How To Pack a Healthy School Lunch

How To Pack a Healthy School Lunch

Sending your kid off in the morning with a healthy school lunch can be better than school lunches you’ll find in the cafeteria, but getting the right balance of nutrition is key.

Surprisingly, most school lunches made at home are worse than those kids purchase at school. According to a July 2014 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, only 27 percent of the lunches from more than 600 kids surveyed met at least three of the five National School Lunch Program standards.

The good news is that packing lunch doesn’t have to be difficult. Here, learn which foods you should focus on and how much and how to make packing a healthy school lunch a breeze.

Plan ahead

Without time to plan healthy school lunches, chances are you’ll resort to PB&J and processed, packaged foods everyday. Making a grocery list and having a list of healthy school lunch ideas will take the guesswork out of school lunch in the morning.

 

Start with fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which will help to satisfy your kid’s hunger and help him feel fuller longer. When packing your kid’s lunch box, 50 percent should be made up of both fruits and vegetables—not just fruit.

Do your best to “eat the rainbow” and offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. If your kid is a picky eater however, 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, he may eventually come around and they may even become his new favorite foods.

Pick a protein

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

Protein should make up 1/4 of a healthy school lunch 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 and seafood. If you’re worried about the mercury levels in fish, find out which types of fish are safe for your kids.

Choose whole grains

Grains should make up about 1/4 of a healthy school lunch box. When packing whole grains, think about other grains your child will eat that day since 50 percent of grains in his diet should be whole grains.

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.

Add calcium-rich foods

The USDA MyPlate recommends milk or sources of dairy with meals because of the calcium they provide. If your kids are dairy-free, or you’re trying to avoid dairy because it’s inflammatory, they can still get plenty of calcium from green leafy vegetables, chia seeds and other calcium-rich foods that aren’t dairy.

Focus on plant-based foods

Studies show plant-based diets are one of the healthiest because they’re high in vitamins and minerals, anti-inflammatory and prevent constipation.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, sweet potatoes and nuts and seeds are all plant-based foods to include in your child’s lunch box.

Include healthy fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are part of a healthy diet and support your child’s brain health and memory.

Salmon and sardines are low in mercury and good sources of both protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Or try olives, a mist of olive oil on salad or vegetables, avocado and nuts and seeds, which are all excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids too.

Get a bento box

Kids love choices and a reusable bento box is a great way to serve up a variety of foods at lunch time and also ensure that you have healthy portions of all the major food groups.

Re-think treats

Packing a cookie with an “I love you!” note makes you and your kid feel happy, but most treats you’ll find in the grocery story are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients, not to mention, kids don’t need them while they’re trying to learn.

 

If you decide to pack treats, read labels carefully or consider your own homemade healthy versions. Also, re-think what a treat could be. Applesauce, dried fruit or chocolate covered fresh fruit are just as sweet but a bit healthier.

 

Teaching balance is also a key component of raising kids who are healthy eaters so consider including a treat once a week instead of everyday, for example.

 

13 Ways To Add More Vegetables To School Lunches

13 Ways To Add More Vegetables To School Lunches

Getting your kids to eat more vegetables any time of the day is always a challenge, but school lunch can be even harder especially when most kids don’t pack vegetables, refuse to eat vegetables or end up throwing their vegetables in the garbage. If you want to raise kids who love to eat vegetables, it’s important to consistently offer them at every meal. The good news is that it’s not as hard as you think. Here are 13 ways to add more vegetables to kids’ school lunches.

1. Wrap it up

Ditch the sandwich and make a roll up with sliced turkey, cheese and lettuce or make a lettuce wrap and put your protein inside. Or add grilled or sautéed vegetables to a tortilla, burrito or wrap.

2. Add a dip

Kids love to dip so pairing a healthy dip with raw, cut-up veggies is a great way to add more vegetables to kids’ school lunches.

Try hummus, bean dip, a vegetable dip or salsa. Consider making your own homemade dip with fresh ingredients so you know exactly what your kids are eating. If you purchase a store-bought dip, read labels carefully because many have artificial ingredients and are too high in fat.

3. Make grilled cheese with vegetables

Add spinach, diced broccoli or slices of pepper to a grilled cheese sandwich made with whole grain bread and you have a fiber-filled lunch your kids will love.

4. Add veggies to pasta, rice or another grain

Mix in last night’s leftover vegetables with whole-wheat pasta, couscous, brown rice or another whole grain like quinoa.

5. Make veggie quesadillas

Quesadillas take minutes to make and lend themselves to so many types of vegetables. Encourage your kids to have a hand in making their own lunches by putting out a “buffet” of vegetables and letting them make their own.

6. Puree vegetables and add them to sauces

I don’t believe in pureeing vegetables as a sneaky way to get your kids to eat them, but it can be a great way to get extra nutrition in their diets and add more vegetables to their lunches.

Carrots, zucchini and eggplant make a great addition to tomato sauce and roasted butternut squash can be added to homemade macaroni and cheese, for example.

7. Bake vegetable “fries”

Slice zucchini, eggplant, yucca, carrot, or jicama, spray with some olive oil and roast them in the oven on high heat. You can also dip vegetables in egg and breadcrumb for more flavor and texture.

