Archive for the ‘ The Scoop on Food ’ Category

Stop Feeding My Kids Sugar

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Kids and sugar

This is a guest post by David Teten, father of three and partner with ff Venture Capital, an early-stage technology investor in New York City. David blogs at

The world rains sugar on my children. The bus driver offers my child bubble gum. The teachers give cupcakes at every birthday party. The school vending machine is full of junk food; so is the one at the YMCA. At camp, the counselors offer candy and an ice pop at the end of the day. Our kids are invited to birthday parties which include a cake, a candy piñata, and then a goodie bag bursting with still more more candy.

Why are people incessantly feeding my kids sugar? 

Most parents want their children to be energetic, happy, and healthy. However, I see an amazing number of adults who are doing the opposite: hurting the health of their kids by offering an alarming amount of processed sugar on a regular—if not daily—basis.

It’s been proven that obesity is a problem in our country; two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese, and one-third of all children are overweight or obese. But for some reason, most of the adults I see do not take the logical next step of changing the way they feed their children.

In my opinion, these are the major reasons why adults put this known health hazard in front of children:

1) It’s tradition to bring cakes and other sweets to school to celebrate special events.

Fifty years ago, almost any business or social event would include cigarettes, often offered as a party favor. Now, most educated people would be shocked to see people smoking at an event with children in the room. Similarly, I predict that 20 years from now, we’ll look back in astonishment at the amount of sugar that we unthinkingly fed our children. Tradition is not something we’re locked into.

2) We only serve treats “occasionally” at “special events.”

In a class of 20 kids with 20 birthdays, plus various holidays and other special events, virtually every school week includes a reason for a party. There are many other ways to celebrate, such as making a craft or doing something active. Feeding sweets to children is an example of the tragedy of the commons. Schools, synagogues, churches, party organizers, sports teams, meal hosts—all provide occasional treats to make kids happy. These accumulate into constant exposure. Ultimately, it’s our children who pay the price.

3) Treats attract children and make them happy.

There is endless academic research showing that when people or children perform a task for a reward, they lose interest when that reward disappears. By giving kids candy at school, you’re not teaching love of learning; you’re teaching love of candy.

4) It’s the parents’ responsibility to train the kids to make the right food choices.

Only someone with perfectly obedient children could make this argument. We don’t have any perfectly obedient children, and neither do our friends. Children are bad at understanding long-term consequences and don’t have all the facts they need. We send them to school and raise them to help develop these skills.

5) It’s too expensive to serve healthy food.

To quote: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Serving kids processed sugar now is cheap, but creates very significant long-term costs in treating obesity and diabetes. I’ve written elsewhere on low-cost ways to create a healthy office or school environment; also see Parsely’s “Startup Diet.” Many parents, including me, will gladly pay a premium to feed our children real food.

6) It’s too difficult to reduce the amount of sugar that we serve.

Many schools are strictly and successfully nut-free, even though nuts are dangerous to just a small number of kids. Sugar is dangerous to all kids, so why can’t schools succeed in reducing sugar? Many schools that have tried to move to a healthier diet face protests from children acclimated to eating sugar with every dish at home. It’s frustrating that this dilemma exists, but it shouldn’t mean that we throw up our hands and do nothing. Instead, we should focus on educating children and adults about healthy habits, and incorporate whole foods steadily into school programs.

Our schools and camps are places of education. But education is not just books; education is also nutrition and healthy living. I am not advocating forcing kids to eat things they are going to hate, but merely providing them with healthy options and offering them fewer temptations.

One alternative is to order a meal kit from Plated, a company that makes it easy to prepare home-cooked meals. Additionally, if you’d like to start the healthier-eating conversation at your child’s school or camp, or on her sports team, I suggest using these form letters.

It is up to us, as parents, to protect our children. If we approach the problem head-on, and introduce real foods in a natural, gradual way, sugar will loosen its damaging hold on our kids.

