Posts Tagged ‘ Nutrition ’

Lessons From A Day of No Sugar

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Table-SugarWe did it! We survived a day of no sugar. Inspired by Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, several of my colleagues and I shunned the sweet stuff on Wednesday, part of a national #NoSugarChallenge. That meant no table sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, or any sugar in packaged foods. Sweet fruit and vegetables were still on the table.

While Eve and her family gave up sugar for an entire year, one day seemed like a manageable goal. But, for many of us, it was a tougher challenge than we anticipated, primarily because sugar is in so many foods—80 percent of products found in the supermarket in fact.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here are our reports on what was easy, what was hard, and what we learned:

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director – So, I failed straight off the bat: I forgot it was no-sugar day and poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast (looking at the label after work, I saw that the brand contains both honey and molasses, a.k.a. sugar). But once I got to work and remembered my mission I had a steely reserve to resist sugar, including: Bagels, cookies at my cube mate’s desk, and jelly beans at my other cube mate’s desk. When I went for lunch, I actually looked at the label for the salad dressing to make sure it was sugar free (it seemed to be!) and said “no thank you” to the roll that was offered with my salad that was likely made with sugar.

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor – I thought by biggest struggle would be handling my after-lunch sweet tooth, but my sugar-free banana chocolate “ice cream” was amazing and it actually felt very indulgent. The rest of the day proved to be more difficult. I didn’t realize how many condiments and packaged ingredients actually had sugar in them. While I won’t be making this a permanent change at this time, it did open my eyes to the problem and I will be checking the labels more closely in the grocery store from now on.

Rheanna Bellomo, Editorial Assistant – I made it through breakfast, lunch, and dinner by making all my own fresh food (nothing processed) and snacking on a mango in the afternoon. What I found so funny was that once I settled in for the night with my book, the challenge completely slipped my mind and I had a piece of chocolate. It was so mindless! That’s what really stuck with me: the need to be more thoughtful about food.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor – It was a lot harder than I expected—and we are really careful about added sugar to begin with. Breakfast was easy (eggs & fruit), but when packing lunch, I remembered that our whole-wheat bread has one gram of sugar per slice and the peanut butter has a gram per serving. I couldn’t do much about that last minute so Katie had three grams of added sugar in her lunch. I had a salad for lunch, and made my own balsamic vinaigrette so it would be sugar-free. But I blew my sugar-free day when I mindlessly tried a piece of a granola bar that came in the mail for an upcoming story—that was about three grams of sugar. For dinner, we had whole-grain pasta with a fresh sauce I made with heirloom tomatoes and red onions. Overall, it was a really good reminder about how pervasive added sugar is in foods that don’t taste at all sweet, and how deliciously sweet and satisfying fruit is. I’m going to try to do it once a week–a la Meatless Monday, maybe this is Sugar-Free Sunday. Starting the week after Easter, of course!

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant – My goal of cooking vegan was unsuccessful (I didn’t realize how complicated some of the recipes could be!), but I was able to eat vegan for the day, which I loved! The hardest part was passing up a morning bagel and cream cheese, but I was surprised to find that during the workday especially, my sugar-free snacks of fruit, almonds, and tea kept me going between meals. After dinner did get hard for me, seeing as a lot of the snacks I go for after dinner have added sugar in them. If definitely opened my eyes to what even having a cookie after dinner can do to your sugar intake. The habit I’ll definitely continue is snacking on almonds and fruit through the workday. I bought a 1 bag of almonds at the drug store and they’ve kept me full and lasted all week.

Sherry Huang, Features Editor – The two toughest times of the day were the afternoon (when I usually eat a sugary snack) and the evening (when I usually have dessert after dinner). After eating a few Craisins by accident (shoot, added sugar!), Jenna rescued me with a no-sugar-added protein bar for a snack. Dessert was a little pitiful – plain saltine crackers and natural peanut butter. I did feel slightly more alert and energetic throughout the day, so that was a bonus. Overall, the challenge was slightly easier than I anticipated, in part because it was just for one day, and there were no tempting treats lying around the office! I do confess to waiting until midnight to eat some cake, but I’d be willing to try avoiding sugar for a few more days…but maybe not consecutive ones.

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant – It took some planning, but turns out I have a good amount of meal options that I typically eat anyway that are sugar-free. The main component of my meals didn’t deviate from my norm (eggs over spinach with some nuts for breakfast, a salad with black beans and an apple for lunch, banana for an afternoon snack, chicken and rice and a small salad for dinner with blackberries for dessert). What DID surprise me is how many of my condiments had sugar in them. I couldn’t have my usual salad dressing – I opted for lemon juice instead – and I couldn’t have barbeque sauce on my chicken – that actually has a LOT of sugar in it. I think in the future I will pay more attention to the “sugars” listing on nutrition labels and opt for things with less sugar, but I have no plans to go sugar-free for good. I like my whole wheat pastas and multigrain breads and even that barbeque sauce. The challenge was certainly interesting and eye-opening!

