Archive for the ‘ Nutrition ’ Category

5 Myths About Baby’s First Foods – Busted

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

5 Myths About Baby's First FoodsThis is a guest post from Parents staffer Michela Tindera.

Navigating the world of your little one’s first foods can be daunting. Fruits or veggies? Organic or natural? To help, I talked with Kate Geagan, M.S., R.D., author of Go Green Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet, resident nutritionist for Earth’s Best, and a mom to a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old. So much has changed in the baby food landscape, Kate says, even since her children were trying their first foods just a few years ago. She’s sharing the five most common myths she’s seen about Baby’s first foods.

Myth: Avoid all foods that can potentially cause allergies.

“You can put shrimp on the high chair,” Kate says. After 4 to 6 months of age it’s not necessary to hold back from shellfish, nut butters or other potential allergens anymore, Kate says. The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its stance on introducing allergen-causing foods. It’s still important to introduce one ingredient at a time though to watch for any sort of allergic reaction that your child might experience.

Myth: My baby’s first food must be a vegetable. Then a fruit next, then a meat after that etc…

Many people think that starting a baby with a vegetable will make her more likely to enjoy veggies, but that’s not really the case. Kate says: “Take the long view. Why not make her first food iron-rich steak?” (It just needs to be pureed first, of course!)

Myth: “Natural” means healthy.

Packaging that says “natural” or “straight from the farm” are marketing terms, not approved health statements, Kate says. The most important thing to look for on any packaged food product (baby food, or otherwise) is the USDA Organic label. That means that the food is free of any synthetic additives, chemical fertilizers and dyes, among other qualifications. It’s also important to note that a “non-GMO” label doesn’t mean that it’s organic. But an organic label does mean that the product is non-GMO.

Myth: Baby food in a pouch is better than baby food in a jar.

“Decide the eating experience you want with your child,” Kate says. Sure, pouches can be convenient when you’re on the go, but baby food in a jar can be very nutritious too. Just be sure to check the jar’s nutrition facts for preservatives and excess amounts of sugar that are better to avoid. Glass jars are also more affordable and environmentally friendly and people have been using them for hundreds of years to safely store food. Or, of course, make your own! It’s easier than you think.

Myth: Nutritious baby food can only be purchased in a health foods store.

This just isn’t the case anymore! Brands like Earth’s Best, Plum Organics and others can now be easily purchased in grocery stores, big box retailers and even online.

Kate says the bottom line is this: “Everyone deserves to be able to feed their child in the best way they can.”

Just starting to transition to solids? Follow these tips and your little one will be munching away in no time!

How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget

Photo of baby eating courtesy of Shutterstock.

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6 Ways Kids Can Deal With Tempting Foods

Monday, November 17th, 2014

If the upcoming holiday season gives you angst when it comes to food and all the temptations, this guest post by Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. provides some great tips to help you and your kids eat better and still enjoy yourselves. Read on to see what Ward, my esteemed colleague and the author of My Plate for Moms: How to Feed Yourself and Your Family Better, has to say about how to navigate this time of year—and all year—without sabotaging your family’s healthy diet.

Healthy babies are born with the knack to regulate their appetite; they eat when they’re hungry and they stop when they’re full. But early in life, most of us learn how to override that inborn ability. We discover that brownies tastes better than broccoli, salty crackers trump fruit, and soda is more fun than plain milk, and we want more junk food whether we are hungry or not.

Sure, some kids (not my three!) naturally clamor for carrot sticks and hummus, and could care less about overdoing it on cookies, snack chips, and sugary drinks, but they are the exceptions. Truth is, many children, especially younger ones, lack self-restraint—putting the brakes on when they’ve had enough or avoiding a certain food altogether—in favor of instant gratification.

It’s really no wonder why self-restraint, a.k.a., willpower, is so difficult to practice. Restraint is pushed to the limits in a world where children and their parents are bombarded all day long with messages and opportunities to eat sugary and fatty foods, and lots of them.

As parents, we want to teach our children self-restraint (many of us parents would like to have more of it ourselves, at least sometimes). The trick is to help kids pay attention to their hunger without policing every bite they take and to avoid food fights. Excessive monitoring of a youngster’s food intake stifles his or her independence, and may lead to overeating when you’re not around.

How to Build Willpower

Self-control is a lot like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets, according to researcher Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. The authors of a recent study in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine suggest that healthy lifestyle choices may help better preserve the part of the brain that governs self-restraint. The authors also theorize that certain environments help reduce the temptation to overeat.

Here are six tips to help you help kids limit their intake of junk food without becoming the food police:

• Plan to succeed.  It’s much easier to make poor food decisions when you’re famished.  Plan meals and snacks with adequate protein, such as dairy, lean meat, beans and eggs, and fiber-filled foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help you and your kids feel fuller for longer. Don’t keep tempting foods like candy, cookies, and chips in the house (Note from Elisa Zied: If you do keep a few empty calorie, nutrient-poor treats in the house, store them on a high shelf behind closed doors to minimize mindless eating.)

• Sleep your way to self-restraint. Researchers suggest that when you’re well rested, it’s easier to walk away from that pint of premium ice cream that’s calling your name. It’s the same for children: self-restraint is more likely with a consistent pattern of adequate slumber. Show your children that you value sleep as part of healthy living.

