11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

11 Foods That Fight Colds and the Flu

This time of year, we as moms are doing everything in our power to prevent our kids from getting sick. From teaching them how to wash their hands—with soap and water— to giving them vitamin C and elderberry syrup and everything in between, we’ve got an arsenal of tactics and lots of hope. In addition to all your prevention strategies, you’ve probably thought about your kids diet and wondered if there are foods that fight colds and the flu too.

Today, that’s what we’re talking about, but first… why do kids get sick so much?

WHY IS MY CHILD ALWAYS SICK WITH A COLD?

If you have little ones, there’s no denying that they’re sick all the time. In fact, it’s common for children to get 8 to 10 colds a year before they turn 2

The reason kids get sick so often is because they’re in close contact with other kids at daycare, school and at mommy and me programs, and they’re swapping germs all day as they share toys, books, etc.

Another reason kids get sick so much is that they simply haven’t built up the immunity yet to fight off infections, and they’re indoors more and have less exposure to vitamin D which boosts the immune system.

MY CHILD IS CONSTANTLY SICK

Last year when my kids started the school year, it seemed like they were sick every few weeks. Colds, fevers and by January, we all had the flu—and yes, we all had the flu shot.

This year, I thought I had it all under control. I thought:

They’re older and presumably have stronger immune systems.

They know the importance of hand washing, especially at school where the kids sneeze and cough on each other and eat lunch after recess—yuck!

They eat healthy, take vitamins, probiotics and probiotic-rich foods.

They get plenty of sleep and I do my best to make sure they’re active.

My older daughter came down with a slight cold but that was it.

I thought we had this year covered, until last week, that is.

As I was heading out for a walk to take a break from work, the school called.

My younger daughter had a low-grade fever and a headache. I thought it was probably your run of the mill virus, but when she woke up the next morning with a 103 fever and feeling totally run down, we headed to the doctor and discovered she had the flu. Again. Despite having the flu shot, again.

10 FOODS THAT FIGHT COLDS AND THE FLU

Teaching kids how to wash their hands properly is the best way to prevent the spread of infection, but there are also foods that fight colds and the flu, may help ease your child’s symptoms and strengthen his immune system.

1. Chicken soup

When you were a kid, you know there was nothing better than a bowl of chicken soup when you were sick and as it turns out, this ancient remedy is one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.

According to a well-known study published in 2000 in the journal CHEST, eating chicken soup can ease symptoms of a cold. Researchers found that the movement of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends the body against infection, was reduced. Therefore, the study suggests chicken soup may be anti-inflammatory, ease symptoms and shorten the duration of infections.

Although homemade chicken soup is fresher and more delicious, if you’re buying it in the store, always read labels because many versions—even those that the store makes—are high in sodium.

2. Apples

There’s truth to the old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away especially for kids who get sick a lot.

Apples are an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C and quercetin, an antioxidant that’s known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

In fact, a May 2014 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases & Preventive Medicine suggests that quercetin may be promising in the treatment of the common cold.

3. Ginger

Fresh ginger is an effective remedy against HRSV infections, which cause colds and respiratory illnesses, a January 2013 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found.

I don’t care for ginger myself unless it’s with sushi, but my older daughter loves it, especially in green juices and smoothies. You can do the same, or add ginger to soup or a stir-fry, or brew a cup of ginger tea.

4. Eggs

In recent years, there’s been a ton of research looking at the benefits of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and not only are optimal levels important for overall health, but it lowers inflammation and supports healthy bones and teeth, and the brain, nervous and immune systems.

In fact, a February 2017 meta-analysis in BMJ found vitamin D protects against colds and the flu.

To find out how much your kids need, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has a guide.

High in vitamin D, eggs are one of the best foods that fight colds and flu. They’re also one of the most easy and versatile kid-friendly foods.

Serve eggs in a frittata or quiche, make egg “fried” rice, add hard-boiled eggs to a salad or serve them as a snack.

5. Garlic

Known for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects and its ability to boost the immune system, garlic can be an effective remedy for colds and infections.

When it comes to research about garlic’s efficacy however, the jury is still out.

A November 2014 Cochrane Review found insufficient evidence that garlic can prevent or treat the common cold.

Yet a June 2012 study in the journal Clinical Nutrition suggests that a garlic extract supplement may boost the immune system, which may in part, be responsible for reducing the severity of colds and the flu.

Although my kids despise it, I add garlic to just about every meal. You can find small, subtle ways to add garlic to your kid’s diet however, such as incorporating it in soups, stews or broth, pureeing it into hummus, or spreading minced garlic with a bit of olive oil on a piece of toasted bread.

6. Kefir

It might take your kids awhile to come around to its’ tangy taste and thick texture, but kefir one of the best foods that fight colds and flu, thanks to its immune-boosting probiotics.

Since kefir can be high in sugar however, read labels carefully. Or opt for plain kefir and blend low glycemic fruit like blueberries or raspberries to make it sweet.

7. Oranges

Consuming Vitamin C has long been seen as a way to prevent colds and infections, but most of the research hasn’t shown a direct link.

A 2014 Cochrane Review however, is promising. Kids who took 200 milligrams or more of vitamin C a day were found to have a 13.5% reduction in cold duration, or about a day less of feeling sick.

8. Berries

Strawberries, cranberries, blueberries and blackberries are fiber-rich and contain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and beta carotene. They’re also rich in anthocyanins, flavonoids that may have immune-boosting effects.

9. Whole grain bread

Whole grain bread is something your kid probably eats a lot of, which is good because it’s one of the best foods that fight colds and the flu.

In fact, a March 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed whole grains had better gut health and an increase in memory T cells, a type of white blood cell that prevents infection.

10. Water

When my kids are sick, it can be really tough to get them to drink water. Yet encouraging them to drink is really helpful to loosen up nasal congestion and prevent dehydration, especially when they have fevers.

Regular H2O, warm water with lemon and honey, clear broths, or teas are all good choices.

Since it’s high in sugar, try to steer clear of juice. Alternatively, you can make a green smoothie or juice with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit, but keep portion sizes in mind.


11. Yogurt

Like kefir, yogurt can be a good source of probiotics. In fact, a June 2018 study in the journal Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, which was conducted in adults, showed probiotics are a safe and effective remedy for colds and flu-like respiratory infections.

Greek yogurt is a good option since it’s also high in protein.

Whether you buy regular yogurt of greek yogurt however, be choosy about brands. Look for those that state “live and active cultures.”

Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving. You can also buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.

The Complete Guide To Healthy Eating For Kids

The Complete Guide To Healthy Eating For Kids

We all want our kids to eat healthy, try new foods and be adventurous little foodies, but when it comes to finding information about healthy eating for kids, there are so  many sources, you don’t know where to start.

On the one hand, you have experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Then you have countless books, parenting websites and food blogs that have a wealth of kid-friendly recipes meant to encourage healthy eating. Of course, you also have Facebook groups for moms of picky eaters and Instagram influencers serving up picture-perfect school lunch ideas that are almost impossible to replicate.

I think all of these sources can help you raise healthy eaters, but sometimes all you really want is to have all of the information, tips and advice in one place.

So today, I’m serving up evidence-based information and my best strategies in this complete guide to healthy eating for kids.

Healthy eating habits for kids

The healthy eating habits we teach our kids now will set them up for success now and throughout their lives.

Make time for breakfast

The old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” holds true today as it always has.

Kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found.

Eating a healthy breakfast also gives kids the energy and focus they need to get through the day, and they may even do better in school. In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.

Eating breakfast is also associated with a lower risk for obesity and serious health conditions. According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who skipped the meal.

Some kids don’t like to eat breakfast in the morning, while others simply don’t have the time. If your kid falls into this camp, be sure to read my blog post 7 Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast.

Serve new foods over and over again

Although parents have the best intentions, we can be one of the biggest obstacles to getting our kids to eat healthy.

Introducing new foods requires that we’re consistent—just like any other desirable behavior we’re working on.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.

The earlier you put this into practice the better. In fact, a December 2007 study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that when mothers introduced a vegetable their infants initially disliked, by the 8th day of serving it, their intake of it increased rapidly. By the 8th exposure their intake was similar to that of a vegetable they liked. Nine months later, 63 percent of the infants were still eating the originally disliked vegetable.

Eat meals together—it doesn’t have to be dinner!

Despite after-school activities, doctor’s appointments and errands, the good news is that most families do eat dinner—or other meals—together. According to a 2014 study, 88 percent of families say they eat meals together most days or a few days a week.

Although dinner is usually the meal most families eat together, sharing any meal is one of the best ways to teach kids healthy eating habits.

In fact, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found that children who eat family meals together at least 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods, have disordered eating and are more likely to eat healthy foods. Sharing family meals together also teaches kids healthy eating habits like mindful eating and of course, manners.

Avoid food rewards

It can be tempting to offer your kids a snack or a treat to get them to behave well in a public place or to get through a doctor’s appointment without tears, for example.

But experts say we shouldn’t rely on food rewards.

According to parenting expert Amy McCready, (her book, If I Have To Tell You One More Time, is a must read for any parent):

“Quit rewarding your kids for behavior you should be able to expect.”

And:

“…you’re doing your child no favor by doling out treats for his accomplishments or behavior. Instead, you’re setting him up for a “What’s in it for me?” attitude down the road.”

When you use food as a reward or as punishment, you’re also teaching your kids that food has power. As adults, they may treat themselves to dinner or a piece of cake after a long, stressful day.

Instead of using food as a reward, give your kid a hug, a high five or a sticker.

Cook with your kids

Teaching kids how to cook and prepare healthy meals is one of the most powerful habits you can teach your kids. According to a 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, cooking programs for kids may positively affect their food preferences, attitudes and behaviors.

When you cook with your kids, don’t do it when you’re rushing to get dinner on the table. Leave plenty of time because they’ll inevitably ask questions and spill something.

Depending on your kids’ ages, younger kids can stir, mix and pour while older kids can measure, use appliances and chop ingredients.

If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s
 Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse

Pay attention to portions

In addition to feeding kids healthy food, it’s also important to pay attention to portions.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), portion sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the past 20 years. Suffice to say, it’s one of the reasons we’re dealing with a childhood obesity epidemic.

This is something I struggle with in my home, especially because my kids usually ask for seconds.

Although they’re still young, I try to teach them portion control by using measuring cups for example, and by talking to them about what it feels like to be hungry, satisfied and full.

Don’t bribe kids with dessert

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of telling your kids they have to eat their vegetables if they want dessert but experts say this is a habit we should leave behind.

Dina Rose, PhD, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli calls this the “dessert deal.” She says this route teaches kids that vegetables are less desirable than dessert or should only be eaten to get dessert. She suggests re-thinking dessert and offering yogurt, baked fruit or a smoothie instead, for example.

