Should you hide your child’s vegetables?

Today’s Kids Eat Right Monday Message addresses a point of internal struggle for many health-conscious parents: should you sneak vegetables into your child’s food if they don’t like eating them?


Getting creative by shredding carrots into your spaghetti sauce or folding mushrooms and onions into meatloaf is a perfectly acceptable strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only strategy. If you hide your child’s vegetables, how will they ever learn to recognize  and accept them as a healthy part of their diets?

It’s a good idea to serve vegetables in their natural form along with their disguised counterpart. That way, children can begin experimenting with tastes, textures, and aromas. They may even recognize the taste as “that yummy sweetness in Mom’s meatloaf!”

Learn to serve vegetables center-stage….er, plate! Increasing your own culinary skills with different vegetable sides and main dishes will allow your whole family to explore new flavors and styles of food. Kids may like garlic-roasted more than baked or steamed; they may even find the crisp crunch of a raw carrot more appealing compared to the soft, sweet nature of a steamed one. Plus, seeing a colorful plate will help kids internalize what a healthy plate should look like. Even if they don’t realize it, internalizations like this will carry over into college and adulthood when your kids have to prepare their own meals. I know I want my nieces to tell their friends, My Aunt Riley always served food that was healthier and super good when I was at her house, so I try to emulate her in my habits.

Vegetables in Hiding

Kids eat what they see their parents eating, so don’t skip yourself when trying to improve your kids’ nutrition. Let them see you eating AND ENJOYING different veggies. Odds are, they will be more willing to try them and more likely to enjoy them if they see you enjoying them!

Finally, hide veggies in plain sight. Pizzas, tacos and burritos, pasta, casseroles, and lasagnas offer great opportunities to mix in chunks of veggies like mushrooms, spinach, black olives, broccoli or cauliflower, onions, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados. Kids can see how veggies mix with foods they already like this way. The article mentions mixing butternut squash into mac and cheese– I have never done this, but it sounds DELICIOUS! So you see? Nothing is off limits. Get creative with your veggie medleys!

The second part of this week’s Monday Message is a recipe for Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts.


I personally have never enjoyed Brussels sprouts that weren’t heavily sauced with cheese, but this recipe actually sounds pretty simple and pretty yummy. I can’t share all these healthy messages to you all if I’m not willing to try something new myself, so I’m making a resolution for myself: I will make these saucy sprouts at some point in the next week or so, take some pictures, and let you all know how it goes.

While I’m doing that, think about some ways you can increase veggie consumption in your own life and the life of your kids and family! Any insights? Share below! Have a happy Monday!


No Shame November

Pumpkin spice
latte: leaves: pumpkins: pumpkin spice latte:

Fall is officially here, and with it comes the pumpkin pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, and lattes. I am not a coffee drinker, but even I find it hard to resist the sweet, foamy kiss of that first sip of spiced pumpkin goodness. And, of course, I am counting down the days until I get to taste my mom’s pecan pie.

Of course, we all know that the fall season is famous for another reason: No Shave November! Many of my male friends spent their post-Hollow’s Eve delicately removing every hair from their chins in preparation for this month-long beard-growing contest rather than gorging themselves on candy.

Moustache Guy
Courtesy of PicMonkey and

In light of these celebrations with both food and facial hair, I have decided that the theme for this month’s posts will be “No Shame November.”

This month, I want to explore the different ways people relate to food and exercise. One of the central tenants of dietetics is that all foods have a place in the diet in moderation. For some, well-intended health behaviors intended to moderate food intake or balance it with exercise turn deadly. Well-known conditions such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and muscle dysmorphia interfere with people’s ability to see themselves as they truly look or control their eating or exercising behaviors. Us average Joe’s and Jane’s tend to down ourselves in less clinical ways, too: in America, we value thinness for women and muscularity for men. It’s what you see constantly on TV, in movies, in magazines, and in a majority of the rich and successful. Google “magazine covers” and observe.

Now, the marriage of happiness with fitness is not unfounded: being overweight or obese is gaining attention as America’s number one health problem and is said to be linked to five of the ten top causes of death worldwide (WHO, 2014). We’ve been hearing for years that exercise not only helps you look great, but feel great, too, thanks to the endorphins that cardio and strength training release. We all know eating well and exercising to maintain fitness are beneficial to health. However, fitness is a completely different term with completely different criteria than being “skinny” or “ripped.” Merely being a size 4 does not necessarily correlate with healthy or happiness.


