Why you should never order off the kids’ menu

Why you should never order off the kids’ menu

Let me hit you with some shocking statistics.

In 1970, Americans spent 26 percent of their food dollars eating out but today we spend nearly 50 percent, according to National Restaurant Association. We dine out 4.5 times a week on average and 2015 was the first time in history that we spent more money dining out than buying groceries.

Pretty surprising, right?

When it comes to our kids in particular, more than a third of them eat fast food on any given day, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet according to a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 97% of chain restaurants did not meet the expert nutrition standards for kids’ meals.

Fast food and dining out is not something my family does on a regular basis.

Ask my kids what McDonald’s is and they’ll give you a blank stare. They’ve been to Wendy’s, Friendly’s, Chick-fil-A, and Chili’s a total of one time at each. Between large portion sizes, dishes that are filled with way too much salt, sugar and fat, it’s not something I want to eat or have my kids eat.

Stop ordering off the kids’ menu

Recently my husband and I took our kids to a new restaurant that described their menu as “authentic Mexican cuisine.” They had fresh guacamole made table side, fajitas, quesadillas and an extensive menu of Mexican entrees.

When we were seated, the waitress brought my daughters a picture and crayons to color with the menu printed on the back. Instead of smaller versions of dishes from the main menu, there were chicken fingers, burgers and grilled cheese and of course all of them were served with French fries.

It didn’t surprise me but I was disappointed. If you’re bringing your kid to a Mexican restaurant, you want them to try Mexican food, not something they can eat at any time, anywhere.

Most kid-friendly establishments offer the same kid-friendly fare. Sure, some restaurants now offer healthier options like grilled chicken nuggets, a side of vegetables and applesauce, but it’s rare to find a fresh green salad, beans or salmon.

A kids’ menu is usually more affordable, convenient and offers kids-sized portions. It almost guarantees that kids will eat it and be well behaved because they’re given what they want. At home you might be willing to battle your picky eater, but when you’re out, you just want to have a peaceful, enjoyable meal.

But having a kids menu serves that exact purpose. It caters to kids preferences.

Restaurants offer kids menus because in the U.S. we treat kids as though there is something special about them and about the way they eat. We assume that kids will refuse to eat what’s on the regular menu. As a result, kids come to expect chicken fingers, French fries and chocolate milk.

When my family goes out to a restaurant, we rarely order off the kid’s menu. Instead, we’ll order salad and pizza with veggies, pasta with veggies, or an appetizer our kids have never tried and then they split a main dish.

Ordering off the main menu might be more expensive but isn’t exposing your kids to new flavors and new dishes worth it? Here are some things to try.

1. Start with an appetizer.
If your kids are really hungry, they’ll be more likely to eat something they’ve never tried. Shrimp cocktail, a salad, guacamole, salsa or soup are all great choices.

2. Share a dish.
Restaurant entrees are three or even four times the size of a healthy portion so it can often be split among family members.

3. Include foods they will eat.
You don’t have to order something entirely new that you know your children will refuse but you can order a dish you know they will eat with something healthy or something new.

4. Order breakfast for dinner.
Eggs are not only an excellent source of protein, but you can let your child choose the vegetables or ask for fruit on the side. If you’re at a diner, ask for whole wheat bread or potatoes, not both.

5 Ways to Serve Kids Vegetables For Breakfast

5 Ways to Serve Kids Vegetables For Breakfast

It’s hard enough to get your kids to eat their vegetables at dinner but for breakfast?

It sounds downright impossible.

And why should your kids be eating vegetables for breakfast in the first place?

I’ve interviewed several Western medical, functional medicine doctors and naturopaths and one thing is for sure: 10 servings of mostly vegetables and some fruit is what we should all be getting. So why would our kids be any different?

Eating vegetables gives your kids the vitamins and minerals their bodies need to grow. They ward off high cholesterol, high blood pressure and childhood obesity and the risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke when they’re older. The fiber they contain will fill up their bellies, make them feel satiated and prevent constipation.

Serving up vegetables at breakfast is also one way to nip picky eating in the bud for good. It makes it that much easier to get your kids to eat healthy because they learn that vegetables are part of a healthy plate and not only at dinnertime.

With some creativity, consistency and patience, getting your kids to eat vegetables for breakfast doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are some things that have worked for me.

1. A buffet
A few weeks ago, I was running low on food and I only had parsnips, radishes and sweet potatoes in the house. Instead of trying to pretend I was on Chopped, I pulled out my Pampered Chef pan, tossed the vegetables and the sweet potatoes together with some olive oil and roasted everything together. I put a buffet-like spread out for my daughters so they could choose what they wanted, added an egg on the side and breakfast was served.

