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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Angie Mitchell

Recent Posts by Angie Mitchell:

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Delicious Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-506243524.jpgThis is definitely my favorite time of year: football, cooler weather, and the return of all things apple and pumpkin. Not only are they chock-full of vitamins and other healthy goodness, but they are also delicious!

Apples: Benefits and a Recipe

The old quote “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could not be more correct. This fruit is loaded with fiber (a typical tennis ball–sized piece has 4 filling fiber grams), which helps to keep you satisfied. They are also high in immune-boosting Vitamin C. One recent study found that eating apples was directly linked to having a lower incidence of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Another surprising benefit of this fruit is that they may boost your endurance during a workout. The antioxidant quercetin makes oxygen more available in the lungs, and one study showed that individuals who had this antioxidant prior to a workout were able to cycle longer.

Grab one for a snack or try this delicious dessert.

Baked Cinnamon Apples


4 large good baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup raisins

1 Tbsp butter

3/4 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to a half-inch of the bottom of the apples. Make the holes about 3/4 inch to an inch wide.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans.
  3. Place apples in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top each with a dot of butter (1/4 Tbsp). Add boiling water to the baking pan.
  4. Bake 30–40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
    Serves 4.

Calories: 230; Fat: 8g; Fiber: 6g. Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Pumpkins have just as much to brag about as apples do. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which is essential for boosting your immune system, vision health, and bone health. You also get a significant amount of potassium from pumpkin. This helps keep your fluid and mineral balance regulated, which helps with heart function.

That bright orange color from pumpkin means it is high in the antioxidant betacarotene. This means it is heart protective and can help lower your risk for heart disease. Finally, just like apples, pumpkin is loaded with fiber. Each cup of pureed pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber. That’s one-third of your daily needs!

I like to use pureed canned pumpkin as a fat replacer in cake mixes, brownies, and muffin mixes. Just substitute the same amount of pumpkin for the oil called for in recipes and enjoy a lower-fat and nutritious treat. Here is a wonderful quick dessert to whip up, too.

Pumpkin Mousse


3 cups cold fat-free milk

2 pkg. (1.5 oz. each) vanilla flavor fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping


  1. Beat milk and pudding mix in medium bowl and whisk for 2 minutes.
  2. Blend in pumpkin and spice.
  3. Stir in whipped topping.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Makes 12 half-cup servings.

Calories: 60; Total Protein: 3g; Total Fat: 1g. Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes.

Enjoy these fabulous fall superfoods while they are plentiful, and give your autumn nutrition a boost!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition recipes disease prevention fiber antioxidants fall apples pumpkin spice

Coconut Oil: Good or Bad Nutrition?

ThinkstockPhotos-690357892.jpgCoconut oil definitely seemed like the food craze of the year in 2016. People were putting it on and in everything, from baked goods to coffee and lots of food choices in between. People were using it as moisturizer and hair cream; it was the cure for all! However, in June 2017 the American Heart Association came out with a statement advising against using this oil. So, should you ditch those giant bottles in your pantry, hold onto them just in case more research flips the advice again, or keep using it daily?

What Are the Arguments Against It?

The reason for the new report is that 7 out of 7 studies found that coconut oil, which we know is very high in saturated fat, raised LDL or bad cholesterol levels. They established no difference between it and other high-saturated-fat oils like butter and beef fat. Interesting to know is that coconut oil is 82% saturated fat versus 63% in butter and 50% in beef fat.

One reason coconut oil was touted to be so healthy and good for you was the high amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the body can break down much more easily than the longer-chain triglycerides found in fatty meats, dairy, and oils. MCTs have been found in studies to raise heart-healthy HDL cholesterol and help with weight loss by increasing your metabolism, which is why so many people see the benefit of this oil. Keep in mind that it is a fat, which means it is very calorie dense. One tablespoon has 117 calories. Therefore, if weight loss is your main goal, you still need to calculate this in when coming up with an appropriate calorie count for you.

Use Other Plant-Based Oils

What we do know is that plant-based fats such as olive and vegetable oil, nuts, and avocados have been found time and time again to be heart healthy. These are the type of fats that should make up the majority of fat in your diet on a daily basis. Using these oils for cooking and baking should be a priority. Adding in other fats sparingly can be a part of a healthy diet.

