Need Back To School Snack Ideas?

Happy Labor Day Weekend! Watch Laura and her boys dish out yummy recipes and gardening ideas while you relax on the train, bus or plane en route to your weekend away. Anyone hungry?

What Would Julieanna Do? – Healthy Kids: To view, click on the image below.

If you have trouble viewing it, click here!

Tips For Feeding Children With Special Needs

By Guest Blogger, Virginia Cunningham

The science of parenting has reached dizzying heights of understanding, but even in the 21st century we are still butting heads with children who refuse to eat their broccoli. Getting children acclimated to various foods and basic eating etiquette will probably always be one of the most demanding arenas of raising kids, but in the case of special needs children, there may be deeper issues at stake. Here are the major hurdles you may face when introducing your son or daughter to the dinner table, as well as some hints to ameliorate the situation.
Food Attachment and Aversion
Parents of every stripe may be familiar with this stumbling block to ensuring your children consume the full range of nutrients needed for healthy development: stubbornly finicky taste. However, what might simply be old-fashioned childish obstinacy can take on an all but obsessive quality among special needs children.

Even adults can get stuck in a rut of eating comforting, familiar foods, but a special needs child may develop attachments to particular items based on their texture, color, or even temperature.

To expand your child’s monolithic diet, experiment with what behavioral psychologists call shaping and chaining. The method is simple enough. First, try to identify the particular quality of the food that has your child in its spell. A child might like a pasta dish for its bright orange color or for its squiggly shape. Identify what it is by the process of elimination, and then gradually mix in portions of another, potentially more desirable food. If a child only has eyes for cheddar cheese, for example, lead him or her toward similarly hued steamed squash.

“Purely Psychological” Factors
While food aversion is rooted in children’s relationship to the physicality of what they put into their mouths (or refuse to), children can also veto meals as a way of sending a message when they feel unable to communicate any other way. When a child is feeling particularly vulnerable, he or she may go on a mini hunger strike to vie for attention.

The worst thing to do in such a situation is the threat of punishment. Instead, use positive reinforcement in incremental steps (so as to avoid over indulging the child and enabling continued problem behavior). For instance, promise an additional few minutes of story time for every bite of spinach, peas, or whatever the target dish may be.


Oral-Motor Skills

So far we’ve looked at eating problems that amount to a child’s not wanting to eat. Among children with various physical impediments, the issue may be that they are simply unable to. When a young person’s jaws, tongue, and labial muscles are weak, uncoordinated, or both, the act of eating is itself difficult. (The attendant emotional frustration threatens to make matters even worse, so be sure not to register your frustration.

Here, good intentions alone will not set things right, as your child most likely needs a consultation with a specialist and a regimen of exercises to bolster the muscle groups involved in biting, chewing, and swallowing.

Medical Conditions

On top of physical impediments linked to muscle control and coordination, children with some afflictions may have other innate problems with ingesting and even digesting foods. Certain birth defects can lead to chronic gastrointestinal woes, for example; children with visual impairment may not trust foods they can’t see.

The most widely reported medically-related eating problem is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Affecting a ring of muscle between the stomach and esophagus, this condition can manifest a variety of symptoms, but the most frequent is spasmodic vomiting. After the child grows to associate eating with unpleasantness, he or she may begin to be wary of food in general, sometimes making it difficult to discern whether the issue is behavioral. If parents have strong suspicions that the problem is a medical one, a specialist should be consulted immediately.

Given that “special needs” is hardly a unified category, not all of these difficulties will apply to all children included within it. Some concerns are consistent, however. Always take great care to discover whether the issue is a physical or psychological one, as the symptoms can often be similar. And whatever the corrective path, be sure to take a course that is positive, calming, and paced with your child’s comfort level.


About the Writer

Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer. Her work with Northwest Pharmacy helps all individuals get the care that they need. As a mother of a special needs child, she has written extensively on nutrition, alternative therapy, and inclusion of special needs children.

Managing a Full Plate: A Texas Mom’s Thoughts on Health

Guest Blog by Lisa Mikus, Dietitian Eligible

This summer Lisa interned with me, and we thought it would be cool to see how other moms across the country deal with health — making health about balance rather than dieting and being skinny.

