A Special Breakfast Idea for Father’s Day

fresh berries, cream cheese, and fluffy pancakes make this a delicious breakfast option!Everyone loves fluffy pancakes and yummy toppings. But, on Father’s Day I like to kick that classic up a notch and treat dad to this Fresh Fruit and Pancake Breakfast Bar.

What’s great about this breakfast bar is that each family member gets to customize his or her plate of pancakes, so the whole family is happy. Bonus: It’s also a great way to get a little extra fruit first thing in the morning.

As a mom, I love that this pancake breakfast bar is easy to prepare ahead of time, and it’s ready, with minimal effort, on Father’s Day morning.

One way to save time is to prepare the pancake batter the night before and place it in the fridge. Fruit can be washed, chopped, and refrigerated directly inside the serving bowls. That way, in the morning, all you have to do is cook the pancakes on a griddle or pan.

This recipe is also a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen since pancakes are relatively easy to make, and kids of all ages can help wash fresh berries. Once everything is prepared, all you have to do is set out the pancakes, fresh fruit, cream cheese, and any other toppings your family loves on the countertop. Of course, make sure to add Dad’s favorite toppings! Then, it’s time for everyone to assemble their dream plate of pancakes.

Father’s Day Breakfast Idea: Build-Your-Own Pancake Bar

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite pancake recipe
  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 8 ounces whipped cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Make your favorite pancake recipe. While pancakes are cooking on the griddle, chop the fruit.
  2. Assemble the pancakes on a large platter, fill small bowls with the berries, and fill a medium-sized bowl with whipped cream cheese. Set out the maple syrup, or any other toppings family members will like.

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.

Father's Day Lollypapas
Father's Day Lollypapas
Father's Day Lollypapas

Image courtesy of Laura Fuentes

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The Truth About Kids and Added Sugars

If you believe everything you read about added sugars, you’ll be convinced they’re toxic time bombs just waiting to kill us all. So don’t believe everything you read. The truth is that sugar is not a poisonous substance. Your child can have a cookie without risking his life. Yet it’s also true that most people (especially most kids) are getting too much of it–and that a high-sugar diet isn’t good for health.

But what exactly, does “too much” mean? I talk to a lot of parents who are concerned about sugar, shocked that a can of soda contains nearly 10 teaspoons of the stuff, but really don’t know what that means in the grand scheme of things.

For starters, remember that ADDED sugars are what health experts are worried about. That’s the kind put in by manufacturers or by you at home. It’s NOT the natural kind found in fruit and dairy. (Ever noticed that plain yogurt or milk still has sugar? That’s natural.) Unfortunately, the nutrition facts label doesn’t distinguish between added and natural (yet!) but you can still use this label-reading trick: Every 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. So candy with 8 grams of sugar per serving has the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar.

Though there’s no Daily Value for added sugars, word is that the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans will likely suggest no more than 10 percent of calories should come from it. For kids, that looks like this:

  • Children ages 2-3: No more than 100 calories from added sugar (about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams)
  • Children ages 4-8: No more than 120-140 calories from added sugar (about 7-8 teaspoons or 28-32 grams)

That sounds like an awful lot—until you consider how much is actually in foods and drinks:

  • Sheet of graham crackers: 1 tsp
  • Chocolate chip granola bar: 1 tsp
  • Small bowl of honey-flavored “o” cereal: 2 tsp
  • Package of gummy fruit snacks: 2.5 tsp
  • Packet of peach-flavored instant oatmeal: 3 tsp
  • Pouch of fruit punch: 3 tsp
  • Cup of sports drink: 3.5 tsp
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut spread: 5 tsp
  • Chocolate cupcake with frosting: 9 tsp

Suddenly, the recommendations start to look a little tough. Have a day with a birthday party, soccer game snack, and a lollipop at the bank, and they look downright impossible.

So here’s my advice: Though it’s important to be aware and look at nutrition labels for sugar content, obsessing over numbers or counting up sugar grams for the day is no way to live. Instead, think big picture. What foods and drinks are providing the most sugar for your family—and is there a way to reduce that?

For instance, mix plain yogurt with flavored. Ditto for chocolate milk and regular milk. Designate a couple of “dessert nights” each week instead of serving it every day. Stop buying soda or buy it only occasionally. Cutting back on sweetened beverages in general can go a long way in reducing intake. The bottom line is that while there’s no need to cut it out completely, little moves like these can add up to less sugar for everyone.

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 is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Spoon of sugar via Shutterstock

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

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 www.tribecanutrition.com 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

Why I’m Tired of Junky Camp Snacks

Junky snacks for kids really irk me, whether it’s chips on the sidelines of pee wee soccer or cookies passed out at preschool. Snacks are so omnipresent in our children’s lives these days, yet so many of the ones they get outside the home are full of sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients. It’s fueling a preference for constant nibbling—on food that barely even resembles food.

Unfortunately, summer day camp seems to be no exception. At a university-sponsored camp, my son was given a bottle of sports drink and a sugary cereal bar every day. At another camp, my younger son got gummy fruit snacks and juice pouches, even though the theme of the week was “farming”.

Believe me, I have fond food memories from summer camp: S’mores. Candy necklaces. Ice cream cones. All washed down with the bright red, sticky sweet, mysteriously nicknamed Bug Juice.

But times have changed. For many kids, camp is not a special, single week experience. Eleven million kids attend camp each summer. Some may spend many weeks, or even most of the summer, at camp. For working parents especially, camp is more than summer enrichment—it’s a critical part of everyday childcare. Camps work hard to keep kids safe, happy, and busy with activities that get them moving, thinking, and learning. The food provided at camp should be an important, well-considered part of this experience too.

I’m a firm believer that if parents aren’t happy about the food their child is getting at school, sports, church, or camp, they should speak up. Even a quick, polite phone call or email can help set the wheels of change in motion. So that’s what I did. I called the university-sponsored camp and voiced my concerns over the daily sports drinks. The director said she’d heard from other parents about it and that they would switch to water. I did the same for the other camp—and while I never got a response, I made my feelings known. Camps need to realize that food and nutrition is important to parents.

No doubt, day camps have challenges that influence their snack options. They may not have refrigerators or the room to store fresh food. They may have budget constraints. But change is never impossible. Snacks like single-serving cups of applesauce and boxes of raisins don’t require refrigeration. Bananas are ridiculously inexpensive. Despite challenges, one mom was able to help her child’s camp go from snacks like cookies and chips to apple slices and watermelon. Read her story here.

For a sample script you can copy, personalize, and use for calling or emailing camp directors, go here.

Related: Get recipes for easy, healthy snacks kids love!

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 is the author of Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.

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

Image: Girl eating s’more via Shutterstock

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The Perfect Kid-Friendly Recipe for Your Graduation Party

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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