Madeleine Burry, Associate Managing Editor – The best part of the sugar-free day was the need to be thoughtful about what I eat: Does that salad dressing have sugar added? What about that bottled tomato sauce? I prepped for the day with lots of tiny containers of fruits and veggies (apple slices in one, cut up cucumber in another, and grapes in the last little tupperware), and was able to escape the kitchen without trying the cookies temptingly laid out on the counter, and make it through the treacherous three to five p.m. window, when I’m most vulnerable to lure of the sugary snack. Will I quit sugar forever? No way! I quit sugar for a month once, and midway through, life felt dark and dreary. A little sweetness is a good thing, and sometimes an apple just doesn’t cut it. But I will definitely try to be more mindful when eating, especially about the presence of sugar in foods I don’t think of as being sweet (like ketchup, instant oatmeal packets, dried fruit, and salad dressing).

For my part, feeding my daughter sugar-free meals turned out to be the toughest challenge. She usually has a low-sugar cereal for breakfast, but we decided on eggs and whole grain crackers for breakfast—not something I’d want her to have everyday. I left a list of sugar-free snacks for the babysitter, and it was a little humdrum: dried plums, more crackers, fruit, milk.

Participating in this challenge made me realize just how hard it is to not eat sugar throughout the day, especially for kids. Since all the grams of sugar – in cereal, chocolate milk, yogurt, and granola bars – add up, even if I feel like I’m feeding my daughter a “healthy” diet, it is still very sugary. My new goal is to step up my game and find some delicious, sugar-free options for her everyday diet.

Could you or your kids ever go sugar-free—even just for a day?

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

Image: Sugar on wooden table via Shutterstock

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Parents Tackles A Day of No Sugar

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Today, a few of us here at Parents are going sugar-free. That means no table sugar in our coffee, honey in our tea, or syrup in our oatmeal. It also means saying no to any processed foods that contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, evaporated cane juice, agave, or molasses, just to name a few of sugar’s aliases.

But, just because we’re saying no to a lot of foods, there are many others we can still say “yes” to including naturally sweet fruits and vegetables.

Many of us are also enlisting our families in this experiment. We were inspired by writer Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, in which she, her husband, and her two small children cut out sugar – for a whole year. Schaub has declared today, Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge.

Why are we doing this? We each have our own reasons, but the fact is that Americans are drowning in added sugar. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. We now consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, about double what we should be eating.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here is what my colleagues are saying about giving up sugar tomorrow:

Ashley Oerman, Assistant Editor: I’m doing this because I think I might actually be addicted to sweets. I think it would be a great exercise in impulse control (a study I just read said this could be genetic. I blame my ice cream-aholic dad).

Sherry Huang, Features Editor: I have an irrational fear that I am addicted to sweets or the taste of sweetness. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I crave is something sweet. When 3 p.m. rolls around, I need a sweet snack, and after dinner, a meal is never complete without dessert (who cares about a cheese plate?). I would like to make (more of) an effort to curb the craving and resist my pull toward eating an excess of sugary, processed foods so I can start to gravitate toward more healthy, natural foods.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor: For my daughter, no chocolate milk in her lunch—water instead. No cookie or small piece of candy after dinner; it will be fruit! And I’ll be sure to make dinner since you don’t know what’s in the restaurant food!

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant: So I’m a pretty healthy eater anyway – lots of fruits and veggies. I’d say it’s most likely going to affect breakfast the most – since I won’t be having cereal or oatmeal and probably opt for something more protein-y like eggs. In general, it will be tough not to eat processed foods. I sometimes eat a frozen meal or a veggie burger or salad with salad dressing for lunch, so I’ll have to check on that. But I really don’t eat too much sugar, so I’ll be surprised if one day of this is crazy challenging. (Famous last words.)

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director: A sugar-free day wouldn’t be a big challenge for most of my meals, but it would be difficult for me to pass up on treats, if they came in my path. I almost never say no to a cookie or a sweet, if it’s offered. [And, here at Parents, they’re offered a lot!]

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant: Since I’ve always been curious about going vegan, I’m using this as a chance to try a couple of sugar-free vegan recipes I’ve pinned! Fingers crossed the goodies in the Parents kitchen don’t get the best of me…

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor: I’ve always been pretty good about not adding sugar to drinks or fruit but boy do I have a chocolate sweet tooth. Especially after lunch and dinner, I always love a bite (and sometimes more) of chocolate to feel like I’ve completed the meal. Tomorrow I’m hiding the cookies and candy and trying a Pinterest recipe of a frozen banana mashed with a bit of cocoa powder. I’m hoping the result will curb my appetite for chocolate!

