Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sneaky Foods!

Below is an article I just wrote for our monthly ladies' newsletter at church. The bottom line for WFMW is....

what they don't know won't hurt them ;)


Picky Eaters!
By Stacey Willmon, OTR
Pediatric Occupational Therapist

We know of them, are one, or have birthed one! They exist in all genders, sizes, and degrees of pickiness! For most of us, we have gone through varying stages of being picky over the years or we have raised (are raising) children who decide to be picky about different foods at different times.

From a developmental aspect, picky eating can be very normal and can happen at different stages of growth. As parents, we usually deal with it at the time and move on. For some children and their parents, having very strong and particular food preferences can be an extremely tiring and disruptive experience.

When working with a child that has limited food preferences (this may come in the form of smell, taste, texture), there are several approaches that may be utilized over time. Determining any underlying influences can be a good first step; is it part of an overall sensory defensiveness issue, are there tone or muscle issues, are there motor coordination issues, etc. Many times either a speech therapist or an occupational therapist will be involved with the child whose poor eating due to “being picky” has severely limited their nutritional intake. Typically, the food issues do not reside alone and the child is also receiving treatment for other reasons.

Often, in more severe cases, we will work on the oral-motor and sensory needs that influence food choices and eating for the child. We will play mouth games using whistles, straws, special vibrating tools for the mouth, and special flavors to stimulate the mouth and ready it for new foods. We may implement a behavioral approach in conjunction with what we are working on physically. This can include something simple like a sticker/reward chart for anything from touching certain foods to tolerating a certain food on their plate without overreacting to actually trying a new food for the first time. I work with children who can barely stand to be in presence of certain foods, so we have to start there. Can you imagine how hard it might be for a child to interact with his peers if he can’t get past the odors of a food he finds obnoxious. Like a strawberry!

I play a game with my kids that is simply a way to introduce them to new food opportunities. I will choose 3-5 foods for that day and go in this order with the game; touch it, smell it, kiss it, lick it, bite it, chew it, eat it. Sometimes we make it all the way through the process with a food. Sometimes we don’t! Usually, I will set some guidelines so the child knows how much I expect of them. Also, remember, this is a game. It is not meal time. It is ok to “play” with the food and in many cases, ok to spit it out. If it ever actually makes it into their mouth!

For those of us dealing with just the regular pickiness of childhood, try to implement guidelines that work for your family. For example, I know my daughter dislikes many green vegetables, but she knows she has to eat at least one bite if it is on her plate. And even though I know she doesn’t like certain foods, they still go on her plate at dinner time.

The other thing that is important to remember with picky eaters is that typically, these kids are missing out on many of their nutritional requirements. Not to mention the fact that so many of the foods our children do eat are horribly processed, have been injected with junk, and lack the nutrients of days past. Believe me, I am just as guilty as anyone else in terms of buying those foods! I am getting better, but still guilty!

What started the theme of this month’s article was my excitement over the new book, The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine. You can read about her, the book, and much more at I know there are other great books out there, but this is the one I am highlighting. Just this week, I sent some of the downloadable recipes from the website home with a mom of one of my most picky clients! I hope it works! Here is an introduction from the website,

It's time to become a Sneaky Chef - the trick is to hide the foods kids should eat in the dishes they will eat. Imagine total peace at your very next meal, watching as your kids gobble up super healthy veggies, fruits, beans, and whole grains. With over 75 simple recipes, The Sneaky Chef is chock full of proven strategies for ingeniously disguising "superfoods" in kids' favorite meals. With the addition of a few fast and simple make-ahead purees or clever replacements (some may surprise you!) parents can pack more fiber, fruit, vegetables and whole grains in their kids' foods.

I love this website! You can get 10 starter recipes to try for free, you can read the blogs of both the author and a clinical dietician/nutritionist, ask questions, and much more! I am planning on trying some of these recipes myself!

For those of you who live by the motto, “They will eat it because I said so.”, I am glad that is working for you. For the rest of us, I hope this information is something you will find useful.

Enjoy the recipes!

peanut butter & jelly muffins
Nutrition Highlights: vegetables, whole grains, nuts Rich in vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K, manganese, iron, potassium, folate, riboflavin, selenium, fiber, and protein.
Makes 8 large muffins (or 16 mini muffins)
1 cup Flour Blend (1/3 cup whole grain flour, 1/3 cup white flour, 1/3 cup wheat germ)
2 teaspoons baking powder
One-half teaspoon baking soda
One-half teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
One-quarter cup brown sugar
One-quarter cup canola oil
Three-quarters cup Orange Puree (see Make-Ahead Recipe #2)
Three-quarters cup smooth peanut butter
8 heaping teaspoons favorite jam*
*Note: Jelly doesn't work as well as the thicker variety of jam; jelly just disappears into the muffins.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined, then whisk in the oil, Orange Puree and peanut butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until flour is just moistened (don't over-mix or the muffins will be dense).
Scoop about two tablespoons of batter into the large muffin cups until half full. Place a heaping teaspoon of jam in the center of each muffin. Cover the jam with another 2 tablespoons or so of batter, filling the cups just over the top. If you're using mini muffin cups, scale back quantities to fit into the smaller sized cups.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

make-ahead recipe #2: orange puree
1 medium sweet potato or yam, peeled and rough chopped;
3 medium to large carrots, peeled and sliced into thick chunks;
2-3 tablespoons water
In a medium pot, cover carrots and potatoes with cold water and boil for about 20 minutes until yams, and especially the carrots, are very tender. If the carrots aren't thoroughly cooked, they'll leave telltale little nuggets of vegetables, which will reveal their presence (a gigantic NO-NO for the sneaky chef).
Drain the potatoes and carrots and put them in the bowl of food processor with two tablespoons of water. Puree on high until smooth; no pieces of carrots or potatoes should remain. Stop occasionally to push the contents from the top to the bottom. If necessary, use the third tablespoon of water to make a smooth puree, but the less water the better.
This makes about 2 cups of puree. Double the recipe if you want to store another cup of puree. Store in refrigerator up to 3 days, or freeze one-quarter cup portions in sealed baggies or small plastic containers.
Orange Puree is used in the following recipes:
* Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins
* Power Pizza

p.s. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of making the purees yourself, you might start with some organic baby foods in the recipes and see how that works before moving on to making your own purees! Just last night, I added the carrots to our mac & cheese and everyone LOVED it ;)



Cara said...

That's good information! :) I like the part about letting kids try foods when it's not meal time so they are free to make faces and 'discuss' likes and dislikes.


Rebecca said...

Hi Stacey,

Thanks for visiting my blog today. COme visit today's post and leave a comment so you can be entered in for the giveaway!!

Jenmomof4 said...

Oops My daughter had been in her account on my computer and when i left the comment it put her name which is a family only blog. so here goes from my blog. :-)

Hi Stacey,

Thanks for visiting my blog today. COme visit today's post and leave a comment so you can be entered in for the giveaway!!

Jenna said...

Love it!!!