Picky Eating STINKS.

Picky Eating STINKS.

Especially when you’re committed to feeding your family REAL food.
After planning, prepping and cooking a delicious wholesome meal, the last thing you need is a child who refuses to eat dinner. That, my friends, is MADDENING. But, it’s reality and it happens in more households than not.

In fact, some studies designed to assess the prevalence of picky eating among children (which is not perfect for lack of a universally accepted definition) indicate that almost 50% of parents of two year olds believe their child is at least finicky if not downright picky.


But, have no fear peeps.

I’ve got your baaaaacck!! In my professional practice, I support families on transforming picky eating through workshops, live classes and soon a virtual class!

To ease the food refusal stages, you just have to remember the three Ws.  What.  When.  Where.  Your job in the feeding and eating frenzy* is to decide what is being served, when it’s being served and where it’s being served. Your child’s job is to decide if s/he will eat what is being served and how much s/he will eat.  It’s called the “Division of Responsibility” in feeding and eating. Yup, you heard that right. Your child decides if they will eat and how much.

The problems of picky eating and mealtime battles begin when parents inch their way into the jobs of their children and vice versa. In other words, lines get crossed: parents try to decide if and how much their child will eat, and children try to demand what food is being served, when it’s served and where it’s served.

For example, let’s look at the one bite rule. This is the parent-created rule about taking one bite of something new before you refuse to eat it. It seems like an innocent strategy that perhaps is successful sometimes for some families. But, it’s straight up coercion. Coercion leads to all sorts of negative issues when it comes to food and our children. The worst is that your child develops a negative relationship with food consumed against his/her will. And, the tasting and trying of new foods becomes less about his own competency in this area and more about pleasing you.

We all want our children to grow into healthy competent eaters – good thing there’s an evidence based gold standard for doing so. The Division of Responsibility (DOR) was coined by the internationally recognized nutritionist and family therapist, Ellyn Satter. Her work in this field of raising competent eaters goes back 40+ years and has been used by hundreds of thousands of families.

There’s plenty to talk about regarding how to make DOR successful in your home, but I’d like to focus on a strategy to help with the first W.  That is, your job to decide WHAT to serve. The goal to raising healthy, happy children is to serve REAL food. But, it they aren’t eating it, their hunger remains and your nerves are shot from worrying too much.

Strategic foods are the new wine. These foods keep you calm at meal times.

Every child and family member has likes and dislikes for food. If you’re responsible for creating family meals, it’s near impossible to please everyone with every component of the meal. If you try this approach, I’m sure you’ll all be bored of dinner by next week. A strategic food will keep you sane and keep everyone at the table from going hungry. Strategic foods are foods you include in the meal that are sure to please your picky eater.

Now, I’m not suggesting you serve PB&J alongside pastured, roasted chicken for dinner – that would essentially tell your PB&J lovin’ child that he doesn’t have to learn to try new foods and be a competent eater because you’ll always serve him PB&J.  

Strategic foods are foods that your picky child loves, but also are foods that are wholesome (or hopefully as wholesome as possible). They’re foods you know he can fill up on and therefore won’t be whining “I’m hungry” at 9pm when he should be snoozing. These are foods that keep you sane and feeling good that your child is coming to the table to eat a meal and feel nourished.

In my family, strategic foods vary depending on what I’m serving for the meal. My kid is like most and loves carbohydrates. So, if I’m serving burgers (of which he’s finicky about), then I’ll be sure to serve it alongside loads of homemade, baked sweet potato steak fries. If he isn’t interested in the burger, it’s fine with me. I tell him “there’s always something at the table you will enjoy eating. Choose what you like and eat as much as you want.” He’s been known to throw back large quantities of sweet potatoes!

Other times, I’ll serve grass-fed steak which he LOVES and thus it becomes my strategic food at dinner time. I can serve it alongside loads of yummy roasted veggies or raw chopped veggies. If all he eats is steak, well then, he’ll get his protein and have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. I’ll be well-nourished with all the veggies, not stressed about his belly and he’ll get exposed to a healthy eating role model and lots of opportunity to eat veggies too.

