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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The process might be slow and messy but it’s well worth

7 Worst Foods For School Lunch

7 Worst Foods For School Lunch

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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.

5 Ways To Make Ice Cream Healthy

5 Ways To Make Ice Cream Healthy

Ice cream is the quintessential summertime treat for kids and on a hot summer day, there’s nothing like it. Our family has a farm nearby that sells the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had and we frequently go throughout the summer. We also have an ice cream shop that serves “freak shakes,” or enormous sundaes covered in candy, cookies and whipped cream. I’ve never tried them but it’s a favorite spot among the locals.

But with lots of calories, fat and plenty of sugar, ice cream isn’t healthy but there are things you can do to make it healthier for your kids.

1. Watch portion sizes

When ordering ice cream for your kid, pay attention to portion sizes. Whether your kid is 4 or 8-years-old, he shouldn’t have a large waffle cone with 2 or 3 large scoops of ice cream. Did you know a typical waffle cone with chocolate ice cream has nearly 600 calories! Instead, ask for a toddler cup, which is usually large enough for an adult, or one scoop which is enough to satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth.

2. Switch up your toppings

Instead of M&M’s or gummy worms, add fresh fruit as a topping or raw nuts. Avoid fruit that’s been soaking in syrup, however, because the sugar negates any of the health benefits.

3. Serve ice cream on the side

If you’re serving ice cream at home, make fruit the star of the show and add a scoop of ice cream on the side. Slice your kid’s favorite fresh fruit or grill slices of fruit for a delicious summer treat.

4. Make parfaits

Let your kids make their own parfaits with ice cream, fresh fruit—berries work well—and a low sugar granola or nuts. A parfait is a great way to control portions and add extra fiber and nutrition.

5. Make fake ice cream

When bananas start to get brown spots on them, cut them up and freeze them. Then place the frozen bananas in the food processor, blend them for a minute or so and you’ve got a delicious treat that tastes just like ice cream.

5 Healthy Foods Your Kids Will Actually Eat

5 Healthy Foods Your Kids Will Actually Eat

When it comes to feeding your kid healthy food, you pull out all the stops. You beg, negotiate, and try to be sneaky. You make food into funny faces, add cheese to everything and cook the same old meal a different way. But no matter how much you try, your kids won’t even take a bite.

Getting your kids to eat healthy foods can be a challenge but if you’re consistent and do your best to provide healthy meals and snacks, one day your kids might surprise you not only by eating a new food, but loving it.

Here are 5 healthy foods my kids eat and I bet your kids will too.

1. Chia seeds
My kids love chia seeds especially when I make chia seed pudding. Chia seeds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Two tablespoons has 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, as well as omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your kid’s heart, brain, eyes and skin. Add chia seeds to cereal, oatmeal, muffins, yogurt or blend them up in a smoothie.

2. Avocado
Rich in healthy, monounsaturated fats, avocados are beneficial for your kid’s brain health and skin. They’re also so delicious and versatile: add avocado to salad, as a substitute for mayonnaise or make guacamole as a snack.

3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and a great source of fiber and potassium. Cut up and roast sweet potatoes, slice and bake them for a healthy alternative to French fries, or grate them for a breakfast hash.

4. Beans
I know what you’re thinking: there’s no way I can get my kids to eat beans!
But hear me out: kids love little pieces of food. They like to snack and they like finger foods.

Try packing a teaspoon of beans in their lunch bags, serve them for breakfast or offer them on taco night instead of meat. There are so many types of beans, I bet your kids will find a type they’ll love.

5. Jicama
Jicama, (pronounced HEE-kah-ma) is a root vegetable that tastes crunchy, starchy and a bit sweet all at the same time. Jicama is a great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber to keep your kids feeling full. Cut up jicama and pair with hummus or roast them with a sprinkle of salt for a tasty, healthy snack.

How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

How to Get Your Kids To Drink More Water

I’m constantly drinking water throughout the day. It keeps up my energy levels, prevents me from overeating and helps me to take bathroom breaks so I’m not sitting behind my desk for too long.

