Archive for the ‘ Snacking ’ Category

The Downsides of Baby Food Pouches (And How to Use Them Right)

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

There is a pouch with pureed apples and pumpkin in my cupboard. Another one is tucked in the diaper bag together with a small spoon. My baby is 10 months old. She has been eating finger foods for the last five months and fully participates in family meals, eating the same food as the rest of us.

So why do I need puree pouches?

They are my emergency supply. Imagine I am stuck in a subway or car with my baby without a packed lunch or restaurants in the vicinity. Or I just want her to have a bite and then nap happily while my husband, two other kids, and I are enjoying a leisurely meal out. Yes, meals with two kids can suddenly seem leisurely when your third is sleeping!

But I would not rely on puree pouches every day and definitely not every meal. Here’s why:

  1. Labels may be misleading. Even if the front label proudly proclaims ingredients like kale and quinoa, rest assured that the ingredient list (the smallish print next to the nutritional information on the back) will start with a cheaper component — apple, pear, or carrot puree in most cases. This cheaper puree provides the bulk of the pouch’s contents. How much quinoa or kale is in there? No one knows since the manufacturers are not required to declare the percentages. (Beech-Nut, however, has begun listing the percentages on its website and is considering including them on packaging within the next year.)
    Related: Do You REALLY Know What’s In That Baby Food Pouch?
  2. Sucking purees from pouches does not promote the healthy development of feeding skills. Pouches encourage more sucking — something that babies do very well already. In my nutrition practice I have seen many babies “stuck” in a puree phase. They had trouble progressing to lumps and finger foods because the parents relied on pouches for too long. Their child missed the window of opportunity to learn how to handle varied textures and self-feed. Studies show that the late introduction of lumpy food has been associated with feeding problems in the future.
  3. Purees from pouches do not help to expand the palate. Most of them taste sweet, even those with kale, spinach, whole grains, and other generally not-sweet tasting ingredients. Kids already love sweet. Our goal as parents is to help babies develop a taste for the foods they do not like yet, such as savory vegetables, grains, and meats.

No one can argue that purees in pouches are a perfect fit for our crazy busy lives. And although not an adequate substitute for fresh fruit and veggies, purees in pouches still have a decent amount of nutrition and can provide much-needed vitamins and minerals, especially important for children with feeding difficulties.

I am confident that purees in pouches are not a bad thing unto themselves. We just tend to rely on them a little too much. Here is how every parent and child can enjoy the convenience of purees in pouches without contributing to potential feeding problems later on:

  • Instead of letting babies and children suck on puree pouches, empty the puree into a bowl and feed it with a spoon.
  • Alongside with offering purees, make sure to expose your baby to finger foods from early on. If introducing finger foods from 6 months, serve long graspable pieces of soft foods like mango or avocado, long strips of well-cooked chicken or meat, steamed or roasted veggie sticks, or long pieces of toast. When babies develop finger grasp close to 8-9 months, switch to small bites of well cooked vegetables, soft fruits, eggs, meats, beans and shredded cheese.
  • Try not to rely on pouches at every meal, and instead ensure that there is a variety of textures in your baby’s diet. An example of a meal with different textures appropriate for babies from 6-8 months is a soft chicken and vegetable stew, mango chunks, and avocado mashed with a fork.
  • Do not let older babies and toddlers walk around while sucking on the pouches. Make meals and snacks sit-down occasions. This will reduce the risk of choking and help children become mindful eaters who pay attention to their food and stop when full.
  • Introduce more challenging vegetables like leafy greens and broccoli as single-ingredient purees or finger foods rather than mixed with sweet purees so that your baby learns to like their flavor.

Purees in pouches can be a nutritious addition to our kids’ diets and a lifesaving solution for parents. But it is important to integrate them mindfully in eating without compromising the development of eating skills and taste preferences.