Nutrition Advice Is Always Changing

The science of nutrition is constantly changing, so it is important to be aware of this. That’s why the policy of a balanced diet with everything in moderation is key. Even if every new research study showed the health benefits of coconut oil, that still doesn’t give you a pass to consume it in unlimited quantities. And remember, many of those wonderful uses are completely calorie free when you aren’t ingesting it!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories fat diet trends

Focus on Fluids: Summer Hydration Made Easy

ThinkstockPhotos-586741530.jpgFluid (mainly water) is needed by all body cells for function. Water helps to regulate body temperature, carry important nutrients and oxygen to cells, remove waste, lubricate all joints, and protect organs and tissues. Our bodies are composed of approximately 67 percent water. As summer approaches and the temperatures increase outside, it is important to make sure you are taking in enough water.

How Much Fluid Do You Need?

So how much do you really need to be drinking each day?

  • Drink at least 8–12 cups of fluid each day (1 cup = 8 ounces).
  • Drink 2–3 cups (16–24 oz) of fluid about 2–3 hours before exercising.
  • Drink 1 cup (8 oz) of fluid 10–20 minutes before a workout.
  • Drink 1 cup (8 oz) of fluid every 10–20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 2–3 cups (16–24 oz) for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.

Infuse Your Water with Flavor

I often hear that water is boring or that many don’t like it, so that is the reason individuals are reaching for soda, juice drinks, or other high-calorie beverages. However, the best option for hydration and decreasing unnecessary sugar intake is still to consume water.

  • Here are a few combinations that you can add to a cup of water or sparkling water for a fun, flavor-filled drink that is not so boring!
  • Watermelon and jalapeño
  • Lime and basil
  • Apples and cinnamon sticks
  • Strawberries and basil
  • Raspberries and pineapple
  • Blueberries, lemon, and mint
  • Peach and mint
  • Cucumber, melon, and mint

Monitor Your Hydration

On a final note, a simple way to monitor your hydration status on a daily basis is to monitor the color and frequency of urination. Continue drinking fluids until you are urinating approximately every 2–3 hours. When your urine is a pale color, you can be confident that you are adequately hydrated. If you are urinating more frequently and/or your urine is clear, you are drinking too much. If you are urinating less frequently and/or your urine is dark in color, you are probably dehydrated and really need to increase your intake of water.

So drink up!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: summer hydration water

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets: Nutrition and Healthy Summer Fun

ThinkstockPhotos-492361906.jpgOne of my favorite things to do during summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around the Indianapolis area. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

The Top 5 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Market

Here are my top 5 reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support the local community. Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eat foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This handout for Indiana allows you to see which produce is in season so you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government websites to see if they have a similar calendar to help you make the best local eating choices.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendations are 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral nutrition requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break mid-week to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the next week. To find out farmers’ markets close to you, check out the Farmers Market Directory on the USDA website.

An Inexpensive Way to Stock Up for Healthy Eating

Whether you are picking up items for tonight’s dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer Indianapolis vegetables antioxidants local eating

Food Safety and Grilling: The Fun Way to Healthy Eating!

ThinkstockPhotos-475200404-1.jpgThe weather is warming up, the flowers are coming out, and daylight is around much longer at night. All of these things mean one thing: time to start grilling again! Having a barbecue or cookout is a wonderful way to do a majority of your cooking because it is a healthy preparation method and leaves little to no cleanup in the kitchen!

However, there can be some safety concerns when it comes to grilling, so read below to make sure you are informed.

Follow Proper Meat Temperatures

One of the most common reasons for food poisoning is not cooking your meat to the proper temperature. In fact, only 23% of Americans say they use a meat thermometer. This is the easiest and best way to make sure you are cooking your meat to the proper temperature. Here are the food safety temperature guidelines for different types of meat:

  • Chicken: 165 degrees
  • Pork: 145 degrees
  • Hamburgers: 160 degrees
  • Steak: 145 degrees
  • Bratwurst: 160 degrees
  • Fish: 145 degrees
  • Leftovers: 165 degrees

Use Condiments and Marinades Safely

Another thing to be cautious about is condiment safety. Always be sure to marinate meat in the refrigerator vs. sitting out on a counter or out by the grill. If you are reusing the sauce used on raw meats, bring it to a boil before using it on cooked meats; or throw it away to prevent cross-contamination. Condiments should not be left sitting out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees).

Don’t Reuse Cutting Boards and Platters

Something that might happen if you are in a hurry (or trying to cut down on dirty dishes) is to use the same cutting board or platter that had the raw meat on it for chopping veggies, or to put the cooked meat back on it. This can definitely be a recipe for disaster, so be sure to grab a different platter or cutting board, or clean the original one thoroughly with hot soapy water before using again.

