Archive for the ‘
Diet ’ Category
Monday, December 16th, 2013
If you’re still looking for that little something to gift a parent you love (or even yourself) to feed kids well and promote a healthy lifestyle during the holidays and beyond, look no further. The 12 items below are likely to fit the bill. They are registered dietitian-approved, and they’re just the kind of gifts that—you guessed—keep on giving! Enjoy!
A favorite new gadget that Sharon Palmer, RD loves is a mandolin vegetable slicer. She says, “I use an OXO® Handheld Flat Slicer and love it. It doesn’t take up much room in the kitchen, it’s under $15, and you can easily slice vegetables, and even create ribbon salads with it. It’s also great for when you want a large amount of vegetables thinly sliced for something like stir-fry, but you don’t feel like getting out the food processor and cleaning it again.”
Wok this way
Dana Magee, RD loves the T-fal Nonstick Jumbo Wok to make stir frys. According to Magee, “You may think this is a one-trick product, but by varying ingredients, sauces and protein-rich foods in your stir-fry you could easily use the wok once a week! Stir-frys are a great meal staple to use up any produce in your fridge that is remaining from meals throughout the week or are nearing the end of their shelf life. You can easily use the wok to stir fry use chicken, lean beef, tofu, or shrimp. Other uses include making scrambled eggs and omelets or sautéed pasta dishes.”
Go for a spin
According to McGee, “When you get a salad spinner like the Zyliss Smart Touch Salad Spinner (my favorite), you’ll wonder how you ever lived without a salad spinner! A salad spinner gives you the ease of rinsing lettuce and drying it efficiently. No more soggy salads! Drying lettuce can be a lot of work and may be deterring you from creating a host of leafy green salads that can be used for simple pairings with lunch or dinner or stand-alone entrees with some lean protein foods. I like to wash a head of lettuce in the beginning of the week and store in a gallon sized Ziploc® bag in the fridge for easy access (eg to add to salads). Other uses for the salad spinner include drying kale or fresh basil leaves, or using the spinner as a colander to rinse grapes to name a few!”
Do a freeze dance
Registered dietitian nutritionist Kate Myerson recommends re-purposing ice cube trays to freeze a batch of rice, quinoa, beans, or lentils. “When you need to throw a quick meal together, grab a few cubes and add to any meal. You can even microwave individual portions as a quick side so everyone gets what they want,” she says. Myerson’s trays of choice are the No-Spill Ice Cube Trays by OXO® that have tops for freezing and storing multiple batches.
Get the dish
Registered dietitian nutritionist Catherine Hains loves Fresh Baby My Plate Dinnerware Sets for kids. Each colorful plate contains 4 divided sections that are appropriately sized for fruit, vegetables, protein foods and grains. According to Haines, “The plates make learning how to eat nutritiously educational and fun! And they’re not just for toddlers…even my 11-year-old likes them.”
Julie Swift, MPH, RDN, CDE loves the Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Straw Bottle (10-ounce). She says, “This straw cup is great because it keeps beverages cold for about 8 hours. It also won’t leak while closed, which is a big plus.”
Read ‘em (without weeping)
To help parents raise healthy eaters and help their kids develop a healthy relationship with food, registered dietitian Michaela Ballmann recommends an all-time RD-favorite book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook by Ellyn Satter. As noted in the book’s description, “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family demonstrates Satter’s dictum that “your positive feelings about food and eating will do more for your health than adhering to a set of rules about what to eat and what not to eat.” Amen to that!
Registered dietitian Melinda Hemmelgarn highly recommends Sylvia’s Spinach by Katherine Pryor. According to Hemmelgarn, “Sylvia’s Spinach is about a little girl who doesn’t like to eat spinach until (of course) she plants her own in a school garden. The book made me both laugh and cry, and this is a book for kids! And the illustrations really make the story come to life.” Hemmelgarm also recommends several books by registered dietitian Connie Evers including Nutrition Fun with Broc & Roll. “It’s great for parents and teachers alike,” she says. (I personally love all of Evers’ work and recommend checking out her fantastic website, Nutrition for Kids.)
