Expanding Kids' Autonomy with Food

Expanding Kids’ Autonomy with Food

Christie Caggiani, RDN, LDN, CEDRD


Parenting is all about guiding, providing, teaching with unconditional love.  And it’s also about allowing our kids the space to try, explore and figure things out so that they can eventually trust themselves to make supportive choices.  Not only these overall developmental themes, they are also completely relevant as kids personalize their own relationship with food, eating and connection with their bodies.  When our children are young, we are the gatekeepers of the food:  providing, preparing and presenting it in a reliable, and consistent manner 1.  And while we may still be paying the grocery bills and answering the age-old  question, “What’s for dinner?!” as long as our children are under our roofs , our kids pretty quickly begin to practice more and more independence and autonomy with their food.  Imagine, if you were still cutting your 15 year olds steak at the dinner table!  That seems ridiculous, yet we want to make certain that we are also giving our kids the space to explore and take charge in other ways with their eating experiences.  Particularly as our children explore the middle- and high-school years, there are endless opportunities for us to give them room to make more of their own food decisions.


Give suggestions not solutions

Our hormonal little teddy bears (often disguised as grizzly bears), typically don’t respond well when we try to solve things for them.  They may ASK us for the answers, but they really want to be able to make their own decisions, and yet know they need some input from us.

Instead of“Why don’t you ever eat breakfast in the morning? “

Try“I notice you’ve been talking a lot about how tired you are, is there anything you think might make getting up less brutal?” .   Then, rather than firing off 5 things you know would work, simply ask if he would like some suggestions.  Not only does this give you an opening to discuss simple breakfasts that can be ready crazy fast and keep his energy up, it also gives you some space to discuss time management and ways the family can work together to support each other.



Capture teachable moments

We may be acutely aware that certain patterns aren’t working well for our kids.  An extremely common pitfall is the post-school slump.  Not only do our kids come home worn out from thinking, they’re also really, really hungry.  Getting them to connect how the first half of their day plays a role in the second half is a really big deal.

Instead of:  “How come you’re raiding the pantry the second you walk in the door?” which is not only shaming, it completely cuts off communication.

Try:  “I’m not going to bombard you with questions since you seem like you don’t want to talk right now.  Do you need any help putting together a snack?”  Then once she has some food in her system, you might explore the timing of lunch and foods she could add to it or to breakfast to keep hunger from building to the tipping point after school.   Discussing food or patterns that aren’t quite helpful will NOT go well, if her brain is irritable and famished.



Give options and reinforce you trust them

If you have a child who struggles to make her own decisions, or turns to you for permission, practice turning the question back on her.  Remembering that there is no perfect eating choice can really take the pressure off.  If she asks, “Mom, can I eat something else?”….

Instead of:  And absolute “yes” or “no”

Try:  “You’re the best one to know if you’re still hungry, so go ahead and listen to what your body’s asking for.  There is absolutely more food, so help yourself.”



Get curious

Encourage your kids to take an attitude of curiosity.   Since we know that calling foods good or bad creates an onslaught of judgment and distorted eating, it’s helpful to teach them to explore what’s working for them or not so much.  This can include them choosing a different / new food from the grocery store or getting curious about how long a bowl of cereal satisfies after breakfast, and how that’s different than eating an egg sandwich.  Their first-hand experience is priceless and will speak volumes over our well-intended lectures.  And this experience is precisely what helps them launch as well-adjusted, balanced and connected young adults.



1.  Division of Responsibilities, Ellyn Satter, RD

RD and Mom Approved Summer Camps

Photo by: The Nature Place Day Camp
Photo by: The Nature Place Day Camp

June is here! So is the time for weekend BBQs and sending your little ones off to camp! If you’re still finalizing your campers’ plans or don’t know where to start, we have a few suggestions that may be just what you’re looking for.

 The Nature Place Camp

Discover your roots in a whole different way! The Nature Place Camp offers two summer programs.   Farm & Garden Days where campers are involved in the garden from prepping to plant seeds to harvesting, and then even cooking a meal out of what they’ve grown!   The Nature Place Day Camp program overs a more varied range of activities and outdoor fun, including gardening and cooking components, where campers can discover and learn about the nature around them in a non-competitive and friendly environment.

