7 Healthy Halloween Hacks

7 Healthy Halloween Hacks

Halloween may be celebrated only on October 31st, but there are endless opportunities for kids to snack on candy, treats and unhealthy food for days before and after.

Between parties at school, friends’ houses and in the community, and the actual trick or treating itself, kids are loading up on sugar and calories. In fact, research shows kids typically fill up on a whopping 3,000 calories on trick or treating alone!

Don’t get me wrong. I love candy just as much as kids do so I’d never suggest you nix trick or treating altogether. But a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows childhood obesity rates are still at an all-time high. Not to mention all that sugar can lead to cavities and the before-bedtime-crash and meltdowns that ensue.

Instead of letting your kid overindulge this year, here are some ways you can cut back on all those treats and have a healthy Halloween.

1. Feed kids dinner

If your kids go trick or treating on an empty stomach, they’ll be more likely to eat too much candy, which is empty calories that spike their blood sugar.

Instead, make sure your kids eat a healthy dinner that consists of healthy protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains before you head out. If eating dinner beforehand isn’t an option, however, serve a healthy snack: cut up peppers and hummus or an apple with almond butter, for example.

2. Walk

Instead of driving your kids from house to house, walk and track your activity on your
Fitbit.

3. Pay attention to portions

Your kids will get plenty of candy but that doesn’t mean they have to eat it all at once. Let them pick 3 pieces (or what you deem appropriate) and call it a night. If they get full-sized candy bars, divide them into smaller portions and put the rest away.

4. Give options

If you’re at a party and there’s cake, cookies and candy, let your kids choose one or two small treats they want.

5. Put it away or donate it

If you keep treats out in plain sight on the counter, your kids are more likely to grab for them instead of a healthy snack when they’re hungry. After Halloween, store candy in the freezer and dole it out occasionally instead of letting them have a free-for-all.

If having candy in the house is too tempting for you, bring it to work, or donate it to a food pantry, your local church or the fire or police station. Many dentists also offer Halloween candy buy-back programs.

6. Re-think treats

Instead of bringing candy to parties or handing it out to trick or treaters, consider better food options such as:

  • Dried fruit
  • Crackers
  • Hot chocolate
  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn

Or nix food altogether and hand out small toys, Play-Doh, stickers or pencils, for example. It doesn’t matter what you hand out—kids just want to get something in their bags.

7. Buy candy you don’t like

If there’s candy in my house that has chocolate in it, it’s a guarantee that I’ll eat it. Instead, I purchase candy I don’t like so if there’s leftovers, I won’t eat it.

7 Ways To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

7 Ways To Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits

When you’re an emotional eater like I am, it can be challenging to teach your kids healthy heating habits. If your kids see you overeating, eating on the go or eating when you’re bored, stressed or upset, chances are they’ll pick up the same unhealthy eating habits. Yet just as you can inadvertently teach poor habits, you can teach healthy ones too. Here are 7 ways to make it happen.

1. Eat meals together

According to a 2014 study, 88 percent of families say they eat meals together most days or a few days a week, which is a good thing because it’s one of the best ways to teach kids healthy eating habits.

A 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found that children who eat family meals together at least 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods and have disordered eating and are more likely to eat healthy foods. Sharing family meals together also teaches kids healthy eating habits like mindful eating and of course, manners.

2. Sit at the table

Kids can easily fall into a habit of walking into the kitchen, grabbing something to eat and eat standing up. Even if it’s a quick snack, kids should sit down, slow down, focus on what they’re eating and pay attention to their fullness cues. Sitting down also ensures they won’t eat so fast they’ll overeat.

3. Talk about hunger and fullness signals

Toddlers and young kids may not be able to recognize when they’re hungry versus when they’re bored or simply want a snack. It’s important however, to teach kids how to recognize their hunger signals.

When I joined Weight Watchers, they gave me photos of several different sized balloons to describe the various stages of hunger which would work well for kids too. You can also teach your kids that when you’re hungry, your stomach makes funny noises and when you’ve eaten too much your stomach feels uncomfortable or even painful, for example.

4. Never use food as a reward or as punishment

It can be tempting to offer your kids a snack or a treat to get them to behave well in a public place or get through a doctor’s appointment without tears, for example. I often find myself falling into this trap but in the reverse way. When my kids start to act up, we’ll threaten to take treats away, which isn’t a good idea either.

