Child Constipation - What to try before Meds

FYI: Some of these links are Amazon affiliate links. What this means is that by buying through these links, Amazon gives me a small commission, paid by third parties, not by you. I only recommend products that I genuinely love. Thank you for supporting my page and all the hard work I pour into Helping Hands!
**Disclaimer: This information should be used for informational purposes only and should not be taken as direct medical advice. Always consult with your physician first before beginning and new supplements.

Child constipation (5).png

Did you know that frequently and regularly moving bowels is one of the best indicators of a child’s overall health and wellness? That’s because the immune system literally resides in the gut!

Regularly moving the bowels is evidence that food is being broken down, digested and that the vitamins and minerals a child consumes in their food are being absorbed and assimilated properly. Besides nutrient absorption, emptying the bowels every day helps to remove excess toxic waste from the body.

And since our immune system resides in the digestive track, its so important to have an abundance of healthy living bacteria present here too.

Many children are missing this beneficial bacteria in their digestive tract as a consequence of antibiotic over-use within the first few years of life. The over-use of antibiotics reduces the numbers and diversity of commensal bacteria, which can allow pathogenic or parasitic microbes an opportunity to thrive in. (6)

Healthy gut bacteria feeds a healthy immune system, but there’s something even more incredible about the digestive system; the presence or absence of healthy bacteria in the gut can directly affect and modulate a child’s affect and mood!

You heard me right, a healthy and robust gut bacteria ecosystem = a happy and healthy child.

The Gut-Brain Connection

New research coming out over the last several years has discovered how intricately tied the digestive track is to the central nervous system (CNS). We have learned that neurotransmitters that are responsible for modulating our mood (like GABA which calms the nervous system and serotonin which gives us a sense of well-being and happiness) are created right inside the gut lining itself! Isn’t that incredible?!

The gut-brain axis (GBA) consists of bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous system, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. (1)

Simply put, the state of a child’s gut directly affects a child’s mood and emotions via many different physiological pathways.

To put all of this into perspective for you, Ill give you a few real life examples of how this bidirectional Gut-Brain-Axis communication works.

  1. Did you know that upwards to 95-98% of the brains feel good neurotransmitter serotonin is made in the gut lining?

  2. Or did you know that chronic stress (a neurological/psychological symptom) can cause altered intestinal permeability??

Those are just two examples of the bi-directional communication between the gut and the central nervous system (CNS). There’s also the role of the vagus nerve, the Neuroendocrine (gut hormone) signalling, Production of Microbial Metabolites and many others which you can read more in-depth about here.

Three main pillars that encompass a healthy gut:

So to put it simply, there are really three main pillars that encompass a “healthy gut”

  1. Intestinal cell wall integrity:
    This is how tightly bound the cellular membrane junctions in the gut lining are. If the gut cell membranes have been compromised, food proteins easily seep into the blood stream causing over-reactive immune responses and consequently, food allergies.

    Signs and symptoms of “leaky gut” syndrome are: diarrhea, constipation, weak immune system, nutrient deficiencies, brain fog, fatigue, food allergies, autoimmune conditions, skin rashes like eczema acne or rosacea.

  2. Higher ratio of healthy to unhealthy bacteria:
    The ratio of healthy to unhealthy bacteria significantly impacts neurological function as well as well as immunological function. Although gut bacteria isn’t all that simple (being that there are billions and billions of bacteria in our gut), we want more beneficial bacteria than harmful bacteria. Overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut like candida and clostridium are common in children today, especially those who have experienced over-use of anti-biotics.

    Signs and symptoms of bacteria over-growth or candida are: oral thrush, recurrent urinary tract infections, skin and nail infections/fungus, digestive issues, fatigue, mood disorders like anxiety, depression irritability. itchy ears or severe seasonal allergies and strong sugar, dairy or refined sugar cravings.

  3. Regularly moving the bowels:
    As I stated previously, regularly moving the bowels is a good sign of proper food break down, nutrient absorption and waste and toxin removal. If your child isn’t moving their bowels at least once a day, this is not considered “normal.”

So if your child isn’t moving their bowels regularly, its definitely something that needs to be addressed. But don’t panic! There’s so many natural ways to help a child’s digestive system other than resorting to medications.

How Common Is Constipation?

Constipation in children is a common health problem affecting 0.7% to 29.6% children across the world. (2) The prevalence of GI symptoms in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is even higher, ranging from 23% to 70% (3).

Constipation in children can be defined as fewer than 2 or 3 bowel movements a week, also commonly associated with painful or labor intensive bowel movements. Children who struggle with chronic constipation can also deal with fecal compaction, a more dangerous situation that may require hospitalization.

Problems with the Standard Treatment Protocol

The most common treatment protocol for a child with backed up or impacted bowels is to start polyethylene glycol or PEG 3350- also known as MiraLax, to alleviate constipation symptoms.

The biggest red flag I see with using MiraLax is that the FDA has not approved long-term use of PEG3350 in children aged younger than 17 years of age, but the laxative is used off-label widely in clinical practice. Aside from that, its very common for parents to use MiraLax regularly, even though it was only ever recommended for and studied for its short term use.

Furthermore, the FDA received numerous reports of adverse events including neuropsychiatric symptoms in children taking PEG 3350, which included tics, anxiety, rage, paranoia, phobias, mood swings and depression. Some children may be more susceptible than others to experience adverse events to PEG 3350, especially in cases of younger children who are using it at high doses for long-term use.

In response to such a high volume of adverse neurophsychotic events, a citizen petition from the public to investigate and re-evaluate the safety of PEG 3350 was submitted to the FDA. In 2008, the FDA conducted a study to test for impurities. The most concerning conclusion from the safety testing were finding trace amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) in all 8 batches tested, which are ingredients found in antifreeze and pose neurotoxicity to children. (7) In 2011, a report from the FDA (4) also concluded that neurphsychotic events were noted in MiraLax users, but stated "no action is necessary at this time based on available information."

Due to citizen push-back and the influx of adverse neuropshycotic events, there is a multi-center research group effort being conducted to study the adverse events reported to the FDA regarding MiraLax. Additionally, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is currently conducting an NIH-funded study to monitor its long-term affects on pediatric patients as well. (8)

Regardless of all of this information, many physicians still recommend this product to young children.

I believe the jury is still out on whether to use MiraLax to safety treat constipation in young children.

While I can’t give an answer as to why we are so quick in the medical field to prescribe, I will share with you a few less-invasive, more natural, root-cause fixes you can try with your child who is chronically constipated.

I guarantee there is something on this list that is going to positively impact your child’s digestion one way or another.

Reminder: This information should not be taken as direct medical advice. Always consult with your physician first before beginning and new supplements.

Child Constipation: What to Try Instead of Miralax

  1. Add in ground flax and increase volume of fibrous fruits and vegetables:

    Start by offering a fruit and a vegetable at every meal and snack. Your child may or may not eat them every time, but offering them frequently is what is important. Smoothies in the morning are such a great way to get in a bulk amount of fiber first thing in the morning (when the digestive track needs it the most). Spinach, a daily greens powder (I like this one the best which also includes a probiotic and enzymes which help with food breakdown), frozen blueberries and frozen broccoli are all great places to start with adding fiber to breakfast smoothies.

