What to Eat July 4th: Summer BBQ's

By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Laura Fox

The Fourth of July is one of our favorite holidays as it brings family, friends, and neighbors together. And of course, it involves fun food! Below are some sure ways to keep things nutrient dense. Keep In mind , the best choice for you is the food the will both satisfy and satiate you and your family. Be self aware of your portion size with your hunger fullness cues.

With the help of Fox & Friends, we’ve compiled a variety of common entrees, condiments, dips, and desserts you’ll find at a BBQ this summer. We tested the hosts to see if they knew which food was the “healthiest” not necessarily the lowest in calories! Try and guess which option is chock full of nutrition, and we will explain why!

Hotdog Fox

Entrees: Cheeseburger with Chips vs. Hot Dog with chips vs. Turkey Burger with avocado and olives on the side:

Answer: Ground white turkey meat is key here!! Dark meat raises the saturated fat. The avocado and olives contain the heart helping monosaturated fats that we all need in our diet. And yes, the is a whole wheat bun higher in fiber to help eaters feel full.

Also, keep in mind 1 hot dog equals 1.5 oz of protein while a typical burger here in the USA is about 6 oz protein. Therefore 4 hot dogs equal 1 burger. Think about how many hot dogs fill you up.  Beaware the hot dog will contain more salt than the burger.

Condiments: Ketchup Vs. Mustard Vs. BBQ

When comparing condiments–even salad dressings–it is best to look at the ingredients list instead of the nutrition facts. Many ingredient lists still contain corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and or both. Mustard is 100% natural so preferable. The second preference is ketchup. Heinz now makes Organic Ketchup with no HFCS! .

libby's dip Fox

Dips: Onion Dip vs. Guacamole vs. Libby’s Veggie Dip

Our favorite choice here is Libby’s veggie dip. Laura’s boys are picky eaters and she is always looking for ways to incorporate veggies in their diets. We love the taste and texture of this dip and it is so easy to make! Don’t get us wrong, we also love guac too, for its high content of monounsaturated fats from avocados, however if you ate a burger with avocado, switch it up for some Libby veggie dip (we just learned this recipe last week at the Dishing With the Media event).

You can find the recipe for Libby’s Veggie Dip here. (Add link)

 potato salad cole slaw fox

Side Dishes: German Potato Salad Vs. Cole Slaw Vs. Veggie Slaw

Favorite choice is the easy veggie slaw made of raw veggies in white vinegar. Love yourself some fiber and antioxidants! German potato salad (red potatoes, spices, and olive oil) is a great choice but may feel to filling with all of the other holiday foods we consume on this day.

dessert fox

Desserts: Strawberry Shortcake Vs. Frozen Berry Banana Pops Vs. Italian Ice

Rich in antioxidants and naturally low in calories, the frozen berry pops are the healthiest of these choices. While italian ice is also low in calories, it is high in simple sugar but with no vitamins, minerals or antioxidants. Strawberry short cake contains the most calories, and saturated fat but is definitely yummy!!

Consider what foods you love, what your body is craving, and what will fill and satisfy you. The last thing a Mommy RD would recommend is to eat all the low cal foods and then have you go home to secretly eat the foods you deprived. This is also true for your kids. Have a happy and healthy day mentally, physically and spiritually!!

When choosing what to eat this weekend, remember all foods fit.  Food education can help you make food decisions. By understanding why some foods are higher in nutrition you have the opportunity for choice. And remember, the healthiest option isn’t always the lowest in calories, it is the most nutritious. However, if strawberry shortcake is your absolute favorite dessert, or you feel like Elisabeth Hasselback from Fox and Friends, who exclaimed, “I pick the Italian ice! It is my childhood favorite”, we say, go for it!

Have a wonderful 4th of July!


  1. Kris-Etherton, P. M., Pearson, T. A., Wan, Y., Hargrove, R. L., Moriarty, K., Fishell, V., & Etherton, T. D. (1999). High–monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(6), 1009-1015.
  2. German, J. B., & Dillard, C. J. (2004). Saturated fats: what dietary intake?. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(3), 550-559.

Green Matcha

Cinnamon Matcha Green Tea Protein Smoothie

By Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Service Team


Nutrition Student Deanna Ronne’s favorite post run snack:

This smoothie is SO delicious and full of fuel. It leaves me satisfied and energized without feeling bloated. While your body is in a state of recovery after a long run, it is time to refuel your muscles with this easy smoothie. If mom is making this smoothie, read how to share with your child below.


Why Matcha and Maca?

Matcha Tea is a powdered form of whole green tea that provides more antioxidants, specifically Catechins, than other green teas.1

These antioxidants have many health benefits and may even boost the break down of fat2. However, I originally bought Matcha Tea because it is used in Starbuck’s green tee lattes, which I love. Now, I use Matcha Tea in smoothies and even baking.

Maca powder is a South American root vegetable originally used to give Incan warriors strength and endurance during long journeys and battles.

Studies show that many compounds found in Maca powder also protect our bodies from oxidative damage and inflammation.3

Maca is neutral in taste but a great boost of antioxidants for a smoothie.


1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder

1 tbs. Loose Matcha Tea powder.

½ cup milk (Use dairy, almond, soy, and or coconut milk.)

1 small banana

1 small apple (keep the skin to keep the fiber!)

1 cup spinach

1tsp Maca Powder

3-4 ice cubes

1tsp cinnamon

Blend all the ingredients up with whatever blender you have and enjoy!

If you are not using this as a post workout meal and don’t feel that you need an entire scoop (typically about 20g) of protein, you can just use ½ a scoop, or get rid of it all together! If you are making this smoothie for a child, see below.


How Much Protein for a Child?

If you are looking for a way to sneak some protein into your child’s diet, smoothies are a great idea. However, children (ages 4-8) only need about 19 grams of protein a day, compared to the 46 grams an average adult female needs.4 One scoop of whey protein is about 20 grams of protein, exceeding what a child needs for the entire day! The serving size of most protein powders is 25-30 grams per scoop (about 1.5-2 tbs.).* So, for children, ages 4-8, it might make more sense to only use ½ tbs. of protein powder, only providing about 5 grams of protein. For children, ages 9-13, the protein requirement increases to 36 grams a day.



  1. D.,& Anderton, C. (n.d). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 173-180.
  2. Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., … & Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(6), 1040-1045.
  3. Wang, Y., Wang, Y., McNeil, B., & Harvey, L. M. (2007). Maca: An Andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Food Research International, 40(7), 783-792.
  4. National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005).



Summer Fun Positive Food Activities: Make Your Own Muesli

Summer Fun Positive Food Activities: Make Your Own Muesli

By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Team

Now that the summer months are here, as a mom you’re probably lining up activities to keep your kids busy. Here’s a fun, creative, way to get your kids involved in making a nutritious breakfast or snack balanced with all three macronutrients – carbs, proteins, and fats. A trip to your grocery store, choosing their favorite ingredients, and mixing it may become a weekly pastime to cherish the entire year! Making your own muesli is affordable, easy, packable for day trip snacks, and flexible with the ingredients so perfect for picky kids and promoting the health.

Main Stream Breakfast Cereals

Many traditional breakfast cereals marketed at your children are made with refined grains, hidden sugars (like rice syrup, corn syrup, maltose and tapioca starch), and other “food additives.” Take a look at the “ready-to-eat”1 boxed cereal you have at home. Look at the Ingredients list, not the Nutrition Facts). Ingredients are listed in descending order, so if you see sugar listed as the first, second or third ingredient, just realize your cereal contains more sugar than any ingredients listed after it. This is cool with us, just use this as information. Know that this cereal is likely a low nutrient dense food (aka “Sometimes Food”) and is best eaten as a side to a sandwich at lunch or with a more filling food.

Also look to see what and how many ingredients there are. Many of the ingredients you don’t recognize, known as “food additives”, are meant to enhance the product’s texture, taste, appearance, nutritional quality or increase its shelf life.2 While fortifying cereal with vitamins and minerals improve the nutritional quality, other food additives like flavor enhancers (ex. artificial sweeteners) and preservatives (ex. sodium) generally do not. Most children’s cereals with refined grains are enriched with the vitamins and minerals lost during the refinement process.

The American Dietetic Association released a study in 2008 on the nutritional quality of children’s breakfast cereal showing that they are significantly higher energy, sodium, carbohydrate, and sugar, and significantly lower in fiber and protein than “non children’s cereal”.1

So consider buying cereal products that are for you, rather than kids! They are just as yummy but more nutrient dense. Most importantly, kids are incredibly active during the summer months, and need an energizing breakfast, that will fuel their days in the sun and keep their body clocks ticking.

Did you know?

Stronger cognitive benefits in breakfasts of oatmeal than for “ready-to-eat” breakfast cereals1.

Screen shot 2014-05-14 at 8.02.57 PM

The “Recipe”

There really isn’t a recipe, which makes this idea so fun! You and your kids get to pick the ingredients. Go to your grocery store (preferably one with a “­­­­bulk department”, like at Whole Foods) and let your kids fill a bag with a cereal base of oats, granola, etc. Then, let your kids to find the rest of the ingredients! The set-up of most bulk food sections much resembles a candy store, so your kids will love it.

Here are some ideas:

  •  Nuts/Seeds: Walnuts, pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds
  • Grains: Millet, Oats, Cooked Wheat-berries
  • Dried fruit: raisins, cherries, dates, cranberries, shredded coconut (no added oils or sugar)
  • Optional: dark chocolate
  • Cinnamon: add cinnamon 1 tsp to 1 cup muesli.

Let your kids be creative with this recipe, even let each kid make their own! As long as the base of oats/granola makes up most of the cereal, the added ingredients should be entirely up to them (with your direction, of course). It is important that kids have a healthy relationship with food. Show them how excited you are to pick out nutritious ingredients for your own muesli, and they will get excited with you! Happy Eating.

Breakfast and Picky Eaters

Breakfast remains to be one of the most important meals of the day. If you are dealing with a picky eater who only wants to eat, say, Frosted Flakes for breakfast, it is okay. Most important is they eat something before they walk out the door. This is the same for Mom and Dad. While it is important to try new things with your kids, force-feeding doesn’t work. Instead practice exposure therapy, let them make their muesli with the main stream cereal if that helps them expand their nutrition repertoire.

  1. Schwartz, M. B., Vartanian, L. R., Wharton, C. M., & Brownell, K. D. (2008). Examining the nutritional quality of breakfast cereals marketed to children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 108(4), 702-705.
  2. “Global Food Additives Industry.” PR NewswireMar 19 2013. Web. 31 May 2015 .
  3. Bulk Foods Aisle in Grocery Store. N.d. “Photo Courtesy Photos-public-domain.com”, n.p.
  4. “Harvard University; Dietary Intake of Whole and Refined Grain Breakfast Cereals is Linked to Lower BMI in Men.” Lab Law Weekly (2006): 88. Web. 1 June 2015.


And He Eats!

And He Eats!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc

Six years later, Billy finally eats. As many of you know, my two boys challenge my feeding and eating expertise on a daily basis. I think from all the Mommy RD stories here on Mom Dishes It Out, you now know that RDs have their fair share of food and nutrition conundrums. But like you, we need to separate our emotional-selves and work with our child. This is probably the hardest part. Being an objective feeder is quite the challenge. Don’t despair, your kids may surprise you..


I constantly have to remind myself to lighten up around the food and sometimes set more food boundaries. Just the other night, I bought chicken apple sausage and potato rolls for my oldest son. Bobby loves chicken apple sausage. However, it seems he only likes the sausage from Brooklyn. Anyway, we tried two new brands just yesterday. Bobby was trying it as a side to his dinner of rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and spinach. Billy excitedly comes into the kitchen declaring he will have a hot dog bun with peanut butter, two cheeses and a yogurt with a side of strawberries.


Here is conundrum number one. Do I allow him to dictate his meal? Conundrum two is whether he should try the chicken sausage. Because of my work with food phobias and eating disorders, I never want to force the boys to eat food and prefer exposure therapy. I let Billy know, he must first try chicken sausage on the hot dog roll. Of course, he verbally refuses. I have yet to understand if this is an animal thing, a chewing thing, a control thing or perhaps just a taste preference. I feel my blood begin to boil.


It is so hard to be objective. I proceed to make the sausage and set it on Billy’s plate. He is of course performing a song and dance. I also make Billy his requested dinner. I serve him both the sausage in a bun and his dinner preferences on the same plate.


Amazingly, he tries the sausage with one small bite. Not shockingly, he doesn’t like it. He eats his dinner. He doesn’t complain nor does he remove it from his plate. These are signs of his progress.


So, in the end we both faired well. I still feel defeated because he only took a small bite and he didn’t like it. But then I think back to March. The boys and I were eating dinner together. It was a simple dinner of tortellini. Bobby and I were eating it. I made Billy something else. All of the sudden, Billy says I want tortellini. I almost fell off my chair. Really??

Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc

Well, he did want it. He tried it and said it was dry. He wanted to try it with marinara sauce. He loved it. He basically had marinara soup with tortellini. Wow, that made my night and my month for that matter. The point is, after seeing us eat tortellini a million times, he tried it and liked it. Just like he has done with most fruit, breads and salsas. He typically tries food now without an issue. As long as it is not of animal origin. Well, the majority of the time.


In the end, Billy eats tortellini. We can go for Mexican and Italian food as a family and Billy can order off the adult menu. What a relief!! It has taken him six years to find a pasta he enjoys. I can’t wait to see what he likes over the next 6 years. Thank you Billy for teaching me patience is key while a little push is necessary, too.


Moms and dads, keep up your efforts to expose the kids to all foods and encourage trying foods. The act of trying is the most important thing. I know six years seems like a long time, and it is. But each child has his/her own process. Find what works for you and your child. Share with us your trials and tribulations. We can all learn and support each other. If you find yourself having a hard time keeping your feelings out of the kitchen, consult a registered dietitian or even a speech and language pathologist.


Looking for more tips? Check out our 7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater.

Your Non-Diet Treat!

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DIY: 7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater

DIY:  7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

Picky eaters

“I just want to go home and eat what I eat everyday for lunch.”


Is this your child? It is most definitely my child, as this is what he said to me on Friday when we walked into the burger joint known for its burgers and milkshakes. When he said this, I just let out a deep breath and decided it would be milkshakes for lunch. He doesn’t like change, and therefore he doesn’t like change in food, rules, or where he puts the furniture in Minecraft.

But this does not mean that you or I should take the summer off from exposing our kids to new foods and/or textures. Actually, summer is ideal because schedules are changing, and you can create a new schedule that incorporates trying new foods, say, twice a week. There is no school, stress, or homework, so take advantage of this time.

I am trying to incorporate different foods into dinner meals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Just yesterday, the boys tried fresh mozzarella, which neither would eat. They liked it melted but not cold. Last week they tried vegetarian sushi with avocado (they both licked it). Remember, touching, licking, or just getting it on their plate can help. Of course, they get these new foods alongside their faves or sometimes before their favorites are served. They tried a falafel burger and cocoa-dusted almonds!

My oldest, Bobby, has taken to eating fresh corn on the cob with butter and salt each night with his dinner, while Billy has incorporated strawberries without the skin at each of his dinner meals. That’s right, no skins. One night he said, “Mommy, I like the insides of strawberries.” My husband told me that Billy would eat the strawberries’ flesh, but he could not take a big bite. So I got the peeler out and voila!! He is now my strawberry man. So as summer begins, we will take this opportunity to continue exposing the boys to new foods and even former foods.

The food exposure may follow this progression or something similar.

Recognize that this is helpful for toddlers, children, and even pre-teens.

  1. First, get the food on the same plate
  2. Next, get touch involved.  Maybe your child touches the food with their fingers or puts the food to his/her cheek or lips
  3. Employ the One Lick Rule
  4. Employ the One Chew and Spit—if you must
  5. Use the One Bite Rule
  6. Use the Three Bites Rule if your child has achieved the One Bite with that food
  7. Make the food part of the main meal on a regular basis


If you think that your child may have issues with sensory integration, get the expert advice of a speech pathologist and/or an occupational therapist. Books that may help include Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, and Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.


Keep your eyes open for MDIO’s (Mom Dishes It Out’s) upcoming blog on when to get a consult from a speech therapist versus, occupational therapist or dietitian.


And of course, let us know what works for you. Does your child fit the description of Potock’s case examples, or does your child easily follow the flow set by Satter’s “Division of Responsibility”?

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

We know how hard it can sometimes be to please the palates of your kids.  Sometimes thinking of a new recipe to make for your kids can be put on the back burner because of other things that might come up.   Luckily, we have asked our friends at Cooking Light for some inspiration.  Their Chewy Coconut Granola Bars are a fantastic recipe.  It’s a new and refreshing recipe and you can even get your little chefs baking with you in the kitchen!

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light


Cooking spray

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)

1.6 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons fat-free milk

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole-grain granola

3/4 cup chopped dried mixed tropical fruit

1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut



  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Coat a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon 3 ounces all-purpose flour and 1.6 ounces whole-wheat flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine sugar, oil, milk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in granola and fruit. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with coconut.
  4. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.



The Debate About Milk

Photo Credit: mary mackinnon via Compfight cc

My friend asked a simple question “I don’t personally like cow’s milk so do I have to give it to my baby when she turns 1?”.  The question slowly turn into a conversation with other moms about organic vs. non-organic, grass-fed vs. non grass-fed cows, and why other milk options are or aren’t as beneficial to babies.  Every mom involved had a strong opinion!  Who knew a simple question could spark a debate?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children delay receiving cow’s milk until after they are 12 months old.  The organization recommends pasteurized, whole cow’s milk for most babies because of the high fat content helping to absorb vitamins and minerals and for brain development.  If there is a history of childhood obesity, 2% milk may be recommended but families should talk to their pediatrician.  (Source: www.aap.org)

But what to do if you’re not a fan of cow’s milk?  Or worse, what if your baby has a milk allergy or intolerance?  Cow’s milk is important for calcium, vitamin D, protein, fat, and hydration. There are so many milk options out there: soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, and more coming to a store near you! Their nutrient compositions are similar to cow’s milk but nothing is exactly the same.  It’s a very personal decision how to feed your child, and one that you should talk about with your pediatrician and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.  If you decide to switch to an alternative milk, make sure you supplement with other foods that contain the important nutrients your baby needs.

I was shocked that some moms would argue against cow’s milk, but why not try to see where they are coming from?  There are a lot of nutrition myths out there about food and I heard a lot of them that day, ranging from hormones in milk to absorbable calcium. Nutrition information is everywhere, but moms should really look to pediatricians and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists for advice.  I took the opportunity to educate my friends about dairy products and nutrition, and also stressed the importance that all foods fit into a healthy diet.  Moms and dads shouldn’t feel ashamed about any nutrition decision they make for their family.  After all, it’s a very personal decision as to how to feed your children.  So what is this dietitian going to do?  I will give my baby whole cow’s milk when he turns one year old.  I will also let him try different kinds of milk with an attitude that all foods fit into a healthy lifestyle.



Scheherazade Casserole

In the midst of figuring out my nutrition beliefs, I went from picky eater to vegetarian to vegan to omnivore.  While vegetarian and vegan, my two favorite cookbooks were “A Celebration of Wellness – A Cookbook for Vibrant Living” and “Moosewood Cookbook”.  I wanted to share with you what remains one of my favorite recipes from Moosewood Cookbook.  Scheherazade Casserole is a delicious recipe, which includes bulgur, onions, bell peppers, and soybeans (just to name a few ingredients).  I hope you enjoy this satisfying dish just as much as I do!  Maybe it will become one of your favorites too!


Photo Credit: Emily Barney via Compfight cc


Scheherazade Casserole

Makes 6-8 Servings


  • 1 cup raw bulgur
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups minced onion
  • 3 larges cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons basil
  • black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • ¾ cup dry soybeans, soaked
  • 1 14 ½ oz. can tomatoes, drained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup (packed) finely minced parsley
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups crumbled feta cheese



  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  2. Place the bulgur in a small bowl.  Add boiling water, cover with a plate, and stand at least 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add onion, garlic, salt, and seasonings.  Stir occasionally as you sauté over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Add bell pepper and sauté about 5 minutes more.
  4. Drain the soybeans, if necessary, and place them in a blender or food processor with 1 cup fresh water.  Grind until the soybeans resemble a coarse batter.   Transfer to a large bowl.
  5. Add the soaked bulgur and sautéed vegetables to the soybeans,  Stir in the tomatoes,  breaking them up into bite-sized pieces.  Add tomato paste, the parsley, and 1 cup of the feta cheese.  Mix well.
  6. Spread into the baking pan and sprinkle the remaining feta chees on top.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 375°F, then uncover and bake 15 minutes more with the oven turned down to 350°F.  Serve hot.



Expanding Kids' Autonomy with Food

Expanding Kids’ Autonomy with Food

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Tetra Pak via Compfight cc


Parenting is all about guiding, providing, teaching with unconditional love.  And it’s also about allowing our kids the space to try, explore and figure things out so that they can eventually trust themselves to make supportive choices.  Not only these overall developmental themes, they are also completely relevant as kids personalize their own relationship with food, eating and connection with their bodies.  When our children are young, we are the gatekeepers of the food:  providing, preparing and presenting it in a reliable, and consistent manner 1.  And while we may still be paying the grocery bills and answering the age-old  question, “What’s for dinner?!” as long as our children are under our roofs , our kids pretty quickly begin to practice more and more independence and autonomy with their food.  Imagine, if you were still cutting your 15 year olds steak at the dinner table!  That seems ridiculous, yet we want to make certain that we are also giving our kids the space to explore and take charge in other ways with their eating experiences.  Particularly as our children explore the middle- and high-school years, there are endless opportunities for us to give them room to make more of their own food decisions.

Give suggestions not solutions

Our hormonal little teddy bears (often disguised as grizzly bears), typically don’t respond well when we try to solve things for them.  They may ASK us for the answers, but they really want to be able to make their own decisions, and yet know they need some input from us.

Instead of“Why don’t you ever eat breakfast in the morning? “

Try“I notice you’ve been talking a lot about how tired you are, is there anything you think might make getting up less brutal?” .   Then, rather than firing off 5 things you know would work, simply ask if he would like some suggestions.  Not only does this give you an opening to discuss simple breakfasts that can be ready crazy fast and keep his energy up, it also gives you some space to discuss time management and ways the family can work together to support each other.

Capture teachable moments

We may be acutely aware that certain patterns aren’t working well for our kids.  An extremely common pitfall is the post-school slump.  Not only do our kids come home worn out from thinking, they’re also really, really hungry.  Getting them to connect how the first half of their day plays a role in the second half is a really big deal.

Instead of:  “How come you’re raiding the pantry the second you walk in the door?” which is not only shaming, it completely cuts off communication.

Try:  “I’m not going to bombard you with questions since you seem like you don’t want to talk right now.  Do you need any help putting together a snack?”  Then once she has some food in her system, you might explore the timing of lunch and foods she could add to it or to breakfast to keep hunger from building to the tipping point after school.   Discussing food or patterns that aren’t quite helpful will NOT go well, if her brain is irritable and famished.

Give options and reinforce you trust them

If you have a child who struggles to make her own decisions, or turns to you for permission, practice turning the question back on her.  Remembering that there is no perfect eating choice can really take the pressure off.  If she asks, “Mom, can I eat something else?”….

Instead of:  And absolute “yes” or “no”

Try:  “You’re the best one to know if you’re still hungry, so go ahead and listen to what your body’s asking for.  There is absolutely more food, so help yourself.”

Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight cc

Get curious

Encourage your kids to take an attitude of curiosity.   Since we know that calling foods good or bad creates an onslaught of judgment and distorted eating, it’s helpful to teach them to explore what’s working for them or not so much.  This can include them choosing a different / new food from the grocery store or getting curious about how long a bowl of cereal satisfies after breakfast, and how that’s different than eating an egg sandwich.  Their first-hand experience is priceless and will speak volumes over our well-intended lectures.  And this experience is precisely what helps them launch as well-adjusted, balanced and connected young adults.

1.  Division of Responsibilities, Ellyn Satter, RD