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!

Crowd Pleasing Veggie Burgers

By Brenna O’Malley and The Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team


In search of a meatless option for a crowd or just an alternative to packaged veggie burgers with lots of extra ingredients? This easy make-ahead recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, a salad or lunch topper, or a great way to get some protein and veggies into your day! These are crowd pleasing veggie burgers because your whether your friends are meatless, gluten free or particular about the veggies or ingredients they like, these burgers can be adapted to fit your guests’ palates!

Yields ~8 patties


1 can black beans, mashed

½ medium onion, diced

1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, grated or diced finely

1 (8oz) pkg of mushrooms, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 cup oat flour (can be made by blending 1 cup oats)

½ cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked

½ cup sweet potato, diced and cooked

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 cloves of garlic, minced and made into paste

1 tbsp olive oil

2 eggs

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes


Optional Add-ins:

1 cup sautéed spinach or kale, 2 tbsp chopped almonds, 1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce



  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. If you do not have roasted sweet potato or rinsed and cooked quinoa ready, prepare those now. Sautee onions, garlic paste, mushrooms and red pepper with tbsp. olive oil until veggies are soft.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and any optional add-ins you choose. Season to taste and mix well.
  4. Prepare a baking sheet, moisten hands with water and begin to tightly pack and shape patties for baking.
  5. Bake patties in oven for ~25 minutes, if your patties are thicker, flipping halfway through may promote even baking.
  6. Can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen to have on hand for the week. Enjoy!

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 we Learned at “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox”

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

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Are you at a loss when it comes to creative kid friendly food? Well, Dishing with the Media gave Mom Dishes it Out some fabulous new recipe ideas! We attended the “Thinking Outside the Lunchbox” event in SoHo a few weeks ago, kid’s cooking expert and professional chef, Cricket, along with 15 year old Season One winner of MasterChef Jr., Chef Alexander Weiss, introduced us to some fabulous recipes and parenting strategies. They shared ways to incorporate nutritious foods into more common kid-friendly recipes, and some new recipes for them to try! Most importantly they shared helpful ways to get kids, as young as 2 years old, excited about helping in the kitchen!

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The event began with samples of a refreshing green smoothie, “Nutribullet University Blast #2”, a delicious and nutritious summer snack for you and your kids. Even if you are dealing with picky eaters, you can show them how great it tastes by drinking it yourself! Cricket reminded us that the best way to promote healthy habits is to model eating behaviors yourself.

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Another great way to include unfamiliar foods in your kid’s diet is to incorporate them in recipes they are familiar with. Cricket and Alexander introduced us to two creative recipes using foods kids know and love with others they might be less comfortable with. Cricket’s “Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese Cups” are the perfect way to sneak some veggies into a delicious bite of mac and cheese. They are fun to eat and easy to pack in a lunch box! You can even individually wrap them to freeze and use later on.

Tip from Cricket: Try cooking the broccoli in the same pot as the pasta (add it a few minutes after the pasta) to reduce dishes!

Chef Alexander uses a similar approach with his “Tofu Bao”, a recipe he created to mimic the Pork Sticky Buns many of us know and love. Instead of using pork belly however, he replaces it with tofu to create this tasty and easily packed lunch option.

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Chef Alexander explained how tofu is available in many varieties types of firmness, pre-baked, cubed, etc.  For those of you unfamiliar with tofu, it is a low calorie, high protein, soy-based product that can be used to replace protein and vegetables in many common dishes. Soft tofu can be blended and used to replace eggs in many recipes to make them healthier. (He advises not to use it in baking as it will make the desert too dense.) Because it is used to replace meat in this recipe, Chef Alexander recommends using a firm variety and to blot it to remove excess water before cooking. He also recommends a non-stick pan for searing tofu in his savory marinade. This sweet and salty dish was one definitely our favorite- delicious!

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Another one of our favorite recipes from this event is “Libby’s Veggie Confetti Dip.” It’s a great afterschool snack including a vegetable, protein, and dairy. Cricket showed us how Libby’s vegetable cups can be used to make a tasty dip using only a few simple ingredients: a microwavable Libby’s vegetable cup, yogurt, raisins, and herbs. During her demonstration, Cricket stressed the importance of getting kids involved in the kitchen and turning into a learning experience. Both Chefs agreed that “everyone can cook” so give your kids a task they can complete; an 8 year old can read the recipe out loud and measure ingredients, a 4 year old can use a plastic or butter knife, and even a two year old can help by tearing the herbs! Cricket believes that the more kids are involved in preparation, the more they will want to try the food. She also reminded us to give children “choice within your boundaries” by letting them choose the type of Libby’s vegetable cup!

Tip: This dip goes great with crackers, salmon, grilled chicken, burgers, and can also be blended in a Nutribullet to make a sauce.