Whether you reside on the East coast or live down South, moms all over the country have on thing in common – they are busy! Luckily, one Texas mom named Emily took the time to share her views on how she keeps her family well nourished and active.

Q: What is your philosophy on nutrition and health? Are there any guidelines that you try to stick by every day?

A: In our house we try to focus on the nutritional content or “healthiness” of the food we eat as opposed to the calories we consume. This is especially true since Sarah, my 8-year-old daughter, is a very active kid doing 12 hours of gymnastics a week along with 3 hours of diving a week in addition to playing outside and swimming on the weekends.

As a mother of a young girl, I worry about my daughter’s health as well as body image. Surprisingly, these two things can often clash. I am concerned from a heath perspective about the amount of calories, fat, and sugar she consumes, but at the same time I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this and give her a poor body image or make her worry about being fat.

To me, feeding Sarah a healthy diet is less about what I don’t let her eat and more about what I ensure she does eat everyday. I don’t think there is anything I don’t ever let her consume except caffeine. My main focus is that she eats all of her servings of fruits and veggies and that she gets plenty of lean protein. As long as she is eating all those things then I don’t worry about the rest of it.

Q: When you shop for food, do you take your child with you? Do you involve her with shopping or cooking?

A: I try to take her with me to the grocery store when our schedules allow. I find she makes healthier choices at home when she has input about foods (especially snacks) that we keep at home. Plus, she tends to think outside the box more than I do, so it keeps us out of the snack rut.

Sarah and I have planted a garden in our backyard. So far we only have cucumbers and tomatoes harvested but have planted 16 types of seeds in total. She is much more interested in eating veggies she grew than she is in eating veggies from the store.

Q: Is your daughter a picky eater? If so, how did you deal with that?

A: She has become pickier as she has gotten older. As a toddler and young child she would eat anything. Now she goes through phases where she won’t eat certain foods. If I don’t mention it, she usually comes back around and eats the foods again after taking an extended break from them. For example, there was about a year when she wouldn’t eat peanut butter. She has come back around now and enjoys it again. The less of an issue I make about it, the shorter the phase of not eating something lasts. Again, I try to focus on overall balanced healthy eating as opposed to worrying about everything she eats or doesn’t eat.

Q: How do you incorporate physical activity into your family life?

A: We focus on exercise with the goal of being healthy, not thin. I don’t want Sarah to have body image issues and worry about being fat. I want her to focus on being healthy, active, and confident and the rest will follow. I try to motivate her to make healthy choices by talking to her about how healthy food choices will help her reach her goals in gymnastics and diving and how they make her muscles strong. So far I think it’s working.

Q: Do you have any quick, easy to prepare, go-to meals your family can’t get enough of?

A: Yes! I love my crock-pot. It makes meats and main courses so easy because I can prep the night before and turn it on in the morning. When I get home from work it is done and the house smells great. I have made really good pork tenderloin, soups, chicken, and ribs in my crock-pot. One of my family’s favorite crock-pot meals is a root beer pork dish.


Crock-Pot Root Beer Pork:

1. Take a lean pork loin or pork roast and place in the crock-pot.

2. Add 1 can of organic or natural root beer such as GuS or Maine Root which can both be found at Whole Foods.

3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. Take out the pork and discard the juices. The pork will fall apart easily. Use a fork to shred the pork.

5. Pour ¾ to 1 cup BBQ sauce on. We use an Austin, TX favorite called Stubb’s BBQ sauce.

Serve on whole wheat slider buns with veggie sides or cole slaw. This dish also goes well with whole wheat tortillas and avocado slices. It is always a hit and so easy!

Provides 4-5 servings.


MDIO's Easy Peas-y Tips for First Solid Foods

This blog is for all the new mommies and daddies out there. My good friend is about to transition her baby twins to solid foods and asked for my advice. So, here is the latest dish on feeding babies their first foods.

Well, I remember the excitement as well as the apprehension I felt when starting my little boys on solid foods. I still have their food diaries, as thick as a novel sitting on my bookshelf. While I was old fashioned, meaning I only gave my boys bitter or less sweet veggies for the first few feedings (of course this was after rice cereal), no longer is it standard to feed veggies first. Research shows that there is no correlation between fruits or veggies, sweet or bitter, with picky palates or anything else we may be concerned about. So, follow MDIO’s Easy Peas-y Six First Foods Tips.

