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Monday, December 16th, 2013
If you’re still looking for that little something to gift a parent you love (or even yourself) to feed kids well and promote a healthy lifestyle during the holidays and beyond, look no further. The 12 items below are likely to fit the bill. They are registered dietitian-approved, and they’re just the kind of gifts that—you guessed—keep on giving! Enjoy!
A favorite new gadget that Sharon Palmer, RD loves is a mandolin vegetable slicer. She says, “I use an OXO® Handheld Flat Slicer and love it. It doesn’t take up much room in the kitchen, it’s under $15, and you can easily slice vegetables, and even create ribbon salads with it. It’s also great for when you want a large amount of vegetables thinly sliced for something like stir-fry, but you don’t feel like getting out the food processor and cleaning it again.”
Wok this way
Dana Magee, RD loves the T-fal Nonstick Jumbo Wok to make stir frys. According to Magee, “You may think this is a one-trick product, but by varying ingredients, sauces and protein-rich foods in your stir-fry you could easily use the wok once a week! Stir-frys are a great meal staple to use up any produce in your fridge that is remaining from meals throughout the week or are nearing the end of their shelf life. You can easily use the wok to stir fry use chicken, lean beef, tofu, or shrimp. Other uses include making scrambled eggs and omelets or sautéed pasta dishes.”
Go for a spin
According to McGee, “When you get a salad spinner like the Zyliss Smart Touch Salad Spinner (my favorite), you’ll wonder how you ever lived without a salad spinner! A salad spinner gives you the ease of rinsing lettuce and drying it efficiently. No more soggy salads! Drying lettuce can be a lot of work and may be deterring you from creating a host of leafy green salads that can be used for simple pairings with lunch or dinner or stand-alone entrees with some lean protein foods. I like to wash a head of lettuce in the beginning of the week and store in a gallon sized Ziploc® bag in the fridge for easy access (eg to add to salads). Other uses for the salad spinner include drying kale or fresh basil leaves, or using the spinner as a colander to rinse grapes to name a few!”
Do a freeze dance
Registered dietitian nutritionist Kate Myerson recommends re-purposing ice cube trays to freeze a batch of rice, quinoa, beans, or lentils. “When you need to throw a quick meal together, grab a few cubes and add to any meal. You can even microwave individual portions as a quick side so everyone gets what they want,” she says. Myerson’s trays of choice are the No-Spill Ice Cube Trays by OXO® that have tops for freezing and storing multiple batches.
Get the dish
Registered dietitian nutritionist Catherine Hains loves Fresh Baby My Plate Dinnerware Sets for kids. Each colorful plate contains 4 divided sections that are appropriately sized for fruit, vegetables, protein foods and grains. According to Haines, “The plates make learning how to eat nutritiously educational and fun! And they’re not just for toddlers…even my 11-year-old likes them.”
Julie Swift, MPH, RDN, CDE loves the Thermos Foogo Phases Leak Proof Stainless Steel Straw Bottle (10-ounce). She says, “This straw cup is great because it keeps beverages cold for about 8 hours. It also won’t leak while closed, which is a big plus.”
Read ‘em (without weeping)
To help parents raise healthy eaters and help their kids develop a healthy relationship with food, registered dietitian Michaela Ballmann recommends an all-time RD-favorite book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook by Ellyn Satter. As noted in the book’s description, “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family demonstrates Satter’s dictum that “your positive feelings about food and eating will do more for your health than adhering to a set of rules about what to eat and what not to eat.” Amen to that!
Registered dietitian Melinda Hemmelgarn highly recommends Sylvia’s Spinach by Katherine Pryor. According to Hemmelgarn, “Sylvia’s Spinach is about a little girl who doesn’t like to eat spinach until (of course) she plants her own in a school garden. The book made me both laugh and cry, and this is a book for kids! And the illustrations really make the story come to life.” Hemmelgarm also recommends several books by registered dietitian Connie Evers including Nutrition Fun with Broc & Roll. “It’s great for parents and teachers alike,” she says. (I personally love all of Evers’ work and recommend checking out her fantastic website, Nutrition for Kids.)
Feel the pressure
Last year, registered dietitian Hope Warshaw received a Fagor Pressure Cooker as a holiday gift to help her realize her healthy eating goal of both eating/feeding more beans and using all dry beans as our source of beans. She stays inspired and motivated to use it (as does another dietitian, Tammy Sakanashi) by using a book by Jill Nussinow called The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Book. According to Sakanashi, “This book introduced me to pressure cooking…and I love it! Our family has been eating so many more legumes now that I can make them so quickly. I’ve even mastered using the pressure cooker on our electric stove. I especially love the white bean soup recipe—and have already made it twice!”
