Archive for the ‘ Meals ’ Category

5 Things To Stop Feeling Guilty About At The Dinner Table

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

As a mom, it’s easy to spend a lot of your time feeling guilty. From the moment that little pink line appears on the pregnancy test, it seems like there’s something around every corner making you feel like a lousy mom. And food—how you feed your child, what your child eats, what your child doesn’t eat—is the granddaddy of them all. But as far as I’m concerned, you can officially cancel these five dinnertime guilt trips:

1. Uneaten vegetables: As a parent, your job is to decide what food to offer and when to offer it. Your child’s job is to decide whether to eat it (and how much to eat). That’s called the Division of Responsibility, a concept created by dietitian Ellyn Satter that makes your job a whole lot easier. It means no more negotiations, no more bribing. Just continue to offer different kinds of vegetables in different kinds of ways and be patient with your kids. (Read: Why I Don’t Make My Kids Take Just One Bite)

2. Packaged foods: There’s no shame in relying on some packaged and convenience foods to get the job done at dinner. Some of my favorites: packaged tortillas, frozen sweet potato fries, breaded fish, canned beans, jarred pasta sauce, and instant brown rice. I don’t feel guilty about it, because having these kinds of staples on hand means dinner is easier to get on the table (so I’m less likely to order a pizza or take out).

3. Ketchup and ranch dressing: Sauces and dips should be embraced at your table if your kids like them. That’s because they can actually serve as a “bridge” that helps your child to accept lots of different kinds of foods, including veggies (Read: In Defense of Ranch Dressing). And keep in mind that they’re often short-term tools (at least in the quantities kids tend to use them). In other words, your child probably won’t be dunking his asparagus into barbecue sauce when he’s a grown-up.

4. Dessert: It’s okay to serve (and love!) dessert—and yes, you can even serve it on the table with dinner! (Read: Got Dessert-Obsessed Kids? This Solution Sounds Crazy—But It Works!) And no, kids shouldn’t have to take a certain number of bites or eat their vegetables before getting it. A small scoop of ice cream or cookie at dinnertime will better fit into your family’s day if you reduce added sugars in other places (read: The Truth About Kids And Added Sugars).

5. Chaos: Not having picture-perfect family dinners where everyone shares stories of their days and uses all their table manners? (Do those even exist?) It’s okay if dinnertime is sometimes loud and messy and, let’s face it, not always enjoyable. But maintaining the ritual of family dinners is what’s important—and it will get easier.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on a cookbook for busy families called Dinnertime Survival Guide. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better
Family Dinners: 4 Tips To Make Them Better

Image: Family meal via Shutterstock

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Why Your Cell Doesn’t Belong at the Table

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Put down that phone. Dinner is one of the few times when families get a chance to step away from the chaos of work, school, and extracurricular activities and give their full attention to one another. But talking can be hard when there’s a screen between you and your children. Just 25 percent of families ban all electronic devices during suppertime, according to a survey funded by Dixie. Being absorbed by your phone can discourage face-to-face conversations and distract you from crucial bonding time.

Parenting and family expert Dr. Michele Borba says meals can be a great opportunity to let kids practice communication skills and manners, but having distractions can take away from these learning moments.

“We’re dealing with kids who would rather text than talk,” says Dr. Borba. “They’re comfortable as digital natives, but we are starting to see a slide in children’s emotional skills.”

Kids aren’t the only ones guilty of pulling out their cell phones. About 70 percent of Dixie survey respondents said parents are the family members most likely to get distracted by their phones.

“Many children are concerned that the biggest offenders are parents,” says Dr. Borba. “Children and teens say when we have dinner with family, they feel more connected.”

Family meals have benefits beyond communicating with loved ones. Eating meals together in high school was associated with better eating habits during young adulthood, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Those who ate most often with their families as teens ate more fruits and vegetables, particularly highly nutritious ones, than those who ate with their parents less often, the study found.

