Doctor Yum

From Doubter to Believer

Joyfully, Compassionately, Bravely, Patiently, Proactively, Consistently, Mindfully

Do any of these words define how you would like to live your life, how you would like to guide your children? I was obsessively scrolling through Facebook the other day (like I do every day!) and I came across one of those quizzy things that would tell you what your word of 2016 would be. I see people taking and posting the results of those types of things all the day long, but I am secret quiz taker. I like to see the results, but don’t want to admit out loud that I waste my time with that stuff. It led me to thinking though about my experience these past several months with the Doctor Yum Project and with writing these blog posts and I have a few final thoughts I wanted to share.

The words listed above are the 7 parenting strategies that are used through the book Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater- A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating written by Doctor Yum herself, Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, and her colleague Coach Mel, Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP. Both of these women are committed to helping those of us who are clueless on setting our children on the right course of eating for the rest of their lives. If you apply the guidelines defined by these inspiring and uplifting words you will nourish your child not just nutritionally, but emotionally, too. (Their words, not mine-I cannot take credit for that kind of awesomeness!)

healthy happy eater

So for now I leave you with this:

Joyfully strive to be happy with who you are while working hard to be better than yesterday.

Compassionately try to understand not just yourself but your children while trying to make small changes.

Bravely commit to trying every last thing you are asking your children to try. Your example will work wonders!

Patiently work through your goals. Don’t set yourself or your kiddies up for failure.

Proactively plan, plan plan! It goes a long way to lay it all out ahead of time.

Consistently try! Like the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Mindfully inspire others. Not just your young ones learn from you. You have the ability to encourage anyone around you!

So please check out this awesome, amazing, and truly encouraging book! For those of you who have faithfully followed this journey, enter below for a chance to win a signed copy for your personal use. You have until Jan. 31 to enter!

Thanks to Doctor Yum for this experience! My future healthier self thanks you as well.

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PS: You aren't totally finished with me yet! Keep an eye on the Fred Parent homepage and Facebook site for my next big adventure, which I'll be documenting for you all soon!

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From Being Hungry to Being Proactive

So December was a rough month. After successfully completing the Turkey Trot 5k on Thanksgiving and basking in my glory for all of about 2 days, reality hit me like a brick again.

Steph turkey trot

Traditionally I have always tried to make the last month of the year one of reflection and spiritual growth, but this year my body was just not going to cooperate and allow that to happen.

I started the month with the strong desire to eat healthy so as to prepare for the binging of the coming holiday season. Something came over me within that first week and I lost it. I cannot even begin to describe what it was but as I began to slip further into the quiet of my mind all I could think of was my old friend-crappy junk food. To those who do not struggle with this type of issue, it can be hard to understand. So hard that I don’t even understand it completely. We all have our secrets, the things that only we know, that only we struggle with. I admitted before about my sneaky drive-through visits, but trust me there are darker demons within that I battle. Like I said we all have our issues, the struggle is to not let them overtake you.

I really don’t like the word depression because I feel that it does not always clearly define what is going on in one’s mind-it is too broad of a term. I just know that there are times when I feel lost. I can’t find my footing, my foundation. I know deep down that it is there but no matter how hard I try I can’t get a grip. I function and I would say that outside of my husband very few even notice that much of a difference in me during these times. The hardest part of all of it is that I LOVE MY LIFE. I am so thankful for all that I have and wish that that was enough.

Being hungry is more than just wanting food. I have learned over much of my life that no amount of food can fill the void of emotional stress. But oh how many of us sure do try! I have found that when I am in a state, I am not very proactive in my meal planning. I know how important it is to do it and for so many different reasons. I have learned in almost all of my dieting/healthy eating quests that planning proactively is a key to success. Lack of planning for those dark moments is what led me to one of my worst months in quite a while. It was a whirlwind of fast food, junky snacks, and lots of cake. I knew that I was undoing months of positive effort with every delicious but ultimately painful bite.

