Petitioning FED UP Campaign

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

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I received this email last week, that sparked a conversation between me and my colleagues and ultimately a petitioning a new FED UP campaign that I want to share with you.

“Hi Laura , 
Hope you are well! I’m reaching out on behalf of FED UP the film that explores the truth about the food industry in an effort to get people eating healthier. Executive Produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, the film has been a resource and tool for parents, teachers, and student to learn the truth about real food. 
I know you are very busy but I’m reaching out to you today, because I thought you and the Eating and Living Moderately community might be interested in joining our mission to bring Food Education to Schools. We’re 10 days into our 30 day campaign to raise the funds to be able to provide a Fed Up Education Kit to every school in America, at no cost to schools and teachers this fall. 
It’s been shown that once children learn the truth about the food they’re eating, where it comes from, and how it affects their bodies, they’re likely to make better food choices. But kids and teachers need the facts first! Did you know there are over 56 names for sugar? And over 80% of products in the grocery store have added sugar! 
Our campaign is working to give teachers and schools the resources to empower our students.  Check out the Fed Up Campaign here and social press kit with social media graphics and language. 
Please let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information. 
Thanks so much for your time. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

I immediately forwarded the email to some of my colleagues, with this message:

“I am sharing what was delivered to my email box. I think this is really a shame as this movie categorizes foods as good and bad and has children go in sugar free diets. The kids lose weight and end up gaining it back. So sad!”

My feelings and concern were widely shared and Jessica Kilbride, LMSW soon wrote back with this message:

“I drew up a petition, and would be happy to edit it in any way that anyone sees fit. I’m not sure how much of a difference these petitions make, but hopefully it’ll do something. There are enough unhealthy attitudes about food and body in the entertainment world. It’s not necessary to bring this black-and-white thinking, however well-intentioned, into the classroom and I know I wouldn’t want my (hypothetical) children learning about nutrition through this approach. “

Share this post among your friends and peers, to prevent our children from learning from this program that labels foods as “good or bad” and sets the stage for eating disorders and low self-esteem.

Green Matcha

Cinnamon Matcha Green Tea Protein Smoothie

By Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Service Team


Nutrition Student Deanna Ronne’s favorite post run snack:

This smoothie is SO delicious and full of fuel. It leaves me satisfied and energized without feeling bloated. While your body is in a state of recovery after a long run, it is time to refuel your muscles with this easy smoothie. If mom is making this smoothie, read how to share with your child below.


Why Matcha and Maca?

Matcha Tea is a powdered form of whole green tea that provides more antioxidants, specifically Catechins, than other green teas.1

These antioxidants have many health benefits and may even boost the break down of fat2. However, I originally bought Matcha Tea because it is used in Starbuck’s green tee lattes, which I love. Now, I use Matcha Tea in smoothies and even baking.

Maca powder is a South American root vegetable originally used to give Incan warriors strength and endurance during long journeys and battles.

Studies show that many compounds found in Maca powder also protect our bodies from oxidative damage and inflammation.3

Maca is neutral in taste but a great boost of antioxidants for a smoothie.


1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder

1 tbs. Loose Matcha Tea powder.

½ cup milk (Use dairy, almond, soy, and or coconut milk.)

1 small banana

1 small apple (keep the skin to keep the fiber!)

1 cup spinach

1tsp Maca Powder

3-4 ice cubes

1tsp cinnamon

Blend all the ingredients up with whatever blender you have and enjoy!

If you are not using this as a post workout meal and don’t feel that you need an entire scoop (typically about 20g) of protein, you can just use ½ a scoop, or get rid of it all together! If you are making this smoothie for a child, see below.


How Much Protein for a Child?

If you are looking for a way to sneak some protein into your child’s diet, smoothies are a great idea. However, children (ages 4-8) only need about 19 grams of protein a day, compared to the 46 grams an average adult female needs.4 One scoop of whey protein is about 20 grams of protein, exceeding what a child needs for the entire day! The serving size of most protein powders is 25-30 grams per scoop (about 1.5-2 tbs.).* So, for children, ages 4-8, it might make more sense to only use ½ tbs. of protein powder, only providing about 5 grams of protein. For children, ages 9-13, the protein requirement increases to 36 grams a day.



