Acorn to Tree LLC was created by NYS certified teacher and mother Patrice Badami.
Patrice Badami has a Masters in Elementary Education and Special Education. She has advocated for families of special needs children as well as for her own children with special needs.
Acorn to Tree Learn and Grow was created to help all children and their families have access to free educational and recreational resources.
Emily Dingmann helps parents with weeknight dinners. She has a degree in Nutrition, is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, recipe developer, and mom of two girls, living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She creates easy, family-friendly recipes and shares nutrition and Intuitive Eating tips for the whole family. She wants YOU and your kids to have a good relationship with food. You can find her at @myeverdaytable on Instagram.
Patrice Badami 0:02
Hi, this is Patrice Badami, with Acorn to tree family podcast. And today I have Emily Damon, she’s got a degree in nutrition and she’s an intuitive eating counselor. She’s going to help us figure out how to nutritiously help our family eat better, and try to give us some guidelines and tips for the fussy toddler or child. So here we go, I’d like her to say hello to you. There she is. Hello, thank you for treat. Okay. Um, so starting with the beginning, what are some of your tips for meal planning?
Emily Dingmann 0:37
Oh, I have a lot of tips for meal planning. But a big one is that I really want families to be realistic. And what I see so often is if you’re kind of starting from ground zero, and you’re like, I want to make seven meals a week at home, and it’s just it’s not realistic, and it kind of sets you up for failure. So, so starting small, you know, if you’re currently having one or two dinners at home, maybe start with like three or four. And then once you kind of get into the habit of that you can add more if you want, but really kind of starting small. Another tip is to remove decisions if you can. So what this looks like in terms of meal planning is a few different things. You can plan out theme nights. So maybe on Mondays, you have a crock pot meal, and on Tuesdays you have some form of tacos and Wednesdays you have pasta, and that is just going to help you start narrowing down and like make less decisions when you’re going to plan your meal, as opposed to like, oh my gosh, what am I going to make? And you’re really,
Patrice Badami 1:41
that’s that’s actually a great idea to come up with some kind of basic concept as to what you’re going to do and then narrow it down to what do I have in the house? What do I have time to get at the store? That makes sense? Absolutely. And you know what, if you are going to get a meal out, say you’re getting chicken cutlets, instead of getting the macaroni with the fancy sauces and whatnot, why not get steamed broccoli, you can make the decisions. If you are ordering now, you can change what you normally would purchase consciously by adding in the vegetables and adding them in a way that is healthier for your family, but also making sure that they eat them. Like for example, broccoli, I ordered chicken cutlets the other day, but I said listen, you got to cook it a little bit more steam it though, because my daughter candidate when it’s too tough, sometimes restaurants they tend to make it tough, because they think that adults like it that way. But the kids can’t really chew it and then they won’t go near it. So yeah. Um, so what are some easy ways to add nutrition into everyday meals?
Emily Dingmann 2:39
I love the idea of adding in instead of kind of thinking about like, what do we have to take out I just think adding in is a more realistic, it’s a more fun approach. And so I’m all about that. So in terms of breakfasts, I like to think about and look at, are we getting protein? And are we getting fiber, those are the two kind of big things that can sometimes be missing at breakfast that are really important. So whether it’s Greek yogurt or protein powder, or eggs or breakfast sausage, things like that get making sure that you are eating something with protein first thing and that’s for the kids to the whole family. And then fiber so can we add some whole grains can we add some oatmeal or whole grain cereal or, you know, sprouted breads so that we are getting a good dose of fiber and that combination of protein and fiber just helps us start our blood sugar on a good even note that kind of sets us up well for the day. Yeah.
Patrice Badami 3:39
Yeah, I was gonna say what we do here is my daughter and my son and my son we all eat differently as far as what vegetables so with my daughter I make I have a stand that’s like a chef stand. I have her get up there. I set out. Here’s the broccoli. Here’s the peppers. Here’s all the stuff you can put in your eggs. Choose what you want to whatever you want. I can’t eat the peppers. I’ll put the spinach in. So that’s what she does. And then I found this really great tip. I don’t know where I found it but when you make scrambled eggs for example, you can take quick cooking oats grind it up and add that in your won’t taste it but it’s fiber. Sure. Yeah, I think that’s something we also do, right? Yeah, so that’s something I’m okay. So that’s a great thing. So then, what are some great ideas for bringing back the family table traditions.
