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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Michelle Dudash is an Arizona-based Registered Dietitian and Cordon Bleu-certified chef. She’s also a busy mom who wants to feed her sometimes-picky 4-year-old a healthy, balanced diet. Over the years she’s created appealing family dishes and helpful strategies for getting a home-cooked meal on the table quickly. She shares her recipes and advice in her cookbook Clean Eating for Busy Families.
Q: What do you mean by “clean eating?”
A: At its foundation, clean eating means consuming foods in their most natural and least processed state. (Also, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat it.) Clean eating to me also means opting for in-season foods whenever possible. Finally, enjoy every bite. I’m a food lover and believe that food is something to be savored and celebrated. Enjoy food intentionally while seated at the table, and avoid mindless snacking.
Q: What ingredients are important to you to buy organic? Why?
A: Organic expeller-pressed canola oil, since most conventional canola contains GMOs.
Sometimes, depending on availability, I buy organic meats, eggs, and poultry because that guarantees that these animals aren’t given drugs, antibiotics, or growth hormones.
Q: What are some tips for getting a healthy dinner on the table quickly?
A: Properly stock your kitchen early in the week. That way in the time that you would call in and pick up your takeout order, you could have prepared a fresh meal at home. My book offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists, breaking down grocery shopping into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. Try to plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Your best bet: prepare one-dish or make-ahead meals whenever possible.
Q: Healthy is all well and good. What if a mom has picky kids who won’t eat any veggies, for example?
A: That makes two of us! My daughter loves hummus, edamame, and spaghetti sauce. Beyond that I need to incorporate vegetables into other things like in my Turkey, Vegetable, and Oat Mini-Meatloaves—with mushrooms! I bake them in muffin tins and call them “meatloaf cupcakes,” dicing them and serving over whole-grain spaghetti. My daughter, Scarlet, also loves fruit so I make sure to offer fresh options at every meal.
Children are more likely to try the foods that they help prepare so get them in the kitchen with you. If your child still turns up her nose, don’t give up. Continue to offer—not force—a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it. Eventually, your child will probably surprise you. Scarlet continues to surprise me every day!
Q: How do you feel about “hiding” vegetables in foods so kids eat more vegetables?
A: “Hiding” vegetables should be your last line of defense and used only when necessary. You don’t want to add sweet potatoes to brownies and tell your kids, “Yay, eat up, now they’re healthy!” But even I succumb to hiding vegetables to add more nutrients to my 4-year-old’s diet. It’s still important to continue to offer vegetables in plain sight regularly.
Q: How else can moms encourage their kids to eat healthfully?
A: Lead by positive example. Kids become curious when they see other people, including you, eating—and hopefully it is healthy. Come up with cute names for food that resonate with your kids, like my “meatloaf cupcakes” (or anything-cupcake, for that matter).
Q: What are your daughter’s favorite dishes in the book?
A: Scarlet’s favorite recipe is Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip, which tastes even better than deep-fried versions. She also loves the Scarlet-Approved Lemon Cilantro Edamame Hummus. When I gave her a taste, she said, “I want more” and ate it by the spoonful. Her favorite desserts are Four Seasons Fruit Pizza, Dark Chocolate Whole-Grain Brownies, and Almond Butter Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Q: What are some simple changes someone could make to improve her family’s diet quickly?
A: Purge your pantry of the junk snacks made of refined flour, added sugars, and lots of sodium. Replace with whole foods, like fruits and vegetables for snacking.
Switch everything in your kitchen to whole-grain, preferably 100% whole-grain, including pastas, breads, crackers, tortillas, waffles and pancakes. If you face some pushback, stick to your guns and only keep whole-grain versions in stock. Your family can take it or leave it. They might not even notice, or eventually they will take it.
Q: What is a typical weekday breakfast in your house?
A: During the week, my husband, daughter and I all eat something different, which is easy to do because I keep plenty of quick-fix items on hand. One of my favorites is oatmeal and a cup of coffee with raw sugar and a splash of milk.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Right now I am really into Coconut Bliss Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s so creamy and delicious, especially with dark chocolate sauce. I eat dark chocolate regularly, though I don’t consider that a guilty pleasure since I have just a few bites and it contains some beneficial nutrients.