When you use food as a reward or as punishment, you’re teaching them that food has power. As adults, they may treat themselves to dinner or a piece of cake after a long, stressful day or not allow themselves to eat something “off limits” if they’ve gained weight or didn’t hit the gym that day. Instead, give your kid a hug, a high five or a sticker and when they’re behaving badly, firm limits.

5. Don’t bribe kids with dessert

Dina Rose, PhD, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli, calls it the “dessert deal.” You offer your kids dessert but only after they eat their  vegetables. This teaches kids that vegetables are less desirable than dessert or should only be eaten to get dessert.

Dr. Rose suggests re-thinking dessert and offering yogurt, baked fruit or a smoothie instead. Yet it’s important to teach kids that vegetables can be healthy and delicious at the same time. Although I don’t believe in hiding vegetables, you can roast them, add a healthy dip like hummus or add different seasonings for your kids to eventually love them.

6. Eat mindfully

Mindfulness has become trendy in recent years and for good reason. Studies show mindful eating can help prevent childhood obesity. A 2016 pilot study from the Medical College of Georgia at August University showed that mindfulness-based eating awareness training encouraged overweight teens to eat healthier and exercise.

If you rush through meals or reach for seconds before you wait to assess your hunger—about 20 minutes—you’ll model how your kids can do the same. Instead, teach kids how to savor each bite, chew thoroughly and put their fork down into bites.

7. Don’t eat on the run

One night, my daughter had back-to-back after-school activities and I let her eat dinner in the car. It was a sandwich and broccoli but I felt so awful about it that I vowed never to do it again.

Suffice to say, many kids eat snacks in the ca and are forced to eat on the run because of busy afternoons or even mornings. And eating on the run can even cause kids to skip meals. According to a survey by Barbara’s, 50 percent of kids who eat on the go or in the car skip breakfast at least once a week.

Meals are meant to be enjoyed and shared as a family. Eating in the car or on the run in between after-school activities can cause kids to overeat and teaches them that eating isn’t important—but just another activity to squeeze in that day.

What are some healthy eating habits you’re teaching your kids?

7 Surprising Foods My Kids Eat

7 Surprising Foods My Kids Eat

Getting your kids to eat new foods can be a challenge whether they’re picky eaters or not.

Kids get used to the foods they’re served. Offer chicken nuggets for dinner night after night and that’s what you can expect them to eat. Switch it up one night and try fish instead and it’s unlikely they’ll even take a bite.

Like adults, kids are creatures of habit and not always the adventurous foodies you want them to be. However, offering a variety of foods and dishing them out frequently is one way to get your kids unstuck and willing to try new foods.

It’s a strategy that has worked for me so successfully in fact, that sometimes I’m shocked by the surprising foods my kids are willing to eat. Here are 7.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts can be a hard sell for kids and even many adults but my kids don’t put up a fuss when I serve them. Nutrient dense, these little green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin C and a great source of vitamins A, K and B6 as well as folate, iron and magnesium.

Brussels Sprouts are quite delicious especially when they’re roasted with a bit of olive oil or coconut oil or even with a handful of raisins for some sweetness.

2. Shrimp

Serve it for dinner or as an appetizer, shrimp is quick, easy and versatile. A 3-ounce serving of shrimp contains a whopping 18 grams of protein and they’re an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Pumpkin

Packed with 22 vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is a good source of fiber to keep kids full, lutein, which is important for eye health and vitamins A, C and zinc which are known to boost the immune system.

My kids love pumpkin mini muffins for school snacks and my older daughter even eats pumpkin purée right out of the can.

4. Lobster

Call me pretentious but in the summer, my husband and I like to pick up a few lobsters and have dinner together as a family on Sunday. Perhaps because of its light, non-fishy, sweet taste, my kids devour it too.

Lobster is a good source of protein—3 ounces has 16 grams—as well as zinc, copper and selenium, all of which are beneficial for the cells in the body and help to remove free radicals[i] which, over time, can cause harmful effects.

5. Arugula

The bitter taste of arugula turns me off but my husband’s a big fan so when he makes it for dinner, my kids surprisingly eat it as well. Arugula is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins A, C and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.

Instead of serving an entire bowl of arugula, try to add a few leaves to soup or pizza and see if your kids will try it.

6. Sardines

I started eating sardines a few years ago and to my shock, my kids started eating them as well. Sardines are an excellent source of calcium as well as protein, vitamin D, B12 and phosphorus and selenium.

