Archive for the ‘ Meals ’ Category

5 Tips to Celebrate Food Day

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

This guest post by my esteemed colleague, Sharon Palmer, RD, is sure to inspire you. Known as The Plant-Powered Dietitian™, Palmer is the author of Plant-Powered for Life and The Plant-Powered Diet. Below she discusses Food Day, and shows you how to incorporate some of its principles into your family’s diet each and every day.

“Where does this apple come from?” “What’s in the casserole?” The next time your kids ask you a question about food, embrace their natural curiosity. It’s not too early for all parents to give them a life-changing education about their food supply. And now is the perfect time to embrace your child’s inquisitive side, because Food Day is coming on Friday, October 24th.

What’s Food Day? It’s a national celebration of real, sustainable food in America. It’s a day to get involved in your food system by changing the way you eat for the better. After all, the typical American diet is linked with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental degradation.

Every October 24th, thousands of events around the country help inspire all of us to kick-start a diet that’s good for our families, farm animals, and the environment. Check out the Food Day website to find an event in your own area. From farm tours to cooking classes, many events are perfect for family entertainment. And best of all, Food Day is a great way to get your family on track to eating better for the whole year.

In honor of Food Day, here are my 5 top tips to help you shift your family’s plate to real, sustainable food to promote optimal health and so much more:

1.    Swap animal foods for plant foods more often. You can benefit your family’s health—and the health of the planet—by serving up more meatless meals during the week. For example, you can serve veggie lasagna instead of meat lasagna, bean burritos instead of beef burritos, and an almond milk smoothie instead of an ice cream smoothie.

2.    Eat with the seasons. Try to avoid fresh produce flown in from across the world in the off-season. Instead enjoy what’s fresh, seasonal and local in your area. This time of the year enjoy winter squashes; root or tuber vegetables like turnips, potatoes, and beets; apples, pears, and citrus.

3.    Check out your local farmers market or CSA. Depending on your location, farmers markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture) offer fresh, seasonal, sustainably produced fruits and veggies throughout much of the year. It’s a perfect way for your kids to taste and experience new kinds of produce that will inspire good health.

4.    Plan a garden. Let Food Day inspire you to plan a family garden—that can be anything from an herb pot in your windowsill, a tomato plant on the doorstep, or a section of your flowerbed devoted to edible plants. Get your kids involved by picking out seeds, growing vegetables, monitoring its progress, and harvesting the food. After all, if they grow it, they will eat it.

5.    Cut down on highly processed foods. When you eat foods as close to nature as you can—a peach, carrot or bowl of brown rice—you gain all of the health benefits from the whole food. But when foods are highly processed—made into chips, cookies, sugary drinks—you waste added resources to process the foods and rob your body of the nutrients it needs. Give your kids the benefit of whole, minimally processed foods every day.

How do you help your family eat more real and sustainable food?

Image of vegetables at a farmer’s market via shutterstock.

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Do Your Kids Really Need to Eat Breakfast?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Do Your Kids Really Need to Eat Breakfast?

This is a guest post by Parents staffer Michela Tindera.

We’ve all heard it before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But in the mad dash of school day mornings–making sure everyone is awake, dressed and on the school bus or in the car on time–completing all of that and providing a well-balanced breakfast can be a challenge worthy of an Olympic medal.

So, when a recent New York Times blog post asked the question, “Is Breakfast Overrated?”, many rejoiced to find that two studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reached the conclusion that, well, maybe breakfast isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

But what about all of that research that says the opposite (“Skipping breakfast may increase coronary heart disease risk,” “Children who skip breakfast might raise diabetes risk”)? To settle the issue, we asked a couple of registered dieticians (and moms!) to find out just how this info applies to you and your family.

“It is too early to say that we should stop eating breakfast,” Natalia Stasenko, R.D. and mom says.

Both studies only evaluated the role breakfast played in adults’ weight loss and energy goals, not children’s. And Stasenko adds, kids have an entirely different set of nutritional needs that breakfast can help to fulfill.

Cereal for Breakfast: A Good or Bad Idea for Kids? 

“Sometimes we like to take research on adults and apply it to children, but that doesn’t really work,” Jill Castle R.D., mom and author of Fearless Feeding – How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School says. “There is a lot of research out there on the benefits of breakfast for children.” Breakfast helps kids pay better attention in school and is another chance for kids to consume key nutrients they need to grow, like calcium and complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.

“Kids aren’t like adults,” Castle explains. “They’re not able to tell themselves that they can hold off to eat until after school. It affects their behaviors. They just get tired and can’t focus. And for a child in school, that’s one of the worst things that could happen. Adults have this mind over matter thing that kids don’t have.”

