picky eater vegetables

Crunching on kale

Resolved to eat more vegetables this year? Our pediatrician gardener Dr. Marion Mass shares with us the benefits of kale and how to prepare it so your kids will eat it.

Open one of those ubiquitous “Ten Superfoods” articles and kale is sure to be somewhere on the list. Are there really nutritional benefits to stuffing this leafy green into our pie holes? And can I easily grow kale myself? The answers are ‘yes’ and ‘yes,’ both emphatic!

Just one cup of cooked kale provides 100% of the US RDA of vitamin K, 70% of vitamin C, 10% of Vitamin B6, fiber, and calcium, and 7% of iron. Not much iron, you say? Au contraire, dear parent. The absorption of iron is enhanced by vitamin C, so that 7% is much more available to your child’s body. This information is especially pertinent for female teens, whose iron and calcium intake are likely to be deficient.

In addition, kale houses 45 different flavonoids, which are molecules with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One of these, a carotenoid, is selectively absorbed into the retina of the eye and protects against age-related macular problems. If that’s not enough, kale (especially when steamed) has been proven to reduce the risk of five cancers: breast, colon, ovarian, prostate and bladder.

While beloved broccoli boasts many of the same nutritional benefits, kale wins the flavonoid content by a mile. Do not misunderstand… there is virtue in all veggies. I do not advocate eating kale nightly, just making it a regular part of you and your child’s diet.

Now what if I told you that even in my home state, frosty Pennsylvania, we are still picking kale from our garden and will be for another month? Kale, especially The Red Russian variety, and the Tuscan, (also called lacinto or dinosaur kale) is one of the most winter-hardy vegetables in existence. We plant a fall crop in mid August located where we have just dug up our potatoes. (Come to think of it, I should plant a spring crop in early April as well.) We start picking the outer leaves in October. The plant keeps producing new leaves from the center. Frost comes and sweetens the flavor. Snow comes, and Kale still grows! Throw a row cover over the top, and you get an additional 4-6 weeks of harvest after the really cold weather sets in.

While easy to plant, Kale has its enemies. Aphids love it, and cabbage worms take a bite. Both can be combated by the release of beneficial insects: ladybugs, lacewings and praying mantises. Thanks to my friends at Gardeners Supply Company for carrying all three insects.

How to get your kid to eat Kale? Ah, there’s the rub. Start with that dinosaur variety. Age 3-6 is what I call ‘the modern age of dinosaurs.’ Use your child’s love of the extinct beasts to your advantage! Dinosaur kale not only looks like a plant that would live in ancient times, but the deep ribbing looks like the skin of an ankylosaurous. Tell the little darlings they will be as tough as T-Rex if they eat it. Does little Emily like salad? Why not make it with kale added in, or even as the main ingredient? Remember the anti-inflammatory proprieties of the flavonoids mentioned above? Sick that fact on your aching adolescent athlete. After suffering two different inflammation-related problems this past cross-country season, my son practically inhales the stuff.

Look at the recipes below. You might want to work up to the kale salad with beets, pepitas and golden raisins. Or just take it to a grown up potluck. Judging from the reactions from the two places I’ve taken it, it may be the best thing I’ve created in my kitchen.

For all recipes, de-stem the kale by holding the stem at its base, use your thumb and index finger to peel the dark green part away from the stem. Always thoroughly wash and salad spin dry kale before use in the following recipes.

Kale Caesar or Kale Vinagrette

1 bunch kale stemmed and torn into salad sized pieces
1 bottle Caesar dressing
juice of ½ orange or 1 lemon

Prep as you would a regular salad. The citrus juice cuts the bitter taste of the kale. Don’t like Caesar? Dress your kale with a sweetly flavored balsamic (fig, orange or cherry is nice), lemon juice salt and olive oil.

Kale Chips, the easy kind

1 bunch of kale de-stemmed and ripped into pieces
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 300F. Massage the olive oil into the kale on a large rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt. Option: add cumin, cayenne, curry, or any favorite spice! Bake for 10 minutes, stir, bake for an additional 10 until edges are turning golden.

Kale chips that have more protein, but take more effort

1 bunch of kale stemmed and torn into pieces
¾ cup garbanzo bean flour*
pinch of salt
juice of ½ lemon
¾ cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
optional add ins: pinch of cayenne, pinch of turmeric, pinch of cumin

Preheat oven to 300F. Brush a parchment lined cookie sheet with olive oil. Mix flour with salt, add spices, stir in lemon juice and water. Should be like thin pancake batter. Dip kale pieces in batter and place on cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, turn over with tongs, bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Kale will crisp as it cools.