When it comes to my kids drinking enough water, however, it often takes a lot of persuasion. They tell me, “I’m not thirsty,” even after having a meal. Or they’ll take a quick sip of water to appease me so they can go back to playing with their dolls.

Getting your kids to drink more water and stay hydrated is more important than you may realize.

When your kids are mildly dehydrated it can make them feel tired, lack focus and make them struggle with easy tasks, which could explain those non-stop meltdown.

Studies show brain tissue can even temporarily shrink without enough water in the body. And even if your kids eat healthy, they could become constipated.

To get your kids to drink more water, here are 5 things I’ve discovered can help.

Buy a new cup
I usually buy my kids glass or stainless steel water bottles because they don’t have chemicals and last a long time. But kids love anything new so when they both of them received a plastic sports bottle at a birthday party recently, they became obsessed. They brought that cheap black and orange bottle everywhere they went and drank up like they were in the Saraha desert.

Use a straw
I don’t know what it is about straws, but kids just love them. Go to Target, pick up a package of colorful straws and watch in amazement by how much water your kid can down.

Add flavor
Forget adding juice or an artificial sweetener to their water—both have too much sugar. Instead, put a slice of lemon, lime, cucumber or a few strawberries in their bottle and it may help your kid drink more water.

Use fruit cubes
Instead of regular ice cubes, try freezing fruit with some water in ice cube trays and add it your kid’s cup.

Tucker them out
My daughters and I often go to the high school track on the weekends and run a few laps together. It’s a great way for them to get exercise, burn off some energy and work up a sweat. Whether it’s the park, an indoor play space or your backyard, get your kids moving and thirsty for some water.

What are some ways you get your kids to drink more?

Should you ask your child’s pediatrician for nutritional advice?

Should you ask your child’s pediatrician for nutritional advice?

“Mommy, will I get a pretzel?,” my youngest child asked as we drove to the pediatrician’s office for her well visit.

Yep, that’s right. Pretzels. At the pediatrician’s office. Lots of sodium, no nutritional value whatsoever. And after a well visit from someone whose main goal is to keep my kids healthy.

I suppose I should be happy it’s not a lollipop.

The first time the pediatrician gave a pretzel to my older child at one of her well visits, I was surprised. It’s not the worst food a kid can eat but it’s definitely not the most nutritious.

Kids are already eating way too many processed, sodium-filled foods. In fact, a study in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that almost 90 percent of children consume more than the upper level of sodium recommended for their age group.

Perhaps what’s even more strange is that the doctor handed her a pretzel after he charted her height and weight, her growth trends and body mass index (BMI), measured her blood pressure, asked about her diet and talked about making sure she was getting enough calcium, iron-rich foods and she avoided juice.

I also wondered why the doctor was giving my kid food in the first place? I doubt it’s for good behavior since so many kids scream bloody murder when they get their shots. To be fair, they also hand out stickers so I suppose they want the children to remember their experience as a positive one.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids eat pretzels but it’s usually at a party or as an occasional treat on the weekends. Packaged food doesn’t make its way into my home or my kids’ mouths very often.

I don’t believe in labeling foods “good” or “bad” for my kids, only healthy or unhealthy. I also don’t want to make any food off limits because this could create an unhealthy relationship with food as they get older. So they are allowed to get a pretzel at the doctor’s. But when it comes to their pediatrician, I take their advice with a grain of salt.

24 Hours Of Nutrition Education

When it comes to your children’s health, your pediatrician should always be your first source of information and advice. They know your children best and can help you find specialists and support from other providers should you need them.

Out of all the types of doctors, I think pediatricians are unique. Most choose the profession because they love kids and want them to have a healthy future. Unlike other types of doctors, they also work with the patient and the entire family to make sure children have the best start in life.

When my daughters were babies, we had one of the best pediatricians around. He would spend well over an hour at each visit to make sure we understood everything and that he addressed our concerns. I never felt rushed and I always thought that he gave me the information and empowered my husband and I to make the best choices for our children. I will forever be grateful to him for his support and care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that pediatricians play a crucial role when it comes to preventing childhood obesity, and they should be a resource for the community and be a part of the solution, particularly because they typically follow children for years.