Personally, I am going to miss sugar in my coffee the most. And, I’m nervous about finding a sugar-free breakfast my 8 year-old will like (I’m thinking of giving her a smoothie with milk, Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond butter, frozen grapes, and a banana). But, I’m excited to choose from all the delicious, sugar-free foods at our disposal: hummus and veggies, apples with unsweetened peanut butter, roasted sweet potatoes, pasta with quick homemade marinara, and chicken noodle soup, just to name a few.

Tomorrow or Friday we’ll report back and let you know how we survived our day of no sugar.

Will you say no to sugar with us today? Give it a shot, and let us know how you’re doing by tweeting us @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.

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Could You Give Up Sugar for a Day? Join Us As We Try

Monday, April 7th, 2014

A couple years ago writer Eve Schaub, her husband, and their two small kids stopped eating sugar — for a whole year. Not only did this mean no cookies, candy, or ice cream, they also discovered that many of their favorite everyday foods contained hidden sugars including some brands of bacon, crackers, yogurt, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, tortillas, and even ketchup.

Schaub learned that the sweet stuff is everywhere, often lurking on food labels under names like high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, dextrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, or molasses.

She chronicled her family’s journey in the upcoming book Year of No Sugar. And, now she’s organizing an event for the rest of us to test our sugar-free mettle, for one day only (phew!). Schaub has declared Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge. Several of us here at Parents are going to participate, and we’d love to have as many of our readers as possible join us.

But, first of all — why give up sugar at all?

To be clear, not all sugar is “bad.” Natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are fine. Because your apple contains fiber that counteracts its sugar content, your body remains balanced. But, dig in to packaged applesauce with its heaping teaspoons of sugar, and your body must produce insulin to battle it. All too often, this can lead to a number of problems ranging from sluggishness and irritability to diabetes and heart disease.

The World Health Organization recommends limiting daily sugar intake to 9 teaspoons for men, 6 teaspoons for women, and 4 teaspoons for children. A typical breakfast of cereal and juice can rack up 11 teaspoons—that’s nearly four times the amount your kid should have in an entire day! Clearly, we need to cut back.

On top of this, sugar does not satisfy hunger. Instead, it can make you hungrier (or “HANGRY”) and more moody once your blood sugar drops.

So how did sugar get in virtually everything we eat in the first place?

Sugar used to be a condiment, sprinkled lightly onto food. Now, sugar has become our food. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. This is because a majority of the food we eat is processed, which requires refined sugar to be palatable.

One of the best examples of this is flavored yogurt. Often considered a health food, yogurt can actually be pit of hidden sugar. Traditional yogurt is strained, sour milk—it’s supposed to be tangy. “Who gave us the notion to add fruit-flavored syrups to make it sweet? The food industry, which wants to sell more,” says Dr. Lustig. “No doctor would suggest that.”

Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

I’m already thinking about what my 8 year-old daughter and I will eat on Wednesday. Surprisingly, I think breakfast will be the toughest challenge. With no honey or maple syrup, oatmeal just won’t be the same. The vast majority of packaged cereals are out. Virtually any bread I buy at the grocery store has sugar in it, so no toast. I will probably make us a smoothie with milk, banana, unsweetened yogurt, frozen fruit, and unsweetened peanut butter. Eggs are another possibility.

Does this one-day experiment seem like more trouble than it’s worth? For a minute. But, then I remember that sugar doesn’t really belong in every single food we eat. I’ve come to crave the taste so much that any meal without something sweet seems like it’s missing something. I want to prove that I have power over my cravings. Because, really, we should be able to make it through just one measly day without sugar. Right?

Would you ever give up sugar, even just for a day? If you’re game, join us on Wednesday: Tweet to @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.; close up on fruit salad via Shutterstock

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Dinner in 30 Minutes: Fat Chance?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Healthy and quick have always seemed to be on different playing fields when it comes to dinner. But pediatrician and dad of two Robert Lustig, M.D., has spent 16 years trying to change that—all while treating childhood obesity and studying the effects of sugar on the body. In his latest book, The Fat Chance Cookbook, he provides more than 100 delicious and wholesome meals for families to prepare in 30 minutes or less. Still not convinced? Every recipe was vetted by high school students in home economics classes—if they can do it, so can you!

Dr. Lustig recently shared his secrets for cutting sugar in baked goods and convincing kids to eat spinach.

The main premise of the book is that not all calories are created equal. Can you tell us why that’s so important?

It goes without saying that 100 calories from a cookie are not equal to 100 calories from spinach. Your body uses and stores fuel—calories—very differently, depending on the quality of those calories.

I’m often dubbed “anti-sugar,” but I hate that. I’m actually anti-processed food. As a society, we are eating too much processed food, which contains a lot of added sugar to make it more palatable. Most of us are not consuming enough real food, which has fiber to balance its natural sugar content. We are way over the threshold on sugar and need to return to real, fresh food.

