Feeding Toddlers – What One Dietitian Has Learned

Perhaps it’s because I am a dietitian and someone who loves to cook and eat all sorts of food, that I just assumed I wasn’t going to have a picky child. Or maybe it was the optimism of being a first time mom, but I really thought that if I introduced a variety of fruits, vegetables, textures, and flavors from the very beginning, if I made all of Aidan’s food, shared what we ate with him, and exposed him to everything that I would have a toddler with a sophisticated palate. Ha!

Instead I have a little munchkin who, when he tries something he doesn’t like, makes a mom-you-just-poisoned-me-face and pulls any of the gross food out of his mouth with his fingers and then vigorously wipes his tongue. (I tried but couldn’t get a video of this.) Then, he takes a drink of milk and chases it with a drink of water to get the residual taste of the horrid food out of his mouth. On one hand it’s a comical and dramatic display and on the other hand, it’s quite frustrating.

This past weekend, looking for inspiration from a toddler cookbook a friend gave me, I came across zucchini fritters – they looked like little pancakes made with flour, cornmeal, and shredded zucchini. He loves pancakes (our homemade banana or blueberry breakfast variety), so I figured that this was a similar shape and texture and that it might be a way to get him to eat his veggies? So Friday night, I whipped up a batch of the zucchini fritters and introduced this new food by saying, “Aidan, we are having pancakes!” He looked at the little cake I presented skeptically as if to say, “Mom, this thing with little green zucchini shreds sticking out is not a pancake,” but to his credit, he did give it a taste (sometimes when I present a food, he vigorously shakes his head and clenches his teeth), so it was sort of a win.

Aidan at Crumb Brothers

Aidan munching a danish

I had my verdict quickly, Nope! The antics described above ensued, and Dakota – our little dog who circles the base of his high chair like a shark – scored big. I resorted to a veggie squeeze-pack and some cottage cheese for Aidan’s dinner, and I ate the zucchini fritters.

So feeding my 19-month old can sometimes be a challenge.

But here’s how I approach meal time: I have always maintained the “you need 3 things to make a balanced meal” philosophy – carbs, protein & color. When I build my meal this way, I know I will always have balance and variety. I do this with everything I make, and we have done this with Aidan from the beginning. While the meals are sometimes really simple, it usually works. Here is a little chart of things he likes organized by my 3 category system. If I can pull one item from each category at any given meal, I think we’re doing pretty well. For snacks, I try to get two of the categories.

Eating Banana Bread

Eating Banana Bread (that, he likes & I pack it with Greek yogurt & bananas)


  • Graham Crackers
  • Pasta (white or whole wheat)
  • Tortillas (whole wheat flour)
  • Granola Bar (he likes the Clif Kids bars)
  • Pretzels
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat bread


  • Cheese (string cheese or cheese curds for snacks, cheese slices for sandwiches & quesadillas)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Meat (chicken, fish, sausage, ground beef)
  • Peanut butter
  • Whole milk Greek yogurt
  • Milk
  • Tofu (he loves it plain or crisped in a pan
  • Egg (hit or miss for Aidan, but scrambled is preferred)


  • Cut fresh fruit (strawberries, apricots, plums, grapes, peaches, pears, apples – whatever is in season)
  • Freeze dried fruit
  • Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, apples…)
  • Fruit/veggie squeeze pack
  • Whole fruit (banana, clementines)
  • Peas (frozen or freeze-dried)
  • Applesauce (jar for home, squeeze pack for on the go)
  • Kale chips (believe it or not, Aidan will actually reach for and swallow a leaf – sometimes…perhaps it’s the yummy olive oil, salt and pepper!)

The above “color” options are in our regular rotation because Aidan will eat them. I would love to add and continue to try:

  • Steamed carrots (he’ll sometimes eat them when nicely seasoned in a stirfry)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans (he used to eat them pureed as a baby)
  • Zucchini

What else I’ve learned: 

Have fun!: There is a reason that parents play the airplane game (zoom the food on the spoon into the open mouth). When you can make eating more fun and exciting, you may have better success. Sometimes we tell Aidan that we will cheer for him when he takes a bite or drinks some milk. He gets excited for us to clap which means that he’ll take a bite.

Keep trying: Some days / weeks he likes certain things and others he doesn’t, but you don’t know when you will have success. Little kids have ever changing preferences and ideas about food, and their tastes are developing and evolving constantly. So, even though Aidan didn’t like his fun spinach fettuccine noodles this week, he loved them two weeks ago and he may like them again next week.

Change it up: If Aidan has been sitting in his high chair for a while, he can get board and say he’s all done. If we want him to sit with us until dinner is over, we will wipe his hands, give him a toy and then continue to offer bites of food. Sometimes just having a little change of scenery – the introduction of a toy – means that he’ll eat more. For snacks, putting finger food in his little snack cup is a great way to make it fun and something that he can do all by himself.

