Greek Yogurt Marinated Chicken

By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services


To prepare for the upcoming school year, I’ve been trying to focus on finding meals I can make ahead and then have ready to heat and eat during the week.  This yogurt marinade recipe is my recent favorite because in addition to a marinade for chicken, I’ve also used the recipe as a sauce or even dressing for other meals and side dishes. It keeps chicken moist–whether grilled or baked–and is a tangy and fresh compliment to seasonal veggies and sides!



Makes 4 servings (marinates 4 chicken breast fillets)

2 cups Greek yogurt, plain

2 tbsp honey

1 medium lemon, juiced

1/4 cup cucumber peeled and diced, finely

2 medium strawberries diced, finely

1/4 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, made into paste

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper



1. In medium bowl, stir to combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and honey.

2. Dice onion, cucumber and strawberry. Paste garlic. Combine all with yogurt mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.

For Marinade: Pour into gallon-sized ziplock to cover chicken breasts and squeeze bag to coat chicken.  Allow to marinade in refrigerator overnight. Grill or bake chicken to desired doneness, checking for an internal temperature of 165F.

For Sauce: Chill yogurt mixture in airtight container and enjoy with veggies, grains, salads or proteins as a dipping sauce or dressing.



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.”

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

Salmon Summer Rolls


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

These light, refreshing, and nutritious summer rolls are simple and fun to make, easily packed for lunch, or stored for leftovers, and even your kids will love them! Try keeping them in the refrigerator and eating them cold after a long hot summer day. Packed with protein and healthy fats from salmon and avocado, this roll will satisfy your hunger without making you feel too full.1

Rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon has many health benefits. One omega-3 in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is the brain’s favorite fatty acid. A diet rich in DHA is associated with improved learning abilities and disease prevention.2,3



  • rice paper wrapper (find them in the ethnic foods section of your health food store. I recommend brown rice)
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • cucumber
  • spinach/spring mix/ lettuce
  • salmon

Optional Sauce:

  • ¼ cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1 tbs honey
  • siracha sauce (to taste, 1 tbs for a mild sauce)

salmon roll


  1. In a bowl mix the soy sauce, honey, and siracha sauce. On medium heat, add the sauce to a pan with the salmon. Once cooked, set the salmon aside to cool off.
  2. Wet paper towels large enough to cover the bottom of your plate. Place a wrapper on the paper towel and dab it with another wet paper towel. (You don’t want to get the wrappers too wet, because they will break easily.)
  3. Place a handful of spinach in the middle of the wrapper and the rest of the ingredients on top.
  4. Wrap the roll: start by folding the shortest sides in. Fold the bottom up and roll up to the top.
  5. Enjoy! The optional sauce can also be used as a delicious dipping sauce.

salmon roll finished


  1. III, V. L. F., Dreher, M., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008.
  2. Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), 2747-2757.
  3. Horrocks, L. A., & Yeo, Y. K. (1999). Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacological Research, 40(3), 211-225.


Making Sunday Brunch with the Kids


By Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN

Ahh, Sunday brunch. Who doesn’t like the thought of a lazy Sunday morning spent in bed followed by mimosas, French toast, and eggs benedict?

BK (aka Before Kids), Sunday brunch was a favorite pastime of mine. These days my Sundays are a bit different. We wake up early and get ready for a busy day, often filled with birthday parties or some other activity that will tire out the kids before we head back home for their nap. Sunday brunch happens sometimes, but often it’s an easy bagel brunch at home or a chaotic meal at a restaurant. Luckily my girls love to eat, so we’ve actually been pretty lucky with being able to have some good brunch meals out. They’re not the way they used to be back in the day – calm and relaxing; but it is possible to have a nice family brunch with the children at home. How?

I’ve said it before: when children are involved in the cooking process, they are more likely to try new foods since they had a hand in cooking them. And cooking with kids increases their competency in various domains, including fine motor skills, math, science, and reading. If those reasons aren’t enough to convince you, here’s one that will: when the kids are cooking with you, they’re occupied and having fun, meaning you don’t have to worry what trouble they’re getting in elsewhere and you can get a nice meal on the table. And maybe you’ll be able to enjoy a mimosa too!

One Sunday brunch recipe the whole family will enjoy making and eating is this Mushroom Onion Quiche.


When I posted this picture on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I received so many likes and comments asking for the recipe. Come back tomorrow for the recipe and tell the kids to get ready to cook this weekend! Not sure what they can do? Here’s a video of my two-year old girls helping me make this recipe.

*You may want to lower your volume for the first 6 seconds to avoid a whining child. 


*Link to original post found here.