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Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Want your kid to eat broccoli and brussel sprouts? Paul Lindley, a British father of two, created Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 to do just that. His goal was to encourage his daughter to explore new foods and, hopefully, banish picky-ness. The organic baby food creator just released The Cookbook: The Red One, which just might get your kids to like their veggies, too.
Q: Why did you write this cookbook?
A: Involving children with cooking and food at an early age can help shape their future relationships with food. The Cook Book: The Red One features fun ideas and creative activities that allow little ones to experience healthy foods outside of mealtimes, from getting creative with vegetable prints to playing at a “Cool Kiddie Café.” We offer ways for children to learn more about fruit and vegetables using all their senses, to help them develop healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.
Q: What is Ella’s Kitchen? What products do you offer and how did you get started?
A: I launched Ella’s Kitchen in 2006 to help babies and toddlers enjoy eating healthy food. I had an understanding of what makes children tick from being a parent myself, as well as from my experience working at Nickelodeon.
I was inspired to set up Ella’s Kitchen by my own experiences in weaning Ella. I passionately believe that all kids should have the opportunity to discover that healthy food can be fun, tasty, and cool.
At Ella’s Kitchen we believe that little ones eat using all of their senses, and therefore it was important for us to produce foods that not only taste great, but are bright, tactile and fun. We always approach healthy eating from a child’s perspective and take simple, natural ingredients to create foods and packaging that really connect with kids and their parents – helping them through the entire weaning process.
Q: There is a large element for children in this book. The illustrations are playful and fun and there are drawings to color. Why was this important to include?
A: We always approach everything we do from a child’s perspective and our cookbook is no different. The book is for the whole family and the easy instructions, clever shortcuts and fun activities allow little ones to engage with healthy foods outside of mealtimes. It’s all about getting children hands-on and messy in the kitchen from a young age.
Q: Why is organic, fresh, and homemade so important to you?
A: Organic food is better because it comes from carefully monitored sources with high standards in quality but habits—both good and bad—are formed in the earliest years of a child’s life. It’s crucial to start a healthy diet from a young age. Develop healthy eating habits by getting your little one involved in food; let her help during the cooking process and make yummy homemade dishes together.
Q: How and why did you get into food and cooking?
A: I’ve always loved cooking. Even as a child of 6 years-old, I used to help my mum make surprise birthday cakes! Then when Ella was born, I—like any parent—struggled at times to get her to eat certain foods. So I designed games to make mealtime fun. In our home, meals have always been messy, noisy, interactive events. The whole family enjoys the experience of creating dishes together. Sitting down to enjoy them always makes me smile.
Q: Your personal inspiration came from your children, Ella and Paddy. Did they help in the creation of the book? Did they create any recipes?
A: Two of the recipes in the new cookbook are my family’s own, including Ella’s Dad’s Sweet + Sour Prawns and Ella’s Mum’s Easy Chicken Curry. We first made the chicken curry when Ella was just three years old and she’s loved it ever since, as it’s mild, sweet and creamy. Ella and Paddy were involved in tasting lots of recipes when we were experimenting with ideas!
Q: Ella, now 13, wrote the book’s Foreword and has been in the kitchen since age 4. Does she have goals to pursue cooking professionally in the future?
A: Ella’s favorite school subject is Food Technology, so you never know! At this stage in her life she’s busy having fun with her friends. All we wish is that when she grows up, she does something that she’s passionate about and believes in.
Q: Your recipes are family-friendly, but some have unexpected flavor combos—do you have certain chefs or books that you look to? Where do you find culinary inspiration?
A: The inspiration for our recipes came in lots of different forms; from real mums and dads, friends and family, and our ever-so-clever recipe developer Emma Jane Frost. Our team of nutritionists selected and approved every recipe to ensure that kids have balanced meals to help them grow.
Q: You have tips on preventing picky-ness, but what advice do you give parents who already have picky eaters?