    Another thing to consider is to add ground flax seed to your child’s menu. Flax seeds are not only an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they also function to lubricate, clean out and normalize the digestive tract. Some ways to offer flax seed is: ground in oatmeal/cereal, mixed into apple sauce, 1-2 tsp added to a breakfast smoothie.

  2. Add a daily probiotic:

    A daily probiotic is crucial for healthy immune and digestive health. It can also be a pathway to overcome a case of yeast of bacteria overgrowth like candida or clostridium. This is my favorite probiotic that my kids and I both take every day. Start with one tablespoon a day and work yourself up to a higher dose if you need to.

  3. Increase water intake by 2-fold:

    Go ahead an increase your child’s fluid intake by double. Use a rubber-band around the water bottle to encourage your child to drink more. Ex. “Can you drink all the way to this line?”

  4. Supplement with Magnesium:

    Magnesium plays a crucial role in digestion. Muscles within the digestive tract, including the intestinal wall, are relaxed by magnesium, which improves digestion. Magnesium also helps to counterbalance stomach acid and advances stools through the intestines.

    This is my favorite magnesium supplement for kids. My kids take one a night, as magnesium aids in sleep as well.

    Another less invasive option to increase magnesium levels in children is to do a daily epsom salt bath. The minerals in the epsom salt bath absorb transdermally (through the skin). This is my favorite epsom salt brand.

    A third option for getting in magnesium in babies and children under the age of 4 is this baby and kid safe magnesium lotion.

  5. Remove conventional dairy:

    Many children find relief from constipation when they eliminate or reduce conventional dairy and add in fibrous vegetables. Conventional dairy can be inflammatory to the bowel system in many cases. Because the homogenization and the pasteurization process kills off the enzymes, healthy bacteria and vitamins in milk, this makes milk difficult for the body to recognize and digest.

    This is a simple fix that can yield amazing digestive results. If your child eats a lot of dairy, it can be difficult at first so start slow. Start by simply reducing the amount of dairy your child eats and then gradually switching to more dairy free products.

  6. Remove gluten:

    Even if your child doesn’t have celiac disease, their digestive system could still benefit from reducing or eliminating gluten. In many people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart the tight junctions holding your intestines together (aka “leaky-gut”). You can read more about gluten’s affects of the digestive tract here.

    It can seem overwhelming at first to start a gluten-free diet with a child. My advise is to start very slowly. Switch to very similar products your child likes but look for gluten free options until you find one you child enjoys. Small changes at first as to not overwhelm the child and the cargiver are always best. I used to find it overwhelming to think about going totally gluten free. But now I find their are so many gluten-free options out there that I find a lot of freedom in that, and my kids do too!

    Here are some of my favorites gluten-free products:

  7. My favorite gluten free bread

  8. My favorite gluten free pasta brand (made out of quinoa)

  9. My favorite gluten free cauliflower pizza crust

I hope you found this article helpful and insightful! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comment box below.



  1. Carabotti, M., Scirocco, A., Maselli, M. A., & Severi, C. (2015). The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of gastroenterology, 28(2), 203–209.

  2. Rajindrajith, S., & Devanarayana, N. M. (2011). Constipation in children: novel insight into epidemiology, pathophysiology and management. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 17(1), 35–47. doi:10.5056/jnm.2011.17.1.35 (

  3. Chaidez, V., Hansen, R. L., & Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2014). Gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, developmental delays or typical development. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44(5), 1117–1127. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1973-x

  4. FDA Adverse Event Report:


  6. Rege & Graham. The Simplified Guide to the Gut-Brain Axis – How the Gut and The Brain Talk to Each Other. <>

  7. The Use of Polyethylene Glycol in the Pediatric Population Report by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  8. NIH PEG 3350 Study:

Magnesium + ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) have become so commonplace on therapy caseloads and in classroom settings around the globe.

As an occupational therapist with years of experience working with children affected by ADD and ADHD, I have seen how this diagnosis can challenge every aspect of ones life. I believe it would be a tragedy and great disservice to children and families affected by this condition, if we didn’t first evaluate the current research on effective alternative treatment methods for these children before we continued to recommended the continued disbursement of pharmaceuticals.

After an afternoon spent delving into the research of common nutrient deficiencies among the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) population, it became clear as day to me that an overhaul and re-evaluation of current medical practices are in order for this overdiagnosed and over-medicated childhood behavioral disorder. 

Research shows and undeniable link between magnesium deficiency and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  A brief review of research not only showed a strong indication that children with ADHD show remarkably lower blood-serum levels of magnesium and other key vitamins and trace minerals (like zinc, B6 and copper) than typical peers, but also revealed that supplementation of magnesium can have a significantly positive impact on behavioral performance and cognition status.

Since magnesium is vital for healthy brain function, involved in over 300 biomechanical reactions in the body, it is easy to see why a deficiency in this key nutrient could negatively impact brain function in children. 

The bioavailability of magnesium affects the function and binding of neurotransmitters to their receptors, such as serotonin and dopamine. (8)  We know that dopamine plays a crucial role in executive functioning skills, such as the ability to self-regulate and control impulses.  Magnesium also supports the calming actions of GABA (8)

By some estimates, 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium.  Poor dietary habits and magnesium depletion in soil are known culprits.  If the general adult population is this deficient in magnesium, one could imply that among children (who often eat a less varied diet), the deficit would be slightly more.

One study (1) that assessed the magnesium levels in children diagnosed with ADHD, concluded that out of 116 children, 95% of them were deficient in magnesium.

A prospective population-based cohort study of 684 adolescents at the 14- and 17-year follow-ups found that higher dietary intake of magnesium reduced behavioral problems by 95% (reduced attention problems, aggressiveness and delinquency). (2)

One study (3), published by the Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, was conducted in order to assess the magnesium level in ADHD children and compare it to the normal levels in children.  It also assessed the effect of magnesium supplementation as an add on therapy, in magnesium deficient patients.  Out of 25 patients with ADHD, 18 of them (or 72%) were determined to have magnesium deficiency.  After supplementation with magnesium, the group improved as regards cognitive functions as measured by the Wisconsin card sorting test and Conners’ rating scale.   Little to no side effects were noted with supplementation.  The study concluded that magnesium supplementation in ADHD, proves its value and safety.

Another study (4) , also published in the Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, found that magnesium, zinc and copper deficiencies were found in (65%), (60%) and (70%) of ADHD children respectively. Magnesium and zinc deficiencies were found to be correlated with hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity, while copper was not.

Another study (5), that looked at 50 hyperactive children that met criteria for the DSM IV diagnosis of ADHD, concluded that 6 months of supplementation with magnesium significantly decreased hyperactive behaviors.

As a pediatric occupational therapist, who has worked with hundreds of children and families impacted by a diagnosis of ADHD, this research is quite alarming and has serious implications in the therapy profession.

Firstly, a diagnosis of ADHD, which is more often than not treated with serious brain-altering pharmaceuticals (Ritalin, namely), is typically based on simple behavioral observations from a teacher within a structured classroom setting.

Pharmaceuticals are too quickly administered to children as young as 4 years old, without first looking at other possible factors and methods of treatment.

Since Ritalin is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II narcotic, the same classification as cocain, morphine and amphetamines, it would be foolish for pediatricians and parents of children with ADHD to not first assess and address nutritional deficits and environmental issues first before medication is administered.