8. Batch cook soups, stews and chili

Making a large batch of your kid’s favorite soup, stew or chili is an easy way to have several meals throughout the week and add more vegetables to school lunches.

9. Whip up an omelet, quiche or frittata

Eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids and adding vegetables to an omelet, quiche or frittata also makes for easy and healthy kids’ school lunches.

10. Bake veggies into bread

Add shredded zucchini, carrots or pureed pumpkin to your favorite bread recipe as a healthy treat for your kid’s lunch box.

11. Swap vegetables for grains

Instead of pasta or rice, swap in cauliflower “rice” and spiralized veggies and a protein for a healthy school lunch.

12. Assemble kabobs

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

13. Add vegetables to pizza

Pizza may not be the healthiest option for kids’ school lunches but if you’re going to serve it, make the most of it by adding vegetables as a topping.

8 Healthy School Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Sandwiches  Ditch the bread and serve up these healthy school lunch options

8 Healthy School Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Sandwiches

Ditch the bread and serve up these healthy school lunch options

PB&J, turkey and cheese or tuna fish sandwiches make for a fast and easy school lunch but if your kids are gluten-free, you’re trying to cut down on the amount of bread they eat, they don’t like sandwiches or you’re simply looking for more school lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches, there are so many healthy, delicious, and easy options.

Here are 8.

1. Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. An excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium, they have both protein and fiber to satisfy your kids’ hunger for hours. There are also so many varieties, you’re bound to find at least one your kids will love.

To make packing school lunch easy, I make a large batch of lentil soup for the week. I then re-heat and pour the soup into a thermos for lunch. You can also serve beans alone or incorporate them into quinoa, brown rice or pasta dishes or make a batch of homemade bean burgers.

2. 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.

 

3. Roll ups

If your kids are like mine, they’ll love a roll-up for school lunch and they won’t miss the bread. Roll-up sliced turkey, ham, or roast beef, cheese and lettuce and you’ll have an easy and delicious lunch.

4. Eggs

An excellent source of protein, 9 essential amino acids and choline which supports memory, eggs are one of the best school lunch ideas that aren’t sandwiches.

Eggs cook quickly and are so easy to incorporate into practically any dish. Try scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, make egg salad, egg “muffins,” a quiche or frittata.

One of my kids’ favorite ways to eat eggs is a lightened up version of egg fried rice: incorporate scrambled eggs with brown rice, edamame and a splash of soy sauce.

5. Spring rolls

Spring rolls are simple to pull together for lunch and a great swap for sandwiches. Grab a package of spring roll wrappers, add a protein, your kids’ favorite vegetables and seasonings and lunch is ready.

6. Salad

I know what you’re thinking: my kid will never eat a salad. Yet packing a salad for lunch is a great way to get in several servings of vegetables in one meal.

Making a salad can also be a fun activity with your kids because they can pick the ingredients, help you chop and toss the salad and add the dressing. When kids have a hand in making their meals, they’re more likely to eat them.

If your kids aren’t salad eaters, start small with a side salad alongside one of their favorite foods. Experiment with different add-ins like:

  • Peppers, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc.
  • Tomatoes
  • Leftover meat or fish
  • Tofu
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Beans
  • Cheese
  • Nuts and/or seeds
  • Fruit (fresh or dried)
  • Avocado

7. Tempeh

My children and I eat a predominately plant-based diet so to ensure we get enough protein, we often eat tempeh. It’s not every day or even every week, but it’s one of the best school lunch options that aren’t sandwiches.

Tempeh can be used in most recipes that call for meat but you can also simply marinate and bake it.

8. Soup

In the cooler months, soup can be a healthy and delicious school lunch. 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, box or one that’s prepared in the store, read labels because most soups you’ll find are high in sodium.

How To Pick a Healthy Cereal For Your Kids

How To Pick a Healthy Cereal For Your Kids

When it comes to finding a healthy cereal for your kids, unfortunately there aren’t a ton of options to choose from. There are those that are obvious sugar bombs with their bright, artificial colors, marshmallows and favorite characters on their boxes, but cereals that have health claims like “a good source of fiber,” “gluten-free,” and “made with real fruit,” aren’t the best options for breakfast either.

In fact, a May 2014 study by the Environmental Working Group found kids who eat a bowl of cereal every day for a year get a whopping 10 pounds of sugar in their diets. What’s more, 92 percent of cereals contain added sugars, even those that are considered “adult cereals” or “family cereals,” the same report found.

So what should you look for in a kids’ cereal? And how can you cut through all the health hype and find one that’s actually healthy for your kids? Here are some things to consider.

Don’t buy kid-friendly cereals

One of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t buy some of the worst cereals for kids is to avoid those that are kid-friendly, marketed to kids and those that your kids are likely to beg you to buy when you’re at the grocery store. Think cereals that are neon-colored, in brightly colored boxes with animal characters and those that look more like candy than cereal.

Most kid-friendly cereals lack nutrition and are high in sugar—even those that are organic. Serving kid-friendly cereals also encourages picky-eating habits and prevents kids from craving healthy cereals and other healthy foods.

Avoid artificial ingredients

Studies suggest artificial food dyes like Red 40 can lead to attention problems. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests food dyes, preservatives and packaging materials should be avoided because studies suggest they can interfere with kids’ hormones, growth and development and may increase the risk for childhood obesity, according to a July 2018 report in the journal Pediatrics.