The reality is that people are all shaped differently. Individually. Not everyone is a size 4, but not everyone should be a size 4. Some people have curves, some are pear shaped, some have broad shoulders and small hips, some resemble a 1X4 piece of plywood. I myself am 5′ 10″, 165 pounds, and a size 10. I will never get much lower than an 8, and I am okay with that. My body has a shape, and that shape was never meant to be squeezed into size 4 jeans. “Size 4” is just a number, a way to find pants that fit YOUR body. The alternative is walking up to a store clerk and saying, “I need pants….roughly this (holds hands out in a circle) size…”.

Alternatively, I have been known to run a 5k seven days a week. I love lifting weights and ballroom dancing. I would consider myself fit, healthy, and happy, and I will never be a size 4.

“Size 4” should not be a status quo. And while I am a bit concerned about Adele’s health regarding the above statement, it is her life to live. Some people want longevity, some want to live the way they want despite the consequences. As Sid Vicious famously said, “I’ll die before I’m 25, and when I do, I’ll have lived the way I wanted to.” As a dietitian, my goal is to help people live the longest, healthiest life possible, but that may not be their goal. They may want to have a good time and eat everything and never exercise. However we feel about the wisdom of their choices, they should not be judged for their body. They should not be invalidated because they do or do not have curves or a six pack.

I’m going to start out this month sharing two articles about what it means to be a “real” woman or a “real” man.

“Real women have curves,” is something that has been going around the internet for a long time. While I appreciate the body acceptance message intended here, my reaction to this statement is: oh really? Maybe I missed something somewhere, but I’m pretty sure being a woman has a lot more to do with the possession of a few key anatomical parts, not their shape or size. This post on MindBodyGreen by Kristen Hedges emphasizes the point that, indeed, us women are all real women.


They look pretty real.

Also a great article about “real women”:

She also looks substantial; I vote real.


Fellas, I’m not going to leave you out. The Sun, an English newspaper, did a little body image project themselves when they asked four average Joe readers to pose next to photoshopped photos of models. The project was meant to illustrate that women and men hold unrealistic expectations for men just like they hold unrealistic expectations for women. This article falls a bit into the “what does it mean to be a ‘real’ man” trap, but the idea is valid: all sizes of men exist, and there is no better judge of what size you should be than how comfortable you feel in your skin.

Courtesy of

Be real this week, everyone. Happy fall! I’ve got a date with a hot little latte at Starbucks. 😉

Happy Halloween Monday Message

This week’s Kids Eat Right message ties in health with the spooky spirit of the season: How to Throw a Healthy Halloween Party!


Despite what you might think, dietitians aren’t insisting you keep the lock on the candy jar. Halloween is one day a year, so everyone should enjoy it! There are ways to make it fun and healthy while still indulging in your favorite candy.

  • Serve healthy snacks first: Let kids fill up on healthy, Halloween-themed snacks first and then bring out the candy. They will be full of nutritious goodness and will consume less candy.
  • Keep control of portions: Serve fun-sized candy bars and mini-muffins, cookies, and brownies for some regulation on how much kids consume. You can also consider having specified “snack times” between Halloween party games and activities rather than letting kids graze throughout the evening.
  • Make your own healthy treats: See examples a little further below!
  • Zombie Tag and other fun games keep kids active: Play Zombie tag where the “it” kid turns those he tags into more Zombies to tag the other kids. Google fun and active Halloween games to play.
  • Limit the leftovers: After the night of fun and fright is over, bag candy and put it in an out-of-sight place to limit consumption. Plus, your candy will last longer! Another fun use for leftover candy is to chop it up and mix it with granola, pretzels, nuts, or seeds and make trail mix to keep the Halloween spirit alive!

Try these fun, Halloween-themed foods!

