5 Nutrition Tips for a Healthy School Year

The start of the school year is a time to reflect on habits and start fresh. What works for your family? What gets in the way? Now is the time to make changes to start the school year off on the right foot.

Time is a big obstacle people share with me as a barrier to healthy living. With the demands of life, work, school, extracurricular activities and more, you likely feel exhausted and overwhelmed. How do you make make health a priority while managing a busy schedule? Prioritize managing your time. If you don’t take care of yourself, how will you be your best at work, school, or taking care of your family?

  • Get clear on your goals as an individual and as a family. Get a chalkboard or whiteboard for the kitchen and gather a notebook and some colorful pens. Take some personal time to reflect on what you want to accomplish this year but also ask everyone in the family what goals they want to work on as well.
  • Plan meals and snacks in advance. Having healthy food and nourishing snacks on hand reduces weekday stress by having one less thing to do. Find a time each week to plan 3 – 4 meals and write a grocery list. Enlist the help of family members and have your kids help in meal planning. Ask your kids what they want in their lunch or for after school snack!  Having them take some ownership in making food choices is a great nutrition lesson.  Remember if they say “Cookies!” it’s perfectly fine to balance those fun food choices with healthy food.
  • Enlist help from all family members in the kitchen. Delegate age-appropriate chores and tasks to everyone, making sure all work is not placed on one person. Can your kids help cook? Can they help assemble meals and snacks? Research has shown that kids are more likely to try new foods if they help with the prep work.
  • Avoid overcommitting. This is challenging because there are so many expectations on us today as parents.  You want to say yes to everything and you want your kids to be involved in a lot of activities.  But before you say yes, ask yourself “By me saying yes to this, what am I saying no to?” It’s extremely important to make sure that you have your self-care lined up, including your nutrition appointments!
  • Embrace the .com. Seriously, we have a love/hate relationship with the internet, and for good reason! However, for busy families the internet can serve as a tool to stay organized and help manage time. You’ll find time-saving resources online from ordering groceries to using a service such as Blue Apron or HelloFresh to deliver ready-to-be-made meals to your door.  Don’t forget to use the internet to find new recipes and creative meal ideas!


Fearless Feeding for Kids

The Westchester Rockland Dietetic Association welcomed Jill Castle to our fall meeting to talk about feeding in children.  As a dietitian and mom of picky eater, I was equally excited for this workshop professionally and personally.  Jill and Maryann Jacobson wrote the book “Fearless Feeding” and the book has helped me figure out how to feed my baby throughout his life so far.

Despite my best effort to do the right things, I’ve made many mistakes feeding my toddler.  After all, I’m human!  My reality of being a busy working mom sometimes conflicts with the patience and time needed to feed a toddler.  But as I learned in her workshop, it takes a lifetime to raise a healthy eater and I am learning as I go.

I learned many lessons for both my professional and personal life.  My take-away points from the workshop include:

  1. As parents, we really don’t know what we’re doing!  But we have the ability to change. 95% of parents believe healthy eating is important.  But 80% of parents believe they have no control over picky eating and 75% give in.  30% of moms give themselves a “C” when it comes to knowing the right mix of nutrition for their baby.  We have to switch gears and get out of the “short-term” way of thinking about kids and nutrition (aka getting kids to eat healthy food NOW and parents feeling frustrated in the moment).  Rather, we have to think “long-term” and set the foundation for raising healthy eaters.
  2. Food and nutrition (“what” kids eat) is not the only important feeding strategy. The “how” and the “why” are just as important.  The “how” is how to teach parents to feed in an authoritative feeding style and keeping it positive.  The “why” is because children are in various stages of developmental stages and have different temperaments.  The best way to feed a child is with structured meals and snacks with boundaries and limits.  But parents should give children choices at meals and never force kids to eat.
  3. Ellyn Satter’s “Division of Responsibility” is the top method of feeding. The parent determines the location of feeding, what to give at the meal or snack and the timing of the food. Parents should serve balanced meals with all food groups, and also 1-2 foods they know their child will eat (even if this is bread and milk, that works fine!)  The child determines whether or not they are eating in the first place and then also how much they will eat.  When these “jobs” are crossed, problems arise with feeding and eating.
  4. Teach children hunger and fullness. Adults take note!  Children are born with the natural ability to self-regulate food intake, especially if meals and snacks are served in a structured environment.  As children get older, environmental factors sometimes ruin this ability.  Adults should never tell children to “finish their plate”, or “if you don’t eat everything now you get no dessert later”.  Rather, we need to put words to our children’s feelings around hunger and fullness to develop an internal sense (“Is your tummy full?” or “Does you tummy feel hungry?”.  These natural instincts can get de-regulated if we don’t.
  5. Children have different eating styles and we need to work with them, not against them. The “Eager Eater” is adventurous and will at least “try” most foods and will eat a good variety.  These are the kids you always hear about!  Don’t worry if this isn’t your child, it’s certainly the opposite of my child too!  This is only 10% of children.  The “Cautious Eater” is slow to accumulate foods, they may have sensory issues or be “super tasters”.  They are resistant and have a limited diet and variety of foods.  Most kids are “in between”, in which they accumulate food over time with exposure.  It “takes a childhood” to amass a varied diet.

