Blog

KLB Petite Couleur jpgWelcome!

I’m so happy you’re here, because it means you care about healthy food. On this blog you’ll find discussions of a range of parenting issues (like picky eating and snacking, food marketing and politics), as well as delicious recipes and menus. Enjoy!

I’d love to hear your comments! I’d also love a photo or drawing on the Getting To Yum Photo Wall – where you’ll find kids eating everything from spinach and sushi to olives and octopus. Yum!

 
ps My new book Getting to Yum is now available for purchase in the US, UK and Canada!
 

How to market healthy food to your kids…it’s easier than you might think!

I stumbled upon the idea of marketing food to your kids a few years ago, but didn’t realize that this was the subject of active academic research until quite a bit later.

Imagine my surprise when some of the tried and true French approaches to kids’ food education were the subject of sophisticated studies by leading American academics! They’ve proven what my French mother-in-law already knew: that positive marketing messages can convince kids to like healthy foods.

One of my favourite researchers on this topic is Brian Wansink, who is a Professor of Consumer Behaviour (how fun is that?) at Cornell University. Here’s a fun article published last month on the Huffington Post on Wansink’s insights into kids’ food.

Marketing food to your kids is the topic of an entire chapter of my new book Getting to Yum. I found it worked like a charm with my kids! Here’s a feature article published this week on some of the key tips and strategies for parents. Spoiler alert: for younger kids, positive marketing requires parents to be a bit silly! But that’s part of the fun…

Taste Training on TV!

Taste Training on The SocialHave you been wondering about “Taste Training” in action – and what some of the games might actually look like?

I had a fun time earlier this week appearing on CTV’s The Social, doing live “Taste Training”; the four hosts were good sports with the ‘surprise sack game’ and other Getting to Yum Games.

Check out the very funny video clip here.

And check out some squash recipes from the book here!

Marketing Food to your Kids Really Works! Read about Lori’s success story…

Strawberry Jackpot - Lori's Getting to Yum storyLori was one of the devoted ‘test families’ for Getting to Yum, who has been blogging about kids’ food for the past couple of years. She’s had some inspiring experiences with teaching her children to love healthy food. In fact, she was so inspired that she’s been posting regularly about applying the Getting to Yum lessons with her own two daughters!

This week, Lori blogged about her experiences using positive marketing messages with her kids; this is a powerful approach that quickly becomes a (fun) habit, and can work wonders. Check out her great blog here!

Thanks Lori! :)

 

5 Steps to Conquer Gagging

Exploring Oranges with Mel Melanie Potock is an amazing speech pathologist and ‘real food’ advocate for kids (check our her blog mymunchbug.com). I was so excited when she agreed to write this super helpful guest post. Thanks Melanie!

As a pediatric feeding therapist or “food coach for kids”, I was smiling as I read Karen Le Billon’s new book, Getting to Yum. Truthfully, it was more than just a happy look on my face, I have to admit I was downright giddy.   Nothing makes me happier than helping children become more adventurous eaters in a fun and family-centered way. That’s exactly the theme in Getting to Yum: Involve the whole family in taste-training games and help kids tune into the joy of discovering new foods!

But what’s a parent to do if their child is a sensitive eater and gags at the slightest taste or touch of a new food on their tongue? While gagging isn’t life-threatening (read Karen’s description of gagging vs. choking) it certainly is an unpleasant reflex that reinforces one thing: NOT eating. If a child gags enough, it leads to vomiting. Enough said. We don’t want to go there.

Playing a food gameHere are five surprising steps to help your child manage their gag reflex and feel in control when they taste a brand new food:

