10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas

10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas

     Whether you’ll be hosting or traveling to a family or friend’s home, there’s no doubt that when it comes to food, Thanksgiving is one of the most predictable holidays. You know there’ll be turkey, stuffing and all the fixings, but that doesn’t mean your kid will eat it. The turkey can be tough or dry, the stuffing can have too much going on, and vegetables—well, you know how that usually turns out. Although I don’t recommend opening a box of macaroni and cheese or making a separate meal for your picky eater, there are fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas they’ll love, even if the only other thing they end up eating are dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.

 

 

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS FOR PICKY EATERS

 The holidays are already stressful but holidays with picky eaters are an entirely different ball game. Having kids who snub vegetables and refuse to eat anything other than pasta with butter for example, can kick your stress level into high gear.

You’ll probably worry what your kids will eat, if they’ll eat enough or if they’ll eat at all.

If they do end up trying something new or different like your mother-in-law’s famous casserole, there’s a chance that they’ll spit it out and declare, “ew, gross!”

To make matters worse, well-meaning family members may try to intervene and encourage your kids to “just take a bite,” and “if you want dessert, you have to eat.” Or worse—they may judge your parenting skills and insinuate it’s your fault that your kids are picky eaters. Aren’t the holidays fun?

 

LOOK FOR FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS TOGETHER

On Thanksgiving, one of the best ways to encourage your kids to try new foods, especially when a lot of the food is different from what what they’re used to, is to get them involved. Search for fun Thanksgiving recipes online, in cookbooks and on Pinterest, or ask friends for recommendations.

 

 

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS: COOK TOGETHER

Once your kids pick out a new dish they want to try, make it together before Thanksgiving when there’s more time and you’ll have more patience.

When my kids and I cook together, they always want to taste what we’ve made and they’re so proud to show it off when we sit down to eat.

When kids take part in cooking, they learn each step of the process, they feel empowered because they had a hand in making the meal, and they’re more likely to be adventurous eaters.

Of course, we all have our own food preferences so if they don’t like something you’ve made together, it’s still not a lost opportunity. It’s just one more chance to push them out of their comfort zones and try new flavors, tastes and textures.

Cooking with your kids is also a great holiday tradition to share together. If you’re looking for a fun way to teach your kids how to cook while building their confidence and creativity, the Kids Cook Real Food online cooking class is now open for enrollment. For a limited time, you can get over $400 worth of content and lifetime access for only $149.95. Get all the details here.

 FUN KID THANKSGIVING FOOD IDEAS

Your Thanksgiving spread can be a mix of traditional foods and kid-friendly foods which can encourage even the pickiest of eaters to enjoy the holiday. Here are 10 fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas to consider.

 

15 MINUTE CRANBERRY BRIE BITES

The combination of flaky puff pastry, melted brie and sweet cranberries is divine in these 15 Minute Cranberry Brie Bites, which are sure to delight any kid. The best thing? They only take 5 minutes to make but it will look like you spent hours in the kitchen.

When it comes to fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas, the more creative the better. With a variety of vegetables and plenty of crunchy texture and color, this Perfect Turkey Veggie Tray for Thanksgiving is great for everyone to munch on before dinner is served. Pair it with hummus, guacamole or your kid’s favorite dip, and you may be surprised at how many veggies he’ll eat.

EASY TURKEY ROLL UPS

If your kid won’t eat turkey, then transform it into something they will recognize. These Easy Turkey Roll Ups are easy to make and with some spinach and sun dried tomatoes, they’re bursting with flavor.

Sweet potatoes and marshmallows—what’s not to love? This Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallow and Pecan Streusel is a popular Thanksgiving dish and one of the best fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas. Even better? It only takes 20 minutes to prepare and can be made 2 days ahead of time—sweet.

These Cream Cheese Pinwheels With Fresh Veggies make for a healthy appetizer for little ones who are more interested in making crafts than sitting down to eat. High in protein and fiber, and bursting with flavor, you can feel good about your kids eating them even if they eat nothing else.

 

High in protein and fiber, these festive Best Deviled Eggs For Thanksgiving are sure to be a win for your kids.

 

BAKED CARROT FRENCH FRIES

Who says you can’t serve fries on Thanksgiving? These Baked Carrot French Fries are healthy, sweet and delicious. Serve with or without a dip, either way they make for a great side dish kids will love.

