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%.


6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating Course

6 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Picky Eating CourseSince the launch of Happy Eating Club in 2014, a variety of picky eating course pop-ups have emerged on-line.  Some are being offered by licensed and credentialed health care professionals and some are being offered by popular, non-clinically experienced food bloggers selling meal plans. As new moms navigate through the marketing, it’s becoming a bit more confusing to determine which course to choose. Here are six top questions to ask when choosing a picky eating course.  These questions will empower you to learn not only about the philosophy of the teacher, but also give you a solid understanding of their advanced education, clinical experience, licensing and credentialing.

1. As a Speech Language Pathologist, what is the difference between mainstream responses to eating challenges to those you counsel during pediatric feeding therapy?

I’ve seen so many different mainstream responses to eating challenges in blogs and mom chat rooms, and that includes everything from sneaking in foods, “magic” fixes, all the way to sending children to bed hungry if they don’t eat. While research is clear that none of these methods work for children in the long term, that last one, as a pediatric feeding therapist and as a mother, breaks my heart.

I work with such a giant range of children struggling with eating that I offer a completely different vantage point from my experience. I understand that when children use behavioral refusals it is absolutely an indication that something else is going on at a deeper level, so my response is to look for the underlying problems and to clear them out of the way. Refusals can have a sensory component, a behavioral component, an environmental component OR a combination of all three. I talk about each of these areas in my program to empower families to make a real change!

When children qualify to see me one-on-one for feeding therapy it means that they have an exceptional need. Many times these children are struggling with mealtimes because of an additional diagnosis, musculature weakness or an extreme sensory sensitivity. For these children, their feeding therapy plans are always unique to their individual needs, however, all parents that see me one- on-one gain the bonus of a greater understanding of the complexity of pediatric feeding.

One important component that is always the same is the education provided for parents about feeding milestones, the complicated science of eating, common sabotages to mealtimes and strategies for guiding their child successfully through all of it. Happy Eating Club members get this education too.

2. A lot of parents struggle with children that refuse to eat healthy foods, in your experience, what is a common reason why this occurs?

There can be many causes behind feeding refusals and that makes figuring out what’s happening so cumbersome for parents. Our society places a great amount of attention and focus on the physical or gross motor milestones, like when a child rolls over, crawls or begins to walk, but unfortunately we give much less attention to natural feeding milestones that occur for children as well.

An important feeding milestone that all children experience is called Neophobia, meaning a fear of new foods. Children meet this milestone between the ages of 18 months to 3 years. Some children sail through this milestone easily, but for other children this milestone can be the beginning of long term refusals occurring at the table and plenty of frustration for their parents.

During this stage, children previously judged as “good eaters” begin to reject new food and may even refuse familiar foods they once enjoyed. Some evidence suggests that this is a combination of evolutionary protection paired with a psychological or behavioral component. In any case, it’s real and normal for your child to be experiencing this to some degree.

Neophobia is a developmental stage and really should not last a lifetime, but the way that parents react to these refusals will have either a positive or negative effect on their child’s relationship with food and how they move forward.

3. How does understanding feeding milestones affect a child’s eating habits?

Knowledge of feeding milestones and how to proactively meet them in a positive way is a complete game changer for families. When informed parents expect feeding milestones, like Neophobia, they are prepared when their child begins refusing foods. Since many parents believe that these natural developmental refusals are strictly behavioral, they handle these refusals with frustration and punishment. This creates negative experiences at the table and changes the parent-child relationship into one that is working against each other instead of one that’s working together.

Parents can avoid all of this by being prepared, expecting this behavior and understanding that their child has reached an important normal stage. Instead of offering punishment, they can instead offer their child more patience, temporarily lower their volume expectations of refused foods, involve their child in food activities across settings and continue to provide multiple exposures to a healthy variety of foods with a slower, more gradual approach.

4. We believe in positive parenting and don’t label our kids as picky eaters because such negative labeling can be more self-fulfilling than helpful. What are your thoughts on our philosophy?