Food As Medicine for ADD + ADHD

Fortunately, there are many foods you can start incorporating into your child’s diet to help improve their magnesium levels which can significantly impact their attention and impulse control. 

However, it is important to first recognize that only 30-40% of magnesium is actually absorbed through our food. The implication here is that supplementation, in combination with dietary changes, would be the most effective method for treatment.

The current RDA for magnesium for adults and children ages 4 and older is 400 mg.

This list below, from the Cleveland Clinic (10) shows the top Magnesium Rich Foods:

How much magnesium is in your food?

  • Pumpkin seed - kernels: Serving Size 1 oz, 168 mg

  • Almonds, dry roasted: Serving Size 1 oz, 80 mg

  • Spinach, boiled: Serving Size ½ cup, 78 mg

  • Cashews, dry roasted: Serving Size 1 oz, 74 mg

  • Pumpkin seeds in shell: Serving Size 1 oz, 74 mg

  • Peanuts, oil roasted: Serving Size ¼ cup, 63 mg

  • Cereal, shredded wheat: Serving Size 2 large biscuits, 61 mg

  • Soymilk, plain or vanilla: Serving Size 1 cup, 61 mg

  • Black beans, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 60 mg

  • Edamame, shelled, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 50 mg

  • Dark chocolate -60-69% cacoa: Serving Size 1 oz, 50 mg

  • Peanut butter, smooth: Serving Size 2 tablespoons, 49 mg

  • Bread, whole wheat: Serving Size 2 slices, 46 mg

  • Avocado, cubed: Serving Size 1 cup, 44 mg

  • Potato, baked with skin: Serving Size 3.5 oz, oz, 43 mg

  • Rice, brown, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 42 mg

  • Yogurt, plain, low fat: Serving Size 8 oz, 42 mg

  • Breakfast cereals fortified: Serving Size 10% fortification, 40 mg

  • Oatmeal, instant: Serving Size 1 packet, 36 mg

  • Kidney beans, canned: Serving Size ½ cup, 35 mg

  • Banana: Serving Size 1 medium, 32 mg

  • Cocoa powder– unsweetened: Serving Size 1 tablespoon, 27 mg

  • Salmon, Atlantic, farmed: Serving Size 3 oz, 26 mg

  • Milk: Serving Size 1 cup, 24–27 mg

  • Halibut, cooked: Serving Size 3 oz, 24 mg

  • Raisins: Serving Size ½ cup, 23 mg

  • Chicken breast, roasted: Serving Size 3 oz, 22 mg

  • Beef, ground, 90% lean: Serving Size 3 oz, 20 mg

  • Broccoli, chopped & cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 12 mg

  • Rice, white, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 10 mg

  • Apple: Serving Size 1 medium, 9 mg

  • Carrot, raw: Serving Size 1 medium, 7 mg

Some easy ways to incorporate these magnesium rich foods in your child’s diet:

  • A slice of sprouted toast with a tablespoon of almond butter or sunflower seed butter (I top mine with raw honey for extra taste and nutrition)

  • A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for on the go snacks

  • A side of 1/2 of an avocado with lunch or with eggs breakfast

  • Adding nut butters like sunflower seed butter to morning oats

  • A large scoop of organic cacao in a breakfast smoothie

  • Spinach cooked in ghee with a sprinkle of sea salt as a dinner side

  • Banana + almond butter + date + collagen protein shake (I use almond milk as the base)

  • Banana + Avocado mash (for babies learning to self-feed)

  • Banana + Avocado smoothie

  • Serving Salmon and other oily fatty fish 1-2 times a week

  • Roasted potato fries as a dinner side

*Affiliate links below

Supplements we use to ensure healthy magnesium levels:

As always, I am not a physician, nor can I prescribe specific medical advice. Always consult with your pediatrician first before beginning any new supplements. These supplements are only for ages 4 and up.

Another way to improve magnesium levels in young children is through the skin or transdermally. Epsom salt baths and dips in the oceans are effective ways to absorb magnesium this way.



1) Kozielec & Starobrat-Hermelin. (1997). Assessment of magnesium levels in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Magnesium Research: Official Organ Of The International Society For The Development Of Research On Magnesium, 10(2), 143-148. (

2) Black et al. (2015). Low dietary intake of magnesium is associated with increased externalising behaviours in adolescents. Public Health Nutrition, 18(10), 1824-30. (

3) Farida El Baza, Heba Ahmed AlShahawi, Sally Zahra, Rana Ahmed AbdelHakim,
Magnesium supplementation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Volume 17, Issue 1, 2016,
Pages 63-70, ISSN 1110-8630,

4) Farida Elbaz, Sally Zahra, Hussien Hanafy, Magnesium, zinc and copper estimation in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Volume 18, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 153-163, ISSN 1110-8630, (

5) Starobrat-Hermelin B1, Kozielec TMagnes Res. 1997 Jun;10(2):149-56.  The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive response to magnesium oral loading test. (

6) National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Accessed 12/8/2018

7) United States Department of Agriculture. Food Data Base Accessed 12/5/2018

8) U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients). 2013.

9) Greenblatt, James. Finally Balanced: Mineral Imblalances & ADHD. The ZRT Labratory Blog. May 25, 2017. (

10) Magnesium Rich Foods. Cleavland Clinic. (

10 Nutrient Dense First Foods for Baby (BLW Style) Plus Tips on How to Introduce Them

10 Nutrient Dense First Foods (2).png

If you read my post last week, you'll know I'm not too keen on purees and baby cereal as the first foods for baby.  You can read more about why here if you missed it: First Foods For Baby: What Your Pediatrician Won't Tell You
The reason that this topic is so near and dear to my heart is that, in this country, 1 in 4 children suffer from a diagnosed feeding disorder.  What this translates to in the developmentally delayed population, is that 80% of children with developmental delays (or 8 out of 10 on a typical occupational therapist or speech therapists caseload) have an eating disorder. 

Many 1 year-olds I treat in the clinic don't display age-appropriate oral motor skills and lack the ability to chew.  Babies should have the ability to chew a variety of different foods by the time they reach 11-15 months old. 

The truth is that babies brains and bodies are growing by the minute in the first year of life and they need to be introduced to nutrient-dense, whole foods that are going to nourish their brains and set them up for healthy growth and development.  They also need to be set up for a healthy relationship with food by having parents and family members act as positive role models surrounding the mealtime environment.

I truly feel there is a dissconect happening with the introduction foods in our country.  I believe mothers need more guidance and support on what is nutritious to feed their infants and toddlers and how to do it.

That is why I have put together a list of 10 nutrient-dense foods that are a great starting point for your babies introduction to the food world.  I am going to talk about the nourishing benefits of each food and also discuss how to introduce them baby led weaning style.

First, though, lets review a few talking points and terminology.

When To Start:

Most experts in feeding agree that food introduction should occur around 6 months of age.  We now know through research that 4 months is too early for their developing digestive systems.

I recommend slowly introducing solids anywhere from 6-8 months of age while carefully watching for food reactions and sensitivities.  From a developmental standpoint, it makes sense to begin introducing solids around 6 months, since this is when your child begins to sit unassisted, can maintain balance in a highchair and begins to develop their grasp.

