A note to my readers:

Photo Credit: J. Paxon Reyes via Compfight cc

A note to my readers


As I continue to share my stories, experiences and other “food for thought,” I am realizing that at times my entries extend beyond the experiences of my personal family. Each lesson is, however, always relevant to my family, since I am constantly applying what I learn toward raising my children.


I see my blog as an opportunity for all moms, dads, and caregivers to unite, bond, and learn to become moderate in our parenting and the feeding of our children. The goal is to raise happy, healthy, moderate children who eat all food in moderation, respect their bodies no matter what shape they may be, and enjoy life. Health promotion and disease prevention are of course at the core of what I do too.


So, instead of limiting our children’s perspectives on food and life to that of a black and white way of thinking (i.e. good and bad, skinny and fat, right and wrong), we should be pioneering this mindset of moderate parenting and feeding.


Thank you for your support over the past few months. I look forward to sharing more entries, and I hope you too will contribute your experiences, lessons, and “food for thought” on the trials and tribulations of raising “moderate” children. I would love to have at least one guest blogger a month. Please email me if you are interested: cipulloRD@gmail.com.


Potty Training without M&M's

Photo Credit: kingary via Compfight cc

Many of you probably know that food shouldn’t be used as a reward. If you didn’t already know this, then, from the prospective of an RD, I am telling you now.

As a mom, however, I also know that this is easier said than done. Food to a child can, after all, seem somewhat rewarding. Yet through my own experiences, I’ve slowly picked up on a few tricks on how to prevent food from becoming equated with success—and I think I can make it relatively easy for you moms out there too.

It all started with Billy, who will be three in a few weeks and just finished potty training. And guess what. We did not use food as a reward during this process.

Since Billy is my second child, I felt a lot less pressured to potty train him than I did with Bobby. Right before the school year began, Billy asked if he could go potty on the big boy toilet, and so I immediately pulled out the kid potty and we started training.

Billy sat on the potty a few times and then on the toilet. He went potty with the kids at school, but he refused to wear underwear or use the potty any other time. I figured I’d just let him be. As my Australian friend Maureen advised, they’ll learn at some point. (As it turned out, Maureen’s advice from down under was great. I just let Billy do as he pleased, and while he was still wearing diapers, at least he was content. And so I was happy too.)

As the holidays approached, the boys and I decided that sport and ski camps could be a fun way to stay busy during their time off from school. But Billy could only participate under one condition: he would need to be potty trained in order to be eligible for the program. I explained this to my three-year-old and offered him a small token to forgo his diapers and, voila—he was willing to concede.

Everyone tells you to bribe your kids with M&M’s. Instead, I opted to present Billy with handmade wooden animal ornaments for our Christmas tree—presents that actually benefited the entire family, though Billy was all too excited to receive them as gifts.

When I ran out of ornaments, Billy picked out a presidential brigade box of cars, limos, security cars, planes and other trinkets. The box cost about $30, but it was filled with 15 to 20 potential presents inside. Each time Billy used the potty, I allowed him to pick out a new vehicle from the box.

I am very happy to report that this ploy worked like a charm. Now, Billy has been using the potty without gifts for the past week and a half. We still have toys left in the box, too.

So, instead of making food seem special and putting what we nourish ourselves with on a pedestal, opt for non-edible rewards like Matchbox cars, temporary tattoos, stickers, cool underwear, or Polly Pocket pieces. If you use food as a reward, you may end up sending the wrong message: that you have to earn food or that food is a treat for good behavior.

Remember to teach your children that food is food—nothing more, nothing less. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children understand this concept if we want to prevent disordered and/or secretive eating in their future.

Do you offer your children rewards for certain behaviors or accomplishments? If so, what do you typically reward them with that could be useful for other moms out there?

Mom, I don’t want to be fat.

As I was walking home from Chelsea Piers last week, my 5-year-old son said, “Mom, I don’t want to be fat.”

I thought about how to answer this. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “Were you talking about this at school last week or holiday camp?” He said no to the above, so I asked him what he thought it meant to be fat and how he thought someone could get that way. “You get fat from eating too much food all the time,” he replied, to which I responded, “Right, so just eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Keep active and you will be fine.”

