How to Please a Picky Eater (Toddler or Teenager)

Top 5 Mistakes Parents Make with a Picky Eater

  1. Forcing a child to eat everything put on the table for a meal
  2. Bargaining with a child to eat healthy items in a meal in order to get a dessert or treat
  3. Not re-introducing a food item if the child doesn’t like it the first time
  4. Parents don’t eat healthy food themselves but expect their children to eat healthy food
  5. Stocking the refrigerator and pantry with junk food but expecting a child to choose healthy items over the non-nutritious snacks

1. Forcing a child to eat everything put on the table for a meal

  • A child doesn’t have to eat everything on the table, but should try at least one bite. If after the bite he says, “No, thanks” at least you’ve exposed the child to the new food.
  • Don’t force a child to eat an entire serving of something she doesn’t like, but don’t make a separate meal for the child
  • Remember, kids will not starve! They will learn to be more flexible with food choices rather than go hungry.
  • If a child skips a meal because he doesn’t like anything, the child will be hungry enough at the next meal to be more willing to eat what is served
  • Try to include at least one item the child likes at every meal, but don’t avoid all items the child does not like.
  • Don’t threaten or punish—this only results in power struggles with your child!

2. Bargaining with a child to eat healthy items in a meal in order to get a dessert or treat

  • Bargaining does not work long term to help the child learn to eat and enjoy healthy food such as vegetables.
  • It also promotes the false belief that a cookie or cupcake or other dessert item has more value than the healthy food item

3. Not re-introducing a food item if the child doesn’t like it the first time

  • The 10-15 Rule: Studies show that it can take up to 10-15 tastes of one kind of food before a child accepts or likes the food. Repetition is important!

4. Parents don’t eat healthy food themselves but expect their children to eat healthy food

  • Parents are the best role model for their kids. It helps if they eat the kind of food they want their children to eat. If parents don’t eat vegetables or fruits, chances are, their kids won’t either. 
  • If kids see their parents ENJOYING vegetables and fruits, they are more likely to choose to eat them as well.

5. Stocking the refrigerator and pantry with junk food but expecting a child to choose healthy items over the non-nutritious snacks

  • Don’t stock unhealthy items like candy. If a child is hungry, give her the choice of two healthy snacks to eat instead of giving in to the candy that she requested
  • Put healthy foods like cut up fruit where your toddler or teenager can quickly find them when they are hungry.
  • Avoid giving milk or juice before a meal to pacify hunger. This prevents kids from eating the rest of the meal
Home made macaroni and cheese, with some dried...
Home made macaroni and cheese, with cauliflower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some ideas to encourage your kids to eat a healthier, wider variety of food:

  • It is normal for kids to eat less as they turn one year of age because of slowing of their growth at this age. At age two toddlers want to make their own food choices. Many toddlers appear to be picky eaters to parents because they don’t like to try new foods and prefer to snack.
  • It’s normal for kids to like one thing one day and not like it the next, or want the same food three days in a row and then say they are sick of it. In general, try to avoid preparing only the things a child eats—say prepared chicken nuggets, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese, to the exclusion of other food.
  • Involve your child in food shopping so that she can choose the vegetables and fruits she wants to try. Kids are more likely to eat a food they picked out. Remember not to bring your kids to the grocery store when they are hungry. Set ground rules in advance of shopping: no candy, no soda, no sugary snacks or cereal. They can choose any fruits and vegetables as long as they are willing to try them when brought home.
  • Involve your kids in making meals. They are more likely to eat the food “masterpiece” they made. Making cooking a fun experience will encourage kids to eat the food they cooked.
  • Kids are also more likely to eat food they have helped grow, so a having your child involved in a home garden or going to the farmer’s market will encourage them to eat more vegetables.
  • Avoid “grazing” all day long, because prevents a child from learning when he is hungry or full. Kids learn to manage their appetites by knowing when meals and snacks will be available.
  • Don’t encourage filling up on snacks, especially junk food or sugary snacks, because kids will learn to skip meals and eat only the unhealthy snacks.
  • Breastfed or formula fed babies should eat on demand because this is a period of high growth. Toddlers also need three meals and up to three snacks a day, so they should be encouraged to have a healthy snack before meals.
  • Let kids as young as 9 months of age feed themselves. Children should be able to use utensils by age 15-18 months. Having this control will help kids learn how much food it takes to fill them up and not overeat.
Healthy Berries are Good Food for Health
Photograph used with permission from

It is ok to disguise healthy foods in your kids’ favorite dishes:

  • Kids generally love pizza. Kids will eat vegetables like broccoli or spinach if it is on a pizza
  • Add a healthy vegetable like cauliflower to a kid pleaser like macaroni and cheese.
  • Add fruits or even vegetables to “milk shakes” Adding pre-frozen fruit to smoothies gives them a creamier texture similar to a milkshake.
  • Combine dried fruits, unsalted nuts and unsweetened cereal for a healthy snack mix
  • Make yogurt parfaits with fruit and granola. Even kids who won’t eat yogurt, fruit or granola separately tend to like them when they are served up as an appealing parfait.
  • Kids love peanut butter and jelly. Add peanut butter to celery sticks or apples for a healthy snack.
  • Add pureed vegetables like spinach to homemade hamburgers or turkey burgers
  • Add vegetables like squash or zucchini to spaghetti sauce. Kids tend to like pasta, so adding any vegetable to a pasta dish makes it more palatable to kids.
  • Add pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes
  • Substitute sweet potatoes for French fries, and bake in the oven instead of deep frying.
  • Make baked vegetable “fries” or “fingers” by coating zucchini, eggplant or squash with egg substitute and bread crumbs
  • Make homemade baked chicken fingers coated with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs instead of the fast food variety.
  • Légumes
    Photo credit: Wikipedia

    Carrots and corn are vegetables with high natural sugar content, so these are good vegetables to make in a pinch for picky eaters

Pay attention to the texture of foods or the way it is prepared. For example, some kids love applesauce but not raw apples.