I highly recommend the TED-Ed series on hidden sugars and the food industry called Hiding in Plain Sight. It delves into the larger issues and helps parents make better decisions while grocery shopping.

What do you think is the root cause of the childhood obesity epidemic?

We are consuming all the wrong things. We need more fiber, more Omega-3 fatty acids, more micronutrients, less sugar, no trans fats. I remember when sugar used to be a condiment, not a dietary staple. It’s okay for sugar to flavor food, but not be your food. With this cookbook, my message is that you can prepare real food fast. And not one recipe includes processed ingredients.

If parents aren’t counting calories, what should they be doing?

Look at labels. More importantly, buy food without labels like fresh produce. Then determine how much added sugar or trans fats there are in the labeled foods you’re purchasing. Look for sugar hiding behind one of 56 pseudonyms like corn syrup, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose; the list goes on and on.

Be wary of health claims on the front of your favorite products. The rules governing statements like “hearty-healthy” and “low-fat” are bizzare and less strict than you’d think. Typically, if there’s a health claim on an item, you should probably ignore it and check its nutritional value and ingredients list.

Understand that real food has the answers: the fiber in your apple balances its natural sugar content. Use whole, fresh ingredients and everything improves.

Okay, so how does a busy family get a wholesome dinner on the table while running to sports games, after-school clubs, and PTA meetings?

I know exactly where parents are coming from. I have two girls, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old, so we shuffle between soccer practice and debate team. We’re always running, but somehow my wife or I find a way to get a real-food dinner on the table every night.

Our trick: stocking the pantry and freezer. I keep a lot of options in my freezer, including chicken breasts and steak. Don’t be afraid of weekend prep. It saves so much time to cook something up, store and save it, or even freeze it for later.

Cindy Gershen, who developed the recipes in the cookbook, is stellar at using leftovers. Because of her, we were able to include tips for how to do that in the book.

What are the first few steps to make toward a better family diet?

You have to build it in slowly. It takes forethought, planning, and trips to the supermarket. It takes a little time, but it doesn’t take a lot of time. Plus, it’s typically cheaper! Start by simply planning a week’s worth of meals ahead of time and prepping a few sides over the weekend.


Which recipes are best to start with?

My favorite weeknight recipes are Quinoa and Black Bean Burrito Bowl (page 214), Brown Rice with Lime and Cilantro (page 225), and Joe’s Scramble (with homemade sausage, green onion, mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan cheese; page 142). Some may sound lengthy, but the active time of every recipe is 30 minutes or less.

And my overall favorite recipe in the book is Polenta Patties with Sautéed Greens, Poached Eggs, and Basil Salsa (page 143). But that’s more for weekend brunch, and it’s slightly elaborate.

Temptation can be hard to battle. Do you ever treat yourself?

My wife loves to bake, but when she does, she cuts the sugar in every recipe by a third. That sounds crazy but it works, and it tastes better! Without being sickeningly sweet, you can taste the other ingredients like nuts and dried fruit.

Our anniversary is coming up and we’re going to a French restaurant. We’ll definitely have dessert and we’ve planned for it: we haven’t had dessert all week!

My kids know that on weekdays dessert is a piece of fruit. If it’s the weekend, then we’ll talk about treats. And the thing is, it doesn’t bother them. They don’t feel like they’re missing anything.

Growing up, were your kids ever picky about fruits, veggies, or other healthy options? How did you work around it?

Of course they were picky. I just had to keep at it. Sure, it’s a pain to keep serving up spinach, but you have no choice. It can take 13 tastes of one savory item before a toddler will like it. Sweets only need introducing once.

But don’t give in! The problem perpetuates when people opt for the easy answer: letting their kids eat refined carbs. Then those same kids become picky eaters who won’t eat anything but processed food.

Putting the effort in is hard, finding the time and where-with-all is hard, but life is hard and raising kids is hard! In the end, it’s all worth it.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

Images: Mother and happy child via Shutterstock, The Fat Chance Cookbook cover courtesy of Hudson Street Press, Healthy and unhealthy food on scale via Shutterstock.

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

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Giada’s Recipe for Feeling Good

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

You know Giada De Laurentiis: the Food Network star, author of 10 books, mom, and all-around busy lady who somehow stays thin, healthy, and gorgeous. It’s enough to make us mortals green with envy. But happily, in her new book Giada’s Feel Good Food she is sharing her get-healthy and stay-there secrets with the rest of us. In a recent conversation, Giada revealed some of her tips for eating well on a budget and why she doesn’t believe in diets. 

Q: As parents, we focus a lot on good nutrition for kids (which is important of course). But we don’t talk as much about good nutrition for parents. Do you think that’s problematic?