 

Your kids may not like stuffing, but chances are they’ll love these Apple Sage Stuffin’ Muffins. Savory and sweet, they’re perfect for little hands and only take 10 minutes to pull together.

CHEESY LEFTOVER MASHED POTATO MUFFINS

When it comes to feeding picky eaters, small portions are less overwhelming and intimidating for little ones. That’s why these Cheesy Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins are one of the best fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas. With only 4 ingredients, and only 10 minutes to make, they’re the perfect dish to prepare with your kids.

What kid doesn’t love Rice Krispies Treats? These Thanksgiving Rice Krispie Turkey Treats are super-cute and festive, quick and easy, and the perfect addition to your dessert table.

 

What are some of your fun kid Thanksgiving food ideas? Let me know in the comments!

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.

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

Whether we’re eating out, having dinner with family, or at a special celebration with friends, people are always surprised how my husband and I have been able to get our kids to eat salad—and several other foods most kids won’t touch.

When you consider that most children in the U.S. are picky eaters and don’t love vegetables of any type, I suppose it is surprising.

Of course, getting them to eat salad didn’t happen overnight and there are still days when they’re not into it—just like anybody else. Yet through the years, it’s become something about our meals that they accept and even look forward to.

I know what you’re thinking: there’s no way I can get my kids to eat salad. They hate anything green or healthy.

But stick with me here. Kidsyours included—can grow to love salad.

Not only are there a ton of health benefits, but when it comes to making it kid-friendly and delicious, the possibilities are endless.

Getting your kids to eat salad isn’t as hard as you think—let’s dig in!

Why should I encourage my kids to eat salad?

Serving up salads has a ton of health benefits and teaches healthy habits that will stick with your kids throughout their lives.

A ton of nutrition

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9 in 10 children don’t eat enough vegetables.

Servings salads is a great way to pack in several fruits and vegetables into one meal and add a ton of nutrition which kids need for their growth and development.

By focusing on a variety of colorful produce like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radishes and strawberries, kids also get a boost of antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, protect cells from the damage of free radicals, boost the immune system and may play a role in preventing disease.

High in fiber

Salads and the vegetables you include are a great source of fiber in your kid’s diet.

Fiber satisfies hunger and helps them to feel fuller longer, which may prevent weight gain. High-fiber foods also balance blood sugar and prevent constipation.

Healthy fats

Offering a salad is also a great way to get healthy fats like those found in avocado, olive oil, and nuts and seeds in your kid’s diet.

Healthy fats are a vital source of energy and help satisfy 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. Healthy fats are also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.   

Kids have a say in what they eat

Food choices make kids feel empowered and in control—even when you’re the one calling the shots and deciding which foods to buy and when to serve them.

I’d argue that it’s the lack of choices that makes mealtime such a big power struggle with our kids.

Just like Taco Tuesday or pizza night, kids get to choose the ingredients they want in their salads and get to create their own meals.

Puts an end to picky eating

Consistently serving up salads, trying out new fruit and vegetable combinations, and getting your kids involved is one of the best ways to put an end to picky eating.

In fact, according to a 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, cooking programs for kids may positively affect their food preferences, attitudes and behaviors.

You may find—as I did—that when you regularly serve salad at home, your kids are more likely to eat it when you go out to eat as well.

Salad is pretty simple to make, but if you’re looking for help preparing healthy meals with your kids,  I recommend the Kids Cook Real Food video eCourse

Salads make for a quick and easy dinner

Salad is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get dinner on the table. In fact, it’s one of the ways I make dinner almost every night while working full time.

Start with your salad greens, add your vegetables, pick a protein—canned salmon and hard boiled eggs are quick options—add a dressing and dinner is done.

Common obstacles to get your kids to eat salad

Despite the benefits of eating salad, there are still challenges you may face.

For starters, raw vegetables—especially when there’s no dip—can be a tough sell for any kid so expecting them to eat a salad can be a tall order.

Another thing to consider is that some kids (and adults!) don’t like when different foods touch on their plates or when foods are mixed together.

If the lettuce and other vegetables are too large, or the portion size is too big, kids will just feel overwhelmed and refuse to eat it.

How to Get Your Kids To Eat Salad

The good news is that there are so many easy, creative ways to encourage your kids to eat—and love—salad.

