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Healthy & Fun School Lunches & Snacks!

9 May

Most kids (including my 5-year-old) can eat a rotation of Mac & Cheese, Pizza or Cheese Quesadilla for lunch and dinner everyday.  My wife and I enjoy lots of different ethnic cuisines and want our kids to have broader taste buds as well.  Sometimes it is hard to make the school lunch box and after-school snacks interest, different, healthy and fun – so when I came across the following article from Parents.Com, I found it fantastic!  Fun & Healthy recipies…and I’m a big fan of the bento style lunches – provides good variety for a balanced meal!  The article provides great “themed” bento lunches – give it a try and make a switch from Mac & Cheese!  Heck, these lunches look so good I want my wife to make them for me for work!  LOL! :-)

Even though the school year is coming to a close soon, there’s still summer camp/school and early prep and ideas for the Fall!

Healthy School Lunches & Snacks

All Dressed Up

The simplest and healthiest foods look extra-yummy when they’re tucked inside colorful little compartments. That’s the idea behind Laptop Lunches, the company that sells these cute plastic sets (starting at $21; We filled the containers with a protein, some fruit, a vegetable, and a small treat — all in perfect-size portions for kids 5 to 8.

All Dressed Up

* 1 cup bow-tie pasta salad with veggies
* 1 cup baby greens salad with 2 tablespoons low-fat dressing
* 3/4 cup watermelon
* 2 fig cookies

Catch of the Day
Catch of the Day
  • Fish-shaped tuna sandwich with lettuce on whole wheat bread
  • 10 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons low-fat ranch dip
  • Small plum
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain Goldfish crackers
Pretzel Kabobs
Pretzel Kabobs
  • Ham, turkey, and cheese rolled up together, sliced, and skewered with pretzel sticks
  • 1/2 cup mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame
  • 1 container (4 ounces) fat-free chocolate pudding
Early Riser
Early Riser
  • Sliced hard-boiled egg and 2 mini whole-grain waffles
  • Bell-pepper strips
  • 1 sliced kiwi fruit mixed with a few blackberries
  • Mini corn muffin
Finger Food
Finger Food
  • String cheese and a handful of whole wheat crackers
  • 1 cup broccoli and cauliflower florets with 2 tablespoons light raspberry dressing
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Slice of banana bread
  • 1 cup bean salad
  • 1/2 cup melon wedges
  • Handful of whole-grain tortilla chips with 2 tablespoons salsa
  • 8 cubes of reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Hole New PB&J
Hole New PB&J
Pizza Party
Pizza Party
  • 1 slice leftover cold veggie pizza cut into squares
  • 3/4 cup cucumber moons with 2 tablespoons hummus
  • 1/2 cup purple grapes
  • 1/2 cup popcorn
Power Pita
Power Pita
  • 2 mini whole wheat pita pockets with grilled-chicken strips and veggies
  • 3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt with sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar snap peas
  • 8 animal crackers
Sesame sticks, chopped cereal-nut bars, dried pineapple
After-School Snack Mixes: Sesame Sticks

These creative combos add up to one-of-a-kind after-school treats.

Sesame sticks + chopped cereal-nut bars + dried pineapple

Mini pita chips, soy nuts, mini chocolate chips
After-School Snack Mixes: Pita Chips

Mini pita chips + soy nuts + mini chocolate chips

Mini preztels twists, cashews, dried crenberries
After-School Snack Mixes: Mini Pretzels

Mini pretzels twists + cashews + dried cranberries

Low-fat granola, sunflower seeds, dried apricots
After-School Snack Mixes: Low-Fat Granola

Low-fat granola + sunflower seeds + dried apricots

Dried papaya, whole-grain cereal, golden raisins
After-School Snack Mixes: Dried Papaya

Dried papaya + whole-grain cereal + golden raisins

Almonds, M&Ms, dried mango
After-School Snack Mixes: Almonds

Almonds + M&M’s + dried mango

TrueNorth Peanut Clusters
Best New Snacks for School: TrueNorth Peanut Clusters

Round out your kid’s lunch with healthy, ready-to-go products.

These nuggets of freshly roasted nuts are ideal for slow eaters. Six pieces contain 170 calories and 5 grams of protein ($3.50 for a 5-1/2-ounce bag).

Backman The Puzzle Pretzels
Best New Snacks for School: Bachman The Puzzle Pretzels

Puzzle-shaped pretzels come in large and individual-size bags ($17 for six 12-ounce bags).

Lundberg Family Farms Baked Rice with a Twist
Best New Snacks for School: Lundberg Family Farms Baked Rice with a Twist

These crunchy twists in child-friendly flavors like white cheddar and ranch are made from brown rice and packed with whole grains ($3 for a 4-1/2-ounce bag).

Back to Nature Granola to Go
Best New Snacks for School: Back to Nature Granola to Go

Toss a mini bag of this granola — along with a container of yogurt and a piece of fruit — into your child’s lunchbox. Kids will probably like the honey-almond variety the best ($4 for five 1-1/2-ounce bags).

Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Parents magazine.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Fast Food Alternatives – Make & Take!

28 Apr

Make and Take Meals: Fast-Food Alternatives

This is a great article from WebMD.Com on healthy alternatives to fast-food when you are super busy and/or on the road.  When my family is on a road trip we always use two cooler bags with freezer packs to keep things cool – one for drinks and one for food.  We have water and 100% juice boxes for drinks.  Then we typically have easy to eat fruit, sandwiches, nuts, granola bars, & baked chips.  Jiff-to-go, which is individual servings of peanut butter is convenient to dip apple slices or pretzels or spread on a bagel!  Hard boiled eggs that are already peeled and sprinkled with a little seasoning and placed in a zip-lock bag also make for an easy, on the go healthy protein snack!

Good nutrition and good fast food can go hand in hand.
It’s late, your kids are hungry, and you don’t have time to cook. Put down the phone and pass up the drive-through.  You can rustle up a number of fast-food alternatives in minutes.

Not only can you put together a faster, healthier meal — with fewer calories and less fat and sodium — but you can save money, too.

“Americans spend nearly half their food dollars on food prepared away from home, but that only accounts for about 21% of the meals they eat,” says Joanne Lichten, PhD, RD, author of How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road. 

Here are tips to show you how — whether you’re at home or on the road.

Healthy Fast Food: For the Road

When you want an alternative to the fast-food joints calling your name, think cool: an insulated cooler, that is. Then stock it with:

  • Water, low-fat milk, or 100% juice.  But beware of the calories in drinks other than water, says Lichten.  Take that cooled milk and douse it over whole-grain cereals that come in their own single-serve cups.  A great snack or part of a meal when you’re in transit.
  • Low-fat cheese sticks to go with rolls and fruit.
  • Tubes or cartons of yogurt.
  • Cut veggies or washed baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.  Add a container of low-fat dip.
  • Sliced bananas, apples, grapes and pears.

Other single portion items for portable feasts include:

  • Peanut butter in a tube or a small tub to go with crackers or bread sticks.
  • Single-serve cans of tuna with easy-open tops and crackers.
  • Cans or cups of fruit packed in their own juice.
  • Dehydrated bean soups (get hot water at a roadside rest stop). 

