5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Kids

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Kids

Whether it’s a gift they asked for or something you knew they’d love, there’s nothing better than the joy of watching kids open their presents.

Along with the toys, electronics and clothes, why not add also buy a present that will make them healthy and happy too?

Here are 5 healthy holiday gifts for kids I’m loving right now, and I’m sure you will too.

1. Kids’ Cooking Classes

I was so excited to interview Katie Kimball, the founder of KitchenStewardship.com earlier this year. Her story is in the current issue of FIRST for Women magazine—go grab a copy!

Katie and I have similar philosophies about feeding kids real, healthy, whole foods and agree that if we want our kids to eat healthy, we need to teach them how to cook.

But what if you don’t know how to cook?

That’s where her Kids Cook Real Food video course for families comes in. The easy-to-follow course teaches kids over 30 basic kitchen skills, builds their self-esteem and confidence and gives you easy recipes you can make at home. $49.95-$495. KidsCookRealFood.com.

2. Kids’ Activities Membership


If you’re always looking for activities to do with your kids, KidPass is your ticket. Once you sign up, search for activities by age, location and category, then book your tickets and go.

With partnerships at several kids’ gyms, playspaces, museums, bowling alleys, dance studios and more in 7 different cities, there’s plenty for your kids to do every month. $49-$189. KidPass.com

3. Kids’ Chef Tools

When my kids were toddlers, they’d pretend to cut vegetables with a kid-sized, dull knife.

They’re still young but now I let them use a real pairing knife because I want them to learn.

Still, every time we cook together I nearly have a heart attack yelling, “watch your fingers!”

With Curious Chef’s 30-Piece Caddy Collection, you can cook with your kids without worrying. The collection has all the basic kitchen tools that cut but are also safe for kids to use. Designed for kids 4+, the caddy includes their very own whisk, knives, measuring cups and spoons and more. They’re also BPA-free and dishwasher safe. $79.99 Curiouschef.com

4. Gardening Set and Wagon


Planting a garden in the spring is one of the best ways to teach kids where healthy food comes from, get them involved with meal planning, and encourage them to eat healthy. It also gets them away from the screens and encourages them to move.

With this 15-piece garden wagon and tool set by Dimple, your kids will love to tag along with you in the garden and get excited about all the fruits and veggies you’ll grow. $19.99. Amazon.com.

5. Yoga Dice

Help your kids find their inner OM and make Yoga a family affair with Uncommon Goods’ Yoga Dice.

Whether you’re an active Yogi or more of a dabbler, you and your kids will have fun discovering the poses and centering yourselves together. $16.95. UncommonGoods.com.


What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

As a parent, you’re always hearing about the laundry list of ingredients and toxic chemicals you should avoid in your kid’s diet.

Things like artificial food dyes, GMO’s, pesticides, antibiotics, arsenic and one of the worst offenders: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

But what is high-fructose corn syrup? And is it really that bad for your kid’s health? Here are answers to those questions and more.  


What is High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

In recent years, there’s been a lot of buzz about HFCS, but the artificial sweetener made from processed corn starch has actually been in use since 1967, when it was first introduced.

Like table sugar (sucrose), HFCS is made up of two sugar molecules: glucose and fructose.

Regular sugar is broken down by the enzymes in our digestive tracks and then absorbed into the body.

HFCS is also made up of glucose and fructose but since the two molecules are unbound, they don’t have to be digested and they’re absorbed into the body at a much faster rate, Mark Hyman MD, states in this article.

Enzymes are added to HFCS to convert some of the glucose into fructose so it has a higher fructose-glucose ratio, making it even sweeter than sugar.

High fructose corn syrup is big business in the U.S.

Since high fructose corn syrup is government subsidized, it’s cheap to make and profitable. According to a 2018 report by Zion Market Research, the global market for the sweetener is expected to be worth more than $5 million by the year 2024.

Manufacturers also use the sweetener since it offers more flavor, stability, freshness, texture, pourability, color and consistency in foods than sucrose, according to one study.


Which foods contain high-fructose corn syrup?

High-fructose corn syrup is used in sweet foods, processed foods and surprising foods you’d least expect, including:

  • Cereals
  • Canned fruit
  • Condiments
  • Desserts
  • Granola bars
  • Ice cream
  • Juice
  • Salad dressings
  • Sodas and sweetened beverages
  • Sports drinks
  • Soups
  • Yogurt

Is high fructose corn syrup bad for kids’ health?

Research suggests foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup can spike the blood sugar, lead to inflammation, type-2 diabetes, weight gain and childhood obesity, high triglyceride levels and heart disease.

A landmark April 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was the first to show a link between HFCS consumption and the obesity epidemic.

Yet a few years later, Barry M. Popkin, one of the study authors, pulled back on his theory, The New York Times reported.

Then in 2008, the American Medical Association (AMA), also came out to say that it’s unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other health conditions than regular sugar, and there’s insufficient evidence to limit it or use warning labels on food.

Still, the debate around high-fructose corn syrup and its health effects persisted.

According to a February 2010 study out of Princeton University, rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, despite consuming the same amount of calories.

The same study also found that long-term consumption of HFCS led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially abdominal fat, and an increase in triglycerides, or fats that circulate in the blood stream.

Studies also suggest the ingredient is harmful to the liver.

According to a May 2017 study in the Journal of Hepatology, obese children and teens who had diets high in foods that contain fructose like soda, sweetened beverages and processed foods, had an increased risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

What’s more, 38 percent also had nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more chronic and severe form of fatty liver disease.