It may also be wise to avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K) because research suggests these may encourage cravings for other sweet foods and displace calories from nutritious, low-sugar foods. Studies also suggest consuming artificial sweeteners may lead to metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes.

Choose whole grains

When looking for a healthy cereal for your kids, look for those that are made with whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown rice, oats, or oatmeal. Whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and filling fiber which is stripped from refined grains.

Look for high-fiber cereals

Most kids don’t get enough fiber in their diets but fiber is important because it staves off hunger, balances blood sugar, boosts gut health, and prevents constipation. A diet high in fiber can also prevent weight gain and childhood obesity.

Read the Nutrition Facts labels, compare brands and look for cereals that have a good amount of fiber—at least 3 grams per serving or more.

Avoid cereals with added sugars

Feeding your kids sugary cereals prime their taste buds for sugar-sweetened foods.

Buy cereals for your kids that are low in sugar—less than 4 grams per serving—or have no sugar at all.

Also pay attention to added sugars, which most cereals contain and have no nutritional value. As food manufacturers roll out the new Nutrition Facts labels this year and over the next few years, you’ll see a line for added sugars so you can easily find the amount of naturally occurring sugars versus how much added sugar is in a cereal.

If you don’t see a line for added sugar, you can spot it by reading the ingredients. Added sugars can go by a variety of names but some include dextrose, fructose, honey, malt syrup, rice syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup, evaporated can juice, barley malt, and caramel.

Keep in mind that cereals with dried fruit, which although are natural sugars, are still concentrated sugars and the fruit itself may be coated with even more sugar.

If your kids are used to eating sugary cereals, they probably won’t like the switch. If they complain the cereal you choose lacks flavor, add cinnamon, slices of banana, or fresh berries for a flavor boost and added fiber. If there’s no other choice, they’ll eventually come around.

Consider fortified cereals

If your child is a picky eater and isn’t getting an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals from fresh fruits and vegetables and other whole foods, you may want to consider choosing a cereal that’s fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Look for cereals fortified with nutrients like calcium, vitamins C and D, folic acid, and iron.

Tips for Serving Kids’ Breakfast Cereal

Add protein

Most cereals don’t have protein, which kids need in their diets for their growth and development, to build strong muscles, and to stave off hunger.

Consider pairing cereal with yogurt, a handful of nuts or adding an egg on the side.

Don’t overlook oatmeal

Individual packets and containers of oatmeal that you add hot water to and microwave are fast and convenient, especially when you’re rushing to get your kids out the door in the morning. Yet most are low in fiber, highly processed, and high in sugar.

If your kids like oatmeal, make a large batch of old-fashioned rolled oats or steel-cut oats for the week that you can portion out in the mornings. Add fresh fruit, cinnamon or other spices, nuts or seeds for added protein and fiber, and a bit of honey for a hint of sweetness if your kid won’t eat it otherwise.

You can also make overnight oats by combining almond milk, chia seeds and spices with oats in a mason jar for an easy, healthy, and delicious breakfast.

Watch portion sizes

Typical portion sizes for cereal are 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup but kids can easily fill up their bowls and get double, even triple, the amount of sugar.

To help your kids learn about healthy serving sizes, give them a measuring cup or bowl to dish out their own cereal.

7 Simple Food Swaps Your Kids Won’t Miss

7 Simple Food Swaps Your Kids Won’t Miss

When it comes to getting your kids to eat healthy, it’s not necessary—or even ideal—to completely overhaul their diets. If you make several, large changes all at once, you risk the chance that your kids will rebel and overindulge and it might prevent them from eventually eating healthier. A better approach is to make small tweaks slowly over time.

Here are 7 food swaps your kids won’t miss.

1. Cook instead of eating out

When you’re busy and you’re running around for after school activities and sports, getting take-out or eating out makes getting dinner on the table a no-brainer.

Yet eating out means more calories, sodium, sugar, and fat which can quickly add up, not to mention most kids’ restaurants don’t have healthy options.

Although it’s not always realistic to get a home cooked meal on the table every night, dinner will likely be healthier and more affordable than what you’ll get in a restaurant.

2. Serve whole grains instead of white, refined grains

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which have more nutrients and fiber than white, refined grains.

This food swap can seem like a drastic one for some kids so do it gradually. Try to replace white rice with brown rice and then in a few weeks, replace white bread with whole grain bread, for example. Eventually it will be one of the food swaps your kids won’t miss and may even love.

3. Replace processed, packaged snacks with whole foods

Most processed, packaged 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.

What’s more, experts say the more processed foods you eat and the longer you eat them, the higher your risk for inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, and a host of health conditions in the future.

Although you may not be able to completely eliminate these snacks in one fell swoop, try to replace a few snacks a week with healthy snacks made with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds.

4. Offer water instead of sugary drinks and juice

Juice boxes and pouches are convenient especially for school lunch but juice—yes, even the organic kind—doesn’t have a place in a child’s diet unless you don’t have access to fresh fruit or your kid won’t eat any fruit.

Drinking water is always a better alternative and a good habit to get your kids into. Yet if they snub plain water, add slices of cucumber, strawberries, or lemon into their water bottles for a little sweetness and hint of flavor.