  1. First, I read Child Of Mine–well part of it–by Ellyn Satter. I also recommend this book to all my clients getting ready to give birth. Actually, I think it makes an amazing baby shower gift. So if you haven’t read it, download it or borrow it from your local library.
  2. Next, take a stroll through the baby food aisle at your local grocery store. You will note, that there are now organic jarred baby foods, frozen baby foods, purees in a handheld squeezable form and everything else under the sun, literally!! They all read nutritionist approved, earth friendly, and healthy. Write down some of the brand names, flavors and maybe even purchase one or two jars and frozen purees. Give them a quick taste test for a point of reference.  Start asking your friends what they like, what their kids liked and what was easiest. You may opt for homemade, jarred, and/or frozen depending on where you are feeding the baby (or babies if you have twins).
  3. Of course, you’ll want to make eating and feeding enjoyable for you and your little one early on. Mom Dishes It Out’s feeding expert and speech therapist, Robin Goldberg, shares the Top Ten Tips for Pre-Feeding Warm Ups. Before introducing food to your bundle of joy, read her wisdom. And then when the day finally comes, have fun! Get your rubber baby spoons and sit with baby in a calm place. Remember, like Robin says “The goal is to establish positive experiences with eating from an early age!” *Note: shares this quick guide on their website.
    Is My Baby Ready to Eat Solids?
    How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Here are a few hints:Is your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex gone or diminished?
    This reflex, which prevents infants from choking on foreign objects, also causes them to push food out of their mouths.

    Can your baby support his or her own head?
    To eat solid food, an infant needs good head and neck control and should be able to sit up.

    Is your baby interested in food?
    A 6-month-old baby who stares and grabs at your food at dinnertime is clearly ready for some variety in the food department.

  4. Then determine with your doctor, registered dietitian or perhaps your intuition whether to start feeding solids at 4 months, 5 months or 6 months.The latest of this ever-changing recommendation is to solely feed your baby breast milk for the first 6 months based on the World Health Organization. However, this recommendation is not universally accepted. In countries, like the USA where the infant’s energy expenditure/output is likely greater, many children are formula fed, and solid foods are more readily available than in a third world country, it remains to be determined if it is appropriate to wait until 6 months1.The American Academy of Pediatrics says “Generally, when infants double their birth weight (typically at about 4 months) and weigh about 13 pounds or more, they may be ready for solid foods2.” Yet the AAP goes on to recommend “breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for about 6 months.” Parents, talk with your doctor, your personal registered dietitian and assess your baby. I know my mom started me on solids at 4 months and I too started my boys between 4 and 5 months. Please know the current recommendation for 6 months has nothing to do with food allergies. It was established years ago that earlier age of introduction does not have a causal affect on food allergies in babies and children (see Is It OK to Eat Peanut and Soy Products While Pregnant)
  5. Refer to this quick Bottom-line of Feeding Baby:

    Birth to 6 Months
    : Babies get the nutrients they need from breast milk and formula during the first six months. You should NOT give your baby cow’s milk until after age 1.By 4 to 6 Months: While most babies are ready to eat solid foods now, they will continue to get most of their calories, protein, vitamins and minerals from breast milk or infant formula. Introduce iron-fortified infant or pureed meats to help replenish iron reserves, while continuing breastfeeding and or formula feeding.By 6 to 8 Months: This is an appropriate time to begin pureed or mashed fruits and vegetables. Introduce one new food at a time giving 3 day windows between each new type of food. Be cautious and observe for signs of allergic reactions. The three to five day window helps you to be sure which food your child may have an intolerance too. Look for rashes, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and or mood swings.By 7 to 10 Months: Think Finger foods. Babies are usually ready to start feeding themselves dry cereals like Cheerios or teething biscuits.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, “[Babies] can begin to use a cup for water.” If they are not ready for the cup, or perhaps you are not ready, start to introduce the sippy cups with straws.By 8 to 12 Months: At this stage, most babies are ready for soft or cooked table foods. Think about having baby eat at some of the same times as the rest of the family. Family member role modeling and making food times pleasurable will help to create an overall positive food experience, which is the ultimate goal.From 1 to 2 Years: Babies continue developing eating skills. They feed themselves and enjoy the same foods as the rest of the family. Choking on firm, round foods is a risk, so cut these foods into smaller, ¼-inch squares. Adapted from Eat Right.
  6. Adhere to Baby Beware: What not to give Baby.Cows milk until after age 1 – before this they need breast milk or formula. Yogurt, pasteurized cheese and cooked eggs are okay as long as breast milk and or formula are the main form of liquid nutrition.Avoid potential choking hazards like nuts, seeds, popcorn, whole grapes, candy, gummy candy, anything with pits or have a round shape.. like cherry tomatoes or whole grapes.Avoid candy and sometimes foods. Babies need to focus on fuel for growth. Babies, need not have cupcakes. We just get enjoyment watching them get their first taste of pure sugar!


