What To Do When a Good Eater Becomes a Refuser

By Danielle Viola, RD, CSP

Danielle Viola Pic Blog-1

We’ve all been there. Just when we think we have our children figured out or on a good schedule, they change it up on us! This applies to so many things in our kiddos lives, from sleep to behavior and beyond, but a big area this can impact is eating. Even the best eaters can go astray at times.

As a mom and dietitian, I’ve been fortunate that my first son has been a pretty good eater. Some of that is due to work I’ve put in with him, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was open to trying lots of new foods before he hit about 18 months. As long as he was accepting, we kept throwing new flavors and textures his way. For his second birthday he requested Salmon with a Puttanesca sauce (olives, capers and tomatoes for those who are unfamiliar), spinach and roasted potatoes.

You can imagine my dismay when my child who previously ate all things decided that he wanted more control over what he ate and all but gave up on trying new foods and even started to shun some foods that he had previously enjoyed, like sweet potatoes.

For anyone out there struggling with this or even just dealing with a child who is less willing to try new things, the good news is that this is normal and the solution is relatively simple. It just may take some time to actually work. It’s frustrating in the short term when all you want is for your child to be eating well-rounded meals, but it’s more important to look at the big picture and help your child to maintain a healthy relationship with food.


Here are my top 5 tips for dealing with a good eater gone astray:

  1. Model good eating behavior. If they see you eating it, it will just be normal. You can’t expect your child to eat peas if you won’t touch them, how fair is that? I find that the older my son gets, the more likely he is to try foods from my plate when the pressure is off and he is the one doing the asking. He wouldn’t get that opportunity if I weren’t striving to eat a variety of foods.
  2. Eat dinner as a family. Eating together is a key way to model eating behaviors and to talk about food. Family dinners end up becoming so much more than just a time to eat and with everyone eating together, some of the pressure is removed from a child who would otherwise be eating under the watchful eye of his or her parents. The more you chat together at the table, the more relaxed the atmosphere is. That inviting atmosphere helps kids to feel more comfortable to experiment with their eating. Plus, who wants to eat alone?
  3. Talk about food in a positive way. Studies show that children are more likely to try and eat new foods when caregivers talk about the benefits of foods instead of the negative consequences of “bad” foods. Think talking up the benefits of broccoli over the harm in eating cookies all day. Choose something that motivates your child. Our oldest was desperate to ride a roller coaster at a local amusement park. We talked about the types of foods that would help him to grow big and tall in order to do that and guess what he started asking for more of? It totally works!
  4. The food choices that children make will only be as good as the foods that are offered to them. Enough said.
  5. Don’t force your child to eat. Kids will eat when they are hungry. As a parent, it is your job to provide a variety of foods to your child. Your child should be deciding which of those foods he or she will eat and how much. Battles over finishing food at the table only result in frustration on both ends and can ultimately disrupt your child’s ability to sense when he or she is full. Trust that ultimately, your child’s body knows what it needs and in turn, your child will become more adventurous as he or she begins to trust that you won’t be forcing food at mealtimes.


Disclaimer: These suggestions are for children who are otherwise growing and developing at a rate deemed appropriate by your child’s physician. If you are struggling with eating habits in a child who is having growth failure, it is important to seek out individualized advice from a professional, such as pediatric dietitian.


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.


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!

Coconut Almond Crunch Granola Bars

By Laura Cipullo RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team


From ready-made breakfasts to kids’ camp snacks, granola bars are a go-to choice for on-the-go moms and dads. What better way to enjoy granola bars, than making them yourself? They’re also a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen!

Time: 30 minutes cooking, 15 minutes cooling

Yields: 10 bars


  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup nut butter
  • ½ cup dried fruits (raisins, craisins, dried cherries)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Toast oats on baking pan for about 5 minutes, shake or stir the oats on the pan once or twice.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

3. Coarsely chop the almonds and place onto the pan with the shredded coconut and place in oven for about 8 minutes, the coconut will start to turn golden and have a light aroma.

4. While the nuts and coconut are in the oven, pour the honey and nut butter (I used creamy almond butter) into a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, stir occasionally.  Simmer the mixture for 3-5 minutes until it is a medium golden.

5. Remove honey and nut butter mix from heat and stir in oats, almonds and coconut.  The mixture may seem dry, but should be evenly coated.

6. Sprinkle in dried fruits (I used a mix of raisins, dried cherries and cranberries) at the end of mixing.

7. Pour whole mix onto parchment lined baking pan or 8 x 12 cake pan and spread evenly.

8. Compress the granola mix so that there are not any spaces (this will prevent your bars from falling apart when you cut them).  You can use the bottom of another pan covered in parchment paper to flatten out the mix.

9. Wait about 10-15 minutes for mixture to cool before cutting into 1 x 4in bars.

10. Store in air tight container and enjoy!

Fun Adaptation: This recipe also makes a yummy granola! Just crumble the mix after it cools or chop into smaller pieces for a fun yogurt topping!