Does high fructose corn syrup contain mercury?

Studies show some foods with high-fructose corn syrup also contain mercury.

A January 2009 study in the journal Environmental Health found toxic levels of mercury in food samples containing high-fructose corn syrup.

Yet just a few months later, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) announced that independent testing and expert review showed no detectable levels of the toxin in food samples with the sweetener.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury, a toxic metal that has been linked to a host of health problems and can have adverse effects on a child’s nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals that are a public health concern.

Should you avoid high fructose corn syrup in your kid’s diet?

Although much debate continues to exist around HFCS and its harmful effects on our health, there’s no question that limiting any type of added sugars in our—and our kids diets—is ideal.

The demand for high-fructose corn syrup has been on the decline in recent years is promising, but it seems that we’ve replaced it with sugar. 

According to a 2017 report by the USDA, between 2015 and 2016, consumption of refined sugar increased by 6 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say kids should get less than 10 percent of their total daily calories from sugar, yet most kids are getting much more.

Since foods that contain high fructose corn syrup also lack the nutrition kids need to grow and develop at a healthy rate, it’s one more reason to limit or avoid the sweetener altogether.

By focusing on real, whole, healthy foods instead, you can ensure your kids are getting the nutrition they need to be healthy now, and throughout their lives.



9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

9 Healthy Holiday Tips for Your Family

With countless opportunities to enjoy sweet, savory and decadent dishes at family gatherings, holiday parties and special events, combined with treats tempting us at virtually every store (food or otherwise), it’s no wonder most people overindulge during the holidays.

Blame it on food marketing, the societal draw or stress, but 87 percent of Americans say they have an increase in food cravings this time of year and 75 percent experience guilt after giving into their cravings, a recent poll found.

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and food is a big part of that enjoyment, but overindulging from now until New Year’s Eve can cause weight gain, affect mood, interfere with sleep and make your family more likely to get sick.

With a bit of planning and some simple strategies however, you can enjoy all the season has to offer without all the pitfalls. Consider these 7 healthy holiday tips for your family.


1. Don’t arrive hungry

If you know your family will eat a large holiday meal later on in the day, you might be tempted to skip meals.

If you arrive feeling famished however, you’ll be more likely to overeat when the meal is served.

Skipping breakfast in particular is a mistake. Studies show people who eat breakfast, especially one that’s high in protein, eat less calories throughout the day.

Do your best to serve healthy meals and snacks at the same times you and your family usually eat.

The same goes if dinner will be served in the middle of the day, although you may want to have a snack instead of a meal. A combination of protein and fiber like celery sticks and hummus or an apple with almond butter is ideal.

2. Bake healthy

Between pumpkin pie, eggnog and all those Christmas cookies, there will be plenty of sweets to go around, but that doesn’t mean everything you make has to be high in calories, fat and sugar.

With a few simple substitutions, there are several ways to bake healthy during the holidays and still enjoy all the desserts.

Check out my healthy holiday baking tips here.

3. Bring a healthy dish

If you’ll be attending a holiday event at someone else’s home, offer to bring a healthy dish that everyone can enjoy.

If your kids have food allergies or someone in the family has specific dietary restrictions or preferences, bringing a healthy dish is also a great way to keep them safe and ensure they have something to eat as well.

4. Model healthy eating habits

You can teach your kids how to enjoy all the delicious food without going overboard by taking small, healthy portions, making choices about what goes on your plate and enjoying everything in moderation.

When most people are reaching for second and third portions, you can show your child that it’s possible to enjoy the food without stuffing your face.

5. Get moving

To help burn off excess calories, combat stress and keep everyone on an even keel, carve out time before or after a holiday celebration to do something active.

This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood, a game of catch in the backyard, an indoor dance party or a game of Twister.

6. Make sleep a priority

Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.

Without enough sleep, everyone will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

8. Give kids a kids-sized plate

Kids don’t need the same size dinner plate as adults, and may end up eating more because of it.

Make sure your kid has a kid-sized plate or an appetizer plate to keep portions healthy.

9. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues

When food is in abundance during the holidays, it’s easy to overeat. Paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues however, can prevent you from reaching for seconds.

If your kids tend to overeat on special occasions too, depending on their ages, you can talk to them about eating when they’re hungry and to stop when they’re not hungry.

Sure, there’s always room for dessert but teaching them how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues can prevent them from eating just because the food is there.

10, Strike a balance

Raising kids to be healthy eaters includes teaching them how to enjoy delicious food, not be deprived of it.

Allow treats, but also strike a balance by serving plenty of healthy, whole foods including plenty of vegetables when you’re not celebrating.

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

10 Ways To Deal With Picky Eaters When You’re Fed Up

Having a kid who is a picky eater is one of the most frustrating parts about being a parent—right up there with potty training, sleepless nights and meltdowns.

Chances are, you’re already doing your best to offer plenty of healthy foods.

But try as you might, you can’t seem to put an end to the picky eating.

When you’re at your wit’s end and you’re ready to pull out your hair, it’s definitely easier to open up a box of mac and cheese and call it a day.

Yet raising healthy kids who will try, accept and even crave healthy foods isn’t something that happens overnight.

With some simple strategies however, it can be done. Let’s get started.

1. Recognize picky eating for what it is 

Many parents label their kids as picky eaters, but just because the behaviors are frustrating, that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever or that they have to define your child.

