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.

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make That Prevent Eating Healthy

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make That Prevent Eating Healthy

When it comes to raising kids who eat healthy, you already know the obvious mistakes: too much sugar, not enough vegetables and relying on a package instead of real, wholesome food.

Yet there are other not so clear-cut but common food mistakes parents make despite their best efforts to get their kids to eat healthy. Read on to find out if you’re making the same mistakes and learn what you can do to ensure your kids are eating healthy.

1. Thinking “gluten-free” means healthy

If your kids are on a gluten-free diet because of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease or another reason, it can definitely be a healthy way to eat.

Yet just because the label says “gluten-free,” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So many of the gluten-free products sold in stores contain gluten, flour and food additives you don’t want your kids eating.

If you’re going gluten-free, make sure your kids eat mostly whole foods that are gluten-free including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and gluten-free grains like oats and quinoa.

2. Serving sports drinks

According to a January 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, between 2011 and 2014, nearly two-thirds of kids in the United States consumed at least one sugary drink on any given day and almost one third drank two or more.

You might think giving your kids a sports or energy drink is a wise idea especially after a practice or game, but these drinks are loaded with sugar. Let’s look at a bottle of Gatorade. It contains a whopping 24 grams of sugar, as much as one package of Twix bars.

Not only is drinking sugar-sweetened beverages linked to weight gain, high cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes but that spike in blood sugar—and subsequent crash—is the last thing your kids need after time on the field.

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and offer water or water infused with lemon, cucumber or strawberries, which is enough to quench your kids’ thirst and rehydrate.

3. Being a short order cook

If your goal is to get your kids to eat new foods, then cooking a separate meal for them because you’re sure they won’t eat what you served is a big mistake. Not to mention that you’re handing over your power and teaching them that you’ll cater to their preferences.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t give your children choices however, because choices are empowering. If you offer two types of green vegetables or serve two healthy side dishes and let them decide what they want, it’s a win-win for everyone.

What if he doesn’t want to eat? Don’t stress—he won’t starve. After a few nights, he’ll eventually realize that’s how your family eats and he’ll be more amenable.

4. Serving “kid-friendly” food alongside a healthy dinner

I get it: it’s really easy and convenient to open a box of macaroni and cheese and serve it to your kids. It’s a guaranteed win, right?

But here’s the thing: if you’re serving kid-friendly foods because you know your kids aren’t going to eat the healthy dinner you made, they will rarely have the opportunity to taste and experience new types of healthy food. They’ll never crave healthy food the way you do and the picky eating behaviors will continue.

5. Sneaking vegetables

The success of Jessica Seinfield’s book “Deceptively Delicious,” and Missy Chase Lapine’s “The Sneaky Chef,” prove parents will do anything to get their kids to eat healthy. Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so your kids will get the nutrients they need and they’ll be none the wiser sounds like a brilliant idea but it’s one big mistake.

Sneaking vegetables into meals defeats the entire purpose of teaching our kids how to eat healthy, make choices for themselves and giving them the opportunity to love healthy food.

Pureeing vegetables can add nutrition to a sauce or a muffin but it should never be a replacement for healthy food in its original form.

6. Making funny faces with food

You’ve seen the creations in cookbooks, parenting magazines and on Pinterest: ordinary fruits and vegetables are transformed into extraordinary funny faces, animals and art masterpieces.

Making a smiley face with fruit salad is cute every once in awhile and it can get your kids—especially toddlers—to try new foods but it shouldn’t be something you do regularly. You want your kids to eat and enjoy healthy food and presenting in a way they’ll eat it throughout their lives instead of expecting food to be a work of art.

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.

5 Tips for Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

5 Tips for Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

Whether you’re heading out the door with your toddler to a mommy and me class or rallying the big kids to make it to the bus stop on time, mornings can be hectic. And unless it’s a bowl of high-fiber cereal, making quick and healthy breakfasts can seem impossible.

I get it. Even if I wake up at 5am, I’m still rushing to get my kids out the door on time.

But it’s not because breakfast takes a long time to make, it’s because my kids like to eat. My older daughter in particular, lives for breakfast. Whether it’s eggs, toast and fruit, oatmeal or a frittata, she always wants more. My younger daughter? She’s happy with a piece of fruit and yogurt and maybe some of my green smoothie.

