Eat Like A Baby

By Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD


Photo Credit: Mait Jüriado via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mait Jüriado via Compfight cc

My girls are confident self-feeders by now, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them eat. When I put a new food on their trays, they curiously examine it, poking and prodding with great interest, and finally cramming it into their little mouths. By the time they are done, their noses, ears, eyebrows, and hair have all had a share in the meal, and naturally, the floor is a disaster, but it’s great fun for them, and for me! The babies are fascinated by new colors, textures, and tastes. While they recognize their favorites and will grin and gurgle at each other in appreciation when I serve something that they think is fabulous, they’re still very open-minded, and I take full advantage. It’s so entertaining to see their expressions after I shock them with an entirely new texture or flavor. I love that they are so curious and will always try at least a bite or two, no matter how different a new food looks, smells, or feels. I don’t know how long this will last, but I hope it always will! I’m certainly appreciating it for the moment.

Eating with my girls is showing me how enjoyable a meal can be when you involve all your senses and approach it with a sense of discovery and adventure. Watching their active participation in their meals reinforces how valuable it is to eat mindfully. Mealtime is about more than simply filling your stomach and moving on to your next activity. Eating is a much more satisfying experience if it involves noticing and appreciating the color, texture, and flavor of your food. Is it as good as you expected? If you were brave enough to try something new, how much did you enjoy it? Is it worth going back for another bite? Not everything you eat is always going to taste super-amazing, but once you’re eating, your food should taste good to you! My girls aren’t finicky, but they don’t compromise, either. They enjoy a variety of textures and flavors, but if they aren’t impressed with a particular food, they’ll abandon it after a few bites. They listen to their stomachs and will leave over food when they are full.

I try to vary their menu to keep them curious and so that we don’t get into a Cheerio rut. It’s important to me that their meals are stimulating and fun, as well as nourishing and tasty. But I’ll admit that my own meals don’t always receive the same level of attention. As moms, even dietitian moms, it can be easy to put ourselves last and eat the same thing day after day just because it’s easy, and, well…mindless. How different might our eating look if we ensured our meals included a variety of colors and flavors? When did you last try a new ingredient or a unique recipe? How much time do you take for your meals, and how much do you enjoy them? Are your meals enjoyable? Satisfying?

Eating mindfully is something we were born knowing how to do. Noticing how food makes us feel while we’re eating it and how satisfied we are afterwards is not a special talent. We all started out with this ability. Somewhere along the way, though, most of us were socialized to focus more on external signals as opposed to what’s going on internally. We eat in a hurry. We eat past the point of fullness. Sometimes we might finish a meal barely noticing what it was we just consumed. None of this is a crime; sometimes, when life is busy, it’s a necessity. But there’s no question that it’s a less-than-ideal way to eat. The good news is that mindful eating is something that can be relearned. You’ve done it before, and you can do it again. If there’s an opportunity in your day (or even a day in your week), when you can slow down enough to enjoy a meal that’s appealing to your senses and satisfying to your body, you’ll be eating the way it’s meant to be done. So as I amusedly watch my babies’ gleeful faces as they squish and smash their way through their gloriously messy mealtime, I can’t help but think, “Hey…they’ve got a point!”

Keep Calm and Slow-Cooker On

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light
Photo Courtesy of Cooking Light

And we’re off! The start of the school year has descended upon us in full force. Busy school days, and just-as-busy afterschool activities, practices, rehearsals (not to mention homework!), can quickly put even the most calm and organized mom in a bit of a time-crunch tizzy.   And though as I mom I aspire to be both calm and organized, keeping up with my kids’ lives, trying to manage my professional one and juggling normal day to day stuff quickly interfere with the ideal.   I usually employ the philosophy of quick-to-assemble meals that can make it to the table in 20 minutes. Yet there are plenty of days that I really want to walk into my house and have food magically appear on the table.   In fact, there are vivid and wonderful childhood memories I recall, coming home to the amazing smells of dinner. Mom had it covered and all was well with the world.