Picky eating is only a small, short-term obstacle to healthy eating.

Look at the bigger picture and realize that kids who eat healthy now are more likely to be healthy eaters throughout their lives, so it’s well-worth the effort.


2. Bring kids in the kitchen

When my kids are having meltdowns and it seems that no matter what I do, doesn’t work to get them to calm down, its extremely frustrating.

But when I’m empathic, hear them out and offer a hug, things usually get better.

Sometimes kids just need their cups refilled with quality time so rather than battling it out at the dinner table, try coming together in the kitchen.

Cooking with your kids is one of the best ways to teach them about healthy eating and it might be the way to end picky eating for good.

Empower your kids with choices: let them find a new recipe, then shop and cook the meal together.

At the very least, cooking can diffuse some of the frustration at the dinner table, create a positive environment around food, and slowly encourage your kids to be more adventurous eaters.


3. Have a play date

Children are more likely to do what other children do, and that includes eating.

According to a May 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, preschoolers who saw a video of their peers eating a bell pepper ate more peppers themselves a week later and said they were more likely to eat the vegetable again.

If one of your child’s friends is a healthy eater, arrange for them to have a play date. Your kid might be interested in what his friend is eating and more likely to take a bite too.

This strategy can also work well with other family members, especially grandparents, who are skilled at getting kids to try just about anything they offer.


4. Serve bites, not portions

Studies show it can take serving small portions of the same food 15 to 20 times, before kids will even take a bite.

Instead of overwhelming your child with an entire plate, or even a portion of vegetables, try serving a tiny amount, such as a broccoli floret, a bean, or a piece of a shredded carrot.


5. Let kids play with their food

Kids who play with their food are more likely to try new flavors and a wider variety of foods, a July 2015 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests.

Rather than pressuring your child to take a bite or bribe them with dessert if he eats his vegetables, encourage him to touch, smell, and even play with his food.

Talk about the shapes, colors, texture and aroma of the foods on his plate. If he takes a bite, that’s great, but the goal is to let him explore his food without feeling pressure to eat it.

6. Change the scenery

 Sometimes moving your meals to a different environment can make mealtimes more interesting and less stressful.

Try packing a picnic lunch and head to the park, eat on the patio instead of the dinner table or take lunch to a friend’s house.

7. Let kids choose what they want to eat

 When kids feel they have a say in what’s being served, they’ll be more likely to try it.

At dinner, serve a salad and a cooked vegetable or put out a buffet of leftovers and let your kids decide what they want on their plates.

Or take a trip to the farmers’ market and let you child choose a new vegetable to try.

8. Take stock of your kid’s diet

If kids are loading up on snacks throughout the day, they probably won’t be hungry for meals.

Snacks like crackers, chips and cookies—even those that are gluten-free, organic and have healthy ingredients like fruit and nuts—can crowd out the calories they should get from healthy foods.

Also, feeding kids processed snacks that are high in sugar and sodium train their taste buds to prefer those foods over healthy, whole foods, so it’s best to limit them as much as possible.

9. Talk to an expert

When you feel like you’ve done all you can to get your kid out of his picky eating habits, consider getting help from an expert.

A pediatric registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) will work with you to understand your child and your family and address all the factors at play. They can also help you set realistic goals and offer strategies and meal ideas to help your child try and eventually accept new foods.

To find an RDN, ask your pediatrician to make a referral or search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ site, EatRight.org.

10. Stick with it

 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.

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.

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

7 Healthy Holiday Baking Tips

I love baking anytime of year, but during the holidays, it’s even more special.

As a child, I have fond memories of making chocolate-coconut Christmas cookies and these Betty Crocker candy cane cookies with my own mom.

Now that I have my own kids, I love holiday baking even more.

This year, my daughters and I will make Skinnytaste’s pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and my grandmother’s famous cheesecake for Christmas (it’s a secret recipe). We’ll also make coconut macaroons and a few varieties of cookies for their teachers, bus drivers and volunteers at our church.

During the holiday season, it’s inevitable that your kids (and you!) will eat sugar.

The great thing about baking however, is that you can often make simple swaps and substitutions in your recipes that cut down on the calories, fat and sugar, add some nutrition and don’t change the taste much at all.

Here, read on for 7 healthy holiday baking tips to make your recipes even sweeter.

1. Upgrade your flour

White, refined flour lack nutrition and fiber and spikes your blood sugar, so I tend to avoid using it.

Since my kids eat a mainly gluten-free diet anyway, I usually swap all-purpose flour for gluten-free oats that I grind up in the food processor.

True, sometimes only all-purpose flour will do, but when it’s not going to change the taste or the texture, try oat flour, coconut flour or almond flour, all of which have more fiber.

Almond flour, in particular, is a good source of protein—7 grams in about a cup—, as well as vitamin E and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

In some recipes, you can swap in the same amount of flour, but others may require a different ratio of liquids. Try to find recipes that call for the specific type of flour you want to use or find out how to adjust your ingredients.

2. Cut down on sugar


Sweeteners like coconut sugar may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, and less of an impact on blood sugar, but it’s not as low as say, broccoli.

What’s more, just because these sugars and others like honey are naturally derived, they’re still considered added sugars and should be limited in our diets.

Of course, the holidays are a special occasion so I don’t see a big deal in indulging in sweets. But if you’re planning back-to-back holiday events or you’re looking to cut back, you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by a 1/4 or a 1/3, which probably won’t make that much of a difference in the taste.