Kale, bean, and sausage soup

1 cup dried beans, soaked overnight cooked until tender (cranberry or roman are my fave)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 lb sausage(we like Bolton’s local turkey sausage) cut into small pieces
2 bunches kale de-stemmed and chopped
1 ½ tsp dried thyme
8 cups your favorite stock

Sauté onions in olive oil until pale gold, add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, add sausage and cook until it’s edges are brown. Add kale and thyme, pour in broth and cook for 30 minutes, add beans during last 10 minutes. Salt to taste.

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Beets and Pepitas

2 bunches kale, de-stemmed and cut into ribbon thin pieces
¾ cup quinoa, cooked as per package directions (red looks best and has best taste)
5 medium beets, cooked until fork tender and cut into ½ inch cubes
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cup crumbled cheese (your choice, blue, goat or queso fresco)
¾ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toast them in pan, they taste better
¼ cup olive oil

Mix first 5 ingredients, toss in rest just before serving. I make this from leftover quinoa and beets that I have cooked the night before. Less work!


Marion Mass MD, FAAP

©2015 Two Peds in a Pod®

In practice for 17 years, Marion Mass MD, FAAP graduated from Penn State and Duke University Medical School. She completed her pediatric residency at Northwestern University’s Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Currently Dr. Mass works at Jellinek Pediatrics in Doylestown, PA and serves on the Wellness Council of the Central Bucks School District, PA. Produce from her kids’ garden garnishes the plates of many local families as well as the plates of the restaurant Puck. All garden profits benefit Relay for Life.  When she is not in her home garden, you can find her also tending to her son’s middle school garden.


In spite of long TSA lines, rental car challenges and all the howling, the wolf family went to grandmother’s house every year for the holidays.

You don’t appreciate how much your baby has grown until you attempt a diaper change on a plane. For families with young children, Thanksgiving or any holiday can become stressful when travel is involved. Often families travel great distances to be together and attend parties that run later than children’s usual bedtime. Fancy food and fancy dress are common. Well-meaning relatives who see your children once a year can be too quick to hug and kiss, sending even not-so-shy kids running. Here are some tips for safer and smoother holiday travel:
If you are flying:

  • Do not offer Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as a way of “insuring” sleep during a flight. Kids can have paradoxical reactions and become hyper instead of sleepy, and even if they do become sleepy, the added stimulation of flying can combine to produce an ornery, sleepy, tantrum-prone kid. Usually the drone of the plane is enough to sooth kids into a slumber.
  • Not all kids develop ear pain on planes as they descend- some sleep right through landing. However, if needed you can offer pacifiers, bottles, drinks, or healthy snacks during take-off and landing because swallowing may help prevent pressure buildup and thus discomfort in the ears. And yes, it is okay to fly with an ear infection.

General tips for visiting:

  • Traveling 400 miles away from home to spend a few days with close family and/or friends is not the time to solve your child’s chronic problems. Let’s say you have a child who is a poor sleeper and tries to climb into your bed every night at home. Knowing that even the best of sleepers often have difficulty sleeping in a new environment, just take your “bad sleeper” into your bed at bedtime and avoid your usual home routine of waking up every hour to walk her back into her room. Similarly, if you have a picky eater, pack her favorite portable meal as a backup for fancy dinners. But when you return home, please refer to our podcast and blog posts on helping your child to establish good sleep habits and on feeding picky eaters! One exception is when you are trying to say bye-bye to the binkie or pacifier.
  • Supervise your child’s eating and do not allow your child to overeat while you catch up with a distant relative or friend. Ginger-bread house vomit is DISGUSTING, as Dr. Kardos found out first-hand when one of her children ate too much of the beautiful and very generously-sized ginger bread house for dessert.
  • Speaking of food, a good idea is to give your children a wholesome, healthy meal at home, or at your “home base,” before going to a holiday party that will be filled with food that will be foreign to your children. Hunger fuels tantrums so make sure his appetite needs are met. Then, you also won’t feel guilty letting him eat sweets at a party because he already ate healthy foods earlier in the day.
  • If you have a young baby, be careful not to put yourself in a situation where you lose control of your ability to protect the baby from germs. Well-meaning family members love passing infants from person to person, smothering them with kisses along the way. Unfortunately, nose-to-nose kisses may spread cold and flu viruses along with holiday cheer.
  • On the flip side, there are some family events, such as having your 95-year-old great-grandfather meet your baby for the first time, that are once-in-a-lifetime. So while you should be cautious on behalf of your child, ultimately, heed your heart. At six weeks old, Dr. Lai’s baby traveled several hours to see her grandfather in a hospital after he had a heart attack. She likes to think it made her father in law’s recovery go more smoothly.
  • If you have a shy child, try to arrive early to the family gathering. This avoids the situation of walking into house full of unfamiliar relatives or friends who can overwhelm him with their enthusiasm. Together, you and your shy child can explore the house, locate the toys, find the bathrooms, and become familiar with the party hosts. Then your child can become a greeter, or can simply play alone first before you introduce him to guests as they arrive. If possible, spend time in the days before the gathering sharing family photos and stories to familiarize your child with relatives or friends he may not see often.
  • Sometimes you have to remember that once you have children, their needs come before yours. Although you eagerly anticipated a holiday reunion, your child may be too young to appreciate it for more than a couple of hours . An ill, overtired child makes everyone miserable. If your child has an illness, is tired, won’t use the unfamiliar bathroom, has eaten too many cookies and has a belly ache, or is in general crying, clingy, and miserable, despite your best efforts, just leave the party. You can console yourself that when your child is older his actions at that gathering will be the impetus for family legends, or at least will make for a funny story.
  • Enjoy your CHILD’s perspective of Thanksgiving and other winter holidays: enjoy his pride in learning new customs, his enthusiasm for opening gifts, his joy in playing with cousins he seldom sees, his excitement in reading holiday books, and his happiness as he spends extra time with you, his parents.