Wash Hands and Utensils

Finally, don’t forget about those tools and your hands! This is where a lot of bacteria from the raw meat can reside. Thoroughly wash your grilling utensils once they have come in contact with the raw meat instead of just hanging them up on the side of the grill. Also, be sure to wash your hands and the grill handle that you touch with your hands after handling the raw meat.

Taking these small extra steps can guarantee a spring and summer filled with delicious (and safe) foods from the grill! And here are some tips for healthy eating at your next barbecue.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: healthy eating summer food safety grilling

The Danger of Yo-Yo Dieting and Weight Loss

ThinkstockPhotos-76755839.jpgYou lose 15 pounds. Then gain back 10. Then it’s time to try the newest diet out there and you lose 20 pounds. Then gain 20 back. Does this cycle sound familiar? This is called yo-yo dieting, or the cycle of gaining and losing the same pounds over and over again. This cycle is dangerous because of its long-term health effects. Hopefully reading through these dangers will prevent you from trying the next fad diet craze and instead adopt the theory of “slow and steady!”

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

The main concern with yo-yo dieting—or weight cycling, as it is also called—is heart disease. In November 2016, the American Heart Association released a study that found an increased risk of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death in postmenopausal women who had yo-yo dieted. They found that the more times a person had lost and gained 10 pounds, the more hazardous it was to their hearts. Another theory for the danger is the sudden shifts in fluid and electrolytes, such as potassium, that can cause deadly heart arrhythmias.

The recommendations are to not lose more than 1 pound per week to help with these sudden changes in the body. The best way to do this is to use nutrition to decrease overall caloric intake by 250 calories per day while expending 250 calories through activity. We know that overall weight loss is still healthier for the heart than not losing at all. However, how you lose the weight is just as important.

After reading this, some people might think “Well, I guess I shouldn’t try to lose weight again for fear of regaining and doing more damage.” That is not the case. Even if it is your tenth time attempting to lose weight, it is beneficial to all parts of the body to lose the weight. This time, though, make it a realistic goal and then take off the weight slowly so that it stays off.

Top Weight-Loss Tips

The people who are most successful in losing weight and keeping it off all do a few things that have helped them keep achieving their goal:

  1. Follow a consistent exercise routine.
  2. Weigh themselves, but not more than once per week.
  3. Eat a diet based around produce, lean protein, and whole grains.
  4. Don’t skip meals.
  5. Control portion sizes.

Instead of signing up for popular fad diets, follow these five rules to lose weight and keep it off!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss heart disease diets weight cycling

Is Chocolate REALLY Good for You? The Nutrition Behind the Treat

ThinkstockPhotos-71264413.jpegYou’ve seen it on the news and read articles in magazines, but is it really true? Can chocolate actually be good for you? Isn’t it too delicious and forbidden to be a food that can help with heart disease? Of course nutrition is confusing and things change all the time about what is good and isn’t so good for you, so what is the deal with chocolate?

The good news is that yes, chocolate is good for you; there have been plenty of studies proving that there are health benefits to chocolate. It does matter, however, how much and what type of chocolate you are consuming. So before you grab that king-size Hershey bar, read below to learn what to do and understand the benefits when it comes to eating chocolate in the appropriate amounts.

The Nutrition Science of Chocolate

The cacao bean, which is the base of chocolate candy, is loaded with nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect from environmental toxins and repair damage to the body. They provide antioxidants that help the body resist cell damage from free radicals. The main flavonoids are flavanols, which can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and make blood platelets clot more easily.

ThinkstockPhotos-510580190.jpegCocoa naturally has a very strong taste, so it has to go through many steps to form your favorite type of chocolate. And through this processing many of the flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed, and therefore have the lowest amount of antioxidants. However, dark chocolate that has undergone minimal processing will have the highest amount of flavonoids. As far as cocoa goes, the best choice is one that hasn’t undergone Dutch processing, which is when they treat it with an alkali to neutralize the natural acidity. (For more about how chocolate is created and how to enjoy it, check out this book.)

Be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose, though. Typically one that contains over 70% cocoa will give you more of the heart-healthy benefits. And watch out for the extras such as caramel, nougat, and pretzels that are added to the chocolate. Those can add a ton of extra fat and calories to the treat, and are not high in nutritional value.

