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.
My 3-year-old is an extremely picky eater. She only likes chicken nuggets. How can I expand the variety of foods she eats?
It’s normal for kids to be suspicious of new foods. In fact, many kids need to see a new food 15–20 times before trying and liking it. Offer a variety of healthy foods for the whole family, and let her choose what to eat from what you have provided. Being a short-order cook and making chicken nuggets just for her will reinforce her picky eating habits
My daughter will literally throw a fit in public if I don’t let her order a soft drink. What should I do?
Stay calm, remember who’s in charge and focus on doing what’s best for your child’s health. Do your best to avoid a tantrum in the restaurant by setting expectations ahead of time—let her know she won’t be getting soda before leaving the house, and remind her again in the parking lot. Change is hard for everyone—and it’s natural for kids to test limits—but if you model healthy habits, be consistent and praise your children for good choices, the habits will eventually stick!
Your child’s body knows how much food she needs, and it’s normal for kids to eat much smaller portions than adults. Distractions like screens and toys make it harder for your child to recognize her body’s signals that it’s hungry and full, and can lead to overeating. It’s best to turn off the TV and remove toys from the table, and use mealtime as an opportunity to talk as a family.
If you think your child is hurrying through her meal to get to TV time, make it a rule that the TV does not get turned on until mealtime is over and the dishes are cleaned.
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.
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.
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 18, 16 and 14, 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 19, 16 and 13, 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 preschooler and a toddler, Dr. Reddy says that her biggest challenge is keeping her kids 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 9) and Kellen (age 7), 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 welcomed a baby girl into the family this 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.
Kathleen Hill, MS, LAPC
Licensed Therapist, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Kathleen Hill is the newest member of the Strong4Life team, joining in early 2018. As a licensed therapist, Kathleen is excited to use her experience with students and families in the Atlanta Public Schools system to continue to strengthen Strong4Life programs and Strong4Life.com from a mental health perspective.
As a new mom, Kathleen’s biggest challenge is finding time to balance healthy habits and help raise a healthy eater.
She received a Master of Science in mental health counseling from Georgia State University in 2015 and a Bachelor of Science in communication from Michigan State University in 2011.
Kathleen lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, one-year-old son and dog. When she is not working, she enjoys traveling, reading, trying new foods and being outside with her family.