Summer Sweet Corn Salad

Sweet corn is in season and we have been seeing roadside stands pop up all over the place.  So yummy and so nostalgically summer.  I hope you are supporting your local farmers and picking a few ears.  I stopped by the local Huntley Farmer’s Market and picked up my ingredients from Johnson MicroFarm, Trogg’s Hollow and Providence Farm. I do love the traditional corn on the cob, but here is a recipe with a few more ingredients to brighten your dinner table.  Enjoy!

Recipe for Sweet Corn Salad

4 ears of sweet corn, cooked

1 medium tomato

1/4 c diced zucchini

handful microgreens

1T extra virgin olive oil

2t white wine vinegar

1/2t salt

pinch of pepper

1/2t garlic powder



Cut corn off the cobs.  Diced tomato and add to corn.  Mix in diced zucchini.  Set aside.  Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Pour over corn mixture.  Add microgreens and basil on top and lightly toss.  Delicious!

Family Feeding

Family-style Meals with Food Allergies: Part 2

To the many families living with food allergies, this post is for you.  I want to discuss different ways to address serving dinner in a family-style way when you have food allergies to deal with.  I understand that there are so many different situations out there and many ways that people deal with them.  What works for one family will not for another.  This is why I want to give several options.

First a talk on family-style meals.  What does it mean and why do I recommend it?  A family-style meal is when you serve food on the table.  Each person selects what they want and how much they want on their own.  Everyone serves themselves.  This is an important activity.  It teaches children table skills and manners.  It also presents food in a non-pressure environment.  Nobody has to take something they do not want to.  I know all you vegetable pushers are freaking out here, but listen.  Over time, this method is much more successful in developing healthy, diverse eaters, than forcing children to eat specific foods.  Do not be confused though.  I am not suggesting you cater to your children and serve them whatever they want- no, no, no!  You decide on the meal and serve it.  They decide how much they want to eat and what they want from what you offered.  This may mean they eat only pasta one night and hamburger the next.  It’s ok.  This is how they learn to try foods and listen to their hunger signals.  As long as you are providing healthy meals in a non-pressure setting, you have done your job.

As far as food allergy families go, family style eating can be more tricky.  I will first touch on the safest route. This means you avoid all allergens of anyone in your house.  If there are peanuts, fish and egg allergies, there are none of those items in your home.  Nobody consumes these.  Your home is a “safe” place for everyone.  This is especially ideal when young children are in the home and you are concerned about accidental exposure. In this instance, serving a family style meal should be straightforward.  Since all the foods are safe for everyone, any person can choose what they like from what is offered.

Another option is to allow foods that some family members are allergic to on your table.  This will likely result in having 5-7 food options at every meal to accommodate everyone.  This may not be appropriate if you have severe allergies and/or small children who can accidentally take an allergenic food.  I would recommend this for families who have a variety of food allergies that become overly restrictive when you remove all the foods that everyone is allergic to and also for those who are comfortable keeping food allergen foods in their home.  This is not for everyone.  This is also an opportunity for older children to interact with their allergic foods as they will have to do this outside of the home.  It is good for them to learn to identify their allergens and avoid them.

The third option is a bit of a hybrid between the two listed above.  This would mean permanently excluding certain foods (severe allergens) but allowing others.  I will give an example from my own house.  Our allergens include peanuts, tree-nuts, shrimp, pork, turkey, eggs, chicken as well as a dairy intolerance.  We never buy peanuts or shrimp.  While the kids have never had an anaphylactic reaction to either, they did react enough that we think they have no place in our home.  At dinner, we do eat chicken about 6 times a month.  The child who is allergic to chicken either eats multiple side dishes or a protein he can tolerate.   He knows he can’t eat it and has no desire to even touch it.  This works for us but it is a family by family decision.  I am very comfortable with my kids’ knowledge of their allergies and how to treat others with allergies different than their own (hand and face washing after eating, etc.)

I want to stress that all of these options are ok.  Every family has to decide what works for them.  Read this information from FARE regarding this here.  If having allergens in the house makes you a nervous wreck, do not do it!  If there have been severe reactions in the past, I also do not recommend keeping allergens in the home.  Unfortunately, past reactions do not necessarily predict future reactions.  Mild reactions in the past may still become anaphylactic in the future.  Again, if you do not feel comfortable, do not do it, it’s not worth it.  Always consult with your allergist and hopefully a registered dietitian nutritionist, who can help you navigate your specific food allergy situation.