Emily Dingmann 4:27
I love this. I family meals are really a kind of a big family value of mine. And so there are a few different things. One is I like to make it feel a little special. My kids are at the age where they’re at school all day my husband’s at work. Dinner is really the time for us to kind of come together and connect as a family. And so one of the ways I like to elevate that and make it feel a little special is just by putting on some nice music and lighting the candles it just makes it have like a different vibe like we’re not rushing around, we are taking this time to sit down as a family and kind of connect after a day. And we really like to we call it Rosebud Thorne. I didn’t make this up. But we kind of go around the table and talk about our days. And the rows is the best part of our day. That’s the one is the worst part. That’s cool. The bot is something you’re looking forward to. So it’s just a nice way to kind of talk about your day and just kind of start some conversation, which I think is a really important lesson for kids to learn, you know, like, right meals, we converse with other people with the people we’re eating with and connecting with, and then also not kind of micromanaging what our kids are eating, I talk a lot about this on my social media channels, this is going to totally shift the vibe, if you are kind of constantly pressuring your kids to eat things or kind of micromanaging what they’re eating, it’s not really going to be an enjoyable experience. And so I’m always looking for ways like how can we make this an enjoyable experience so that your kids are, you know, enjoy being at the table with you eating this meal together? Because it’s just so important,
Patrice Badami 6:17
right? You know, something that I recall a pediatrician from years ago saying to me is he said, concerning nutrition and children, when they make a fist, that’s the size of their stomach. So you have to think in your head, okay? Does an entire chicken cutlet needs to go in? No. So essentially, that’s a great guideline, because I look at her fist, and I think, okay, so I want this much protein in there, a little bit of vegetables. And I let her select the things that she’s going to eat based on what I have provided on the counter. So she gets to pick, but yeah, it’s very important because they get full incredibly quickly. Yeah, okay. Yeah. And, um, you know, with
Emily Dingmann 6:56
kids, too, it’s quite common for some kids. And it’s alarming for adults. So we can’t, it’s hard for us to watch this, but kids will, especially toddlers will like eat a ton one day, and then eat virtually nothing the next day, this is they’re able to balance out what they need pretty well. And so the less we can kind of interfere with that, and let them listen to their body’s cues and respect their body’s cues that they are going to be and also then you’re just not adding that kind of battle to the mealtime that you just don’t want to get into. And some kids too, tend to kind of front load their meals. So my youngest daughter does did this, especially when she was a little bit younger, she eats a huge breakfast, she eats a lot for lunch, and she eats like a hearty snack after school. And then dinner, she kind of picks she’s just not as hungry. She just doesn’t eat as much at that point in time. So, you know, adults tend to think of dinner as the largest meal, but it’s sometimes is the other way around, right. And
Patrice Badami 7:59
my daughter is very similar to that. She’s like, the specific thing. She’s, it’s funny, I have to eat something right away, like even more because I get, but she is not a morning eater shad around 10. So what I do is, on the weekends, I’m referring to like, on the weekdays, she gets a yogurt, and then she gets something else too. But she chooses that. But on the weekend, she doesn’t want anything heavy for her. She wants a drinkable yogurt. And then a couple hours later at 10, she needs the protein. So you have to see that you know how sometimes people are not morning eaters, they’re little people. So we have to remember that. And the other thing I was gonna say and this is just a side side note with digestion is with my daughter, I noticed as she still does it, if she hasn’t eliminated a few excuse me, if she has not eliminated for some reason she either doesn’t feel like eating, she can’t eat whatever it is they’re tied to the digestive system needs to remove and very, she was very much like that as a child that she couldn’t eat until she so that we could be aware of their digestive their habits and to incorporate that. And you know, understand that. Yes, you don’t want to have this tug tug of war with food because eventually, it could cause other problems in the future. We don’t want that. Right. So yeah. So what do you do? When you make something your child and they say they don’t like it? What’s your recommendation?