Feel the pressure
Last year, registered dietitian Hope Warshaw received a Fagor Pressure Cooker as a holiday gift to help her realize her healthy eating goal of both eating/feeding more beans and using all dry beans as our source of beans. She stays inspired and motivated to use it (as does another dietitian, Tammy Sakanashi) by using a book by Jill Nussinow called The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Book. According to Sakanashi, “This book introduced me to pressure cooking…and I love it! Our family has been eating so many more legumes now that I can make them so quickly. I’ve even mastered using the pressure cooker on our electric stove. I especially love the white bean soup recipe—and have already made it twice!”
Use a kit to get fit
I’d be remiss to not mention at least one item for your holiday gift list to keep your family fit! FitKit is a great fitness find for families. This all-in-one fitness solution is portable and easily fits into your overnight bag or suitcase for your family’s weekend getaway or extended vacation. Each FitKit includes exercise bands, a jump rope and a pedometer—all the tools needed for a complete full-body workout parents and their older kids (aged 5 and up) can enjoy. The website also provides a 250+ exercise library for strength, cardio and flexibility.
Download our guide for Baby’s first solid foods and finger food recipes. Then, learn how to make homemade baby food!
Image of many colorful gift boxes with ribbon bows via shutterstock.
Choose a Baby Food Maker
Full disclosure: I received a FitKit from it’s co-creator, Amie Hoff, several months ago with no promise of a review or mention. I received no other products or goods or financial compensation for mentioning any of the products in this post. Happy holidays!
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Diet, Fitness, Health, Meals, Must Read, Nutrition
Saturday, December 14th, 2013
By now, you’ve likely heard that Beyonce is on a well-publicized diet ride with her husband, Jay Z. On December 3rd, the power couple embarked on a 22-day vegan diet. They’re not alone. Other celebrities who have been reported to follow a purely plant-based diet include Natalie Portman, Ellen Degeneres and Alicia Silverstone. But just because the stars seem to be aligning to ban meat, fish, dairy and eggs from their diets, does that mean you and your family should as well?
Although a healthy, well-balanced diet can certainly include both plant and animal foods, there’s burgeoning evidence that following a vegetarian diet—even a vegan diet that is rich in plant foods and excludes eggs, dairy and other animal products—has some appealing perks. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), vegetarian diets are associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. And just this week, a new (albeit small) study published in Nature suggests that switching from vegetarianism to meat-eating, or meat-eating to vegetarianism changed the number and kinds of gut bacteria and how it behaved within one day of making the switch. Researchers aren’t sure what these changes mean for human health. But, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), gut bacteria are thought to play a role in digestion, immunity and possibly even body weight.
According to AND, vegetarian diets tend to be lower in nutrients we should limit in the diet—these include saturated fat and cholesterol. They also tend to pack in more fiber (many fall short on this) and vitamins and minerals including magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and several important plant chemicals.
But along with the perks of eating only plant foods come a few possible perils. According to AND, those who follow vegan or vegetarian diets may also have lower intakes vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. That’s no surprise since these nutrients are found abundantly in animal foods—the foods excluded from vegan diets. Here are some plant foods that are good sources of vitamin B-12, calcium, vitamin D and zinc:
Vitamin B-12: fortified soy and rice beverages, ready-to-eat fortified cereals and meat analogs
Calcium: bok choy, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, calcium-fortified orange juice, calcium-set tofu, fortified soy milk, fortified rice milk, fortified ready-to-eat cereal, soybeans, cowpeas, white beans, navy beans, instant oatmeal, English muffins and white rice
Vitamin D: fortified soy milk, fortified rice milk and fortified ready-to-eat cereal
Zinc: fortified ready-to-eat cereals, oats, soybeans, white beans, tomato products, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, barley, chickpeas, lima beans, navy beans, potatoes, peas, mushrooms, sweet potato and collards
According to Sharon Palmer, MS, RD, author of The Plant-Powered Diet, vegans and vegetarians (unless they eat eggs) get essentially no long-chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA). She says, “We do know that you can convert omega-3 fatty acids from plants (ALA) to the more potent kinds found in fish (EPA and DHA) at modest levels, so it’s good for kids to consume ALA-rich plant foods such as walnuts, flax, soy, chia and hemp. But that might not be enough to support all of the important functions that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, have in the body.” Although Palmer says there’s not enough research to give us really firm guidelines on intake of EPA and DHA during childhood, she feels it’s prudent, based on current evidence, for children to take small amounts of vegetarian EPA/DHA supplements, about 200 mg of DHA/EPA every 2 – 3 days.