All babies are different.  Some may be ready just before 6 months, while others aren't ready until the end of their 8th month.  Instead of age, I recommend looking for these signs to determine if your baby is ready for self-feeding: (1)

  • Baby can sit unassisted in high chair (doesn't lean to one side)
  • Baby displays adequate head control in sitting
  • Baby has begun to grasp smaller items
  • Baby is reaching for food from your plate or shows interest in participating in mealtime
  • Baby aware of connection between mouth
  • Baby enjoys exploring hands, fingers, toys and nonfood objects with mouth
  • Adequate bowel/intestinal mobility
  • Efficient coordination of lips, tongue, soft palate
  • Can form and propel bolus safely (no choking/aspiration)
  • Slow, deep regular breathing
  • Normal tone of tongue, cheeks, lips

What is Baby Led Weaning:

First coined by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon.  The term weaning is confusing, so let me clarify.  Baby led weaning is not really weaning babies off of breastmilk or formula, but rather weaning them (slowly exposing them to) onto solids.  The idea is that, during this phase of food introduction, babies will naturally begin to decrease their milk consumption (in correlation to the amount of calories that are taken in via food).

Baby Led Weaning Babies:

  • Are in control of their eating experiences.  (Meaning they pick what, how much, and how quickly to eat, under the supervision of an adult)
  • Are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures with their hands and mouth.
  • Are never pressured to finish or eat a certain amount of food.
  • Are encouraged to join the family at mealtime and typically eat the same foods the family eats.
  • Continue to nurse (or receive a bottle) just as often. Solids are to compliment milk, and baby is trusted to know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in the first year).
  • "Solids" offered are not necessarily completely solid foods.  Soft veggies and meats are good starter introductory foods.
  • As the babies oral motor skills develop, a wider array of solids are offered.
  • Are allowed to make a mess during mealtime.

I feel strongly that, if done safely and correctly, baby-led weaning is the best choice.  Spoon feeding and long-term purees can cause delays in oral motor skill development and it takes away the babies innate desire for autonomy during mealtime.  It has been my clinical experience that babies whose parents used more of a BLW approach develop more healthy relationships with mealtime and display less picky eating habits overall.

A Note on Food Allergies + Intolerance

Exclusively breastfeeding for atleast 6 months has been known to decrease incidence of food allergies. (See studies here or here)  Even if the child is breastfed exclusively, it is important to monitor for symptoms of food allergies and intolerances very carefully and talk to your pediatrician about any concerns.  

There is a big difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance.  A food allergy is a total immune system reaction to a food that can be tested for via markers in the blood or stool.  A food intolerance is an inflammatory response in the digestive system that occurs in a response to a food.  Food allergies can be tested for, whereas food intolerances are only able to to be monitored via the observation of symptoms.  Many children have food intolerances to wheat and dairy proteins but not a diagnosed food allergy that can be tested for.  

Most Common Food Allergies:

  • Milk 
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Wheat
  • Peanut
  • Soy
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts

Introducing these foods earlier rather than later, while carefully monitoring for immune or digestive responses, is best.  Delaying the introduction of certain foods for longer actually increase the chance of food allergies (the early introduction, the better)

Common Symptoms of Food Intolerance or Allergy (1)

  • Vomiting/Spitting up
  • Diarrhea/Constipation/Bloating/Cramping
  • Colic
  • Bloody stools/mucous in stools
  • URI
  • Reactive Airway problems
  • Skin rashes; eczema
  • Facial Skin (puffiness, dark circles under eyes, red ears, red cheeks)
  • Failure to Thrive
  • Headaches
  • Chronic sinus or ear infections
  • Neurological symptoms (distractability, poor attention, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances)

Gagging vs. Aspiration

As a mother of two young children who was once terrified of choking,  I can relate to the intense fear that surrounds food introduction and choking.  I can now say I have mostly recovered from this fear through my own BLW experience.

The most important thing I want to point out is that there is a big difference between gagging and aspiration.  Gagging or eliciting the gag-reflex is a normal, necessary component of learning how to chew.  The gag-reflex is a wonderful protective mechanism by which the body (at the brainstem level) protects itself from true danger (aspiration)  Believe it or not, babies are designed to gag on objects entering their mouth from the moment they exit the womb.  The gag reflex is more sensitive in the first few months of life and slowly desensitizes and moves further to the back of their mouth as the baby enters into the first year of life.   

Aspiration, on the other hand, is when food enters the airway.  It isn't always a life-threatening situation but it certainly can be.  If you want to learn more about aspiration and gagging in babies I have linked two articles below that are very informative.
What You Need to Know About Your Baby Gagging By Your Kids Table
Aspiration in Babies and Children by Cedars Sinai

So here you go Mamas!  I selected all my favorite toddler and infant whole foods that are high in calories, vitamins/minerals, protein and healthy fats, which growing brains and bodies thrive off of.  Do your best to stay clear of pre-packaged foods and anything labeled fat-free or low fat for babies.  My hope is that you and your little one can enjoy learning the joys of healthy eating together!

10 Nutrient-Dense First Foods for Baby (BLW Style)

1. Wild Salmon: 
Wild salmon is one of the most healthy foods to offer a baby, considering its abundant nutrient profile.  A rich source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, D, Bs, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, calcium and iron.  Health benefits include heart health, cancer prevention,brain health and cognitive function, bone and joint protection, healthy skin and eyes. (2)

  • BLW idea: Prepare baked salmon and gently fork smash a portion; place it on babies food tray for baby to self-feed with fingers (or a fork if they're skilled enough)

2. Avocado:
Avocados are a rich source of vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin C, B6, B12, A, D K E, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium and niacin.  (3) They are also a great source of healthy fats (a whopping 22.5 grams per medium hass) and nutritional fiber.  They have been known to aide in digestion, support healthy skin and hair, support healthy liver functioning, are good for the kidneys, eyes and heart and have anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties. (3)

  • BLW idea: Cut avocado in half and remove the seed.  Then cut the avocado in half one more time lengthwise.  Offer to baby this way; they should be able to maintain gasp of it while self-feeding.

3. Egg Yolk:
Eggs are rich in protein and contain significant levels of vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, E and K as well as phosphorous, selenium, calcium and zinc.  (4) Furthermore, eggs also have various key organic compounds, such as omega-3s, antioxidants and protein. (4)  I like to offer the more caloric and nutrient dense portion of the egg, the yolk to babies due to their higher fat content.

  • BLW idea: Prepare yolk by pan frying or boiling for a minute or so in water so that it is par-cooked.  If it is formed, you can offer the yolk to baby whole (gently fork smashed).  If it is less-formed or runny, you can offer it on a spoon with assistance or by dipping it in for them and offering the baby the spoon. Two to three yolks with some veggies or fruit is a great way to start the day for breakfast.

4. Cooked Spinach:
The various health benefits of spinach are due to the presence of minerals, vitamins, pigments, and phytonutrients, including folate, vitamin A, niacin, Vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium. (5) Spinach is high in insoluble fiber, which can aid in healthy digestion.  Spinach is known for its benefits to the eyes and the heart and has anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties as well.