Some kids will only eat vegetables if it is with a sauce, and others will eat only if there isn’t any sauce

Kids often prefer stir fried veggies (use a small amount of canola or olive oil) to steamed

  • Add vegetables like broccoli to a baked potato
  • Sometimes kids don’t like “mushy” foods. Cooking vegetables so they are tender-crisp may be more appealing to these children.
  • Yes, it is ok to add a small amount of ketchup or barbecue sauce to any food item including broccoli if it will encourage your child to eat the food item.
  • Make healthy whole grain waffle “sandwiches” (no syrup) containing lunch meat or vegetables inside. Use hummus or salad dressing as a spread inside the waffle.

Last Updated by Dr. Vee on October 22, 2012

  • English: vegetables
    (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Mediterranean Diet Health Benefits Revisited

Three red tomatoes lycopene mediterranean diet prevents cancer

Three red tomatoes lycopene mediterranean diet prevents cancerPhotograph courtesy of

A recent study evaluated six different clinical trials involving 2650 overweight and obese patients around the world.  The Mediterranean Diet was found to be more effective in reducing weight, body mass index, blood pressure, fasting sugar and total cholesterol than a low fat diet.  

The Mediterranean Diet is known as a moderate fat diet, because a higher percentage of calories comes from fat than in a standard heart healthy diet where less than 30% of calories are from fat. However, the secret of the Mediterranean diet is not the percentage of fat but the type of fat consumed. Olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean and peanut oil commonly eaten in the Mediterranean regions are all mono and poly unsaturated oils, which are healthier than saturated and trans (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils). Monounsaturated fatty acids (commonly abbreviated MUFA) are healthier than saturated fats, which are found in animal fat products such as butter and tropical oils.  Avocados are another source of MUFA.

Nuts, another integral food consumed in Mediterranean countries, provide heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Fish, a leaner protein than red meat, is a major component of the Mediterranean Diet.  Fatty fish like salmon, halibut, herring, black cod and sardines have high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, which support healthy memory and aging, and prevent heart disease. Interestingly, omega 3 fatty acids modestly increase LDL ( bad cholesterol), but they are beneficial in preventing heart disease and stroke because they prevent platelet stickiness and help lower blood triglyceride levels. Omega 3 fatty acids also reduce the risk of sudden death by preventing heart dangerous types of heart rhythm abnormalities.Mykonos Crete Mediterranean Diet Madelaine Bulkes Made B

Photograph Courtesy of Madelaine Bulkes

The Standard American Diet or SAD (pun intended) has large amounts of red meat, fried foods, processed grains, cured meats, and sugary sweets and beverages.  In contrast, the Mediterranean Diet is plant-based, with up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

Whole grains are another important feature of the Mediterranean Diet. Bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil.  Avoid butter, which has saturated fat, and margerine, which contains trans fat made by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils. Whole grains take longer to digest so they prevent sharp increases in blood sugar after meals. 

Americans more commonly eat processed grains, which have the outer covering of the grain removed.  Remember that whole wheat bread is not made of whole grain; instead it is made out of processed wheat flour (but still has more fiber than white bread). Whole grains have more fiber and are healthier for the colon than processed grains. A high fiber diet can reduce the risk of diverticulosis and colon cancer.  It takes more calories to digest whole grains than to digest processed grains.  A diet high in fiber can also lower blood  cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean Diet have high amounts of soluble (beans, legumes, cracked wheat)  and insoluble (fruits, vegetables, oat bran) fiber.

Substitute a whole wheat version of your favorite pasta, and remember to cook it al dente (not soft) in order to prevent increases in blood sugar after eating.

red wine mediterranean diet mark phillips Timba LimberRed wine in moderation is acceptable in the Mediterranean Diet. However, if more than 5 ounces per day in women or 10 ounces a day in men is consumed, the benefits of the red wine are lost.  Women at risk for breast cancer or breast cancer

Photograph courtesy of Mark Phillips/Timba Limber

recurrence should consider restricting alcohol intake since this factor has been associated with breast cancer occurrence.  It is believed that the benefits of red wine to the heart are through the antioxidant action of the phytonutrient resveratrol, which is found in the skins of grapes. So the same benefits of wine can be achieved by eating red grapes or drinking pure red grape juice. 