Rachael Costello, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian. The materials and content contained on this site (www.RachaelCostelloNutrition.com) are for general educational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Persons with serious medical conditions should consult a physician before beginning or modifying any diet, exercise or lifestyle program. The use of any information provided on this site is solely at your own risk.
Lunch, Meal Plans

Back to School Lunch Tips

As I am sure you do, I am having mixed feelings about school starting up again here soon.  I am eager for a little more structure to our days but I am not looking forward to the constant running around.  Back to school means back to packing lunches…not my favorite task by any means.  My kids are not huge sandwich eaters, so I am always looking for new ideas that provide healthy but tasty meals that can be eaten in the short 20 minute lunch period.  Here is some inspiration for you!

  • Use “bento box” style lunch containers.  These worked great for us last year.  One box, all the food.  This is not so good if you want to send something hot, like soup or pasta though.
  • Use a thermos to send hot soup, pasta, rice, etc.  It is a nice change of pace and hey, maybe you can send leftovers from the night before!  I boil hot water and fill the thermos and cover.  I heat up the food.  I empty the thermos of hot water and add the hot food.  I think this helps keep the food warmer longer.
  • Try a homemade “lunchable”  Cut up your own cheese, veggies, meat and send with some whole wheat crackers, like triscuits.  Besides being a healthier cracker, they do not break as easily as other crackers!
  • Wraps are a hit and so easy.  Use a whole wheat tortilla and fill with veggies, meat, and cheese.  Roll up and slice into smaller pieces.
  • Raw veggies with dip or hummus are a great addition to lunches.
  • When sending fruit, think ahead.  Younger kids may have a hard time or spend a long time peeling fruit.  Send cut up and ready to eat.
  • I always recommend sending water to drink.  Kids can fill up on their food, not beverages.
  • Popcorn and rice cakes are crunchy and healthy side options.
  • Send non-lunch food.  Breakfast food is fun- send cereal!
  • I love granola bars in the lunchbox.  Try Homemade Granola Bar Recipe
  • Pasta salad or a grain salad can be a way to get in veggies and protein.
  • Don’t forget to send any utensils they may need.
  • Keep the food cool with ice packs!  Also if sending a water bottle, freeze it the night before and it can defrost in the lunchbox, keeping food cool.


These are just a few quick tips and ideas.  Watch for more as the school year goes on!



Family Feeding, Health, Meal Plans

Family Style Eating with Food Allergies, part 1

I wanted to write a little about being a parent of food allergic kids.  The challenges are real and daily.  Our view of food changes from being something life-giving to something that can take a life away.  We can become overwhelmed in worry- so many what-ifs.  Once you begin feeling more in control and understand the allergy and all the precautions necessary, you start to feel more capable.  You still worry but you know that you have this figured out.  But sometimes, by trying to be so safe, we restrict our children’s meals too much and the chance for nutrient deficiency arises. As a dietitian, I am always stressing family style eating and not catering to certain family members by making them special meals.  I truly, truly believe in this approach.  I have, however, struggled with it on a personal level with my own children.  It is quite difficult to make a meal that everyone can eat here because of the variety of food allergies.  No two kids have the same allergies in our house.  Don’t get me wrong, there are meals that are totally allergy free for us but we are definitely limited.  So how do I walk that fine line between catering and providing wholesome meals for everyone?

I think two practices really help us- meal planning and family style meals.  When I spend the time to plan out our meals in advance, I can be strategic.  I can look at the week as a whole and spread out various proteins and side dishes.  This prevents us from eating the same meals over and over as well.  After doing this for years, I really know which meals will have leftovers.  I used to plan out seven new meals a week.  I quickly learned that a lot of food waste happens that way.  I plan for at least two nights of leftovers a week.

By serving our meals family-style, I am able to have various food choices on the table.  If one of the children is allergic to a dish being offered, she can choose something else.  Now I understand this practice does not work for all families.  Depending on the age of the child and the severity of the allergy, you may not even allow the food allergen in your home at all.  We are able to keep some of the foods in the home, not all though.

So what is catering and why is it a bad thing?  Catering is making a specific food or foods for a family member because you know they will eat it.  It allows them to eat something different than the rest of the family.  This happens a lot in families, not just families with food allergies.  Kids put up a fight about the dinner being served and the parent gives in and serves them their own meal.  Over time, children learn to demand foods and resist trying new ones.  Food allergy families can fall into this trap more easily because of the limited diet.  While it can prove to be even more difficult for these families to provide wholesome meals that everyone can enjoy, it is important to do so.  People with food allergies are already at risk for consuming a diet is nutritionally inadequate.  By not offering a variety of safe foods, the risk becomes greater.

