Three Moms Reveal their Struggle with Feeding their Kids

By Emily Carver, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Every parent tends to ask the same question, “what should I feed my kids?” It’s a daunting question and one that gets asked repeatedly as they continue to grow. With each year they get older, their tastes change, their opinions get stronger, and the options for nutritious foods become overwhelming to choose from.

Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to talk with three moms who have children from 8 months to 20 years old, to see what struggles they’ve encountered, how they strive to give their kids nutritious foods, and tips for other moms who may be in similar situations.


Name: Summer LaRee

Kids: James, 9yrs, Alexander, 4yrs


1) What’s a typical food day look for your kids?

Typical day equals – Breakfast: organic z bars by Cliff, apple sauce, organic, plain whole milk yogurt with maple syrup and berries.

Lunch: organic chicken nuggets, or organic peanut butter and jelly, or organic mac n cheese, or meat/fruit/veggie tray. Also, organic chicken, buffalo, or beef. A vegetable side like broccoli.

I typically don’t do a lot of bread around here, and rarely have cereal in the house – that’s a big treat. They’re not consistent snackers, but snacks include applesauce, string cheese, plain, whole milk yogurt (all organic of course).


2) What are some struggles you’ve had with getting your kids to eat nutritious foods?

My firstborn is a “texture” person. Taste is not first on his list, texture is. It’s difficult to get him to try new things and refuses to eat things he likes if the texture is off. The younger doesn’t have texture issues but is my stubborn one. He (both my boys LOVE any kind of protein bar), will refuse to eat all day and will literally starve himself, too.


3) Are any foods off limits?

No soda. Candy/sweets in moderation. I’m trying to remove wheat from our lives, but it’s HARD! Moving toward einkorn wheat, making my own everything, raw dairy, etc.,

but really, we don’t outlaw anything. We can’t 100% control what they are fed when not with us, so we try to have a little flexibility.


4) How do you give yourself grace on days that didn’t go as “nutritionally great” as you hoped?

Every day as a parent is a day of grace. You quickly realize YOU are not in control of yourself, let alone these little people you’re in charge of. You do your best and keep charging ahead. Otherwise, you go postal.


5) What are some ways, if any, you slip in nutritious foods without them knowing?

First, you have to ‘slip in foods’ from the get go- or you won’t get away with it later. My youngest loves Nutella. Not good for you, but, I buy the ‘healthy’ versions then I mix in a little chocolate flavored fermented cod liver oil and make him a sandwich with Nutella and peanut butter on it. It’s the only way I get cod liver oil in a 4-year-old, but it’s worth it. Mac n cheese is a good one to mix stuff in and spaghetti, veggies in the sauce is just normal for my kids.


6) Any suggestions for other moms who might be facing similar struggles?

The suggestion is – be very intentional about how you introduce foods/wean them. That makes a huge impact on the first 5 years of how they eat or don’t! I did a terrible job with both kids and I regret it.  I have a friend who does it GREAT and it’s so simple!


Also, never make your kids something ‘else’ for dinner. They get what they get. I don’t force my kids to eat, but they are welcome to leave the table hungry, with a promise that the only ‘snack’ they can get after is the food they left behind! Put your foot down.

Name: Meghan Reed
Kids: Finna, 8 months and Angus, 4yrs

1) What’s a typical food day look for your kids?

Finna is easy because she mainly breastfeeds. She is starting to explore foods a little, and I offer them to her when I eat. We do baby-led solids (so no purees or “baby foods”). She usually sucks on some dried figs or mangoes at lunch and then mashes around spaghetti squash or avocado slices at dinner. What I give her depends on what I’m eating – I don’t make anything special just for her. So, she’ll have soup, strips of meat, smoothies, etc. She doesn’t swallow much though, it’s mainly just play.
Angus still breastfeeds as well. He nurses around four times a day, and I’m guessing it totals around 16oz or so. I also don’t make anything special for him, he’s offered whatever my husband and I are eating. Our family doesn’t eat grains, dairy, or refined sugars – we only eat veggies, fruits meats, eggs, nuts, and occasionally legumes. I cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner from scratch each day and we don’t purchase any processed foods. I ferment our own almond yogurt, kimchi, pickles, etc. and make a large batch of bone broth each week. So, Angus’ diet is fairly nutrient dense. He usually has a scrambled egg for breakfast, some dried fruit or applesauce or almond butter as a mid-morning snack, and then he usually skips lunch and then has a smoothie (with frozen fruit, spinach, and almond yogurt in it) as an afternoon snack, and then dinner varies a lot. He likes all sorts of soups and stews, and his favorite is spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and ground beef. If he doesn’t like what I’ve served, I usually offer him a chopped avocado or some fruit. If he’s hungry, he’ll eat those, and if he’s not that hungry, then I don’t stress if he doesn’t eat anything. He nurses before he goes to bed, so I know he’s getting a nutrient-dense “meal” one way or another.