My Suggestions for Healthy Kids’ Snacks:

Any fruits

Cereal without sugar

Edamame – boiled soybeans in the pod

Whole grain, low-salt snacks


Beans and Bean Dips

Cottage Cheese with Fruit Pieces

Any vegetables: Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, avocados, etc.

Mini rice cakes—unsalted

Applesauce (natural, made from whole apples, without added sugar).


Disclosure: ff Venture Capital is an investor in both Plated as well as Parsely, creator of the Startup Diet.

Image of candy via Shutterstock

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

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Smart Summer Snacks

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor

For the last few days, my daughter’s plain graham crackers have been coming back in the lunchbox she takes to camp. When I asked her why she didn’t eat them, her reason was clear: “I’m tired of the same stuff!” OK, I get it. I have fallen into a rut at the supermarket buying the same snacks that I know are at least somewhat healthy rather than stopping to read all the ingredients on the packages of new products.

Good thing is, last week I invited a bunch of kids to an event for a story in a future issue of Parents (no spoilers, sorry) and since I had to feed them something while they were there, I asked them to try a bunch of new snacks. Here’s what they thought was super yummy and what will be showing up in my daughter’s lunchbox next week.

* Horizon Snacks

Kids recognized this brand from their organic milk and tried the company’s new cracker line without hesitation. They liked all the flavors, including the cheddar snack crackers, organic cheese sandwich crackers, and chocolate grahams in the shape of cows and globes. Confession: I couldn’t stop munching on the chocolate grahams either.

* Tree Top Applesauce Pouches

The kids particularly enjoyed the flavor of the apple and mango puree. Each 50-calorie pouch has 2 grams of fiber and all the vitamin C that kids need for the day.

* Pirate’s Fruity Booty

It’s so colorful (pinkish-purple) yet it doesn’t contain any food dyes! It’s made with corn, rice, soy, and dried raspberry powder. Bonus: Pirate’s Fruity Booty is made in a facility that’s free of peanuts and tree nuts.

* Plum Organic Go Bars

This is a granola-type bar that’s made with five kinds of produce including carrot, kale, date, and apple. It also contains whole grains, fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Kids gobbled up the chocolate chip flavor.

Late July Tortilla Chips

My daughter has been a fan of the company’s Dude Ranch chips so I wasn’t surprised that the new restaurant style tortilla chips tasted amazing. The kids (and parents) liked the sea salt flavor, which is certified gluten- and nut-free. Just add salsa or guac.

Tasty Brand Chocolate Layer Cake Cookies

Of course, you’re not going to give your kids cookies for snack time every day. But I do pack my daughter cookies in her lunch (for camp and school) once or twice a week. My philosophy: It’s better to learn how to have sweets in moderation than avoid them altogether. The kids thought this brand, available exclusively at Whole Foods Market, tasted amazing and I like that I can recognize the ingredients listed on the label.

Honest Kids

These pouches—about 30 percent fruit juice and 70 percent water—are perfect for kids who won’t drink plain water. They’re 40 calories each, and our tasters liked the Super Fruit Punch and Berry Berry Lemonade flavors the best.

What snacks are your kids enjoying this summer?

Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack

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Easy-to-Make Fish Sticks? Yes, Please!

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Packed with protein and other essential nutrients, fish is a true super food. But, most kids (and adults) don’t eat as much fish as nutritionists or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage adults to consume between 8 to 12 ounces a week, and children as young as three to eat 3 to 6 ounces weekly. But fish can be a tough sell, often because grown-ups aren’t sure how to cook it. In this guest post, Parents contributing editor Catherine McCord shares one of her favorite easy fish recipes. This post originally appeared on


Weelicious Homemade Fish Sticks


When I was little there was nothing I hated more then the nights that my parents went out (this was before I was a teenager, mind you). But I dreaded these nights not because they were leaving or that I would have to stuck with a babysitter, but because by 5:30pm, my brother and I would be sitting at the dinner table with our frozen fish sticks dinners in front of us. They were always soggy, drenched in salty breadcrumbs and tasted more like chicken and fillers then fish. In fact, after speaking with many people, it became very apparent to me that fish sticks are a lot of people’s introduction to fish, thus triggering a childhood disdain for fish in general. I knew I couldn’t inflict the same torture on my son.