We wish you all the best this Thanksgiving!

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD

©2014 Two Peds in a Pod®
Updated from our 2009 articles on these topics


cartoon family dinner

When my kids were younger, I realized one way to avoid the pre-dinner time meltdowns was to enlist their help in cooking. In addition, baking muffins or cookies with kids is a great rainy day activity with a built-in reward at the end. Much has been written about the nutritional and psychological merits of a shared family meal. Instead, this post is about sharing the mealtime prep. For those of you who do not love to cook yourselves, here are reasons to find your inner cook and encourage your child’s development at the same time:

1-Toddlers LOVE pouring, mixing, and measuring, and when you teach toddlers these skills, you are strengthening their fine motor skills. Why else are toy kitchens and Play-doh so popular? Nothing beats “playing” with REAL ingredients in a REAL kitchen.

2-Teach young kids to count measurements, let older kids do the measuring themselves.

3-Kids who are learning to read now see WHY they need this skill- as you follow a recipe kids see how to read with a purpose. You can let your budding reader read the directions to you.

4- Time spent with a parent in the kitchen fosters more shared attention which can build self-esteem.

5-You will build good memories for your child.

6-For the picky eaters: kids are more likely to taste what they cook themselves.

7-Kids love water play, so even the clean-up is fun.

8- Kids as young as 7 or 8 can learn to cut with a knife. Teach them this life skill while cooking instead of when they are hungry and trying to eat dinner-it causes less frustration.

9-Kids take pride in what they help create. They can also take pride in completing a project. Pride in accomplishments develops self-esteem.

10- Cooking with you teaches your child how to help others as well as how to receive help graciously.

Finally, cooking is one of those life skills needed for when kids grow up and live on their own. Just as you teach them to use the potty, brush their own teeth, dress themselves and tie their own shoes, you should teach them how to cook.

Are you parents who don’t cook? Call Grandma or Grandpa for some tutoring, or take a cooking class with your child!

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2014 Two Peds in a Pod®



milkWe’ve heard some interesting things about cow’s milk over the years. I am going to share with you four myths about milk that I continue to hear from my patients’ parents. Spoiler: reading myth #4 can save you lots of money.


Myth #1: Don’t give milk to a child with a fever, the milk will curdle (or some other variant).


Truth: As long as your child is not vomiting, milk is a perfectly acceptable fluid to give your febrile child. In fact it is superior to plain water if your child is refusing to eat, which is very typical of a child with a fever. Fevers take away appetites. So if your child stops eating while she is sick, at least she can drink some nutrition. Milk has energy and nutrition, which help fight infection (germs). Take milk, add a banana and a little honey (if your child is older than one year), and maybe some peanut butter for added protein, pour it into a blender, and make a nourishing milk shake for your febrile child. Children with fevers need extra hydration anyway. Even febrile infants need formula or breast milk, NOT plain water. The milk will not curdle or upset them in any way. If, on the other hand, your child is vomiting, then stick to clear fluids until her stomach settles.


Myth #2: Don’t give children milk when they have a cold because the milk will give them more mucus.


Truth: There is NOTHING mucus-inducing about milk. Milk will not make your child’s nose run thicker or make his chest more congested. Let your runny-nosed child have his milk! Yet my own mother cringes when I give my children milk when they have colds. Never mind my medical degree; my mom is simply passing on the wisdom of HER mother which is that you should not give your child milk with a cold. Then again, my grandmother also believed that your body only digests vitamin C in the morning which is why you have to drink your orange juice at breakfast time. But that’s a myth I’ll tackle in the future.