• Model restraint. Actions speak louder than words. Limiting yourself to two cookies instead of gorging on six helps teach your children to better control themselves. In addition, by committing to modeling good eating habits for the sake of the kids by not overindulging, you strengthen your own willpower “muscle.”

• Create positive peer pressure. Other children and adults may play a role in what your child eats. For the most part, surround yourself with people who will make it easier for your child to consume reasonable portions of high-calorie foods on limited occasions. Take the lead by serving healthy foods and limiting treats when your children have play dates.

Recognize the limits of self-control. Willpower is a limited resource. All day long you and your child do things that sap your inner energy reserves, like get up early for work when you’d rather sleep in, or, in your child’s case, sit quietly at his desk when he’d like to be running around the playground. It’s much more difficult to control the urge to splurge when you’re feeling stressed, which makes it that much more important to organize your household and eating routine to reduce temptation.

• Trust your inner child.  Your internal hunger cues may have dulled with time, but there’s plenty of hope for your son or daughter’s (and yours!). Start today to trust your child’s instinct by not overfeeding them. Don’t use any food, particularly sugary or fatty treats, as rewards. The earlier in life you start to do this, the easier it will be to teach self-restraint in the long run.

To help kids eat less and better, check out a recent Scoop on food post here.

How do you help your kids eat less and better?

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 of willpower via shutterstock.

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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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5 Advantages of Having a Picky Eater

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Think you’re raising a so-called picky eater? If the answer is yes (and if picky eating frustrates you) this guest post by Maryann Jacobsen, a registered dietitian, blogger and author of the new e-book, From Picky to Powerful: Transform Your Outlook on Picky Eating and End Food Battles Forever!, can help you out.

Have you ever noticed that books, articles and well-meaning friends and family seem to be on a crusade to fix picky eating? We know the advice all too well. Have them take a bite, serve one meal and get kids growing and cooking their own food. And there’s always the if-you-don’t-get-them-to-do-it-now-they-never-will sentiment as well.

As a result of this crusade, parents are left in a tough spot. They feel guilty when their actions don’t result in a child who eats willingly, and they often give up or feel like they are doing something wrong.

But what if I told you there are real advantages to having a picky kid? What if all those crusaders are, well, maybe a little off base?

Here are 5 advantages to having a child who is slow to warm up to food:

1. Food regulation: Excess weight, one of the biggest health issues of our time, stems from trouble regulating food intake, such as the inability to stop when full, etc. Normally developing picky kids (different from problematic picky eating I discuss here) tend to have low appetites, because their growth slows considerably after the first two years of life.

When you think about the health challenges your child is likely to face in the next 20 years, eating small amounts at dinner doesn’t seem so bad. I know from experience that parents who have kids who eat anything also have children with big appetites, causing them another type of worry. While that doesn’t have to be a bad situation either, it makes sense to look on the bright side of a child who doesn’t need a lot of food to be satisfied.

2. Discerning palate: Kids who are more cautious with food are often overwhelmed by different tastes and textures. We know this is why vegetables tend to be disliked–they are bitter. In fact, one study showed that 70% of preschool children are considered “tasters” of bitter compounds, also called 6-n-propothiouricil (PROP).

But this taste sensitivity mellows out over time and can turn into quite an asset. Having a discerning palate is helpful to chefs who refine recipes based on tastings. As long as parents keep serving a variety of wholesome food, picky kids can come to appreciate quality, the delicate balance of flavors and may even take an interest in cooking.

3. They challenge our cooking skills: Before I had kids, I cooked a handful of meals, but after having kids I can’t even count how many meals I’ve experimented with (and I’ve had more failures than I care to admit). I have attempted at least 5 different versions of macaroni and cheese. I have mastered easy meals in the slow cooker. I have discovered the beauty of roasting veggies which are great for kids because they are crunchy and less bitter. And I even came up with what I consider the best homemade chicken tender recipe.

Whether meals stick or not, cooking for choosey kids has enhanced my cooking for the better. But if my kids ate everything, I probably would still be in my rut.

4. They teach life lessons: Where do I start on the life lessons of dealing with picky eaters?  I’ve learned patience, how to put my own agenda aside and how to trust my kids instead of fight them. I simply cannot control what they eat or prefer but I can control the circumstances that help them eat well—meals, structure and how pleasant (or not) meals are.

But most importantly, I’m reminded of the small step-nature of lasting change and learning. There are no magic tricks to get kids to eat just like there are no quick fixes to obtaining good health. Kids are learning about food the same way they learn to read or write. We need to trust that they will get there in their own time and in their own way. Anything worthwhile is an investment and I am in this for the long haul.

5. Picky-ness is part of your child: My five-year-old son is very cautious and a late bloomer with everything, including food. I wouldn’t try to change this aspect of his personality because it is part of who he is. And I love him dearly.

Now that doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I just have accepted that his food acceptance will be slow and steady. And when you think about it, being extra cautious isn’t such a bad quality to have.

It’s time to start a whole new conversation about picky eating. Underneath the refusals and food requests, kids really do want to learn and grow with food. The advantages of having a picky kid are real, if you take the time to look at it—and your child—in a completely different light.

For additional tips to help feed ‘picky eaters’ over the holidays, check out a previous Scoop on Food post here.

Image of a young boy is making a funny disgusting face at a fork with a healthy piece of broccoli via shutterstock.

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