Try to avoid eating on the run

One night, my daughter had back-to-back after-school activities and I let her eat dinner in the car. It was a sandwich and broccoli but I felt so awful about it that I vowed never to do it again.

Suffice to say, many kids eat snacks in the car or are forced to eat on the run because of busy afternoons or mornings. In fact, according to a survey by Barbara’s, 50 percent of kids who eat on the go or in the car skip breakfast at least once a week.

Meals are meant to be enjoyed and shared as a family. Eating in the car or on the run can cause kids to overeat and it teaches them that eating isn’t important—but just another activity to squeeze in that day.

Healthy Eating For Kids: Healthy Food For Kids

Fruits and vegetables

Despite our best efforts, most kids aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. According to a 2014 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6 in 10 children don’t eat enough fruit and 9 in 10 don’t eat enough vegetables.

 

Yet studies show eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar, prevent weight gain and childhood obesity, reduce the risk for eye and digestive problems, heart disease and stroke, and prevent certain types of cancer.

Of course, when kids eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables it lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout their lifetimes.

Protein

Protein is important for your kids’ growth and development and meals with protein keep hunger at bay, balance blood sugar and give your kids the energy they need.

Protein should make up 1/4 of your child’s plate but you’ll want to focus on lean, quality protein sources instead of processed foods like deli meats and cheeses or hot dogs. Try chicken, beef, turkey, beans, edamame, tempeh, eggs and fish.

Plant-based foods

Whether your family is made up of vegetarians, vegans, pegans or full-fledged meat eaters, getting more plant-based foods in your kids’ diet is one of the best things you can do for their health.

Plant-based foods are packed with the nutrition kids need for their growth and development. Most plant-based foods also have filling fiber to satisfy their hunger and prevent constipation.

Recent studies show plant-based diets are linked to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity. A January 2015 study in the Journal Of Pediatrics found children who followed a plant-based, vegan diet or the American Heart Association diet lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and improved their cholesterol in just four weeks.

Whole grains

Grains should make up 1/4 of your child’s plate. Whole grains have vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber, which are stripped from refined grains.

Try whole grain bread, pasta, brown rice, quinoa or another type of gluten-free grain.

Fish and seafood

Fish can be a hard sell for kids but the nutrients they contain are those kids need for healthy growth and development, according to the AAP.

Fish and seafood are packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support kids’ brain health and memory.

Many types of fish also contain high levels of calcium and vitamin D and some types of shellfish are high in iron, selenium and iodine. Studies suggest consuming seafood may improve neurodevelopment in babies and decrease cardiovascular disease risk.

The FDA and EPA recommend kids eat fish 1 to 2 times a week starting at age 2. Despite its benefits, kids aren’t eating enough fish however, mainly due to concerns over mercury.

Yet salmon, sardines, shrimp and tuna (canned light) are all safe choices.

Related: What Types of Fish Are Safe for Kids?

Healthy fats

The long-standing myth that eating fat causes high cholesterol, heart disease and weight gain has been debunked and we now know that healthy fats are essential to our health and our kids’.

Healthy fats are a vital source of energy and help satisfy kids’ hunger. They’re  essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. They’re also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

While experts agree it’s the trans fats and some saturated fats that should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods are beneficial. However, it’s important to note that the AAP recommends healthy fats make up no more than 30 percent of kids’ total calories.

Foods To Cut Back On Or Eliminate

When it comes to healthy eating for kids, there are foods you should cut back on or eliminate altogether.

Sugary foods, sweetened drinks, chocolate milk and juice

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease—all conditions that can follow kids throughout their lives.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we limit sugar to no more than 10 percent of our total calories for the day.

For kids, that works out to be about 30 to 35 grams of added sugar for little ones who get between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day, according to Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in New York City.

The good news is that even cutting out small amounts of sugar can make a dramatic difference in your child’s health.

According to a February 2016 study in the journal Obesity, obese children who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but didn’t change the amount of calories they consumed had improvements in their blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL “bad” cholesterol after just 10 days. Researchers also saw significant improvements in their blood glucose and insulin levels.

Juice and sugary drinks are also high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and drinking them can lead to weight gain, cavities and diarrhea.

In September, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of  Pediatric Dentistry jointly issued new healthy kids’ drink guidelines for parents, so be sure to check them out.

Processed foods

Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, saturated fat and artificial ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce. They also lack fiber and the vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets.

Research shows processed foods, but more specifically the sodium, sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and food additives they contain, are linked to weight gain and childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and mental health and behavioral problems.

But your child’s health now isn’t all you should be thinking about. Eating foods with added sugars and sodium early on can affect their taste preferences, the foods they eat and their health later on in life.

Experts say the more processed foods you eat—and the longer you eat them—the more likely inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and a host of health conditions will crop up in the future.

In fact, a May 2019 study in the journal Cell Metabolism found adults who consumed ultra-processed foods for 2 weeks consumed 500 extra calories than those who consumed unprocessed foods.

Two other recent studies show that consuming ultra-processed foods are linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and death. 

Foods high in sodium

Approximately 90 percent of kids get too much sodium in their diets each day and more than 40 percent of it comes from only 10 foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which about 3.5 percent of kids already have, according to the AAP. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss, among other health conditions.

So even if your kids don’t have high blood pressure now, if they continue to eat too much sodium, there’s a good chance they will in the future.

Related: 10 Sneaky Sources of Sodium in Your Kid’s Diet

How To Save Money On Food

If you’re like me, one of the biggest line items next to your mortgage and taxes is the grocery store bill.

According to a recent report by the USDA, most families spend between $130 and $300 a week on food. How much you spend depends on a lot of factors including the part of the country you live in, if you live in the city, the suburbs or a rural area, the size of your family and if you buy organic, conventional or both.

Nevertheless, there are ways to save money on food. Some include:

  • Make a list before you go to the grocery store.
  • Shop at big box stores like Target or membership clubs like Costco.
  • Meal plan.
  • Cut down on food waste.
  • Buy foods in bulk.
  • Shop sales and use cash back apps like Ibotta or FetchRewards.
  • Buy cheap, healthy foods.
  • Eat more plant-based meals.
  • Use your store’s loyalty card.
  • Buy generic instead of brand names.

 

What do you think about this complete guide to healthy eating for kids? Are there tips you find helpful? Let me know in the comments.

14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids

14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids

As a bona fide foodie and health nut, I’m constantly on the lookout for new food brands and products. Whether it’s a new healthy snack bar or a gluten-free product, companies are constantly jumping on the latest health craze. In recent years, probiotics have definitely become a major focus for food manufacturers. Yet  prebiotics and prebiotic foods for kids seem to be having their own time in the limelight, showing up in baby formula, fruit and vegetable pouches, cereals, baked goods and yogurt. 

In fact, according to a recent report, the prebiotics market is expected to exceed $7.2 billion by the year 2024. Suffice to say, they’re not going anywhere. 

So today, I’m talking about what prebiotics are, what research says about their potential health benefits and safety. Plus, I have a list of prebiotic foods for kids—many of which your kids probably love to eat.

WHAT ARE PREBIOTICS?

Think of prebiotics as probiotics’ partner in crime: they’re dietary fibers that feed the healthy bacteria in the gut allowing them to grow and flourish.

Prebiotics are natural, fermentable carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the body and are typically found in high-fiber foods.

Interestingly, prebiotics were defined in 1995 but their definition has evolved through the years. If you’re a science geek, you’ll appreciate how prebiotics are defined today:

nondigestible compound that, through its metabolization by microorganisms in the gut, modulates the composition and/or activity of the gut microbiota, thus conferring a beneficial physiologic effect on the host

HEALTH BENEFITS OF PREBIOTICS

Although research is limited, studies suggest prebiotics can have a positive effect on gut health, cardiovascular health, mental illness, cancer and obesity.

In fact, a June 2017 study in the journal Gastroenterology suggests prebiotics can help reduce body fat in children who are overweight or obese by altering the microorganisms in the gut.

ARE PREBIOTICS SAFE FOR KIDS?

Since prebiotics is still an emerging area of research, there’s not much information about whether or not they’re safe.

According to an August 2018 study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, of the 384 randomized controlled trials that were analyzed, most failed to record or report data about adverse effects of either probiotics or prebiotics. As a result, it’s not possible at this time to conclude whether they’re safe or not, according to the authors.

With the lack of evidence, I suggest you talk to your child’s pediatrician first before feeding your kids processed foods that have prebiotics added to them.

PREBIOTIC FOODS FOR KIDS

The good news is that prebiotics are naturally found in a variety of whole foods your kids probably already eat, or can grow to love.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is one of the best prebiotic foods for kids and it’s usually a green leafy vegetable they like to eat.

Asparagus is an excellent source of fiber and protein, vitamins A, C, and E, folate, potassium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Steam asparagus, or drizzle olive oil on top and roast it. Add asparagus to stir-fry meals or pasta dishes, or fold it into eggs for breakfast.

2. Onions

Onions can be a tough sell for kids but if you add small amounts to your meals, they may grow to love them.

Slice raw onions thin and add them to salads, tacos and spring rolls. Add cooked onions to omelets, soups, stews and chilis, or a vegetable stir-fry. Roast onions with squash and sweet potatoes or add them to your favorite sheet pan meal.

3. Bananas

Bananas are one of the best prebiotic foods for kids, not to mention they’re sweet and delicious. A great source of potassium and vitamin B6, bananas are also a good source of fiber: 1 small banana has 2.6 grams.

I use bananas in green smoothies and add them to overnight oats, oatmeal, breads, muffins, and no-bake energy bites for my kids.

I usually buy two bunches every week so if some start to over-ripen, I pop them in the freezer to use later for a dairy-free ice cream.

4. Garlic

My kids despise garlic, but I still continue to cook a lot with it. Research shows repeated exposure is the key to getting kids to try and accept new foods, so I’ll keep on trying!

I sauté or roast garlic with vegetables and add garlic to lentil chili. My husband also uses garlic to make pesto sauce in the Vitamix

5. Apples

Sweet, crunchy and delicious, apples are also one of the best prebiotic foods for kids.

With more than 4 grams of fiber in one medium apple, they’re also a great source of vitamin C, and have quercetin, an antioxidant that may improve cognitive function, a March 2017 mice study in the journal Behavioral Brain Research suggests.

6. Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Serve them raw in a chopped salad, incorporate them into egg, pasta or rice dishes, or sauté them with garlic for a delicious side dish.

7. Leeks

Think of leeks as you would onions, garlic and or any other aromatic. Leeks can be steamed, sautéed, or roasted and are delicious with chicken, in a frittata or quiche, mixed with rice and pureed into soup. My kids love leeks, especially sautéed and paired with catfish.