  1. Start with a pea-sized bite, preferably cut into a cube. The cube shape helps kids feel the food in their mouths because the edges provide more tactile input and is easier to control.
  2. Teach your child to place it directly on the molars. Most kids take a hesitant bite with the front teeth so that the tongue tip can push it right out – patooey! Or, it falls directly from there backward onto the tongue and that’s often when the gagging starts. Instead, give your child better oral motor control by encouraging them to pick up the piece with their fingers and place it where a dinosaur chews – on his molars – so that it’s closer to the back of the throat to be swallowed. Little kids really get this – they can picture a dinosaur chewing with his “dino-teeth” and love that silly analogy. “Put it on your dino-teeth and chew like a T-Rex!”
  3. Chew HARD! Hesitant eaters chew hesitantly. They lightly tap their teeth on the surface of the food and consequently let it fall onto the tongue – and then they gag. Like a dinosaur, chew hard! With my younger clients in feeding therapy, we pound the table with our fists when we chew a brand new food to ensure that we are also chewing with force. This deliberate chewing provides the proprioceptive input that tells our brain exactly where the food is in our mouth and thus, decreases the tendency to gag.
  4. Pick up a glass of water with a STRAW. As adults, when we reach for a glass of water while eating a meal, we swallow much of the food in our mouths before the rim of the glass reaches our lips. To teach this learned behavior, a straw in the glass will help your child close his mouth and propel the chewed food backward to the throat to be swallowed.
  5. Take another small sip to hose down the tongue. The straw also acts like a garden hose, washing any tickly spots on the tongue and signaling the brain to swallow again. In fact, it’s impossible to swallow and gag at the same time.

Mel Playing with Dino TeethWhether your child is a garden-variety picky eater, an emerging foodie or perhaps a child with special needs who is in feeding therapy, always focus on what your child CAN do and progress from there.   Once the pea-sized bites are swallowed with ease, progress to bean-sized bites until eventually your munch bug is tasting a comfortable, age-appropriate bite and asking for more. This same strategy can be implemented with toddlers or teenagers, but let’s face it – it’s probably best to forgo the dinosaur language at that point. Just remember to take it step-by-step and follow the Getting to Yum guidelines for keeping it fun!

Melanie headshot 2Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP is a certified speech language pathologist, an international speaker on the topic of picky eating, and the author of the award winning parenting book,  Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food! With over 18 years’ experience treating children with feeding difficulties, Mel’s approach to developing feeding skills includes the fundamentals of parenting in the kitchen, such as how to avoid mealtime debates and creating more joyful mealtimes, even with a hesitant eater. Mel embraces her work with families with an open heart and a touch of humor.  After all, the journey to more adventurous eating should be celebrated each step of the way!  She has also produced the award winning children’s CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food as a tool to keep mealtimes joyful and family centered.  Connect with Melanie at My Munch Bug on facebook and twitter or email her at Melanie@mymunchbug.com

Great Getting to Yum & Today I Ate a Rainbow giveaway and Twitter Party!

“Today I Ate A Rainbow” is one of my favourite products for teaching kids to learn to love healthy foods. We used their amazing Today I Ate a Rainbow kits with my kids starting at a very young age — and we still love them. Believe me, this approach works: it’s simple, and most importantly it’s fun. Kids are actually motivated to make sure that they’re eating lots of fruits and veggies – to the point where they even remind me about it some days! ;) Check out the Today I Ate a Rainbow website for lots of great ideas and resources.

Kia (the founder and President) is passionate about teaching kids to love healthy foods, and was one of the first people I reached out to when I began being active on kids’ food issues.

So I’m very excited to be teaming up with Kia and Harper Collins for a #gettingtoyum Twitter Party! Join us on Thursday June 12th at 11am PST to chat about picky eaters and the secrets of raising eager eaters!

We’ll be giving away 5 copies of Getting To Yum along with a couple of Today I Ate A Rainbow kits…the perfect combo! Entering is simple: just sign in to Twitter, and follow us: @karenlebillon @harpercollinsca @eatingarainbow — tweet out with the #gettingtoyum hashtag, and you’re entered to win.

If you have picky eaters or you want to prevent your kids from becoming picky eaters you won’t want to miss this twitter party!

Does your child need “food rehab?” Maybe you should wean them off “kids’ food”!

We’ve all known at least one kid like this (maybe even one in our own family): they subsist on a ‘beige’ food diet, and would rather sit at the table (arms crossed, lips pursed) for hours rather than take one taste of that new food you’re offering. Some kids are also largely geared towards a “kids’ food” diet: chicken nuggets, anyone?

But highly processed “kids’ food” may be setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating. Read my interview in the National Post on food rehab, and getting your child from yuck to yum. Trust me, it can be done! Check out the success stories on my Getting to Yum blog: you’d be amazed at the transformation in formerly picky eaters!

Taste Testing Fun from Doctor Yum!

preschoolkitchen4

Thanks to Doctor Yum for this wonderful guest post: this is an example of Taste Training in action!