2) What are some struggles you’ve had with getting your kids to eat nutritious foods?

As long as, there are only healthy options in the house, then it’s not a struggle. No matter what he chooses, it’s good. During the holidays when family brings stuff over, or we travel, he gets offered snacky junk (like cheddar bunnies, pretzels, etc.) and then he fills up on those and refuses better foods. Also, when he’s not happy with what I’ve made, he’ll sometimes refuse to try it and ask to nurse instead. I’ve made a rule that he can only nurse if he’s at least eaten a few bites of food first.


3) Are any foods off limits?

Yep. No grains, dairy, or processed sugars. And, no packaged foods unless they are something I could easily replicate at home (I’m fine with packages of applesauce or dried fruits, but no fake health foods like “gluten-free pretzels” that have 20+ ingredients). I occasionally buy stuff like that as a treat, but it’s maybe once a month at most.


4) How do you give yourself grace on days that didn’t go as “nutritionally great” as you hoped?

Breastfeeding is always my back up. Even if they ate crap that day, I know they at least got a lot of really great human milk.


5) What are some ways, if any, you slip in nutritious foods without them knowing?

I can add all sorts of leafy greens to smoothies and mask the flavor with fruits. I don’t hide this from Angus though, he thinks greens are supposed to be in there. I also freeze our smoothies in popsicle molds, so he gets those as a treat.


6) Any suggestions for other moms who might be facing similar struggles?

I think full-term/biologically normal duration breastfeeding is really important. It ensures they get the nutrients and calories that they need even on days where they don’t eat well. And, then you don’t have to rely on PediaSure or cow’s milk (which can constipate kids and lower iron levels). Also, not purchasing snack foods that you wouldn’t want your kid filling up on. Snacks are basically meals for kids, so if you wouldn’t be cool with your child eating cheddar bunnies as a dinner, then don’t offer it as a snack. It’s easiest if those foods are never introduced, then there’s no battle to be had.


Name: Michelle

Kids: ages – 20, 17, 15, 11


1) What’s a typical food day look for your kids?

Breakfast: burritos with eggs, cheese, and a meat. Cup of water or whole milk.

Lunch: Older kids eat out during the school year. I pack a lunch for the youngest – ham & cheese sandwich on buttermilk bread, orange slices, Luke’s Organic Cheddar Lightning Bolt Chips, squeezable Greek yogurt or apple sauce.

Dinner always varies depending on who cooks, but it’s almost always some type of ethnic food: adobo, sour soup, chicken curry, albondigas, enchiladas, etc.


2) What are some struggles you’ve had with getting your kids to eat nutritious foods?

I don’t have too many struggles now that my kids are older. Our rule is to try something once before they are allowed to say that they don’t like it. When they were younger though, eating veggies was hard because of texture. They HATED (and still do) mushy veg! I learned that I needed to roast things like broccoli instead so that it retained its crunch, and that made all the difference.


3) Are any foods off limits?

We don’t buy soda, fruit juice, or any processed junk food like Pop Tarts, sugary cereals, Top Ramen, Twinkies, etc.


4) How do you give yourself grace on days that didn’t go as “nutritionally great” as you hoped?

I just tell myself that we’ll do better tomorrow–but, I’m not one who gets down on herself for not cooking the “perfect meal.”


5) What are some ways, if any, you slip in nutritious foods without them knowing?

Spinach in fruit smoothies! If you use a great blender like a Ninja, they’ll never know because they won’t be able to see it. Invest in a good blender!


6) Any suggestions for other moms who might be facing similar struggles?

Give yourself and your kids, grace. The foods they hate now could be the very food that they love in a few years. Kids palettes change as they grow and mature, so don’t be discouraged!


After having the pleasure of interviewing Summer, Michelle, and Meghan, it’s safe to say that parenting is a very personal thing. What may work for one, might not work for another. It’s important to remember that the nutrition choices you, as the parent, make for your children, are the right choices, and to be confident in your decisions.


If you’re in the thick of texture issues or boycotting certain foods, I hope these moms helped give ideas and reassurances in knowing you’ll make it through with grace and perseverance.