“Always have fruit and vegetables along for the ride,” Lichten recommends.  “They are the foods we miss out on when traveling.”

Trail mix made from dried fruits, nuts, seeds, pretzels, or cereal with a few chocolate chips thrown in for good measure makes a satisfying snack, adds Kerry Neville, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

And in a pinch — when you’re on the road with children and didn’t plan ahead — pull into the supermarket instead of the fast-food drive-in. You can pick up fresh fruit, cheese, and bread for a satisfying meal to go.

Healthy Fast Food: At Home

Stock Your Cabinets With Fast, Nutritious Food  

Planning helps you pull your own fast-food act together. Get out the calendar and figure out your food needs for the week ahead. Make a quick list. Now it’s time to shop. Consider stocking:

  • Whole-grain breads and cereals, pasta, and prepared pizza crust.
  • Milk, reduced-fat shredded cheese, eggs, canned tuna, canned beans, peanut butter, lean ground beef patties, chicken, and meatballs.
  • Fresh, frozen, or no-added-salt canned vegetables; fresh and dried fruit; and fruit canned in juice.
  • Quick-cooking grains such as 10-minute brown rice and whole-wheat couscous.
  • Cartons of 100% orange juice, milk, applesauce, peanut butter, and yogurt in your fridge and cabinets. These work great for road trips, too.



Work the Weekends

Just a couple of hours spent cooking main courses one or two weekends a month works wonders for whipping up fast and healthy food on hectic weeknights. Tips to try:

  • Let your slow cooker save you time. Throw the ingredients for chili or beef stew in and turn to other activities.
  • Roast a chicken or turkey. This frees you up to concentrate on projects around the house, too.
  • Put together a pan or two of lasagna.
  • Make double batches of anything you cook, and freeze half.

Super Sandwich Suppers

Sandwiches can help you get supper on the table super fast. For tasty fast-food alternatives, try:

  • Pre-formed lean beef burger patties or veggie burgers. Serve on whole-grain buns. Pair with cooked frozen carrots and peas; fruit; and milk.
  • Barbecue pulled pork served on whole grain buns with corn and fruit on the side.
  • Tuna melts with reduced-fat cheese on whole-wheat bread, and salad.
  • Quesadillas made with low-fat cheese, fat-free refried beans, and leftover chicken served with a green salad.

Breakfast for Dinner

“Eggs are the basis of several quick and nutritious dinners,” Neville says. For example, try:

  • Scrambled eggs served in whole-wheat pita pockets with salsa and low-fat grated cheese; salad; milk or 100% juice, such as orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
  • Whole-grain French toast, applesauce for dipping, and milk.
  • Omelets made with leftover cooked vegetables and served with whole-grain rolls, fruit and milk.
  • Hard cook a half dozen eggs. Toss them in salads, or use them for grab-and-go snacks or lunch.

Healthy Fast Food: Half-Way Homemade

Supermarkets can save the day when you want fast food and great nutrition. Think of these quick grab-and-go meals as half-way homemade: 

  •  (Practically) No-Cook Chicken Dinner. Pick up two cooked rotisserie chickens (the extra is for meals to come); precut broccoli florets in the produce section or frozen “steamer” vegetable combos from the freezer case, and crusty whole-grain bread from the bakery department. Serve with canned pineapple or Mandarin oranges. 
  • The Salad Bar. Let your kids loose on the supermarket salad bar for a great fast-food alternative. Be sure they include a protein source, such as tuna, beans, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, or cheese; dark leafy greens; and fruit. Keep dressings and toppings to a minimum. Buy whole-grain rolls to serve with the salad at home. You can also pick up shrimp cocktail or sushi, too. 
  • Fast and Health Stir-Fry. Combine frozen Asian vegetable stir-fry mix, leftover rotisserie chicken, precooked chicken from meat case, tofu, or shrimp and serve over quick-cooking brown rice. 
  • 20-Minute Pizza. Neville favors whole-wheat Boboli-type crusts, spaghetti sauce or prepared pesto sauce, and part-skim mozzarella cheese and veggies from supermarket salad bars for concocting a quick pizza. You can also use whole-wheat English muffins, tortillas, or pita bread for crust, she says. 
  • Soup-er Star Main Courses. Start with lower-sodium canned soup and add frozen diced vegetables, cooked macaroni or quick-cooking brown rice, and leftover diced cooked chicken or turkey or beans. Serve with fruit or salad and low-fat milk.

Several soups, such as tomato, lentil, and split pea, double as a serving of vegetables from the food pyramid, Neville notes. Prepare tomato soup with low-fat milk for extra calcium and vitamin D as well as a serving of dairy.

These ideas are just a few healthy alternatives to fast food. Next time you’re at the supermarket, shop with an eye toward fast and nutritious and you’re bound to come up with great ideas of your own.

Remember, says Neville: “In the time it takes to wait for take-out pizza or Chinese food you could put together a much healthier meal.”




Healthy Food for Under $1!

14 Apr

10 Healthy Foods Under $1

Even with rising food prices, it’s possible to shop for healthy foods without spending a fortune.  Read this article from WebMD.Com with 10 healthy and delicious foods you can get for $1 or less! 
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Most of us don’t need to hear it or read it … we have felt it in our wallets every time we’ve gone to the grocery store. But just because food prices are rising doesn’t mean you can’t make healthy food choices.

The good news is that many foods that are good for you are also cheap. Here is our list of the top healthy foods you can find in your grocery store for under a dollar.

Recommended Related to Food and Recipes

Peaches: A Sun-Kissed Summer Fruit

Bite into a juicy peach this summer, and savor a whole range of healthy benefits. This member of the rose family is not only low in calories (one cup, sliced, has just 60), it’s also packed with potassium — a medium peach has 285 milligrams (about 5% of your RDA). Potassium is essential for the proper functioning of the body’s cells and for maintaining a balance of fluids and electrolytes, important for nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and metabolism. Peaches are also an excellent source…

Read the Peaches: A Sun-Kissed Summer Fruit article > >

Prices may vary based on the store, location, and time of year.

1. Apples

Great for: Snacks, green salads, main dish salads, and fruit salads.

What’s a serving? 1 large apple.

Price per serving: About $1. Apples sell for about $1.99 per pound, and an extra large crisp apple weighs about 1/2 pound.

Nutrition Info per serving: 117 calories, 5 grams fiber, 17% Daily Value for vitamin C, and 7% Daily Value for potassium.

2. Bananas

Great for: Snacks and fruit salads, yogurt parfaits, and smoothies.

What’s a serving? 1 banana.

Price per serving: About 45 cents. Bananas sell for about $0.89 per pound, and a large banana weighs about 1/2 pound

Nutrition Info per serving: 121 calories, 3.5 grams fiber, 14% Daily Value for potassium (487 mg), 20% Daily Value for vitamin C.

3. Baby Carrots (in bags)

Great for: Snacks, casseroles, stews, veggie platters, and side dishes.

What’s a serving? About 1/2 cup or 2 ounces raw.

Price per serving: 19 cents. A 16-ounce bag costs about $1 on sale and contains about 8 servings (2 ounces each).

Nutrition Info per serving: 27 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 200% Daily Value for vitamin A, and 7% Daily Value for vitamin C.