Dr. Ancel Keyes and his colleagues (including Dr. Paul Dudley White, who later served as President Eisenhower’s heart doctor) developed the Seven Countries Study after World War II to evaluate the health of almost thirteen thousand middle-aged men in the United States, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia and Japan.  They discovered that people who ate a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans, lentils), fish and whole grains were the healthiest. The healthiest men were the residents of Crete, who lived longer and had less heart disease than Americans in the post World War II era.  Dr. Keyes and his  associates hypothesized that it was the Mediterranean diet that the Cretans ate which contributed to their longevity and good health. The residents of Crete ate up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily!

Studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and death from all causes. Although there have not been any prospective randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trials (the gold standard for evidence based medicine) comparing the Mediterranean diet to the standard American diet or weight loss programs, a number of studies have shown that people who follow the Mediterranean diet are leaner than people who follow other diets.

Cruciferous vegetables (shaped like a cross when cut)  such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts have antioxidants which prevent several kinds of cancer including breast and prostate.  Tomatoes have lycopene, an  antioxidant similar to vitamin A, which  reduces the risk of cancers such as breast and prostate. Cooking tomatoes or cooking with olive oil, such as in tomato sauce, increases the lycopene content.

The low sodium Mediterranean diet combined with the high potassium content of fruits and vegetables such as various greens, legumes, potatoes and squash helps lower blood pressure.  Spinach, almonds, lentils, broccoli, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are good sources of magnesium, another element essential to maintain good blood pressure.

The high fiber content of fruits, vegetables and whole grains stabilizes blood sugar and prevents diabetes.  Another benefit of fiber in the diet is that it keeps maintains a feeling of fullness, decreasing the temptation for eating unhealthy snacks when ravished! Mono unsaturated fats from foods such as avocados, olive oil and nuts increase the body’s ability to use insulin, which also decreases the risk of diabetes. 

Although nuts have healthy omega 3 fatty acids, they are composed of fat, so no more than a handful a day is recommended. Avoid salted or honey roasted nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews and pistachios can be eaten as part of the Mediterranean diet.

Lean protein in the form of chicken and other poultry and fish (healthy portion  is checkbook cover size) are important components of the Mediterranean diet, and are consumed weekly. Red meat and pork is rarely eaten, no more than a few times a month, and in small portions (about the size of a deck of cards). Food is prepared simply, using fresh ingredients, without  sauces or gravies. Rosemary, garlic, thyme, basil and parsley are herbs commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, and have been shown to have beneficial health effects.

Studies show that garlic decreases blood pressure and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember to allow cut garlic to sit out for at least 5 minutes before cooking, in order to retain its health benefits.

In the Mediterranean region, sweets are consumed infrequently (no more than twice weekly), and are usually made of natural sugars such as honey.  Aiming for a 75 calorie dessert is ideal. Sorbets, fruit and dark chocolate are the best dessert choices.

Low fat Greek yogurt, feta cheese, sardines, beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and kale are good sources of calcium.

Lentils, spinach, almonds, and poultry are good sources of iron. Eating citrus fruit or peppers provides vitamin C, which helps the absorption of iron in a meal. Lentils and beans are also good sources of potassium, magnesium, folic acid and soluble fiber. Soak beans and change the soaking water several times in order to decrease the gas producing substances in beans. Remember that beans are not a complete protein, meaning they lack some essential amino acids that the body must get through the diet; adding lean poultry and eggs provides these essential amino acids.  Egg yolks should be eaten no more than once a week due to the saturated fat content, but there is no limit to the amount of egg whites that can be consumed.

At least 30 minutes daily exercise or movement is a recommended part of the Mediterranean diet.

Finally, a very important component of the Mediterranean lifestyle is sharing food with friends and family. Enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle, have a zest for life and improve health all at the same time!

Allain J. Nordmann, Katja Suter-Zimmerman, Heiner C. Bucher, Iris Shai, Katherine R. Tuttle, Ramon Estruch, Matthias Briel. Meta-Analysis Comparing Mediterranean to Low-Fat Diets for Modification of Cardiovascular Risk Factors. The American Journal of Medicine Volume 124, Issue 9, Pages 841-851.e2, September 2011.

Last updated on January 18, 2012 by Dr. Vee  Photograph courtesy of

red raspberries frozen antioxidants

Healthy Chicken and Mushrooms Fricassee

To help busy people and families shop for, prepare, and serve healthy meals, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of NIH created and published Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Dinners. The new cookbook features 75 simple and delicious recipes influenced by Asian, Latino, Mediterranean, and American cuisine that are good for your heart and taste great, too.