What are your kiddo’s strategic foods? Strategic foods don’t need to be carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. You can serve chopped veggies that your child loves. Pair them with a homemade ranch dressing that’s loaded with good healthy fat from yogurt or coconut.

My strategic foods include a random list: baked sweet potato fries, roasted chicken thighs, grass-fed steak, roasted garlic broccoli, corn tortillas, cucumbers, cooked maple carrots, baked beans, corn on the cob, raw pickles, sunbutter, maple & coconut acorn squash with raisins and more.


Here are a few ideas for you to consider for dinnertime strategic foods.

Of course, every child is different so your list of strategic foods may vary from the list below.

What’s on the menu?

Potential strategic food

Make it REAL and wholesome!



Choose brands with organic corn, water, lime –  perhaps salt and maybe oil. Serve with a healthy fat like coconut oil or REAL butter.



Choose a paleo cornbread recipe that includes coconut flour or seed/nut flour instead of refined grain flour. Slather in healthy fat spread!

Grilled meat and veggies

REAL mac-n-cheese

Peel, spiralize and lightly cook zucchini. Top with REAL cheese, olive oil & nutritional yeast or a cashew cheese sauce, depending on your food intolerances.

Pot roast

Cheesy potatoes

Use REAL cheese or nutritional yeast & olive oil for dairy free. These babies may go fast if you cut them up like baked french fries!

Baked or grilled fish

Skewered veggies or grilled pineapple

For veggies, cover in olive oil. Make sure you’ve got enough to fill them up since fruit and veggies lack enough fat or protein.

It’s time to take the stress out of mealtimes once and for all. Start adding those strategic foods to your menu! It only takes a little ..


A.C.T. (Action Changes Things): 

So, you’ve got a finicky eater?
Which wholesome, nourishing strategic foods can you start to include at mealtimes to help your child (or spouse!) become a competent eater?
Are you including strategic foods now? What are they?


I’d love to hear from you – tell me about your experience in the comments.

To life, love, and REAL food, 

Danielle Shea Tan
Certified Health Coach, MBA
Co-President getREALforkidsTM

*Note: If your child has handicaps or other major medical issues, the DOR method can still be used but may require modifications for your family dynamic. Please seek guidance from a qualified nutrition professional.



Balanced Meals: What’s a Healthy Carb for Your Kid?



This week, we’re tackling how to balance our plates (for meals and snacks) to help your child THRIVE.


A perfectly balanced meal or snack includes:

  • food to help your child GROW and develop
  • food to SUSTAIN their energy and active minds, and
  • plenty of color to allow them to LIVE brightly.


With a balanced plate of GROW, SUSTAIN and LIVE food, your child is more likely to experience optimum growth, development, and overall health. Think it sounds a little too scientific for your cooking skills? Nah.. It’s MUCH easier than you might think and so worth it!


GROW foods are proteins and healthy fats critical for growing minds and bodies.

Check out our list of favorite GROW foods; they should cover about ¼ of your plate (remember everyone’s needs are different, this is a just a rule of thumb.)


Today we’re filling another ¼ of your plate with healthy carbohydrates – these are your SUSTAIN foods. Why SUSTAIN?


SUSTAIN foods (healthy carbs) provide critical energy to keep your children learning, assimilating and moving all day. Without enough of the proper SUSTAIN foods you can expect sleepy, moody, whiny children.


And so, we reach the age old question: To carb or not to carb?

Unfortunately, it’s the WRONG question, especially for kids. Your body cannot function without carbohydrates because glucose is the main source of fuel for your cells. And, carbohydrates are essentially glucose.


So instead ask: Which carbohydrates are worthy of a spotlight on my child’s plate?

Without being too confusing, let me start by explaining that some GROW foods like lentils and beans are also SUSTAIN foods. As most of us know, lentils and beans are nutritious gems – unless of course you have gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation. (Stay tuned…Dr. Sue will tackle those “digestive disasters” in another post very soon.)


Let’s talk about grains and starches.