You already know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for kids. A healthy breakfast can:

  • keep blood sugar levels steady
  • give kids energy at school
  • helps them stay alert and focused
  • prevent them from being overweight or obese

To ensure your kids start the day right, aim for protein, fiber and healthy fats—and of course fruits and vegetables. But just because you’re serving healthy breakfasts, doesn’t mean they have to be time consuming

5 Ways To Get Healthy Breakfasts On The Table In No Time

1. Make breakfast ahead of time

If you make school lunches the night before, carve out some time and make breakfast for the next morning as well. A quiche, frittata or overnight oats are all good options. The same goes for green smoothies and juices: cut up individual portions of fruits and vegetables ahead of time and put them in containers or food storage bags so they’re ready to go the next morning.

2. Use the freezer

When my husband makes pancakes or waffles for breakfast, he’ll freeze any leftovers from the batch. Then when we’re short on time, we simply pop them in the toaster and they taste just as delicious as the day they were made. You can freeze egg muffins, regular muffins and breads too so you’ll always have healthy breakfasts on hand.

3. Make-your-own buffets

Put out Greek yogurt, berries and granola or nuts and let your kids make their own parfaits. Or try make-your-own breakfast wraps with tortillas, scrambled eggs, beans and last night’s sautéed vegetables.

4. Use your appliances

When my blender was on the fritz this summer, my husband purchased the Magic Bullet and I was instantly obsessed. I love how fast and smoothly it blends everything and what a breeze it is to clean.

 

Any type of blender will do to make smoothies or smoothie bowls. Got a slow cooker? Make oatmeal and you’ve got a healthy breakfast the minute your kids wake up.

 

5. Serve dinner for breakfast

Instead of the same ‘ol meal, re-purpose leftovers for quick and healthy breakfasts. Make a quinoa breakfast bowl with cinnamon, vanilla extract, a bit of honey and your kid’s favorite nuts. Or instead of butter, spread hummus or avocado on toast, top with slices of tomato and breakfast is served.

 

5 Healthy After-School Snacks

5 Healthy After-School Snacks

Kids love their after-school snacks.

If your kids are like mine, they come home from school and head right to the refrigerator for an after-school snack. Despite eating breakfast, lunch AND a snack, somehow they’re (apparently) famished.

After-school snacks can tide your kids over for awhile but if they eat filling foods or overeat, they won’t be hungry come dinner. Instead, afternoon snacks with a combination of protein and fiber will satisfy their hunger without making them too full.

1. Kale chips

healthy-after-school-snacks

I don’t believe in sneaking vegetables into meals or making faces out of food so your kids will eat but I don’t see the harm in preparing one type of food in various ways.

If you can’t get your kid to eat green leafy vegetables like spinach or kale, try making kale chips and watch as your kids will devour them. The next time you make a kale salad or a meal with cooked kale, they may be more likely to try it.

Kale is nutrient dense and an excellent source of vitamin A and lutein for healthy eyes and a good source of calcium for healthy teeth and bones.

2. Hummus and Jicama

healthy-after-school-snacks

If you’re trying to add more plant-based foods in your family’s diet, hummus is a great food to serve for after-school snacks.

Chickpeas are a great source of protein, fiber and iron and sesame seeds which are used in tahini are an excellent source of minerals like zinc, copper and calcium for bone health.

Although you can serve any vegetable with hummus, I like jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-ma), which tastes like a combination of a pear and a water chestnut. Jicama is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, calcium and filling fiber.

3. Celery

healthy-after-school-snacks

A rich source of vitamins and antioxidants, celery is one of the healthiest vegetables you can feed your kids. One cup contains an amazing 5 grams of fiber which will keep your kid satiated and even prevent constipation.

If your kids like foods with a crunch, celery is a great one to swap in for chips. Add a bit of peanut butter or almond butter for protein and a delicious after-school snack.

4. Greek Yogurt

healthy-after-school-snacks

Yogurt is a good source of protein but most yogurts, especially those marketed to kids, have a ton of sugar.

Instead of flavored yogurt, serve your kids plain, Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries like raspberries which are an excellent source of fiber, have a low glycemic load and are super-tasty.

5. Green Smoothies

healthy-after-school-snacks

Like kale, serving a smoothie isn’t a way to sneak vegetables but it can be another way to get in a serving.

A good rule of thumb: the 80/20 rule. Eighty-percent green leafy vegetables and 20 percent fruit. Add some chia seeds for protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health.

4 Reasons School Lunch Isn’t Healthy

4 Reasons School Lunch Isn’t Healthy

When my daughter started full-day kindergarten last year, my husband and I decided we’d pack her school lunch everyday.

