10 Best and Worst Foods for Kids’ Teeth

10 Best and Worst Foods for Kids’ Teeth

I don’t keep candy in my house, but during Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, my kids bring home lots of lollipops, candy and chocolate. I usually dole out one treat a day and even throw out some of it when they’re not looking. Not only is sugar addictive so they continue to ask me for it, but it makes them hyper, spikes their blood sugar, can lead to weight gain and cavities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2011 and 2012, 21 percent of kids between 6 and 11 years had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth.

I’m thankful that my kids haven’t had any cavities and I know it’s because they brush and floss, drink water and eat a healthy diet. The foods your kids eat have a big impact on their risk for cavities but surprisingly it’s not just the sugary sweets that are the problem.

Here, read on for 10 best and worst foods for your kids’ teeth.

Best Foods For Kids Teeth

1. Apples

Apples and other high-fiber fruits and vegetables work like a scrubber for the teeth by removing bacteria. Also, the chewing action helps to stimulate saliva and cleanse the teeth. The antioxidants known as flavonoids in apples may also help to prevent harmful bacteria from causing cavities.

2. Kefir

Not only is kefir an excellent food to feed your kids because it’s high in protein and a good source of calcium and phosphorous. Yet the probiotics that kefir contains, which are know to support gut health, may actually be beneficial for oral health too. In fact, a September 2012 study in the journal Nutrients suggests eating fermented dairy products like kefir may prevent gum disease.

3. Nuts

Not only are nuts are an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous which are beneficial for tooth enamel, but since they’re crunchy, munching on them stimulates saliva production which helps prevent cavities.

4. Strawberries

The vitamin C in strawberries can help fight the bacteria that leads to gum disease and maintain the PH balance in the body, which is beneficial for teeth.

5. Cheese

Cheese is rich in calcium, which builds strong teeth and bones, but research suggests cheese may also prevent cavities. According to a May-June 2013 study in the journal General Dentistry, kids who ate cheddar cheese had higher PH levels in their mouths, which may ward off cavities.. Casein, the milk protein in cheese, may also help to re-mineralize the calcium in tooth enamel.

Worst Foods For Kids’ Teeth

 

1. Dried fruit

Raisins, dried fruit and trail mix with dried fruit are quick and convenient for after-school snacks or road trips, but all types of dried fruit are high in sugar and super sticky—a bad combination for cavities.

2. Crackers

Crackers can make for an easy snack but crackers are starchy and once your kids start to chew, a gooey paste forms in their mouths and sticks to their teeth. The same goes for soft breads, chips and other crunchy snacks.

3. Fruit juice

Fruit juice—even those that are organic or made with 100 percent juice—are still high in sugar and acidic, which is harmful to tooth enamel. If you are going to serve juice, dilute it with water or make your own juices at home with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit.

4. Sports drinks

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children should restrict or avoid consuming sports drinks because they can cause cavities. Water should be enough no matter how hard they play on the field.

In fact, a 2009 study out of New York University found regularly drinking sports drinks may lead to “erosive tooth wear,” a condition in which acids break down tooth enamel and eventually soften and weaken the teeth. Not only can it cause cavities, but it may lead to tooth loss, the authors note.

5. Fruit snacks

Kids love fruit leather and chewy fruit snacks, but because these are high in sugar and stick to the teeth, they’re one of the worst foods for your kids’ teeth.

 

10 Immune Boosting Foods For Kids  These immune-boosting foods for kids may help ward off colds, the flu and those nasty stomach bugs.

10 Immune Boosting Foods For Kids

These immune-boosting foods for kids may help ward off colds, the flu and those nasty stomach bugs.

If it seems like your kids are sick nearly every week, it’s not your imagination. According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 percent of kids between ages 5 and 11 missed between 3 and 5 days of school during the previous 12 months because they were sick.

And this year, the flu season is turning out to be worse ever.

To boost your kids’ immune systems and keep them healthy, encourage proper hand washing, prioritize sleep and give your kids probiotics. Of course, food is medicine so offer plenty of fruits and vegetable and these 10 immune boosting foods.

1. Blueberries

A perfect finger food especially for babies and toddlers, blueberries are one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.