Try out these 20 school-day breakfast recipes.

Stasenko also mentions that because children typically sleep for longer amounts of time compared to adults, they are technically fasting for longer, and so breakfast could be more important on that end too.

So keep giving your kids breakfast. And to make it even more effective, Castle and Stasenko share a few of rules of thumb:

  • Always include a source of protein. “Eggs, yogurt, milk, deli meat – whatever your kids like best,” Castle says.
  • Skip the baked goods. “I cannot think of any disadvantages of a balanced and nutritious breakfast. But eating croissants with butter every morning worth 700 calories can compromise quality of diet, so what you eat for breakfast is very important,” Stasenko says.
  • Avoid serving the same breakfast back-to-back. “Always rotate the meals. An egg-based breakfast on Monday, fruit and yogurt-based breakfast on Tuesday,” Castle says.

Need some more inspiration? Give some of our quickest and easiest breakfast recipes a try!

Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids
Healthy Breakfast: 3 Quick Meals for Kids

Photo of girl eating breakfast courtesy of Shutterstock.

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You Won’t Believe How Many Children Go Hungry In America

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

This is a guest post by Parents staffer Brooke BunceKids' empty lunchbox

Think back to the last time your child bellowed those oft-heard words, “I’m HUN-gry!” and how you reacted. You probably went to your fridge and reached for a piece of fresh fruit, baby carrots, or a cheese stick, or plunged your hand into the depths of the cupboard to find a snack (hey, we all do it!) to tide her over until the next meal.

But for some kids, “I’m hungry” isn’t just a tiny daily annoyance, but a persistent part of every hour of every day. The sad truth of the matter is that more kids go hungry in the United States than we would like to believe.

According to a 2012 United States Department of Agriculture report, 15.8 million children under 18 in the U.S. “lived in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary to a healthy life.” Not having access to food is detrimental to any person, but children are especially vulnerable. Hunger affects children’s academic performance, their social well-being, and their overall health, among other things.

A recent comprehensive study about the state of hunger in this country was released by the hunger relief charity Feeding America, which revealed that 1 in 7 Americans turn to the Feeding America network for nutritional assistance. That’s over 46 million Americans, and 12 million children—an alarming number that continues to grow.

Many families struggling to feed themselves must make difficult financial decisions. Feeding America reports that 34 percent of the people it serves must choose between spending money on food or transportation. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed had to choose between paying for housing for a month or paying to feed their family. When faced with such tough decisions, it’s easy to see why food banks continue to be strapped for donations.

The award-winning documentary A Place At The Table examines childhood hunger on a more personal scale. Through the stories of three different Americans, one mother and two children, different aspects and effects of hunger are hashed out. One of the major sticking points is that unhealthy food—which struggling families turn to first for its convenience and affordability—is taking its toll on the health of children. The film wagers that health issues caused by the lack of nutritious foods costs the U.S. $167 billion per year, a devastating amount of money that rises each year as childhood obesity rates shoot through the roof.

The reasons for hunger are complex and varied, but finding a solution doesn’t have to be. Small steps can make huge impacts. For one, Walmart has launched a new campaign committed to hunger relief in the U.S. The superchain is teaming up with General Mills, Unilever, Hormel, ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo/Quaker and Kellogg Company to help fund local food banks across the country. Visit through October 5 to vote for your local food bank or participating assistance agency. Fifty winning banks will receive grants for $60,000 each. You can also find out more about volunteering at a food bank near you during the approaching holiday season.

Now when your child complains of those routine hunger pangs, know that you can help them and the rest of the children across America searching for their next meal.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Photo of lunchbox via Shutterstock.

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Creating a Slim-By-Design Kitchen

Monday, September 29th, 2014

According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of the new book, Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions For Everyday Life, slim-by-design homes start with the grocery store. He says, “What you buy determines what you eat at home.” But before you even set foot in a grocery store, Wansink says it’s vital to do a few things to set your home up to help you and your children easily eat better without even thinking about it.

For starters, Wansink urges families to take steps to make their kitchens less of a place to hang out for extended periods of time. That’s a smart idea, because if you think about it, the kitchen probably is the most popular hub in the home. And too much time in it can make it more likely you and your children eat more than you plan to or more than your bodies need. So for starters, Wansink suggests moving comfortable chairs and television sets out of the kitchen. “Removing some kitchen comforts helps people spend less time—18 minutes less, on average—in the kitchen. And they tend to snack less,” he says.