Fresh or canned, you can grill or sauté sardines, add a small amount of mayonnaise as you would tuna fish or add sardines to any pasta dish.

7. Cabbage

You might only serve cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, but cabbage is a great vegetable to eat in the spring and fall when it’s in season. Cabbage is a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C, K, B6 and folate.

The great thing about cabbage is that a little goes a long way: one head of cabbage could last you days. Simply chop cabbage and sauté it with a bit of olive oil or coconut oil for a delicious and filling side.

 

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9891606

What are some surprising foods your kids eat? Leave me a comment!

How to Have a Safe Halloween With Food Allergies

How to Have a Safe Halloween With Food Allergies

If your kids have food allergies, you know what it takes to ensure they’re never accidentally exposed to unsafe foods. You have to plan meals, read labels and ask questions, especially when you go out to eat, attend a birthday party or go trick or treating on Halloween.

When my daughter was an infant, she was diagnosed with several food allergies. At that time, it was much easier to control what she ate because I cooked and packed all of her meals, whether she was at daycare or with me at a friend’s house. When she started school however, everything changed.

In preschool, she accidentally ingested a food she was allergic to while the class was working on a craft project. Then this year within a week of starting school, she once again had an accidental exposure in the cafeteria. I was grateful she was fine and only required Benadryl, but it’s stressful nonetheless.

At Halloween, there will be trick or treating, parties and events and plenty of candy and treats. With a bit of planning and some simple strategies, your kids can have a fun and safe Halloween despite their food allergies.

Do your homework

Your child’s teacher is probably already aware of his food allergies but other parents may not be. And if they have a party at school, there may be foods your kid is allergic too. If parents don’t have children with food allergies, they might avoid bringing an obvious allergenic food but they’re not likely to read labels. And besides, we shouldn’t expect them to.

When my daughter had a Halloween party in preschool, the teacher told all of the parents about the food allergies in the class. It was a good thing I was there because one of the snacks contained a food she was allergic to.

If you’re able to attend the party, it’s a good way to prevent an accidental exposure. If you can’t however, ask the teacher to give you a list of the snacks that were brought in or take photos of the ingredients label so you can check the snacks before the party. For homemade foods like cookies and cupcakes, it’s wise to have your kid avoid them altogether.

Divide and conquer

When your kid comes home from school or trick or treating, sort all of the candy to determine what’s safe and what’s not. You might think certain types of candy are OK because they were safe to eat in the past, but ingredients can differ between fun size and regular size, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

If a piece of candy doesn’t have the ingredients on the label, check the nutrition label on the brand’s website to make sure your kid doesn’t ingest something that will cause an allergic reaction.

Look for teal pumpkins

In 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project® launched to keep kids with food allergies safe on Halloween. Homes that have a teal-colored pumpkin on the doorstep signal to kids that they’ll receive a fun, non-food treat. To find Teal Pumpkin Project homes in your area, check out their participation map.

Be prepared

If your kid is invited to a party, talk to the parents beforehand about the foods they plan to serve and if you’ll need to bring a safe replacement. If you won’t be attending, make sure the parents know what foods your kid is allergic to. Make sure they also have your phone number and his medications and know what to do if he accidently ingests something.

Empower your child

Whenever we go to a friend’s house, someone’s party or eat out at a restaurant, my daughter asks if the food she’s thinking about eating is something she’s allergic to. She’s still quite young but it’s a habit I instilled in her early on.

If you have young kids, consider having them wear a food allergy bracelet. Older kids can practice asking what’s in a food and saying “no thank you, I’m allergic.” Teaching them how to advocate for themselves now is important and something they’ll need to do throughout their lives.

Host your own party

If another mom usually throws a Halloween party, offer to have it at your house so you’ll have full control over the food and the treats.

Tell the neighbors

If you’re friendly with your neighbors, you can tell them before Halloween what your kids are allergic to and offer to provide them with safe candy they can hand out instead.

Don’t let them trick or treat alone

If your kids are old enough to trick or treat with friends, tag along anyway. Your kids might be tempted to eat a piece of candy along the route that could cause an allergic reaction and you don’t want to take that chance.

5 Health Benefits of Figs

5 Health Benefits of Figs

Figs probably aren’t the type of fruit you feed your kids every day. In fact, when you think about figs, you probably think fig Newtons—the cookies you used to enjoy as a kid and maybe feed your kids now. Although those cookies are delicious, they aren’t the healthiest treat to eat.