Halloween Snacks

  • Orange baked sweet potato fries with green “goop” guacamole so your kids can get into the Halloween spirit with healthy Vitamin A and unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Black and orange tortilla chips with hummus, or try the Ghost Chips and Spider Dip featured on the Kids Eat Right website! It’s incredibly healthy and easy!
  • Tortilla roll ups with sun-dried tomato tortillas filled with lean sandwich meat or beans
  • Make your own orange-colored granola bars with chocolate chips, raisins, and nuts! You can control nuts and grains for kids with allergies.
  • Cut up apples and serve with caramel, peanut butter, or a fruit dip made with Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.
  • PUMPKIN FLAVORED ANYTHING!! Use a can of pumpkin puree in your muffins, smoothies, and dips!
  • Popcorn with cinnamon and sugar mixed into the butter
  • Chocolate covered fruit
  • 10 Healthy Halloween Treats
  • Bake raw bread dough into bones and serve with dip or soup! Check it out here!
  • Layer pineapples, mandarin oranges, and whipped cream mixed with greek yogurt for a candy corn-inspired parfait. Check it out here!
  • Babel cheese eyeballs with red food paint and black olives. Check it out here!
  • Orange and black kabobs with cheddar cheese and midnight beauty grapes

Have a happy and healthy Halloween!


Happy Halloween!

Healthy Halloween Party:

Ghose Dip Video:

Candy corn veggie platter:

Apples and Teeth:

Mummy hot dogs:

Kids Eat Right Comes To a Close

School meals, once ranking right alongside airline food on the “deliciousness” scale, have since become a convoluted, complicated topic. I’m not sure most parents understand the requirements for the lunches served to their kids; frankly, sometimes I feel like no one could possibly keep up with the ever-changing regulations, deadlines, and deals made in the name of children’s health.

I’ve wanted to write an article about this issue for a while now, but sadly, have not been able to find the time I wanted to really dig into the topic. Luckily, I found this article today that sums up the last decade of school food regulations with a particular focus on the last four years.

The article, How School Lunch Became the Latest Political Battleground from The New York Times, talks mainly about the evolution of school meals since the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010 was passed. Proponents of the strict regulations have since switched sides (who would’ve thought the School Nutrition Association would eventually become one of the most vocal opponents of the very bill they championed?) and new deals have since been struck. It’s a bit of a lengthy read, but is one of the better synthesis articles I have come across. It certainly explains the complicated legal ramifications and rebuttals better than I could in the short time I have to make this post.

Have you had any interactions with the school meal system, either positive or negative, as a parent or student, that relate to this topic? Leave a comment below!

Row, Row, Row Your Butt Off

The month is almost up and I am excited to post my last Kids Eat Right-related article next week and begin researching a new topic. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can skip out on me! I’ve still got two posts with which to capture your attention and challenge your creativity!

I found this article on NPR Boston this morning and really enjoyed the message it sent about exercise for kids and the potential for a good debate it introduced. I encourage you to read (skim) it during your lunch break.

The story is called “If You Build a Crew Program for Overweight Kids, They Will Row– And Get Fitter.” It’s not the catchiest title, but the message is strong: overweight and obese kids do not get the recommended number of hours of exercise, and the school PE environment does little to help boost their enthusiasm or confidence in this area. Thus, Boston Children’s Hospital has created a program called Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) On the Water that allows obese kids to engage in physical activity within their comfort zone. How? Rowing with other overweight kids.

OWL On The Water participants bring a shell out of the Community Rowing boathouse in Brighton, and to a dock on the Charles River. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

While some gym teachers may label these kids as unsuitable for excellence in team sports, it turns out that obese kids often possess a lot of muscular strength. Rowing is a great way for these kids to build that strength and avoid high-impact weight-bearing exercise that might hurt their joints. It’s also a great way to build camaraderie and confidence within a group of kids all suffering from the same issue of weight. The program is in its 10th season and fitness improvements in the 24 enrolled students have been documented every year.

Sarah Picard, Boston Children’s resident psychologist, says that her clients are the kids usually picked last for school sports. Some even avoid school to avoid participating in annual fitness testing. My favorite quote from the article is one of hers: “They [obese and overweight kids] are strong, powerful people, so when you put them in a program that caters to their strength set or ability set, they thrive.”

