Why Meatless Mondays may not be health fix school kids need

Meat’s been expelled from New York City schools on Mondays. But the substitute might not be much better.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that all New York City public schools will have Meatless Mondays — meaning that cafeterias would serve only vegetarian meals on the first day of the week — starting this fall. De Blasio debuted the news by proudly digging into a grilled cheese and a pile of baked beans at PS 130 in Kensington, one of the 15 Brooklyn schools that participated in a Meatless Monday pilot program starting in spring 2018. Officials say they were successful in getting kids to actually eat and enjoy the meatless options — which include vegetarian tacos, chili and, yes, grilled cheese — so they decided to expand the program to the rest of the city’s 1,800 schools.

De Blasio and school officials are patting themselves on the back for the move, which they say is good for kids’ and the planet’s health. They point out that using less meat will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and one in five NYC kindergartners is obese.

But meatless doesn’t always mean better for you, according to health experts.

“There’s a very easy way to be less healthy by going meatless,” says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian, and nutritionist based in Noho who has three kids in the NYC public school system. “My kids might get a big pretzel or garlic bread at school — I don’t know where the nutrients are, but I know it’s meatless.”

Robin Barrie, a nutritionist who specializes in kids’ eating, agrees — and doesn’t think de Blasio should look so smug about that cheesy sandwich.

“Grilled cheese as part of a healthy balanced diet is fine,” says Barrie. “But I don’t consider it healthy on its own. The saturated fat in a grilled cheese is almost the same as the saturated fat in red meat.”

Plus, the one-day-a-week shift will have a limited impact if the rest of the week’s menu isn’t nutritious, says Barrie, who has worked with schools, including PS 6 on the Upper East Side, on their menus. At PS 130, where de Blasio announced the plan, vegetarian chili and veggie tacos are on the menu for the next two Mondays, but the following Tuesdays bring hamburgers and cheeseburgers — not exactly a dietary win.

And the kids are savvy to the fact that their “healthy” day goes by quickly. When asked about whether her classmates were annoyed by Meatless Mondays, 14-year-old Ella Rindler of PS 130 told CBS New York, “Some people say, ‘I want my chicken nuggets,’ but they serve that on other days.”

That’s why selling kids on healthy meatless meals is going to be such a challenge for New York City cafeterias, says Emily Burson, founder of California-based school-menu consulting company School Nutrition Plus.

“The [meals] with cheese are the biggest hits because it’s familiar to them,” Burson says. “That’s what they see on kids’ menus at restaurants, which are generally processed food high in fat and sodium. So we’re really fighting against those kids’ menus at restaurants.”

‘Grilled cheese as part of a healthy balanced diet is fine. But I don’t consider it healthy on its own.’
So, sure, kids will chow down on grilled cheese, but “it’s a little harder” to convince kids to eat vegetarian meals that are also legitimately healthy, she says.

Meatless dishes developed by her company generally have a lower success rate when they test them in schools — Burson estimates about half of their meatless dishes are flops among kids, compared to about 75 percent of the dishes with meat in them.

“They don’t want to see big chunks of tofu,” she says. “We have to crumble it up and make it look like meat,” like they did with their “Sloppy Jane” sandwich that has seasoned tofu crumbles instead of the beef of a Sloppy Joe.

And tastier meat substitutes, such as seitan, tend to be expensive for schools, so it may be more cost-effective to rely on alternatives including cheese, which is high in saturated fat and lacks the iron that meat has, and beans. The school district’s menu designers aim to make their meatless program cost-neutral, officials say, and sample menus appear to rely mostly on beans and cheese.

Plus, kids tend to not like trying new things, Burson says. When her company was developing a chili made with walnuts instead of meat and tested the dish on an all-girls middle school, it was a “hard sell,” she says.

“It took getting the most popular girl to try it for the rest of the girls to try it out,” Burson says with a laugh.

Nutritionists, such as Barrie, say that done right, the program’s main benefit will be exposing kids to a greater variety of foods.

“Familiarity breeds liking, so it might take a kid 50 exposures to one food to develop a liking for it,” Barrie says.