Start early and model healthy eating

Since food preferences are formed early, the key to encouraging your kids to eat salad is by starting now.

I’ve discovered through the years that eating a salad every day for lunch helps me stay on track. It’s also one of the ways I was able to lose the baby weight after both of my pregnancies.

Since my kids would watch me make a salad, and we would sever it for dinner several times a week, they had a natural curiosity about what we were eating and would often ask to take a bite.

Serve tiny portions and stay consistent

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 key however, is to serve tiny portions. Kids need to have the freedom to smell, taste and explore foods without feeling pressured. A bite-sized amount therefore, helps them to decide whether they’ll try it or not.

Serve salad in the smallest section of your kid’s plate, or serve it in small plate like a tea-cup saucer. 

Stay consistent and continue to serve small portions at every meal, every day, and eventually your kids may surprise you.

Get your kids to eat salad by picking the right type

I personally don’t like spinach unless it’s blended in a smoothie, and the same goes for our kids.

Taste, texture and overall food preferences are important to keep in mind.

Your kids may dislike some varieties of greens like kale and Romaine but a milder green like red leaf lettuce or a spring mix might be a win.

Get your kids to eat salad with the right tools

I never used to be the salad-eating type—cooked vegetables were more my speed.

But after I had my first child, my husband purchased this wood chopping bowl and mezzaluna set and making salads became easier and more delicious.

I simply add salad greens, carrots or peppers and avocado, chop everything in the bowl and I have a restaurant-quality salad. Now that my kids are older, they can chop the salad while I’m taking care of the rest of the meal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some vegetables can be choking hazards, so you’ll want to be sure that they’re finely chopped. You can use a potato peeler, a box grater, or a food processor.

Add yummy ingredients

Think about foods your kids already love and add them to salads to make them more appealing. Put out a variety of ingredients like croutons, shredded cheese, raisins, cranberries, mandarin oranges, nuts and seeds and let your kids choose.

Although you don’t want to go overboard with the toppings, which can add sodium, sugar and saturated fat, if it’s the only way to get your kids to eat salad, then so be it. As your kid grows to love salad, you can slowly cut back or swap out all the extras.

Don’t forget salad dressing

Dressing can give plain ‘ol salad some serious flavor so try different types until you find one your kid likes.

Although store-bought dressings are easy, keep in mind that many contain preservatives, are made with soybean oil, a man-made, processed oil, and are high in sugar and saturated fat. 

Consider making your own salad dressing at home with ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and avocado.

Try salad kits

My family has become hooked on a salad kit that has shaved Brussels sprouts, shredded cabbage, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.

Salad kits can be an easy way to get your kids to eat salad and make it easy to pull together dinner in no time.

When choosing a salad kit, always read labels since many are high in calories, sodium and sugar.

Take your kids grocery shopping

Shopping for salad ingredients at the grocery store or farmers’ market with your kids helps them to feel empowered to make healthy choices. When they’ve had a hand in making a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat it.

In fact, according to an August 2014 study in the journal Appetite, kids who cooked with their parents ate 76 percent more salad than those whose parents prepared the meal alone.

Stay consistent

It might seem that your kids will be picky eaters forever, especially if you have toddlers who are inherently picky, but most kids can become healthy, adventurous eaters and love salad. 

The key is to continue to offer healthy foods and teach healthy eating habits every day. This simple shift in mindset can help you muster up the energy and dedication to stay the course and raise healthy-eating kids.

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.

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

12 School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Whether you have a kid who refuses to eat sandwiches, won’t eat anything green, or comes home everyday with most of the food you packed in his lunch box, you need school lunch ideas for picky eaters.

Although my own kids will eat just about anything, when it comes to school lunch they’ve become much more picky about what they eat. While they love the lentil chili I pack most of the time, one kid won’t eat cucumbers while the other would rather have a piece of fruit than pasta—go figure!

When it comes to school lunch ideas for picky eaters, there are so many healthy options and ways to transform ho-hum fruits and vegetables and old standbys into a lunch box your kid will love.

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters: Know What Foods To Pack

It’s definitely faster and easier to throw in lots of processed, packaged foods into your kid’s lunchbox.

Yet lunch is just as important as any other meal so making the most of it will support his growth and development and help him do his best throughout the school day.

When it comes to packing healthy food, here’s a simple guide which incorporates the major parts of MyPlate.