  • BLW idea: Cooked spinach is easy to offer as a side to any meal; breakfast lunch or dinner. Cook it with butter or ghee in a pan until soft and flavor it as you wish (onion powder, garlic powder or a pinch of sea salt)

5. Bone Broth:
Bone broth is great for the digestive system, the hair and skin and is a powerful defense against colds/flu to bulk up the babies immune system.  It is an abundance source of essential amino acids and other nutrients like calcium and magnesium.  You can click here to learn about the healing power of bone broth

  • BLW idea: You can offer home-made bone or store bought warmed in an open cup (baby will need assistance at first) or you can offer home-made chicken soup with all soft veggies. Babies need assistance from the parent for soups.  Here is an easy recipe to follow for DIY bone broth/chicken soup. 

6. Wild Blueberries:
Blueberries are packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants.  In fact, wild blueberries have a higher antioxidant content than almost any other food!  They have been known to protect neurons in the brain and even help repair any tissue damage to the brain and CNS.  Their other health benefits include the ability to strengthen bones, lower blood pressure, prevent cancer, decrease inflammation, control diabetes and improve heart health. (6) Blueberries are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, copper and manganese. (6)

  • BLW idea:  My favorite way to offer blueberries is to wash them first and then smash them onto babies tray (you can use your finger).  After several weeks of eating them this way, baby should be able to manage a whole blueberry without choking.  Blackberries and raspberries are also good choices that you can offer in the same way. 

7. Banana:
Believe it or not, the tried and true kid favorite, the banana is actually very nutrient dense!  One serving or 126 grams of banana contains 110 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates.  (7) They are a rich source of potassium and dietary fiber. (7) Their impressive nutritional content includes vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, B6, riboflavin, folate, phosphorus, calcium, manganese, magnesium and copper (7)

  • BLW idea: Simply cut the banana in half and offer it to them whole.  The introduction of the whole food to the front of their mouth is natural.  Once baby takes a small bite, they will begin to move it from the front of their mouth into the side gums (or molars) to smush it before swallowing.

8. Broccoli:
Broccoli has a wide variety of health benefits, including its ability to prevent cancer, improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels detoxify the body, boost the immune system, protect the skin, eliminates inflammation, improve vision and maximize vitamin and mineral uptake (8)  Broccoli is highly rich in dietary fiber, contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and contains vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, selenium, chromium, choline, manganese and phosphorus.  (8)

  • BLW idea: Steam broccoli until soft (or fork tender if you prefer softer).  Cover with a topping of grass-fed ghee, butter or olive oil.  If offering florets whole, offer the larger ones (smaller florets can be a choking hazard if the baby places the whole floret in their mouth).  If fork tender, you can mash with some butter and a pinch of salt on babies high chair tray.  

9. Grass-fed beef and liver:
Beginning around the age of 6 months, breast milk iron supplies begin to decline in the breastfeeding mother. Your pediatrician may start checking for iron deficiencies and asking about iron supplementation around 12 months.  The idea that meat shouldn’t be introduced until later is an outdated way of thinking.  Babies bodies and brains are craving the nutritional value of iron.  Yes, you can get iron from non-animal protein sources like through raisins, spinach and cereals that have added iron.  However, heme-iron is much more easily assembled and absorbed than non-heme (plant based) iron sources.

Believe it or not, liver (that is locally sourced and grass-fed) is one of the most nutrient dense foods you can offer your baby.  If you don't believe me, check out this nutritional chart from Chris Kresser's website that compares the nutritional value of liver to other foods.

So what makes liver so incredibly nutrient dense? Quite simply, it contains more nutrients, gram for gram, than any other food. In summary, liver provides: (9)

  • An excellent source of high-quality protein
  • Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • One of our best sources of folic acid
  • A highly usable form of iron
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
  • An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.


  • BLW idea:  For beef, I usually only offer pot-roast style (slow cooker tender) at first. Fork smash and offer dime size pieces at first on babies food tray. For liver, I usually cut it into small pieces and pan fry it in ghee with a sprinkle of sea salt or onion powder.  You would be surprised to find out that babies love liver!  Find out more information on liver and other ways to prepare it here

10: Sweet Potatoes:
Sweet potatoes are great for digestion and very easily digested due to their high magnesium content and starchy nature.  They are known to assist in weight gain (a big plus for babies), are anti-inflammatory, can relieve symptoms of asthma/bronchitis and have known anti-cancer properties. (10)  They are a great source of fiber and have high amounts of vitamin A, C, B6, and minerals like manganese and copper. (10)

  • BLW idea: Bake sweet potatoes in the oven and offer it fork smashed with grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil.  If you wan to make more of a puree, you can puree it (manually or with a hand blender) and offer the baby a small dish with a spoon for self-feeding.  As an option, you can add some black-strap molasses (to increase the iron content) or maple syrup to sweeten it a bit.  




  1. Johanson, Nina. (MS, CCC-SLP). "The AEIOU Systematic Approach to Pediatric Feeding." October 2016.  Education Resources, Inc.  PowerPoint Presentation.
  2. Organic facts.  12 Wonderful Benefits of Salmon.  Retrieved from
  3. Organic Facts.  19 Best Benefits of Avocados.  Retrieved from
  4. Organic Facts.  6 Impressive Benefits of Eggs.  Retrieved from
  5. Organic Facts.  15 Impressive Benefits of Spinach.  Retrieved from
  6. Organic Facts.  Top 20 Health Benefits of Blueberries.  Retrieved from
  7. Organic Facts.  16 Surprising Benefits of Banana.  Retrieved from
  8. Organic Facts.  24 Incredible Benefits of Broccoli.  Retrieved from
  9. The Liver Files.  Lynn Razaitis.  July 29, 2005.  The Weston A. Price Foundation. Retrieved from
  10. Organic Facts.  11 Impressive Benefits of Sweet Potatoes.  Retreived from

First Foods For Baby - What Your Pediatrician Won't Tell You

5 SIMPLE STEPS (2).png

Most pediatricians won't tell you that the best first foods to start your baby on are real, nutrient dense, whole foods.  Most pediatricians won't tell you that spoon feeding for extended periods of time is unnatural and takes away your babies autonomy with food.  Most pediatricians won't tell you that offering your baby only purees for extended periods of time can affect your baby's development of oral motor skills.  They also won't tell you that rice cereal is a synthetic (made in a lab) food that would be hard on your little one's immature gut.

Nothing grinds my gears more than nutritional recommendations for babies that suggest iron-fortified rice cereal and purees as the gold standard for babies first food.  First time mothers (and all mothers alike, really) are looking to their pediatricians for advice on when to start and what to give their babies as a first food. 

Most pediatricians recommend starting solids around 4-6 months of age and way too many recommend baby cereal as a first food.

Rice cereal has been long known for filling up tummies to encourage babies to sleep through the night and pediatricians often encourage them for their benefit of having added iron (along with other vitamins and minerals).  One fact rings true; that growing brains and bodies need rich sources of iron.  However, I beg to differ that rice cereal is the best source of this key nutrient.

It really doesn't take much investigation to understand why rice cereal is a poor choice for a first food to introduce to an immature and developing gut.