8. Jerusalem artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes as they’re often called, aren’t really artichokes at all. They’re tubers that originate from a plant that looks like a sunflower. Nutty and crunchy,  you can roast them, puree them into a soup, or make Jersusalem artichoke chips.

9. Barley

When you think of barley, beef barley soup probably comes to mind, but there are so many other ways to use this prebiotic-rich food. 

Swap oatmeal for barley, make a grain salad or risotto, add it to other creamy soups, or use it in place of rice or quinoa in veggie or bean burgers. 

10. Oats

I’m a big fan of oats because they’re high in fiber, a good source of iron, selenium and manganese, and they’re low in sugar. Oats are also really versatile: use them to make oatmeal, overnight oats, energy balls, cookies, breads, pancakes and muffins.

11. Chocolate and Cocoa

Studies show chocolate and cocoa are great sources of prebiotics. To get the most benefit, stick with a piece of dark chocolate and avoid desserts made with milk chocolate for example, which are filled with added sugars.

12. Wheat bran

Wheat bran, the outer shell of the wheat kernel, is an excellent source of many nutrients including protein and fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium.

With a sweet and nutty flavor, you can use wheat bran in breads, muffins, and pancakes.

13. Seaweed

Seaweed is definitely not a food you probably feed your kids regularly, but it’s high in antioxidants, a good source of calcium, iodine, folate and magnesium and prebiotics. There are many types of seaweed but the easiest way to feed it to your kids is with miso soup or dried seaweed snacks.

14. Flaxseeds

High in protein and fiber, a good source of magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseeds are also one of the best prebiotic foods for kids. Add flaxseeds (whole or ground) to oatmeal, overnight oats, granola and smoothies, or sprinkle on top of salads or yogurt for an extra crunch. You can also use flaxseeds to make a flax egg, as a substitute in baking recipes.

What Are Added Sugars?

What Are Added Sugars?

Cookies, candy and sweet treats are what childhood is made of, but we all know feeding our kids too much sugar can lead to a host of problems like childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes, risk factors for heart disease, fatty liver disease, asthma and of course, cavities. Sugar and its many different types can be complicated however, so you may have had questions like what are added sugars? And are added sugars bad?

Added sugars aren’t only found in kid-friendly foods, but can hide under at least  61 different names, be marketed as “natural,” or found in foods that aren’t even sweet.

To make things even more confusing, there are sugars that can be both natural and added sugars—more on that later!

Here, learn what added sugars are, the differences between natural sugars and added sugars, how to read labels and spot these sneaky sugars, and get easy, simple tips for cutting back on them in your kid’s diet.

WHAT ARE ADDED SUGARS?

When we talk about sugar, it’s important to make the distinction between natural sugars, or naturally-occurring sugars like fructose in fruit and lactose in dairy and added sugars. Although these foods have sugar, they also contain other nutrients that kids need in their diets like fiber and calcium, for example.

Added sugars on the other hand, are any type of ingredient that sweetens foods and beverages—whether you can taste it or not. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, added sugars include syrups and other caloric sweeteners.

The USDA says added sugars are:

  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Brown sugar
  • Confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated corn sweetener
  • Fructose
  • Fruit nectar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Glucose
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Liquid fructose
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars (e.g., peach or pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar cane juice
  • White granulated sugar

 

There are also natural sugars like honey, agave and maple syrup that once they’re isolated and added to a food as a sweetener, are actually considered added sugars, Angela Lemond, RDN, told me in this article.

The same can be said for fructose, which is considered natural when it’s consumed from real fruit, but once it’s used as a sweetener in foods it’s added sugar.

Related: What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

In 2018, the FDA considered a requirement for companies to list ingredients such as honey and maple syrup as added sugars on the Nutrition Facts labels by 2020.

In June 2019 however, they issued final guidance stating that single ingredient packages of honey, maple syrup, agave syrup and other pure sugars and syrups do not have to be listed as added sugars.

ARE ADDED SUGARS BAD?

The American Heart Association says kids under 2 shouldn’t have any added sugar in their diets. Kids between 2 and 18 should have no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar a day.

It probably comes as no surprise however, that most kids in the U.S eat too much sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 percent of the total calories for children and teens come from added sugars.

But what may surprise you—as it did for me—is that babies and toddlers consume too many added sugars as well.

According to a 2018 study, 99% of toddlers between 19- and 23- months-old consumed an average of 7 teaspoons on any given day—more than the amount of sugar in a Snickers’ bar! What’s more, 60% of children were found to consume sugar before they turned 1.

Although there is no chemical difference between natural sugars and added sugars, and the body metabolizes them the same way, foods with added sugars don’t have the same nutrients that foods with natural sugars have, like fruit or yogurt, for example.

However, since natural and added sugars are perceived by the same taste receptors on the tongue, our bodies can’t tell the difference between the two.

Foods with added sugars also contribute empty calories to your kid’s diet that can lead to weight gain and can displace nutrient-dense calories from real, whole foods.

Sugar may not make your kid hyper—I beg to differ—but eating sugar can make them feel sluggish and cranky.

Since studies show food preferences are established during infancy, feeding kids too many foods with added sugars could affect their eating habits now and throughout their lives.

How To Identify Added Sugars

Although added sugars can be sneaky, there are simple ways to spot them and cut back on them in your kid’s diet.

Stick to foods without sugar and eat real food

One of the best ways to avoid most added sugars in your kid’s diet is to prioritize whole foods over processed, packaged foods at every meal and snack.

Processed kids’ snacks, frozen meals and soups—even those that are organic, gluten-free or made with real cheese—may seem healthy but many have added sugars.

In fact, according to a 2016 report by the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, 50% of baby snacks and 83% of toddler snacks contain added sugars.

Focus on vegetables and fruits, protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Depending on their ages, kids need just as many, or more, servings of vegetables than fruit.

Read labels

When it comes spotting added sugars in food, seemingly healthy foods can be sneaky sources in your kid’s diet.

They also may not even taste sweet, making them harder to identify. These can include: 

  • Baby food
  • Baked goods: cookies, cakes, pastries, doughnuts
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Candy and chocolate
  • Canned fruit, fruit cups, dried fruit, applesauce
  • Cereal
  • Dips
  • Frozen foods
  • Granola
  • Ice cream and dairy desserts
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Jams, jellies, fruit preserves, syrups and sweet toppings
  • Juices
  • Ketchup
  • Marina sauce and other sauces
  • Processed snacks
  • Protein, cereal and granola bars
  • Salad dressings
  • Yogurt

The good news is that it’s becoming much easier to spot added sugars. You’ve probably already seen the new Nutrition Facts labels which have a line for added sugars both in grams and as percent Daily Value (DV).

Food manufacturers that have $10 million or more in annual sales have until January 1, 2020 to completely switch out their labels, while those with less than $10 million have until January 1, 2021.

Avoid juice and sugary drinks

In September 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry issued first-ever consensus healthy kids’ drink guidelines.

According to the recommendations, depending on their ages, kids should avoid or limit juice, and avoid all types of sugary drinks including chocolate milk.

Related: Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

Since soda, energy and sports drinks, and fruit drinks are leading sources of added sugar in kids’ diets, cutting back is the best way to avoid them.

Make healthy sweet treats at home

Swapping fast food and store-bought desserts with your own healthy, homemade versions is a great way to cut down on added sugars.

Using natural sweeteners like apple sauce or dried fruit without added sugars, and fresh fruits and vegetables like bananas, apples, pears, mango, and sweet potatoes are all great ways to cut down on added sugars. 

Roasting fruits like apples or pears for example, also brings out their natural sweetness and is a healthy and delicious dessert swap for other sugary treats.

 

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

15 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

Feeding kids is one of many daily jobs we have as moms that like an office gig, has its fair share of challenges, but without any of the pay. If you’re like me, you’re constantly searching for healthy dinner recipes as well as easy and healthy snack ideas for kids. Not only do I get tired of the same snacks every day, but I also want new ways to make the most of snack time and get more nutrition in my kids’ diets.

If you, too, feel like you’re all out of ideas and you’re ready to cut down on all the processed foods, read on for 15 healthy snack ideas for kids that you can feel good about whether you’re dropping the kids off at day care, serving after-school snacks or traveling with the kids in tow.

WHY YOU NEED HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

Don’t get me wrong: a bag of crackers, pretzels or cookies have saved me on more than one occasion, especially when there’s no food in the house or I’m rushing to get the kids out the door in the morning amidst all the crying about what to wear and mommy, she’s not sharing!

Yet most of the easy kids’ snacks you’ll find in the grocery store are so highly-processed you can’t even call them food.

Most are made with refined carbohydrates, and are high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat, artificial ingredients, preservatives, and artificial food dyes.

Most lack the fiber, protein, and vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets. 

There are also the seemingly healthy snacks like Welch’s fruit snacks.

My kids love them too, and the company does a really good job of calling attention to the fact that they’re “made with real fruit.”

Take a closer look at the ingredients however, and you’ll discover that they certainly are made with real fruit—albeit a fruit puree—but they also contain corn syrup, sugar, and some of their flavors have artificial food dyes.

Seriously, is this what you want to feed your kids? I didn’t think so.

More bad news about highly-processed snacks: diets high in these foods are linked to high blood pressure, high blood sugar which can lead to pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes, childhood obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—a condition that’s on the rise in kids.

Studies show eating refined carbohydrates and sugars, pesticides, preservatives, and artificial food dyes leads to altered thinking and behavior and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Another thing to consider is that there’s been a ton of research in recent years about intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions in the large intestine open and allow undigested food particles and pathogens in, which in turn elicits an immune response.

Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to various conditions including allergies, asthma, fatigue, autoimmunity, migraines and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Last, but definitely not least, is one of personal opinion. I think many parents think: What’s the big deal? They’re just kids.

And although your kid may have a normal weight and he’s healthy overall, the way I see it is that kids are blank slates.

We want to give them the best possible start in life and set them up for healthy habits now.

But it’s not just me who thinks this way. Experts say the more fake food kids eat—and the longer they eat themthe higher their risk for a long list of chronic health conditions down the line.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD KIDS SNACK?

In the U.S., our kids snack all the time: at daycare, pre-school, mom’s groups and on playdates.

They snack in their strollers, in the car, on the playground and after sports.

At school, young kids have a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

At my kids’ school, some parents pack snacks in their kids’ lunchbox. Kids can also buy snacks (chips, cookies, ice cream, etc.) at lunch time, which is there for no other reason than to offset the financial shortfall the school district faces. 

Of course, there are also after-school snacks and after-dinner snacks.

So you may have wondered like I did, how often should kids snack?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), snacks are not only an opportunity to support a kid’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day to begin with, so snack time can be a way to pack in more.