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should make up 50 percent of your child’s lunch box.

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which will help satisfy your kid’s hunger and help him feel fuller longer. 

Do your best to “eat the rainbow” and offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.

For your picky eater, pack fruits and vegetables you know he’ll eat.

After a few weeks, start to add in small amounts (a teaspoon will do) of new fruits and vegetables you’d like him to try.

If you’re consistent, chances are, he’ll eventually come around and they may even become his new favorite foods.

Pack protein

Protein is important for your kid’s growth and development and meals with protein keep hunger at bay, balance blood sugar and give your kid enough energy to keep up at school.

Protein should make up 1/4 of your child’s lunch box 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, fish: canned salmon, sardines or tuna fish are all great, low-mercury options

Choose whole grains instead of refined grains

Grains should make up 1/4 of your child’s lunch box.

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.

Include milk or dairy

The USDA recommends including milk, yogurt or cheese in meals, which are all good sources of calcium that kids need for strong teeth and bones.

If your kids are dairy-free, or you’re trying to avoid dairy, they can still get plenty of calcium from green leafy vegetables, chia seeds and other calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Add healthy fats

Healthy fats like the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish support your child’s brain health and memory. While some foods like fish, nuts and seeds have both protein and healthy fats in them, if you’re not packing them, be sure to add small amounts of other foods with healthy fats like olive oil or avocado.

School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

Whether it’s a fun new take on sandwiches or a delicious way to get more veggies into your kid’s diet, there are so many easy, healthy options you can start putting into your lunch box rotation.

Sandwich sushi

Switch up your kid’s favorite sandwiches by making it into “sushi.” Grab your rolling pin and roll our regular sandwich bread or use a whole grain tortilla. Add nut or seed butter and smashed berries, or deli meat and cheese. Then roll it up, cut it into small pieces and you have a fun new way to serve lunch. 

Deli roll-ups

Ditch the bread altogether and make a roll-up with sliced turkey, ham or roast beef cheese and lettuce, for example.

Grilled cheese with vegetables

One of the best school lunch ideas for picky eaters is grilled cheese because it’s usually a kid-favorite. Make it even more tasty and more nutritious by adding spinach, diced broccoli or slices of pepper, for example.

Rice bowl

Mix in leftover sauteed vegetables with brown rice and your kid’s favorite protein and you have a healthy, delicious school lunch option.

Spring rolls

Another delicious option for school lunch are spring rolls. Get spring roll wrappers, add a protein, vegetables and seasonings. Need a recipe? Check out this one for Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce from Cookie and Kate.

Soup

This time of year, soup can be one of the best school lunch ideas for picky eaters. If you’re inclined to make your own homemade soup, you can incorporate several servings of vegetables—whole or pureed.

If you buy soup in a can or box, or one that’s prepared in the store, read labels and compare brands because most soups you’ll find are high in sodium and added sugars.

Quesadillas

Quesadillas are super-easy and take just minutes to pull together. You can also switch them up with different types of vegetables, cheese and healthy fats like avocado.

Eggs

If you’ve got an egg lover on your hands, make the most of it by serving up eggs for school lunch. Try omelets, egg “muffins,” quiche or a frittata and experiment with different types of veggies.

Related: [Video] 6 Health Benefits of Eggs for Kids + How to Serve Them

Veggie “fries”

If your kid usually comes home with the vegetables you packed, try serving them a different way—as faux fries. Slice zucchini, eggplant, yucca, carrot, or jicama, spray them with some olive oil and roast them in the oven on high heat. For more flavor and texture, you can also dip vegetables in egg and breadcrumb and bake them.

Kabobs

Kids love food on sticks and kabobs can be an easy to assemble, healthy school lunch. Choose your protein and add sliced peppers, mushrooms, squash, onions, cherry tomatoes, and meat or tofu for a healthy portion of vegetables.

Bean or lentil burgers

Beans and legumes are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, but if your picky eater won’t eat beans or lentils alone, try making them into burgers.

Lettuce wraps

With a lettuce wrap, you’ll get an extra dose of vitamins, minerals and fiber and a nice texture without the bread. You can also use the same ingredients you would when you make sandwiches: sliced turkey, egg salad, leftover roasted chicken or chili meat.