Meanwhile, I was pushing Bobby and his brother in the single stroller—Bobby who was standing on the stroller frame and leaning against me rather than walking as his brother slept inside. I assumed he couldn’t be all that worried if he let me push him home despite what his new concern.

As we walked along the city streets, my thoughts swirled. I began to wonder whether I should have explained to Bobby that bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Should I differentiate between healthy and fat? Should I take advantage of the moment and give him a reason to eat more fruits and veggies, which he tends to veer away from? Should I stress that some people are just destined to be larger due to genetics?

As parents, we need to think about how to answer these questions before they come up—something that would make addressing them when put on the spot a whole lot easier. I’m not sure that I ever considered that Bobby would make such a statement, especially since we don’t allow words like ‘fat’ in my household—but he did.

While we’ve discussed that it’s not nice to call someone fat, especially to his or her face, I know that both my boys are exposed to the word all the time; we even heard it used in the Muppets movie. He hears his cousins and friends use it all the time. And just, the other day, his friend called our cat fat. (Bobby made sure the child knew we don’t identify things by that term in our house.)

It’s both funny and frustrating, because sometimes, even when we try to raise our children one way, the world around us doesn’t necessarily let us. Ban certain kinds of language in your home, and they’ll pick it up in the park, in the supermarket or on a play date. But whatever we decide to allow (or not allow), I encourage all caregivers and parents to think about this: What message do you want to send to your child?

Have you ever had to discuss weight issues with your child? How do you view the word “fat” in your family, and what words do you use to facilitate a positive body image in your household?

Family Meals Bring Turkey to Bobby's Plate

Bobby reached another nutrition milestone this past Sunday dinner. My husband and I were eating turkey meatloaf with brussel sprouts and butternut squash. Bobby was insisting on his typical macaroni and cheese (whole wheat noodles with chopped spinach mixed in). I, of course was making the macaroni but it was not yet ready. I decided to offer Bobby the turkey meatloaf since he was hungry. I plated it with ketchup and he dipped right in. Phew. Bobby said it was spicy. Hum? I tried it myself and it was oddly spicy tasting with the ketchup. I agreed with him and asked him to try it dry. Amazingly he was willing to try and guess what, he loved it.  He ate an entire slice in addition to his macaroni with cheese and spinach.

Despite having limited family meals due to our crazy city life, we do have them when we can. As evidenced by this experience, family meals are beneficial even if they are not as often as experts recommend. Read my nutrition assistant’s Family Meals blog entry below. Happy Eating!

Family Meals: A Benefit for the Whole Family

By Nutrition Student Katherine Kaczor

From running back and forth to soccer practice, dance recitals, piano lessons, and maybe even back to another soccer practice, it can be difficult for many families to sit down and have a meal together. But could you be doing a disservice to your family by missing out on this mealtime?

The Toddler:

Research indicates that family meals have an impact during all stages of life. For toddlers, it is a time to learn healthy food behaviors. If the parent or other family member eat a balanced, healthy plate, the toddler will be more likely to pick up the behavior as well. However, if family members are consistently saying they don’t like carrots or peas taste gross, the toddler will be more likely to feel the same. Family meals can also help toddlers overcome their picky eating. If the toddler is served a similar meal to the rest of the family, he will be continually exposed to new foods. By repeatedly being offered different foods, the toddler will be more likely to incorporate them into his diet.

The Child:

Family meals have a strong influence on school-aged children as well. Children who have a least three family meals per week are 12% less likely to be overweight, 20% less likely to consume unhealthy foods, and 24% more likely to consume healthy foods, according to one study. Another study found that family meals are protective against obesity in non-Hispanic white and black children, but can promote obesity in Hispanic boys, especially in low-income families. This is likely due to the food served and the cultural differences amongst these families. If the family is sitting down to a meal of fried foods and the children are encouraged to finish their plate and get seconds, weight is likely to increase. Despite this, family meals have the added benefit of providing children with an outlet to discuss their day. It gives them a chance to discuss the art project they worked on in class or the field trip they’re going on next week. This conversation helps build the family relationship. Family meals can also be used to create a sense of responsibility in children. They can be assigned chores such setting the table or washing the dishes. If the child is picky, having him assist with the cooking process can help him feel more connected to the food and consequently more likely to eat it.