So here I am as are many of you are - at the start of a new year. That blank canvas lies in front of us just waiting to be painted. I hesitate to say that this year is going to be different, that this is the year that I am going to change my ways. All I can say for sure is that this is the one time I feel that I am ready to face the things that hold me back, to put it out there, to be PROACTIVE in all that I do. In the Dr. Yum book I have been referring to during this blog series they state, “Like any other road trip, it’s a good idea to know what is around the corner! And how you react to what you encounter is up to you.” I may not know what is around the corner for sure, but I am pretty darn sure that I will have those lost moments again. I can’t control it completely, but I can prepare for it. I can choose how I will react to those moments and replace that hunger for food with a hunger for something more meaningful. Join me. ☺

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From Pringles to Pears to Patience

Good things come to those who wait. I am finally seeing the fruits of my labors and am down a few pounds. I know that I shouldn’t put a lot into the “number” but let’s get real- it feels great to lose weight when you are trying so hard! This has been a rough two years for me health-wise. In 2013 after years of pain and much reflection I decided to have my hip replaced. I was 39 at that time and much younger than most of my joint replacement companions at the hospital and rehab, but I had been fighting this deterioration since being born with a congenital hip displacement. My case was pretty severe back in the day and involved multiple surgeries and left me with large scars on both of my legs.

steph baby

Throughout my childhood, I struggled with joint issues associated with this condition, knowing full well that my hip was only going to last so long. The doctors felt that waiting until after having my children was the way to go and thankfully pregnancy seemed to alleviate much of my pain. After my third and final child and a near-death delivery experience, the pain quickly sprang back up on me. The trauma of my final pregnancy took a toll on my body and caused my hip issues to impact my legs and feet as well. With the promise of an awesome new hip and a new life of better mobility I entered the operating room.

Sad to say that things seem to never work out as planned for me and they are never simple. I suffered significant nerve damage as a result of the surgery which was likely brought on from the severity of my prior C-section and aforementioned dramatic baby delivery. I will never know the reason behind the why of it all, but I do know that I was in no place to handle that kind of setback. I had prepared for a renewed sense of energy and what I got was a leg brace and a cane. Months of stubbornness led to broken ankles, months in walking boots, and for me the worst thing-weight gain. I was lost in my own pity party and although trying to function as normally I could, I simply wasn’t all there.

Patience. I knew that with time, my nerve damage could improve. I knew that I might never gain full stability back in my leg, but I slowly worked my way back to a better place. With the help of a great doctor who chose to look at the bigger picture and not just the obvious, I was able to find medication that worked for me and didn’t deplete me of the little energy I had. I worked hard and fought to walk more and to establish a more positive attitude. The one good thing is that at least my hip didn’t hurt. =)

steph boot

As I learn to eat things that are better for me and teach that to my children, I have come to realize just how important patience is. I am loving this book...

healthy eater

This book written by Doctor Yum Nimali Fernando and her co-author Melanie Potock is amazing. At first I thought that I was too late in my parenting life for a book like this. I mean my kiddies are 15, 12, and 6 so they are somewhat already set in their eating habits. I found as I read that it was not only applicable to them, but I could apply almost all of it to myself. I joke around that I read it as if I am the baby trying to learn how to eat as well as the parent trying to do the teaching!

One of my favorite parts is where the authors describe the parenting strategies that I have been alluding to with each post (joyfully, bravely, and compassionately). To quote the Parenting Patiently part- “Waiting is a ‘magic’ parenting technique. Although you are your child’s guide, your role is to show them the way, not pull them along.” LOVE THIS!! Who knew that I could find such a great quote about LIFE in a book about eating??

Just like I needed to learn patience with myself after my surgery, I need to learn to be patient with myself when learning how to eat better. I never thought that I would be where I am today both physically and mentally. A year ago, I was done. I had resigned myself to a future of slow walking and cane usage but with patience and determination I am currently preparing to walk my first 5K (Thanksgiving Day 2015!) since my surgery. Eating better is helping me to achieve the results I want even though it is a much slower process than I had hoped. So many have been there for me these past few years, but as the quote above says, they were there to help me along the way not pull me along! I had to get here all on my own.

With that said, I just got an email that tonight’s class is for the whole family and is all about CURRY! Hmmmm...this should be interesting. Stay tuned.

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From Cupcakes to Carrots to Compassion

I read a great quote the other day while doing my morning personal reflection and study, “Many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember to be equally as compassionate and patient with yourself.”


My lunch later that day consisted of one of my secret stops to Sheetz and I was once again focusing on my feelings of failure because I gave in to temptation. As I was eating, working, and wallowing I was immediately reminded of the quote I had read earlier that morning. How often did I forgive others? How often did I overlook the shortcomings of so many around me and try to truly see their strengths and greatest attributes? Why then was I so determined to make myself miserable? Why couldn’t I be compassionate with myself?

I decided right then and there that the negativity would stop! I would make a conscious effort to not only shift my focus, but to document it. I have never been a big fan of the monthly gratitude thing that I see so many turn to this time of year, but I decided that while publicly declaring it might not be my thing, the practice of gratitude was worth trying. I have a planner/journal that I keep and I figured that was the best place for me to really write out my grateful heart. To not only feel the feelings, but to put pen to paper so I could reflect on it again and again.