4. Canned Beans

Great for: Green salads, casseroles, stews, and chili. Types of beans range from 50% less sodium kidney beans and black beans to white beans and garbanzo beans.

What’s a serving? Each can contains about 3.5 (1/2-cup) servings.

Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 15-ounce can for about $1 on sale.

Nutrition Info per serving: About 120 calories (for kidney beans), 7 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, and 6% Daily Value for calcium, and 10% Daily Value for iron.

5. Canned Tomatoes

Great for: Italian and Mexican recipes, chili, stew, and casseroles. Flavor options range from no-salt-added sliced stewed tomatoes to diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil.

What’s a serving? One can contains about 3.5 (1/2-cup) servings.

Price per serving: About 28 cents. You can buy a 14.5-ounce can for about $1 on sale (often less for store brands).

Nutrition Info per serving: About 25 calories, 1 gram fiber, 10% Daily Value of vitamin A, and 15% Daily Value of vitamin C.

6. Oranges (extra large navel oranges)

Great for: Snacks, green salads, and fruit salads.

What’s a serving? 1 large or extra large orange.

Price per serving: 40 cents for a large orange and 79 cents for an extra large orange. Oranges sell for around $0.79 per pound, and a large orange is about 1/2 pound, whereas an extra large orange is about 1 pound.

Nutrition Info per serving: (for an 8 ounce orange): 106 calories, 5.5 grams fiber, 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, 200% Daily Value vitamin C, 17% Daily Value for folate, 9% Daily Value for calcium, and 12% potassium.

7. Pears

Great for: Snacks, as an appetizer with cheese, green salads, and fruit salads.

What’s a serving? 1 large pear

Price per serving: about 45 cents for a large pear. Pears sell for about $0.90 per pound, and a large pear weighs about 1/2 pound.

Nutrition Info per serving: 133 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 16% Daily Value for vitamin C, and 8% for potassium.

8. Lentils (dry)

Great for: Soups and stews, cold bean salads, and casseroles.

What’s a serving? 2 ounces (dry)

Price per serving: 14 cents. A 16 ounce bag sells for $1.12 (on sale) and contains eight servings.

Nutrition Info per serving: 195 calories, 14 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 24% Daily Value for Iron, 10% Daily Value for magnesium and potassium.

9. Pearl Barley (dry)

Great for: Soups and stews, cold salads, and casseroles.

What’s a serving? 2 ounces (dry)

Price per serving: About 12 cents. A 16 ounce bag of dry pearl barley sells for about $0.94 and contains about 8 servings.

Nutrition Info per serving: 199 calories, 9 grams fiber, 2.5 grams soluble fiber, 6 grams protein, 8% Daily Value for iron, and 11% Daily Value for magnesium.

10. Yogurt (plain, lowfat, or fat-free)

Great for: Smoothies, yogurt parfait, dips, and dressings.

What’s a serving? An 8-ounce or 6-ounce container is usually a serving.

Price per serving: 60 cents. This is usually the price for an 8-ounce container of plain yogurt.

Nutrition Info per serving: (for 8 ounces of fat-free plain yogurt): 130 calories, 13 grams of protein, 45% Daily Value for calcium, plus active cultures such as acidophilus and bifidus.

10 Tips to Get Your Kid to Eat Fruit & Vegetables

4 Apr
Fruits and vegetables from a farmers market. c...

Image via Wikipedia

Introducing or re-introducing fruits and vegetables may be a challenge in your home…but don’t give-up!  This article provides 10 super tips to have your kids eat more fruit and veggies.  Read it and try the tips over and over.

In my house we have the “You have to try it rule”, “There’s a fruit &/or veggie requirement at meals” and my wife and I do “Lead by example.”  Making it fun, allowing my preschooler to be involved in the shopping or preparation of meals has been super helpful…just allocate more time to get the meal done – but if it gets them to eat better, take the extra time as quality time in the kitchen together!  Happy Eating!

10 tips to get your kids to eat vegetables and fruits

health tips.jpg
In a new study, children who ate the most vegetables and fruits had significantly healthier arteries as adults than children who ate the fewest. Here are 10 tips to encourage your children to eat more vegetables and fruits.

1. Make fruit and vegetable shopping fun: Visit your local green market and/or grocery store with your kids, and show them how to select ripe fruits and fresh vegetables. This is also a good opportunity to explain which fruits and vegetables are available by season and how some come from countries with different climates.

2. Involve kids in meal prep: Find a healthy dish your kids enjoy and invite them to help you prepare it. Younger kids can help with measuring, crumbling, holding and handing some of the ingredients to you. Older kids can help by setting the table. Make sure you praise them for their help, so they feel proud of what they’ve done.

3. Be a role model: If you’re eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables — and enjoying them — your child may want to taste. If you aren’t eating junk food or keeping it in your home, your kids won’t be eating junk food at home either.

4. Create fun snacks: Schedule snack times — most kids like routines. Healthy between-meal snacks are a great opportunity to offer fruits and vegetables. Kids like to pick up foods, so give them finger foods they can handle. Cut up a fruit and arrange it on an attractive plate. Make a smoothie or freeze a smoothie in ice cube trays. Create a smiley face from cut-up vegetables and serve with a small portion of low-fat salad dressing, hummus or plain low-fat yogurt. A positive experience with food is important. Never force your child to eat something, or use food as a punishment or reward.

5. Give kids choices — within limits: Too many choices can overwhelm a small child. It’s too open ended to ask, “What would you like for lunch?” It may start a mealtime meltdown. Instead, offer them limited healthy choices, such as choosing between a banana or strawberries with their cereal, or carrots or broccoli with dinner.

6. Eat together as a family: If your schedules permit, family dining is a great time to help your kids develop healthy attitudes about food and the social aspects of eating with others. Make sure you are eating vegetables in front of your children. Even if they aren’t eating certain vegetables yet, they will model your behavior.

7. Expect pushback: As your kids are exposed to other families’ eating habits, they may start to reject some of your healthy offerings. Without making a disparaging remark about their friends’ diet, let your children know that fruits and vegetables come first in your family.

8. Grow it: Start from the ground up — create a kitchen garden with your child and let them plant tomatoes and herbs, such as basil and oregano in window boxes. If you have space for a garden, help them cultivate their own plot and choose plants that grow quickly, such as beans, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and radishes. Provide child-size gardening tools appropriate to their age

9. Covert operations: You may have tried everything in this list and more, yet your child’s lips remain zipped when offered a fruit or vegetable. Try sneaking grated or pureed carrots or zucchini into pasta or pizza sauces. Casseroles are also a good place to hide pureed vegetables. You can also add fruits and vegetables to foods they already enjoy, such as pancakes with blueberries, carrot muffins or fruit slices added to cereal. On occasions when you serve dessert, include diced fruit as an option.

10. Be patient: Changes in your child’s food preferences will happen slowly. They may prefer sweet fruits, such as strawberries, apples and bananas, before they attempt vegetables. Eventually, your child may start trying the new vegetable. Many kids need to see and taste a new food a dozen times before they know whether they truly like it. Try putting a small amount of the new food — one or two broccoli florets — on their plate every day for two weeks; but don’t draw attention to it.

