A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Belly Armor’s mama CEO talks building a brand and a family

Motherly @ Work features the stories and insights of modern women growing their careers—and their families.


Like Aileen Chen Co-Founder and CEO of Belly Armor—an innovative company that designs products which will protect you and your little ones from potentially harmful radiation from cell phones, laptops, power lines, and other everyday objects. Belly Armor sells beautiful belly blankets to protect your precious cargo, nursing covers, baby monitors, and more. Belly Armor’s products have received many prestigious awards such as The Bump’s Best of Baby in 2012 and 2015, and Pregnancy & Newborn’s Top Products of 2014.

We caught up with Aileen to find out how she prioritizes her to-do list, and how she’s making a difference in the world.

Your business, Belly Armor is super important for protecting ourselves and our little ones from radiation. Why did you want to start your business and create your innovative products?

Aileen Chen: When I was pregnant with my first child, my own worry about the wireless devices I was surrounded by prompted me to look into the potential harm they might pose for my baby. I was surprised to learn of the research showing health risks and the precautionary measures that many governments and health organizations worldwide were advising.

It was well-accepted that everyday radiation (non-ionizing radiation emitted by sources like cell phones, computers, wireless towers and power lines) can have a biological impact, but there was much confusion and debate around how it impacts our health.

Increasingly, research was indicating potential health risks from this radiation, and experts are particularly concerned for young children and during pregnancy when DNA replication and cell growth are at their highest rates. Compounding the risk is the exponential growth in wireless technologies over the past decade—today’s children will be exposed to levels of radiation unprecedented in human history, in closer proximity and for longer durations throughout their lives than previous generations. There was an obvious gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness. As the health experts warned, if history is any indication, it can take years and even decades for scientific evidence to conclusively affirm health risks from environmental hazards and then translate into policies to safeguard people. Such was the case with tobacco, lead, asbestos, and x-rays.

I felt compelled to raise awareness about this emerging health issue, particularly amongst parents and parents-to-be, and design solutions to help families address it.

Wireless technology has become an indispensable part of our modern lives, but I believe we should develop a healthier relationship with technology as the wireless infrastructure around us continues to grow exponentially. With my co-founder, we started Belly Armor with the mission of giving children the best possible start in life, by increasing awareness of this health issue and providing practical and effective solutions for parents looking to reduce their families’ exposure to everyday radiation.

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What would you say are your most popular products and why?

Aileen Chen: Our products are designed with the modern parent in mind—they must fit easily into their everyday lives, while providing effective ways to reduce their exposure to everyday radiation. Belly Armor’s products span maternity, nursery and fertility—from maternity bands and low-radiation baby monitors to men’s boxer-briefs.

Amongst the various product categories, our Belly Blanket Chic is the most popular product in the thirty-plus countries we sell globally.

It is very versatile, being a blanket that can be used during pregnancy to cover the bump while the expectant mom uses a laptop or tablet, as a baby blanket after pregnancy, and have often been used by men under their laptops on their laps.

Our RadiaShield® Fabric—the functional part of the product that has been independently tested to be 99.9% effective in shielding the radiation emitted by everyday electronic devices—is very lightweight and breathable. Not only is this Belly Blanket Chic portable and easy to keep around the office desk or home, it is also super soft to snuggle up with and free of heavy metals, toxic chemicals and common allergens.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) recently released a study suggesting that chronic exposure to cell phones and other wireless devices may lead to cancer in humans. Do these types of studies motivate you to grow your brand presence? What do you think of the current research on radiation effects on our children in utero and out?

Aileen Chen: This federal study provides further validation and adds to the growing pool of research indicating that cell phone radiation can pose harm and that we need to think differently about the way we use wireless technology. The fact is, wireless technologies have not been around for a long time, but they are growing exponentially around us, permeating into offices, schools, and homes. Our children are exposed to unprecedented levels of wireless radiation and will be throughout their lives.

