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Early Intervention Speech Therapy

Good Eater Secrets

Published September 6, 2011 8:37 AM by Stephanie Bruno-Dowling

As promised, today is the first "Good Eater Secrets" post!

Good Eater Secrets is a series of questions designed to investigate the "secrets" behind children who are good, healthy eaters and the moms (and dads!) that feed them! The purpose of this search is to help both parents of "picky eaters" and speech therapists who work with "picky eaters" in homecare and in the classroom to know not only how to feed the "picky eaters" in their lives differently, but also what to feed them!

My first secret mom is Emily, my dear friend of over 25 years. She is the mother of two little boys, as well as an experienced occupational therapist currently working with school-aged children.

She is one of the most creative women I know and never ceases to amaze me with her innovative ideas and resourceful thinking. I hope you find her good eater secrets inspiring and her recipe for kale chips enticing! ENJOY!

In your opinion, are your children good eaters? How old are they?

I would say that overall both of my kids (ages 5 and 8) are good eaters. They seem to go through phases with their eating, though, in that at times they go crazy for a particular food and if I let them, they'd eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a week at a time or longer. I think that's normal for kids, though, and mine have been doing it ever since they were toddlers.

Come to think of it, I do the same thing. For example, recently I can't seem to get enough of Greek yogurt with fresh peaches. But I know that in a week or two I will probably not even want to look at Greek yogurt or peaches for a while.

Have they always been good eaters? Even as babies?

I think that my children were almost better eaters as babies and toddlers then they are now, in that they seemed to be more open to trying new things in those younger years. I remember both of them being so excited to eat what my husband and I were eating (sometimes before they were physically ready to eat it themselves) that they would grab it from our plates.

They'd gobble up all types of fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish, even stronger tasting fish like salmon without hesitation. Now that they are older, they seem to be a little more inhibited about trying new foods then they used to be.

Please list five of your child's favorite foods.

Lasagna (or pasta of any kind, really), carrots, cheese, pork, and fruit.

Please list 5 of your child's non-preferred foods.

Fish (except for shellfish), milk, squash, mushrooms, and cauliflower.

Do you cook/bake with your children? If so, how often (e.g., once a week, once a day)?

Yes, I both bake and cook with my kids. The amount varies, but it's usually at least once a week; more often during the summer when I'm home with them. 

What type of meals/dishes do you make with them?

We'll make things like pizza dough and then assemble the pizza with whatever toppings and/ or sauce they want & bake them. We often make pancakes, smoothies, cookies or brownies, or really any baked good; frittatas (or "egg pizzas" as my kids call them), fruit salad, and kale chips.

Do your children like tasting new foods?

Both of them do, but right now, my 5-year-old is more eager and excited to try new foods than my 8-year-old. 

If they refuse to taste/eat any food, what do you do?

If they say they're not going to try the new food, I encourage them to take just a small bite, or if it's a liquid, I will coat a spoon with it and have them just take a lick. I reassure them that if they don't like it, they don't have to eat the whole item of food, but they might discover they like it. 

Then I remind them of all the times before that they were hesitant to try a specific food and found out they loved it, and they say, "Oh yeah! I remember that." Also, speaking from my own personal experience with them helps.

For example, recently, when my oldest child was hesitant to try broccoli rabe, I told him how for many years I was hesitant to try sushi. Then one day a friend suggested we go out for sushi and I gave it a try and now it is one of my favorite foods! 

After they try the food, whether they like it or not, I always praise them for trying it. If they don't like the food, I remind them that they might not like it now, but as they get older, they might find out they like it, so they should try it again another time.

Do you encourage them to taste and try new foods, if so how? Please describe in detail.

I kind of answered this above, but I would also add that I try to set a good example for my kids by eating a wide variety of foods myself. I also think as parents, we can set the tone for our own children's attitudes toward food. 