Parent’s Guide to Kid’s Healthy Snacking

22 Mar
Ants on a log (cream cheese variation) - snack...

Image via Wikipedia

To help in the regular challenge of serving our kids healthier snacks and meals, I found this article from Parents.Com to be super helpful and chock-full of yummy ideas.  Give it a read and give some of the snacks a try.  You may be amazed at what new favorites your kids may have!  

Parent’s Guide to Healthy Snacking

Want to keep your kids energized and prevent them from overeating? Make sure they have nutritious snacks (and they don’t overload on junk). Here are healthy ideas your kids will love.

By Sally Kuzemchak


10 Principles of Healthy Eating

Principles of Healthy Noshing

Before you serve up a mid-morning or afternoon snack, use this checklist of tips from Jodie Shield, R.D., coauthor of American Dietetic Association Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids.

  1. Time it right. Snacks should complement meals–not replace them. Offer them at regular times each day, at least 1 1/2 hours before a meal.
  2. Serve snacks in the kitchen, and eliminate any distractions (such as television, video games, and computers) that can lead to mindless overeating.
  3. Pump it up. For maximum nutrients, aim for at least two food groups in each snack. Some to try: breadsticks and cheese, celery and peanut butter, or our Sunshine Smoothie.
  4. Practice what you preach. You can’t expect your child to learn to eat healthy snacks if you’re munching on a candy bar. Be a good role model.
  5. Think outside the snack-food box. In a rut? Serve hard-boiled eggs, a whole-wheat tortilla with cheese, or our Mini Pizzas.
  6. Encourage shelf-control. Is your child old enough to raid the snack cabinet? She’ll want what she can see and reach, so put nutritious staples front and center and sweets and chips out of sight.
  7. Travel smart. When you’re in the car, bring items such as string cheese, mini bags of pretzels and dry cereal, juice boxes, and baby carrots in a small cooler or insulated lunch box.
  8. Push protein. Keep your child satisfied by including some protein in his between-meal nibbles, such as cheese, peanut butter, and single-serving cans of tuna.
  9. Prevent cavities. Encourage your child to brush her teeth–or at least rinse her mouth with water–after snacks.
  10. Relax! Keep in mind that a few cookies or chips are fine–it’s the long-term quality of your child’s diet that counts.

Kids’ Snacks

Homemade With Love

Kids love all the bells, whistles, and cartoon-themed packaging of supermarket snacks. But if you’re looking for more economical–and nutritious–ways to fuel your little ones, try making fun snacks at home that seem a little more special. Here are some easy ways to do it.

Fill tiny, colorful storage containers with our crunchy Kids’ Snack Mix. Other good options: cheese and crackers, pea pods and dip, mini cookies, or dried fruit.

Pack mini resealable plastic bags with your child’s favorites. That way, you can control portion sizes.

Serve snacks in unexpected ways. Pour cereal and milk into a mug, freeze some single-serve containers of applesauce, make a “painter’s palate” by putting dabs of flavored yogurt on a plate and serving it with graham crackers.

Kids’ Snack Pyramid

Not sure what’s truly healthy and what should be saved for an occasional treat? Use our exclusive pyramid to help plan your child?s snacks each week.

Only for a special treat: candy, chocolate, cheese puffs, potato chips, taco chips, cookies, toaster pastries, cupcakes, snack cakes, doughnuts, french fries, soda.

Fine 3 or 4 times a week: pretzels, ice cream, frozen yogurt, snack crackers, frozen pizza bagels, pudding, vanilla wafers, animal crackers, granola bars, ice pops, fruit juice.

Good for everyday: whole-wheat crackers, unsweetened cereal, cut-up vegetables, fresh fruit, dried fruit, string cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, breadsticks.

Portion-Size Primer

There’s an epidemic of childhood obesity in our country, so being aware of portion sizes is especially important, says Christine Williams, M.D., director of the Children’s Cardiovascular Health Center at Columbia University, in New York City. Kids currently get 25 percent of their daily calories from snacks, compared to 20 percent decades ago. “Kids need to snack, but extra snacks can add up to extra weight,” Williams says. Her daily recommendation: Stick to three 100- to 150-calorie snacks for preschoolers and two 200-calorie snacks for school-age children.

100-150 Calorie Snacks
1 cup applesauce
1 cup low-fat yogurt
1 oz. string cheese with crackers
1 slice whole-grain toast with low-fat spread
1 cup cereal and milk

200 Calorie Snacks
Veggies and low-fat dip
2 rice cakes and peanut butter
1/2 cup trail mix
1/2 sandwich with lean meat on whole-wheat bread
Baked potato with cheese


Fill-in-the-Gap SnacksDid your child skip milk at lunch? Not eat her apple? Here are some essential nutrients and foods she might be missing, plus treats that will pick up the slack.


Why kids need it: Calcium is crucial for proper growth and bone building during childhood. Eleven percent of 1- to 3-year-olds and 40 percent of 4- to 8-year-olds don’t get enough.

Power snacks: Calcium-fortified mini waffles; ice-cream cone filled with yogurt; mixed cereal and fruit; chunks of banana dipped in yogurt and rolled in cereal; pretzel sticks with cheese cubes on either end.

Fruits and vegetables

Why kids need them: They’re packed with vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting antioxidants. Plus, they’re low in calories and fat-free–and help keep kids hydrated.

Power snacks: A fruit and veggie smiley face on a plate (use peanut butter as the “glue”); baked chips and salsa; Apricot Cookie Bars.


Why kids need it: Protein helps build muscle needed during peak growth. It also helps fight infection.

Power snacks: A piece of ham rolled around string cheese; hard-boiled-egg wedges; peanut butter spread on apple slices; whole-wheat pita cut into quarters and spread with bean dip.


Why kids need it: High-fiber diets tend to be healthier overall–in part because fiber-rich foods boast more nutrients and prevent overeating. Fiber also reduces constipation.

Power snacks: Wheat germ sprinkled into yogurt and ice cream; whole-wheat tortillas spread with hummus; raisin bran and milk.


Supermarket Snack ChecklistPrepackaged snacks are often a necessity for busy moms–and there are tons of just-for-kids products on store shelves these days. So what’s nutritious, and what’s not? Things like prepacked baby carrots and boxes of raisins are no-brainers. But you may have to do some label sleuthing before you buy other foods. Here’s what to check:

  • Serving size: Is the size appropriate for your child, or will she eat more? Many “snack-size” packages actually contain multiple servings. If so, be prepared to divide them up at home.
  • Fat: “There’s little evidence that reduced-fat and fat-free products help kids maintain or lose weight,” Shield says. Besides, fat is often replaced with more sugar. She advises going low-fat with staples, such as milk and yogurt, but choosing full-fat cookies or treats and keeping portions reasonable.
  • Fiber: Whole grains are your best choice when selecting breads, crackers, cereals, and other high-carb foods. Look for at least 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Ingredient list: “The longer the list, the more processed that food probably is,” says Deanna Rose, R.D., spokesperson for the National Dairy Council.


