Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating

5 Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating

By Cindy Morrison, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Holiday mealtimes have arrived and it’s go time for kids! While many families enjoy relaxed, low pressure holiday meals, others prefer a more formal affair. Regardless of your family’s style, holiday meals with the people that you love are the ultimate gift. As I prepare my children for the tables full of family, friends and lots of mealtime choices ahead, I keep in mind that holiday meals work best when we balance our priorities.

Here are Five Tips To Help Your Kids With Holiday Eating.

#1 – Get the Good Stuff in Early. The excitement of being with family and friends combined with all the holiday decorations and menu changes distracts children from eating well. Start your day right by getting the good stuff in early.  A healthy breakfast such as a vegetable quiche or eggs prepared their favorite way with a side of avocado or your choice of veggies will start the day off right. Knowing that you’ve gotten in healthy foods earlier in the day takes the pressure off of you and your children later, so that you can relax and all enjoy time with family without scrutinizing mealtime choices.

#2 – Pack a few familiar things from home. A big challenge over holidays is that there are a lot of changes. As adults, we love that the best dishes come out and that family is coming together, but for some kids the change to their usual routine can be overwhelming. If you have a younger child, a child with special needs or a picky eater, packing a few familiar items from home can make all the difference. Allowing them to choose a placement, plate, bowl, utensil or cup to bring along can help ease their transition to the table. If you have a child who struggles with mealtimes on ordinary days, it’s okay to serve or pack a familiar food choice to add to their holiday plate. Many children require multiple exposures to new foods before they will feel comfortable eating them. Holiday meals often have food choices that look unfamiliar to children and this can and does cause feeding refusals. Rather than struggle, meet your kids half way and remember that the reason for the meal is really about coming together to be with family.

#3 – Snack attack (avoid the post sugar melt downs). Holiday gatherings are notorious for lots of pre-mealtime snacking. If you’d rather avoid peeling your child off the floor after the sugar-high meltdown, think strategically about their pre-meal snacking. It’s fine to loosen the reigns during the holidays and allow your children to snack. Just keep in mind that as they snack they are filling their calorie needs of the day and it will be normal for them to seem less interested in dinner. Maximize on their interest in snacking by offering a greater amount of healthier snack choices such as dips and veggies than sugary treats!

#4 -Let them know what to expect. Allowing children to see the mealtime foods and the holiday table before it’s time to sit down can make a big difference. Let them see what’s happening in the kitchen. Describe the colors they see and the way the food smells. Take a few walks to the dining room to look at where everyone will sit. Talk about what you see in the room and on the table. Maybe let them help you deliver something there. Taking a few moments to familiarize your children to the meal and the mealtime table while traveling can ease their transition so that everyone can enjoy sitting down to dinner.

#5 – Be flexible. If you notice that your child is struggling or not eating well during a holiday meal it’s important to be flexible instead of strict. Give them a big hug and acknowledge that this meal is different. Talk about what you see: holiday decorations, fancy dishes, and most importantly, family joining together in love and celebration. Teach them about the most important parts of the day, like slowing down to talk, laugh and listen.  Remind them to memorize the faces, the laughs and the smiles of the people you love. Holidays pass by so quickly, so hold onto every moment of your family.

Happy, Healthy Holidays!

Are you ready for happier and more colorful mealtimes? Happy Eating Club is enrolling now. The next round is just in time to help you survive holiday mealtimes! Join us Janurary 9th. Use promo code: chewchew20 to save 20%.

Top Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Here are my picks for the Top Holiday Gifts for picky eaters this year!  

Let the magic of holiday gift giving help your mealtimes all year long.  Promoting healthy eating is something that should be encouraged in small ways throughout daily routines and across settings and most of all, it should be fun!

Rainbow Innovations Today I Ate A Rainbow Kit

I absolutely L-O-V-E this toy!  My new friend, Kia, did an amazing job creating a product that actually gets kids excited about eating colors.  I’ve recommended Today I Ate A Rainbow to parents for years and I happily use it in my own home as well.  My boys love keeping track of the colors they’ve eaten and enjoy eating a rainbow every day.   Want one for your home?  Use coupon code: chewchew10

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eater


Glob All Natural Paint Pigment Packets, Set of 6 Colors

Have a budding artist at home?  Check out these natural paints that are made from fruit and vegetables! Are these fun or what? Pair these with a few homemade vegetable stamps and create a beautiful gallery.  Invite me to the opening!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Learning Resources Farmers Market Color Sorting Set

I love this color sorting set.  What a wonderful way to reinforce the importance of a variety of colorful foods through play!  Color sort, sort by size, length or shape and then get creative with your pretend play!  Y-U-M!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Fruitominoes – Teal

If you’re going to play dominos, why look at plain old dots when you could be looking at the bright and beautiful colors of healthy food!


Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters



Mudpuppy Wooden Magnetic Fruits and Vegetables

I think these fruit and vegetable magnets are adorable and perfect for pulling out for all the snow days ahead.  Let your kids plant a garden on the refrigerator when the cold weather keeps you inside.  Use these fruits & veggies magnets to make art, build letters or shapes.  Let your imagination go wild!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters


Barbecue Party Game

Here’s a fun game to get your kids cooking!  Let them grill up vegetables and serve them with a side of giggles as they try to beat this silly, popping grill!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Prepared Slide Kit – Vegetables

Microscope slides for your little (or big!) scientist!  Get up close and personal learning about food without having to eat it.  Let yourself and your kids be amazed at viewing the details of healthy foods.

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Petit Collage Nesting Blocks, Fruits and Veggies

Have a little one?  Help them build a tower full of color, fruits & veggies!  These sweet colorful blocks teach numbers, shapes and counting too.

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

ALEX Toys – Bathtime Fun, Tub Soup, 801W

Rub-a-dub-dub, there are veggies in the tub!  That’s right!  You can even reinforce the importance of fruit and veggies during bath time.  Let your little ones have fun stirring, mixing, pouring and creating a wonderful vegetable soup in the tub!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Vegetable Garden Playing Cards

They really do think of everything, don’t they?  Check out these vegetable playing cards?  How fun would a game of GO FISH be with these cards?  Do you have asparagus? (No, Go Fish or perhaps Go To The Garden?!)

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters


Slamwich Collector’s Edition Tin

This is such a fun game!  You can expect lots of giggling as your family spends quality time flipping cards to build silly sandwiches!  “Slamwich teaches reading readiness skills, like visual discrimination and sequencing. While kids are flipping and stacking cards, they’re actually learning how to recognize a series, make combinations, and anticipate what might happen.”

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Peaceable Kingdom / Feed the Woozle Award Winning Preschool Skills Builder Game

This game will get your family doing the hula dance, the bunny hop, marching or going crazy trying to feed the woozle!  What’s better than a feeding game that gets children moving at the same time? Nothing!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Chameleon Crunch Game

I love this chameleon game!  This little guy races around your house and challenges your kids to chase him and feed him a variety of colorful foods.  Not only does it get your kids moving; it’s adorable.  This is a great game to play and also reference at the dinner table – “let’s eat lots of colors tonight like the chameleon!”
Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Sushi Go! – The Pick and Pass Card Game

As someone that loves both sushi and originality, I had to share this fun game!  Gain points for making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi.  Chopsticks optional!

Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Happy Eating Club

Give your family the gift of happier mealtimes all year long! Join Happy Eating Club, a virtual coaching program for parents of picky eaters available January 9th! Limited enrollment! Claim your spot and save 20% using coupon code: chewchewmama


Holiday Gifts For Picky Eaters

Healthy Holiday Snacks Your Kids Will Love

Christmas Tree Fruit

Has your social calendar exploded yet?

This time of year, every where you turn is another opportunity to nosh on wonderful, fun and delicious snacks and foods, but I can’t help but see the irony in holiday meal planning.  Can you?  We spend so much time planning and preparing large and elaborate meals, but then we sabotage those meals by offering LOTS of snacking on sweets!

Here are my favorite, healthy, holiday snack options to counter the urge to indulge on junk food this year. You can find more fun ideas on my Pinterest boards by clicking here.

Chilly Penguins

Oh my goodness these are adorable!  What I fun way to get in some veggies, good fats and a little protein, right?  The creator of these adorable little penguins used cream cheese, but we plan to try these using bocconcini (small mozzarella).



I love this sweet sammie from Canadian Family and Disney Family!  Your choice of sandwich with veggies and fruit added right in along with those olives again.  How’s that for multiple exposures?!




Fruit & Veggie Christmas Trees

I’m a big fan of making food cute, but keeping it easy.  These adorable trees by Mama Papa Bubba and Mom Endeavors does both!  Working on adding the color green?  Here’s a way to do it sweetly!




Veggie Christmas Wreath

Seriously the easiest and cutest way to make a plate full of veggies adorable! The pepper ribbon is my favorite part. Just add dip and watch this disappear.  Another great idea from Super Healthy Kids!