In her article, Feeding Vegetarian and Vegan Infants and Toddlers, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD points out that iron, protein and fiber are a few other nutrients to pay attention in infants who follow vegan diets. She says although infants are born with enough iron stores to last 4 to 6 months, after that they need iron from iron-fortified cereals or supplements. According to Hayes, because infants can only meet their protein needs with breast milk or formula for about 8 months, after that time they need to derive additional protein from beans, cereals and fortified soy milks. To meet fiber needs, Hayes suggests frequent meals and snacks that include some refined grains like fortified cereals, breads and pasta, and higher-fat plant foods like avocado and sunflower butter.
Besides the risk of not meeting nutrient needs, following a vegan diet can make eating a bit of a challenge for kids when they’re at school, at friends’ homes, at camp or when eating out. It can also be a challenge for children who are more “picky” with food choices and don’t try, accept or enjoy a wide variety of plant foods.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and AND concur that a well-planned vegan diet can be a healthy diet that provides all the nutrients kids need to meet their needs to grow and develop. But because foods and food groups like dairy foods, lean meats and poultry, fish and eggs are excluded from the diet, parents who want to fed their kids a vegan diet will need to make sure it provides enough calories and nutrients to meet their needs for growth and development. Seeing a registered dietitian nutritionist well versed in vegan diets is a great place to start to get science-based and practical guidelines.
Whether or not you think a vegan diet is too restrictive or you simply have no interest in eliminating animal foods from your family’s diet, including more plant foods in the daily diet is likely a wise dietary strategy for parents and children alike. It’s a good idea especially for those children (and parents) who fall short of current recommended intakes for nutrient-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas). To help you work more plant foods into your diet, check out How to Help Vegetarian (and All) Children Eat Their Vegetables. You can also visit Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and Tips for Vegetarians.
Would you ever try a vegan or vegetarian diet?
Download our guide for Baby’s first solid foods and finger food recipes. Then check out these no-fail snack foods for kids (and parents).
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Image of white dinner plate with different healthy vegetables via shutterstock.
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Saturday, December 7th, 2013
This is a guest post from Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™
More and more families are now beginning to turn to plants, rather than the typical beef, poultry, fish, or pork options when choosing “what’s for dinner.” This is certainly a step in the right direction for the health of our children. In a nation-wide poll conducted among 2,030 adults in U.S., it was found that 47 percent of the population eats vegetarian meals a significant amount of the time.
But, one area where even vegetarians can fall short is getting enough veggies every day. As a plant-lover and plant-based advocate, it makes me sad to say that children and their parents are crowding out health-promoting, energy boosting vegetables to make room for overly-processed snack foods and soy-based meat substitutes on our dinner plates. Only 26 percent of adults eat a full serving of vegetables three or more times a day. That’s a pretty alarming statistic for a food group so well touted for such powerful disease fighting properties – especially considering that children lead by the example of their parents. And the studies prove it. According to a 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State University, only 22 percent of children between the ages of 2 to 5 years meet government recommendations for veggie intake.
In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture advises that half–yes, half–of your child’s plate be filled with fruits and/or vegetables at each meal. This certainly leaves less room for the overly processed microwavable meals that tend to crowd their dinner plates. Keep in mind that the “whole” point of a plant-based diet is to reap the nutrition rewards of whole foods. So, load your child’s plate with veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and simply pass on the faux, overly processed chicken nugget.