Myth #3: You can’t over- dose a child on milk.


Truth: Actually, while milk is healthy and provides necessary calcium and vitamin D, too much milk CAN be a bad thing. To get enough calcium from milk, your child’s body needs somewhere between 16 to 24 ounces of milk per day. Of course, if your child eats cheese, yogurt, and other calcium-containing foods, she does not need this much milk. New recommendations for healthy Vitamin D requirements have been increased recently to 400 IU (international units) daily which translates into 32 ounces of milk daily.  BUT we pediatricians know from experience that over 24 ounces of milk daily leads to iron-deficiency anemia:  calcium competes with iron absorption. You’re better off giving an over-the-counter vitamin such as Tri-Vi-Sol or letting older children chew a multivitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D. In addition to iron-deficiency anemia, drinking all that extra milk is bad for teeth (all milk contains sugar) and can also lead to obesity from excessive calories or can in fact lead to poor weight gain in children who are picky eaters to begin with: the milk fills them up too much for them to have any appetite left for food.


Myth #4: Organic milk is healthier than non-organic milk.




Truth: If you compare organic milk to non-organic milk, the nutrients on the label of the milk carton are the SAME. “But what about the growth hormones in milk,” you may wonder. First of all, cows may be supplemented with growth hormone, but their milk is not. In addition, let me explain about growth hormone. Some children are actually born without growth hormone, and other kids develop growth hormone deficiency because of kidney failure, or cancer treatment, or other medical problems. These children need supplemental growth hormone. Unfortunately for these kids, the only way that we have to give growth hormone to these kids is by injection (a shot) every day. Do you know why? Growth hormone gets DIGESTED in the stomach and is not active if a child eats/drinks it. SO, even if non-organic milk contained growth hormone (which it doesn’t) then your child would have no effects of it anyway because their guts would break it down before it could act on their bodies. WHEW! So unless you just like the taste better, you do NOT have to spend twice as much money on organic milk. Just buy regular milk. Put that extra money away in your college funds.


In summary, you can safely continue serving your children milk in sickness and in health, in moderation, at a lower cost than organic, every day. Now, all this talk about milk really puts me in the mood to bake cookies…


Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®

Update: Please read this article , by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2012, for a comprehensive, unbiased review of the data comparing health benefits of conventional vs organic milk and other foods–Drs. Kardos and Lai, October 6, 2013.

Revised from the original post from 10/5/2009


It’s a heat wave and in extreme temperatures, kids, like adults, find it tough to go outside for physical activity. We find it perfect timing for the release of Dr. Pat Cantrell’s new kid fitness video (demo below). The video, made in conjunction with kids fitness expert Anna Renderer, gives follow-along exercises along with health advice tailored to kids.  We asked Dr. Pat to expand on one piece of advice she gives in the video: eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. For many parents, even one serving can be tough to get into a child. Many a parent has asked himself, “Does one bite of zucchini spit back onto the table count as a serving?” If this is you, then you’ll appreciate Dr. Pat Cantrell’s guest blog post.

– Dr. Lai and Dr. Kardos

Not eating enough fruits and vegetables is one of the biggest concerns that parents have regarding their children’s diet.  The US department of agriculture recommends that children get at least five servings of fruits and/or vegetables in their diet every day.  But most kids aren’t getting that amount.  Below are 5 tips that can help children get their 5 a day.

  1.  Cut it!  Kids love when food is cut into pieces that they can pick up.  An apple or orange might sit on the counter in the fruit bowl.  But, cut it up and all of a sudden it is much more appealing.  Even the fast food restaurants have figured this out and instead of just handing a child an apple or orange with their kid’s meal, they get apple or mandarin slices.
  2. Dip it!  Some vegetables can be bitter to a child’s immature taste buds.  Offering a yogurt or ranch dip can add the flavor they like and helps mellow out the taste of the vegetable.  
  3. Hide it! What they don’t know won’t hurt them!  By disguising fruits and vegetables, kids will get the nutrients they need.  Plus, without knowing it, kids will learn to develop the taste for the vegetables or fruits and their taste buds will be more accepting of the fruit or vegetable in the future.  Smoothies are a perfect way to blend in a few servings of fruits and/or vegetables.  You can also puree vegetables like carrots or spinach and add that to a pasta sauce!  For more ideas, check out Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious”.
  4. Grow it! Gardens are a great way to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies!  I took my sons (7 and 9) to their grandmother’s house and they ate just-picked sugar snap peas.  I was shocked!  First of all, they tried it without whining and second, they liked it and asked for more!  Since the fruits and vegetables can be picked when they are ripe, they often taste better than the store bought version.   Kids love to see the food grow and helping them be a part of the process encourages healthy eating.
  5. Make it fun!  Put cream cheese on celery and add raisins on top and you have Ants on a Log.  Use cookie cutters to cut watermelon or cucumbers into fun shapes.  The more appealing it looks, the more kids want to try it.  For some fun ideas, check out http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/cooking-with-kids/.