We are so excited to get our very own Nutribullet and to recreate these recipes ourselves! All recipes from this event can be found here!

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


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!

Something More Than Fish


Charlie tells his younger sister: “These are not fish sticks. These are ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea—mermaids eat them all of the time.”

—I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child

As you know, I’m not perfect. Rather, I’m the real deal! I am the dietitian with the picky kids. My children definitely give me much practice about what I preach. And then, thank goodness, there are other times. I continue on this long journey of exposing my children to foods and trying my best to allow them to develop positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food. Mind you, this is no easy task. It’s a difficult balancing act. 

Our latest feat was fish sticks. Just remember that when we talk about fish sticks, we are really referring to something of a metaphor for life. Read on to learn more.

My youngest son Billy has been picky and often frustrating about food since the day he was born. At one point he loved Dr. Praeger’s Fish Sticks; he would eat four or five of them in one sitting. Billy’s enjoyment was of brief duration and he never seemed ready to reincorporate these ocean nibbles onto his personal “I really like this!” list despite our best efforts. Well, for some reason, this week was different. Once again, we offered fish sticks to Billy. To be exact, I made both boys fish sticks—a very child-friendly food—and put them on their dinner plates. However, I put only one fish stick on Billy’s plate. My husband and I were eating kale salad, herbed pork tenderloin and roasted potatoes. I know the boys won’t eat this dinner and I don’t make a big deal about it. This frustrates my husband, especially as the boys get older. However, when we push, like I did with the sweet potato puree (Read my recent blog, The Imperfect Food Mom), the boys push back.

In recent months, I’ve seen Billy eat a fish stick. I’ve actually seen him gobble it down! I can’t remember the specific circumstances around that particular meal. The one thing I realized was that he’s been playing us with the darn fish sticks. The way he scarfed down that fish stick made it clear that he really likes the taste or, at least, doesn’t mind the taste. Lately, I’ve been telling the boys how important it is to try new things whether they are sports activities or different foods. I have also been telling them: “You don’t need to eat your favorite foods every night. Mommy and Daddy sometimes make a meal that we don’t particularly enjoy, but we eat it anyway. Every meal doesn’t have to taste great. We just need to get nutrition from eating it. Eating our favorite meals happens just some of the time.”

So Billy looked down at his fish stick and immediately said: “I don’t like fish sticks.” I don’t recall my exact response at that moment, but by the end of our conversation, Billy was expressing his desire for Smart Puffs. (Note: I’m not a fan of Smart Puffs, but I do buy them on occasion because Billy is!) So I clearly told him: “You need to eat something with nutrition. You need to meet your body’s needs for growing. You can have Smart Puffs, but you haven’t eaten enough protein today.” As you might imagine, the little gamer asked: “Can I have some Smart Puffs if I eat my fish stick?” Well, of course! And he did. He happily ate his fish stick and then his Smart Puffs.

The next night we found ourselves with the same situation. This time, however, I put two fish sticks on Billy’s plate. He asked for his Smart Puffs and he got them after eating one and then the other fish stick. Please understand that this was not a food reward. I was not rewarding Billy for eating his fish stick. Rather, I was letting him know it’s okay to have all foods some of the time. You can eat foods lower in nutrition but not at the sacrifice/cost of a more nutritious food when growing…or just on a regular basis. 

After two consecutive nights of fish sticks, Billy asked if he could have fish sticks every other night rather than every night. Sure he can. I wasn’t planning to put fish sticks on his plate every night or even every other night. But since he thought I was—and he now thinks he made the decision about when to have them—I went with it!

I realize fish sticks are not the most nutritious nor desirable food one would want their children to eat. But when you have a picky eater, you must start somewhere. Knowing whether your child is playing you, knowing when to push, and knowing when a child is truly revolted by a food is a hard task to tackle. I choose to walk this line very carefully…and without any rush factor. I choose to do so because I clearly see the negative effects of creating power struggles around food between parents and children in my office. I successfully used this approach with my oldest son Bobby. He has become the best intuitive eater—slowly but surely reincorporating familiar foods and trying new foods almost daily now that he has turned six.

I do believe in the process of food exposure and sometimes even giving a little push. I remember my personal pickiness when I was a child. I actually think my vegetarianism and then veganism in high school and college were in part to send a direct message to my family. My message said: “You made me eat meat…and I didn’t like it!” It also said I am different from you because I eat different foods than you. The same things happen with my clients. I have teenagers either refusing to eat anything at all, or eating only certain foods. And they’re doing this partly to control their parents or get their attention. 