Let us know if this helps you or what has helped you at this precious and impressionable time. Remember it is of utmost importance to create a positive experience with eating and a neutral relationship with foods (Healthy Habits, 2013).



  1. Fewtrell MS, Morgan JB, Duggan C, et al. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: what is the evidence to support current recommendations? Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:Suppl:635S-638S
  2. Hansen-Petrik, Melissa. “Nutrition: What Every Parent Needs to Know.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 44.2 (2012): 194-e3.

Cheeseburgers in Paradise…a tale of cheeseburgers, breadburgers and Bobby

Oh my gosh…so much is happening in our kitchen lately! And it’s happening so fast that I barely have time to blog about all of it. The long and short of it: MY KIDS ARE ACTUALLY BECOMING ADVENTUROUS EATERS! Can you believe that? I know we have much more work to do, but trust me on this. If you have a kid who eats just five foods only, don’t despair. Get working on changing that routine and give it time. Lots of time…and no expectations. Just let him or her come to the table and then allow curiosity to take over. I promise you that one day instinctive curiosity will change everything.

So here’s what just happened. As we were heading out to the suburbs on July 4th to celebrate the holiday with our family, my son Bobby said to me, “Mom, I want to try a cheeseburger.” Since we were bringing steak to the Independence Day event, I figured he would be eating steak for dinner. So I asked him, “Do you want to go to Shake Shack one day?” Shake Shack is a famous burger joint here in Manhattan that one of Bobby’s best buddies frequents. It’s also right near our apartment. I figured this might be why he was asking. But no, he said he wanted me to make a burger for him and add some cheese. Simple enough. I said I would do that.

Well, as it turned out, I didn’t have to! In addition to steak with chimichurri sauce for our July 4th celebratory dinner, my sister also made cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Not exactly my choice of fare; I wanted the steak! But I seized the moment and asked Bobby if he wanted to split a burger with his cousin.  And, as you might be guessing, he said yes. He then proceeded to eat the entire burger (well, his half)!

Note to fanatic moms and dads: The ground beef was only 80% lean and the burger was served on a white bun with American cheese…a bona fide “sometimes” food. But never mind the ingredients, I was none the less happy because he tried it…and actually ate it. This is a serious, positive accomplishment for Bobby! My hubby and I were sitting at a different table elbowing each other to acknowledge (and cheer the fact) that he was trying new foods. Of course, we played it as cool as possible by not making a scene about it with him or in front of others.

This is just one recent change we’ve noted with unabashed admiration—embracing new foods is a giant step our little guys have taken along their way to becoming “big” boys. What pleasure it gives us to see them feel confident enough to explore different foods. I guess miracles do happen! Or perhaps it’s just time, patience, and constant exposure.

But then…the adventurous new world of food exploration screeched to a complete stop! On Sunday this past week, thinking I would make Bobby a healthier cheese burger, I bought 90% lean grass-fed beef as well as ground white chicken. I made tacos for my hubby and me, but figured it was safer to give Bobby the ground meat in cheeseburger form. And of course, because I’m not perfect, I didn’t think about getting hamburger buns. So, I just confidently placed his burger on whole wheat bread. Bobby said: “This is not a cheeseburger. This is a breadburger. Cheeseburgers come on rolls.  I do not eat breadburgers!” And that was that! We were right back at square one (not really). Bobby made himself a bowl of cereal and his burger was never eaten. He did take one bite and then told me it was awful. But as I’m writing this now, I’m still smiling because it’s truly funny to watch my son be so dramatic and so picky, yet so sweet and brave.