But only if it’s done correctly. “It’s pointless if their options are going to be meatless, but white flour- and sat-fat-laden,” she says.

Original Post Can Be Found Here

Westport Fall Food Focus

Join Registered Dietitian / Personal Trainer and Westport Mom, Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN for 10 weeks to shake off Summer and get back into your Fall schedule and healthy food routine.  Whether you want to lose a few pounds, get glowing skin, increase energy, learn simple meal prep tips and healthy recipes, or network with a like-minded group who will help motivate you to reach your own personal nutrition and health goals, this is for YOU! 

Here are the details: 

  1. Report your beginning weight and measurements to Robin (instructions will be provided for self-measurement). You can do your own at home or come for a quick visit during Week 1.  This will be repeated during Week 5 and at the end of Week 10.
  2. Enjoy Access to:
    • A private Facebook page for our group to support one another and ask Robin questions
    • Robin’s Online Meal Planning and Food Journaling program and app
    • Access to Robin via email/text for any additional questions/support
    • Starting Handouts: Grocery Shopping List, Meal Suggestions, and the Rules of the Plan.
  3. Weekly: Educational Topics to learn more about Nutrition and Healthy Eating.
  4. Daily: Recipes, Meal and Snack Ideas, Facebook support

 **** This session will run October 8-Dec 17th, and make sure you are in a great, healthy place as you transition into the Holiday Season.  The price for the 10 weeks is $400, or $350 for those who sign up and mention Westport Moms!!!! 

Email Robin to sign up now!  You will receive your online access and the Guides to get going and FOCUS ON FOOD this FALL!  

****The cost is HALF PRICE ($200) for clients who have participated in Robin’s groups in the past!!  Yes, some of the information will be similar, but you will have access to a new group and continued support/accountability.

Contact Robin with any questions:
Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN




Back-to-School LUNCH

Here we go again!  The long, hot, lazy days of summer are coming to an end, and that means back to class, routine, crazy schedules, sports, carpool, and…packing countless lunches and snacks for school.  I must admit that I did NOT miss this prep work these couple of weeks that my kids were not in camp and school, so I can imagine many of you feel the same AND don’t always know what to give your kids to eat. 

Read on for some of my tips and tricks, as a Registered Dietitian AND busy working Mom of two young boys. 

  1. Keep the Kids Involved

Whether you take the kids grocery shopping with you, allow them to assist in making their own school lunch, offer choices, or include items you baked together, they will feel empowered and maybe even excited about what’s in their lunch box.  By taking my 6-year-old son with me to the deli counter in Whole Foods, we learned that he really enjoys turkey pastrami.  He (sometimes) likes helping me put popcorn in a Ziploc bag for lunch or picking out his snacks.   The kids love baking (healthy!) cookies and muffins and telling their friends about it when they eat them at lunch.  Even just asking my 4-year-old if he wants a banana or apple in his lunch makes him happy that he had a say in the matter.

  1. Offer a Balanced Meal

The goal of a healthy school lunch, as part of a balanced diet, is to enhance learning skills, thought processes, and school performance, while maintaining energy levels to fuel the remainder of the afternoon, which often includes after-school sports/activities.  “Balanced” means including a variety of foods from each food group with different sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  Here are just a few examples:

Protein-helps keep little tummies full and kids grow strong.

Turkey (deli, ground, fresh)
Chicken  (tenders, grilled, sliced)
Fish (tuna, salmon, nova, fish sticks)
Eggs (scrambled, boiled, omelets)
Dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese)
Nuts and Seeds (nut butters, raw/roasted nuts, pumpkin/sunflower seeds)
Beans (hummus, black beans, chickpeas, edamame/soybeans)

Carbohydrates-great for energy and crunch is good for concentration.