Emily Dingmann 9:23
So I always recommend to just to kind of back it up a step like that families follow the division of responsibility, which is this guideline that was created by a dietician and Family Therapist, her name is Ellen Sattar. And she really clearly defined what the parents role in mealtime is and then what the child’s role is. And these are two very different roles and the parent decides what the meal is going to be where it’s going to be eaten and when. And then the parents job is kind of done and then the child takes over and they decide what to eat off their plate and how on lunch. So this is really helpful if you are using this framework when your children and you do want to make sure that there are a few things they will eat on the table, so that you’re not having to make them something separate. So, at our house, this looks like if I have an inkling like, Oh, my kids, I don’t know, if they’re gonna like this meal, I’ll just put some bread and butter on the table along with some milk and fruit. And if that’s all they decide to eat, that’s fine, but we’re not going to get in a battle. And so when they’re like, oh, yeah, I don’t like you know, salad. You can just say you can decide what to eat off your plate. And I said this so much, you know, when my kids were toddlers were they really are starting to be like, I don’t like this. I don’t want to eat this. And when you say, you can decide what to
Patrice Badami 10:46
decide that’s huge. It is huge, because I use that too. Yeah, it
Emily Dingmann 10:50
just diffuses it. And eventually I think they learn at least with my own kids, you they start to say it less and less because they don’t have to it’s it’s there, we’re not forcing them to eat it. And so they it’s less of this reactionary. Like, I don’t like that food. And more of a like, oh, okay, it’s, it’s here on the table. And that’s okay. But I don’t have to eat it. And so that’s my favorite response is like you can decide what to eat.
Patrice Badami 11:17
I that’s very similar to what we do. And another thing is, if you really are not happy with anything on the table, you can have a banana and yogurt.
Emily Dingmann 11:24
Yeah, yep. Like a backup meal. And you know, where it’s like, yeah, you can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a burrito or something. And so, again, you’re just not engaging with the battles?
Patrice Badami 11:38
Yeah, yeah, it’s really important, because then there’ll be more resistant later. The other thing is, is that you can always have this as another idea or technique, whatever. Put it put like a little bit of something, you want them to try just a little bit on the plate, like a tiny piece, like one piece of broccoli, what put it on the plate, and they can decide whether they want to or not, what I did was I came up with this idea. I created a passport book. So it’s a little book. And so when they try a new a new thing, I have a picture already ahead. Like I cut out something from my like a pepper or something. Okay, well, if you want to try this, then you could put this in your passport book, just taste it. She gets a kick out of that she likes to do that. So yeah, that’s another thing that you can do to encourage but without pushing.
Emily Dingmann 12:22
Yeah. And another thing to kind of on that same note is I like to recommend, you know, some kids do not want foods that they’re still learning to like on their plate at all. And so using a little pinch bowl, and I’ll kind of say like, this is a taste test portion. And you just yeah, you put a small amount, because if they decide not to eat it, you don’t want to be wasting a bunch of food. But yeah, sure, it’s definitely like, a very no pressure way. Like, here’s this little taste test. If you want it, it’s there. And if not, no big deal,
Patrice Badami 12:55
right? Absolutely. Um, what’s something about family nutrition that no one is talking about?