I had so much fun coming up with this recipe and it was much less expensive buying fresh fish and a big bag of panko then buying a frozen tv dinner with a measly 8 sticks inside.

I’ve also been using a salt free seasoning lately called Vegit (also known as Spike). It’s a really great option when you want to add extra flavor to your little ones dish without a lot of salt. There’s only 15 milligrams of sodium per 1/8 teaspoon and it’s packed with nutritional yeast and dried herbs.

I think these would be great to serve at a little ones birthday party or even better, when you go out and the kids want a special treat.

Fish Sticks  (Make 8-10 Sticks)

Prep Time: 3 mins

Cook Time: 12 mins


1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs*

1 teaspoon vegit*

1 egg

1/2 pounds fish (tilapia, opah or any firm white fish will do), cut into 2-inch-long sticks

2-3 tablespoons olive oil


1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, breadcrumbs and Vegit.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg.

3. Dip the fish sticks in the egg, then coat with the flour mixture. If you keep one hand dry it will prevent your hands and the fish sticks from becoming clumpy with breadcrumbs.

4. Place on a plate until all of the fish sticks are lightly coated.

5. Heat 1-2 Tbsp of the oil in a saute pan over medium heat.

6. Cook half of the fish sticks for 2-3 minutes until golden.

7. Turn them and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes or until fully

cooked through.

8. Repeat with remaining oil and fish sticks.

9. Cool and serve.

*You can find both of these items at Whole Foods and many health food stores

Want more fish? Try one (or all!) of these other delicious fish recipes from Weelicious:

Miso Marinated Fish

Fish Tacos

Halibut Pesto Kabobs
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Baby Food: Butternut Squash Puree
Baby Food: Butternut Squash Puree
Baby Food: Butternut Squash Puree

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Is This Chemical The New BPA?

Friday, July 25th, 2014

This is a guest post by Brooke Bunce.

Phthalates (pronounced thal-eights) aren’t a new type of antioxidant-packed ancient grain. They’re actually hazardous chemical compounds that exist in food, packaging, cosmetics, personal care products, containers, and more, which is why we should be watching out for them around every corner. Primarily, they’re used to soften plastics and create lubricants in hygienic products, and there are a slew of different types of phthalates. Since they’re so ubiquitous (especially in our food)—and continuously released into surrounding materials—phthalates are even harder to avoid than most chemicals.

So why the worry? Aside from ingesting and inhaling an unknown toxin, many studies have shown phthalates to be endocrine disruptors,  which means that they can seriously mess with normal hormone production. Registered dietician Natalia Stasenko, of Tribeca Nutrition in New York City, notes that phthalates can target the reproductive systems of boys, reduce levels of testosterone, and even cause allergies and asthma. They’ve also been linked to diabetes, excessive weight gain, and premature births.

When phthalates were found to be in many toys and teethers, parents and doctors pushed back through protest, and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 removed multiple toxins from toy production. Unfortunately, a new study from the journal Environmental Health found that infants still ingest twice the recommended amount of chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Considering all the other precautions we take to keep our kids safe, this figure is quite unsettling.

High fat foods such as cream, full fat cheese, cooking oils, meats and poultry are partly to blame for increased phthalate ingestion, Stasenko says. But why are high fat foods more prone to phthalate contamination? No one’s quite sure, but it’s speculated that fat molecules are much easier for phthalates to latch onto. The Washington Post points out that plastic packaging and plastic tubing used to milk cows may be the culprit for high concentrations in dairy and meat products.