So the invention of the slow-cooker is nothing short of genius, bringing me back to the reality that my home really can smell nourishing and food really can be table-ready when we all roll in the door. And it’s not even a new concept, though some of the digital features on them are quite 20th century. How easy it is to forget the small kitchen appliance tucked away in my top cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. I’ve recently resolved to more regularly reacquaint with this 6-quart beauty, and though you may associate it with only a few dishes, the possibilities really are quite vast.

And while this has obviously now saved dinner, one of my favorite slow-cooker benefits is the meals that follow. Lunch for your child’s thermos the next day, a meal you can re-purpose for tomorrow’s dinner or extra servings that can be divided and frozen for a future time crunch.   Not to mention that you can confidently answer the kids’ eternal question, posed the second they see you after school: “What’s for dinner?

One of our latest favorites is slow-cooker lasagna, and while I’ll include a recipe below, don’t be afraid to play with it. Throw in some layers of diced veggies, swap out lasagna noodles with spaghetti or macaroni, mix in some fresh herbs or throw in all the little bits of cheese you have hanging out in your fridge drawer. Something magical happens when you let all these individual ingredients slowly work together over a string of calm, uninterrupted hours. They come together and by dinner, these solo players have created an orchestra of nourishment. In fact, slow cooker meals really allow you to play in your kitchen in a different, less structured way. It’s such a fun way for your children to cook with you, and see how being in the kitchen doesn’t need to be intimidating in the least.


A couple of pointers for you to consider:

  1. Read reviews online to compare features, sizes and find the best prices.
  2. If you’d like to brown or sauté before switching to slow-cooker mode, seek out versions that can accommodate.
  3. Make sure it has a “warm” feature, which the cooker will automatically switch to once the programmed cooking time has ended. This ensures you won’t come home to an over-cooked meal, if you’ve had an extra long day.
  4. Include enough liquid to prevent drying or burning.
  5. Look for a cookbook and/or search for recipes online specifically designed for slow-cookers.
  6. Consider “building” the meal the night before. Prep all the ingredients in the crock, put a lid on it, then store in your fridge until you’re ready to turn that baby on and leave the house.
  7. Make certain the area around your slow cooker is free from “stuff” – nowhere that your pet can disturb and knock to the floor, and away from stray papers or plastic that may not do well around heat.

Now sit down, taste every steamy bite and relish the fact that your clean up will be minimal, you’ve saved electricity, and have warmed the hearts, souls and tummies of your whole family!


Slow Cooker Lasagna

1 pound uncooked whole grain lasagna noodles

1.5 pounds ground beef or pork

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 ½ tsp salt

1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce

8 oz tomato sauce

6 oz tomato pasta

3 eggs

1 15-oz container ricotta cheese

6 cups fresh spinach

2 zucchini, shredded or sliced

1 cup parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

3 Tbsp water


In a large skillet over medium heat cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic until brown. Add the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, and Italian seasoning and stir until well incorporated. Cook until heated through.

In a large bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Spray the crock with nonstick spray. Spoon a layer of the meat mixture onto the bottom of the slow cooker. Add a layer of the uncooked lasagna noodles. Break to fit noodles into slow cooker. Top noodles with a portion of the cheese mixture. Next layer 2 cups spinach and 1/3 of the zucchini. Repeat the layering of sauce, noodles, cheese and veggies until all the ingredients are used. Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Drizzle water around the edges of the crock.

Cover, and cook on LOW setting for 5 to 6 hours.

Let sit for 30 minutes or more and then slice and serve.

Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

By Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team


Banana bread is a favorite to bake, eat and share with friends; zucchini is also a favorite that has been abundant in farmer’s markets this summer. So, with some extra zucchini and slightly browning bananas on hand, I decided to combine these two for one hopefully yummy experiment, and it worked! This is an easy (and tasty) way to incorporate fruits and veggies into your little one’s or your own day. Mashing a ripe banana, measuring dry ingredients and mixing are all tasks perfect for getting kids involved in the kitchen!



 Yields ~15 muffins

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup milk

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup shredded (or made into noodles and then chopped*) zucchini

½ cup dark chocolate chips

¾ medium ripe banana, mashed

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 egg

½ tsp salt




  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and grease or line muffin tin.
  2. In medium bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix beaten egg, oil, milk, mashed banana, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry until incorporated and moistened.
  4. Prepare zucchini using a shredder or by spiralizing into thin noodles and then chopping into ¼ inch pieces, for similar effect. Measure your 1 cup of zucchini now. Wrap measured zucchini into paper towel and squeeze out excess water–there will be a lot of it.
  5. Fold zucchini and chocolate chips into rest of mixture. Pour to fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way.
  6. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes.


