Finally Free from Fruit Fears?

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc

By Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD

So you may recall my disclosure in a previous blog, sharing that my son is anything

but a fruit lover. He politely refuses whenever offered any – whether it’s the

sweetest, most amazing strawberry, or the crunchiest red apple. When he has tried

the occasional bite, his eyes water, he gags, and just can’t move beyond it. He’s

made it into his teens allowing only raisins, applesauce and an occasional juice into

his otherwise varied nutritional palate. While he enjoyed fruit as an infant and

toddler, something switched when he became a more independent preschooler, and

while I accepted that there must be a lesson of humor and irony for me as his

nutritionist-mom, I inwardly believed that he would just shift out of it as he became

older and around other kids who ate fruit freely.

While I’ve held onto that hope, I’ve become a little more concerned that the mood

may never just strike him out of the blue. I doubt he’ll wake one morning saying,

“Cool – today’s the day I’m super excited to try blueberries”, unless I give him a little

more assistance. And that help must somehow go beyond “just try a little bite”. A

wise friend and extremely gift occupational therapist, Wendy Chen-Sams, MS, OTR,

NDT, actually confirmed my suspicions. She said that the likelihood for young adults

to expand their palates greatly diminishes once these teens have left their childhood

home, particularly when there are strong aversions to flavor and/or texture, as is

my son’s case. Fortunately for him (and me!), he’s become more curious and

actually would like to explore and expand. He’s motivated to grow to his height

potential, and assist his overall health. Cool – the critical first step of motivation is


Wendy recommended that we not only move slowly, but also focus on only one

sensory area at a time. Since he seems to have some taste and texture aversions, she

suggested we begin first with introducing a new, mild flavor. Of particular interest

to me was the fact that colder fruits would be much less likely to trigger his gag

reflux, and will slightly numb the sensors so it’s less overwhelming — homemade

popsicles are going to be our new friends!

Our first step will be to combine familiar flavors – banana (which he loves in

pancakes & bread) and orange juice – with a new one, pear. Because we aren’t

exploring texture yet, we will be blending them together until smooth, then pouring

into popsicle molds. Once they’re ready to go, he will explore the taste receptors on

his tongue, particularly on the tip and sides. The receptors at the back of the tongue

are more sensitive, so we’ll gradually make it to those.

Once he’s tolerating (hopefully enjoying, too!), we will introduce some ever-so-

slightly larger pieces of pear within the pops, and graduate to even more texture.

As his acceptance of taste and texture improve, we’ll gradually introduce the same

pear flavor at refrigerator temp. The ultimate goal is for him to eat a pear or new

fruit without any processing. As important as it is for kids to repeatedly try new

and different foods as they begin to acquire a taste and tolerance, it’s also crucial

that we don’t try the new food every single day. A few times a week is just fine, says


So this is part of our summer adventure, and you can be sure that I will keep you

posted as it unfolds!


Of course there are a plethora of different sensory food aversions, and I am aware

that my son’s are quite mild. If you have a child struggling in a manner that is

interfering with his development or quality of life, it is crucial that you seek some

additional assistance, first checking with your pediatrician who may then refer you

to an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and/or registered dietitian who

specialize in this arena.


Two suggested reads:

Meals Without Tears: How to get Your Child to Eat Healthily and Happily,

by Dr.Rana Conway

Just Two More Bites! Helping Picky Eaters Say Yes to Food,

by Linda Piette

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.

The Debate About Milk

Photo Credit: mary mackinnon via Compfight cc

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

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

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

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



Scheherazade Casserole

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


Photo Credit: Emily Barney via Compfight cc


Scheherazade Casserole

Makes 6-8 Servings


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



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



Formula Fed—Me and My Boys

Formula Fed—Me and My Boys
Not every mom must breast-feed.
By Laura Cipullo RD CED CEDRD CDN 

Photo Credit: nerissa’s ring via Compfight cc

I know as a registered dietitian I am supposed to encourage breast-feeding, but there are enough dietitians indoctrinating “breast-feed only.”  I am here to share the flip side. I don’t want moms to feel guilty for not breastfeeding because they cannot or simply because they choose not to. I have formula fed both of my sons, who are now ages five and seven. Neither have food allergies, and neither have been on antibiotics (recently, however, it was necessary for the eldest to take them). I, too, was formula fed and am a healthy individual. Opining for formula is based on my personal experience and not science.