Hard Boiled Snowmen

These fun little snowmen created by Crafts A La Mode are adorable and easy enough for your kids to put together!


Christmas Fruit & Cheese 

Fun, easy and cute!  Who wouldn’t love to set their eyes upon this healthy snack from Kraft Canada? Certainly not me!


Snowman Cheese Ball (or snow ball!)

This little snowman from Crafts A La Mode is SO cute that he’ll almost be hard to eat.  The only change we plan to make is to lose the crackers and replaced them with veggies and toasted pita chips.


Watermelon Trees

Simple and sweet with a perfect built in handle for little hands!  I love this idea from Eating Vibrantly!


Snowmen kabobs

Bananas, apples and grapes – oh my!  What a creative healthy snack from Family Disney. Another great snack that your kids can help you build.



Christmas Tree Pizza

I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, “wouldn’t it be amazing if children learned from the very first presentation that all pizza comes with vegetables?”  I love veggie pizza!  Get your family decorating these trees and then chomping them down!


Frozen Veggie Tray

I couldn’t resist including this adorable Frozen tray by Super Healthy Kids.  “Do you want to build a snowman?”


Pita Tree Snacks

These cute trees by Live Better America had me a guacamole!  The tree “decorating” options are endless.


Chocolate Dipped Clementines

Last but not least here’s our favorite sweet treat, because after all it’s all about balance, right? Of course it is!  Teaching kids where sweets fit in is all part of building a happy, healthy eater!


Happy Holidays!

Do you have a picky eater? Are you tired of battles or straight up refusals at mealtimes?  Do you want help from an expert in the field?

Get the support you need in the New Year with Happy Eating Club!

Enroll now using discount code “chewchew30” to save 30%. Limited spots available.

Ending Mealtime Frustration: One Family’s Journey In Happy Eating Club

Happy Eating Club

Today as I prepare the Happy Eating Club House to open tomorrow, I found myself reflecting on a heart-to-heart with a wonderful mom named Teresa, who participated in Happy Eating Club for her oldest son and carries it forward for her youngest.  Teresa and I discussed her experience in the program and where her family is now, in their feeding journey as they consistently utilize the information, strategies and resources she gained in Happy Eating Club.

Happy Eating Club is a flexible 14-day program available online with access around the clock and around the globe to meet the needs of today’s busy parents. Happy Eating Club pairs access to a nationally certified pediatric feeding therapist with educational resources and support. Happy Eating Club redefines mealtimes and for Teresa and her sweet family, it has done just that.

Why did you join the program? 
I had been following Chew Chew Mama on Facebook and receiving her blog updates for a while. I was always impressed by the information she shared and was constantly learning from her. When I saw an opportunity to not only learn more but also have access to her to answer feeding questions specific to my family, I jumped at the opportunity! I have two boys–a seven year old with sensory issues and a three-year-old who used to be a pretty adventurous eater, but then turned pickier possibly from the influence of his older brother.

They were both eating some healthy things like fresh fruit, but other things were missing from their diets altogether and were a struggle, especially vegetables. My boys would literally scream if anything green was placed on their plates! I felt like I was running a diner, because everybody was eating something different at mealtimes. I was exhausted! I was hopeful that the Happy Eating Club would be the answer to my prayers–and it was exactly that!

How soon did you start to implement Happy Eating Club strategies and see changes? 
Some things I implemented right away, for example, I learned to get my kids involved in mealtime preparation and empowered them to be kitchen helpers. I was excited at how eager they were to be involved and I was surprised to learn that the real reason I should be involving them had nothing to do with the food. Happy Eating Club taught me how to make food fun for my family without hiding healthy foods.


Using strategies that I’ve learned in Happy Eating Club, I am happy to say that green vegetables are no longer the struggle they once were. At first I was nervous offering green choices that would typically have made both of my children scream and run away, but I implemented what I learned and I was completely shocked by the big smiles on their faces.  They were literally begging for more and my son even pulled asparagus off his father’s place to eat.  I’m still in awe at the change.

Some strategies are taking more time and repetition to master and I haven’t used all the tools in my Happy Eating Club toolbox yet, but I feel confident knowing that I have the best tools now and I like that we can take our time making gradual changes rather than rushing our boys.