Blueberries are high in antioxidants, namely a flavonoid known as quercetin which has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune function, according to a 2005 study in the European Journal of Immunology.

2. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are one of the best foods to strengthen your kid’s immune system because they’re rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A and vitamin A plays a role in immune function.

Make sweet potatoes baked, roasted or mashed and add them to stews or serve them as a side dish.

3. Eggs

Rich in vitamin D to help regulate and strengthen the immune system, eggs are one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.

Eggs are also one of the most easy and versatile kid-friendly foods. Offer scrambled eggs for breakfast, hard-boiled as a snack or added to a salad or incorporate them into any rice dish.

4. Pickles

If your kids love pickles, serve them up with lunch because they’re one of the best immune-boosting foods for kids.

Most pickles on store shelves won’t cut it, however. Only those that are naturally-fermented contain probiotics. Also, pickles are high in sodium, so be sure to cut back on other sneaky sources of sodium in your kid’s diet if you decide to offer them.

5. Kefir

It might take your kids awhile to come around to its’ tangy taste and thick texture but kefir is an excellent source of immune-boosting probiotics.

Since kefir can be high in sugar, read labels carefully, opt for plain kefir and blend low glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries that won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar.

6. Tempeh

Made with fermented soybeans, tempeh is a great source of probiotics as well as protein, iron and calcium.

Add tempeh to your favorite stir-fry or salad, or use them in place of meat on taco night.

7. Yogurt

Yogurt can be a good source of probiotics but not any yogurt will do.

When reading labels, look for brands that state “live and active cultures.” Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so to get the full immune-boosting benefit, aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.

8. Almonds

Not only are almonds a great source of protein and fiber, but they’re rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system.

Serve individual portions of almonds for after-school snacks or pack them when you’re traveling.

9. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins E and B6, both of which are good for the immune system.

Sprinkle sunflower seeds on yogurt or add them to baked goods for an immune system boost.

10. Chicken Soup

A well-known remedy for when your kids are already sick, research shows chicken soup may prevent your kids from getting sick in the first place.

A well-known study published in 2000 in the journal CHEST showed eating chicken soup can ease symptoms of a cold. Researchers found that the movement of neutrophils, white blood cells that defends the body against infection, was reduced which suggests the soup may be anti-inflammatory, ease symptoms and shorten the duration of infections.

Although homemade chicken soup is fresher, store brands may have the same effect but always read labels because many store versions—even those that the store makes in house—are filled with sodium.

Why Juice For Kids Isn’t Healthy  Although juice for kids can be a good source of nutrition for those who don't have access to fresh fruit, most kids don't need it and shouldn't be drinking it--here's why.

Why Juice For Kids Isn’t Healthy

Although juice for kids can be a good source of nutrition for those who don't have access to fresh fruit, most kids don't need it and shouldn't be drinking it--here's why.

Like milk, juice for kids is synonymous with childhood. We pack juice boxes for preschool, serve juice at birthday parties and some kids drink juice at every meal, all day, every day.

Juice seems like something your kids should drink. It’s made with fruit, so it must be healthy, right?

Juice does have some vitamins and minerals, but there are so many reasons why juice for kids isn’t healthy and kids shouldn’t drink it.

Why Kids Don’t Need Juice

If your kids are picky eaters, you probably worry about their diets and if they’re getting enough nutrients.

Depending on what they eat or don’t eat, it’s possible they could have some nutritional deficiencies. Yet if they eat fruit they’re probably getting the same vitamins and minerals that juice has and much more.

The recommended amount of fruit children should consume each day varies between 1 and 2 cups depending on a child’s age and gender. You can find specifics on ChooseMyPlate.gov. If you continue to offer a variety of fresh fruits and at every meal and snack, your kids will ask for fruit and hitting those targets isn’t all that difficult.

For kids who don’t have access to fresh fruit, such as those that live in food deserts, for example, juice can be a way to help them get servings of fruit. Some types of juices are a good source of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium and magnesium and some brands of juice may also be fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Juice Is High In Sugar

Sugar seems wholesome but read the labels and you’ll be amazed at how high the sugar content is. A 3.5 ounce cup of apple juice—about one serving for kids—has 9 grams of sugar. It’s sugar that kids who are likely getting sugar from other sources like yogurt and cereal don’t need.

