Lucky you...St. Patrick's Day is a gift. If your kiddo shies away from greens, take this opportunity (no matter how long you expect it to last) to get their buy in on green food. Some true crowd pleasers include:
Shamrock chips (of which you can also make quesadillas) from Spiced Blog. Tip: This is a good one to make with the kids.
Green mac n' cheese from Weelicious. Tip: This is a good one to make ahead; then, attach a funny leprechaun story to it (e.g., the broccoli are leprechaun trees and the pees are leprechaun rocks).
Home/urban gardening has sprung up as a pretty popular trend in recent years. Heartier plant breeds, easier DIY solutions and increased support from organizations as large as the USDA all feed into a trend that promotes healthy eating, decreased food waste and community. My area (Charleston, SC) even boasts resources like Rita's Roots, which provides garden education, design, install and maintenance.
When involved in gardening, Kids:
If you've ever thought about starting an at-home garden, know that there are many options - from services as complete as Rita's Roots to these fabric pots I found on Amazon (they're amazing by the way).
Some beginner ideas:
If you're near Charleston, visit Rita this Spring!
Author: Kari Johnson
"I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?” If you don't hear this at least once a day, then you more than likely do not have a toddler residing in your home (or they have an all access pass to the refrigerator, which is not recommended).
The "snack battle" is real, because oftentimes as caregivers, we have to decipher between boredom and actual hunger. A few tips for healthy snacking:
Following a few general rules helps cut down on potential frustration later on. For example, I enjoy cooking dinner for my family, but it takes time and planning to get the job done. With the effort that goes into it, I want my 5-year-old twins to actually eat what I cook for dinner. If snacks consume their afternoon, dinner becomes a hopeless cause.
My solution? On Sundays we have snack prep day as a family. We end up with healthy snacks that are ready for the week, and we also enjoyed a little quality time together. This plan also helps decrease needless snacking that can create unhealthy eating patterns for years to come.
Here are a few “nut free” ideas for the parents out there packing snacks for school as well!
Prepackaged Refrigerated Snacks:
Prepackaged Freezable Snacks Recipes:
Apple Carrot Muffins
½ cup oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup honey
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
3 large eggs and 1 large egg white
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup grated carrot
Preheat oven to 350oF. Whisk eggs, honey and apple sauce together. Mix all dry ingredients together. Add dry with wet. Fold in zucchini and carrots. Fill cupcake holders ¾ of the way. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Peach oatmeal cookies
1 cup oats
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking powder2 cup
2 Tbsp coconut oil or canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup honey
½ cup diced peaches
Whisk oil, egg, and extract together. In a separate bowl add all dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients into wet ingredients until incorporated. Fold in peaches. Chill for at least 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 330oF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon cookie dough into 15 cookies and bake for 11-14 minutes. Cool on pan for 10 minutes.
I get a lot of feedback about the difficulties of getting a toddler to try new foods. One big one is regarding food waste. Parents don't want to buy a whole head of cauliflower if they're not sure their toddler will eat it. Not sure if it's cool to break that head of cauliflower in half? No worries, we've got this.
This morning, I interviewed Dylan who is an Assistant Produce Manager at my local grocery store. He gave me the lay of the land regarding grocery store etiquette.
Here's what you should know:
Oftentimes we tend to simplify the meaning of "being healthy" by focusing on singular measures such as weight. Health is really defined in terms of one's overall condition, which includes factors such as dental hygiene.
Developing good oral hygiene habits early in childhood is critical to longterm health. While I spend a significant amount of my time working with mothers and children, I also have experience working with older patients. One question I always have to ask these patients is, "How are your teeth?" I even follow up by asking them to actually show me their teeth. Why? I need to know that they can eat!
To pave the way for long term oral health, keep in mind that food choices over time can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Overall, foods and beverages that are high in sugar or are acid can be particularly harmful as they erode enamel and decay teeth.
Some basic rules of thumb:
My toddler had one juice box and never looked back. I bet this is the case for most of your kiddos. It's almost as if sugary drinks tattoo the tongue, leaving a permanent impression. In some respects, it makes sense. Our bodies get energy from sugar, which means we need it and ultimately might crave it.
However, certain sugars are better than others. For instance, fruits are healthier than candy because they provide fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. Alternatively, things like sugary drinks (e.g., many juices and sodas) are usually comprised of "empty calories" - meaning they provide calories, but little nutritional value.
One of the less obvious downfalls of sweetened beverage consumption is that those who drink them do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food. In the end, this results in more calories consumed and increases obesity risks. One study indicates that for every sugary beverage consumed by a child, their risk of obesity increases 60%. Similarly, sugary beverage consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Overall, we have learned that people who consume sugary drinks are inclined to have relatively lower quality diets.
Besides the negatives of sugary drinks, there are many positives to drinking water; they include:
One last thing...if you believe your child is dehydrated or ill (e.g., he or she has signs or symptoms of sickness such as diarrhea) consult your physician before re-hydrating with anything other than water. Products such as kool-aid, boxed juice and broths may have the wrong make up of sugar and/or salts that could ultimately make your child sicker.
Meatless Monday is a global campaign with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15% to decrease stress on our bodies and the planet.
I like Meatless Mondays for a variety of reasons. For one, I am reminded to include beans and other legumes into my weekly menu. I especially like leveraging organic canned beans on Mondays because it's a stress-free way of easing back into the work week. If you are not regularly including legumes in your meal planning, you are missing out!
