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Helpful Meal Time Interactions


Experiencing new foods from an early age can help develop healthy food behaviors and food preferences in children. While adding new items at mealtime can be challenging, there are a few things parents can do to ease the process. Initially, however, parents need to understand their children's capabilities (e.g., whether or not a 5-year-old can use a knife, etc.) and their nutrient needs by age. Pediatric visits can help to establish these capabilities and needs.

Parents can use encouraging words and model behaviors to achieve positive mealtime interactions. In general, it is ideal that parents decide what food is served, when it is served and where it is served. At this point, the child can decide how much of this new food they eat. The below graphic highlights these points. Overall, parents should understand that not every meal will be ideal and that trying new foods takes time. Research shows new foods need to be offered ten or more times before a child really knows whether or not they like it.


The American Heart Association offers a resource summarizing children's needs. EatFresh.org offers tips on integrating new foods.


  1. Australian Government Department of Health. (June 2011). "Making mealtimes positive, relaxed and social" Retrieved from http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/gug-family-toc~gug-family-foods~gug-family-foods-mealtimes
  2. New York State. Department of Health. (June 2012). "Chatting with Children at Mealtimes." Retrieved from https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/resources/chattingmeal.htm
  3. Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children. (April 2018). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/dietary-recommendations-for-healthy-children
Milk and Milk Alternatives

In recent years, milk has undergone its share of competition from milk alternatives. While traditional cow's milk boasts nutrients such as protein, calcium and vitamin D, milk alternatives are getting close in offering similar benefits while eliminating dairy.

So how do you know which milk to choose? Low fat cow's milk has nutritional statistics that are quite impressive (e.g., one serving 100 calories, 400 mg Potassium, 3 g fat, and 8 g protein). While we often recommend individuals go for this option, it may not be a foolproof choice for everyone. The natural sugar in milk is called lactose, and it is common for humans to lack the enzyme needed to digest it. This is often the cause of GI distress and discomfort associated with dairy. There is also a milk allergy, which is an entirely different issue identified by an immune response to the protein in milk.


If you do experience any dairy intolerance or allergy, your options still abound. Soymilk is perhaps the most nutritionally similar to dairy milk in terms of macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein and fat) content. Of note, the fat in this milk is unsaturated (healthy) fat, but it lacks the natural calcium found in dairy milk. Most companies fortify soymilk to add in a similar amount of calcium. Another benefit of soy is the similar consistency to dairy milk, giving it a similar mouth feel and making it an appropriate baking substitute. This option would be ideal for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet that could benefit from the protein content of milk.


Almond milk has been gaining popularity in recent years, and is popular for use in smoothies, overnight oats, and baking (though it may slightly alter the texture of the finished baked good). For vegetarians or others aiming to get a protein punch from milk, other alternatives may be more beneficial as it provides 1g of protein per serving.


Coconut milk boasts the lowest calorie content of any of the milk alternatives, but has the highest concentration of saturated fat. This plant-based milk has high amounts of vitamins and minerals, but has little to no protein. While this is another great plant-based milk alternative, it is important to keep portions of saturated fat in mind, even if it is from a plant source. You'll also need to ensure you get enough protein from alternative sources.


While there is no right or wrong type of milk, it is important to know the nutritional statistics of each option in order to choose the one that best serves your purposes and needs.



  1. Midwest Dairy Association, J. Fetrow, M. Hutjens, L. Metzger, JW Schroeder, L. Timms. (November 2011) "Milk and Hormones Fact Sheet." Retrieved from https://www.extension.iastate.edu/MilkAndHormonesFactSheet.pdf
  2. USDA. "Bovine Somatotropin (BST)" (April 2009) Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ucm055435.htm
Composting 101

It's Springtime and gardens are popping up all over. While the idea of an at-home garden is lovely, it's challenging to ensure that the soil we use is nutrient-dense enough to grow bountiful products. Compost soil is an amazing way to minimize food waste, while also adding a variety of nutrients into your soil.

Compost is the product of recycling organic materials such as vegetable scraps into soil amendments, which improve your actual soil. It's important to distinguish between compost (which feeds soil) and fertilizer (which feeds plants).


Items that can be composted include things like coffee grounds, paper products, food scraps and even pizza boxes. Composting can be accomplished via a simple home pick up service (e.g., like this one offered by CompostNow), a community garden with a composting section and divided responsibilities or (e.g., the City of Pittsburgh has a great one-page resource for their community gardeners on composting) or at home (e.g., the EPA has an intro to at-home composting).


Composting has not only growing benefits, but also earthly benefits. Typically, waste is sent to a landfill when not composted. During decomposition in the landfill, a toxic gas known as methane is released into the air. Composting is a biological process that does not release methane, reducing the toxicity in the air we breathe. Composting is an excellent way to improve the quality of our garden, while also improving our environment.



  1. Retrieved from https://bonnieplants.com/gardening/what-is-compost/
  2. Retrieved from http://organiclifestyles.tamu.edu/compost/home_composting_faq.pdf
  3. 3. Planet Natural Resource Center. "It's More than Dirt!" Retrieved from https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/soil-science/what-is-compost/

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    Cheyenne Richards is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a private practice team that provides nutrition counseling across the U.S. and as far as Germany. She attended the University of Oklahoma where she received her Bachelor's, after which she earned her M.B.A. in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is an American Council on Exercise Certified Health Coach. When not working, Cheyenne enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, cooking, gardening, and other outdoor activities..
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