The story does not end here though. Next week, you can read about our family date night! Mexican food is on the menu! What will my boys eat?

Walking with Purpose

By Guest Blogger: Rebecca Weiss

For the past ten years I have been invisible. I’m not a superhero, and I’m not joking. Since the early 2000s, I, as an overweight, middle-aged woman in New York City, have been completely invisible.

This has played out like a humorous montage in a sitcom. I climb up a flight of stairs from the subway, and the people coming down the steps run right into me. I walk out of a coffee shop with a cup in each hand and the person in front of me drops the door in my face. I walk down the street with my husband—no small fellow himself—and people part ways and let him through while I am swallowed by the crowd. Back when George Bush was president, I posted political stickers all over lower Manhattan and no one noticed my acts of vandalism. I really was invisible.

I got used to it. People didn’t see me, and I didn’t make an effort to be seen. I stopped getting my hair cut, stopped wearing makeup, stopped buying new clothes. By the time I was up to 230 pounds, I was wearing my husband’s old khakis and baggy t-shirts everyday and always had my hair piled up on my head.

I often laughed to myself when someone from my neighborhood, or one of my kids’ schools, or just the grocery store, would acknowledge my husband but not me. It got to be quite comical at times. I stopped to help someone whose car had broken down and she waved me away, not realizing that I have ridden the same train with her to and from the city every workday for the past six years.

Since beginning a fitness program about a year ago, and eating more mindfully, I’ve noticed many changes in myself. I’ve got more energy, I sleep well, I don’t suffer from stomach-related ailments any more, and I can run, climb stairs and dance like a fool without getting out of breath. I’ve reveled in my discovery of these things. And, just recently, I’ve begun to notice something else: People are seeing me again.

It seemed like a fluke at first. One morning my train pulled into the station, and the other people waiting to board made room for me in line. Some even said hello. Next, a barista at Starbucks acknowledged my presence without me waving my hands in her face. Then, it spread: salespeople offered to help me in fitting rooms, coworkers complimented my outfits, some people actually apologized after bumping me with their bags on the street. I had forgotten how to react in these situations, so I adopted a nervous smile and tried to go with it.

I’m not saying it’s been a complete 180 and the world embraces me now. It’s certainly nothing like when I was in my 20s, sashaying down the NYC sidewalks in platform sandals and short skirts, with men coming up to ask for my number. I know those days are long gone, and I’m not sorry to see them go. But, whether they see me as a set of legs, or as a mom, or a woman on her way to work, it’s notable to me that they actually do see me. Of course, I still get the door dropped on my face at the coffee shop from time to time, and pushy people on the train are still pushy—this is New York, after all.

Now I wonder, is it just my weight loss that’s brought me back into the visible world? Could it be that I walk differently, hold myself differently, address people differently? When I was heavier, was I showing myself to anyone? Or, was I hiding in my oversized clothes and unkempt hair? Perhaps I wanted to be invisible.

Regardless, the fact is that I’m here now. I walk with purpose. My eyes are bright. I’m taking up the space I choose. No matter what I weigh, I’m here, and I’m not going to disappear again.

A Comment from MDIO:

When reading this, I expect that Rebecca is just now becoming present and comfy in her own skin. No longer does she want or feel the the need to hide. Yet– Moms and dads, despite what our kids look like, what shape or size their bodies are, lets vow to love them, and help them find self worth so that they can beam from the inside out from childhood through adulthood.


About Rebecca: 

Rebecca Weiss is a writer, mom of two, and director of communications for a New York City auction house. In 2012 she started a fitness and wellness journey. She is a monthly contributor to Mom Dishes It Out.

Whole-Wheat Orzo with Mushrooms and Onions



1 box of whole-wheat orzo

1 lb mushrooms, slices

Lipton onion soup mix

1 medium Vidalia onion

1/3 of olive oil

Fresh ground Pepper


Cook orzo as per directions on box.  Chop Vidalia onion and slice mushrooms.  Sautee chopped onions and slice mushrooms with 1 tsp of olive oil.  Meanwhile, drain orzo and add the 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Mix everything together in a bowl.  In the bowl, add the Lipton onion soup mix.  Mix thoroughly.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste.