I love your philosophy on labeling, because I couldn’t agree with you more. When a child has been labeled as a “picky” eater, you’ve defined their behavior and though not intentional, you’ve given them a verbal reason or excuse to refuse new or healthy foods moving forward. As a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, I can say without question that language is powerful. In fact, once parents gain a deeper understanding of how to use language to market food to their children, they can actually begin to transform refusals into new positive food trials or exposures.

Let me explain what I mean. When I have conversations with parents about healthy foods I often hear, “my daughter would never eat that” or “he’s so picky that I stopped trying new foods.” Where do parents go from there? They’ve closed the door on themselves.

For this reason, it is so rewarding to coach parents on changing the language they use about food with their kids. When parents tell me, “it’s not her favorite,” I immediately teach them to add “yet” to the end of that sentence. “It’s not her favorite, yet.”

One of the greatest things that I guide parents to teach their children is that the taste of food changes over time. This happens as we acquire a taste through multiple exposures, but it also happens for children as their taste buds continue to change and evolve as they grow. Instead of dreading offering multiple exposures, I teach parents to use them as a fun way of discovering if their child has gotten “big enough” to enjoy them. When a child tries a food and tells us that they “don’t like it,” our response should always be, “you don’t like it yet and that’s ok for now, but you are going to love it when you get bigger.”

They may not exactly love a food the first or second time, but maybe, just maybe the next time, they just might be “big enough.” Using this strategy dials into a child’s natural desire to be a “big” kid and keeps the door open to try foods again.

5. In Happy Eating Club, you talk about a sensory, behavioral approach to feeding. Can you give some real life context in what that might mean?

Absolutely. Many people believe that eating is easy and it’s really not. Eating is actually the most complex, physical task that human beings engage in and is the only human task which requires each of our organ systems and every muscle in our body to work in simultaneous coordination with all 8 of our sensory systems. As if that wasn’t already enough, additionally, external environmental sources influence how your child grows into eating.

Let’s talk a little deeper about just one of the eight senses – tactile or touch. Children need to explore their foods on the outside of their bodies to gain the tactile feedback needed to feel comfortable enough to place food into their mouths. They need permission to touch food, push it around a little, pick it up with their hands, feel the weight of it and the texture of it.

Touch is giving the body a message about what to expect when food is on it’s way to the mouth. Think about how much information we can gather about a food beforehand: Is the food…cold, crispy, crunchy, damp, dry, firm, fuzzy, gritty, hard, hot, icy, warm, moist, pulpy, rough, slimy, smooth, soft, steamy, sticky, tender, textured, thick, thin, tough, warm, waxy, wet, etc. This tactile information sends messages to our brains and helps prepare our bodies for the texture and temperature that we are about to experience.

Food experiences can feel different for children with every meal. If the first time you offered a food choice was right after it was steamed, stir fried or pureed versus the next time when you’ve prepared it differently (say chicken in a new sauce or paired with different vegetables) — from your child’s developmental perspective, that food is new again. Your children are learning NEW tastes all the time and this includes every time you offer a new combination of foods. Does this mean you can’t mix up your meal planning? Absolutely not! It just means that members of the Happy Eating Club are going to have a greater amount of tools and strategies to guide their child through each new combination, each change, each mealtime, each day.

6. What’s one tip you can give to parents to improve one of their children’s eating habits?

If I could reach every parent out there, I would want them to know that just like it takes time and support for a child to learn to ride a bike or learn read, children also need time and support to grow into loving healthy food. Building a happy, healthy eater is a continuous process. So much research supports that staying positive and avoiding struggles at the table in the early years is fundamental for building a child that makes good food choices for their entire lifetime.

Here is a quick tip that you can try tonight at dinner! If you notice your child has slowed down or isn’t focused on eating, instead of telling them to “eat,” try offering them a controlled choice. (i.e. Are you going to choose broccoli or chicken next? I can’t wait to see!”) When parents offer a controlled choice, it’s a win-win for everyone. Their child gets to feel empowered by making independent decisions about eating and the parents can relax knowing that since the controlled choice offered two healthy options, no matter what choice is made their child’s body is getting the nourishment it needs.