Toddler snack cup

Snacks on the Go!

Dip: A quesadilla dipped in salsa, or squeezing a little veggie squeeze pack on grilled cheese or a quesadilla can make lunch or dinner interesting. Dipping pancakes or french toast in yogurt can also be fun.

Be patient: As hard as this is sometimes, if I get visibly frustrated, he does too, so I try to keep smiling.

Add cheese (see video above) :)

So what’s on the menu for tonight? I haven’t totally decided – either stirfry – brown rice (carbs), tofu (protein), peas (color) OR pasta (carbs) with roasted broccoli & cauliflower (color).

Aidan might not eat it all, but we’ll give it a go!

- Kristi Spence MS, RD, CSSD

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DYK Dairy Can Prevent Cavities?

We have often heard that dairy can help build and maintain strong bones, but did you know that this extends to our pearly whites as well? Much like our bones, our teeth need calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and vitamins A&D to stay strong. Dairy foods provide all of these essential bone and teeth building nutrients. In addition to strengthening teeth, dairy foods can help prevent cavities.

Causes of Cavities: 
  • When the pH in our mouth increases in acidity and dips below 5.5, it causes the enamel to break down
  • Digesting sugar and carbohydrates begins in the mouth, which causes the pH to drop

Dairy Helps By:

  • Acting as a buffer in the mouth and preventing the pH from dropping below 5.5
  • Inhibiting the growth of plaque causing bacteria
  • Making our teeth strong by providing calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein, and vitamins A&D
  • Increasing saliva, which helps put minerals back into your teeth that may have been lost from eating other types of foods

What can you do to help your smile and prevent unnecessary trips to the dentist? Get at least 3 servings of low-fat dairy each day. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Drink milk with meals
  • Add cheese to your snacks as part of a healthy diet
  • Enjoy yogurt as a slightly sweet and healthy dessert


Citation: Touger-Decker R, Loveren CV. Sugars and dental caries. AM. J. Clin. Nutr. 2003;78:881S-92S.

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Breakfast Fruit Scones

Breakfast Fruit Sones

Breakfast can be a challenge during the week. I often find myself in such a hurry that I rush to work with just a granola bar. Once there, I am hungry again and wishing I had a more satiating breakfast. Not eating enough for breakfast leaves me hungry and more likely to eat office treats or binge at lunch.

If you are like me, I have found us a solution. These breakfast scones were shared with my by my co-worker Kristi who has been making them weekly for years and there is a good reason. They are quick, easy, and delicious!

Breakfast Fruit Sones

I baked a double batch, wrapped them in tinfoil (individually), and placed them in the freezer. For the next 3 weeks the night before I would take one out and leave it on the counter. Then in the morning I would grab it and along with a yogurt or milk and maybe a banana and head to work. It kept me full until lunch and I loved them.

Breakfast Fruit Sones

Uncooked Batter

You can make any combination of flavors. I tried and loved the following combinations

  • Fresh/frozen peaches with coconut
  • Fresh apples with raisins
  • Mixed berries with almonds
  • Apricot and dried blueberries

Breakfast Fruit Sones

Breakfast Fruit Scones

Adapted from Flour Cookbook


  • 350 g all-purpose flour (just shy of 3 cups) for some added fiber, substitute 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 70g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 fresh fruit
  • 1/2 cup dried fruits or nuts
  • Note: any combination of dried fruit and nuts will do


Heat oven to 375. Line a baking dish with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, and canola oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the fresh and dried-fruit. It may seem like too much fruit for the amount of batter, but trust me the end product turns out great. On the prepared baking, spoon out the dough into little mounds. Bake for 35 minutes. Makes about 12 scones. These are easily wrapped individually in foil and frozen. For freshest taste, enjoy frozen scones within 2-3 weeks.


Printer Friendly Breakfast Fruit Scones


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What’s the Difference Between a Latte and a Cappuccino?



I was standing in line at Starbucks recently vacillating between a cappuccino or a latte, and then I saw a new drink, the flat white. I had read a blurb about Starbucks introducing this new menu item but I didn’t know much about it, and then here it was on the menu.

I wasn’t even 100% sure of the difference between my first two choices, and now I had another. A handy chalkboard easel next to the counter gave me the quick 411 on the difference between the multitude of espresso + milk beverages, and I thought I would share. There is a lot more information that exists on the nuances of how to make each of these coffee drinks – their country of origin, when to drink them, and how they should be served (i.e., in what type of cup)…. For this post, I simply wanted to share some very rudimentary quick insight: basically, each beverage begins with a shot of espresso and differs in the amount and type of milk that is added. Here’s a cheat sheet:

  • Latte: Espresso + steamed milk + light layer of foam on top
  • Cappuccino: Espresso + little steamed milk + lots of foam on top
  • Flat White: Espresso (2 ristretto shots which deliver a richer, sweeter flavor) + steamed milk + micro dollop of foam
  • Macchiato: Espresso shot with a small spoonful of steamed milk
  • Americano: Espresso with hot water poured over the top.