The American Heart Association says kids under 2 shouldn’t consumer any sugar and those between 2 and 12 should consume no more than 25 grams—or 6 teaspoons worth of added sugar a day.

But if you look at most juice boxes, they contain “fruit juice from concentrate” which is actually added sugar. And even if the label says 100 percent fruit juice, it can still be made with fruit juice from concentrate.

Yet it doesn’t matter whether it’s natural sugar like fructose from fruit or added sugar. All sugar is the same and our bodies don’t know the difference. “Though natural sugar may seem harmless, your body does little to distinguish between the sugars in an apple versus those in a piece of candy,” Scott Kahan, the director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness in Washington, D.C. told Time.com.

Since more fruit is needed to make fruit juice, there’s more calories, sugar and carbohydrates in juice than there is in whole fruit. Juice also strips fruit of its fiber, not a good thing for kids who don’t eat enough fiber to begin with.

Of course, allow your kids to drink juice regularly and chances are they’ll only want juice, sugary drinks and sweet foods.

Although a recent study found 100 percent fruit juice doesn’t spike blood sugar, experts raise important concerns and question the credibility of the study which, by the way, was funded by the Juice Products Association.

If the American Diabetes Association (ADA) says people with type-2 diabetes should limit juice consumption, then it’s fair to say for kids who are already overweight or have a family history of type-2 diabetes, drinking juice isn’t going to help their risk for developing the condition.

Drinking too much juice can also lead to cavities, weight gain or diarrhea in babies and toddlers.

When Can Kids Drink Juice?

In May 2017, the AAP issued new guidelines for fruit juice in kids’ diets. While the previous guidelines were 6 months of age, the AAP now says kids under age 1 shouldn’t drink juice.

For toddlers between 1 and 3, they say juice should be limited to 4 ounces a day; children ages 4-6 should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces; and children ages 7-18 should limit juice to 8 ounces.

Is Homemade Juicing Good For Kids?

Making your own juices at home is a great way to get in a bunch of vegetables and fruits into your kid’s diet.

While juice shouldn’t replace whole fruits and vegetables or be a way to sneak them into the diet, offering your kid fresh, homemade juices can give him a boost of nutrition and fill in some gaps.

When making homemade juices, follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent juice.

Juice Rules

If you do serve your kids juice, don’t serve juice in a bottle, only a cup.

Homemade juicing is also a great opportunity to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables and teach kids how to make healthy juices.

Reserve store-bought juice as a treat: at a birthday party or during the holidays.

Do you give your kids juice? Do you make green juices at home? Let me know what you think in the comments section!

 

5 Ways to Satisfy Your Kid’s Sweet Tooth Without Sugar

5 Ways to Satisfy Your Kid’s Sweet Tooth Without Sugar

Is your kid’s sweet tooth out of control?

Sure, most kids love cookies, cupcakes and candy but if yours frequently ask for sugary treats or want more after a few bites, it can become a bad habit.

If your kids are like mine, having pudding, chocolate or pie in the house becomes a near obsession. Since they eat a mostly whole-foods diet, when there is sugar in the house—especially around the holidays—they ask for it every single day without fail.

Is Sugar Actually Toxic?

It’s no surprise that kids eat too much sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 percent of children and teens’ total calories come from added sugars.

Sugar can be addictive for some people and researchers say it’s actually toxic and can lead to weight gain regardless of the amount of calories.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity kids between the ages of 8 and 18 who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but replaced the calories with starch, still showed improvement in blood glucose, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and less fat in their liver.

Sugar is empty calories and has no nutritional value whatsoever. Eating too much sugar can take the place of more nutritious foods your kids need to grow and develop, weaken their immune system and lead to cavities. Diets high in sugar can cause weight gain, type-2 diabetes and increase the risk of dying from heart disease, an April 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

Sugar may not make your kid hyper—I beg to differ—but eating sugar can make them feel sluggish and cranky.