I knew that no matter how healthy the school lunch menu claimed to be, there’s no way she’d eat lentils and salad like she did at home. I also knew it wasn’t likely the lunches were made from scratch but instead came out of some sort of a package.

 

With the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, many schools have overhauled their menus to include more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy so I was surprised to hear from other moms that the school lunch wasn’t much better than it had been years ago.

And when I read the school menu, I was shocked.

 

The choices included things like:

  • Chicken fingers
  • Deli meats
  • Pizza
  • Tater tots
  • Cheese-filled breadsticks
  • Hot dogs
  • Crispy chicken patties
  • Meatball parmesan subs
  • Macaroni and cheese with a dinner roll.

 

Sure, they offer vegetables and fruit but the main meal options they offered are not something I wanted her to eat.

 

Now that President Trump has loosened up the school lunch rules former first lady Michelle Obama spearheaded, school lunches may get even worse.

 

Not to mention that studies show kids who regularly eat school lunch are 29 percent more likely to be obese than kids who bring lunch from home.

4 Reasons Why School Lunch Isn’t Healthy

 

 

1. Sodium


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of kids consume too much sodium and 1 in 6 kids has high blood pressure.

 

Deli meats, chicken fingers, hot dogs and French fries are all loaded with sodium and shouldn’t be a school lunch staple.

 

2. Refined carbohydrates

White bread, pasta, rice and processed foods are made with refined carbohydrates that are low in fiber or missing it altogether, lack nutrients and spike your kids’ blood sugar. Eating refines carbs is also linked to an increased risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

 

3. Unhealthy fats


Despite what experts have preached for years about the dangers of eating fat, research shows kids actually need fat, but they need “good” fats, not saturated fats that raise cholesterol and are found in many school lunches. If your kid continues to eat saturated fats at school and at home, over time he’ll have a higher risk for obesity, heart disease and stroke.

 

Kids need healthy fats like those found in salmon, avocado, and nuts. The likelihood you’ll find these on the menu? Fat chance.

4. Sneaky sugar


Schools might not be serving up cookies and cake, but sugar is sneaky. For example, one choice on my daughter’s school lunch menu is “whole grain blueberry glazed pancakes.”

 

One can assume the word glazed means the blueberries aren’t fresh but in some sort of sugary syrup. Other sneaky sources of sugar include yogurt, juice and baked beans.

 

I won’t lie: last year my daughter was allowed to order pizza a handful of times whether it was because I needed to go grocery shopping or we wanted her to experience getting school lunch. The reason she had pizza was because I was concerned about her food allergies. My hope was that she would come home and say she hated it but that wasn’t the case.

 

This year, we’ll continue to pack lunch from home and she’ll be allowed to buy lunch—but only occasionally.

 

Does your child’s school serve healthy lunch? How could they do better? Let me know in the comments.

7 Hacks for Stress-Free School Lunches

7 Hacks for Stress-Free School Lunches

One hundred and sixty-five.

That’s approximately how many school lunches you’ll pack for your kid this year. Got 2, 3 or more kids? You better get started.

I’m not a fan of my daughter buying lunch at school. Although many schools in the U.S. have upgraded their menus in recent years as a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to include more vegetables, less sodium and more whole grains, the lunches at my daughter’s school pales in comparison to what I pack at home.

The only drawback if I’m being perfectly honest is that packing healthy school lunches with real, whole-foods takes planning, prep work and time. But because I don’t want my kid eating deli meat, chicken fingers or pizza, I send her to school with lunch.

It may not be quick, but packing healthy school lunches doesn’t have to be stressful.

7 Hacks to Make School Lunches Easy

1. Pack school lunches the night before

After you finally get your kids to sleep at night, all you want to do is put on Netflix or curl up with a good book—even if you fall asleep a few pages in.

But it’s worth packing school lunches the night before instead of waiting until the morning. I’ve found that no matter how early I wake up, I’m still running around stressed out and pressed for time if I wait until the last minute.

Packing school lunches the night before also gives you an opportunity to cook a batch of vegetables or even a meal for the next day at the same time so it’s one less thing you have to worry about.

2. Double up

Instead of making individual lunches for everyone, try to find ways to stretch each meal. For example, I make a large salad and then divide it up for my kids and myself. The next morning, I’ll add a bit of olive oil and a splash of vinegar so it’s not soggy by the time they open it.

Or consider making a double batch of a meal. One portion can be dinner while the other can be divided up for lunches throughout the week.