Be creative and persistent and try to offer at least one or two servings of fruits and/or vegetables at each meal.

Pat Cantrell, MD, FAAP

Dr. Pat Cantrell, mother of two young boys (who can be picky eaters at times!), is a board certified pediatrician who has been practicing pediatrics at Southern California Permanente Medical Group for over 14 years. She has a special interest in pediatric obesity and is the President of KFIT Health, LLC (www.kidfitnessandhealth.com) which creates fitness and nutrition DVDs and products for children. A board member of the San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative, Dr. Cantrell is also the Pediatric Obesity Champion for her medical group. Additionally she serves as Secretary of the San Diego Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®



Although the United States is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, some children are underweight. Your child’s pediatrician charts your child’s height and weight in order to determine whether he is growing appropriately. Just as obesity has many causes, kids can be underweight for many reasons. Regardless of whether the cause of your child’s poor weight gain is medical or behavioral, the bottom line is that underweight kids use more calories than they take in.

Here are ways to increase calories. Remember, you cannot force children to eat if they are not hungry. For example, you can’t just demand that your child eat more noodles. Instead of trying to stuff more food into your child, increase the caloric umph behind a meal.  Make every bite count:  

  • Mix baby cereal with formula, not juice or water.
  • After weaning formula, give whole milk until two years, longer if child is still underweight.
  • Add Carnation Instant Breakfast or Ovaltine to milk.  
  • Add Smart Balance, butter, or olive oil to cooked vegetables, pasta, rice, and hot cereal.
  • Dip fruit into whole milk yogurt
  • Dip vegetables into cheese sauce or ranch dressing
  • Offer avocado and banana over less caloric fruits such as grapes (which contain only one calorie per grape).
  • Cream cheese is full of calories and flavor: smear some on raw veggies, whole wheat crackers, or add some to a jelly sandwich
  • Peanut butter and other nut-butters are great ways to add calories as well as protein to crackers, sandwiches, and cereal.
  • If your child is old enough to eat nuts without choking (as least 3 years), a snack of nuts provides more calories and nutrition than goldfish crackers or graham crackers.
  • For your older child feed hardy “home style foods.” Give mac ‘n cheese instead of pasta with a splash of tomato sauce or serve meatloaf with gravy instead of chicken breast
  • Try granola mixed into yogurt or as a bar.
  • Give milkshakes in place of milk (no raw eggs!)
  • Choose a muffin over a piece of toast at breakfast.

Some causes of poor weight gain are medical. Have your child’s doctor exclude medical reasons of poor weight gain with a thorough history and physical exam before you assume poor weight gain is from low caloric intake. Sometimes, your child’s physician may need to check blood work or other studies to help figure out why he is not gaining weight appropriately. 

Some common behavioral causes include drinking too much prior to eating, picky eating, or parents failing to offer enough calories. Sometimes tweens and teens develop a pathologic fear or anxiety about gaining weight and deliberately decrease their food consumption. These kids have eating disorders and need immediate medical attention. 

A common scenario we often see is the underweight toddler whose parents describe as a “picky eater.” Meal times are stressful for the entire family.  Mom has a stomach ache going into dinner knowing the battle that will ensue. Her child refuses everything on the table. Mom then offers bribes or other meal alternatives. Dad then gets into the fray by making a game out of eating, and when the child does not eat, in frustration he yells at the child.  Grandma then appears with a big cookie because “well, he needs to eat SOMETHING.” All the adults end up arguing with each other about the best way to get their toddler to eat. If you recognize your family in this example,  please see our post on how to help picky eaters for ways to break out of this cycle.

Just as obese children need to see their doctors to check for complications relating to their increased weight, underweight children require weight checks to make sure that they gain enough weight to prevent poor height growth and malnutrition.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®



When your baby turns one, you’ll realize he has a much stronger will. My oldest threw his first tantrum the day he turned one. At first, we puzzled: why was he suddenly lying face down on the kitchen floor? The indignant crying that followed clued us to his anger. “Oh, it’s a tantrum,” my husband and I laughed, relieved.