Whole grain bread/muffin/bagel
Brown rice
Whole wheat, brown rice or whole grain pasta
Tortilla chips
Whole grain crackers
Potatoes or chips (made with avocado oil or olive oil are the best)

Fat-also helps keep kids more full, important for brain health

Found in:

Animal protein (eggs, chicken, turkey, meat, cheese, full or low-fat dairy)
Nuts and seeds

  1. Keep it Simple, Small, Easy (AND a little FUN!)

Easy lunches are the simplest for Moms (or caretakers) to make, and kids feel confident eating (mostly) familiar foods.  Bite-size, or cut up foods are just easier for little fingers to hold, or eat with a fork.  Most kids have limited time for lunch periods, so the easier to eat the better: smaller pieces and easy-open containers are helpful!  Making lunch colorful with fruits and veggies makes it more appealing.  If a cute smiley face made out of raisins or even chocolate chips and M&M’s will help, then go for it! 

  1. Include New and Non-Favorite Foods

Familiarity breeds liking:  it can take up to 50+ exposures (seeing, licking, tasting, biting) to new or different foods for a child to actually accept and eat it.   Definitely, include foods that you know your child to eat.  You DO want to keep their bodies and brains fueled for the busy school day.  But, you can also add foods that they sometimes or never eat:  when they are hungry and that’s all that’s in front of them they may just (surprisingly) eat AND enjoy it!

  1. Leftovers for Lunch

When cooking dinner (pasta, pizza, vegetables, chicken, burgers), make extra:  thermoses and other containers can keep this food warm for lunch OR kids may even enjoy some of it cold.  This also saves Moms times when making lunch.

  1. Contain it!

Let your kids select and get excited about their lunchbox or bag.  Include a note or a sticker to add a little more fun.   Try new and different containers. 

I found these, which are PERFECT for dressings, hummus, sauces, etc. 

And I like these for fruits and vegetables so they don’t get a sandwich and other items wet:

The containers in the lunch photos are similar to these. 

None of these above containers are perfect or magic.  I use a combination of these and Ziploc bags depending on the day, what’s clean, available and easiest at the time.  Find which works best for you and your kids!

Below are FIVE different ideas for lunches. 

Feel free to mix and match and swap in your kids’ favorite foods.  These are just suggestions, and may not work for all kids, but hopefully will spark some lunch creativity in your house!

Almond butter and strawberry jelly on whole grain bread with strawberries, cucumbers, and popcorn

  • Choose any nut (or seed) butter that is made ONLY from the nut and maybe salt.  There should be no added oils, sugars, or additional ingredients.
  • Select a jelly that has no added sugar.  Fruit juice is so sweet on its own.  Try this one from Trader Joe’s.  I also like the brands: St. Dalfour and Polaner All Fruit.
  • Choose bread that has the first ingredient as WHOLE wheat flour (just “wheat flour” means WHITE flour).  Also make sure there are no added sugars, preservatives and/or ingredients you cannot pronounce.  This is Bread Alone brand.  I also like Ezekial bread and English muffins. -I recommend using ORGANIC produce as much as possible.  See my blog to learn more:  https://www.robinbarrie.com/is-organic-the-right-choice/
  • Try selecting air-popped popcorn that is homemade or made with ONLY olive oil or coconut oil and a pinch of salt.

Siete chips with guacamole, carrots and ranch, turkey pepperoni

  • These grain-free Siete chips are made with cassava flour, coconut flour, avocado oil, and chia.  Not only are they healthy, they are delicious and a great alternative to regular corn chips.
  • The organic guacamole single packs are made by Wholly Guacamole.
  • This is Applegate Farms turkey pepperoni made without added nitrates.
  • I use Primal Kitchen ranch dressing made with avocado oil.
  • For the younger kids, I recommend slicing the carrots into thinner strips so they are easier to eat.

Pizza, steamed broccoli, red grapes, Simple Mills almond flour crackers.

  • For pizza I like both Amy’s Organic and Trader Joe’s organic, both which are frozen.  I also love Cali’flour Foods cauliflower pizza and Cappello’s brands for gluten-free options.  Or you can make your own by following my recipe:   https://www.robinbarrie.com/?s=cauliflower+pizza
  • Simple Mills makes single packs of their plain and cheddar crackers, which are great healthy, gluten-free alternatives for traditional Wheat Thins or Cheeze-Its.