3. Transform leftovers

Instead of re-inventing the wheel, turn last night’s leftovers into school lunch. Roast chicken can be made into chicken salad or combine leftover rice with some edamame, vegetables, egg and soy sauce for a quick and easy stir-fry.

4. Batch cook

Set aside a few hours on Sunday or use your Crock-Pot  to make large batches of meals you can pack for school lunches.

Soups, stews and chili work well but you can also make large batches of baked chicken cutlets, beans or vegetables, for example.

5. Use a bento box

Kids like to nosh. They like to eat a little of this and a little of that. A bento box is a great way to pack a variety of foods and plenty of nutrition into a school lunch that your kid will love.

6. Make perfect portions

Set aside individual portions of fruits, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and nuts and seeds in small containers or Ziplock bags to easily grab for school lunches and snacks. This method works well for making smoothies or green juices for breakfast too.

7. Ask for help

Just because you’re a mom, doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to pack your kids’ lunches. Last year, my husband took on this task and it made my life a little less stressful.

This year, things are going to change again. Although my kids are young, I think they’re ready to pack their own lunches so this school year, we’re going to try it.

Teaching your kids to pack their own lunches or at least help teaches them responsibility, allows them to take ownership and feel empowered and teaches them what a healthy meal looks like. The process might be slow and messy but it’s well worth it.

How do you make packing healthy school lunches quick and easy? Leave me a comment.

7 Worst Foods For School Lunch

7 Worst Foods For School Lunch

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Do you dread packing school lunch? I sure do.

I want to make sure my kids get enough protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats every day in their lunch bags but packing whole foods instead of packaged snacks takes time and brainpower—two things I often don’t have after a long day or in the early morning.

Like me, I know you also want your kids to have a healthy school lunch, but there are some foods you might think are perfectly healthy but are actually filled with tons of not-so-good-for-them ingredients.

So the next time you pack school lunch, here are 7 foods you should avoid.

1. White Bread

 

White bread is delicious no matter how you cut it. Add some peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish or deli meat and your kid’s happy.

Yet white bread is one of the worst foods you can pack for school lunch. White bread is made with refined, white flour which spikes your kid’s blood sugar. Continue to feed it to your kid every day and down the line, he may be at risk for insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. Since white bread is also low in fiber and protein, it’s digested quickly and won’t keep your kid feeling full so he can stay focused and on task all day.

Pack a high-fiber, whole grain bread or tortilla instead. Or nix the bread altogether and choose brown rice or quinoa.

2. Peanut Butter & Jelly

 

It’s the fastest, easiest sandwich to pack and one that is sure to please but it’s definitely not the healthiest option. For starters, most brands of peanut butter have added sugars, vegetable oils and other nasty ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Likewise, jelly and fruit preserves have loads of added sugar.

To upgrade PB&J, swap white bread for whole grain bread and pick a peanut butter that only contains peanuts and some salt. I like Smucker’s Creamy Natural Peanut Butter. Instead of Jelly, add slices of your kid’s favorite fruit.

 

3. Fake Fruit

 

Fruit cups are convenient and portable but they’re not the healthiest option for school lunch. Most are soaked in juice concentrate and some have added sugar—15 grams worth. Not to mention that if you want your kid to eat real, wholesome fruit, then serving fruit drowning in sugar isn’t the way to do it.

Likewise, those gummy-bear-like fruit snacks and fruit leather have too much sugar, lack fiber to keep your kid feeling full and many have artificial colors and flavors.

Instead, just pack a piece of real fruit.

 

4. Juice


100% fruit juice can take the place of one serving of fruit and it definitely contains nutrients. And although experts have said it can lead to obesity, a study out in March 2017 in the journal Pediatrics shows one serving a day of juice is probably OK.

 

Yet because you need more servings of fruit to make fruit juice, there’s still more calories, carbohydrates and sugar in juice than in a piece of whole fruit. Juice also lacks fiber to help your kid feel full and prevent constipation. And look at the ingredients of most juice boxes—even those that are organic—and you’ll see they’re made with fruit juice concentrate.

 

Pack water for school lunch instead and save the juice box as a treat. Or buy a juicer and make your own green vegetable juice at home for breakfast.

 

5. Granola Bars

 

They’ve been touted as a healthy on-the-go snack and for good reason. They have oats, fruit, nuts and seeds—all ingredients that are supposed to be good for you. Yet not only are many granola bars low in fiber and protein and high in sugar, they’re all processed. Experts say processed food is at the heart of leaky gut syndrome and a host of health problems.