Use a kit to get fit
I’d be remiss to not mention at least one item for your holiday gift list to keep your family fit! FitKit is a great fitness find for families. This all-in-one fitness solution is portable and easily fits into your overnight bag or suitcase for your family’s weekend getaway or extended vacation. Each FitKit includes exercise bands, a jump rope and a pedometer—all the tools needed for a complete full-body workout parents and their older kids (aged 5 and up) can enjoy. The website also provides a 250+ exercise library for strength, cardio and flexibility.
Download our guide for Baby’s first solid foods and finger food recipes. Then, learn how to make homemade baby food!
Image of many colorful gift boxes with ribbon bows via shutterstock.
Choose a Baby Food Maker
Full disclosure: I received a FitKit from it’s co-creator, Amie Hoff, several months ago with no promise of a review or mention. I received no other products or goods or financial compensation for mentioning any of the products in this post. Happy holidays!
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Diet, Fitness, Health, Meals, Must Read, Nutrition
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
Because it’s almost Thanksgiving–and Thanksgivukah (that rare day that combines both Thanksgiving and Chanukah)—it’s likely many of you have turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and maybe even potato latkes on the brain. I know I do! And if your family is anything like mine, you make way more food than you need to feed others over the holidays. Talk about leftovers!
When it comes to leftovers, does simply heating them and eating them come to mind? Why not get your kids in the kitchen to turn those ho-hum leftovers into something with a little more sizzle.
Here are 6 ways some of my favorite top chefs like to liven up leftovers:
Go Italian. Robyn Webb, cookbook author and culinary instructor, likes to give leftover turkey an Italian twist. Her idea:
Take leftover turkey and cube or slice into strips. Sauté 1 small onion in olive oil for 6 minutes. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the cooked leftover turkey and sauté for 1 minute. Add 1-1/2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce, a splash of red wine or balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons drained capers, and 6-7 sliced black pitted olives. Simmer 10 minutes. Add in 1/2 cup chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over whole wheat pasta.
Wrap ‘em. Jackie Newgent, MS, RD, culinary dietitian and author of 1001 Low-Calorie Recipes, likes to use leftover turkey to make delicious wraps. Her idea:
Quickly heat leftover turkey (shredded into pieces) in a skillet with a generous amount of pico de gallo (chunky fresh salsa). Roll in a whole wheat tortilla with lettuce and guacamole and serve.
Make a cake. Webb takes leftover mashed potatoes and turns them into potato cakes. Her idea:
Sauté 1/2 cup onion in olive oil for 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp fresh minced rosemary, 1/4 tsp each salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add to a bowl and add leftover mashed potatoes. Mix well. Spread whole wheat panko breadcrumbs on a flat plate. Form the potato mixture into cakes, about 1/2 cup each. Coat both sides of the cakes with the crumbs. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray. Add 1-1/2 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add the cakes in one layer, so do in batches if necessary. Sauté the cakes for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.
Go sweet with soup. “I like to transform those leftover yams and sweet potatoes into soups,” says Susan Irby, aka “The Bikini Chef.” Her idea:
Make a sweet potato soup with nutmeg and ginger by pureeing the potatoes with vegetable stock. Add a pinch of nutmeg and sea salt, if needed, and a little orange zest and a 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ginger root. Heat and serve.
Have stuffing for breakfast. Newgent suggests combining leftover stuffing with eggs. Her ideas:
Cut leftover bread stuffing into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Cook rounds in a skillet until crisp on both sides and heated through. Top each with a fried or poached egg. Alternatively, bake desired amount of stuffing in individual ramekins or baking dishes until hot, then top each with an egg. Enjoy for breakfast.
Make a colorful chutney. For leftover cranberry sauce (preferably canned), Irby suggests making chutney. Her idea:
Add orange zest, a few diced fresh pears and a pinch of cinnamon to leftover cranberry sauce to make cranberry pear chutney. Use as a spread on toast or breakfast biscuits, or serve a small dollop with leftover potato pancakes.
If all else fails—and if you and your family want to share the love (and delicious food)—why not give the leftovers away at the office, or to neighbors or friends. Bonnie Taub Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, says, “Those who don’t celebrate Chanukah or Thanksgiving will get the chance to enjoy your dishes, and those who do will get a chance to taste your unique recipes.”
What’s your favorite way to prepare your holiday leftovers?
Image of homemade turkey Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and corn via shutterstock.