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So, you’ve got an intolerance…

By Alise Robers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student

After feeling uncomfortable for years I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease and a dairy intolerance. Right now, you are probably thinking what I thought when I heard the news, “So what’s left to eat?!”

A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein1.  When this food protein is ingested, an allergic reaction is triggered.  The symptoms can be mild or severe and potentially fatal. A food intolerance is different in that it does not involve the immune system.1 Being intolerant to a specific food makes it more difficult to digest, which leads to gastrointestinal problems.1 Having a food intolerance is more common than a food allergy but can still cause large amounts of daily discomfort.1 However, it is not life threatening.

My discomfort levels were extremely high at this point, so once I learned what the root of the problem was I researched exactly what foods I now needed to avoid. When reading the ingredient list on certain foods you are bound to run into a few substances you have never heard of, and when this happens we ignore that silly substance we can’t even pronounce and eat it anyway. Well, I can’t do that anymore. In my research, I found that many of those substances often contain some form of wheat and/or dairy. For example, dextrose contains wheat. Who knew?!

Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that can cause damage to several organs before it is even diagnosed or treated.1,3  If someone with celiac consumes anything containing gluten, their immune system is triggered2. The immune system responds by damaging the lining of the intestinal tract and symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, lactose intolerance, anemia, and fatigue can occur.1 The only treatment is to consume a completely gluten free diet that must be maintained throughout your life.


Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats.  To avoid gluten it is imperative that you check food labels for any of these ingredients:


  • Barley
  • Wheat (durum, enriched flour, graham flour, plain flour, white flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, semolina, kamut, and spelt wheat)
  • Rye
  • Oats (unless labeled gluten-free)
  • Triticale
  • Brewers yeast
  • Malt (barley malt or malt vinegar)
  • Dextrin
  • Modified food starch
  • Farina
  • Couscous
  • Bulgur


Once you learn what to avoid, this diet is very manageable. There are an abundance of grains, starches, and flours that someone who is gluten free can eat, so don’t get discouraged! For example:


  • Corn
  • Brown rice, wild rice, white rice
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet
  • Teff
  • Flax
  • Sorghum
  • Buckwheat
  • Starches/thickeners (potato starch, tapioca starch, arrowroot, cornstarch)


Milk allergies are more commonly seen in children and are usually outgrown with age. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest or absorb lactose.3 Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. When this sugar is consumed symptoms such as stomachache, bloating, and diarrhea can occur. After researching both of these allergies/intolerances I started to wonder if there was a connection between lactose intolerance and celiac disease. My first inclination that the two were correlated was the fact that I was diagnosed with having both at the same time and that I have not been lactose intolerant in the past.


What is the Connection between Lactose Intolerance and Celiac Disease?


  • Individuals that are newly diagnosed with celiac disease are commonly diagnosed with a secondary lactose intolerance as well. This is caused by the loss of lactase, which is an enzyme that digests milk sugar along the lining of the small intestine.3
  • Gluten causes damage to the small intestine. This damage is the main factor in the lack of lactose for people diagnosed with celiac disease.
  • Because our bodies are capable of so much, there is an upside. If you follow a strictly gluten-free diet then the gut will be able to heal. Once healed the lactose intolerance is likely to disappear.


To successfully maintain a dairy-free diet avoid these foods or find non-dairy alternatives:


  • Butter
  • Any milk or creams in all forms
  • Any cheese yogurt or ice cream
  • Half and half
  • Tagatose
  • Whey (in all forms)
  • Ghee
  • Caseinates
  • Milk protein hydrolysate
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose
  • Pudding
  • Custard
  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Baked goods


Following a restricted diet can be difficult but with time it will become second nature. Many of the foods in stores today have the Gluten-free stamp and the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that all packaged food products being sold in the United States that contain milk as an ingredient must list the word “Milk” on the label.2 These actions are making our lives simpler, safer, and healthier! Just be sure to read all product labels carefully before consuming any item because ingredients in packaged foods could change without any notice. If you are unsure if a product contains an allergen it is best to either not eat it or call the manufacturer.




  1. Drummond, Karen E, and Lisa M. Brefere. Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals. 8th Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.  346-351. Print.
  2. “Milk Allergy.” Miik Allergy-Foods Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 2017.
  3. “Celiac Disease and Lactose Intolerance.” Celiac Disease and Lactose Intolerance | N.p., n.d. Web. 2017.


