Parents are busy, which means food prep can end up falling on someone else (e.g., a sitter, a grandparent, a spouse). Here are a few tips to ensure healthy eating survives even the busiest times!
'Tis the season to travel, and this year people are going the distance. AAA predicted 2016 to be the busiest travel season in nearly nine years. Hopping on a plane, train or automobile means you'll no doubt be hitting more dining establishments. Keeping things healthy will require a little finesse. Here are a few things to add to your toolbox.
If this seems like a lot to remember, just go back to the basics. What would you serve at home? Picture a healthy plate and build from there.
1. Wisniewski, Mary. Chicago Tribune. More Thanksgiving travel expected this year on roads, rail and air. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-thanksgiving-travel-getting-around-20161120-column.html
2. Picture from http://joannekraft.com/planes-trains-automobiles/
I saw this Kid-Friendly Chai Tea recipe on Facebook, and couldn't wait to check it out. While I dig the main ingredient (milk), my enthusiasm dwindled upon reading the recipe, which calls for 2 Tbsp of sugar per serving.
What you need to know: It is recommended that children have no more than 5-7 teaspoons of sugar per day. In essence, this one drink would equate to 100% of a kid's daily allowance. I'm game for holiday treats, but sometimes I feel tricked into thinking something is more healthy than it really is. Kid-friend chai tea sounds good in many respects, but I might stick with plain ole milk in this case since I know the gingerbread men are coming.
Remember that sugar is in many of the products we consume every day (pasta sauces, breads, crackers, soups). This Jamie Oliver blog post on sugar is a good recap of what to look out for when it comes to sugar.
One key way to impart healthy eating habits on your kids is to offer them hands-on experiences in the kitchen. When a child participates in meal preparation, they gain a sense of ownership and even pride. Thus, they are more likely to eat the foods prepared.
While in the kitchen together, take advantage of making healthy the norm. Talk about healthy foods - where they come from, how they got to the store, and what nutritious benefits they provide the body.
Here's a quick guide on what tasks to start your kids on:
If you really want to invest in your child's kitchen time, consider a "helper stool" of some sort. Your best bet in finding one at a decent price is Amazon.com.
One last thing. This is one of those times when frequent safety reminders is a must. Kids will be stimulated and excited to be in the kitchen, and offering gentle reminders that the stove is hot can keep the experience positive for everyone.
I fully believe in celebrating when celebrating is due, and let me tell you...no child should be denied the fun that comes with Halloween. Here are a few food (candy) related tips to help your family enjoy today to its fullest.
If we want children to like and eat healthy foods, we should aim to give them positive experiences with those foods. These experiences ought include opportunities to observe others consuming those foods. Role models feed into children's developing food choices.
If you have a toddler, you know the innate impulse he or she has to imitate another person. The more you can provide healthy situations for your child, the more you can create familiarity and acceptance as it pertains to a varied and healthy diet.
Example: If you buy whole wheat tortillas at home, then your kiddo will be more likely to eat the whole wheat tortilla that he or she will now be served at school (whole wheat is now mandated in many school lunch programs). I can't tell you how many lunch ladies and teachers who have told me that "kids won't eat the brown tortillas."
While setting a healthy example may seem like a no-brainer, I oftentimes find out that parents and children are not eating the same things. Sometimes it makes sense (e.g., a special anniversary dinner at home after the kids are asleep). For the most part, though, creating meals that satisfy everyone's needs prove the most beneficial. Serving the same items:
Involving children in the kitchen is tricky. It requires preparation and follow through, but the results are insurmountable. At a minimum, studies show that children are more likely to choose healthy foods if they are involved in food preparation.
Suggesting a toddler pack his or her lunch may sound crazy, but the fundamentals of getting your kiddo on board and setting them up for success can make this a reality. Casey Seidenberg of the Washington Post wrote an excellent piece on just how to pass the baton of lunch making to your kids. I've provided the highlights here.
Get your child on board
Set your child up for success
Elizabeth Volzke (grocery retail dietitian) shares potential pros of taking your toddler grocery shopping. With a child of her own, Elizabeth offers practical insight to healthy living.
Have you ever scheduled your grocery shopping so that you didn’t have to take the kids along? You’re not alone. Shopping with a child can be daunting, but when done correctly it can yield rewarding lessons.
First, a grocery store is full of many colorful and differently shaped items, which can be hugely stimulating for children. With all those colorful foods, boxes, signs, and shelves comes exposure to new items. The biggest benefit of that exposure is the potential of your child seeing something healthy they want to try, whether it’s a new type of fruit, vegetable, cheese, or cereal.
Letting children help decide which items to purchase can be a fun task for them. Maybe you let them decide what type of apples to purchase that day, or you get their opinion on what kind of cheese they would like to try. I oftentimes let my own son choose the frozen vegetables when he accompanies me to the store. The bottom line is that a child is more likely to try foods at home if they were included in the decision making process of buying them.