Most people don’t know that safety standards for cell phone radiation were established nearly 20 years ago using a 200-lb adult male model. (Or, that most phone manuals advise using and carrying your cell phone at least 1/2-inch away from your body.) The phones we use today and the way in which we use them (in terms of proximity and duration) are drastically different from 2 decades ago. In addition, the populations using these phones have changed dramatically—the majority of cell phones users now are less than twenty years old, with growing numbers that are children.

There is still much scientific debate about the nature and the extent of the risks from wireless radiation.

However, what we do know is that radiation at the levels emitted by cell phones and Wi-Fi does have a biological effect. Numerous studies have shown that it impacts the way cells grow, DNA replications and brain cells function, and most scientific experts agree more research needs to be done.

Because children are more vulnerable to environmental factors, many health experts and governments recommend applying the precautionary principle towards these risks until we know more. The World Health Organization has labeled cell phone as a possible carcinogen. The American Academy of Pediatrics has openly urged the FCC to update their safety standards to safeguard children. Nearly 200 independent scientists from 39 countries and institutions like Yale and Berkeley have urged the UN for stricter controls on cell phone radiation. The French government has banned the marketing of cell phoned to children under 12 and prohibited the use of Wi-Fi in places dedicated for children under 3.

Dr. Devra Davis, a renowned cancer expert, a former health advisor to President Clinton, and current president of the Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit devoted to researching and educating about avoidable environmental health threats such as wireless radiation, says: “If ever there was a time to re-think our growing dependence on wireless in schools, cars, homes, and energy production, this is it. There is no other suspected cancer-causing agent to which we subject our elementary school students or place directly in front of the brain and eyes with virtual reality… It makes no sense to continue building out huge wireless systems until we have done a better job of putting the pieces of this puzzle together. This latest report from the NTP should give us all pause.”

We work with experts like Dr. Davis and organizations like Healthy Child Healthy World (of which Belly Armor is a Trusted Partner) to educate more about this emerging health issue. Seeing the awareness grow and powered by more emerging research, my team and I are even more motivated to do our best in our mission to give children the best possible start in life.

What inspires you to do this work?


Aileen Chen: The ability to make a positive impact in creating a healthier environment for our children.

What are your secrets for integrating work and family?

Aileen Chen: I think work/life balance is very individualistic—everyone defines that balance differently and goes through their own journey to achieve it. Striking that balance is a constant work-in-progress as careers evolve, as life happens and as priorities shift. For me, I believe a good balance is achievable when I am clear and realistic about what that balance means for me.

And I try to achieve that balance by:

—Prioritizing the handful of most important things (work and personal) I must complete each day, and getting those squared away early in the day. There is less stress and overhang once those are done.

—Separating time for work and time for family, and being fully present when I am in either one.

—Automating wherever possible and seeking help as necessary.

—Choosing progress over perfection—knowing when to let something go and not get stuck trying to make something “perfect” (it is still often easier said than done!).

Of course, the key to making this all work for me is that I am blessed to have a very supportive husband, an equal partner in our parenting journey and a strong supporter of my goals.

How do you recharge?

Aileen Chen: During the day, I try to take a break to walk in the sun or listen to music, even if for only 10 minutes. It’s amazing how they can reset me physically and emotionally. At night, I like to read, and do relatively simple but productive tasks in silence—like cleaning or baking—which feel therapeutic, give me time to think, and produce clear results and a sense of accomplishment (even if it’s a small one).

Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to that’s helped to shape you as a woman and a mother? Tell us how they inspire you.

Aileen Chen: I have been very blessed to have had many mentors throughout my life so far. During the earlier part of my career, a couple of them guided me and served as my staunch advocate with promotions and international work opportunities, giving me a wealth of experiences.

There are many female business and political leaders that I admire and would love to meet one day. While some of her policies and actions had been controversial, Margaret Thatcher was a role model for me when I was young, being one of the few female world leaders then (and unfortunately there are still only a handful today). I had the honor of meeting her at an intimate student symposium during high school, not long after she left the prime minister office. I remember being completely inspired by the harmonious combination of her intelligence, toughness, wit, confidence, warmth, grace and femininity. She inspired me to find my own style and voice as a leader, more assured that confidence does not equate to arrogance, toughness can be done with grace, and exuding femininity does not have to imply weakness.

