Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has assembled a team of doctors, psychologists, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists and other wellness experts to give you expert advice, balanced with real-life parenting experience. From newborns to teens, we can help you with your feeding and nutrition-related question.
The information contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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.
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 18-month-old tends to have tantrums in the backseat, and I need to stop the habit of giving him my phone to play with. What advice can you offer?
When he has a tantrum, stay calm, acknowledge he is angry, but stay firm. He will eventually learn that throwing a tantrum will not get him your phone, but you need to be consistent and patient. Give him something to do by keeping a bag of small toys and books in the car, or playing toddler music for him to sing along to.
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 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.
Meet Our Experts
Stephanie Walsh, MD
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, MD, 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, MD
Surgeon-In-Chief, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Surgeon-in-Chief Mark Wulkan, MD, 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, PhD
Psychologist, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Sheethal Reddy, PhD, 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 PhD 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, MS, RDN, LD, CHES
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.
Katherine Shary, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Katherine Shary is a registered dietitian with Strong4Life where she coordinates our motivational interviewing provider training programs and has helped develop our children’s books. Before coming to Children’s, Katherine worked with clients in the outpatient clinical nutrition setting for many years covering multiple disease states. She also has experience working with home bound tube fed patients.
Katherine earned her bachelors of science in dietetics at The University of Akron.
She lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband and dog, and is excitedly awaiting the arrival of her first child in the spring. She loves to stay active and recently completed her second triathlon. She enjoys working with distance athletes and sports nutrition to fuel for optional performance. When not working she can be found woodworking with her husband or testing out new recipes in her kitchen.