As a pediatrician, one of the most common questions parents ask is, “How do I get my child to eat healthy food?” My answer….”Tasting Time!”

When I started my website doctoryum.com in 2011, I started asking kids in my community to try healthy family recipes after school. I called these kids “Tiny Tasters,” and most were the usual garden-variety, vegetable-hating kids. Surprisingly, with each recipe I found these kids opening up to tasting and enjoying a wider variety of healthy foods. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the environment I was creating for tasting (which I now call “Tasting Time”) was one of the most powerful tools for encouraging kids to try new foods. Following the success of the website, I founded The Doctor Yum Project, a nonprofit which aims to reduce childhood obesity by teaching families and kids of all ages to cook. I have since incorporated the “Tasting Time” concept into those cooking classes with great success, often getting some pretty reluctant eaters to open up to new foods. I now recommend that all families have a “Tasting Time” to open their kids up to trying new foods in an unpressured and joyful way. During this time, kids can explore food in a way that promotes healthy eating, much like my Tiny Tasters and cooking students do in our Instructional Kitchen.

Here are some reasons that “Tasting Time” works so well and ways you can make it work for your family too!

preschoolstrawberry51)   “Tasting Time” is NOT part of mealtime. Typically, the after school period is the time I have classes and food tastings for our website. I find that having “Tasting Time” after school when you would serve a snack (and when kids are naturally very hungry) is a great time to try new foods, or to re-try favorite foods in new ways. When kids are asked to TASTE food outside of a meal and not EAT (or finish) food during dinner, they are more likely to take the plunge. Would you want to commit to eating a whole plate of mystery food? Probably not, but you might take one bite to see how it tastes!

2)   I ask kids to taste with a smile on my face. With the same enthusiasm I would ask children to smell a scratch and sniff sticker or listen to a cool song, I ask them to, “try this neat food and tell me how it feels in your mouth!” To reduce anxiety, tell kids how the new food relates to another food they already like (“This new fruit is sweet and crunchy like that apple you liked!”). Instead of treating tasting vegetables as punishment, present it like a fun new adventure. Research shows that kids are more likely to try a new food served by a smiling parent than one who is not smiling. So put aside your own distaste for beets and SMILE when you offer them to your kids!

king george watermelon 23)   I ask kids’ for feedback about food. Get involved and ask questions. “What does this food remind you of? Does it feel crunchy in your mouth?” These are questions that show that you are interested in the child’s experience. Our “Yum Score” is helpful for kids to start talking about food, too. At my practice, Yum Pediatrics, every 4 year-old leaves with an apple, a clementine, and a laminated card with a “Yum Score” so they can start Tasting Time at home. Remind kids that their taste buds need to practice. Foods that taste like “Super Yuck” can someday turn into a “Super Yum.” Help kids understand that practice is important in all areas, whether it’s riding a bike, playing sports, and even tasting food.

4)   We celebrate successes. If a child is not able to taste broccoli today, give him a pat on the back for just washing it, chopping it, or stirring it into the broccoli salad. Hesitant eaters get a high five for smelling the food and a show of enthusiasm for them to taste it next time. In our classes we use “food passports” to record the food we try and encourage tasting of foods that are unfamiliar. Another way to celebrate tasting is to take pictures of their successes to share with friends. Sometimes I ask my patient’s families to post a picture of their child trying new foods at Tasting Time on my Facebook page. This can be an inspiration to us all!

pajamaparty1.15)   Kids can encourage kids. Our Tiny Tasters and cooking students often taste new foods in the company of other children. In Doctor Yum’s Preschool Adventure, a preschool nutrition curriculum written by myself and speech language pathologist, Melanie Potock, preschoolers prepare and taste food in the classroom with other preschoolers. This group experience is another reason our programs are so successful. There is a certain amount of positive peer pressure and infectious curiosity that occurs when kids try food together. At home you can do the same by watching my Tiny Taster Videos to show kids that tasting can be fun. Kids can taste with siblings or can invite friends over to try food together. One of my patients recently told me she was going to start a “Tasting Club” with her neighborhood friends!

 

“Tasting Time” can make trying new foods less scary and more exciting. Remember to keep food fun, and your kids will be on the road to adventurous eating in no time!