The Adolescent:

The most research in regards to family meals looks at its effects on adolescents. Due in part to their increased independence as well as from the constant peer pressure, the eating habits of adolescents tend to be poor, however, those adolescents who regularly dine with their family tend to have better intakes. They are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and to incorporate dairy into their diet. They are also more likely to eat breakfast. Teenagers also tend to consume fast-food when meals are not provided at home. Additionally, disordered eating habits are significantly lower in adolescent girls who had regular family meals. Research has found that disordered eating habits are seen in 18.1% of girls who had less than two family meals per week, while it was seen in only 8.8% of girls who had more than three family meals per week. However, this was based on the assumption that the families were modeling healthy eating behaviors. If the parents follow strict diets or continually comment on the adolescent’s eating patterns, family meals are likely to have the reverse effect. Family meals have also been linked to a reduced risk for drug and substance abuse in teenage girls; however the effects on existing users are minimal. Overall, meals with your teenager help maintain the family relationship during this time of transition. It helps you keep tabs on them while they experience new independence and learn who they are in the world.

The Parents:

There are also benefits for the parents.  If the parents are being positive role models for their children, their health status will also benefit from family meals. Instead of picking up a cheeseburger and fries on the way home from work, family meals provide the opportunity for a well-balanced dinner, which may help promote health and longevity for themselves.  Whatever makes up your dish, family meals provide a time for family bonding and can help strengthen communication and relationships.


Hammons, A., & Fiese, B. (2011). Is frequency of shared family meals related to the nutritional health of children and adolescents?. Pediatrics, 127(6), e1565-e1574.

Neumark-Sztainer, D., Wall, M., Story, M., & Fulkerson, J. (2004). Are family meal patterns associated with disordered eating behaviors among adolescents?. The Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of The Society For Adolescent Medicine, 35(5), 350-359.

Rollins, B. Y., Belue, R. Z., & Francis, L. A. (2010). The Beneficial Effect of Family Meals on Obesity Differs by Race, Sex, and Household Education: The National Survey of Children’s Health, 2003-2004. Journal of The American Dietetic Association, 110(9), 1335-1339.

Videon, T., & Manning, C. (2003). Influences on adolescent eating patterns: the importance of family meals. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32(5), 365-373.

White, J., & Halliwell, E. (2011). Family Meal Frequency and Alcohol and Tobacco Use in Adolescence: Testing Reciprocal Effects. Journal of Early Adolescence, 31(5), 735-749.



37 Pounds Of Love

This mom is not dishing on her kid’s food habits today. Instead, I am hoping to relieve moms of the new social mindset that pregnant women should sport a bump—and only a bump—during the most beautiful nine months of their lives.

In recent years, pregnancy has become fashionable—an accessory to flaunt. With all the attention on celebrity pregnancies, of course, weight gain and weight loss post-delivery have surged into the spotlight. At times, it can seem like a competition between who can gain the least amount of weight and lose it quickly afterward. (I believe it was Bethenny Frankel who lost 30 pounds in less than a month and Rachel Zoe who limited her weight gain to between 12 and 15 pounds.)

As I walk through the streets of Manhattan, I see pregnant women strolling around the city sporting their baby bump—so cute. Women looked beautiful with their bumps even before it was a trend—before it was more fashionable than the label on their mom jeans.

And while pregnancy is supposed to give women that inexplicable glow, now, pregnancy is more about how much weight you didn’t gain.

Because of my profession, but also as a woman living in a trend-driven urban center, I see and hear it all the time: women who worry that they’re gaining too much weight and who don’t understand why they gained 20 pounds when their best girlfriend only gained 15. As a RD, CDE, I have a special understanding that what we feed ourselves affects our unborn child. I understand that an increase in blood sugar puts the baby at risk for high blood sugar too.

For these reasons, when we talk about a healthy weight for pregnancy, I encourage pregnant women to focus on self-care—eating a balanced intake of food and reaching for more if and when you are in fact hungry for more.

Pregnancy should be about you and your baby, not about restricting your intake to flaunt the latest vogue, be it crop tops or jeggings below your bump. Because if we aren’t careful, pregnancy could become one of the many factors that trigger an eating disorder, which would be an absolute waste of one of the most magical aspects of being a woman.