Natalia Stasenko MS, RD, CDN is a pediatric dietitian based in London and New York. A mother of three, she is passionate about feeding kids of all ages. Natalia contributed her nutritional expertise to the cookbook Real Baby Food, and when not writing, teaching online feeding classes or consulting, she is in the kitchen cooking and eating with her family. Follow Natalia on Twitter, read more of her stories on and download her guide on Smart Snacks That Help Kids Eat Dinner here.

How to Make Baby Food: Red Lentil and Spinach Puree
How to Make Baby Food: Red Lentil and Spinach Puree
How to Make Baby Food: Red Lentil and Spinach Puree

Image: Baby with food pouch via Shutterstock

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

A Summer Dessert They’ll Go Wild For

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Memorial Day signals the beginning of cookout season and that means bringing a dish to share wherever you go. I’m happy to bring whatever is required and find that having a short, delicious list of recipes at the ready is ideal. When dessert is asked of me I like to make this Mint Brownie Tart. It is a snap to make and tastes like a grown up Junior Mint. Who doesn’t love that?

Every time I bring this treat the crowd goes wild because it has a bit of everything. The chocolate brownie bottom always makes the kids happy, and the grown ups like the fluffy mint frosting. Together it makes the perfect package, especially when topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

For the baker the best part about this dessert is that it can be made ahead. In fact, it tastes better when it is made before-hand because the brownie has a chance to cool and get fudgy. Also, the cooler it is the easier it is to slice.

Having a repertoire of go-to family-friendly recipes to turn to on a moment’s notice is the theme of my latest cookbook, The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. It is filled with delicious recipes and practical advice that will help you fill your home and your loved ones with food everyone will enjoy.

Recipe: Mint Brownie Tart

Makes 1 10-inch tart

For the Brownie:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not use chocolate chips), divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons crème de menthe (or substitute 1/2 tsp. mint extract and green food coloring)


  1. To make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour the inside of a 10-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. Combine 14 ounces of the chocolate and the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second bursts until the butter and chocolate have melted completely together. Stir them until they form a smooth chocolate sauce. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Stir this into the cooled chocolate mixture.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the baking powder, flour, and salt. Fold this into the chocolate mixture until no white streaks are visible. Pour the batter into the prepared tart pan and use a spatula to spread the top evenly.
  5. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is set and the cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving or frosting.
  6. To make the frosting: Whisk together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and crème de menthe. It should get fairly thick and turn a light shade of green. If it still seems a little runny, pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Spread it evenly on top of the brownie tart.
  7. Finely chop the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate and scatter it over the mint frosting. Slice and serve.

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.

Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes

Images courtesy of Kelsey Banfield

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A Fun Snack (With Vegetables!) Kids Will Love

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

hummus veggie cups are a healthy snack idea for kids

Need an easy snack idea that travels well, can be made ahead of time, and will help you and the kiddos eat more veggies? I’ve got you covered.

This veggie snack cups recipe from my new cookbook The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet is a delicious way to serve more veggies. As a mom to three kiddos I too struggle to make sure they get enough veggies in their diet – and well, mine too!

I love that I can make these snacks ahead of time and store the container in the fridge for a couple of days. I’ve found that by pre-washing my veggies, chopping them up, and storing them in a way that they are ready to be consumed, I’m more likely to eat more of them. The same thing goes for our kids! Making veggies convenient and available is very important.

For these veggie and hummus snack cups, I like to create a rainbow of pre-cut veggies on my counter, such as green, yellow, and red peppers, carrots, and celery. Colorful veggies are high in many vitamins and minerals our bodies need, and getting them from food is always best! And, by pairing the vegetables with hummus, I’m also adding a little protein and fiber.

Assembling the veggie cups is simple. All you need is a reusable cup or glass, some hummus, and about ¾ cup pre-cut veggies per person (this will vary depending on the size of your container). Make sure you chop your veggies a bit shorter than the height of the container so you can close the lid.

Why not just serve a platter of veggies and dip? We all know that single serve snacks are a lot more appealing and that kids love to take their food on the go! As a mom, I try to get creative with our veggies so my kids will eat them, but it also makes it more fun for me as an adult. If a recipe is good for the kids, it’s good for adults too!