Chicken and Mushroom FricasseePhoto: Keep the Beat Recipes

Chicken and Mushroom Fricassee

Serves 4


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 carton (10 oz) white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
1 Cup leeks, split into quarters, then sliced into small squares and rinsed well
1 Cup potatoes, peeled and diced
1 Cup celery, rinsed and diced
1 Cup pearl onions, raw or frozen
3 Cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb skinless chicken legs or thighs (4 whole legs, split, or 8 thighs)
2 Tbsp each fresh herbs (such as parsley and chives), rinsed, dried, and minced (or 2 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp fat-free sour cream
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottom roasting or braising pan (a large sauté pan with a metal handle will work as well).
  3. Add mushrooms to pan, and cook until golden brown, about 3–5 minutes. Add leeks, potatoes, celery, and pearl onions, and continue to cook until the vegetables become soft, about 3–5 additional minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth to the pan, and bring to a boil. Add chicken legs to the pan, cover, and place in the heated oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken legs are tender when pierced with a fork (to a minimum internal temperature of 165° F).
  5. When chicken legs are tender, remove legs from the pan, return the pan to the stovetop, and bring the liquid to a boil. Add herbs and lemon juice.
  6. In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with the sour cream, and add to the pan. Bring back to a boil and then remove from the heat.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and pour 1 cup of vegetables and sauce over chicken.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Calories 242, Total Fat 9 g, Saturated Fat 2 g, Cholesterol 42 mg, Sodium 430 mg, Fiber 3 g, Protein 20 g, Carbohydrates 24 g , Potassium 807 mg
* Recipe taken from Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Dinners, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Last Updated January 16, 2012 by Dr. Vee

Antioxidants, Epigenetics and How to Decrease the Risk of Cancer

Photograph of Peapod Courtesy of Catherine Merulpie

How Antioxidant Foods Affect your Epigenetics

You are your genes. Better stated, you are your epigenetics. If you have DNA that may increase the risk of certain cancers, can you change your own risk? Epigenetics refers to the cellular environment of our genes—how the expression of the genes are affected without changing the underlying DNA sequences.

How do broccoli and other cruciferous vegetable such as Brussels sprouts or cauliflower decrease the risk of cancer? Certain nutrients, such as sulforaphanes in broccoli and diallyl in garlic affect epigenetics by activating genes involved in the development of cancer (tumor promoters, tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair genes). Selenium, vitamin A, folate and vitamin D are also believed to impact on the development of cancer by affecting epigenetics.

Could it really be that easy? Just eat a lot of broccoli? More coldwater fish? Grape Juice? Dark chocolate? Green tea? Vitamin D supplements?

Actually, at least four factors—Timing, Quantity, Combination and Organ Exposure—play a role in how phytonutrients (beneficial food substances) affect the development of certain cancers.


The actual timing of a body organ’s exposure to a cancer fighting substance makes a difference. For example, taking folic acid when there are underlying pre-cancerous colon cancer cells in the body actually increases the risk of developing colon cancer.

Regular soy intake (preferably whole soy products such as miso) by adolescent and young women decreases their risk of breast cancer by about 15 %. Isoflavones in soy attach to the estrogen receptor and block the body’s intrinsic estrogen from attaching to estrogen receptors. By blocking estrogen from attaching to receptors, isoflavones may prevent development of breast cancer.

However, in women who already have estrogen positive breast cancer or who are on tomoxifen, soy intake is generally not recommended. In these women with current or previous history of breast cancer, isoflavones are believed to attach to estrogen receptors and mimics the effect of estrogen to promote the development of breast cancer. (But even that conventional wisdom is evolving! Stay tuned for several recent studies in breast cancer survivors that suggest that soy intake is safe, even in women who are taking anti-estrogen/progesterone receptor therapy.)
In general, whole soy foods rather than soy supplements or powders are recommended. This is an active area of breast cancer research, so hopefully the true effects of soy in women at risk for breast cancer or who have had breast cancer can be more clearly understood.

Quantity of Antioxidants Ingested

The total amount of a potential cancer preventing nutrient that is ingested is also important. In general, increasing vitamin D intake decreases the risk of certain cancers, especially breast and prostate cancer. But more is not always better! Patients who have very high blood levels of vitamin D actually increase their risk of prostate cancer. Very high intake of the combination of selenium, beta carotene and vitamin E has been shown to increase the risk of death in patients with esophageal cancer. So be cautious in your intake of supplements –more is not always better, and it is possible to have toxicity from high levels of supplements.


Combining an antioxidant with other substances makes a difference. The prime example is the use of beta carotene supplements in smokers, which actually increases the risk of lung cancer more than in smokers who did not take beta carotene. Of course we all know that quitting tobacco makes the biggest difference in decreasing lung cancer risk.
Combining fruits and vegetables with unhealthy fats (such as trans fats) rather than olive and canola oils eliminate many of their beneficial antioxidant effects.

The Organ Exposed

Finally, the organ that is exposed to the antioxidants in foods is affected in different ways. For example, the calcium in milk is believed to decrease the risk of colon cancer but may increase the risk of prostate cancer. The effects of calcium in milk cannot be explained just by the fat content of milk because in general, high fat intake increases the risk of both colon and prostate cancer.

In summary, antioxidants in food can decrease the risk of cancer by affecting the epigenetics of DNA susceptible to promoting cancer, but attention must be paid to other factors that can affect these phytonutrients.

This post is not meant to diagnose, treat or recommend any course of therapy. It provides general information on cancer genetics and nutrition. Check with your physician how these factors may impact on your health.

Last updated by Dr. Vee on August 6, 2011

Super Fruits for Health (Or Why Purple is the New Green)

Photographs Courtesy of Albaflickr/J.Jorge

Super Fruits are fruits that are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.

Free radicals are toxic molecules created naturally in the body when food is digested and energy is utilized by the body. Antioxidants are ingredients in fruits that fight damage created by free radicals. Cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and eye problems can develop if free radicals aren’t neutralized by antioxidants in the body. Super Fruits have antioxidants which scavenge free radicals and decrease inflammation in the body. Antioxidants also boost the immune system to help fight infections. Many fruits have high levels of potassium, which helps prevent high blood pressure.