Trusting your child’s gut

Photo Credit: Marina K Caprara via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Marina K Caprara via Compfight cc

By Maria Sorbara Mora, MS, CEDRD, PRYT, RYT

My friend and colleague Joe Kelly recounted a story to me one day about his children. He told me that when his kids started school he noticed that both children complained about their stomachs hurting constantly. After ruling out illness and allergies he sat them down and asked them what they noticed when they would get stomach aches. His children told him that their stomach’s started to hurt before going to school and would feel better when they got home. He realized that his kids were not comfortable in the school system and were having a body reaction. His neighbors were home schooling their children and he decided to do the same. He was faced with others telling him it was a bad idea, that children whom are home schooled lack social skills and that the children would eventually adapt to their environment if he kept taking them to school. Joe did something really, really smart. He trusted his children’s guts and went ahead with home schooling. Both children’s excessive and consistent stomach problems disappeared never to be seen or heard of again. Several years later, Joe says both his children, adults now, are well adjusted, successful and happy.

I wondered to myself how often our children’s body’s communicate to us via their guts and how difficult it might be for a parent to trust them as accurate. But most of us have felt at least once in our lives, something in our guts to be true before our brain could process the situation. Because I’m a nutritionist and a yoga therapist, I am always considering the mind-body connection. I realized that the answer to why Joe’s children’s guts should be trusted lie in the relationship between the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) and the 3rd Chakra.

The Enteric Nervous System is located in the digestive track and is known as the gut’s brain or the second brain. It comprises an estimated 500 million neurons! The ENS was first only thought to control digestion but now we understand that it plays an important role in our physical AND mental well-being. Just like our brain’s in our heads, this system sends and receives impulses, records experiences and responds to emotions. The first brain and the second brain interact and react with each other. However, the ENS can work independently from the brains in our head meaning that information that the gut sends to the brain doesn’t have to come from consciousness. The ENS helps you sense environmental threats and then influences your response. In addition, the gut’s brain is reported to play a role in good and bad feelings. Over 30 neurotransmitters are produced that are identical to those found in the first brain-one of which is serotonin. A whopping 90% of serotonin is located in the gut. Serotonin is the ‘fee-good’ hormone that regulates sleep, appetite and mood. So now we know why Joe’s kids had stomach aches! Their Enteric Nervous system was communicating, from a subconscious place, that something in their external environment was creating stress. Joe’s kids, 5 and 6 at the time didn’t have knowledge of why their tummies ached but their Enteric Nervous system did!

The 3rd Chakra gives us even more information about why Joe’s kids were having this reaction. The word Chakra means wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, this term refers to the wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main Chakras which align the spine starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. The 3rd Chakra or the Solar Plexus Chakra is located between the navel and the solar plexus. This Chakra governs among other things, the digestive system. The solar plexus chakra regulates how centered we feel during the day in relation to our cognitive emotions. This Chakra, also called Manipura Chakra is all about sensing your personal power, being confident, responsible and reliable. It is the center of self-esteem and governs our sense of self, the power that we have within and over our destinies. When there is injury to the 3rd Chakra, we feel powerless. Our bodies respond to this tension by developing digestive distress or disorders.

Manipur or Solar Plexus Chakra represents ages 6 years to adolescence. This is the time frame when a child begins school and interacts with others such as teachers and friends but their primary influence is still their home. During this time, children must find their own identity within the family. If they are able to develop a sense of self while living in a family system they are able to develop confidence. So now we know why Joe’s children’s stomachs ceased hurting when Joe began home schooling. When Joe’s kids first entered school they may have felt that something wasn’t quite right but remained powerless to change their destinies thus digestive distress ensued. When Joe acknowledged, trusted and acted on what their children’s guts was telling him, his children gained a sense of personal power even though they didn’t cognitively know what was needed. Furthermore, they had space to begin developing the all the confidence and reliability needed to move into their adulthood.

What an amazing example of why it is so important to trust your child’s gut. Next time your child has a stomach ache, suffers from gastric distress or digestive issues, consider that their body is trying to communicate something important that they may not be aware of.

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.

A Conversation with Kia Robertson from "Today I Ate a Rainbow"

A Conversation with Kia Robertson from “Today I Ate a Rainbow”

Early last week, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with founder and president of Today I Ate a Rainbow, Kia Robertson. Today I Ate a Rainbow is an interactive program, developed by Robertson, working to increase daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by encouraging children—and parents—to attempt to consume a full rainbow daily.


Here is some of our conversation:


LC: First, why don’t you tell me a little bit about your philosophy at Today I Ate a Rainbow?