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Filling Your Cup with Matcha Green Tea

By Sarah LeVesque, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student  

My first experience with matcha was probably the same as many others: matcha ice cream. This mysterious green ice cream has such a uniquely grassy and sweet flavor, and I was instantly in love! I started noticing matcha pop up everywhere: matcha ice cream, lattes, tea, mochi, and even soba noodles. I kept hearing that matcha is good for you, too. But how is it different than the brewed green tea that most people are familiar with?

Matcha is made from the Camellia sinensis plant that is native to China. It’s the same plant that regular green tea comes from. The difference between matcha green tea and brewed green tea is the way the tea is grown. The tea bushes of what will be matcha is covered to prevent direct sunlight for 20-30 days prior to harvest. The process of protecting the leaves from direct sunlight helps increase chlorophyll levels and the production of amino acids. This turns the leaves darker green color.

To make it into the powder, the stems and veins are removed, and the leaves are stone-ground into a fine powder that we recognize as matcha. So, in a regular brewed green tea, the leaves are not consumed but steeped. In a matcha green tea, the leaves are consumed, offering more nutrients, caffeine, and antioxidants. It is a high-quality variety of green tea that offers a variety of health benefits.

Matcha is an excellent source of fiber, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin A.


We hear certain foods are rich in antioxidants, and we’ve heard that they’re great for your body, but what exactly does an antioxidant do? Well, our bodies contain free radicals. Free radicals are molecules in our bodies that are unstable and electrically charged. Free radicals can react with other molecules, and even our DNA. These free radicals can turn other molecules into free radicals, also. They’re a part of our body’s natural function of metabolism. We can find antioxidants in almost all animal and plant foods, but they are found in higher amounts in fruits and vegetables.

Antioxidants are molecules that help stabilize free radicals by donating electrons. This stops the harm that these free radicals can do. Not all free radicals are bad. Our bodies use free radicals to destroy bacteria. Therefore, our bodies need both free radicals and antioxidants. But, when there’s a disruption in the balance of antioxidants and free radicals, our bodies go into a state of oxidative stress, which can deteriorate our cells and can impact our bodies negatively.

Matcha is high in antioxidants. A catechin called epigallocatechin gallate is the most prominent in matcha green tea and is known for its cancer-fighting properties. Its currently being studied for its abilities to fight inflammation, maintain healthy arteries and promote cellular repairs. One study presented that matcha had 137 times more antioxidants than a low-grade green tea and 3 times more antioxidants than higher quality teas.

Matcha and heart disease

It has been observed that drinking matcha green tea might help improve cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels in the body. A study done in the Journal of American Dietetic Association showed that the consumption of green tea lowers the concentration of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which can lower the risk for heart disease. Teas are used for their medicinal properties and the preparation of matcha allows us to get the most antioxidants and nutrients, which in turn supports our bodies natural functions. Why not get more bang for your buck and order a more nutrient and antioxidant rich green tea like matcha? Three glasses of green tea can be hard to drink, but that is the amount you’d have to drink in order to reach the same level of antioxidants that are found in one glass of matcha.

Matcha and our weight

Green tea is a common ingredient in many weight loss supplements. It has been studied for its ability to increase the metabolic rate, and in turn, can increase the total calories burned. While adding it to your diet won’t for sure help you lose weight, it benefits other than its potential ability for weight loss is enough to start filling your cup with matcha.

Matcha and our minds

Matcha green tea contains higher levels of L-theanine, an amino acid that has been known to increase alpha waves in our brains, than brewed green tea. Alpha waves are present during relaxation and help fight stress signals. L-theanine also impacts how our bodies use the caffeine we get from matcha. Matcha can improve memory, concentration, and our moods because of the L-theanine. There have been studies done that show green tea’s role in improving brain functions and reducing cognitive decline in the elderly.

While matcha green tea offers a higher number of antioxidants, this powerful green tea still should be consumed in moderation. Matcha contains a little more caffeine than a regular cup of brewed green tea. The caffeine and L-theanine found in matcha contribute to its ability to increase alertness while making you feel more relaxed. It gives you those feel-good chemicals, improves your mood, can help you burn more calories, helps stabilize free radicals, and is delicious! It’s found in most coffee shops and in the grocery stores. Next time you order your latte or see matcha in the stores, give the powerful green powder a try!


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Bananas about Bananas

By Tim Nordberg, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Everyone knows that bananas are a delicious way to start the day and that they contain a lot of healthy nutrients. As you already know, too, bananas are a fruit. But botanically they are actually a berry. They are grown in 107 countries worldwide, and Americans consume more bananas than apples and oranges combined annually.

