQuats. Hey, it has a “q” in it! Why’s it on our list, you might ask (besides our need for a q food)? Because trying new foods keeps eating interesting and models healthy habits for kids.

Rules. Establish some food rules for yourself and your family. Share them with those who know you so that you stick to them. Once you have some reasonable, healthy food rules in place, you’re more likely to follow them. Need some suggestions? Try Michael Pollan’s.

Soy lecithin. This is one ingredient in most processed foods that you’d be better off never eating again. It acts like detergent in your gut. No, thanks!

Technology. Turn off the TV and stow away the phones. See our tip for the letter “F”. Food should be savored and eaten with intention. The more you enjoy your meal, the less hungry you’ll be later.

Umami. What’s umami? It’s when something tastes really, really yummy in a way that’s not sweet, salty, bitter or sour. Must you taste it? No, but I think you should.

Vegetables. I can’t say it better than Michael Pollan, so I won’t: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Water. Drinking eight cups a day of water is no joke. Sometimes, you eat because you’re actually thirsty. Water keeps you and your kids hydrated and contains only pure goodness. Train your kids to drink water by offering it as the only option (besides milk) from a young age. They won’t miss the juice if they don’t start on it.

eXpert advice. Overwhelmed with my list? A registered dietitian helps make it practical for you and your family.

Yogurt. Yogurt is full of good stuff for your gut, like probiotics. Most brands are more dessert than healthy, though. Instead, buy plain yogurt and flavor it yourself with fruits, granola (see “G”) and a drop of honey or maple syrup.

Zzz’s. Get more sleep and you’ll feel better, eat better and be better. Period.

Betsy Hjelmgren owns and manages Feed to Succeed, focusing on pediatric nutrition in Chicago’s North Shore. When she’s not changing her clients’ lives, she’s busy taking care of her two children.

Specializing in Nutrition for Feeding Tubes

Instinctual in every parent, especially mothers, is a deep-seated desire to feed their children. For parents of children with feeding tubes, this need is just as strong but a lot more complicated.

On an average week, I see two to three patients with feeding tubes, and for the last several years, it’s been my first line of treatment to recommend blended meals rather than formula. So often, when I first inform parents that they can prepare real food for their children, they are shocked. That’s because parents of these children have all been told that their kids’ only source of nutrition is from manufactured formulas. We are the only nutrition practice in the Chicago area working with clients to feed children real food.

With Feed to Succeed, something as elusive as feeding their child is suddenly a real possibility. Time and time again, this moment is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

For six years I worked at Children’s Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children’s Hospital) in the NICU, working with patients who had feeding tubes and IV nutrition. My associate Gia Diakakis worked at Rush Children’s University Medical Center as a certified specialist in the field. Parenteral and enteral nutrition is one of our specialties that holds a special place in both of our hearts.

There, we fed patients commercial formula as has been done in the field for decades. This was considered more sterile and safer. However, a look at the ingredients in these products reveals the first three ingredients are water, sugar and maltodextrin. Take a look at the long list of ingredients from one major manufacturer:

Ingredients: Water, Sugar, Corn Maltodextrin, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Milk Protein Concentrate, Canola Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Concentrate. Less than 0.5% of the Following: Short-Chain Fructooligosaccharides, Natural & Artificial Flavor, Cellulose Gel, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Phosphate, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tuna Oil, Potassium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Salt, Potassium Hydroxide, m-Inositol, Carrageenan, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, dl-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacinamide, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Lutein, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Folic Acid, Chromium Chloride, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Sodium Molybdate, Phylloquinone, Vitamin D3, and Cyanocobalamin.

We can do better.

Over the past several years, Dr. Suzanne Nelson and I shifted our emphasis for our patients with gastrointestinal tubes (G-tubes) to real, blended foods. Our move came after the 2011 release of a study in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition that showed that 33 patients who switched to natural food through their tube instead of commercially made formulas were either no worse or were better from the change. These kids experienced less retching and gagging, and several had increased success with eating by mouth.

Indeed, that’s been our own experience in our practice. We also see that children on blended diets are more interested in eating, feel better and many are able to begin or increase eating some foods orally – which is always our goal.

Parents are especially thrilled to be more mobile, leaving feeding tube pumps behind and instead feeding their children with the use of a syringe. Companies like Real Food Blends make ready-made packets that can be covered by insurance. All of the sudden, a feeding can take 10 minutes instead of 60 and can be done anywhere!

For parents who want to blend their own food, we offer precise recipes using our nutrition software. It’s for these parents of complex children, that blending a meal in a Vitamix can be one of the most empowering acts of them all.

Cinco de Mayo Enchiladas

Cinco de Mayo Fun Fact #1:
According to the California Avocado Commission, up to 81 million avocados are eaten for the occasion, most of which are made into guacamole.

Fun Fact #2: Mexican food is delicious

Fun Fact #3: Mexican food is healthy

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchilada (Serves 4) GF, HF

3 cups cooked pulled chicken
1/2 cup roasted green chillies, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
Juice from a fresh lime
1/4 tsp cumin
2 cups Enchilada Sauce (See Below)
10 corn tortillas
Light olive oil
1 1/2 cup shredded Cheese
Fresh Chopped cilantro


  1. Lightly oil a 13×9 inch baking dish
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Mix cooked chicken, chopped green chiles, sour cream and lime juice
  4. Season with cracked pepper and cumin
  5. Spoon chicken mixture in center of tortilla and roll it up.
  6. Repeat with other tortillas.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Make Enchilada Sauce (see below)
  9. Pour sauce over tortillas
  10. Top with cheese.
  11. Sprinkle with cilantro.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are hot.


Chicken Enchilada Sauce GF

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion peeled and finely diced
1 Tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz crushed fire roasted tomatoes
1 tsp organic sugar
1 splash of balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dried cilantro or 1 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro


  1. Heat olive oil in saucepan
  2. Sauté onion and spices for 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and cilantro, stir and simmer.
  4. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Coat enchiladas

Popsicle Season

May brings the beginning of popsicle season in Chicago, a great, healthy treat when homemade. You can use something as simple as paper cups as a mold or buy them at many stores or on Amazon.


Tropical Pops

  • 6 oz orange juice or skim milk
  • 3-4 pineapple chunks or ¼ cup
  • ¼ cup mango
  • ¼ cup strawberry
  • ½ cup ice


Green Tropical Pops

  • 6 oz orange juice or skim milk
  • ¼ cup pineapple chunks
  • ¼ cup mango
  • ¼ cup spinach
  • ¼ avocado
  • ½ cup ice


Berry Pops

  • 6 oz orange juice or skim milk
  • ¼ cup strawberries
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup ice

You can blend these all together to make popsicles, or you can make blueberry popsicles and strawberry or raspberry popsicles separately and layer the colors.


Power Fudgesicles

  • 1 cup iced coffee
  • ½ banana
  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 2 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
  • ½ cup ice