Why Rice Cereal is a Poor Choice

  1. Difficult on babies immature gut:
    The first ingredient is usually some sort of whole-wheat or white rice flour which has been highly processed (for that "instant ready" option).  This highly processed flour (white or wheat) is usually unrecognizable to a babies digestive system and if it contains the gluten protein, it is inflammatory by nature within the gut.  
  2. Low nutritional value:
    Since rice cereal is naturally lacking in the nutrition department, manufacturers add synthetic (made in a lab) vitamins back into it to boost the nutritional value from a marketing standpoint.  
  3. Synthetic additives:
    Soy lechtin is an ingredient in many popular brands on the market and introducing soy to a baby so early on in life can cause allergies and damage the gut.  The other vitamins and minerals are synthetic and more difficult for baby to absorb than if they were to obtain it from real, whole foods.
  4. Rice products manufactured in the US have been crop dusted with the herbicide Roundup:
    Its no secret that glyphosate, a known carcinogen and key ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is being used widespread on wheat crops in the US.  Roundup has been known to significantly damage gut lining, increase permeability of the intestinal wall and disrupt the beneficial bacteria balance in the gut.  In my opinion, this would render any non GMO or non-organic rice cereal brands unsafe to offer to a baby.
  5. Bland and Textureless:
    Since babies palates need to be exposed to many different types of textures and flavors, the bland nature and non-existent texture of rice cereal sets off a red light in my head.  If the baby is getting mostly rice cereal and then offered something with a little flavor (even something like peaches), it would be completely alarming to their taste buds.  A bland diet of mostly baby cereal can easily lead to rejection of a wide variety of flavors in the future (aka picky eating and limited diet.)

Let's talk a bit about baby purees.  For the most part, I think they are usually safe and not harmful to baby, especially if you're buying an organic brand.  After all, they are really just pureed fruits and vegetables.  I do think they are a good way to introduce baby to a new and unfamiliar taste.  However, my problem is with prolonged and exclusive feeding of purees (longer than 2-3 weeks) and I find it to be quite common.  Prolonged puree feeding can cause long term feeding issues.  

Why Purees Aren't Great for Baby

  1. Promote long term spoon-feeding:
    Just like all humans, babies like to be in control of what is going into their mouths.  (Would you ever allow someone to place an unkown flavor/texture into your mouth?!)  They want to be the ones to decide if they like it or not and be able to expel it if the taste or texture does not agree with them.  Spoon feeding is great in many instances, especially if baby needs your help or when they are first beginning to use utensils.  But long term and persistent spoon feeding, after the age of 1, diminishes the control the child has over his/her feeding experiences and also limits their ability to learn how to manage utensils on their own.
  2. Limit the types of textures baby is exposed to:
    If you have read my article about how to avoid picky eating, you know I recommend all different types of textures during the first 2 years of life including finely chopped, fork mashed, soft table foods, meltable solids (crackers), crispy foods, mixed textures (more than one food texture mixed together), difficulty chewy foods.  Feeding mostly purees for an extended period of time (longer than a few weeks) only offers baby one type of texture and this can potentially cause food rejections, picky eating and limited diet in the future.
  3. Can cause delayed oral motor skills:
    Purees provide little to no propriocpetive feedback to the mouth.  Proprioception is simply how we use receptors in our body to determine where we are in space (in this case, where the food is within their mouth).  Different textures provide a range of propriopceptive feedback to the mouth.  This simply means depending on how hard or soft a food is, baby can feel the texture of the food on their teeth, gums and with their tongue in order to determine 1) where it is in their mouth 2) what it feels like 3) what to do with it in order to mash it up and swallow it. 

    Can you take a minute to think about how eating something like an apple provides different feedback to the mouth than pureed spinach? Purees lack any real propriocpetive information and are typically taken in as a bolus on a spoon and then swallowed.  The problem with this is that babies aren't learning how to chew and manipulate food.  I will even go as far as to say that babies who are spoon fed purees too long often have little to no awareness of the components of their mouths due to lack of sensory information provided through their diet.  These are the kids we often seen in the clinic for feeding issues.
  4. Low in calories:
    Rapidly growing brains need a large amount of healthy fats and protein to thrive.  That's why human breast milk (from a healthy mother) has about 50-60% of its energy as fat.  Pureed fruits and vegetables are low in calories and won't provide adequate amounts of protein and fat.

Don't worry mamas, I want to help you find some great sources of nutrition for your baby and also give them opportunities to learn how to develop healthy oral motor (and utensil) skills along the way!  Instead purees and rice cereal, I suggest introducing real, nutrient-dense whole foods, one at a time, while monitoring closely for any allergic reactions.  I suggest offering these foods in a natural, family-style setting, with other role models surrounding the child for support and learning.  

I am working on the follow up piece entitled - 9 Nutrient Dense Foods for Babies First Foods and How to Introduce them BLW Style.  Comment below if you will find this helpful!

Stay tuned!



Superhero Strength Green Smoothie (Kid-friendly)


This smoothie is so packed full of delicious nourishing ingredients, that you and your kids will both feel like you have super-hero powers after drinking it down! Or if you’re like me, and have been eating junk while traveling for the past week or so, it will give you a quick jump start to detox your body of all the toxins.


It has all you need, really! Lots of fresh greens, healthy fruits + healthy fats from the avocado, what more could you need to start your day?

Did you know mangos are packed FULL of antioxidants and are known for promoting healthy skin and digestion?? Their high antioxidant content has been known to prevent cancer and they also contain many trace minerals that are lacking in the average American diet like potassium, magnesium and copper.  

Who knew something so deliciously sweet could be so healthy?


3/4 or 1 whole mango
2-3 stalks kale (stems removed)
handful spinach
1/2 avocado
1 + 1/2 banana
juice of 1 lemon
4 square inch pineapple cubes
3/4 cup coconut water
lots of ice 


  1. Blend all ingredients in high power blender until smoothe, add ice at the end until desired consistency is reached. 
  2. Tell your kids they aren’t allowed to have any! 


Citrus Mint Green Smoothie - Kid Friendly, Paleo, Vegan


I am always on a mission to find ways of getting more greens into my own diet and my children’s.  So when I find a green smoothie that both kids and I LOVE and keep asking for more of, I take it as a indication that I should write this one down.

This smoothie is so refreshing, what a wonderful way to start your morning!  Not only is is packed with lots of Vitamin C and healthy greens, but it also has some healthy fats from the coconut milk to keep your tummy full and give your brain a little boost.

If you're kids are distrustful of green smoothies, this one should bring them over to the dark side (or should I say "green" side?)


Here are a few green smoothie pointers for kids:

  • Make sure you add a lot of ice to make your green smoothie super cold
  • Make sure to blend the consistency very fine, no one likes a chunky feeling in their mouth when drinking a smoothie
  • Drink it in front of them and wait for them to ask you for some
  • NEVER tell them to drink it! Toddlers are tricky - if you tell them to do something, they think they should do the opposite
  • If all else fails, use the better eater to encourage the other smoothie skeptic ("Oh, look how strong S is getting drinking his smoothie!)

**Contains affiliate links


3 stalks kale stems removed
1 handful spinach
1/2 large orange (or one whole small) peel removed
2 dates soaked overnight
1 banana
juice of 1 large lemon + add generous portion of pulp too
1/2 inch cube ginger
2/3 can organic coconut milk - I use this brand
4-5 mint leaves
splash of OJ (optional)
lots of ice

Blend all ingredients in high power blender until smooth.


