Fat is Okay

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

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The comedian Nicole Arbour has it wrong—as do many people. Fat shaming is not helpful. It makes people feel worse about themselves, not better! Smart people recognize that putting people down is counterproductive to self-care, which ultimately leads to wellness. Our culture needs to refocus and promote positives specifically around food and body. Moms, dads, and friends—we need to get it right. As adults who influence children and their health, it is in our hands to prevent fat shaming and, just as important, to redefine the word “FAT” and the word “DIET.”


Using the Word “FAT”

When my children were born, I avoided the word “fat,” making a rule—it was not to be used in my house and guests could not call my kids fat. I even skipped the “fat caterpillar” part in Eric Carle’s book The Hungry Caterpillar. Fat was and is demonized in the public. Most who are/were called fat internalize the word, leading to poor body image, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.


Neutralize the Word

Things are changing. I have learned with my clients that focusing on wellness instead of weight loss are without a doubt a better way to achieve health—and even weight loss if needed. The Health at Every Size (HAES) movement has introduced the concept of neutralizing the word “fat.” This means, as parents and especially as health professionals, we should be redefining “fat.” The word should connate neither a good nor bad vibe. HAES recognizes that people may be overweight but that it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Rather, size acceptance and body acceptance is most important when trying to pursue health.

With this, I have in my practice and even at home begun to change the use of this word. I use the word “fat,” and along with the HAES’s influence, I encourage others to do so as well. Let’s face it, we all eat foods with fat, all have fat on our bodies, and all need both dietary and body fat.


The Science on FAT

Body size and fat are different. Body size and body fat are partly determined by genetics—actually about 50 percent. Body fat, stress, and even the way in which we eat affect how we gain, lose, and maintain weight. Excessive body fat is part of the cause and the result of metabolic snafus. Basically, think of it like this: your car is filled with gas, but your gas tank erroneously reads it as empty. You continue to pump gas into the tank and it spills out causing a mess. This can happen to expensive cars and used cars. There is no discrimination. Rather, miscommunication between bodily systems can happen in both thin people with a high fat mass as well as larger people with a high fat mass. That’s right, even thin people can have a high fat ratio and put themselves at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and more. (1) In other words, thinner as well as larger people can hold greater amounts of fat. It is not an appearance thing, so please stop judging the book by its cover. It can be quite deceiving.

Recognize that health is not determined by the number on the scale, the size of your pants, or someone calling you fat. Health is much more complex. Fat is not bad or good. Fat is fat. Like anything else, too much of one thing can become unhealthy. And while we are on the topic of redefining “fat,” let’s also redefine the word “diet” and practice the All Foods Fit philosophy!


To support this message, start using the hashtags #HAES, #AllFoodsFit, #AllBodiesFit, #redefinediet #BodyLove…


To help create awareness, I have also created tanks and totes that voice this message:

  • for totes with the All Foods Fit and All Bodies Fit, click HERE
  • for tanks with the All Foods Fit message, “Eat Kale and Cupcakes,” and more, click HERE

10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to Project Heal NYC!



International Journal of Obesity (2006) 30, S23–S35. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803516

The thrifty ‘catch-up fat’ phenotype: its impact on insulin sensitivity during growth trajectories to obesity and metabolic syndrome

A G Dulloo1, J Jacquet2, J Seydoux2 and J-P Montani1

Lavender Cookies

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Mom and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team


As summer comes to a close, that doesn’t mean extra family time has to come to an end! Last week, my boys and I made these fun and tasty lavender shortbread cookies! A great way to get us all in the kitchen and to learn about and try a new food.  An added bonus, your kitchen will smell wonderful!

We used the recipe from Joy The Baker, here.


1 tbsp dried lavender blossoms

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp raw or granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

extra sugar for sprinkling on top



1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Set aside.

2. In a small spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind 1 tbsp lavender and 1 tbsp sugar.

3. In another bowl, that can be used with electric mixer with paddle attachment, add butter, ground lavender mixture, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Cream ingredients on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  It’s okay if there are still some sugar bits at this point.  Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together.  The dough will have a crumbly texture, but will come together as you continue mixing.