The Truth About Sugar

You know that sugar is packed into the usual snack suspects: candy, cookies, cupcakes. But it’s also added to yogurt, granola bars, and fruit cocktail. After all, manufacturers realize what parents have long known: Kids naturally prefer sweet foods. Though sugar’s off the hook for causing hyperactivity and other behavior problems, it’s still linked to cavities and has even been blamed in part for the rise in obesity rates. So it makes sense to keep an eye on intake.

In general, experts advise choosing snacks in their purest form–in other words, without candy sprinkles and bubble-gum flavoring. When reading labels, steer clear of foods that list sugar (or one of its aliases, such as corn syrup) among the first few ingredients. Sometimes you can switch to lower-sugar versions without your child noticing a difference–low-sugar peanut butter, for instance. But with other foods, a spoonful of sugar often helps the nutrients go down. In fact, according to a recent University of Vermont study, children who drank flavored milk consumed more milk–and higher levels of calcium. “It’s all a balancing game,” Shield says. If your child will only eat yogurt with added sugar, be thankful he?s getting a healthy dose of protein and calcium–but pass on other sugary foods that day.



Tips To Have Your Kids Eat Healthier!

21 Mar

Do you struggle to have your kids eat well-balanced meals?  Do they sometimes refuse to eat fruits or veggies?  Do you sometimes resort to threats or tell them no dessert or TV or game/playtime after the meal???  I’m pretty sure most (if not all) of us have been there a  few or two thousand times…

When I came across the article on Parents.Com, I wanted to share it and also share what has worked for my family.

  • Magical tortilla – my preschooler likes to make her own meal at times, and giving her a whole wheat or multi-grain tortilla for her to create her own meal/wrap from what’s being served for dinner works magically – just have some shredded cheese or mayo or ketchup for added pizzazz!
  • Making lunchbox fun – cute bento box style lunch box filled with cheese cubes, a cupcake liner of pasta salad, and ham roll-ups on cute toothpicks makes lunch fun!  Be creative and have your kids enjoy their healthy meal!
  • Healthy snacks for after-school or on a day out and about – we bring along a smaller cooler bag with an ice pack or two and fill it with cheese sticks, baby carrots in a snack size baggie, water bottle or 100% juice box, easy to eat fruits (apples, banana, grapes) and our newest favorite – Jiff to go – single serving containers of Jiff peanut putter, great with pretzels, crackers, mini-bagels, etc.
  • Giving our preschooler a (limited) choice – ie. do you want a banana or apple?  Cheese stick or carrots and hummus? – helps her feel some control.
  • We refer to fruits, veggies & protein as “growing foods.”
  • Whenever we have something new or cooked a new way, we always tell Julia she has to at least try it and cannot spit it out.
  • Letting your kids help cook – as simple as washing fruits & veggies, chopping veggies for soup or stir-fry, pushing the button on the blender or mixer, pouring/stirring ingredients – gives them pride in ownership of making the meal!
  • Making simple foods fun – ie. our pancakes end up being shaped like an octopus with 8 tentacles, seasonal cookie cutters make sandwiches special, etc.
  • In our house, fresh sweet seasonal fruit is served as dessert.
  • Lead/teach by example.  We always have a vegetable at lunch and dinner.  My wife was not big on veggies, but having two kids has made her change her ways ;0)
  • Special treats = junk food or candy or ice cream.  We get baked Cheetos, think chocolate is better than pure sugar like gummy bears or skittles, and serve frozen yogurt with crunchy granola topping!

Here’s to healthier eating!

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15 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Better

A nutritionist who’s also the mother of 7-year-old triplets gives tried-and-true tips for getting your child to eat vegetables, drink milk, try new foods, and more.

By Julie Burns, R.D.


Every single day, I deal with picky eaters both big and small. I’m the mother of 7-year-old triplets, all of whom have very different eating habits; I’m also a dietitian who teaches the professional athletes on the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls teams how to improve their diets. Although it’s tough to convince a towering basketball player or a 300-pound linebacker that junk food is bad for him, trying to get my kids to eat well can be even more of a challenge. My daughter Kathleen has severe and life-threatening allergies to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, and Julia will not eat fresh fruit; luckily, my son, Marty, will try just about anything. Mothers constantly tell me that they feel guilty about their children’s diets; they know how important it is to feed their kids healthy foods, but they’re just not sure how to do it. Despite my own background in nutrition, I had to go through some trial and error with my triplets. Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned, which should help you guide your kids to eat better.

  1. Make a schedule. Children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids. If you plan for these, your child’s diet will be much more balanced and he’ll be less cranky, because he won’t be famished. I put a cooler in the car when I’m out with my kids and keep it stocked with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water so we don’t have to rely on fast food.
  2. Plan dinners. If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time. A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced: whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans. I often make simple entree soups or Mexican chili ahead of time and then freeze it; at dinnertime, I heat it up and add whole-grain bread and a bowl of cut-up apples or melon to round out the meal.
  3. Don’t become a short-order cook. A few years ago, I got into a bad habit. I’d make two suppers — one that I knew the kids would like and one for my husband and me. It was exhausting. Now I prepare one meal for everybody and serve it family-style so the kids can pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so one of these days, they’ll eat most of the food I serve them.
  4. Bite your tongue. As hard as this may be, try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating. Be as neutral as possible. Remember, you’ve done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play food enforcer — saying things like “Eat your vegetables” — your child will only resist.
  5. Introduce new foods slowly. Children are new-food-phobic by nature. I tell my kids that their taste buds sometimes have to get used to a flavor before they’ll like the taste. A little hero worship can work wonders too. Marty refused to even try peas until I told him that Michael Jordan eats his to stay big and strong. Now Marty eats peas all the time.
  6. Dip it. If your kids won’t eat vegetables, experiment with dips. Kathleen tried her first vegetable when I served her a thinly cut carrot with some ranch salad dressing. My children also like hummus, salsa, and yogurt-based dressing.
  7. Make mornings count. Most families don’t eat enough fiber on a daily basis, and breakfast is an easy place to sneak it in. I make up batches of whole-grain pancake and waffle batter that last all week. For a batch that serves five, sift together 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbs. sugar. When you’re ready to cook, mix in 2 Tbs. ground flax meal, 2 cups water, 3 Tbs. canola oil, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 2 Tbs. applesauce.
  8. Sneak in soy. Even if your kids don’t have milk allergies, soy milk is a terrific source of healthy phytochemicals. My kids don’t like soy milk but don’t notice when it’s hidden in a recipe. I use the low-fat, calcium-fortified kind in some recipes that call for milk, such as oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and sauces.
  9. Sprinkle some sugar. Julia eats her cooked carrots with a bit of brown sugar, and I mix a little root beer into her prune juice to make prune-juice soda. Kathleen and Marty like a sprinkle of sugar on their fruit. I know that they’ll eventually outgrow this need for extra sweetness, but in the meantime, they’re eating fruits and vegetables.
  10. Get kids cooking. If your children become involved in choosing or preparing meals, they’ll be more interested in eating what they’ve created. Take them to the store, and let them choose produce for you. If they’re old enough, allow them to cut up vegetables and mix them into a salad. Although Julia refuses to eat fresh fruit, she and I make banana or apple muffins together — and she always eats them once they’re done.
  11. Cut back on junk. Remember, you — not your kids — are in charge of the foods that enter the house. By having fewer junk foods around, you’ll force your children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.
  12. Allow treats. Having less healthy foods occasionally keeps them from becoming forbidden — and thus even more appealing. We call candy, soda, and cookies “sometimes” foods. I generally buy only healthy cereals such as Cheerios and Raisin Bran, but I let my kids have sugary cereals when they visit their grandparents or when we’re on vacation. And I treat them to McDonald’s for lunch every so often.
  13. Have fun. The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods my kids eat. We make smiley-face pancakes and give foods silly names. (Broccoli florets are “baby trees” or “dinosaur food.”) Anything mini is always a hit too. I often use cookie cutters to turn toast into hearts and stars, which the children love.
  14. Be a role model. If you’re constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behavior is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you’re sending. Trust your body to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full, and your kids will learn to do the same.
  15. Adjust your attitude. Realize that what your kids eat over time is what matters. Having popcorn at the movies or eating an ice-cream sundae are some of life’s real pleasures. As long as you balance these times with smart food choices and physical activity, your children will be fine.



http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Is It Done Yet? 17 Great Cooking Tips!