8 Zero-Prep Snacks That Will Give Your Kids the Nutritional Fuel They Deserve

August 24, 2017 Ashley Thurn  

I have been a health nut for years, so when I had my first child, the responsibility of sustaining another human being's life was somewhat overwhelming.  However, I remember feeling confident that with my knowledge about health, my OT background, and my love for cooking, it would all come together.  I was going to have the "best-eating-child-known-to-man."  (Cue the first time parent over-confidence chuckle.)

Truth be told, I did, initially.  My son would eat anything I put in front of him.  My sister would  laugh when we were at the playground and he would sit down for his snack of salmon and sweet potatoes when all the other kids were eating Oreos.  (Okay, I went a little overboard, don't judge me!)  

Then my son turned three and refused to eat anything that resembled a vegetable.  The more I pushed a certain food, the more he rejected it, and it drove me bonkers.  It has been quite the learning process trying to figure out what works and what doesn't in terms of helping my kids enjoy healthy foods while still respecting their need for autonomy.  

I'm sure every mother goes through a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions when it comes to food, especially with the first-born.  

I'm happy to say I think I've finally found a good balance of letting go of control and encouraging healthy eating habits through fun and education not coercion.  

For the record, I, by no means, have children who eat every vegetable offered to them.  In fact, no matter how many times I have cooked broccoli, I know, deep down, both of my kids hate it. 

There are, however, a few things that give me peace regarding food.  

  1. I know (and my kids know) that I am in control of choosing meals, not them
  2. I know I do my best to provide healthy options
  3. My kids know that if they don't eat what is offered at mealtime, they will have to wait until the next meal or snack 
  4. I know they will accept new and/or healthy foods on their own terms 

I will admit I had some help along the way finding this new peace.  I took a wonderful course by Nina Ayd Johanson (MS, CCC-SLP CEIM, CHHP) entitled The AEIOU Systematic Approach to Pediatric Feeding.  It was an amazing refresher for everything feeding related (including sensory issues).   But more importantly, it was precisely what I needed at the time in regards to my son's own picky eating.  

While I don't want to give too much away from the course, I do want to tell you what the big take home message was for me, personally. I realized I had, unknowingly, created an environment of stress in regards to eating/mealtime for my son.  The more I worried about what my son ate, the more he refused the foods I presented.  

It wasn't until I decided it was time to finally let go of control and be intentional about creating an atmosphere of joy around the dinner table, that my son started eating well again.  It took almost a full year to regain his trust in the kitchen.  I am happy to say I actually enjoy mealtime with my kids again instead of dreading our nightly food battles.  

Since new foods can be scary for children, I consciously try to ease the anxiety and fear through fun.  Here are a few games we play around the dinner table that have been helpful for us.  

  • Our favorite game is talking about which foods do what for the body.  (i.e. "Carrots make your eyes see really, really well!" and "Protein makes your muscles grow super strong!").  
  • A great ice breaker, when you can sense your child is nervous about what is on the plate, is to describe the food to the in words. It's like giving them a hint about what it's going to be like if they take a bite.  Talk to them about the color, taste and the texture.  Kids are afraid of the unknown so this works well.  For example, "These sweet potatoes are mushy but they have yummy butter inside." "The skin on the chicken is really crispy today." "Cucumbers make a loud crunchy sound when you bite them, listen!" 
  • Cooking together also eases anxiety when introducing new foods. (Use simple age-appropriate tasks.  Pre-measuring ingredients prior and letting them pour them into the pot, mixing, straining are all good ideas.  If its taco night, let them assemble the ingredients of their choice on their own plate.  
  • Use their sense of smell if they are cooking with you.  The olfactory system is closely tied to how we experience taste.  If they become familiar with the way that something smells, they might be so inclined to taste it.
  • If they try something and didn't like it, tell them it is okay to spit it out!  Using a bowl next to their plate where they can choose to remove items they tried and don't like is helpful because it gives them some control

Do my kids still occasionally reject my food outright? Yes. The difference is that now I do my best to react from a place of genuine understanding.  ("You didn't like that because you thought it was a little bit spicy? I bet in a few years you will get used to spicy flavors.) 

Did you know that it takes anywhere from 10-15 trials for kids to accept a new food?  Actually, some speech therapists have told me its even more than that!

So if you're in the throes of nightly food battles, ask yourself what type of environment you are creating around the dinner table.  


I think too easily snack foods get excused from needing to be nutritious.  We work hard enough to get a meal on the table three times a day, right? Who has time to make healthy snacks too? I think that's why packaged foods have become the norm for snack time - no work and easy access.  Well, friends, I was thinking of you when I wrote compiled this list of my favorite snack foods.  Because I'm a busy mom too!

Here is a list of my favorite, readily accessible, no prep, healthy and nutritious snacks.  These snacks are either nutrient dense and/or high in protein and healthy fats in order to keep your child satisfied and to fuel their growing brains and bodies, not give them a sugar crash.  I promise your kids are going to actually love them!    

(*Affiliate links contained below) 

1. Organic blueberries:  Blueberries are full of antioxidants and they are so good for the developing brain! You can buy them fresh or frozen. The benefit of buying frozen is that you get more for your money (my kids eat a LOT of blueberries). Kids can enjoy them by themselves as a quick snack, blended into smoothies or in their morning oatmeal.  



Health Benefits:

  • Brain food - they contain high amounts of phenols that help to protect brain neurons
  • Potent antioxidants - called flavanoids work to reverse toxin damage and remove free radicals 
  • Support healthy digestion - a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber 
  • Anti-cancer -due to high amount of antioxidants and phenols (gallic acid) 
  • Support healthy vision 
  • Contain vitamin C, A, E, selenium, zinc, phosphorus and manganese  
  • anti-aging properties (help to prevent signs of aging like wrinkles, age spots, cataracts, osteoporosis, hair loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • boost immune system **(4)

2. Wild-caught Smoked Salmon- You can find these near the fish section of your grocery store.  My kids like to eat these salmon slices with a smear of cream cheese.  Sometimes we layer cream cheese and salmon on top of a cucumber slice or a cracker.  

The human brain is made up of mostly fat (DHA/EPA/Omega-3 fatty acids, cholesterol, polysaturated fats) (13) and since your babies brain will DOUBLE in size from birth to age 2, they literally NEED these fats in their diet in order for healthy brain development to occur!  The AMDR for fat for children ages 1-3 years is 30-40% of calories. (11)  and human breast milk averages around 50-60% fat content (12).  

Do you feel your child is consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats?    

smoked salmon.jpg

Health Benefits:

  • Rich in Omega 3 Fatty acids (DHA and EPA) - our kids (constantly growing) brains require these essential fatty acids to build neural connections!  Both fatty fish and fish oil have been found to reduce depressive symptoms, protect fetal brain health during pregnancy, decrease anxiety, slow age-related memory loss and lower the risk of dementia.  
  • Great source of protein
  • High in B vitamins, potassium, selenium 
  • Contains potent antioxidant - astaxanthin which has been linked to several powerful health benefits 
  • Fights inflammation in the body 
  • proper cardiovascular health
  • correct muscle and tissue development
  • boosted eye health
  • efficient body metabolism
  • rich in some essential minerals like iron, calcium, selenium and phosphorus, as well as vitamins like A, B and D**(7)

3. Cashews:  Of all the nuts I've offered, this is the one that my kids prefer the most.  I knew they were healthy but I honestly can't believe how many health benefits they provide (see below). They are a protein and a healthy fat mixed into one, easy-to-carry-in-your-diaper-bag, dream!  I love that they are basically mess free.  