As a food allergy parent myself, I challenge you to try new meals with your family.  It may take time to see acceptance, but that is ok.  Keep offering new, healthful, and safe foods.  Not that there is anything wrong with serving family favorites as well.  Adding variety, even slowly, will increase the nutrient consumption and you will see new meals become favorites.

Stay tuned for my next post which will delve more into how to serve family-style dinners for food allergy families.




Happy Independence Day, USA!

From my family to yours, Happy 4th of July!  May your celebrations be safe, and shared with the ones you love.  God Bless America.

Here are a few reminders to keep you healthy over the weekend:

  1. Drink water!  Being outside for long periods of time and drinking alcohol can dehydrate.
  2. Fill at least half of your plate with veggies.
  3. If there are lots of delicious looking options, take small portions of several so you can sample more without overdoing it.
  4. If you feel full, stop eating.  It never feels good to overeat.
  5. Don’t eat in front of the food table.  Make a plate and sit down to eat.  This will keep you from grazing all day.
  6. If you do eat or drink too much, be sure to get in lots of water and fresh fruits and veggies the next day to get you feeling better.
  7. If you are headed to a party, offer to bring a veggie or fruit tray, that way you know there will be a healthy option.

Have fun!



Family Feeding

Starting Good Eating Habits Early

I am asked many times for “tricks” or “tips” to get kids to eat more healthy foods.  Unfortunately, a simple trick won’t do it.  Besides, the goal is for children to develop lifelong healthy eating habits.  If we trick them into eating right,  they will never have really learned what it takes and what it means to eat healthily.  I do believe we can set them up to make better choices and develop tastes for healthier foods, but parents need to be engaged and committed to this idea.

Children are constantly growing.  Their nutrition needs are much greater than adults.  Growing is a lot of work, and work needs calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  This means they can be hungry quite often.  Think about how frequently a baby nurses or bottle feeds.  They are at the most rapid growth stage in their life.  Children do slow down as they get older, however they still need to fuel those bodies for growth.

So if kids are growing so much and need so many calories, why is there a current health issue related to overweight and obese children?  Many factors play into this, including food and exercise but we will save that topic for a later post.  The point I will make is that kids need lots of healthy foods and guidance from family to try new foods.  Nutrient dense foods should make up the majority of their diet.

In an ideal situation, kids would be offered a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, protein sources (animal or plant), healthy fats and whole grains everyday, in a no-pressure, comfortable, reliable setting.  Treats or desserts would be included from time to time in moderate amounts.  Foods would not be used to reward or punish behavior.  Children would learn to serve themselves and listen to satiety signals from their bodies.  This is a great model to follow and can be the basis for a very healthy view on food and feeding.  This also takes work, as most parenting does.  It is completely worth it though.  Nutritionally, socially, and emotionally, this is worth it.

There is a lot to know about family feeding but it is attainable. The time you put in now to help your children develop healthy eating habits will benefit  them throughout their life.  I would love to help your family get on track today.  Follow my blog, instagram and facebook.  Send me an email to ask questions about nutrition education and if it is right for you. Make an appointment with me, we can discuss your family’s needs and put together a plan that will work for you.  We will talk about portion sizes, reading labels and healthy choices. All families are different and need different care.  I hope to hear from you soon!



Book an appointment today!


Strawberry Watermelon Salsa

A little while back, I posted a picture on Instagram of this salsa, but I am finally getting around to adding the recipe.  I had to taste test it before I shared!   It is delicious and actually keeps well for several days in the fridge.  I thought it might get soggy but I was wrong.  This is a super healthy addition to any meal.  Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin A and fiber.  Watermelon also contains Vitamins A and C as well as lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant.

Here is a super-easy and quick recipe to push you into summer. Short post today but don’t worry I am working on a couple new ones for you all, stay tuned!

Strawberry Watermelon Salsa

1 cup diced strawberries

½ cup diced watermelon

½ jalapeno finely diced

¼c red onion finely diced

1-2T finely chopped cilantro

Juice of one lime

Salt to taste


Combine all ingredients.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

Great on chicken or fish or served with chips.


Enjoy and Happy Summer!






Quinoa, the ancient Incan grain, has become a huge hit these days and for good reason.  This gluten-free, pseudo-cereal (actually related to beets, chard and spinach) is high in fiber and protein.  It is also one of the only plant foods considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.  These are amino acids which cannot be made in the body, so must be consumed via food. Quinoa keeps you feeling full longer because of the high fiber content.  It has a nuttier flavor than other grains, giving it a unique taste.

When I first tried quinoa, maybe ten years ago, no one could pronounce it and it was not available in many grocery stores.  There were very few recipes out there and no products made from quinoa.  Now it is being used to make gluten-free pasta, cereals, granola bars, chips- and the list goes on!  I still think it is best to consume it in the natural state, but some of the newer products are great for the gluten-free community.