The American Heart Association recommends children under 2 shouldn’t eat any sugar and those older than 2 shouldn’t consume more than 25 grams—or 6 teaspoons—of added sugars a day.

By July 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will roll out the Nutrition Facts label which will include a separate line for “added sugars” both in grams and as percent Daily Value. It’s a good start, but it can still be tough to decipher ingredients since sugar can hide in more than 60 names.

Not only is it challenging to eliminate sugar altogether, but kids—like adults—should be able to have a treat now and then. With these 5 tips, you can satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth without going overboard with sugar

1. Choose low-glycemic fruit

Surprisingly, the body can’t tell the difference between nutritive, sugars that provide calories like fructose in fruit and non-nutritive (artificial) sugars like those in processed foods and candy, for example. It’s possible therefore, that eating fruit, especially types that are high in sugar may very well cause your kids to crave more sugar.

Although fruit is natural and nutritious and you should aim to get a variety of fruits in your child’s diet, focusing on low-glycemic fruits like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are always good choices because they’re fiber-rich and won’t spike their blood sugar.

2. Re-think dessert

Instead of cake, cookies and candy, re-think what dessert can be. Muffins, yogurt, trail mix, pudding and cereal may be better options, but pay attention to the sugar content because many “healthy” foods can have just as much sugar as traditional desserts.

3. Make frozen treats

Instead of ice cream, sorbet or frozen pies, freeze fruit or buy frozen fruit for a healthy, delicious treat. Frozen blueberries for example, are sweet and nutritious eaten alone or added to Greek yogurt for dessert. Or put frozen bananas in the food processor for a healthy, sweet treat.

4. Use baking substitutions

Find healthy alternative recipes for your kids’ favorite treats or try to use substitutions for sugar. Ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, applesauce, dates, figs, dried fruit, cacao nibs, vanilla and almond extracts, and cinnamon and nutmeg can cut down on the sugar without losing the sweetness and taste.

5. Use sugar substitutes—sparingly

Sweeteners like stevia, maple syrup and honey may be better than pure sugar or artificial sweeteners, but they still have sugar and they’re still sweet so be mindful about how much you’re using.

 

 

11 Superfoods for Babies: Best First Foods

11 Superfoods for Babies: Best First Foods

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Shortly after the birth of my first child, I read the “The Baby and Toddler Cookbook,” and with each page I turned, I grew more excited to learn about the best superfoods for babies and discover healthy and delicious recipes.

 

Recipes like pea risotto, red lentil and rice soup and beet and potato swirl. I couldn’t wait for her to turn 6-months-old so I could start offering her fresh, homemade baby food so that she would know what real food tastes like.

When you’re ready to introduce solids to your baby what should you feed him and what should you avoid? Is it OK to start with the good ol’ standbys like carrots, peas and sweet potatoes, or should you start with something that’s way more adventurous?

Here are 10 of the best superfoods for babies you can start to introduce at 6-months. They’re all delicious, easy to prepare and packed with the nutrition your baby needs.

1. Eggs

Eggs are an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, protein and choline, an essential nutrient that is beneficial for heart health, brain and liver function and metabolism. Egg yolks are an excellent source of iron, which is important if you’re breastfeeding because iron stores start to become depleted between 4 and 6 months old.

Eggs are delicious, have a delicate texture and are easy for babies to pick up or are easily mixed into purees or meals with chunkier textures. Since eggs are considered an allergenic food, be sure to speak to your baby’s pediatrician first before introducing them.

2. Carrots

Carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene, a carotenoid, or a type of antioxidant. Carrots are a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamins A, B6, C and K, and are a perfect first food for babies because they’re easily steamed and pureed. Their mild, but slightly sweet taste is favorable to most babies too.

3. Liver

It may not be a food you’ve ever eaten yourself, but liver is surprisingly one of the best first foods for babies because it’s rich in protein, iron, vitamins A, B6 and B12 and minerals like zinc and selenium.

If you decide to try it, it’s a good idea to purchase liver that’s from pasture-raised, organic fed animals and from a butcher you trust.

4. Broccoli

Want your kids to grow up to eat green leafy vegetables? Then start now.