  1. D.,& Anderton, C. (n.d). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 173-180.
  2. Dulloo, A. G., Duret, C., Rohrer, D., Girardier, L., Mensi, N., Fathi, M., … & Vandermander, J. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 70(6), 1040-1045.
  3. Wang, Y., Wang, Y., McNeil, B., & Harvey, L. M. (2007). Maca: An Andean crop with multi-pharmacological functions. Food Research International, 40(7), 783-792.
  4. National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate. Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (2002/2005).



Mom's Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

*This recipe was originally published on the Big City Moms’ Blog. To see the original please click here.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pancakes with Dark Chocolate Chips

by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN, and Mom

Every week I whip up a batch of “homemade pancakes” for myself and my oldest son. Everyone loves these pancakes— including my clients who eat many meals with me. Make them Sunday morning and serve hot. Freeze or store the remainder in a Pyrex dish to serve each weekday morning. These pancakes taste so yummy that I can almost promise your kids will go to school having eaten a balanced breakfast. And while most moms don’t have to time to make everything from scratch, these pancakes are what I call “value added” or “nutrition added.” For time’s sake, I start with a basic wholesome pancake mix and then add in the nutrition.


See full recipe on the Big City Moms’ Blog.

Start a new “Family Meal” weekly tradition… beginning with Thanksgiving this year!

Start a new “Family Meal” weekly tradition… beginning with Thanksgiving this year!
Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, Mom and Bitsy’s RD

*This post was originally posted on the Bitsy’s Brainfood blog.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the idea of family meals surely must be on your mind. For many people, Thanksgiving conjures warm feelings because it’s consistently about meals featuring family members, good friends, and yummy food. Are these the same thoughts that come to mind when thinking about family meals? Are you even able to have family meals especially during the regular work/school week? Most people now know that family meals are not only beneficial but also very much encouraged by the experts. How does this translate to your daily life? What does the latest research recommend? How should you, as parents and food consumers, interpret this information?

Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc


Fortunately, there has been quite a bit of research of late. Some of the most noteworthy include Project EAT (I-III)Purdue University’s Family Meals Spell SUCCESS, and studies coming from research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). We surely know that family meals can be difficult to arrange—especially with working parents, kids’ afterschool activities, strained family relationships, and possibly even the aversion to foods served at family meals. But the statistics drawn from multiple studies via Project EAT have found that adolescents sharing family meals had higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, plus the mineral calcium, while drinking less soda. In addition, the more frequently the family meals occurred during adolescence, the more likely these individuals later would have shared household meals as young adults. Family meals were also linked to higher academic performance, greater emotional wellbeing and a reduced risk of using unhealthy behaviors for weight control1.

Overall Well Being

According to CASA surveys:

  • Teens who eat dinner with their parents twice a week or less are four times more likely to smoke cigarettes, three times more likely to smoke marijuana, and nearly twice as likely to drink as those who eat dinner with their parents six or seven times a week2.
  • Teens who eat frequent family dinners are also less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages and get into fights; are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide; and are likelier to do better in school. This is true regardless of a teen’s gender, family structure, or family socioeconomic level2.
  • Teens who have frequent family dinners are more likely to be emotionally content, work hard at school, and have positive peer relationships, not to mention healthier eating habits2.



Family Meals spell SUCCESS further supports these results. A study by Dr. Catherine Snow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education notes that conversations occurring around the family table teach children more vocabulary and forms of discourse than they learn when you read to them2.

Reader’s Digest survey revealed  – a teen eating meals with their family was a stronger predictor of academic success than whether they lived with one or both parents. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) and others has found a striking relationship between frequency of family meals and grades2.


Mental Well Being

When family meal research is further analyzed, the most evident benefit of family meals is decreased depressive symptoms3.

Ultimately, we need more information on the actual frequency of meals, the length of each meal, who is present at the meals, and/or if the research is simply correlated with having frequent meals or truly a direct outcome of family meals. Is it possible that people who engage in family meals have specific characteristics that are different from those in families who do not engage in family meals? The answer is yes. More long-term research identifying the above details is needed3.