Snacks also give kids plenty of opportunities to learn what they like to eat—

and what they don’t—and chances to choose healthy foods and eventually become adventurous eaters.

Yet snack too many times a day, and it can displace calories at mealtime and it may be why your kid isn’t hungry when dinner time rolls around.

Related: [VIDEO] 6 REASONS YOUR KID WON’T EAT AT MEALS

There’s no hard and fast rule about when and how many times a day kids should have snacks but some experts have a bit of insight. “A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about 1-2 hours before the next meal begins,” Jo Ellen Shields, MED, RD, LD, co-author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens, said in this article.

The AAP suggests toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day to get the nutrition they need.

According to Jill Castle, RDN, in addition to 3 meals a day, school-aged kids need 1 to 2 snacks a day and teens need one snack a day unless they’re athletes or are having a growth spurt.

When offering snacks, you should also pay attention to portion sizes so the snack doesn’t turn into a meal.

HEALTHY SNACK IDEAS FOR KIDS

With so many snack food labels calling attention to health claims like all-natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, high in fiber, made with real fruit, no sugar added and sugar-free, it can be difficult to choose a healthy snack for your kids.

That’s why I suggest you focus on real food and some minimally-processed snacks.

Cutting down on processed foods takes time and although you can’t expect your kid to be on board right away, you can make it happen!

1. Vegetables any which way

Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, have fiber to satisfy your kid’s hunger and they can encourage kids to love vegetables at other meals.

Chances are, you probably won’t have much luck serving raw vegetables the first few times around and can you blame them?

Raw vegetables are ho-hum, so make them tasty!

Try serving baby carrots, celery, jicama (cut up like sticks), slices of cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower with hummus, guacamole or a plant-based dip like bean, beet, artichoke or spinach.

Homemade dips are always better because you know what’s in them.

If you’re buying a store-bought dip however, read labels carefully and avoid added sugars and artificial ingredients and compare brands for calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium content.

Another way to serve vegetables that will appeal to your kids is by trying different cooking methods like roasting or sautéing or serving vegetables spiralized, cut up like fries or even pureed.

2. Fruit and cheese

Cheese is high in protein and calcium and when it’s paired with fruit, it’s an easy, delicious combination.

Some yummy combinations to try include tomatoes with mozzarella, figs with brie, watermelon with feta, pear and blue cheese, or apple and cheddar.

3. Smoothies

Making smoothies is a great way to get in several servings of fruits and vegetables in one sitting.

When making smoothies, stick to an 80/20 ratio of vegetables to fruit to cut down on the sugar.

Include some protein by adding your kid’s favorite nut butter, chia seeds or protein powder.

Any blender will do but I’m a big fan of Vitamix because it’s a high performance blender that makes not only smoothies, but juices, dips, breads and so much more.

4. Chia seed pudding

Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, a good source of calcium and the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show support cardiovascular health, lower inflammation, prevent chronic disease, and support brain health.

Chia seed pudding is one of the best healthy snack ideas for kids because it’s a great alternative to most store-bought puddings that are high in sugar and have artificial ingredients.

You can find recipes for chia seed pudding but it’s pretty simple: your choice of milk, the chia seeds and flavor-filled add-ins like cacoa or cocoa powder, pure vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon, or a drizzle of real maple syrup or honey.

Combine everything in a mason jar and let it sit overnight. You can also top chia seed pudding with fresh or frozen fruit for more fiber and some sweetness.

5. No-bake energy bites

I love no-bake energy bites because they take minutes to make and are a healthy snack option for kids.

Depending on the ingredients you use, they can be a good source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Most recipes call for rolled oats, nuts and seeds, raisins and other types of dried fruit.

They’re also bite sized—perfect for toddlers!—and an easy option for school lunch, after-school sports or when you’re traveling.

6. A piece of fruit with nut or seed butter

Ideally, a health snack should be made up of fiber and protein and the combination of fruit and a nut or seed butter is a great choice.

Pair bananas, apples or pears with peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed butter, or pumpkin seed butter.

7. Healthy snack bars

Snack bars are a great choice especially when you’re tight on time, but not all are created equal.

When buying a healthy snack bar, look for those that use whole food ingredients, have a good amount of protein and fiber, and are low in sugar and sodium.

KIND and Larabar are two of my favorites.

Related: HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY SNACK BAR FOR KIDS

8. Trail mix

Kids love variety and just like the no-bake energy bites, trail mix has lots of options.

Nuts and seeds are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, but many store-bought trail mixes are filled with salty nuts, too much dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and candy.

If you want to have control of the ingredients, make your own: pick the nuts and seeds, and use unsweetened dried fruit. If you’re going to add chocolate, stick to dark chocolate, which has antioxidants and has just the right amount of sweetness without too much sugar.

9. Beans


Black beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas and edamame are all quick and easy healthy snack ideas for kids.

Not only do kids love finger foods but these are also a great grab-and-go option when you’re out and about.

10. Dried fruit and nuts or seeds

While fresh fruit is ideal because of the high amount of nutrition it provides, dried fruit with nuts or seeds is still a great choice.

Related: [VIDEO] IS DRIED FRUIT HEALTHY FOR KIDS?

When buying dried fruit, read labels carefully and look for products where dried fruit is the only ingredient.

For cranberries, chose those that are sweetened with fruit juice, not sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners, Cynthia Sass, RD states in this article.

Also, avoid dried fruit with artificial preservatives like sulfur dioxide and other additives. Above all, watch portion sizes.

11. Hard-boiled eggs

Eggs are loaded with protein—one large egg has nearly 7 grams—and hard boiled eggs are quick and easy: boil a dozen and you’ll have plenty on hand for snacks throughout the week.

You can serve a hard boiled egg alone, or pair it with vegetables or fruit.

12. Yogurt

Yogurt is high in protein, a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12, and rich in gut-friendly, immune-boosting probiotics.

When choosing a yogurt however, read labels and stick with brands that are low in

sugar and made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.

With 17 grams of protein per serving, plain Greek yogurt is a great option. Add raspberries which are high in fiber, and a dash of cinnamon and pure vanilla extract for extra flavor.

13. Popcorn

Unlike refined carbohydrates, whole grain carbohydrates like those in popcorn have fiber which stave off hunger and keep blood sugar levels steady.

Non-GMO, trans-fat free and low in sodium, SkinnyPop is one of my favorite brands.

14. Muffins

Muffins or mini-muffins can be a healthy snack option but most store-bought brands are made with refined carbohydrates, are low in fiber and high in sugar.

Read labels carefully or consider making your own with healthy ingredients like pumpkin puree, spinach or zucchini, for example.

15. Hummus and mini pitas

Kids love dip and hummus is a great option because it’s packed with protein, fiber and the healthy fats kids need in their diets.

Pair with mini pita bread pockets or small pieces of pita bread and you have a healthy and satisfying snack.

 

What are some of your favorite healthy snacks for kids? Let me know in the comments!

2 New Reports Show Childhood Obesity More Of A Concern Than Ever

2 New Reports Show Childhood Obesity More Of A Concern Than Ever

We all know that childhood obesity is an epidemic and more than a third of kids are either overweight or obese in the United States, but two recent reports show rates of childhood obesity have no signs of slowing down—and addressing the issue now is crucial if we want our kids to live long, healthy lives.

World Obesity Federation: 250 million kids will be obese by 2030

On October 2, the World Obesity Federation released their first-ever Global Atlas On Childhood Obesity, which shows the number of children and teens who are obese is expected to rise from the current estimate of 150 million to 250 million by the year 2030.

While North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have childhood obesity rates that have stabilized at high levels, Africa, Asia and Latin America are most at risk—a result of emerging economies and aggressive food marketing to kids, the report states. In fact, 70% of countries lack policies that restrict food marketing to kids.

At the World Health Assembly in 2013, it was agreed that rates of childhood obesity should be no higher in 2025 than they were between 2010 and 2012. Yet this recent report found that 8 out of 10 countries have a less than 10 percent chance of meeting that goal and the U.S. has only a 17 percent chance.

In the U.S., recent data shows 9.4 percent of children between 0 and 5-years-old are overweight. By 2030, up to 26 percent of children and teens will be obese.

Related: Childhood Obesity: Are Parents To Blame?


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: 18.5 percent of kids are obese

A second report released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, State of Childhood Obesity: Helping All Children Grow Up Healthy, includes the best available data on national and state childhood obesity rates as well as recommendations to quickly address the issue.

According to the report:

  • In 2015-16, 18.5 percent of kids ages 2 to 19 were obese.
  • Black and hispanic kids have higher rates of obesity (22 percent and 19 percent respectively) than kids who are white (11.8 percent) and Asian (7.3 percent).
  • 21.9 percent of kids who live in homes that make less than the federal poverty level are obese.
  • Between 2016 and 2017-18, there were no states that had a significant change in their overall obesity rate.

While most of the news was bleak, there was some progress made for families who participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides healthy food, health care referrals and nutrition education to lower-income women.

The rates of obesity for kids 2- and 4-years-old in WIC decreased from 15.9 percent to 13.9 percent between 2010 and 2016, and that was true across all racial and ethic groups.

Related: 6 Facts About Child Hunger in the U.S. + What You Can Do

The report also included several key policy recommendations at the federal, state and local levels around both diet and physical activity to address childhood obesity including ongoing support and reform of WIC, the Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), a program that the Trump administration is threatening to significantly cut.

Additionally, the report includes a recommendation to include children under 2 in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is still in development, urging them to take into account the 2017 Feeding Guidelines for Infants and Young Toddlers: A Responsive Parenting Approach and the new healthy kids’ drink recommendations which came out in September 2019.

They also recommend certain policies around food marketing, such as:

  • All food and drink advertisements and marketing in schools meet the Smart Snacks nutrition guidelines.
  • Soda and sugary drinks should be eliminated from kids’ restaurant menus and menu boards.

     

  • Maintain the nutrition standards for school meals that were in effect before rules about whole grains, sodium and milk were rolled back in December 2018.

Related: Why My Kids’ School Lunch Is Unhealthy (+ What I’m Doing About It)

Childhood obesity is a complicated problem that requires swift action from government agencies, schools districts, healthcare providers and parents. Although there’s no quick fix, without major changes within the next few years, our kids will face chronic health conditions and our healthcare system will continue to be taxed.

The way I see it however, is that fat or skinny, all kids need to have access to healthy, real food and they need to learn healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

What do you think about the new data and recommendations to address childhood obesity? Let me know in the comments.