Here is my go-to quinoa recipe.  It is a version of the very first quinoa recipe I ever tried.  I have adapted it over time and it actually changes depending on what I have in the fridge.  It is great as a side dish or can be enjoyed as a meatless main meal- it is definitely filling enough! We enjoy it cold or at room temperature.  Nutritional information does not include the optional add-ins.

Quinoa Salad

Serves 4 large portions

1c uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
2c water or broth
1 cucumber diced
1 bell pepper diced
1 tomato diced
1 green onion chopped
1T olive oil
2T red wine vinegar
3T various herbs- basil, dill, oregano- etc (3T total)
salt and pepper to taste
Optional- feta or bleu cheese, nuts or seeds

Bring water and quinoa to a boil.  Reduce heat and cover, let cook until water is absorbed- around 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork. Add all the other ingredients.  Let cool completely in fridge, covered.  Before serving, let sit out of fridge for 30 mins, if desired.

Nutrition Information: Kcal: 231, Fat:7g, CHO: 27g, Protein: 7g, Fiber: 6g


Recipe: Breakfast Smoothie

I have talked about eating on the go before and smoothies are the ultimate, on-the-go snack or meal!  I really enjoy them for breakfast.  I am the kind of person who can’t eat immediately when I get up but by the time I am ready to eat, I have to be out the door.  These work great for me because I can make it and grab it to take along for my morning.  I personally use a Nutri-bullet (no affiliation) but any blender works fine.  Recipes for smoothies are tricky because I think people like different consistencies.  I like to have a thick, shake-like smoothie but others like a milk texture.  So keep that in mind when trying smoothie recipes in general.  Add more liquid or increase ice to vary your thickness.  Also, soaking your chia seeds in water overnight makes a gelatinous mixture which works great in smoothies. This is my favorite breakfast!

Breakfast Smoothie

1 banana, sliced

.5c nonfat greek yogurt

2T almond butter

2t cocoa powder

1t flax seeds

.5t chia seeds

.5-1c coffee

1-2 c ice

Throw it all in your blender and blend until smooth.  Play around with amount of coffee and ice.  Bananas come in various sizes, I try to use a smaller one or it tastes too sweet.  This is packed with protein, fiber and fat so it keeps me full for a food 4 hours. If you are using it as a snack, I recommend halving the recipe.

Nutrition Information:  Kcal: 413, Protein: 19g, Fat: 20g, CHO: 33g, Fiber: 10g




Teaching Kids About Food Allergies

It is officially Food Allergy Awareness Week!  This is a great time to remind friends and family about the seriousness of food allergies, practice administering epinephrine,  try new allergy friendly recipes and educate your community.  This week I am lucky enough to present to some of the classes in my children’s school.  I think it is so important for the kids (and adults!) who do not live with food allergies to understand what they are and how to help.  Here are the basic topics I review:

What is a food allergy?  I think this is obviously the starting point for any talk on food allergies.  I explain that eating even a small amount of the allergen can cause a harmful reaction.  I talk about the top eight food allergens and how some of them hide in many of our everyday foods. I explain cross-contamination and the importance of hand-washing. With smaller kids, that is about how much I delve into it.  With older  kids, I explain more about the immune system and get more specific about what happens in the body during an allergic reaction. I really want the kids to understand that allergies are serious and their friend is not being “picky” when they say they cannot have even a small bite of the food.  I tell them that their friend can get sick very quickly and may need their medicine and possibly to go to the hospital.  Again with the older kids, I will go more in depth about what happens during a reaction.

How can you help someone with food allergies?  This is where I explain what signs and symptoms to look for and to get an adult quickly.  I like to reinforce that they need help fast and to tell the adult that their friend has a food allergy.  I also discuss bringing non-food treats for birthdays and including everyone.  I explain how it feels to be the only kid who can’t have a special treat at parties, gatherings, etc.

I think these are the main things to review, especially with the younger kids.  You can absolutely go into more topics, especially with the older ones.  If you know there is a bullying issue or just to reinforce an anti-bullying theme, that is another good idea.  I touch on that in my “including everyone” part of the speech but it can be elaborated on for sure.

 FARE has some free downloads on their site for presentations and handouts.  I like to give them one of the coloring sheets to take home and I send a letter to the parents in case there are questions later.  Kids are such sponges and can learn so much from even a 20 minute presentation.  The earlier on they understand this stuff, the better!

I would love to hear what you are doing for Food Allergy Awareness Week!