 

Instead of store-bought granola bars, make your own or simply swap them for a handful of nuts or seeds.

 

6. Deli Meat


Processed deli meats are filled with sodium, saturated fat and nitrates and some have added colors.

 

Instead of packing deli meat in your kids’ lunch box, roast whole chicken or turkey breast on Sunday, slice it thin and have enough for lunches all week long.

 

7. Yogurt


It’s always been perceived as a health food and although some types may be a good source of protein and probiotics, most kid’s yogurts are sneaky sugar bombs.

 

If you’re going to pack yogurt for school lunch, choose a plain Greek or regular yogurt without added fruit, candy or granola. Add berries on top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or choose a yogurt without a ton of sugar, like Siggi’s yogurt tubes.

 

 

5 Reasons Not To Eat Out With Your Kids

5 Reasons Not To Eat Out With Your Kids

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If there’s one thing Americans love to do, it’s eat out. We watch cooking shows on the Food Network, buy the latest gadgets but cooking? Not so much.

Between 2015 and 2016, we spent more money eating out than on buying groceries—about $3,000 a year. Heading to a nearby pizza joint or grabbing take-out is a lifesaver after a long day at work or when your kids have after-school activities and sports. It’s quick, easy and convenient but eating out on a regular basis isn’t the best idea especially with kids.

Here are 5 reasons why you should cook and eat at home instead.

1. Eating out with kids is stressful

Let’s start with the obvious. Unless the restaurant you’re dining at has childcare (yes, places like this exist) any parent knows that when you have kids in tow, someone is bound to spill a drink, drop food on the floor, misbehave or need a diaper change.

Suffice it to say, eating out with kids isn’t fun so avoid it at all costs.

2. Kids don’t eat healthy

Unless you know how to order, most kids’ meals in restaurants are filled with sodium, sugar and saturated fat not to mention portion sizes are usually too large.

In fact, 97 percent of kids’ meals at 34 top chain restaurants failed to meet expert nutrition standards, a 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found. Sure, restaurants often have vegetables as sides, but kids usually ask for and get the fries. And if there’s bread on the table, there goes any chance of getting your kid to eat healthy.

3. You don’t know what your kids are eating

When you eat out, you don’t really know how the dish is made. Restaurants want you to enjoy their food so you’ll come back so they often use loads of butter and salt to make the meal taste good. You also won’t really know what’s in a sauce, dressing or a meal unless you’re the one cooking it.

4. Eating out loses its flavor

If you eat out several times a week, it starts to become normal for your kids. If you really want your kids to eat healthy, learn how to cook healthy and know what a healthy plate looks like, then they should eat dinner at home. If you go out to eat regularly, chances are they’ll grow into young adults who only eat out or order in.

5. It’s too expensive

To keep their restaurants in business, establishments mark up their food costs—a lot. According to a survey by Plate IQ, a company that processes invoices for restaurants, meals have a mark-up anywhere between 155% and 636%.

That $14 burger doesn’t look so appetizing does it?

If you need to go grocery shopping or you’re tight on time, eating out is OK, but eat out several times a week and you’ll blow your money on more expensive, less healthy meals you and your kids really don’t need.

 

What To Do When Grandparents Feed Your Kids Junk

What To Do When Grandparents Feed Your Kids Junk

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When your kids go to grandma and grandpa’s house, chances are they’re offered some sort of treat or type of junk food.

Fast food for lunch, baking and eating grandma’s favorite chocolate chip cookies and indulging in cotton candy and ice cream at the amusement park: isn’t it what childhood memories are made of?

Yes, according to a 2013 study out of the U.K., which found 83-percent of parents say their kids eat plenty of chocolate or cake while they’re with their grandparents.

Getting your kids to eat healthy not only requires you to plan healthy meals but you also need to be patient and consistent. So when grandparents put the kibosh on all your hard work, it can make your job that much harder.

A treat or two is OK, but when grandparents feed the kids junk food 24/7, what’s a parent to do?

When grandparents feed your kids junk: say something or stay mum?

I think it all depends on how much you care about what your kids eat when they’re at their grandparents house and how often they’re actually eating junk.

Since my kids eat a healthy, whole foods diet, I don’t mind if they have some cookies at their grandparent’s houses or they take them out for ice cream. Since we don’t live nearby to either family, they don’t see them every week so it really is a treat.