In recent years, my most indispensable mentors have been the groups of women entrepreneurs who have also become close friends.

We have been a part of each other’s entrepreneurial journeys, inspiring and nurturing each other. We share the challenges of parenting while building our businesses, and learn from each other’s parenting styles and philosophies.

Each person is an amazing woman and mother with purpose, vision and compassion. Being surrounded by them has given me perspective and support when I’ve needed it most.

Tell us about your children. How have they transformed your career?

Aileen Chen: As most parents would probably agree—having children can be completely transformative in changing the way we view the world, ourselves, and our purpose.

My kids have brought so much laughter and meaning (and challenges too, no doubt!). They have taught me how to live in the moment, to reflect on my own words and actions, to treasure the simple things in life.

Becoming a mother ignites the intense desire to give your children the best in life, and for me it sprouted Belly Armor.

Being a mother has made me focus my time, energy and experiences on things I care about and the things that will positively impact the world I leave behind for my kids.

What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you inspired and excited about life?

Aileen Chen: Technically, well, the alarm clock. And then my kids’ voices and giggles and our dog’s pitter patter on the floor, eager to be walked and fed.

I’m excited by the progress I can make and by the experiences my loved ones can have each day. I believe that as individuals, we can all positively impact other’s lives and collectively build strong communities and societies. I strive to make a difference, and to teach my children to be positive contributors to society.

Tell us about a typical day in your life.


At 6: 30 am. . . Getting up and ready, starting to prep kids’ lunches while my husband makes breakfast.

At 7:45 am. . . Getting kids to put on their shoes and into the car. This can take anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

At 10:00 am. . . At my desk with a cup of coffee, working with my team on an awareness campaign.

At 1:00 pm. . . Finishing lunch, trying to get a little sun outdoors.

At 3:00 pm. . . Replying to customer emails.

At 5:00 pm. . . Getting ready to pick up the kids from their after-school activities. Thinking about dinner prep.

At 9:00 pm. . . The kids are in bed; I am tidying up the house, planning for the next day, and catching up with my husband.

What’s one thing you do every day (or try to do every day!) to ensure that your work and home lives run more smoothly?

Aileen Chen: Each night, I plan my schedule and my family’s schedule for the next day (including what to pack for kids’ lunches and make for dinner) and create a To-Do list of the top priority things for the day. It makes it much easier to jump-start the next day and know what you want to accomplish.

We’d love to hear—what would you tell other mamas who have a great idea and want to start their own business?

Aileen Chen: Do something you are passionate about, something that you strongly believe in. Otherwise, your motivation may wane over time, and you may feel increasingly conflicted about your time and energy spent on the venture versus on other responsibilities and interests in your life.

Also, do good planning upfront before you dive in—understand the market demand, target customers, competitive landscape, and differentiators of your products/services. Knowing these, you will be able to test the viability of your idea and gain clarity for your path forward. You have to be really honest about your strengths and weakness, what type of resources and support you need to get started and keep things going for a period of time until you get traction. Your initial capital should also have some of your own capital—having skin in the game will make you feel even more invested and motivated.

Be prepared for the business to take a lot of your time, energy, and mindshare. Because it is your own business, it will be hard to completely turn off, even when you are on vacation or on maternity leave. If you are passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll still be jumping out of bed every day, excited to make progress on the idea.

What do you hope your child/children learn from your career?

Aileen Chen: That they should always try to do things that make a positive impact. That they can pursue their passions and find meaning in their work. That they don’t have to choose between family and career but can have a good balance of both. That challenges will also always exist but can present the most valuable learning experiences. That surrounding themselves with positive influences will enable them to achieve their dreams.

What’s in your purse?

Aileen Chen: Wallet, keys, pen, small notebook, iPhone, headphones, water bottle, granola bar, and a good luck charm I got with my husband and kids at a temple in Japan.

What does ‘Motherly’ mean to you?

Aileen Chen: Being a nurturer and a pillar.