In Slim By Design, Wansink also recommends giving your kitchen a 15-minute makeover and to make healthier foods really convenient and the so-called junk foods that provide just a little more temptation than most of us need more difficult to find. He suggests the following six tips:

*Clear the counters of any food other than a bowl of fruit;

*Put the healthiest foods out front and center in your cupboards and pantry;

*Put cut fruits and vegetables in plastic bags on the eye-level shelf of your refrigerator—this encourages people to consume up to three times more produce than if they’re in a crisper drawer;

*Wrap indulgent leftovers in aluminum foil or put them in opaque containers—  “Aluminum foil and opaque containers don’t stimulate cravings in anyone,” Wansink says;

*Have a separate, hard-to-reach snack cupboard with a child-proof lock to remind the whole family to think before they mindlessly reach for snacks, especially nutrient-poor ones—snacks can be in a more reachable location for younger kids, but they shouldn’t be so visible such as on a kitchen counter;

*Make it easier and more convenient to cook healthy food by keeping your countertop clear and cutting boards handy, having a well-stocked pantry filled with lots of basics, and having available a range of fresh ingredients.

Wansink also thinks it’s key to “fat-proof” your dinner using the following strategies:

*Using 9- to 10-inch dinner plates for adults, and smaller sized plates like salad plates for kids to match their smaller sizes;

*Pre-plating food from the store or from your countertop rather than serving food family style—According to Wansink, people eat on average 19% less when they serve themselves food right off the stove or off the countertop than from food in front of them at the table;

*Using tall or small glasses or half-filled sippy cups (for little kids) for any beverages that aren’t water;

*Using smaller bowls to serve food and tablespoons as serving spoons;

*Using the Half-Plate Rule—make half your plate fruits or vegetables (e.g. salad) and half whatever else you want to help you eat healthy food without feeling deprived.

Finally, Wansink also suggests never putting more than two foods on your plate at once. People who follow this strategy eat an average of 30% less than when they put more foods on their plate.

Slim By Design provides tons of practical and useful tips to help you and your family seamlessly improve your eating habits and make better food choices whether you’re at home, at the grocery store, at a restaurant, at work, or at school. And with his bestselling book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, and more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles to his credit, Wansink has really done his homework to help families everywhere eat better no matter where they are and even enlist the help of restaurants, grocery stores, and school to support their efforts.

To see whether your kitchen helps keep you slim or sabotages you, check out the Slim By DesignTM Starter Scorecard here. And for more information about the book and the movement, check out the Slim By DesignTM website.

How do you set up a healthy kitchen and home?

Image of Brian Wansink via Jason Koski, Cornell News Bureau.



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100 Days of Real Food Slow-Cooker Recipe

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

100 Days of Real FoodThis is a guest post by Lisa Leake, author of 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love! and founder of the blog 100 Days of Real Food.

When our family decided to cut out all highly processed food back in 2010 there’s one thing I learned fairly quickly: planning ahead is key. You don’t want to be caught at dinnertime with hungry, cranky kids and no idea what you’re going to feed them. So with weeknights now ruled by sports and other activities, it’s more important than ever to map out an easy and realistic dinner plan.

That’s exactly why I included a special section in my new cookbook dedicated to quick “Weeknight Meals.” We are a busy family too – I totally get it. And some of the recipes in that section utilize one of the best tools I’ve found when it comes to quickly getting a wholesome dinner on the table: a slow cooker.

 Find recipes for our favorite slow-cooker soups, stews, and chilies. 

I use my slow cooker to make everything from whole chickens (see recipe below) to homemade broth (that cooks overnight while we’re sleeping) to steak fajitas to hearty soups and even homemade refried beans. There’s nothing better than getting all the prep work out of the way early in the morning (or even the night before) and coming home to the smell of a delicious dinner!

So today, I’d love to share a fan favorite …The Best Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker! If you’ve never cooked a whole chicken before this is the perfect place to start. It’s not only cost-effective, but super easy and so delicious.

100 Days of Real Food Lisa Leake

Carrie Vitt

The Best Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker 
From 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love 


  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 1 large whole chicken (about 4 pounds), giblets removed
  1. Combine all the spices in a small bowl and set aside. Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Rub the spice mixture all over the outside of the chicken. You can even put some of the spices inside the cavity and under the skin covering the breasts. Place the chicken breast-side down on top of the onions and cover the slow cooker. (There’s no need to add any liquid.)
  3. Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for 7 hours, or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken pieces from the slow cooker and serve.
  4. When dinner is over, don’t forget to save the leftover bones and juices to make homemade stock overnight!

Makes 5-6 servings, depending on the size of the chicken.

Get more chicken recipes for the slow cooker!

Cooking How-To: Cutting Up a Chicken
Cooking How-To: Cutting Up a Chicken
Cooking How-To: Cutting Up a Chicken

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