Do keep in mind that as the parent you still have control over what goes into the cart, so you can always say no to those options that are less healthy. Also, just because a child says “no” to broccoli in the store, doesn’t mean you don’t buy it. As a rule of thumb, an individual must try an item 7 times before they can truly say “I do not like that item”.
As a Registered Dietitian for Hy-Vee (a grocery chain in Iowa), I promote in-store sampling. Check your local stores for days and times they regularly sample as this is a great time to take the kids. They’ll be able to try several things before you spend money on something they may not like. Sampling can also be an eye opener for adults. Last week, I promoted yellow watermelon in my store, which was a product I had never seen before.
One of the greatest lessons a child can learn from helping you go grocery shopping is how to act in a socially acceptable manner. The simple act of spending time together outside of the home teaches morale, manners, patience and so much more.
Finally, for a truly great experience, do not bring hungry kiddos to the store. Combat that “hangry” feeling you or your child may experience by having a snack before you go. If that simply isn't an option, some grocery stores offer fresh fruit for children to snack on while shopping.
For more information such as toddler friendly snacks and healthier holiday treats for kids, other tips for shopping with your toddler, or recipes for homemade baby food please contact me at email@example.com. As always healthy shopping and healthy eating. Elizabeth Volzke, RD, LN
About the author: Elizabeth has an Associates of Science as an Early Childhood Specialist and graduated in December 2015 from South Dakota State University with her Bachelors of Science degree in Dietetics and Food Science. Elizabeth completed her Nationally Accredited Dietetic Internship through Iowa State University, and is currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Public Health. Elizabeth is a Registered Dietitian currently working with a large grocery retailer in the Midwest.
Back-to-school means our kiddos will be exposed to more. More kids, more teachers, more carpooling parents, and ultimately more germs. If you've mastered habitual hand-washing and are ready to move on to something more, consider the food-related practices that can aid in strengthening the immune system.
First, follow general food safety practices - cleaning, separating, cooking and storing foods properly. Here is a link to my favorite food safety tip sheet: http://bit.ly/1IOfQ5j.
Next, consider sources of Vitamin C and Zinc, which help our bodies resist infection.
Sources of Vitamin C:
There are A LOT of lunch box hacks, but these are the ones I found most unique and practical:
Even though I'm a dietitian, I HAVE to read labels like everyone else. No matter how much I think I know about a food, there are usually many different brands and varied packaging that can be quite deceiving. Quick and dirty, below is one label I picked up for a quick once over.
Thought #1: Go straight to ingredients. Besides learning which ingredients are used in a product, I want to know HOW MANY ingredients are used (usually the fewer the better), and how much of each ingredient are used (ingredients are listed in descending order of weight from most to least).
Thought #2: I look at Sugars and Carbohydrates. My rule of thumb is to shoot for products with less than 20g of sugar and carbs per serving. The recommended amount of total sugar is no more than 90g for adults, and there is no recommendation for children. Most people need between 45g and 60g of carbs per meal and 15g to 30g per snack. Note, I mention trying to find products with 20g or less of sugar and carbs because your meal will be comprised of multiple products and you'll no doubt get plenty of both sugar and carbs.
Thought #3: I look at sodium content. The adequate intake for sodium for 1-to-3-year-old children is 1,000mg a day. If a product has 600mg (or more than half a day's allotted amount) I would find this high.
Thought #4: I want a rough estimate of total calories for my meals so that I know what I'll most likely consume for the entire day. Toddlers need between 1,000-1,400 calories per day. I wouldn't want to give my toddler a protein bar snack like the one above if it was 400 calories.
Thought #5: Finally, I want to know how many servings per package so that I accurately assess the values above.
Note: I do all five steps in less than 30 seconds, and this is by no means everything I look for all the time (e.g., sometimes I look specifically for trans or saturated fats because I suspect they might be in a particular product).
The American Heart Association has a slightly different list from me, which is also worth checking out. Basically, whatever you are looking for, reading labels habitually can be one of the best tools you employ in managing the dietary health of your family.
I learn the few rules that matter to me, and I read almost every label I put in my shopping cart. There are many other things that go through my head, AND...the more you do this the easier it will become to understand where you can get the most nutritious options without having to dig through a haystack each time you shop.
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.
To the mom I saw this past Sunday...you ROCK!
I was in awe as I passed you pushing your double stroller down my street at 3pm (no doubt the warmest part of the day) towards Lady Bird Lake. Your stroller was complete with two eager boys, their fishing gear (poles and all), and a golden retriever in step. It's obvious that you value the health of your family and friends (canine included). Beyond time and patience, it takes know-how to organize a Texas summer outdoor activity. Assuming the best, here's how I imagine you prepared:
Thanks for setting such a great example for all of us! You've reminded us that all children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied. Go you!
1. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ActivitiesforKids/The-AHAs-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp#.V5eQ75MrJE4
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.
Registered Dietitian, Austinite, Mom with a 2-yr old, Dog lover