KR: Our main goal is to help parents set healthy eating habits for kids. Healthy eating is this big idea and everybody has their own opinion, so we decided to focus in on just fruits and veggies—that is one thing we know that everybody needs. And, let’s be honest, most of us are not meeting the daily requirements—especially our kiddos. We really want to make it fun and easy. So the concept of a rainbow, thinking of the colors, is so simple. Even for little two year olds to grasp. We made it really basic.


I started out doing this for my own daughter when she was four years old. We started doing chore charts, and she loved it—and I love charts—and so we just whipped one together to see how many colors we were eating. I had just come across a little text somewhere saying that kids should be eating a variety of colors, and I had never thought about it like that before. We quickly discovered that she was eating a lot of green and orange, but that was about it. It was a really great eye-opening thing for our whole family to start tracking what colors we were eating; and Hannah, being four, was all of sudden saying, “Mommy, I need some bananas. I need to get my yellow!” or “Blueberries so I can get my purple!” It was so cool to see a little kid taking interest and ownership. So that’s how it all started and we really feel like its something simple, because parents are so busy, we want to put something out there that is quick and easy for parents and for the kids.


LC: A lot of what you talk about it taking “ownership” and “responsibility” over your body as a child. Can you say more about that?


KR: Yes! Usually, [kids] are just going to eat what is put in front of them. They don’t usually have that active role in, say, going out and picking the food at the store or farmers market or deciding together “what should we eat.” Whereas, when we are thinking about the rainbow and the rainbow chart, it really gets everybody thinking about it. I’ve heard from so many parents where they are just like, “My kid is asking for things. This is so weird!” It’s such a strange thing, especially with little ones when they say, “Oh, I need an apple!”


The earlier we can get kids understanding [the importance] of eating these fruits and vegetables and that it feels so good and makes them feel strong and helps them to be smarter—whatever it is—the better; because it is harder to create those habits, or try and recreate habit, as an adult. So setting them when they are really young, I think is fabulous. And connecting the dots for them that the food they eat is going to impact the way they feel and how they go about their day.


LC: As a parent, have you seen any differences in your diet since starting Today I Ate a Rainbow with your daughter?


KR: Oh, yes! Personally, just to give you a little backstory, I was a super picky eater my whole life. As a kid, I would pick out carrots in the carrot cake—I was dedicated to not eating vegetables at all. So, when Hannah came along, I really didn’t want her to go through the picky eater struggles because it’s actually very hard and socially limiting because you don’t want to go to new restaurants, and it’s stressful to go to other people’s houses because you don’t know what they are going to serve.


Being a recovering picky eater, I honestly have a hard time getting all my colors if I don’t do a smoothie. Because it is still not something that is natural for me to do—to just grab an apple or a piece of celery. Whereas, for my daughter, who has grown up with this, it is such a normal thing, and it’s so easy for her that in just two meals a day her chart is filled! It’s such a simple thing for her!


It has really improved my diet a lot because when you have the chart up and you have one magnet and your kid has five already… it’s a little embarrassing! Let’s be real. The competitive side of me is like, “Oh! I need to get some more colors in!” And the really cool thing is, with all these colds going around, we rarely get sick anymore; eating all these fruits and vegetables have just boosted our immune system so much. There have been benefits for the whole family.


LC: Would you say, and I think I know the answer to this one, that your daughter is a more fearless eater than you are?


KR: Oh, absolutely, yes. Her attitude, just a willingness to try, is so good and just so much better than mine. She totally is. One time, we were with our good friends and they offered Hannah some octopus. [She ate it!] And there is no way I would, even now. Not happening.


LC: There are a lot of resources on your site for parents. Do you have any tips or advice for emphasizing positive change to your child when you’re exhausted, and tired, and at the end of a long day and just at your wits’ end?


KR: Just to go with really small steps. Ridiculously small steps that seem silly. It’s a slow process; don’t expect them to go from picky to adventurous right away. It takes a lot of time and patience. If they are willing to have that grain of rice or that half of a pea, celebrate that because one day, they are going to eat a lot more.


There are going to be some foods that people just don’t like – and that has to be alright. But what we have learned is that a lot of dislike comes down to texture. It’s easy to give up because it’s hard and its frustrating to make something for your kid and they don’t like it—especially if they reject it over and over again, you kind of start to take it personally. Studies show that it takes at least ten times to try something before they accumulate a taste for a new food.


LC: You spoke about texture and how that is a trigger for a lot of people. What are some other food sensitivities that you see with kids?