How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds + My Favorite Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds + My Favorite Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

     Between pumpkin-spiced lattes and everything else pumpkin-inspired this time of year, pumpkin gets so much attention that pumpkin seeds—a bonafide superfood too—are often overlooked and underutilized. Perhaps it’s because many people don’t know how to eat pumpkin seeds, or how to cook them and incorporate them into their meals. Fortunately, there are so many healthy, delicious ways to eat pumpkin seeds that my family loves—and yours will too. But first, let’s look at the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.

Are pumpkin seeds good for you?

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, which in Spanish means “little seeds of squash,” are packed with nutrition and one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.

Packed with protein

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein— an ounce has nearly 7 grams which gives kids energy and staves off hunger.

Protein also helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure you include protein at every meal also helps to keep blood sugar steady and prevent weight gain.

Filled with fiber

If your kids are like most and don’t get enough fiber in their diets from fruits and vegetables, serving pumpkin seeds can help fill some of the void.

Whole pumpkin seeds in their shells have about 5 grams of fiber per serving, while shelled pumpkin seeds have about 3 grams per serving. Although the latter has less fiber, pair pumpkin seeds with a high-fiber fruit like an apple or a pear for example, and you’ve got a healthy snack.

High in magnesium and other minerals

Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s responsible for several different biochemical processes in the body including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium also helps to support bone health, and it can help ease anxiety and may also improve sleep.

Pumpkin seeds are also high in iron, which the red blood cells need to transport oxygen throughout the body. They’re also rich in zinc, which supports skin health, eye health, and may help boost your kids’ immunity and cut down on the amount of times they get sick with colds, infections or stomach bugs.

Related: [VIDEO] How to Boost Your Kids’ Immunity

 

May make bedtime easier

When you hear the word tryptophan, you probably think turkey and that post-Thanksgiving dinner slump you get when you eat it. Yet tryptophan is also found in pumpkin seeds.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that’s responsible for sleep and a happy mood. So although there’s no guarantee, feeding your kids pumpkin seeds may help them sleep through the night.

High in antioxidants

Pumpkin seeds are high in antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E, which reduce inflammation and help to prevent many types of diseases.

Lower risk for type-2 diabetes and heart disease

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 193,000 kids and teens under age 20 are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and experts agree, those numbers are on the rise.

Studies suggest along with a healthy diet and exercise, eating pumpkin seeds may prevent type-2 diabetes. In fact, a February 2014 study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition suggests eating pumpkin seeds can help maintain blood glucose levels.

Another February 2012 study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests pumpkin seed oil may reduce high blood pressure and be protective of the cardiovascular system.

Healthy fats

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the heart-healthy, brain healthy fats kids need in their diets.

Healthy fats are a vital source of energy for kids and help satisfy their hunger.

They’re also essential for healthy cell membranes, they support the brain and the nervous system, and help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.

Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and to help regulate inflammation and metabolism.

Related: 5 Foods With Healthy Fats Kids Will Love

How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds

While you can eat pumpkin seeds that you get when you carve a pumpkin, making them edible is a process. First, you’ll have to scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin, clean and dry them, and then bake them for 30 minutes. If you want to add cinnamon or other spices, you’ll have to bake them for another 20 minutes.

I don’t know about you but who has time for that?

A quicker and easier way is to buy plain, unsalted pumpkin seeds at the grocery store. You can serve them alone or add them to any type of meal, but either way, there are so healthy and delicious ways to eat them.

Eat pumpkin seeds as a snack

The great thing about pumpkin seeds for kids is that they’re portable, but they don’t have to be refrigerated or kept cool, and they’re allergy-safe for school.

You can toss plain pumpkin seeds with raisins, roast them with cinnamon and sugar (see my favorite pumpkin seeds recipe below!) or your kid’s favorite spices.

Or you can make a pumpkin seed salsa for a healthy and delicious snack.

Add pumpkin seeds to oatmeal

Incorporate pumpkin seeds into oatmeal, overnight oats and baked oatmeal for a quick and easy breakfast.

Top muffins and breads with pumpkin seeds

There’s nothing better than fresh-from-the-oven muffins and breads, especially those made with pumpkin, apples or pears. Mix some pumpkin seeds in the batter or sprinkle them on top and you have a little extra nutrition and texture too.

Use pumpkin seeds in granola

I love making my own homemade granola because I can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar, plus it’s super easy to make a large batch that can last you awhile.

You can use pumpkin seeds in this recipe from Cookie and Kate which I made recently—it was gone in a few days!

Make homemade trail mix with pumpkin seeds

Trail mix can be a healthy snack option, but most types on store shelves are packed with salty nuts and seeds, load of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips and M&Ms.

Instead, make your own trail mix with pumpkin seeds—it’s quick and easy and the best part is that you get to control the ingredients and the portion size.

Make pumpkin seed butter

If you’re looking for an allergy-safe option for school lunches, try making pumpkin seed butter, which is simple to whip up in your blender or Vitamix.

You can also add pumpkin seed butter to smoothies, swirl it into yogurt, drizzle it on top of fruit, or serve it as a fruit dip.

Need a recipe? Try Momables’ Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed Butter.

Add pumpkin seeds to salads, soups, and side dishes

Pumpkin seeds can be tossed into about any type of meal and side dish. Think: vegetable stir-fry, roasted vegetables, rice and grain dishes, tacos, chilis, soups and salads.

Prepare a pesto

Swap pine nuts for pumpkin seeds in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and delicious addition to steak, fish or chicken or spread on your favorite toasted baguette.

Best Pumpkin Seeds To Buy

If you want to roast shelled pumpkin seeds but don’t have the time, there are some great healthy, store-bought options.

Both brands are non-GMO, gluten-free and free of dairy, egg, soy, peanut and tree nuts, which is important if you have kids with food allergies like I do

Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds pumpkin seeds are sprouted which makes them easy to digest and boosts their nutritional value.

SuperSeedz brand pumpkin seeds are roasted with only natural ingredients like dark chocolate, cinnamon (my kids’ favorite) and cayenne pepper. They also come in 1 ounce and 5 ounce snack size pouches.

My Favorite Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

My daughter loves roasted cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds and although I’ve purchased them in the past, they can get pricey, so recently I made them for her.

I used this recipe for Cinnamon Toast Pumpkin Seeds but swapped out the white sugar for coconut sugar (I like Madhava).

Does your family eat pumpkin seeds? What’s your favorite way to serve them up? Let me know in the comments.

New Healthy Kids’ Drink Recommendations: What Parents Should Know

New Healthy Kids’ Drink Recommendations: What Parents Should Know

Last Wednesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of  Pediatric Dentistry jointly issued new healthy kids’ drink guidelines for parents.

Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids as they’re called, are the first-ever consensus recommendations on what constitutes a healthy kids’ drink for kids ages 5 and under as well as the types of beverages parents should limit or avoid.

The new guidelines focus on a handful of key recommendations: breast milk, infant formula, plain milk, and water are best while fruit juice and non-dairy, plant-based milks should be avoided.

This is exciting news because these leading health organizations are finally taking a stance and stating that drinks are just as important as the foods we feed our kids.

Drinks can be a significant source of calories, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats for young kids and they can also fill a void from nutritional deficiencies that are typically a result of picky eating behaviors.

Since food preferences are formed at an early age—even in utero, the first 5 years is a critical time. Plus, serving up a healthy kids’ drink also encourages healthy choices throughout their lives.

What’s more, with childhood obesity still an epidemic and conditions like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) on the rise, the beverages our kids consume are more important than ever. 

What are the new healthy kids’ drink recommendations?

So let’s take a look at the new recommendations:

All children ages 5 and under should avoid drinking:

  • Chocolate milk and strawberry milk
  • Toddler formulas such as toddler milks, growing up milks or follow-up formulas
  • Plant-based/non-dairy milks (with some exceptions).

Beverages with caffeine, low-calorie sweetened beverages including those sweetened with stevia, sucralose or labeled “diet” or “light,” sugar-sweetened drinks including soda, fruit drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, fruit-ades, sports and energy drinks, sweetened waters, and sweetened coffee and tea drinks should also be off limits.

Infants from 0 to 6 months should only have breastmilk and/or infant formula.

Babies 6 to 12 months should continue to stick with breastmilk and/or infant formula. Once they start solids, parents should offer a small amount of water at mealtimes. Introducing a few sips of water can help them get used to the taste.

Additionally, the healthy kids’ drink recommendations state babies should avoid fruit juice—even 100% fruit juice—because whole fruit has much more nutrition.

Babies 12 to 24 months can be introduced to plain, pasteurized whole milk and plain water to stay hydrated. Although the recommendations say 100% fruit juice is ok, it should be limited. An even better choice? Fresh, canned or frozen fruit without any added sugars.

Children between 2- and 5-years-old should stick with milk, ideally skim milk or low-fat (1%) and water. Again, small amounts of fruit juice are OK, but whole fruit is always better. 

If you’re looking for more details, you can read the full recommendations here.

Related: Is Chocolate Milk Good for Kids?

Do the new recommendations include non-dairy, plant-based milks?

In recent years, the amount of people interested in plant-based, non-dairy milks like almond milk, cashew milk, and oat milk have significantly increased. According to the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based milks were up 9% in 2018, worth an estimated $1.6 billion, while sales of cow’s milk were down 6%.

Despite their popularity, the organizations that developed the healthy kids’ drink recommendations say kids under 5 should avoid consuming them.

For starters, many plant-based milks have added sugars to make them taste sweet.

Although many also have added nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D, the amounts can vary by type and brand and studies show our bodies may not be able to absorb these nutrients as well as they can from cow’s milk, the panel says.

The one exception to the recommendation of avoiding plant-based milks is fortified soy milk, which stacks up nutritionally to cow’s milk.

Another caveat is that for kids who are lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy or follow a vegan diet, unsweetened and fortified non-dairy milks may be a good idea.

Is fruit juice healthy for kids?

The new recommendations about fruit juice in particular, are a welcomed change and something I think can have a significant impact on our children’s health now and throughout their lives.

Fruit juice is often marketed to families as a healthy food for kids, especially those that are organic or not from concentrate.

Although juice has certain vitamins and nutrients and can count as a serving of fruit—a good thing if your kid is a picky eater—in reality, fruit juice is just concentrated sugar. Fruit juice also lacks fiber, something all kids need whether they’re constipated or not.

Drinking too much juice can also lead to cavities, weight gain and diarrhea.

What about healthy fruit smoothies?

The new healthy kids’ drink recommendations do not include a mention of smoothies, but I think it’s something to consider since parents often serve them to their kids to help increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.

Smoothies are often seen as a health food, yet take a look at most bottled or restaurant smoothies—yes, green smoothies too—and you’ll discover most are filled with sugar thanks to ingredients like fruit juice, honey, raw sugar and loads of fresh fruit.

Sure, fresh fruit has natural sugars and other nutrients, but sugar is sugar.