If getting your kids to eat healthy is already a challenge and letting it be a free-for-all at their grandparents’ house makes it harder, maybe you should talk to them about finding a middle ground. Perhaps your kids can indulge in a piece of cake but when they’re with their grandparents, all of their meals should be healthy.

Another thing to take into consideration is how much time your kids spend at their grandparents’ house. If they care for your kids when you’re working and you don’t pack their meals, what exactly are they eating? If most of their meals are packaged and processed and they’re still allowed to eat treats, then it’s probably a good idea to say something or start packing their meals and snacks.

If you both agree that your child’s health is important, then you can probably find a solution to make sure the kids are eating healthy most of the time. The key is not to criticize or attack, but to explain why it’s important to you that your kids eat healthy and hopefully the grandparents will agree. If you’re up against your in-laws, ask your spouse to be part of the conversation and back you up.

Think: do grandparents eat junk too?


If grandma and grandpa don’t cook and rely on grab-and-go meals or fast food or they eat out frequently, expecting them to feed your kids healthy isn’t realistic. If they make healthy eating a priority for themselves, then they’ll probably make it a priority for your kids too.

Both my mom and my in-laws cook and always serve vegetables with meals so I am confident that my kids are eating healthy even if they do eat some treats.

Good reasons to push back on junk food

If you know your kids will get hyper after eating sugar or something with artificial food dyes or they’ll get a stomachache or become constipated after eating fast food or over-indulging in treats, then you should say something.

I’m not suggesting you ban treats altogether, but ask the grandparents to be aware of how junk food affects your kids so they won’t go overboard next time.

What do you do when your kids’ grandparents feed them junk?

10 Foods That Relieve Constipation in Kids

10 Foods That Relieve Constipation in Kids

If your kids are picky eaters and you can’t get them to eat fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables or they don’t drink enough water, chances are they’ll become constipated.

Kids who are active and never sit down long enough to poop or those that are afraid to poop at school can also become constipated.

Constipation is common with kids. In fact, nearly 5 percent of pediatrician visits are because of constipation, according to a report in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

One of the best ways to relieve your kids’ constipation is by eating high-fiber foods. Here are 10.

High fiber foods: fruits


Raspberries

Kids love to pick up small pieces of food and raspberries are sweet little gems that taste delicious and are filled with fiber: one cup has 8 grams.

Add raspberries to a parfait, plain Greek Yogurt or serve them with breakfast for a delicious and filling way to start the day.


Asian pears

With 4 grams of fiber in one serving, Asian pears are a great way to relieve constipation.

I love to sprinkle cinnamon on top of pears and roast them but you can also grill them or pop them in the microwave. Since they’re so soft, they also make a great first food for babies.


Figs

If your kids eat Fig Newtons, why not see if they’ll eat figs? One large fig contains 2 grams of fiber and they’re delicious.

You can also try dried figs but they contain more sugar so it shouldn’t be a food your kids eat all the time.

High fiber foods: vegetables


Broccoli

Raw or cooked, broccoli is a good source of fiber—2 grams in every cup.

Serve raw broccoli with a bean dip, sauté it with garlic and olive oil or make a broccoli quiche for breakfast.


Sweet potatoes

Swap sweet potatoes for white potatoes because it’s a good way for kids to get fiber. One cup has 7 grams.

Roast sweet potatoes, make sweet potato fries or make a sweet potato hash for breakfast.


Brussels sprouts

A half a cup of Brussels sprouts has 2 grams of fiber and although they might be a hard sell for some kids, the more you offer them, the more likely your kids are to try them.

My kids like roasted Brussels sprouts but you can also blanch them or add a handful of raisins.


High fiber foods: beans and legumes


Peas

With 9 grams of fiber in one cup, peas are an excellent way to get fiber into your kid’s diet.

Serve peas as an appetizer, add them to stir fries or pasta dishes or pack them as a snack.


Black beans
My kids love to eat beans and with a whopping 15 grams per cup, they’re one of the best sources of fiber.

Black beans are also quite versatile. Add them to soups, stews and most Mexican dishes.


Chickpeas
Like black beans, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have plenty of fiber: 11 grams per cup.

Add chickpeas to salads, make your own hummus or roast them for a healthy snack.


High fiber foods: nuts and seeds

If your kids have food allergies, nuts and seeds might not be an option. But if your kids can eat certain types, it’s a great way to get their fill of fiber.

Add nuts and seeds to oatmeal, smoothies or serve as a snack.