If you’re anything like a typical American family, you’re lovin’ white potatoes. Who wouldn’t, right? They’re usually fried up as chips, french fries or tater tots. But, if your family’s focused on this processed version of white potatoes, they’re missing out on some high value nutrients, plus getting exposed to unhealthy, toxic fats. Instead…


Focus on the WHOLE potato.
REAL potatoes, both sweet and white, are worthy of family meals! Add the rainbow of root veggies, pumpkins, and even plantains to make a complete list of healthy starches that’ll SUSTAIN your family’s activities AND provide a hefty dose of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.


Now, onto the elephant in the room: GRAINS.

Grains are found in virtually everything that comes in a box from cereal and crackers to bars and even baked beans. Most of them are just sugar disguised as flour.

Whole grains in their “whole” form can be a powerhouse of nutrition (if tolerated). But, a whole grain is vastly different to your body than the “flour form” of a grain. For example, the body processes rice and oats differently than rice flour or oat flour. To your body, wheat flour (or enriched wheat or white flour) has no resemblance to its whole grain form (i.e., wheat berries.)


What makes rice, oat and wheat berries so different from their evil stepsisters (a.k.a. flour)?

Whole grains have three major components: germ, bran and an endosperm center. The germ and the bran contain all the fiber and nutrients, whereas the endosperm is essentially the starchy or sugary center. In the whole form (as nature intended), the endosperm is protected by the germ and the bran. This protection ensures your body doesn’t get a rapid dose of glucose, but instead absorbs the carbohydrate slowly and efficiently.


Whole grains are loaded with B vitamins, fiber, phytonutrients and more.

If you don’t have gut dysbiosis or gut inflammation, they are a healthy food that can SUSTAIN your family. (Note: Gluten-free grains are ideal as a growing body of research is showing that gluten from American crops is a very tough protein to process. More to come on this topic.)


Now, mill that whole grain into a flour and you’ve got a sugary powdery mess – literally!

When the whole grain is milled into flour, the endosperm center explodes and is no longer protected by the bran and the germ. Your body gets a heavy dose of starch immediately instead of gradually. If your body doesn’t need that much sugar at that moment (and it usually doesn’t), then the sugar is quickly converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Grrr…Plus, you (and your kiddos) may get all the side of effects associated with sugar highs and lows, a.k.a. the sugar roller coaster! So…


Check out this list of our favorite SUSTAIN foods to start serving your family:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Russet, gold or red bliss potatoes (definitely organic)
  • Carrots  (preferably organic, look for purple and yellow versions)
  • Parsnips (preferably organic)
  • Winter squashes like butternut, acorn, delicata and kombocha (organic, if possible or local)
  • Beets (preferably organic)
  • Pumpkins
  • Plantains (yummy!)
  • Quinoa (organic) –  technically a GROW food too!
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Ancient gluten-free grains like millet and amaranth


It’s not easy to examine your family’s favorites and find the ones loaded with flour (a.k.a. sugar in disguise). But, if you’re still reading, I know you’re brave and ready to…


A.C.T (Action Changes Things):


Think about your family’s favorite SUSTAIN foods.

Are they worthy?

Do they need an upgrade?

Choose 1 or 2 foods and give ‘em the BOOT!

And replace them with one of our favorite SUSTAIN foods listed above.


Need help finding a good alternative to your favorite crackers, cereal or more?

I’m here for you!

Tell me in the comments what I can do to support you on this journey.


To life, love, and REAL food,

Love, Danielle


GROW foods, Key for Kids



There are plenty of suggestions on the internet about how to create balanced meals. But I’ve found the only way to make balancing your family’s meals a priority is to understand WHY each component is so important to your kiddos’ health and happiness.


A perfectly balanced meal or snack includes:

  • foods to help your child GROW and develop fully
  • foods that SUSTAIN their energy and active minds, and
  • plenty of color to allow them to LIVE brightly.


Put simply, every meal or snack should include foods from the GROW, SUSTAIN and LIVE categories! This week, we’ll be talking in more detail about each category. Today we will focus on GROW foods.