9 Mar

Are you a seasoned cook or a newbie in the kitchen?  Either way, I thought this great article from Parents.Com would serve as a good reminder for the pros and super helpful for the rookies!

Is This Food Done Yet?


Woman looking in oven
The Age-Old Question: Is It Done Yet?

Whether you’re a seasoned chef executing an intricate holiday meal or a first-time cook trying your hand at eating in, knowing when a dish is done cooking is as important as using the proper ingredients. Use these no-fail doneness cues — from precise internal temperatures to indications visible to the naked eye — as signs that your dish is ready for the table. They’ll help you achieve perfectly prepared food every time you cook.

Cooking pancakes

Cook the first side until bubbles appear on the surface and pop. Flip and cook second side until pancake is springy to the touch.

Try our recipe for Perfect Pancakes

poached egg
Poached Eggs

Let eggs gently simmer in water until the whites are set and the yolk feels like a water balloon.

Try our recipe for poached eggs

Cupcakes and Muffins

Cupcakes and muffins are finished baking when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the surface is springy to the touch when gently pressed with your forefinger.

Try our recipes for Banana-Macadamia Nut Muffins

Baked potato

Potatoes are cooked to perfection when a fork easily pierces the flesh but meets some resistance toward the center. Gently rub the skin; it should release easily from the flesh.

Try our recipe for Baked Potatoes Florentine

Cooked rice

Cook your rice until the surface is studded with steam holes and the individual grains look fluffy. There should be no water pooling in the bottom of the pot.

Cooked beets

Roast beets until they’re easily cut with a butter knife and the skin slides off the flesh by hand.

Try our recipe for Beet Summer Salad

Roasted squash
Roasted Squash (whole or halved)

Roast squash until flesh is tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork and the skin is beginning to wrinkle.

Woman cooking risotto

Risotto is perfectly cooked when the rice is al dente (toothsome) in the center, but soft and creamy on the surface. You want it to be slightly soupy but not runny. Drop a spoonful of risotto on a flat plate; if the liquids spread out much beyond the rice, keep cooking.

Try our recipe for Edamame and Mushroom Risotto

Checking doneness on lamb

For a medium-rare lamb roast, steak, or chop, cook until a meat thermometer reads 145°F. Cook to 160°F for medium and 170°F for well done.

Checking doneness on hamburger

For a patty cooked to medium, remove from heat when a meat thermometer registers 160°F. The burger should feel springy to the touch and still be juicy and pink in the center.

Try our recipe for Better Burgers

Cooked steak

Test the doneness of your steak by gently pressing in the center. It should feel fleshy to the touch for medium-rare and should reach an internal temperature of 135°F. When cut, a medium-rare steak is brown around the edges and predominantly pink in the middle, with a hint of red in the center.

For medium, let the steak cook until it is slightly firmer to the touch and reaches 150°F as an internal temperature. Cook all the way to 160°F for well done. A well-done steak will feel firm to the touch. (Let your steak rest for approximately half the time it took you to cook it. The internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees while resting.)

Try our recipe for Southwest Steak & Peppers

grilling salmon

Cook your fish until beads of moisture begin to form on the surface of the flesh and the internal temperature reaches 130°F. You’ll know your salmon is becoming overcooked when white, gelatinous bits of protein are pushed to the surface.

Try our recipe for Crunchy Salmon

Cooking shrimp in pan

Cook your shrimp until its gray translucent coloring turns pink and opaque and the flesh is firm to the touch.

Try our recipe for Shrimp Quesadillas with Mango

Checking doneness on pork

Cook pork until firm to the touch and the temperature on a meat thermometer reaches 160°F. Contrary to popular belief, pork that is slightly pink in the center isn’t necessarily undercooked.

Try our recipe for Pork with Pear Salsa

raw turkey

The bird is thoroughly cooked when a meat thermometer stuck in the innermost part of the thigh and/or the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 °F. When the turkey is pierced with the tip of a knife, the juices should run clear.

Cheesecake in oven
Pumpkin Pie, Cheesecake, or Other Custard-Based Pies

Remove from oven when the center is still slightly wobbly but the edges are firm to the touch.

Try our recipe for Pumpkin Surprise Pie

Cookies on pan

Remove cookies from the oven when they’re golden around the edges but still slightly soft in the center. The cookies will finish cooking as they rest on the cookie sheet before being moved to a wire rack to cool.

Copyright & copy 2010 Meredith Corporation.

Try our recipe for Oatmeal Cookies


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Kid Nutrition Myths

4 Mar

Doesn’t it seem like a never-ending challenge to have your kid(s) eat a healthy meal?  I sure feel that way a lot of days.  I came across this article on the Virginia Hopkins Health Watch site and found it to be helpful, insightful and meaningful as it explains nutrition myths in understandable terms and not medical and scientific jargon!

Here’s a few things that work in my household with my preschooler and toddler:

  • TRY IT RULE – My preschooler has to try whatever is prepared and served for the meal.  If she really doesn’t like something she still has to chew and swallow the bite she tried.
  • GROWING FOODS – We call nutritious fruits, vegetables, lean proteins “growing food.”
  • NO SODA – We didn’t offer any soda to our daughter and when we drank it she was never curious about it, then when she was 4 years old and at a friend’s birthday party where they were only serving soda, we gave her some Sprite to try, and she did not like the carbonation at all!  YES – keeping her away from soda for 4 years lead her to not want/like it.  She does drink lemonade or fruit punch once in a while at a restaurant, and I’m sure she will probably acquire a taste for soda later, but for now this is good!
  • AT LEAST X BITES – When our older daughter doesn;t care for a vegetable dish, but we know nothing is wrong with it, we tell her she’ll be 5 years old in June and she has to have at least 5 bites/spoons/forks of it.  This works well and most times she’ll eat the 5 bites first to get it over with…and sometimes I can sneak in a 6 – for good luck!
  • FRUIT = DESSERT -  Naturally sweet, flavorful and in-season fruit is the perfect dessert for a lot of meals in our home.  Cake, cookies, ice cream are special treats and “not” served everyday/meal.   


List of Kid Nutrition Myths by Dr. John Lee

kids_nutrition.jpgMyths, marketing and what children eat.