1.Blackberries–Purple berries have the highest antioxidant content of any food, so when it comes to fruits and vegetables, purple is the new green! Anthocyanins are the antioxidants in blackberries (and black currants) that give berries their deep purple color and protect against heart disease and cancer. Blackberries also have high levels of vitamin C, which help boost the immune system. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries also have high levels of antioxidants. Cranberries may help prevent bladder infections.

2. Tomatoes–(fruit though we think of as vegetable). Red fruit such as tomatoes have an antioxidant called lycopene which helps prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer. Cooking tomatoes increases antioxidant levels. Tomatoes contain high levels of Vitamin E, vitamin C and iron.

3. Avocado–also known as an alligator pear. Contains more protein than in a steak! Avocados have essential amino acids (can only eat in the food, not made naturally in the body) to build muscle. They contain heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. The monosaturated oil in avacodos help lower bad cholesterol levels. Contains lutein, which helps preserve eyesight. The antioxidants in avocados are great for the skin when applied as a masque.

4. Red grapes and grape juice–Contains the same heart healthy antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine. Resveratrol is felt to help prevent heart disease and blood clots. The skin of red grapes are packed with polyphenol antioxidants so eat the grapes with the peels on!

5. Pomegranates–one of the earliest cultivated fruits. High in fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Contains antioxidants called polyphenols (tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid) that help prevent heart disease.

6. Kiwi–Can be mashed and spread on meat as a natural tenderizer. Good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin E. Has antioxidants to help vision and prevent heart disease. Mild flavor so kids will enjoy. One study showed kiwi fruit helped reduce the inflammation of asthma in children.

7. Chili Peppers–All peppers have seeds so are considered fruit (though we often cook them like vegetables). Contain antioxidant called capsaicin, which treats inflammation pain due to osteoarthritis. It is also used as a natural remedy for nasal congestion. Also increases endorphins in the brain so may help improve mood. Peppers contain more vitamin C than oranges! They also have high levels of the antioxidants beta carotene (to help prevent cancer) and lutein (to preserve vision).

8. Figs–Contain lutein that helps maintain good vision. High in iron, fiber, potassium and calcium. Contain polyphenol antioxidants.

9. Oranges–high in fiber and vitamin C, which helps boost immune system. May be helpful in reducing the inflammation associated with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron from the stomach.

10. Apples–Contains pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Pectin binds heavy metals like lead and mercury to help the body get rid of these toxins. Contain high levels of vitamin K which helps with clotting function, and vitamin C which helps make healthy connective tissue. Trace mineral selenium helps body’s natural antioxidant system. Antioxidants in apples help preserve brain and memory function. Lots of nutrients in the peel of apples. Consider splurging for organic apples to avoid possible pesticide exposure.

Last updated on March 15, 2011 by Dr. Vee

Super Foods for Kids

Photograph of Pumpkin Soup Courtesy of Egal

Superfoods are foods packed with higher than average nutrients and antioxidants to fight cancer and heart disease

1. Berries. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries—rich in antioxidants.

• Chokeberries and elderberries (difficult to find) are berries with the greatest antioxidant content

2. Pumpkin—use canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix).

• Has antioxidants vitamin A, E and beta carotene.
• Use in pumpkin pancakes, soup, pumpkin ravioli (fun to make with the kids).

3. Dark Chocolate

• Avoid chocolate with refined sugar, milk fats and hydrogenated oils.
• Want high purity cocoa powder that is high in antioxidants. Avoid cocoa that has been alkalinized by the Dutching process (boils away nutrients). Label should state cocoa/dark chocolate has not been alkalized, has been dried and cold pressed rather than roasted.
• Should consist of at least 70% cocoa
• use cocoa butter instead of milk fats or hydrogenated oils
• contain natural, low glycemic sweeteners such as raw sugar cane rather than refined sugars

4. Nuts have omega 3 Fatty acids.

• Almonds and walnuts are the healthiest source. Almond butter.
• Child’s handful daily.

5. Popcorn—lots of fiber.

• Use unsalted and unbuttered.
• No more than three cup serving (not the huge bag at the theater!).
• It is better to pop popcorn yourself (and more fun with the kids!) than to eat pre-packaged microwave kind. Microwave containers have perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a fluorotelmer in the lining of the bag. Can leak into popcorn during microwave cooking. to infertility, liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Popcorn manufacturers have promised to voluntarily phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan. Accumulates in the body and stays there for years.
• Wait until age one to serve corn and age four for popcorn to avoid choking hazard

6. Antioxidant Lycopene in tomatoes (and tomato ketchup—does that make it a health food????).

•prevention of cancers of the prostate, pancreas, stomach, breast, cervix and lung
•prevention of heart disease
•Better available when tomatoes are cooked, packed in oil or in tomato juice (but these forms have high levels of sodium or dietary salt)
Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce is a good source of lycopene

7.Cruciferous (like a cross) vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel Sprouts)—steam lightly–nutrients remain even after cooking. (Nutritious value of broccoli INCREASES when cooked).