If your kids like smoothies, make your own at home, using only vegetables and fruit at an 80:20 ratio.

How much water do kids need?

Since infants 6- to 12-months-old should only be offered small sips of water at meals, between 4 and 8 ounces total for the day is enough but it shouldn’t replace breast milk and/or infant formula.

These are the recommendations for water intake for older children:

1- to 3-years old: 1 to 4 cups of water a day

4- to 5-years old: 1.5 to 5 cups a day

Tips for offering a healthy kids’ drink

Substitute sugary drinks
If your kids love juice or another sweetened beverage and you know going cold-turkey isn’t going to work, slowly swap it out.

Try adding water to juice in your kid’s sippy cup or cut down the serving size or amount of servings per day until you can nix it for good.

Encourage drinking water
Pure, simple H2O may not be your kid’s first choice, but water gives their bodies what they need and it quenches their thirst without any unnecessary calories, fat or sugar.

The best way to eliminate juice and sugary drinks from your kid’s diet is to simply stop buying it. At daycare or church for example, you can encourage the people who provide the food to eliminate it too.

Although there’s not much you can do at birthday parties for example, you can do your best to encourage your kid to drink water or milk instead or allow juice in small amounts for that day.

Simple changes like offering a cool new sippy cup, a fun straw or adding slices of strawberries or cucumbers to water, for example, can be enough to encourage them to drink up.

Talk to your pediatrician or a pediatric RDN
If you’re avoiding cow’s milk for any reason, it’s a good idea to check with your child’s pediatrician or pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist to make sure your child is getting enough key nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamin D in his diet.

What do you think about the new healthy kids’ drink recommendations? Leave me a comment.

15 Kids’ Healthy Eating Myths That Are Dangerous To Believe

15 Kids’ Healthy Eating Myths That Are Dangerous To Believe

When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating, it seems that a lot of what we read is confusing and contradictory, and separating fact from fiction is no easy task especially when you’re a busy parent.

Let’s take safely introducing nuts to babies, which is a new food philosophy that can make healthy eating tricky.

When my kids were babies—which was only a few years ago—I was told to wait to feed them nuts because of the risk of food allergies. Now that advice has changed and parents are encouraged to feed nuts to their babies early on.

Unless you’re a nutritionist, chances are, you don’t have time to sift through the research and figure out what’s true and what’s not. Although I can’t guarantee that a new study won’t come out tomorrow and influence how we should feed our kids, here are 15 kids’ healthy eating myths that you should stop believing today.

 

1. Healthy eating is time consuming

Serving healthy meals definitely takes time to plan, prep and cook—definitely more time than opening up a box of chicken nuggets or ordering take-out.

If you work, have more than one kid at home, care for an aging parent, and have other obligations, your time is even more limited.

A myth about healthy eating however, is that it’s too time consuming but I want to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

With easy, simple strategies like meal planning, batch cooking and sticking to the basics, it is possible to serve healthy meals everyday.

Related: How I Work Full-Time and Cook Dinner (Almost) Every Night

2. The Keto diet is healthy for kids


Low-carb diets like keto are all the rage for adults looking to lose weight, but in recent months, it’s shocking to see how many bloggers are posting keto diet recipes for kids.

When it comes to refined carbohydrates like those found in white breads, pastas and rice and processed foods, I agree, they should be limited.

These types of carbs break down into simple sugars easily, cause blood sugar levels to spike and don’t satiate hunger—which might be one of the reasons your kid is always hungry.

Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, provide kids with the energy they need and they support their muscle growth and brain development. They also take longer to break down, which keeps blood sugar levels steady.

Complex carbs are also high in fiber which satisfy hunger and prevent constipation.

So instead of cutting carbs, offer a variety of foods with complex carbohydrates. These include:

  • Vegetables like pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes
  • Fruits like berries, apples and pears
  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa

Related: Is Keto Safe For Kids?

 

 

3. Sneaking vegetables is the best way to encourage healthy eating

Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into sauces, baked goods, and smoothies can definitely give your kids the nutrition they need and otherwise wouldn’t get.

Yet sneaking every type of vegetable they eat into their meal isn’t going to make them into healthy eaters.

Our goal as parents is to raise kids who not only accept but LOVE to eat healthy.

And one of the ways to do that is to give them plenty of opportunities to smell, touch and taste vegetables in their whole form.

Sure, they may not love everything you serve, but they must have plenty of chances to learn what they like and dislike.

So while I don’t see anything wrong with green smoothies or adding a vegetable puree into a meal for extra nutrition, whole vegetables should make up a bulk of their plates.   

4. Kids should eat kid-friendly foods

I get it: it’s really easy and convenient to open a box of macaroni and cheese and serve it to your kids. It’s quick and easy and you know they’ll eat it.

I’m not saying that I don’t rely on some Annie’s macaroni and cheese when I don’t feel like cooking or we’re short on time, but here’s the thing: if you’re serving kid-friendly foods because you know your kids aren’t going to eat the healthy dinner you made, they’re missing out.

Without plenty of opportunities to taste and experience new types of food, they won’t develop the preference for healthy fare—and the picky eating behaviors will continue.

 

5. Healthy eating includes drinking milk 

Milk is a good source of calcium and protein as well as vitamins A, B6, B12, magnesium, niacin, selenium and zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Yet one of the biggest kids’ healthy eating myths is that kids need to drink milk for calcium.

The truth is that there are far better sources of calcium than milk, and they also don’t contain growth hormones, allergenic proteins and antibiotics. Some include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Black turtle beans
  • Sardines (my kids love them!)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Rhubarb
  • Tofu
  • Spinach
  • Bok choy
  • Collard greens
  • Salmon
  • Figs
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens

Research also shows cow’s milk is inflammatory and linked to a host of diseases.

In fact, in February 2019, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine called on the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to update the new guidelines to include a warning about the health dangers of dairy.

6. “Gluten free” means healthy

If your kids are on a gluten-free diet because of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease or another reason, it can definitely be a healthy way to eat.

Yet just because the food label says gluten free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

So many gluten free foods sold in stores contain artificial ingredients, sweeteners and food dyes you don’t want your kids eating. 

If you’re going gluten free, do it the healthy way and make sure your kids eat mostly whole foods including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and gluten-free grains like oats and quinoa.

7. Yogurt is a health food

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which can satisfy hunger and prevent weight gain.

It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boosts gut health and strengthen the immune system.

Yet many yogurts, those that are marketed to kids or otherwise, are also sneaky sources of sugar.

Yogurts with pretzels, candy and crushed cookies are obvious sources, but those that are blended with fruit can also be high in the sweet stuff.

Read labels carefully and stick to brands with less than 11 grams of sugar, according to nutritionist Joy Bauer.

Siggi’s is one of my favorites for kids. Or serve plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit for a hint of sweetness and fiber.

Related: 10 Foods High In Probiotics For Kids

8. Kids who refuse to eat are picky eaters


When kids refuse to try a new food they’ve been introduced to once or even several times, it doesn’t mean they’re picky eaters.

Repeatedly introducing foods to kids is an effective way to prevent picky eating.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it can take between 8 and 15 times of introducing a new food for a child to accept it.

Plus, a December 2007 study in the journal Food Quality and Preference found that when mothers introduced a vegetable their infants initially disliked, by the 8th day of serving it, their intake of it increased rapidly. And by the 8th exposure, their intake was similar to that of a vegetable they liked. Nine months later, 63 percent of the infants were still eating the originally disliked vegetable.

Introduce tiny bites of new foods alongside your kid’s favorite foods.

Also, instead of serving the food the same way over and over again, try a different cooking method (roasted vs. steamed), or serve it alone and mixed in (but not hidden!) with another food your kid enjoys eating.

9. Kids should only get dessert if they eat their dinner

When you’re frustrated with your picky eaters, you can beg, plead and negotiate—and bribe them with dessert but it’s not a long-term strategy for healthy eating.

Allowing them to have dessert after a certain requirement has been met, i.e. take two more bites or eat all of your vegetables, teaches them that dessert is more desirable than healthy food.

It’s also something they start to believe as they get older—just think about how most adults view dessert.

Bribing kids with dessert also interferes with their hunger and satiety cues. Telling a kid he must eat some or everything on his plate is a pressure tactic that doesn’t allow kids to recognize when they’re not hungry or when they’re full and makes mealtimes a negative experience.

Can we encourage healthy eating? We sure can. But just like anything else, we can’t make our kids do what they don’t want to.

So instead of trying to enforce “food rules,” serve healthy foods and encourage healthy habits.

If you decide to serve dessert, which by the way can be fruit, a muffin, or yogurt, for example, kids should be allowed to have it no matter what or how much they ate.

10. Store-bought baby food is just as good as homemade


Although many of the store-bought baby food brands don’t have preservatives or additives, open them up and you’ll smell—and taste—the difference.

In 2015, Good Morning America found that water was the most predominant ingredient in Plum Organics’ baby food and other ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meat, were in smaller quantities.

Store-bought baby food may also contain less than 20 percent of the recommended levels of many minerals and micronutrients, a 2012 study out of the U.K found.

There are some exceptions, however.

Once Upon A Farm uses fresh, whole, organic foods to make their cold-pressed, refrigerated baby food. There are also companies that deliver homemade baby food to your door.

Making homemade baby food definitely takes more time then opening up a jar but it’s also one of the best things you can do for your baby.

You know exactly what’s going into your baby’s meals and you can choose food that is organic, local, from the farmer’s market and in-season so it’s fresher and more affordable.

13. Kids shouldn’t eat eggs everyday

For many years in the U.S. experts said we should limit the amount of eggs in our diets because the saturated fat they contain was linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Experts now agree, and studies (here and here) show that there’s not enough data to support that theory. Studies also show that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an effect on blood cholesterol.

A January 2015 study in the American Heart Journal found eating up to one egg per day is not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Earlier this year, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating eggs can increase cardiovascular disease risk and death. Yet experts say the study has limitations and eating eggs in the context of a healthy diet is fine.

14. All processed food is bad and prevents healthy eating

You already know that kids should eat less processed foods and more real, whole foods.

Most processed foods are loaded with sodium, sugar, saturated fat and artificial ingredients you can’t identify or pronounce. They also lack fiber and the vitamins and minerals kids need in their diets.

Although highly-processed foods, which are those that that have sweeteners, oils, flavors, colors and preservatives should be avoided, not all processed foods are bad for kids.

Minimally-processed foods like bagged salads, washed and pre-chopped fruits and vegetables, or canned beans for example, can be healthy, encourage healthy eating and make your life easier.

Related: How To Cut Processed Foods From Your Kid’s Diet

15. Chocolate milk is healthy for kids

In schools, serving chocolate milk is seen by proponents as a way to encourage kids to drink milk when they otherwise wouldn’t. In recent years, it’s also been promoted as a post-workout recovery drink for athletes.

