Lara M. Dato MS, OTR/L: Eat Right, Every Bite — Healthy Mealtime Habits | Raising Parents #48

In this episode, Dina Sargeant delves into a thought-provoking discussion with Lara M. Dato, a pediatric occupational therapist with a specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing

Many parents struggle with establishing mealtime routines and fostering healthy eating habits in their children. Join Dina Sargeant as she talks with Lara Dato, a pediatric occupational therapist, about practical strategies for overcoming these challenges and creating a positive mealtime environment.

Meet Lara Dato MS, OTR/L

Lara Dato, MS, OTR/L, stands out as a leading figure in pediatric occupational therapy. She boasts a specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing—a distinction shared by only a select few in the United States. She has extensive experience as a feeding therapist and a track record of educating others in the field through nationwide courses.

Lara brings unparalleled expertise to the table. Her dedication shines through in her mission: empowering picky eaters and their families, transforming mealtime struggles into culinary exploration and delight moments.

Drawing from her wealth of knowledge and genuine passion for her work, Lara embarks on a journey to unravel the complexities of mealtime routines and healthy eating habits in children.  Through insightful discussions and practical advice, she illuminates the path toward creating joyful and fulfilling dining experiences for families across the globe. 

About the episode

In this episode, Dina Sargeant and Lara Dato, MS, OTR/L, explore how mealtime routines impact children’s eating habits and well-being. Lara stresses starting mealtime routines early, creating a calm environment for family meals. 

Dina and Lara address parents’ challenges when dealing with picky eaters. Implementing changes to mealtime routines involves altering the way meals are structured, served, or approached to address picky eating habits. Lara acknowledges that this can be a daunting task for parents, as it may disrupt established routines and encounter resistance from children. 

However, she emphasizes the importance of staying consistent and persistent despite the initial challenges. Parents can gradually help their children adjust to new mealtime habits and overcome picky eating tendencies by maintaining a steady approach to implementing changes.

Lara also underscores the significance of parents setting a positive example for their children regarding food choices and behaviors. This includes not only what parents eat but also how they approach meals. 

By demonstrating enthusiasm for trying new foods, maintaining a balanced diet, and displaying healthy eating habits, parents can establish clear expectations for their children. This sets a precedent for healthy eating within the household and provides a supportive environment for children to develop their own healthy eating habits.

They also discuss involving children in meal preparation to spark their curiosity and willingness to try new foods. Lara addresses the increased mental health issues among children during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, urging parents to seek support when needed. They share resources like Jill Castle’s books and TalkTools classes to establish effective mealtime routines.

Furthermore, they emphasize the importance of parents modeling positive food behaviors to inspire healthier eating habits in their children. Listeners gain practical strategies to create a nurturing mealtime environment that promotes healthy eating and strengthens family bonds.

In conclusion

In conclusion, Dina and Lara discuss how mealtime routines affect children’s well-being. Lara emphasizes starting these routines early for calm family meals. They stress the importance of consistency in changing mealtime habits and offer strategies like leading by example and involving children in meal prep. 

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