Vitamin C and K, beta carotene (powerful antioxidant converted to vitamin A in the body), iron, folic acid and potassium.

Contains phytochemicals which prevent cancer by preventing damage to cell DNA. Sulphorophanes prevent damage from carcinogens.

Broccoli sprouts have more sulphorophanes than bean sprouts.
Healthiest cruciferous plant is kale, which is a superfood because it is a great source of antioxidant vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and micronutrients that help eye health (lutein and zeaxanthin). Mix a little in a fruit smoothie or mix in cooked dishes.

8. Beans/lentils-Black beans have the highest concentration of the antioxidant anthocyanin phytonutrients. Other beans with high levels of antioxidants include soybeans, navy beans, split peas, lentils, pinto beans and garbanzo beans.

•Can make soups and hummus.
•Packed with protein, complex carbohydrates (low glycemic index) and fiber.
•Good source of iron, magnesium, folate, calcium, potassium, and zinc. Use in hummus, soups.

9. Sweet potatoes
•twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A
•42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C
•four times the RDA for beta carotene,
•When eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal.
•130 to 160 calories for small to medium sweet potato
•Cinnamon added to sweet potato helps stabilize blood sugar.
•Sweet potato digests more slowly than white potatoes so they are lower glycemic load.

10.Whole grain breads instead of wheat or white bread. Whole grains are rich in fiber and vitamin E

•very low in fat
•The germ and outer coating in wheat and other grains has most nutritional value. Avoid refined grain foods such as white bread and certain breakfast cereals.
•Whole grains typically fortified with folic acid, B vitamins, iron, and whole grain breakfast cereals contain added calcium and vitamin D, too.
•Give kids whole grain breakfast cereals instead of highly processed, sugary cereals. Use whole grain breads for toast and sandwiches, whole grain crackers for snacks, oat bran muffins.
•brown rice instead of white
•quinoa, buckwheat, barley
•whole wheat pasta.
•Add roiled oats to meat loaf

11. Red grape juice—has resveratrol (a flavenoid antioxidant that protects agains blood clots and heart disease) like in red red wine.

• Be careful of sugar—dilute with water and limit intake, especially in toddlers.
•Cranberries and pomegranate juice provides antioxidants, but be careful of the concentrated sugar in juices.

Fatty Cold Water Fish– heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

• Choose wild-caught Alaska salmon over farmed salmon. Farmed salmon has been shown to contain 10 times more toxins, including Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxin, than wild salmon. Farmed salmon are fatter, and the PCBs are stored in this fat. In addition, salmon farms can harbor parasites. Some salmon farms use artificial colorings, which may be harmful to health.
• No more than two or three ounces fish/week for children between the ages of two and six years old.
• Canned tuna is composed of smaller tuna types such as skipjack and albacore (more mercury in albacore than white tuna). In general, the smaller the fish, the less potential for mercury.
• Stick with one tuna fish sandwich weekly in children
• Careful with tuna steaks (made from larger, older tuna which have accumulated mercury).
• Avoid fish such as grouper, tilefish, shark due to high mercury content

Last Updated by Dr. Vee on February 14, 2011

Run and Eat–Race for the Taste 5K Run to Benefit EPIC Community Services

The first ever Race for the Taste 5K run was this past weekend. We had over six hundred runners and they were amazingly fast!!!! The setting was beautiful Anastasia State Park, where runners had a great view of the ocean as they ran!

The runners then had free admission to the Taste of St. Augustine, where people could sample different food items and vote for their best in category.

Thanks to Dr. Pineau and everyone at Borland-Groover Gastroenteroloy Clinic for being title sponsor. Orthopedic Associates of St. Augustine, Dr. Marema/Koppman and OB/GYN Associates of St. Augustine were other key sponsors, making this Race incredibly successful! I had fun creating and sponsoring the Runner’s bags (Featuring Ask Dr. Vee, your Holistic Medicine Expert). I also had fun (but was stressed to the max) handing out water to the runners during the race!

Local celebs who ran in the race (and were fashionably dressed to boot, and did not sweat at all despite the 84 degree Florida heat) were too numerous to list, but included Bill Abare (former EPIC Community Services President), Dr. Ram Eyyunni, Dr. Ben Pineau (and son, who runs faster than me!) and Dr. Bill Platko.

All proceeds went to EPIC Community Services, which strives to help patients and families battling addiction through Education, Counseling, Intervention and Prevention.

This year I am Vice President of the Board of EPIC Community Services and am getting on the job training from Bev Slough, St. John’s County School Board President and current EPIC Board of Directors President. Patrick Canan, former EPIC President, and local attorney, did not dress up like Elton John, but he was a sponsor of the Taste of St. Augustine.

Patrick of Gypsy Cab (yummy hummus!) and Lorna McDonald of Raintree Restaurant (yummy berry crepes) were there to help St. Augustine become more tasty.

Thanks to all the great restaurants who were there, Patti Greenough and Teresa Andrews who worked tirelessly to make the event successful!

Rebecca Romaine, was EPIC in helping mastermind such a fantastically successful race. Valerie Lee was the water gal–we are already planning on how to improve our water skills for next year (ok, yeah, garbage cans for the water cups would have been an obvious idea. Also, some of the cups were flimsy. Who knew that you had to test run the cups in advance???) Fortunately, Tara Smith-Vighetti and
Renee Wauldron were there to help pour and hand out water cups during the race!

