What’s for dinner? Dr Maria Rivera takes over

Dr. Maria Rivera holding a sailboat made of an eggplant
Being a parent has changed Dr. Maria's view on food and feeding her family. Can you relate? Now that Maria is a mom, she talks to parents differently about food. For example, her son hated the first 10 things she gave him. Zayn had preferences, and he let her know about them. Today she serves her nutrition advice from a doctor and public health perspective but with a big side of mom-sense. Here are her favorite evidence-based tips.

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Dr. Maria Rivera is a pediatrician with a background in public health. Maria knows the rules around nutrition, and those who know her might say she is a perfectionist! Maria used to give a lot of advice to her patients that backfired with her own son. Here are some of her favorites:

  • No food during tantrums
  • No sweets until the child is 1
  • Start with veggies
  • Your baby will eat anything.

Fast forward to today! Here are her favorite evidence-based AND mom-tested tips.

1. Don’t label foods as “good” and “bad” 

Making some foods off limits creates perverse incentives–your kids will just want them more. Sometimes my instinct is “that is bad so he can’t” but then I realize it’s OK in moderation! It’s better for your kids to try cookies and chips, so nothing is out of reach. We don’t restrict any types of food. All food is food.

2. Safe and Unsafe works

For my patients with food allergies we talk about “safe” and “unsafe” foods and the advice above still can work, but with that extra vigilance we know food allergy parents must have. Foublie’s food allergy basics goes into this a bit.

3. Make food taste great

We want healthy foods, but don’t lose sight of flavor too. I try to make things taste delicious because who wants to eat boiled and mashed broccoli? It’s OK to use salt, butter and spices. Zayn started to eat more kinds of foods when I added spices and started giving him things I was eating.

4. No Juice

This is actually the only recommendation that did not change after Zayn was born. Juice is called empty calories because it is mostly sugar and highly processed. Try water instead.

5. Eat together

We keep meals low key but we try to eat together when we can. If not everyone eats, we do sit together and chat.

6. Make mealtime fun

I don’t pressure him to eat things he doesn’t want to eat.

7. Take a breath 

When Zayn doesn’t like something he throws it across the room. Deep breathing gets me through.

8. One meal for everyone 

Kids do better when they get introduced to all foods, not just the healthy foods. We all eat the same thing, which helps with balance and variety. I am Latino and my husband is Arabic. Our son doesn’t like things plain. He won’t eat french  fries which I think is so weird. He hates white rice. He needs rice and beans. Check out my rice and bean recipe below!

Need help figuring out what to eat? Here’s my food checklist. 

9. Make life easier with base foods you make ahead of time.

Maria makes a lot of rice and beans. Zayn loves it, and it is comfort food for Maria! Did we mention, it’s easy? Talk about a win-win-win. She makes a pot of beans every Monday and uses  them through the week. Here is her favorite recipe, but she uses the beans all week

For the beans

Modified this from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 teaspoons of pre-cut garlic
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 12 1/2 cups dried black beans. *I don’t soak them, but I rinse them.  
  • 1 dried whole ancho chile
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • Freshly ground salt (I say 10 turns on the grinder)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (10 turns on the grinder)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock

Put all of this into a slow cooker or instant pot.

Instapot: Run the bean function 2 times

Slow cooker: 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low (do what time fits you best)

For the rice: I just buy instant rice and make it as directed. I make about 2 cups at a time.

Maria & Zayn’s Rice & Beans

  1. Make the beans
  2. Make rice
  3. Fire up a pan and add a little bit of canola oil
  4. Add the bean and warm them up.
  5. Add the rice.

You want a 1 to 1 rice and bean ratio.

Serve with a scrambled egg and avocado slices.


Want more Dr. Maria Rivera? 

Yes, please! Maria writes many of the articles in Fooblie feeding guides and has some helpful videos in our education section so check those out! She also shares her personal Dr. Mom journey on Instagram and pins all her favorite recipes on Pinterest

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