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Although fast-food is often blamed for contributing tons of empty calories to kids’ diets, it’s just one source. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that while 34.6% of calories consumed by kids from fast-food restaurants (including pizza home delivery, restaurant food, and food from vending machines and sports/recreation facilities) did, in fact, come from solid fats and added sugars (collectively referred to as SoFAS), foods consumed from stores (including supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores) and schools (including school cafeterias and child-care centers) were similar to fast foods in their SoFAS content, with SoFAS contributing 33.2% of calories from stores and 31.2% of calories from schools. These findings came from an analysis of national survey data of dietary intake collected between 1994 and 2010 from more than 22,000 children aged 2 to 18.
In another study published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the same researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill analyzed the dietary intake of more than 3,000 children aged 2 to 18 in 2009-2010. Similar to the findings from the 1994-2010 analysis, this study revealed that empty calories account for 35% of kids’ calories from fast-food restaurants, 33% of calories from stores, and 32% of calories from schools. Interestingly, store-bought foods contributed significantly more daily empty calories (an estimated 436 calories) from sugar and solid fat to kids’ diets than either school foods or fast foods. The researchers explained that the highest calorie load derived from store-bought foods was due to the fact that almost all kids reportedly consumed them daily, whereas only 32% or 24% reported they consumed fast food or school food, respectively, on any given day.
When they looked at the biggest contributors of empty calories in kids diets based on location, the researchers found the top sources derived from stores were sugar-sweetened beverages, grain desserts, and high-fat milk. High-fat milk, grain desserts, and pizza were the top empty calorie contributors at schools, and sugar-sweetened beverages, dairy desserts, French fries, and pizza were the top sources derived from fast-food restaurants.
According to the researchers, “Efforts to reduce children’s consumption of empty calories must be made across multiple locations—not just at fast-food restaurants, but also at stores and schools.” They also single out high-fat flavored milk, grain desserts, and pizza as foods—top contributors of empty calorie intake by kids when they’re at school—that should be targeted as the new federal nutrition standards for school meals are implemented.
To help kids eat better, it’s important for parents to empower them to make more healthful choices—especially because they increasingly make food choices on their own when they’re away from home. Teaching kids how to read food labels and to identify—and choose—appropriate food portions to meet, but not exceed, their needs can also help. It’s also important to teach kids which foods and beverages can be considered everyday foods or dietary staples, and which ones should be considered as occasional or once-in-a-while foods. Eating as a family at home more often, modeling healthy eating habits and food choices, and offering a variety of options prepared in an appealing way—and getting kids involved in grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation or cooking often—can also help. Being exposed to nutritious foods and learning to prefer such foods, especially from an early age, can help them want to make better and more informed decisions down the road— whether they’re at school, at the deli, at a fast-food restaurant, or at a stadium to watch their favorite basketball team in action. Setting them up for success won’t guarantee they’ll always make the most nutritious choice, but it will point them in a more healthful direction.
How do you help your kids cut some empty calories from their diets?
Find healthy finger food recipes your tot will actually eat with our easy guide. Plus, learn how to make baby food right at home!
Image of happy lovely baby in shopping trolley via shutterstock.
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Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
We all know breakfast may very well be THE most important meal of the day, especially for growing children. But lunch is also important. Having a well-balanced lunch not only provides kids with an opportunity to meet daily food group and nutrient goals, but it helps kids stay energized. It also provides an important opportunity to get key food groups and the nutrients they provide into a kid’s day (not to mention his or her stomach as well).
A lot of parents send lunch with their kids to school daily—either out of need or to provide an alternative to lunches provided there. And oftentimes, they think these lunches are healthy. Many may therefore be surprised to learn that there’s at least some evidence that lunches brought from home may have a lower nutritional quality than lunches provided at school. A study published in Childhood Obesity found that children who ate lunches brought from home were less likely than those who ate a school lunch to have fruits, vegetables, and dairy for lunch. They were also more likely to have snacks that were higher in sugar and/or fat at lunch.
Fortunately, a little planning and nutrition know-how can go a long way to help you pack a healthy lunch. So before you pack your kids lunch to bring to school, daycare, or even for travel or a weekend outing, check out these 5 tips (and quick ideas) for fun, tasty, nutritious lunch box options from registered dietitian Holley Grainger. They take 5 minutes or less to prepare and are sure to please toddlers and school aged kids—even those with temperamental palates.
1. Get Creative with Veggies.
Don’t get discouraged if the raw baby carrots you pack for lunch day-in and day-out continue to be sent home untouched. Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when offered with a dip, so pack some guacamole or hummus alongside raw veggies and see what happens. Also, consider your preparation method. Is your child more likely to eat grilled or roasted veggies versus raw? Try preparing foods like spaghetti sauce and meatloaf with shredded or diced carrots, onions, peppers and celery mixed in and send leftovers in the lunchbox.