Preparation, preparation, preparation!

Last updated April 28, 2010 by Dr. Vee

Garlic–The Russian Penicillin

Garlic is believed to help reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.  Garlic is also being investigated for it’s potential anti-cancer properties. 

Slicing, chopping, mincing or pressing garlic before cooking will enhance the beneficial effects of garlic. Garlic should be eaten raw, or stand for ten minutes before heating, in order to preserve it’s beneficial antioxidant properties. 

Garlic was applied topically as a paste by both the British and Russian armies during World War II to prevent infections.  So garlic is commonly called the Russian penicillin!

Wait, is that garlic ICE CREAM?!  Let me know if you have ever tried garlic ice cream and what you think of it!
Last Updated on March 20, 2010


Tomatoes have lycopene, an antioxidant similar to Vitamin A, which provides that bright red color to tomatoes.  Lycopene is believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.  It helps prevent prostate cancer.  Lycopene is absorbed better when tomatoes are cooked or when combined with olive oil.  Lycopene is also found in strawberries, watermelon, guava, apricots and pink grapefruit.

Last updated by Dr. Vee on March 19, 2010

Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Greeks who live on the Island of Crete have significantly less heart disease and cancer than Americans.  Research studies suggest it is the Mediterranean diet that may give Cretans their health advantage.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts such as almonds and walnuts.  It has been associated with lower risk of recurrent heart attacks than people who followed the traditional low fat, low cholesterol Step I American Heart Association diet, in which fat intake is less than 30% of daily calories. 

The Mediterranean diet is low in the animal fat of red meat as well as the  hydrogenated fats found in margarine and processed food. Instead, monounsaturated oils such as olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil are used. The diet does recommend limiting fat in general in people trying to lose weight.

The Mediterranean diet also includes up to one glass of red wine for women and up to two glasses per day in men.  However, if you do not already drink red wine, you should not start drinking just to get the benefits to the heart.  Remember that alcohol is addictive, and that the health benefits are lost when more than recommended amounts of alcohol are  consumed.

You may be able to get the same health benefits by drinking purple/red grape juice.  Purple grapes contain Oligomeric Proantho Cyannidins (OPCs) which neutralize free radicals in the body.  This may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

Low fat dairy, including yogurt, is consumed by Greeks in the Mediterranean.  However, like most healthy diets, sweets and processed foods (including tropical oils) are limited.

Nuts are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet because they provide heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Remember that because they are high in fat, no more than a handful of nuts should be eaten daily.

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid is provided courtesy of

Last updated January 15, 2012 by Dr. Vee

Vitamin D Deficiency in Children and Adolescents


milk vitamin DRecent studies show an alarming lack of vitamin D, also called cholecalciferol, in American children and adolescents.

Vitamin D is important for the development of strong bones. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets (weak, deformed bones) in infants and children. It also contributes to osteoporosis(thinning of the bones) in post-menopausal women. Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, although no definite causal link has been proven.

Vitamin D Made in the Skin from Sunlight

Vitamin D is available to the body in two different ways. Sun exposure helps the skin make vitamin D.  Ultraviolet B (UVB) waves help formation of vitamin D in the skin, but UVB rays are also responsible for the burning effects of the sun.

Not surprisingly, vitamin D deficiency is more common in northern parts of the country, where there is less sunlight. Melanin, the pigment in the skin, as well as sunblock applied to skin, can decrease the absorption of vitamin D. The more melanin in the skin, the darker the pigment of the skin, and the less vitamin D that is absorbed.

Regular application of sunblock to the skin will also decrease absorption of sun.  The American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend stopping the use of sunblock to allow the absorption of vitamin D, since the ultraviolet B rays can increase the risk of skin cancers.

Vitamin D can be Absorbed in the Stomach

200 IU (international units) of vitamin D is the daily recommended intake of vitamin D in children and adolescents. Post-menopausal women should have at least 400 IU a day to prevent thinning of the bones. Many experts feel that this recommendation is too conservative, and that post-menopausal women need at least 1000 IU daily to prevent/treat osteoporosis.

vitamin D sources

Fish, vegetables, and milk and cereal fortified with vitamin D are all good sources of vitamin D. However, a child would have to drink the equivalent of half a liter of milk a day to get recommended amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important because it helps the absorption of calcium by the gut.

Vitamin D is Converted into 25 Hydroxyvitamin D, 25 (OH) D (Calcidiol)

Once vitamin D is absorbed by the skin or in the stomach, it is converted to a molecule called 25 hydroxyvitamin D (shortened as 25 (OH) D or calcidiol), in the liver. Although it is not routinely checked, 25 (OH) D can be measured by a blood test. 25 (OH) D is then converted to another molecule in the kidney. So it is not surprising that children and adults with kidney failure are prone to severe thinning of the bone. Vitamin D is then stored in the fat in the body once it is converted by the liver and kidney.