Despite these disheartening figures, there are still steps that parents can take to reduce the intake of phthalates. Even small changes can make a huge impact when it comes to kids’ health. Stasenko and other experts suggest the following:

  •  Stay away from toys made before February 2009, or any toy marked with a “3″ inside the recycling symbol. Look for alternatives to plastic toys, such as wool, wood, or cotton.
  • When reheating food, cover it in a paper towel instead of plastic wrap (especially wrap that’s marked with “N3″).
  • Reheat leftovers in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel instead of plastic containers. Likewise, avoid putting  hot foods in plastic containers.
  • Reduce plastic as much as possible in your kitchen—within reason. Try to use silicone or stainless steel instead for kid-friendly items like sippy cups or snack containers.
  • Reduce the use of personal care products that have “fragrance” in the ingredients, as this can be a catchall for numerous chemicals, including phthalates.
  • Try to get electronic receipts whenever possible, since they’re made with paper that contains phthalates. Or, wash your hands after handling receipts.
  • Switch to low fat dairy products. Note: low fat dairy is not appropriate for children under 2 year of age due to their unique calorie and nutritional needs.


Organic produce, dairy, and meat are also a safer bet when it comes to avoiding chemicals, since phthalates can be found in many pesticides. If you’re ever unsure, there are a bounty of resources that can help decode what’s in the products and food you buy, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group.

Babyproofing Your Home: Kitchen
Babyproofing Your Home: Kitchen
Babyproofing Your Home: Kitchen

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The Mediterranean Diet Bonus for Kids

Friday, July 18th, 2014

This is a guest post by Karen Cicero, Parents’ Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor.

Fish, whole grains, veggies—these probably aren’t your kids’ favorite foods (okay, they might not even like them at all), but it’s worth your time to work on it. Here’s why: A new study of 9,000 children ages 2 to 9 in eight European countries found that those who most closely follow a Mediterranean diet are 15 percent less likely to be overweight. I admit that it doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but considering nearly 1 in 5 American kids ages 6 to 11 is overweight, it makes a significant dent. Plus, since obesity rates increase as kids get older, it’s worth getting on the right track before the tween and teen years.

What’s so special about the Mediterranean approach? The researchers think that the high fiber content and healthy fats found in foods like nuts, avocados, olive oil, and produce may help prevent kids from overeating. “This is the first study I’ve seen that makes the connection between the Mediterranean and obesity in kids,” says Lauri Wright, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and mom of three. “We already know that this type of eating plan is healthy in many other ways—like helping to prevent heart disease—so it’s wonderful that it may have extra benefits for children too.”

Of course, you’re not going to be able to switch your child’s eating habits overnight, but take these steps to make your family’s meals and snacks more Mediterranean:

* Do over dip. Swap the creamy salad dressings your kid drenches his baby carrots in for healthy hummus.

* Make pizza at home. Use thin whole-grain crust. Make it yourself (find a recipe here) or buy pick up a package of whole-wheat Naan bread (my daughter prefers it for her pizza!). Top it with whatever veggie your kid likes—even if it’s corn.

* Start working in more seafood. Let your child give it a try in a no-pressure situation, like when it’s on a buffet or when she’s having a bite of yours. When my daughter was a toddler, she used to swipe clams and mussels from my plate, at first mainly because she was intrigued by the shells. But then she began requesting a bowl of her own! Eventually, work your way up to homemade fish nuggets—Wright coats pieces of mild fish with applesauce and then rolls them in cornmeal before baking. When you’re ready to move onto grilled fish, top it with a salsa made from your child’s favorite fruits. That’s how I got my daughter to taste salmon and sea bass, which are now her faves.

* Build on veggie success. Chances are, your child likes a lot of different kinds of fruits and a few veggies. Combine a favorite with something that’s unfamiliar or not as well liked (such as corn with red onions or cucumbers with radishes or watermelon with baby spinach) to increase the chance that he’ll eat it. Salad can be a tough sell so start with mild butter lettuce and add a lot of fun familiar ingredients (like dried fruit, sunflower seeds, or orange wedges). Kids may also enjoy salads more if they’re chopped.  Even though it takes longer to prepare, you’ll have a happy, healthier eater as a reward.

Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack
Healthy Snacks: Why Kids Need to Snack

Image of Mediterranean food via Shutterstock.

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