While pies, cakes and cookies usually need sugar to taste sweet, adding dried fruit like dates, raisins or cranberries to bread or muffin recipes can be a healthy, delicious substitute for sugar.

3. Make mini versions of your holiday favorites


One of the best ways to keep portions healthy for everyone is to create miniature cookies and desserts. Try mini muffin tins, mini loaf pans or ramekins for smaller, healthier holiday treats.

4. Mix in vegetables

Pureed or grated, vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, squash and pumpkin all add fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to a holiday dessert otherwise devoid of nutrition.

Vegetables also add flavor and moistness to breads, muffins and cakes.

5. Substitute avocado for butter or oil

While you’re adding vegetables, try fruit too—with an avocado.

Avocado is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, especially because it’s high in fiber, has 20 vitamins and minerals and healthy, monounsaturated fats.

Avocado is also an easy, 1 to 1 substitute for butter or oil. I’ve found that it often makes cookies or muffins have a greenish hue, which isn’t a big deal if you’re enjoying them at home, but it might be if you’re giving them as gifts or bringing them to a party.

6. Add chia seeds

High in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, iron and calcium, chia seeds are a super food.

When you’re baking, chia seeds can easily be incorporated into cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes and cakes. They don’t change the taste or the texture but you may have to add additional liquid ingredients because they can thicken up the batter.

7. Swap cream for Greek yogurt

When a recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream or buttermilk, try using full fat or low fat Greek yogurt which is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12 and potassium and helps to cut down on some of the calories and saturated fat.

[VIDEO] 3 Things Volunteering To Feed The Hungry Teaches My Kids

[VIDEO] 3 Things Volunteering To Feed The Hungry Teaches My Kids

My daughters are still young but before my husband and I ever planned to have children, it was important to us that we would raise kids who were grateful.

Grateful for the food on their table.

Grateful for the clothes on their backs.

Grateful for the house over their heads.

Grateful for everything.

Last year, I was actively looking for a place to volunteer with my kids. What I discovered was that many of the food pantries didn’t allow kids or the volunteer opportunities were during the week.

When one of the pastors of our church told me about Hillside Food Outreach, a non-profit organization that helps feed the hungry in New York and Connecticut, my kids could volunteer and it was on the weekends, it was a no-brainer.

Once a month, we go to a warehouse and “shop” for groceries and then deliver them to our clients.

The organization relies on monetary donations to purchase some of the food while some of the grocery stores donate their surplus.

It’s rewarding—and fun—to help others but it has also taught my kids a lot of life lessons that I’m certain will stick with them.

Check out this video for 3 things volunteering to feed the hungry has taught my kids.


My daughters take pride in picking out the groceries and delivering them to those in need. I hope that by teaching them to serve others now, they’ll continue to do so throughout their lives.

Do you volunteer with your kids? What has it taught them? Leave me a comment!

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

7 Healthy Kids’ Birthday Treats That Aren’t Cupcakes

In recent years, an increasing amount of schools in the U.S. have banned cake, cupcakes and other treats for kids’ birthday celebrations all in an effort to curb childhood obesity and keep kids with food allergies safe.

If your child’s school allows you to bring in treats however, why not forget the cupcakes and bring in something healthier and more interesting?

Not only will you feel good about serving up a treat with some nutrition, but it’s a great way to show your kids and their classmates that healthy food can be amazingly delicious.

Here, check out 7 healthy kids’ birthday treats from my fellow bloggers that are healthy and delicious—and so much better than cupcakes.

1. Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries

When one of my daughters celebrated her birthday in preschool, I didn’t feel good about serving up cupcakes or another dessert at 10am in the morning, so my husband and I whipped up a batch of chocolate covered strawberries instead.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, and when they’re matched with chocolate, they have just the right amount of sweetness kids crave.

This recipe for Easy Chocolate Covered Strawberries from Jamielyn Nye, founder of I Heart Naptime, are healthy and delicious and with a drizzle of white chocolate, they’re extra special for kids’ birthday parties.

2. Fruit Wands

I had the pleasure of interviewing Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious, several years back. In fact, her insight about why parents should avoid sneaking vegetables into meals was part of my inspiration for starting this blog.

So when I came across her recipe for Fruit Wands, I couldn’t wait to share it.

With seven different types of fruit, these treats are bursting with nutrition and color. They also give kids plenty of choices—which is one way to encourage healthy eating—and are a fun, creative way to serve up fruit. I also love that they’re safe for kids with food allergies—a win-win for kids and schools.

3. Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix

Whole grains like those found in popcorn give kids plenty of fiber which satisfies their hunger and prevents spikes in blood sugar.

Plain popcorn is one option for kids’ birthday treats, but this Cinnamon Glazed Popcorn Mix from Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food is a bit more special and the perfect mix of salty and sweet.

With cashews, which add protein and fiber, and cinnamon and ginger for natural flavor, this treat is healthy, delicious and easy to pull together.

4. Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks

A great source of vitamin C and filling fiber, apples are also a rich source of quercetin, an antioxidant flavonoid that studies suggest may boost brain health.

I’ve been a loyal fan of Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste since I lost weight years ago on WW, so I was thrilled to find these Donut-Shaped Apple Snacks on her blog. They’re festive, super easy to make and a fun way to teach your kids how to make healthy, delicious fare.


5. 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding

An excellent source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and K, and folate as well as healthy fats, avocado is one of the best superfoods you can feed your kids.