Tips for Using School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters

To make the most of these lunch box ideas, and make it easy on yourself, try these tips.

Pack school lunches the night before

Let’s face it: mornings are seriously hectic. I usually wake up at 5:30am but 3 hours later when the bus comes, I’m still rushing out the door.

I know that once the kiddos are in bed at night, all you want to do is put on Netflix or curl up with a good book, but packing school lunches at night can save a lot of time in the morning.

Batch cook

Set aside a few hours on Sunday or use your Crock-Pot or InstantPot to make large batches of vegetables and rice and beans, for example, that you can pack for school lunches.

Use a bento box

Kids love to have choices and a bento box is a great way to pack a variety of foods and plenty of nutrition into a school lunch that your kid will love.

Try a meal planning app

One of the best ways to get your kids to eat their lunch is to involve them in the process. Go grocery shopping together and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable they’d like to try.

Also consider using a free meal planning app like LaLa Lunchbox together or let them have a hand in making their own lunches.

Stay consistent

Your kids may be still be envious of what other kids are eating for lunch or complain that they don’t like what you’re packing. It can be really frustrating but stick with it.

Remember that your goal is to raise healthy kids who are willing to try—and eventually accept—a variety of healthy foods.

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!

10 Halloween Party Food Recipes

10 Halloween Party Food Recipes

If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram lately, you’ve probably seen a ton of Halloween party food recipes filling up your feed. Between deviled eggs that look like cute little pumpkins to phyllo-wrapped peppers that look like mummies all beautifully pulled together on a charcuterie board, the photos put most moms’ efforts to make Halloween party food to shame.

If you’re like me, buying your kid’s Halloween costume and running to Target to get candy for trick or treaters is about all you have time to pull off.

Related: 6 Ways To Get Rid of Leftover Halloween Candy

But like most other holidays for kids, Halloween is usually celebrated on several different occasions leading up to October 31. Between parties at home, school, and in the community, chances are, you’re either making or bringing some type of Halloween party food.

My advice: give yourself and break and close out of Instagram. Then check out these 15 quick and easy Halloween party food recipes, plus peanut-free Halloween snacks and ideas for kids with food allergies.

Serve Healthy Halloween Party Food Before Trick-or-Treating

Before my kids head out to trick or treat, I try to make sure they eat a healthy dinner because Halloween doesn’t have to be an-all-or-nothing holiday.

I also know that if they return with a basket filled to the brim with candy and they haven’t eat dinner, they’re more likely to go overboard. All that sugar and empty calories on an empty stomach will lead to a blood sugar spike—and crash: cue the meltdowns.

If you don’t have time to cook a meal, focus on healthy Halloween party food including fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources and whole grains. If eating dinner beforehand isn’t an option, serve healthy Halloween appetizers or snacks.

Halloween Appetizers For a Crowd

Whether you’re tasked with bringing a dish to the party or you’re only serving up small plates, these Halloween appetizers for a crowd are super-easy and delicious.

1. With salsa and avocado, this 7-Layer Spider Web Dip is healthy and delicious and so creative that your guests will think you spent hours whipping it up.

2. Mayo-less with a little bit of a kick, these Devilish Sriracha Avocado Deviled Eggs will be a party favorite.

3. These Stuffed Mushroom Eyeballs are gluten-free, dairy-free and make for a fun addition to your Halloween party food spread.

Simple Halloween Party Snacks

4. It doesn’t get much easier than these kid-friendly Ghost Pizza Bagels.

5. Beef and crescent roll dough make for a delicious combination in these Mummy 

Meatballs.

6. If you’re looking for a healthy Halloween snack amidst all the candy and treats, these adorable Tangerine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts are the perfect fit. The best part? They only take 10 minutes to make.

7. What kid doesn’t love a yummy muffin? These Whole Spelt Pumpkin Muffins are high in vitamin A and only take 5 minutes to make.

Halloween Party Food Recipes: Desserts

8. Kids love dips and this Pumpkin Pie Dip is sure to please any picky eater.

9. Pumpkin and cheesecake? Yes, please. These No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Truffle Mummies are adorable, tiny bites of goodness.

10. It doesn’t get more kid-friendly than Oreos and pretzels and these Oreo Spiders and Pretzel Wands are super-cute and simple to create.