The biggest change for all of us is that mealtime is now more relaxing for everyone. I don’t feel the need to be a short order cook anymore. I prepare the same balanced meal for everyone and then we sit down at the table as family. I don’t take mealtimes as personally anymore; I’m not stressed and my children are responding to that. They sit at the table longer, they are willing to try more foods and they will tolerate something new and green on their plates–my three-year old even gobbled down peas last night! Happy Eating Club has made our family mealtimes an enjoyable experience…something I truly never thought I would be able to say.

Did you find flexibility of Happy Eating Club to be valuable to you? 
Yes! I was nervous making a committment at first to Happy Eating Club because my life is so busy and often unpredictable with the kids.  Once I joined and the program began, I learned that it truly is self-paced. There were some days where I was able to listen to a couple different podcasts and other days where I couldn’t even find the time to login to the clubhouse. It didn’t matter–the podcasts and materials were there and waiting for me whenever I could find the time–a wonderful thing for a busy care giver!

Are program materials helpful to you?
The materials are wonderful!  The materials are helpful and really tied together the information I was learning in the podcasts.  I still have access to the clubhouse, but I’ve printed out all of the Happy Eating Club materials and find myself referring to them often.

Did Happy Eating Club provide opportunities to get individualized answers to questions that you had specifically about your children?
Absolutely!!! This is one of the best things about the Happy Eating Club–access to a nationally certified, experienced and caring pediatric feeding therapist!  Several times I wrote a question before going to bed and would wake up in the morning to a thorough, detailed, personal response waiting for me.  I couldn’t believe how quickly Cindy was able to get back to me (as well as all the other clubhouse members) and with such thoughtful answers. Truly amazing!

Would you recommend the program to other families?
Yes! Happy Eating Club has been an amazing experience for my family and I highly encourage anyone with a picky eater to take advantage of this great opportunity! You learn so much in two weeks at your own pace (perfect for busy parents and caregivers!) You receive an incredible amount of information ranging from how to add healthier foods into your child’s diet to the real reasons why kids refuse food.  You get unlimited access to the information and printable program materials to use as daily reference guides.

Best of all, you have access to a fantastic pediatric feeding therapist who is there for you every step of the way. Cindy teaches you, supports you, answers specific questions about your family, and cheers you on –every step, every change is a big victory for you and for your children. Cindy is a warm, caring, professional who is extremely knowledgeable and genuine. She has given me the tools to make our family mealtimes a happy and healthy time and I am forever grateful to Chew Chew Mama! Let her do the same for you!

Are you ready for better mealtimes?  

The next round of Happy Eating Club is enrolling now just in time for back to school!  Register now and use promo code: chewchew30 to save 30%.

Happy Eating Club ReviewTeresa is a proud wife, mother of two boys and an Executive Consultant with Rodan and Fields. She spends her days playing superheroes and hiding from dinosaurs with her busy little boys, and loves great talks with friends.

End Mealtime Battles With Happy Eating Club

Happy Eating Club

Today I had the pleasure of connecting with a wonderful mom, Kirsten, who participated in Happy Eating Club last year and still uses what she learned with her family. Kirsten and I discussed her experience in the program and where her family is now, almost a year later, in their feeding journey as they consistently utilize the information, strategies and resources she gained in Happy Eating Club.

Happy Eating Club is a flexible 14-day program available online with access around the clock and around the globe to meet the needs of today’s busy parents. Happy Eating Club pairs access to a nationally certified pediatric feeding therapist with educational resources and support. Happy Eating Club redefines mealtimes and for Kirsten and her sweet family, it has done just that.

Why did you join the program?
I joined the program primarily because of my son who was three at the time. Meal times were becoming increasingly challenging as he would refuse most foods and eat only a handful of items consistently (cereal, fig bars, bunny crackers, smoothies, etc.). My oldest son was five and would eat most things, but usually would refuse any new food. My daughter was one and was a pretty good eater, but I wanted to learn strategies to help her continue to eat a variety of foods.

How soon did you start to implement Happy Eating Club strategies and see changes?
I implemented some of the strategies immediately! I was able to change my language at meal times right away- I no longer say “just take a bite.” It became less of a power struggle at meals by implementing the new strategies and changing the phrases I used with my three-year-old. I loved how practical the recommendations were and easy to try out.

With my oldest son I saw changes more quickly (after the learning the sensory strategy he ate an entire bowl of chili – something he had always refused before!) My three-year-old son took a few weeks to adjust to some of the strategies we implemented (and we continue working on these strategies with him), but eventually became used to the new meal time expectations.