Yet real figs—fresh or dried—are, plus they’re tasty, sweet and have a chewy and slightly crunchy texture at the same time.

While apples, pears and pumpkin get all the attention this time of year, consider serving up figs at your kids’ next meal. Here’s why.

Filling fiber

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 out of 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables and 6 in 10 don’t eat enough fruit—two of the best sources of fiber. Since fiber slows digestion, it keeps your kids feeling fuller longer and may prevent weight gain and obesity.

Adding figs to your kid’s diet can be a great way to add more fiber. A half-cup of raw figs contains nearly 3 grams of fiber while the same portion of dried figs has more than 9 grams.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

Both raw and dried figs are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, yet dried figs have higher levels. For starters, figs contain calcium for strong teeth and bones and potassium which supports your child’s growth and the function of nerve cells in the body and the brain. Potassium also lowers blood pressure, which can help the 2 to 5 percent of kids who have hypertension but often go undiagnosed. Figs also contain other important key nutrients like magnesium and vitamin K.

Prevents colds and infections

With cold and flu season upon us, feeding your kids figs may prevent them from getting sick. In fact, a 2015 study conducted with grass carp suggests figs may have an immune boosting benefit.

Treats common ailments

The fruit itself as well as extracts and components of figs have been used to treat more than 40 types of ailments of the digestive, endocrine, reproductive and respiratory systems in the body as well as gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract infections. Although serious health conditions aren’t a problem for most healthy kids, the research speaks to the healing properties of figs and may give your kids an edge.

Prevents constipation

If your kids aren’t eating enough fiber, there’s a good change they are frequently constipated. Because of their high-fiber content, figs are among the many foods that prevent constipation. In fact, participants who consumed a paste made from figs saw a significant improvement in constipation, according to a 2016 study.

How To Eat Figs

There are so many ways to incorporate figs into just about any meal. Here are a few to try:

  • Swap your regular fruit for figs in lunch boxes or as an after-school snack.
  • Chop figs and add them to oatmeal, salads or plain, Greek yogurt.
  • Roast figs for a side dish or an after-dinner dessert.
  • Slice bread and make a crostini with a bit of goat cheese, figs and a drizzle of honey.
5 Worst Pieces of Picky Eating Advice Ever

5 Worst Pieces of Picky Eating Advice Ever

If your kids are picky eaters, you know how challenging it is to get them to eat their vegetables, try new foods or even sit down to eat a meal. Maybe you’ve read a book about picky eating or asked your kids’ pediatrician or a nutritionist for advice, which is always a good start.

Yet asking other moms who also have picky eaters isn’t always the best idea. Sure, many of them have tips and tricks for dealing with picky eating in the short term but a lot of their strategies either miss the mark or are downright bad.

Here are some of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard other moms give that in my opinion are all wrong.

1. “Sneak vegetables.”

Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into sauces, baked goods, and smoothies can definitely give your kids the nutrition they need and otherwise wouldn’t get or give them an extra boost of nutrition. Yet replacing all their vegetable servings as a sneaky puree is a big mistake.

Not only do kids miss out on the fiber vegetables provide, but if you want your kids to love them they need to have plenty of opportunities to smell, touch and taste various types. They need to grow into adults who love vegetables in their whole form.

Sure, they may not love everything you serve, but they must have plenty of chances to learn what they like and dislike. I don’t see anything wrong with green smoothies or adding a vegetable puree into a meal for extra nutrition, but the vegetables that make up a bulk of their diets should be whole.

2. “Make your own____”

Do a quick Google search and you’ll find so many ways to make homemade versions of shelf-stable snacks like fruit roll-ups, gummy fruit snacks and Swedish fish. I think it can be a fun treat for kids, but it’s not a good approach if you’re making these homemade versions because you want to make sure your kids eat fruit. You want to raise kids who know what strawberries look and taste like, not kids who will only eat fruit if it’s in the shape of a gummy bear.

3. “Be creative.”

There are so many food bloggers who have come up with ways to make food fun and “kid-friendly” by transforming fruits and vegetables into animals, funny faces and shapes.

I think it’s cute if you have the time of course and it might be a good way to get toddlers to try new foods. Yet making food into art shouldn’t be a long-term tactic because your kids may come to always expect it that way and may not eat fruits and vegetables any other way.

4. “Bribe them.”