Photo by: The Nature Place Day Camp
Photo by: The Nature Place Day Camp

 Butter Beans

This 2-week complete farm-to-table experience is a great way to get your kids talking about where food comes from (even in NYC!) and creative ways they can try new foods! Butter Beans is not a camp to miss with “Top Chef” style team cook-offs, learning how to compost, lessons from local food experts and campers even write their own cookbooks!

 Taste Buds

Allow your budding chef to hone their culinary skills in this kitchen-based summer camp! Choose to drop in for the day or stick around for a whole week of creative cooking and learning. Each week has a different theme from Baking 101 to Around the World: France, to Iron Chef, where campers will create savory and sweet dishes from a mystery basket of ingredients, to even visiting NYC food vendors and trying signature dishes which are then recreated back in the Taste Buds kitchen!

Photo by: Taste Buds Kitchen
Photo by: Taste Buds Kitchen

 The Art Farm

Looking for a program for your child to learn about nature, animals and the planet we live on? With an eco-friendly and organic facility offering programs varied based on your child’s age, The Art Farm in the City will send your camper home with stories of everything from animal science to science experiments to soccer games and of course, new friends!

 Sur la Table

Maybe not looking for a full-day experience, but still want your child to have a taste of the culinary world? Sur la table offers kids and teens cooking classes! Each lasting about 2 ½ hours a day, for five days of themed, hands-on learning and cooking! After a week of going over basic knife skills, measuring, mixing, how to follow a recipe and the science of cooking, each camper will come home with their own recipe packet of what they made during the five days!

So, whether it’s for a day or a few weeks, we hope you find the best place for your camper to learn and grow and maybe even how to grow and cook some yummy foods along the way!

Cook with Laura Iu, RDN and Make Your Lifestyle Healthy!

Laura Iu Cooking Classes



Ready to achieve all of your wellness goals and make healthy your lifestyle?

Rather than dwelling on diets, Laura will show you how you to create simple and nourishing meals in your very own


Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services is now offering the following services:

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Laura Iu brings together the unique combination

of culinary expertise and nutrition education. Reclaim your health and gain the essential

skills you need on your quest towards healthy living.


Individual Cooking Classes

Build your confidence in the kitchen while meeting your specific goals! This is a great

option for adults with specific dietary needs, health concerns, or those simply interested

in learning how to cook. With a personalized meal plan designed just for you, lessons

range from basic cooking skills to time saving tips on preparing fast and healthy meals

for you and/or the whole family.


Kids Cooking Classes and Nutrition Lessons

Teach your kids to love nourishing foods! Through hands-on activities, these interactive

classes will get kids excited about tasting new foods, learning about new ingredients,

and will empower them with healthy cooking skills that they can use for a lifetime.

Participants have the opportunity to get involved with measuring, weighing, and

following recipes in a fun and nurturing environment!


*All classes will be conducted in a nominated space of your own, scheduled at your convenience, and can be tailored toward your individual needs.


Make healthy your lifestyle, Click here to Schedule!

For questions, contact: laura.iu@lauracipullollc.com

The EALM Blog Shelf

While Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Team work on some new and exciting projects, you may notice less posts on the Eating and Living Moderately Blog. We have created a “blog shelf” below to keep you entertained and educated. Get caught up on the latest nutrition education by clicking on each year below. We will send you nutrition updates, but we will not be inundating your mailboxes on a weekly basis. If you want weekly “love” and inspiration, subscribe to our Mom Dishes It Out blog for weekly posts and recipes. Mom Dishes It Out provides expert advice from mom Registered Dietitians and mom Speech Pathologists on the “how to” of health promotion!

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The EALM Blog Shelf

Please feel free to peruse our posts organized by year below. Or take a look at the categories listed at the bottom of the page to find a post in the desired.







The Pros and Cons of Being a Vegetarian Fitness Enthusiast

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc


  1. Eating a plant-based diet provides a plethora of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A to fight free radicals caused by exercise (where free radicals are produced at a greater rate).
  2. You are forced to focus on your dark leafy greens like spinach and collard greens and high Vitamin C foods like peppers and oranges to absorb the non – heme iron found in plant foods.
  3. Pre training foods like bagels, yogurt and peanut butter are already a part of your daily intake.
  4. You’re at an even greater advantage to prevent heart disease by exercising and eating the healthy fats such as almonds, avocados and lean proteins like beans and fish.
  5. Your physical activity and plant based lifestyle are dually protective against diabetes. Vegan diets have been shown to lower one’s average 3 month blood glucose.