Avocado also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Another one of my favorite bloggers, Megan Gilmore, founder of Detoxinista, offers up this easy, 3-Ingredient Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Without any added sugar but plenty of nutrition and flavor, it’s one of the best kids’ birthday treats you can serve and it only takes 5 minutes to make.

6. Yogurt Parfait For Kids

Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

If you know how to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt, it can also be a healthy treat for your child’s celebration.

That’s why I like this Yogurt Parfait for Kids recipe from Jodi Danen, founder of Create Kids’ Club. With plain yogurt, fresh berries and granola, you have a healthy, fiber-filled, and delicious treat that can be pulled together in no time.

7. Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip

Kids love to dip just about anything and this Easy 5 Ingredient Vegan Caramel Dip from Kiran Dodeja Smith, founder of Easy Real Food, is the perfect non-cupcake treat for school birthday celebrations.

With plenty of plant-based protein that satiates kids’ hunger, and no refined sugars, this dip is satisfying, sweet and super easy.

8 Processed Foods I Feed My Kids  Processed, packaged foods are the worst for our kids, but sometimes they're a necessary evil.

8 Processed Foods I Feed My Kids

Processed, packaged foods are the worst for our kids, but sometimes they're a necessary evil.

My kids eat a diet made up of mostly real, whole foods—the way food was meant to be consumed. Unlike processed foods that have artificial ingredients, additives, and preservatives, a ton of sodium, salt and saturated fat, are chemically engineered to appeal to kids’ brains and are altered so much that they’re unrecognizable.

Eating a whole foods diet means my kids are getting the vital nutrition they need for their growth and development. My hope is that eating this way will also lower their risk for a host of diseases and health conditions that have nothing to do with childhood obesity.

But let’s be real. As a full-time working mom with two kids, a household and a husband, I would be lying if I said that my kids don’t eat processed foods.

For my family, sometimes feeding them processed foods is a matter of convenience and saving time while other times, I’m trying to strike a balance and teach them that healthy eaters can—and should—also make room for treats.

Although they don’t eat them everyday, here are 8 processed foods I feed my kids—and why.

1. Dried fruit

Fresh, whole fruit is the ideal way for kids to get fruit in their diets, but dried fruit is a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be a healthy addition to their diet as well.

I make my own trail mix with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or nuts along with raisins or dried cranberries which makes for an easy, quick and portable snack. Or I’ll sprinkle some dried fruit on their morning oatmeal, which gives it a hint of sweetness.

Since dried fruit is high in calories and sugar and it’s easy to consume too much in one sitting, I pay attention to portion sizes and don’t allow them to go overboard.

2. Boxed macaroni and cheese

When I don’t want to cook on a Saturday night or when life gets too hectic, my kids love boxed macaroni and cheese, but they only eat it a handful of times each year.

Since it’s made with white, refined carbohydrates, boxed mac and cheese lacks filling fiber to fill them up and keep their blood sugar steady.

Sure, it might be organic and “made with real cheese,” but once it’s transformed into dried powdered cheese, there’s nothing real about it.

Plus, with more than 500 milligrams of sodium per serving, the only redeeming quality of macaroni and cheese is protein—about 9 grams per serving.

3. Fruit and nut bars

If my kids could have a fruit and nut bar every day, they most certainly would.

Bars make for easy, convenient snacks especially when we’re running to an after-school activity or we’re taking a road trip. They can also be a good source of protein and fiber.

Since many bars are high in sugar and are so high in calories they might as well be a meal however, I buy those made with real ingredients like fruit and nuts and always read labels.

4. Hummus

My daughter likes to pair baby carrots with hummus as a snack or even for breakfast, and it’s fine by me.

Thanks to chickpeas, hummus is a good source of protein and fiber and can be a healthy snack. Yet not all brands of hummus are created equal. Many contain added sodium and unnecessary ingredients like potassium sorbate, sunflower oil and xanthan gum so I always read labels and compare brands first.

5. String cheese

Lately, I’ve been sticking mostly to goat cheese but from time to time, my kids will ask for string cheese.

Cheese is a good source of protein—about 8 grams per serving—and makes for an easy, portable add-on for school lunch or as a snack.

Some brands however, contain less than 50 percent real cheese, are heavily processed and contain artificial ingredients. When I do buy string cheese, I stick to those made with 100 percent real cheese and those without any additives.

6. Flavored yogurt

Since leafy green vegetables are a better source of calcium anyway, yogurt isn’t something I heavily rely on in my kids’ diets. But yogurt is a good source of protein and makes for an easy snack at school or after-school.

Since many brands of yogurt are high in sugar and artificial ingredients, I read labels carefully. Although I’d prefer to serve them plain yogurt and add fresh fruit—which we also do—I buy Activia yogurt because the probiotics are added back in.

7. Canned salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids which support kids’ brain health and development.

When I’m not serving fresh or frozen salmon, I’ll open a can of salmon for lunch or a quick dinner.

Canned Alaska salmon is always wild caught and it’s also ranked by the FDA as a low-mercury fish that’s safe for kids. Since many types of canned foods can be contaminated with BPA, I also choose brands that avoid the chemical.

8. Crackers

With a variety of bright colors and their cute little fish faces, Pepperidge Farm has done a great job of creating crackers that kids recognize and can’t get enough of—including mine.

They might not have artificial flavors or preservatives and be made with “real cheese,” which is actually highly processed, but these crackers offer no nutritional value whatsoever.

Still, I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food and not label foods “good” or “bad.” So although it’s something they rarely eat, I allow them to indulge in these crackers as an occasional treat.