Emily Dingmann 13:02
One thing that is always interesting, when I talk on social media about serving dessert with dinner, it always gets a really big reaction from people who are kind of surprised. And for a lot of us, it’s a very different way than how we grew up. And we were raised, I was a, like, we had to clear our plates and finish out all of the food on our plates before we could have dessert. And so it was like this reward. And so the idea of putting dessert out with the dinner at the same time can seem really crazy for people. What it does is and this is another Ellen Sattar framework is a few different things. One is that it keeps food really neutral. So one thing that can kind of happen is if we’re like, you have to eat the broccoli before you eat the dessert, we’re sort of implying, I think, not on purpose, that the broccoli is bad, you know, you deserve if you eat the broccoli, you really deserve a treat after that, so bad. And we want to just kind of keep it keep all food on a neutral kind of level playing field. And the other thing is that if we have our kids like have to finish their food, we’re not always letting them listen to their own bodies curious on hunger and fullness, right. So we’re kind of saying you have to finish all that food, even if that’s too much for you finish it, and they they will if they really want the dessert, or you also see maybe even more frequently as that they don’t eat as much of the dinner because they want to save room for the dessert serving and at the same time. A lot of parents are surprised that their kids actually eat more. And what I’ve seen my kids do, and this is again, it’s like a weird concept for adults to think about because we are so ingrained that you eat your meal and then you eat dessert and then you’re kind of done. But what I see often is kids will eat a little bit of the dinner, a little dessert, a little more dinner, a little more dessert. And it doesn’t have to be this like first week your dinner and they’ll go back and forth. Like they don’t. It doesn’t bother them. So I
Patrice Badami 15:14
get that. Yeah, yeah, definitely. Right. So like, again, like just, I keep using that one thing, the one thing I taught my daughter, because when we go out to dinner, as you know, oftentimes you get a quantity of food. That’s way more than what you either, you know, as an adult, I can’t finish. I never can finish anything when I go out. So I usually assume in my head, I’m gonna bring half home, I usually give it to my son, he’ll eat anything. But what I was gonna say is when I’ve taken my daughter out for a special time, the two of us, I’ll say to her, she’ll go, Mommy, why don’t you finish I’m like, I’m up to here. So I go like this. I said, I’m satisfied. But I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. And she says that I’m up to here now and I know when she’s is because I know how much to feed her. So she knows I say I want you to listen to that. Because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, right? That you’re so full that you’re you don’t want to feel they want to feel satisfied that you’re not hungry anymore. So she that’s something else is like, you know, let them be able to gauge
Emily Dingmann 16:10
Yeah, it’s a great, a great thing to model and to talk about when you are eating both on both sides. Like, I’m getting full. So I’m going to stop and then also like, are you did you get enough? Are you satisfied to kind of keep giving you enough energy to get through your snack?
Patrice Badami 16:29
Definitely. Um, so here’s a question that I just brought this up. I was thinking about it. When we spoke before baking versus frying, how do you get crispy? How do you get a crispy everything’s always not so crispy when I say
Emily Dingmann 16:41
well, you know, there are a few tricks. Um, and I’m with my intuitive background, my Intuitive Eating background, really, we have like no foods are off limits. So we will eat things that are fried. But if I am making it at home, I don’t really like to fry just because it’s like a big man. Yes, yeah, you have to use a ton of oil. So I have an air fryer. So I’ll use that it really helps kind of get things crispy. Another trick if you’re baking is to put like a cooling rack underneath so that the air can fully circulate the hot air from the oven can fully circulate around your food. And then it’s not like the top is crispy and the bottom is mushy. Okay, so it’s just an easy way to kind of do that angling. Yeah, yeah, just something to lift it up and have it ever be able to go under it. That makes sense. And then also you can you know, get like an olive oil or an oil, Mr. And just get the food a little spritz on the outside to help that browning process. And so that’s
Patrice Badami 17:47
the cool I never thought like, I made some fish the other night. I threw it in the pan. And I was like, Yeah, I wonder why I should have put the baking rack. I don’t want it to
Emily Dingmann 17:57
be easy and easy way to kind of fix that to make it over the weekend. And I didn’t do it. And I I should because the chicken was kind of mushy, because I had that and yeah, I was like, Oh, this would be better if it was Yeah.