What’s more, eating together has been correlated with a lower chance of high-risk behavior among adolescents. The more meals 6th- through 12th-graders had with their families, the less likely they were to drink, engage in violent behavior, use drugs, and experience excessive weight loss, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Plus, those who ate five to seven times per week with their families were nearly four times more likely than their peers who had one or no family dinners to report having family support, and more than twice as likely to say they’re engaged in school and have the motivation to succeed, the survey found.

Although these studies focused on teenagers, it’s never too early to start eating more meals together. Family life will likely get busier as your kids grow up, so it’s important to make meals a habit when kids are young. It’s not just about physically sitting down together; it’s about taking the time to engage with your loved ones.

Dr. Borba joined Dixie’s Dark for Dinner movement, encouraging families to focus on mealtime and to “Be More Here.” Every Sunday, participants are asked to show their social media followers they’re disengaging by setting a Dark for Dinner image as their profile picture, then leaving their phones and electronics in another room while they eat. Once family members log back on, Dixie suggests they share a moment from their meal using the hashtag #DarkForDinner.

Removing distractions once a week is a great start, but it doesn’t have to end there. Make electronics-free meals a habit and see just how much you can get out of quality face time with your family.

Get recipes and shopping lists for easy weeknight meals.

Marissa Laliberte is an editorial intern at Parents magazine who loves running, baking, and drinking coffee. Follow her on Twitter.

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

Image: Family dinner via Shutterstock

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The Perfect Kid-Friendly Recipe for Your Graduation Party

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

If your child attends any kind of educational institution you are probably well aware that this is graduation season. From pre-schools to universities, commencement ceremonies are popping up left and right and are a ton of fun to attend if you know a graduate or two. And, of course, like any formal ceremony there is usually an informal party to attend after the event.

Since parents of the grad rarely have time to prepare an entire party from scratch while tending to their student, it’s nice to offer to bring something to the party to help out. Your offer will be gratefully accepted and you, the friend, will feel good about easing the work load of the proud parent.

When I bring something to a graduation party, or throw one of my own, I always make this delicious tortellini salad. The sharp pesto and bright tomatoes showcase the emerging flavors of the season. Plus, it is easy to make ahead and everyone loves it–most kids included. I’ve never seen any leftovers!

This recipe comes from my new cookbook, The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. In it there is a whole chapter on graduation parties in case you need more ideas for throwing your own!

Tortellini Caprese Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

24 ounces fresh cheese tortellini

½ cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

  1. Cook the tortellini according to the package instructions and drain well. Return it to the pot and stir in the pesto until the tortellini is evenly coated.
  2. Pour the tortellini into a large serving bowl and toss with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kelsey Banfield, a.k.a. The Naptime Chef, is the author of The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. In it you’ll find all sorts of edible crafts, menus for festive occasions, and tips for your family garden. Follow Kelsey on Twitter.

Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos

Young graduate image via Shutterstock
Tortellini image courtesy of Kelsey Banfield

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Big News in Fast Food! Taco Bell and Pizza Hut to Improve Menus

Friday, May 29th, 2015

TacoBellLogoTaco Bell and Pizza Hut are the latest fast food chains to announce health-positive changes are coming soon to their menus.

“Black pepper flavor” will be removed from Taco Bell’s seasoned beef, Yellow No. 6 from the nacho cheese, as well as Blue No. 1 and carmine (a bright pigment) from other menu items. High fructose corn syrup and palm oil will also be removed from their products. New recipes including these changes are currently being tested and, if all goes as planned, will be in stores nationally by the close of 2015. The company, which is owned by Yum Brands Inc., has also said it will remove artificial preservatives “where possible” by 2017.

As for Pizza Hut, they will be making changes sooner. Their menu will be free of artificial colors and flavors by the end of July.

While removing these ingredients from their food may create a “healthy glow,” decreasing portion sizes or the amount of salt and sugar the food items contain would create a more healthful outcome, according to John Coupland, professor of food science at Penn State University.