Rainbow Veggie Cups
Recipe from The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 2 cups veggie sticks
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • 4 lidded cups


  • At the bottom of each cup, place 1 ½ tablespoons of hummus.
  • Place veggie sticks inside the cup standing up vertically, close the lid, and refrigerate.
  • Yield: 4 veggie cups

Kitchen Tip: make these veggie cups 2-3 days ahead of time and store in refrigerator. To see how these veggie cups and other quick and easy recipes are made, click here.

Laura Fuentes is the founder of MOMables where she helps parents make fresh school lunches and meals their kids will love. She’s the author of The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet and The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet. Download a free week of Laura’s Classic and Grain Free Meal Plans here.

Pumpkin Patch Dippers
Pumpkin Patch Dippers
Pumpkin Patch Dippers

Image courtesy of Laura Fuentes

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Are You Making This Common Toddler Feeding Mistake?

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Would you like to know a number one secret to happy mealtimes? The most common feeding mistake that ruins dinner for everyone? Just one change that will help your child eat better?

Of course, not all feeding problems are equal. Like anything else in life, they come in different levels of complexities that may require anything from a simple tweak to a comprehensive assessment and intervention by a team of specialists.

But without fixing this feeding mistake things around dinner table rarely get better. It is a foundation of good feeding strategy and, consequently, better eating habits in a child.

And it has little to do with what happens at mealtimes or what is served for dinner. Curious? I bet you are. Here it is: structure in snacks.

There are many reasons parents allow kids graze all day long. From our crazy busy life where eating happens on the go to a real fear that a child will not get enough food to grow and thrive otherwise, grazing has become a new “normal” of child feeding.

But even small kids, although their tummies are tiny, do not need to be snacking all the time, even on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Toddlers are capable of waiting 2-3 hours between meals and snacks and preschoolers and school age kids can go 3-4 hours without eating.

Here is an example of a typical 2 year old who is allowed to graze on “healthier” snacks throughout the day. At first, it looks like the child ate barely anything, but when we do the calculations, we see that he is getting so many calories from small snacks throughout the day that it is enough even without eating any lunch or dinner! Keep in mind that most 2 year olds need around 1000 calories per day.

▪ 6:30am: 8 oz whole milk – 160 calories

▪ 8:30am: 1/2 cup strawberries and 1/2 croissant – 140 calories

▪ 10am: 1/2 cup apple sauce in a pouch on a way to swimming class – 50 calories

▪ 11:30am: 1oz small pack of fruit snacks at the grocery store to distract child while mom is shopping – 105 calories

12:30pm: Not interested in lunch

▪ 12:45pm: A fruit and vegetable pouch (since lunch left untouched) – 80 calories

▪ 1pm: 8 oz of milk before nap – 160 calories

▪ 3pm: 1 oz of cheerios and 1/3 apple for snack at a playdate- 140 calories

▪ 5pm: Starving on the way home from the playdate, mom gives another apple sauce pouch – 50 calories

6pm: Not interested in dinner

▪ 7pm: 8oz bottle of whole milk before bed – 160 calories

Total calories: 1045

As you can see, the child who does not “seem” to eat anything, in fact eats enough to meet his calorie needs. Pressuring him to eat at mealtimes will likely lead to stressful meals and even less interest in eating the meals parents prepare. And although he is getting the calories for proper growth, he is missing out on quality family time at mealtimes and exposure to the “grown-up” foods he is expected to learn to eat. Besides, his parents may be worried by his constant begging for packaged snacks and lack of interest in more nutritious chicken and broccoli they serve for dinner.


1. Schedule snack times. To take the first step, make a mental note of the time between meals when your child seems to be starving and plan a (preferably) sit-down snack for this time. You may need to serve 2-3 snacks per day, depending on the child’s age. Do not wait until your child asks for a snack. Have it planned in advance and remind your child when it will be coming.