In our class that past week, we had learned about roasting beautiful fall vegetables, most of which I had never ventured to try. Lo and behold...

i love squash

I love squash!

steph squash

Who would have known? Of course, those buggers are quite the thing to cut into, but they are oh so good!! And this time of year, they are super cheap which helps with my attempts at a budget. It may seem silly or oh so minor to some, but this is huge for me. I knew that this was what I needed to focus my attention on. Those small accomplishments that happen every day. They have always been there, but I was looking in the wrong direction.

Going through this has really opened my eyes to the way that I parent. What am I teaching my children about compassion? About food? About relationships with those around them? I want them to love food, to be bold, to try new things but am I able to do it with compassion? How can I instill in them the need to be healthy while still respecting their likes and dislikes?

I feel that too often today when our children express displeasure with something, many of us immediately remove the source of the discomfort. I have found that I do this more times than I care to even admit. With further thought, I know now that I at times am doing more harm than good. We need to learn to face difficult things, to overcome, to recognize them as a source of growth. This may be a larger-than-life concept to apply to trying new foods, but think about it. If I can get myself to try squash, to conquer that fear of the unknown aren’t the possibilities endless? As they say, it all starts with that small step...

Have compassion for your children and yourself and those around you while still encouraging them to be their best selves. You are never too old to try new things, especially food. Next thing you know I will be jumping out of an airplane (yeah, right-bum hip remember?) For now, I will have to settle for trying a new haircut...

steph haircut

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From Butterfingers to Broccoli to Bravery

I wish that I could start this second post with news of my wonderful success and my immense strength to overcome the temptations that abound. But alas, here I am again...

steph sodaIt has been a rough week folks ☹

I am a big creature of habit and feel my best if I have some structure to my day. I had made a goal at the start of the new school year to establish a routine and keep it. And boy was I successful ...for about a month. Late last week my early morning walk was disrupted by a stalker vehicle that decided to follow me down my block and scare the living heck out of me. Sad to say, my favorite part of the day was now ruined. Even though I was fine and the person drove off, it unnerved me enough to consider if walking in the dark at 6:30am was the wisest choice I could make. This event triggered in me a strong desire for comfort and even after several phone calls to my hubby, my mom, and a few friends I found no relief.

Where does a stressed gal turn then? You got it- the local drive-thru for my big hug in a cup (otherwise known as my Large Diet Coke for $1 -what a deal!) It was all downhill from there. My food that day consisted of 3 diet cokes, a biscuit sandwich, a Goobz from Sheetz (yummy goodness at about 600 calories a pop), and a secret ice cream cone stop all by myself. And I was wondering why I was so jittery all day!

I felt robbed, robbed of that peaceful time in my morning that I had worked hard to create. I used that feeling of negativity to excuse my terrible food behavior. It was then, though, that I began to think about this journey that I have chosen to go on and how disappointed I was in myself for so quickly abandoning it all for a quick fix in the form of chocolate and caffeine. Our lesson this past class was to parent with bravery. Was I brave? I thought I was. I could try a new vegetable with the best of them, but could I find the bravery within me to keep driving past that McDonalds? Was I brave enough to really get to the bottom of what brought me there in the first place?

Let's get real. I want to change. I think many of us have a strong desire to be something different than we are, but lack the courage to get ourselves there. Since I was in my teenage years, I have longed to be thinner, to be kinder, to be more like almost anyone that I came into contact with. And here I am at 41 years old with the same longings in my heart and honestly no closer to getting there. The reality is I need to be BRAVE. If I am going to parent bravely, I need to find the strength within to face my weaknesses head on, to accept who I am, and to STOP trying to be something that I am not.

As I reflect on this whole healthy eating thing, I realize yet again that I am misguided in my reasons for doing it. There is this huge part of me that truly believes that as long as I go through the motions, I can continue to secretly eat whatever the heck I want and go on. So here I am being BRAVE and admitting that I am in no way succeeding at this! I have a long way to go and I don't know if I will ever get there. I do know one thing for sure though, honesty is a requirement.

With that I leave you with my awesome bowl of Yum loaded with pretty much all things that I never eat.

steph salad

steph eating salad

The best conversation I had this past week in class was when I said, "How can something like this ever be as good as a piece of chocolate cake?" And the response that I received I have been reflecting on all week- It doesn't have to be!!

I think that I have been looking at this all wrong. I have to stop comparing my food just like I need to stop comparing myself.