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

The Power Struggle: Kickin' and Screamin' About Food

By Mommy Laura Cipullo RD, CDE, CEDRD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Fruity Baked Oatmeal: A breakfast my kids adore!

Fruity Baked Oatmeal: A breakfast my kids adore!
By Adina Pearson, RDN

Breakfast has long been my kids’ best meal. And by best I mean they tend to have good appetites and rarely reject anything.  It’s also the meal with the least variety, which my husband prefers and I do not.  I had been wanting to try baked oatmeal for some time, but just never got around to it.  Mostly because..let’s face it, baking always takes more time than a quick stove top boil and simmer.  Plus at least half the time my husband takes care of our morning pot of porridge so why fix what isn’t broken, right?

But my desire for variety got the best of me one day and we found a breakfast dish that all four of us love.

The first time I made it, I decided to add fruit to the bottom of the pan.

It did not disappoint and turned out quite pretty if I do say so myself!

The fruit has varied based on what I had available.  Usually blueberries and canned peaches.  The first few times I made this our family of four ate through at least 3/4 of a 9×13 pan.  It’s almost like a cobbler, but less rich and more breakfast-y.

*To read the rest of this blog please click here to be redirected to

Snacking Sense

Snacking Sense
By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD


If you’ve ever tried to have a clear and concise conversation with your child after school, you might find it a daunting and nearly impossible task.  Typically, you will find their attention, energy and desire to recount the day stretched thin, and much of that is simply because their bodies have run out of fuel. If it’s been at least 3 hours since their last meal or snack, or their previous amount of food was small, rest assured it is time for them to eat. They need a snack.

Photo Credit: faungg’s photo via Compfight cc

As Ellyn Satter so beautifully explains in her Division of Responsibility, one of the parental roles in the feeding relationship is to “provide regular meals and snacks”.  This provides stability and the reassurance that food will always be available, thereby allowing children to develop a regular rhythm of hunger and fullness signals which will serve them well throughout their life.  As they trust that we will provide food in a regular and timely manner, they can best develop a sense of trusting themselves and their internal signals.

Snacks, however, have many stigmas and much confusion abounds as we try to determine the “best way” to provide them to our kids.  Here are some suggestions that may answer a few of your questions:

  • Snacks are typically best thought of as little meals, not a single stand-alone item. Our culture has branded certain categories as “snack foods”, however anything you would serve at a meal could feasibly be a snack and will undoubtedly be more satisfying than a single-serve package of baked crackers!  How about a slice of leftover veggie pizza and some grapes?
  • Include two or three foods from amongst:  whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and fats.  Make certain to also offer some ‘fun foods’, and pair them with foods that have a little staying power, such as chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk.  Having foods with a higher fat content will hold them longer, and create greater satisfaction.
  • Since all foods can be part of a balanced eating relationship, I tend to recommend buying full-sized bags of products (chips, crackers, cookies), rather than 100-calorie individual versions.  Not only does this save you some money, it most importantly avoids all of the subtle messages that we give our kids by placing “calories” as part of a food decision.  Have you ever had a 100-calorie bag of anything?  Were you completely and utterly satisfied after finishing it?  If you wanted another one, did you feel like you “shouldn’t”?  In my experience, they leave us hanging, wishing we had more. There is nothing magical about that number “100”, except that it’s an effective marketing strategy.  By focusing on the number, we have a much harder time listening to our tummies and the signals that tell us if we are still hungry or comfortably satisfied.  Instead, present these foods on a plate or in a serving bowl, allowing kids to fill their own plate and gauge the food amounts to their hunger levels.  For snacks you need to pack, keep some reusable snack containers on hand and make certain to include enough so that they can eat sufficiently.
  • A snack is not a treat, not a reward, not withheld in a punishing manner, not conditional.  It’s simply a consistent part of a normal day between meals.  It is just food.
  • Have your kids sit at a table for snacks (without TV, Instagram, or homework!), allowing them to better listen to their bodies and know when they’re satisfied, (not to mention the fact that running around the house is dangerous and messy if done while eating!).  If your child needs to go straight from school to a practice, event or appointment, make certain to have packed a few snack options, and give him time to fully taste and enjoy before running out of the car.
  • Sit down and keep your child company, listening to your own body’s signals of hunger or thirst.  Snack time is designed to relax and regroup.  Take a quick minute to breathe, stretch and transition from the busy day.  Don’t create a stressful conversation about the hours of homework they have yet to face!  Our children are watching us always, and modeling consistent snack and re-charge time is helpful for their development, as we as for our energy and patience.
  • Try to give at least two hours and not longer than 3½ -4 hours between a snack and the next meal.  For example, if dinner is at 6:00, aim to have snack time completed by 4:00, in time for your child to get hungry again by the meal.  In the meantime, make certain your little one has caught up on their water intake, adding in some fresh fruit, ice cubes or cucumbers for a little flavor and fun.
  • If your child is truly not hungry, they won’t eat.  They can then eat at the upcoming meal –  no grazing later on as the meal approaches.
  • When your kids are older, they can begin to make some choices about snacks, within the guidelines that you’ve demonstrated.  Remember to keep them planning and eating at a generally consistent time.