It’s big news these days that obesity in children is widespread, that type 2 diabetes in children is on the increase, and that fat kids are becoming fat adults with a myriad of health problems. Despite the widespread acknowledgement that childhood obesity is a major health problem, the California legislature just defeated a bill to get candy and soda machines out of public school hallways. The reason? The schools protested on the basis that vending machines are a major source of badly needed income.

This type of blatant disregard for our children’s health, even from the school systems, means that more than ever it’s up to parents to educate their children about good nutrition. Even first graders can grasp the concept that some foods will make you grow big and strong, and some will make you sick.

What’s healthy for grown-ups is also healthy for kids: minimal sugar and refined carbohydrates, plenty of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, nuts, seeds), plenty of vegetables and some protein such as eggs, chicken, fish and beef. But kids who have developed picky palates would just as soon eat macaroni and cheese or sugary yogurt for every meal. What’s a parent to do?

Over decades of being a family doctor, I noticed that in a household where the parents were eating well, the kids were also eating well. Thus, the single most important thing a parent can do to instill healthy eating habits in their offspring is probably the most difficult: set a good example.

If you’re not eating your veggies, your child will follow your example. If you’re diving for the candy and chips for a late afternoon snack, your kids will want to do the same. At the same time, it’s also important to have the occasional pizza, soda pop, ice cream cone or candy bar. You don’t want to be extreme about food, or about sweets in particular, or your kids will overdo it when they have the opportunity, such as at a friend’s birthday party.

List of Myths About Kids and Nutrition
There are an amazing number of myths about children and nutrition, most of them perpetrated by various sectors of the food industry with an economic interest in having your children eat their products.

As long as my child takes a multivitamin every day he or she is covered nutritionally.
There’s no doubt that a daily multivitamin is good health insurance for children. However, the contents of a multivitamin represent only a small fraction of the important nutritional phytochemicals found in plant foods. It’s a good step in the right direction, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

If my child ate more low-fat foods he or she would be thinner and healthier.
There are two major problems with low-fat foods. The first is that certain fats and oils are essential to the proper development of a child’s brain and nervous system. They’re a key part of the body’s ability to protect against inflammation, and are the building blocks for the steroid hormones. Many researchers believe that widespread health problems among children such as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and asthma are at least partly related to the poor quality of the fats they eat. The second problem is that most low fat foods have added sugar.

Just one soda pop a day won’t hurt my child.
Intense sugary taste combined with bubbles is irresistible to most children (not to mention adults), but the typical soda drink contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, which will throw blood sugar out of balance and set up sugar cravings. There are other ways to make appealing drinks. For example, combine a small amount of fruit juice with a sparkling water.

If my child wants to be a vegetarian, that’s great and I no longer have to worry about nutrition.
It’s not uncommon for pre-teen girls to become vegetarians, but it tends to be a very poor nutritional choice. The mainstay of a pre-teen vegetarian diet is usually cheese, refined carbohydrates such as bagels, pasta and chips, and a smattering of vegetables. If your child insists on being a vegetarian, insist that he or she eat plenty of nuts, seeds, legumes such as lentils and black beans, whole grains, and try to include eggs in the diet. Tofu and tempeh are fine in moderation (a few times a week), but I don’t recommend daily servings of unfermented soy products like soy milk or soy protein foods.

I shouldn’t let my kids eat too much meat.
Meat is not as big a problem in the American diet as it’s made out to be. It’s what we tend to eat with our meat that gets us in trouble. For example, it’s not so much the hamburger in the fast food that’s harmful, it’s the refined white flour bun, the french fries, and the soda pop that goes with it. Avoid bologna, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and ham on a regular basis because they contain harmful preservatives, but other than that it’s perfectly healthy for a growing kid to eat plenty of beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Other high quality sources of protein include fish and eggs.

As long as my child has a glass of milk with his or her meal, it doesn’t matter as much what’s in the rest of the meal.
Milk is not the nutritional superstar that those clever “got milk?” ads would have you believe. Many, many kids have allergies to dairy products; its calcium/magnesium ratio is skewed in the wrong direction; and unless it’s organic, it contains pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. The highest rates of osteoporosis in the world exist in countries that drink the most milk. If milk is a family staple, please at least make it organic. It’s certainly not a substitute for the protein in meat or eggs, and cannot provide the spectrum of vitamins and minerals that vegetables can.

If I can get my kids to eat fruit, that will substitute for eating vegetables.
Okay, eating fruit is better than eating no plant foods, but fruit is definitely lacking in hundreds of the phytochemicals contained in vegetables, and it’s too sweet. Substituting fruit for vegetables will cause blood sugar imbalances and cravings for sugar. Fruit makes a great afternoon snack, and a wonderful dessert, but it’s not a substitute for carrots, broccoli, peas, tomatoes and red peppers, for example.

Note to Reader from Virginia Hopkins
Dr. John Lee was my great friend, mentor, co-author and business partner. This website is dedicated to continuing the work that Dr. Lee and I did together to educate and inform women and men about natural hormones, hormone balance and achieving optimal health. Dr. John Lee was a courageous pioneer who changed the face of medicine by introducing the concepts of natural progesterone, estrogen dominance and hormone balance to a large audience of women and men seeking answers to their hormone questions. Dr. Lee has left us a wonderful collection of writings from his newsletters that are, in large part, freely shared on this website. Enjoy!

Veggie Meals that are Fun for Kids!

15 Feb

 Do you face the constant battle for your kids to eat fruits and/or veggies?  I think we all have/do.  With my preschooler, Julia, some days/meals are better than others.  Since toddlerhood we have introduced peas, corn, carrots, grapes, apples, etc.  Like most parents, when we see she likes something we stick to it, perhaps too much and then she gets sick of it and we need to find a new favorite!  Other tricks – like pureeing cauliflower or adding a jar of baby food carrots and mixing it into mac & cheese to get more nutrients (we’ve also added nutritional yeast to entrees) into every kid’s favorite meal seemed to work too…but then there comes a time when you got to stop hiding the veggies and have them knowingly eat it and enjoy it!

I’m okay with putting in a little more effort and making food fun for my kids.  See my blog posts – Magical Tortilla, Tips to Make a Lunch Box Fun and More Tips to Make a Lunch Box Fun.  So when I came across this article at Parents.Com, I wanted to share it, in hopes it’ll be helpful and give you some fun and creative ideas!

Farm Stand Fun: 30 Kid-Friendly Fresh Veggie Meals


Tomato Recipes
Tomato Recipes

Mr. Tomato Head Hollow out a tomato, saving the top slice. Fill with cooked couscous mix, top with shredded basil, and cover partially with reserved tomato top, as shown. Rest black-olive slices on tomato ledge for eyes. Cut a piece of provolone cheese in the shape of a mouth and place it right on the tomato — it’ll stick.
Fancy Grilled Cheese Top a piece of sourdough bread with tomato slices, spinach, sliced white-cheddar cheese, and deli-style turkey. Spread another piece of bread with a little honey mustard. Sandwich together and brush with olive oil. Grill until cheese melts.
Greek Pasta Combine 1/2 pound cooked penne with 2 fresh chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1 tablespoon each fresh oregano and dill, and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts.
Pesto Green Beans Cook green beans for 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and toss with tomato wedges and store-bought pesto.
Easy Antipasto Arrange tomato slices in a shallow dish. Top with fresh minced garlic and balsamic vinegar.
Heirloom Tart Line a 9-inch tart pan with refrigerated piecrust and trim to fit. Cover the entire crust with aluminum foil and bake at 450 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Layer crust with provolone cheese slices, a mixture of 1/2 cup light mayo and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and overlapping slices of colorful heirloom tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 25 minutes.