Halloween party food for kids with food allergies

If your child has food allergies like my child, you know that Halloween can be nerve-wracking as you do your best to prevent accidental exposures to unsafe foods. You’ll have to read labels, ask questions about the foods being served, and maybe even bring a dish that’s safe for your child to eat.

Plan ahead for Halloween party food at school

If your child will be having a party at school, the teacher probably already knows that your kid has food allergies, but that doesn’t mean she’s necessarily reading every food label that comes in.

If you’re able to attend the party, it’s a good way to keep your kid safe. If you can’t, ask the teacher to give you a list of the snacks or send photos of the ingredient labels so you can check them beforehand.

For homemade foods like cookies and cupcakes, it’s wise to have your kid avoid them altogether. Alternatively, you can send your child in with an allergy-safe treat to enjoy.

Sort and check Halloween candy at home

When your kid comes home from school or trick or treating, sort all of the candy to figure out what’s safe and what’s not.

You might think certain types of candy are OK because they were safe to eat in the past, but ingredients can differ between fun size and regular size, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

If a piece of candy doesn’t have the ingredients on the label, check the nutrition label on the brand’s website to make sure your kid doesn’t eat something that can cause an allergic reaction.

Look for the food allergy pumpkin

In 2014, the Teal Pumpkin Project® launched to keep kids with food allergies safe on Halloween. Homes that have a teal-colored pumpkin on the doorstep signal to kids that they’ll receive a fun, non-food treat. To find Teal Pumpkin Project homes in your area, check out their participation map.

Peanut free Halloween snacks for school

If your child has a peanut or tree nut allergy, you can serve nut-free Halloween snacks. Some ideas include:

  • Fresh fruit dipped in caramel or chocolate
  • Fruit wands
  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Nut-free trail mix
  • Nut-free granola
  • Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Marshmallows
  • Nut-free fudge
  • Nut-free chocolate
  • Homemade treats

     

What are some of your favorite Halloween party food recipes? Let me know in the comments!

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

Fatty Liver Disease in Kids On The Rise

We all know that childhood obesity is a major issue in the U.S., but what you may not know is that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in kids is on the rise and much like type-2 diabetes, it’s also a condition that was previously only seen in adults.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is something I learned about only recently when I was writing a story about a woman who lost 100 pounds and cured fatty liver disease on the keto diet. As it turns out, there’s been a lot of research about the condition in kids, but suffice to say, most parents haven’t even heard of it.

So today, I’m tackling non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in kids including what it is, the causes and symptoms, how to prevent and treat it, and much more.

What is fatty liver disease?

According to the American Liver Foundation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build up of extra fat in the liver cells that is not caused by drinking alcohol. The liver has some fat, but if fat makes up more than 5 to 10 percent of the liver’s weight, it’s considered fatty liver.

In the U.S., NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in kids.

Fatty liver disease is estimated to affect nearly 10 percent of kids between ages 2 and 19, an October 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics found.

In kids who are overweight, the prevalence is even higher. According to an April 2019 study in the Journal of Pediatrics, 26 percent of kids between ages 9 and 17 with obesity have fatty liver disease.

Types of fatty liver disease

There are two types of fatty liver disease: simple fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)—the latter is the more serious of the two. Kids usually develop one type or another but they can also have one and develop a second later on, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When a child has simple fatty liver, there is more fat in the liver but little or no inflammation or damage to the liver cells. Simple fatty liver usually doesn’t get worse and cause permanent liver damage.

NASH on the other hand, causes inflammation and cell damage in the liver. With NASH, scarring can occur and may lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. If fatty liver disease leads to cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Compared to people who develop fatty liver as adults, those who develop it during childhood are more likely to develop NASH or liver disease as adults.

Causes of fatty liver disease in kids

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease typically develops in kids who are overweight or obese, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides.

Studies show insulin resistance, a condition in which the cells in the muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from blood for energy, and type-2 diabetes are both associated with fatty liver disease.

In fact, according to an October 2016 study in JAMA Pediatrics, nearly 30 percent of kids with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also have pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes.

Fatty liver disease can also be caused by other issues such as rapid weight loss, inherited disorders, infections and certain medications, but these are less common. 

 

Fatty liver disease symptoms

Fatty liver disease is known as the “silent killer” because it has few or no symptoms at all, even if kids have cirrhosis of the liver. If kids do have symptoms, which include fatigue, being tired easily or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen, there could already be liver damage.