For example, whenever one of my boys comes up to me and says, "Mmm-- that smells good!  Can I have a taste?"  I will always say yes and let them try. You won't hear me saying, "Well, it has spinach in it, so you probably won't like it," or, "it has mushrooms in it and I know you don't like mushrooms, so." 

Several months ago, I made kale chips for the first time. Both of my sons tried them, but only my youngest liked them. A few weeks later, I made them again and my oldest tried them again and loved them. Now he asks me to make them for him! 

My youngest is also a big "dipper"-- he loves to dip carrots, celery, crackers and chicken into hummus, yogurt dips and Laughing Cow cheese-- anything dippable is a big hit with him. So when trying a new food, I might have him just take a little "dip" of the food.  

Fun presentation also helps. For example, on a recent shopping trip, a woman was offering cheese samples on toothpicks. My boys took several samples and said they liked the cheese, so I bought some. When we got home, I cubed the cheese and put it on toothpicks, and they thought it was fun to eat the cheese like that. I also use differently-shaped cookie cutters to cut out sandwiches or pieces of fruit. Food should be fun!

Another way I encourage my boys to try new fruits and veggies is through our trips to the grocery store or farmer's market. When we go, they take turns getting to pick one veggie or fruit that we have never tried before. We have tried kumquats, prickly pears, fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, all kinds of different fruits and vegetables, some that even I had never tried before. 

They get excited because they get to choose what we are all going to try. Also, 2 years ago, we started to have a small vegetable and herb garden in our yard. In the spring, the boys get to decide what kinds of veggies we are going to plant, and then help water them, and pick them when they're ready.

They get so excited when they see the vegetables beginning to grow, and I think they are more inclined to eat them because they feel like it is something they helped create.  

In the space below, please share a simple, kid-friendly recipe/meal/dish/dessert/sandwich/beverage that you make either for or with your children that they enjoy eating!

Kale Chips


  • 3-4 handfuls of kale (I buy a bag of pre-washed kale to reduce prep time)
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • If you have whole kale leaves, wash them well in cold water. *Make sure you dry the kale very thoroughly! Wet kale will make a soggy chip-- we are going for crunch here!  Have the kids help you tear the kale into bite-sized pieces (about 1 ½ inches-- they'll shrink some when they bake). 
  • Place the kale in a large jelly roll pan.
  • Toss the kale with olive oil, then salt, then garlic powder (if desired).
  • Place the kale in preheated oven and bake for 7-10 minutes. Stay with them, because depending upon your open, they may cook faster, or take a little longer, but you don't want burnt kale chips!

    After 7 minutes, check them every minute or so.  When they look like they are getting brown, shake the pan and let them cook for about another minute.  If you're not sure if they're done yet, remove a test chip and give it a try-- it should be crispy and make a nice "crunch" in your mouth.
  • Kale chips are best enjoyed right away! They lose their crunch when stored, or if they sit out too long on a humid day, so gobble them up when they come out of the oven.

If you would like to be a good eater secret mom or dad, contact me at!


Excellent! So glad you find this helpful....more are definitely on the way! Stephanie

stephanie dowling September 10, 2011 1:38 PM

Thank you for the "good eaters" posts - looking forward to more!  As a feeding therapist and speaker on this topic, I try to help parents understand that children live up to the labels that we assign to them.  Instead of calling your child a "picky eater", reassign their role to be "the best pea roller in the family pea rolling derby" or "the  ulimate carrot cruncher - so loud!"  Sometimes, rolling a pea or crunching a carrot is the best a child can do.  It's about celebrating what a child can do on a particular day, and then setting them up for success to do more in the near future; one step at a time!

Melanie Potock, Feeding - SLP, My Munch Bug September 6, 2011 3:53 PM
Longmont CO

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About this Blog

    Stephanie Bruno Dowling, M.S. CCC-SLP
    Occupation: Speech-Language Pathologist
    Setting: Early Intervention in Delaware County, PA
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