While chocolate milk is a good source of protein, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, it’s also high in sugar: 24 grams or more sugar than a Mr. Goodbar!

Suffice to say, chocolate milk isn’t something kids should be drinking regularly, but can be served as an occasional treat. 

10 Foods High In Probiotics For Kids

10 Foods High In Probiotics For Kids

In recent years, it seems that everything you read about when it comes to health is about gut health, eating foods high in probiotics and taking probiotic supplements.

In our family, I do my best to get probiotics into my kids especially this time of year when colds and fevers are almost inevitable. In the last few months, we’ve also been working with a naturopath to help my older daughter who has food allergies boost her gut health and lower her immune response with a protocol that includes vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc and probiotics.

My kids also eat (and enjoy!) foods high in probiotics like fermented vegetables— no matter how strange they may seem. Of course, there are other healthy, delicious and convenient options that you can start to incorporate into your kid’s diet.

But first, let’s take a look at why your kids need healthy gut bacteria, what can throw it off balance, and how to boost their gut health.

Let’s get started.

Why healthy gut bacteria is important for kids

Healthy gut bacteria starts with the microbiome, which is a vast collection of 100 trillion microbes or microorganisms that actually live in and on the body, but most are found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Bacteria are one type of microbes and although we do everything we can to prevent our kids from coming into contact with bad bacteria that can cause colds and infections for example, there are also healthy bacteria that our bodies need to stay healthy.

Although researchers continue to study the benefits of probiotics and figure out what all the different types are good for, there is a lot we know now about the importance of healthy gut bacteria for kids.

A strong immune system

Kids are like little petri dishes for germs, especially when they’re in daycare and school. They all touch the same surfaces, share the same toys and put everything in their mouths. So if you have young kids, you know how often they get sick. Kids under the age of 6 in particular, get 8 to 10 colds a year!

Perhaps one of the strongest areas of research that has looked at the benefits of probiotics is immunity. In fact, a June 2018 study in the journal Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology, which was conducted in adults, showed probiotics are safe and effective remedy for colds and flu-like respiratory infections.

Better mood and behavior

The gut is often called the second brain because of the strong pathways that are along the gut-brain axis. In fact, the enteric nervous system, which directs the function of the GI system, has 30 types of neurotransmitters and 100 million neurons.

So although we often think the brain is entirely responsible for mental health, mood and behavior, experts say the gut has a lot to do with it too. While your kid will still cry and have meltdowns, optimizing healthy gut bacteria with foods high in probiotics may boost his mood and improve his behavior.

Improved sleep

No parent is immune to bedtime battles especially with young kids, but research suggests probiotics may improve sleep. That’s because a whopping 90 percent of serotonin, the building block for melatonin, the “sleep hormone” is located in the gut.  What’s more, certain bacteria in the gut are important for the production of serotonin, a 2015 study out of Caltech found.

Cures constipation

A lack of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains or dehydration is often to blame for kids’ constipation. But some kids have “functional constipation,” which can happen when they avoid going to the bathroom because they fear pooping will be painful. In those kids, an imbalance in healthy gut bacteria may be the cause and probiotics may help, according to a February 2019 review in the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

Eases colic and reflux

If you have a baby with colic or reflux, you know how tiring and stressful it can be but strengthening their gut health may help.

A March 2014 study in JAMA Pediatrics found when probiotics were given to infants during the first three months after birth they cried less and had less reflux.

Another 2018 study found in breastfed infants, probiotics can reduce fussiness and crying.

Improves allergies and eczema

Studies suggest probiotics may help with allergenic conditions.

In fact, a February 2018 meta-analysis in the journal PLOS One suggests taking probiotics during late pregnancy and while breastfeeding may reduce a baby’s risk for eczema.  Another study out of Vanderbilt University suggests probiotics can improve symptoms of seasonal allergies, but more research is needed to make recommendations, the authors noted.

Can probiotics help kids with stomach viruses?

Research suggests that probiotics can help ease diarrhea after a round of antibiotics.

Yet in recent years, giving probiotics to kids to help ease diarrhea and vomiting for any reason has become increasingly common but new research shows it’s not effective. 

According to a November 2018 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, a common type of probiotic called Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, or LGG, which is sold over the counter as Culturelle, had no effect on kids’ symptoms. “Parents are better off saving their money and using it to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables for their children,” the study authors stated.

Are probiotics for kids safe?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a clinical report in 2010 which states that products with probiotics seem to be safe for infants and children but the long-term effects are unknown and more research is needed.

They also say there are safety concerns in children who have compromised immune systems, are chronically debilitated or seriously ill and have indwelling medical devices like catheters or endotracheal tubes.

It’s also important to note that the FDA doesn’t regulate dietary supplements as rigorously as they do for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

What can disrupt healthy gut bacteria?

It’s ideal to have good and bad bacteria in the right balance in the gut, but there are so many factors that can throw it off.

 

Antibiotics

If your kid has a bacterial infection, antibiotics are necessary, but they can also wipe out all the healthy gut bacteria which is why taking a probiotic can help restore balance.

 

Processed foods 

Experts say eating processed foods and those high with sugar over the long term can lead to intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions in the large intestine open and allow undigested food particles and pathogens in, which in turn elicits an immune response.

Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to various conditions including allergies, asthma, fatigue, autoimmune diseases, migraines and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

If your kids eat a lot of foods that are in a bag, box, or package, chances are they’re  also missing out on key vitamins and minerals that keep their guts and immune systems strong and keep them healthy.

 

Lack of sleep

Researchers are also looking at how sleep may affect gut health. In fact, an April 2019 study in the journal SLEEP suggest better sleep quality and less sleepiness are significantly associated with a richer and more diverse gut bacteria.

 

Toxic chemicals

In September 2017, the FDA banned triclosan in anti-bacterial hand soaps, but companies still add the pesticide to some dish soaps, personal care products and Colgate Total toothpaste.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says triclosan may cause changes in the hormone system, and harm reproduction and development, and studies show it may also alter healthy gut bacteria.

In fact, according to a May 2018 study in the journal Science Translational Medicine, mice who were fed a diet laced with triclosan for 3 weeks had significantly lower levels of a species of bacteria that has been shown to be anti-inflammatory. 

 

Lack of physical activity

Exercise is important for kids’ overall growth and development and of course, it can prevent childhood obesity but studies suggest a lack of physical activity can affect gut health, regardless of what they eat.

According to an April 2018 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, (which was conducted in adults) regular exercise increases short-chain fatty acids which promote gut health.

How to give kids healthy gut bacteria

Fortunately, there are several ways to improve your kid’s gut health, both with diet and healthy habits.

Eat the rainbow

A whole foods diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors gives your kid the nutrition she needs for a strong immune system. These foods also contain prebiotics, or non-digestible food ingredients, that work with probiotics, the live microorganisms found in the gut, to grow and work to boost your child’s immunity.

Add fermented foods

Kefir tastes too tangy for me but my kids love it and that’s a good thing. The probiotics found in kefir and other foods like yogurt, kimchi, and naturally fermented vegetables, including sauerkraut and pickles can help improve gut health.

Consider taking probiotics

As previously stated, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) hasn’t recommended regular use of probiotics in children because there’s a lack of evidence for their efficacy. Of course like any supplement, if you want to give your kid probiotics, check with his pediatrician first.

Get moving

Getting your kids outside is always ideal but during the dog days of winter or on snow days when you can’t get out, put on music and have a dance party or enjoy a game of Twister.

Let kids play in the dirt

Encourage your kids to get outside and get dirty—whether it’s digging up dirt, playing with the dog, or planting a garden together to expose them to healthy gut bacteria.

10 Foods High In Probiotics For Kids

Your kid’s diet is one of the best ways to promote a healthy gut and fortunately, there are many foods high in probiotics.

1. Kefir

Kefir has a healthy dose of probiotics but read labels and you’ll discover most brands of kefir are high in sugar.

If you’re going to feed your kids fruit-flavored kefir, it’s probably OK as long as they have a low-sugar diet but keep portion sizes in mind. A better option however, is plain kefir which you can add fresh or frozen fruit to and blend into a smoothie.

2. Green peas

Green peas are an excellent source of fiber, protein and vitamins A, C, B6, and K, magnesium and folate.  Surprisingly, they’re also probiotic-rich. In fact, a December 2018 study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that a particular strain—leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. mesenteroides—can boost gut health. The study was conducted in mice however, so it’s not clear if the same findings can be replicated in humans.

3. Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread is made with a fermentation process that uses wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that’s naturally present, making it a good source of probiotics.

Your kids may not immediately take to the taste of sourdough bread so serve a small piece with a pat of grass-fed butter, which has a dose of probiotics too.

If you’re looking for a gluten-free option, I recommend Simple Kneads.

4. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the best foods high in probiotics. According to a March 2018 study in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy, babies who ate yogurt on a daily basis reduced their risk for allergies and eczema by up to 70 percent. The authors note however, that it’s unclear what type of yogurt and how much is actually beneficial.

When reading labels, look for brands that state “live and active cultures.” Also, avoid yogurts that are fruit-flavored or contain fruit because they’re usually high in sugar. Sugar can feed unhealthy bacteria in the gut so to get the full immune-boosting benefit, aim for yogurt that has less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.

5. Fermented pickles

Most kids love pickles, but most pickles on store shelves won’t cut it. To get the benefits of probiotics, you’ll want to look for pickles in the refrigerated section and those brands that are labeled “naturally fermented,” like Bubbies.

6. Kimchi

A popular Asian side dish, kimchi is a naturally fermented cabbage that contains probiotics and is rich in vitamins A, C, K, B6, folate and iron. Since kimchi is a bit spicy, give your kids a small amount alongside their favorite foods and they may actually try it.

7. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, another type of fermented cabbage, is a good source of probiotics as well as fiber, calcium and magnesium, vitamins B6, C and K, folate, iron and potassium. Most store-brands of sauerkraut don’t contain probiotics however, so look for those that state they’re naturally fermented.

8. Miso

A traditional Japanese condiment that’s made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, miso is one of the best foods high in probiotics. A good way to introduce miso to kids is to offer miso soup since it has a mild flavor and it’s delicious.

9. Coconut milk yogurt

If your kids can’t consume dairy or your family is dairy-free, coconut milk yogurt is a great option.

Like many types of yogurt however, coconut milk yogurt can be high in sugar so read labels carefully. Or find plain, unsweetened versions and add fresh berries for added fiber and a hint of sweetness.

10. Tempeh

Made with fermented soybeans, tempeh is a great source of probiotics as well as protein, iron and calcium.

Add tempeh to your favorite stir-fry or salad, or use it in place of meat on taco night.