A: I like to say that this is the perfect opportunity to lead by example! My daughter Jade loves asking me questions while I’m cooking, and if I don’t baby-talk her, but rather get on her level and explain what all the yummy things going into my smoothie are and how they are going to fuel my body, then she’s far more likely to try what normally would look to her like a nasty green shake! It’s a great motivator, being an example for anyone.

Q: Why do you think it’s so difficult for many moms to eat well?

A: Two words: busy and tired. The thing is, the best way to help offset those two words is a well-balanced meal plan and some fun exercise. I’m not suggesting a boring diet or some workout that you’re going to dread all day long. Life is short, and we are made to be happy! Take a brisk walk with the kids through the neighborhood. Play hide-and-seek. Or try some nice yoga moves together! Eating healthy can and should be delicious; I think sometimes people just need to have the opportunity to discover an appreciation for fresh foods and natural flavor.

Q: What are three simple things parents can do to improve their diets?

A: Skip sodas, replace refined sugars with natural sugars like those found in fruit, and eat more often in smaller portions. Portion control is truly the key.

Q: Do you have any tips for people on a budget who are trying to eat well?

A: Skip the restaurant and cook at home. It will be easier on your wallet than eating at restaurants night after night.  If you don’t consider yourself a cook, start simple and be patient with yourself. Learning to cook for yourself is a great way to be budget-savvy, plus it will taste better because you will learn to make it just how you like it. And if you do have a night out, skip the booze and do dessert at home to skinny up that check! 

Q: Why do you say you don’t believe in diets for you?

A: Because I don’t stick to them and I generally resist things that seem like deprivation. I choose to get excited about my health and my body and adjust my meal plan and activities accordingly.  Being healthy is a lifestyle and a state of mind, and diets don’t contribute to that in a positive way for me. It’s not sustainable, and I like things I can build on, look forward to, and get excited about. Being healthy is exciting!

Q: Like many moms you are one busy lady! How do you manage to fit exercise and healthy eating into your schedule?

A: For me, the key is good planning. You have to set yourself up for success, you know? I like to cook a few meals in advance to help with the impossible days in the week… there are always a couple!

Q: You mention that when you were younger you were addicted to chocolate and sugar. How did you kick the habit?

A: I got pregnant. Jade changed everything for me. Once I started eating for two, I really started really paying attention to what I was eating and made it a habit. A good one!

Q: If we forced you to choose, what would you say are your favorite three recipes in the book?

A: That’s hard. This book is full of my favorite recipes and feels a little like sharing my diary because a lot of these are what I cook myself… but I would say the Avocado-Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries, the Swiss Chard Rolls with Wild and Brown rice and Indian Spices, and, of course, my go-to Spinach, Ginger, and Apple smoothie [recipe below]! 

Q: A lot of moms deal with picky eaters. What do you think is the best way to encourage kids to eat a variety of foods?

A: The best way to encourage them is to involve them in the process! I think the root of picky eaters is that they want control. It’s a power struggle, and I think that’s totally okay. They want to have control of what goes in their bodies, and it’s the perfect opportunity to empower them. Flip through the cookbook with them, see what sounds fun to make, and then cook with them! It will change a picky little eater’s tune just like that.

Q: What are your daughter’s favorite foods?

A: My girl loves her waffles. I’d have to say that’s probably her favorite right now. I’m excited though because she’s adventurous with food and is willing to try new things. She has a strong opinion and knows what she likes, but she’ll give things a shot, which is great.

Q: You’ve also written children’s books. What inspired you? 

A: Jade is my ultimate inspiration. I wanted to write something she could enjoy soon, rather than having to wait until she can use my cookbooks. I come from a big Italian family of storytellers and I wanted to have a way to tell about the adventures I had with my own brother when I was a kid. We were fortunate as kids to get to travel a lot but even when we were just playing in our room, it turned into a grand adventure. Our imaginations were limitless, and I really wanted to encourage that curiosity for exploration — exploring the world as well as the kitchen!

Get recipes that will help your baby go start eating solid foods here. Plus, get everything you need for holiday baking from Shop Parents.

Spinach, Ginger, and Apple Smoothie

From Giada’s Feel Good Food

Makes 2 cups; Serves 2

1½ cups ice

½ cup water

1 medium apple, such as Fuji or Honey Crisp, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 cup packed baby spinach leaves

1/3 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Combine all of the ingredients in the blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

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Andre Agassi’s Box Budd!es Shake Up The Lunchbox

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Parents caught up with tennis star, humanitarian, father (and now snack-creator) Andre Agassi upon the launch of his new snack line for kids, Box Budd!es. Agassi teamed up with V20 Foods to create snacks from milk boxes to granola bars.We particularly enjoyed the fun new Peachy Apple Fruit Pouch as a twist on traditional applesauce. The chocolate granola bars win the Parents vote since they’re the perfect size for a lunchbox treat, with only 100 calories and 5 grams of sugar each. Not to mention, all of the proceeds from these foods benefit the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. But aside from this endeavor, as dad to Jaden, 11, and Jaz, 9, this pro has plenty to say about healthy eating, kids and sports, and teaching your child kindness.