When you’re frustrated with your picky eaters, you can beg, plead and negotiate, “please, can you just take a bite?!” Maybe you’ve bribed them with dessert, which I admit I’ve done, but it’s not a good idea.

For starters, if your kids are hungry, they’ll eat and no amount of negotiation will change that. And bribing them with dessert but only after they eat their vegetables teaches them that dessert is more desirable than vegetables. It’s also something they start to believe which is how many of us were raised and continue to believe today.

Rather than negotiation tactics, bribery or outright begging, give your kids plenty of healthy choices and let them pick what they want on their plates. The less pressure you put on them, the more they’ll feel empowered to choose.

5. “Put them in front of the TV.”

Turning on the TV and allowing your kids to sip a smoothie or snack on fruits and vegetables might get them to eat, but what you’re really doing is teaching your kids how to eat mindlessly.

If you want your kids to love what they’re eating and also grow up to have a healthy relationship with food, then model healthy eating at the table, together as a family. Show them how to eat slow, chew their food thoroughly and enjoy every last bite. Teach them that eating is nourishment but that mealtime is also something to be enjoyed together as a family.

8 Ways to Eat Healthy When Dad Doesn’t

8 Ways to Eat Healthy When Dad Doesn’t

You want your family to eat healthy so you’ve tried to add more vegetables to their meals, cut down on the processed, packaged snacks and cut back on sugar.

Trying to get your kids to eat healthy is challenging enough but when your spouse still brings junk food into the house, orders take-out when he’s on dinner duty and doesn’t serve your kids vegetables, it can make it that much harder.

It turns out this is a real problem for families in the U.S. A recent small study published in the journal Appetite shows families say dad’s eating habits were less healthy than mom’s.

So how can you make sure you and your kids eat healthy when your spouse doesn’t?

Here are some strategies to try.

1. Fight fair

When it comes to talking to your spouse about any type of conflict or difficult subject, you probably already know that using “I” statements instead of “you” statements is a good idea. Saying “I think” or “I feel” takes the blame off your partner so he doesn’t feel defensive.

When you broach the food conversation, instead of saying, “you always bring junk food into the house,” explain, “I really want our kids to eat healthy because insert your reasons. What can we do to make this happen?”

2. Lead by example

Do your best to make eating healthy a priority for yourself and your kids, whether dad is on board or not. Make a salad for lunch and share it with your kids, cook healthy meals and prepare healthy snacks, and find ways to lighten up your family’s favorite dishes.

3. Work together

Getting your kids excited about eating healthy will help them understand that’s what your family does, even if dad doesn’t. Depending on your kids’ ages, bring them grocery shopping and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try, let them help you prepare and cook meals, or pick out new healthy recipes you can make together. The more they feel a part of the meal planning process, the more likely they’ll want to eat healthy.

4. Set boundaries

If your spouse buys cookies, chips, and other unhealthy snacks, store them in the pantry, maybe even in a small container, instead of on the kitchen counter. Of course your kids will know they’re there, but you want to encourage them to grab for a piece of fruit instead that’s in the front of the refrigerator.

5. Share meals together

You don’t have to eat dinner together every night but sharing meals together—whether it’s breakfast every morning or Sunday brunch—is one of the best ways to ensure your kids will always be healthy eaters.

In fact, according to a study out of the University of Illinois, children and teens who share 3 or more meals a week with their families eat healthier and are more likely to have a healthier weight than those who don’t.

6. Make small changes

If you make small, gradual changes each week rather than overhauling their entire diet, there’s a better chance of getting everyone in the family on board. Although they might not love swapping spiralized veggies for pasta, try upgrading sugary cereal for rolled oats with fresh fruit and nuts, or serving fish instead of meat, for example.

7. Compromise

If your spouse has been eating unhealthy for most of his life, it’s going to be difficult for him to make changes. If he understands why it’s so important however, he’ll be more willing to help although it might take a bit of negotiation. He still might order in pizza when you’re out, but maybe he’ll agree to eat those chips at work instead.

8. Be patient

You might not convert your spouse overnight, but if you stick with it, he may come around. If all you can do is eat healthy yourself and get your kids to eat healthy, it’s still a major win.

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

6 Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

When you think about pumpkin, you probably think about carving a pumpkin with your kids, baking pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, or savoring a warm, sweet pumpkin spice latte.

This time of year, you’ll find pumpkin-flavored everything but the real kind of pumpkin—yes, it’s a vegetable—is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. Even better—there are ways to serve it so even the pickiest of eaters will devour it.