Lastly, I want parents to know that I recognize that since my launch of Happy Eating Club there are now several more options to consider at all different price points. I’m proud that Happy Eating Club offers families the support of a licensed and nationally certified pediatric feeding expert.  Feeding therapy is not about the food or the menu or one mom’s journey. It’s about your child’s body and mind’s response to the act of eating.

It’s about picking an expert that will know what to do for each unique child. There are well-educated, licensed and credentialed health care professionals that work exclusively in pediatric feeding. Parents that are really struggling with mealtimes should always seek out a feeding program ran by a licensed and credentialed expert in the field.  Parents of children who are not meeting milestones should reach out to their pediatrician to ask for a referral to see a Speech Language Pathologist for a pediatric feeding evaluation that will help them get local expert support.

If you are looking for a program that offers the support of a licensed and highly credentialed pediatric feeding specialist with over 10 years of experience helping thousands of children in the health care setting, consider joining Happy Eating Club.

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!


Defeating Picky Eating

Defeating Picky Eating

Picky eating is an inescapable milestone that every parent and child experiences.  All children move through developmental feeding milestones and these can be equally frustrating for both the parents and the child.  Developmental milestones are body’s steps towards healthy eating, just like sitting up, crawling and standing are steps to walking.  Picky eating can be fleeting or a long term issue for your child depending on how you respond and how you support them through these milestones.

Need some ideas?  Save your sanity and your mealtimes by trying some or all of the strategies i’ve listed for you below!
Be An Investigator. 
Feeding refusals are not just bad behavior choices, for most children, refusals are a symptom of an underlying medical problem or genuine sensitivity to foods. Talk to your pediatrician to discuss any underlying medical reasons for your child’s food refusals. Are there any allergies in the family? Is there any muscle weakness? Are there any GI issues for instance? Did your child experience reflux?  Are they between the age of 18-36 months?

It Takes A Village
You never have to navigate through parenthood alone.  There are always people within your reach who are experts in all different areas and they are on standby waiting to help you. Asking for help shows strength. Consult with other health care professionals:  a speech language pathologist for feeding therapy, an allergist, a nutritionist, a gastroenterologist, a physical therapist for positioning, an occupational therapist for sensory components that may be affecting your tiny eater.  Treating individuals with feeding difficulties requires a team approach.  If you need help, start building your team!

What Type of Eater Do You Have?

Dig deep, Mamas.  Find the root of why your child is refusing foods in order to find the specific answer needed to help your individual child.  Is it oral motor weakness, sensory-related, behavioral or a combination of two or more? Is it oral defensiveness?  Texture aversions?  Allergies?  Teething?

Keep Calm & Eat On
Be calm and put on your poker face.  Children are the best experts on reading their parents. They can sense your disappointment, frustration, excitement, impatience, anger and more, so monitor what emotions you are displaying and strive to keep it light. Work at maintaining a positive experience with food and mealtimes by remaining calm, relaxed, patient, and showing them that you care.

Let’s Be Honest
Take inventory of what you eat. Yes, that’s right! If you hate eating salad and never eat mushrooms, your kids might not either.  Some food preferences can be environmental.  They are learning to eat how you eat.  What are you showing them?  What did your parents show you?

Busy Bodies

Often when you have a child struggling greatly with eating, there may also be sensory issues having an impact throughout the body.  These sensory needs should be addressed before your child can calm and de-sensitize any sensory defensiveness in their mouth.  If your child has a hard time sitting still, calming, is clumsy or carries a tense posture these can be signs to see an occupational therapist. Child will usually be more open to exploring new foods once their bodies are regulated.

Hush Time
Too many distractions, noises, smells, lights, sounds can sabotage your mealtimes.  Keep your environment positive, calm and relaxed.  Change it up!  Dim the lights, shut off the television or iPad, remove the toys and start a new distraction free mealtime.

Food Diaries
I have all my clients keep a detailed food diary that I provide to them in Happy Eating Club and during individual consultation sessions.  It’s important to document everything the child eats and drinks for at least 3-5 days. The type, the quantities AND every detail about how the child interacted.  Liquid intake too!