2. Eggs
A frittata, quiche, an omelete or egg muffins are all great ways to start off the day right with vegetables. Eggs are packed with protein and are one of the healthiest foods you can feed babies and big kids alike. Throw in last night’s vegetables or make your dish the night before to save time in the morning.

3. Green juice or smoothie
I don’t think you should sneak in vegetables to get your kids to eat them but making a green smoothie or a green juice can be one way to serve vegetables for breakfast. And because it’s green, your kids are completely aware that there are veggies in their cup.

4. Toast
Who says toast is only good with butter? Pull out the whole grain bread and make a vegetable panini, vegetable grilled cheese or dice vegetables for a delicious morning bruschetta.

5. Veggie “hash”
One of my friends shreds sweet potatoes, but you can use carrots, butternut squash or any type of vegetable. Use a vegetable peeler, grater or food processor, drizzle veggies with a bit of olive oil or coconut oil and cook them in a skillet. Add a protein and breakfast is served.

Schools Want Kids To Eat Breakfast, But Is It Healthy?

Schools Want Kids To Eat Breakfast, But Is It Healthy?

Whole grain strawberry toaster pastries.

Cheese grits.

Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry milk.

That’s what Rowan Elementary Middle School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is serving up for breakfast. They also have sausage patties which are a good source of protein, but have quite a bit of fat and sodium too. Fruit is also on the menu but vegetables? No way.

A whopping 13 million children in America live in food insecure households where healthy and safe food isn’t always a given. In high-poverty areas like Hattiesburg, the good news is that Community Eligibility, a federal program and key provision of The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, allows students to eat breakfast and lunch for free.

Studies show kids who eat breakfast have more energy, are more alert, miss less days in school, get higher scores on standardized math tests and are more likely to graduate.

The town I live in has a median household income of approximately $76,000 and at my daughter’s school, the breakfast menu includes whole-grain muffins, pancakes and waffles—all with milk and fruit. Not the best options in my opinion but what shocked me the most when my daughter started kindergarten is that they also offer graham crackers.

In my house graham crackers are a cookie and a treat. They’re low in fiber, protein and have added sugar. Not exactly the way I want my kid to start her day.

The School Breakfast Program, which is offered to any child, serves nearly 90,000 schools and child care institutions. According to the USDA, schools must follow the meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the Dietary Guidelines for America. Although they must adhere to federal meal requirements, the foods and the way they’re prepared are up to local school food authorities.

Yet it’s not only the schools in poverty-stricken areas that fall short when it comes to school meals.

School districts have to adhere to their budget but why can’t they serve whole-grain toast instead of pastry or oatmeal instead of grits which have more fiber and less sodium.

Rather than sausage, why not eggs, Greek yogurt or even beans?

It seems that come September, the problem will get worse. The Trump Administration announced recently that they will revise the school meal nutritional requirements relaxing the rules on whole grains, sodium and milk. Schools no longer have to offer 100% whole grains, adhere to a sodium limit and can now offer 1% flavored milk.

When it comes to teaching kids how to eat healthy, it must start at home with healthy food all the time. For food insecure families, however, that’s not always possible which is why healthy school breakfast and lunch are even more important.

5 Healthy Snack Ideas For Summer Road Trips

5 Healthy Snack Ideas For Summer Road Trips

On Memorial Day weekend, my daughters and I took a road trip to visit family in Pennsylvania. My cousin had a party to celebrate her college graduation and we had all planned to spend some quality time together.

When my daughters were toddlers and we would do this 4-hour drive, I used to pack cheese, fruit and Goldfish crackers as a special treat. I knew the crackers were something they would look forward to since we didn’t eat them at home.

I knew it would keep them occupied.

I knew it would make them happy.

But this line of thinking is all wrong.

Keeping kids busy and entertained in the car is a challenge for every parent. You can bring coloring books, games, and the iPad, but chances are your kids will eventually get antsy and ask are we there yet? at least a few times.

But giving them food is about as unhealthy as sitting them down in front of the TV with dinner. Giving them food in the car to keep them busy teaches them that it’s OK to eat when you’re bored. It’s OK to eat to pass the time. It’s OK to eat because it’s a special occasion.

How many times as parents do we do this? I’ll be the first to confess this is one of my own struggles.