1. Packed with nutrition

Pumpkin contains 22 vitamins and minerals and is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant and plant pigment that gives pumpkin its bright orange color and converts to vitamin A in the body.

2. Improved immunity

Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and zinc, which may boost the immune system, particularly important when your kid is swapping germs all day in daycare and school.

3. Filled with fiber

It seems brands may vary but one cup of pumpkin has only 50 calories and 3 grams of fiber. Since fiber is slowly digested, it helps your kid to feel fuller longer. The fiber in pumpkin also promotes digestion, can prevent constipation and may improve gut health. Having a healthy gut improves the immune system and helps the body to stave off a slew of health conditions and diseases.

4. Loaded with lutein

Lutein, a carotenoid or antioxidant, is well known to be beneficial for eye health. Yet in recent years, new research suggests lutein may also improve brain health and cognition which could give your kid a boost in learning, memory and concentration.

In fact, two recent studies from Abbott and the University of Illinois found children who had higher levels of lutein performed better when they were faced with tough cognitive tasks and had higher scores on standardized tests.

5. May prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 193,000 kids and teens under age 20 are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and experts agree, those numbers are on the rise.

Studies suggest along with a healthy diet and exercise, eating pumpkin may also ward of type-2 diabetes. A 2009 study in mice suggests pumpkin may be effective in improving glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Another study in mice published in 2012 in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and be protective of the cardiovascular system.

6. A better night’s rest

Tryptophan is usually associated with turkey and responsible for that post-Thanksgiving dinner slump, yet tryptophan is also found in pumpkin seeds. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and a happy mood. Although there’s no guarantee, feeding your kids pumpkin for dessert may help them sleep through the night.

How to Enjoy Pumpkin

Add pureed pumpkin to smoothies, breads, muffins, pancakes and waffles. Pumpkin is a moist, tasty alternative to oil and eggs in baking recipes.

Set aside individual portions of pumpkin seeds for school lunches or after-school snacks.

Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of salads, savory soups and oatmeal.

Spread pumpkin seed butter on sandwiches for a nut-free alternative.

Mix dried fruit, pumpkin seeds and nuts for a healthy trail mix.

3 Reasons Why Rice Cereal Shouldn’t Be a First Food for Babies

3 Reasons Why Rice Cereal Shouldn’t Be a First Food for Babies

When my first child started solids at 6-months-old, the pediatrician said we could start to feed her rice cereal mixed with some breast milk. At that time, the concern over arsenic in rice hadn’t yet surfaced and most moms I knew were feeding their kids rice cereal too.

As a new parent, I assumed it was a healthy choice and after initially mixing it with breast milk, I started to mix it in with homemade vegetable and fruit purees at every meal. Later on, I also introduced store-bought oatmeal and multigrain cereals but I also milled a few types of grains at home.

Infant cereals are so easy to bring along in your diaper bag whether you’re headed to grandma’s house or to a play date. They mix in with just about any type of baby food puree and they’re so cheap.

Pediatricians recommend rice cereal in particular because it’s well tolerated, easy to digest and unlikely to be a food babies will be allergic to. It’s also fortified with zinc and iron, which is important when a baby starts solids. Iron stores in breast milk start to decrease around 6-months-old yet all infants—whether they’re breastfed or not—need these nutrients to support their growth.

Although the norm has always been to start babies off with rice cereal, in recent years experts say it may not be the best idea—and it’s not only because of arsenic. Here’s why.


1. It’s not the healthiest option.

 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, rice cereal isn’t as nutritious as other types of baby food. They also say there’s no medical evidence that starting solids in a particular order has any advantage for babies.


2. Babies aren’t ready for it.

Another reason rice—and other types of infant cereal—might not be the best first food is because babies don’t have amylase, an enzyme, in their saliva which allows them to break down and digest grains, until their first molars appear—between 13 and 19 months. Babies who eat rice cereal too early may even have pain, constipation, or stool changes.


3. Babies may not need grains.

Although babies need complex carbohydrates from foods like squash, sweet potatoes, zucchini and pumpkin, they may not necessarily need grains.

To make sure your baby gets iron and zinc, egg yolks, chicken liver and beef are all good sources. In fact, according to a study published in February 2006 in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition, exclusively breastfed babies who ate pureed beef had higher levels of iron and zinc than babies who were fed an iron- fortified cereal.

Should you feed your baby rice cereal and other types of grains?