P: What got you started on the nutritional front for kids?

AA: The impetus was about education and it morphed into educating on two fronts. All the money goes to my Foundation for Education, so we can educate our future, and we also educate parents on how to make better choices for their kids.

P: The snacks are a bit healthier and the proceeds support education, but I have to imagine taste was a factor. Were Jaden and Jaz your taste-testers?

AA: They were two of them, let me put it that way. Their cousins were four more and their friends. As we got closer to the end product it became a fun thing in the house. We would line up all these blind taste tests and cut them into little tiny squares so you could compare them and then they would all do their little notes about them. It was actually a pretty fun process.

P: So are applesauce and chocolate milk some of their favorite foods?

AA: We have the same dilemma every parent has in that you keep your kids living a well-balanced health lifestyle and it starts with educating them on their choices and forcing them to eat something healthy before they eat something that’s not as healthy.

P: What are you tricks of the trade in getting them to choose that healthier option?

AA: Well, it’s a mandate. If you want something that’s unhealthy for a snack, you first have to eat an apple. You want to go to dessert, you have to finish this on your plate. It’s filling them up on the good stuff before they choose the bad stuff. If they ask for snacks, as long as they eat something healthy they can have the snack. We don’t discriminate against the snack as long as they start with the healthy option.

P: I know that you are involved with the Boys and Girls club, an organization that mixes education and athletics. Do Jaden and Jaz play sports to keep active and healthy?

AA: Yeah. My son plays baseball, full stop, and my daughter’s on two hip hop dance competition teams. She is rock hard now and she’s nine. I didn’t even know bodies could do those movements. It’s crazy to watch her do it.We’re there at competitions and games cheering all the time.

P: In your autobiography, Open, you talk a lot about how tennis felt pressurized for you. How do you keep athletics, or dance, or physical activity in general fun for your kids? 

AA: Well, we’re not the kind of parents who expect them to do this for a lifetime. We try to nurture what they gravitate towards and they both found their niche pretty quickly. We just support it. There’s nothing to push them at. They just have to see through their responsibility. It’s really smiple: You’re going to fulfill your responsibility. Jaz is part of two dance competitions. She doesn’t have to do it next year, but this year I say, “You’re going to every practice, you’re going to go to every competition.” Same with Jaden—he can make his choices year to year if that’s what he chooses, but I harp on being responsible.

P: Through your Foundation and all of the wonderful causes that you’ve been a supporter of, giving back is clearly an important value to you. How do you go about instilling that value in your children?

AA: All of those things I did that led me  to education. I got tired of sticking band-aids on issues and I wanted to give the tools for real systemic change. But I will tell you this, and one thing I’ve learned most profoundly as a parent: children will learn from what they see way more than what you tell them. So the fact that I’m in New York right now for two days and I’m not home with them, they want to know where I am and why I’m going. I walk them through what I’m doing, as an example, with Box Budd!es. They all of a sudden realize that I’m not really doing something I want to do—I don’t want to travel, I don’t want to leave them—but I have to because it is the right thing to do. So they see that more than telling them. Next thing you know on the weekend they’re having a lemonade drive for the ASPCA to save pets and animals. It’s remarkable how that correlates.

P: I know that Jaden has a birthday coming up, he’s about to turn 12. Do you have birthday plans?

AA: Both of them actually. Jaz wants to take her entire dance team to the Jabberwockies. So that would be the third year in a row she wants to do that. They’re better athletes than anyone I’ve ever seen on a tennis court. They’re remarkable what they can do. Jaden, his birthday is late October so he’s still sort of morphing back and forth between a very understated barbeque with just a few friends or a big movie night with his entire team.

P: Will you serve Box Budd!es at the birthday party?

I’m gonna push this as much as possible. I hope this brand builds. I hope that when people see that seal, that logo, that this is really going towards our future, that they trust the source, and that 100 percent of all my proceeds are going directly to our future.

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Chop To It! How To Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

After writing more than 21 cookbooks and contributing to numerous national publications, mom-of-two Sally Sampson decided to dedicate her skills to the fight against childhood obesity. In 2010, ChopChop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families was born. The quarterly delivers lively food fundamentals for kids (and adults!) to doctors’ offices, schools, and homes across the country. Now, the clever cooking guide is available in book form. ChopChop: The Kids’ Guide to Cooking Real Food With Your Family features more than 100 recipes to get your kids in the kitchen. And if these fun ideas don’t inspire your little ones, Sampson has a few tips that just might do the trick.

ChopChop is dedicated to teaching children cooking skills and healthy eating habits. Why is this mission important to you?