  1. You must make extra effort to get your  8 essential amino acids needed for muscle and hormone synthesis by eating a variety of protein sources like beans, peanut butter, tofu and quinoa.
  2. You may need to take an omega 3 Fatty Acid supplement if you are not consuming deep sea fish. There are vegetarian marine algae forms of DHA available.
  3. Caution – place extra emphasis on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat pasta, barely, and millet.  Avoid grabbing easy and available processed stand – bys like chips, packaged cookies, and boxed macaroni and cheese.
  4. Don’t fall prey to quick soy proteins sources like veggie burgers, “unchicken” fingers and fake meat. These products are highly processed, high in sodium and artificial fillers. In addition, limit soy intake to whole soy foods like tofu, tempeh, miso and edamame.  Choose one soy food /day.
  5. Bring on the Vit. B12. Vit. B12 is generally not found in plant sources. Milk, Fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast are vegetarian friendly form of this water-soluble vitamin needed for red blood cell synthesis.

What Happens on the Bike…

Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages via Compfight cc

What Happens on the Bike…
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

About three years ago, my good friend Jaime invited me to go to spin class with her. She would come over every Sunday and literally stand above my bed and ask me if I was ready. I was a mom with two very young kids, a professional career, and a husband who worked all of the time. Was I ready? Of course not! But all I had to do was throw on leggings, a tank top and sunglasses to cover the mascara smudges around my eyes from the day before! The spin studio was rather dark inside so no one would see that I hadn’t used my make-up remover. Well, what happened on that bike was more than I ever hoped might happen! Thank you, Jaime, for dragging me out of bed! Thank you, Robert, for watching the kids! And thank you, Janet, for reminding me of my own possibilities.


Once I got to class that first morning, I never looked back. Now please realize…I’m not talking about spinning right now, but rather about having the time to dream again, to set goals again, and to just feel the remarkable joy of moving in my own body. I had been in a motorcycle accident in 1996; since that time, I’d never been able to ski, run, or even wear my stilettos without severe consequences and/or extreme pain. But cycling was easier on my leg…and it gave me back “my edge.” It provided me with the opportunity—as Janet, the spin instructor advised—to set an intention on the bike for when you were literally off the bike. She didn’t talk about calories (well, maybe sometimes); instead she spoke of envisioning something you wanted to achieve and riding for that purpose. I took her every word seriously. And while on that bike, I decided that I was going to pursue my dream of writing a book.


Week after week, I went to my church (“Soul Cycle”), as Janet would say—to envision my book and sometimes to ride for a friend or family member in need of positive energy. But I have to admit that it was in Janet’s class every Sunday morning that I reminded myself that I really could do this.


I soon learned that writing a book and getting it published by a big publishing house was, in short, a seemingly backward process. Instead of writing a book and then trying to get your name and book into the public eye, I was advised by all the top editors to start a personal blog (that project eventually became MomDishesItOut) and then to go straight to television. Many advised me to skip writing a book altogether, but a book was important to me—a stepping stone in my career, something I personally wanted to do, and something I really wanted to accomplish for my mom. So I decided to take the route of working in the media while trying to write the book too. But my time was limited, and after six months of media appearances, I received my first offer to write a book. This was not necessarily my dream book, but then again, I’d never specified which book I wanted to write while I spent all those Sundays spinning away! The book’s subject was, however, close to my heart because it was about diabetes. You see, all the men in my family have diabetes. Each had helped me in my career. Whether it was letting me come along on their appointments with dietitians or introducing me to their doctors, it was meaningful to me. So, this book could, and would, be my tribute to all of them.


In the fall of 2013, what happened on that bike actually became my reality. Rodale published my first book, The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook, authored by me and the editors of Prevention Magazine. And then, just one month later, I self-published my second book, Healthy Habits: 8 Essential Nutrition Lessons Every Parent and Educator Needs. I dedicated my first book to my family members with diabetes and, of course, to my mother. My second book is not dedicated to anyone specifically; rather, it’s for every person with great hope that each will one day create a positive relationship with eating and a neutral relationship with food. It’s for my children, my clients, and all the parents out there who receive mixed messages on nutrition. This is the book that focuses on self-care and nutrient density, not weight loss and what you can’t have. It’s sort of like spinning. I spin to take care of myself and set goals rather than to lose weight or punish myself for eating a holiday dinner.