Plant-based sources of protein, like beans, have my family eating more fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. In addition, when we're consuming plant-based sources of protein we are NOT consuming proteins high in trans and/or saturated fats (e.g., steaks).
One other huge benefit of Meatless Monday is that my family learns to "deal" with not having their favorite meals every night. We all try new things together. This doesn't mean that we all like the new things we try. In fact, my husband is on the same learning trajectory as my toddler in terms of green vegetables. They are learning to broaden their tastes together...how sweet.
Here are a few of my favorite Meatless Monday recipes:
1. Meatless Monday. "Why Meatless?" Retrieved from http://www.meatlessmonday.com/about-us/why-meatless
2. Meatless Monday. "About Us". Retrievefd from http://www.meatlessmonday.com/about-us/
Convenience foods have long had a reputation of being unhealthy because they are highly processed. Additives like MSG, artificial food coloring, and high fructose corn syrup have historically been in what seems like everything! Luckily, new food trends (e.g., clean eating, the rise of functional foods) are bringing some healthier convenience foods to the table. Here are some of my own go-to packaged items my toddler loves:
The fruit-based items tend to be sugar and little else. The Clif Kid Fruit Rope, for example, has 17g of carbs, less than 1g of dietary fiber, 15g of sugar and 0g protein - not an ideal snack. Even the little raisin boxes can be overdone as the tiniest of boxes contain 10g of sugar, 1g fiber, and 0g protein.
Other reasons I steer towards vegetable-based products:
I recently ran across a genius tip sheet about how verbiage can really affect (both positively and negatively) children's eating behaviors. What and how you communicate about food can make all the difference in achieving healthy eating goals you have set for your family.
Some must do things include:
Adapted from “What You Say Really Matters?” in Feeding Young Children in Group Settings, Dr. Janice Fletcher and Dr. Laurel Branen, University of Idaho. Retrieved from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/audiences/PhrasesThatHelpAndHinder.pdf.
While I have many anecdotes of my own that compel me to believe a baby’s food preferences can be developed in the womb, there’s also research that validates this line of thinking.
The Monell Center in Philadelphia, PA focuses on researching the senses of taste and smell. They’ve identified how things like vanilla, carrot, and garlic flavors can permeate amniotic fluid or mother’s milk. Their studies confirm that what women consume during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can shape their babies’ food preferences later in life.
Basically, our like or dislike of certain foods is a byproduct of taste conditioning that occurs from the time we are in the womb on into adulthood. Consuming a variety of nutritious foods during pregnancy is key to giving the unborn baby a healthy head start.
With this said, it is important for parents to facilitate ongoing “taste education” for the whole family. This involves a myriad of factors from creating a non-distracting eating environment to serving a variety of foods from the time your child starts nursing, through the introduction of solids and beyond.
I've read many stories about "Pinterest stress" including a 7,000 person survey done by TODAY.com highlighting how 42% of U.S. mothers worry they're not crafty or creative enough.
I sometimes feel a similar stress as it pertains to my kitchen skills. I follow many food blogs that showcase beautiful cuisine, and I oftentimes hear myself muttering "as if" under my breath. As a dietitian, though, it is my duty to try some of these (seemingly) more complex things out for you.
Below is a look at my "healthy curly fry" attempt using a spiral vegetable slicer that I received as a gift.
Total prep time: 15 minutes (including unpacking, set up and clean up)
Watch out! This kitchen gadget is sharp!
Two things to note:
Overall, I thought the benefits outweighed the cons. And...the more I've used this particular gadget, the easier it has become. This is a tool that has become something I can realistically use. This is a great way to use any extra veggies you might have (e.g., potatoes, carrots, zucchini).
The entire tasty bakes curly fry recipe can be found at: http://www.thehealthymaven.com/2014/08/crispy-baked-curly-fries.html www.thehealthymaven.com/2014/08/crispy-baked-curly-fries.html
I have a love-hate relationship with my pantry. On the one hand, it neatly stores dry ingredients and kitchen equipment. On the other hand, it houses things like crackers and peanut butter - two of my toddler's favorite things. Despite my efforts to have set meal times and to deliver fully assembled, beautiful meals he still asks for a "nack" from the pantry. How is this possible? If you are experiencing something similar, reinforce the good habits you've already set. Go a step further and consider the structure of your pantry. Check out the diagram below.
Let's be real...feeding toddlers can be frustrating. Beyond this, ensuring our kids get nourishing food can be down right mind-boggling. If you're to the point where you're starting to pull out your hair, here are a few simple, yet helpful tips you can implement now.
He also might go a step further and say "I want snack from there" as he points to the pantry where those pesky little gold fish live. I tell him that it is lunch time and that the plate in front of him is his lunch. I make myself clear.
And then I wait...most often it takes about ten full minutes for him to try the plate. The behavior within that ten minute period can be fairly easy to handle or downright exhausting. I just vocalize what's happening and then sometimes do the dishes to let him know that he'll need to sort through the dilemma in front of him alone for a few minutes.
No lie...he always eats the plate I make.
1. Van Kleef E, Van Trijp JCM, Van Den Borne JJGC, Zondervan C. Successful Development of Satiety Enhancing Food Products: Towards a Multidisciplinary Agenda of Research Challenges. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2012;52(7):611-628. doi:10.1080/10408398.2010.504901.
2. Harris G. Positive mealtimes with toddlers - responsive feeding and distraction. University of Birmingham.
Registered Dietitian, Austinite, Mom with a 2-yr old, Dog lover