6 Ways To Get Rid Of Leftover Halloween Candy

6 Ways To Get Rid Of Leftover Halloween Candy

After all the Halloween parties, school celebrations and trick or treating are over, and your kids have been over-indulging for days, chances are, you’re ready to put an end to the sugar madness.

In my house, we let our kids enjoy their treats and the candy, but the slightest bit of sugar makes them hyper so we don’t keep it in the house after Halloween.

Halloween candy is a treat, not something they should eat everyday until Thanksgiving.

What’s more, when you’re an emotional eater like I am and you have no willpower for sweets, you can’t have candy lying around.

So how can you get rid of leftover Halloween candy? Here are some ideas.

1. Donate it

Last year, I packed up my kids’ leftover Halloween candy and shipped it to Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that includes candy in care packages they send to the troops.

There are other places that may accept Halloween candy donations too, such as:

2. Trade it for cash

Through the Halloween Candy Buy Back Program, you can trade leftover Halloween candy for cash, coupons, products or services. Through local dentist offices and other local businesses that serve as drop-off locations, the program will ship candy to Operation Gratitude for you.

3. Send it to school  for the teachers

Teachers are some of the hardest working, devoted and caring people in our kids’ lives and they love to feel appreciated for a job that’s often underappreciated.

Ask a few friends to combine your kids’ leftover Halloween candy into a pretty gift basket for the teachers and school staff.

Your school’s parent-teach organization may also welcome a donation of Halloween candy for teacher appreciation week or special events and fundraisers throughout the year.

4. Bring it into the office

You or your spouse can bring your kids’ leftover Halloween candy into your offices for the candy jar in the reception area, the conference room or the break room.

Your co-workers may not be thrilled, but at least it’s out of your house.

5. Trade it in

When her daughter was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes and she realized she wouldn’t be able to enjoy candy-filled holidays like other kids, Lara Riley came up with the idea of Switch Witch.

With a book, doll and kit, kids get to trade in their Halloween candy for a toy, a book, or whatever you choose.

6. Trash it

I would never advocate throwing away food, but sometimes throwing out leftover Halloween candy is your only option. So take it out with the trash and don’t give it a second thought.

How Not To Raise An Emotional Eater

How Not To Raise An Emotional Eater

I’ve been an emotional eater for as long as I can remember.

It’s one of the reasons I started this blog.

When you grow up in an Italian-American family like I did, it’s hard not to be an emotional eater and break many unhealthy eating habits.

Food (and lots of it), is the central focus of everything and every family gathering—even in times of grief. You’re also raised to believe that if you don’t eat when food is on the table, it’s not polite.

Whether this was explicit or implied, it’s the message I received.

Years later as an adult, those same poor eating habits continued.

When I worked in daytime television, I was in a high-stress, unhealthy work environment. Clocking 60 and 80 hours a week left little time for sleep, self-care or anything else.

To cope with the stress and combat the fatigue, I’d come home at 11pm, raid the fridge and binge on chocolate and cheese.

Today, I still consider myself an emotional eater. And although it has improved, I often find myself eating during times of high stress.

I know overeating doesn’t help solve anything and it’s not healthy for my body or my mind.

With two daughters watching everything I do, I’m even more cognizant of my habits because I want them to have a healthy relationship with food too.

If you’re concerned about your own kid’s eating habits and their health, here are some things to try so that you don’t raise an emotional eater.

Help your child focus on food

When we were kids and the phone rang, the person calling would usually ask, am I interrupting your dinner? If they were, you’d call them back. Everyone knew that dinner was family time.

Today? Not so much.


Our lives are full of distractions and devices.

But if there’s a TV on in a nearby room, you’re fielding work emails or your kids are texting, eating becomes another mindless activity. It also makes mealtimes stressful and can lead to overeating. What’s more, mindless eating often goes hand in hand with emotional eating.

When it’s time for dinner, have a no TV, no phone, no device rule and focus on each other instead.

Avoid food rewards or food bribes

It seems that food rewards are everywhere—at school, on the field, at after school activities—and for just about every reason.

Katie Kimball, founder of the blog KitchenStewardship.com recently posted a photo on Instagram of two large bags of candy that her kids received.

One for good behavior on the school bus and the other, for raising money for a fundraiser. You can see the post here:

Aren’t these things we expect of our children, not things they should be rewarded for?

Food is fuel and is meant to be delicious and enjoyed, but when it’s given as a reward, we’re teaching our kids that food has power.

As adults, they may treat themselves to dinner or a piece of cake after a long, stressful day or not allow themselves to eat something “off limits” if they’ve gained weight or didn’t hit the gym that day.

Instead, give your kid a hug, a high five or a sticker for a job well done.

The same goes for food bribes. Avoid enticing your kids with a treat for good behavior, for example.

Teach kids how to cope with tough emotions

I won’t claim to be an expert in childhood development or behavior. In fact, teaching my kids emotional regulation is one of the areas I need help with as a parent.

But I try my best to help them cope with tough feelings, which can prevent them from becoming emotional eaters later in life.

When kids, especially girls, are upset, they just want to be heard. They want to know that someone understands how they feel, so I try to listen and empathize and help them problem solve without solving the problem for them.

When they’re in meltdown mode and they’re irrational, I try to remind them to take a few deep breaths to relax their bodies, which also relaxes their minds.

Practice mindful eating

Mindfulness is nothing new but in our stressed-out culture, it’s become a trendy, albeit effective, to way to cope.

