Archive for the ‘ Meals ’ Category

Greek Yogurt Recipes Your Kids Will Love

Monday, November 10th, 2014

If you’re looking from some new, healthy, kid-friendly recipe ideas using the ever-popular Greek yogurt, you’ll enjoy this guest post by registered dietitian Toby Amidor. A mother of three, she’s the author of the terrific new cookbook, The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. Read on to learn about the nutritional perks of this versatile, easy to use food and to find a few of Amidor’s delicious recipes to incorporate it into family meals your kids are sure to love.  

After writing an entire cookbook on Greek yogurt, my nine-year-old daughter is now obsessed with the high protein dairy delight. She was my avid taste tester for many of the recipes and now I seem to be preparing her favorites on demand! But if you think Greek yogurt is just a snack, think again. There are many other ways to enjoy it.

The Nutritional Benefits

Greek yogurt is less watery than traditional yogurt because it is strained to remove the whey. This results in a yogurt that has a thick, creamy consistency and rich flavor. Greek yogurt also has about 40% less sugar, 38% less sodium, twice the amount of protein, and less lactose than traditional yogurt. It also contains live and active cultures, many of which act as probiotics.

Incorporating Greek yogurt into your child’s healthy eating plan can help them meet the USDA’s recommendations to have 3 daily servings of dairy each day.

Oh, the Versatility

There are so many kid-friendly ways to enjoy Greek yogurt that go beyond the yogurt cup.

Blend It

Kids love smoothies, but oftentimes they don’t know how healthy the ingredients in their smoothie really are! Greek yogurt not only adds a ton of good-for-you nutrients, it also adds frothiness and a thicker texture kid’s adore.

Mama’s Berry Smoothie

Serves 1

Prep time: 5 minutes


1 ½ medium bananas, peeled and frozen

½ cup frozen raspberries

½ cup frozen blueberries

1 cup fresh whole strawberries

½ cup nonfat milk

¼ cup nonfat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons honey


Place ingredients in blender; blend until smooth.


Serving size: 6-fluid ounces


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 0 grams; Saturated Fat: 0 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Carbohydrates: 27 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 23 milligrams


Dip It

A 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that kids were more likely to eat their vegetables when they dipped them first. The study looked at pre-school aged children who told researchers that they enjoyed eating their veggies when paired with a favorite flavored dip compared to eating a veggie without a dip or with a plain dip. The results found that 31-percent of kids liked a veggie alone compared with 64% who liked a veggie when it was served with their favorite dip.

Researchers from the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University conducted a second experiment where they found that kids ate significantly more of a veggie they disliked or previously rejected when it was offered with a favorite reduced-fat herb dip compared to when it was offered without any dip.

Greek yogurt makes a delicious base for many dips, including my Mango Guacamole.


Mango Guacamole*

Serves 8

Prep time: 20 minutes


2 Haas avocados

Juice of 1 lime

1 serrano chile

1 clove garlic

½ medium red onion

½ medium red bell pepper, seeded

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 mango, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice


Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh and place it in a medium bowl. Add the lime juice.

Halve the serrano chile lengthwise. Discard the seeds and cut the chile into 1/8-inch dice. Mince the garlic. Peel and finely dice the red onion. Slice the bell pepper in half, discard the seeds, and cut into ¼-inch dice. Add the chile, garlic, red onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, yogurt, salt, and black pepper to the avocado in the bowl, and stir to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut the avocado into a small dice. Gently stir the mango, and serve.


Serving size: ½ cup


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 116; Total Fat: 8 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 3 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 12 grams; Sugars: 6 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 154 milligrams


Bake It

Better-for-you cookies, brownies, and muffins? Yes, it’s possible! Greek yogurt is a healthy substitute for butter found in most baking recipes. For each stick of butter a recipe calls for, use two tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt and ½ stick of butter instead.


Trail Mix Cookies*

Makes 40 cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes


Cooking spray

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

¼ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup seedless golden raisins

1/3 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds


Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and yogurt. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated, and then add the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture is light brown and thoroughly combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, folding gently until combined. Using one ingredient at a time, fold in the oats, raisins, and sunflower seeds.

Scoop up 1 heaping tablespoon of the dough and drop it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake until the cookies are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling for at least 10 minutes before serving.


Serving size: 1 cookie


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 97; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 2 grams; Total Carbohydrates: 16 grams; Sugars: 10 grams; Fiber: 1 gram; Cholesterol: 15 milligrams; Sodium: 45 milligrams


*Recipes from “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen” by Toby Amidor. Copyright © 2014 by Toby Amidor. Used with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.