According to this report, they state, “Even when families have sufficient knowledge of healthy behaviors, they may need help from pediatricians to develop the motivation to change, to provide encouragement through setbacks, and to identify and support appropriate community resources that will help them successfully implement behavior changes.”

When it comes to nutrition, however, most pediatricians aren’t the best people to get information and advice from.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that physicians receive an average of 23.9 hours of nutrition instruction while in medical school. That’s not even a day devoted to learning about the one thing that can make or break your child’s health.

What’s more, 71 percent of medical schools in the U.S. don’t provide 25 hours of nutrition education—the minimum amount that’s recommended, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Biomedical Education, found.

Another study found that fourth year medical and osteopathic school graduates who were entering a pediatric residency program could correctly answer only 52 percent of the questions about nutrition.

Surprisingly, pediatric gastroenterology is the only pediatric subspecialty that requires nutrition to be part of its official curriculum and objective. Although most of these doctors say they have an average or above average knowledge of nutrition, 67 percent want to learn more about childhood obesity, a study in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition.

No Time For Nutrition


Your pediatrician will probably ask a few questions about your child’s diet but between the time it takes to chart his growth curves, ask all of the questions required for insurance, review all of the developmental screenings, and perform the physical exam, there’s not much time left to take a deep dive into what your children eat, how much and if they have healthy eating habits.

In fact, nearly 50 percent of parents say their pediatricians spend only between 11 and 20 minutes for well visits and approximately one-third say they spend less than 10 minutes, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.

Although there are some doctors who have more time to spend with patients, or those who are more knowledgeable when it comes to nutrition, chances are, you’re better off finding a pediatric nutritionist to help you tackle things like picky eating, overeating, special diets and food allergies.

Have you received nutritional advice from your child’s pediatrician? Was it helpful or off base?

4 Excuses Parents Make For What Kids Eat

4 Excuses Parents Make For What Kids Eat

I was speaking with a literary agent earlier this week about my book proposal and I thought she was fairly on target when she told me, “I think most parents know what to do but they don’t do it.”

Although I don’t completely agree that parents know how to feed their kids, research shows that they do think it’s a losing battle. In fact, according to a survey by Abbott, more than 75 percent of us give in to picky eating rather than struggle.

When we give in, however, we also make excuses and rationalize what we feed our kids. Like other aspects of parenting, it’s just too hard so we come up with a reason why and let ourselves off the hook. It’s OK to take the easy road every once in awhile but make it a habit and you’re setting your kids up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating and making excuses for themselves too.

The good news is that you can overcome many of the obstacles you face with a few simple strategies. Read on and learn how to tackle 4 of the most common excuses parents make for the way they feed their kids.

1. “There’s no time”
As a working mom myself with two young kids, I know how strapped for time you are. It’s no surprise that planning, cooking and serving healthy meals and snacks takes time. It’s much easier and faster to throw a granola bar or a bag of crackers in their lunch boxes instead of planning out balanced meals that consist of whole foods.

The truth is that if you really want your kids to eat healthy, you have to prioritize it. Then to save time, make large batches of meals you can freeze and re-heat during the week, set aside individual portions of healthy snacks, or pack lunches the night before so you’re not rushed in the morning.

2. “It’s too expensive”
Although healthy food might be more expensive than less healthy food in some categories, consumers think this belief is accurate across the board whether it’s true or not and infer that eating healthy is too expensive, a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found.

It’s much more affordable to feed your kids chips or cookies instead of fruits and vegetables but you can’t put a price tag on your child’s health. Spending money on food that will keep your kid healthy now and throughout his life is well worth it.

Some ways to save that have worked for me include eating less meat, soaking and cooking dry beans, buying in-season and making portions smaller.