Here are 5 plant-friendly and kid-friendly ways to prove that eating vegetables is not only easier than you may think, it’s also delicious, and even fun!
1. Breakfast is an easy one. Pass on the sugary breakfast cereals, frosted breakfast pastries, and overly sweetened “fruit” punch. Instead, mix onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers into a morning veggie omelet or breakfast pita, prepare a homemade black bean burrito with salsa and avocado, or toss in a few handfuls of spinach into your little one’s morning fruit smoothie. The options to go “veggie” for the first meal of the day are endless.
2. Stock your fridge. Store pre-cut veggies in your fridge. Many vegetables are nature’s perfect finger foods –and when paired with hummus (see my recipe here), guacamole, or even a peanut butter yogurt dip, they make for a naturally delicious, filling and convenient snack.
3. Experiment. Make it a habit with your kids to experiment with one new vegetable each week. It could be as simple as baking sweet potato fries, roasting Brussels sprouts, or as bold as stuffing a winter squash with whole grains, herbs and chopped nuts.
4. Change the plate. Rather than centering your child’s meal on the protein component, focus on the veggie first. Load up their plate each night with two different kinds of vegetables. If you prepare more vegetables, everyone at the table will be more likely to eat them.
5. Transform your family favorites. Do your kids love pizza? Load up on the veggie toppings, such as arugula, tons of marinara sauce, or even broccoli. Is spaghetti night a hit in your household? Add spinach or mushrooms to your homemade tomato sauce. And move over plain ol’ macaroni and cheese. Add peas, cauliflower, or even kale to your favorite recipe.
How do you encourage your kids to eat their vegetables?
Check out our food guide full of nutritious recipes and fun tips! Then see the 20 fail-proof snacks that kids love.
Image of mother teaching daughter to cut cucumber via shutterstock.
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Sesame Street Lessons: Advice for Picky Eaters
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in the incidence of type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), type 2 diabetes begins when the body becomes insulin resistant and can no longer use insulin properly. As insulin needs rise, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar.
Although type 2 diabetes is caused by a variety of factors, having a family history of type 2 diabetes, being obese, and being inactive put children and adolescents at increased risk for what used to be thought of as an adult disease. Although diabetes can strike anyone, those who belong to non-white groups—especially American Indians—are at greatest risk.
Because type 2 diabetes may present with few, if any, symptoms, it may go undiagnosed in children. But if your child experiences increased hunger, thirst, or urination, weight loss, fatigue or other unusual symptoms, it’s worth a visit to the pediatrician to discuss these and get to their root.
To help your child ward off diabetes—and eat and live better—here are 5 tips from two pros—Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies® and Hillary Wright, MEd, RD, author of the new book, The Prediabetes Diet Plan.
1. Eat at home. According to Smithson, “Fast food equals more calories and fat, less fiber and nutrition. Eating at home offers opportunities to teach kids about cooking and also offers great communication opportunities.” Wright adds, “Sharing healthy meals as a family is critical to balancing out the non-stop messaging kids are exposed to outside the home encouraging them to buy junk food and eat on-the-fly. Kids learn by example, so demonstrating what healthy eating looks like while they’re living under your roof is a critical self-care skill they’ll need for life.”
2. Snack smarter. When it’s after-school snack time, Wright urges parents to offer their kids a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese sticks instead refined crackers or nutrient-poor packaged snack foods. She says, “Hungry kids may be more willing to try something new, so take the after-school time to introduce new foods to your kids since they may be more receptive to them then.”
3. Plan it, buy it. Encouraging your child to plan a meal (like dinner), write a grocery list for the items needed and then selecting those items when at the grocery store can be very empowering for children, says Smithson. She adds, “Giving them a say in what’s served, and in what new foods they (or the family) should try may make it more likely that they’ll take a taste when dinner time comes around.”
4. Help them read between the lines. Smithson says it’s key to teach kids, even from a young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)
5. Play Actively. Wright says it’s key to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can). She says, “Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and prevent diabetes.” Smithson agrees, and encourages kids not only to increase play time, but to make sure it’s active play. She says, “By increasing play time, kids are more apt to be physically active which will help balance their energy needs.” For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids—and entire family—stay fit, check out Making Physical Activity a Part of Your Child’s Life by the CDC and Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).