Photo Credit: cafemama via Compfight cc

Putting Family Meals In Practice

But what we do know? It’s estimated that three or more family meals, consistent family meals (i.e.: every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), mealtimes with positive interactions and no TV are favorable…and most likely lead to the most beneficial outcomes for children3. So do your best to get some type of meal on the table and enjoy the time with your family. If one shared meal is possible, start here but make it weekly and don’t forget to turn off the TV and your iPhone!! Here at Bitsy’s we don’t strive for perfection, but we do strive for family time and healthier food for all families.

Are sharing family meals reasonable and achievable in your household? As working moms, we know this is incredibly challenging. Can you share your suggestions with the  readers?



  1. “Epidemiology & Community Health Research.” Epidemiology Community Health Research. University of Minnesota, 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.
  2. “Family Meals Spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S.” Purdue University Center for Families’ Promoting Family Meals Project. Purdue University, n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2013.
  3. Cook, Eliza, and Rachel Dunifon. “Do Family Meals Really Make a Difference?”Parenting in Context. Cornell University College of Human Ecology, 2012. Web. 2013.


*This post was originally posted on the Bitsy’s Brainfood blog.

Are Your Words the Cause of Your Child’s Eating Disorder?

What Do Your Children Hear When You Say…?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: Mateus Lunardi Dutra via Compfight cc

As I surf the net, I read so many blogs that also say all foods fit. Yet they go on to say certain foods are treats, certain foods are bad, and certain foods should only be allowed if the child doesn’t have a weight problem. So how do parents handle this delicate issue?


First we must address our own food issues. If we have them—and we probably do (as I don’t know too many people without food confusion)—we need not verbalize them as black and white statements to our children.

For example:

You can eat ice cream because you are young and thin, but Mommy needs to be good because Mommy’s belly is too big.

That is clearly a mother’s issue being verbalized to the child. Mom is implying ice cream is bad, but the child can have bad food because they are thin—and Mom cannot.


Next, we must be careful not to place a moral or value judgment on foods. This means avoiding good and bad food labeling. This backfires because a child typically feels bad when he/she eats something bad. This can even be true of using words such as “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” but perhaps that takes it to extremes. Some children’s programs use the colors of a stoplight to signify how much of something to eat. I’ve always found myself telling clients to listen to their bodies. However, I also know I would tell them to focus on the nutrient-dense foods the majority of the time and that the remainder of the time it doesn’t matter. We began calling these foods “everyday foods” versus “some of the time” foods. This is a perfect solution, no? It really categorizes foods with higher nutrition versus lower nutrition.  This is the way I typically explain foods to my children. The sure thing we know is that the good and bad connotations lead to negative relationships with food. So steer clear of using words implying judgment and move towards words that are science-based, such as “high in vitamin C” and “low in vitamins.”


Another catch-22 is saying that our children need to lose weight and thus should only eat healthy food. This is quite far from the truth. If you, a child, or me needs to lose weight, we must explore the why. Moms and Dads, especially dietitian moms/dads or parents working in health and wellness, need to be so careful of this. Instead, explore behaviors and emotions surrounding the foods.

Photo Credit: 藍川芥 aikawake via Compfight cc

Questions to ask are:

  1. Is the individual eating beyond his/her physical cues?
  2. Are you or your child stressed and eating to numb yourself?
  3. Is your child not in tune with his/her internal regulation because you have restricted him/her and forbade all processed foods?
  4. Is your child skipping meals at school or is unable to feel full off of the school lunch?
  5. Is this weight healthy for me even though the doctor says differently?


Again, this is not about eating nutrient-dense foods. That is merely just one piece in the food puzzle.


The “beware of’s” can go on and on, but the most important concept to truly be cautioned against is that of “perfect eating.” There is no perfect eating. If you eat too healthy, it can be significant of anorexia or orthorexia. If you eat chaotically with no boundaries whatsoever, this too can be very unhealthy. Instead promote balance, listening to your internal physical needs, eating for fuel and for pleasure and health too! Eat real food when you can, but don’t go crazy over avoiding processed foods. Enjoy apples just as much as your cookies.