Broccoli is a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, folic acid, iron and potassium. Broccoli purees and mixes well with other fruits and vegetables but it can also be a great food for baby to pick up if you’re doing baby-led weaning.

5. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber—a good thing if your baby is constipated. Sweet potatoes are also a great food to feed your baby when you’re traveling because they’re soft enough that you don’t necessarily have to puree them but you’ll have to decide whether it’s a texture your baby can handle or not.

6. Fish

Salmon, and other types of low-mercury fish, is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids which are important for baby’s brain development and eye health.

7. Apples

Apples are a healthy, delicious and easy superfood for babies and they’re easily digested. Not only are apples a good source of vitamin C and fiber, they also have quercetin, a flavonoid that work as antioxidants and may improve brain function, a March 2017 study published in the Journal Behavioural Brain Research suggests.

8. Beets

Their bright color may not only be appealing, but beets are also one of the most nutritious superfoods you can feed your baby. Rich in antioxidants, beets are a good source of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, fiber, folate, potassium and manganese.

Studies show beets may also be beneficial for brain health. According to an October 2015 study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, drinking beetroot juice can improve cognitive performance.

9. Bananas

Bananas are a good source of fiber, vitamin B6 and C and potassium and babies will most likely enjoy their sweetness.

10. Avocado

Avocado is one of the healthiest superfoods to feed your baby because it’s an excellent source of magnesium, potassium and essential fatty acids for brain health.

Just like sweet potatoes, ripe avocado is easy to puree, mash or cut up into small pieces.

11. Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K and manganese. Let baby enjoy picking up blueberries with his tiny fingers or puree it into a vegetable and fruit smoothie.

10 Healthy Fall Foods To Feed Your Kids

10 Healthy Fall Foods To Feed Your Kids

It couldn’t be more beautiful this time of year especially in New England. In the town I live in, the trees are bursting with shades of red, orange, yellow and green, the weather is still warm enough to take my kids for a pre-dinner stroll and the fruits and vegetables that are in-season are simply delicious. When it comes to healthy fall foods to feed your kids, the options couldn’t be better. Here are 10 to incorporate into your meals.

1. Cauliflower

With a mild but slightly sweet, nutty taste, cauliflower is one of the healthy fall foods you can add to any meal. Cauliflower is a good source of fiber, protein, potassium, folate and vitamins C, K and B6.

Steam cauliflower, use the food processor to make cauliflower “rice,” or add some milk and a small amount of grass-fed butter and use the immersion blender to make a better-for-you version of mashed potatoes.

2. Butternut squash

There are so many types of winter squash but butternut squash is one of the most delicious and nutritious. Butternut squash is a good source of vitamins A, C and B6, folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on cubed butternut squash and roast it alone or with pumpkin and sweet potatoes, or puree cooked squash into a delicious warm soup for brisk autumn night.

3. Apples

Going apple picking with your family isn’t just a fun activity but a great way to get kids interested in healthy eating. Apples are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C and make a great addition to oatmeal, baked goods or as a snack.

4. Pumpkin

When it comes to healthy fall foods to feed your kids, pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse. Pumpkin is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, filling fiber and lutein, an antioxidant well known for eye health. Roast fresh pumpkin with cinnamon or mix pureed pumpkin into baked goods for a healthy, delicious treat.

5. Sweet potatoes

It wasn’t until recently that my kids found out that not all potatoes are sweet potatoes. I rarely purchase any other type because sweet potatoes are by far the healthiest. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C and B6.

They’re also versatile: swap toast for roasted cubes of sweet potatoes for breakfast, make sweet potato hash, add them to a salad or cut them up and make sweet potato fries as a side dish for dinner.

6. Figs

An excellent source of fiber and rich in calcium and potassium, figs may even ward off colds and infections this school year. Fresh or dried, figs make a great addition to your kid’s lunch box, or as an after-school snack or a healthy after-dinner treat.

7. Pomegranates

The tiny, bright colored seeds of pomegranate are a good source of folate and vitamins C and K. Surprisingly, they’re also a great way to get fiber in your kid’s diet: a 1/2 cup has 3 grams.

Add pomegranate seeds to yogurt, salads or any fruit salad.