Fresh Salmon-Cilantro Burgers & Grilled Peaches with Amaretto-Pecan Caramel Sauce

Mom Dishes It Out is excited to announce our new association with Cooking Light! Like MDIO, Cooking Light shares recipes and is focused on experiences that help build family and community. In honor of Memorial Day, fire up your grills because we’ll be sharing with you two recipes adapted from Cooking Light: Fresh Salmon Cilantro Burgers and for dessert, Grilled Peaches with with Amaretto-Pecan Caramel Sauce. And remember, follow MDIO’s tips on How to Have a Hip and Healthy “Mama-Q” BBQ!

Fresh Salmon-Cilantro Burgers


  • 1/4 cup Chobani Greek yogurt, plain, non-fat
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 (1 1/2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns
  • 12 (1/4-inch-thick) slices English cucumber
  • 4 leaf lettuce leaves or spinach


  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill.
  2. Place salmon in a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add breadcrumbs and next 6 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon black pepper); pulse 4 times or until well blended. Divide salmon mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.
  3. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 2 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; cook 2 minutes or until done.
  4. Spread about 1 tablespoon mayonnaise mixture over bottom half of each hamburger bun. Top each serving with 1 salmon patty, 3 cucumber slices, 1 lettuce leaf, and top half of bun.
  5. Spinach salad: Combine 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons canola oil, 2 teaspoons water, and 1/4 teaspoon chile paste in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add half of 1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach, 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper strips, and 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion to bowl; toss to coat.

Grilled Peaches with Amaretto-Pecan Caramel Sauce


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup 100% apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto (almond-flavored liqueur) or substitute with 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon chilled butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 6 firm ripe peaches, halved and pitted (about 3 pounds)
  • Cooking spray


  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Combine granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until sugar dissolves, stirring gently as needed to dissolve sugar evenly. Continue cooking 8 minutes or until golden brown (do not stir); gently tilt pan and swirl mixture to evenly brown. Remove from heat. Slowly apple juice, amaretto, and butter, stirring constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until smooth. Stir in pecans. Remove from heat.
  3. Place peaches, cut sides up, on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 2 minutes on each side or until tender. Serve warm with sauce.

Teaching Nutrition in School

Like so many things affecting their children, parents tend to disagree on whether sex, sexual orientation or religion should be taught in school. Well, this mom (and an RD) often wonders if nutrition should be taught in school.

Teachers are not experts in nutrition nor are they educated about pediatric or adult nutrition as part of their college curriculums. Yet, many classroom teachers are giving lessons on “calories, good and bad foods, and even having students log their foods to see why they are so fat.” And I’m not making this stuff up. My client’s mother recently told me exactly what her daughter’s teacher had said to the class. If you’ve been reading my blogs regularly, you’ll easily imagine that at this point my nails are, at least figuratively, scratching the chalkboard!

Stop! Hold on just a minute! Do we even realize that these kinds of discussions and activities help create little food police and body dysmorphia? Moms, dads, teachers and kids: Do you know how many calories you burn in 24 hours? In 168 hours? Do teachers know how many calories kids are burning…especially since every kid hits puberty at a slightly different age? We typically do not know these answers; nor should we be obsessing with them. Also, do we really know if the calories on a package are correct? News flash: They are not being regulated and/or checked for accuracy! So why are we relying so heavily on these external measures? Be cautious and recognize that this black and white/all or none mindset is an unhealthy one. Instead, think about using an internal regulation system and try eating nutrient dense foods the majority of the time.

Most importantly, please know that foods are not “good” or “bad.” How can food be a moral issue? When you teach your children or your students that a particular food is “bad,” think about how they’ll feel if they eat the food. That’s right. They’ll not only feel bad and guilty; they’ll also probably start to hide these foods. Instead, try to make all foods neutral. For example, teach children that milk is milk. It’s a dairy product that is high in calcium and protein and comes from cows. Broccoli is a food that grows up from the ground and helps our bodies fight getting sick. Because foods vary in nutrient density, our bodies and kids’ growing bodies need certain foods more often to meet specific demands. You can describe each food’s nutrient density or just call them “everyday” foods or “sometimes” foods as described in my book, The Mommy Manual’s Healthy Habits. 