Below is a handout from the book Healthy Habits, which you can download.

Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm Life for my Little Oak Tree

What happens when a dietitian mom leaves the city and starts a farm? Happy 2nd Anniversary Amanda and family. The world is truly a better place with the Mellowsprings!! Thanks for bringing the readers back to earth at this time of year. – Laura Cipullo


Deep Roots & Tall Branches: Farm life for my little Oak Tree
By Amanda Mellowspring, MS, RD, CEDRD, LD/N
Eat from the Earth Nutrition Counseling, LLC
Mellowspring Family Farms, LLC

This month marks the beginning of our 2nd year as farmers. I say it this way because this is just the beginning! This lesson feels similar to being a parent – the end of the first year, is really the beginning of the “two’s”. That is when our journey to becoming farmers actually started – when our little acorn had his first birthday.  Within two weeks of his birthday, we were packed and headed for our farm in the mountains.  Nevermind we had never actually visited the land we were leaving everything for, we just knew that this was what we wanted for our family, namely our little acorn.  Amazing how the world shifts to make room for the potential in the smallest little things, like acorns.

Our decision to start a family farm was multi-fold. We wanted to spend more time together as a family, with shared focus and energy. We wanted to give our little acorn something to grow into. And we very much wanted him to appreciate nature. One of the reasons that I love the basic concepts of food and eating, is because it is so tightly intertwined with nature. The way that we engage with all of our foods can connect us or disconnect us from the world around us.  We knew that we wanted our little acorn to take pride in his process of becoming a mighty oak and that would require living into nature in a deeper way.

Our first year of farming is full of practical lessons & adjustments in things like fencing, gardening our new land (with a toddler – ie. kamikaze gardening!), chicken coops (free range chickens poop everywhere!), fencing, livestock guard dogs (bark all night!), fencing, pigs are some of the sweetest animals (once you get used to the smell, seriously the smell!), free range turkeys (bark like purse dogs!), Jacob sheep (you can literally tell their baa’s apart!), oh and did I mention fencing…fencing! I think farming vastly involves fencing, re-fencing, and moving fencing.  All of this to say, there have been so many lessons. Again this is just the beginning of two city kids, raising a farm boy to the best of our farming ability.

The rewards of this first year have been countless in our connection with nature, our community, the animals, and one another. But, the greatest reward that we continue to experience on a daily basis are the moments that my husband and I look at one another and our eyes smile together because in their reflection our little acorn is living his normal life, his farm life, and doesn’t know anything different. The view from his carseat rivals any good farm truck, with a hatchback full of chickens, pullets, turkeys, lambs, pigs, and dogs at various times.  All the while, he plays with his little toes and sings songs because this is his norm.  He has napped with a LGD pup on his lap en route to the vet’s office and the world paused for a moment in our eyes.  He helps big kids see that our dogs are sweet even though they tower over him and weigh over 100# now by kissing their faces and crawling around on their furry backs. Our dogs guard our little acorn with vigilance and compassion by standing over him and demanding that others keep a distance.

 He runs after the sheep for fun, helping mama and papa corral them in to new pastures, yelling “lambies” and laughing hysterically. He grabs the ram by the horns through the fence to kiss his nose because that’s how papa catches him (and because he isn’t allowed to play with the rams inside the fence during breeding season).


He sticks his hands through the slats on the pig paddock to pet the “piggies, snort, snort” as mama goes running to catch up, yelling not to reach into the piggy area!  He talks to the piggies and laughs when they escape into the yard and play chase with the dogs.


He collects eggs from the chicken coop and even pretends to lay eggs himself; he even recognizes the special “eggs” sound that the hens make when laying. He also gobbles up eggs for breakfast (& sometimes dinner) and tells the hens, “thank you for your eggs” when he gathers.


He knows that chicken and chickens are the same thing. He knows that piggies make bacon (yes, we eat bacon), and he knows that turkey is kind of like chicken.


He eats like a farmer, plays like a farmer, and knows how they work together. He leads hikes with the chickens and turkeys into the woods and calls for the dogs to keep a watch. He tastes leaves off the trees and shares these new flavors with friends who may be visiting.  He picks berries and grapes off the land and has them eaten up before we get back to the house. (No need for canning this year!)