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

Confessions of a Former Control Freak


By Dina Cohen, MS RDN CEDRD

One of the best cures for perfectionism has got to be having twins. One baby definitely changes the dynamics of your life, but when there are two, the odds of things going as planned are even more drastically reduced. If one baby manages to stay clean, the other one will surely spit up all over her carefully matched outfit – and yours. If one accommodates your busy schedule, the other refuses to nap. If one happily consumes the meal you worked hard to prepare, the other may turn up her nose at it. Raising twins effectively erases the last vestiges of any illusion of control.

While I was expecting my babies, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, an American author now living in France, and I was enthralled by her description of the way French kids eat. Apparently, they enjoy a sophisticated, varied menu, and picky eating is seemingly nonexistent. Wow! Imagine having kids like that! I knew it would take more work to ensure that my babies tried a wide range of foods from a young age, but I wanted my children to have a healthy, positive relationship with food, and naturally, I sought to avoid the power struggles that can result from dealing with picky eaters. Excited by what I’d read, I looked forward to starting my twins, Adele and Rebecca, on their first solid foods.

The first few weeks were a lot of fun. They are seven months old now and I still love watching the funny faces they make when they taste their first spoonful of a new food. Because I spend so much of my time working to help kids (and adults!) try new healthy foods, it’s a pleasure to be able to serve items like salmon, tofu, beans, and avocado to eager customers who don’t know yet that some people consider these foods yucky. But I’m learning that the only predictable part of this process is the work I put in. After I’ve cooked, mixed, and pureed the day’s treats and settled the babies into their high chairs, all I can do is hope. They are generally easy to please, but sometimes they’ll eat just one spoonful of a new food and turn down the rest. (Quinoa, for example, was not a success…but we’ll try again!) Some days, one or both will refuse a previously enjoyed food, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Their appetites will vary from day to day and meal to meal, and I never know exactly how things will turn out. Adele is clearly the more enthusiastic eater and seems braver when it comes to new textures and flavors, but a couple of nights ago, after tasting turkey for the first time, she went on strike. Rebecca, who is usually much more hesitant with food, happily finished her sister’s portion. Feeding my babies it teaching me to let go of my expectations and to respect each baby as her own little person with her own unique preferences.

Much of my work with pediatric clients is based on Ellyn Satter’s philosophy of division of responsibility in feeding children. I explain to parents that they are in charge of the timing and content of meals and snacks, but they are not responsible for how much their children eat or whether they choose to eat at all. They also do not have control over how their children’s bodies turn out. Adele and Rebecca provide me with my own miniature twin study right here at home. Adele is fascinated by watching her parents eat, and she’s the one making eager little noises at mealtime. When Adele is particularly hungry, she may get two spoonfuls for every one spoonful Rebecca gets. And guess who the bigger baby is? Surprise…it isn’t Adele!

I’ve come to accept that as with so many things in life, my children’s eating is going to be unpredictable, and that my efforts and their outcome are often unrelated. I must admit that while the babies enjoy my homemade yogurt, their favorite food seems to be jarred fruit. They’ll eat their broccoli, but they clearly would rather have applesauce. (My dietitian brain knows it’s their innate preference for sugar, but I have a feeling they know they’re American!) I’m going to keep doing what I can to ensure that the girls get the best possible start, but I realize that that’s all I can do – set the stage. My babies will eat the way they want to eat and grow the way they’re destined to grow. And while they’re busy experiencing new tastes and flavors, their mom is savoring the sweetness of stepping back and letting go.

 Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD provides nutritional counseling for clients of all ages and specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She is dedicated to helping kids and their families develop lifelong healthy habits and a positive relationship with food. Her private practice, Eatwellsoon, is located Lakewood, NJ, where she lives with her husband and twin daughters.

And He Eats!

And He Eats!
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: sean dreilinger via Compfight cc

Six years later, Billy finally eats. As many of you know, my two boys challenge my feeding and eating expertise on a daily basis. I think from all the Mommy RD stories here on Mom Dishes It Out, you now know that RDs have their fair share of food and nutrition conundrums. But like you, we need to separate our emotional-selves and work with our child. This is probably the hardest part. Being an objective feeder is quite the challenge. Don’t despair, your kids may surprise you..


I constantly have to remind myself to lighten up around the food and sometimes set more food boundaries. Just the other night, I bought chicken apple sausage and potato rolls for my oldest son. Bobby loves chicken apple sausage. However, it seems he only likes the sausage from Brooklyn. Anyway, we tried two new brands just yesterday. Bobby was trying it as a side to his dinner of rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and spinach. Billy excitedly comes into the kitchen declaring he will have a hot dog bun with peanut butter, two cheeses and a yogurt with a side of strawberries.