Patrice Badami 18:13
Fair enough. All right. Um, okay, so you know what I did want to ask you also, speaking in terms of nutrition, when it comes to sweeteners, it’s something I’m curious about. So we there’s different, there’s sugar, there’s refined, there’s all different types of sweeteners. There’s, there’s ones that are natural, per se, and then there’s artificial what in general is your thoughts on this just how to add to your baking whatever it is. Yeah, and your experience,
Emily Dingmann 18:41
I think it kind of depends on the, your kind of intention behind the the meal or the the food so I know when my kids were really young, you know, you it’s recommended to not give kids under two added sugars. And so that was definitely something that I was conscious of, and I was I would say I was much more careful in either just like using a little bit of sweetener or using something that’s like honey or maple syrup in baked goods for them. Um, but now it kind of depends what we’re making. So I find for myself, if I’m going to make a cookie, I’m going to make it with real sugar and real butter and real flour because that’s going to be a satisfying cookie for me I found when I tried to make like a healthy version of a cookie. It’s just not as satisfying and then I’m like, still chasing what I was after with the cookie in the
Patrice Badami 19:43
first makes sense. That’s actually true. Because I made cookies for Christmas time I used the butter and I use everything and it was the only wanted one. Sometimes when you buy the commercially made cookies, they have the hydrogenated oils. And that’s it. It also can give you heartburn and more so than actual butter. So if you have certain types of GERD reflux, that type of thing. So yeah, I kind of agree with you on that one thing I had that experience was that you’re with patol. That has digestive that can cause issues digestive
Emily Dingmann 20:17
I, it’s not that I’m like a post of for those sweeteners, I think they’re really helpful for some people. For me personally, it does not agree with me, it gives me and I don’t think so.
Patrice Badami 20:31
So that’s good to see what makes sense for you and your medical issues. Just wanted to touch on that briefly. Also. So some nutritious and delicious snack ideas for kids. Yeah,
Emily Dingmann 20:44
I so I talk a lot about I call them like hangry snacks, because when I pick up my kids from school, they are oftentimes ravenous. And I think as parents, we can get kind of frustrated. Or it’s easy to get frustrated when it seems like our kids are snacking a ton. We’re like, Oh, they’re not going to have room for dinner. And the problem I see with snacks is that oftentimes, it’s not satisfying enough to kind of get them over that really intense hunger that they have. So if they have just like goldfish crackers, they are going to be hungry. 20 years is not enough. So what can we add to those goldfish crackers? At our house big items are like adding some cheese or adding some peanut butter and some fruit crackers. So that we kind of have, you know, almost thinking about it as a mini meal and just goldfish as a snack. But how can we make that a mini meal that’s actually going to be satisfying enough to kind of calm that hunger that they’re having?
Patrice Badami 21:45
Right? Yeah, that’s like the charcuterie boards. Yeah, something Yeah, that’s great. Um, I was just gonna say sometimes also, it depends on your situation and how things work. But another option is you can always I we do a double dinner. So she comes home at three has her main meal. And then 530 She has yogurt and banana or something else? Yeah, she’s that hungry? Yeah, it’s really hungry. So yeah,
Emily Dingmann 22:11
there are lots of families that I hear doing things like that, because the kids are are more hungry at 330 than they are at like, five. And so yeah, like, swap the meals or, you know, if it’s not possible to swap the meals, think about it as a mini meal. So include kind of all the food. And I find too, when kids are really hungry, they’re more likely to eat things that they might not otherwise be eating. So putting some fruits and veggies into the mix. And you know, really like you’re getting all their bases covered, then if they don’t really eat anything, exactly.
Patrice Badami 22:46
Yeah, years ago, the old milk and cookies, but then you’d want like a sandwich after that. If you if you want to have to work with whatever you’re fed, there’s no definite way of doing things. You got to just be flexible with whatever works for your family. So what’s your take on incorporating more protein in children’s diets? Like how would you suggest?
Emily Dingmann 23:09
So this is a question that comes up frequently. And really, hopefully, it’s reassuring to parents. But in the United States, it’s states, it is very rare for a child to have a protein deficiency. It’s just not something we see happening here. So kids need a much smaller amount of protein. So most kids get enough protein. With that said, I do think it’s important to be offering and providing the opportunities for protein within all of those meals and snacks. So you always want to be at least providing the option, which is what I kind of say when I when I mean like putting protein out on the table for them. Not necessarily asking like, Hey, do you want a breakfast sausage with your breakfast? I find I have better luck in them eating things if I just put it out there on the table. And I don’t say anything. So if I say
Patrice Badami 24:07
that’s interesting, I like that.