4. Dump dough mixture out onto a clean surface and form into a ball with your hands.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

6. Divide refrigerated dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.  Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut cookies, or a pizza cutter to slice into squares.  Use a fork to prick the cookies.

7. Brush the cookies very lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Make sure your oven is preheated to 350 degrees F and refrigerate cookies while oven preheats.

8. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven.  When oven is preheated, bake cookies for 8-11 minutes, until just browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Enjoy!

Petitioning FED UP Campaign

By Laura Cipullo, Mom, RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

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I received this email last week, that sparked a conversation between me and my colleagues and ultimately a petitioning a new FED UP campaign that I want to share with you.

“Hi Laura , 
Hope you are well! I’m reaching out on behalf of FED UP the film that explores the truth about the food industry in an effort to get people eating healthier. Executive Produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, the film has been a resource and tool for parents, teachers, and student to learn the truth about real food. 
I know you are very busy but I’m reaching out to you today, because I thought you and the Eating and Living Moderately community might be interested in joining our mission to bring Food Education to Schools. We’re 10 days into our 30 day campaign to raise the funds to be able to provide a Fed Up Education Kit to every school in America, at no cost to schools and teachers this fall. 
It’s been shown that once children learn the truth about the food they’re eating, where it comes from, and how it affects their bodies, they’re likely to make better food choices. But kids and teachers need the facts first! Did you know there are over 56 names for sugar? And over 80% of products in the grocery store have added sugar! 
Our campaign is working to give teachers and schools the resources to empower our students.  Check out the Fed Up Campaign here and social press kit with social media graphics and language. 
Please let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information. 
Thanks so much for your time. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

I immediately forwarded the email to some of my colleagues, with this message:

“I am sharing what was delivered to my email box. I think this is really a shame as this movie categorizes foods as good and bad and has children go in sugar free diets. The kids lose weight and end up gaining it back. So sad!”

My feelings and concern were widely shared and Jessica Kilbride, LMSW soon wrote back with this message:

“I drew up a petition, and would be happy to edit it in any way that anyone sees fit. I’m not sure how much of a difference these change.org petitions make, but hopefully it’ll do something. There are enough unhealthy attitudes about food and body in the entertainment world. It’s not necessary to bring this black-and-white thinking, however well-intentioned, into the classroom and I know I wouldn’t want my (hypothetical) children learning about nutrition through this approach.

https://www.change.org/p/fed-up-campaign-teach-kids-about-food-moderation-not-polarization?recruiter=383794156&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink “

Share this post among your friends and peers, to prevent our children from learning from this program that labels foods as “good or bad” and sets the stage for eating disorders and low self-esteem.

What To Do When a Good Eater Becomes a Refuser

By Danielle Viola, RD, CSP

Danielle Viola Pic Blog-1

We’ve all been there. Just when we think we have our children figured out or on a good schedule, they change it up on us! This applies to so many things in our kiddos lives, from sleep to behavior and beyond, but a big area this can impact is eating. Even the best eaters can go astray at times.

As a mom and dietitian, I’ve been fortunate that my first son has been a pretty good eater. Some of that is due to work I’ve put in with him, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was open to trying lots of new foods before he hit about 18 months. As long as he was accepting, we kept throwing new flavors and textures his way. For his second birthday he requested Salmon with a Puttanesca sauce (olives, capers and tomatoes for those who are unfamiliar), spinach and roasted potatoes.

You can imagine my dismay when my child who previously ate all things decided that he wanted more control over what he ate and all but gave up on trying new foods and even started to shun some foods that he had previously enjoyed, like sweet potatoes.

For anyone out there struggling with this or even just dealing with a child who is less willing to try new things, the good news is that this is normal and the solution is relatively simple. It just may take some time to actually work. It’s frustrating in the short term when all you want is for your child to be eating well-rounded meals, but it’s more important to look at the big picture and help your child to maintain a healthy relationship with food.


