Cooking Picky Eaters

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

A colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean proteins are key to a healthy diet. Parents need to introduce healthy foods early if they want their kids to eat them as adults.

But, as every parent knows, kids can be picky eaters. They would rather have chicken nuggets than vegetables.

Most picky eating starts around two years old and can go until age five. At this age, their appetites have slowed down and it’s also the first time they are able to express food preference.

Children are programmed to like sweeter, high-calorie foods. That’s why getting them to eat broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, and other healthy fruits and vegetables can be challenging.

Don’t Get Frustrated

Family Dinner

Getting past picky eating requires patience, experimentation, and persistence. Something a toddler likes one day may get tossed across the kitchen the next. Don’t eliminate it as an option.

Similarly, they may hate something one day and then insist on eating it four days straight. This is normal. Children’s appetites, eating habits, and food preferences need to mature just like they do.

Tips to Avoid Tension:

  • Shared responsibility — A parent’s job is to prepare and provide healthy options. A child’s job is to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full. Don’t force a child to eat. It could lead to a food-related power struggle. It could also lead to mealtime anxiety. They may also ignore when they’re hungry or full.
  • Eat together — This provides the adults a chance to model healthy eating habits. It also teaches children this is their opportunity to eat. You’re not going to cook a special meal for them. If you’re trying to reduce screen time, the dinner table is a great place to start.
  • Be creative — Adding chopped or shredded vegetables to sauces or casseroles is an easy way to add some healthy variety to their diets. Put sliced fruit in cereal or serve broccoli, celery, or carrots with a favorite dip.
  • Cook together — A child is more likely to eat something if they chose and prepared it.
  • Build a bridge — Once you find a food your child accepts, introduce other foods that look, feel, or taste the same. This helps expand their palate. Pairing new foods with familiar foods makes them easier to accept.
  • Start small — Don’t introduce large portions of new foods. That can lead to waste which can be frustrating for parents. Small servings are best. It also gives children the power to ask for more.
  • Teach them — Talk to children about new foods — their shapes, textures, how, and where they grow. It takes the mystery out of the meal.
  • Promote positivity — Children don’t like everything they try. They may get angry or refuse to eat. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t make threats to get them to eat. Also, set limits with children about reactions. They can say, “No thank you,” but not “blech” or “that’s gross” at mealtime.
  • Don’t bribe — Desserts shouldn’t be offered for trying a new food. It makes the new food seem more unpleasant and can lead to nightly power struggles.

Pickiness in the Pandemic

Girl Holding Sandwich

Pickiness isn’t limited to toddlers. Finding variety during the pandemic can be frustrating if you are in a meal-planning rut. Don’t be hard on yourself. It happens when you’re stuck inside, dining out isn’t an option, and easy meals get old fast.

Here are some ways to improve your meal planning and get reenergized about cooking.

  • Kitchen inventory — Know what you have and start there. Eat what’s perishable so you’re not wasting food. Use these items as the foundation for your meal planning.
  • Plan it out — Make a meal plan for a week or two, depending on the size of your household. This helps you create a variety of options. Look at recipes that include vegetables, fruits, protein, whole grains, dairy, and healthy fats.
  • Make a list — It’s important to know what you need. Make space to freeze ingredients until they’re needed. Also, get some other frozen foods and nonperishables to add some easy options.
  • Read labels — Know the expiration dates of what you’re buying. You don’t want to throw out food because you never used it.
  • Prepare — Portion out snacks to limit overeating. Chop the vegetables you need for meals and store them for when it’s time to cook. Also, involve other family members. This is for all of you, so make it a shared activity.

Helping You Stay Healthy

AltaMed offers a host of resources to help you and your family eat well, stay active, and take an engaged approach to managing your health. You can download information on how to prepare healthy meals and watch videos with advice on keeping everyone in your household well. Visit for more information.