A: Help your kids use all of their senses when exploring new foods—this will teach them to love healthy food from the start! The key is to be patient and persistent. Little ones have three times as many taste buds as adults, which leads to a taste intensity of up to 10 times that of an adult. As a result, both sweet and bitter tastes are exaggerated, often leading to immediate rejection of brussel sprouts and broccoli. It can take 10 separate experiences of a new taste before it’s accepted, so don’t give up after the first couple of times! Keep going and your little one will eat up their vegetables in no time.
Q: Growing up, who did most of the cooking in your family? What was a typical weeknight meal like?
A: I grew up in Sheffield, England and it was my mum who did most of the cooking. Her crispy Yorkshire puddings were a big favourite in our house – whether filled with sausages and gravy during the week or as part of a family roast with meat and loads of veg at the weekend. I can still hear the crunch they made when I close my eyes now!
Q: If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
A: It’d have to be my mum’s Yorkshire puddings now that it’s in my mind – Mmmm! There are so many different things to fill them with that I’d never get bored. Ella and Paddy love them too and I’m sure we’d have fun experimenting with new things to put in them!
Q: What other important things should our readers know about you or the book?
A: At Ella’s we always try to look at life from a child’s point of view: with an open mind and with all our senses. My strong belief is that the more a young child is involved with his or her food, whether that’s choosing it, preparing it, playing with it or eating it independently—the more likely he or she is to give it a try and go on to enjoy it!
Interview has been condensed and edited.
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Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
Scott Walker’s Voucher Fight; School Safety Questions
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker first tangled with his state’s teachers union when he signed a bill that upended collective bargaining. (via Huffington Post)
Shedding New Light On Infant Brain Development
A new study by Columbia Engineering researchers finds that the infant brain does not control its blood flow in the same way as the adult brain. The paper, which the scientists say could change the way researchers study brain development in infants and children, is published in the February 18 Early Online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). (via Science Daily)
Excessive TV in Childhood Linked to Long-Term Antisocial Behavior, New Zealand Study Shows
Children and adolescents who watch a lot of television are more likely to manifest antisocial and criminal behavior when they become adults, according to a new University of Otago, New Zealand, study published online in the journal Pediatrics. (via Science Daily)
Arkansas Senate Passes Bill to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks
The Republican-controlled Arkansas state Senate approved a measure on Monday to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. (via Reuters)
Sugar mist Makes Veggies More Palatable to Kids
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A light mist of sugar could help the broccoli (and other veggies) go down, according to new research that tested ways to make vegetables more palatable for children. (via Fox News)
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Thursday, November 1st, 2012
I recently was lucky enough to eat lunch with Jamie Deen of The Food Network. The event was sponsored by Hidden Valley Original Ranch, and was promoting healthy eating for children. Deen’s mom is Paula Deen, whose recipes are certainly known for being delicious—but not necessarily for being healthy. Jamie, however, is the father of two boys, ages 6 and 17 months, so he has made it his mission to make sure they eat nutritious foods every day.
Here are some of his tips for parents on getting kids to eat those veggies and other healthy foods:
1. Get them eating healthy foods right away. “I think it’s important that you start them off when they’re young,” Deen says. “That’s really the key.” He and his wife bought a baby food maker and use it with fresh fruit and vegetables like butternut squash. Then, they’ll put some of the mix into an ice cube tray and freeze them, so they can pop them out later and feed to Matthew, his youngest son. “He’s eating different tastes and different textures at 17 months and that opens up his palate,” Deen explains.
2. Lead by example. “Kids emulate what they see,” he says. “If you’re eating healthy, it’s part of their life and that’s just what they eat. That’s what I cook, that’s what’s at the table, and that’s what we eat.”
3. Let kids get involved with meal preparation. “If my older son touches the food in the production stage, the more he’s likely to eat it and take ownership of it,” Deen explains. “He’s like, ‘Oh, I made this and this is mine.’” Deen and his wife encourage him to decorate his fish with zest or help his mom make fruit smoothies.
4. Pack a lunch. Deen makes sure to include a simple sandwich like peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and jelly, along with a fruit cup and pretzels.