How Much Chocolate Should You Eat?

There is currently no established serving size for the amount that is healthy for your heart. So the general recommendation is to stick to 1 oz. of dark chocolate per day. This is the equivalent of one square of baking chocolate, 54 chocolate chips, or 6 Hershey’s kisses.

Other Foods Rich in Flavonoids

Dark chocolate isn’t the only way to get in flavonoids, though. They can be found in many foods such as cranberries, apples, onions, peanuts, tea, and red wine. So make sure to enjoy chocolate a few times a week, but also incorporate other foods that have many of the same disease prevention benefits.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention antioxidants chocolate

Nutrition with Whole Foods: Winter Vegetables to Try

ThinkstockPhotos-636370602.jpgAre you uninspired on the vegetable front once the weather turns cold and the local fresh produce is no longer available? Luckily there are some hearty winter vegetables that I challenge you to try: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. These whole foods will add some variety to your current lineup—and help you get the nutrition you need more easily. Below are recipes to try.

Brussels Sprouts, Quinoa, and Cranberry Salad
Serves 4–6


  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed and ends trimmed, then halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  1. Toss the first 4 ingredients together until combined.
  2. Whisk the rest of the ingredients together to make the vinaigrette and pour over the salad.


Cauliflower Fried Rice
Serves 4ThinkstockPhotos-535428009.jpg


  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup carrots, cubed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch red pepper flakes


  1. Chop head of cauliflower into florets and place in food processor. Pulse until it starts to resemble rice; set aside.
  2. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium heat and drizzle in sesame oil. Add onion, peas, and carrots and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and red pepper flakes; set aside.
  4. Slide veggie mixture to one side of the wok and add in the beaten eggs, scrambling until cooked through, and then incorporate with the veggies.
  5. Stir in cauliflower "rice" and pour the soy sauce over the top, mixing well.
  6. Cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes, until cauliflower is soft and tender.


Turkey Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup
Serves 10


  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package (14 oz.) smoked turkey sausage, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 4 cups torn kale leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 cups cubed potatoes
  • 32 oz. low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 cups skim milk (or alternative)
  1. Melt butter and heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add diced onions, garlic, sliced smoked turkey sausage rounds, kale, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme; stir to combine and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in potatoes. Add chicken broth and milk; bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook 10 to 12 minutes, or until potatoes are fully cooked and tender. Remove rosemary sprig.

I hope you enjoy these winter veggie recipes and try one soon!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.


Topics: NIFS nutrition recipes winter whole foods dietitian vegetables

NIFS Dietitian Reviews Hello Fresh Meal Delivery Service

Hello Fresh Box.jpgWhen I ask people why they don’t cook more, I get a lot of answers. Typically it’s along the lines of “I don’t have time,” “I haven’t been to the grocery store,” “I don’t know what to cook,” or “I don’t know how to cook.” So I was intrigued by the meal delivery service options that are available for individuals who don’t cook as often as they’d like.

Some of the more popular services are Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, and one local to the Indianapolis area called Fresh Artistry. I had an offer for 50% off my order with Hello Fresh, so that is why I chose to try that one. Here is my experience.

Ordering and Delivery

I went to the Hello Fresh website to sign up. I was able to choose three meals to feed two people (from a selection of six meals) for $35 (originally $70). If I were getting vegetarian choices, it would be a little cheaper, and they also had an option for a family of four. After choosing a beef dish, chicken dish, and fish dish, I was able to pick my delivery date. I chose a Tuesday delivery so I could enjoy the meals during the week when time is short for meal prep.

The box arrived on my front porch with many ice packs to keep the food fresh. Each meal was nicely distributed into its individual boxes, which I appreciated, so I knew which ingredients went with which dish.

Hello Fresh Instruction Card.jpgHello Fresh Ingredients.jpgMaking the Meals

I pulled out the colorful instruction card for the first meal that it suggested I make to guarantee freshness, which was Bayou-Spiced Rockfish. It also listed the prep time, that it was gluten and nut free, the difficulty level, the ingredients I would be using, and a picture (this I really appreciated!) of the final product. When I flipped over the card, it listed the nutrition facts for the meal, what tools I would need to use, and detailed instructions with more photos! So far I was really enjoying my purchase!

I started to work on prepping the veggies and potatoes. What I really enjoyed was the fact that I had minimal dishes getting dirty in the kitchen. When I was finished, the only items I needed to clean were a knife, cutting board, and skillet. This was a plus for sure! After the veggies and potatoes were prepped and ready, I switched those out for the fish. The pan was hot so it didn’t take long at all for it to cook.