Here are my top 5 tips for dealing with a good eater gone astray:

  1. Model good eating behavior. If they see you eating it, it will just be normal. You can’t expect your child to eat peas if you won’t touch them, how fair is that? I find that the older my son gets, the more likely he is to try foods from my plate when the pressure is off and he is the one doing the asking. He wouldn’t get that opportunity if I weren’t striving to eat a variety of foods.
  2. Eat dinner as a family. Eating together is a key way to model eating behaviors and to talk about food. Family dinners end up becoming so much more than just a time to eat and with everyone eating together, some of the pressure is removed from a child who would otherwise be eating under the watchful eye of his or her parents. The more you chat together at the table, the more relaxed the atmosphere is. That inviting atmosphere helps kids to feel more comfortable to experiment with their eating. Plus, who wants to eat alone?
  3. Talk about food in a positive way. Studies show that children are more likely to try and eat new foods when caregivers talk about the benefits of foods instead of the negative consequences of “bad” foods. Think talking up the benefits of broccoli over the harm in eating cookies all day. Choose something that motivates your child. Our oldest was desperate to ride a roller coaster at a local amusement park. We talked about the types of foods that would help him to grow big and tall in order to do that and guess what he started asking for more of? It totally works!
  4. The food choices that children make will only be as good as the foods that are offered to them. Enough said.
  5. Don’t force your child to eat. Kids will eat when they are hungry. As a parent, it is your job to provide a variety of foods to your child. Your child should be deciding which of those foods he or she will eat and how much. Battles over finishing food at the table only result in frustration on both ends and can ultimately disrupt your child’s ability to sense when he or she is full. Trust that ultimately, your child’s body knows what it needs and in turn, your child will become more adventurous as he or she begins to trust that you won’t be forcing food at mealtimes.


Disclaimer: These suggestions are for children who are otherwise growing and developing at a rate deemed appropriate by your child’s physician. If you are struggling with eating habits in a child who is having growth failure, it is important to seek out individualized advice from a professional, such as pediatric dietitian.


How Your Dinner Plate Can Affect Your Diet

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Mom


Did you know that your dinner plates can actually affect the amount of food you and your children consume?

As a mom and dietitian, I understand the need for parents to feed their kids well while fostering a positive relationship with food.

This relationship is more complicated than the nutritional value of what you serve, however; in fact, it actually begins with your servingware.

If you haven’t thought about it before, then consider it now. Beyond ingredients alone, parents need to think about the ways in which the environment impacts children’s associations with food. Eating off of dishes that we find aesthetically pleasing or comforting can set us up for a sense of satisfaction before even taking a bite off our plate – and the same goes for our children.

When it comes to finding the perfect plates that suit your parenting philosophies and personal styles, consider yourselves covered. These five picks won’t just help to foster healthy attitudes in the kitchen; they’ll also eliminate unnecessary stress by prompting your ever-picky eaters to finish what’s in front of them.

1. The No Fuss Mom: Corelle White Dish

I’ve eaten off of these plates for years! Dishwasher safe and practically unbreakable, there is nothing better than these crisp, white dishes – except, that is, the price!

For a mere $50 dollars, you can purchase a set of eight of these family-friendly plates. Eating off of white dishes creates a colorful contrast with your meal which, based on studies by Dr. Brain Wainsink, lends to eating smaller portions and over time, an easy way to lose weight without consciously dieting.

2. The Eco-chic Mom: Bambooware Santa Barbara Dinnerware

For the environmentally sound mother with a love of anything green, these eco-chic plates fromBambooware are made of bamboo and are decidedly awesome.

Not only are they melamine-free, but these low-impact plates are both reusable and dishwasher safe, making them perfect for every occasion, from family meals to birthday parties and more.

3. The New Mom: Green Eats BPA-Free Kids Dishes

Babies and tots are known for touching, tantrums and throwing, so we’re not exactly serving our little bundles of joy baby food or even finger food off of our finest china. Yet with all the talk and rising concerns about BPA, many parents are hesitant to use plastic servingware, bottles and plates – even if many states, including New York and California, have put BPA-free laws in place.

TheseBPA-free platesfrom Green Eats gives new moms everywhere one thing less to worry about, and are ideal for serving wholesome, sustainable foods to our little ones.