Parenting one-year-olds requires the recognition that your child innately desires to become independent of you. Eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop: eventually your child will learn to control these basics of life by himself. We want our children to feed themselves, go to sleep when they feel tired, and pee and poop on the potty. Of course, there’s more to life such as playing, forming relationships, succeeding in school, etc, but we all need the basics. The challenge comes in recognizing when to allow your child more independence and when to reinforce your authority.

Here’s the mantra: Parents provide unconditional love while they simultaneously make rules, enforce rules, and decide when rules need to be changed. Parents are the safety officers  and provide food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep. Parents are teachers. Children are the sponges and the experimenters. Here are concrete examples of how to provide loving guidance:

Eating: The rules for parents are to provide healthy food choices, calm mealtimes, and to enforce sitting during meals. The child must sit to eat. Walking while eating poses a choking hazard. Children decide how much, if any, food they will eat. They choose if they eat only the chicken or only the peas and strawberries. They decide how much of their water or milk they drink. By age one, they should be feeding themselves part or ideally all of their meal. By 18 months they should be able to use a spoon or fork for part of their meal.

If, however, parents continue to completely spoon feed their children, cajole their children into eating “just one more bite,” insist that their child can’t have strawberries until they eat  their chicken, or bribe their children by dangling a cookie as a reward for eating dinner, then the child gets the message that independence is undesirable. They will learn to ignore their internal sensations of hunger and fullness.

For perspective, remember that newborns eat frequently and enthusiastically because they gain an ounce per day on average, or one pound every 2-3 weeks. A typical one-year-old gains about 5 pounds during his entire second year, or one pound every 2-3 months. Normal, healthy toddlers do not always eat every meal of every day, nor do they finish all meals. Just provide the healthy food, sit back, and enjoy meal time with your toddler and the rest of the family.  

A one-year-old child will throw food off of his high chair tray to see how you react. Do you laugh? Do you shout? Do you do a funny dance to try to get him to eat his food? Then he will continue to refuse to eat and throw the food instead. If you say blandly,” I see you are full. Here, let’s get you down so you can play,” then he will do one of two things:

1)      He will go play. He was not hungry in the first place.

2)      He will think twice about throwing food in the future because whenever he throws food, you put him down to play. He will learn to eat the food when he feels hungry instead of throwing it.

Sleep: The rule is that parents decide on reasonable bedtimes and naptimes. The toddler decides when he actually falls asleep. Singing to oneself or playing in the crib is fine. Even cries of protest are fine. Check to make sure he hasn’t pooped or knocked his binky out of the crib. After you change the poopy diaper/hand back the binky, LEAVE THE ROOM! Many parents tell me that “he just seems like he wants to play at 2:00am or he seems hungry.” Well, this assessment may be correct, but remember who is boss. Unless your family tradition is to play a game and have a snack every morning at 2:00am, then just say “No, time for sleep now,” and ignore his protests.

Pee/poop: The rule is that parents keep bowel movements soft by offering a healthy diet. The toddler who feels pain when he poops will do his best not to have a bowel movement. Going into potty training a year or two from now with a constipated child can lead to many battles. 

Even if your child does not show interest in potty training for another year or two, talk up the advantages of putting pee and poop in the potty as early as age one. Remember, repetition is how kids learn.

Your one-year-old will test your resolve. He is now able to think to himself, “Is this STILL the rule?” or “What will happen if I do this?” That’s why he goes repeatedly to forbidden territory such as the TV or a standing lamp or plug outlet, stops when you say “No no!”, smiles, and proceeds to reach for the forbidden object.

When you feel exasperated by the number of times you need to redirect your toddler, remember that if toddlers learned everything the first time around, they wouldn’t need parenting. Permit your growing child to develop her emerging independence whenever safely possible. Encourage her to feed herself even if that is messier and slower. Allow her to fall asleep in her crib and resist rocking her to sleep. Everyone deserves to learn how to fall asleep independently. You don’t want to train a future insomniac adult.

And if you are baffled by your child’s running away from you one minute and clinging to you the next, just think how confused your child must feel: she’s driven towards independence on the one hand and on the other hand she knows she’s wholly dependent upon you for basic needs. Above all else, remember the goal of parenthood is to help your child grow into a confident, independent adult… who remembers to call his parents every day to say good night… ok, at least once a week to check in…. ok, keep in touch with those who got him there!

Julie Kardos, MD with Naline Lai, MD
©2012 Two Peds in a Pod®



After we complete a Two Peds in a Pod planning or edit session, our conversation inevitably turns to the question, “What are you cooking for dinner tonight?”