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Woman Teeth

Healthy Dental Habits Keep Diabetes and Heart Disease at Bay

Your mouth is literally the gateway to the rest of your body. It is the fueling port where we consume our food, beverages, and most medications. The digestive and respiratory tracts are accessed through the mouth.

Too often, our thoughts about the role our mouth plays in our overall health end with what we eat and drink. But practicing proper dental hygiene — brushing, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups — helps us maintain our overall health. Diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and birth complications are some of the conditions associated with poor dental health.

It Starts with Bacteria

Dentist Showing Dental Model

We introduce foreign objects into our bodies whenever we eat or drink. We chew, swallow, and move things along into our digestive system where bacteria in our gut break down the food to get the nutrients our bodies need.

Bacteria lives and thrives in dark, warm, moist places – like our mouths. If we don’t brush or floss regularly, that bacteria will grow unchecked fueled by the remnants of what we eat and drink.

When bacteria build up on our teeth, our gums become prone to infection, and they swell because our immune system is fighting that infection. Left uncontrolled, the chemicals that result from the infection slowly dissolve the gums and bones holding our teeth into place. That is gum disease, also known as periodontitis.

Poor Oral Health Leads to Health Problems

Dentist Showing an X-Ray to His Patient

Gum disease and tooth decay can be the source of intense pain and require expensive dental procedures. But sometimes that’s just the beginning. Over the last decade, research has found connections between oral health and a variety of serious diseases and conditions.

  • Heart disease — Oral bacteria, left to grow, can move their way into your bloodstream and infect the inner lining of your heart valves. These bacteria can also infect arteries, causing them to swell and clog, potentially leading to heart attacks or strokes.
  • Pneumonia — This is just one of the respiratory diseases that can be caused by bacteria from your mouth getting pulled into your lungs.
  • Birth complications — Low birth weight and premature birth have been linked to periodontitis. An infection in the mouth has been shown to hinder development of the fetus.

Health Conditions Contributing to Oral Problems

Dental Instruments

Just as poor dental hygiene can lead to health problems, certain diseases and conditions can contribute to oral problems.

  • Diabetes — People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, while people with gum disease can develop diabetes. Inflammation in the mouth seems to lower the body’s ability to control blood sugar, which is a problem for people with diabetes. The high blood sugar that can come with diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight infections — including gum infections. Studies have also shown good oral health can improve diabetes control.
  • Osteoporosis — The disease weakens the bones making periodontal bone and tooth loss more likely.
  • Obesity — Studies have shown periodontitis can progress more quickly in people with higher body fat.

Brush Up on Your Dental Routine Basics

Woman Brushing Teeth

Taking just a few minutes each day to properly care for your teeth can pay big rewards by improving your overall health. Good dental hygiene includes:

  • Brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing daily
  • Using mouthwash to remove bits brushing and flossing may miss
  • Eating a healthful diet and limiting foods with added sugar
  • Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Avoiding tobacco use – that includes vaping, which may be just as bad for your teeth as eating a candy bar, drinking a soda, and not brushing.
  • Scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings

Regular cleanings and checkups help you stay on top of any developing situations. Also, few things make you feel as put together as bright, shining, professionally cleaned teeth.

We Can Help

Doctor Showing Radiography to His Patient

AltaMed Dental Services has highly skilled dentists and hygienists to help you maintain your healthy smile or get you back on the path to dental health. Call (888) 499-9303 to make an appointment or get more information online.

Fried Vegetables

8 Great Reasons to Try Going Meatless

If you’ve been to one of the big fast-food chains lately, you’ve probably seen options for meatless or “imitation meat” hamburgers, tacos, sandwiches, and even meatballs – and you’ve probably wondered how it tastes, and if this new trend is really worth it.

Opinions vary about how much products like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger actually taste like the real thing, but we can tell you that going meatless is good for your health and the planet. Learn more about all the benefits you can get by cutting down on meat, even if it’s only a few meals a week.