If you maintain the reliable consistency of meals and snacks, including a variety of foods, your child will regulate and be able to trust their body’s signals of hunger and fullness.  Happy snacking!

Ellyn Satter, Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (n.p.: Bull, 2000),
“Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” Ellyn Satter Institute, 2014,


Restaurant Style vs. Family Style: The way you serve food to your kids matters.

Restaurant Style vs. Family Style: The Way You Serve Food to Your Kids Matters
By Adina Pearson, RDN

I love to eat out.  I love good restaurant menus and having someone else prepare yummy food for me and clean up afterwards.  I love trying new things or new spins on old things.  So this blog is not in any way intended to put down eating out or restaurants.  But I want to compare and contrast the restaurant style meal with that of the meal served ‘family style.’  Because it is in this comparison that the beauty and benefits of serving family style really stand out–you’ll see why family style service is so conducive to helping children grow in their acceptance of new foods.

So let’s look at how things flow when you eat in a restaurant.  When you order food in a restaurant you have basically one shot.  This one shot really makes ordering the ‘right’ entree critical.  More so if you like things just so. I know that sometimes both my husband and I can take an awfully long time to decide what to order.  So many choices!   Some people are more adventurous and easy going with food, but with a myriad of options, it’s easy to feel indecisive and pressured.  Then the waitstaff makes its way around again and you have to pick something.  Even though you have no chance to see what the dish looks like (usually) or smells like in advance.

Once you place your order, you get what you get. It might be just what you’d hoped for or something completely different.  But, practically speaking, you don’t get another chance.  Once your food arrives, you’re stuck with it.

Which might be fine.  Your chosen entree will probably be delicious and you’ll probably be pleased and satisfied.  But unless your dining companions like to share, you won’t get to experience one of the myriad of other dishes possible.

This is not a problem in and of itself.  But, let’s look at this from the perspective of a child.

Even adults don’t like to be pushed into making a quick decision about what to eat from a menu. But a young child?  Children are notorious for wanting to stick to what’s safe.  They also don’t usually know what they want to eat…they only know if they want to eat what’s right in front of them.

There’s a saying “the confused mind always says “no”.”  So when confronted with lots of foreign options, and a brief time to decide, most kids won’t want any of it.

Once again, not a big deal in the short term.  Eating out at a restaurant isn’t going to hurt your child or ruin them in any way.  If you order something foreign for them and they don’t like it, no big deal.  If you order something safe that they do like, also no big deal.

But, the restaurant style of serving meals is very similar to how some parents feed at home.  They make up a plate of already-accepted edibles and place it in front of their child.  Or, knowing her child doesn’t already like the entree she’s serving the rest of the family, Mom cooks up something special just for the picky one.  All of these ways of serving a meal have one major thing in common.  Feeding in this way gives your child only one choice: the food currently on his plate.  If you’re struggling with your child’s food acceptance, you may have more success doing things in a new way.

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