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common in Children and Adolescents

Currently, a level of < 11 ng/ml is defined as vitamin D deficiency. Many experts feel that this threshold is too low, and that the negative effects of vitamin D deficiency on bones can occur at levels of 20 ng/l or higher. A number of studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is more common than previously thought. Three main factors play a role in vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents: race, gender and body-mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity). Girls are twice as likely as boys to have vitamin D deficiency. Darker pigmented children are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. 25 (OH) D levels decrease as BMI (weight) increases.

The Highest Rate of 25 (OH) D Deficiency is Seen in Overweight African American Adolscents

In the United States, up to 2 % of all children have levels of 25 (OH) D less than 11 ng/ml, and 14 % have less than 20 ng/ml. Even more concerning, 11-50 % of African American teenagers in the United States may have 25 hydroxy D deficiency (depending on how deficiency is defined). This is a startling statistic. In one study, African American adolescents were found to be twenty times as likely as Caucasion adolescents to have vitamin D deficiency. The risk of vitamin D deficiency in Hispanic and Asian adolescents is also higher than in Caucasions. Being overweight increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency by 75 %. The highest rate of 25 (OH) deficiency is seen in overweight African American adolescent girls.

Letter D on Plate

Vitamin D Supplementation in the Diet

It is unclear how vitamin D deficiency in adolescents will affect health when they become adults. Interestingly, in post-menopausal women, thin Caucasians are at highest risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. It seems prudent to maximize food intake of vitamin D or to consider taking a vitamin D supplement if not enough vitamin D is consumed in the diet. In the future, it may be useful to measure 25 (OH) D levels in high risk adolescents.


Saintonge, Sandy, Bang, Heejung, Gerber, Linda. Implications of a New Definition of Vitamin D Deficiency in a Multiracial US Adolescent Population: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. Pediatrics 2009; Vol. 123, Number 3: 797.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute for medical advice from your healthcare provider. The author is not providing personal medical opinion, diagnosis or course of treatment. Do not delay or substitute this information for medical treatment if you have any medical concerns.

Updated January 6, 2011 by Dr. Vee

5,2,1,0 Rules for Healthy Kids and Organic Produce

See full size imageDid you know that you can help your kids become healthier by paying attention to the 5, 2, 1, 0 rules recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics?  That means five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no more than two hours of screen time (TV and computer) a day, at least one hour of aerobic exercise and zero sugary drinks.   

Of course it would be great if all our five servings of fruits and vegetables were organic produce, but that can be costly.  So if you’re pinching pennies (and who isn’t?), stick with buying organic varieties of the produce that has been shown to have the most pesticides: lettuce, spinach, potatoes, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, apples, bell peppers and peaches.

Last Updated April 10, 2009 by Dr. Vee

Broccoli Sprouts Decrease Bacteria that Cause Stomach Ulcers and Stomach Cancer

Broccoli Sprouts Prevent Stomach Ulcers and May Prevent Stomach Cancer
Broccoli Sprouts Decrease Levels of Bacteria that Cause Stomach Ulcers and Stomach Cancer

In the medical journal Cancer Prevention Research, Jed Fahey, a nutritional biochemist at the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, described the benefits of baby broccoli sprouts to the stomach.

Fahey and colleagues showed that in 25 Japanese patients infected with the Baby broccoli sprouts , eating two and a half ounces of broccoli sprouts a day for two months helped reduce, but not eradicate, the H. pylori infection. 

Helicobacter pylori is a Bacteria that Causes Stomach Ulcers and Cancer 

H. pylori is a known culprit in stomach ulcers (peptic ulcer disease), stomach cancer and lymphoma of the stomach.   There is a particularly high infection rate of  H. pylori infection in Japan. Interestingly, eating alfalfa sprouts did not show the same benefit.

Sulforaphanes in Broccoli Sprouts Promote Formation of Antioxidants

Fahey theorizes that the ingredient sulforaphane  found in baby broccoli sprouts encourages the formation of natural antioxidants  in the stomach which fight H. pylori.  The risk of stomach ulcers and possibly stomach cancer is reduced when H. pylori is eradicated from the stomach.  Fahey cautions that his study does not show direct evidence that broccoli sprouts eliminated  H. pylori infection or prevented stomach cancers.   The levels of  H. pylori  in the stomach returned to pre-treatment levels when the test patients stopped eating broccoli sprouts.  

Alfalfa Sprouts and Adult Broccoli are Less Effective Than Broccoli Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts do notcontain sulforaphane.  Adult broccoli has much less sulforaphane than broccoli sprouts.  So there is a tantalizing possibility that future studies may indeed show positive effects of broccoli sprouts on preventing ulcers and stomach cancer.

Another reason to consider adding broccoli sprouts to your diet:  other studies have shown that these sprouts contain isothyiocyanates, which have cancer fighting action against bladder cancer.  

Hmmm,  broccoli sprout tea, broccoli sprout smoothies, broccoli sprout salad, broccoli sprout cheeseballs, broccoli sprout guacamole, broccoli sprout hummus…the possibilities are endless!


Akinori Yanaka, Jed W. Fahey, Atsushi Fukumoto, Mari Nakayama, Souta Inoue, Songhua Zhang, Masafumi Tauchi, Hideo Suzuki, Ichinosuke Hyodo, and Masayuki Yamamoto. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans. Cancer Prevention Research, 2009; 2 (4): 353 DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0192