As we start our second year as farmers, I am so glad that I can look to him to learn what living on the land, in union with our plants and animals truly means. His life is a reflection of the purest loves. His decision to live into this life has helped him to put down deep roots. His life is not a response to the world’s concerns about food sources, food ingredients, or factory farming. His life is about connection, love, and appreciation. It reminds me of one of my favorite thoughts – Notice how a tree sends its roots deep into the earth.  May we also learn to nourish ourselves in ways that are not just leaves & branches meant for others to see.

Division of Responsibility: Guidelines for Family Nutrition

Division of Responsibility:  The What, Where, Whether, and When versus How Much—Guidelines for Family Nutrition
By Elyse Falk, MS, RD

Photo Credit: slightly everything via Compfight cc

Ponder the “division of responsibility” between a parent and a child when it comes to meal time.  I love it. I live it. I recommend it. Taking the power struggle away from the food sounds like a fabulous idea, doesn’t it? No more fighting at the dinner table when trying to get your kids to eat or even stop your kids from eating too much. Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian nutritionist, family therapist, and internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding, pioneered the Satter Feeding Dynamics Model and the Satter Eating Competence Model. She is the author of the Division of Responsibility in Feeding, the gold standard for feeding children. She educates parents on the line between what their job is and what the child’s job is when it comes to the food. The parent is in charge of WHAT food is brought into the house and served, as well as WHEN the food is given (meal and snack times; hopefully three meals and three snacks) and WHERE. The child is in charge of the HOW MUCH he/she will eat and WHETHER he/she eats what is served. When this line is crossed, usually by the parent, or the “feeder,” there begins the fighting and frustration.


I have stuck with the division of responsibility rule ever since I went to hear Ellyn Satter speak many years ago. Looking back, I feel lucky that I had the privilege of hearing her speak to professionals when my kids were learning the art of eating. I started to implement her model and still use it to this day with my seven-, eleven-, and thirteen-year-old. I can honestly say that by following the division of responsibility, there has never been any real issue around food at the table, other than the “I don’t like what you made” or the recipe I made tasted awful. Following this model, we can all enjoy a somewhat calm environment (hopefully not getting up from their seats to play with our new dog) and talk about our days or what the day might hold.

Photo Credit: rick via Compfight cc

As a parent who does the shopping, I know WHAT I want my kids to have more of and WHAT I want them to have some of the time  (Laura’s foods lower in nutrient density known as “sometimes” foods, such as their ice cream, cookies, brownies, and other foods that fall into this category in her book, Healthy Habits) throughout the week, so that helps my food shopping experience. I am also constantly figuring out the different parts of a complete meal.  Think “MyPlate” sources of protein, grain, healthy fat, vegetable and/or fruit, and possibly a milk/yogurt for snacks or with the meal. I also think about what they can eat that is more or less a complete meal yet is easy to make by themselves (especially for my eleven- and thirteen-year-old).


The WHEN aspect of the division of responsibility, for me and my family, is making sure they get their meals and snacks throughout the day to ensure energy during school and after school activities.. For example, I know that my boys have activities starting at 6:00 p.m. on some nights, so I will have a dinner for them WHEN they get home from school (they are always hungry when then get home from school) before their activity and usually WHEN they get home afterwards because they are usually hungry again,. This second feeding time is typically something on the lighter side.  The WHEN aspect for me is not a strict routine but arises when they are hungry; I would never make them eat if they weren’t hungry at the WHEN time, but I find that usually they are ready to eat at pretty consistent times of the day.  The WHERE is usually at home, not so much in the car; however, I know that on some nights the car will be WHERE a snack needs to be given.


The HOW MUCH and WHETHER are the hardest parts of the division. Sometimes my boys have voracious appetites and eat huge quantities, and other times they consume smaller amounts. I never comment on HOW MUCH they are eating because I never want to mess up their hunger and fullness cues and force them to stop/continue eating just because I would say “That is enough” or “You need to eat more.” I would rather use that language on homework. I have learned that even then I am overstepping my boundaries and it causes a power play.


