My 11-month-old won’t eat veggies like broccoli or peas, as he prefers bananas and apples, which are sweet. What can I do to encourage him to eat vegetables?
We are born liking sweet things, but sometimes veggies and other not-sweet foods can take a little practice. Some kids need to see a food 15–20 times before trying it and liking it. Keep offering them, and be a role model by eating your veggies too. Avoid the temptation to sweeten his veggies with fruit. That won’t teach him to like the taste of veggies, and may lead him down a path of long-term picky eating.
My newborn cries a lot, and I don’t know what he needs. He seems to be hungry a lot. Should I feed him on demand?
Babies cry for a lot of reasons, sometimes because they are hungry, but also because they may be tired, overstimulated, uncomfortable, or just want to be held. By learning your baby’s hunger cues, you will know if your baby is hungry, or needs something else.
I know I shouldn’t let my child eat junk, but he wears me down. How can I break the habit without losing my mind?
Repetitive asking (aka whining) is tough to take. And no food should ever be totally off limits; that’s too restrictive. Establish how often he can have his favorite treat, then stand firm and be consistent. Eventually, he’ll run out of steam and stop bothering to ask. But if you engage in battles or occasionally give in, he’ll be inspired to keep trying.
Here are some quick tips:
- Keep treats out of the house and/or out of sight. He can’t continue to ask for something you don’t have.
- Be a role model and don’t eat junk food yourself.
- If your child asks for a treat, calmly say, “We are not having cookies today. Would you like a piece of fruit, or cheese and crackers for a snack?”
Once you have said no, when your child asks again, say something like “I already answered that question” and suggest something else to do—go outside and play, help make dinner—or something to keep him busy.
I keep nutritious food at my house, but my daughter’s friends, teachers and coaches tempt her with treats. How can she resist?
The good news is that you are still the most important influence on your child’s eating habits. But, it can be hard when you feel like others are sabotaging your efforts. First, think about how often this is an issue, and choose your battles. If it’s a teacher or coach offering treats often, it’s probably worth a conversation with him or her. You don’t want your child singled out by not getting what everyone else has, but do want to talk about ways kids can be rewarded without food. For other less frequent situations, like visiting a friend’s house, you can talk to your child about following healthy habits when they are away from home. The more you talk about what’s healthy and role model those habits in your house, the more they’ll understand the power they have to make good choices when they’re not at home.
I just want my family to sit down and enjoy a peaceful meal together. But mealtime at my house is crazy. Can you help?!
Good news: Family mealtime can be sane and pleasant. As the parent, you have the power to set a calm tone and create mealtime routines, which help everybody fall in line with your expectations. You also have the power to provide nutritious food so your kids learn the best way to fuel their bodies.
Calmly and consistently insisting on a peaceful, good-for-you meal is a great way to build healthy relationships with food—and each other!
Focusing on weight doesn’t help children because they’re changing, growing and/or going through puberty. If you focus on weight you’re missing what’s important: behavior. Focus instead on healthy habits. Set short-term, achievable goals with your kids and watch what happens.
Strong4Life suggests four healthy habits (but you don’t have to do all of them at once—start by working on one):
- Make half your plate veggies and fruits.
- Be active.
- Drink more water and limit sugary drinks.
- Limit screen time.
It’s also a good idea to check with your child’s doctor about his or her weight. Your doctor has your child’s growth history, and can help you set healthy habit goals.
I’ve heard a high-protein, low carb diet can help with weight loss. Is this a good diet for my family?
Fad diets might jump start weight loss, but they’re not sustainable, so the weight will come right back. Low-carb diets are missing the healthy nutrients found in fruits, whole grains, beans, and other healthy “carb” foods. Special diet shakes and bars are missing the nutrients your body gets from eating balanced meals and snacks, and most are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners, unhealthy fats, and sometimes unregulated herbs or other supplements that aren’t intended for kids. Making healthy choices is something you want your kids to do every day for the rest of their lives; unfortunately, there’s no overnight fix. You want to show and teach them how to make good decisions 15, 20, even 40 years from now, not just take the easy (and unhealthy) way out.
Meet Our Experts
Stephanie Walsh, M.D.
Medical Director, Child Wellness, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
With more than a dozen years of experience in promoting wellness, Medical Director of Child Wellness Stephanie Walsh, M.D., is a leader in the field. A board-certified pediatrician and diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, Dr. Walsh played an instrumental role in establishing the Children’s Strong4Life movement. As a working mom with three boys, ages 16, 14 and 12, Dr. Walsh knows the real challenges of parenting, and it’s her personal mission to help Georgia families become healthier and happier. In fact, her toughest personal parenting struggle is getting her boys to eat their veggies, something she says is a daily battle.