Kitchen Helpers
Get your child involved in the kitchen as a kitchen helper.  If they have a hand in preparing the food (even if it’s a small task like stirring or moving food from the refrigerator to the counter), they will be more open to those mealtimes.

Sensory Step-By-Step
Give your child permission to interact with food without any pressure to actually eat it.  Let them learn about it in a fun, comfortable, stress-free positive way.  Talk about each foods, using all 5 senses to describe it.  Ask your child to touch it, smell it or kiss it.  If they don’t want to, don’t stress about it.  Find a path of less resistance.  Ask your child to move the off their plate, by having them use their sense of touch it instead (win!). You can learn about 7 key sensory steps in my virtual program for picky eaters.

Make A Mess
Children first need to become comfortable with food on their hands before they will ever put it inside their mouths.  This is a gradual process.  Introduce new foods with exploration and fun.  Place food in front of your child and let them explore it with their hands – they can smash it, squeeze it, swirl it, draw pictures in it on the table, etc..  Getting involved and demonstrating what you want them to do allows them to feel safe.  It’s important to get involved in the play.  Give your child permission to get messy and enjoy watching as your child begins eating or tasting new foods.

Don’t Be A Serial Wiper
Eating is a sensory experience.  We experience food with every sense. When you do not allow your child to get dirty at mealtimes, they are missing an opportunity to use every sense to experience and get comfortable with a new food. This means that you must step away from the wipes – at least until after dinner is over!

The “Not Yet” Bowl
If your child doesn’t want to try something, praise them for what they actually did do.  Did they look, touch and smell?  Praise them.  Let them know they can move the food in the “no” bowl to be done with it.  The goal to removing picky eating is exposure and positive experience to correlate to the food.

Try And Try Again
If the child doesn’t like a food after the first presentation, keep trying.  It may take 8-10 exposures or more before the child will be willing to try it.  For some children, they may need 20 trials!  Every child is different. Working directly with a specialist helps you to create a customized plan for your child.

Start With Small Changes
As you begin, start making very small changes to their preferred food choices.  Do they like cucumbers?  Try presenting them differently.  Do they like crackers?  Try putting a TINY bit of hummus, jam, puree, nut butter or a nut butter alternative onto it.  Introduce a different brand of the same food, or a different shape. Change is hard! Go slow and keep it simple!

Build A Bridge
Use what they already like as a bridge to transition to new foods.  If the child likes applesauce, put a little applesauce on a cracker.  They might just try that too, or at least lick it off.

Give Choices
Give them control where possible by letting them make choices.  Let them choose which spoon they want, if they want juice or water, if they’d like to kiss the apple 3 times or lick it once, etc.  Two choices are usually best – enough for them to have options without be overwhelmed by them.

Try new foods at snack time instead of mealtimes, so there is less pressure to get mealtime calories in.

Monkey See, Monkey Do
Model by eating the foods yourself (kids often learn through imitating).  You can also model on a puppet or stuffed animal.

Remember to praise, praise, praise.  Use reinforcements that cater to the child’s interests.  Get excited about every milestone, no matter how small it may seem.

Embrace The Winding Road
It may not be a straight path.  It may have twists and turns, but you will get there.

My Three NEVERS (never-ever!)

  • Never force a child to mouth, bite, chew, lick, or taste anything.
  • Never send a child to bed hungry.
  • Never punish your child for not eating.

Each of these strategies only work against you. Not for you.

You love your child. As a parent, I understand that love. I understand that some days you are tired, exhausted from the mealtime battle, you are worried and frustrated.  Try to understand that conquering feeding difficulties can be a long process.  It’s a novel – not a haiku!  Remember there is no “cookie cutter way” to do feeding therapy, because every child is unique.  If you try all of these strategies and still need help, you are in luck, because expert support is only an email or phone call away!

Overwhelmed during mealtimes?  Frustrated?  If you are ready to join Happy Eating Club this month or if you know someone who does, click here and use code “chewchew40” for HUGE savings.  Join us for live, expert support that helps you build happier, healthier mealtimes. There is no time like the present to redefine your family’s mealtime.

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.