5. Swap your old dip for an upgraded, healthier one

Kids love to dip their food and pairing dips with raw vegetables can make them more appealing and more likely that your child will eat them. Yet many store-bought dips are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and artificial ingredients.

Read labels carefully and compare brands, or consider making your own healthy homemade hummus, vegetable dip, or black bean dip, for example. It’s easy to do with any food processor and serving an upgraded dip is perhaps one of the easiest food swaps your kids won’t miss.

6. Substitute low-sugar cereal for sugary types

Cereal brands that call attention to health claims like “gluten-free,” “made with real fruit,” or “a good source of vitamins and minerals,” might seem healthy but many cereals are high in sugar, whether they’re marketed to kids or not.

When selecting a cereal, read labels and compare brands. Look for cereals with 100% whole wheat, oats or another type of grain, those that are high in fiber and low in sugar. If your kid misses the sweetness of his favorite cereal, add cinnamon or fresh fruit.

7. Pack a lunch box instead of buying school lunch

Packing healthy school lunches takes time to plan, shop and pull together so when you’re rushing out the door in the morning, letting your kids get school lunch is an easier option.

Yet most school lunches aren’t healthy and with options like chicken fingers, pizza, and hot dogs, they’re not teaching your kids anything about how to eat healthy.

Although making all of your kids’ lunches may not always be realistic, if you can make a point to pack lunch from home more than you do now, it’s one of the best decisions you can make for your kid.

What Types Of Fish Are Safe For Kids?  Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but knowing which types of fish are safe for kids and how much is key.

What Types Of Fish Are Safe For Kids?

Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but knowing which types of fish are safe for kids and how much is key.

Fish is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids. It’s packed with protein, low in saturated fat, rich in micronutrients, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support their brain health and memory.

Yet many types of fish and shellfish contain a form of mercury known as methylmercury, 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. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals that are a public health concern.

Although persuading your kids to eat fish in the first place can be tough, mercury may not be a reason to avoid it. Many types of fish have low levels of mercury and if you serve the right portions, they’re considered safe for kids to eat.

What’s a healthy portion size for fish?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend children eat fish 1 to 2 times every week, starting at age 2.

One portion for fish varies according to age:

  • Children ages 2-3: one ounce
  • Children ages 4-7: two ounces
  • Children ages 8-10: three ounces
  • Children ages 11 and older: four ounces

Avoid These High-Mercury Fish

The FDA and EPA recommend kids avoid certain types of fish that are highest in mercury. These include:

  • Shark
  • Marlin
  • King mackerel
  • Orange roughy
  • Tuna (bigeye)
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish

Limit These Types of Fish

According to the FDA and EPA, the following types of fish are OK to feed your kids, but if you do, they recommend they eat only one portion a week:

  • Bluefish
  • Buffalofish
  • Carp
  • Chilean sea bass
  • Grouper
  • Halibut
  • Mahi mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Rockfish
  • Sablefish
  • Sheepshead
  • Snapper
  • Striped bass
  • Tilefish
  • Tuna: albacore/white tuna, canned and fresh/frozen
  • Tuna: yellowfin
  • Weakfish/seatrout
  • White croaker/Pacific croaker

Safe Types of Fish For Kids

These types of fish have the lowest levels of mercury and are considered safe for kids to eat.

  • Anchovy
  • Atlantic croaker
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Black sea bass
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Lobster (American and spiny)
  • Mullet
  • Oyster
  • Pacific chub mackerel
  • Perch, freshwater and ocean
  • Pickerel
  • Plaice
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Scallop
  • Shad
  • Shrimp
  • Skate
  • Smelt
  • Sole
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Trout, freshwater
  • Tuna, canned light (including skipjack)
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

Is Tuna Fish Safe for Kids?


Canned tuna fish is easy and convenient especially for lunch, not to mention it has a mild taste so kids are more likely to eat it.

If you’re going to feed your kids tuna fish however, canned light or skipjack are your best choices. Albacore tuna (white tuna) contains three times the amount of mercury than canned light so it’s best to avoid it alltogether.

Gone Fishing?


If you or a family member goes fishing and wants to serve your kids your catch, be sure to check local fish advisories. If an advisory is not available, the EPA says it’s OK to feed your kids the fish but don’t let them eat any other type of fish that week.

The bottom line: In my opinion, fish is a super food for kids and shouldn’t be off the menu, but stick with the types of fish that have the lowest levels of mercury and watch your portion sizes.

5 Things I Tell My Kids About Healthy Eating, Plus 1 Thing I Never Say

5 Things I Tell My Kids About Healthy Eating, Plus 1 Thing I Never Say

Raising kids who are healthy eaters takes more than just feeding them healthy foods—it’s an ongoing conversation about healthy eating and healthy habits.

Here are some things I tell my kids about healthy eating practically every week, plus one that I’m always mum about.

#1. “Watch your portions.”

Teaching kids about portion sizes isn’t a lesson most parents teach their kids but it’s a really important one.

In the U.S., portion sizes are double—even triple what they should be. Whether you’re picking up a coffee at Starbucks or eating out, we come to expect large portions. Inflated portion sizes are also one of the reasons we’re facing an obesity epidemic.

Although my kids are allowed to have seconds at dinner, I often talk to them about portion sizes. Whether it’s a serving of beans, fruit, or cookies, my kids often ask, “is this enough?”