As there are risks to restricting your intake, there are equal risks to over-consuming during pregnancy. Just so you know, I was told I had gained too much weight during a few weigh-ins during both pregnancies. (FYI, they don’t weigh pregnant women in Europe).

In my case, I knew I couldn’t eat less. I was active during both pregnancies and practiced Pilates and yoga until right before I delivered. I ate carbs, proteins and fats, gaining about 37 pounds in the process. During each pregnancy, I carried differently, felt differently and gained the weight at different times.

The result? Today, I’m fortunate to have two healthy boys. They weighed about 6.12 pounds each at birth. I lost the weight slowly over a nine-month period for my first boy, while the second pregnancy took longer—about 12 months to lose the weight and another 6 months to get my tummy toned again. You don’t need to eat without regard, but you definitely need to be mindful of how you nourish, honor and work with whatever changes your body endures during and after pregnancy.

Ironically, I bumped into a colleague last week—a physician. She is pregnant with her second child and this time gained 60 pounds and developed gestational diabetes.  So you see, we are all susceptible to certain health conditions during pregnancy.

When people ask me how much I gained during my pregnancies because they feel guilty about having gained more than their friends or certain celebrities, I tell them that they need to recognize that their body and baby is their ultimate responsibility.  Moms: Don’t feel pressured to be a super skinny during your pregnancy. Enjoy this 9 to 10 month period that you will never get back. Feed yourself moderately and love your body. Pregnancy can be one of the most special periods in your life if you embrace it. And if you really don’t enjoy being pregnant, that’s OK as well. Just make sure you feed yourself appropriately throughout.

Guest Blog: Using Words, Not Food to Help Kids Communicate

Helping Our Kids to Identify Their Feelings:


One of the things I appreciate most about Laura’s blog is the honesty she demonstrates in discussing the difficulties of applying her professional body of knowledge to real life situations that affect her children. As a psychotherapist, I can very much relate with that struggle.

As parents, I find that it’s important to help our children to put their feelings into words and to understand and identify their feelings during any given situation. The world can be an overwhelming place for children. Honestly, it can be overwhelming for adults too. Yet children, unlike adults, are challenged with a limited frame of reference, making it particularly difficult for them to govern their present experiences by past ones.

Children need adults as teachers to help them narrate life, especially early on, so that they can learn to identify their emotions. By helping them to do this, we can hope to gain a better understanding of what they are feeling.

Earlier this week, for example, my daughter Rachel expressed that she had a great time during a play date with a new friend. As we were leaving, however, she started to act out, putting her shoes on and kicking them off, which she did about three times. Then she relaxed all the muscles in her foot so we couldn’t get her shoe on at all. And then her sock came off. She was laughing the entire time this was happening, while I was most definitely not.

It felt to me like Rachel was intentionally making it impossible for us to leave, so I said to her, “Boy, someone had so much fun they don’t want to leave and go home!” And with that, like Cinderella, I was magically able to slip her sock and shoe on. Rachel grabbed her backpack and said goodbye to her friend without creating a fuss. As I saw it, once she understood what she was feeling, she no longer needed to act it out.

Something else I try to do is to let Rachel know what I’m feeling internally when I’m having a rough day or losing my footing. When she tests my patience or disregards what I am saying, I verbalize my frustration and express my waning tolerance.

I also do my best to explain to her why I say the things I say (I was feeling tired) and apologize if it’s appropriate. As Harry Stack Sullivan wrote, “We are all much more simply human than otherwise,” and I think it’s more than okay to let our kids see that too.

A great resource for helping children identify their feelings is “The Way I feel Books,” by Cornelia Maude Spellman. In it, Cornelia writes about anger, sadness and jealousy in a way that makes it easy for children to understand and relate to.

Who are our children's role models?

Many of my clients, friends, and even the media magazines having been featuring certain celebs as scary skinny and or commenting on their recent weight loss. Everyone goes thru times and life changes that may cause one to use counterproductive “coping skills” such as restriction or binging. Most people have been touched by this is some shape or form. However, most celebs are not promoting their dieting. If you are in the media I do believe if you want to discuss nutrition and advocate for that, you should be mindful how people will read and or hear it. And also how they see your visual. This is a very fine line. Here is an honest reaction to a reality tv celeb. As parents, think about who are your role models and who are your children’s role models? What are they advocating?