What is your favorite way to infuse Greek yogurt into meals?

Image of strawberry banana smoothie via shutterstock. 

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How Melissa d’Arabian Will Make Your Kid Love Vegetables

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

This is a guest post by Parents staffer Brooke Bunce.

As Melissa d’Arabian, host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners, preps a row of different dishes for an ogling panel of onlookers (myself included), she whips out information and facts about vegetables faster than you can say “picky eater.”

“Only 28 percent of dinners have vegetables in them,” she explains while shaking a sizzling skillet of orange chicken. This statistic came as a bit of a shock to me, until I tried racking my brain for the last time I had a dinner that contained an abundance of veggies. Do the onions and garlic in pasta sauce count? I wondered ruefully.

Melissa, the winner of the fifth season of Food Network Star and a mother of four daughters from ages 7 to 9, is a resident expert when it comes to getting kids to try new foods. Along with her web series, The Picky Eaters Project, Melissa has also teamed up with Bird’s Eye Vegetables for the Step Up To The Plate campaign, a movement to push kids (and parents) to incorporate more veggies into their daily diet.

According to a report from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 out of 10 children don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables. And we all know how tough it can be to make a plate of steamed carrots and cauliflower look appealing to kids, the toughest food critics of all. Sometimes pretending those broccoli florets are “trees” just doesn’t cut it.

So what’s the solution? Melissa is equipped with a full set of straightforward strategies and tricks to ease your child into unfamiliar veggie territory.

Add the familiar to the unfamiliar

To round out her plate of orange chicken, Melissa used a bag of stir-fry veggie mix, which contains veggies that her kids know and love, such as carrots and peas, to introduce other, more unfamiliar choices too, like water chestnuts and mushrooms.

“If you piggyback the new with something familiar, it makes kids more willing to try something out,” she says. “If it’s on the plate, chances are that they’ll try it eventually, maybe without even knowing it!” Plus, the chicken dish includes a sauce that uses fresh orange juice to create a flavor profile that kids recognize and enjoy. 

Develop positive relationships with vegetables (and food in general)

As a celebrity chef, Melissa is used to explaining what’s in the dish she’s serving. The same goes for her daughters, who “present” each dish before the family digs in. “If we have our kids just saying the words, talking about the food, they feel like they own part of it,” she says.

Moreover, Melissa has her kids help with dinner prep whenever possible. Even if they don’t eat everything that’s on their plate, it’s still worthwhile for them to gain positive memories in the kitchen, she explains. Her oldest daughter Valentine loves to prepare salads but still isn’t too keen on actually eating them. “This is OK though, because once she decides to try eating salad, she’ll be way more likely to actually enjoy it since she’ll remember always helping me make it,” Melissa says.

Help kids overcome their “fear” of certain vegetables

A major factor that contributes to picky eating is the fear of the unknown, Melissa says. “Always have something kids know and like on the table so they don’t get so freaked out about new foods,” she advises. “The victory is that there’s something on the plate they don’t like and they’re not freaking out!”

If they don’t eat something one day, the chance that eventually your kids will try it is significantly higher if they see it over and over again.

Recognize the small victories

Conquering the great vegetable challenge is all about recognizing the tiny successes, even if they seem insignificant at the time. All veggies are good veggies, as Melissa puts it, and it’s important not to gloss over those times when your kid takes a nibble of something new, even if he doesn’t instantly gobble it up.

Keep at it!

Most importantly, don’t think that change will happen overnight, Melissa says. The best strategy is to just remain patient and calm. “It’s a continuous work in progress,” she says. “It’s a balance between feeling good about vegetables and actually eating vegetables daily.”

Strategies for Picky Eaters
Strategies for Picky Eaters
Strategies for Picky Eaters

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Want Kids To Eat Their Dinner? Try This.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

This is a guest post from Lynn Brunelle, mom of two, author, and Emmy Award-winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy. It’s an excerpt from her new book Mama Gone Geek: Calling on My Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood.

Mama Gone Geel Lynne BrunelleNo matter where you are on the Geek Scale, tapping that inner science nerd can really power up your parenting. Kids ask hard questions: Where do babies come from? Is Santa real? What’s fire? How can Grandma forget me? What happens when you die?

Are you prepared? I wasn’t. These questions caught me off guard and each one made my antiperspirant fail. But an old friend bailed me out again and again. My old friend, science.

For others, like me, re-discovering science has been a game-changer. And when it comes to parenting, it can be magical. When I brought my geeky passion for science into my parenting, it began to make all the difference to me and my kids.