8. Kale

Kale is a good source of fiber, protein, iron, calcium and potassium and vitamins A, C, K, B6.

Blend kale into a morning smoothie, add it to a frittata, serve as a salad or sauté it with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt for dinner.

9. Parsnips

A root vegetable, parsnips are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and folate.

Puree parsnips into soups, roast them in the oven or sauté them with your favorite herbs and spices for a delicious side dish at dinner.

10. Brussels sprouts

I know what you’re thinking: there’s no way my kid’s going to eat Brussels sprouts, but if you serve them regularly, chances are your kids will come around. Brussels sprouts are a great source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, potassium, folate and iron.

Blanch or roast Brussels sprouts and add a bit of balsamic vinegar, nuts or raisins.

 

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.
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.

10 Ways To Prevent Childhood Obesity

10 Ways To Prevent Childhood Obesity

We all know the staggering statistics: childhood obesity in the United States has more than doubled in the past 30 years and today, 30 percent of children are overweight or obese.

Perhaps even more alarming is that the epidemic is affecting kids at earlier ages than ever before. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 8.4 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are obese.

 

Whether you’re pregnant, just had a baby or have a big kid, there are things you can do to prevent your kid from being overweight or obese, even if genetics aren’t on your side.

1. Watch your pregnancy weight gain

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gained too much weight because I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating and how much.

Not only can gaining too much weight during pregnancy increase your risk for things like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, miscarriage, preterm birth, and birth defects, but studies show pregnancy weight gain is also linked to childhood obesity.

According to a recent study published in the journal Obesity, babies born to women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight before 24 weeks were 2.5 times more likely to be born large.

Of course, every pregnancy is different and sometimes you can’t control every last pound, but do your best to stay within the recommendations for pregnancy weight gain.

  • 25 to 35 pounds if you have a normal weight.
  • 15 to 25 pounds if you’re overweight.
  • 11 to 20 pounds if you’re overweight.

2. Breastfeed

Breastfeeding has so many benefits and studies suggest it can even prevent childhood obesity. In fact, babies who are breastfed have a 22 percent lower risk of childhood obesity than those who were never breastfed, a 2014 meta-analysis published in BMC Public Health found.

3. Don’t add cereal to baby’s bottle

 

If you’re formula feeding, you may have heard adding rice cereal to your baby’s bottle before he starts eating solids is a good idea if he’s overly hungry or to help him sleep through the night, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this isn’t a good idea. Not only are babies not ready, but it may increase their risk for food allergies and cause them to take in too many calories.

Pediatricians, however, may recommend the practice for babies with GERD, so you should always speak to your child’s doctor first.

4. Start with healthy solids

The best way to ensure your child will eat healthy whole foods as he gets older and reduce his risk for childhood obesity, is to offer a variety of whole fruits and vegetables when he starts solids.

Consistency is key so if your baby shuns broccoli the first few times, stick with it and chances are he’ll eventually learn to love it.

 

5. Eat whole-foods

It’s no surprise that fast food and processed, packaged foods are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar which are all linked to childhood obesity.

Even if your kid is stick thin now, eating this way conditions his taste buds for this type of food and creates unhealthy habits that could continue throughout his lifetime.

Instead, do your best to have a diet made up mostly of fruits and vegetables, lean protein whole grains and healthy fats which will give your kids the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and fiber to keep them satiated and keep weight gain at a healthy pace.

6. Don’t bring junk in the house

So many families I know buy crackers, chips and granola bars for their kids. It seems that we have a belief in the U.S. that kids should eat this way and there’s really nothing wrong with it.

But make no mistake: feed your kids this way now and it will increase their risk for weight gain. They’re also more likely always eat this way throughout their lives.

Once you decide as a family that you’ll eat healthy and make changes, start today. This could be a huge shock to kids who have been eating this way for years so start small: nix one bag or box a week until you’ve entirely purged your pantry of junk.

7. Cut down on screen time

I’ll admit it: keeping my kids off the iPad is tough. When I have to clean the house or make a phone call, it’s really easy to put them in front of the screen. Yet the more time kids spend on devices, the less time they’re spending moving.

To cut down on screen time, set a timer, restrict the devices to weekends-only or set limits on when and for how long they’re allowed to use them.