According to a November 2015 study in the Journal of Family and Child Studies, mindful yoga helped kids improve their ability to self-regulate over the long term.

Mindfulness at the dinner table can help your kids slow down, really taste their food and savor every bite. When they’re present and using all of their senses to eat, they’ll be less likely to become emotional eaters.

There are several mindfulness techniques you can try but if you’re looking for a good place to start, I recommend Dr. Susan Albers, who has written several books on the subject.

Don’t make certain foods off limits

Labeling foods “healthy” and “unhealthy” or “good” or “bad” can make the forbidden foods even more desirable.

Think about it: if you tell yourself you won’t or can’t eat the decadent brownie, it will be the only thing on your mind.

The same goes for kids when foods are off-limits. Instead of enjoying treats, they take on more power. When given the opportunity at a friend’s birthday party or on a play date, they may go overboard and when they’re older, they may even sneak food.

Striking a healthy balance will look different for each family, but allowing kids to have treats is the key to a healthy diet and will prevent them from becoming emotional eaters.

Give up the power struggle

Emotional eating can go the other way too, especially if your kids are told they must clean their plate or they can’t get dessert until they take a bite.

Kids need the opportunity to learn to self-regulate their hunger and recognize their own hunger and fullness cues. When they do, they’ll see food as fuel, not a power struggle.

Model healthy eating

We all do it: you bury yourself in a bag of chips when you’re stressed out or overindulge in sweets because you’re depressed.

Yet make it a habit that your kids see and they may turn to food to cope too.

Emotional eating can be a hard habit to break, but try to find healthy habits that can replace eating like taking a brisk walk, a yoga class or a warm bath, praying, meditating or just laughing.

Seek support

If your kid is an emotional eater and what you’ve tried hasn’t helped, there’s no shame in seeking help.

We’re parents, not experts in everything.

A good place to start is your child’s pediatrician who can evaluate his weight and his overall health. You might then enlist the help of a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) (search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) or a therapist who specializes in feeding and eating disorders.


10 Easy Ways To Slash Sugar From Your Kid’s Diet

10 Easy Ways To Slash Sugar From Your Kid’s Diet

Homemade cookies, your hometown ice cream shop and trick or treating on Halloween are what childhood memories are made of.

But let’s face it: kids can get sweets almost anywhere whether it’s the school cafeteria, on the sports field, in your local bank or in your own pantry.

What many parents don’t realize however, is that it’s not only the sugar that shows up in desserts or treats that are problematic, but also the sneaky sources that are in everything from cereal to yogurt.

Diets high in sugar are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity, type-2 diabetes, 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.

Yet studies show most kids—even babies and toddlers—are getting much more than that.

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.

So how do you slash sugar from your kid’s diet? Here are 10 ways.

1. Become an avid label reader

With more than 60 names, sugar is seriously sneaky and can hide in places you’d least expect it, such as:


  • Cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Granola
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • Dips
  • Granola, protein and cereal bars
  • Canned fruit and fruit cups

When you’re grocery shopping, make a habit of reading labels and comparing brands to ensure you’ll make the best choice.


2. Forget juice

Although juice has historically been seen as a healthy food for kids, it’s anything but.


Juice is high in empty calories, sugar, and carbohydrates, and drinking it can lead to weight gain, cavities and diarrhea.


The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you’re going to give kids juice, limit it to between 4 and 8 ounces a day depending on their ages while infants under 1 should avoid it altogether.


Another option is to make homemade juices at home with 80 percent green leafy vegetables and 20 percent fruit, but still watch the portion sizes.


Although the sugars in homemade juice are natural, the calories and sugar can add up fast and they’re also processed in the body the same way as added sugars.


3. Cut sugary drinks too

Soda, sweetened ice teas, lemonade, sports and energy drinks, fruit punch, apple juice and chocolate milk make up a majority of the amount of sugar kids get in their diets.

In fact, between 2011 and 2014, 63 percent of kids consumed a sugar-sweetened beverage on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Water is the best beverage to offer your kids but if they have a hard time giving up the sweet stuff, start by diluting their drinks or gradually replacing a few with water until you’ve completely eliminated them from their diets.


Or, serve water with slices of cucumber or strawberries for a hint of natural flavor and sweetness.

4. Serve kids real, whole foods

The more sugar your kids eat, the more they’ll crave.


What’s more, foods made with white, refined carbohydrates including flour, white breads and pastas, and white rice can spike your kid’s blood sugar and lead to sugar cravings.


To curb their preference for sweet foods, serve healthy, whole foods at every meal and snack.

Focus on protein and healthy fats, green leafy vegetables and fruits, including those with a low glycemic load like apples, pears and strawberries.

Depending on their ages, kids need just as many, or more, servings of vegetables than fruit.


5. Add healthy fats to your kid’s diet

Healthy fats found in foods like eggs, salmon, olives, avocado and coconut oil help kids feel satiated and curbs their sugar cravings.


Despite what we’ve been told for years, fat doesn’t lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, type-2 diabetes or obesity.


Need more proof? I recommend you read Food: What The Heck Should I Eat by Dr. Mark Hyman.


6. Ditch the dried fruit

Dried fruit can be a convenient, portable snack but they’re little sugar bombs kids don’t need.

Fresh or frozen whole fruit is always better and lower in sugar. Save the dried fruit for the occasional treat or dessert instead.


