Doctor Yum’s Ban on Picky Eaters

Several times a week, I’m faced with the frustration of a parent of a picky eater, either in my pediatrics practice (Yum Pediatrics) or in the Doctor Yum Project Kitchen where I teach families to cook. They are tired, worn out, and out of answers after trying every trick they can think of to coax their child to accept new foods. Some of these families have children with more intense challenges stemming from medically related and/or developmental issues, and may need the help of a pediatric feeding specialist. Many of these children however, are the more “garden variety” picky eaters, whose selective toddler eating style became reinforced by hyper-palatable, kid-friendly foods and well-meaning but misguided parental efforts. After months or years of struggles at mealtimes, these families may be at the end of their rope. Here’s one way that I think can get the ball rolling in the right direction. Let’s stop calling our children “picky eaters,” especially in their presence! Why? There’s a good chance that they will live up to that label after hearing it over and over, and think that forever they will be picky. But taste preferences are NOT static, and for almost all children pickiness CAN be overcome! The average American family offers a vegetable only 3-5 times before they give up on it, saying “Too bad! Johnny does not like asparagus.” The research shows that they may need SEVERAL more exposures before they learn to accept a new food. Likewise, kids may just need MANY exposures to many new foods before we can really label them a problem eater. When it comes to...

Birthday Party at the Doctor Yum Project Kitchen!

Over the weekend we hosted our very first birthday party at the Doctor Yum Project kitchen. We could not have found a better group for our first party than the Smith family. Courtney Smith, mother of the birthday girls, attended our very first shopping class over two years ago with her own mother in tow. Courtney has decided that good nutrition is a priority for her family. As a result, both of her preschool-age daughters attended our Preschool Food Adventure Camp earlier this year, learning to prepare and eat healthy food. In addition, Courtney and her husband even attended one of our adult cooking classes centered on preparing meals with curry. So when Courtney asked us if she could have a birthday party for her girls at the Doctor Yum Project kitchen we were thrilled! When our team sat down to plan the Smith Girls’ birthday celebration, we decided it would be a great learning opportunity for all of the guests. We planned three stations where kids would make healthy snacks. During the snack prep, we offered lessons on tasting new foods as seen in our preschool curriculum. The snack making stations included preparing some tasty Pumpkin Energy Bites, a station where kids assembled a locomotive out of fruit including watermelon, and a green smoothie station. A rather unorthodox birthday “cake” was also constructed using fresh watermelon from Ochoa produce at the Spotsylvania Farmer’s Market. We were excited to find that the Smiths had invited not only a few of the girls’ friends, but also some of their extended family including grandparents, uncles, and aunts. A few of the...

Doctor Yum’s Salad Lab

This past week we had a very successful summer cooking camp with kids ages 7-12. Every day featured one or two summer fruits and veggies. One of the highlights was our “Greens Day” when we explored the fun of eating greens. When it comes to eating, kids tend to dislike all things green. On our Greens Day we featured green leafy veggies in two fun ways, inspiring the kids to try and enjoy them. First, we make Kale chips with multiple flavorings such as BBQ, cheesy (made with nutritional yeast), and our new flavored “Kale-itos” (recipe coming soon!). The kids couldn’t get enough of these “chippy,” crispy greens. No matter how many camps I teach, I’m always surprised at how fast the kale chips are devoured! We then stirred up more interest and excitement with our “Salad Lab.” Similar to a science lab, the kids were provided an opportunity to exercise their creative juices by concocting a unique salad dressing, custom made to their own tastes.  First, the magic formula:     We discussed how oil and vinegar separate, but if you add emulsifier and shake, you’ve got dressing! We encouraged kids to try an equal amount of healthy fat and acid and then taste and adjust to their preferences. Kids could use herbs like mint and oregano from our garden to give that special zing to their dressing. We paired kids up, let them plan their own dressing, and then access all the choices to create a unique formula. For the acid we allowed them to try a selection of balsamic vinegars from Fredericksburg’s own downtown shop, Taste Oil Vinegar Spice. They chose from a variety...

Only a Culture of Wellness Can Save Kids from Obesity

  In my new practice, Yum Pediatrics, I am starting to see many children who for years have struggled with their weight. They come to me because their parents think I may have the answer to their struggles. They may have learned that I have a large instructional kitchen in my office and a teaching garden for kids. They may have seen my website about wellness and followed the work of the Doctor Yum Project, where I teach kids to cook local produce. They may think that getting their kids to see me will get them on the right track. It’s true that I have a lot of success when it comes to kids and healthy food. After children attend my classes so many of their parents tell me they start eating differently.  Kids come to my office for their well-child visits, where they are examined in my “carrot room” and leave with a goodie bag full of fruit, inspired to try new healthy food. I’ve helped lots of kids to improve their eating habits and many of them lose weight and feel better. However, the sobering truth is that there is a growing number of children who are addicted to food and that I CANNOT help on my own.  These are kids who have struggled with their weight, try and try to eat better, and fall off the wagon. They worry about food, sneak junk food in their bedrooms, and endure bullying from kids because of their weight (a stress that makes them eat more). I recently saw the movie “Fed Up,” a sobering documentary about how our government has...

Run 4 A Healthy Glow-The Silver Lining

Leading up to Friday’s event people have asked me what “Run 4 Healthy Glow” is all about. “Is it a Doctor Yum Project fundraiser? Is it a contest? What is it really all about?” “Run 4 a Healthy Glow” is our event to promote activity with a family-friendly, community-building event. This family run is a departure from the usual sedentary pizza movie night. It’s a time to be active, to drink in the outdoors, to gather with family and friends and run freely. It’s a time to sip on fruit water and learn about how some other awesome organizations in our community can help families to stay healthy. We also felt it was important to encourage as many families as possible to joint the fun by making the event free. Members of the Doctor Yum Project worked hard to make sure our second annual “Run 4 a Healthy Glow” was better than our surprisingly excellent first year. We planned more glow, more participants, more music, surprise performances and more prizes.  The weather forecast tortured us all week with possible rain, but on the last day the sun came out and the evening forecast looked perfect. At 7:30 pm the crowded poured in with tons of outrageous glowing outfits. The music was pumping and the warm-ups were underway. The night was unfolding perfectly. And the the rain came. “Are you serious?” we all said. Our board members and organizers looked at each other in disbelief. The radar showed clear skies throughout Virginia with a small rain cloud right over Fredericksburg. Unbelievable! But despite the storm, what unfolded was just awesome....

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