Before I created ChopChop, I was writing cookbooks but didn’t feel that was enough. I knew I could do more than write recipes; I wanted to make a difference. Teaching nutrition and cooking to a child helps her understand that there’s a difference between an apple, apple juice, and apple-flavored products. Then she can make better food choices, and that results in better health. Plus, cooking is such a wonderful way to bond with your kids! I just think it’s the greatest, most important thing.

How did you come up with the name “ChopChop?”

You know, it’s the funniest thing: we spent days and days listing different names and none of them felt right. Then one day I just said, “ChopChop.”And it stuck.

I have to ask—what were the duds?

One of them was “Picnic,” another was “Nosh.” And there were a million versions with “Kids Cooking.” When I look at them now, they really just don’t fit.

How can kids get their hands on a copy?

Subscribe! Or find copies in your pediatrician’s office, hospital, or school. If your school doesn’t have issues available, you can visit our website or call us to set up a classroom subscription. Some schools have even gathered sponsors and created custom editions!

The magazine received the James Beard Foundation Publication of the Year Award for 2013. What was that like?

It was great! It gave us gravitas in the food world—Mark Bittman has written about us in the New York Times, and our readership has close to doubled in subscriptions. As the only kids’ magazine to receive the award, in addition to being a non-profit, we’ve really stood out.

Reviewers have credited the cookbook with teaching their own children math and measurements, science and chemistry through cooking, and nutrition. What other benefits are there to cooking as a family?

It’s such a great way to connect with your child as a parent. In some ways, that’s the most important thing about cooking. It’s creative, fun, and uniting. Food is also a really good way to understand other cultures. When I was growing up, we didn’t eat hummus or salsa. Through cooking together, new foods and tastes feel more familiar.

At what age should parents start bringing kids into the kitchen?

Immediately—it’s never too early! If you have an infant, bring her into the kitchen in her high chair and tell her what you’re feeding her. Say, “I’m cooking carrots. Carrots are orange.” Start a monologue with your baby. As she gets older, continue your monologue but start to ask questions. Ask, “How many cherry tomatoes are there?” And have her toss them into a salad.

Then as your child grows, gauge her ability. She will be interested in being part of it. Children want to be a success in the adult world and being in the kitchen is a great way to do that—just be sure to let her take the next steps and progress.

It might be hard at first for parents to get their kids in the kitchen—what do you suggest?

Start very small. Tell your child you need his help. Just say, “We’re having pasta tonight, can you pick out the shape?” Then give them more choices: “Let’s plan out your meals for school lunch.” To make it easier (and healthier) for my kids, I made a chart of acceptable options and they chose which lunches to have on which days. Tiny things like that can get kids very excited about participating.

How did you encourage your children to eat a variety of foods?

This was my point of view on dinner: I never made two meals and I never made them try anything. I never said, “You have to taste it.” Instead, I told my kids that if they didn’t like what I made, they could have cereal (non-sugared Cheerios), cottage cheese, or yogurt. If there isn’t an amazing alternative your children will eat dinner. Otherwise, if you make it appealing not to eat what you make – by offering chicken nuggets for example – why would they eat it?

As for picky eaters, don’t make it a big deal. Just keep putting other foods on the table that they might say they don’t like. Avoid defining your child as a picky eater and don’t give her pickiness a lot of attention.

The cookbook proves that you don’t need to be a “foodie” in order to cook well and healthfully. Instead, it presents cooking as a fun life skill that everyone should know and enjoy. Was this part of your goal?

Yes, of course. It’s really simple and easy to cook and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming or esoteric. We need to help the generation of non-cooks raising non-cooks and get them into the kitchen. I’ve even had retirees and college students send letters, thanking us for helping them become better cooks.

So which recipes are best for kids when cooking for the first time?

Smoothies—they’re so adaptable: If a recipe calls for an apple, you could replace with a pear. If you can’t have milk, you can use soy milk. It’s also really fun to watch the blender—it’s like it’s exploding!

Sandwiches are also great to make with any age kids. Our Rainbow Sandwich recipe challenges them to fill their bread with as many colors as possible. For this, I suggest putting out a spread of cabbage, tomatoes, colored cheeses, and other options. It shows kids that a sandwich doesn’t have to be ham, mustard, and cheese.

What are your favorite family recipes?

Vegetable chili. You can make it spicy or not, and you can serve up little bowls of onions, avocado, hot sauce, cilantro, and yogurt to personalize it. It’s a great way to get kids to try new things. And they love putting together our other adult-like “Make It Your Way” meals.

And about the term “kid-friendly:” Why don’t you use it?

I don’t think there’s kid food and adult food. We don’t have anything in the magazine or book that’s not appropriate for an adult. I highly discourage having a two-meal dinner. Food is food. And you shouldn’t have anything in the house you don’t want your child to eat!

What else should readers should know?