We know parents are always searching for simple ways to move beyond macaroni and cheese suppers. Here are two chicken dishes Dr. Kardos’s kids love and one tofu dish Dr. Lai’s children enjoy. For picky eaters, please note each item is well demarcated- no food has to “run into” or “touch” the other items. All can be eaten with a fork or with fingers for younger toddlers.  They have flavors that adults like but are not too strongly flavored to turn a kid off.  Best of all, they are easy to prepare.  

Gram mom’s Chicken-in-a-Pot

Need: One 5-8 lb oven stuffer roaster chicken, carrots, onions, spices, cast-iron pot/dutch oven

Rinse off chicken and discard innards/gizzards. Pat dry. Sprinkle with spices that are kid friendly (no hot pepper unless your child really likes it). I use garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and tarragon. Place chicken into a cast-iron pot/Dutch oven. Add cut up carrots or “baby” carrots and either frozen pearl onions or a fresh onion chopped up. Other vegetables that will not fall apart/become mush would work as well. DO NOT ADD WATER.

Cover the pot, place on stove on low heat, and cook for 2-3 hours, until chicken is tender.  It makes its own juices as it cooks so you never need to add water. When done, the chicken falls off the bones with minimal prompting. Carefully discard bones.

Result: easy to chew, pleasantly but not strongly flavored chicken, and cooked carrots. Dr. Kardos’s kids love to eat this with applesauce (two like to dip the chicken), raw carrots (only one of her kids likes cooked carrots), rice or noodles (juices from chicken taste great on either one) and fresh strawberries or other kid-pleasing fruit.

A ma’s (Taiwanese for gram mom) easy Tofu

Need: extra firm or firm tofu, rice, soy sauce, sesame oil, dried basil (Mrs. Dash has a tomato-basil-garlic spice mixture which is great, but tough to find)

Cut a block of  tofu into one-third inch thick square pieces (approximately one and one half inch by one and one half inch). Liberally coat the bottom of a frying pan with sesame oil, add tofu and soy sauce, sprinkle dried dried basil over pieces. Cover and cook on high heat until starting to brown, then flip pieces over and cook on medium heat until other side starts to brown. For the picky kid, mush with a fork into rice and serve in a big bowl with fruit and vegetables on a separate plate. For everyone else, consider adding pepper and serve over steamed white or brown rice. 

Mom mom’s baked chicken

Need: Boneless/skinless thicker cut chicken breasts, herb or Italian flavored breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, butter (or Smart Balance).

Melt butter in one bowl. In another bowl, mix equal parts breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.

Rinse chicken, pat dry. Dip the chicken first into the melted butter, then into the breadcrumb mixture until well coated, then place onto baking pan. Drizzle any remaining melted butter onto the chicken. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes (until chicken is cooked through).

Serve with rice, noodles, couscous, or bulgur wheat, salad or frozen mixed vegetables that steam right in the bag, and fresh pineapple or other kid-pleasing fruit.

Bon Appetite,

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2011 Two Peds in a Pod®


Standing in line at a fast food restaurant off an East coast highway during spring break, I overheard the cashier greet the family in front of me by name. I cringed. Was the family a regular customer at the chain? Hopefully, they were just friends with the cashier.

Most of us, including me, are not always health food angels. However, a family who is a regular customer at a fast food restaurant may simply not know how to break the habit. For those who still need to get those healthy eating New Year’s resolutions rolling, our Feburary podcast, “Helping the Overweight Child,” gave the 5-4-3-2-1-0 rules for healthy eating.  This post gives more hints:

BMI, or Body Mass Index (weight in kg divided by height in meters squared) is a number which indicates whether your child’s weight is normal for his or her height and age. Normal weight school aged kids DO look a bit scrawny.Children’s bellies should NOT hang over their pants. On the other hand, normal weight toddlers do look a bit pudgy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a nice BMI calculator

Snacks aren’t needed at sports games which last only an hour. Supply water bottles and forget the snack.

Don’t feed your younger child snacks to keep him occupied during an older sibling’s event. Bring books, paper and crayons, a doll, or a matchbox car instead.

 Make a stack of peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches and keep them wrapped, ready to go, in the fridge. Keep some washed apple slices or carrot sticks along side the sandwiches and  this stash can be your “fast food” at those times you need to feed your family “on the run”. 

 Don’t give your children a junky snack in order to carry them over until dinner. If your kids come home from school STARVING!!, give them a REAL dinner, and then give them a fruit or vegetable when the entire family later sits down.

holiday is one day, Halloween is October 31st. . Why eat the candy for days and weeks afterwards?

Don’t keep junk food in your home. This will avoid arguments about what to eat.