Turkey and cheese roll-ups, red peppers, cantaloupe, veggie chips

  • This is organic honey-roasted turkey breast and organic cheddar cheese slices from Whole Foods.  You can try other types of turkey (pepper, smoked, pastrami, etc.) and chesses to switch it up.  Or try cucumbers or peppers in the roll up.
  • I use either the 365 Whole Foods brand or Good Health Veggie Chips.

Siggis vanilla yogurt, veggie sticks, watermelon, edamame

  • I love this yogurt because it’s thick and great for dipping, high in protein with 15 grams per cup and low in sugar.
  • My kids like to use these Veggie Stix (Whole Foods or Good Health) to dip in the yogurt.
  • I keep frozen edamame in the freezer.  Both shelled and in the pod versions are available at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and most other markets. 


All my best to you and your families!

****For additional individual or family Nutrition Counseling, contact me via the phone number or email address below.  Check out my website and social media for additional recipes and ideas!

 ****None of these recommendations or products are sponsored.  They are simply items that I like and use for my kids and clients. 

Robin Barrie Kaiden, MS, RD, CDN, CSSD
Registered Dietitian, 
Certified Personal Trainer

Instagram/Twitter: @RobinBarrie
Facebook: @robinbarrienutrition


Is Hummus Good for Weight Loss?

Hummus is a staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. It is a dip that is typically made out of mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (ground hulled sesame seeds), olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Other variations can include herbs and spices such as paprika, basil, or turmeric.

Aside from being a delicious dip or spread for vegetables and bread, hummus has been gaining recognition as a healthy food that can aid in weight loss. Turmeric is a great spice for joint pain, it also has other great health benefits visit FindHealthTips.com to learn more. In fact, a recent study cited by Women’s Health indicated that people who have incorporated hummus into their diet are generally healthier than people who don’t. The study also showed that despite having the same calorie intake, they have smaller waists and weigh less overall. Another thing is when you have addiction, you should go to addiction marketing services.

Take a look at why it might be time to go on a grocery run for hummus and chickpeas.


One of the main components of chickpeas that has a slimming effect is fiber. An NCBI study on the nutritional value of chickpeas found that the legume has a high content of dietary fiber which promotes gut health. It facilitates bowel movement, relieves constipation, and helps maintain weight. Fiber is often found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and legumes. The next time you’re feeling a little bit bloated or “blocked”, snacking on some fiber-rich vegetables and hummus is a tasty solution.

Complex Carbohydrates

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates—found in sugar, cereals, white bread, etc.—are easier to digest. Medical News Today explains that since they are used up faster, it means that you also get hungry quicker and end up overeating. Chickpeas are rich in complex carbohydrates or slow-digesting carbohydrates that provide the body with energy over a longer period of time. Unlike the bad carbohydrates, complex carbs generally have a low glycemic index. This means that it will not elevate your blood sugar which can cause your weight to fluctuate as the excess energy gets stored into fat.


As you may know from my recent post on Cosmopolitan Magazine’s “Build a Butt Challenge”, protein is an essential element of bodybuilding. When you start to work out, it is easy to get carried away with running on the treadmill. The more miles you log, the more weight you lose, right? But, the body also eats up muscle along with fat which often frustrates people as they don’t see a toned body in the mirror. This is why strength and conditioning should also be part of your workout and protein is the main macronutrient that will help build and repair the muscles. Hummus is packed with protein that can help burn fat and sculpt muscles.

You can combine it with certain kinds of meat to increase protein. Entertainment Daily claims that hummus can be paired with lean proteins such as chicken or turkey and whole-grain bread for more slow-digesting carbohydrates. You can use hummus as a spread to replace mayonnaise, which is one of the most unhealthiest of foods out there. A healthy drug is this instant knockout for men that helps you sleep.

For vegetarians looking for a quick light snack, you can dip celery, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers or any other vegetable you like into hummus. Enjoy hummus, and also enjoy losing weight!

The re{Fresh} 21-Day Meal Plan & Guide

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Second Breakfast

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, so some people are choosing to eat it twice. CBS2’s Elise Finch reports.

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