1. Improve Your Health

Cutting Vegetables

Simply reducing the amount of meat you eat has so many benefits to your health. According to the National Institutes of Health, eating red meat increases your risks for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers, and may even take years off your life. And, if you’re eating less meat and replacing it with healthy fats, fresh seasonal produce, and whole grains, you get even more health-boosting benefits.

2. Helps Protect Our Environment

Hands Holding the World

The farming of animals required to produce meat uses a lot of precious resources, especially water, feed, and land – it takes 450 gallons of water to produce a quarter-pound of beef, and the amount of grain used to feed U.S. livestock animals every year could feed 800 million people. Millions of gallons of pesticides and fertilizers that give off greenhouse gases are used for commercial livestock. Even the United Nations notes that the farming and eating of meat contributes to climate change (global warming).

3. Meat Substitutes Have Come a Long Way

Meat Substitutes

In recent years, plant-based meat alternatives, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, have made a huge splash in the market, with both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Both products were created to be more like “real” meat, in terms of taste, texture, aroma, appearance, and juiciness – they’re even plump and pink on the inside when you cook them. Some people love them and think they taste almost identical to meat; others think that, even if the flavor isn’t identical to meat, it’s still delicious and worth eating once or twice a week to benefit their health and the environment.

4. So Many Tasty Options

Almond Cream with Spoon

You don’t need a meat substitute to get your protein and other nutrients. Other ways to go meatless include:

  • Nut butter (peanut butter or almond butter)
  • Legumes
  • Tofu or tempeh
  • Rice and beans (eaten together, they form a complete protein)
  • Quinoa
  • Whey protein shakes
  • Traditional soy- and plant-based veggie patties and products

There are so many high-protein options that even if you’re doing a keto program, you can still plan a few meatless meals.

5. Because Animals

Young Woman Feeding Cows

Most commercially farmed animals (like the kind that end up in fast-food hamburgers and chicken nuggets, and the fresh meat at the supermarket) have short and terrible lives before they are killed. Even products labeled “free-range” or “farm-raised” don’t always guarantee that the animals are treated humanely, and these products are still quite expensive. And at the end of it all, these animals are killed (usually in inhumane ways) for consumption. If you truly love animals, the best way to protect them is to eat fewer of them. It doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian or vegan, but every little bit makes a difference.

6. It’s Great for Weight Loss

Steping on a Scale

One of the biggest benefits of eating less meat is that you’re likely to drop a few pounds, too. Compared to fresh produce and grains, meat is dense in calories. If you’re cooking your own meatless meals, you may be more likely to eat a whole-food diet, and less likely to use processed ingredients that are higher in calories. And chances are good that if you’re not eating that hamburger, you won’t be having the French fries or sugary soda that goes with it.

7. It Could Help You Look Younger

Woman Looking Herself in The Mirror

Meats, especially red meats and highly processed lunchmeats, can fire up inflammation in your body, which can lead to less collagen and elastin in your skin. These are two proteins in your body that help make your skin supple, moist, and resilient. Over time, too much inflammation in your body can cause your skin to appear dry and wrinkled.

8. Even a Little Bit Makes a Difference

Healthy Grill

You don’t have to turn completely vegetarian or vegan to reap the benefits: Just think about doing a “Meatless Monday” or replacing a couple of meals a week, and you’ll start seeing a difference. Even skipping just half a serving of meat and replacing it with one of the protein-packed options in #4 above can cut your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.

You may even save some money, too!

Experts agree that most people get more than enough protein in their diets, so an occasional meatless meal is totally safe. In fact, most people don’t get enough fiber, and could benefit from incorporating more veggie options in their diet. But if you’ve ever been told you are iron-deficient or have anemia, you may want to talk to your doctor first.

If you’re healthy and looking for ways to feel even better, keep checking the AltaMed Health and Wellness page. You’ll find all the news you need to know to stay safe, get in shape, and take care of both your mind and body.

Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters