Give Your Children the Gift of Cooking! (And Never Pay a Penny)

By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Today my twenty-three-year-old son moved to a new city eight hundred miles away for a

job opportunity. As a typical mother, I am going to worry about him adjusting well and

meeting friendly people, along with a dozen other unnecessary concerns. However, I will

never have to worry about whether or not he eats healthfully.

Without expensive lessons or significant input from me, my son learned to cook so well

that when he is home, our kitchen looks and smells like a five-star restaurant. My

college-aged vegetarian daughter also prepares meals for herself, such as soups and stir-

fry dishes that include tofu and vegetables.

While these culinary family moments make me feel proud, if I could do it all again, I

would teach my children how to cook for themselves at a young age. Cooking is an

important life skill that promotes independence, responsibility, and frugality (since it’s

less expensive than eating out every meal). Add to that knowledge about proper nutrition

and healthy eating and you have passed on a gift to your children that they will always


 Here are some important cooking and life skills that your child would benefit from

learning as it becomes age-appropriate:

  • Sanitation and food safety: Teach your child the importance of washing hands as

well as surfaces before and after meal preparation

  • Food quantities and measurement: Involve your child in using math and reasoning

skills as he/she figures out proportions in recipes

  • Cutting fruits and vegetables: Help your child improve manual dexterity as he/she

progresses from plastic utensils to regular knife skills

  • Respect kitchen dangers: Show your child how to respect hidden dangers in the

kitchen, including sharp knives, flames, and electricity

  • Menu planning: Involve your child in planning meals ahead of time as well as

cooking them, and watch him/her be receptive to trying new recipes

  • Research: Look for new recipes online, in cookbooks, or in magazines
  • Communication: Enjoy the closeness that only shared activities can bring!


Part of teaching your children how to cook is the skill of following recipes and the

excitement of creating new meal ideas. Here are two dishes my children learned to cook

on their own—without my assistance or input.


Tofu Stir-Fry Rebecca Style


1 package extra firm tofu

½ medium yellow onion

1 cup fresh broccoli

1 large red pepper

2 cups spinach leaves

2 tbsp. reduced sodium teriyaki sauce

1 ½ tbsp. sesame oil (or canola)


1.  Start by pressing the water out of the tofu. Place it between paper towels and put a heavy

pot or book atop the tofu. Leave for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables

into bite-size pieces.

2.   Slice the tofu into even squares and sauté in 1 tbsp. sesame oil over medium heat for

about 2–3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Sauté vegetables in ½

tbsp. oil, add tofu and teriyaki sauce, and simmer for one more minute.  Enjoy!

Robby’s Rockin’ Turkey Chili


2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, diced

6 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. fresh ground turkey

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp. cumin

5 tbsp. chili powder



1 16 oz. can black beans

1 16 oz. can pinto beans


1. Sauté diced onion, jalapeno, and minced garlic in oil until soft.

2. Add turkey and cook turkey until brown.

3. Add some chili pepper, cumin, and salt.

4. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.

5. Add more spices. Add black beans and pinto beans and bring from a boil to low heat.

6. Add more spices; simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

7. Serve hot with cheese, sour cream, and/or scallions. Bon appetit!


Having your children learn how to cook healthy and delicious meals offers one more

important benefit—you will have less worry as they learn to navigate the ups and downs

of adult living. I will always be assured that my kids are eating healthfully.

For Coffee Drinking Moms: Say Goodbye to Starbucks

Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee
Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee

Sipping a cup of coffee on the way out the door while making sure everyone’s shoes are on the right feet is how many busy moms may be starting their morning. Or maybe you grab a cup on your way to work, or even prefer to meet up with a friend for coffee and catching up! Regardless of how you take your coffee, you’re not alone in getting your caffeine fix—nearly 90% of the adult US population consumes caffeine, and 98% of that caffeine comes from coffee![1] While we may (almost) all be drinking coffee daily, there are still a few controversies even the most devoted coffee drinkers might not have the answers to, including a list of some of the best coffee shops to try in NYC!

Does the Brew Method Affect Caffeine Content?

Yes and no. An 8oz cup of drip coffee will have marginally more caffeine than instant coffee and about 2-3 times as much caffeine as a 1oz shot of espresso.[2] But your barista has the final say in deciding how much caffeine you’ll have in your order. While the variation from day-to-day likely depends on the training regimen and reputation and goals of the coffee shop, it can be significant. A study in Maryland followed coffee shops over a six-day period to find they served up the same drink order but it was measured to have a wide range of caffeine presence, from 58-259mg. (For reference, moderate intake of caffeine is considered three cups a day and averaged to be 300mg.[2])

Might Coffee Irritate Me If I’m Gluten Intolerant/Have Celiac Disease?

It could! Instant coffee is often contaminated with traces of gluten that could irritate someone with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.[4] However, drinking pure coffee should not cause problems for someone with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.[4]

My child wants to try coffee…

Children are grouped into a sensitive subpopulation, along with pregnant women in terms of a having a cap on caffeine consumption, under 300mg/day to reduce risk of adverse affects.[2] More specific recommendations for children, based on age and weight, suggest that no more than 45mg/day for a 1-5year old and no more than 125mg/day for a 10-14 year old.[2] Considering other sources of caffeine that may be in your child’s diet (chocolate, teas, soft drinks) just a half cup to a cup of coffee could exceed the child’s daily recommendation.

Where to get the best cup?

Here are our favorites coffee shops around Manhattan and some we’re excited to try!

Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee
Photo by @bluestonelanecoffee

Stumptown Coffee Roasters

Serving specialty coffee and their signature cold brew for the summer months, Stumptown offers a laidback and inviting environment to enjoy any weekend morning. Optional (but limited) outdoor seating and prime West Village location makes it easy to bring along the stroller or kids on your way to Washington Square Park!


30 W 8th Street, New York, NY 10011

Ace Hotel, 18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

Breakfast at Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe by Brenna O'Malley
Breakfast at Bluestone Lane Collective Cafe by Brenna O’Malley

Bluestone Lane

With locations across Manhattan, it’s hard to find an excuse to not pop into this charming coffee shop for a drink or their West Village location for some “brekkie”. They are known for their avocado toasts and uniquely named coffees, like the “magic”. Also offers indoor and outdoor seating and is a popular weekend brunch spot!

Location:         55 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014 (Collective Café)

805 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10022

1114 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036

30 Broad St. New York, NY 10004

770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

La Colombe

The perfect spot after Soul Cycle in Noho, or a break from shopping in Soho. These airy cafés are welcoming and filled with light, if you don’t get a seat, we promise, their iced coffee is just as good, to-go.


319 Church Street, New York, NY 10013

270 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012

400 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003

75 Vandam Street, New York, NY 10013

Flat White at Little Collins by Brenna O'Malley
Flat White at Little Collins by Brenna O’Malley

Little Collins

With one Midtown location, this is a great spot to grab a quality coffee between meetings or on your way to the office. With very similar vibes to Bluestone Lane’s Collective Café in West Village, Little Collins slows down the busy pace of a midtown weekday with their own Australian brews.


667 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10022

Happy coffee-shopping!


[1]Fulgoni, V., Keast, D., & Lieberman, H. (2015). Trends in intake and sources of caffeine in the diets of US adults: 2001-2010. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1091-1087.

[2]Hogan, E., Hornick, B., & Bouchoux, A (n.d.). Communicating the Message: Clarifying the Controversies About Caffeine. Nutrition Today, 28-35.

[3]Mccusker, R., Goldberger, B., & Cone, E. (n.d.). Caffeine Content of Specialty Coffees. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 520-522.

[4]Vojdani, A., & Tarash, I. (n.d.). Cross-Reaction between Gliadin and Different Food and Tissue Antigens. Food and Nutrition Sciences FNS, 20-32.



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.

Yes, Yes, Panera Bread Co!

By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

unnamedJust two weeks ago I was invited to a very special dinner with head chef, Dan Kish, and nutritionist, Katie Bengston of Panera Bread Co. here in NYC. On this evening Dan and Katie shared Panera’s big update on their next “clean” journey milestone. It was the No No List. And I was impressed! I am placing my stamp of approval on Panera Bread Co. as a place moms can take their kids for lunch now and especially after 2016. Panera is removing artificial ingredients including the likes of sucralose and words you can even pronounce. Now I am not sure why they were in there in the first place, but I am ecstatic they are vowing to deliver wholesome and real food.

When visiting the burbs, I find it hard to find food to grab on the go for the kids and me. There is a Panera near my parent’s home that I sometimes frequent. I already loved the kid’s grill cheese with organic milk and a Stonyfield Farms yogurt squeezer. Now I can go there feeling confident that the kids and I are getting real food. My new favorites from the evening with the Panera Bread team are their flatbreads and their Mediterranean Chicken and Quinoa Salad! Dan made us a delicious flatbread with tomato, and mozzarella. We all sat down at a big beautiful table and dined on their new delicious sprouted grain rolls, the Strawberry and Chicken Poppyseed Salad and the Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken. It was such as great evening, tasting the food and learning about Panera’s efforts to provide healthy and wholesome foods to all of us. I was so happy to learn that fresh dough is brought to each Panera Bread Co. from their dough centers. The trucks carrying dough from their 22 main facilities are also bringing in fresh greens, herbs, and even berries on a daily basis. Kudos to Dan Kish and his team. I hope other food establishments follow your lead. Thank you for thinking of our children and their health!

Here is the Panera Bread Co. No No List. It reads “We are committed to removing artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors and flavors
from the food in our bakery-cafes by the end of 2016. That list includes, but is not limited to:”

Avocado Accolades

by Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD



Hardly mainstream when I was a child, these curious fruits have become quite the versatile and popular food lately, and for good reason. I’ve been experimenting with these green beauties, and have to say I’m so impressed with the results! There are some wonderful reasons to include avocado in your family meals, and extremely easy ways to do so.


Because its flavor is mild, it’s easy on young, developing palates, and the texture is silky smooth, allowing parents to introduce it as one of baby’s first foods.


There are many things that make avocados …. awesome:


Fat: The heart-healthy fat found in avocados is primarily monounsaturated, amazing for children’s developing brains and helpful for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.


Fiber: This feature, along with the fat, assists digestion and can help children who struggle with constipation.


Vitamins and Minerals: Avocados offer some great potassium, an essential electrolyte that runs our heart and assists in healthy muscle development. Additionally, they contains some Vitamin K and Vitamin E, both fat-soluble vitamins that assist in healthy blood clotting and provide strong antioxidant properties, respectively. The B vitamins, including folic acid, help in maintenance of a healthy nervous system, and are a key to unlocking the energy that other foods provide.


Flexibility and Versatility: You can work an avocado into endless meals in so many different ways. It lends well to whatever flavors you pair with it, and can be a nice change from typical condiments, spreads or dips.

  • Add some cinnamon and applesauce to mashed avocado for a sweet snack
  • Combine it with some tomatoes, onions and peppers for a dip with a zing
  • Try spreading some on your morning toast, then top it off with an egg
  • Dice some into your favorite pasta salad


Here’s one of my latest finds:


Avocado-Egg Salad Sandwiches with Pickled Celery

To prevent avocado from browning in leftover egg salad, place any remaining salad in a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Then cover the entire bowl tightly with plastic wrap.

  • Yield:

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)


  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup mashed ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry-roasted salted sunflower seeds
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-grain bread, toasted
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 4 heirloom tomato slices


  1. Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 1 inch; set a large vegetable steamer in pan. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add eggs to steamer. Cover and steam eggs 16 minutes. Remove from heat. Place eggs in a large ice water-filled bowl.
  2. While eggs cook, combine 3 tablespoons water, vinegar, and sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until boiling. Add celery; let stand 15 minutes. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, combine avocado, mayonnaise, juice, mustard, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well until smooth.
  4. Peel eggs; discard shells. Slice eggs in half lengthwise; reserve 2 yolks for another use. Chop remaining eggs and egg whites. Gently stir eggs, celery, and sunflower seeds into avocado mixture. Top 4 bread slices with about 1/2 cup egg mixture, 1/4 cup arugula, 1 tomato slice, and remaining 4 bread slices.



Sydney Fry, MS, RD,

Cooking Light

May 2015


Fear about Feeding

by Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD


I have a love/hate relationship with feeding my son. I love watching him try new foods and learn skills like grabbing food in his hand. But on the other side, I am scared he will choke on something (he always seems to gag a lot) and I’ve had many moments of “am I doing this right?”

The only thing I know for sure is that there is no “right” way to feed a baby. As many mom friends have told me, it’s up to your mom instincts and a little bit of guidance from a doctor or dietitian. As a dietitian who doesn’t work with infants, I needed some help. I bought one of the best books, “Fearless Feeding” by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen. ( These two dietitians have saved me!! I also decided to sign up for an Infant Safety course to review CPR and choking. The class was scary but I feel more prepared. I also now know the difference between choking and gagging, which I learned is common when babies learn how to chew and swallow.

I’ve read the infant section and learned a lot so far. Now I know what’s appropriate for an infant in terms of food groups, portions, and signals to know hunger vs. fullness. I also have learned about introducing puree’s vs. baby-led weaning and slowly learning how to feed himself. The authors also review that as the amount of food goes up, the amount of formula will go down. My 9.5 month old is now eating 3 meals/day consisting of every food group. He mostly does purees and lumpy foods, but we’ve been working up to finger foods and he’s getting better at the pincher grasp every day. He will mostly eat oatmeal, soft mushy fruit, pureed veggies, potatoes, hummus, avocado or guacamole, fish, scrambled eggs, and bread. His favorite food is whole milk flavored yogurt- it tastes like dessert to me! My infant also needs me to feed him with a spoon vs. other babies might feed themselves at this point. I’ve learned to let him practice this in his own time. He has weaned himself down to 4 bottles per day, ranging anywhere from 4-8 oz (all depending on how much food he’s eaten). I’m still surprised at how variable my child’s appetite can be. Ellyn Satter ( created the Division of Responsibility, which says the parent is in charge of what and the child/infant is in charge of how much (and everything else).   I try my best to apply these principles now of healthy feeding behaviors to create a healthy relationship with feeding from the beginning.

I admit that even though I “know” a lot about this, I’m not a perfect mom. But who is? There are days when my child gets too much sugar and there are days when I realize he didn’t get any veggies. But there are also days where he eats a lot of healthy foods and I know he’s getting nutrition. It’s all about balance, variety, and moderation. These concepts aren’t just great for adults and healthy eating, but can be applied to children of all ages.

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”?

Helping Your Large Child Thrive in a Fat-Phobic World

Helping Your Large Child Thrive in a Fat-Phobic World

by Julie Dillon, MS, RD, NCC, LDN, CEDRD

“As a parent of a larger child, the difficult challenge is the voice inside my head telling me that I am doing something wrong. It’s telling me I am ‘letting’ her get fat and not doing something about it.”  —Jennifer, mom

We live in a world where fat bodies are discriminated against, bullied, and considered unacceptable. What if your child is larger than what society deems ok? It is important for you to teach your large child how to respect his or her body since our society will not. You will be your child’s advocate for healthy ways of experiencing food, exercise, and body image. Where do you start?

Source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

Unconditional Acceptance

Let your child know through your words and actions you accept him or her unconditionally.  If your child comes to you upset about his/her large body, let your child know you love them as he/she is, that you love them no matter what and no matter what size. Do not suggest a diet or exercising together.  If you were to do so, the suggestion sets up a condition. It says, “No, you are not ok as you are. I will help you change.”

Meals and Snacks

Set up regular meal and snack times so your child knows when food will be served. Older children and teens may start to feel ashamed of eating enough in public. They may restrict themselves to low-calorie foods when eating with friends. This way of eating is often referred to as “eating for show.” It means that even though your son or daughter is hungry for a variety of foods, he/she may feel like he/she should be restricting in order to repent for their large body. This leads many kids (and adults!) to eat more in private and even binge eat.

If your child knows your meal and snack times and falls into this “eating for show” trap, he/she can avoid binge or secret eating by consuming enough at the next meal or snack time.

Consistent eating times also offer the opportunity for every child in your home to learn how to detect, respect, and satisfy hunger and fullness cues. Besides promoting healthy eating, this also promotes positive body image.

High-Calorie Fun Foods

By banishing certain fun foods, you may set your child up to sneak foods or binge eat. Be sure to stock your house with a wide variety of wholesome nutritious foods. This variety will include fun foods too. Fun foods include cakes, cookies, and chips.  I encourage all families (no matter what body size) to offer cookies at snack time once a week. I also encourage a few fun sides such as potato chips a couple times a week with meals. Offering fun foods alongside nutrient-dense foods helps in many ways. It satisfies cravings, models moderation, and prevents shame and binge eating high-calorie low nutrition foods.

Jennifer has found strength thanks to professionals and others who have gone through the same thing. “I have to get grounded by people who understand. While I know my family is concerned, their way of ‘shaming’ her or me because of her food choices or size and trying to manipulate her diet makes helping my daughter so hard. Having other parents to talk to that have been there, BUT also agree with the Body Positive philosophy is essential for support. I also have needed the support of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to help me let go of my anxiety about this.”

Source: Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity


Every body is meant to move—not just fat bodies. Encourage all of your children to find activities they enjoy. If time and finances allow, let your children pick one organized physical activity per week. Maybe they will enjoy soccer, tae kwon do, salsa dancing, or ice-skating!

Do not make your large child do an activity that he/she does not feel comfortable doing. Avoid “no pain no gain” cliché philosophies. Instead of motivating, they will only shame your child more. Also do not single out any child and make him/her do an exercise while others do not. Moreover, don’t encourage more exercise in relation to foods consumed nor discuss completing a certain amount of exercise to burn off calories consumed. Thinking about food in this way is disordered and could set up genetically predisposed children to start practicing an eating disorder.

Jennifer states: “I try to listen to my daughter’s sadness and frustration about not fitting into ‘skinny jeans’ and not tell her she is wrong for feeling that way. But I also talk to her about how her body is going to change and grow forever and how learning to love it is the best gift. I talk to her a lot about how strong her legs are and how graceful she is when she is figure skating. Not about what her body looks like but the amazing things it can do.”

Your large child needs you to communicate unconditional acceptance in order to thrive in a world stereotyped against his/her body type. Avoid shame-based language, singling out, or punishment. Rather engage in modeling healthy eating, pleasurable movement, and respectful body image for all your children, no matter their size.

The Art of Bliss Point

Beware of the bliss point during the spring holidays! The term “Bliss Point” made headlines earlier this year when author Michael Moss’ book, “Salt, Sugar, Fat” was published. Bliss point, a term often used by the soft-drink industry represents the food manufacturers’ use of sugar, salt, and fat to increase taste and ultimately, the cravings of consumers. It is a specific term coined to represent the “specific amount of crave” which is smack in the middle of the sensory intensity (level) {The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food by Michael Moss Feb 20 2013}

Remember when Oreos were all over the news last month? A study performed by Connecticut College found that eating Oreos stimulate the same sensation in the brains of lab mice as drugs do, suggesting that Oreos may possibly be as addictive as drugs. “Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” says Joseph Schroeder, the director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Connecticut College. “It could explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.” While the study is yet to be officially published and undergo the peer-review process, it is likely that the Oreos caused the mice to reach something like their bliss point. It is important to recognize that this does not mean the food itself is addictive (food addiction will be another blog topic in the next few weeks).  If foods are eaten in combination with other foods especially proteins, the sensory experience of the food would be different and therefore not at the optimal bliss point.


Keep in mind, the food manufacturers are trying to achieve bliss point so the consumers continually buy and eat their products. This is a marketing ploy.  The University of Indiana highlights the Bliss Point on their website, stating that the bliss point is the combination of just the right amount of sugar, salt, and fat. They report the food industry attempts to prepare all foods with at least 2 combinations of the earlier mentioned nutrients. . In fact, Moss says there are some foods on the market today that cause our bodies to feel hungry even as we’re eating them.