Most of the time, it’s too much but I use it as an opportunity to teach them what a healthy portion size looks like. Sometimes I’ll have them dish out a snack in a measuring bowl or I’ll explain that an ounce of raisins is the size of their palm, for example.

When kids learn how to read and can understand basic math, you can teach them how to read food labels and see how many servings are in a container and what an actual serving size is.

#2. “Green leafy vegetables are great.”

When my kids ask about healthy vegetables, I tell them they should eat the rainbow but green leafy vegetables should make up a majority of their diet.

Although vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, and squash are healthy, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, salad greens, and asparagus are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and one of the best super foods that should be included in your kid’s diet.

#3. “You need protein.”

Oatmeal for breakfast can be a healthy option, but without some protein, I know my kids won’t have the energy to go all morning.

I do my best to make sure my kids get protein at every meal and snack—whether it’s yogurt, eggs or sunflower seeds. Protein is important for all of the cells in their bodies, helps to keep them satiated and is vital for their growth and development.

#4. “There are no ‘bad’ foods.”

My kids often ask me about specific foods and whether they’re healthy or not but I try to explain that food isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Although refined, white pasta isn’t something they eat regularly and not a food I’d consider healthy for example, I never call it unhealthy.

Labeling foods can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food later on in life. Just think about how many people you know who eliminate whole food groups because they think they’re “bad.”

The lesson I try to teach my kids is that fresh, whole, and healthy foods should make their way onto their plates a majority of the time, and nothing is off-limits.

#5. “Sure, you can have a treat.”

I don’t carry candy in my bag or keep the pantry stocked with junk food, but my kids know treats are OK to eat and balance is key. Although I’d love to control and keep tabs on everything they eat, I have learned that if I’m too restrictive, they’ll overindulge at other times. I also recognize that I can’t prevent them from being kids, especially when they’re with other kids for special occasions–not at school.

Since my kids eat healthy 90 percent of the time, they know when they’ve overindulged on treats on the weekends or at parties, so I don’t necessarily have to point it out. Besides, raising a child who is a healthy eater means helping them learn how to eat healthy while also having the freedom to enjoy treats.

The One Word I Never Speak To My Kids

“You Could Gain Weight”

Children pick up on everything we say and do, and “weight” is one thing I don’t talk to my kids about.

As a child myself, I can remember thinking about my weight a lot, whether it was because of models in magazines or my mom—like most moms—who were on diets.

Don’t get me wrong—when I’m talking to my kids about how much they’re eating, I’ve nearly blurted out the W word. I know that if I ever do say it, it could do lasting damage to the perception of themselves and their self-esteem, and stick with them throughout their lives. So instead of talking about weight, I always focus on their health.

Why Weekend Eating Can Affect Your Kid’s Health

Why Weekend Eating Can Affect Your Kid’s Health

Your kid’s diet may not be picture-perfect all the time but during the week, you probably do your best to offer vegetables, cut down on processed foods, and cook healthy meals.

 

By the time Friday rolls around however, all bets are off. Whether it’s calling out for pizza, ordering take out, or munching on popcorn for movie night, all those healthy eating rules can go right out the window.

Weekend Eating, Weekend Foods and Your Kid’s Health

 

There’s no doubt that weekends are a time to kick back and have fun. These 3 days are often jam-packed with sports, birthday parties, and dinners with extended family or friends—and lots of opportunities to eat.

 

On the weekends, I’ll often take my kids out for a slice of pizza, or let them have a snack that’s off limits during the week.

 

As it turns out, most moms are like me.

 

An April 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found kids eat larger portions of unhealthy foods and beverages and eat them more frequently on the weekends while their consumption of healthy fare takes a nosedive.

 

The study, suggests that moms perceive the foods they let their kids eat to be “weekend foods,” and their children’s health and the cost of food become less important on those days. Mothers also may think about the weekends as a time when there’s less structure and schedules, which lend themselves to eating out more, the authors note.

 

Curb Weekend Eating

Regardless of how well your kids eat during the week, too many poor choices on the weekend can decrease any of the healthy benefits you’re hoping for. When it comes to weekend eating, there are some reasons to think twice about what you feed your kids and where you eat.

 

Restaurant Meals

 

You probably don’t want to spend your weekends in the kitchen but making a habit of taking your kids out to eat can affect their health.

 

Most kids’ meals in restaurants are high in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat and the portion sizes are usually too large—even those on the kids’ menu. In fact, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 97 percent of kids’ meals at 34 top chain restaurants failed to meet expert nutrition standards.

 

Foods made with refined carbohydrates can also spike your kid’s blood sugar, which isn’t a big deal every once in awhile, but diets high in these types of foods are associated with an increased risk for type-2 diabetes so you shouldn’t make it a habit.

 

Weight Gain

 

A hamburger and fries or a slice of cake at a kid’s birthday party probably won’t be enough for you to see drastic shifts in your child’s weight. Yet if most of your kid’s weekend eating is away from home and what they’re eating isn’t so healthy, it can add up quickly and lead to weight gain.


Sports and Activity Levels

 

Studies show kids watch more TV on the weekends and exercise less. If your kids play sports or are more active on the weekends, they might burn it off but if they’re laying around playing video games or on the iPad, you might see the pounds pack on.