7. Purge the processed foods

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

The only way to avoid these sneaky sources of sugar is to purge your pantry and replace your child’s meals with real, whole foods.

 8. Make homemade treats

I don’t think kids should be deprived of desserts, but making your own homemade versions helps you to control the ingredients and the amount of sugar.

With upgraded ingredients like oats, applesauce, pumpkin, nuts and seeds and cacao nibs, you can make healthy, delicious treats for your kids.

And if you let your kids bake with you, even better. Cooking with your kids teaches them about healthy foods and how to prepare healthy meals.

9. Curb “natural” sugars that are actually added sugars

Agave, honey, and maple syrup might be natural, but once it’s separated and added to a food as a sweetener, it’s actually an added sugar.

In fact, the FDA may even require companies to list honey and maple syrup as an added sugar by 2020.

Although I don’t see anything wrong with enjoying a drizzle of pure maple on pancakes, for example, keeping tabs on the overall amount of sugar in your kid’s diet will ensure he’s not going overboard.

Replace sugar with natural sources of sweetness

To slash sugar from your kid’s diet, choose whole foods that add flavor and sweetness.

Add fresh or frozen vegetables to plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or apples, cinnamon and vanilla extract to oatmeal, for example.

Roasting fruits like apples or pears also brings out their natural sweetness and is a healthy and delicious dessert your kids will love.


How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

How To Choose A Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

Whether you serve it for breakfast, as an after-school snack or add it to smoothies, yogurt can be a healthy food in your kid’s diet.

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which promotes satiety and can prevent weight gain. It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

Studies show kids who eat yogurt may eat healthier overall too.

According to a January 2018 study in the European Journal of Nutrition, compared to kids who don’t eat yogurt, those who eat 60 grams of yogurt a day have healthier diets and higher intakes of key nutrients like calcium and iodine, lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, a marker of diabetes, and lower blood pressure.

Yet not all yogurts are created equal, however. Many are too high in sugar, have artificial ingredients and may not be the best source of probiotics. Here, learn how to sift through all the choices and choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.



Taste and try

In recent years, Americans are eating more yogurt than ever before. According to a 2018 report by ResearchandMarkets.com, sales of yogurt in 2017 reached nearly $9 billion.

It’s no surprise then, in order to meet consumer demand, there are dozens of different brands and types of yogurt on grocery store shelves.

Choosing between the different types of yogurt is usually a matter of preference. For example, Skyr yogurt is thicker and creamier than traditional, unstrained yogurt.

Organic yogurt is always a good idea because you won’t get the nasty antibiotics and hormones, but grass-fed yogurt, which has a better make-up of fats and nutrients than cows who feed on soy, corn and grains, is ideal.

According to a February 2018 study in the journal Food Science and Nutrition, cows fed a 100 percent organic grass and legume-based diet produce milk with higher levels of omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

Grass-fed yogurt is also a good choice for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, babies and children since omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the development of the eyes, brain and the nervous system.

If your kids are lactose intolerant or vegan or you don’t do dairy because of concerns regarding cow’s milk, there are plenty of non-dairy yogurts made with almond milk, coconut milk and soy.


Read labels

When it comes to sources of sneaky sugars, yogurt is one of the worst offenders.

According to a September 2018 study in the journal BMJ Open, of 900 yogurt brands in the U.K. tested, only 9 percent, and less than 2 percent of kids’ yogurts, were low in 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.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels, which include a line for added sugars, continue to be rolled out this year, it will be much easier to choose a healthy kids’ yogurt.

For now, read labels and keep in mind that sugar can go by hidden behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Consider low fat vs. full fat

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids consume non-fat or low-fat dairy products, but many of these types of yogurt contain more sugar than their full fat versions.

Full fat yogurt is also more satiating, which staves off kids’ hunger and can prevent weight gain. What’s more, studies prove that fat isn’t the demon it’s been made out to be.

In fact, a September 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no link between dairy fat and heart disease and stroke and the fats in dairy may even be protective against these conditions.

Make it your own

Yogurts with blended fruit, pretzels and crushed cookies can help persuade picky eating kids to eat yogurt, but these yogurts are so high in sugar they’re better served as dessert.

A healthier option is to choose plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit like raspberries, which are high in fiber and low glycemic so they won’t spike your kid’s blood sugar. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Think twice about yogurt tubes

Yogurt tubes are really convenient especially for school lunches, road trips and when you’re on the go, but many of these yogurts marketed to kids are loaded with sugar, and have artificial colors and flavors.

Although yogurt tubes are kid-friendly, it’s not a healthy, natural way for anyone to eat. Not only is using a spoon a fine motor skill, but instead of tasting and savoring each spoonful, squeezing food into their mouths creates an unhealthy mindless eating habit.

If you do opt for yogurt tubes however, look for those that are made with real ingredients, and are high in protein and low in sugar. Chobani and Siggi’s are two brands I like.

Look for yogurt with live and active cultures

For yogurt to be considered yogurt by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must contain two types of probiotics, S. thermophilus or L. bulgaricus.

Yogurts marked with the National Yogurt Association’s live and active cultures seal from means the yogurt has at least 100 million cultures per gram when it’s manufactured.

Yet those probiotics may not be present by the time they hits store shelves. In fact, an April 2017 study out of the University of Toronto found many types of probiotic yogurts had levels of probiotics too low to provide the health benefits found in clinical trials.

To fill the void, serve naturally fermented vegetables, miso, tempeh, Kimchi and Kefir, which are better sources of probiotics.