Photo Credit: rachel a. k. via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rachel a. k. via Compfight cc

So find your vehicle—whether it’s a spin bike or a yoga mat or even a pew in your own spiritual temple. Set your intentions for 2015. And then let us know what happens! And again, thank you Jaime, Robert and Janet.

Fat Is the New FAD—Product Review:

Fat Is the New FAD—Product Review: “Be Bright” Non-GMO Superfood Oil Blend
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Screen shot 2014-12-28 at 8.49.31 AM

While all foods are super foods in their own right, Coromega has created a unique blend of this past year’s favorite fats. Chia, coconut, avocado, hemp, and black cumin fatty acids are now available in an all-in-one delicious oil.


Pros: Easy way to get your kids’ and your bodies the fatty acids we need; Formulated to be taken straight on a spoon or added to a smoothie; GMO free; Great for tropical and Asian flavoring.


Pros/Cons: Must be refrigerated and not a cooking oil; however, can be added as a salad dressing or grain topper; Has sugar but for a legit reason—a hint of non-GMO cane sugar is added to bring out the product’s delightful coconut-cream-meets-piña-colada flavor!


In addition, Coromega’s use of sugar promotes the microbiology stability of the product: It is used to bind free water in the formulation to prevent pathogen growth (which requires water). They chose not to use sweeteners, like xylitol, because they wanted Be Bright to be formulated with natural ingredients and believe pure cane sugar is the best option. The sugar is used at a very low absolute level, only 3 grams per serving.  When compared with an energy bar at 14–25g or a can of Coke at 38g, that’s a really small amount!1


Put the oil to your taste test with this Asian Soba Noodle recipe!

Make this for dinner or take for lunch the next day. To make this dish a complete meal, add chicken or tofu for protein. 

Be Bright Soba Noodles 


  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 3T honey
  • 1/2t salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1t ginger, minced
  • 2t be bright oil blend
  • 2T coconut oil
  • 2 zucchinis, diced
  • 8oz soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro



1. Prepare dressing and set aside: in a small saucepan, warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add the garlic and ginger. Turn off the heat source, and let cool about 5 mins. Add the Be Bright oil blend, lime juice, and zest. Stir and set aside until the noodles and vegetables are ready to be dressed.

2. Cook the soba noodles as directed on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water.

3. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan on medium to high heat and sauté the zucchini until tender.

4. In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing, zucchini, herbs, and onions. Option: Add tofu or chicken and mix. Chill for one hour and enjoy.



1. As told by the PR company of Coromega Be Bright Oil.

EALM Product Review: Garden Lites Muffins

EALM Product Review:

Garden Lites Carrot Berry Muffins

These muffins are so tasty, even my picky eater approves of them!

Photo Courtesy of Garden Lites
Photo Courtesy of Garden Lites

With the most delicious taste accented by blueberries, everyone will love these adorable little muffins. The first ingredient is carrots so that is an obvious thumbs up. The second is egg whites so another thumbs up. And the third, a gluten free flour blend that contains brown rice, and flaxseed meal. Screen shot 2014-12-15 at 2.00.46 PMThis is a great snack option for kids. Especially those who need to consume more veggies. Plus, they’re allergy-friendly and make a great snack for parents!

5 Tips for Welcoming Herbivores to the Holiday Feast

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver via Compfight cc

From vegetarians to vegans and pescatarians to gluten allergies, throwing a holiday feast can be quite challenging. If you are planning to host a dinner party this holiday season, rest assured, entertaining guests with multiple food sensitivities does not mean you need to toss out traditional or favorite Holiday foods. With a few modifications, many foods can be easily modified.  What should you do when welcoming herbivores to your holiday feast? We’re dishing out 5 tips you need to do and know before you start cooking this holiday season.

1. Confirm Your Guests’ Dietary Restrictions – First things first, before you start purchasing any ingredients find our what type of food preferences your guests have and if they have any allergies. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same food preferences. Some people will eat dairy but not eggs and vice versa. Knowing your guests’ food styles won’t just help you plan out what dishes you can serve, but it will ensure there is something at the table for everyone.