Fatty liver test

To diagnose fatty liver disease in kids, doctors look at a child’s family and health history and  take into account diet and lifestyle. They will also do a physical exam and determine the child’s body mass index (BMI), and check for physical signs like an enlarged liver, and signs of insulin resistance and cirrhosis. Blood tests, imaging tests like ultrasound, and a liver biopsy may also be done.

In February 2017, new recommendations for screening fatty liver disease in kids were published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Kids between ages 9 and 11 who are overweight (BMI in the 85th percentile) or obese (BMI in the 95th percentile) should be screened. Kids who have risk factors such as abdominal fat, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, sleep apnea or a family history of fatty liver disease should also be screened.

Fatty liver disease treatment

The good news is that fatty liver disease in kids can be treated and reversed. The most effective way is through weight loss, which can reduce fat, inflammation and scarring in the liver. Here are some tips.

Fatty liver diet

A healthy diet is important to prevent and treat fatty liver disease. Focus on whole, real food including fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, healthy fats and whole grains.

Related: 10 Ways To Get More Plant-Based Foods Into Your Kid’s Diet

Avoid fast food and processed foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, salt, saturated and trans fat and sugar.

In fact, according to a January 2019 study in JAMA, teen boys with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease who  followed a diet low in free sugars, or sugars that are added to foods and drinks and those that occur naturally in fruit juices, had a significant improvement in fatty liver (from 25 percent to 17 percent) compared to those who followed a usual diet (21 to 20 percent).

Get moving

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, pre-school aged kids should be active throughout the day and kids between ages 6 and 17 should get 60 minutes of physical activity every day, which is important for their overall health and healthy weight.

Enrolling kids in sports is always a great idea but also look for other ways to include more physical activity in the day, including:

  • Play at the park
  • Bike riding
  • Running
  • Rope climbing and/or obstacle courses
  • Ice skating or roller blading
  • Lawn games
  • Jump rope
  • Dancing
  • Walking in the neighborhood or at the track
  • Activity-based apps or YouTube videos


Teach healthy habits

In addition to offering healthy foods and encouraging kids to move more, it’s important that parents lead the way with healthy habits. Some ideas include:

  • Eat breakfast
  • Teach kids portion control
  • Serve healthy snacks including fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds
  • Prioritize family dinners
  • Go grocery shopping or to the farmers’ market together
  • Cook healthy meals together
  • Eat meals at the dinner table—don’t eat on the run.
  • Cut back on screen time
  • Teach kids how to eat mindfully
  • Plant a vegetable garden
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 Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

How to Choose A Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

     When you go to the grocery store or your favorite big box retailer (ahem, Target!) looking for a healthy snack bar for your kids, the amount of choices on the shelves can make your head spin. Just a few years ago, it seemed that the healthy snack bar market only consisted of options for adults, but now I’ve noticed a ton of brands have come out with kid-sized versions as well.

In fact, according to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global snack bars market was worth an estimated 20.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow by more than 6 percent by 2025.

Of course, this growth is in response to consumer demand.

We’re more interested than ever before in health and fitness, and we’re busy so we need easy, convenient and healthy snack options.

There are plenty of seemingly healthy choices and bars made with good-for-you ingredients like fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds, but sifting through all the ingredients and comparing labels is way too time consuming.

So let me make your life easier and walk you through everything you need to know about choosing a healthy snack bar for your kids, plus some of my favorite brands and homemade recipes.

Benefits of a Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

Kids love their snacks and serving up healthy options is aways a good thing.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), snacks are not only an opportunity to add nutrition into your child’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Although it’s always ideal to serve fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods to maximize nutrition, a healthy snack bar with dried fruit for example, can be an opportunity to get more servings in your kid’s diet.

Related: [VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy For Kids?

Offering healthy snacks also helps to balance your kid’s blood sugar, stave off hunger and prevent overeating.

How many snacks should a child eat a day?

There’s no hard and fast rule about when and how many times a day kids should eat snacks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (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 having a growth spurt.

“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.

Cons of serving kids snack bars

Despite the benefits of healthy snacking, experts say kids are snacking too much—a trend that’s responsible for the one-third of children who are overweight or obese.   

According to a March 2010 study in Health Affairs, kids reach for snacks 3 times a day and consume up to 600 calories from foods like chips, crackers, candy and dessert bars.