NEXT: Find out if your child’s growth is on track.
Image of woman at the supermarket with her son buying groceries via shutterstock.
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Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Artificial trans fats—fats that are created during hydrogenation (a process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid)—are once again making headlines. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration announced today that it no longer considers partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)—the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food—to be safe. They came to this conclusion citing a link between trans fat intake and an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
Previous public health concerns about trans fats led the FDA to propose in 1999 that manufacturers be required to list trans fats on Nutrition Facts labels. Seven years later, that requirement became effective, though many food companies had stepped up to remove trans fats prior to then—a move that many consumers (including my dad who once even made his own t-shirt that said NO TRANS FATS on it to taunt his dietitian daughter) appreciated. In their announcement, the FDA also cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimation that taking steps to reduce trans fat in the food supply even more can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.
According to the FDA announcement, if their preliminary determination that PHOs are no longer “generally recognized as safe” is finalized, PHOs will become food additives and would require premarket approval by the FDA. Foods containing unapproved food additives would then be considered adulterated and could not be legally sold.
Hailed by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest as “a major step in protecting consumers from artificial trans fat, a potent cause of heart disease,” the FDA announcement is likely to send food manufacturers who haven’t already done so to remove trans fats from their product lines.
Although fat has important functions in the body—it helps insulate and cushion your vital organs, and carries around important vitamins (including vitamins A, D, E and K) so that they can be better absorbed and used by the body—too much can contribute to excess calorie intake and promote heart and other diseases. While eventual removal of unhealthy trans fats from the marketplace can be a step in the right direction, here are 5 tips to help you and your kids be more fit when it comes to your fat intake right now:
1. Follow the rules. According to current dietary guidelines for Americans, children and adults aged 2 and older should aim for no more than 20 to 35% of their total calories from fat. For a child who consumes 1,400 calories daily, that’s about 31 to 54 grams. For an adult who consumes 2,000 calories daily, that’s about 44 to 78 grams.
2. Emphasize healthful fats. Use olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils that are rich in monounsaturated fat to make popcorn* or to otherwise cook with; add avocado to salads or sandwiches or use it to make a dip for vegetables or whole grain crackers; and have nuts* and seeds* as part of a snack (with dried fruit and whole grain cereal, for example) or add them to oatmeal or low fat yogurt.
3. Skim the fat. Too much saturated and trans fats can increase heart disease risk—especially if that means you’re consuming more total calories than you need for growth (in the case of children) or weight management (in the case of adults). To limit total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, choose low- or non-fat dairy foods, lean meats, skinless white meat poultry, and fish prepared in healthful ways (rather than battered and/or fried). Limit or avoid fried potatoes and other fried foods (choose roasting or baking instead). Limit portions and the frequency with which you eat high fat foods (fatty meats, margarine, fatty snack foods like chips and popcorn, and baked goods like cookies and cakes). Eating out less often and choosing appetizer-size portions or meals from so-called healthier menus can also save you some fat and calories.
4. Become label savvy. Learn to read Nutrition Facts Panels and ingredients lists on food labels. A food that’s low in fat has 3 grams or less per serving; a food that’s low in saturated fat has 1 gram or less per serving; and a food that’s really free of trans fat free has 0 grams listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel AND does not list any “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredients list.
5. Buyer beware. Just because a food does not have trans fats does not mean it’s low in fat or that it’s healthy. That’s why it’s important to read between the lines, especially when purchasing packaged and processed foods. If it’s hard for you and your kids to identify which food group an item comes in (as an example, think of your favorite donuts or cookies), it’s likely this food should be thought of as an occasional or once-in-a-while treat rather than a dietary staple.
*These foods are choking hazards for children under age 5.
Check out the 20 Best Snacks for Kids (and parents), then download our Homemade Baby Food Guide to make meals for her at home.
Image of chocolate chip cookies via shutterstock.
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