This is what your average banana contains:


  • Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin B6: 33% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI.
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI.
  • Copper: 10% of the RDI.
  • Manganese: 14% of the RDI.
  • Net carbs: 24 grams.
  • Fiber: 3.1 grams.
  • Protein: 1.3 grams.
  • Fat: 0.4 grams.



Other than these important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, bananas contain pectin. Pectin may help keep your blood sugar levels in check.  It has been found, also, to reduce appetite by slowing down the emptying of the stomach. Bananas help your digestive health by supplying a healthy amount of dietary fiber, too! The average banana contains roughly 3 grams of fiber.

Like most of us know: bananas contain a good amount of potassium, which helps with control of blood pressure and is good for your heart.


I have noticed that when I start my day with a banana, I usually stay full for quite a while. Bananas also have great flavor and are sweet, so they are a great way to get your kids to eat some fruit in the morning!

Banana ripeness preferences differ from person to person, so if you’ve got a picky little one, let them decide for themselves how ripe they like their bananas. Some people like them when they are very green and others like them almost completely brown. I like mine somewhere in the middle!

There are so many ways to add bananas to your diet. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Cut bananas into rounds, dip in melted chocolate and freeze for quick snacks
  • Make pancake batter with mashed bananas and oatmeal
  • Add sliced banana and strawberries to a crepe
  • Add sliced banana to your cereal
  • Sprinkle banana slices over pancakes

For more information about bananas and our favorite banana recipes, visit Fill Your Plate.




Will Bananas Be Extinct in Ten Years? (2015, August 13). Retrieved April, 2017, from


Ware, M. (n.d.). Bananas: Health benefits, facts, research. Retrieved April, 2017, from


11 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Bananas . (2016, August 17). Retrieved April, 2017, from


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5 Ways to Naturally Relieve Cold & Flu Discomfort

By Alise Robers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Fevers, fatigue, runny noses, coughing, and sore throats are symptoms we are all too familiar with. Colds and the flu are infections caused by viruses that can last just a few days or up to two weeks. Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, and stress are all factors that make you more susceptible. Below are some natural ways to help relieve those pesky symptoms.

Start with some good ole’ Vitamin C. Vitamin C may not prevent a cold but it may help get you back up on your feet faster!1 Try some strawberries, orange juice, blackberries or grapefruit and when you’re bored of those go for some tangerines, mangoes or pomegranate juice.1,2 All are good sources of Vitamin C.

Hyssop Officinalis (hyssop) is a small bushy plant of the mint family that has been recommended as a decongestant for centuries. The bitter, minty leaves are used in cooking and herbal medicines. Drink Hyssop as a tea to loosen phlegm or gargle with it to aid a sore throat.3 Add some honey for flavor and extra soothing power!1,3

Ginger is a fragrant herb that can help you sweat out the toxins in your body, which is great for when you have a cold or flu.4 It also soothes upset stomachs, dizziness, nausea, and cold sweats.4 If you simmer three to four slices of fresh ginger root in a pint of hot water for 20-30 minutes you will have made a refreshing and very soothing remedy.1

Chicken noodle soup is a classic when it comes to colds and cases of flu, and health experts agree! The hot liquids help to moisten and clear the nasal passages, and sooth your sore throat.1,5 It can also alleviate upper respiratory tract infections by reducing inflammation.1,5 It’s even a great idea to make your very own chicken noodle soup at home using some garlic, sweet potatoes, celery, parsnips, onions, carrots, parsley and turnips.1

Pineapple juice is not only sweet and delicious but it actually can also help expel mucous and relieve a sore throat!1  After coughing all day mix up 8 ounces of warm pineapple juice with two teaspoons of honey to soothe your throat.1

Last but certainly not least, drink water! Drinking at least 8 glasses a day will help you replace the fluid you are losing and it will also keep your throat lining moist so it won’t crack and let another virus in!1,6



For more health tips, search the Fill Your Plate blog using the keyword ‘Health’.




  1. Chapter 7, “Cold & Flu Fighters.” Unleash the Inner Healing Power of Foods. N.p.: n.p., 2008. 69-72. Print.
  2. “Vitamin C In Fruits & Vegetables.” Fruits & Veggies More Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 2017.
  3. “HYSSOP: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings.” WebMD. WebMD, 2009. Web. 2017.
  4. Ware, Megan. “Ginger: Health Benefits, Facts, Research.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, Jan. 2016. Web. 2017
  5. “Can chicken soup cure a cold?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 2017. http://www.mayoclinic,org/disease-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/health-tip/art-20048631.
  6. “Cold and Flu: Natural Rememdies.” MyVMC. N.p., 22 May 2016. Web. 2017.
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