The WHETHER is another difficult aspect to manage, but if you make something that you know your children will always eat, along with something new for them to try, at least you know they will be eating something. But there are those nights when nothing appeals to your child; when that happens, I settle on what’s easiest to warm up or prepare in a pinch.


When helping a parent out with issues surrounding food, I most often recommend Ellyn Satter’s books and methods. Sometimes parents look at me like I’m crazy for even suggesting that they keep quiet about HOW MUCH their child/children eat.  I always recommend trying Ellyn’s way for one week just to experiment with it!  I truly believe that it will make a happier child and a happier home when it comes to the food at the table!

Laura Answers Questions About Feeding Her Boys

1. As a Mom, what is the hardest part of getting your kids to eat healthy?

Not being the nutrition gatekeeper of our children’s food is a challenge all moms face. Camp, school and the playground expose my boys to chewing gum, drinking sports drinks and eating low nutrition foods such as crackers and candy during snack time.

As any mom may know, feeding our children can be trying. I created Mom Dishes It Out, a blog for moms to learn from my personal experience in feeding my boys and a place where they can share their experiences and ask questions.

2. How do you explain eating healthy in a context that they understand?
There are everyday foods that we eat to grow, run and think. We need to eat these foods every day. Then there are “sometimes food”—food that we can eat some of the time.  Since the foods are low in nutrition and aren’t the best for growing, they are not considered everyday food.

3. Do you have any tricks to get your kids to eat healthy?
One sure way is to stock the house with only healthy food. I allow all foods but I don’t necessarily have them in the house on a regular basis.

4 Tricks To Getting Kids To Eat Healthy
1. Stock the house with healthy everyday foods
2. Limit boxed or in the pantry packaged food items to three or less
3. Allow all foods but focus on the need for everyday foods
4. Don’t make a big deal about healthy food – offer and expose but don’t overemphasize


4. What two kid-friendly recipes did you bring to share today?
Good-For-You Granola Bars – It can be quite challenging to find a granola bar that is nutrient dense, low in added sugar and will not melt in the heat.

My youngest son is a vegetarian so getting omega-3 fatty acids and even omega-6 fatty acids are a challenge. Adding chia seeds to any recipe is a sure way to get vegetarians eating omega-6’s. I give Liam an omega-3 fatty acid liquid supplement to get the beneficial fatty acids only found in fish.

5.  How often do you cook with your kids?
I try to cook with my kids as often as possible and in every little way. Perhaps they do something simple like adding wheat germ to their yogurt, cracking the eggs into their pancake mixture or adding berries into their smoothies.

6. What sorts of foods do your kids crave?
My oldest son loves pancakes with chocolate chips and macaroni and cheese (the chips are dark chocolate and the pancakes are whole wheat or kamut; the pasta is usually whole wheat), while my youngest son favors yogurt, hummus and pretzels (made from spelt or whole wheat).

7. What are your go-to snacks for your kids?
I always offer a carbohydrate with a fat or a carbohydrate with a protein. Then I’ll offer homemade smoothies with fresh and frozen fruits and chia seeds, fruit slices or fruit squeezers with Greek yogurt or cheese

8. Do you guys ever have a cheat day, or treats for special occasions?
I have told my boys time and time again, food is not a treat. A helicopter ride around the city is a treat or a day of bowling is a treat. Food is food. We enjoy ice cream with gummy bears, drink Gatorade and eat cookies some of the time, but not all of the time. Since it is critical that we meet all of our nutrition needs, it is important for parents not to put certain foods on a pedestal, because this will become the food your child will then want.


Should my child become a vegetarian?

Is It Safe for My Child to Become a Vegetarian?
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Pabo76 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pabo76 via Compfight cc

My daughter was ten when she refused to eat meat because she didn’t want to harm animals. A class discussion had raised this topic and she was sold.  I listened calmly to her rationale, and it made sense. The bigger question for me was how to manage dinner for a vegetarian and a meat-and-potato-loving husband and preteen son!