Take an example by Moss, from his article in the NY Times, just a half-cup serving of a popular marinara sauce brand has more than 2 teaspoons of sugar (that’s more than two Oreos worth of sugar). Moss states, however, that having too much of one sensation (i.e. sweetness, fat, or salt) can actually be off-putting to the consumer. It is a term called “sensory-specific satiety,” in which more distinctive flavors overwhelm the brain, therefore reducing the desire to eat more. Thus, not only do brands look for the perfect mixture of tastes, but they also measure them accordingly to ensure that they don’t reach the “sensory-specific satiety”.

Can you think about a certain food like a potato chip or even an Oreo that has hit upon your bliss point? I can remember eating Pringles and one was just never enough. Even now, when I eat Oreos, having one is extremely rare. Rather I try to have Oreos with my lunch, or with milk or immediately after eating dinner to so that I get full from the other foods and also to prevent a blood sugar roller coaster.

So what can we do, as consumers? As parents? We live in a busy world where too often convenience trumps nutrition. Despite having good intentions to eat locally sourced foods, time and lack of energy cause us to fall prey to packaged goods. It is truly a balancing act. Most important is that the consumer realizes this is happening and can make an educated decision regarding which brands to purchase, how often to eat packaged foods and to realize the body is not betraying you rather the big food companies may be!

Do you think food companies should be allowed to manufacture foods that achieve bliss point? Do you think overeating of these specific foods is the fault of the big food companies or the individual?

What food hits your bliss point? 


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My Virtual FitBit Group Promotes Health, Self-Care, and Body Acceptance!

My Virtual FitBit Group Promotes Health, Self-Care, and Body Acceptance!

By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Changing our behavior is never easy, especially as we get older. As a former aerobics instructor, fitness was always a passion for me, and exercise was built into my workday. After a serious injury and getting tired of the gym, I began looking for new ways to move my body for both physical and emotional health. I found it in a most unlikely place—the Internet.

I received a FitBit fitness tracker as a gift. Now all the rage, fitness trackers “count” steps, miles, fitness intensity, and other data depending on the brand. To my surprise, the pride and satisfaction I felt when reaching 10,000 steps, or any other goal I set for myself, proved to be the boost I needed. I embarked on a mission to find other women who, like me, wanted support becoming healthier using their fitness trackers and setting realistic and achievable goals. I found several communities on the FitBit website and learned that members often form private Facebook groups to support one another.

I joined a few groups and recognized the flip side to using fitness trackers that are important to keep in mind. Some people can become quite obsessive about tracking their steps, much like tracking calories or points. I rejected any group with members whose focus was dieting, weight loss, or any type of obsessive behavior. I found several women my age just looking to be healthy.

Over the past few snowy months, our merry little group of “FitBit Women Warriors Over 50” has grown in size and in friendship. I have shared ups and downs with women from almost every U.S. state, as well as those from Canada, Australia, and England. We motivate each other to move more and eat in a healthy, balanced way. In short, we encourage each other to care for our bodies by eating for satisfaction and hunger and moving more because it feels good—especially seeing our step counts increase.


We have a fearless leader who took it upon her self to organize group challenges on Sundays. We all push each other to be accountable for our goals. One Sunday while shoveling show, I imagined myself walking on a sandy beach with warm ocean breezes. We cheered each other on as we spent a full week walking 35.02 virtual miles around the Cayman Islands. On another Sunday, we worked together to complete a puzzle challenge. Pieces of the puzzle would be revealed each time an individual met her own personal exercise goal. Said one group member, “the challenges have triggered my competitive side and made me get my rear in gear!!”

When asked to describe what health meant to them, here were some responses:

“Health means taking care of your body physically, nutritionally, spiritually, and emotionally! It means living each day to the fullest.”

“Finally enjoying foods that are good for me as opposed to snack foods and finding that my body responds well to them.”

“I finally feel good in my own skin.”

“Having vibrant energy to go and do all the things you want to do. Your options are limitless!!!

Women at every stage of life can benefit from discovering their own paths to improved health. We often take ourselves for granted and care for other people first. Finding time for balanced exercise, healthy and regular meals, and friendship and support is equally important.