Dr. Walsh received her Doctor of Medicine degree at the Medical College of Georgia in 2000 and completed a residency in pediatrics at Emory University in 2004.
Dr. Walsh lives in Atlanta with her husband and three sons. She enjoys running and spending time with her family.
Mark Wulkan, M.D.
Surgeon-In-Chief, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Surgeon-in-Chief Mark Wulkan, M.D., is an expert in advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques. The exclusive surgeon for the Strong4Life Clinic, he introduced pediatric bariatric surgery to the clinic in 2004. Seeing children’s lives arrested by obesity and working with patients who have turned to bariatric surgeries, like gastric bypass surgery, inspired Dr. Wulkan to play an active part in bringing more specialized support to kids and their families at Children’s Strong4Life Clinic. A parent to three kids, ages 17, 14 and 11, Dr. Wulkan is a huge proponent of role modeling healthy habits beginning early in life. He says his biggest parenting challenge is finding time to eat together as a family.
Dr. Wulkan has been repeatedly recognized by Atlanta Magazine in its annual “Top Doctors” issue. He completed his residency in general surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital Medical Center at the University of Miami in 1994 and graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in 1989 with summa cum laude honors. He also completed a fellowship in pediatric surgical critical care at the University of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital in 1995 and a research fellowship at the University of Alabama and The Children’s Hospital of Alabama in 1996, where he completed an additional residency in pediatric surgery in 1998.
He lives in Atlanta with his wife and children. An avid running enthusiast, Dr. Wulkan belongs to a running group made up of his colleagues on the medical staff here at Children’s.
Sheethal Reddy, Ph.D.
Psychologist, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Sheethal Reddy, Ph.D., joined the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team in 2011 as the clinical psychologist at the Strong4Life Clinic. Dr. Reddy helps patients and families make small but meaningful changes in their daily lives to improve their health and well-being. An expert in weight management, Dr. Reddy is a great source of advice on how to raise kids who feel good about their bodies at any size.
As the mom of a 2-year-old boy, Dr. Reddy says that her biggest challenge is keeping her son entertained while she and her husband make dinner during the workweek.
She earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 2009 from Kent State University. An undergraduate alumna of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), she received a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 2002.
Dr. Reddy completed a postdoctoral fellowship in child and adolescent psychology at Emory University in 2012 and a predoctoral internship in obesity and behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center in 2009.
When she is not working, Dr. Reddy enjoys reading, cooking and spending time outdoors.
Wendy Palmer, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., C.H.E.S.
Registered Dietitian, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Wendy Palmer has been a member of the Strong4Life team since 2011. As a registered dietitian and manager of child wellness, Wendy has been instrumental in the development of many of Strong4Life’s initiatives aiming to impact child wellness in Georgia.
As a mom to Caden (age 7) and Kellen (age 5), Wendy’s biggest parenting challenge is that her youngest son is a carbohydrate addict. He prefers bread, cereal, crackers, waffles, pancakes — you name it! Even though her oldest son eats veggies and fruits happily, it’s a daily battle to get Kellen to eat his veggies.
She received a Master of Science in health care policy and management and completed a dietetic internship at Stony Brook University in 2005. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Ithaca College in community health education in 2003.
Wendy lives in Dacula, Georgia, with her husband, two sons and three dogs. When she is not working, she enjoys running, cooking and spending time being active with her kids.
Cheryl A. Williams, M.P.H., R.D.N., L.D.
Registered Dietitian, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Wellness Program Specialist and Registered Dietitian Cheryl A. Williams joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in 2013 and has served as the project lead for a variety of child wellness programs aimed at promoting healthy habits. With more than eight years of experience in the field, Cheryl has a distinct background in nutrition education and health promotion. She has a passion for teaching parents about the impact of early feeding practices, offering a wealth of advice and quick, easy tips for busy parents. In fact, Cheryl serves as an active role model for her younger siblings, ages 11 and 10, and says her biggest challenge is managing their love of sweet treats.
Cheryl received a Maters of Public Health with a focus in health education, from New Mexico State University in 2016, completed a didactic program in dietetics from Hunter College in 2006 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Long Island University in 2003.
Cheryl is a foodie who enjoys cooking and developing nutritious recipes in her free time.