Alternatives to school gym class are popping up everywhere as communities and more formal organizations strive to engage the 23 million American kids who are overweight or obese. Their existence brings up some important questions:

  • How can our current school physical education system become more effective in encouraging kids to get active?
  • Should schools address physical activity in overweight and obese kids differently compared to their normal weight peers?

Dr. Michael Bergeron, executive director of the National Youth Sports Health and Safety Institute, points out the culture of exclusion that has developed in youth sports as coaches seek out the best students for their teams rather than those that could benefit from the exercise.

  • Do you agree?
  • How can school and community sporting teams focus on winning and encouraging health?
  • What does it mean to be “healthy” or “fit”?

Share your thoughts below! Read the original article here.

Monday Message (on Tuesday)

Today’s post is focused on two of my favorite things: water and carbs.

Scientifically (stay with me here), a “carbohydrate” is a molecule containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, usually arranged in a five or six sided ring. These rings join together and create sugars and starches. These compounds are present in grains, cereals, legumes, vegetables, dairy, and fruits. However, most people use “carbohydrate” in reference only to starches present in spaghetti, bread, and sugary snacks and candy.


So, from now on, if anyone ever asks you, don’t be fooled: all food groups except meats contain carbohydrates.

Carbs of any kind, but particularly those of the pasta/bread variety, are my absolute favorite. But you know this already; you saw my toast post last week. However, many popular fad diets advocate low carb intakes or recommend eliminating carbohydrates from one’s diet altogether. While reduction of certain carbs in the diet may be beneficial, complete elimination is a big ol’ no bueno, particularly for kids. Why is this? One major reason is because your brain works best when it can use carbohydrates for fuel. If you’re not eating carbs, your body has to jump through all kinds of metabolic hoops to make an acceptable fuel source for your brain. This can be hard on your liver, kidneys, and mess with the acid balance of your blood. In summary, the reasons to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet are all in your head.

The Good: The best carbohydrates are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which boosts intestinal health and plays a role in lowering cholesterol. Whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals are high in fiber, as are beans and legumes, potatoes with skin, and brown rice. Vegetables are great resources for all three nutrients. Milk and dairy contain a specific carbohydrate called lactose and are both definitely healthy for kids and adults.

The Bad: The not-so-great carbs are the added sugars, or “bad carbs”. These are tricky little buggers that hide in all kinds of processed foods. Look on the nutrition label and ingredients list for “added sugars”. Flavored milks usually have a significant amount of added sugar, as do baked goods, candies, and sodas and “fruit drinks”. These are the type of carbs everyone could benefit from reducing in their diet. Remember: every food has a place in the diet in moderation, so don’t enter a guilt spiral because you don’t want to give up cookies.


Now, one cannot increase fiber intake without also increasing their hydration! Fluids are recommended for adults at 1 milliliter per calorie consumed per day. Therefore, each adult needs roughly 2,000 milliliters, or 2 liters, of fluids per day based on the standard 2,000 calorie diet. The recommendations for children range from roughly 1.5 liters for young children to over 3 liters for teenage boys. That’s a lot of fluid!

Don’t panic, though: these fluid recommendations are for total water, which includes both beverages and the natural water present in foods. Fruits and vegetables both have very high water contents that help keep their calorie levels low and nutrient levels high. That’s another reason why fruits and veggies are so good for you!

Kids are more likely to become dehydrated than adults, particularly with exercise! Kids need about six to eight cups of water a day to meet the recommended levels of hydration. Combine that with an adequate intake of of fruit and veggies to ensure your kids are staying hydrated throughout the day. Be sure you have water available for kids before, during, and after physical activity. Also, be sure to give them exercise breaks every 15 minutes in which to guzzle some cool, watery goodness. Another benefit of drinking water is that the more water kids drink, the less sugar they’ll get from artificially sweetened beverages!


The Kids Eat Right initiative sends out a Monday Message to everyone who signs up for their email list.This message shares cool nutrition tips for kids and families. As a Kids Eat Right Volunteer, it is my duty to spread the healthy message to anyone interested in learning about nutrition! Please visit the links below to read the original Monday Messages and learn more from the great Kids Eat Right website!

Kids Eat Right Monday Messages:



Also see:

Sassy Mean Girls meme from:

Girl with copious foods from:

Nutrition Tips for Fun, Healthy Living!