Hello Fresh Meal.jpgHello Fresh Veggies.jpgThe final thing to do was to put it all on the plate and taste it. I thought it was delicious! The portion size was ideal, the flavor was great, and the prep and cleanup were easy! From start to finish the time was around 30 minutes before eating.

The other two meals that I was shipped were also tasty. Each of those took around 35 minutes to prepare (due to a longer cooking time for the chicken and beef), and they both involved one extra piece of equipment to wash.

The Verdict: Thumbs Up!

Overall I was very happy with the service. What I really liked was the option to skip weeks easily when you don’t want a delivery. I was really delighted with the Hello Fresh process. If you have been wanting to cook balanced meals and do more healthy eating, this is the easiest way I know of to get started. Try one soon and let me know what you think!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition healthy eating wellness cooking dietitian

Helping Picky Kids Get Better Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-474735668.jpgHas dinnertime become the dreaded time lately? Getting picky children to eat can be very frustrating. Children of different ages may respond differently to various tactics. Here are a few ideas for how you can get your child to try (and hopefully like) new foods, and get better nutrition.

Pregnant and Lactating Women

Some research shows that the foods that a woman eats during pregnancy may “program” the fetus’ food preferences later in life. Both amniotic fluid and breast milk take on flavors and odors of the foods mom eats. When pregnant and breastfeeding, try these tactics:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to expose your baby to an assortment of flavors and smells. This may reduce the chance that your child will be a picky eater.
  • Avoid a diet based around junk food. Your need for additional calories is not a good reason to eat food that contains no nutritional value. Doing so may increase the amount of sugar needed to experience reward in your child’s developing brain, possibly leading to loss of control and binge-eating episodes later in life.


Feed your baby variety. It often takes the introduction of a new food ten times for a young child to develop a taste for it. Most babies grimace at every new food. Keep trying a food and your baby may learn to like it.

  • Introduce vegetables before fruits so that the child does not get used to eating sweet foods all the time.
  • When eating several different foods at one meal, introduce new foods before familiar favorites. If they do not know mashed bananas are available, they may try the lima bean puree.
  • Do not avoid foods because you do not like them. Your child may learn to like different foods than you.

Toddlers and Children

As with babies, toddlers may refuse foods—not because they don’t like them, but because they begin to realize they have a choice. Let your child make other decisions, like what book to read, or what clothes to wear, but not what to eat once the food is on the table. A toddler’s growth may be slowing down, so they may eat less. If they are not eating, they may be full from snacks or juice, or they may have been served a portion that is too large. Babies and toddlers will not starve themselves!

  • Eat with your children, and eat the same things. Dad can’t avoid green vegetables, and mom can’t avoid bread or starchy vegetables; your child will pick up on that and think they can avoid certain foods, too.
  • Turn the TV off. Young children need to focus on eating, and distractions such as cartoons will keep them from eating.
  • Make foods fun! Arrange a fruit salad as a smiley face. Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes.
  • Let kids play with their food, and be tolerant of messes! It helps kids experience the food’s texture and smell, and will help them eat it, too.
  • Make dips out of cottage cheese, tofu, yogurt, guacamole, peanut butter, or pureed fruits and vegetables. Your child can dip fruits and vegetables, rice cakes, toast, or other nutritious foods.
  • Find a fun character-inspired cookbook, choose a recipe, and make it together.
  • Serve one food at a time, keeping other options out of sight. Start with new foods or foods the child does not like as well first, and then add familiar foods and favorites.

More Tips for Parents

Here are some more ideas that will help make mealtimes more pleasant:

  • Don’t force your child to eat anything.
  • At most meals, try to offer mainly healthy choices.
  • Allow your children to ask for seconds.
  • Do not force your child to finish a meal, even if they want dessert.
  • Deemphasize dessert as a prize; don’t make children finish their vegetables to get it.
  • Have your children rate new foods with a pre-made “New Food Chart”: have them draw a happy face if they like it and a sad face if they don’t.
  • Finally, praise the child for trying new foods. That will encourage them to do it more often.

Hopefully by trying some of these suggestions, you can get your kids on the road to healthy eating—and start enjoying mealtimes more!

Related: Back-to-School Nutrition with Lunch Makeovers

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating snacks lunch kids pregnancy lactation