Squash Recipes
Squash Recipes

Five-Star Pizzas Cut squash slices into star shapes, then saute them in oil and minced garlic for 3 minutes. Top mini crusts with sauce, cheese, and stars. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12 minutes.
Meatless Tacos Saute 1 cup cubed potatoes in oil for 8 to 10 minutes; add 2 cups cubed zucchini during the last few minutes of cooking. Stir in 1/2 cup corn, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and a dash of salt and pepper. Fill 12 heated taco shells.
Yellow Submarines Saute 1/2 cup chopped peppers in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Fill four hollow yellow squash halves. Sprinkle with more Jack cheese; bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes.
Grilled Zucchini Mix 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch each of chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Brush onto 3 zucchinis cut into quarters. Grill over medium coals for 6 minutes, turning a few times.
Squash Nuggets Dip sliced squash into Italian dressing then in a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes, or until browned.
Veggie Frittata In a 10-inch skillet, saute slices from 2 squash in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 6 eggs lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon each fresh parsley, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until set.

Corn Recipes
Corn Recipes

Very Veggie Caterpillar Remove husk and silk from corn, brush with olive oil, and grill 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, turning occasionally. Cut off both ends and slice cob into three chunks. Arrange on plate with cucumber and squash slices and grape tomatoes to form a caterpillar. Add carrot slivers for antennae.
Rainbow Salsa Mix 2 ears cooked corn sliced from the cob with a chopped nectarine, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, salt, and a dash of crushed red pepper.
Mexican Maize Remove silk from corn and grill it in its husk directly over medium coals for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Spread with light mayo blended with a dash of chili powder.
Crunchy Curry Chop half of a medium onion and saute it in canola oil. Add 3 ears of corn sliced from the cob; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 cup light coconut milk. Simmer until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Corny Relish Mix 2 ears cooked corn sliced from the cob, 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 tablespoon each olive oil and cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over 4 hot dogs.
Healthy Nachos Arrange whole-grain tortilla chips in a shallow baking pan. Top with corn kernels, canned black beans (drain them first), and shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes, or until cheese melts.

Cucumber recipes
Cucumber Recipes

Cucumber Water Cut slices of cantaloupe in the shape of a flower. Thread melon and cucumber slices on a toothpick, coffee stirrer, or skewer and put them in a glass of cold water. Garnish with mint.
Mild Gazpacho In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups each chopped cucumber, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice along with 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper, 1 tablespoon cilantro, a dash of red-wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into bowls and put a cucumber spear on the side.
Lettuce Rolls Line Bibb or romaine lettuce leaves with Havarti cheese and several thin cucumber slices. Roll up, and serve with reduced-fat ranch dressing as a dip.
Super-Cool Burgers Combine a 6-ounce container of plain low-fat yogurt, 1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the topping on grilled lamb burgers.
Guac and Roll Mash an avocado with a splash of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture on a whole-grain tortilla; top with cucumber slices, baby spinach leaves, and snow peas. Roll and slice crosswise.
Tuna-Topped Cukes Spread cucumber slices with some softened reduced-fat herb cheese. Spoon on drained canned tuna and sprinkle with a pinch of fresh dill.

Eggplant Recipe
Eggplant Recipes

Tasty Tic-Tac-Toe Peel an eggplant and cut lengthwise into sticks. Toss in a bowl with 1 egg and 1/4 cup milk, then coat with bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Arrange strips like a tic-tac-toe board and fill in with cherry-tomato halves and broccoli.
Roasted Pasta Cut an eggplant into cubes and a red onion into wedges; toss in oil and roast at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes, stirring once. Mix with 4 cups cooked pasta and 1/3 cup pesto sauce.
Confetti Rice Brush a sliced eggplant, sliced red onion, and 3 plum tomatoes cut in half with oil. Grill over medium coals for 10 minutes. Chop veggies and toss with 2 cups cooked brown rice, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice.
Rockin’ Ratatouille Saute 2 cups cubed eggplant, 1 cup cubed squash, 1 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon garlic in oil until tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked polenta.
Fun Focaccia Dip eggplant slices in flour, then in a mixture of an egg and 1/4 cup milk, and then in bread crumbs. Cook in oil on both sides for 8 minutes, turning once. Sandwich eggplant, tomatoes, and lettuce between slices of focaccia.
Veggie Volcano Season eggplant slices with salt and pepper; saute in hot oil for 8 minutes. Stack with slices of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Top with basil and drizzle red-wine vinaigrette down the sides.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Parents magazine.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

How To Find Real Food at the Supermarket!

14 Jan

Are you trying to eat healthier and better?  In my household we have been trying, and succeeding to some degree.  We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat!”  And I really do believe it!

Here are a couple things that helped & motivated us to make changes in the food we eat and what we feed our daughters: 

  • Watching the DVD Food, Inc. really opened our eyes to issues and concerns within the food industry.
  • The book series “Eat This, Not That” provided quick & easy tips that we were able to implement immediately.  Click to see my blog post on these easy to ready and super helpful books that give you better/healthier alternatives for almost anything in your pantry/kitchen/grocery store & restaurant.

So, we do buy as much organic groceries as possible (within our budget, click here to see TLC’s “10 Foods You Should Buy Organic” ), always wash our fresh fruits and veggies before eating/cooking them and shop at our local farmers market.  Let me tell you, there is such a difference in the color of the yolk of an egg from the farmers market vs. what we buy at the regular supermarket, and when we purchased pork bones at the farmers market to make soup stock, it was incredibly different vs the pork bones we’d get from the grocery store in the almost not existent “bone crud” that would foam at the top of our stock pot!

So, with all this in mind, when Darya Pino, Ph.D had her flowchart and short article published in the Huffington Post Food Twitter account, I read it and found it incredibly honest, simple and amusing…thus it inspired this blog post to share her flowchart:

Darya Pino, Ph.D

Darya Pino is a Ph.D trained scientist, San Francisco foodie and advocate of local, seasonal foods.

Posted: January 7, 2011 09:10 AM


Grocery shopping has never been more confusing than it is in 2011.

With conflicting nutrition information coming at us from all sides, navigating the supermarket can feel as impossible as doing long division while juggling loaded bear traps. It’s neither fun nor safe.

To help you find real food within the endless labyrinth of junk, I’ve put together this handy flowchart for your use and amusement. Consider it your supermarket GPS. If you ever get lost, just start back at the top.

Alternatively you can just ditch the supermarket altogether and head to the farmers market like I do.

Please feel free to share this with friends

May the food be with you.

Originally posted at Summer Tomato, where you can find more healthy eating tips.

 Follow Darya Pino, Ph.D on Twitter:


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