GROW foods include your proteins and healthy fats.

Protein and fat should encompass about ¼ of your plate. (Every person is different though). Think meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.

Proteins are made up of essential and nonessential amino acids. Our diets MUST include foods containing all ESSENTIAL amino acids. Depending on age and overall health, there are 10 essential amino acids. The remaining 10 amino acids are nonessential meaning the body can make them as needed.


A lack of adequate essential amino acid intake can lead to physiological problems.

The media gives them plenty of fanfare for good reason. In fact, a growing body of research is linking deficiency of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, to ADHD and autism. Tryptophan is used by the body to create serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a hormone that promotes feelings of calm, concentration, comfort and overall well-being. Without enough serotonin, you can imagine how a child might lack attention or feel more anxious than calm. Melatonin, another hormone that requires tryptophan to be produced, regulates sleep. Low melatonin can disrupt sleep – something we all so desperately need, especially growing children.


Protein (amino acids) are the essence of human life, but fats cannot be ignored!

Fat (fatty acids) are used by the body for a host of physiological needs from energy production and immune support to brain development. I like to remind families of the importance of fat by the saying: “You need healthy fat to be SLIM, SMART and NOT SICK.”


I understand that children’s appetites are inconsistent at best.

That’s why it’s pretty easy for them to miss out on essential amino acids and healthy fat.


Check out this list of our favorite GROW foods to start serving your family:

  • Meat (ideally grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork)
  • Poultry (definitely pasture-raised and/or organic)
  • Fish (sustainable and wild-caught)
  • Whole eggs (preferably pasture-raised)
  • Soaked nuts and seeds, if tolerated (organic as much as possible)
  • Whole dairy yogurt or kefir (organic, no question)
  • Lentils or beans, if tolerated (served with plenty of healthy fat)


To make a complete serving of GROW foods, ADD HEALTHY FAT OFTEN.

Though many protein-rich foods like pasture-raised chicken thighs and wild salmon are a natural combination of protein and healthy fats, others are lacking in critical fatty acids. You can baste, marinate or finish protein dishes with healthy oils like pure olive oil, avocado oil or virgin coconut oil to be sure you’re serving enough fat.


Now, it’s your turn …


A.C.T. (Action Changes Things):


Think about your family’s meals and snacks.

Choose 1-2 GROW foods that are missing or need an upgrade.

Make the switch this week.



Which GROW food(s) did you choose?

Do you struggle with creating balanced meals + snacks?

Please share your journey so others are inspired to ACT too!


To life, love, and REAL food,

Love, Danielle


Vitamix, Hands Down the Best Investment I’ve Ever Made



Chef Jackie White and Chef Lisa Kelly are back to share their favorite food prep tips, and kitchen tools and tricks! These two amazing REAL food chefs shared their recipes for our Menu Plan Program this February and March. If you haven’t already, grab a FREE trial of our Menu Plan Program by entering your name and email below.


What’s Your Favorite Food Prep Tip?

Chef Jackie preps everything as soon as she returns from the store. “I do it on Sunday while my roast or crock pot meal cooks. It gives us family time and sets the tone for the week.” If she misses her Sunday prep, she does it as soon as she can to avoid STRESS!


Chef Lisa says a really great food processor will save your life. “It cuts your chopping, slicing, and grating time way down!”


What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Tool? Tip? or Trick?

Chef Jackie’s favorite kitchen tool is her hands! Of course! We’d all love to have her hands in our kitchens!!! When she runs out of a pantry item she adds it to her shopping list IMMEDIATELY, so her favorite pantry items are always on hand. Chef Jackie cleans her refrigerator BEFORE she goes to the grocery store. WOW. “It’s quick and easy when you do it on a weekly basis. Plus it helps you make your shopping list. It’s a good feeling to reduce waste and know what you have on hand. My refrigerator is the cleanest “room” in my house!” Hahaha.


Chef Lisa cannot live without her Vitamix. “It is hands down, the BEST investment I have ever made. Soups, banana ice cream, super smoothies, nut flours…there isn’t anything this thing can’t make!” To save money, she freezes all her veggie scraps to make homemade vegetable broth. Brilliant! “No food goes to waste and I haven’t spent money on broth in years!”