If you’re trying to change the eating habits of your family, take really small steps. If you eat out five times a week, and you can cook one meal a week at home, that’s a good step. Really big changes really fast don’t work. Take baby steps. It’s okay.

Interview has been edited and condensed.

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Best Baby and Toddler Feeding Tips

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Both in the U.S. and the U.K., Annabel Karmel is the number-one name for moms who want to make their own baby food. The mother of three has written more than a dozen books about feeding babies and toddlers; her iPhone app is also a hit. Now she’s offering advice and delicious recipes for pregnant moms with her new book Eating for Two.

What inspired you to dive into nutrition, meal planning, and baby food?

About three months after my first child was born, I felt very uneasy—she didn’t look right to me. We took her to the hospital and were there for five days and nights. They believed something was wrong with her brain. On the last night, she died. I can’t even explain what that feels like. She was my first child.

I knew that having another child was the only thing that could bring me back to life, and so my son Nicholas is the reason I wrote my first book. I was quite adamant that he should eat well. I tried books on baby purees and they were all very bland. I tried commercial products and he wouldn’t eat them. I only got him to eat well with my own with herbs, garlic, and fresh food.

I was giving my recipes to all the mums around and they told me I should write a book.

So you did!

I spoke with many, many allergy specialists, nutritionists, and research bodies. It took me two and half years before my first book came out in 1991, The Healthy Baby Meal Planner. I thought that would be the only book I wrote, but so far I’ve written about one book each year on a range of topics: weekly meal planning, feeding fussy eaters, creating family meals, transitioning from puree to solid food, and cooking with your child.

What are good first foods?

I don’t believe in baby cereal. I like vegetables and fruit, preferably sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. Simply steam it to preserve the nutrients, or bake it, which will caramelize it. Then mix it with your baby’s usual milk. Apple and pear are also great choices because they are slightly sweet, similar to breast milk. Then start branching out and introduce mashed papaya, peaches, banana, and avocado.

When making purees, stick to a single ingredient and keep it as close to liquid as possible. Babies are used to breast milk, and you need to mimic that consistency to start. Then work up to mixing a fruit and a vegetable together and creating thicker purees. Try introducing your little one to broccoli and spinach by mixing them with root vegetables.

What if my child is picky and won’t eat a lumpy sweet potato puree?

Stick with it! In the first year, you must introduce to as many foods as possible. Withholding certain foods has nothing to do with developing an allergy or not, but rather it can make children quite fussy. It’s really about trying to train kids to like good food. It’s hard to transition from commercial, processed food to homemade family food. Start them on fresh family food and you shouldn’t have much of a problem.

What are the best first finger foods?

Steamed veggies and soft fruits like peaches, broccoli, pears. I also love serving fingers of toast with real cheese, mini meatballs, and sautéed grated onion and apple.

How can moms be sure their babies and toddlers are getting the nutrition they need?

Follow my books and meal planner—it takes all the worry out of it. Once you’re past the simple foods, bring in eggs, fish, chicken, and other meat. I like putting things like dried apricot into beef casserole or fresh fruit into a savory puree to get babies to like it.

Other key points to remember: variety and food groups. Serve fish or meat twice each week or add cheese to a veggie puree. Do not stick to smooth purees for too long. To avoid this, blend half and chop the other half or keep it lumpier.

Don’t be discouraged or frustrated when you’re baby becomes independent, experiments with food, and then makes a mess. Mums need to accept that and take a deep breath.

Sometimes introducing the same food over and over doesn’t work for me. So I make something else. Is this the right thing to do?

It’s actually important for the child to feel hungry. Otherwise he will carry on and on and get fussy with food whenever he doesn’t feel like eating something. Give him no attention for not eating. It’s a hard thing to do, but focus on the good and not the bad. We’re all guilty of going to the cupboard and trying to appease our children, afraid they will be hungry. But when they’re hungry, that’s the time they will eat something different. Otherwise their diet won’t be varied and that’s the worst thing.

What is the best way to store baby food?

I loved cooking for my children on the weekend and freezing purees in ice cube trays. You’re better off making it in bulk.

Can parents just blend up what they’re eating for dinner?

Yes! But be mindful that no salt or strong seasonings are added.

Do you have a favorite go-to recipe when you’re in a pinch?

My mini-meatballs. I bake them in the oven and then freeze the extra. I also love chicken balls and salmon balls—all are made with breadcrumbs, tomato, and spring onion.

Any tips for mom’s diet?

While pregnant, try not to gain too much weight. You don’t need any extra calories, not until the last three months anyway, because your body is great at using all of the calories and nutrients you already provide. Eating many small meals is best, and good snacks are sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

After your child is born, you must continue to eat well, especially when breast-feeding. You don’t think about storing up food in the freezer but it is such a help to plan ahead for when you’re back from the hospital. If you eat well and rest, you will feel so much better. And it will be nutritious for baby.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

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