More and more food distributors and chains are realizing they need to alter their food in order to stay relevant to consumers’ desires. Kraft is nixing synthetic coloring and artificial preservatives from their original mac and cheese. And fast food chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s have also vowed to improve their kids’ meals by removing soda as a beverage option.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep

Image: Taco bell sign via Shutterstock

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9 Ways to Cope When Kids Get Choosy

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Between the ages of 2 and 3 my excellent eater started to get pickier. The baby who once vacuumed up broccoli turned into a toddler who suddenly turned up her nose at anything green.

Sound familiar?

Rest assured, this is completely normal, and chances are it’s also temporary. Here are a few tips for coping with this stressful time from my new cookbook Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Meals for Your Baby and Toddler.

First, why does this pickiness rear its ugly head at all? Around this age children are growing less quickly so their bodies don’t need as much energy, and they are naturally less hungry. Second, also around this time many children develop neophobia, or a fear of new foods. Scientists tell us this is a legacy of our caveman days when tots that ran around trying any green leaf under the sun were at risk for poisoning.

So, take comfort in the fact that this is a normal stage. Most kids become more adventurous again around age 4 or 5.

In the meantime follow these Do’s and Don’ts to make mealtime as painless as possible:

Do Eat Together: Serve yourself and your child the same meal. Let him see you enjoying all the healthy foods on your plate.

Don’t Force: Never pressure your child to try something or clear her plate or punish her if she doesn’t. This will only make mealtime more fraught and what should be a pleasant activity a battle. When your child is a little older you can consider making a family-wide “one polite bite” guideline, but not at this stage and only then if you are prepared to back off and carry on with the meal if your child refuses. Mealtime should never develop into a stand-off at the Toddler Corral.

Do Mix It Up: At each meal be sure to serve at least one thing you know your child will eat, like whole wheat bread, a fruit salad, or milk. But after that don’t cater the whole meal to a 2 year-old’s tastes. Serve a well-rounded delicious meal you’ll enjoy eating. The point here is to teach your child to eat within the family structure, not to make the rest of your family eat like a toddler.

Don’t Reward: Does your spouse give you a high five and clap his hands when you try the sweet potato salad? No. Because it’s dinner and what we do at dinner is eat. If your child tries something new don’t make a big deal out of it. Also, don’t promise your child a treat (food or otherwise) if she eats her meal. Then the act of eating will seem like an ordeal only to be tolerated to get to the “good stuff”.

Do Deconstruct It: As often as possible give your child the chance to pick and choose what she wants to eat from what’s on the table. If a hearty salad is on the menu, like this Fajita Salad from Real Baby Food, let your little one decide which ingredients will go on her plate. Even the option to sprinkle on a garnish or not is empowering.

Don’t Give Up: Your child may reject cauliflower over and over and over (and over). But, don’t stop serving it. Prepare it in different ways – roast it, mash it with cheese, puree it as a soup. Enjoy it yourself and eventually (it’s true!) he will try it again. If you stop serving foods on his no-go list, he’ll never have the chance to be adventurous when he decides he’s ready.

Do Do Your Job: And then let your child do his. Your task is to provide healthy, tasty foods at mealtime, and your child’s job is to choose what and how much to eat. Period.

Do Make it Taste Good: Which would you rather eat: plain, over-boiled broccoli or savory, crispy broccoli roasted with olive oil and sprinkled with salt? Guess which one your child is more likely to enjoy as well.

Don’t Worry: Remember your mission as a parent is to teach your child to become a healthy eater over the long-term, not to get him to eat his pork chop on a Tuesday night.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents and author of the new cookbooks Real Baby Food and Smoothie-licious. Happily, her daughter is now a more adventurous eater, but she still won’t get within a mile of asparagus. Follow Jenna on Twitter

How to Roast Right
How to Roast Right
How to Roast Right

Image courtesy of Lauren Volo

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