I don’t want to have power struggles about food with my children, so perhaps I am a bit more relaxed with food than others would think. As a parent, this is your decision too. Just recognize that feeding and eating isn’t simply a straight forward matter. Ultimately, it’s how individuals identify, label and communicate their inner selves to the world. This is the metaphor: What happens with food typically represents what’s happening with life at that time!




Getting Your Kids to Dig Veggies!

Real Mom Questions – Real Mom Answer: Getting Your Kids to Dig Veggies!

By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN

Real Mom Question:

I cannot get my girls to eat vegetables (toddler dilemma).  The only veggies I can get them to eat sometimes, are edamame, carrot French fries (which are really not veggies), or veggie burgers.  I try to sneak veggies into grilled cheese sandwiches, but they spit it out in disgust; they will eat around the peas if they find them in pasta sauce.  I have even tried hummus with carrot sticks, but they only want crackers or pretzels.

Any suggestions?

Photo Credit: Abdulla Al Muhairi via Compfight cc

Real Mom Answer:

Our cutie pies are so sweet but sometimes so difficult–especially when it comes to feeding and eating. Sit back and relax. This is a process, a long one that for some kids can last longer than others, depending on other circumstances.

But in general, veggies are bitter and therefore not so yummy to their little palates. I would ensure those veggies stay on the plate, however. Just because the girls have given up, don’t give up on trying.

How to get your kids to eat their veggies and like them!!

1. Keep ’em coming. Continue the exposure every night even if it is just one carrot. The more the tots see the veggies, the more neutral they will become.

2. If they like carrot French fries, try similar shapes, textures, and flavors. For instance, try sweet potato fries, fried zucchini sticks, carrot muffins, and carrot juice (mixed with apple juice).

3.  Sugar coat with cheese. Veggies may be bitter, but we can get the picky palates to convert by melting cheese on them or making cheese fondue. Even if the kids use the same veggie over and over as a utensil, that’s a great step in the right direction. As moms know, getting the toddlers to just touch or handle certain foods is a feat in and of itself.

4. Host a taste-test party. Go the grocery store and get one veggie to try five ways or get five veggies to try with one dip or condiment.

In our home, I host a Sunday “Maybe Someday They Will Eat This.” Of course, the kids don’t know I call the day this. But every Sunday I buy a bunch of new foods to try and let the kids try a few of them that night at dinner. Currently, I only do it on Sundays, but it has worked for us as I could not have the sitter doing it for me during the week.

5.  Watch Copy Kids, the best DVD ever that role models toddlers eating fruits and veggies.

6. Go out to eat!!! Yes, bring your little princes and princesses to restaurants.

Both of my boys have increased their food variety by trying out food at restaurants and trying new sides with their main courses. Think cheese quesadillas with a fruit salad of mango, pineapple, avocado, and peppers or steak with veggie biscuits. 

 7. Work with their favorite color or flavor. If they love purple, make purple potatoes, purple eggplant, purple cauliflower, purple broccoli, and so on.

8. Get your veggies from the farm. They taste one thousand times better. I know order all of my produce and proteins through Farmigo. It is the best-tasting and most visually appealing food by far. I mean, who wouldn’t want to snack on beans when they taste like sugar and crunch like chips?

9. Follow that popular saying “Keep Calm and Carry On!” With consistent effort and exposure minus the power struggle, your little ones will slowly get there. A veggie is healthy but not essential for life. Just keep moving forward.

And one last thing, try the new rainbow baby carrot sticks, they are beautiful and sweet!!!




What Type of Parent are You at the Dinner Table?

What Kind of Parent are You at the Dinner Table?

By Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

*This post was originally published on, the original post can be read here.

One of the fascinating aspects of being a feeding therapist that works with children in their homes is that I get to see first-hand the variations in parenting styles.

One particular family was memorable because both parents were security guards and they seemed to bring an element of their jobs to the family dinner table. They contacted me because their 5-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, wasn’t gaining weight and was a “very picky eater.” When I arrived at their home, both Mom and Dad were completely engaged with their little girl, all three laughing and playing together on the living room floor.

Interestingly, the atmosphere shifted the moment everyone sat down at the table. There was practically no conversation except to announce what was for dinner and how much the little girl was expected to eat “Remember to eat all your corn, Elizabeth,” her father stated. The parents watched over her vigilantly and occasionally reminded her to “keep eating.” When the couple had finished their meal, and Elizabeth was staring at her not-so-empty plate, her father reprimanded her for “not eating her corn…again.” Noteworthy to me was the fact that both parents felt the need to set stringent eating rules, enforce them and remind Elizabeth if she did not follow dinner time guidelines. Clearly, their concern for her growth and nutrition were in the forefront of their minds, but why did they feel this directive style of parenting was going to be helpful? What happened to those engaged, interactive parents I had just witnessed playing so beautifully with their little girl in the living room?

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