Now go eat something good for you ☺

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From Ho-hos to Hummus to Happiness

For the next 8 weeks, Doctor Yum will feature guest blogger Stephanie Maldonado, office and events manager at Fredericksburg Parent & Family. Stephanie lives in the Massaponax area with her hubby and 3 children, Julia, Tyler, and Aiden. She is a self-proclaimed unhealthy eater and says that if Doctor Yum can convert her, she can convert anyone!

I was standing in line at a local convenience store one morning and for some reason paid particular attention to the purchases of the two young men in front of me. One had a can of Red Bull and a pack of cigarettes and the other a large case of beer and a tin of chew. As I stood there, I wondered if I was any different from them. Not that I am judging the purchases of these men; I looked at it as more of a reflection on myself. Here I was, quietly and secretly buying food that I knew to be unhealthy and against the meal plan that I had set for myself and my family. I was paying in cash so as to avoid my spouse having knowledge of the items that I would quickly devour in my car and when I was done I planned to find a trash can while out and about to dispose of my wrappers and such.

Wasn't I too fighting a daily battle to avoid putting harmful things into my body and failing miserably at it day after day as maybe these men were? For so long I have struggled with issues surrounding food known only to myself, my spouse (at the times that I choose to share with him) and my Higher Power. Having a degree in Psychology I know all too well that the addictions surrounding alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and gambling are ones that require a complete and solid abstinence to have a successful outcome. But how does one abstain from food - the very thing needed for survival and daily sustenance?

I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of a class being held by an organization that I deeply respect and look to for guidance and direction regarding healthy eating. The Doctor Yum Project was presenting an 8-week instructional class for parents on Parenting for Wellness that would incorporate healthy eating habits, recipes for on-the-go families, and tips and techniques for bringing joy back to the kitchen. What a great opportunity this could be for me to increase my knowledge and give me a kick-start to a healthier lifestyle!

Our first class was absolutely amazing! I left inspired and ready to start my life anew. I had visions of replacing dinners of chicken nuggets and French fries with those including fresh produce and organic, local products. My reality quickly came crashing in around though when I realized that I was going to need much more than a change in eating habits - I was going to need a complete change of heart. How could I expect my family to grow in their tastes and become excited about food when I held all this anxiety and deep-rooted emotion about it? How could I change them without first completely changing myself?

My hope with this blog series is that I will be able to sort through all the reasons that have led me to have such a bad relationship with food and share how I am working to overcome this both individually and with the help of a class that is built to uplift and encourage people like me.

Now let's get cooking ☺

For more information on Doctor Yum, visit 

doc yum food
The snack of the evening

steph eating

Not so sure!

steph yum

It's pretty delicious!

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Finding Hidden Sugars

The American Heart Association recommends that the diet of a 4-year-old should not include more than 3 teaspoons of added sugar per day. However, the average American child at that age is consuming 21 teaspoons of added sugar! When you look closely at the sugar content of popular foods, even those thought to be “healthy,” it’s easy to see why.

Here are 5 foods that commonly contain excess sugars and some tasty alternatives you can substitute.

  1. Yogurt and yogurt drinks: Many flavored yogurts contain 4-5 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Instead offer plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit.
  2. Packaged oatmeal and breakfast bars: There’s more in that breakfast package than just oatmeal. Often excessive sugar is also included, not to mention artificial flavorings. Make plain oatmeal instead and top with fresh fruit or chopped dates.
  3. Applesauce and fruit cups: This may be a good alternative when fresh fruit is unavailable, unless it’s packed with added sugar. Check the label and make sure sugar is not on the list of ingredients.
  4. Fruit snacks: A package of fruit snacks, even the “healthy ones,” can have loads of sugar (one popular brand has 7 teaspoons in a small pouch). Skip the added sugar and offer fresh fruit instead.
  5. Beverages: Many sports drinks and fruit drinks are loaded with unnecessary sugar. Even 100 percent juice can have as much sugar as a soda (although the sugar may be naturally occurring, it’s still sugar!) Try offering kids water instead, which is a good choice for hydrating kids after mild to moderate activity.

To find recipes for family-tested meals and snacks, visit  We have a variety of cooking camps this summer so sign up now!

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Taste the Real Rainbow

rainbow foodEncourage kids to eat a rainbow every day! When it comes to food, presentation is everything. You can make kids' plates more exciting by offering bites of food in a rainbow of colors. Not only are different colored foods pretty, but they offer a variety of plant nutrients that are important to raising healthy kids. Spring and summer are the best times to explore the myriad of colorful local foods.