Health Benefits: 

  • Contain several essential minerals including: copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and sodium 
  • Contain several vitamins including: Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin K, Vitamin E
  • Great source of oleic acid and provide a good quantity of monounsaturated fat and low amounts of polyunsaturated fats 
  • healthy heart - the healthy fats contained in them help to lower LDL levels
  • strong nerve and muscle function
  • improved bone and oral health
  • aide in relief from diabetes, anemia and gallstones
  • By offering antioxidant defenses, they also aid in the formation of red blood cells and encourage a better immune system.**(1)(8)

4. Almond butter and bananas: An excellent source of protein AND healthy fats paired with a tried and true kid approved fruit! Can it get any better?  This is one of my favorite snacks for myself when I'm craving something sweet and my kids love it too.  You can cut the bananas in slices and dab the almond butter on each one or your kids can dip the banana themselves.  I love to add almond butter in my oatmeal for some extra protein or as a treat I like to eat it on a slice of sprouted toast with some honey.  So easy and so good for your kiddos!  


Banana Health benefits:

  • includes vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, and niacin
  • minerals include potassium, copper, magnesium & manganese
  • intestinal disorders
  • relieving constipation
  • aid in relief of anemia, tuberculosis, arthritis, gout, kidney disorders, urinary disorders, menstrual problems, and burns
  • reducing blood pressure
  • ensuring healthy eyes, & building strong bones **(14)

Almonds Health Benefits:

  • vitamins: vitamin E, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium
  • minerals:  zinc, selenium, copper and niacin
  • good for your brain: contain two vital brain nutrients, riboflavin and L-carnitine, which have been shown to increase brain activity, resulting in new neural pathways and a decreased occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that almonds in the diet, as well as almond oil, is nutritive to the overall health and functioning of the nervous system.
  •  increase the level of high density lipoproteins (HDL) and they reduce the level of low density lipoproteins (LDL)
  • bone and teeth health - due to high amounts of phosphorus 
  • heart health - mono-unsaturated fats, protein and potassium contained in almonds are all instrumental in heart health. Vitamin E is an effective antioxidant and also reduces the risk of heart diseases, while the presence of magnesium in almonds can help avoid heart attacks.  Furthermore, the flavonoids in the skin of almonds combines with Vitamin E to form a powerful shield against artery wall damage.
  • Immune health 
  • Good for skin
  • Decrease inflammation in the body
  • help regulate blood pressure
  • boosts energy -  manganese, copper and Riboflavin in almonds helps in energy production and metabolic rate
  • prevent against diabetes and cancer
  • prevent constipation due to high fiber content **(9)

5. Seaweed Snacks: Asian cultures have long enjoyed the nutritional benefits of seaweed.  It contains a massive variety of health-promoting components as compared to the majority of other plant and animal-based foods.(1) My kids and I happen to love the flavor of these seaweed snacks.  They are so easy to bring along in car rides and for keeping kids busy while you cook dinner.  The sesame flavor is our personal favorite.  



Health Benefits:

  • essential minerals: magnesium, calcium, copper, potassium, selenium, zinc, iodine, and iron
  • vitamins:  vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin K
  • contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids 
  • contains cancer fighting agents
  • excellent source of iodine which is essential for proper growth of all age groups, iodine also helps with thyroid function and myelination of the central nervous system, iodine is extremely crucial in pregnancy and breastfeeding for normal development of babies brain cells
  • digestive health - aids in stimulating the release of digestive enzymes, supporting the absorption of nutrients, and facilitating the metabolism of fats
  • dental health - prevents development of cavities
  • anti-coagulation - helps to decrease blood clots
  • can prevent against development of influenza
  • good for skin, eyes and hair health **(10)

6. Applegate Nitrate Free Roasted Turkey: We make a lot of turkey rolls with these in our household!  I love that these are nitrate free (nitrates have been linked to cancer), organic and the turkeys are humanely raised.  A quick, easy and health protein for snacks!  Add a little organic mayonnaise or mustard inside to give it more of a sand-which taste.  


Health Benefits:

  • rich source of protein 
  • contains minerals: iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and selenium
  • contains vitamins: B6 and niacin which help with energy production, digestion
  • selenium is essential for healthy thyroid function **(5)

7. Frozen organic peas:  One of my mom friends told me how her twin boys love frozen peas and I couldn't believe it until I tried it on my own kids and they got thumbs up all around.  Yes, I am talking straight out of the freezer!  I love having these in the freezer for when my daughter is hungry but dinner is still cooking.  Time for a few frozen peas to take the edge off and keep those little hands busy! They are a plant based protein, can you beat that?


Health Benefits:

  • Great source of plant based-protein
  • significant amount of fiber aides digestion 
  • High in several vitamins and minerals including: Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Thiamine, Folate, Manganese, Iron, Phosphorus
  • contain several factors that help control blood sugar levels **(6)

8. Organic raisins:  These are so great to keep in your diaper bag and they are essentially mess free.  I think you'll be surprised to find out the plethora of health benefits behind raisins!  


Health Benefits: 

  • High iron content/treat anemia 
  • Cure fevers - Phenolic Phytonutrients are abundantly present in raisins and can cure fevers by fighting bacterial and viral infections 
  • Eye health-contain polyphenolic phytonutrients which have antioxidant properties which are good for eye health 
  • Bone quality- contain calcium and boron (boron is essential for calcium absorption)
  • Dental care- contain oleanolic acid which plays a crucial role in protecting against tooth decay
  • Relieve constipation 
  • Promote weight gain (a plus for a growing child)
  • anti-cancer - high levels of catechins help remove free radicals from the body **(2)

So there you go mamas, you can't make excuses now about offering junk just because it's easy.  So get to the store and start filling those tummies full of what is going to fuel growing bodies and brains!!


If you have a chance, check out this wonderful article on dietary fats for children! 

Check out this article about healthy fats for kids too! 


(This article contains affiliate links) 


  1. Organic facts.  15 Surprising Benefits Of Cashews.  Retrieved from
  2. Organic Facts.  11 Surprising Benefits Of Raisins. Retrieved from
  3. Kostyak J, Kris-Etherton P, Bagshaw, Delany JP, Farrell PA. Relative fat oxidation is higher in children than adults. Nutrition Journal. 2007; online version  
  4. Dr. Axe.  Health Benefits of Blueberries.  Retrieved from
  5. Body and Soul.  The Health Benefits of Turkey. Retrieved from
  6. Healthline.  Green peas are healthy.  Retrieved from
  7. Healthline.  11 Benefits of Salmon.  Retrieved from     
  8. Organic Facts.  Health Benefits of Cashews.  Retrieved from
  9. Organic Facts.  13 Surprising Benefits Of Almonds Nutrition.  Retrieved from
  10. Organic Facts.  15 Impressive Seaweed Benefits.  Retrieved from 
  11. 2010 Dietary Guidelines Report 
  12. MaryannJacobsen.  Kids Nitrition Part 3 Dietary Fats For Children- Are We Missing the Mark?  Retrieved from 
  14. Organic Facts.  11 Surprising Benefits of Banana.  Retrieved from