This part of Khalil Gibran’s poem On Children really speaks to me and how I see my role as a mother:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You are the bows from which your children

As living arrows are sent forth.”


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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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If you could only have one product for your hair, makeup and skincare, what would it be? Chances are your bathroom cabinets are filled to the brim of impulse Sephora purchases and random products a friend recommended—but do they really do any magic for you?

Moms on Chairman Mom wanted to know what other mamas were obsessing over—the 'hero' beauty product in their mix—and they had some amazing recommendations.

From long-lasting deodorants and classic coconut oil to retinol serums for a bargain, here's what they shared. *Adds everything to cart*

1. Go-to face peel 

"My go-to face peel is Ole Henriksen lemon strip flash peel. It's magic for my skin! I also love Paradox Beauty's face oil which I use at night. For hand lotion, the only one I will ever use is First Aid Beauty, it's so thick and luxurious and not oily at all."—Mrs P.

2. A blowdryer totally worth the money 

"A lifesaver is the Dyson hair dryer—it IS worth the money if you have challenging hair. Saves time and tames it a lot without damage."—Katelyn

3. Couldn't pick just one

"I have two. One is The Ordinary! Products are generally around $6. The product selection is a bit overwhelming, but I highly recommend the retinol—my spa/facial/Botox place charges over $100 for a similar product. I'm also super obsessed with Deck of Scarlet. They send you a palette every other month that's almost an all-face palette and there are videos on how to put it on your face. My makeup looks very put together now."—Cynthia

4. Color correctors

"Sephora color correctors. I've never liked foundation and powder doesn't cover my sun damage spots, but this stuff does an amazing job of 'me but better'."—Cindy

5. Multi-tasking tinted moisturizer

"Suntegrity 5-in-1 Tinted Moisturizer. I cannot get enough of this product! It has 20% zinc oxide (physical sun barrier, better for you than chemical sunscreens), and the slight tint makes it a perfect replacement for my foundation. Also, clean / nontoxic formulations! I slather this on daily and I swear that it has actually made my skin better as a result of daily use."—N.M.C.

6. The best concealer

"Tarte shape tape. Finally a concealer that doesn't crease. For real."—A.

7. Natural moisturizer 

"I swear by coconut oil for my body moisturizer. Sometimes I have the kind in a jar that solidifies when cool and sometimes I get the fully liquid type. Either way, I always rub this all over my body right after a shower and it's kept my skin very moisturized and soft without feeling greasy."—Amy

8. The only mascara you need

"Benefit's Yes They're Real Mascara is beyond anything. It took me months to listen to some of my colleagues at work and now that I have, I feel sad I ever put anything else on my eyes."—Amanda

9. A natural deodorant that works 

"My latest incredible find is Schmidt's Magnesium + Charcoal deodorant. I have literally tried every natural deo, and this is the first one that truly works. My husband uses it, and I've recommended it to burly man friends too, who swear it works for them as well."—Emily

10.  Face freeze

"I randomly read about Urban Decay "face freeze" and it's brilliant for those days that you have to go straight to work to an event and don't want to have to re-apply (never works for me) or show up with your make up half gone. The trick is to spray it on BEFORE applying mascara and it really does keep it "fresh" all day."—Tman

11.  Favorite (affordable!) face wash

"I love Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash which is inexpensive and gets everything clean without feeling tight and dry."—Cskott

12.  Lip mask


"Bite Agave Lip Mask! My lips can never get hydrated enough and after a weekend in Tahoe where they got particularly dry, my friend gave me some of this on the drive home. GAME CHANGER."—Sarah

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.You might also like:

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    In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

    New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

    The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

    "In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

    The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

    Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

    So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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    It was a busy weekend for Britain's royal family as the former Kate Middleton's BFF (and Princess Charlotte's godmother) Sophie Carter married Robert Suggs.

    Five-year-old Prince George and 3-year-old Princess Charlotte were in the wedding party, and the photos suggest that Prince George was feeling playful on this special day. He may be a royal, but he's also just a kid.