Emily Dingmann 24:09
No, no. Instead, if I just like put a breakfast sausage out on, you know, a little dish, they will oftentimes eat. But again, it’s my job is to provide the opportunities. So making sure that I am providing some some protein at every meal. And it doesn’t have to be they don’t have to eat an insane amount. Like you were saying their stomachs are small. So we kind of tend to think like, oh, they need to eat a whole chicken breasts at dinner. They’re not when that’s not the case.
Patrice Badami 24:39
Yeah, yeah, that’s a lot. Yeah, just made. I just made some soup before that. And you know, depending on what you buy, oh, yeah, so that’s, that’s makes sense. Now, sometimes recipes call for dates and bananas, which I think works great. It adds to the fiber. It’s all natural. It adds the sweetener. So that’s something you know, check your recipes whatnot. I know that if you google and you say if I have a half a cup of sugar, how many dates would that be? How many pieces of banana with like, would that be half a banana, you’ll be able to find that and it won’t change the chemistry of the dish. Oftentimes, especially if you’re making cookies or something that no that’s like I’ve seen a lot of recipes. So take a look out there everyone and see dates, bananas, the ratio per sugar substitute, and you can have a more nutritious, more high fiber, dessert or whatever meal you’re making some ideas for sheet pan meals, what it tells us about sheets.
Emily Dingmann 25:35
I love CPAP meals, we have had a lot of them that just this month and my meal plan group, and every time they make a sheet pans, and I’m like this is just the best dinner ever. You know, you you maybe like chop a few things and then you put everything on a sheet pan and put it in the oven and then your dinner. And so my favorite sheet pan meals are ones that kind of combine everything. I just last week we had this kielbasa sausage, parolees and peppers and onions, and you put everything on the same sheet pan and then put it in the oven. And then you have this dinner that has protein, it has vegetables, it has carbs that kind of has everything you need. And so I love sheep. And
Patrice Badami 26:22
that’s so good. Oh, my
Emily Dingmann 26:26
favorite at our house, my gosh, favorite. Yeah, I
Patrice Badami 26:29
just start. Once again, on Instagram, I found the most delicious, I just made it before I came on. Um, I mean, it was zucchini, a little bit of flour, salt, pepper, a little, a little bit of parsley, and green onions chopped up, you put it together, you don’t need any egg or anything. But if you want to put egg you can, but you don’t necessarily. I also put some parmesan cheese in there just for the heck of it. And I fried them up in there. He’s eating them now. So they’re there. That’s something else. And you can even do things in a way that you you’re not normally used to doing by just considering adding the vegetables and to a dish that like for example, you think of latkes you can make like a zucchini version of that. Yeah. So yeah. Anyway, what I would like to say in general, is I think that you offered a lot of information here, you’re telling us about the protein, you’re telling us how to ration out the certain amount for your child not not to be so stressed about it, relax about it, let them make some more decisions. You know, just I think in general, what I’m taking away from it is, you put everything out, give them the options and let their hunger move forward and try things you know, and as far as the desserts don’t make it seem like it’s it’s, you know, a piece of gold that they’re working towards. Have it be just something that’s normally important the meal, which actually in our case, she has she’s has a very small appetite for dessert. There’s little ice creams, you get little tiny ones there this bit. And you can get those they’re tiny ice cream cones, you can get tiny cookies for them. And then I put it out in she has a little area and she goes in the little cupboard. It’s her stuff and she’ll take out one, their natural inclination is to not overdo it when they’re young. Yeah, they don’t do that. They just get what they know they can eat in their bodies. They listen to their bodies. So wonderful, wonderful podcast, Emily Dickman, she has her degree in nutrition, and she’s specializes in intuitive eating. She’s a counselor, and she was a wonderful guest offers some great ideas. So happy to have had you today. All right. So thanks again. It’s the acorn to tree family podcast and I’m so happy to have had you listened to the podcast. Come on soon. We’ll have some more recipes for you. We’ll have more guests coming on. And have a great, great day. Thank you.