5. Find new options, if necessary. If your child really cannot stand one particular food, look around and see if you can find a substitute. “Or, use a little low fat ranch dip and that helps mask some of the bitterness for the kids,” Deen suggests. “If that’s the trick you use to get your kids to eat more fresh vegetables, then that’s a good option too.”
Photo courtesy of Hidden Valley
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Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
On October 2, actress and The Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney joined Green Giant in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal to take a pledge for veggies!
Sweeney promised, on behalf of her family, to eat just one more vegetable per day–and encouraged all of the young school students in attendance to do the same.
(Families can also take the pledge on Green Giant’s Facebook page.)
Parents.com had a few moments to chat with Sweeney, mom to Ben, 7, and Megan, 3, about how she helps her kids make healthy food choices.
How do you encourage your kids to eat their vegetables?
We always come up with new, different ways to be healthy, like trying different recipes. There are a lot of ways to be creative and include vegetables. There’s the French fry approach, where I let them eat green beans with their hands and sometimes we dip them in stuff. Some veggies are great raw. My son doesn’t like bell peppers when they’re cooked, but he loves them raw.
What are some veggie meals you make that are good for kids?
I love to make a veggie stir-fry for my kids because I think it’s a great way to get tons of vegetables in a meal. People always think they need a cup of rice for every stir-fry portion, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I think people’s proportions get all skewed. You can do a quarter cup of rice, have mostly veggies, and add a protein. Stir-fry is also good because it can be made with whatever vegetables happen to be in the fridge, so I pull out what I have in the freezer and my kids love it.
What do you make stir-fry with?
I stick to a healthy oil, like a safflower oil or something light. I do find healthier stir-fry sauces and ingredients, but as long as kids are getting their veggies, keep sauce to a minimum for just enough flavor. A lot of the time parents end up making bad choices. When you’re tired or the kids are tired, you don’t want arguments about dinner, so kids end up getting used to eating delicious but bad-for-you food. I can’t just let kids eat chicken fingers or Pop tarts every day. My kids do eat mac ‘n’ cheese, but in smaller portions with a lot of veggies.
You mentioned your son loves bell peppers. Are there any other vegetables that are great for kids?
Carrots, snap peas, and peas. Also broccolini and broccoli. (Green Giant has a great vegetable medley that kids love.) My kids love edamame. The veggies that are hard to sell kids on are asparagus and Brussels sprouts. My son’s teacher told me that it takes 10 tastings for someone to get used to a flavor, to know whether he likes something, so I’m still working on 10 tries for some veggies.
Do you have any tips for parents of picky eaters?
Picky eaters are a really hard thing, but you can use hunger as your ally. It’s okay to let them get a little hungry so they’re more likely to eat. Then you only offer them veggies. Kids are not going to starve. Also offer veggies as a snack when your kids get home from school, and have them prepared and ready to go in little bags. There are great reusable bags now at Pottery Barn Kids; I stuff them with carrot or bell pepper sticks and sugar snap peas. You really have to set boundaries on what’s allowed. With my kids, we work with set rules. We have Mac ‘n’ Cheese Monday, so they get mac ‘n’ cheese only on Monday. For Taco Friday we do taco wraps. My kids love using lettuce as wraps. You just have to put the taco mix inside. Often we think kids need basic or bland foods, but it’s really not the case. I put cinnamon in my kids’ oatmeal when they were around 6-8 months old and they loved it. I don’t want them getting used to tasting really starchy, bland food. I want them to expect flavor and texture. I use agave nectar with carrots and a little rosemary, and it’s delicious and sweet. I think there is a world of options out there.
What are other things you do with your kids to promote healthy living?
I think it’s super important to let your kids know that you’re active, too. You have to practice what you preach. I’ve been super successful at explaining why I need to work out. I tell my kids, “Mommy needs to get her exercise and go to the gym.” They see me making exercise a core part of my life, so that’s going to help them down the road. We do a lot of stuff that’s active as a family, like going on hikes with our dog, flying kites, and running into the ocean. I burn a lot of calories swimming with my kids and playing baseball with my son. With my daughter, we run around and dance. We have so much fun. You can find ways to be challenged by your kids and encourage them in the process. You have to commit to it.