And why are some adults teaching kids to identify how “fat” they are? Our children are already being bullied by their peers…and now they’re learning to tell themselves how bad they are! I say this because our society (not me personally) continually states (overtly or covertly) that “fat” is “bad”! Why don’t we teach children how healthy they are or how special they are?


Even First Lady Michelle Obama is singing this new tune. She has been quoted saying she does not discuss weight with her daughters, nor does she weigh them.

So, why not use something like what the children’s nutrition tracker calls “An Apple A Day”; it motivates our youngsters to eat their veggies and be active. My boys love this tool and have actually turned eating and being healthy into a friendly competition.

Meanwhile, it’s not just one misguided teacher who shares this “good” and “bad” food misinformation. Even one of my son’s teachers labels certain foods as “treats.” I have told my son I will no longer acknowledge this word as it indicates something special. For example, ice cream is a snack choice, not a special reward. The point here is that nutrition is a sensitive issue…especially in my world where I am privy to the teary-eyed triggers that influence the development of eating disorders. And yes, binge eating is an eating disorder. Most adults don’t have their own nutrition needs in order, so it’s particularly scary to me as a mom (and as an RD who cares about her clients) that nutrition education is being taught without regard to both biology and psychology.

I know…quit my yapping and do something! Right? Well I did…and I continue to do! First, I’ve educated my sons’ school on appropriate food language and they’ve made this information part of their Health and Wellness Curriculum. I recently planted strawberries with the students and talk food and nutrition with them on a regular basis. Second, and on a much greater scale, I’ve finally finished my 8-week plan for creating healthy habits for children. The complete program is available to download. Moms, dads and teachers alike can use this book for lesson plans and nutrition education on subjects such as what carbohydrates are or what qualifies as an “everyday” food. In short, teachers can teach about nutrition but should consider using a positive approach and promoting things kids can do rather than what they shouldn’t be doing. For instance, my sons’ school just made pancakes with blueberries and did a “dairy study”. The result: My picky boys came home eating blueberries and having tried goat’s milk. Now that’s what I call a beautiful educational experience! 

So what do you think? Is nutrition education appropriate for school?

What positive programs are your schools implementing?

Would you like to share your nutrition education success?




Children's Nutrition Tracker Giveaway

Are you looking for a visual guide to make sure your little ones are getting the adequate amount of nutrients through a variety of food choices?!?  If so, An Apple A Day’s Children’s Nutrition Tracker is the perfect item for you!

  • The tracker is setup to follow all guidelines of MyPyramid and you will begin each day with all doors open.  As your child consumes a suggested serving, they close the door in that column.  It is a fun, interactive way for your children to get involved in healthy habits!
  • In addition to adequate food choices, the Children’s Nutrition Tracker also encourages 30 minutes of daily physical activity as well!
  • The tracker contains core cards that are full of serving suggestions and nutritional information for a variety of popular foods.
  • Since it contains built-in magnets, it is perfect for the fridge, which also makes it easier for the kids to help with!
  • The tracker can be used for up to 2 children and there is a customizable name section so each child can keep track of their own progress for the day!
  • The tracker also grows with your children so you can purchase additional core cards made for boys and girls ages 9-13 as well!

We’re giving away 1 tracker to a lucky fan so that you can help promote healthy eating habits in your home. This fun and interactive game will get children excited about learning how to make healthy food choices!!

For more information about the Children’s Nutrition Tracker, visit An Apple A Day’s website!


One lucky winner will receive An Apple A Day!

Enter by one of the following ways. You can submit more than one entry by doing any of the following. Just be sure to leave an additional comment letting us know you did! Good luck!

  • Leave a comment here and  “Like us” on our Facebook page
  • Follow @MomDishesItOut and tweet @MomDishesItOut is having a #MDIO #Giveaway.
  • We’d love to hear what your thoughts! Giveaway ends on Sunday, May 12 at 5:00 PM EST.