As with anything when it comes to being a parent, it’s up to you. With this new way of thinking, however, it seems that it’s a good idea to wait until your baby is older than a year. And like everything else, moderation and variety are key to give your baby a variety of vitamins and minerals, tastes and textures.

10 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

10 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

We all wish our kids would eat more fruits and vegetables but getting them to do so is no easy task. Between picky eaters who refuse to eat green leafy vegetables to those who only eat certain fruits or none at all, mealtimes can make you want to pull your hair out.

You’re not the only one. According to a survey published in 2014 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

Laying the foundation for healthy eating when kids are babies is one of the best ways to prevent picky eating and raise healthy kids who will eat just about anything.

Unfortunately, most kids aren’t getting the opportunity to learn how to eat healthy when they’re young. According to a recent survey in the journal Pediatrics, 1 in 4 babies between 6 and 11-months-old and 1 in 5 one-year-olds didn’t eat any vegetables over the 2 days their parents were surveyed.

Regardless of your child’s age, you can still raise healthy, adventurous foodies and get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables—without sneaky tactics, negotiations or angst. Here are 10 strategies to try.

1. Start small

Instead of overhauling your entire kitchen and making drastic changes to your kids’ meals, start with one small change each week.

Mix leftover vegetables into a breakfast frittata. Swap packaged snacks for a piece of fruit. Offer two vegetables at dinner instead of one. Then gradually continue the same pattern until your kid is being offered fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. They might not eat more initially but the more consistent you are, the higher the chances they eventually will.

2. Chop up salads

My kids love salads. Whether we’re at home or out to eat, they’ll ask for a salad. For lunch every day, they get a salad in their lunch boxes too.

Salads are a great way to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables because you can let them choose what they want every time you chop it up. Kids love colorful food so carrots, peppers, celery, cucumber, beets, radishes, strawberries and grapes all work well. One of the fastest and easiest ways I’ve found to make salads is with a Solid Wood Chopping Bowl & Mezzaluna Knife Set.

3. Incorporate vegetables into breakfast

Start the day off on a healthy note by serving vegetables for breakfast. Eggs lend themselves to so many different types of vegetables but you can also add pumpkin puree or shredded zucchini to muffins, pancakes or waffles.

4. Add a dip

Kids love to dip their food and serving dip alongside vegetables is an easy way to get kids to try and enjoy new varieties. Try carrots or jicama with hummus, slices of peppers with black bean dip or celery sticks with salsa.

If you’re not making the dip yourself, remember to read labels and stay away from those brands with strange ingredients, additives or added sugar.

5. Serve a bite, not a plate

Studies show it can 10 to 15 times for kids to accept new foods but when these studies were conducted, kids were actually given only a pea-sized amount, not the entire portion we often serve kids. A bite-sized amount is a no-pressure way for kids to decide whether they’ll try it or not and consistency makes them realize: this is how our family eats.

6. Make green smoothies or fresh juice

I’m not a fan of hiding vegetables to make sure your kids get what they need but when your kid watches you make a green smoothie or juice, there’s no hiding the vegetables. Even better—let your kids help you and they’ll be more apt to try it. If they continue to drink it, it can be a great way to get a lot of fruits and vegetables at one time.

7. Model healthy eating

I’m convinced that my kids love to eat fruits and vegetables because they always saw my husband and I eating healthy. In fact, when I would chop up my salad for lunch, or they would see me cook or nosh on a new type of vegetable, they were always curious and asked to take a bite.

8. Make soup

There’s nothing better than a warm bowl of soup on a cool day and serving your kids soup is also an easy way to get a bunch of vegetables into one meal. Make a large batch of vegetable soup and freeze leftovers to be reheated for another meal. Store-bought might be OK, but many of the soups are filled with too much sodium, not to mention eating out of can or a box will never taste the same than when you make it yourself.

9. Take your kids shopping

Bring your kids to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable they’d like to try. Letting them have a say in what they eat increases the chances they’ll actually eat it and empowers them to make healthy choices throughout their lives.

10. Leave the room

Sometimes all it takes is for kids to be in a new setting—or have their parents leave—for them to try and love new vegetables. My friend told me that when she was living in Brussels, Belgium her toddler started to eat raw vegetables after the daycare served them for a special event. My own daughter grew to love cucumbers after my mother-in-law served them to her. This could also work well on a play date if your child’s friend is eating something he’s never tried.