4. The Mom Gone Crazy: Waechtersbach Warehouse Funfactory II Dinnerware

Having a selective, or “picky,” eater can give any mom grey hairs. While eating off of white plates helps to decrease portions consumed, go ahead and apply the opposite logic with these funky, brightly hued dishes. Purchase an entire set of these vibrant plates, one in every color of the rainbow, for variety, fun and for the picky eater, a low contrast combination.

In Dr. Brian Wainsink’s study, people ate more when they were served pasta with red sauce on a red dish and greens on green plates. These low contrast combinations may unconsciously convince your picky eater to nosh on just a few bites more of their meal.

5. The Party Planning Mom: Harvest Table Setting

What can be better than sitting down to a tasty fall meal at a beautifully decorated table? This year, embrace the changing seasons with an aesthetically pleasing dinner table, set for the harvest theme. Choose pumpkin bowls, candles and a fall hued centerpiece to go a step further in creating an environment that fosters an appreciation of feeding and eating.

I personally love the idea of entertaining family and friends, but fall short when it comes to patience and getting the look I want. Use Pottery Barn’s party planning website to learn how to create this warm and inviting Harvest Table Setting.

With your table set and your confidence high, all that’s left now is to decide on what to feed the kids. If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, be sure to refer to my personal blog, Mom Dishes It Out, where I “dish” on delicious, kid-centric meals and answer real questions posed by real moms everywhere.


This blog was originally posted here.

How to Grow a Healthy Eater, Naturally

By Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD


When my friend Esther told me that her kids prefer broccoli to pizza, I knew we had to talk

some more. Esther is a mom to three children under the age of five, and she is also one of the

most relaxed, serene individuals I know. I’ve chosen her as one of my “role model moms” (I

collect them) and the way she feeds her children is just one of the many things I admire about

her. I’ve asked Esther to share her techniques for raising healthy eaters. Here are her tips!

1.    Expose kids to a wide variety of foods. Kids each have their own preferences, so by

exposing them to many different foods, you enable them to find their healthy favorites. Esther

doesn’t get stuck in a rut of serving only things she knows they’ll eat. In her house, “Kids taste

everything. After that, they can have an opinion. If they don’t like something, it’s not a big a

deal. They’ll meet their needs at another meal.” Esther finds that involving kids in meal prep is a

great way to motivate them to try new foods. She suggests saying something along the lines of

“Libby helped make the salad today. Doesn’t it look delicious? Thank you, Libby!”

2.    Know that whatever Mommy eats is exciting. There is nothing more powerful than role

modeling. “Kids pick up on your vibes,” Esther says. “Let them see you eating and enjoying

healthy foods. I love fruits and vegetables. I really think they taste good, and so do my kids. I

stocked up on of fruits and veggies at the beginning of the week and cut them up into snack

bags for my kids to take to day camp. They were ecstatic. My four-year-old ran over to me with

her veggie bag and said, ‘Mommy, smell it! Smell it! It’s so yummy!’ ” Esther shares how she

recently bought fresh cherries and her daughter was so excited she tried to climb up to the top

shelf of the fridge to get them. Her younger son loves imitating his big sister as well as his mom,

and he eats plenty of fruits and veggies too. Cherry tomatoes are a family favorite. “They enjoy

putting one in each side of their cheeks and looking weird.” Mealtime is a wonderful time for

role modeling healthy behaviors. Esther makes a point of sticking around during mealtime. “Sit

at the table with them and they will have an easier time eating. The more people at the table,

the better. I’ve noticed that whenever we have guests, they’ll do better at meals. It’s always

best if you can eat with them. You can beg them to eat a bowl of cereal and they’ll refuse, but

sit down and have one yourself and they’ll come crowding around.”

3.    Help kids build healthy habits early on. Because her daughter refused water at a young

age, Esther began giving her juice, but she always dilutes the juice with water. “I dilute it so

much, it’s like flavored water. The other day I’d diluted the juice while it was still in the

container, and when I poured some for my daughter, she said, ‘Hey, you didn’t put in water!” I

try to give my kids whole grain products and while it doesn’t always go over successfully, it

often does. They aren’t fans of whole wheat bread, but they really like brown rice.  “Get away

with it when you can.”

4.    Provide all foods. Esther sets the stage for healthy choices but she knows when to step

back. “I do let go because I don’t want my kid to be the one eating candy under the table.”