    The English press noted that Prince George "stole the show" at the Carter-Snuggs nuptials, but to us it looks like he was taking his pageboy duties pretty seriously (okay, maybe that's mock-seriousness).

    HIs sister wasn't feeling quite as cheeky as Prince George was, and spent some time in the arms of both her mother the Duchess, and the bride, her godmother Sophie Carter Suggs.

    As royal watchers pointed out, Prince George and Princess Charlotte know their way around a wedding, having been part of three wedding parties in the last two years. They walked in their aunt Pippa Middleton's wedding to James Matthews last year, and of course in their Uncle Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle earlier this year.

    Prince George's outfit for the Carter-Suggs wedding was more similar to the look he sported on Pippa's big day than the more regal attire the pageboys donned for Prince Harry's wedding. Princess Charlotte's dress this weekend was light, classic and simple, similar to both the dress she wore at the Middleton-Matthews wedding and her royal wedding frock.

    And Princess Charlotte wasn't the only wedding guest in a repeat look. Her mama, the Duchess of Cambridge is known for re-wearing her classic outfits. For her friend's blue-themed wedding, Kate reached for a cornflower blue coat and coordinating lace dress by Catherine Walker, an outfit she was first spotted in when the Cambridge family toured Berlin in July 2017, according to What Kate Wore.

    Re-wearing an outfit to a friends wedding isn't just practical, but it's a nice way for Kate to make sure that her own outfit doesn't attract more attention than the bride's. Her adorable children attract enough attention as it is.

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    I'm often asked what parents can do to get their kids to eat healthily. While there are no quick fixes, I've gathered a list of proactive, research-based actions parents can take to positively influence their kids eating habits.

    1. Eat well during pregnancy + lactation

    Helping kids accept nutritious fare starts at conception. The amniotic sac not only transmits nutrition but the flavors of the food eaten. Studies show that the wider range of flavors babies are exposed to in utero and through breast milk, may help to increase their preference for a more diversified diet later on.

    A 2001 study published in Pediatrics assigned 46 women to consume either water or carrot juice for 4 weeks prenatally. When the infants were given carrot flavored cereal at 6 months of age, the babies whose moms drank the carrots juice had few negative expressions and seemed to enjoy the cereal more.

    2. Get in as much variety as you can

    Most babies and toddlers under two are willing to eat just about anything. Research suggests that the more dietary variety kids get in the very early years, the more accepting they will be later on.

    So start with bland fruits and vegetables but up the ante. Use herbs, spices, garlic and onions to make food taste good. Once kids can eat table foods, let them join you at the dinner table. Your mission is to get them to try as many flavors as possible.

    3. Make the unfamiliar familiar (and accessible)

    Research suggests that repeated exposure is the most powerful tool when it comes to helping children accept new foods. A 2003 study published in Appetite showed daily exposure was much more effective than nutrition education or doing the same old thing.

    But experts in behavioral economics say parents need to go a step further by making healthy foods highly accessible. So lay out an attractive bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. Include veggies with dip with meals and while you're preparing dinner. Studies show the visibility of food increases desire to eat it.

    4. Show them how it's done

    "I've learned that at this stage, they so much want to be like their parents, so if I'm enjoying a nice green salad and broccoli or asparagus, they want to try it too," says Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD, dietitian and mom of twin preschoolers.

    Now this may not happen automatically for every kid, but research supports the notion that kids are more likely to eat a food when they see their parents eating it.

    5. Make time for family meals

    Family meals combine the benefits of repeated exposure with role modeling. It also teaches kids how to behave at the dinner table and gives families time to connect. I know your schedules may be wacky, but get this habit going as soon as you can.

    Kathleen Cuneo, PhD, from Dinner Together says that switching from special kid meals to family meals was the turning point for her now teenage daughter. "I saw a positive change when I stopped nagging her and we made a commitment to family meals," she says. "When I backed off and she was expected to eat from what was made available, she became open to trying new foods."

    6. Entice them with food names

    Parents can learn something that restaurant owners already know — you need to make food sound tantalizing. In his studies, Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, demonstrates that the name we give a food can make a big difference in how children perceive it. In one of his studies, when the researchers called veggies names like "X-ray carrots" or "princess peas" kids were 60% more likely to try it.

