Thank you for joining us for our second edition of our new Nourish & Nuture series featuring registered dietitians that are also parents - navigating the world of family feeding. We hope you enjoy this special insider look into nutrition experts living out their advice to the public. This is where the rubber hits the road!
Today we welcome Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN. Toby is a nationally known registered dietitian who is best known for her contributions to the Healthy Eats Blog on the Food Nework website. But you may also have seen her name on many of the top health blog lists. Shape magazine and Healthline voted her blog to be one of the top health blogs and Mamavation voted Toby as one of the top dietitians you can count on in social media. Toby has written for many national publications including Today's Dietitian, Cooking Light and The Cooking Channel. When she is not writing or instructing others on nutrition and cooking, she has a private practice in New York. And when she is not working, she is spending time with her husband and precious children. Please welcome, Toby Amidor!
Thanks for joining us, Toby. Let's start with the names and ages of your children.
Schoen is age 10 (boy), Ellena is age 8 (girl), Micah is age 5 (girl).
Tell us about any feeding challenges you have had with your child/children and how you overcame them.
My son isn’t a fan of fruits though he does enjoy green veggies like broccoli, asparagus and string beans. However, instead of tossing my hands up in the air and giving up all hope I realized that he really enjoys smoothies. I used fresh or frozen (unsweetened) fruit to make him delicious smoothies which he asks for regularly. I add in Greek yogurt to up the protein and satiety value, too.
Also, my son LOVES soup--- I used vegetables to create a mirepoix (combo of onions, celery and carrots) as the base for my chicken stock and make a mean matzo ball soup. I also cook a variety of veggie soups with beans or lentils which he devours.
That soup sounds wonderful! Oh, and the beans and lentils are both great ways to get some protein and fiber at the same time.
For school lunches: Brown bag or school lunch? Why?
In my children’s elementary school we are not served hot lunches and have to brown bag it (both snack and lunch). However, the school’s PTA does work with the school to offer kid’s pizza, pasta, obento, and fried chicken nuggets on different days. Unfortunately, I am not in love with any of these options nutritionally. I do allow my kids to choose one or two lunches (depending on their grade level, it goes up as they get older) and I also order white (not chocolate) milk for each lunch through the year. I make sure to pack supplemental healthy options in their lunches. For my son, this means a tin of perfectly portioned almonds (provided to me by the Almond Board of California—we have all the designs. See here.) For my girls, I always pack one fruit and one veggie in their lunch box in addition to their sandwich or hot lunch like carrots, cucumber slices, apple, banana, watermelon slices, or grapes.
I find brown bagging lunch has its challenges, especially when kiddos see some of the other kids with highly processed foods that I won’t purchase. I’ve tried to find options that are fun for my kids yet nutritious like hummus cups with pretzels and veggies to dip, string cheese, homemade guac and tortilla chips, or watermelon wedges (a favorite of my 2 girls).
That is so true! I actually experienced this with my daughter, Hannah, and wrote a blog post entitled, "Food Peer Pressure." You'll have to read about it sometime and see the ways I have dealt with the same issues!
In reference to feeding children, what are things that you learned as a mother that might not have been in the nutrition books?
Every child has their own set of likes or dislikes and you cannot force them to like what YOU want. You can, however, continuously introduce and re-introduce them to new foods and have a variety of healthy options on your table during each meal.
For years my son was the pickiest of eaters, and when he turned 8 or 9 he started asking to taste different foods he saw my husband and I munching on. He also loves Chinese food and now requests my Chicken and Broccoli that I have cooked numerous times and says it’s the best he’s ever tasted. He said this to me about a month ago, after I’d been cooking the same dish for about 2 years-- go figure!
What great news. Our children's taste buds are developing! What a great reminder for us all to continue to expose our children to the same flavors and don't assume they won't like something we are preparing.
What are your top 3 practical tips you can provide mothers in feeding children that you use in your home?
1) Patience IS a virtue: Kids are continuously learning about different foods, tastes, and flavors. They are learning about what they like, dislike, or are still not sure about. It takes time and patience (lots of it) to really walk your child through this process and your role as a parent is to provide the healthy choices, urge them on, and say “it’s okay” if they don’t like something. BUT even if they say they don’t like a food, don’t give up. Give it another chance (or 20)—studies show it takes a while for a child to actually accept a food into their regular repertoire.
2) Swap 6pm dinner and 3:30pm afterschool snack: When school’s in session, my kids are famished when they come home. Instead of a snack, I give them a full dinner which they gobble up. When it’s 6 or 6:30pm, we sit as a family for our evening snack. This schedule has worked very well in my family. Every family should make their own schedule based on what works best for them.
3) Family meal time matters: We always make time for meals together, especially breakfast. I love cooking big breakfasts on weekends like Challah French Toast, Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Banana-Cinnamon Oatmeal, or Egg Frittatas. I’ve also mastered the art of cooking quick breakfasts for 3 kids within 30 minutes (or less!). I take this time to talk with the kids and catch up on their everyday lives.
I love these ideas, especially the swapping of dinner and afternoon snack. Most kids hadn't really eaten much since lunch.
What are your favorite family nutrition resources (websites, books, cookbooks, gadgets, tools, etc.)?
Some of my favorites include:
- Superkids Nutrition (website and children's books)
- Fooducate (website and app)
- Meal Makeover Moms (book and website)
- Michelle Dudash’s Clean Eating for Busy Families (book)
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Home Food Safety (website and app)
- I find many kid-friendly easy-to-cook recipes in Ellie Krieger’s cookbooks
Tell us about any current nutrition initiatives you are working on that might assist parents and families in balanced nutrition and wellness.
I am always writing about kid’s nutrition on FoodNetwork.com Healthy Eats blog and my own blog at Toby Amidor Nutrition. I have also written recent blog posts for Sears Grilling is Happiness titled “3 Kid-Friendly Ideas for the Grill” and am a huge advocate of family meals.
I love all the incredible resources - some of which are new for me! Readers, please be sure to check out all the active links included in this post. We try and make it easy for you to check out Toby's resources.
Toby, thank you for sharing your precious family with us, and taking time to talk with us. It's great to see yet another example of practical family feeding in action! Best to you, and look forward to seeing you around the food and nutrition circuit. I am planning to take you up on that cup of coffee!
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