Don’t forget prebiotic foods

 

It’s also a good idea to offer your kids foods rich in prebiotics, which are non-digestible food ingredients that work with probiotics to boost your child’s immunity.

Prebiotic rich foods include onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, wheat bran, apples, Jerusalem artichokes, flaxseeds, cocoa, seaweed.

 

Do you feed your kids foods high in probiotics? Which ones do they like the best? Let me know in the comments.

15 Companies & Charities Dedicated to Fighting Childhood Obesity

15 Companies & Charities Dedicated to Fighting Childhood Obesity

In August when Weight Watchers rolled out weight loss app Kurbo, it released a wave of sharp criticism from health experts, eating disorder specialists and parents alike—and once again shined a spotlight on fighting childhood obesity.

Although Kurbo is certainly extreme, it’s not anything new. Just think about weight loss camps or companies who have started to sell fitness trackers for kids in recent years.

Instead of putting kids on diets, segregating food as “healthy” and “unhealthy,” and encouraging kids to track their steps every day, kids need repeated exposure to healthy foods, and they need to have healthy eating and lifestyle habits modeled for them.

So although Kurbo, fitness trackers, or any other adult weight loss solution that’s re-packaged for kids isn’t the solution, the sad truth is that we are still facing a childhood obesity epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects:

  • Nearly 14 percent of children 2- to 5-years-old.
  • More than 18 percent of 6 to 11-year olds.
  • More than 20 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds.

Of course, childhood obesity is just one part of an overall health epidemic in the U.S. Studies show kids who are overweight are at risk for other conditions including type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), both of which are on the rise.

Children who are obese also have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and problems with blood glucose tolerance. Obesity may also play a role in kids who have asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, joint problems and mental health problems. 

In fact, a recent study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham found teens who consume high levels of sodium and low levels of potassium in fast food and processed foods that are linked to obesity, are more likely to develop symptoms of depression.

Most of the responsibility of preventing childhood obesity starts at home but schools and communities also play a role especially for families struggling with food insecurity.

Fortunately, there are several companies, including many start-ups, and non-profit organizations that are dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. Here are 15.

 

1. Revolutions Foods

Founded in 2006 by Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two businesswomen and moms, Revolution Foods’ mission is to build lifelong healthy eaters and provide healthy meals to every child who is food insecure. 

To date, the company has designed, produced and delivered more than 360-million

kid-inspired, chef-crafted meals to childhood education centers, school districts, charter schools, and community and after-school youth programs in 15 states. 

With their community partners, they also offer nutrition curriculum, cooking classes, gardening lessons and other education events.

2. Chef Ann Foundation 

If you’re looking to change your child’s school lunch program like I am, the Chef Ann Foundation is an excellent place to start. 

Founded in 2009 by Ann Cooper, an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children, the Chef Ann Foundation is dedicated to providing fresh, healthy school lunch every day. 

With tools, training, resources and funding, the Foundation helps schools create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. 

3. No Fuss Lunch

Founded in 2012 by Gabriella Wilday, No Fuss Lunch provides kid-centric, healthy school lunches, after-school snacks and meals for summer camps that exceed the National School Lunch Program’s standards. 

Their food is made without white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, nuts, GMO’s or MSG and is safe for kids with food allergies. 

4. YMCA

For nearly 160 years, the YMCA has made it their mission to strengthen local communities and improve the nation’s health and well-being.

With programs that provide meals to those who struggle with hunger, teach healthy eating, encourage physical activity and healthy lifestyle habits and strengthen families, the YMCA is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.


5. Sweat Makes Cents

Sweat Makes Cents is a non-profit organization with a particular focus on supporting millennial women who want to find a solution for childhood obesity.

The organization hosts jumping jack challenges, fitness fundraisers and city fitness teams that raise funds for nationwide childhood obesity prevention programs.

6. KidsGardening

Teaching kids how to garden is one of the best ways for them to be exposed to healthy food and learn where real food comes from.

KidsGardening is a national non-profit that offers grants, programs, curriculum, contests, and activities to create opportunities for kids to play, learn and grow through gardening. Approximately 70 % of the teachers who receive their grants say their students have improved attitudes about nutrition. In 2018, KidsGardening reached approximately 920,000 kids.

7. City Blossoms

City Blossoms is a Washington, D.C-based non-profit organization that develops creative, kid-driven green spaces. Their focus is on a combination of gardens, science, art, healthy living, and community building and they work with community-based organizations, neighborhood groups, schools, and learnings centers in the Washington D.C area and across the U.S.

8. Power of Produce (POP) Club

Bringing kids to farmers’ market is a great way to encourage access to healthy food and teach healthy eating habits which can go a long way in fighting childhood obesity.

At Power of Produce (POP) Club at the Oregon City Farmers Market kids get $2 every time they visit the farm to purchase their own fruits and vegetables, and they lean how to plant sunflower seeds, and make salads and jam, for example.

Related: 5 Reasons You Should Bring Your Kids To The Farmers Market

9. Hungry Harvest

Founded in 2014 and featured on Shark Tank, Hungry Harvest rescues “ugly” fruits and vegetables from farmers that would otherwise go to waste and sells them in discounted subscription boxes.

For every Hungry Harvest delivery, they also offer their reduced cost produce to SNAP (food stamps) markets and donate to local organizations whose mission is to solve hunger. To date, they have provided more than 750,000 pounds of produce to SNAP reduced-cost markets, food banks and local nonprofits.

10. Farm to School

The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy and networking hub that sources local food to be served in schools, establishes school gardens, and brings food and agriculture education into schools.

11. DrumFit

DrumFit, a cardio drumming physical education program for schools, is on a mission to teach kids to love cardio fitness for life. The company provides online video content, lesson plans and routines.

12. The Adventures of Super Stretch

The Adventures of Super Stretch app is a children’s yoga program that can be done at home, and in daycares, schools, and after-school programs. Free, iTunes and Google Play.

13. KaBOOM!

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit that creates safe, community-based play spaces.

Over the last 20 years they have built or improved more than 17,000 play spaces and in 2018 they built more than 3100 playgrounds. KaBOOM! teams up with funding partners to build safe spaces in one day.

14. My First Workout

Founded by Michelle Mille, a certified personal trainer and mom, My First Workout is designed to connect parents with their children and pull kids away from the technology and sedentary behaviors linked to childhood obesity.

The step-by-step strength and conditioning program is designed for kids 5- to 10- years-old and includes fitness equipment, a video and a poster so parents can feel confident performing the exercises with their kids.

15. Wholesome Wave

Wholesome Wave is a national non-profit that makes healthy food accessible and affordable for families who struggle with food insecurity through two types of programs.

Doubling Snap allows people with SNAP (food stamps) benefits to receive double the value to spend on produce at select farmers’ markets and grocery stores. Through their Produce Prescriptions program, people receive produce vouchers from participating hospitals and clinics to purchase fruits and vegetables. In 2017, Wholesome Wave reached more than 973,000 people.

How to Pick a Healthy Peanut Butter For Kids + Best Brands

How to Pick a Healthy Peanut Butter For Kids + Best Brands

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links and I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.


Peanut butter has been a quintessential food for generations of kids in the U.S. who love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or after-school snacks like crackers with peanut butter. Although it can be a healthy, delicious part of your kid’s diet, when it comes to choosing a healthy peanut butter, not all are created equal.


Here, learn the health benefits of peanut butter, when to introduce peanut butter to babies, and how to choose a healthy peanut butter, plus some of my favorite brands.

Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

What many people don’t realize is that although “nut” is in their name, and they look and taste similar to other nuts, peanuts are actually legumes, just like lentils and edamame.

Regardless of how you think of them, peanuts and peanut butter have a ton of health benefits.

For starters, they’re packed with protein. With 8 grams of protein in two tablespoons, peanut butter promotes feelings of satiety, satisfies your kid’s hunger and helps to balance blood sugar levels.

Peanut butter also has a decent amount of fiber—nearly 2 grams per 2 tablespoons—which also helps to fend off hunger and can prevent constipation. 

Related: 10 Foods That Relieve Kids’ Constipation

It’s also rich in several vitamins and minerals including magnesium (the calming mineral), potassium, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals.

Although peanut butter does contain saturated fat, it’s also made up mostly of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats like those found in fish.

Related: 5 Foods With Healthy Fats Kids Will Love

When Can Babies Eat Peanut Butter?

A lot has changed in a few short years and instead of telling parents to avoid peanut butter, experts now say it’s not only safe, but a good idea to introduce it to babies early on.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend parents with babies who don’t have eczema or food allergies “freely” introduce peanut butter (not nuts since they’re a choking hazard) between 4 and 6 months of age.

I recommend however, that before introducing peanut butter and other nut butters to your baby, you read all of the guidelines here and talk to your pediatrician.

Related: How To Safely Introduce Nuts To Your Baby

Tips For How To Pick A Healthy Peanut Butter

When you’re looking for a healthy peanut butter, it’s important to read labels carefully and know what ingredients to look for and what to avoid.

Choose brands with one or two ingredients

The peanut butter you choose should only contain peanuts (and list it as the first ingredient), and salt, depending on your preference.

Scan labels for oils, sugars and additives

Avoid peanut butter brands that contain hydrogenated oils, palm oils, added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup and fillers.

Also, don’t be fooled by the tubs of peanut butter that are made in-house at the grocery store because although they’re marketed as “natural,” I’ve found these brands to have added oils and sugars as well.

“Reduced-fat” or “low-fat” doesn’t mean healthy

You might think reduced-fat or low-fat peanut butters are a good option, but these brands usually contain added sugars. The full-fat version is fine, just be mindful of portion sizes.    

Take stock of the sodium

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of kids get too much sodium in their diets every day. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, which about 3.5 percent of kids already have, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and vision loss, among other health conditions. So even if your kids don’t have high blood pressure now, if they continue to eat too much sodium, there’s  a good chance they will in the future.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend the following limits for daily sodium intake:

  • Ages 1-3: 1,500 mg
  • Ages 4-8: 1,900 mg
  • Ages 9-13: 2,200 mg
  • Ages 14+: 2,300 mg

When looking for a healthy peanut butter, take into consideration your child’s overall diet and how much sodium they’re already consuming, and consider purchasing a brand that’s low in sodium or sodium-free.

 

 

 

Healthy Peanut Butter For Kids: My Favorite Brands

 

Here are some of my favorite brands of peanut butter but a word of caution: always read labels carefully because some varieties of the same brand contain palm oil and other additives, for example.

Santa Cruz

Stonewall Kitchen

Smucker’s Natural Creamy

MaraNatha Organic Creamy Peanut Butter

Teddie All Natural Smooth Peanut Butter

 


What’s your favorite healthy peanut butter? Let me know in the comments!