KR: Visually, they will just refuse to eat something if it doesn’t look good. Or if it’s green, in a lot of cases. I don’t know what it is about that color, but a lot of kids are just not into it.


If you look at it sensory wise; the way things look make a difference, the way things smell, that’s a really big thing. If you look at it from the perspective of sensors, that can be helpful when trying to feed a picky eater. You can see, based on the sense, what may be triggering it for them.


LC: You also say on your site not to overdo it, in terms of modifying a food. What would be a good example of this?


KR: I always suggest breaking it down. If eating a rainbow in a day is too much or too overwhelming, make it a rainbow a week. A color a day!


We don’t want to vilify food, that “good” and “bad” stuff – kids can really play into that. It’s more about asking how it makes you feel and not so much about what the food is. I think parents have so much on their plate already that adding that extra stress of “my kid isn’t eating right” is so hard, and it’s such an emotional thing – feeding our kids.


LC: It sounds like patience is a huge factor here.


KR: Yes, absolutely. Patience is huge. And persevering. You know, don’t give up. Don’t give up on your kids.





For more information, or to contact Kia and the Today I Ate a Rainbow team, check out their website at


Also, stay tuned for the exciting new Eat a Rainbow project coming out of the Today I Ate a Rainbow offices. It is an integrative program connecting teachers and parents, the two biggest role models our kids have, to get one another on the same page while encouraging healthy eating habits!

What's the Dirt on Clean Eating?

What’s the Dirt on Clean Eating?

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

The mechanics of nutrition are based on science, yet at every turn we hear new headlines and buzzwords that make it hard to distinguish the difference between true, research-based science and the latest fad. One such catchy concept is that of “clean eating’” heard regularly in gyms, on magazine covers and throughout social media. But what is it? And how do we navigate it when it’s aimed at our children?


The truth is, there is not a legal, objective, research-backed or even consistent definition to the term “clean eating”.   To some, it means avoiding processed foods. To others, it’s interpreted as low carb, no meat, no dairy, non-GMO or a combination of various nutritional bends.


There are, however, many unintended implications attached to using the word clean, leading us to feel a sense of purity, superiority, a kind of “you are what you eat” mentality that takes on a moralistic emphasis.


Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc

There is a belief that if I eat this way:

  • I’ll be healthy, prevent diseases and have an ideal weight.
  • I’ll be okay, in fact because I’m eating ‘good’, I’m actually a good person.

And on the flip side, if I don’t eat this way:

  • I’m probably going to become ill, gain unsolicited weight, and be unhealthy.
  • I’m making ‘bad’ decisions, which means I’m probably bad.


For many, the path of clean eating is one that started from a positive place, where they wanted to improve their life, health or energy. This is truly an admirable thing, yet as we shift toward rigid ways of eating or behavior change, we begin a mindset and patterns that are anything but balanced. We give up experiences and social opportunities because of the need to comply with limiting eating rules.  We cut out


So as a nutritionist, I have had opportunities to work with individuals in the throws of self-proclaimed clean eating.  And while it’s painful to see the side effects of rigid eating rules in adults, it’s most saddening when children and teens become entrenched in it. Whether it’s through social media, friends, a coach or a parent, I’ve begun to see more young people following this good/bad food mentality and the results aren’t pretty.


Some of the considerations of ‘clean eating’ for kids (and adults, too!):

  1. Look at what’s missing: are certain food groups limited or completely avoided? While fruits and vegetables give us some carbohydrates, they in no way to can replace the vast benefits of grains. Kids in particular are growing and using energy and at a speedy pace, and they absolutely require regular replenishment of carbs to their body and brain.
  2. Too much of a good thing…isn’t. Focus on high fiber, for example, can be problematic for children, leading to digestive discomfort, diarrhea or potential constipation, but also interfering with the absorption of protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
  3. Limited eating patterns can not only disrupt brain function and overall energy, but also decrease our children’s ability to create hormones and progress on their normal path toward and throughout puberty.
  4. As we teach kids to eat based on rules of good / bad, they become further disconnected from their own bodies, the signals of hunger and fullness, and the awareness of their own individual preferences.   This also disengages them from the process of being an adventurous eater, and can create an overall sense of deprivation.
  5. The limited variety and over-focus on food can either set the stage for or activate a full-blown eating disorder.


There is certainly no perfect way of eating, much as there is no perfect body, career or person. When we label food as clean or good, unclean or bad, we’ve moralized it, and that’s a message that permeates deeply within our children’s impressionable young brains. Instead, let’s get back to food being simply food, providing a variety of enjoyable, nutrient-filled options and guiding our kid’s to trust their bodies, not a “foods allowed” list.