Did you find flexibility of Happy Eating Club to be valuable to you?
I loved the flexibility of the program! I was able to listen to the podcasts while putting away laundry or cleaning. I could go through the supplemental materials on my own time, and I still go back and reference notes and program materials. Being able to post on the discussion board to ask follow up questions after listening to the podcasts was invaluable.

Are program materials helpful to you?
They have been very helpful! It was great to have on-going, unlimited access to them and be able to print them off or go back to reference them. The materials covered a variety of topics and offered practical advice that has been easy to implement.

Did Happy Eating Club provide opportunities to get individualized answers to questions that you had specifically about your children?
Cindy was incredibly helpful in answering specific questions about my children. All three of my children have had speech services, and she was able to further explain how there can be a correlation between speech delays and sensory processing. She offered to watch a video clip of my youngest chewing and gave me specific tips to help further develop her chewing muscles. Almost a year later, I still have been able to contact her with questions and she has provided education for next steps.

Would you recommend the program to other families?
I would absolutely recommend this program to other families! I never knew how much more there was to picky eating and how it can be such a sensory experience. This program has been incredibly valuable for my family and for my own sanity at meal times!

Kirsten is a stay-at-home mom to three kids (Colton-6, Deacon-4, and Emme-2). She recently moved from Southern California to Minnesota for a new job opportunity for her husband Phil. While we miss our family and friends in California, we’re enjoying exploring our new community and training our new puppy Hank.

Are you ready for better mealtimes?

The next round of Happy Eating Club is enrolling now! Register now and use promo code: “back2school” to save 75%.


Are newborn reflexes causing your baby’s bottle refusal?

sucking reflex

Cindy Hooks, M.S., CCC-SLP, CLC

Your baby was born with eight, innate, oral motor reflexes to help facilitate successful mealtimes. All of these reflexes have important roles, but two reflexes, rooting and sucking, are specifically helping you with every feeding during the first four months of your baby’s life.

The root reflex is activated when an infant’s lips and mouth are lightly touched. This causes your baby’s mouth to open. Rooting helps the baby prepare for a bottle or pacifier to enter their oral cavity. Next, the roof of the baby’s mouth is touched, by pacifier or bottle and activates the suck/swallow reflex. During the first four months of your baby’s life, every time you place a bottle into your baby’s mouth, they will begin sucking reflexively.

As liquid moves into the mouth, the tongue immediately moves it to the back of the mouth for swallowing. When babies begin oral feeding they may be uncoordinated as they learn how to suck, swallow and breath. Over time, sucking becomes coordinated with swallowing and breathing, and these synched feeding behaviors will improve allowing your baby to grow and accept more volume. The sucking reflex is important to survival because an infant who can’t suck and coordinate sucking with swallowing and breathing will have difficulty with feeding and gaining weight.

Sucking is not something that disappears, instead it does something neat: it changes. By the time your baby has reached four months of age, his or her sucking reflex will have faded and sucking will transform into a voluntary act rather than a newborn reflex. During this time, your baby is going through a significant, developmental feeding milestone. This means that your baby will no longer automatically suck on objects (i.e. hands, fingers, pacifiers or bottles) unless he or she wants to do so.

Parents often mistake a sudden increase in bottle refusals as a sign that baby’s no longer want the bottle or are ready to begin solid foods. This is not the case. Instead, your baby is growing and developing into a little person that already wants to be busy. In addition to this feeding milestone, your baby has reached new social and emotional milestones and wants to interact with you and play. Your baby has reached communication milestones and wants to babble with you. Your baby’s cognitive development is creating your baby’s desire to watch faces and respond to the environment and physically, your baby can hold their head steady, possibly even roll
over, hold and shake toys. All of these milestones are distracting your baby from successful feedings.

You can sail through this developmental feeding milestone by remaining consistent in your feeding routine. Keep your baby on a reliable feeding schedule and keep your environment calm around mealtimes to help your baby stay focused. You can use your baby’s natural desire to watch your face to reward your baby with lots of smiles and silly faces for good feeding.

Newborn instincts are innately designed with the main goal to help them transition from the womb into the world and survive. Once you’ve reached this milestone, you can be proud that your baby’s newborn reflexes helped them do just that during those first crucial months.

Join my global community for our next round of information sharing, expert advice, researched-based tools and tips and the support of a fully licensed and credentialed pediatric feeding therapist! You have the power to build a community of true experts in the field of feeding and swallow who understand clinically-based pediatric feeding! Choose wisely! Registration for May starts now! Click here to claim your spot in Happy Eating Club – May 5th!