Recently, her four-year-old has been asking for a freeze pop upon coming home from day camp

because she sees the neighborhood kids having them, and Esther has no problem allowing her

to have too. She’s ok with it because her daughter enjoys many healthy foods as well and she

does not want her to feel deprived. She knows her daughter is used to a healthy routine and

understands that all foods can be part of a balanced lifestyle.

5.    Understand that it will be challenging. Things don’t always go smoothly at Esther’s table.

“It’s hard when you put in a lot of work to prepare a meal you think they’ll really like but then

they don’t eat it.” However, Esther believes that this is because “Children are challenging! It’s

not food-specific. They don’t always do what you want, and you’ll have to readjust your

expectations. Don’t drop the whole thing, but know that you might have to rework the


6.    Don’t have an agenda. Esther feels it’s important not to get too worked up about your

children’s eating. “When they feel you are anxious for them to eat something, they won’t want

it. It’s like when you’re anxious for them to go to sleep on time because you have a babysitter

coming; they’ll sense it and won’t go to sleep.” She believes it’s best not to be overly invested in

the outcome, or at least to “pretend you don’t care!” When I asked Esther to share some

rewarding moments, she replied, “I don’t view it that way because I don’t put in intense effort. I

don’t have an agenda. We keep trying things, and when something doesn’t work, it doesn’t

work. And something that didn’t work at first might work later on. So rather than individual

rewarding moments, I get slow, gradual gratification. I’m seeing that the seeds I’ve planted

have successfully grown.”

Hearty Fruit and Nut Granola

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Author of The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Book

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I’m excited to be sharing another recipe from my book, The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Book! This is an easy, and tasty granola recipe that you can make ahead for the week, for breakfast, snacks and on-the-go!



1 1/2 cups old-fashioned (large flake) rolled oats

1/4 cup millet

1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

2 tbsp ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

3 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom



1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, millet, cranberries, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom. Stir well to combine.

3. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown, stirring carefully once or twice.  Remove from the oven and break up any large pieces of granola while it’s still warm.

4. Cool completely before sorting into airtight containers. You can store at room temperature for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

Suiting Up For School

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight cc

School shopping. Two words that come with a bundle of emotions, not the least of

which include excitement, frustration, anxiety and anticipation. As parents, it can

give us pause, as we stop for a moment and notice the speed at which our kids are

growing up. It’s amazing how quickly a school year flies, and more amazing still,

how fast summer seems to evaporate. And now it’s time to shop for school

supplies…..and new clothes.

Clothes shopping is one time when we have an amazing opportunity to dialogue

with our children about the normalcy of growth, bodies and change. While our

bodies as adults can fluctuate and continue to evolve, our kids’ bodies are

transitioning at a pretty rapid pace. It’s vital that we know how to support them

when they have questions, and it’s important that they understand we love them as

individuals, not based on any aspect of their physical appearance. And while that

may sound extremely logical, we need to be aware of the subtle messages we send

our kids. Don’t be surprised when they have grown out of their clothes, in many

cases needing new duds from just a few short months ago. Catch yourself before

commenting, “I just bought that. How come it doesn’t fit anymore?” implying that

she’s done something wrong simply by growing.

One of my very favorite articles discusses how to talk to – or not talk to – our

daughters about their bodies. Read on for some inspiration and reinforcement as

you work to support your own growing kids!

How to Talk to Your Daughter about Her Body

Step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it


Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that.

Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice

one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk

about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy

food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter

should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to

shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your

daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality

than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or

mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better

leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never

stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love


Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of

being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate

these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a

marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs.

She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize

her beautiful soul.

Sarah Koppelkam

How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body

Pork Chops and Apple Salad

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE


Straight from my Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook, I’m excited to share this recipe for refreshing pork chops and Apple salad. Perfect for the end of summer and upcoming apple season this fall!