8. Get moving together

 

Kids should get 60 minutes of exercise everyday but many families find this hard to do especially if both parents work or if kids are in after-school activities that aren’t sports. Although it can be challenging to find the time, your kids won’t be motivated to be active if you’re not.

My kids know that my husband and I both work out at the gym several times a week and as a family we do our best to take walks after dinner, have an indoor “dance party” on rainy or snow days or play Twister.

9. Cut sugar

Kids love their treats but over-indulging in sugar in everything from candy, soda and juice, to yogurt and energy bars has been shown to increase the risk for childhood obesity.

Kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day so start reading labels and be choosy about what you’re buying. The most common types of foods that contain added sugars are soda, sports and energy drinks and sweetened teas.

10. Make it a family affair

You can spend all your time and energy cooking healthy meals and running your kids around to after-school sports, but if you’re not living a healthy lifestyle, your kids may feel less motivated to do so. If you want to prevent your kids from being overweight, healthy has to be a family affair.

Instead of making drastic changes overnight, however, make one small change each week: maybe that means serving vegetables instead of chips for after-school snacks, cooking a healthy meal together or going for a family bike ride. The key is that the changes are realistic, manageable and consistent.

Sick Kid? How to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

Sick Kid? How to Boost Your Child’s Immunity

*This post contains affiliate links.*

 

If it feels like your kid is sick almost every week, you’re not imagining it.

 

Kids under the age of 6 in particular get 8 to 10 colds a year, not including the countless fevers, infections and stomach bugs they’ll get this year.

 

Kids are like little Petri dishes for germs, especially when they’re in daycare and school. They all touch the same surfaces, share the same toys and put everything in their mouths.

 

They all have to wash their hands after they use the bathroom and before meals but are they using enough soap and washing properly? It’s questionable.

 

When my daughters started school last year, I was prepared for them to get sick—

 

a lot. Although they had a few fevers and colds, and one had norovirus, for the most part they were relatively healthy.

 

Did we get lucky? Maybe.

 

But more likely, it was a because of a few things I did to improve their immunity which might help your kid too.

 

 

Cut the crappy food

 

 

Since the gut makes up to 70 percent of the immune system, making sure your kid’s gut is healthy can also boost his immune system.

 

If your kid lives on foods that come out of a bag, box, or package, however, he could be missing key vitamins and minerals that keep him healthy and his immune systems strong.

 

Experts say eating foods that are processed and filled with sugar over the long term could lead to intestine hyperpermeability or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions in the large intestine open and allow undigested food particles and pathogens in, which in turn elicits an immune response.

 

Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to various conditions including allergies, asthma, fatigue, autoimmune diseases, migraines and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

 

Eat the rainbow

 

A whole foods diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors gives your kid the nutrition she needs for a strong immune system. Yet they also contain prebiotics, or non-digestible food ingredients, that work with probiotics, the live microorganisms found in the gut, to grow and work to boost your child’s immunity.

 

 

Add fermented foods

 

Kefir tastes too tangy for me but my kids love it and that’s a good thing. The probiotics found in kefir and other foods like yogurt, kimchi, naturally fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and pickles can help improve gut health and boost your child’s immune system.

 

Take probiotics

 

Probiotics have become popular in recent years, particularly for their ability to improve gut health, experts say. Some studies show probiotics can shorten the duration of diarrhea associated with a stomach virus or a course of antibiotics and may reduce upper respiratory infections.

 

It’s important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hasn’t recommended regular use of probiotics in children because there’s a lack of evidence for their efficacy. Of course like any supplement, if you want to give your kid probiotics, check with his pediatrician first.

 

Move more

 

My kids are constantly in motion and they play at the park and the playground, take movement classes and after-dinner walks, but I still find getting them 60 minutes exercise a day a challenge. Nevertheless, I do my best to make sure they get some form of exercise in every day.

 

Exercise has so many benefits for kids, and as it turns out, can improve their gut health and immunity. In fact, a study in the journal Gut shows exercise may diversity gut microbes.

 

During the dog days of winter or on snow days when you can’t get out, put on music and have a dance party or enjoy a game of Twister.