 

What’s more, if your kids do play sports, what they eat on the weekends is even more important. You want to make sure they’re eating foods that fuel them and give them steady energy—not make them feel sluggish or cranky.

 

Healthy Habits

 

Teaching kids how to be healthy eaters isn’t only about what they eat. Habits like eating family meals together, eating slowly and mindfully, eating for hunger and knowing when you’re full—can all go to the wayside on the weekends. Teaching kids healthy eating habits when they’re young can help ensure they stick with those habits throughout their lives.

 

How To Eat Healthy On The Weekends—and Still Enjoy

 

I’m not suggesting you give up eating or ditch dessert, but you can help your family eat healthy and indulge a bit on the weekends.

 

Be prepared

 

First, come up with a plan to eat out less that is realistic and works for your family. Maybe it means making a double batch of a meal or having healthy options on hand like salad, avocado, and beans for a quick and easy meal.

 

Make healthy substitutions

 

When you do eat out, choose (or ask for) foods that are grilled instead of fried, swap fries for vegetables, or order appetizers instead of a meal. When your child’s meal arrives, ask for a to-go container and portion out half to prevent him from overeating.

 

Strike a balance

 

If you’re overly restrictive on the weekends, your kids may be more likely to overindulge when they’re not with you so balance is key.

 

Perhaps that means eating most weekend meals at home and making a trip out to your favorite ice cream spot or packing healthy fare when you’re out and about and letting your kids have an after-dinner treat.

8 Ways To Prevent Kids From Snacking All Day

8 Ways To Prevent Kids From Snacking All Day

Picky eater or not, suffice to say, most kids love snacks. There’s nothing wrong with eating healthy snacks of course, the USDA recommends snacks for toddlers and big kids alike.

Yet if your kids are constantly snacking all day, they may be getting more calories than they actually need, not to mention it’s not a good habit to get into. Snacking is meant to bridge the gap between meals, yet kids (and adults) often snack because they’re bored, tired, or dealing with tough emotions.

This is especially true if your kids are home all day or out of school for the holidays, vacation breaks, and during the summer.

Snacking all day is something I often face with my kids on the weekends, especially if we’re stuck in the house because it’s raining or snowing. They may ask for something healthy like a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts, but sometimes it’s hard to know if they’re actually hungry or not.

The good news is that there are ways to prevent kids from snacking all day. Here are 8 to try.

1. Teach Kids About Hunger Cues

My kids may be too young to completely understand how to recognize their hunger and satiety cues, but I still bring it up to prevent them from snacking all day.

I try to remind them that if their stomachs are growling, then they’re hungry. And if not, they have to find something else to do until they really feel that hunger.

I also take into consideration how much time there has been between meals when deciding whether they need a snack or they can wait. If I’m wrong, it’s not a big deal—they’re not going to starve.

2. Keep Them Moving


Studies show when kids are at home and have more opportunities to graze, they gain more weight, even during the summer months when there are more opportunities to be outside playing.

In fact, a June 2014 study in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease suggests kids gain more weight during summer vacation than during the school year. One of reasons is an increase in sedentary behaviors like playing video games or watching TV, according to the study authors.

The key to preventing kids from snacking all day is to make sure they’re active, whether that means putting them in camp, going to the public park or pool, or playing music and having an indoor dance party.

3. Beat Boredom

Like my kids, I bet yours have a room full of toys but still complain they’re bored. It can be frustrating to get your kids engaged in an activity but whether it’s painting, a game of Twister, or putting away the laundry, finding ways to combat boredom can get their minds off food.

 

4. Stay Hydrated

Hunger can often mistaken for thirst so drinking plenty of water every day can help prevent kids from snacking all day. If your kids snub plain water, add slices of cucumber or strawberries for a healthy hint of flavor instead of allowing sugary drinks which can make them crave more sugar and ask for snacks.

5. Have Regular Meal and Snack Times

When kids are home for vacations, there’s less structure overall which can encourage mindless munching, eating at erratic times throughout the day, or skipping meals, which can cause kids to eat too much at the next meal.

Do your best to stick to a schedule of regular meal and snack times but build in some flexibility if you decide to take an impromptu trip to your favorite ice cream spot, for example.

6. Build Balanced Meals

If your kids’ meals lack nutrition, they may actually be hungry and ask for snacks.

To ensure they’re getting healthy, balanced meals that help promote satiety, keep their blood sugar steady, and give them energy, focus on a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats. For example, roasted vegetables, beans and some avocado.

7. Put Healthy Snacks On Display

To prevent kids from snacking all day on processed, packaged foods, cut up fruits and vegetables and store them in clear containers in the refrigerator. Or set aside individual portions of smoothie ingredients for a quick and healthy snack. If your kids still snack all day, at least it will be on something healthy.

8. Make Snacks Together

Cooking or preparing a snack with your kids can ensure you have something healthy on hand and help the day go by a bit faster.

Take a trip to the library or the bookstore or look online for healthy, delicious snack recipes. Go shopping together for the ingredients and then make a large batch to last all week.

How To Eat Healthy On A Family Vacation

How To Eat Healthy On A Family Vacation

This summer, I’ll be heading to the beach for a family vacation and luckily, I know my kids will eat healthy. We’ll be staying with my in-laws who cook and eat lots of vegetables, fruit and beans—enough to balance out our trips to the boardwalk for some ice cream.