Have your children ask you if they can have something to eat, rather than allowing “free access” to your pantry/refrigerator. That allows you decide if it is too close to mealtime to have a snack (remember from the Picky Eaters blog post,“hunger is the best sauce”) and will allow you to choose an appropriate snack and portion size. If kids inherently knew healthy choices and portion sizes, they wouldn’t need parents! Also this allows you to determine if the child is truly hungry, bored, or attention seeking. 

Now back to the the fast food establishment I find myself in with my family. “Maybe this restaurant chain should offer a Two Peds in a Pod kid’s lunch box,” I mused as my family finished up their greasy, salty meal. Everyone’s curiosity was piqued. My husband and I began to hypothesize what kind of food would be inside a Two Peds box.

“What do you think?” I asked the kids.

“We’re actually more interested in what kind of prize would you would offer,” they said.

Gotta love my regular customers.


Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD

©2010 Two Peds in a Pod


For families with young children, holiday time can be magical yet stressful. Often families travel great distances to be together and parties tend to run late. Fancy food and fancy dress are common.  And winter holidays, well, they occur in the winter, usually during flu season, stomach virus season, and in general multi-illness season. Here are some suggestions about how to keep your kids healthy and happy during this time.

We preface by referring you to suggestions # 1, 2, and 3 of Part 1of A Happy, Healthy Holiday. HANDWASHING, HANDWASHING, AND HANDWASHING will prevent spread of germs. In addition:

1.      Traveling 400 miles away from home to spend the week with close family and/or friends is not the time to solve your child’s chronic problems. Let’s say you have a child who is a poor sleeper and tries to climb into your bed every night at home and you have chronic fatigue from arguing with her/walking her back to bed. Knowing that even the best of sleepers will often have difficulty with sleeping in a new environment, just take your “bad sleeper” into your bed at bedtime and avoid your usual exhausing home routine of waking up every hour to walk her back into her room. That way everyone gets better sleep. Similarly, if you have a very picky eater, pack up her favorite portable meals and have them available during the fancy dinners. (But when you return home, please refer to our podcast and blog posts on helping your child to establish good sleep habits and on feeding picky eaters.) Good sleep and good nutrition keep children and their parents healthy and happy.


2.      Think of giving your children a wholesome, healthy meal at home before a holiday party which you know will be filled with junk food and food that may seem “foreign” to your children. Hunger fuels tantrums, so eliminate that meltdown source by taking them to the party with full bellies. Also you won’t feel guilty letting them have some of the sweets because they already ate a healthy meal.


3.      Speaking of sweets, ginger-bread house vomit is DISGUSTING.   Dr. Kardos found this out first-hand with one of her children after a holiday party where the hostess served the kids a beautiful (and generous sized) ginger bread house for dessert. While Dr. Kardos was engrossed in conversation with a long lost friend, one of her boys over-ate. Make sure you supervise what your child is eating at parties. 


4.      If you have a young baby, be careful not to put yourself in a situation where you lose control of your ability to protect the baby from germs.  Well-meaning family members love passing infants from person to person, smothering them with kisses along the way. Unfortunately, kisses can spread cold and flu germs, as well as stomach virus germs.


5.      On the flip side, there are some family events, such as having your 95-year-old grandfather meet your baby for the first time, that are once in a lifetime. While you should be cautious on behalf of your child, you can balance caution while looking at the whole context of a situation before deciding whether or not to attend a gathering.

6.      Once you have children, their needs come before yours. (Of course there is a healthy balance-but that is a talk for another day.) Although you have anticipated a holiday reunion, your child may be too young to remember it.  An ill, overtired child makes everyone miserable.  If your child has a cold, is tired, won’t use the unfamiliar bathroom, has eaten too many cookies and has a belly ache, and is in general crying, clingy, and miserable, just leave the party. You can console yourself that when your child is older his actions at that gathering may be the stuff of legends, or at least will make for a funny story. 


7.      For the allergic families- think twice before you drag in a live Christmas tree into your house.  The trees are often covered in dust and mud.  Washing the tree off with a hose in the driveway will keep the sneezing down to a minimum.  Every year Dr. Lai tells families about rinsing off the tree in the driveway. Most parents dismiss the idea as too time consuming.  However, she is pleased to report that a family recently told her they did rinse the tree and it did help keep the allergens at bay.


8.      No one else baby proofs.  Remember this when you are on the road. We worry less in our own homes.  But with their medication pills lying on the end tables and their menorah candles within a toddler’s reach, other people’s homes should make us more cautious.  One year at holiday time Dr. Lai’s family was in a hotel room and her six year old came running up saying “look what I found”…It was a pill of Viagra. 


We wish you all the best this holiday season.

Julie Kardos, MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2009 Two Peds in a Pod