Preparing different meals is a common concern I hear from parents with kids becoming vegetarian. Additional questions I often hear include: Is it safe? How will my child get enough protein? What other nutrients should I worry about? Here are some suggested guidelines for responding to the topic of vegetarianism if your child or teen brings it up:

Listen. Talk calmly with your child about their reason for eliminating meat. If it is about animal rights or another reason that you feel makes sense to your child, be respectful of his or her choice(s). It is not worth a power struggle and shows that you value what your child feels. If you have any concerns that your child is cutting out a category of food(s) for weight-loss purposes, it is important to talk about balanced eating and healthy habits rather than weight. In some cases, a sudden change in diet can indicate potential eating-disordered thoughts, and you may have to take the opportunity to address this swiftly.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can be nutritionally adequate according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A healthy vegetarian diet will contain a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and calcium sources. Your child must learn that a steady diet of pizza, pasta, mozzarella sticks, and bagels does not constitute a “healthy” vegetarian diet.

Photo Credit: elana's pantry via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: elana’s pantry via Compfight cc

Nutrients in shortest supply in a vegetarian diet, particularly a vegan diet (one that excludes dairy and eggs), may include:

    • Protein: Vegetarian sources can include eggs and cheese, legumes (beans), nuts and nut butter, seeds, tofu, and other soy products.
    • Calcium: Vegetarian-friendly sources of calcium include: cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese, calcium-fortified soy, rice, oat or hemp milk, calcium-fortified juice, and tofu, broccoli, leafy greens, beans, almond and almond butter, sesame seeds and sesame butter, and soy nuts.
    • Iron: Rich sources for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, enriched breads and pasta, eggs, beans, and dark leafy green vegetables. Soy products such as veggie burgers are generally fortified with iron. It is important to consume a good source of vitamin C in order to increase absorption of iron. Vitamin C is found in citrus, tomatoes, and peppers.
    • Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products including eggs and dairy. If your child is a vegan, he or she will need supplementation. Many soy products and milk substitutes are fortified, so read labels.
    • Vitamin D: Considered the “sunshine vitamin” since our body can make it from exposure to sunlight, some vegetarians who do not consume fish, eggs, or dairy and/or do not spend time in the sun will benefit from supplementation.

 Do I need to prepare two dinners? A vegetarian diet can be healthy for the whole family, so this is your chance to slowly introduce some new foods into the entire family’s diet. I usually involve my kids in planning several meals for the week.

Simple meal suggestions my kids came up with:

    • Whole grain pasta with ground turkey (son) AND vegetarian crumbles (daughter). We added salad and soy milk for calcium and protein.
    • Stir-fried vegetables with chicken AND tofu and quinoa or brown rice.
    • Rice and beans was a great main meal for my daughter and a side dish for my husband and son. Smaller amounts of red meat and vegetables rounded off the meal.
    • I experimented and would make dishes that everyone could enjoy such as whole grain vegetable lasagna using tofu instead of ricotta cheese, with lots of vegetables and soy cheese instead of mozzarella.
    • Turkey tacos and bean tacos were common fare.
    • When I made breaded chicken cutlet, I make breaded tofu cutlet.
    • On hectic nights, I confess that I have used frozen foods such as Amy’s Organic Bean Dishes, Morningstar Farm or Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers, or Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods frozen vegetarian meals. Even a dietitian needs a night off from cooking!


Where can I read more about vegetarianism? Some great websites for vegetarian nutrition include:





Likable Lunches: Citibabes' Style

Need nutritious ideas for likable lunches? Here are some flavor favorites you can add to your child’s springtime lunch box: remember exposure to new flavors and textures are key to increasing your child’s nutritional repertoire.

If you have a picky eater, introduce one new flavor with other favorite lunch foods.

* Whole-wheat wrap with thinly sliced fresh roast beef with thin layer of olive tapenade and an apple.

* Sushi bowl: Rice in a bowl with edamame, baked terrakyi tofu cubes, fresh corn and side of pickled ginger or cucumber slices.

* Whole grain sandwich with Cheddar, hummus, grilled red peppers, spring lettuce on whole grain bread with side of mini heirloom tomatoes.


To read more on likable lunches head over to Citibabes to read the rest of Laura’s article by clicking here.