Farmers markets are full of produce in surprising hues. For hesitant eaters, finding a food they like in a color that's unexpected is a great way to give them confidence that they can try new foods. If your little ones like carrots, don't stop at orange, but instead try them in purple, yellow and white. Show your kids that cauliflower can be green, purple and orange, too! At area farmers markets, peppers can be found in almost every color of the rainbow. Ask your kids to sample different colors of produce and tell you if there are subtle differences in flavor. Visit to find all kinds of ways to encourage kids to eat a rainbow each day. Teach your kids that healthy food is beautiful and fun!

If you are interested in a fantastic cooking and tasting experience where kids will cook with a of rainbow of fresh local foods, check out our new classes, spring break sessions and summer camps offered in the Doctor Yum Project Kitchen. Visit to learn more.

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Toddler snacks

Need some snack ideas for your toddlers? Use these tips when feeding snacks to little ones.

• Stick with whole foods. If the packaging says snack on it, then it's probably not a great choice. Serve snacks with no labels, like fresh fruit, vegetables, yogurt, hummus and nut butters.

• Offer two snacks a day. A midmorning and late afternoon snack is typically enough. Let them eat and if they lose interest, put the snacks away until the next meal. Many toddlers graze so much between meals that they never develop hunger before meals. Allow that hunger to encourage your child to try the nutritious food you prepare for him at mealtime.

• Offer water at snack time. Water is better for the teeth than sugary beverages; even 100 percent juice has an excess of sugar and calories.

• Offer variety. Toddlers have small appetites and are sometimes pickier than when they were infants. Offer small bites of a few different foods and don't get frustrated if she does not eat everything you offer.

If you are interested in cooking classes, visit for more information on fun seasonal classes in our beautiful new instructional kitchen. We are now offering a "Parenting for Wellness Class." This 8-class series covers nutrition basics and parenting principles that will get your family on a path to a healthy and delicious diet. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details.

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Keeping Young Teeth Strong & Healthy

Want your kids to build healthy teeth that will stay strong for a lifetime? Here are five nutritional tips that build strong teeth.

toothbrusheslittle girl eating veggiesGet plenty of calcium. Think beyond dairy for your calcium, and make sure kids are getting other calcium-rich foods, too. Dark green vegetables like kale and collard greens, nuts like almonds, beans, and sesame seeds are all great sources of calcium.

Get vitamin D. Foods like salmon and eggs are high in vitamin D and help to make sure we absorb even more of the calcium we take in from our diet. Fifteen minutes of sunshine helps us to make even more vitamin D, too.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Without healthy gums we cannot have healthy teeth. The plant nutrients found in fruits and vegetables will keep our gum tissue strong and healthy.

Drink plenty of water: Drinking only water between meals keeps our teeth clean and prevents bacteria from flourishing.

• Add a great diet to healthy habits, twice-daily tooth brushing, regular flossing and regular checkups and your family will have healthy teeth for years to come.

If you want to learn more about how to instill healthy eating habits in your children, visit Be sure to check out our growing list of cooking classes and camps offered in our instructional kitchen.

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DIY Baby Food

doctor-yumDoctor YumIs your baby getting ready to start solid foods? Consider making your own baby food. It's fun, economical, and - compared to store-bought baby food - is delicious!

Here are three great reasons why homemade baby food is a great way to start your child on a path to adventurous eating:

1) Making baby food allows you to be in charge of the tastes and the textures of foods you offer. If your baby needs time to get used to a certain food, you can combine it with foods she already likes. You can add more or less texture depending on how your baby is progressing, too.

2) Making food for your baby trains you as a parent to spend time everyday preparing nourishing whole food for your baby. This habit sets the tone for how you will feed him in years to come.

3) Making baby food teaches your baby to eat the same flavorful food that you are eating at mealtime, setting just the right pace for many years of healthy habits.

If you are interested in learning more about introducing and making baby food, check out our "First Foods" class at The class covers basics, introducing solid foods for babies, how to make baby food, the latest trends in feeding and more. Babies are welcome and encouraged to taste our samples!

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About Doctor Yum


Nimali Fernando, MD is a local pediatrician and mom who is passionate about teaching families about feeding kids nutritious foods. Follow her blog to find out about local healthy food finds for kids, recipes, and how to make feeding kids an enriching family experience. You can also check out her website, for more great ideas on feeding children healthy foods.


Pouches' Community Corner

The Table at St. George’s

The Table at St. George’s is a market-style food pantry serving the extended local community. Visitors are invited to select their own items from a variety of fresh food, including locally grown produce. The Table’s mission is to encourage healthy eating, build relationships with those in need, and blur the lines between those serving and those being served.



The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.