    "Dinosaur broccoli reminds kids of dinosaurs—and they think they are cooler," he says. "Re-naming food increases its appeal"

    7. Use familiar sauces + dressings

    Research suggests that children are more likely to accept new foods if they are similar to other recipes they like. In a previous post, Alexandra Logue, PhD, Psychology Professor and author of The Psychology of Eating and Drinking, discussed how some fussy eaters are super tasters—and she used to be one of them.

    When she first started eating salad her mom put a lot of her favorite dressing in the bowl and a small amount of vegetables. Over time the dressing quantity decreased and the vegetables increased. This is how she learned to like salads.

    8. Engage them in the process

    Julie Negrin, certified nutritionist and cooking instructor, knows that getting kids involved in the kitchen can transform their relationship with food. She says that because kids feel little control over their day to day environment, helping with meals gives children a sense of ownership and makes it more likely they will eat the meal.

    "I encourage parents to have kids pick out new vegetables at the market or flip through cookbooks for menu ideas," she says. "Kids have been helping with the meal preparation in almost every culture for thousands of years. It's how they find their place in the "tribe" and the world around them."

    9. Help them make the health-body connection

    When certified pediatric dietitian, Angela Lemond, works with frustrated parents, she teaches them the three Es: Educate, Expose and Empower. The education part is helping kids understand how certain foods relate back to the health of their body.

    "I tell my kids how fruits and vegetables have super-powers," she says. "For example, I explain how these super powers put an imaginary shield around their bodies protecting them from germs and helping their boo-boos heal faster."

    10. Try new foods when they are hungry

    You probably notice there are times of day when your child is more hungry than others. Work with your child's natural appetite rhythm. If they typically eat small amounts at dinner but seem ravenous at lunch, try new foods then. And watch the in-between meal snacking and juice drinking that can be appetite killers.

    11. Go for the crunch

    It's not always the taste of veggies that turn kids off it's the texture. Researchers from Wageningen University provided kids (4 to 12) carrots and green beans that were steamed, mashed, grilled, boiled and deep fried. The kids preferred the boiled and steamed versions. Why? Because they were crunchier, had little browning and less of a granular texture.

    So experiment with different crunchy textures and see how it goes.

    12.  Pair the new items with old standbys

    Lisa Gross, dietitian and mom of two young kids said that when her daughter was two, and turned ultra picky, she was tempted to provide her with only her favorites (she loved pasta!).

    "I just kept offering the same food we ate but always offered fruit, bread and some accompaniment that she would eat," she says. "I hoped that she would outgrow this stage and now that she's five it's much better."

    13.  Serve fruits + veggies first

    According to a 2010 study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, preschoolers served bigger portions of vegetables as a first course at 47% more.

    So put out the fruits and veggies while you're putting the meal together, your kids might eat whole serving of fruits and vegetables, and then some.

    14.  Make nutritious food fun

    When a group of 4 to 7 year olds were presented with two versions of fruit, one cut into fun shapes and the other not, the kids presented with the fun shapes ate twice as much fruit.

    While the researchers of the study published in Appetite say that the novelty can wear off, it's important to remember that kids like fun. And if we can present food in a fun and attractive way it can pique their interest and desire.

    15.  Give them a choice

    According to Smarter Lunchrooms, requiring kids to take a vegetable at school has no impact on consumption. But if kids are given the choice between two veggies, they consume 20 percent more.

    When you can, have your child decide between two items, the peas or carrots, banana or cantaloupe. This helps them feel like they made the decision of what vegetable to eat. And they might respond by eating it.

    And whatever happens, try not to stress, mama. Jennifer from The Mommy Archives said it well, "One of the feeding issues I had was with me. I realized that I was the one that was panicking when I made a meal and he wouldn't even try it. I would be so worried he wasn't getting enough nutrients. Once I let that go, and let him set the pace of trying new foods, our meals became so much less stressful."

    Originally posted on Maryann Jacobsen.

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