3. “He won’t eat that”
This is one excuse that I frequently hear from parents and it’s a myth. Once you decide that your kid only eats foods that are white, always rejects green vegetables or wouldn’t touch a piece of fish simply because that’s been his MO, it becomes reality. You assume that since your kid has refused to eat something multiple times that he’ll never eat it and you give up and feed him what you know he will eat. You cater to his preferences instead of giving him the opportunity to try—and maybe even like—new foods.

Studies show that it can take 15 to 20 times of serving a new food before a child is willing to accept it and you only have to serve a pea sized amount of food for it to work. So keep trying and chances are your kid will be a little foodie in no time.

4. “Kids should be kids”
Why is it that we overhaul are diets when we want to eat healthier but we justify the boxed macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets our kids eat? Perhaps you think you’re robbing your kids of their childhood if you (gasp!) deprive them of their favorite kids’ foods. Sure, childhood is made up of memories of ice cream on hot summer days or cotton candy at the carnival, but feeding them “kids’ food” is actually the best way to rob them of their health now and well into the future.

Instead, take a more balanced approach and only serve treats on the weekends, serve fruit as dessert or make healthier versions of their favorite foods, for example. Serve your kids what you eat and you’ll put an end to picky eating and raise kids who know how to eat healthy.

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Snacks That Actually Aren’t

5 “Healthy” Kids’ Snacks That Actually Aren’t

Walk through the snack aisle at any grocery store or big box store and you’ll find so many different kinds of quick, easy and convenient snacks to throw in your kid’s lunch box or take on a road trip. Many of the snacks might seem healthy but many of them actually aren’t.

That’s because the marketing gurus at food companies are experts at using the right language, packaging and placement to get you—and your kids—to believe their health claims. They call out certain ingredients like whole grains and chia seeds or have health halos like “made with real fruit,” or “low in sugar.”

If you don’t take the time to read labels and decipher the ingredients, it’s easy to buy snacks that have little to no nutritional value.

Here are 5 of the most common types of snacks you should watch out for.

1. Yogurt
You already know that yogurts that come with M&M’s, cookies or crackers are filled with too much sugar but what you may not realize is that most yogurt brands that look healthy have as much—or more—sugar than a candy bar. You’d be surprised that whether the yogurt is organic, low-fat, or made with real fruit or it’s marketed to kids or not, you might as well serve it for dessert.

2. Bars
Snack bars are big business in the U.S. In fact, in 2016, the market for granola bars was worth 6.56 billion. But it’s not just granola bars that we’re grabbing. There are countless types of breakfast bars, protein bars, energy bars and all-fruit bars.

Most of these bars seem like healthy snacks for kids especially because they have good-for-you ingredients like oatmeal, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and seeds and nuts. But many of them are high in calories and sugar and are more of a meal replacement than a snack.

For quite awhile, I bought That’s it. fruit bars for my kids. They were easy to throw in their lunch boxes or take with us to after-school activities. Although they’re not the worst snack I could feed my kids, they’re high in sugar and low in fiber and protein.

Bars are OK when you’re traveling or in a pinch, but they shouldn’t replace a piece of fruit or cut up vegetables.

3. Juice
Kids love juice boxes and pouches but even if they’re organic, they’re not healthy. Just look at the ingredients label and you’ll see they are made with juice concentrate and have lots of sugar. According to experts, most kids don’t even need juice in their diets if they’re eating healthy to begin with.

If you really want your kids to drink healthy juice, however, then make your own fresh juice at home with mostly vegetables and some fruit.

4. Muffins
You might think grabbing a muffin at the coffee shop or a package of mini muffins are healthy, but even if they have fruit, most are high in calories, refined carbohydrates, and sugar and low in protein and fiber.

5. “Veggie” snacks
Veggie sticks or veggie chips seem to be better than regular potato chips but just because they have vegetables, they’re not something your kids should be eating in the first place. Once again, read labels and you’ll discover veggie snacks are made with things like potato starch, potato flour and spinach powder. Or they’re so processed, they’re devoid of all the nutrition you think you’re getting. These types of snacks are also low in protein and fiber and filled with sodium.

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.