I would highly recommend Jill Castle’s Fearless Feeding workshop for any dietitian or mom!  Contact Jill here: http://jillcastle.com/

Raising a Child to Love Their Body

I was recently out with a group of “mom friends”, having one of those conversations talking about anything and everything related to our kids, all under 1 year old.  Our conversation turned into an honest discussion about raising our children to be anti-dieting, body image-loving, positive self-esteemed individuals.  My friends were worried about being a good example to their daughters, teaching self-esteem, and hoping that their girls will learn to love their bodies.  These moms were especially worried about raising girls, but this is a topic for every mom- mothers of sons included!  I claim to be an expert in this area but it’s honestly something I’m concerned about too.  I had just talked about losing the last few pounds of my post-pregnancy weight 10 minutes before this part of the conversation came up à  My point is that my advice for moms and dads is something I am going to be working on as well.  I think moms can all learn from one another and support each other to raise confident children.  Here are my favorite tips:

  1. Eliminate negative talk:  Take a good look at yourself and your environment.  Do you criticize yourself in the mirror?  Do you complain about being in a larger body?  Kids will learn from you.  Eliminate this kind of dialogue in your life to other people and especially to yourself.
  2. Feel good about your body:  Replace the negative talk with positive talk.  Do something each day to make you feel good about your body.  One of my favorite tricks is something I heard from a therapist:  Take a tube of red lipstick and write on your mirror “I am beautiful because…” and everytime you look in your mirror, you have to answer the question.
  3. Model healthy behaviors with food:  Show your child a healthy relationship with food by eating balanced meals and snacks.  Don’t restrict and binge.  Have a wide variety of food in your diet, including food from all food groups, healthy food, and unhealthy food.  Have desserts and chips and cake in your life, and teach your child how to enjoy these foods in a healthy way.
  4. Make time to move with your family:  Exercise as a way to feel good, not just burn calories.  Pick an activity you love and make time for it.  Treat this as part of your self-care routine.
  5. Introduce the concepts of “hungry” and “full” as early as possible:  Children are born with the skill to stop eating when they are full but gradually lose this with environmental influence.  In order to prevent the dieting “restriction” mindset, it’s important to teach children it’s natural to eat when they are hungry.  Therefore, it will be natural to stop eating when full and satisfied.
  6. Do not label food (or yourself) as “good” and “bad”:  Every food is included in a healthy lifestyle, no matter what.  Restriction of “bad foods” almost always equals bingeing.  Never say “oh I had a good/bad day” because nutrition is not all-or-nothing!
  7. Never make your child clean his/her plate:  This will alter kid’s perception of how much they should eat.  If they don’t eat at this particular meal, there is always the next meal or snack to make up for missed food.
  8. Talk about how bodies come in all different shapes and sizes:  Respect other body types and talk about how people look different because everyone is unique and special.
  9. Find an outlet to vent out your body image stuff (not in front of your kids):  Sometimes we don’t feel good in our bodies and that’s okay.  But it’s important to find a way to vent this and not talk about it all the time in front of kids.
  10. Spread the word:  I love movements like “Operation Beautiful”, which spread the message of positive self-esteem and self-worth.  Teach children to participate and have fun doing so!

Definition of “Normal Eating”

With the new year here, many people vow to start a “diet” or lose weight.  But when 95% of all diets fail and cause even more problems (physically and emotionally), what is someone to do?

So what is normal eating if you’re not going to “diet”?

Taken from Ellyn Satter’s website the definition of “normal eating” is:

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.


I think it’s important to understand that the definition of normal eating is different for everyone.  Because everyone has different emotions, environments, food preferences, etc.  With the help of a professional, many people can make their own definition of normal eating and make it work for them physically and mentally.