What’s more, the largest increase in snacking over the years is among kids between ages 2 and 6, the same study found.

When kids snack non-stop, they’re also less likely to be hungry when mealtime rolls around. So although a healthy snack bar can have its place in your kid’s diet, it can also displace calories from other healthy, whole foods they might otherwise get at meals. 

Something else I think that’s important to consider is our snack culture and the habits we’re teaching our kids.

Relying on snack bars (or any other type of processed snack) every day teaches kids to eat out of a package instead of eating real food.

Convenient makes our lives easier, but kids are missing out on valuable lessons like eating mindfully, shopping for healthy food, and preparing and cooking healthy meals.

If we want to raise healthy kids who not only accept, but crave healthy foods, we need to teach them these life lessons.

How to choose a healthy snack bar

Before you head to the store, there are some things to consider as you look for a healthy snack bar.

While you shouldn’t scrutinize calories, some of the snack bars have enough calories to be a meal for kids.

Also, when considering things like the amount of protein, fiber and sugar, you have to think about your kid’s overall diet. If your kid is already getting too much sugar from other snacks for example, you’ll want to think about the amount of sugar in the bar you choose.

Pay attention to protein
Protein promotes satiety, staves off hunger and can prevent weight, so it’s the first thing you should look for on a label, especially because a lot of snack bars have little to none.

Look for filling fiber
Most kids don’t get enough fiber from fruits, vegetable and whole grains. In fact, 9 in 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 39 percent don’t eat any whole grains.

When you’re looking for a healthy snack bar, be sure to choose one that’s high-fiber. Not only is fiber filling, but it balances blood sugar levels, is heart-healthy, supports gut health, helps to prevent weight gain, and can help prevent and cure constipation. 

Related: How Much Fiber Do Kids Need?

Watch out for sugar
The American Heart Association says kids should eat less than 25 grams of added sugar a day, but studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—eat too much.

Also, sugar is sneaky and can be hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup. When looking for a healthy snack bar, read labels and look for those with the least amount of sugar possible.

Avoid these ingredients
It’s best to avoid bars that have rice, due to concerns of arsenic, as well as artificial ingredients, preservatives and food dyes.

You may also want to avoid bars made with processed ingredients like chicory root fiber and soy, whey or pet protein isolates and stick to whole-food protein sources like nuts and seeds.

Look at saturated fat content
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’ health.

Fats are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their 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. Fat are 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.

So look for bars that have healthy fats like nuts, peanut butter, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, for example.

Some of my favorite healthy snack bar options

KIND bars
I’m a big fan of KIND bars because they use whole ingredients like fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds and most are low in sugar. They have a wide selection of bars, including protein bars, breakfast bars and nut-free bars as well as their KIND Minis which are a good option for kids. Now through October 10, 2019, you can get 15% off their fall variety pack.

Larabar
Larabar is one of my favorite brands because they only use between 2 and 9 whole food ingredients, some of their varieties are nut-free and they’re delicious. They also have bars with ingredients like spinach and kale, and a superfoods line with bars made with turmeric, ginger and cacao. While they also have a set of bars for kids, they don’t have fruits and vegetables and have less protein and fiber.

RX Bar
RX Bar are a protein bar brand that prides themselves on simple, whole ingredients that are clearly labeled on the front of the package. For little ones, stick with their kids’ bars which have the right amount of calories, protein and fiber and come in kid-friendly flavors like PB&J and chocolate chip.

This Saves Lives
This Saves Lives kids bars are made with fruits and vegetables and whole oats, only have 5 grams of sugar and are allergy- safe. One thing to note is that this is not a high-protein bar and some of their varieties have more fiber than others so read labels. What’s unique about the brand and something you can feel good about however, is that for every bar that’s purchased, the company sends life-saving food packet to a child in need around the world.

Or make your own healthy snack bar

I love to make homemade Larabars with my kids because it’s fun and they learn how to prepare healthy snacks. So if you’re so inclined too, here are some recipes to try.

Homemade Lara Bars by Super Healthy Kids

No-Bake Chocolate Protein Bars by Mom to Mom Nutrition

Homemade RX Bars by Super Healthy Kids

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars by Yummy Toddler Food

 

What’s your favorite healthy snack bar? Let me know in the comments!