For Apple Salad:

2 tbsp (30mL) balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp (15mL) Dijon mustard

2 apples, finely sliced, lengthwise

1 head Bibb lettuce, chopped

2 (500mL) cups spinach

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 onion sliced

1/4 cup (60mL) crumbled, reduced-fat blue cheese

For Pork Chops:

4 bone-in pork loin chops (each 6oz/175g)

1/8 tsp (.5mL) salt

1 tbsp (15mL) chopped, fresh thyme (or 1tsp/5g dried)

1 clove garlic, minced


For Apple Salad:

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Add apples, lettuce, spinach, celery and onion. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with blue cheese, set aside.

For Pork Chops:

Season each pork chop with salt, thyme and garlic. Heat a large skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Cook the pork chops for 8 minutes, turning once or until lightly browned and a thermometer inserted in the center of the chop reads 145F and the juices run clear. Serve with the apple salad.


The Power Struggle: Kickin' and Screamin' About Food

By Mommy Laura Cipullo RD, CDE, CEDRD

Now it is always a RD’s recommendation to never have a power struggle around food. But what happens when your kid is the one who is running the show? I have seen this with clients, where the kid becomes so picky with the food, the parent obliges. A few weeks ago, I was thinking to myself, was this happening in my home with my youngest son.

School was out. We moved homes on the last day of school and literally left one week later for South Carolina. Billy just seemed off. He had heat stroke one day and as a result hadn’t eaten much or well for a few days. Then when we went on a Pirate Ship tourist trap kind of cruise and the employee commented on his height. Now this is something I am sensitive about. I do wonder if his shorter stature is just him or is it because he is a picky pescatarian. He eats one fish and only some of the time. With all of the emotional change he was definitely being pickier. I got to worrying.

Billy wasn’t even willing to try any foods. I made him a veggie burger with cheese on both sides while I served Bobby his chicken. This was the Bell and Evans Chicken Tenders. Meanwhile at the restaurants, Bobby and I share steak and other normal foods. I thought a veggie burger was a very nice compromise for Billy. Of course he did not agree.

The power struggle began. But I really didn’t want to give up. I hate that it had to come to this but I was legitimately worried about his health. I was not asking him to eat the veggie burger; rather I was asking him to try it. The fact that he would not try it, really got to me and I decided I was not giving in. I was ready to sit with him until he tried the veggie burger.

At first this was a game for him, until he realized I was serious and 45 minutes later still sitting with him. He would leave the table and I would bring him back. The night before he had refused his fish sticks so I was without options. Soon Billy was crying to me. I explained I was concerned and as a parent I would irresponsible to not feed him adequately. Plus I was really worried for his health emotional and physically without proper protein. And that is when he said it!

He said, “Mommy, I will eat chicken.” He whispered it. I said, “Really, you rather eat chicken than a veggie burger?” He was on board with eating Billy’s chicken. So I made him a chicken tender and he ate it. It was a small tender but he was cool with it. And guess what, her ordered chicken tenders the next night at the restaurant. And on Saturday night he ate chicken parmesan at a very fancy restaurant.

Just last week, I retuned from the South. My sister was watching my boys and gave all of the children chicken nuggets. Guess who ate them? Yeah, my Billy. My husband who had not been privy to the power struggle form the week prior told me Billy ate the nuggets without hesitation but later told my hubby that this chicken was not good like ours and was different in texture. He didn’t prefer these. But he did eat them.

Now call me crazy, but Billy grew. This could be coincidental or potentially the result of his new diet. I am grateful for both!!! The growth whatever the reason is timely, because Billy now thinks eating protein means growing tall. It is no longer mommy and daddy just saying it.

I have no idea if he will continue with the chicken. I have no idea if the chicken initiated the growth spurt. I just know that the power struggle was necessary in order to get my very strong willed child to eat something with all 8 essential amino acids. So while I hate that it had to happen, the end result seems to be okay.

I guess I won’t know until he is older and comes home to tell me that I ruined his relationship with food per his therapist. This is a joke of course, but at the same time, my worst nightmare ever. I hope my sharing of this situation can help you to set boundaries around feeding and eating with your own child. I hope you learn from my mistakes and benefit from our successes. Raising kids to have positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food is super hard but super necessary for our future generations.

Please let me know if you find this helpful and if you do, please share with your friends. I work with many clients who suffer from eating disorders and this is the last thing you would ever want for your child. Please spread Positive Nutrition and #AllFOODFITS!