- Kristi

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February 20, 2015 · 11:16 AM

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

Happy National Pancake Day! In celebration, I made browned butter pancakes with Greek yogurt. They were delicious, and now my taste buds are singing with joy. If you have never tried browned butter pancakes or Greek yogurt pancakes, you must. Read on…

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

Cooking your pancakes in butter creates a crispy exterior and soft interior. The browned butter has a light, sweet, and nutty flavor that will make your pancakes taste amazing! See those brown rings? Those are packed full of flavor.

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

I love adding Greek yogurt to pancakes because it not only adds protein, but it also gives the pancakes a thick, yet fluffy consistency. So this morning, I thought I would combine these two pancake recipes and make the ultimate fluffy, thick pancake with a crispy exterior and tons of flavor!

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

You can top these however you would like. I am a big fan of berries and cream, but maple syrup was also delicious! (yes I tried both) So whip some up and enjoy National Pancake Day!

Don’t worry that breakfast has passed, you can make them for lunch or dinner!

Browned Butter Power Pancakes

Brown Butter Power Pancakes


  • 2/3 c Greek Yogurt
  • 1 c milk (more for desired consistency)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 c wheat germ
  • 2 1/c c Pancake Mix
  • Butter for frying pancakes


Mix yogurt, milk, and eggs. Add vanilla and almond extract. Then mix in wheat germ and your favorite pancake mix. Add 1 Tbsp of butter to a medium sauce pan and heat on low until light brown. Add 1/3 cup mix and heat until bubbles on top pop. Then flip and cook other side until lightly browned. Top with desired toppings and enjoy!

Printer Friendly Browned Butter Power Pancakes


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Will I Outgrow Lactose Intolerance?

Julie Eckert

Guest Post from Julie Eckert

Lactose intolerance – I let out an internal groan every time I have to mention this at restaurants or at a friend’s house. It’s a phrase that doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but it has been my reality since I turned 21.

After 21 years of drinking milk, eating yogurt and ice cream, I was devastated to have to give up my morning cheerios.  It came on fairly suddenly, I ate a bowl of cereal and my stomach started cramping etc. etc.  Then I noticed the same thing was happening with yogurt, ice cream, and some cheeses.

After the discovery, someone told me that food allergies go through 7-year cycles, so at age 28, I anxiously and excitedly rushed out to buy milk hoping that I had outgrown the issue. I later learned that an intolerance is different than an allergy. (For more about this, click here). In a nut shell – as I have gotten older, my body has decreased the amount of lactase it produces – the enzyme that naturally digests lactose (milk sugar). Lactose sits undigested in my stomach and causes discomfort (among other things).  Turns out, I am not likely to outgrow it.

Lactose Free Milk is Real Cow's Milk

Because my stomach is fairly sensitive I was always wary of trying new things, especially when not at home.  To this day I still love and miss milk but for some reason I hesitated to regularly use other ‘milk products’.  Soymilk, rice milk, almond milk all seemed overly processed and the word milk felt out of place as there wasn’t in fact milk in the products.  Rather than use those, I opted to drink my coffee black, eat cereal dry and simply skip ice cream.  In my reluctance to try new things, I lumped lactose free milk into the same category as all the other ‘milk products and just went without. What a mistake!

About a month ago, at the encouragement of my sister, who is a dietitian and dairy guru (she works with dairy farmers), I finally tried lactose free milk.  It turns out…it’s just milk – real milk with a bit of lactase enzyme added so the lactose is digested before it hits my stomach.  After my first bowl of cereal with milk in over a decade I waited and waited for the cramps (and what happens next) to come but they never did.  Success!  Lactose Free Milk tastes the same, looks the same, and has the same ingredients as regular milk. I cannot believe I didn’t try this sooner; I’ve been missing out on regular milk this whole time.

What can I eat?

So… after some trail and error, lots of reading, and the availability of new products on the shelves, here’s where I stand:

I can’t just sit down and drink a glass of milk BUT, I can drink lactose-free milk, and I just bought Fair Life, a new milk product that is lactose free, lower in sugar and higher in protein than traditional milk. I love it! My husband, who is not lactose intolerant, loves that it has more protein and guzzles a glass after a workout.  It is now the only milk I buy – it’s more expensive but the ingredients and lack of lactose are worth every penny.  I could go on and on…

I can eat my mom’s amazing home made Mac and Cheese IF I take a Lactaid pill (basically a pill that delivers the lactase enzyme to my body) and my mom uses cheese naturally low in lactose like sharp cheddar and aged Swiss. (some cheddars are actually lactose free)

Even though I should be able to eat yogurt – yogurt is naturally low in lactose since its’ benefical bacteria digest lactose – my body still has some issues.