Yet so many times in the past when I’ve been on vacation or taken weekend getaways, my kids ate erratically, skipped meals, ate too-large portion sizes and indulged in foods they wouldn’t have eaten at home.

Sometimes grabbing something quick, but not that healthy, is a matter of convenience. Other times, there aren’t always the healthiest options available.

The result? Your kids feel sluggish, have meltdowns, and maybe even get constipated.

So before you take your next summer trip, here are some tips to make sure you and your family eats healthy on vacation.

Bring Healthy Snacks

Although many of the restaurants at highway rest stops have made healthier options like fruit, cheese and yogurt available, most of the food is still fast food and processed food.

Before you hit the road, prepare and fill an insulated freezer bag with an ice pack and turkey and cheese roll ups, lettuce wraps or sandwiches. Other ideas to consider:

  • Cut-up fruits and vegetables
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Low sugar, high fiber bars
  • Low sugar granola
  • Nut butter
  • Hummus
  • Bean dip
  • Chia seed pudding

Prepare For Your Flight

If bringing a freezer bag filled with food to the airport is too much to carry, bring nuts, seeds, dried fruit or bars in your carry-on bag—and bring extra if your flight is delayed.

Although I’m not a fan of kids eating apple sauce or fruit and vegetable purées in pouches on a regular basis, it’s convenient and not a big deal if you pack it for a flight.

Compare Food Options At the Airport

Between travel to the airport, check-in and security, waiting to board and the flight itself, somewhere along the line your kids are probably going to get hungry.

Instead of grabbing fast food at the airport, look for mini mart-type stores where you can get fresh fruit, yogurt, and hard-boiled eggs, for example. Or find a sit-down restaurant but avoid fatty, fried, and high-sodium foods.

Be Choosy About Accommodations

Depending on the types of restaurants in the area and the meals you order, eating out or eating poolside can make for a calorie-, fat-, sodium-, and sugar-filled vacation, not to mention it can get really pricey.

When booking your family vacation, consider Airbnb, or a resort or hotel that has a kitchen or a kitchenette so you can cook some of your meals. When you arrive, go to the grocery store to pick up what you need, have your groceries delivered or place an order beforehand through Amazon Fresh Grocery.

If accommodations with a kitchen aren’t feasible, look for a hotel with a mini-fridge so at least you can stock up on a few healthy snacks when your kids get hungry.

Start the Day Off Right

When you have a full day of activities planned—or no agenda at all—it’s easy to lose track of time, skip meals or grab something quick.

If you start the day with a healthy breakfast, you can at least ensure your kids will eat a vegetable, a fruit and get some protein and fiber. You may even consider bringing your juicer or mini-blender and make a green juice or smoothie for a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Stick to a Schedule

Skipping meals or eating at erratic times throughout the day can lead you and your kids to feel famished and overeat at the next meal. Eating at irregular times might also affect their sleep too. In fact, a small June 2017 study in the journal Current Biology suggests changing meal times can alter our circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle.

Grabbing a quick bite to eat like a hot dog or an ice cream can also deplete energy levels, increase sugar craving and make everyone feel cranky.

When you’re on a family vacation, you don’t want to have a strict schedule like you would at home but if you do your best to serve meals and snacks at roughly the same times your kids eat at home, they’ll be more likely to eat healthy.

Watch Portions

When you take a family vacation, cruises, all-inclusive resorts and restaurants usually serve up double—even triple—the size of a healthy portion.

To prevent overeating, order a few healthy appetizers and a salad, share a meal or ask for a to-go container and set aside the excess before you eat.

Use the 80/20 Rule

Make sure your kids eat a vegetable with every meal and the food is prepared in a healthy way (i.e. grilled instead of fried). The rest of the time, let them enjoy a special treat.

Pitch in

If you’re staying with family and friends and they don’t eat like your family, bring a healthy dish or two everyone can share, stock up their fridge with healthy options, or offer to cook some of the meals during your stay.

Relax

A family vacation isn’t the time to worry about every last bite your kids eat, and you also can’t expect them to eat the same way they do at home.

Yet every time they eat, it’s a good opportunity to teach them about making healthy choices, especially on vacation when food temptations are everywhere. They’ll learn how to make healthy food choices and how to kick back, have fun and enjoy ice cream, cotton candy or a piece of fudge.

6 Ways To Make Vegetables for Kids Healthy and Delicious

6 Ways To Make Vegetables for Kids Healthy and Delicious

There’s nothing more frustrating about being a parent than when your kid makes a sour face and snubs vegetables, declaring, “yuck!,” “I’m not eating that,” or my personal favorite, “gross!”

The way to get your kids to love vegetables now and throughout their lives is to offer vegetables every day, in nearly every meal. Yet if your kids refuse to eat them altogether, it might be that the vegetables you’re serving up are boring, bland, and tasteless.

Vegetables shouldn’t be a necessary evil: kids can learn to love vegetables and eat them regularly if you know how to serve them. Here are 6 ways to make vegetables for kids that are healthy, delicious, and bursting with flavor.