But it can be heartbreaking to want to breast-feed your child and be unable to do so. Moms, please don’t feel guilty. Formula feeding is not to the detriment of your child. You can still bond, and you can still provide your child with nutrition. As a matter of fact, the first six months post birth are important, but our job as mothers is even more important as our babies get older. Providing pure nutrition goes beyond the breast and the bottle. How we feed the baby, what we feed them as their first foods, and the relationship between us and our food—and our child and his/her food—is a lifelong balancing act that is more crucial than breastfeeding.


There are also other times when it may be to the mom’s or the baby’s advantage to choose formula rather than breast-milk.

Photo Credit: nerissa’s ring via Compfight cc

Why it may not always be better to breast-feed:

  1. Mom may be malnourished and unlikely to give baby adequate nutrition.
  2. Mom may be decreasing her bone density, sacrificing her health in order to give baby enough calcium.
  3. Mom may not be eating fish, and therefore baby is not getting enough DHA, the essential fatty acid obtained through eating fish.
  4. Mom may be drinking diet soda and eating diet foods to lose the baby weight. (But do you want to bottle-feed artificial sugar to your baby? Is this different healthier than sugar in formula?)
  5. Pump and dump?? Let’s face it, many moms imbibe in drinks such as wine, while others even smoke tobacco and proceed to breast-feed!
  6. Baby may not be getting enough nutrition, and formula may be better choice.


Consider, are you doing this to benefit baby or yourself? If you do breast-feed, make sure you take a multivitamin with minerals, drink enough water, and eat enough real, wholesome food. If you choose formula, know your baby is getting calcium, DHA, and the necessary macronutrients. The sugar in formula is not ideal, but remember milk is a form of carbohydrate, which is sugar. The focus for you and all moms and dads can and should be on what you feed your child for the rest of his/her young adult life rather than on the first year alone.


More on breast-feeding: 

Healthy Weekends in Woodstock, Vermont

What better time than Fall to create new habits, especially regarding health. As you and your children start new routines for the school year, think outside the box. What other activities or family habits can you introduce to your children? Eating locally and moving for fun are 2 healthy habits that you and your family can practice to create a happy balance between food and life. For Labor Day weekend, my husband and I reinforced the message of moving for fun with a family trip to Vermont. With the cool weather and colorful scenery, Fall is the perfect time to head to Vermont to enjoy nature at it’s finest. Plus, there are tons of cute little cafes that offer farm-to-table produce! If you’re up for hiking, exploring farms or some homemade ice cream, head to Vermont for a weekend of family fun. For easy planning and a list of mom-approved activities, follow my guide for a healthy, happy weekend!

We headed to Vermont on Friday and stayed at The Kendron Valley Inn. I recommend looking for deals online and to always call to check availability as many websites may say “booked” online, but typically have vacancies when you call. The Kendron Valley Inn offers a complimentary breakfast! Each morning we had pancakes, Vermont maple syrup, homemade blueberry muffins and more. Plus, if it’s warm enough, you and your kids can swim in the Inn’s awesome pond. It was a great experience for my city kids!! Fuel their brains with an educational outing: a visit to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science  for an educational presentation on raptures.

Later, introduce your little ones to hiking on the easy, flat trails. The boys found walking sticks and loved romping through the forest. They even pretended they were baby bald eagles as they sat in the life-size bald eagle nest at the trail head. Next, stop by the Billings Farm and Museum. We watched the cows being milked on the farm, learned about Jersey Cows, machine milking and more. Although this was our second time there, there was still so much to learn! Did you know that some farmers place eggs in specific areas around their farms, knowing their hens will lay eggs near another egg? Yes, it’s true. Farmers use this strategy so they can find their hens’ eggs when they are free-range chickens. While the chickens on Billing’s Farm are not free range, they are not caged in tiny crates either. You can actually observe the “pecking order” in their coop. And if you’re planning to visit the the Billing’s Farm–don’t worry! No matter what weekend you visit, there’s always something fun to do. Each weekend, Billing Farm’s hosts theme events like Harvest Weekend and Autumn Wagon Ride Weekend. Again, using a positive engaging experience like this can be the perfect way to introduce your family to new foods. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by the ice creamery for some homemade ice cream!! If you want to visit an organic farm, you can opt for The Neighborly Farms of Vermont in Randolph Center.