2. Always Serve A Main Vegetarian Dish – If you pass on confirming your guests’ dietary preferences, steer on the safe side by preparing a main vegetarian dish. This way, anyone who passes up the turkey or other main meat dish will still have something just as delicious and satiating as the latter. For large crowds, a dish like vegetarian lasagna can be appetizing for both non-meat and meat eaters alike.

3.  Make Your Side Dishes Veggie-Friendly – Make sure there are side dishes that everyone can enjoy. While you don’t have to dish out a whole chicken, turkey fish or tofurkey to meet all of your guests’ dietary preferences, side dishes are where you can make something suitable for everyone’s palates and preferences. To do this, keep an open mind by serving dishes other than a simple salad. Some side dishes can include sliced fresh fruits, cheeses, crackers, bruschetta, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, potato salad, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, lentils, latkes, corn on the cob, cornbread, stuffed mushrooms, quinoa salad, garlicky kale or spinach.

4. Encourage Your Guests to Bring a Dish – After you letting your guests know in advance that you will be preparing vegetarian/vegan dishes, offer to let them bring a couple of dishes that they enjoy too. If you feel like you’re scrambling to find enough vegetarian/vegan dishes, allow your guests to bring dishes to share with everyone.

5. Prepare Two Dessert Options – When dishing out dessert, consider eggs and dairy products. If possible, it’s best to prepare one non-dairy dessert option. If you plan to make the dessert yourself, there are a ton of substitutions on the market that add flavor and moisture to your baked goods. For egg substitutes, you can try applesauce, chia seeds in gel form, or EnerG Egg Replacer, which can be found at a health foods store or Whole Foods Market. To substitute cow’s milk, you can use soy, almond or hemp milk and vegetable margarine in many baked goods. For those who are new to creating sweet concoctions without dairy and eggs, know that it is possible to serve a scrumptious vegan dessert!


Have you ever hosted a vegetarian or vegan dinner? What tips would you give to new hosts?

How to Get Your Nanny to Follow Your Food Style

Guest Blog by Debra Johnson

Photo Credit: Ioannis Karydis via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Ioannis Karydis via Compfight cc

Many children have special dietary needs that are a result of either a specific lifestyle or a health condition. A child may have an allergy to a specific food, or a family may have chosen to live a vegetarian lifestyle. No matter the reasoning for a special diet, leaving a child with a new caregiver or nanny can be a challenging experience for a parent. It can cause the parent to worry about how well the nanny will follow the child’s diet plan. For this reason, the following ideas are offered to help you teach your nanny the importance of following your child’s food style when you leave your child in their care.
1. Create a contract – When hiring a nanny, it is always a good idea to write up a simple contract that details the hours that they will work as well as other necessary guidelines. For a child who has a special diet, this can be outlined in the contract as well so that everyone understands how important it is for the diet to be followed.

2. Post a menu – Until a new nanny becomes accustomed to the child’s diet, it can be helpful to create a menu of meals for the nanny to follow. This can be posted in a visible area of the kitchen or in a manual that you create for the nanny.

3. Make it convenient – If a child’s diet is complicated, it could become overwhelming for a nanny at first. Therefore, it is a good idea to prepare meals ahead of time that can be frozen and reheated. Additionally, stocking up on approved foods and snacks will help your nanny to include a variety of healthy options for your child.

4. Avoid eating out – Spending a day out can be an enjoyable way for your nanny to provide your child with new experiences. However, navigating the menu at a restaurant can be challenging for someone who has special dietary needs. For this reason, you may prefer to pack a lunch or provide a list of safe food options for days when your nanny takes your child out on a day trip.

5. Post emergency information – Parents should also be sure to leave emergency information with a nanny. This is especially true for children with allergies who may require special medications in the event that they have a reaction. Make sure that your nanny has access to emergency information so that she can act quickly if necessary.

When it comes to special accommodations, a qualified nanny will have no problem making sure that your child’s needs are met. However, it is important to provide support to your nanny by making sure  they understand your child’s health condition and have access to the proper food. By making an extra effort to ensure that your nanny is knowledgeable, you will be able to enjoy the peace that comes with knowing they will provide your child with the best of care.


About the Author:

This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of Liveinnanny.com. She welcomes your comments at her email, jdebra84@gmail.com.