And {drumroll} their answer to our wacky REAL question…

If You Could Be One REAL food, What Would It Be and Why?


“That’s easy. A coconut!
I would live and grow on the beach with a breeze brushing my shell.
Plus I can be sugar, oil, fruit and water!”
– Chef Jackie


“My gut instinct says sweet potato.
I’m not really sure why, but they’re one of my favorites and I love them, so I’ll go with it!”
– Chef Lisa


Wow. Thank you Chef Jackie and Chef Lisa….for sharing your REAL food recipes, your tips, your tricks and your PASSION for REAL food. Your generosity floweth over and we gratefully receive it! Many Blessings to both of you!


A.C.T. (Action Changes Things)


Check out Chef Jackie and Chef Lisa on their blogs.
These two experts are sure to help you on your REAL food journey.


Every change matters.


Keep it REAL.



XO –
Team getREALforkids

Recipes are Guidelines, Not Law



Chef Jackie White and Chef Lisa Kelly are back to share their favorite shopping tips and how they plan their weekly meals! These two amazing REAL food chefs shared their recipes for our Menu Plan Program this February and March. If you haven’t already, grab a FREE trial of our Menu Plan Program by entering your name and email below.


How Do You Plan Your Weekly Meals?

Chef Jackie loves old and ethnic cookbooks. “Remember recipes are guidelines not law.” Her goal is to simplify, changing recipes to make them easier to prepare, eliminating whatever steps she can. Chopping vegetables into the perfect dice does not feed her soul (we hear ya Chef Jackie)! She plans meals around family activities, making the simplest meals on the busiest days and tries to buy what’s in season. Here’s an example weekly menu plan:


  • Sunday – Roast (crock pot)
  • Monday – Meatless Monday (eggs or fish)
  • Tuesday – Stir Fry (meat and veggies)
  • Wednesday – Sunday Leftovers (soup, stew or lettuce wraps made from Sundays leftovers)
  • Thursday – Tacos (meat often already prepped in freezer)
  • Friday – Eat whatever is left!
    • No leftovers? No problem!
    • Grab a Fallback Meal – a freezer meal from previously doubled and frozen recipes 
  • Saturday – Eat whatever is left or Pick Up Sticks (skewer cheese, meat, veggies on toothpicks)


Chef Lisa picks a plant-based protein (usually a bean) and makes as many meals around that ingredient as possible, so she gets the most meals for a good price. “If I choose black beans for example, I’ll buy a whole bunch, make a black bean soup, some black bean burgers, a black bean quinoa salad, and then maybe throw the rest over a salad.” She cooks or preps as much food as possible on Sunday to get the week started off on the right foot!


What’s Your Favorite Shopping Tip? 

Chef Jackie has 4 seasonal shopping lists and buys almost the same items every week. “I may get different greens or different veggies weekly but I buy similar amounts.” To eliminate waste, she only shops for 5 rather than 7 days. “If we run out of food, we go to the freezer for our fallback stash.” [See FallBack Meal from her menu plan example above]


Chef Lisa: “Don’t shop without a list. Have your meal plan ready before you shop. That way, you’re only buying exactly what you need and you’re not making impulse buys or spending unnecessary money.”


If you’re not big on menu plans and shopping lists, we hear ya!. That’s why we created our Menu Plan Program, which includes a weekly menu plan and coordinating shopping list. Botta boom, botta bang! Enter your name and email below and grab your FREE trial today!


A.C.T. (Action Changes Things)


Try making a menu plan this week using Chef Jackie’s example above.
If you haven’t already, make a triple batch of her taco seasoning and keep it on hand for an easy taco night every week. You can use whatever type of ground meat you prefer and mix in beans if that’s your thing!


Every change matters.


Keep it REAL.


“When you get off track just hop back on again.
You won’t be starting over,
just continuing on the track to building your new REAL food lifestyle one meal at a time.”
– Chef Jackie


Team getREALforkids