On Sunday morning, head out for another kid-friendly hike. There are many options including the Faulkner Trail, Prosper Road Trail Hike and The Pogue. We chose to hike The Pogue, which leads to this fabulous little pond known for its turtles sunbathing on the logs. Throughout the trip, my oldest son played photographer and took all of our pictures. Enjoy your family meals amongst the beautiful scenery! Pack a picnic and eat on the beautiful field just around the pond or head back to town for some locally grown produce and of course, cheese and ice cream at the Mountain Creamery Restaurant in the center of Woodstock. This place looks like an old café/dinner but serves kid-friendly fare. While the boys ate grilled cheese, I devoured a garlic scape wrap with veggies and my hubby enjoyed a pulled ham sandwich. We then concluded our meal by sharing a bit of what we like to call, “sometimes food” (food that we eat some of the time, and enjoy in moderation!) We shared two ice cream sundaes for dessert and wow, were they delicious! Fresh, homemade ice cream – there’s nothing better!

Since we stayed for a long weekend, we also visited Simon Pearce to watch them make their glass dishware. The kids found this fascinating! We then ate off their dish-ware at their restaurant on the river in Quechee, Vt. Other options include visiting the Maple Sugarhouse Museum and or the Sugarbush Farm. So hiking for fun (and exercise), eating locally grown veggies and homemade cheese and ice cream were the highlights of this healthy weekend. I can’t wait to go back and I highly recommend this trip to others wanting a weekend away; filled with both wilderness and the comforts of home. It’s about creating fun experiences for ways to encourage your kids to move, and learn about where our food comes from. Let me know if you’ve been to Vermont, plan to go, or if you have any other healthy weekend ideas!

Get Ready to Bake a New Kind of Cake

Yesterday, my son was home from school and I thought, what better way to spend the afternoon with him than to do one of his favorite activities together…baking! Except this time, it was a different kind of baking; a cake in a mug that you can make under 10 minutes. (Yes, it’s true!) Aside from the speed and ease of baking mug cakes, the time you spend in the kitchen with your kids can be a fun way to introduce new (and old) foods to your kids, have them practice their hand at measuring ingredients and most importantly, build healthy habits.

So, get ready to make a new kind of cake with us! All you need is a mug, a microwave, and a few ingredients to follow along. And if you want to enter for a chance to win your own copy of the Mug Cakes cookbook by Leslie Bilderback, click here to enter our Mug Cakes Giveaway!

To watch Laura and Liam bake together, click each image below.






Devil’s Food Cake





 Classic Carrot Cake






Mug Cakes Cookbook Giveaway

Whether you’re a seasoned baker or new in the kitchen, we’re going to share with you a speedy way to serve up mouthwatering desserts… cakes in a mug! How adorable are these?! We recently just discovered an entire cookbook dedicated to mug cakes and were excited to review it! Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth by Leslie Bilderback contains a variety of flavors and is accommodating for any lifestyle diet. We mean it too! We were very pleased to find nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and even sugar-free recipes.

Whether you’re a busy parent or college student, Mug Cakes are a quick solution to those who want to satisfy their sweet tooth–in a balanced and portioned serving. They are fairly easy to make, require only a handful of ingredients and minimal prep and bake time in the microwave/oven. Note: Most of the recipes call for self-rising flour but if you don’t have that on hand, the book includes a recipe to make your own self-rising flour.

Aside from the mouthwatering photos of mug cakes from cover to ucover, one of the best parts of this book is that it really breaks it down for you. From various mixing techniques to what types of flour work best, Leslie guides you through the basics of creating homemade mug cakes in minutes!

In line with our philosophy at Mom Dishes It Out and EALM, we believe in all foods in moderation..yes, that includes cakes too! As Leslie puts it, “Let the kids try their hand with S’mores and Root Beer Float cakes.” We agree– getting the kids in the kitchen is so important. Use your time in the kitchen to teach them how to develop healthy habits. Expose them to new foods by having them help you shop for ingredients. Allow them to help you measure and mix ingredients to introduce them to new food textures and a little bit of math! You can even encourage them to think creatively by having them help you decorate the mug cakes or top them off with fresh fruits like strawberries or raspberries.

If baking dessert isn’t your forte…with mug cakes it doesn’t have to be. With easy-to-follow directions, you can still create delicious desserts in your own kitchen in no time. Interested in your own copy of Mug Cakes? Enter to win your own copy of Mug Cakes cookbook!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press, we’re able to give a lucky reader a copy of Mug Cakes by Leslie Bilderback. To enter, see details below:

**You MUST be a subscriber to enter
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 and @stmartinspress is having a Mug Cake cookbook #giveaway!

Giveaway ends on Sunday, September 15th at 6:00 PM EST.

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!

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?