Giving my kids Goldfish or any type of processed, packaged, salty snack isn’t what anyone should be eating on a road trip. For starters, there’s only a small amount of protein and fiber, not nearly enough to make them feel satiated. And the simple carbohydrates will cause a nice spike in their blood sugar. Not good for a nation where children with Type-2 diabetes is on the rise.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that the highway rest stops have introduced healthier options. Most of them are still made up of fast-food restaurants, but you can usually find fresh, whole foods in the mini travel mart but you’ll definitely pay more for it.

When it comes to healthy kids’ snacks for summer road trips, here are some ideas that have worked for me.

1.Trail mix
Store-bought trail mixes are a good idea but be sure to read labels because many are filled with salty nuts, too much dried fruit and chocolate. Since my daughter has food allergies, I like to make my own trail mix with unsalted sunflower seeds, almonds and a handful of raisins.

2. Crudité
Cut up celery, carrots or your kid’s favorite vegetables and pair them with hummus, a nut butter or bean dip.

3. Fruit and cheese
Apples, bananas and oranges all travel well but you can bring any kind of fruit. Pair it with a serving of cheese and you have a healthy snack that will hold over your kids until you get to your next destination.

4. Greek yogurt
Many kids’ yogurts are filled with so much added sugar, you might as well give your kids a candy bar. Instead, pack low-sugar yogurt tubes (I like Siggi’s or make ahead individual portions of Greek yogurt and add your own berries, for a delicious, filling snack.

5. Beans
My kids love to eat beans and they’re so delicious and versatile I make them several times a week. Beans, lentils or edamame are all excellent sources of protein and fiber and will keep your kid feeling full for hours.

What are some healthy snacks you pack for summer road trips?

The #1 Reason Kids Need To Eat Healthy (Hint: It’s Not Picky Eating)

The #1 Reason Kids Need To Eat Healthy (Hint: It’s Not Picky Eating)

Google “picky eating” and you’ll get 5,220,000 results on everything from “How to Handle Picky Eaters,” to “Is Picky Eating An Eating Disorder?”

It’s a topic that is on the minds of most parents today.

In fact, according to a survey by Abbott, 58 percent of moms say the most significant challenge they deal with on a daily basis is making sure their child eats healthy and nutritious meals.

Another recent report found that although most parents know that healthy eating habits during childhood will affect their children’s health throughout their lives, only 17% say their children’s diet is “very healthy.”

As a mom of two young kids, I know that picky eating is frustrating. From snubbing vegetables and shunning new tastes and textures, to refusing to eat altogether, meal times can be a real challenge.

But picky eating isn’t the problem. Kids need to eat healthy because their lives depend on it.

Food is Medicine

You already know that healthy food nourishes your children’s bodies and minds and gives them the nutrients they need for normal growth and development.

But what your kids eat today will affect them for the rest of their lives. Feed them plenty of saturated fat, packaged, processed foods, refined grains and sugar-laden treats and you can almost guarantee your kid will be at risk for the laundry list of medical conditions and diseases that are killing Americans at an alarming rate.

Things like type-2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, leaky gut syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), autoimmune disease, sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, thyroid disease and cancer.

Of course genetics and lifestyle play a role too, but nutrition has a lot to do with it.

Whether your children are overweight or stick thin, they need to learn what healthy food looks like, how to eat healthy and how to have a healthy relationship with food.

The time is now

When you were pregnant, you did everything you possible could to ensure your pregnancy was a healthy one. You ate healthy and exercised, selected the best medical provider and stayed away from sushi. You knew that the health of your pregnancy would ultimately affect the health of your baby.

When kids become toddlers however, things change. Of course you care more than anything about raising a healthy child, but many parents loosen up about what they feed their kids.

Sure, what you feed your kids now may not have any affect on their health. But if you truly want to raise a healthy kids, you need to start now.

In the U.S., our medical model isn’t built around wellness and disease prevention. For example, although heart disease is the number one leading cause of death, we only pay attention to middle age men and women who are at risk instead of preventing heart disease by teaching kids how to eat healthy and exercise when they’re young.

But they’re kids!

You might think, “But kids should be kids! I don’t want to rob them of their childhood.”

To me, that sounds a little extreme. And absurd.

Feed your kids healthy=take away their childhood?

That’s like saying you shouldn’t discipline them, or teach them right from wrong, or instill a sense of responsibility and independence in them because it could potentially ruin their childhood.

I’m not suggesting that kids shouldn’t enjoy cookies, ice cream and birthday cake. Of course they should. But a majority of what they eat should be healthy, whole foods.

Like anything else that comes along with parenting, it won’t be easy but it can be done.

Welcome & Why I Started This Blog

Welcome & Why I Started This Blog

Whether you found me through Google, on social media, or I sent you a link (thanks for reading, mom), I’m so glad you’re here

Although I’m new to the blogosphere under my own brand, I’m no stranger to writing informative, engaging content for news outlets, magazines and corporations.

Since 2011, I’ve written the Healthy Mama column for Fox News where I cover everything from pregnancy and pediatricians to picky eating and beyond. I even get to write some great stories like the one about women who are obsessed with losing their baby weight or this one about women have orgasms during childbirth.

If you read FIRST for Women magazine, the second best-selling women’s consumer magazine in the U.S., you may have seen my stories about women who overcame extreme fatigue and serious health conditions, lost a ton of weight and tips to help your child deal with stress.

I’ve also written for brands like What To Expect, Disney’s Babble.com and Care.com.

But I’m not just a writer, I’m a mom of two daughters, ages 3 and 5, who are watching my every step and ask a ton of questions all day long. Everything from—do you like Peppa Pig? And why are you wearing that sweater? To is your belly button and innie or an outie? And why can’t we have chocolate for breakfast?

They also want to know why I go to the gym most mornings while they’re still sleeping. To that I answer: because it makes me happy, fit, and balanced. It makes me a better mom.

Why I started this blog

It sounds cliché but my goal for this blog is to change the world, starting with how we feed our kids.

Although your child’s picky eating probably makes you want to pull your hair out, I want you to stop thinking that your goal is to stop picky eating. Instead, I want you to think about why your kids should be eating healthy now and throughout their lives.

Obesity is an epidemic in this country, not to mention the thousands of people who are diagnosed each year with diabetes, heart disease and a slew of health conditions that can often be prevented through diet alone. Although childhood obesity persists, I think that whether your children are overweight or stick thin, they need to learn how to be healthy so they always will be.

I think what many parents get wrong is thinking kids should be kids. They don’t want to deprive them of their favorite foods because they think they’re somehow robbing their children of their childhood.

Yet in reality, they’re robbing them of a healthy life. Maybe not now, but definitely in the future. Make no mistake that the foods you feed your kids today will affect them for the rest of their lives.

That’s not to say kids shouldn’t enjoy treats and get to indulge once in a while, but what they eat most of the time should be healthy, real food.

When I had my first child, I was given The Baby & Toddler Cookbook as a gift. As I read about how to make healthy, delicious homemade baby food, I was couldn’t wait to try all of the recipes and introduce my daughter to the new and interesting flavors, textures and tastes.

When she started solids, I realized that feeding her was way more important than I had ever realized. By choosing healthy foods, I was setting the stage for her health throughout her life.

Now that she’s older, she loves to eat salads, lentils and salmon. When dinner is served, she’s excited and embraces new foods. My other daughter is a bit more picky but she’s just as adventurous.

I’m convinced that part of the reason my children are healthy eaters is that I ate healthy while I was pregnant and breastfeeding, which studies show make a big difference. If you’re pregnant, I encourage you to do the same. But whether your child is 2 or 12, you can still convert your picky eater into a healthy, adventurous foodie.

I’m not a nutritionist and I don’t have all the answers, but through this blog, it’s my goal to share what I have learned and what has worked for me so that it may be able to help you too.

Every time you read my blog, you’ll get my personal stories, new research I’ve read, tips from leading experts and some healthy, delicious recipes along the way. Have a question, suggestion or a comment? Always feel free to drop me a line.

I’m just like you.

As a child of the 80’s, I ate a lot of TV dinners, meals in bags and boxes, and anything that was easy, fast and convenient. To this day, my stomach turns when I think about Tuna Helper.

Vegetables were served but not nearly as often as I serve them to my kids. I don’t blame my parents—that’s how most families ate. But since I didn’t learn how to eat healthy or learn healthy eating habits, I struggled with my weight throughout my 20’s until I finally took control. You can read more about my story here.

Like you, I’m a busy mom who is overwhelmed and stressed out. One minute I’m churning out a work project and the next I’m wiping tears and giving hugs. I wipe butts and bloody noses, clean up vomit and give baths and deal with everyday meltdowns and bedtime battles.

Like you, I spend my time as if I’m a 1950’s housewife: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and ironing the clothes. On top of that there’s an endless list of errands, lunches to pack, school forms, homework, afterschool activities, doctor’s appointments, budgets to stay on top of and bills to pay.

Like you, I want only the best for my kids. But I’m not perfect and each day I’m learning and striving to do the best I can with what I know.

Thanks again for finding me. I’m excited to share this journey with you and I hope we can learn from each other along the way.