Pizza, especially pizza topped with fresh Mozzarella cheese is tough for me, but a Lactaid pill absolutely helps here too.

Living lactose-free has been a lifestyle change, but I’ve learned that it is by no means the end of dairy consumption.  Next on the list of things to try – lactose free yogurt & Ice cream!


How much do you know about Lactose Intolerance? Take the quiz to find out.


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DIY Valentine Chocolates


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Valentines Day is the day for love, cards, and chocolates. To help you get ready, I met with Christie Thompson, a chocolatier and good friend. Christie has been making incredible chocolates for the last 15 years and currently makes chocolates for Rebecca’s Chocolates in Salt Lake City, UT. If you have ever had Rebecca’s, you know they are some of the best around.

In the past, I had tried dipping strawberries, and making my own chocolates, but mine always began to sweat, streak, or melt and never looked very appetizing by the time I arrived at the party. Christie, graciously agreed to share her secrets, and with her help, I dipped fruits that lasted and looked beautiful for days. And I made my first truffle, which I must say was the best I have tasted. We made a large batch of chocolate fruits and truffles that were savored and raved about by friends and family.

Dipping Fruit

First, you want to make sure your fruit is at room temperature (~68°). If it is chilled at all, it will sweat after dipping. Also, your fruit must be completely dry, so no washing immediately prior. Buy pre-washed or wash and let dry for at least a day before dipping.

Processed with VSCOcamFor small berries, place in small cupcake lined cups at room temperature.

Then melt the chocolate. This can be done in the microwave or double boiler. If melting in the microwave, heat for 3 minutes at 20-30% power, stir, and repeat until melted. If melting in a double boiler, heat on low and allow chocolate to melt for 15-20 minutes while mixing. You don’t want to get the chocolate too hot or allow steam from the bottom pot to come out and get into the chocolate. A good test to make sure your pot is not too hot is to place your hands on the side; you should be able to leave your hands on the pot without burning them.

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Once your chocolate is melted, you want to let it cool to 68-72° (otherwise it will streak). There are several things you can do to ensure proper temperature:

  • Use a candy thermometer to test the temperature
  • Place a small dot of chocolate on wax paper and test for streaking
  • Pull up a small ribbon of chocolate with a fork and allow it to drizzle back into the bowl. The drizzled bit should remain on top and not melt back in.

At this point your chocolate is ready for use.

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For strawberries, hold the stem and dip the berry 3/4 into the chocolate, pull out and let drip, then place on parchment paper to cool. For the other berries, simply drizzle chocolate over the fruit in lined cupcake cups and allow to cool. You may want to open a window to make sure your kitchen in cool enough to allow the chocolate to set. Once set, enjoy!


When my friends and family ate these truffles they asked what made them so creamy and buttery. I gave them a short answer, “cream and butter.”

Processed with VSCOcamIngredients:

  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 Tbsp cooled butter
  • 16 oz chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp extract of choice (vanilla, cherry, almond, etc)


In a small pot, heat the cream on low and allow to come to a gentle boil. You don’t want to heat it too much or it will curdle, but you need to heat it enough to prevent molding. Look for a film to appear on the top and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes. Do not stir!

Remove from heat and add the butter. Do not stir until the butter has fully melted. The butter helps gently cool the cream and thicken the mixture. Once the cream has cooled to almost room temperature, add the chocolate and mix. If you add the chocolate too early while the cream is still too warm it will become clumpy. Mix with a whisk until chocolate is fully incorporated. Then add flavoring extract.

Place a long sheet of saran wrap in a shallow casserole dish. Your sheet should be about twice as long as the dish and hang over the sides. Pour the mix into the casserole dish and wrap the remaining saran wrap over the top of the mixture. Make sure the mixture is fully contained by the saran warp. This allows you to easily remove the truffle from the dish once cooled. Cool in the the fridge at minimum 3-4 hours. 

Once cooled, cut into shapes using a cookie cutter dipped in cornstarch. If the truffle is too soft to manage, roll in corn starch before dipping.

Then, using a fork (Christie uses her hands), dip the truffle into melted chocolate using the same tips as outlined above for the fruit. Then cool on parchment paper. Again, if your kitchen has warmed up, open a window or take the chocolates outside to cool.

Once cooled, enjoy and store in the fridge (if they last that long).
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Note: It is important to use high quality chocolate made for dipping to ensure good end results. If you are going to use a lower quality such as chocolate chips from the store, add about 1 T of coconut oil to the chocolates to help them look shiny. In high quality chocoaltes you will notice coconut oil as an ingredient where lower qualities tend to use wax.

You could make these today and they would still be perfect for your Valentine tomorrow.

Happy Valentines Day!


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