1. Roasted

I roast most of my vegetables because they turn out sweet, savory, and delicious—even Brussels sprouts. Roasting vegetables couldn’t be easier or quicker and you can make large batches that will last for days. You can roast almost any kind of vegetable but use an olive oil mister to prevent dousing them with unnecessary calories and fat.

2. Buttered up

In recent years, studies show butter isn’t the villain it’s been made out to be and isn’t associated with an increase risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and mortality.

A pat of butter makes vegetables for kids delicious, plus the fat in butter helps the body absorb and utilize fat soluble vitamins. Although I see nothing wrong with a small amount of butter, I recommend grass-fed butter (I like Kerrygold) because it also contains gut-friendly probiotics.

3. Chips or fries

Most kids love crunchy foods and certain vegetables can be transformed into healthy and delicious faux chips and fries.

Kale chips are an obvious one but you can also roast sliced beets, jicama, zucchini, radishes, butternut squash, green beans, turnips, cabbage, and eggplant. Simply mist them with olive oil or coconut oil and pop them in the oven on high heat until they’re crispy.

4. Sautéd

Sautéing vegetables supercharges their flavor and can be done in a matter of minutes.

You can sauté any kind of vegetable but kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, onions, leeks, and mushrooms all lend well to this cooking method. Add a small amount of your favorite oil, grass-fed butter or chicken or vegetable stock, and you’ll have healthy and delicious vegetables in minutes flat.

5. Grilled

Cooking vegetables on the grill gives them a delicious, slightly smoky flavor and it’s quick and easy to do. Brush slices of eggplant, zucchini, or Portobello mushrooms with a small amount of oil and grill them alone or on a kabob.

6. With a Dip

Raw vegetables are high in nutrients but the taste can be a turn-off for kids. To help add flavor, pair raw vegetables with a dip.

Try bean dip, guacamole, bruschetta, hummus, or a simple mix of olive oil and vinegar. I recommend you make your own dip so you can control the ingredients. If you do purchase a ready-made dip however, read labels because many are high in calories, saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and artificial ingredients.

7. Mixed With Herbs and Spices

Experiment with a variety of herbs and spices to give vegetables for kids a whole lot of taste without any salt. Tasty combinations include carrots with paprika, asparagus and basil, cabbage and ginger. and garlic with just about any vegetable.

10 Summer Superfoods For Kids

10 Summer Superfoods For Kids

Lazy summer days mean barbecues, ice cream and processed snack foods that are easy and convenient for the beach, pool or park. During the summer however, healthy eating doesn’t have to take a backseat when there are so many healthy summer superfoods for kids. Here are 10.

1. Cherries

Cherries are a nutritional powerhouse and one of the best summer superfoods for kids.

Cherries are an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate fluid levels in the body and counteracts the effects of sodium—a good thing if your kids eat high-sodium foods. They also contain quercetin, a plant pigment and an antioxidant that helps balance blood pressure.

Since cherries are also a natural source of melatonin, the “sleep hormone,” they can help kids have an easier time falling asleep, which can be challenging during the summer months.

2. Summer Squash

Zucchini and yellow squash are rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium, the “calming mineral,” vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins. Squash is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can improve memory and processes speed, one study found.

Grill or sauté summer squash or swap spiralized squash for pasta when you’re looking for a lighter meal.

3. Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6 and folate and potassium.

Pair slices of red bell peppers with hummus or bean dip for a healthy summer snack, add them to salads, or tuck them inside grilled cheese.

4. Avocado

Avocado is a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and K, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin, and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—healthy fats kids need in their diets.

Use avocado to make your own guacamole, swap avocado in for mayonnaise, make avocado toast for breakfast, or mix cut-up avocado with tomatoes and corn for a healthy and delicious summer side dish.

5. Blueberries

 

Like cherries, blueberries are high in antioxidants, including quercetin, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve immune function, according to a 2005 study in the European Journal of Immunology.

 

Serve blueberries as a snack or add them to oatmeal, yogurt or pancakes.

 

6. Corn

 

Corn is a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins and folate, potassium, lutein and zeaxanthin.

 

It’s not summer without corn on the cob, but you can also add corn to salads or any vegetable dish.

 

7. Peaches

 

Sweet and succulent, peaches are one of the best healthy superfoods for kids. Peaches are a good source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber: one large peach has nearly 3 grams.

 

Serve whole peaches, grill them and drizzle honey on top or add them to yogurt or a cool chia seed pudding.

 

8. Swiss Chard

 

All green leafy vegetables are superfoods for kids, but swiss chard, which is in season during the summer, has a mild taste, making it more likely that your child will eat it. Swiss chard is high in vitamins A,C, E, and K, B6 and folate, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.

 

Incorporate Swiss chard into a frittata or quiche, sauté it as a side or add it to homemade pizza.

 

9. Plums

 

Just like peaches, plums are the quintessential summertime fruit. Plums are a good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K and potassium.

 

Serve plums alone, or add them to green salads or a fruit salad.

 

10. Watermelon

 

Watermelon is a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. Since it has a high water content, it keeps kids hydrated during the summer and helps satiate their hunger without a lot of calories: 1/2 cup has only 30 calories.

 

 

 

Watermelon also contains lycopene, an antioxidant that supports eye health, brain health, and is heart-healthy.

 

 

 

Serve wedges of watermelon, mix it with feta cheese as a side dish, or grill it up on a kabob.