I’ve found this can be especially helpful at dinner when my kids ask: “Wait a minute, I’m eating what?”

 My illuminated geeky parent answer: “You are eating sunshine!”

When our two boys were little, they ate everything. They loved salmon and avocado and broccoli, kale, mango, squash, and quinoa. I had my momentary feeling of smugness and superiority as a mama-of-the-year.

My lesson (the one I keep learning): Don’t ever feel smug or superior when it comes to anything, because the tide always turns. Always! Was he three or four when Kai suddenly stopped eating cold sesame noodles, seaweed, kiwi and blueberries? I can’t remember. What I recall is the sudden change. He began to notice color and pick out molecules of the offending pigment, hold them up to me like an accusation.

I decided to turn it into a color game. “Eat your rainbow!” I warbled. “RedOrangeYellowBlueGreenViolet! ROY G. BIV is coming for dinner! Rainbow Roy! Let’s eat him up!”

This so didn’t even begin to work. Kai cried and said he’d never eat a rainbow because that would make him sad. I tried to tell him the happiness of the rainbow would get inside and make him happy if he ate it. He asked if he could eat crayons instead.

We tried the whole get-the-kids-interested-in-gardening-and-they-will-learn-to-love-real-food-because-they’re-invested thing. Nope. We planted everything from kohlrabi and rutabagas to carrots and lettuce. They liked growing things. It was fun. They loved the seeds, the sprouts and the watering. But when it came to harvest time, both of them expressed horror that carrots were actually down there in the dirt, next to worms and bugs. They handily put two and two together and deduced that soil was also probably where worms and bugs pooped. Therefore, carrots were actually worm poop.

When they discovered where eggs actually came out of in a chicken that was the end of morning scrambles. What would they do when they learned that chicken was actually chicken?

Leo, our youngest, asked one day when we were eating chicken enchiladas.

“Where does chicken come from?”

“It’s actually a chicken.”

His eyes grew huge. “What?!”

“Yup. The chickens that walk around and lay eggs and cluck and all that are raised by humans and cared for and when it’s time, they are eaten.”

“Wait just a minute! I’m eating what!? I am actually eating the body of a chicken?!”

I held firm. “It lived a good life . . .”

“Oh Mom, don’t! I can’t know about this chicken! Was his name Fred? Did he have friends? Did he do tricks?”

Both Kai and Leo spit out their enchiladas. They looked at me in horror.

“OK, boys. I understand what you’re feeling. It’s kind of weird. But as human beings, we depend on other species for food, so our bodies can grow and stay healthy. Everything is made up of molecules, and we need to keep putting molecules in our bodies to survive. We’re just reorganizing the molecules. It’s a fact of life. Every animal eats something.”

“Like what? What did this poor chicken eat?”

“Truthfully? Scraps and grains and bugs . . .”

“Uck! Bugs?”

I pressed on. I ate my enchilada as an example. I believed I could weather this if I stayed calm.

“Mmmm, this is good.”

They both yelled, “Mom!”

“Some animals eat only meat—only the flesh of other animals. Like the dogs and the cats. They’re carnivores.”

Lynne Brunelle and her sons“Mom they eat pellets. Brown pellets.”
“I know, love. Those pellets are made of meat.”

“I will never look at Oggy the same way again,” Kai sighed and glanced at Oggy, who wagged his tail.

“And some animals eat plants.”

“And worm poop.”


“And what do plants eat?”

“Good question. They make their own food. They use the sun and the soil and they make sugars.”

“So plants eat sunshine?”

“In a way, yes. I kind of like that idea.”

“Well, that’s what I want to eat, too.”

OK, now we were getting somewhere.

“You can.”

“I can? How?”

“By eating your veggies and fruits and chicken and grains and all the yummy stuff I put in front of you every day. Everything comes from sunshine.”

“How about ice cream?”

“Yup. Sunshine. Made of milk which comes from cows that eat grass which makes its food from sunshine.”

A game. This could work.

“M&Ms!” Leo burst out, a grin on his face. Kai smiled, too.

“Chocolate comes from cacao, which is a tree. The tree uses sun to make sugars.”


“Tricky. The crust comes from wheat, which is a plant—the plant uses sun. Tomato sauce—tomatoes are plants. Cheese, milk, cow, grass, sun.”

“How about pepperoni?”


“Comes from a pig . . .”

“A pig?!”

“The pig eats corn and the corn is a plant and the plant gets energy from sunshine. See?”

They were silent.

“We eat stuff. We eat plants and animals. We’re not heartless about it, boys. If we feel thankful to the plants and animals, that’s good, right?”