2. Serve at least two food groups for a snack. Just a pouch of apple sauce or a bowl of crackers may not be filling enough to help the child “last” till next meal. So expect begging for another snack half an hour later. Instead, add some fat and/or protein for more substance. Examples are: apple puree and a slice of cheese, crackers with almond butter, or bread with butter.

3. Watch the milk. It is very filling. Did you know that one 8 oz serving of milk provides the same number of calories as 2 eggs? Schedule milk for snacks or meals, instead of letting your child sip on it in between and limit to 2-3 servings.

4. Avoid using food for distraction like giving snacks when kids get bored or wiggly. This is a good tip for kids (and adults) of all ages, helping them develop a healthy relationship with food and not use eating to soothe emotions.

Done right, snacks will help children meet their nutritional needs and have the patience to wait for main meals with the family. Done wrong, they may ruin the mealtime experience for everyone and affect nutrition. Think about structure to avoid this feeding mistake and enjoy the convenience and flavor of snacks without compromising eating at main meals.

Natalia Stasenko MS, RD is a pediatric dietitian based in London and New York. Mom of three, she is passionate about the science and art of feeding kids of all ages. When not writing, teaching online feeding classes, or consulting, she is most likely in the kitchen cooking and eating with her family. Follow Natalia on Twitter and download her guide on Smart Snacks That Help Kids Eat Dinner.

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: Child snacking on yogurt via Shutterstock

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

An Easy Kids’ Snack: Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Drinks

Friday, April 17th, 2015

My kids love strawberry yogurt drinks. The problem is that with three kids, this little snack can get expensive, especially considering my boys often drink two at a time.

Then, there’s the fact that the ingredient lists in some brands leave much to be desired. Some of these yogurt drinks are made with refined sugars, contain artificial colors and sweeteners, and no fruit! In fact, I often see the words Strawberry Flavored right on the packaging. That leaves me wondering, where are the strawberries? I don’t want flavoring from concentrate; I’d like my kids’ yogurt drinks to contain actual fruit.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent frustrated at the promise of good nutrition from packaged snacks. But with busy after-school activity schedules, it can be hard to find food that is kid-approved, nutritious, and portable.

This recipe for strawberry yogurt drinks is made with real fruit, milk and Greek yogurt for calcium and additional protein, and honey as the an optional sweetener. The ingredient list can’t get any better.

And, it’s portable. This homemade version can easily be made ahead of time and sipped on the go in a 3-4 ounce lidded container (available in many stores and online) that you can re-use it time and time again.

Of course, you can use fresh or frozen fruit to make these homemade yogurt drinks. One of my kids’ favorite flavors is made with frozen peaches. When kiwis are in-season, I make sure to make a strawberry-kiwi batch for a natural boost of vitamin C.

Some of the best and most exciting flavor combinations submitted by my Momables community have been: strawberry + beets, banana + carrots, pineapple + spinach, and mango + kale. As you can see, the possibilities are endless and the consistency will be right as long as you keep the liquid and fruit ratio intact.

My hope is that your family will enjoy this homemade version as much as mine and that experimenting with new fruit combinations brings additional excitement to the recipe-making process.

Homemade Strawberry Yogurt Drinks
Recipe from The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet
Yield: 4 servings

  • 2 cups (475 ml) milk
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons (40 g) honey (optional)
  • 1 cup (145 g) strawberries

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on medium-low speed until everything is smooth and evenly combined.

Pour yogurt drinks in small 4 ounce (120 ml) drink containers and refrigerate for 1 hour. Give the yogurt drink a quick stir prior to serving.

Laura Fuentes is the founder of MOMables where she helps parents make fresh school lunches and meals their kids will love. She’s the author of The Best Homemade Kids’ Snacks on the Planet and The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet. Download a free week of Laura’s Classic and Grain Free Meal Plans here.

Indy 500 Fruit Racers
Indy 500 Fruit Racers
Indy 500 Fruit Racers

Image courtesy of Laura Fuentes

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