Here is conundrum number one. Do I allow him to dictate his meal? Conundrum two is whether he should try the chicken sausage. Because of my work with food phobias and eating disorders, I never want to force the boys to eat food and prefer exposure therapy. I let Billy know, he must first try chicken sausage on the hot dog roll. Of course, he verbally refuses. I have yet to understand if this is an animal thing, a chewing thing, a control thing or perhaps just a taste preference. I feel my blood begin to boil.


It is so hard to be objective. I proceed to make the sausage and set it on Billy’s plate. He is of course performing a song and dance. I also make Billy his requested dinner. I serve him both the sausage in a bun and his dinner preferences on the same plate.


Amazingly, he tries the sausage with one small bite. Not shockingly, he doesn’t like it. He eats his dinner. He doesn’t complain nor does he remove it from his plate. These are signs of his progress.


So, in the end we both faired well. I still feel defeated because he only took a small bite and he didn’t like it. But then I think back to March. The boys and I were eating dinner together. It was a simple dinner of tortellini. Bobby and I were eating it. I made Billy something else. All of the sudden, Billy says I want tortellini. I almost fell off my chair. Really??

Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: quinn.anya via Compfight cc

Well, he did want it. He tried it and said it was dry. He wanted to try it with marinara sauce. He loved it. He basically had marinara soup with tortellini. Wow, that made my night and my month for that matter. The point is, after seeing us eat tortellini a million times, he tried it and liked it. Just like he has done with most fruit, breads and salsas. He typically tries food now without an issue. As long as it is not of animal origin. Well, the majority of the time.


In the end, Billy eats tortellini. We can go for Mexican and Italian food as a family and Billy can order off the adult menu. What a relief!! It has taken him six years to find a pasta he enjoys. I can’t wait to see what he likes over the next 6 years. Thank you Billy for teaching me patience is key while a little push is necessary, too.


Moms and dads, keep up your efforts to expose the kids to all foods and encourage trying foods. The act of trying is the most important thing. I know six years seems like a long time, and it is. But each child has his/her own process. Find what works for you and your child. Share with us your trials and tribulations. We can all learn and support each other. If you find yourself having a hard time keeping your feelings out of the kitchen, consult a registered dietitian or even a speech and language pathologist.


Looking for more tips? Check out our 7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater.

DIY: 7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater

DIY:  7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

Picky eaters

“I just want to go home and eat what I eat everyday for lunch.”


Is this your child? It is most definitely my child, as this is what he said to me on Friday when we walked into the burger joint known for its burgers and milkshakes. When he said this, I just let out a deep breath and decided it would be milkshakes for lunch. He doesn’t like change, and therefore he doesn’t like change in food, rules, or where he puts the furniture in Minecraft.

But this does not mean that you or I should take the summer off from exposing our kids to new foods and/or textures. Actually, summer is ideal because schedules are changing, and you can create a new schedule that incorporates trying new foods, say, twice a week. There is no school, stress, or homework, so take advantage of this time.

I am trying to incorporate different foods into dinner meals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Just yesterday, the boys tried fresh mozzarella, which neither would eat. They liked it melted but not cold. Last week they tried vegetarian sushi with avocado (they both licked it). Remember, touching, licking, or just getting it on their plate can help. Of course, they get these new foods alongside their faves or sometimes before their favorites are served. They tried a falafel burger and cocoa-dusted almonds!

My oldest, Bobby, has taken to eating fresh corn on the cob with butter and salt each night with his dinner, while Billy has incorporated strawberries without the skin at each of his dinner meals. That’s right, no skins. One night he said, “Mommy, I like the insides of strawberries.” My husband told me that Billy would eat the strawberries’ flesh, but he could not take a big bite. So I got the peeler out and voila!! He is now my strawberry man. So as summer begins, we will take this opportunity to continue exposing the boys to new foods and even former foods.

The food exposure may follow this progression or something similar.

Recognize that this is helpful for toddlers, children, and even pre-teens.

  1. First, get the food on the same plate
  2. Next, get touch involved.  Maybe your child touches the food with their fingers or puts the food to his/her cheek or lips
  3. Employ the One Lick Rule
  4. Employ the One Chew and Spit—if you must
  5. Use the One Bite Rule
  6. Use the Three Bites Rule if your child has achieved the One Bite with that food
  7. Make the food part of the main meal on a regular basis


If you think that your child may have issues with sensory integration, get the expert advice of a speech pathologist and/or an occupational therapist. Books that may help include Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids: How to Teach Your Child About the Joy of Food by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, and Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook.


Keep your eyes open for MDIO’s (Mom Dishes It Out’s) upcoming blog on when to get a consult from a speech therapist versus, occupational therapist or dietitian.


And of course, let us know what works for you. Does your child fit the description of Potock’s case examples, or does your child easily follow the flow set by Satter’s “Division of Responsibility”?

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

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

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


Here is some of our conversation:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





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


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

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.