“I guess.”

“Come on—who wants a bowl of sunshine?”

“Heath Bar Crunch?”


Try this—Trace it back. Next time you’re at the dinner table play “Trace it Back” and see if you can trace everything on their plates back to the Sun.

From Mama Gone Geek by Lynn Brunelle, © 2014 by Lynn Brunelle. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, MA.

Sesame Street Lessons: Advice for Picky Eaters
Sesame Street Lessons: Advice for Picky Eaters
Sesame Street Lessons: Advice for Picky Eaters

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Tags: | Categories: Health, Meals, Nutrition, The Scoop on Food

Making Sense of (Sometimes Tricky) Terms on Food Labels

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Confused by food label lingo? You don’t need to be! Below you’ll find an informative guest post by registered dietitian nutritionist Bonnie Taub Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It to help you and your children on your next grocery shopping trip.

As soon as my three sons were big enough to sit up in a shopping cart, they came to the supermarket with me. I’ll admit that some ‘shopping experiences’ (let’s just call them that!) were quite challenging including mediating between who would push the cart, who would get to ride on front, and of course, what we agreed would go into the cart.

When they were young, we’d play a lot of fun games in the produce aisle like focusing on foods that were round, or red, or really funny shapes. But as they got older, shopping took on a more serious note. Although the number one goal had always been to choose foods that tasted good, my kids began to develop a greater understanding about why certain foods were also good for them.

Comparing food labels became a hands-on learning experience where our props were the foods that filled our fridge and pantry. As an example, if someone wanted a cereal that displayed a favorite TV character on the front, and if this product had way more sugar than our typical breakfast choices, then the deal was that they had to mix the sugary type equally with another that contained barely any added sugar. I learned early on that compliance comes more readily when compromise is served as a side dish!

Before you walk down another supermarket aisle with one or more of your kids in your hand or riding in or pushing your cart, why not get familiar with some of the terms you’ll see on food labels. Learning how to read and decipher Nutrition Facts Panels and ingredients lists can help both you and your kids understand sometimes tricky terms that might cost you and your kids time, money, and calories:

Light: It’s not always best to lighten up. An item claiming to be “light,” like light bread, must have one-third fewer calories, fat or sodium than the regular version of that same product. However, for certain products, the calories may not be impacted at all! For example, light olive oil has the same calories as the thickest, darkest, richest olive oil you could find. It is just lighter in color and flavor than the regular counterpart. One cup of either oil has around 2,000 calories, so although oil is a healthy fat, a cup that runneth over could bring more calories than you might have imagined. And while light soy sauce has 50 percent less sodium than the regular type, if you eat it like soup you’ll get a lot more sodium (around 500 milligrams sodium per tablespoon) than you and your kids bargained for.

Serving size: Sometimes you may wonder if one serving of food, reflected in the serving size listed on the label, is the right size. A serving that is well suited for an adult may be way too much for a child, especially a young one.When you look at the serving size on a food label, don’t forget to multiply each of the numbers listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel by the number of servings you actually consume to know how much of that food you’re actually planning to consume.

Sugar: By any other name, sugar tastes just as sweet. Especially on food labels, sugar is the master of disguise. And it isn’t always spelled s-u-g-a-r.  To know where your sweetener is coming from, check the list of ingredients for words like corn syrup, cane juice, or anything ending in “ose” (like dextrose). If, for example, your child loves yogurt, it’s wise to steer away from highly sweetened varieties that can be more like candy in a container than a healthy dose of dairy. Opting for Greek yogurt, which is thicker in texture, provides less sugar (and double the protein) compared with other yogurts. Checking the ingredient list can also help you see where the sugar in the product comes from and whether it’s a result of added fruit or added sweeteners.

Zero. Did you know that zero may not be your hero? A product can contain up to 0.5 grams of fat per serving and still be called “fat-free.” This term doesn’t say anything about calories or sugar content; one muffin could be fat-free, but could contain 600 calories and be loaded with sugar. Similarly, manufacturers can brand any product with less than half a gram of trans-fat per serving with “0 grams trans fat.” When it comes to harmful trans-fat, scoot down to the ingredient list: if you see the product contains hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats, put it down and have your kids choose something else.

Sugar-free. Although “sugar-free” items might have less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving, that doesn’t mean such items are calorie- or fat-free. Eating too many “free” foods could be costly, especially if they take the place of more nutritious foods your kids need for growth.

How do you make healthier food choices for your family when food shopping?

Image of woman and children with shopping cart via Shutterstock.

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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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