Quick ideas: corn kernels/corn on the cob; raw broccoli florets with hummus/roasted broccoli/steamed broccoli with cheese sauce; baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon/oven-baked sweet potato fries; oven-roasted potato wedges/potato cakes; raw zucchini rounds with ranch dip/zucchini bread.
2. Keep Your Child Hydrated.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is critical to maintain concentration and energy levels. If you’re worried your child doesn’t drink enough water at school, make sure to include water-packed foods in the lunchbox. You can also start the morning by offering oatmeal or ready-to-eat cereal made with milk and topped with fruit.
Quick ideas: watermelon, strawberries, pasta, salad greens, rice, cucumbers, grapes, bell peppers
3. Think Outside the Sandwich:
Sandwiches with lean, low-sodium deli meat are an easy way to boost protein in the lunchbox. But if you need to break out of the sandwich rut, consider some of the following protein-rich foods to keep your child feeling satisfied all afternoon.
Quick ideas: edamame, hummus, hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, beans, lentils, quinoa, roasted chickpeas, nuts, cottage cheese, tofu cubes, smoothies made with yogurt or silken tofu, and nut or seed butters
4. Pack the Power Trio: Fiber, Protein, and Healthy Fat
Three nutrients—fiber, protein, and healthy fat—have “staying power” to keep your child feeling energized throughout the day and boost his or her daily nutrient quotient. When packing a lunchbox, choose foods that hit these target nutrients.
Quick ideas: whole wheat tortilla spread with nut or seed butter, topped with banana slices and flax seed and rolled up; leftover grilled chicken sandwich with spinach, grilled veggies and hummus; low-sodium turkey pita with tomatoes, cheese, arugula and a smear of fresh avocado; egg salad made with canola mayo or Greek yogurt atop salad greens with whole wheat crackers
5. Make it Fun
Just because you’re packing a nutritious lunch doesn’t mean you can’t offer healthier alternatives to the sweet or salty treats your child craves. Consider making some of the traditional favorites yourself so you can oversee the ingredient list and remember to keep portions in check. You can also pack stickers, notes, and small toys to keep lunch interesting and fun.
Quick ideas: trail mix with whole grain cereal, nuts and chocolate chips; baked potato chips; dark chocolate square; whole grain pretzels; mini whole grain muffin; yogurt-covered raisins
Use our Food & Recipe Guides to pack a healthy lunch
Image of turkey rolls in hummus, kiwi, cheese, and milk via Holley Grainger.
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Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
If you think the shutdown of the federal government won’t have a ripple affect on our health and well being, think again. For one, it might very well make it harder for us to protect ourselves and our kids from illness caused by contaminated food.
On October 7, 2013, The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert to warn of an outbreak of foodborne illness. According to the alert, an estimated 278 illnesses caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg have recently been reported in 18 states (primarily in California).
Although the alert indicates the FSIS can’t yet link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period, it says investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials show that the likely source of the outbreak is chicken produced at Foster Farms. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments are monitoring the outbreak while the FSIS continues its investigation, an article on Wired.com quotes a CDC staffer who said that while the federal government is shut down, the agency won’t be able to conduct multi-state outbreak investigations.
According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. While consuming undercooked ground beef, chicken, and eggs can contribute to outbreaks of foodborne illness, other foods including fruits and vegetables and can also become contaminated or harbor pathogens that lead to illness.
Although symptoms of foodborne illness vary depending on the cause, common symptoms that can be mild or serious and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days include vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and chills. Young children are among the more vulnerable populations and are more likely to develop foodborne illnesses, experience dehydration or other severe complications, or even die from them.
Hopefully, the federal government will reopen soon so the workers who protect the safety of our food supply can help prevent a further spread of foodborne illnesses. In the meantime (and always), there are several measures we can take to protect ourselves and our children from foodborne illness. Here are four core practices recommended in the FightBac! program by the Partnership for Food Safety Education:
1. Clean –Wash hands and surfaces often. Simply washing your hands with soap and water in the time it takes to sing “happy birthday” can cut your risk of getting sick from food by 50%.
2. Separate—Don’t cross contaminate. Keep raw foods away from cooked foods and separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart and in your refrigerator.
3. Cook—Cook to proper temperatures. Using a meat thermometer—not eyeballing foods for doneness—is essential to make sure foods are cooked to safe internal temperatures.
4. Chill—Refrigerate promptly. Keep your refrigerator set to 40 degrees Farenheit or below and never let perishable foods sit out for more than 2 hours—or more than 1 hour outside when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Farenheit.
To learn more, check out the Food Safe Families Campaign Toolkit or visit foodsafety.gov.
Image of mother washing kid’s hands via shutterstock.
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