What’s the best or worst parenting advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I got when I had my first child was: Imagine if you were holding an 18-month-old child when you hear your other child, an infant, crying. You would have to do something, but you can’t just drop your child and run to the baby. You would have to put your kid down, give him a toy or something to do, and then go tend to your infant. There’s no need to panic. Just take a breath instead. So many new parents feel everything is very high-stakes, that they have to run off to the infant, but it’s good to just wonder, what if there was a sibling already? It’s okay to just take a minute, take your time.
What inspires you as a parent?
My kids’ smiles inspire me every day. When you become a parent, all your decision-making changes. Every decision I make now is based on how it will affect my children. Sometimes it means having to discipline them or to make tough choices that will make them unhappy, but I have to do what is best for them their whole life.
For more about healthy eating and living, check out the following on Parents.com:
Image: Alison Sweeney, center, poses with stilt walker Michael Schruefer, left, and Sprout at the Green Giant event. Courtesy of Green Giant.
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Wednesday, December 14th, 2011
Child Care Subsidies Drop When Families Need Them Most
Federal and state subsidies have taken a hit from budget cuts, forcing parents to find other arrangements to stay employed.
Getting Kids to Eat Veggies Can be Sticky Business
Researchers found that when parents gave their 3- and 4-year-olds a sticker each time they took a “tiny taste” of a disliked vegetable, it gradually changed the preschoolers’ attitude.
ADHD Drugs Safe for Adults’ Hearts, Research Finds
Ritalin and other drugs used to treat attention deficit disorder are safe for adults’ hearts, even though they can increase blood pressure and heart rate, according to the largest study of these medicines in adults.
More Women in Combat Means More Mothers with PTSD
With more female troops in combat, there has been an increase in PTSD diagnoses: One in five female veterans suffer from PTSD, according to the VA.
Mom’s Hug Revives Baby that Was Pronounced Dead
After being told her newborn son was dead, mother Kate Ogg was able to cuddle and caress her baby’s limp body back to life, astonishing doctors.
Why Working Mothers Are Happier and Healthier Than Stay-at-Home Moms
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Despite the juggling act required to hold down a job and care for children, moms who work report they’re healthier and happier than moms who stay at home when their kids are babies and preschoolers.
Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
“Dirty Dozen” List of Produce
The “dirty dozen” list of the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of pesticide residue was released Monday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). (Third Age.com)
FDA Bans ‘Waterproof,’ ‘Sweatproof’ Sunscreen Labels
Not all sunscreens are created equal, and indeed, searching for the perfect formulation—waterproof, sweatproof, sunblock or spray—can overwhelm even the most decisive shopper. But a new set of rules regulating sunscreen released by the Food & Drug Administration on Tuesday aims to take the guesswork out of finding effective sun protection for consumers. (Mainstreet.com)
Could Sleeping on Left Side Help Prevent Stillbirth?
For pregnant women, reducing the risk for stillbirth may be as simple as sleeping on their left side, New Zealand researchers suggest. (Health.com)
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Monday, May 10th, 2010
1. Offer more. That’s the bottom line of a new study from Penn State, which found that as the amount of carrots presented to 3- to 5-year-olds increased, so did the amount the children ate. They did have their limit, though: The researchers were able to double the original amount offered over four weeks; but once they started to triple it, the kids didn’t fall for it.
2. Offer them at the start of a meal. The Penn State researchers always gave the veggies at the start of the meal. This tells us that this is the best time to get your children to eat as many vegetables as you can: when they’re nice and hungry and more willing to eat whatever you put in front of them.
I like this strategy. I’ve been known to give a little cup of Cheerios as a snack in those last minutes when my kids are melting down at warp speed while their food either hasn’t finished cooking, or is piping hot and needs to cool off. I think I’ll reorder my food-prep to-do list so that the veggies are always ready first, and serve them while they wait for the rest of their meal.
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