How Do You Answer, "Is this healthy?"


Photo Credit: Abdulla Al Muhairi via Compfight cc

Recently, both of my boys have been asking the question, “Is this healthy?” Billy asks, “Is hummus healthy? Are hummus and pretzels healthy?” Bobby asks, “Is yogurt healthy? Is pizza healthy? Is Gatorade healthy?”

Kids ask so many questions, and the way we answer them shapes the development of their beliefs and habits.

I’m not exactly sure why both boys have started to ask this question. I just know they keep asking. And it can be hard to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer when my primary concern is trying to instill them with a moderate view of food. Here’s how I go about answering their questions quickly, yet also with thought.

Hummus? Yes, hummus is healthy. It helps your heart. (FYI, Billy eats hummus almost daily for dinner. He loves it so much that he eats it with a spoon at times.)

Hummus and pretzels? Yes, hummus and pretzels are healthy—if you also eat other foods like chicken and pasta. (I say this because Billy refuses to eat chicken, pasta and other seemingly normal foods. It’s my small trick for getting him to try new ingredients.)

On a related note, I can honestly tell Billy that pretzels are healthy because the ones he eats (unknowingly, of course) are made of either whole wheat or spelt. When we refer to chicken, again, it’s organic and hormone-free. And pasta is organic and whole wheat. The kids don’t need to know these details, and I don’t specify this regularly. Healthy ingredients are simply the norm in our house, and I think the boys will get this message over time. I do not want to inundate them at ages 3 and 5.

At times, I think parents and teachers can make children overly—and unnecessarily—anxious about the food they’re eating when using complicated details such as ‘whole wheat,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘saturated fat,’ etc. Kids need to first understand the basics, like the difference between an everyday food versus a sometimes food. It’s okay to eventually teach them about the aforementioned specifics, but at the right time. Otherwise, your children could eventually rebel.

Keeping this in mind, I try to answer Bobby’s questions in this same manner. Greek yogurt is an everyday food in our home. The protein in yogurt helps us build muscles and strong bones. Pizza is a sometimes food, as long as we eat other foods like fruits and vegetables. Gatorade is a sometimes drink for athletes, like someone who is training for the Olympics or exercising at an intense level for more than hour.  Yes, you can have a sports drink, but not every time you swim or skateboard.

So, as I’ve discovered, and as I hope you can see, the answer to, “Is this healthy?” is not a straightforward one. But you can use these small tricks for helping your children to understand what they’re eating in a positive and healthful manner. How do you answer your kid’s questions about healthy and not healthy foods? Do you use words like “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods” in your household?

For more information on everyday foods and sometimes foods, read A Blueprint for Your Child’s Nutritional Intake.

Yummy for the Tummy and Allergy Free

Living with food allergies can be challenging but it doesn’t have to be boring. The boys and I took a walk to the lower east side to test taste the Famous Baby Cakes’ sweet somethings! Baby Cakes NYC is certified Kosher, parave and vegan. They are happy to overnight you their yummies. They have bakeries in NYC, LA and at the Walt Disney World Resort. Bobby, Billy and I loved the chocolate chop cookies and banana bread. Second place was the donut and third place was the cupcake. Baby Cakes also has a cookbook available if you want to try the recipes at home!! If not you can always check out the magazine Living Without for other delicious allergen free recipes.

Baby Cakes donut


Hints for Halloween from the RD in this mom.

What are you giving out for Halloween?

Written by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE on October 18, 2011 · From

Trick-or-Treat: Keeping Halloween Healthier Yet Fun.

With Halloween around the corner, why not think outside the box? We can’t trick our Halloween visitors but we can treat them to new Halloween delights. Read on to get some healthier options, unconventional goodies, and finally a run down at the candy counter.

New Delights:

Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Rope, Clif Z Bar (granola bars), Organic raisins, Blue Diamond mini nut packs – almonds, Bearito’s No Oil No Salt Microwave Popcorn or Earth’s Best Organic Puree (fruit and veggies pureed like applesauce in squeeze pack)

Unconventional Goodies:

Tattoos, bouncy balls, yo-yos, stickers, pencils, chalk and mini coloring books

Candy Counter:

For those that adhere to moderation the top 5 Halloween candy picks: Smarties, Tootsie Pops, York Peppermint Patties, Twizzlers and Milk Duds

**Just know I will be giving out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because they taste so yummy and a variety of the above!!

Optional Reading – nutritional information listed below:

  1. Smarties: 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of sugar (per roll)
  2. Tootsie Pop: 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar (per lollipop)
  3. York Peppermint Patty: 60 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of sugar (per snack size patty)
  4. Twizzlers: 160 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 19 grams of sugar (4 pieces)
  5. Milk Duds: 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 20 grams of sugar (13 pieces)


You can have your cake and eat it too!

I am so excited to get to share the reality of raising kids here in NYC while trying to instill a philosophy of moderation and ensuring my boys, Billy and Bobby have a positive relationship with food. Last week I met with a coach named Jim. When describing my approach to food and nutrition,  Jim phrased it perfectly: “You can have your cake and eat it too.” As caregivers, parents, teachers and or someone hoping to raise kids one day, lets join together and learn when, where, why, and how often our kids can eat “cake.”